Ebooks

I Tried All the Scary Stories Apps and Found the Best 7

31 July 2018

From Book Riot:

If you live, eat, and breathe horror like I do, then the thought of carrying scary stories with you everywhere you go probably sounds like a dream (or nightmare) come true. Thankfully, with the advent of smartphones, that nightmare has become a reality. New scary stories apps are popping up all the time. Search the app store for scary stories right now, and you might be overwhelmed with the options.

So, horror fiends, I have done the dirty work for you and screened a bunch of scary stories apps so I could bring you the best.

. . . .

2. Cliffhanger

I like apps like Cliffhanger because these are text message-based stories that include a Choose Your Own Adventure element to them. I’m never exactly sure how much of an effect my choices have in games like these (that would involve playing them over again and I just don’t have the patience for that at the moment when I have 5,000 other scary stories apps to get through). But at the very least, the illusion of choice makes me feel more invested in the story and more involved in the scary stuff happening on my screen. And the more you feel like you’re a part of the story, the scarier that story feels.

3. CreepyPasta

If you’re into scary stories and you haven’t discovered the world of Creepy Pasta yet, then I don’t know where you’ve been but it’s time to get on board. Creepy Pasta has permeated every part of internet culture. My husband thinks it’s a little weird that I listen to Creepy Pasta stories at night to fall asleep, but it’s a thing and it’s called “Sleepy Pasta,” so I’m not the only one who’s into it. There are podcasts, YouTube channels, and of course wiki pages dedicated to Creepy Pasta stories, so it should come as no surprise that there is a Creepy Pasta app too. This app is very well organized and easy to navigate. I love how you can save stories to your favorites and mark them as read. Maybe one day I’ll make it through all of them?

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Russia’s Growing Ebook and Audiobook Sales in First Half of 2018

18 July 2018
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From Publishing Perspectives:

The Russian ebook retailer and distributor LitRes appears to be having a good year in ebook sales and suggests that by year’s end, the country could see 47-percent growth—in a sector that still represents a single-digit percentage of the overall market.

In the first six months of 2018, LitRes reports, ebook sales have grown by close to 45 percent compared to the same period last year. This is mainly attributed to a fast-growing enthusiasm for mobile applications among Russian consumers. Sales of ebooks through apps reportedly have grown two to three times in recent months, along with an increase in demand for audiobooks.

LitRes says its ebook sales through mobile applications grew by 79 percent in the first half of the year, while revenue from audiobooks is reported to have almost doubled in the same period.

. . . .

The company says that based on its own performance, the market’s growth seems to be stimulated by subscription models. According to LitRes, its MyBook ebook subscription series posted growth of 85 percent in the first half of the year.

At the same time, some growth in the ebook market is also said to be in self-published ebooks, sales of which for the last 11 to 12 months in Russia are estimated in reports to have increased by almost 18 times year-over-year.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Business Of Books 2018: Digital Models Favor Subscriptions and Streaming Over Purchases and Ownership

5 July 2018

From No Shelf Required:

Business of Books 2018New tunes for an old trade” explores “the underlying trends shaping the transformation [of the publishing industry] and takes a closer look at a number of case studies that show how new actors are managing to innovate in the business of books.” The paper aims to identify the principles governing “how the publishing industry is pushing back its horizons in an age of platform-based interactions, community-driven business dynamics, and cross-media exploitation of intellectual property.”

. . . .

The hybridization and simultaneous combination of new and old practices that is so characteristic of this transformation can be seen at all levels of publishing:

  • In the role and reach of authors, as well as the empowerment of the recipients, the consumers, as they define the public space – the agora – in which publishers work
  • In the very concept of “storytelling”, which no longer has a privileged connection to books, but has once again become detached from formats as the boundaries blur between different media and channels
  • Content is created across formats and media, by any participant in the community, by professionals and by amateurs, by industrial companies and by lone individuals
  • The power of digitization has been unleashed through mobile devices, bringing reading, movies, games and social interactions seamlessly and coequally to the attention of consumers

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

E-book Watermarking

25 June 2018

From Copyright and Technology:

There’s been lots and lots of talk about DRM for e-books over the years. Lots of controversy, debates, diatribes, conference panels, etc. Watermarking? Not so much. That’s despite the fact that e-book watermarking has been in use for much longer than most people realize, and that it has recently become very popular in certain geographies, such as much of Europe. The dramatic imbalance of information about DRM and watermarking — especially in the U.S. — is not doing the publishing industry any favors in properly evaluating content protection options.

. . . .

Watermarking is a technique for embedding information in e-book files — typically information about the purchaser of the e-book and/or the place where it was purchased. Technical publishers such as O’Reilly and Springer have been inserting purchasers’ email addresses on every page of their PDF e-books for many years. More recently, e-book distributors such as Pottermore (the distributor of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter e-books) have been embedding user or transaction IDs that are known to the distributor but not meaningful to the public.

Back in 2007, Bill McCoy — then General Manager of the e-book business at Adobe, now head of publishing at W3C — advocated a watermarking-style solution to replace DRM, which he called “social DRM.” He was referring to the idea that if your name or email address is embedded in a document, you’re less likely to “overshare” it. The term “social DRM” stuck; it also led some industry writers to refer to watermarking as a type of DRM and even to use the incorrect term “watermark DRM.”

Watermarking is not DRM. This is especially the case if you accept the definition of DRM that the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Software Foundation, and others use, “Digital Restrictions Management.” Watermarked e-books have no restrictions on their use in e-readers, and retailers can’t use them to construct the kinds of walled gardens that some of them have with DRM. Any e-reader that can read the e-book’s format (PDF, EPUB, KF8, etc.) can read a watermarked e-book.

Watermarking also does not apply to the same set of distribution models as DRM does. Watermarking generally applies to retail sales, as well as certain special situations such as pre-release distribution of review copies; it isn’t used (by itself) with models such as subscriptions and library e-book lending.

Nevertheless, a growing number of e-book distributors are now using watermarking instead of DRM. As the white paper explains, this is especially true in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and many Central and Eastern European countries. Watermarking techniques have evolved so that they are not as easy to remove from e-book files as they used to be; today’s watermarking providers use multiple redundant techniques, so that someone who tries to strip a file of watermarks can’t be sure that all of the watermarks are gone.

The lack of popularity of watermarking in the North American e-book market stems from a combination of factors. Major e-book retailers aren’t motivated to give up their DRMs because doing so would diminish their walled gardens, and publishers aren’t insisting on it in their negotiations with those retailers. But just as importantly, there’s a general lack of awareness of watermarking compared to that of DRM, particularly among authors and agents who can specify it in contracts with publishers. While more research is needed to discover the relative benefits of DRM and watermarking in curbing infringement, this is a logjam that ought to be broken.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

The OP contains a link to the source of a white paper about watermarking ebooks.

Why Your E-Book Might Not Feel Like ‘Yours’

16 June 2018

From The University of Arizona UA News:

Despite stereotypes that paint millennials as “all technology, all the time,” young people may still prefer curling up with a paper book over their e-reader — even more so than their older counterparts — according to a new study from the University of Arizona that explores consumers’ psychological perceptions of e-book ownership.

The study also found that adult consumers across all age groups perceive ownership of e-books very differently from ownership of physical books, and this could have important implications for those in the business of selling digital texts.

“We looked at what’s called psychological ownership, which is not necessarily tied to legal possession or legal rights, but is more tied to perceptions of ‘what is mine,'” said lead study author Sabrina Helm, a UA associate professor who researches consumer perceptions and behaviors.

People’s sense of psychological ownership is affected by three primary factors: whether they feel as if they have control over the object they own, whether they use the object to define who they are, and whether the object helps give them a sense of belonging in society, said Helm, who teaches in the UA’s John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Psychological ownership is important in people’s perception of how they value certain products or services or objects,” she said. “In the context of digital products, we thought it would be appropriate to look at how people take ownership of something that’s not really there — it’s just a file on your computer or device or in the cloud; it’s more of a concept than an actual thing.”

. . . .

These major themes emerged from the discussions:

  • Participants across all age groups reported feeling a constricted sense of ownership of digital books versus physical books, based on the fact that they don’t have full control over the products. For example, they expressed frustration that they often could not copy a digital file to multiple devices.
  • Along similar lines, many study participants lamented restrictions on sharing e-books with friends, or gifting or selling the books, saying this made e-books feel less valuable as possessions than physical books.
  • Participants described being more emotionally attached to physical books, and said they use physical books to establish a sense of self and belonging. Participants across age groups frequently spoke about their nostalgia for certain childhood books. They also talked about experiencing physical books through multiple senses — describing, for example, the sound, smell and tactile experience of opening a new book, and the ability to highlight or write notes on paper pages. Participants also said they use their physical book collections to express their identity to others who might be perusing their shelves. E-books did not have these associations.
  • Minimalists expressed a preference for digital books because they take up less physical space.
  • Many participants said the e-book experience feels more like renting than buying.
  • While almost everyone expressed strong attachment to physical books, and no one embraced a fully digital reading experience, older consumers, contrary to what one might expect, saw more advantages than younger consumers to reading with an e-reader. They referenced physical benefits that might not be as relevant to younger consumers, such as the lightweight nature of e-readers and the ability to zoom in on text.

Link to the rest at The University of Arizona UA News and thanks to Elaine for the tip.

From time to time, Mrs. PG explains to PG that he is unusual in a variety of ways.

One of those ways is that PG values the information contained in books, factual, emotional, historical, etc., far more than the books themselves.

If the book world were organized in a manner that required him to return or destroy each book after he had finished reading it, PG would not be terribly upset provided he could procure another copy should he want to reread the book or review part of a book (something that has happened on only a handful of occasions during his lifetime).

Impressive old libraries full of books are enjoyable to visit, but, for PG, impressive old castles or cathedrals or city centers are equally enjoyable to visit.

Because of this particular idiosyncrasy, transitioning from reading physical books to ebooks was simple, logical and satisfactory for PG. Ereaders are much easier to carry around than physical books. If you want a book you don’t have immediately available, the ebook comes to you rather than you going to a bookstore. You don’t have to decide what books to take with you on a vacation. You can instantly return any book you bought and didn’t like after you started reading it without searching for a receipt.

The most important thing to PG – the information the author put into a book – is identical in an ebook or a physical book.

This said, PG isn’t preachy about his preferences. He understands he’s an outlier and a great many people enjoy having physical books scattered about, caressing them from time to time and taking them to bed at night like a hard, boxy teddy bear.

As BookExpo and New York Rights Fair Open: Warnings for Publishers

30 May 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

‘Your competitors like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Audible,’ publishers will hear this year at BookExpo and the rival rights fair, ‘are more than willing to fill the gap.’

. . . .

The reality, he says, is that “big data” is not really the stuff of most publishers’ future traction in a digital world. Something that may well seem like “little data” is, because it’s more available, readable, and actionable than the “big data” operations of major tech forces in the marketplace.

And the “invitation to a wild ride” he’s talking about is one that some will not accept gladly. It requires studying and analyzing many available “tracks” and trends at once, right down to what’s in a publisher’s “own backyard,” as we might say. “Who on your staff and around your own house reports back, in some structured way,” he asks, “on what they read, or how their kids operate their smartphones?”

What Wischenbart says he’s seeing is that even in the largest houses, such as Penguin Random House with its armada of imprints “acting like little companies,” the corporation can certainly engage in larger data activities, “but they don’t have the tool set,” he says, “to listen to what their employees are doing.”

. . . .

“[E]ven traditional readers—a majority of them urban, well-educated and older than 40—have seen their ‘mobile time’ rising from a modest 26 minutes in 2012 to more than one hour in 2017.”

Among Millennials, he says, “mobile time” may be expanding to as much as three hours per day.

But look at corresponding numbers in publishing markets that Wischenbart cites in his new article.

In Germany, data in Wischenbart’s report shows more than 6 million book buyers disappearing in the past five years . . . . Today, publishers there, he says, see a maximum audience of some 30 million in a total population of 80 million.

. . . .

Wischenbart has his fictitious publisher say to herself, “We need to stick to our bread and butter, to the rare books that hit the top of the charts, the well-established authors. Well, we even need the copy-cat income, or other cheap thrills, to simply secure a continuous income.”

But is that true? Wischenbart agrees in an interview with Publishing Perspectives that the blockbuster isn’t where publishers can afford to focus today, and not only because we’re in a largely blockbuster-less drought in the US market.

Wischenbart agrees that the buyer of the biggest blockbuster may do no more for the industry and for reading than pay for her or his one copy: these are generally not habitual readers. They’re novelty readers, readers drawn to the occasional breakthrough phenomenon, entertainment patrons who drop in on the world of books to catch a peak moment, then sail off to cinema, video, games, and music.

“I would phrase it this way,” Wischenbart says from his office in Austria. “First, the transformation that has been predicted now is here. It has arrived. We’re not talking about the future.

“And the transformation is much deeper” than many who became fixated on ebooks and perhaps today are transfixed by audiobooks’ uptake might think. “It’s a transformation of consumer behavior and habits.

“Second, such rough waters of transformation are creating higher risk” than publishers may have realized, not least because they’ve thought of “digital” as being about formats and largely now accomplished.”

. . . .

“I do see a difference in the US and UK markets and the rest of the world,” he says, in terms of how in the big US and UK markets, publishing has an upbeat sense that it knows where it’s going. “Hardly anyone in the industry in continental Europe or elsewhere feels so comfortable.”

The sense of greater comfort, command, and solidity in the UK and American markets, he agrees, may come from a plethora of self-congratulatory awards programs and morale-boosting coverage. “They’re always winning,” he says about such trends, which can lead a market to believe that all is going better than may be the reality.

. . . .

“Right now, my inkling is that a lot of truly critical information sits in drawers and on hard disks, underused, if noticed at all.

“We see, day by day, how publishing is getting ever more segmented. From formerly three distinct sectors, trade or consumer versus educational versus professional or academic, we have moved into an ever-thinner slicing of the cake that used to be served in the business of books.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG has long noted that the traditional book business lacks even rudimentary data skills.

Its reliance on Neilson and other data sources that do not include data from Amazon, by far the world’s largest bookstore, is Exhibit A.

Exhibit B is Big Publishing’s schizoid frienemies attitude toward Amazon, its largest customer.

For those who are newcomers to the recent history of Big Publishing’s strategies for dealing with ebooks and Amazon, in 2012, the United States Department of Justice charged Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan with illegally conspiring with Apple to fix ebook prices in the United States.

This group was conspiring to keep ebook prices high to prop up sales of printed books. Amazon, which was selling ebooks at low prices to help sell Kindle devices and expand the ebook market, was the target of this conspiracy.

In 2013, after each of these large publishers had admitted to acting in violation of antitrust laws, a trial judge found Apple guilty of participating in this same illegal price-fixing conspiracy. Apple appealed and the trial court’s decision was affirmed in 2015.

Exhibit C is Author Earnings, a small organization that does have people with good data skills.

Beginning in 2014, Author Earnings began to release a series of reports that detailed ebook sales on Amazon by both traditional publishers and by individual self-publishers working through the Kindle Direct Publishing program. This series of reports demonstrated that ebook sales indie authors were a large and growing segment of the overall ebook market.

As additional Author Earnings reports were released periodically, they reflected the continuing growth in the market for indie-published ebooks. Indie authors came to dominate ebook sales in the romance, fantasy and science fiction genres.

Had Big Publishing been willing to hire employees with any sort of data skills, it could have duplicated the work of Author Earnings and developed even more sophisticated analyses because of access to its own ebook sales data (which was not made available to Author Earnings).

Big Publishing has consistently elected to base its business decisions on hunches generated by a small group of former English majors running its businesses in Manhattan. The “golden gut” school of publishing management has resulted in Big Publishing missing the ebook train and failing to treat Amazon as a potential window into the rapidly-changing and ever-growing ebook market.

Another disadvantage Big Publishing has is that, by New York City standards, it doesn’t pay very well. A twenty-something with data skills can receive a much larger salary from any number of other employers who are not in the publishing business.

PG will restrain himself from commenting on the blinkered view of the world common in the large European holding companies that own all but one of the largest US publishers. Suffice to say, New York publishing executives are not receiving a lot of phone calls and emails from Europe urging them to invest more in technologies and people that will position the publisher favorably for a new and different future.

University College London Press Passes 1 Millionth Open Access Book Download

26 May 2018
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From Publishing Perspectives:

Said to be the UK’s first fully open-access university publisher, UCL Press—University College London—has announced today (May 24) that more than 1 million copies of its books have been downloaded in the international marketplace.

The press has been in operation for three years, and produces scholarly monographs, edited collections, and textbooks. Some particulars of the activity reported by the company:

  • UCL Press books are downloaded approximately 913 times per day
  • Each title achieves approximately 12,500 downloads
  • Its books have reached readers in 222 of what the press is “a possible 223 countries and/or territories”
  • UCL’s books, according to the company, have saved readers more than £60 million, being published as free-of-charge volumes via open access
  • The press’ most popular title to date is How the World Changed Social Media by Daniel Miller, with 227,396 downloads

. . . .

UCL Library Services pro-vice-provost Paul Ayris is quoted, saying, “Institutional open access publishing is transformative, being a completely new model of how universities engage with readers and with society.

“In the 15th century, the invention of movable type printing in the West transformed Europe. In the 21st century, open access publishing can do the same.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Selling Out: Going Wide or Going Exclusive to Amazon

24 May 2018

From The Book Designer:

When most new publishers think of selling ebooks, the first place they think of is Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.

This makes sense — after all, Amazon represents somewhere between sixty and eighty percent of the world English market for ebooks. Who wouldn’t want to have their book sold in the biggest storefront of all?

Amazon has created a program — KDP Select — that rewards publishers for offering their titles exclusively through the Kindle Store. A lot of publishers — and not just new ones — decide to put all of their eggs in the Amazon basket. They make some compelling arguments for why they do so.

I don’t — do so, that is. With almost all of the books that I publish, I sell wide — that is, at as many retail and distribution outlets as possible, in addition to the ‘Zon.

. . . .

Before we discuss the relative merits of selling wide or sticking exclusively to Amazon, we need to look at what the KDP Select exclusive program actually entails.

First of all, it’s a fully voluntary, opt-in program — just because you’re selling on Amazon doesn’t mean that they get exclusive rights to sell your ebook. You have to enroll each title — just because you’ve got one ebook exclusively at the Kindle Store doesn’t mean you can’t sell another on the iBooks Store, the Nook Store, Kobo, Google Play, and hundreds of other retail sites.

. . . .

Once you’ve signed up, whether at publication time or after, the title is locked in for a term of 90 days. In order to have the title remain enrolled, you have to keep that box checked — which it will until you go in there and change something.

In order to remove your title, on the other hand, you have to uncheck the box, and then wait until the term expires.

. . . .

By the way, just in case I haven’t made it clear, unless you sign up your book for KDP Select, you get no benefit at all out of selling exclusively on Amazon.

. . . .

Back when I first started selling ebooks, eight years ago, there were some nice benefits to enrolling in KDP Select. Although Amazon has added and subtracted over the years, there still are.

The current list of benefits includes:

  • Making your title available through the KindleUnlimited (KU) subscription service
  • Offering promotions:
    • Free
    • Countdown
  • Increased royalties in some non-US markets

That’s about it.

. . . .

KindleUnlimited

This is Amazon’s ebook subscription service — a “Netflix for ebooks” setup.

The reader can “borrow” up to ten KindleUnlimited titles at a time, all for the low, low price of $9.99/month. For folks who read in bulk — the folks who are our bread and butter — this is a very nifty deal.

From the publisher point of view, here’s how it works:

  1. Amazon estimates the number of “pages” based on the wordcount of your book. (They call this count the title’s Kindle Estimated Normal Pages or KENP.)
  2. When a reader checks out the book, Amazon keeps track of the highest-numbered page that the reader has reached. — You can keep track of “page reads” on your KDP sales reports.
  3. Each month, Amazon announces how much money all of the KU-enrolled books will share. (It’s usually a bit over $20 million.)
  4. That war chest gets divided by the total number of KENP “read” during the month — that’s the share each KENP earns that month.
  5. Amazon multiplies your total number of KENP for all titles that month by the share, and adds that to your royalties.

. . . .

Because the total amount of money that Amazon splits for a particular month is fixed, this has made it particularly vulnerable to scamming, and particularly maddening for the honest publisher — your only recourse in order to earn more is to raise the total number of pages read, which means either marketing the heck out of every title you’ve got enrolled in the program (which you were hopefully doing already), offering more titles (possibly pulling them off of other retailers to qualify them for KU), or offering longer books. But as more and more and longer and longer titles go up on KU, the value of each KENP share goes down.

. . . .

There are two types of promotions — Free and Countdown. In either case, you can offer the title for up to five days in a 90-day enrollment period, though during that period you can only offer one or the other of these promotions — not both.

Also, you can only offer them (at the moment) on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (the US and British sites). These won’t help you on Amazon’s sites in Canada, Australia, or India, for example.

. . . .

The countdown promo is fun; it offers you one or more promotional price over the period of the promo — and keeps a countdown timer going that announces just how much time readers have before the price goes up. This is a classic marketing ploy to take advantage of customers’ fear of missing out (the famous FOMO effect).

One other nice thing about the countdown promo: it’s the only way you can get a full 70% royalty for a title priced (temporarily) under $2.99.

. . . .

The Benefits of Going Wide

Back in 2014, when Amazon instituted the new KENP system for calculating KU earnings, I had about 50% of my titles enrolled in KDP Select — most of them short stories that earned incredibly well per borrow, and that served as “loss leaders” that lost me, in fact, nothing. Folks would read a short story by one of my authors (earning us both a royalty), then read one of the longer works, netting us more. Nice.

This lovely symbiosis disappeared with the KENP setup and its emphasis on longer KU titles.

Since then, I’ve stopped enrolling titles in the program, and over the past year I’ve slowly been letting the enrolled titles lapse. At this point I have just one KDP Select title.

The rest of my titles — about eighty by twenty authors — are offered wide. That is, they’re available on Amazon, but also on Apple, Kobo, B&N, Google, Overdrive, ScribD and many, many more.

. . . .

Unlike the KDP Select program, the three benefits here are really simple:

  1. I can earn more money.
  2. I can please more of my readers.
  3. I’m not encouraging monopolistic behavior.

. . . .

Most “wide” indie and self-publishers report that sales on Amazon represent 60%–85% of their ebook revenue. Myself, last year, I earned 62% of my ebook royalties through Kindle sales. In my most Amazon-slanted years I’ve earned about 80% of my ebook income from Jeff Bezos’s company.

That’s a lot.

However, I do wish to point out that that leaves 20%–38% of my income that wasn’t earned through Kindle sales.

I’d also like to point out that, while Amazon holds all but a monopoly on US ebook sales, outside the country it is a far, far less dominant market. The more my sales have gone international, the more I rely on channels like Kobo and Apple, and on distributors like Smashwords, PublishDrive, and Draft2Digital.

Link to the rest by David Kudler at The Book Designer

PG excerpted more than he usually does from the OP because he suspects Mr. Kudler operates in a different manner than a lot of indie authors do.

That said, PG thinks it’s a good idea not to run any business on autopilot, so he will be interested in the comments of others about the decision between Amazon with additional benefits vs. using everyone.

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