Cheers in Czechia for the End of VAT on Books

From Publishing Perspectives:

Czech book industry representatives say they hope that after a challenging 2022, the introduction of a zero-percent value-added tax rate (VAT) on books could provide much-needed support to the country’s publishers and booksellers.

During 2022, the country’s book sales dropped to about 8.4 billion koruna (US$359.5 million), down around 3 percent year-over-year. That worrying data was released in the latest market report by the Prague-based Czech Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association (SČKN).

. . . .

Local publishing houses expect that this year’s tax cut on books could improve the situation in their market.

In a message on its home page, the association says, “On January 1, 2024, the approved adjustment of VAT on books came into effect. As of this date, books are exempt from VAT. To put it simply, the VAT rate for books is reduced from 10 percent to zero percent.

“We believe that this enlightened step by legislators—we’re finally at the forefront this time in Europe—will ultimately lead to an increase in the quality of reading in the Czech Republic, the development of Czech book culture, and accessibility for readers.

. . . .

Grada’s position, Sviták says, is that digital sales have the potential to serve as a pillar of the publisher’s growth in the coming years.

“We’re committed to continuously improving Bookport,” he says, “our online subscription service for unlimited reading, both in terms of book selection and user experience. We plan to continue improving our digital content offerings and digital services for customers, as well as raising the efficiency of our internal processes through digitization. We’re exploring for ways to expand our product range to include a broader portfolio.”

In addition to this, Sviták says he’s researching the potential of using artificial intelligence in its activities, while remaining “cautious about the negative impact of AI on the book market and copyrights.”

Asked about the potential impact of the reduced VAT rate on book sales in Czechia, Sviták says he expects the tax cut “will help us get back on track for growth and help stabilize the Czech book market as a whole. We can continue to publish a wide spectrum of books from fiction that people enjoy, along with personal-development content, and professional books for specific smaller target groups.

“Certainly, this move will positively influence both the Czech book market and Grada Publishing. It will benefit Czech readers and enrich the cultural landscape. Without this, there’d likely be a significant decline in the number and diversity of published books across the book market, especially in non-mainstream titles that often contribute greatly to societal diversity and enrichment.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Sales Predictions for Ebooks vs. Traditional Books Over the Next Ten Years

Prompt: describe the future sales picture over the next ten years for ebooks vs. traditional books printed on paper

ChatGPT4:

Predicting the future sales picture for ebooks versus traditional books printed on paper over the next ten years involves analyzing current trends, technological advancements, and changing consumer behaviors. Here are several key factors and projections:

Continued Growth of Ebooks: Ebooks are expected to continue their growth trajectory, driven by the convenience of digital reading, advancements in e-reader technology, and the increasing comfort of consumers with digital content. The ability to carry thousands of books in one device, instant access to purchases, and often lower prices compared to print books contribute to the appeal of ebooks.

Stable Demand for Print Books: Despite the rise of digital reading, print books are likely to maintain a significant and stable market share. Many readers still prefer the tactile experience of a physical book, and certain genres and formats, such as children’s books, cookbooks, and illustrated works, often perform better in print. Additionally, the resurgence of independent bookstores and the trend of book collecting suggest a sustained appreciation for physical books.

Hybrid Publishing Models: Publishers are increasingly offering both print and digital formats to cater to diverse consumer preferences. This hybrid approach allows readers to choose the format that best suits their reading habits, whether it’s print, digital, or a combination of both.

Impact of Subscription Models and Library Lending: Subscription services for ebooks and digital library lending are becoming more popular, offering readers access to a vast array of titles at a fixed cost. This model encourages the consumption of digital content but may also impact individual ebook sales. Print book lending through libraries continues to support the circulation of physical books.

Technological Innovations: Advances in e-reader technology, such as improved battery life, better display technology, and enhanced interactive features, will make ebooks even more attractive to consumers. The development of digital rights management (DRM) and piracy prevention methods will also play a role in the growth of the ebook market.

Environmental Concerns: Growing awareness of environmental issues may lead some consumers to prefer ebooks over print books to reduce paper use and the carbon footprint associated with book production and distribution. However, concerns about electronic waste and the energy consumption of digital devices might temper this trend.

Market Penetration and Global Reach: Ebooks offer publishers the opportunity to reach a global audience more easily, particularly in regions where the distribution of physical books is challenging. The increasing penetration of smartphones, tablets, and e-readers worldwide supports the potential for international ebook growth.

Changing Demographics: Younger readers, who are more accustomed to digital devices for entertainment and education, may be more inclined toward ebooks. However, print books continue to appeal across all age groups for their collectibility, giftability, and lack of screen fatigue.

In conclusion, over the next ten years, the market is likely to see a balance between ebooks and print books, with each format catering to different preferences and situations. While ebooks may gain in popularity and market share due to technological advances and changing consumer habits, print books are expected to remain an essential part of the publishing landscape, sustained by their unique qualities and reader attachment.

PG Comments – Wetware Analysis:

As with some of PG’s earlier queries about future events, ChatGPT4’s response includes lots of on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand analysis as if the AI is shying away from firm or firmish predictions. PG is going to try some different prompt creation strategies to encourage the AI to show a little more backbone.

662 million digital books were borrowed in 2023, up 19%. Don’t tell Markus Dohle!

From The New Publishing Standard:

With the waiting list at 253 million, OverDrive saw demand for almost one billion downloads in 2022.
OverDrive’s digital library lending numbers for 2023 have been announced, and as usual its bad news for the Markus Dohle fantasy world where ebooks are forever 20% of the market.

With digital checkouts totalling 662 million, a 19% rise on 2022, here’s how the numbers broke down for 2023.

Ebooks: 370 million, up 12%

Audiobooks: 235 million, up 23%

Magazines: 56 million, up 75%

Comics and graphic novels: 37 million, up 14%

And to rub salt into Dohle’s wounds, the ebook and audiobook holds/wait list stood at 253 million (+19%). In other words there would have even a further 253 million downloads, taking the total to 915 million. And to put that yet another way, if the content had been available, OverDrive could have clocked close to one billion digital downloads last year.

Globally, 152 public library systems in seven countries (up 13%) clocked more than one million downloads apiece, and among those 72 clocked more than two million, while the front runners saw downloads hit 11 and 12 million. (Details to be published by OverDrive soon.)

. . . .

Unlike retail and subscription – even all-you-can-eat subscription – there is no price friction when it comes to digital libraries.

Yet still ebook consumption outperforms audiobook consumption by 36.5%, with 135 million more ebooks being borrowed than audiobooks.

Don’t tell Markus!

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Markus Dohle was the Chief Executive Officer of Penguin Random House until he quit in January, 2023.

Markus was dead set against ebook subscription or lending programs for just about anybody, including libraries.

Dohle told the Court during a trial for illegal price-fixing (that snagged most of the big book publishers in the dumbest violation of US Antitrust laws that PG has ever seen or read about) that if subscription got its wicked way there would be no bricks & mortar retail left within three years, and that publishers would be “dependent on a few Silicon Valley or Swedish companies”. That of course is totally unacceptable. Imagine if two German companies dominated the US publishing sector. No, wait…

Here’s a lovely quote from one of Dohle’s side-kicks:

PRH UK CEO Tom Weldon, in full gatekeeper costume, said in 2014, “We have two problems with subscription. We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything you can’ isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.”

The obvious answer is if readers don’t like book subscriptions, they won’t buy/use them. The popularity and success of Kindle Unlimited and your local public library’s ebook borrowing programs just might indicate that the heights (or depths) of traditional publishers are really pretty stupid.

Will you ever buy mostly e-books?

From Nathan Bransford:

I first launched this poll in 2007, when Amazon’s first Kindle had just been released and iPads didn’t even exist yet. Now we have gadgets and gizmos aplenty, though paper has held on strong. It’s been interesting through the years to get the pulse of e-book optimism and pessimism.

My usual caveats to pre-empt the comments:

  • Yes, I know this isn’t a scientific poll.
  • Yes, I am aware it’s even less scientific to compare very different audiences and sample sizes through time.
  • Yes, I know that you want more poll options because one of these doesn’t precisely capture all of the nuances of your e-book and print book tendencies. Choose the one that’s closest!

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

Here is Nathan’s sole polling question:

Will you ever buy mostly ebooks?

Will you ever buy mostly ebooks? Do you already?

You can pry my paper books out of my cold dead hands

I welcome our coming e-book overlords

Maybe. If it’s affordable and the technology looks cool.

I still have no idea

Click on the link above if you wish to participate.

While PG is not a big fan of overlords, he thinks the e-book overlords are much better than the printed book overlords.

3 Publishing Trends You Must Know in 2024

From Entrepreneur:

What was the last book or novel you read? Was it full of action and adventure? A steamy, slow-burning romance? Maybe it was the tale of a successful business owner or entrepreneur. Or was it the tell-all from a famous entertainment icon?

More importantly, What format was that story in? The traditional way of reading a story these days has drifted from the standard paperback or hardcover physical book to that of eBooks, audiobooks and even videos.

Translation?

The way we read has changed. And that change is not in just how we access the reading material. I’m going to explain 3 of the most insane trends happening in the world of publishing that will change the way you read in 2024.

Trend #1 — The explosion of eBooks

In 2020, 191 million eBooks were purchasedThis shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that the world was in the midst of a global pandemic. But this statistic has actually been growing steadily since about 2019.

The popularity of Amazon’s Kindle helped to drive that, with 84% of people reading those purchased eBooks on the device. Additionally, 23% of the $26 billion publishing industry in 2020 came from eBook purchases.

While the pandemic helped boost eBooks even higher, the impact of digital reading will only grow into 2024. Why? There are several reasons:

  • Convenience – readers can start reading immediately after purchase, without the need to leave the office or home.
  • Accessibility – to add to convenience, accessibility is also what’s helped to make eBooks a popular choice. eBooks come in various formats – PDF, ePUB and MOBI – and many are designed to handle and use assistive technology for those with disabilities.
  • Portability – the portable nature of eBooks means you can take an entire library anywhere you go. The Kindle is a popular device. However, thanks to its mobile app, anyone with a smartphone can access their library on whatever device – Mac, PC, iPhone, or Android – they prefer.
  • Customization – perfect for students at all levels, eBooks can mark up passages for quick reference, notes, annotations and even website links.

Trend #2 – Can you hear me now?

The convenience and portability of eBooks make them the perfect companion while on vacation or for a relaxing evening. But what if you don’t have time to sit and relax with a good book? Our hectic daily lives, both in and outside of work, can often make enjoying leisurely activities difficult to come by. So, while you may want to read, you probably don’t have the time or energy to settle down with a good book.

Enter the audiobook.

Audiobooks might seem like a new invention thanks to the growth in technology, but they’ve had a long life, starting in 1932. Actually, the American Foundation for the Blind established a recording studio, creating recordings of books on vinyl records.

This continued into the early 1990s when the term ‘audiobook’ became a standard to explain these recordings — the year 1995 introduced the debut of the soon-to-be audiobook giant Audible. Started by Donald Katz and Tim Mottthe two took the initial idea of the audiobook and began to develop it for the growing internet.

Two years later, the company released a mobile player, allowing people to listen while on the go. It wasn’t as popular or cheap as the emerging iPod, but it was a glimpse at what could be. Two years after that, Amazon became the strategic partner for Audible and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, searches for ‘audible’ have risen over the last 15 years by 167%, with revenue growing 14.3% year over year. While holding most of the eBook market, Amazon also hosts about 200,000 audiobooks through Audible.

In combination, the explosion of both eBooks and audiobooks will ultimately continue – especially as more publishers develop their works to accommodate the technology.

Link to the rest at Entrepreneur

PG understands that most of the OP is old news to regular visitors to TPV, but it’s nice to know that the word may be getting around to a wider audience.

Court to Hear Bids by Amazon, Publishers to Dismiss Revived Price Fixing Case

From Publisher’s Weekly:

It’s deja vu all over again: in a brief order this week, Magistrate judge Valerie Figueredo has set oral arguments for June 22 to hear motions from Amazon and the Big Five publishers to dismiss an amended civil lawsuit accusing them of an illegal conspiracy to fix e-book prices. The hearing comes some 10 months after Figueredo found insufficient evidence for the initial case to proceed, prompting a do-over.

The case was first filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14, 2021, led by firm Hagens Berman, the first firm to sue Apple and five major publishers for colluding to fix e-book prices in 2011. It alleges that the Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—are co-conspirators in a hub-and-spoke scheme, with Amazon to suppress retail price competition and keep e-book prices artificially high. In March 2021, a second, associated suit accusing Amazon and the Big Five publishers of a conspiracy to restrain price competition in the retail and online print trade book markets was also filed. That case was also dismissed, amended, and refiled last year, though it is not clear whether the June 22 hearing will include the motions to dismiss that case as well.

From the outset, Amazon and the publishers have insisted the conspiracy claims are “implausible” and unsupported by any evidence. And after a marathon July 27, 2022 hearing, Figueredo agreed, recommending that presiding judge Gregory Woods dismiss both cases. Woods accepted Figeuredo’s “well-reasoned” and “thorough” reports, and dismissed both cases last September—but in a twist, the cases were dismissed without prejudice, giving the plaintiffs a chance to file amended complaints.

Amazon and the publishers insist there is still no case. “While the [second amended complaint] has swelled plaintiffs’ allegations by more than 30 pages and 100 paragraphs, those additions overwhelmingly consist of repetitions of the same alleged facts from the [complaint] that the court has already determined do not state a claim,” reads a December, 2022 letter from Amazon lawyers.

The plaintiffs argue that the case should be allowed to proceed. “The question at this stage is not whether Defendants have in fact violated the antitrust laws but, rather, whether Plaintiffs have met pleading requirements so that their claim—accepting all allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in their favor—should get past a motion to dismiss,” the plaintiffs argue, insisting they have cleared that bar.

While the revived complaint adds details about the “supracompetitive” profit margins on e-book sales Amazon is able to reap and invokes Judge Florence Pan’s October 31 decision to block Penguin Random House’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster on antitrust grounds, it appears to still suffer from the key deficiency of its predecessor: the lack of any direct evidence suggesting coordination among Amazon and the publishers.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

Go Wide or Run Away or Amazon Fail

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

[Note on 5/5/23: As most of my regular readers know, I’m dyslexic. I have a first reader to catch errors, but this post–which was late–went live without the assistance of that first reader. As a result, I made two typical errors for me, which have been discussed in the comments. Normally, I leave my mistakes and let the comments speak for themselves, but because the KU people are here, these two small errors have grown all out of proportion. At the request of a few folks, I’ve removed the mistaken passage and corrected a math error, but I’m leaving all the comments, which I think are valuable. If you want to read the actual removed section, download the audio version. The errors remain there.]

I’m writing this on the last day of April. I’ve been planning this post for months now, as the drumbeat of bad news out of Amazon escalated from rumors to asset sales to major layoffs. The reason I’m posting the date in this blog is because by the time you read this, there might be even more news that has somehow affected writers.

I’ve been worrying about this year since at least 2011. Maybe longer. I knew at some point, the world’s largest retailer would mess with their ebook program(s). Amazon is not a book retailer. They’re no longer a bookstore, and haven’t been one since the last century.

They’re an online retailer, currently the largest in the world by most measures, but they might not be number one by the end of 2023. Others are rapidly climbing the list, and aren’t suffering from the same kind of missteps that Amazon made during the past few years.

When big companies have bad earnings reports, the people running the big company must make changes—even if changes aren’t warranted. The CEO answers to the stockholders, not to the customers, and stockholders generally demand some kind of change…or the CEO gets fired.

In the past two years, Amazon has had bad earnings reports. 2022 was terrible.

. . . .

Keeping an eye on earnings reports, both expected and actual, are important for writers to do with any business they’re tied up in, because then the writer isn’t blindsided by changes that come from above.

The losses started in mid-2021, but they were small. Year over year, though, which is how most publicly traded companies now look at earnings, were devastating in 2021. After all, 2020 was filled with phenomenal growth. A year later, the growth was slowing, and by 2022, reversing.

Amazon made a lot of money during the pandemic and, like many tech companies, seemed to think that the gravy train would continue. Apparently no one in the company thought it through: what we were going through was a true Black Swan event. It happened worldwide at the same time, and no one alive had gone through anything remotely similar.

Rather than seeing the event as something unique, with its own set of rules, the people in charge of the tech companies decided the future had arrived. We would all be shopping online forever now, talking to friends and family on Zoom, and never leaving our homes. Apparently, these starry-eyed CEOs and prognosticators weren’t listening to their own friends and family, who were probably chomping at the bit as much as everyone else, waiting for the day when they could burst out of their little bubble and return to “living” again.

When living returned, the tech companies saw quarter to quarter losses, and many of those losses were major. Some companies are doing just fine because they didn’t expand during the pandemic. But others are doing poorly.

Like Amazon.

Amazon spent the newfound wealth like it was a growing start-up again. They bought or rented warehouse space all over the country, and added a huge number of employees.

And now, with the financial losses, Amazon is reversing a lot of those decisions.

Most writers wonder why that’s important. After all, big companies are just big companies, right? They have money. They’ll continue.

But they don’t always continue. Take a look at Bed, Bath, And Beyond. In fact, take a look at this article in Business Insider, which is illustrated with large bold subheads. It gives a quick overview of how a company can go from a juggernaut 20 years ago to bankruptcy and possible closure today.

For more than a decade now, I have fought with writers old and new about relying solely upon Amazon. I’ve written blog after blog recommending that writers go wide, and yet many writers never listen.

. . . .

I kept saying that someday Amazon will change, and that change will hurt writers, particularly those who tie their entire writing career to Amazon. The writers who have gone exclusive through Amazon via Select are really going to be in trouble.

And the trouble has already started.

Some of that trouble was built in from the start. What actually got me taking notes for this blog post was a Facebook post from one of the best-known Kindle Unlimited writers who claimed that writers never have a passive income off their work. Writers must constantly write and release to be successful.

Um…what? Really? News to me and most writers who have gone wide. One of the best things about writing is the passive income. If Dean and I quit tomorrow, we will continue earning for years to come. Sure, some of the revenue will go down a bit if we don’t put out new product, but mostly, the income will plateau.

Apparently, goosing payment through new releases is one of the few ways that K.U. writers survive. And if they don’t do it, they don’t get paid as much or as well. Or maybe not at all, given what he (and all of the people in the comments) said.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

PG acknowledges that Amazon is far from perfect. However, at the present time, it’s still the best friend indie authors have.

A handful of stats from a TPV post a few days ago:

  • Amazon sells over 487 million ebooks through Kindle every year.
  • The company’s market share in ebook sales stands at least 67%, climbing to 83% when Kindle Unlimited is included.
  • Amazon is estimated to control over 87.9% of yearly ebook sales in the UK.

PG prognosticates that ebooks are the future of publishing, indie or otherwise. Compared with the dead-tree side of publishing, ebooks have a much higher margin. All you need is a website, the ability to process credit card purchases and enough cheap online disk space to hold a bunch of electrons in one or more ebook formats.

Amazon’s management decisions have definitely gone downhill since the Bezos era, but even less-talented management has definitely established the best way to sell ebooks at a profit. It’s a reliable cash generator. However, the book business as a whole, traditional or indie, is not a huge money-maker on either the gross or net column in a giant company’s annual report.

Amazon’s huge overhead numbers and sunk costs are in the bricks and mortar side of things. Lots of physical warehouses being stocked with lots of physical products which are then sold and shipped all over the place, mostly on trucks, but also on planes. Amazon has certainly modernized the way physical warehouses are operated, but physical warehouses and physical shipping is a very expensive way to distribute goods compared to a bunch of spinning disks hooked up to the internet. Bits are always more efficient than atoms.

PG would like to see more than a few upstart competitors to Amazon’s book business pop up. It’s not difficult for PG to envision a much better internet bookselling platform than Amazon’s.

However, while he doesn’t have definitive inside information, PG suspects that trying to fund a company to compete with Amazon in ebook sales is a very, very hard sale to any venture capitalist.

With respect to ebooks, The Zon has fallen into the same pit that has claimed or almost claimed a whole bunch of tech companies – keep the servers running, collect the easy profits, but send a lot of money and a great many smart people in the organization off pursuing this or that flavor-of-the-month in the start-up world.

How environmentally sustainable is storytelling?

From GoodEreader:

When the world got shut down, many of us found refuge by escaping into stories. Whether reading an intriguing historical biography, an engrossing thriller, or a magical fantasy; for many of us curling up with a book has been a more popular past time. As such, as the world opens back up, it’s an interesting time to look at how our reading habits have changed, and whether or not they have an impact on the environment.

E-readers and digital content has boomed significantly over the last decade. Now a day, it’s not uncommon to hear about book club members debating between whether to read a print book or e-book; as there are pros and cons for each. Some people in my book club swear by the experience of the mighty e-reader, enjoying its compact nature, ability to hold multiple books, the many cool features, as well as the ability to read “pretty much anywhere.” (Except while driving! Judy, we’ve talked about this before).

It seems I’m a bit of a dinosaur, and although I like to read manga via a digital platform, I’m still quite in love with print books.

. . . .

I prefer the experience of holding a glossy print book, and being able to flip through the pages, underline favorite passages, and yes, if I choose, I may even dog ear pages. (shh!) Personally, I often use my book as a coaster for my coffee, which becomes rather ridiculous and redundant when I make a fresh cup of coffee and then sit down to read… spending longer than I’d like to admit wondering to myself, “Now… where did I set that book down?”

For my book club, debating what format we were going to use to read our next book didn’t really matter as we simply accommodated everyone, choosing novels which come in both print and digital formats. However, just recently a book club member brought up another reason to consider e-readers which created quite a stir and definitely caught my attention: the negative environmental impact of print books.

Although this book member was rather nice about accusing me of killing the planet one page at a time- she offered me cookies while launching into my moral shortcomings as a print book reader- I must admit I was surprised to hear that the latest climate change culprit was books, and wanted to do a deep dive into the facts around this.

. . . .

According to a recent piece by Nicole Smythe, in Forbes (September 2022) “When creating a print book, one tree can produce around 8,333 pages of paper; therefore, with an average book containing 400 pages, one tree, on average, can produce around 20 books. However, let’s put this into perspective – with the United States seeing an 8.5% increase in print sales, resulting in 825.7 million additional copies being sold, that’s almost 41.2 million trees needed for material purposes alone. This level of deforestation can generate tremendous amounts of wastewater and a sizeable carbon footprint.”

Ms. Smythe, as well as a very passionate book club member of mine, ascertains that readers need to face the fact that change is upon us, and clinging to our beloved paperbacks may be causing serious harm on our environment.

. . . .

“At the end of a book’s life, unless followed through with a proper recycling process, most often or not, it will end up in a landfill. The process of print book decomposition is one of the most ecologically unfriendly aspects in its full product lifecycle, as it will produce twice the climate change emissions as its manufacturing process.” (Forbes, 2022)

. . . .

In at 2020 piece published in Anthropocene looking at the the environmental footprint of paper vs. electronic books, writer Pierre-Olivier Roy states, “E-readers don’t require trees, ink, or glue—nor do they take up as much space and weight as a traditional book. An e-reader represents not just one book but an entire bookshelf, so having more books on the e-reader reduces the environmental burden per book. On the other hand, e-readers consist of electronic components (such as the screen, lithium-ion battery, and CPU)—all of which require extraction and transformation of different resources (copper, silicon, and rare earth elements, among others). They use electricity to recharge, and the data centers and servers that host electronic books before they’re downloaded also consume resources and energy. What’s more, an e-reader has a shorter lifetime (around three years) than a paper book. And even though recycling electronic products continues to become easier, the practice is still not widespread and is much more problematic than recycling paper books.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

PG reads the large majority of the content he consumes via various screens. However, he is a strong proponent of live and let live in any disputes regarding ebooks v. paper books (as well as a great many other things.)

Digital Book World Focuses on Data and Accessibility

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Digital Book World, a conference focusing on innovation in publishing, returned to New York City for the first time since 2016 and runs through Wednesday. The event drew several hundred attendees to the Sheraton Hotel in Times Square for an opening talk by Karine Pansa, Brazilian children’s book publisher and new president of the International Publishers Association. In her remarks, Pansa said that the main areas of focus for her two-year term, which started January 1, will be on collecting data to get an objective baseline of the what is happening in the industry. “We will have a new beginning, driven by data,” said Pansa.

As Pansa noted, the adoption of digital publishing practices, both in production and retailing, vary wildly. In Japan, for example, digital audiobooks account for 35.8% of the total revenue of the book market, while they represent less than 1% of sales in other countries with large book markets, such as Mexico and Colombia. In Spain, digital publishing is growing in popularity, but fully 50% of the material being consumed by readers are being downloaded for free, suggesting piracy is rampant. Piracy also continues to vex Middle Eastern and Africa publishers, which has stalled digitization in the region.

Digitization also impacted retailing, said Pansa, with online bookselling now dominating in Italy, Korea and the U.K. Meanwhile, some regions of the world, such as Africa and the Arabic-speaking countries, remain reticent to engage with digital publishing due to the prevalence of digital piracy in the region.

Part of the IPA’s mission is to educate publishers globally and sometimes this comes down to a simple reminder: not everyone is wealthy enough to afford an e-reader, high-speed internet or even consistent access to books. In the U.K. for example, “75% of people are using e-readers or tablets to access digital material,” said Pansa, “while for many people, like those in my part of the world–Latin America– purchasing a dedicated e-reader is not possible with their salaries.”

Part of Pansa’s message was about making books more accessible to a broader demographic of people. She noted that with its population growth, Africa “offers a big opportunity for publishers to reach a growing audience” while to reach the disabled community, publishers need to make their books “born accessible.” Pansa noted that with the passage of the European Accessibility Act, publishers will be required as of June 2023 to make all of their digital books accessible should they want to sell them in Europe.

. . . .

Accessibility was also the subject of a panel on the first day. On the subject of making print and books accessible, Benetech’s Michael Johnson, v-p of content, said, “It’s just the right thing to do.” He noted, “There are more people in the world who are blind than have red hair. There are more people who are dyslexic than are left handed. So this is a huge group of of people who cannot read your books unless they are accessible.” He said that it may be as much as 20% of the population. “When we talk about DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] efforts, you cannot leave out the letter, A, for accessible.”

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

Laurie McLean’s Crystal Ball: Publishing Predictions for 2023

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Well, to say a lot happened in publishing last year is a severe understatement.

Simon and Schuster Merger that Wasn’t

Among the legal news, the biggest merger in publishing history — Penguin Random House’s proposed acquisition of Simon and Schuster, aka the antitrust trial — got nixed by the courts. And PRH ended any speculation that a merger would happen after that, basically taking it off the table.

S&S’s parent company reinforced that they are still looking for a buyer. HarperCollins and Hachette are being thrown around as potential suitors. But S&S may also end up with a private equity firm who sells off parts of the business to turn a profit (man, I hope this doesn’t happen!).

Digital Content Law

Publishers successfully challenged Maryland’s Digital Content Law that sought to force publishers to license ebooks and audiobooks on “reasonable terms” for library lending. And two longshot lawsuits against Amazon and the Big Five for price fixing were thrown out (mostly) by a judge.

Book Banning

And book banning went into overdrive, no pun intended, in 2022. I don’t understand it. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. But don’t tell me what I can or cannot read. If you don’t like what your kid’s teacher is assigning, talk to the teacher.

But to statewide ban a book because its ideas scare you or it has a picture of a naked comic animal (yes, Maus was banned because of that), the problem might be you instead of the book. Ahem.

Good News

But there was good news as well. Sales for print books, digital books and audiobooks continued on pace with the great sales of the prior two years. With an especially long week before Christmas, sales skyrocketed to end the year on an up note. In the final sales week of the year, NPD BookScan recorded print sales of approximately 16.3 million units, which was well ahead of previous years.

However hardcover sales declined more than 10% to just below 2020 figures, and print books in total were down 6.5% from the prior year, so that might affect the total revenue for publishers. (Note that these figures only go up until October 2022, so we might still end the year even or down a bit from the previous year’s sales. I’m not worried, however.)

. . . .

Now on to my Publishing Predictions for 2023:

Book sales will stay even or just a bit less than prior years. I don’t see a lot of changes happening in 2023 as compared to 2024.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks will continue to sell well. People like them. They both read and listen to books. I see tremendous upside still in this market.

Supply chain issues will level out as new solutions are found, so that will cease to be as much of a problem for publishing as it has been since 2020. If this happens, publishing will not be so nervous about slipping publication dates and the inability to resupply if a title sells surprisingly well.

Paper Prices Advance Digital Sales

Paper prices are still rising, so publishers might finally start looking at digital books (ebooks) as a profit center rather than another format. I mean, c’mon. Why can’t we have several versions of a book in digital form: an author’s cut with extra material at a premium price, a quick-read simple version for less money, a kid’s version of the adult book. It’s all possible for very little effort or money if the parties are willing. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Self-Publishing Thrives

Self-publishing authors, take heart! Readers are finding your books. And since you own all the rights and subrights, you can experiment by changing covers, fixing copyediting mistakes, adding a sequel or prequel to your series, etc., etc. Build your fan base through meaningful conversations with your readers and they will reward you by buying everything you write.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

PG notes that the self-published authors he hears from continued to do just fine in 2022 and intend to have another successful year during 2023.

Amazon Book Sales Statistics

From Words Rated:

  • Approximately 10% of Amazon’s worldwide revenue comes from book sales
  • Although this sounds small, it still equates to $280 billion
  • Amazon is responsible for roughly half of all the sales of the big 5 publishers
  • Memoirs and biographies were the top-selling genres on Amazon in 2022
  • Amazon controls up to 80% of all book distribution in the US

. . . .

  • Amazon pays $250 million in royalties to self-published authors each year
  • Only 1% of audiobooks on Audible are self-published
  • More than 1,000 self-published authors made $100,000 last year from Amazon
  • Self-published books account for 31% of Amazon’s ebook sales

. . . .

  • E-books make up 21% of Amazon’s total book sales by revenue
  • However, because they are significantly cheaper than print books, e-books actually make up 36% of sales in terms of total number of books sold

. . . .

  • Amazon’s market share when it comes to e-books is 68% before even looking at the books that Amazon have published themselves or the books within Kindle Unlimited
  • With these figures factored in, it is thought that Amazon may be responsible for up to 85% of all e-book sales

. . . .

  • Amazon’s subscription services such as Prime and Kindle Unlimited earn the company more than $6 billion each year
  • Kindle Unlimited is estimated to have 3 million subscribers

. . . .

  • Best-selling is simply the books that have sold the most copies
  • Most read are the books that have been interacted with the most on Amazon devices rather than simply being the books that have sold the most copies
  • Up to 60% of the books available on Kindle Unlimited are thought to be self-published

Link to lots more info at Words Rated

How e-books and audiobooks are expanding options for consuming Arabic literature

From Arab News:

  • While many Arab readers prefer the printed book, others say ebooks and audiobooks save time, space and money
  • Growth of digital-literature market evident in production of 8,000 Arabic-language audiobooks in 2022 alone

DUBAI: As technology advances, bookworms are finding more options to consume literature than just through the printed word. Though e-books in Arabic are far fewer in number than those in English, publishers and translators are working to bridge the gap.

In 2018, Amazon announced Arabic-language support for the Kindle e-reader, opening the door of literature to a much larger audience.

From novels to self-help books, biographies to poetry and more, an increasing number of Arabs are finding affordable means to gain knowledge in e-books and audiobooks. Yet, reading a printed book is still the most favored option for the vast majority.

“Honestly, I don’t think there is a problem of reading books in the Arab region as some might think, as much as there is a problem in selling books,” Salah Chebaro, CEO of Beirut-based Neelwafurat, told Arab News.

Neelwafurat, one of the biggest online bookstores in the Arab world, is a word merging the two Arabic names of the Nile and Euphrates rivers.

The bookstore sells printed books from Arab publishers to different cities around the world. It boasts a stock of 15,000 e-books for sale that can be read through the iKitab application, as well as 800,000 printed books.

. . . .

“When you look at the number of the pirated books that were downloaded, they are in the millions,” Chebaro said in an online interview from the Lebanese capital. “People like to read, but they don’t like to pay to read.”  

However, “the predicament for publishers, distributors and bookshops in the Arab world … is in shipping (books) and other logistics related to the geography of the Arab region.”

For instance, the cost of shipping a consignment of printed books weighing a total of 2 kilograms from New York to Los Angeles in the US is roughly the same as, say, sending it from Cairo to Amman.

Saving on shipping costs is among the main factors behind the increasing popularity of e-books in the Arab region. Other factors include saving the space needed to store and carry around print books, as well as the speed of buying a book online, which can be finalized in the blink of an eye.

While some continue to maintain their preference for the printed word, reading on gadgets has many advantages. Yemeni-British Dhuha Awad, a creativity facilitator based in Dubai, says she likes the dictionary function in digital English books.

“I can type the word I am looking for, and the gadget will display all the lines that have that word (in the digital book). Also, I don’t need to carry the book I am reading with me all the time,” Awad told Arab News.

Her library consists of roughly equal numbers of digital and printed books, and she uses the e-book format to further save time and physical space. “If I like a certain book and want others to read it, I make sure I have it in paper. But if I am not sure, I will buy the digital format first,” she said.

. . . .

The growth in the e-books market in the Arab region is led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, Ali Abdel Moneim Ahmed, digital publishing consultant with Liberty Education in the UK, Egypt, and UAE, said during a panel discussion at the Sharjah Publishers Conference on the sidelines of the 2022 edition of the UAE’s Sharjah International Book Fair, held every November.

Link to the rest at Arab News

Kindle Scribe vs. ReMarkable 2 vs. Kobo Elipsa: Top E Ink Tablets Compared

From CNET:

Amazon announced a brand-new Kindle last week at its latest hardware event. The Kindle Scribe is more than just an extra-large e-reader. Its 10.2-inch screen is built for handwriting notes. Amazon includes a pen that doesn’t ever need to be charged so you can immediately start scribbling in your books or in its built-in notebook app. It has 300-pixel-per-inch resolution, comes with 35 LED front lights that can be adjusted from cool to warm and starts at $340 for a model with 16GB of storage. The Kindle Scribe will be released on Nov. 30. 

The Scribe is Amazon’s first E Ink tablet, but it’s not the only one. These devices, including the Kobo Elipsa and ReMarkable 2, also feature large screens, an included smart pen and gray-scale E Ink displays. Unlike traditional LCD tablets like the Apple iPad or Amazon’s own Kindle Fire, E Ink tablets aren’t capable of browsing the web or playing videos or games (at least, not very well). Instead, their main focus is to bring distraction-free writing and reading to students, professionals and anyone else who loves to write by hand, but wants to ditch the clutter and waste of paper notebooks. 

. . . .

Amazon says that you’ll be able to write handwritten notes in your books on the Scribe, but unfortunately you won’t be able to write them directly on the page. Instead, you’ll need to write on “sticky notes.”

Not only does this prevent you from scribbling in the margins of books, it also means you’ll need to take a separate action to start writing at all. First you’ll have to tap an on-screen button, which will launch the note. Once you finish writing and close the note, the sticky will be saved but will not leave any markings on the screen. You’ll be able to access your notes by tapping into your “Notes and Highlights” section.

Sticky notes works with all of your Kindle content and will also be available on Microsoft Word documents. The Scribe will let you directly mark up PDFs, but writing in books requires using sticky notes. That could be a tough pill to swallow for those who prefer to see their notes directly next to the text on the screen. All other E Ink tablets I’ve tested let users write directly onto the documents (including some books) on their device, rather than using sticky notes.

Link to the rest at CNET and thanks to F. for the tip.

Amazon Is Changing Its Ebook Return Policy in Major Breakthrough for Authors

From The Authors Guild:

The Authors Guild is proud to report that our discussions with Amazon’s senior executive team concerning the platform’s policy that allows readers to return ebooks online within seven days of purchase, regardless of the amount read, have resulted in a major breakthrough. Yesterday, Amazon informed us of its plans to change its ebook return policy to restrict automatic returns to purchases where no more than 10 percent of the book has been read.

The planned change will go into effect by the end of the year. Any customer who wishes to return an ebook after reading more than 10 percent will need to send in a customer service request, which will be reviewed by a representative to ensure that the return request is genuine and complies with Amazon’s policies against abuse. This process will create a strong deterrent against buying, reading, and returning ebooks within seven days, and readers who attempt to abuse the return policy will be penalized under Amazon’s policies. The Authors Guild and the Society of Authors, its counterpart organization in the U.K., had taken up this issue with Amazon’s senior executives earlier this year. We applaud the scores of indie authors who advocated for this change.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

PG notes that traditional publishers will also experience a financial gain as well, more than the author will.

Kindle Unlimited paid out over $250 million to indie authors in H1 as APA reports total H1 ebook market of $500 million

From The New Publishing Standard:

The industry journals are reporting the latest APA figures, summing up June and the first six months of 2022, painting a bleak picture for the ebook format, down 6.3% in June to $83 million compared to 2021, and down 8.5% to $500.4 million for the first six months of 2022.

By value ebooks accounted for just 12.7% of the trade market.

Except that it didn’t. At least not the total market. These figures are just those from the publishers reporting to the APA, and to be clear the APA itself makes no claim to be reporting the whole market. Not that you’d know that from some reportage, which treats the APA numbers as a definitive statement on the US ebook market.

What isn’t the APA counting? Essentially any publishers that do not report to the APA – which means all indie authors, APub, and countless small presses.

Indies of course are famously digital-first publishers, and many are solely ebook focussed. Many non-reporting small publishers are digital first or have a strong digital portfolio. APub publishes ebooks, audio and print, but given Amazon owns the Kindle store it’s a given that its titles own the Kindle store charts, as any glance at the ebook charts will confirm.

Given none of these report to the APA it’s also a given – but not one many in the industry want to say out loud – that the APA statistics only show us part of the picture.

But just how much more in trade value might the APA be missing?

We cannot know for sure, but we can be sure APub is the single biggest player in this uncounted field, and that it won’t be sharing its numbers any time soon.

But Amazon does share the amount it pays out to indie authors through the Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription platform. This doesn’t tell us total revenue, but the “royalty” paid through the “pot”.

To be clear, the pot is paid out only to indie authors and small presses loading to the Kindle store via KDP and that are enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited programme.

Bigger publishers with titles in Kindle Unlimited are paid à la carte quite separate from the pot. The same applies to APub authors.

But what we do know is how much Amazon paid out to indie authors as “royalties” in June – the same month the APA reported a total of $80 million in cold ebook revenue.

In June Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited pot totaled $43.4 million.

That’s more than half as much again as the total APA reported ebook revenue, and again this figure does not include à la carte sales from indies.

Over the first six months of 2022?

The Kindle Unlimited pot value has risen every single month except February. Here’s the running count:

• $42.2 million in January
• $39.4 million in February
• $41.4 million in March
• $41.5 million in April
• $43.3 million in May
• $43.4 million in June
• $251.2 million = H1 total

Yes, read that again, In the first six months of 2022 the Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service paid out a quarter million in ”royalties” to participating indie authors and small presses, quite separate from its pay-out to APub authors and to bigger publishers with titles in the programme.

That’s more than half as much again of the total ebook revenue – not royalties but hard revenue – reported by the APA, that has not been counted.

Subscription services notoriously do not pay much to authors/publishers – the June rate for indie authors was $0.00458496 per page read, equivalent to a royalty of $1.37 for a 300 page book assuming all pages parsed.

. . . .

Let me end with this thought: if we take the APA’s June count and add only the Kindle Unlimited pot pay-out we know of, and still exclude all other Kindle Unlimited revenue and all other ebook revenue, that alone takes the ebook total to $123.4 million, compared to the $80 million the APA tells us.

And if we take the H1 APA numbers and the H1 Kindle Unlimited indie pot pay-out together we are looking at a revised ebook value of $751.6 million, compared to the $500.4 million the APA numbers alone tell us.

And of course we are still nowhere near counting all ebook revenue.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

The Best Ebook Subscription Services for Every Kind of Reader

From Wired:

EBOOKS HAVE NOT swept away traditional tomes the way streaming services for music, movies, and TV shows have slashed sales of discs. Physical book sales are booming, but ebooks and audiobooks have a dedicated, appreciative audience. If you love to read, an ebook subscription service is a great way to discover new titles, find recommendations, and read more indie books. We tried out several of the most popular options, delving into their available libraries, apps, and features to determine the best ebook subscription services and audiobook subscriptions for different people.

. . . .

What to Consider

How to Choose an Ebook Service

While an ebook subscription might sound ideal, you should take some time to consider the pros and cons of each one. These digital reading services are often billed as the equivalent of Netflix or Spotify for books, and there are similarities, but ebook subscriptions also have some unexpected restrictions.

Content: All ebook subscription services offer limited libraries of ebooks. (This is where the Netflix comparison is useful.) They may boast more than a million titles, but that total doesn’t necessarily include any works by your favorite authors; none of the services we tested had a single title by Cormac McCarthy, for example, though some had audiobooks of his works.

The big five publishers (Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster) dominate the bestseller charts in the US but have had limited dealings with ebook subscription services so far. Current best-seller lists are not well represented, and the modest list of mainstream hits that appears mostly comprises older titles. Whatever service you are considering, we advise browsing the available library of ebooks and audiobooks before you commit.

Reading Habits: If you only read one or two books a month, you might be better off buying popular titles, recommendations from trusted friends, or works by your favorite authors. That way, you get to choose the best ebooks and keep them. With ebook subscriptions, you lose access the moment you stop subscribing, and the library of available books can change at any time without notice.

Voracious readers who are happy to try new and unfamiliar authors will likely get the most value from ebook subscriptions. But while these services are typically described as unlimited, they often do have hidden limits. This is where they differ from services like Spotify and Netflix. With Scribd, for example, the available library is reduced when you hit opaque limits.

Support: Make sure the devices you like to read on are supported. Most ebook subscription services offer apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, at a minimum. Languages, accessibility, and extra features like search vary, so do your research to make sure the app supports your needs. Sadly, many ebook readers, like Kindles, are not compatible with ebook subscription services other than their manufacturer’s offering.

Audiobooks: Unlike ebook subscription services, some audiobook services offer a monthly credit system that allows you to buy audiobooks you can keep, even if you stop subscribing. Others offer apparently unlimited access to a streaming library, but there are often hidden limits that narrow your choice for that month after you’ve listened to an audiobook or two. Consider also the maximum bitrate for audio streams, as this differs from service to service and can impact the quality of your audiobook.

. . . .

Best Overall

Scribd

With an enormous, varied library, Scribd is the best ebook subscription service for most people. You can read or listen via your browser on any device or use the Android or iOS apps, which are clearly laid out, fully configurable, and make for a pleasant reading experience. I had no trouble finding intriguing titles, and there’s a solid mix of classics, best sellers, indie books, and even some Scribd Originals. Progress syncs across devices, so you can pick up where you left off. You can download ebooks to read offline. Scribd also includes podcasts, magazines, and a document section enabling people to upload whatever they like. Even after a recent price hike, Scribd is an attractive package that comes bundled with perks, which currently include Curiosity Stream and Peak Pro subscriptions.

On the downside, there are limits to your monthly reading. Frustratingly, the rules are not clear. If you hit the limit, access is restricted to a smaller subset until the next month begins, and some titles are labeled Available Soon. While the formatting for ebooks is generally good, some magazine formatting is poor.

Cost: 30-day free trial, then $12 per month

★ Another Alternative: Bookmate boasts a large library of ebooks, audiobooks, and comics for $10 per month and is easy to use, but the choice and extras aren’t as varied as with Scribd.

Link to the rest at Wired

It’s Time to Embrace Physical Media Again

From LifeHacker:

It’s finally time to admit streaming apps and digital distribution have ruined most creative media industries, and maybe physical media was the right choice all along.

Okay, that’s a tad dramatic. But it’s not exactly wrong.

To be fair, streaming apps aren’t all bad. Streaming services and digital storefronts make it easy to access our favorite shows, bands, and video games on just about any device we own. And they give us legal ways to support legacy media without succumbing to greedy scalpers or shady piracy sites. But what started as a way to “cut the cord” and stick it to cable companies and record labels has only birthed a new corporate overlord—one that does not respect its customers, the media it distributes, or the people who make it.

The issue with streaming and digital media

One could argue annoyances like The Office leaving Netflix or that the first Mannequin film is unavailable digitally while Mannequin 2: On the Move is readily available are just part of the reality of the new digital landscape.

But that impermanence is starting to seem a lot more like a bug than a feature. This past week, we learned Warner Bros. Discovery unceremoniously delisted TV shows from the HBO Max app for no reason other than it wanted to stop paying residuals to its creators—sorry if you ponied up your $14.99 per month expecting HBO Max Originals content to actually be available on HBO Max. Meanwhile, digital video games are regularly delisted from digital shelves, making them impossible to purchase or redownload, even as inevitable server shutdowns render multiplayer modes—or even entire games—unplayable even after you’ve purchased and downloaded the game.

It’s not just music, movies, and games—even ebooks and comics are in peril due to streaming and all-digital platforms. Just look at the backlash against Amazon’s recent Comixology overhaul, which made purchasing new comics almost impossible for certain users, and rendered some comics and manga unreadable thanks to unwanted layout changes.

All streaming apps, regardless of media, revoke your access to their free libraries if you unsubscribe, they experience a sudden service outage, or they permanently go offline—not to mention streaming business models notoriously screw over the artists and creators that distribute their work through these apps.

These issues and more make it increasingly difficult for customers to enjoy their purchases, and make media preservation virtually impossible.

You know what doesn’t have those issues? Physical media.

Link to the rest at LifeHacker

PG doesn’t want to go back to printed books. On rare occasions (once per year or so), he’ll purchase a pbook, but he finds the percentage of those which are set aside after reading the first part is quite high.

Ebooks make up 21% of total book sales

From About Ebooks:

In January 2022 the American Association of Publishers, which represents mostly mainstream consumer book publishers, reported that among their members ebook sales accounted for 11.3% of sales revenue. Bear in mind that this figure relates to revenue from the sale of popular, consumer ebooks released by established trade publishers. It largely excludes sales of educational and technical titles, and sales through self-publishing platforms such as Kindle Unlimited. And those categories typically comprise a much higher percentage of digital sales. But if you’re curious about the books you see in your local bookstore, then 11.3% is a useful data point. In October 2021, research outfit NPD Group reported that, “e-books account for 18% of sales, or more than one in six books sold.”

Consider Mark Williams’ argument in a December 2021  where he says, “AAP reports October ’21 ebook REVENUE was worth $84 million. For the same month Kindle Unlimited paid out $39.8 million in ROYALTIES. Just how big is the real ebook market no-one wants to talk about?” This simple comparison suggests that overall (at least US) ebook market share by revenue might be as much as double the AAP’s reported stats — something like 28%.

. . . .

In January 2020 the UK’s Bookseller estimated global ebook sales to be 19% of total book sales by revenue, and a whopping 36% by unit sales (number of books sold). This massive figure is somewhat driven by the number of back-list ebooks offered by publishers for free or under $1.00.

Link to the rest at About Ebooks

Over 50% Of Adults Have Not Finished a Book in the Last Year

From Book Riot:

While many book lovers would find it hard to not finish a book over the course of 365 days, this is the reality of over half of US adults. In a new study conducted by WordsRated, an international research and data group focused on reading and the publishing world, 48% of adults finished a whole book in the last year.

The American Reading Habits survey asked 2,003 American adults about their reading habits over the last year. This study was done as a means of offering a different perspective on reading than what’s typically offered via groups like PEW. Rather than define reading as a broad spectrum of activities, WordsRated had two criteria: the book must be print or digital (aka: no audiobooks, despite the fact audiobooks are indeed reading) and the book must have been finished in whole.

Image of generational breakdown of those surveyed.

As seen above, those surveyed included roughly 30% of those in the baby boomer generation, 25% of those considered generation x, 34% of those considered millennial, and 11% of those considered generation z. The three largest groups of adults were roughly equal.

. . . .

While it is certainly surprising to see that nearly 52% of those polled did not finish a book in the last year, that 48% did is still pretty impressive. The act of finishing a book as the definition of reading here definitely gives a wholly different perspective–how many of those 52% include people who pick up a magazine or flip through a cookbook or try something and set it aside? How many listen to audiobooks exclusively? 

. . . .

The data also show that a quarter of the same adults have not read a full book in 1 or 2 years, while 11% more have not read a book in 3-5 years.

A tenth of adults have not read a full book in the last 10 years.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

One of the reasons PG chose to excerpt this is the disconnect between the research group and the BookRiot people about whether listening to an audiobook is reading.

What do we think about that?

For PG (and, likely, almost everyone else), reading an ebook or paper book takes far less time than listening to an audiobook of the same same title. That might classify an audiobook listener as one who is more committed to spending time enjoying or learning from a book than someone doing the same thing as an ebook or on paper.

On the other hand, PG zones out while listening to the radio or music all the time and this almost never happens to him with an ebook or paper book. (If it does, PG will start a new book.)

This raises a couple of questions for PG:

  1. What’s the comprehension level for information taken into one’s brain via ebook/pbook vs. audiobook?
  2. Any difference in remembering what one has read between words on a screen/paper vs audio?

Many years ago, PG remembers reading that comprehension/understanding/remembering was better for a person reading from paper than on a screen. This was at a time when a screen was hooked to a computer and a keyboard, not a device like an iPad or smart phone.

In PG’s unscientific observation of himself, he doesn’t think that there is any difference in comprehension/attention for him regardless of whether he reads something on a screen of any sort vs. on paper. He does consume about 95% of the new information he encounters on a given day on some sort of screen and 5% (or maybe less) on paper.

The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens

From Scientific American:

In a viral YouTube video from October 2011 a one-year-old girl sweeps her fingers across an iPad’s touchscreen, shuffling groups of icons. In the following scenes she appears to pinch, swipe and prod the pages of paper magazines as though they too were screens. When nothing happens, she pushes against her leg, confirming that her finger works just fine—or so a title card would have us believe.

The girl’s father, Jean-Louis Constanza, presents “A Magazine Is an iPad That Does Not Work” as naturalistic observation—a Jane Goodall among the chimps moment—that reveals a generational transition. “Technology codes our minds,” he writes in the video’s description. “Magazines are now useless and impossible to understand, for digital natives”—that is, for people who have been interacting with digital technologies from a very early age.

Perhaps his daughter really did expect the paper magazines to respond the same way an iPad would. Or maybe she had no expectations at all—maybe she just wanted to touch the magazines. Babies touch everything. Young children who have never seen a tablet like the iPad or an e-reader like the Kindle will still reach out and run their fingers across the pages of a paper book; they will jab at an illustration they like; heck, they will even taste the corner of a book. Today’s so-called digital natives still interact with a mix of paper magazines and books, as well as tablets, smartphones and e-readers; using one kind of technology does not preclude them from understanding another.

Nevertheless, the video brings into focus an important question: How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read? How reading on screens differs from reading on paper is relevant not just to the youngest among us, but to just about everyone who reads—to anyone who routinely switches between working long hours in front of a computer at the office and leisurely reading paper magazines and books at home; to people who have embraced e-readers for their convenience and portability, but admit that for some reason they still prefer reading on paper; and to those who have already vowed to forgo tree pulp entirely. As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading—but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Should we be worried about dividing our attention between pixels and ink or is the validity of such concerns paper-thin?

Since at least the 1980s researchers in many different fields—including psychology, computer engineering, and library and information science—have investigated such questions in more than one hundred published studies. The matter is by no means settled. Before 1992 most studies concluded that people read slower, less accurately and less comprehensively on screens than on paper. Studies published since the early 1990s, however, have produced more inconsistent results: a slight majority has confirmed earlier conclusions, but almost as many have found few significant differences in reading speed or comprehension between paper and screens. And recent surveys suggest that although most people still prefer paper—especially when reading intensively—attitudes are changing as tablets and e-reading technology improve and reading digital books for facts and fun becomes more common. In the U.S., e-books currently make up between 15 and 20 percent of all trade book sales.

Even so, evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. A parallel line of research focuses on people’s attitudes toward different kinds of media. Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper.

“There is physicality in reading,” says developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University, “maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading—as we move forward perhaps with too little reflection. I would like to preserve the absolute best of older forms, but know when to use the new.”

Navigating textual landscapes

Understanding how reading on paper is different from reading on screens requires some explanation of how the brain interprets written language. We often think of reading as a cerebral activity concerned with the abstract—with thoughts and ideas, tone and themes, metaphors and motifs. As far as our brains are concerned, however, text is a tangible part of the physical world we inhabit. In fact, the brain essentially regards letters as physical objects because it does not really have another way of understanding them. As Wolf explains in her book Proust and the Squid, we are not born with brain circuits dedicated to reading. After all, we did not invent writing until relatively recently in our evolutionary history, around the fourth millennium B.C. So the human brain improvises a brand-new circuit for reading by weaving together various regions of neural tissue devoted to other abilities, such as spoken language, motor coordination and vision.

Some of these repurposed brain regions are specialized for object recognition—they are networks of neurons that help us instantly distinguish an apple from an orange, for example, yet classify both as fruit. Just as we learn that certain features—roundness, a twiggy stem, smooth skin—characterize an apple, we learn to recognize each letter by its particular arrangement of lines, curves and hollow spaces. Some of the earliest forms of writing, such as Sumerian cuneiform, began as characters shaped like the objects they represented—a person’s head, an ear of barley, a fish. Some researchers see traces of these origins in modern alphabets: C as crescent moon, S as snake. Especially intricate characters—such as Chinese hanzi and Japanese kanji—activate motor regions in the brain involved in forming those characters on paper: The brain literally goes through the motions of writing when reading, even if the hands are empty. Researchers recently discovered that the same thing happens in a milder way when some people read cursive.

Beyond treating individual letters as physical objects, the human brain may also perceive a text in its entirety as a kind of physical landscape. When we read, we construct a mental representation of the text in which meaning is anchored to structure. The exact nature of such representations remains unclear, but they are likely similar to the mental maps we create of terrain—such as mountains and trails—and of man-made physical spaces, such as apartments and offices. Both anecdotally and in published studies, people report that when trying to locate a particular piece of written information they often remember where in the text it appeared. We might recall that we passed the red farmhouse near the start of the trail before we started climbing uphill through the forest; in a similar way, we remember that we read about Mr. Darcy rebuffing Elizabeth Bennett on the bottom of the left-hand page in one of the earlier chapters.

In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text.

Link to the rest at Scientific American in 2013

PG notes the date of this extended article, nine years ago, and all of the studies he mentioned would have taken place even earlier than that, given the lead times publications like Scientific American had to deal with as a longer lead-time for its paper publication than many publications do today. Per Wikipedia, the magazine established a paywall for its website in 2019.

PG cannot restrain himself from noting that the magazine owned by Springer Nature, which in turn is a subsidiary of Holtzbrinck Publishing Group.

Holtzbrinck (Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck) is a privately-held company headquartered in Stuttgart. It also owns Big-Five publisher Macmillan and a great many other publications.

Along with another large German publishing conglomerate, Bertelsmann, Holtzbrinck has an embarrassing history of aiding in the publication and distribution of Nazi propaganda during the 1930’s and 1940’s and profited from Jewish slave labor at some of the printing companies that supplied it with books and other publications.

To be fair, none of the present generation of owners and managers are old enough to have participated in those actions, although, there are reports that, during the 1950’s and 60’s, more than one German publishing executive attempted to whitewash previous close relations with various Nazi figures. Various short descriptions of Holtzbrinck recite that it was originally founded as a book club in 1948 which may describe either the present corporate entity or a predecessor, but PG doesn’t know of any postwar book club startups whose sole shareholders were multi-billionaires in the 2000-2010 era.

The controlling owners, Stefan von Holtzbrinck, his brother Dieter and sister Monika Schoeller inherited Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and held it until 2006 when Dieter sold his share to Stefan and Monika who each owned 50% of the company. Monika died in 2019, leaving an estate estimated to be worth $2.2 billion.

Universal Book Link User Guide

From books2read.com:

The internet is a great place to discover new books to read, but it can sometimes require a little work between hearing about a book you want to buy and actually reading that book. There are a lot of bookstores out there, so even when someone shares a link directly to the book you’re looking for, that link might not take you to the bookstore for your preferred reading app. (Or your local version of the page.)

That can leave you navigating to the proper store site and searching for the book you were already linked to. Sometimes the person sharing the link will try to help you out, sharing half a dozen links at once (one for each store she can track down).

That leaves you wading through a pile of links to find the one that’s right for you. Either way it’s a relatively small hassle, but it’s also an easily solvable one.

Here is where Universal Book Links Shine

When you see a Universal Book Link from Books2Read, you can trust it to get you to the store you want. That’s because a Universal Book Link can keep track of a book’s location at all of the major stores. The first time you click a Universal Book Link, you’ll see a page that looks like this:

Link to the rest at books2read.com

This service appears to be from the folks at Draft2Digital, who, among other things, make it quite easy for indie authors to create ebooks and print books for publishing anywhere because D2D’s formatting system creates non-proprietary files so you can easily publish wide instead of with Amazon.

PG’s impression, looking from the outside in, is that D2D has chosen to use some of their money to improve the publishing process for indie authors. Again, from the outside looking in, Amazon’s process for publishing ebooks seems pretty crude by comparison and has made only baby-step improvements since PG first used it.

Supply Squeeze, Changing Consumer Behavior Challenges Publishers

From Publishers Weekly:

A May 4 webinar hosted by Ingram Content Group addressed supply chain challenges, logistic delays, inflation, the role environmental impacts play on consumer shopping preferences, as well as how accessibility is increasing the reach for e-books and audiobooks. Participants included Rob Grindstaff, director of sales operations and product development for Ingram’s Lightning Source; Ruth Jones, director of global sales and digital services at Ingram Content Group UK; and Gina Walpole, the senior services manager for Ingram Content Group UK.

Panelists noted that troubles with the supply chain persist. Problems include a shortage of materials, increased freight prices, and port congestion. All of this is putting a strain on publishers as it becomes more difficult for them to accurately predict demand and, consequently, supply for a given title. It was pointed out that paper mills are operating at full capacity while some are shifting production from producing paper to packaging. Labor shortages persist across the logistics supply chain—and are predicted to carry into 2023. All this is resulting in rising costs.

Customer buying habits are also changing, panelists said, not only as a result of inflation, but because of a growing awareness of the need to support companies whose values align with the customer’s own—be they about ethics, equity, or environment.

One solution the panelists offered to several of these issues was Ingram’s own “print in market” (i.e. print-on-demand) solutions, which had various advantages over offset printing from speed to market to having a lower carbon footprint. The panelists noted that Ingram could serve markets in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and the United Arab Emirates, and are planning to expand operations to South Africa.

Another trend to note is the year-on-year increases in digital sales. This has been aided by several advancements in the industry, from increased discoverability due to better metadata management to the growing awareness that e-books have a far lower environmental impact than print books. Text-to-speech is improving and A.I. narration—Google now offers 35 voices for narration—is expanding the audience for audiobooks by making them more accessible.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Ebook Services Are Bringing Unhinged Conspiracy Books into Public Libraries

From Vice:

For years, the digital media service Hoopla has given library patrons access to ebooks, movies, and audiobooks through bulk subscriptions sold to public libraries. But more recently, librarians have started calling for transparency into the company’s practices after realizing its digital ebook collection contains countless low-quality titles promoting far-right conspiracy theories, COVID disinformation, LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, and Holocaust denial.

In February, a group of librarians in Massachusetts identified a number of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic books on Hoopla, including titles like “Debating The Holocaust” and “A New Nobility of Blood and Soil”—the latter referring to the infamous Nazi slogan for nationalist racial purity. After public outcry from library and information professionals, Hoopla removed a handful of titles from its digital collection.

In an email obtained by the Library Freedom Project last month, Hoopla CEO Jeff Jankowski explained that the titles came from the company’s network of more than 18,000 publishers: “[The titles] were added within the most recent twelve months and, unfortunately, they made it through our protocols that include both human and system-driven reviews and screening.”

However, quick Hoopla keyword searches for ebooks about “homosexuality” and “abortion” turn up dozens of top results that contain largely self-published religious texts categorized as “nonfiction,” including several titles like “Can Homosexuality Be Healed” which promote conversion therapy and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. This prompted a group of librarians to start asking how these titles are appearing in public library catalogs and why they are ranked so high.

“If [ebooks containing disinformation] were on the tenth page of results it wouldn’t be as noticeable, but they’re on the first page of results,” Jennie Rose Halperin, the executive director of Library Futures, told Motherboard. “What this says to me is that vendors don’t think people who are accessing resources through public libraries deserve quality, verifiable information.”

Hoopla serves more than 3,000 library systems and is in more than 8,500 public libraries across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Hoopla allows library users to check out ebooks from their personal devices. All anyone needs to explore Hoopla’s ebook catalog is a registered public library card. Hoopla is one of a few major ebook vendors libraries use to ensure library-goers have access to digital content. But unlike other services like Overdrive, which lets librarians order individual ebooks, Hoopla only sells ebook subscriptions, meaning that libraries have little choice over what titles they’re getting from the service.

Unlike print books that libraries can buy directly from publishers, publishers only sell lending rights to ebooks using third-party vendors like Hoopla. Ebook use has been on the rise for the past decade, and vendors like Overdrive and Hoopla have claimed dramatic increases in ebook checkouts during the pandemic when many libraries were unable to operate at a full in-person capacity. Since March 2020, demand for ebook titles from lending services like Hoopla soared.

Sarah Lamdan, a law professor at the City University of New York School of Law data analytics companies in publishing says many libraries choose to subscribe to bundles because it’s cheaper for libraries that are already strapped for cash.

“We lease these streams of content like on Netflix or Spotify,” Lamdan told Motherboard. “It’s more expensive to be deliberate and choose titles a la carte than it is to buy one of these bundles, and [libraries] are not given a lot of choice about it. Although libraries are super trusted and seen as so important to society, they’re not properly funded.”

“It’s just another way that the outsourcing of traditional information roles is really poisoning the well of fact and truth and reliable information sources,” Lamdan added.

Librarians also say that ebook subscription prices are unsustainable as they typically cost three times as much as a customer’s ebook purchase through Kindle. This is emblematic of at least a decade of tension in the digital library market in which librarians have little power to negotiate with publishers and vendors over prices that continue to climb. Libraries are also operating in a time loop where they have to keep purchasing licenses from the Big-Five publishers (Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Randomhouse and Simon & Schuster) through what’s called “metered access.” Typically ebook subscription licenses expire after a two-year term or after 26 circulations per purchase. Except the price keeps climbing.

Link to the rest at Vice

Digital Printing: The New Normal

From Publishing Trends (July 31, 2020 – mid-Pandemic):

In the olden, pre-pandemic days when most books were printed offset, digital files were stored in case a book needed to be reprinted quickly. But this March, that dynamic was upended: everything shut down, some publishers’ warehouses and bookstores closed, and even Amazon slowed its bookselling to prioritize sanitizer over bestsellers.  

All of these abrupt shifts resulted in enormous strains on the supply chain, says Ingram Content Group’s Kelly Gallagher. Publishers couldn’t access their inventory; books couldn’t be shipped even to the few retailers who were open; printers couldn’t get their titles where they were supposed to be. Within weeks, Lightning Press, Ingram’s print-on-demand division, found itself creating everything from “virtual warehouses” for some clients, to print-to-order titles that were delivered direct-to-consumer via orders through bookstores and online retailers. 

Then, just as stores were coming back, protests erupted around the country and readers rushed to read up on social justice – often opting for backlist titles with low or no inventory on hand. Again, publishers looked to Ingram and other printer/distributors to supply those titles. While some, like Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (2018), went on to sell hundreds of thousands of ebooks, print versions often had to be produced using short-run and print-on-demand (i.e. digital) techniques just to satisfy immediate demand.

“The pandemic has accelerated the move from print to digital by three years,” estimates Books International’s David Hetherington. Now, “more and more titles are born digital.” This isn’t simply a shift to ebooks, though some outlets, such as libraries have doubled their ebook downloads. Instead, “born digital” content refers to the shift from traditional first printings using offset, to smaller first runs that are printed digitally. Though the quality is not (yet) as good and the costs are higher, savings come in time and the ability to customize. 

Baker & Taylor’s Eric McGarvey agrees that digital-first is on the rise but says the shift has been taking place over the last five years, especially with university presses eager to keep overhead down while making the full range of backlist available. University presses have been in the forefront of innovation over the last few years, in part because of funding issues that forced efficiencies, and in part because some have been folded under their academic libraries, which have long embraced digital resources.

Many of these transitions are a result of improved technology. Digital presses can now handle everything from roll-fed printing and heavy paper stock to full color, a range of formats, and customization. Even the Big Five are looking to third parties to ensure books can be quickly printed and distributed through the appropriate channels. McGarvey cites a new largescale backlist title effort between a new PRH Publisher Services client and Baker & Taylor as an example. 

And BISG Executive Director Brian O’Leary sees a possible “broader conversation” than one dedicated solely to how the book is printed. “This technology enables the shift in publishing from fixed to variable expense and the ability to match capacity to demand,” he says. In other words, the old model of looking at the unit cost of a manufactured book has morphed into looking at the cost per unit sold. And, as printers close and consolidate, he and others note that flexibility becomes more important, forcing publishers to look at “total cost of ownership.” How do the advantages of having inventory on hand in your own warehouse weigh against the carrying costs – or the possibility that the warehouse closes, or the inventory can’t get to the end user? It’s possible to play this scenario out, as publishers like Duke University Press are already doing, where the printing, warehousing, inventory, and fulfillment of all books are handled by third parties, leaving the publisher to focus on only on acquiring, editing, and designing the IP.

The other looming question of the moment is this: What happens when all the frontlist titles that publishers held off launching this spring and summer need to be printed this fall and winter?  Tyler Carey at Westchester Publisher Services has worked with Macmillan to make its files, including active backlist titles, ready for digital printing. Speaking at PW’s Publishing Now conference, Princeton University Press’s Cathy Felgar said that, though the press didn’t hold off on publishing their new titles this spring and summer, they are expanding their digital printing because of concerns about printer capacity this fall.  

Meanwhile, the move to custom printing this spring has increased direct-to-consumer sales.  Though born of necessity – bookstores and other retailers wanted their customers to receive their books even when there was no physical place for them to pick them up –  having D2C options is an important (and, many would say, overdue) step for publishers and their distributors and wholesalers. 

Link to the rest at Publishing Trends

PG posted this to illustrate how far behind the technology curve publishers were and continue to be with respect to printing.

PG started TPV over eleven years ago and has been exclusively digital ever during that entire time. For at least 20 years before that, PG was exclusively digital, printing only what had to be printed due to lagging technologies in the business and court systems. As a matter of fact, PG typically developed PC-based home-brew document assembly systems for any documents he had to prepare more than 2-3 times.

There are few American institutions that change more slowly than the court systems, both federal and state. US Bankruptcy Courts began allowing digital filing of the voluminous paperwork involved in starting a personal bankruptcy petition (30-50 pages, sometimes more) twenty years ago. Various state and federal trial courts have different rules regarding whether/how they’ll accept paper filings (or won’t).

PG thinks that individuals who aren’t represented by an attorney in bankruptcy court may be able to obtain paper forms and submit those, but in his brief dive online, he couldn’t confirm that, but can confirm that trying to dig through a government website looking for forms of almost any sort is definitely not an easy task.

If traditional publishers are behind the courts in the move to exclusive digital, they have to be the last in line.

Those who use Kindle Direct Publishing know that everything is digital. PG doesn’t think it’s ever been otherwise (but he’s not certain about the dawn of KDP).

Books, E-Readers, and the Cost of Reading in Prison

From Publishers Weekly:

During the Cost of Reading in Prisons: Book Censorship and E-Reader Tablets In Carceral Institutions, a panel of advocates for prison inmates outlined the struggle to provide incarcerated people with access to reading materials—as well as the benefits and mounting challenges facing the introduction of digital reading devices into prisons.

The online panel, a wide-ranging, often moving discussion sponsored by PEN America and held earlier this month, outlined the sad and familiar punitive scenario faced by incarcerated people around the country: growing restrictions on the ability of prison inmates to receive physical books; the banning of physical mail, postcards, children’s drawings, and, due to Covid-19, even visits from friends and family. Indeed, panelists pointed out how efforts to prevent the spread of Covid in prisons has exacerbated the situation, further isolating inmates from the outside world that they will eventually rejoin.

. . . .

Anthony Johnson, PEN America research and advocacy manager for initiatives on prison book bans, moderated the panel, offering a quote from scholar/activist Angela Davis to open the online session. “What kind of Democracy do we want or do we inhabit?” Johnson asked, quoting Davis. Johnson pointed to censorious restrictions enacted by state corrections departments and state legislatures: “How do you make the case for access when state legislatures don’t require it?” He emphasized that “democracy is defined by what is denied to people in prison” in relation to those outside.

In response, Cynthia Simons, formerly incarcerated and now a women’s fellow at the Texas Center for Justice and Equity, said that “just because a person is in prison, they are no less human than us; incarceration is supposed to rehabilitate and give them the tools to survive when they get out.” Simons said that 81% of the women in prison “are mothers who have endured significant trauma. They need books on trauma, history, and works on peace and healing, and we’re limiting the tools that can help them.”

But the reality of incarceration and rehabilitation is quite different according to Jodi Lincoln, an organizer with the Pittsburgh Prison Book Project. Lincoln outlined how PPBP and other Pennsylvania-based prison book advocates fought against a 2018 statewide ban preventing organizations from sending physical books to inmates, a measure based on what she called dubious safety concerns. (Even before that ban, prisons would not accept books sent from family or friends.) The new restrictions, Lincoln said, were aimed at preventing contraband from entering prisons, and that were accompanied by claims that drug-saturated paper books were sickening prison personnel—claims Lincoln described as “hysteria.”

“We pushed back through the community and through the media and got the policy reversed,” she said. Nevertheless, books and mail must still be sent to a third-party location to be scanned. Lincoln cited a possible solution to providing access: the use of e-readers and tablets. “E-readers can be fantastic way to expand access to all kinds of education opportunities,” she said. Unfortunately, she was quick to note, in many cases for-profit technology companies, in partnership with prison officials, are undermining this utility.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Books In 10 Years: Will Books Become Obsolete?

From CareerKarma:

Whether you’re an avid reader, a student, or a professional who reads for career advancement, the book-buying market seems to be shifting less towards physical books than it did years ago. People now find it more convenient to read books on their mobile devices, tablets, or computers through different digital reading formats like EPUB and MOBI. Is it possible that books could become obsolete in 10 years?

Electronic reading formats are easier to get, less expensive, and easily accessed compared to hardcover books. This fact begs not only the question, “Will books become obsolete?” but also “When will books become obsolete?” It is no surprise that more readers are turning to online formats in the present world with the many advancements of modern technology. But, will books really become a thing of the past?

. . . .

Books have been an essential part of society for a long time but are slowly declining significantly since the invention of technology as more people are losing interest.

Will Books Be Replaced by Future Technology?

Technology cannot entirely replace books, but there will be a significant reduction in physical books in the world. The world is going fully digital, and everyone now uses technology to complete several tasks, including reading. The demand for books printed on paper is declining, but digital books are becoming more popular as there are now ebooks that people turn to when reading for either pleasure or education.

However, books may remain relevant in the academic world as research shows that students still like to print PDF files to study. Reading with mobile devices or computers can be pretty strenuous for students, so institutions will always need to provide an alternative option.

People might subscribe to using more digital devices than reading copies of books in the near future, but books will not be entirely replaced by technology. There will be less book usage and more ebooks, but they will not go completely obsolete.

. . . .

Ebooks Are Taking Over

Ebooks are more in circulation than physical books for many reasons, as the book industry has seen a decline in book sales. According to Statista, the ebook industry rakes in tons of money every year, with a total sales of $1.1 billion. This figure is also expected to continue to grow, proving how popular the digital book business has become in recent years.

Books Are Getting More Expensive
Physical books are getting more expensive with time due to the increased cost of material resources needed to print a book and pay for authors’ royalties, transit costs, and return shipping. These factors added together on a daily basis influence the cost of books significantly.

Ebooks Are More Easily Shared

Why buy a book when you can just share one? Ebooks are easy to share and distribute, making them more accessible for some people. You can even find free PDF versions of your favorite novels online. This especially comes in handy if you live in, say, San Francisco, and you think your friend would love this book, but they live in New York. It’s cheaper and easier to share a digital book than a printed one.

. . . .

Online Classes

With the pandemic disrupting the world as we know it, online classes and bootcamps have become the norm, with many educational systems adopting this method to teach students. The exponential rise of online courses has further increased the use of digital devices for studying, decreasing the need for physical books even more. Sometimes we need to learn without contact, and the only way to accomplish that is by reading ebooks.

Link to the rest at CareerKarma (you may need to click to remove a stupid popup window on the first screen, but PG encountered no others when he went to the site with a popup-blocker on his browser.

Will Paper Books Be Replaced by E-books Soon? This Will Surprise You

From LifeHack:

E-books were supposed to be preferred over textbooks by now. For a variety of reasons; however, printed versions of books still prevail. For decades, researchers have been focusing their studies on how people utilize, comprehend, and process digital and paper reading material.

In recent years, researchers continued their investigation of the effectiveness and efficiency of paper text compared to digital text (such as e-books, tablets, personal computers, and laptops).  Some of their conclusions are surprising.

From Hieroglyphics to E-Books

Our brains were not designed for reading. Human beings don’t have pre-programmed genes for reading, like there are for vision and language.

Thanks to Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper, and the Gutenberg press we’ve adapted and created new circuits in our brains in order to understand texts and letters.

Prior to the emergence of the Internet, our brains read predominately in linear ways, reading one page at a time before moving on to the next page. Distractions were minimal.

When we read text using e-book devices, tablets, laptops or desktop computers we must juggle multiple distractions (hypertext, e-mails, videos, and pop-up advertisements). In addition, a simple movement like swiping a finger on the screen or readjusting the mouse leads to moving our attention away from what’s being read. These interruptions may seem minor, but they nonetheless adversely affect our comprehension, reading speed, and accuracy.

Andrew Dillon, a University of Texas professor who studies reading, had the following comment to say to the WASHINGTON POST:

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scrolling, and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you. We’re in this new era of information behavior, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that.”

Some of the consequences consist of how e-books, computers, and tablets reduce our reading speed and comprehension. Researchers found people comprehend the material they read on paper better than they do on e-books.

The need to comprehend is very important; especially, regarding work and school. Even though today’s children and college students are computer savvy, the majority of them prefer printed versions of text over e-books.

Moreover, Cornell University researchers found that both users and non-users of e-books generally preferred using printed versions of textbooks, since they plan to use them continuously.

Variations in How We Read

There are several different variations to reading. For instance, there are no measurable differences between e-books and paper text when it comes to reading short passages. However, studies show students remember more when reading from paper rather than a screen.

Anne Mangen, literacy professor at Norway’s University of Stavenger, explained more about reading to WIRED:

“Reading is human-technology interaction. Perhaps the tactility and physical permanence of paper yields a different cognitive and emotional experience; reading that can’t be done in snippets, scanning here and there, but requires sustained attention.”

For example, it seems that feeling pages and smelling the book awakens something in the human subconscious. Marilyn Jager-Adams, literacy expert and cognitive psychologist at Brown University, offers this explanation:

“All those cues like what the page looks like, what the book felt like, all those little pieces help you put together the whole thing. And they are just impoverished on a Kindle or tablet.”

E-books do not allow the readers a variety of annotations (like scribbling in the margins, dog-earing, and underlining), which for many people is essential to deep reading. There’s nothing tangible to engage our other senses.

Link to the rest at LifeHack

As PG mentioned before, he has gone almost entirely ebook in his personal reading, definitely for fiction and almost always for non-fiction.

One thing he’ll note is that PG always does his long-form ebook reading on a Kindle Paperwhite. He started that seven or eight years ago because he didn’t want the interruptions that come with a standard tablet. Nothing ever pops up on his Kindle other than the next page when he taps the screen with his thumb.

One part of the OP that was relevant to PG was the comment that for books PG expects to fill with sticky notes or underlines, he does tend to purchase pbooks. However, when someone does a decent job of integrating a rich slate of annotation tools for ebooks, he’ll move away from those types of physical books as well.

Digitization Can Support Publishers with Decision-Making

From Publishers Weekly:

“Digitization has made book publishing more efficient.”

According to the “Global Book Publishers Market Report (2021 to 2030): Covid 19 Impact and Recovery,” worldwide sales of e-books are predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.7% in the forecast period. This continues a trend that started in 2008 with the introduction of e-reading devices, most prominently Amazon’s Kindle.

Looking at the volume of e-books released each year since 2008, many titles are published directly on self-publishing platforms such as Smashwords or Kindle Direct Publishing. This has created a plethora of new information for traditional publishers—not only about which books are released but also about how individual titles, authors, and entire genres are perceived by readers.

In new research with my colleague Imke Reimers from Northeastern University, we studied how publishers use the information generated through digitization—such as online reviews, detailed bestseller lists, and download figures—to make decisions. Platforms such as Amazon and Goodreads, as well as services such as BookScan or Bookstat, provide new sources of data that can be tapped to make decisions about which authors to work with and which manuscripts to buy.

Using data on almost 50,000 book deals over a period of 12 years starting in the early 2000s, we looked at how digitization has affected the relationships between authors and publishers. In particular, we studied how the advances that authors receive for individual titles or series changed after 2008. As we looked at the data, it became clear that one genre is much more affected by digitization than others: romance and erotica.

No other genre is published as frequently in the e-book format, and no other genre is published as frequently on self-publishing platforms. Likewise, no other genre has seen as many works with a self-publishing background appear on USA Today’s bestseller lists.

So we compared how advances to romance authors changed relative to advances paid to authors who write in other genres. This comparison allowed us to isolate the effect of digitization from other industry trends.

First, we found that advances to romance authors increased by about 20% after the introduction of the Kindle, compared to advances to authors in other genres. We identified two possible explanations for this rise. On the one hand, it might have been driven by a relative improvement of the authors’ bargaining power, given that they now had the option to circumvent traditional publishers and use self-publishing platforms to find their audiences. Alternatively, it could have been driven by an increase in demand for romance books after spectacular hits such as Fifty Shades of Grey.

Secondly, we found that publishers benefitted from the data that became available to them as a result of digitization. To explore this, we took our analysis one step further and asked whether the authors involved in the book deals we reviewed eventually turned out to be successful in the market. This allowed us to study whether publishers’ predictions about manuscripts’ market potential (which we approximate with the size of advances to authors) are accurate.

Strikingly, we found that publishers made relatively fewer errors when choosing manuscripts after the arrival of Kindle, and these improvements are again more substantial for romance authors. This is true for both types of errors: false positives (high advances for manuscripts that eventually flop) and false negatives (low advances for manuscripts that eventually become bestsellers).

In addition, based on regression analyses that estimate whether a book from a deal becomes a bestseller, we found that an advance to a romance author can predict a book’s success at making USA Today’s top 150 bestseller list 33% more accurately, relative to before 2008 and to authors in other genres. This led us to conclude that digitization has made book publishing more efficient.

Finally, we found that publishers that are more likely to invest resources in data analytics (as measured by relevant job postings) see the largest improvements in prediction.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

How To Get Your Self-Published Book Into Libraries

From The Creative Penn:

If you haven’t considered libraries as a market for your self-published book(s), you should.

Why? For one, there are 2.6 million libraries globally1, and they spend roughly $31 billion annually2! In the U.S., library expenditures are $14.2 billion a year2, and of this amount, $1.4 billion1 or 10.2% is spent on books!

Secondarily, the library market is growing! Two years after Joanna posted my original article, How To Get Your Book Into Libraries, the number of Academic Libraries worldwide grew to 95,361, a 111.8% increase, and Public Libraries globally grew to 406,834, a 39.4% increase! In the U.S., the number of Academic Libraries had grown 12.5%, and there were 90.5% more Public Libraries!

And third, libraries are purchasing more eBooks. According to the American Library Association (ALA), in 2020, OverDrive (a provider of eBooks to Libraries) loaned out more than 289 million eBooks worldwide, a 40 percent increase from 2019, a shift the company attributed to the global pandemic.

. . . .

If you wonder if libraries buy self-published books, the answer is, “Yes, they do.”

In its April 5, 2021 article, How Library Distribution Works for Indie Authors, the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLI) shared the results of a 2016 survey conducted by US-based publishing service New Shelves. Per the survey, “… 92 percent of librarians reported that they regularly purchase from self-published authors and small presses.”

Although there still may be some libraries whose Collection Development Policy (the guidelines libraries use when making book purchasing decisions) might state they don’t buy self-published books, those excluding are becoming rarer and rarer.

I believe my situation is a good example. As of this writing, 156 libraries worldwide have acquired 192 copies of my self-published titles since I first introduced them to librarians a few years ago.

Also, in the last two years, I haven’t had one library inform me they don’t buy self-published books. And if you’ve heard that it’s hard getting a self-published book into a library, I would say, “It shouldn’t be easy because of the vital role libraries play in societies, but I and others are proof that it can be done.”

Link to the rest at The Creative Penn

New York’s library e-book licensing bill vetoed as Maryland challenge looms

From The Bookseller:

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has welcomed the decision by New York Governor Kathy Hochul to veto a bill that would have forced publishers and authors to grant e-book licences to libraries under state-imposed terms.

New York’s State Assembly legislation was similar to a new law in Maryland which the AAP is currently challenging in court over concerns it will force publishers both in the US and abroad to license e-books to public libraries on “reasonable terms” defined by the state. A hearing on the challenge is set for February.

Vetoing the New York bill, Hochul wrote: “While the goal of this bill is laudable, unfortunately, copyright protection provides the author of a work with the exclusive right to their works. As such, federal law would allow the author, and only the author, to determine to whom they wish to share their work and on what terms. Because the provisions of this bill are pre-empted by federal copyright law, I cannot support this bill.”

The AAP said the New York bill would have contravened the US Copyright Act and pointed out it included penalties for non-compliance, “effectively chilling copyright owners from pursuing the full benefit of their copyright interests and literary properties within the state”. 

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

2022 Publishing Predictions

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog with Ruth Harris:

Who could have predicted the bright ray of light that shined on publishing during this pandemic! But it did shine, and will continue to shine, as people rekindle their love of reading and writing! Publishing is more profitable than ever before in its history…for the second year in a row.

Once the streaming binge of Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and other channels grew a bit stale, people rediscovered books and how reading engages the imagination making it a totally different enjoyment experience than passively watching a screen. Books have been selling at a brisk pace ever since. And the profits reaped by the publishing giants has soared. I wish some would make it back to writers and the publishing staff, but that’s another story altogether.

Now that we can breathe a sigh of relief, what does publishing have in store for us in 2022? Here are my predictions:

1. Self-publishing will continue to grow and be profitable.

Bookstores will continue to prosper, even as Amazon continues to grow its market share. For the year to date (2021), bookstore sales are up 39.6%, to $7.1 billion. And that’s an increase from a huge year last year.

All of publishing is healthy and there is no reason for you not to get back on that horse and finish writing your books.

2. Diversity will grow even more, both with authors and with publisher staffs.

So many high-level (VP and up) positions were created to encourage and hire diverse staff within publishers. To me that’s the second phase of diversifying publishing. Phase one began 3-4 years ago with editors buying books from a more diverse ethnic and cultural pool of authors.

I don’t see that phase slowing down anytime soon either. But with the hiring of high-level diverse employees within publishing companies in phase two, we can begin to see real change in the industry. It will be a joy to watch and we’ll all be the richer for it.

3. Hybrid workplaces will deepen and New York will be the center of publishing in name only.

All plans to return to the publishers’ offices in January 2022 were cancelled as the Omicron variant surged this past fall. I believe this signals a huge shift in how publishing is done. When editorial and art departments can work from home, creativity can soar.

Change can happen. And the bureaucracy will be replaced with new energy and passion when employees don’t have to spend endless hours in meetings. Even with an increase in Zoom meetings, multitasking can make them bearable.

Hybrid work environments, now that employees have their home workspaces dialed in, are a harbinger of the future. And employers will dig the extra profits they make from a dramatic decrease in overhead.

. . . .

5. Supply chain and paper shortage woes will continue.

It takes a long time to straighten out something as broken as the publishing supply chain. Books with a lot of images (children’s picture books, coffee table books, novelty books) are mainly printed in China. But the empty cargo containers in the U.S. are not making it back to China for refilling and that is slowing down everything.

As agents, we see publication dates stretching out to 2025 and beyond. And I’m predicting that it won’t be fixed in 2022. And when you add to that the high cost of paper, the price of books at retail is going up (along with everything else you buy).

6. There will be a legal battle over how ebook sales are regulated to libraries.

Again, states are trying to legislate how much publishers can charge libraries to loan ebooks. This is a big deal, since it is the largest growth area for public libraries…especially during the pandemic. But even after we can once again go out safely in public, ebook reading is experiencing a sea change that some readers will never go back from.

This topic needs to be legislated from the federal level if the publishers won’t see reason.

7. Publishing will look more deeply at changing its business model.

Publishing companies can no longer deny that the 200-year-old way they’ve been running their empires makes no economic sense.

Here’s what Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch had to say about it: “Publishers have long carried the overhead of big-city offices, travel and entertainment, in-person events, book fairs, and other accustomed ways of operating. We’ve been profitable enough that we haven’t pressured ourselves to learn all we could do through long-available online communications, digital marketing, and remote-working capabilities.”

Working from home, freed from onerous commutes, without in-person calls, pitches, conferences, and shows, publishers have opened their minds to new ways of working.” This gives me hope that as profitability soars due to changes in an inefficient business model, authors might actually benefit through modestly higher advances and larger royalty percentages (especially in ebooks…I mean come on!)

. . . .

10. eBooks are experiencing a growing spurt of popularity that is not going to diminish.

When you combine the paper shortage/price increases, supply chain woes and convenience of spontaneously acquiring an ebook in the privacy of your own home without having to get out of your pajamas, the lure is too sexy to resist.

For you self-published authors, time to get out your marketing and promotional hat, put your books on sale, spiff up the covers, really pay attention to your metadata (especially key search terms), so avid readers can find your work. Because ebooks are not going away.

11. Audiobook popularity will continue to grow.

See #10 above for reasons. Add in listening to stories while driving, making meals, exercising and you can see why.

Link to the rest at From Anne R. Allen’s Blog with Ruth Harris

How authors are finding success on Kindle Vella

From MarketScreener:

Kindle Vella, Amazon’s mobile-first reading experience for serialized stories, lets readers follow stories they love. In the short time since Kindle Vella launched, thousands of authors have published thousands of stories, totaling tens of thousands of episodes across dozens of genres and microgenres.

Readers have a long history of loving serialized stories. Authors like Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alexandre Dumas, and Leo Tolstoy are among the many who wrote famous serialized stories. They offer short reading experiences that also provide connection to a larger, layered story or to an author for a long period of time.

Continuing in this classic tradition, authors are publishing serialized stories on Kindle Vella for mobile reading during short breaks in busy modern life. We talked to five authors of breakout Kindle Vella hit stories and discovered how they are finding success, reaching readers, and stretching themselves creatively with Kindle Vella.

. . . .

Callie Chase
Bug

“The key to success on Kindle Vella is writing the best story you can, with each short episode complete, engaging, and satisfying for a reader in line at the grocery store or school pickup,” said Callie Chase, who was looking for the right opportunity to publish her dystopian paranormal story Bug when she discovered Kindle Vella.

Chase had finished writing Bug, but Kindle Vella’s episodic storytelling format enabled her to introduce a cohesive cast of characters, tell the story from varying the points of view, and play with the story’s timeline, all while each episode could stand on its own. “Even if it’s been a week since they last read, readers can easily pick up where they left off,” she said.

Bug is one of the most popular stories on Kindle Vella, which launched for readers in summer 2021, and readers have consistently rated it a top story. Kindle Vella readers show their support by giving episodes a “Thumbs Up” and voting once a week for their favorite story.

Bug has received over 2,000 Thumbs Up and is currently No. 15 on the Top Faved leaderboard. To keep up this momentum, Chase has stuck to a strict publishing schedule, releasing episodes three times a week, always on the same day, so her readers know when to expect them. She includes this schedule in the story description to help catch the attention of new readers looking for something regular to read. She pre-schedules the publication of all her episodes to ensure she doesn’t miss a release.

Pepper Pace
The Galatian Exchange

Using social media and a newsletter to promote new episodes of The Galatian Exchange is crucial for science fiction author Pepper Pace, whose Kindle Vella story has reached No. 4 on the Top Faved leaderboard. The Galatian Exchange has also earned over 2,000 Thumbs Up from readers.

This type of interaction with readers is natural for Pace, who got started writing in online writing groups and enjoys online multiplayer role-playing games. “Being able to see the instant response to each episode of my series in the form of Thumbs Up and ranking makes the storytelling experience fun and exciting for me and my readers,” Pace said. “I enjoy being able to track my stories’ progress on the Kindle Vella Dashboard, which updates continuously as the day goes on. I can also see, with the number of unlocked reads, the number of new readers that I get.”

Link to the rest at MarketScreener

Here’s a link to Vella Top-Faved, the most popular Vella Stories as voted by Vella readers.

The Supply Chain Grinch

From Writers Digest:

I started drafting my YA rom-com I’m Dreaming of A Wyatt Christmas the day my world stopped. It was March 2020 and my three children were home on their first day of spring break. At the time, we didn’t know that they wouldn’t be back in the classroom until September 2021.

Wyatt Christmas was written in the scraps of time I stitched together between figuring out if I needed to wipe down groceries and quarantine mail, where to buy toilet paper, and how to entertain and prevent a school-less preschooler from interrupting his brothers’ virtual classes. I wrote from 10 p.m. to midnight, from 3 a.m. until whenever my then three-year-old woke up and came looking for me.

In order to keep myself awake enough to write at 3 a.m., I had to really love this story—really love this world—and I do. I filled this book with all the warmth and Christmas feeling I could cram into the chapters. Working on it was an escape—one I hope translates to the readers. And like so many books written during the early pandemic months, my cozy Christmas book was about to make its way to bookstores.

At least I thought it was. Like so many in the publishing industry, I’ve gotten a crash course in supply chains these past few weeks. Wyatt Christmas was supposed to hit bookstore shelves October 5. It didn’t.

This is not my first pandemic release. I’m typically a book-a-year author, but I’m Dreaming of a Wyatt Christmas will be my third release in the past 18 months. The last two books in my Bookish Boyfriends series came out in May 2020 and January 2021. While launching without in-person events hasn’t been fun, I thought I knew how to make it work. I bought a ring light, signed up to embarrass myself on TikTok, and made a virtual escape room for school visits. But publishing has always been a roller coaster—you never know if the next drop is going to leave you elated or nauseated—and I was about to encounter one more loop on the track.

Who knew back when we all giggled about the boat stuck in the Suez Canal that it was just the beginning of what we’d be learning about shipping and supply chains? Not me! Dangit, karma!

A few weeks ago, my publisher emailed me with the news: Wyatt Christmas wasn’t going to arrive in time for its original release date, and they gave me a new one: October 26. I took a deep breath and made some corrections to my planner. We all agreed that this was fine. This was good, even; my Christmas book would come out closer to Christmas.

I made graphics. I filmed Instagram stories. I decided to proceed with the virtual launch event I had scheduled on October 5 with author Jen Calonita at Doylestown Bookshop. It wouldn’t be a “launch” event for me, but Jen’s middle grade novel, Heroes, the final book in her Royal Academy Rebels series, was coming out that day, and I could use our talk to encourage preorders.

Ninety minutes before the event started, I got an email from the bookstore: their preorder link was down. While Doylestown Bookshop pivoted to accepting phone and email orders, and I sent frantic emails to my publicist, we realized it wasn’t just a one-store issue. The buy links didn’t work on any of the bookstores I checked. It didn’t work on IndieBound or Bookshop.org, or on Barnes & Noble’s website. The book was unbuyable, due to complications with the on-sale date change.

Link to the rest at Writers Digest

Yet one other reason to stay away from traditional publishers.

That said, an innovative organization would have improvised a strategy to launch the book in a different way.

Book sales were way up during the Covid lockdown. These were, of course, virtually all online.

An innovative organization might have organized an online launch for the ebook and a POD hardcopy.

As it is, when the supply chain is worked through, there will be a zillion other book launches because traditional publishing can’t figure out how to launch a book without their highest-cost/lowest-profit sales outlet – the traditional bookstsore.

Ebooks Are an Abomination

From The Atlantic:

Perhaps you’ve noticed that ebooks are awful. I hate them, but I don’t know why I hate them. Maybe it’s snobbery. Perhaps, despite my long career in technology and media, I’m a secret Luddite. Maybe I can’t stand the idea of looking at books as computers after a long day of looking at computers as computers. I don’t know, except for knowing that ebooks are awful.

If you hate ebooks like I do, that loathing might attach to their dim screens, their wonky typography, their weird pagination, their unnerving ephemerality, or the prison house of a proprietary ecosystem. If you love ebooks, it might be because they are portable, and legible enough, and capable of delivering streams of words, fiction and nonfiction, into your eyes and brain with relative ease. Perhaps you like being able to carry a never-ending stack of books with you wherever you go, without having to actually lug them around. Whether you love or hate ebooks is probably a function of what books mean to you, and why.

When discussed in the present tense, ebooks means Amazon Kindle ebooks. Competitors are out there, including tablets such as the iPad and the various software that can display books in electronic format. Precursors are also many. Ebooks appeared on Palm handhelds in the late ’90s. Microsoft made a reader for its equivalent, Windows CE. The first commercial e-ink reader was made in 2004 by Sony, not Amazon, although you’ve probably never heard of it. Barnes & Noble still makes the Nook, a Kindle competitor that seems like the Betamax of ebook readers. Before all of these, it was always possible to read on computers, portable or not. Adobe’s PDF format, first released in the early ’90s, made it easy to create and share print-formatted documents, viewable on any platform with a PDF reader. And you have been able to scroll through Word (or WordPerfect or WordStar or plain text) documents for as long as computers have existed, even if few would call such an experience reading.

Stop and reread that last clause, because the key to understanding why you love or hate ebooks is pressurized into it. Agreeing that books are a thing you read is easy enough. But what it means to read, what the experience of reading requires and entails, and what makes it pleasurable or not, is not so easy to pin down.

. . . .

Reading is a relatively useless term. It describes a broad array of literacy practices, ranging from casually scanning social-media posts to perusing magazine articles such as this one to poring over the most difficult technical manuals or the lithest storytelling. You read instructions on elevators, prompts in banking apps, directions on highway signs. Metaphorically, you read situations, people’s faces, the proverbial room. What any individual infers about their hopes and dreams for an e-reader derives from their understanding of reading in the first place. You can’t have books without bookiness.

Bookiness. That’s the word Glenn Fleishman, a technology writer and longtime bookmaker, uses to describe the situation. “It’s the essence that makes someone feel like they’re using a book,” he told me. Like pornography or sandwiches, you know bookiness when you see it. Or feel it? Either way, most people can’t identify what it is in the abstract.

Fleishman and I took a swing at defining bookiness anyway. A book, we decided, is probably composed of bound pages, rather than loose ones. Those pages are probably made from paper, or leaves akin to paper. These pages are likely numerous, and the collection of pages is coherent, forming a totality. The order of that totality matters, but also the form of bound pages allows a reader random access to any page, via flipping and fanning. Books have spreads, made of a left (verso) and right (recto) side. You can look at both at once, and an open book has the topology of a valley, creating a space that you can go inside and be surrounded by, literally and figuratively. Some books are very large, but the ordinary sort is portable and probably handheld. That held object probably has a cover made of a different material from the leaves that compose its pages. A stapled report probably isn’t a book; a coil-bound one with plastic covers might be. A greeting card is probably not a book; neither is the staple-bound manual that came with your air fryer. Are magazines and brochures books? They might be, if we didn’t have special terms for the kind of books they are.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to D for the tip.

Can Salman Rushdie and Substack Revive Serialized Fiction?

From The New Republic:

Salman Rushdie, the Booker Prize–winning novelist, insists that he is not, like so many media members before him, going to Substack—at least not full-time. He won’t be publishing his next book on the newsletter platform. Instead, he’s taken an advance from the company to fool around with “whatever comes into” his head. This will apparently include a serialized novella. “I think that new technology always makes possible new art forms, and I think literature has not found its new form in this digital age,” Rushdie told The Guardian. “Whatever the new thing is that’s going to arise out of this new world, I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.”

“People have been talking about the death of the novel, almost since the birth of the novel,” he continued. “But the actual, old fashioned thing, the hardcopy book, is incredibly, mutinously alive. And here I am having another go, I guess, at killing it.”

Rushdie isn’t wrong. The physical book has, somewhat improbably, maintained its supremacy in the digital age. Unlike the DVD or CD, nothing has truly emerged to threaten the analog; the printed page hasn’t yet had to make a “vinyl comeback.” At the same time, the book has hardly adapted to the internet age at all. Whatever the genre, books are simply not at all different than they were a few years ago, and no one seems particularly bothered about it. Not too long ago, there was a brief push to embrace things like QR codes to unlock digital supplementary material, but readers weren’t interested; the Kindle, meanwhile, is dominant among e-readers in large part because it so eerily replicates the feel of reading a physical book.

Yet it’s highly unlikely that Rushdie—or Substack—will plot the novel’s, let alone the book’s, next act. For years, people have been predicting that the internet would radically upend the future of literature, and yet, stubbornly, literature has refused to change. One reason for the book’s continued relevance is that it remains a surprisingly robust and effective piece of technology in its own right—every effort to find its future only ends up reminding everyone about what it already does better than other mediums.

Less than 10 years ago, the consensus within much of the publishing industry was that the physical book was on its way out. Just as Napster had killed the CD and Netflix the DVD, Amazon’s Kindle, unveiled in late 2007, heralded a seismic change for a medium that had held sway for more than 500 years. The book had been slowly falling in the public’s estimation ever since people ran out of a movie theater, in 1896, thinking that a train was going to kill them.

By the late 2000s, the reasoned thinking was that the book was an inferior communication technology, about to be left behind by the startling array of digital entertainment options.

It didn’t seem like such a bad bet: Digital books would soon outpace physical ones. This change would, in turn, bring about a dramatic change in form. Writers were limiting themselves when thinking only in text: Why not explore audio and video? Why not turn the book into an immersive experience? Why not allow readers to interact with the story itself, turning any book into a Choose Your Own Adventure experience?

There were two big problems with this thinking. The first was that what many of these theorists were describing was not, in fact, a book. In many instances, what they were describing was closer to a video game: an experience in which readers guided a narrative with audiovisual dimensions. The oddest thing about reading many fevered imaginings of the future of the novel was that they had been played out in things like Metal Gear Solid. (My own favorite game series, The Witcher, is a rarity in the game world, as it’s based on a series of Polish short stories, suggesting that the literature-to-game pipeline is being curiously underexploited.) There was, moreover, no evidence that readers truly wanted to be overwhelmed by audio and video while reading: Many, in fact, were turning to books precisely to escape the information overload that defines life in the twenty-first century. As Lincoln Michel argued on his Substack, it turns out that people just like books, and print books in particular.

The second error that these media futurists made was overestimating how vulnerable the book was to digital technology. Many people, when they listen to music, like to jump around between artists: The iPod allowed them to do so seamlessly. Movies are consumed in one two-hour period, and most people don’t know what they want to watch before they sit down on the couch, a problem solved by Netflix. But most people read one book at a time—no one was lugging an entire library to the beach. A Kindle can store thousands of books, but who cares? Having an ocean of literature at your fingertips is neat, but it doesn’t change the time-tested user experience of reading in a dramatic way.

Link to the rest at The New Republic

Needless to say, PG disagrees about ebooks vs. printed books.

As he’s mentioned before, he will occasionally purchase a printed book for one reason or another, but always regrets it later. Even a single not-very-fat printed book is more trouble for him than an ebook. A 600-800 page printed book is a horror to read.

Happily for the overall welfare of humanity not everybody is like PG.

PG himself would not like to live in a world of other PG’s. He cherishes the amazing variety of people he interacts with and is quite happy that they are different, even much different than he is.

Plus, the idea of a female PG makes him shudder.