Kindle readers read novels. Physical book readers read self-help.

6 April 2018

From ThinkNum:

What kind of book reader are you? 20th-century novels? Non-fiction biographies? Self-help? Has your book buying been usurped by a child who wants nothing but books about bugs?

Whatever kind of book buyer you are, it turns out that the format via which you read – e-book or paper – could predict what it is you’re reading.

That’s because, according to our data in which we track top sales of books at Amazon, highest-ranking titles in the Kindle store differ vastly than those in Amazon’s standard print-books category.

Overall, when it comes to Kindle e-books, thriller novels are king. But when it comes to print books, self-help reigns supreme.


Link to the rest at ThinkNum

Judge’s Ruling in Redbox Case Raises Concerns for Physical/Digital Content Bundles

29 March 2018

From Copyright and Technology:

A ruling from a California district judge last month impacts an area we explore here from time to time: when you purchase a digital content product, what rights do you have to that product, and are you buying it or licensing it? Judge Dean Pregerson’s recent ruling in Disney v. Redbox helps define the boundaries between sale and license, but it could hamper media companies’ plans for bundling physical and digital content together.

. . . .

Like Blockbuster before it, Redbox has had a contentious relationship with Hollywood studios. It takes advantage of the first sale provision in U.S. copyright law, which enables a purchaser of a copyrighted work to dispose of it in any way — sell, rent, lend, give away, throw away — without any involvement from the copyright owner. The studios have been concerned that Redbox DVD and Blu-ray rentals cut into their sales of those products.

Around nine years ago, three major studios (not including Disney) had tried forcing Redbox to stop making new releases available and to wait until they had been in theaters for at least four weeks. Redbox responded by claiming that the studios were colluding to limit Redbox’s ability to buy their DVDs and Blu-rays in the same ways that ordinary consumers can — in other words, to use their copyrights to violate antitrust law. Those cases settled, so no court decided the issue.

Redbox’s accusation was an example of a legal doctrine called copyright misuse. Intellectual property misuse — it applies to patents as well as copyrights — basically means using your intellectual property in ways that extend your power beyond the rights granted to you by intellectual property law. Copyright misuse doesn’t come up very often, but when it does, it usually applies to situations where copyright holders act to restrain trade or fix prices.

. . . .

In its complaint, Disney claimed that consumers who buy Combo Packs are forbidden, by an agreement in the packaging, from transferring ownership of the download codes. It also noted that the download code redemption sites (MoviesAnywhere.com and RedeemDigitalMovies.com) contain language requiring users to “represent” that they own the discs when they redeem the download codes.

Disney moved for a preliminary injunction, which would force Redbox to stop reselling the download codes. Redbox countersued, claiming (among other things) that its actions were lawful under first sale and that Disney’s restrictions on the download codes are another flavor of copyright misuse.

Judge Pregerson, in his order denying the preliminary injunction, agreed with Redbox. He said that the terms in Disney’s license agreement on the download codes required consumers to “forego their statutorily-guaranteed right to distribute their physical copies of that same movie as they see fit” if they want to “access digital movie content, for which they have already paid”, that the court was likely to find that “those terms improperly grant Disney power beyond the scope of its copyright”, and thus that Disney is engaging in copyright misuse.

. . . .

If this holding sticks as a precedent, it could inhibit development of various types of physical-plus-digital bundling deals for media products. As we’ll see, the details of physical/digital bundles can be subtle, and the law could cause media companies to question their own product development decisions.

. . . .

Consider “P+E” (print plus e-book) bundles in book publishing. Amazon has a P+E bundling program called Kindle MatchBook. It ties Kindle e-book downloads in this program to the same accounts as those who bought the print books. This process makes it virtually impossible to transfer the e-book downloads to other people, and users can get e-book versions of books they bought in print long after they have resold or disposed of those books. Therefore Kindle MatchBook is unlikely to be susceptible to copyright misuse allegations of the type raised by Redbox.

On the other hand, there’s Shelfie, the Canadian startup that was recently acquired by Kobo. Shelfie works by requiring users to hand-sign their names on the copyright pages of print books (that they could have gotten from anywhere) as proof of ownership, and then scan them with the Shelfie app, to get free or discounted e-book versions of those books. One could argue that this diminishes books’ potential resale values and therefore falls under the same copyright misuse rubric as Disney’s Combo Packs — except for the fact that the Shelfie “product” is purchased separately from the print books, and therefore users aren’t “access[ing e-book] content for which they have already paid”.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

Why Japan’s Rakuten Is A Hidden Contender In The Ebook Market

18 March 2018

From Forbes:

Quick, name a massive ecommerce company with an outsized share of the ebook market across the globe.

If you didn’t come up with “Amazon,” I don’t know why the rock you’re living under doesn’t have wi-fi. Chances are, however, that you can’t name the one company with the second-largest share of the ebook market. Here’s why surfacing that company is tougher than it looks, and why that company might be the Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten.

First, let’s discuss the oft-overlooked data point that makes all the difference when determining how many ebooks are being consumed: Digital distribution to libraries. The two ebook-tracking watchdogs used by most as a benchmark for industry statistics — Nielsen BookScan and Bookstat (formerly known as Author Earnings) — both focus on units sold. As a result, they don’t take digital libraries seriously. Rakuten OverDrive, a digital management service for publishers, libraries and schools, isn’t represented in the latest Author Earnings numbers on the download numbers for Amazon, Apple iBooks, or the Barnes & Noble Nook, which stand at 406 million, 44 million, and 19.4 million, respectively. OverDrive’s numbers? 225 million total digital downloads, representing 155 million ebooks and 68 million audiobooks. Granted, the OverDrive numbers are from 2017 and the Author Earnings report uses 2016 data, but OverDrive’s numbers are still above all but Amazon by a wide margin. Nielson, meanwhile, counts a book sold to a library as a single sale — no matter how many downloads it goes on to earn.

Mark Williams of industry watchdog The New Publishing Standard debuted this insight in a January post. “Other digital libraries also reported downloads in the millions,” he notes in the article. “Hoopla, for example, saw over six million downloads in 2016, while Odilo reported ‘tremendous growth.’ […] Yet the Author Earnings Report completely ignores them.

. . . .

When I reached out to Williams for a comment, he shared a dour view of the book industry’s sparse data and its library-book-sized blind spot: “By conveniently ignoring OverDrive’s 225 million digital downloads while including estimated values for Kindle Unlimited subscription downloads, we are given not only a distorted picture of the units and value of the digital market, but more importantly a very distorted view of the wider level of engagement with digital books. Close to a quarter billion ebook and audiobook downloads, all of which are bringing in revenue for authors and publishers even if the readers are not paying directly, are shunted aside,” he told me.

. . . .

“As more and more readers understand that the ebooks they buy are actual just licences to read, and that they never ‘own’ the ebooks they supposedly are buying,” he says, “so more will ask what advantage there is in buying from a retailer rather than getting the exact same product for ‘free’ from a library.”

Link to the rest at Forbes

Why Young Readers Need Real Books

13 March 2018

From Intellectual Takeout:

A young lady I know won a Kindle in an academic contest. She is a voracious reader. In eighth grade, she enjoys Austen, Chesterton, Lewis, and Wodehouse, among many others. A trail of books seems to follow her everywhere she goes.

Her parents, wary of potential negative effects of screens on growing minds, would have preferred that their daughter not own a Kindle, at least not for a few more years. Since it was a prize well earned, however, they acquiesced.

The young lady continued to read paper books, but the Kindle came in handy for outings (no more scrambling to find enough books to bring along) and reading in bed (no book lamp needed). Not wanting to spend money, she searched for books in the public domain, and was delighted to discover that the Kindle gave her access to some old books by her favorite authors—books that local libraries no longer carried on their shelves.

All in all, it seemed like a wholesome approach to integrating technology, and so her parents were surprised when, several months later, their daughter announced that she wanted to sell her Kindle.

“For the first time in my life,” she explained, “I’ve noticed that I’ve had to read lines two or three times in order to understand them, because I’m distracted. There are so many things I can do with the Kindle. I can make the font bigger, or change the contrast, or highlight and save a passage. There are so many choices, so many things to fiddle with, that I lose track of the story. It’s becoming a habit that is carrying over into my real books, too.”

Nineteenth-century British educator Charlotte Mason described the ability to focus (in a healthy brain) as a habit of the mind—one that can be gained or lost according to how the mind is trained. For this eighth grader, reading on a Kindle was undoing her habit of concentration. Her mind was losing the ability to be fully present to her books, and she did not like how it felt.

. . . .

No doubt, a computer might contain a story worth reading. When a father or mother or beloved teacher reads that story aloud to a child, it can forge memories for a lifetime. In our house, we use computers to listen to audio books by authors like Hans Christian Anderson and Thornton W. Burgess, and everyone enjoys it.

Still, it isn’t the same. Listening to the book on the laptop can be nice, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the bond that is built when my husband or I cuddle up with the children and turn the worn pages of our favorite books as we read aloud together.

Isn’t there something precious about the book itself? Isn’t there something in its weight, in its feel, in its illustrations, in its pages, that, when a grown-up child holds it in his hands and reads it to his own children, will awaken a reverence for the story that a computer screen would not?

Link to the rest at Intellectual Takeout

PG says if you like printed books, by all means buy and read them. If a child in your life likes printed books, by all means buy and borrow printed books for the child to read.

PG is all for choice in this matter.

However, he becomes a little annoyed when an author takes a personal preference up to the top of a mountain and makes sacrifices to a printer god and pledges fealty to forever revere ink and paper.

PG is not persuaded that printed books are inherently superior to electronic books in any meaningful way, however. Each is a means of presenting words to a reader in a convenient manner.

Just like scrolls were once a means of presenting words to a reader in a convenient manner. PG can imagine readers in ancient times extolling the virtues of scrolls over these new heavy and cumbersome book things that caused you to lose your place whenever they fell off the table. Instead of the exquisite unveiling of a story in one continuous stream from a scroll, a book chopped up a story into ungainly pieces and ruined the continuity of the author’s vision. Plus, the prices the binders guild charged were outrageous.

PG likes the convenience of ebooks and the size of the ebook reader. Reading in bed is an end-of-the-day ritual for PG and Mrs. PG, so PG has plenty of experience with a comprehensive and thick printed account of something like the Battle of Thermopylae sitting open on his chest for many long hours. (And don’t forget what happens to your bookmark when the book slides off the bed in the middle of the night.)

He much prefers his featherweight Kindle for reading extensive accounts of heavy topics.



The Big Five Publishers and the Nutri-Matic Drink Dispenser

23 February 2018

From TeleRead:

The recent interview that Hachette CEO Arnaud Nourry gave to Indian news site Scroll.in has been a sort of nine-day wonder of the ebook world lately. In this interview, Nourry called the ebook a “stupid product” because it’s “exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience.”

. . . .

Reading over this particular article actually reminds me a lot of an anecdote from the late Douglas Adams’s best-known work, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

. . . .

Episode 9 of the radio drama touches on the Nutri-Matic Drink Dispenser, an automated and sentient machine that runs complicated taste analyses on its customer, but then invariably dispenses an unpalatable beverage that is “almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.” In this episode, Arthur Dent and friends on the starship Heart of Gold are on the run from a fleet of enemy starships intent on their destruction, when Arthur gets into an argument with the shipboard machine.

While ranting at the machine, Dent asks, “And you know why I want a cup of tea?” The Nutri-Matic machine immediately starts trying to compute the answer to that, tying up all the computing power on board the ship so it can’t activate its Infinite Improbability Drive and escape—a dilemma that eventually ends up requiring supernatural intervention to sort out.

This machine seems to be the perfect metaphor for the Big Five traditional publishers, of which Hachette is one. Both the Nutri-Matic and the publishers are supposed to determine exactly what their customers want, and then profit by supplying it to them—but they also both seem to have the hardest time actually figuring it out. For the Nutri-Matic, Douglas Adams just wanted to get some laughter from the audience and make a few more jokes at poor Arthur Dent’s expense. What’s the publishers’ excuse?

. . . .

Einstein supposedly said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. How many times have the major publishers, hopeful start-ups, inventors, and others repeatedly tackled this problem of the “enhanced” ebook? And yet after all this, the only lesson that Nourry—the head of one of the biggest publishing companies on the planet—can take from it is that publishers just don’t have the skill set to do it right.

. . . .

The lesson publishers should be learning is that the format of the plain-vanilla prose book—by which I mean both paper books and ebooks—is just so close to being perfect that it can’t easily be improved upon.

The only differences between prose ebooks and paper books are a matter of format; the content of both is a series of words that are meant to be read sequentially from beginning to end. When people reach for a book, that’s what they want—whether it’s on print media that doesn’t require batteries and can be easily riffled through, or on digital media that can have text resized and reflowed and searched. They just want to read words sequentially. They don’t want some “enhanced” multimedia experience, any more than Arthur Dent wanted a Nutri-Matic “unlike tea” beverage.

. . . .

And just how “stupid” can ebooks be if they make up 20% of the traditional market, and would make up more of it if publishers would drop the prices further?

. . . .

And then there’s the “price that keeps the ecosystem alive” which, if you read between the lines, actually means the “price that keeps them from cannibalizing print book sales any further.” And it’s funny how even Nourry admits that “there is still a readership for ebooks” just a couple of paragraphs before he goes on to call them a “stupid” format. Is Nourry so delusional that he actually believes all this stuff?

Link to the rest at TeleRead

As PG has mentioned before, over twenty years ago, when he was working for a large legal publishing and technology organization (LexisNexis, owned by Reed-Elsevier (now, with typical marketing acumen, called the RELX Group)), the subsidiary with the single highest profit margin of any part of LexisNexis sold a huge directory of American lawyers called Martindale Hubbell. The subsidiary offered a few other books, but Martindale was the crown jewel.

The printed version of Martindale was a huge and heavy series of books printed in tiny type. Virtually every law firm had a set somewhere in its library. If one of the firm’s best clients was cited for drunk driving in a small town in Idaho, Martindale’s list of lawyers (with brief bios) who practiced in that town might provide a starting point for locating competent local counsel.

Each year, Martindale published a small paperback supplement (called a “pocket part”) which updated the huge books. The supplement was available via an expensive subscription. Every few years, Martindale would send subscribers a new edition of its monster books and the firm would try to sell the old books, usually without success.

PG was a lonely internet cheerleader at LexisNexis and he had a meeting with the head of Martindale to urge the quick creation of an electronic version of Martindale. He pointed out a lot of obvious benefits to doing so.

“We can’t do that. It would cannibalize our sales from Martindale books!” was the response.

PG suggested that, if the print version of Martindale could be cannibalized by an online legal directory, if Martindale wasn’t the cannibal, someone else would be.

About two years later, Martindale’s sales crashed and its operations were rolled into the mother ship.


Ebooks are not ‘stupid’ – they’re a revolution

22 February 2018

From The Guardian:

I was a relatively late convert to the e-reader, getting my Kindle five years ago when it became clear that reading 600-pages of A Suitable Boy while breastfeeding wasn’t going to work. After a frenzied few months of almost exclusive e-reading, I returned largely to the traditional printed book for a number of reasons: screen fatigue, a tendency to scrawl in margins, because I want my kids to see me reading, and because I’m a passionate supporter of bookshops and booksellers. Hachette Livre CEO Arnaud Nourry recently called ebooks “stupid” – but last summer, they changed my life.

My novel He Said/She Said, a psychological thriller about a couple who witness a rape, was a Sunday Times bestseller, but three months out of the trap, the hardback began the soft fall in sales that is the norm that period after publication. When the ebook edition began selling for 99p on Kindle for the summer, I’ll admit that I flinched, but – excluding a few days’ concession of my throne to Neil Gaiman – it topped the charts for six weeks and I was able to take my family on an overseas holiday for the first time. (On that trip, I took seven novels in a device that weighed less than a paperback, like something out of Star Trek.) I’d always had a core of loyal readers – but these numbers were something else.

The subsequent revival of my backlist was a welcome surprise. Readers have been writing to me to praise, criticise and debate; more often than not, they sign off by saying they’ve bought my other titles as ebooks. This effortless chain-reading is something hard to replicate with the physical book – very few authors can be confident of walking into any bookshop or supermarket to find their entire canon for sale. The ebook of He Said/She Said has reignited interest in my other books, and brought new readers to the novels that, in genteel publishing speak, “underperformed” at the time. I’m as grateful for that as anything.

Given that backlist especially is free money for the publisher, I’m bewildered by Nourry’s dismissal of the ebook. Of course there are caveats; Amazon’s near-monopoly of the market is worrying, and we have already reached the tipping point where competitive pricing has become a race to the bottom in which profit margins are negligible. But a stupid format?

. . . .

“It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience,” said Nourry. Fake news! The built-in, one-tap dictionary is a boon for Will Self fans. And as an author, I’m fascinated by the facility that shows you phrases other readers have highlighted; what is it about this sentence that resonated with dozens of humans? It’s an illicit glimpse into the one place even a writer’s imagination can never really go: readers’ minds. And Kindle’s Whispersync facility lets the reader fluidly alternate between reading a book and listening to it. What are these if not enhancements to the reading experience?

And then there’s the simplest, most important enhancement of all: on any e-reader, you can enlarge the text. That in itself is a quiet revolution. Page-sniffers who dismiss ebooks out of hand are being unconsciously ableist.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Maybe It’s Time To Regulate Gadgets And Apps Like Cigarettes

27 January 2018

From Fast Company:

Tech companies put a lot of work into designing their products to be “sticky.” That’s investor deck speak, but everyone knows what sticky really means: addictive.

While that may be good for the companies and their funders, a growing body of research is showing that it’s not so good for us users, and especially not for teens or kids. As the problem of tech abuse becomes better understood, tech companies may need to start measuring success by the quality of the time users spend with their products, not just the quantity. Discussions about the dangers of personal technology have been around a long time, but in the bubble of Silicon Valley it’s not a ready topic of conversation. People would rather talk about big ideas and their world-changing implications than about the unsavory by-products and unintended consequences that might come with them.

. . . .

[George Soros] went on a tirade, comparing Google and Facebook to resource-extraction companies (“Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social-media companies exploit the social environment.”) and to casinos (they “deliberately engineer addiction into the services they provide.”)

And: “Something very harmful and maybe irreversible is happening to human attention in our digital age,” Soros said. “Not just distraction or addiction; social media companies are inducing people to give up their autonomy.” Soros said now that it’s becoming harder to find brand-new users, social media companies have no choice but to please investors by demanding more of our time.

. . . .

On Wednesday Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said Facebook should be regulated like a tobacco product. “I think that you do it exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry,” Benioff said on CNBC’s Squawk Alley. “Here’s a product: Cigarettes. They’re addictive, they’re not good for you,” Benioff said. For someone of Benioff’s stature and reputation, this is a bombshell.

Earlier this month, a pair of Apple’s institutional investors raised the flag on adolescent smartphone abuse in January. The two investors, JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, asked Apple to do something about the unhealthy amount of time kids spend with their iDevices (and the apps within). Apple should make sure its youngest customers grow up to be healthy adult Apple customers.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG would probably not qualify as a free speech absolutist, but he’s pretty close.

People who want governments to regulate information that others voluntarily read or view worry PG. There is a definite history of slippery slopes and dictators in these sorts of movements.

In this context, addiction is a useful tool for those who don’t like what other people are reading or viewing. If some individuals really like reading or viewing particular content that critics don’t like, those people must be “addicted” and the only solution for this “addiction” is immediate government action.

This argument assumes government can and will do this job effectively today and into the distant future.

This argument also assumes that all future governments will use such powers in proper and beneficial ways.

In the United States, large numbers of people of certain political persuasions were vociferously critical of the actions of President Barack Obama and his government in the exercise of government power.

Now, large numbers of people of different political persuasions are vociferously critical of the actions of President Donald Trump and his government in the exercise of government power.

PG suggests that a government that has the power to regulate Facebook and its econtent may well also have the power to regulate Amazon and its ebooks.

Walmart joins, well, most of its competitors in selling e-books

26 January 2018

From Ars Technica:

Most Walmart stores have modest book sections, but now the company plans to expand that with digital books. Walmart announced that it’s teamed up with Japan’s Rakuten to sell e-books, audiobooks, and Rakuten’s Kobo e-readers later this year.

“We have long been a destination for entertainment including digital content—whether movies through VUDU or the digital game cards we sell in our stores,” Walmart’s statement said. “E-books and audiobooks are a great addition to our assortment. Working with Rakuten Kobo enables us to quickly and efficiently launch a full e-book and audiobook catalog on Walmart.com to provide our customers with additional choices alongside our assortment of physical books.”

. . . .

Customers will be able to shop for e-books and audiobooks on Walmart’s website, and the retailer will sell e-readers in its stores and online. Walmart also plans to sell “e-book cards” in its stores, which seem to be physical cards customers can buy while shopping at a Walmart store that contain a download code for access to an e-book or audiobook after they leave the store.

While digital book shopping will be done on Walmart’s platforms, customers will access purchased titles through Walmart/Kobo branded apps for desktop as well as Android and iOS. Kobo already has apps across these platforms, but it seems the two companies will make new apps for Walmart customers in the US to use. Customers with Kobo e-readers won’t have to worry about downloading new apps since all Kobo titles can be read on its own e-readers.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica

PG says competition is great for consumers, so this is a win for readers.

PG suggests that indie authors are consumers of online ebook retailing services from Amazon, Kobo, Nook (at least for a while), etc., so he thinks competition for Amazon is a win for indie authors as well. Walmart will turn more readers onto ebooks sooner than would have been the case if it had continued its paperback and gossip mag ways.

In some large metropolitan areas, the Walmart customer has a bad image. You can even find websites with photos of gross people. However, in many small and medium-sized communities, Walmart is by far the best place to buy groceries and get your prescriptions refilled. The doctors and spouses in these communities, lawyers and spouses, business owners and spouses, etc., shop at Walmart because it’s better than driving an hour to find another retailer that offers the same range of goods.

So far, Amazon hasn’t tried any “screw your partner” strategies that are so attractive to many other large companies, but if Walmart is serious about competing with Amazon in the ebook market, that’s some insurance for authors that Amazon will continue its virtuous treatment of authors.

(As an aside, PG thinks as long as Bezos is running things, Amazon will continue these practices. He’s worried about what happens to Amazon when Bezos rides one of his rockets into retirement and someone else takes over. The successor to a highly-successful and dominant CEO has no guarantee of being able to ride the momentum of the prior star to continued success. See Tim Cook and Marissa Mayer, for example.)

Barnes & Noble Announces Barnes & Noble Press™, an Enhanced Self-Publishing Suite to Reach Millions of Barnes & Noble Readers

24 January 2018

From Business Wire:

Barnes & Noble, Inc., the world’s largest retail bookseller, today announced the launch of Barnes & Noble Press, an enhanced and more user-friendly version of the Company’s self-publishing platform that makes it easy to publish eBooks or print books in one integrated platform. The redesigned site replaces the formerly-named NOOK Press.

The new Barnes & Noble Press enhances the self-publishing experience in many ways, including increased royalty rates for eBooks priced at $10.00 and above.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble Press also continues to give qualified authors the opportunity to apply for signings and events at Barnes & Noble bookstores, as well as giving select authors the opportunity to sell their books in stores.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble Press has a number of exciting new features, including:

  • Improved user experience and new visual design
  • Sign in to a single website to create and manage print and eBooks all in one place
  • Increased royalty rate of 65% for eBooks priced $10.00+
  • Additional print book trim sizes, glossy cover and color printing options
  • 12 month pre-order capability for all authors for all eBooks
  • Author tools & tips

Link to the rest at Business Wire

Is Japan’s Rakuten the second biggest player in the western ebook and audiobook markets?

23 January 2018

From The New Publishing Standard:

I’ve long been a lone voice on the indie circuit advocating authors take digital libraries seriously.

Admittedly back in 2011 it wasn’t so easy to get into OverDrive, but doing what isn’t easy is what separates the career author from the rest.

As I said four years ago back in January 2014,

Too many indie authors have their heads in the sand about the way things are developing out there. Wake up and smell the coffee! Subscription ebook reading and library ebook reading are the new black.

Why pay Amazon, or B&N, or Kobo, or Sony for every single ebook you read when you can pay a token fee at the library or a monthly subscription and read as much as you like, with exactly the same ease and convenience as from an online retailer?

This a full year and a half before Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited, and in response to news that OverDrive’s digital lending had crossed the 100 million downloads per year threshold in 2013.

Just how significant that was only becomes clear when we consider that the 102 million downloads in 2013 was equal to the OverDrive digital downloads of the entire previous ten years.

The breakdown then (for 2013) was 79 million ebook checkouts and 22.9 million digital audiobook checkouts.

. . . .

Amazon counts a KU download as a sale when compiling the charts, regardless of whether these downloads are later read and therefore paid out on.

That in itself raises questions about the “author earnings” aspect of the report, as well as the true number of unit sales, because the paid charts are warped by downloads of books that are never paid for.

But the real issue here is those library downloads, which from OverDrive alone amounted to just shy of 200 million in 2016, the period covered by the last Author Earnings Report.

. . . .

Yet the Author Earnings Report completely ignores them. There is not a single mention of OverDrive or digital library downloads in the last Author Earnings Report, covering the year 2016. which attributed 440 million ebook sales to Amazon and just 44 million to Apple.

. . . .

Now let’s take a closer look at the 2017 OverDrive figures, where there are more surprises in store.

Because alongside that 225 million actual downloads of ebooks and audiobooks in 2017, another 83 million possible downloads were on hold because the titles were already out on loan and readers were patiently waiting for them to be returned.

As to the downloads that did happen, 59 libraries delivered a million downloads each, 14 libraries saw 2 million downloads, 7 libraries saw three million downloads each.

Two libraries crossed the magical four million mark, with the Toronto Public Library on the way to 5 million downloads, reaching 4.6 million.

But the big surprise came not from North America, but from Singapore.

. . . .

[I]n October 2017 OverDrive launched the world’s first digital business library in, you guessed it, Singapore.

With no Kindle store to select from, Singaporeans downloaded 1.5 million digital downloads from OverDrive in 2017.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

PG suspects that OverDrive may not be willing to give Author Earnings access to borrowing data.

Additionally, the last time PG checked, Overdrive was not accessible by indie authors except through Draft2Digital, Smashwords, etc. Overdrive is, of course, definitely not available to authors who make the decision to exclusively publish on Amazon.

With no disrespect to Smashwords, etc., Amazon makes it financially attractive for indies to publish there on an exclusive basis. More than one indie author makes very good money from KU/KOLL borrows. It would be nice if Overdrive borrows paid indies as well.

Perhaps it does, but PG hasn’t heard about it. We’re talking net monthly or annual income, not per-page royalty rates which may not translate into serious dollars. The Amazon book store is superbly designed to drive book (and especially ebook) sales. Overdrive not so much.

Although PG hasn’t researched Overdrive stats, he suspects the majority of the books Overdrive lends are still from traditional publishing. From the viewpoint of a library administrator, it’s far easier to pay Overdrive rather than deal with a gaggle of indie authors.

But he could be wrong.

OTOH, OverDrive’s owner, Rakuten, appears to be a smart and aggressive company. Should it decide to do so, Rakuten might be in a position to provide some serious funding for Kobo (now owned by Rakuten) to compete much more aggressively with Amazon in ebook sales.

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