Apple Slashes App Store Fees for Smaller Developers

From The Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. is halving the commission it charges smaller developers that sell software through its App Store, a partial concession in its battle with critics over how it wields power in its digital ecosystem.

The iPhone maker said that starting next year it will collect 15% rather than 30% of App Store sales from companies that generate no more than $1 million in revenue through the software platform, including in-app purchases. The fee will remain 30% for developers whose sales through the App Store, excluding commission payments, exceed $1 million—meaning the reduction won’t affect such vocal Apple opponents as videogame company Epic Games Inc.

Apple’s 30% take has been at the heart of complaints this year from other tech companies and some users over how it manages the vast digital world of people who use iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices. The policy is also central to a major legal battle with Epic, and to government examinations in the U.S. and Europe of Apple’s competitive behavior as a gatekeeper between software makers and the hundreds of millions of people who use Apple’s gadgets.

Critics have charged that Apple’s commission is too large, is unfairly levied against different companies, leaves customers footing the bill and leads to workarounds by some developers to avoid the fees.

. . . .

A tiny fraction of developers account for the vast majority of sales in the App Store, which is central to a services unit that brought Apple $53.77 billion in revenue in its latest fiscal year. Research firm Sensor Tower estimates that only about 0.2% of the 1.8 million apps in the App Store generated more than $1 million last year, and says that group accounted for an estimated 92% of Apple’s App Store revenue.

The fee cut, therefore, gives Apple ammunition to rebut claims that its practices hurt smaller developers, while leaving untouched the vast bulk of its App Store revenue.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG was interested in this article because apps and ebooks are really quite similar to each other (although a dropsy epidemic would rage through New York publishing if such a statement were to be uttered within hearing range.)

Apps are electronic code and ebooks are electronic code as well. Apps run on tablets, smartphones, etc., and ebooks “run” on the same devices. Ebook readers don’t use their thumbs as actively as people who play app games on their phones, but, fundamentally, both purchase software for their electronic devices.

Apps and ebooks are sold online through digital storefronts in exactly the same manner.

Unlike app developers, when it comes to royalties, more than a few authors may analogize the sales of ebooks to the sales of printed books with printing costs, shipping fees, physical stores, warehouses full of books, etc., etc.

From the point of view of those who are running ecommerce at Amazon and Apple, ebooks and apps are just two different file formats.

It would be interesting if the people running iBooks caught the spirit of their much larger and more profitable contemporaries in the App department and decided that indie authors are pretty much like small app developers and should be paid 85% of the purchase price of ebooks instead of a much small percentage.

On more than one occasion, PG has been accused of being an Amazon shill because he likes the way Amazon treats indie authors and says so.

However, PG thinks it would be a great idea if Amazon treated indie authors like Apple treats small indie app developers and reduced Amazon’s take on KDP indie ebooks so authors received 85% of the proceeds Amazon collected for their books. (Amazon could also get rid of its ridiculous “Delivery Cost for a Digital Book” charge at the same time.)

Metazoa

From The Wall Street Journal:

Life undersea has a mesmerizing strangeness, from glass sponges—lacy matrices draped with cellular nets—to rococo sea dragons and soft corals like trees in a slow wind. It’s the stuff of a thousand documentaries, but for Peter Godfrey-Smith the spectacle is a curtain-raiser to a profound scientific drama, in which the lives of quite un-human creatures illuminate deep mysteries about the nature of sentience, and what it means to possess a mind.

In “Metazoa,” the scuba-diving historian and philosopher of science tackles these questions with eloquent boldness, reminding us that “life and mind began in water.” Mr. Godfrey-Smith continues the journey he began in “Other Minds” (2016), which focused on the octopus, the closest we have to an “intelligent alien”: an invertebrate with a big, complex nervous system and capacities for play and adaptation. Now he expands the exploration to multicellular animals as a group—the Metazoa of the title—homing in on those marking key transitions in the evolution of mind.

As a biological materialist, Mr. Godfrey-Smith sees consciousness as an evolutionary product emerging from the organization of a “universe of processes that are not themselves mental.” He makes no claim to having cracked the conundrum of how meat gives rise to mind. Instead, to get under the skins of his slithering, bobbing subjects, he builds evidence from the evolutionary record to create a picture of the “different forms of subjectivity around us now.” “Metazoa” sweeps readers from Aristotle through the Darwinian revolution and on to current research into the origins of life, spider cognition, the evolution of warm-bloodedness and beyond. He also revisits philosopher Thomas Nagel’s “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” the 1974 essay that famously probed the primal difficulties of understanding subjective experience in other organisms.

. . . .

From sponges and corals, “remnants and relatives of early forms of animal action,” Mr. Godfrey-Smith glides on through arthropods, cephalopods, fish and the creatures that eventually clambered onto land. In each group, he probes the complex effects of evolutionary innovations. Nervous systems, which probably first emerged as simpler neural nets more than 600 million years ago, tie “the body together in new ways”: Neurons have thousands of synapses, enabling vast interconnectivity. The emergence of bilaterally symmetrical bodies allowed movement with direction and traction—a big step.

. . . .

As nervous systems evolved further, other kinds of activity and integration arose. Octopuses, revisited here, are a compelling case. Two-thirds of the cephalopod’s half-billion neurons are lodged in its eight arms, part of a “distributed brain’” that may help in controlling its shape-shifting body. Combining his observations with findings on the animals’ behavioral complexity and sensitivity, engagement with novelty, play and problem-solving, Mr. Godfrey-Smith sees octopuses as conscious, although their perspective is probably “protean and perhaps sometimes chaotic.”

. . . .

In fish we meet vertebrates with muscle, motion, jaws—and another sensory paradigm. The special cells called neuromasts that form their “lateral line” system sense pressure and vibration, and together act, in Mr. Godfrey-Smith’s evocative phrase, as a “giant pressure-sensitive ear.” In the lab, carp have distinguished between classical music and blues, and even between artists such as John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. Mr. Godfrey-Smith speculates that this capacity for pattern recognition might emerge from gregariousness—the complexity of fishes’ social environments giving rise to memory and recognition skills.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG was going to insert a WordPress Block for Amazon Kindle which allows you to look through a few pages of the ebook like the Look Inside feature on the Amazon website. However, the publisher of Metazoa, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, like a number of other members of the traditional publishing artisans’ guild seldom offers Look Inside which, PG suspects, also disables the Free Preview function of the WordPress Kindle Block.

PG wonders if the sharp minds of the artisans’ guild have ever thought that offering Free Preview as a routine part of a book launch might increase ebook sales or online sales of printed books? After all, the single most common act of someone who wants to find a book in a physical bookstore is to open a copy of a prospective purchase and read a few pages.

PG suspects Amazon has data on what percentage of potential ebook browsers use Look Inside and can statistically ascertain what impact the Look Inside feature has on ebook purchases. If anyone has seen or heard of what appears to be reliable information on this topic, PG would appreciate a note through the Contact page so he can read it as well.

PG suspects ham-handedness is behind the no-Look-Inside for newly-released traditionally-published ebooks.

Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • Ham-Hand/Brain-Dead Reason #1 – No Amazon Look Inside feature will send droves of prospective purchasers to physical bookstores so they can look at the book and buy it there. No extra charge for virus exposure.
  • Ham-Hand/Brain-Dead Reason #2 – Some smart and evil person will figure out how to hack through the Look-Inside view to the entire underlying ebook file and make illegal copies. Of course, at least some smart and evil persons have enough money to buy access to an ebook from Amazon, hack through any copy protection, make a copy, then return the ebook to Amazon for a refund. If PG were such a person, he would probably automate the entire buy-the-ebook-make-a-copy-return-to-Amazon-for-a-refund-with-the-reason-for-return-chosen-on-a-random-basis. The processing of purchasing different ebook titles via a large variety of different IP addresses, customer names and credit card numbers so such purchases and returns don’t look like they’re coming from the same customer is, to the best of PG’s knowledge, already part of the craft of stealing ebooks and other digital products.

For the record, PG has absolutely no sympathy or concern for those who would steal books, electronic or physical. A book isn’t a loaf of bread required to sustain life in a desperate human. Stealing a book is stealing from whoever wrote the book.

If PG were king for the day, he might concoct a particularly gruesome penalty for anyone who steals from an author, hacker, crooked publisher, crooked literary agent, etc.

That said, “shrinkage” is regarded as a regrettable expense of doing business by almost every retailer selling goods ranging from peaches to socks to screwdrivers. Business plans for new retailers almost always include a provision for shrinkage.

Physical books have been stolen forever. Allowing customers to roam around bookstores looking at any book they like is fundamental to the business of such bookstores. Minimizing theft is one of the many reasons smart bookstore owners and employees watch customers carefully. Providing attentive service can increase store profits in many different ways.

End of harangue. PG blames Covid. Have a nice day.

Build and Manage Series Pages in the Kindle Store

From The Digital Reader:

For a number of years now Amazon has been making series pages for Kindle ebooks. One of their bots would identify all of the books in a particular series, and then list them all on the same page so that a reader could buy all of the books at once, paying retail.

I can’t find my first post on the topic, but I always thought this idea was a good one because it aligned with how I buy ebooks (when I find a new favorite author, I buy their backlist).

And now Amazon has given authors the option of creating series pages on their own. A couple days ago they published an announcement in the KDP support forums:

You can now publish and update eBook and Paperback series detail pages automatically through KDP. With the launch of series in KDP, you can:

  1. Create a new series: For any titles in your KDP account, create an ordered or unordered series to help readers on Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk and Amazon.de find all the books in your series on a single page.  Learn more.
  2. View and organize your series: Navigate from a series title on your Bookshelf to view and manage books in your series. Review series details and titles to ensure the information is up-to-date for readers. Learn more.
  3. Edit an existing series to control how it appears to readers: Adjust description. In addition, add, remove, re-order or change whether your titles are main or related content. Learn more.

If you already had an eBook series detail page available on Amazon.com, we’ve added that series in your KDP account. You can view existing series in your account by visiting your KDP Bookshelf and checking the box on the bookshelf for “View titles in series”.  If you don’t see your series in your account, you can create a new series by following the steps here.

Not all features are available in every marketplace. Series that contain paperback and pre-order books are available on Amazon.com, but not Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. We’re working to add more series features in the future. For more information on KDP series, click here.

Does anyone know how long this feature has been available?

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Library ebook lending surges as UK turns to fiction during lockdown

From The Guardian:

They may have been closed for months during lockdown, but amid long days and many on furlough it has emerged that the nation turned to local libraries for cultural sustenance – with a surge in the lending of ebooks, and crime thrillers in particular.

In total, more than 3.5m additional ebooks were borrowed between the end of March and mid-August, according to the charity Libraries Connected, an increase of 146%. Adding audiobooks and e-comics, there was an increase of 5m digital items borrowed.

Gillian Galbraith’s Blood in the Water, the first of the Alice Rice mysteries featuring the Edinburgh detective, and published in 2007, was the most requested adult ebook. The former first lady Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, was also among the most popular lends. The comedian and TV show judge David Walliams claimed three of the top 10 slots in most-borrowed children and young people’s ebooks.

Library online membership in the UK increased more than six-fold during lockdown, with demand for ebooks and audiobooks one of the main drivers.

“Library membership has surged,” said Nick Poole, the chief executive of the UK library and information association CILIP. “The increase in registration for online membership cards was huge, between 600 and 700%, which is amazing.”

With library buildings closed for up to four months, and people at home, services had to move swiftly online. A survey by Libraries Connected found audiobook checkouts increased, overall, by 113%, magazines by 80%, newspaper by 223% and comics by 497%.

There was growth in digital offerings across many areas including rhyming and reading sessions for young children, instruction sessions to access online services, author-led events, school readiness programmes, and jobs and arts clubs.

More than 75% of libraries delivered online services during lockdown. Some reached more than 20,000 views, according to Libraries Connected. One toddler reading event, which was staged on Facebook, had a 400% increase in views.

While the borrowing of physical books still massively outnumbers that of ebooks, a report by the charity suggests digital borrowing is not just an early lockdown “fad”. After experiencing an initial surge, the higher level of demand has been sustained.

. . . .

As the licensing model for digital services continues to operate restrictively for public libraries, public expectation of availability may outstrip supply

. . . .

“One of the brilliant things that happened was publishers really stepped up,” said Poole. “Ebooks cost a lot of money. Publishers, during the lockdown, said they would either waive or reduce licence fees so they really helped us out in terms of making ebooks available.”

. . . .

“People might think we don’t need the physical places any more, which obviously we really, really do because the library is doing so much more to support the community than just reading,” he said, adding: “Yes, absolutely we have found this new digital audience [but] we also need to continue supporting [the] face-to-face audience.”

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

PG notes that the “Ebooks cost a lot of money” really means, “Traditional publishers charge public libraries extraordinary high fees for a license to lend a copy of an ebook.”

Duplicating the ebook itself and delivering it costs a fraction of a second of computer time and, depending upon the speed of the internet connection at the library on the receiving end, pennies at most to deliver (and more probably, no extra cost at all if the publisher or wholesaler has not been dumb in negotiating the terms of its access to the internet.)

As regular visitors to TPV will immediately understand, library licensing practices of traditional publishers are designed to prop up their sales of dead-tree-to-hell-with-climate-change printed books.

C:\ Thinking in an http: World

From Publishing Perspectives:

The “Battle for Attention”—part of the title of Bookwire‘s conference report from Frankfurter Buchmesse—became a lot more vivid for many professionals participating in the digital evocation of the trade show last week.

That’s because the enormous fair, which draws more than 250,000 people annually in its physical setting at Messe Frankfurt, was, for once, almost entirely online.

. . . .

Without those beloved print volumes propped on shelves in stand and after stand, without the gliding moving sidewalks between halls, and without the beeping of catering trucks moving in reverse, the center of international publishing for a week was just a click or two from your Netflix and Amazon Music accounts.

. . . .

[W]hat Videl Bar-Kar, who heads up audio at Bookwire GmbH in Germany, presented Thursday (October 15) was the result of survey work that reached 2,335 people in Germany aged 16 to 65 about their media use. In addition, 1,000 consumers of ebooks, audiobooks, and/or podcasts were surveyed about their usage patterns.

A recording of Bar-Kar’s presentation, like others in the Frankfurter Conference series, has not been posted for review, so as yet we can’t offer you a link to see it. Frankfurt’s organizers say that these recordings of four days of conference programming and other events will be available “soon.”

. . . .

What develops as you look at the report is a question of the wisdom of gauging podcasts along with audiobooks and ebooks. Podcasting is not necessarily in the same vein as audiobooks and ebooks because a podcast (unless someone sits at the mic and reads a book to listeners) is not the delivery of a book. There are variations and content hybrids, of course—and a podcast certainly may make a powerful marketing tool for a book—but the inclusion here of podcasts with audiobooks and ebooks presents something like one apple (podcasting) and two oranges (audiobooks and ebooks).

. . . .

Digital Content Becoming ‘Mainstream’

What Bar-Kar and his research refer to as “mainstream” refers to people using two or three of the digital media in question—ebooks, audiobooks, and podcasts. It’s not clear from this work if it’s possible to know what percentage these formats’ usage comprised of a user’s overall media array. If a user said she’d used an ebook or audiobook in the last six months, how does that compare with how many print books she’d read, how many films or television series she’d viewed, and so on?

  • Of those surveyed, 43 percent said they’d used at least one ebook, audiobook, or podcast within the last six months. Some 48 percent reported using “a number of these in parallel.
  • Twenty-one percent said they use all three formats, and 27 percent said they use two of them.

. . . .

A favorite question, of course, is whether audiobook, ebook, and/or podcast consumption tends to preclude a user’s consumption of other content. The standard response of those who work in audiobooks, ebooks, and/or podcasts is, “Of course not!” And this survey doesn’t disappoint.

“They only cannibalize each other to a minor extent” is the charming lead answer here. Nibbling on each other’s toes, as it were, nothing worse than that.

“Ebooks, audiobooks, and podcasts hardly cannibalize each other at all,” the survey writers say. “A maximum of 14 percent of users said that they use ebooks, audiobooks, or podcasts at the expense of one of the other two media. While ebooks and audiobooks are used for relaxation and entertainment more so than podcasts, podcasts tend to expand knowledge and education and/or are more informative about current issues.”

Well-intended as it may be, this commentary is probably the least reassuring in the report. Unless one has a chart of one’s format usage and thus can tell, “Gosh, a half-hour of my podcast time was eaten up by my e-reading,” it’s quite subjective as to how much a user might feel is going into one mode or another.

And the more important area of inquiry here is about the challenge that other media (including podcasting may present to reading in various formats. Many people today say that with so much beautifully produced storytelling available in television and film formats, their reading in all modes is taking a hit. By contrast, attrition to other forms of reading is less a worry. If publishing “loses” someone from print to ebooks, publishing should feel relieved that they didn’t move to Streamer City and stop reading entirely.

. . . .

The survey does offer this comparatively useful point—still inside the publishing sector, but going beyond the three key formats in question: “Looking at cannibalization effects on traditional media, just under half of ebook users (44 percent) said that they read fewer printed books because of their digital counterpart. This figure was 25 percent among audiobook listeners.”

. . . .

In short, things are still unsettled in terms of where podcasts stand next to books, especially in the audio space.

If you’re fond of podcasts, you may call them complementary. If you’re not, you might call them competition.

. . . .

Perhaps easier to get our publishing heads around, a section of the survey asked “Which are Your Favorite Media”? Here, it looks as if reality has arrived at the door to reading’s future in this particular survey.

By far, the respondents went for video streaming and television as their favorite of several media.

Radio and print books were next, followed by gaming, online news, and newspapers.

Digital audiobooks and podcasts came in behind all of those. Ebooks fared a bit better, beating out online news and newspapers.

Not even those podcasts were competitive to media outside the trio in the survey, except for physical audiobooks, which in most markets have long been on the decline as downloaded audio took over.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Although downplayed, the author of the OP seems to be feeling what came to PG’s mind as he read the OP:

WHAT CENTURY ARE GERMAN (AND MAYBE OTHER NATIONALITIES) PUBLISHERS LIVING IN?

Podcasts vs. print books?

PG is suspect of “cannibalization” studies in general.

The fundamental proposition is that if people start doing more of something, they are doing less of something else.

This assumes that “something” = an activity that makes someone, usually a large commercial organization, money directly or indirectly.

So, for example, if a meaningful portion of the populace starts spending more time in voluntary charitable activities, that activity is not part of the cannibalization equation.

Ditto if someone starts taking Yoga seriously and spends time thinking of Oneness.

Second Ditto if someone who is feeling overly confined due to a life-threatening pandemic goes to a restaurant that observes social-distancing by closing half of its seating, and hangs out while having a good conversation after lunch with someone else. (Coincidentally, this is exactly how PG and Mrs. PG spent a couple of hours this afternoon. The conversation included, but was not limited to, PG’s mostly-useless comments as Mrs. PG read a couple of the most recent chapters from her WIP.)

Podcasts?

PG is not a podcast person, but wonders if people who listen to podcasts do so instead of reading books of either the electronic or let’s-cut-down-another-forest variety.

PG is happy to be instructed/corrected/updated/straightened-out/brought-into-the-21st-Century, etc., by podcast people.

Trainwreck Fall Edition

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

I adore a good gothic and a somewhat creepy novel (but not too creepy, mind you), so in June, when a reliable friend recommended Simone St. James’s The Sun Down Motel, I ordered a copy immediately, and read it the moment it arrived. Loved it. It’s in my recommended reading list for July.

As soon as I finished, I ordered a copy for my sister, who also likes this type of book. Immediately, a notice flashed on my screen: she wouldn’t get the book until September. I was stunned. I looked at the publisher, thinking I was dealing with a specialty press, but no. I wasn’t. How odd.

That was my entire reaction: How odd. The book had released in February, so I should have been able to get my hands on a copy quickly. But I couldn’t.

That same thing had happened with a couple of other books I had ordered for my sister back in May. They were backlist for an author I knew my sister hadn’t tried, but would love. It took six weeks for her to get the books, with the shipment getting delayed more than once.

Because so many other things were going on, I hadn’t put my experiences together with something I wrote about at the end of April. Traditional publishing was headed for a trainwreck, and I was worried about it.

Part of the trainwreck was—and is—the closed bookstores. Many are still closed. But a lot of that trainwreck had to do with publisher panic, old systems, supply chains, and more.

When the pandemic hit, everyone thought we would get through the damn thing in a few months. We’d club that virus into submission, and return to normal life—or close to normal—by summer.

. . . .

Some industries aren’t very nimble. They can’t just shuffle one thing to accommodate something else. Traditional publishing is like that.

(This is where a handful of my indie-writer readers usually check out. I suggest you don’t, because I’ll be talking to you below. We’re part of an industry and a large part of the industry is mismanaging a crisis, which will have an impact on you. So, breathe, and dive back in.)

With the bookstores closed, some companies moved their biggest spring and summer releases to the fall, hoping that all would be better by then. There was some wiggle room, because traditional publishers had tried to avoid publishing anything important in November since it is a presidential election year. So there were some empty weeks.

But not enough of them. The schedule got shuffled, then reshuffled, then shuffled again. I know some books got canceled entirely, but many have just been moved to the next available slot on the schedule.

That is, they got moved to an available slot on the schedule, if the book is expected to do well. If it was a standard midlist book, it got shoved somewhere random, so that it can be printed, shipped, and sent to bookstores—who ordered their copies pre-pandemic.

Yeah, even if the book doesn’t come out now until fall of 2021, many of those orders remain exactly as they were. Even if the bookstore isn’t selling as many copies in its brick-and-mortar store. Or if the bookstore has shuttered its brick-and-mortar store—or closed entirely.

Here’s what a lot of readers don’t know—consciously anyway. Traditional publishing is built on velocity—that is, how many books sell in a short period of time.

The system that traditional publishing is using was designed post-World War II (or as I said to a friend yesterday, after the World War II generation survived its once-in-a-lifetime crisis). Back then, there were very few bookstores, and those that existed had limited space. Most books were sold in other retail venues—drug stores, department stores, magazine stands, and the like—which again, had limited space. In other words, there was only so much room for books in those places. Rather than keep old inventory on the shelf, retailers who sold books churned them—getting rid of those that were still on the racks after a month or two, and replacing them with new inventory.

This was easy to do, because in the Great Depression, the publishing companies subsidized anyone who sold a book by removing cost of excess inventory. Retailers could return books for full credit within a specific window. Which meant that retailers could make bad decision after bad decision, and not lose a heck of a lot of money.

They could also churn at no cost to them, replacing the old inventory with the new.

That practice created the idea that books were like bananas; they spoiled if they didn’t sell within a few weeks. And, indeed, there are horrid photos from the 1990s of Dumpsters filled with books behind shopping malls, because many publishers allowed retailers to strip the cover off books (and toss the rest of the book away) and still get full credit. Saves shipping costs, doncha know.

Even though it’s a stupid 75-year-old business model, traditional publishing still banks on velocity. And traditional publishing is fairly stupid about velocity. If an author’s sales numbers go down, no matter what the reason (y’know, like closed bookstores and a pandemic), that author will be offered a smaller advance next time—or will be cut loose. It’s brutal and unrealistic, and it’s on the horizon for so many writers.

. . . .

In addition to the messing up of the schedule, there were supply chain problems and the bankruptcy and auction of the two remaining major web press printers here in the States.

. . . .

The best way to sell books (as demonstrated by study after study) is word of mouth. My sister is at the end of a recommendation chain that went from my friend to me to my sister. My sister hasn’t even had a chance to read and recommend yet. By the time I wanted to give a copy to my sister, the book was out of print. The reason for the nearly three-month delay was because there were no copies of the hardcover in the warehouse—and no printing scheduled until September.

That September printing was probably ordered in May, which meant that the May numbers might not reflect the actual interest. The Times noted that one of the hot political books of August, which I had actually forgotten about (because so many hot political books have followed) had a similar problem:

The CNN anchor Brian Stelter’s new book “Hoax,” about the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox, was out of stock on Amazon this week shortly after its August 25 publication date, and showed a ship time of one to two months. Mr. Stelter’s publisher, One Signal, a Simon & Schuster imprint, which initially printed 50,000 copies, has ordered another 100,000 copies.

Two-month delay from August 25 on a political book places that 100,000 copy rerelease at the end of October, a week from the November election. 

. . . .

Ah, I hear you all now. What about the ebooks?

This is where traditional publishers have—pardon my crudity—fucked themselves blue. Stelter’s ebook costs $14.99. The ebook for the St. James that I mentioned above is $13.99.

Ridiculous, right? But it’s part of traditional publishing think. They want readers to buy the hardcovers, so they’ve priced ebooks unbelievably high, which is causing another problem. From that same New York Times article:

Some worry that the current crunch could reverse the yearlong trend of stable and sometimes rising print sales, sending readers back to digital books, which are less lucrative for publishers and authors, and especially brick and mortar retailers.Sa

Less lucrative for authors? On what planet? Oh, yeah, right. The traditional publishing planet. I’ve seen article after article that talks about how ebooks are a bust, that they don’t make money, and that sales of ebooks are “depressed.”

Yeah, if you overcharge for them.

. . . .

So, if the reader can’t get the novel that caught their attention this week by ordering it online, and if the reader won’t pay over $10 for an ebook, and if the reader can’t get the book from their library, what does the reader do?

The reader moves on to a different writer, another book, something new and different. Sales—and fans—aren’t allowed to build.

At all.

. . . .

As The Guardian noted, the blockbusters will make it into the retail stores. But those midlisters won’t. There just isn’t room. And with overpriced ebooks and no library access, there’s no way to discover these writers.

So many writers have gone to traditional publishing because those writers believe traditional is better at getting books into stores (really?) and is better at promotion. Let’s ignore the first part, shall we, and assume that some poor traditionally published writer was actually slated to get promotion on their book.

First, as The Guardian notes, there’s not enough room in the literary press to cover all 600 books that were released on September 3. There isn’t enough room to cover the books that will be released after September 3.

And if you were lucky enough to get a rave review from a reputable publication? Well, you better hope your publication date remained the same. Because review copies were mailed months in advance, and the review was written months in advance and published to time with your original release.

The Times quotes Sasha Issenberg whose book The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage was slated to release in June for Pride Month. He got a stellar review in Publisher’s Weekly. Only his book got pushed to early September, then late September, and now won’t come out until June of 2021.

Will the bookstores that ordered the book even open the boxes when it arrives? Remember the order at all? Will the bookstore even be in existence when the book arrives? Will readers remember that they wanted the book in June of 2020? Will the publishing company redo their promotional efforts for the book?

Oh, wait. I can answer that last one. No, they won’t. They’ll expect Issenberg to do it, and maybe he might be able to finagle some interviews and additional reviews on his own, the way an indie writer would do things. But his book is going to tank, unless someone does an intervention. And believe me, there will be a lot of other things that will have grabbed our attention by Pride Month 2021, and none of them will be his book.

. . . .

[N]ewly published traditional writers? They’re screwed. They really are.

A handful of them will be resilient enough—and smart enough—to learn how to indie publish their next books. But most of these traditional writers won’t be that resilient. Their dreams are going to die a horrid, horrid death.

I empathize…up to a point. If they want to learn how to publish books, point them to our Publishing 101 class, and then stay out of their way. They’ve had years of warning to stay away from traditional publishing, and they didn’t listen. They’re probably not going to listen now. You know the rules about drowning victims, right? Send them a lifeline. Don’t get close enough to let them grab you and pull you down.

After I published the first Trainwreck piece, I heard from indie writers who panicked. They asked if they should stay away from the crowded fall schedule. I said no.

Because the real business model for publishing in the 21st century is this: readers will discover books over years, not weeks. Put your book out there. Yeah, maybe some reader won’t find it until 2022. That’s okay. Then they get to read your entire backlist.

Indie writers aren’t dependent on velocity. To have a successful career, we need widespread availability. We need to be in all the possible markets we can. We want our readers to find reasonably priced ebooks from all the major vendors

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This is a first-class Kris Rusch analysis of traditional publishing and PG strongly suggests reading the entire OP (which is substantially longer than this excerpt).

PG will add only a bit of reinforcement for the main point Kris makes in the OP: Traditional publishing is a very poorly-run business. It might be compared to that great restaurant you used to enjoy, but don’t think about much any more because the prices are steep and the last time you went, the kitchen wasn’t doing the job it used to.

The other factor PG has mentioned before is that even if the New York top brass was inclined to really innovate and make aggressive changes, the companies that own the large New York publishers – large European media conglomerates plus CBS (Simon & Schuster) are not going to be receptive to innovative changes, particularly if such changes might possibly result in lower short-term profits.

The CEOs of the major New York trade publishers are really middle-management in their business organizations. From PG’s prior personal experience with large European media conglomerates, he is 99.99% confident that cutting ebook prices to potentially goose sales numbers is a non-starter. The people who own the NYC publishers are just as locked into traditional strategies and practices as the NYC underlings Kris describes.

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.

If you want to make a contribution directly to Kris for her insights, here’s a link to her Patreon page.

Hold On, eBooks Cost HOW Much? The Inconvenient Truth About Library eCollections

From Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:

As we continue to stay home as much as possible, even the most die-hard “give me paper or give me death” readers have been dipping their toe into the ebook waters. And they’re discovering what long-time users have known forever.

Good news! You can get ebooks from your library!

But (bad news) only if you’re willing to wait for-EVER for the most popular titles.

Even for some of the less popular titles, wait times are much longer for ebooks than their print versions, and it’s just gotten worse as ebook popularity has dramatically increased this spring and summer.

Which leads to the following questions:

Why do you have to wait for an ebook at all?!
Why doesn’t my library just buy more copies?!
And the conclusion I’ve come to for both questions is: I think most publishers hate libraries.

I wish I were kidding.

When libraries and publishers entered the ebook landscape, they went with a model they knew and understood: they licensed library ebooks with a one copy/one user. While some other models have come out since then (such as cost-per-circ, where the library pays every time someone checks a book out, which you see with services like Hoopla) one copy/one user remains the most common way ebooks are sold for lending. However many licenses a library buys is how many people can read a book at a time.

So why doesn’t the library just buy more copies?

Because ebooks for libraries are really, really, really expensive.

Really expensive.

And then we don’t even get to keep them. Librarians pay wholesale for print books that can remain in circulation for literal decades, but ebooks are very different in terms of access and in terms of cost.

. . . .

So I started a project where every week I shared what was on the best seller list and how much those books cost. I shared specifically how much the library would spend to buy those titles in a paper book or an ebook and how much those same books (paper and ebook) would cost for a regular person. 

. . . .

First, let’s look at averages for print, digital book, and digital audio.

On average, the Suggested Retail Price for a print book (aka the price that’s printed on the cover) was $24.78.

On average again, Amazon would sell you (a reading consumer) a paper copy of that print book for $16.77.

Your library could buy a print copy from their vendors for $14.14.

Looking for digital?

You could buy that same book on average for $12.77 on your Kindle.

The library had to pay an average of $45.75.

YES WE HAD TO PAY THAT MUCH. 3.5 TIMES MORE THAN YOU DID.

On average, this means that we (libraries) can buy 3 print copies for every single ebook license, and still have some money left over.

$14.14 + $14.14 + $14.14 = $42.42 for 3 print books in circulation
vs.
$45.75 for a single license of an ebook.

And then there’s audio.

If you’re curious, the average price to buy the book on Audible was $27.28, but for libraries to get it in digital audio? $69.76.

. . . .

Of the popular titles included in this dataset:

  • 44.3% of digital library books were between $50.00 and $59.99.
  • 19.4% of digital library books were between $60.00 and $69.99.
  • 18.2% of digital library books were between $20.00 and $29.99.

In other words:

64% of ebooks cost over $50 for libraries, but none of the titles included in this data set are that much for anyone else.

99% of Kindle books cost $19.99 or less, but only about 13% of library ebooks do.

. . . .

Pour yourself another drink, because it gets worse when the usable lifespan of these purchases is examined against the price per item.

. . . .

86% of the ebooks from that list have to be repurchased on a regular basis, most commonly after 24 months, even if the book is never checked out.

This is why libraries can be reluctant to take an ebook chance on an unknown author.

When libraries buy the ebook, the terms of purchase are actually a lease. The publisher will take the book back after 24 months. If libraries want to still have that ebook available for checkout, they need to buy it again.

Publishers do this because, once again, they’re working off the print model, and print books don’t last forever. They get eaten by the dog or dropped in the tub or coffee gets spilled on them or after it’s been checked out a million times, it just wears out. And if people still want it, we’ll buy another copy.

But…(and this is a big but)

Remember how much libraries pay for print? ($14.14 on average, see above?)

How they pay even less than the average Amazon price?

The average price of an ebook that has to be repurchased is $49.48.

Wait, isn’t that higher than the average price of library ebooks?

YES IT IS.

The more expensive a book is, the more likely we have to rebuy it on a regular basis.

Only 1% of the books that cost over $50 don’t have to be regularly repurchased.

I know it doesn’t make sense.

Prices and terms for digital books are set by the publisher, and most publishers have broad rules that apply to all of their books.

And some very large publishers *cough* Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and Hachette *cough* have set high prices for books that expire quickly.

Why would they do this? Because they can. If libraries want to provide what our users want, we’ll pay their prices on their terms, no matter how ludicrous, because what choice do we have?

. . . .

Some publishers refuse to sell digital formats to libraries.

Major side-eye to every single Amazon imprint and company, which includes Lake Union, Audible, and more. All of those wonderful Audible exclusive audio books? Are Audible exclusive, which means libraries cannot acquire them.

Some self-published authors don’t make their stuff available on OverDrive, and if they’re part of Kindle Unlimited, they’re not allowed to.

How big of a problem is this?

Libraries were unable to buy 1.5% of this year’s bestsellers in ebook.

It’s worse for audio–libraries were unable to buy 15% of this year’s bestsellers in eaudio.

. . . .

If libraries have to pay that much money for an ebook and can only keep it for 24 months, they’re going to concentrate purchasing power on titles they know will circulate heavily, to get the most bang for the limited buck. Which means lots of blockbuster sure-bets, and less midlist or new authors.

For romance readers, fans of Avon and Harlequin are in luck, because they’re both HarperCollins imprints. HarperCollins charges Suggested Retail Price and libraries can keep the ebook for 26 checkouts. As with most romance publishers in mass market paperback, most of their ebook titles are $7.99 and libraries can keep them until they use up all 26 checkouts. While it’s still not as good as print (which libraries would pay less money for and which usually last far longer than 26 checkouts) it’s still the best pricing offered by any of the major traditional publishers.

But St. Martins is Macmillan, and Macmillan charges $60 for new ebooks (regardless of Suggested Retail Price) and their ebooks expire after 24 months, even if no one checked it out. Berkley is Penguin Random House, and they charge $55 for new ebooks that libraries can only keep for 24 months.

That can be really hard math to justify! With our vendor discount, libraries usually pay $4.95 for a mass market paperback with a Suggested Retail Price of $7.99, so they can buy a full dozen print copies for the same price of a single ebook (and that ebook expires after 24 months)

Link to the rest at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and thanks to DM for the tip.

PG will note that the digital vendor his library uses is perfectly capable of proving any publisher with anonymized data reporting how many people checked out an ebook, how many people returned the ebook without reading it, how many people read part of the ebook (and how many pages they read) but returned the ebook without finishing it and how many people read the entire ebook.

PG is disappointed that Amazon won’t provide a simple path for indie authors to make their ebooks available to libraries at a price set by the author. Just like perma-free, ebooks in libraries can be a superb way for readers to discover new authors and books, helping authors and Amazon sell more.

PG will note that the digital vendor his library uses sends him to Amazon to download a library ebook which, on the book’s regular Amazon product page where the Add to Cart button is replaced by a Borrow button which he clicks to send the ebook to his selected reading device. So it would appear that much, if not most, of the plumbing is in place for indie authors to make their ebooks available to libraries.

Visitors to TPV can feel free to harass KDP and anyone else at Amazon to urge them to allow library purchase of KDP ebooks for lending by the libraries. Amazon could even require a minimum license price for library loans of indie ebooks if it felt library borrowing would eat into Amazon’s revenue stream from ebooks in some way.

If PG were in command of Amazon’s indie library sales initiative, he would be inclined to redesign the landing page where a library patron came to borrow an ebook to show other books by the same author, perhaps some Also-boughts or Also-borrows and an opportunity for the borrower to voluntarily link her/his Amazon account so Amazon could understand even more about the borrower’s interests.

#1 Most Popular Book

In connection with the release of Mrs. PG’s latest book, she ran a price promotion on the first book in this series, featuring a female Oxford professor/amateur sleuth.

Yesterday, early in the evening, she checked the performance of An Oxford Murder, Book 1 of her series, and was pleased to discover that it had a Best-sellers rank in the US Free Kindle Store of #1 for all ebooks, regardless of genre.

A bit earlier this morning, her book was still ranked #1 overall in the US and, on Amazon UK, #3 for Historical Mysteries.

When PG just checked, the book was ranked #4 overall for free books and #1 in Historical Mysteries, #1 in Women Sleuths and #2 in Literature & Fiction, each in the Free Kindle Store. It’s still hanging in as #3 for Historical Mysteries in the UK store.

Mrs. PG has always enjoyed good sales at the launch of a new book and for her free book promos, but this one is particularly good.

With respect to her latest book, Murder at Tregowyn Manor (which is priced at $2.99 for the ebook), most of her sales are coming from the US, as usual, but she’s also generating nice sales numbers from Australia and the UK as well.

PG shares these results for the benefit of other indie authors who may find them useful for their launch plans.

PG thanks all the kind visitors to TPV who have continued to support Mrs. PG’s books over the years since the launch of TPV.

Trade-Published Romance Sees a Coronavirus Boost in the States

From Publishing Perspectives:

Since 2012, traditionally published romance has been in “a steady decline.” Much of this, of course, parallels the rise of self-publishers’ entry into the velvet-roped arena.

If there’s a category in which self-publishing can claim to have walked away with the goods, it’s in low-priced romance ebooks, consumed by enviably loyal readers often at a rate of several titles per week.

The COVID-19 lockdown stage in the United States, however, “helped to lift the category’s ebook sales,” McLean’s report says.

“Unit sales for romance ebooks,” she writes, “increased 17 percentage points from January through May 2020. In all, 16.2 million romance ebooks and print books were sold during this time period.”

Total romance book sales in the trade–which had declined 11 percent in January 2020 over January 2019–began trending upward in March.

The category showed strong growth through the acute COVID-19 shutdown period, with print and ebook sales closing slightly higher–0.1 percent–in May, because of an impressive rebound in ebook unit sales.

Those unit ebook sales rose 17.4 points from January through May 2020. This meant that ebooks made up 60 percent of romance category sales, and romance ebook unit sales increased 10 percent between January and May 2020.

. . . .

In breaking out growth subjects, McLean sees historical romance in the lead on a unit basis, both in print and ebook formats, “but top-selling ebook titles differed from print sales leaders.”

  • Golden in Death by JD Robb (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, February) led ebook sales in the overall romance category, followed by Hideaway by the dependable Nora Roberts (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, May) and Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas (HarperCollins/Avon, February).
  • Print sales were led by Window on the Bay by Debbie Macomber (Penguin Random House/Ballantine, February), followed by Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks (Hachette Book Group/Sphere, October 2018), and Country Strong by Linda Lael Miller (Harlequin, January).

In her comments, McLean says, “With brick-and-mortar retail bookstores closed in the States this past spring, ebook sales–which have always been stronger for romance than in other categories–really took off.

. . . .

“Print romance also rose slightly, as newly housebound readers looked for fun and immersive germ-free reads while waiting out the pandemic.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Publishers who didn’t care about digital are putting a lot of money into that now

From The New Publishing Standard:

Arts Council England is, for those unfamiliar with the UK’s troubled political divisions, the government-funded arts body for the southern part of the UK, England, as opposed to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This week the Council’s literature director Sarah Crown has been warning that despite spring 2020 financial support from the Council and from government furloughs, many independent publishers are struggling, and with the imminent threat of renewed lockdowns as autumn and winter loom, small publishers are “not out of the woods” yet.

The comments came in the UK trade journal The Bookseller’s webinar on the future of small presses where Crown stressed that while the literature sector of the arts scene was faring better than the performing arts, with theatres and cinemas closed, the survival of small presses was essential to the overall health of England’s arts.

. . . .

As summarised by The Bookseller, Crown said:

A priority for the literature sector of ACE is to help small presses move from “the fragile business models they are operating in currently”, and emerge from the pandemic with more sustainable structures that are not dependent on the next book sale.

At which point one might expect that digital-first publishers would be faring better than those who placed too much reliance on print and were hardest hit by the lockdown, but digitally-focussed publishers like Hera Books were finding that’s not the case, not because demand was low, but because competition was fierce.

Hera Books’ Lindsey Mooney explained the company was experiencing a plateau in sales:

This month, the trajectory we’re on is not great, we’re not doubling sales every month like we were (in part due to) big name authors discounting heavily” (but also because) publishers who didn’t care about digital are now putting a lot of money into that.

Cherise Lopes-Baker, commissioning fiction editor at Jacaranda Books, said that Jacaranda was commissioning fewer titles because of the uncertain future for bricks & mortar sales and consequently had,

pivoted to digital,

meaning investing in an online bookstore as well as digital books.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Spain’s Book Market: 40 Percent More Online Buying During Lockdown

From Publishing Perspectives:

[Spanish] consumers cited entertainment and disconnection from the situation (97 percent), relaxation (93 percent), and tranquility (90 percent) as the key values of reading during the lockdown. And 72 percent of respondents reported buying books online.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG doesn’t usually include two posts in a single day from the same source, but the confluence of the Spanish and US ebook market reports was too much for him to resist.

US Ebook Market: NPD Sees a 31-Percent Jump in Unit Sales in April

From Publishing Perspectives:

On the heels of its second-quarter report on the American book market, which we covered here on Monday, the NPD Group today (July 21) has released new data showing that ebook unit sales in April rose by nearly a third over the previous month: a new indication of how consumers reached for digital retail under the constraints of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Year over year through April, NPD PubTrack Digital saw trade ebook sales decline by 6 percent, a total 55 million units sold. But Kristen McLean, who leads book industry analysis for NPD, says that when she looks only at April—in many parts of the States the first full month of stay-at-home measures—ebooks made that 31-percent jump in unit sales over March, selling an additional 4.2 million units.

“With brick-and-mortar retail bookstores shut down in the United States this spring,” she says, “the ebook format became more popular during the COVID-19 crisis. Ebooks are easy to purchase, can be read instantly after being downloaded, and eliminate any concerns over infection or availability.”

. . . .

Sales growth for adult ebooks was led by general fiction, which rose 23 percent in April compared to March according to data from NPD BookScan.

The leading general fiction title in April was Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. . . The film tie-in was released in March, the same month that Liz Tigelaar’s Hulu series adaptation with Reese Witherspoon premiered.

The romance category posted 22-percent growth in April compared to March, led by First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn . . . .

Adult nonfiction title unit sales grew 37 percent in April compared to March 2020.

Categories with the highest ebook unit growth included biography and memoir, which rose 40 percent in April, led by the April 2020 Oprah Book Club selection, Robert Kolker’s Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family . . . .

Cooking ebooks posted the second-highest unit growth, rising 96 percent in unit sales in April compared to previous month.

. . . .

Children’s ebooks declined 12 percent over the first half of the year, with 5.1 million units sold, McLean points out.

But in April, children’s ebook fiction grew 78 percent in April over March, while children’s nonfiction grew 39 percent.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG expects Amazon had a good month for ebook sales in April.

What we’ve learnt about lockdown reading

From The Bookseller:

The past few months have restricted physical access to bookshops, interrupted supply chains and created a raft of logistical complexities for the publishing industry. Even with restrictions easing, traditional consumer marketing and PR are trickier to execute safely. However, our data at The Pigeonhole over the past few months demonstrates that readers are embracing digital in a big way.

Launched in 2014, The Pigeonhole is on online book club which serialises books and hosts an interactive, review-driven community that discusses the books, both on the app and through Google Hangouts. In the past 12 months, we serialised 180 books for our community, including The Guest List by Lucy Foley, Double Agent by Tom Bradby, Buried by Lynda La Plante and Humankind by Rutger Bregman. We have over 12,000 active members including over 700 Amazon/Goodreads reviewers, and also provide book club services to schools and companies.

The good news for us, and the book industry in general, is that more time has been spent on our apps during lockdown than ever before. Engagement has increased by 80%, with more than one million monthly page swipes during the past four months. Demand for serialisation places has increased by 56%, and the average number of reviews has increased by 78% since late-March – now averaging 57 reviews per title (with that number regularly topping 100 in projects where the author has been a hands-on presence). Readers have also migrated to our digital book club to partake in an established reading community during this prolonged period of isolation.

1.    An author’s digital involvement moves the sales needle

Readers love it when authors take an active part in their digital serialisation, reading along with participants, responding to comments, and providing digital media to enrich their book’s digital edition. Our review figures correlate with the level of author involvement; a conversational author provides a more powerful message than a review request. The conversion rate is even higher for those readers who take part in our Google Hangout events with the author.

2.    Readers are not 9 – 5

The average length of a reading session has gone up by 60% to an average of 21 minutes. A lack of commuting has actually increased the length of time users are on the platform. Activity on the platform spikes at 5 – 7 am (even on the weekends) and again at 2 – 3 pm. There is a surge on Wednesday afternoon when we send our 12,000 strong userbase email exhibiting all our new books – many of which now often sell out within hours.

. . . .

4.    Digital non-fiction is consumed in a different way to digital fiction

To keep up with the increased demand for content from our community, we have started serialising non-fiction. With 2-3 nonfiction titles available each month, our understanding of how different genres are consumed is deepening. Broadly speaking, non-fiction serialisations have smaller groups, readers take longer to finish books, and the conversation is more considered. Readers are more likely to consume a non-fiction book over 20 days rather than the usual 10 for a fiction title, dipping in and out in a more staccato pattern.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The Case for E-galleys

From Publishers Weekly:

One of the biggest “first-world problems” to arise during 2020’s necessary isolation in response to Covid-19 has to do with e-books. I’m specifically talking about e-galleys, the early versions of books that critics, reviewers, and librarians often receive from publishers in place of paper versions.

Back in 2005, I ordered the first-generation Kindle straight away. I loved it, too. But it wasn’t my first go-round with electronic reading. At two magazines where I’d worked, I’d tested different e-readers. I was an early adopter, and I’ll never apologize for it.

However, in the 15 years since buying that first device, I’d fallen off the e-reading bandwagon. I’d moved on from working at the intersection of publishing and technology to a role as a literary journalist and book critic. As I began writing more and more, I began receiving more and more print books. No longer did I have to request a galley or a finished book; the floodgates burst, those floodgates being the shelves in my home office, which now groan with galleys, ARCs, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers.

I’m not complaining. It remains a thrill for me to dig into a pile of book mail and see the beautiful volumes that authors and publishers work so hard to write and produce. My home has “real” books in almost every room, and don’t get me started on the books I’m saving for our daughters to share with their own children one day.

But the e-readers I’ve had over the years have convinced me that there’s a time and place for digital copies. For me, that time and place is in my professional life. Being able to download books from NetGalley and Edelweiss, or receive PDFs from various imprints, has saved my shoulders, eyes, and calendar. I no longer tote multiple books with me on business trips or vacations or even across town. My e-reader allows me to store hundreds of titles, so I always have books for assignments, books to consider, and books for pleasure in one place. The e-ink of the Paperwhite is easy on my eyes, and at times when I choose to read on my phone or a tablet, I can easily adjust the font depending on where I am and which glasses I have nearby.

Almost all of my colleagues—editors and producers and reviewers—say they loathe e-galleys. They complain about them loudly on social media, and more quietly at lunches, moaning about how they need the “feel” of a book, need to be able to flip back and forth, to highlight passages, make notes in the margins. “No e-galleys! No PDFs!” they cry, yearning for the day when Covid-19 isolation ends and they can once more receive large piles of Tyvek envelopes filled with paper.

First, I say, enjoy the feel of a book on your own time; when we’re trying to decide which of a month’s five dozen novels belongs on a list, its feel has nothing to do with its candidacy. Second, you can highlight and annotate e-books quite easily—maybe even more easily, than you can paper books. Third, while it’s true that flipping back and forth is tougher with a digital volume, the blessed search function makes up for it. Want to go back to the spot where the protagonist drops the vial of poison? Just type in vial and there you are. I’ve found the blessings of e-galleys far outweigh their curses, and that goes for PDFs, too—a little more unwieldy, but similarly convenient.

To my digital-shy colleagues, I would also say: think about resources. Digital devices do drain them, but if you have devices already—and I know you do—then receiving digital books saves on the production materials, shipping materials, and fuel used in creating and distributing print galleys.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG recently wanted to read an older book by Aaron Elkins that Mrs. PG had recommended to him and was part of the paper library that hadn’t been donated to the local library.

It just didn’t feel right and making certain he didn’t lose his place when he took a break was a bit of a pain. Instead of just putting his Paperwhite down, knowing that it would look exactly the same when he picked it up again after five minutes, 30 minutes, 90 minutes, etc., PG had to prop the ancient trade paperback open and worry that he might bump it in a typically clumsy fashion when he came back to sit down. (PG knows: First World Problem).

The biggest drawback is that PG loves to read while lying flat on his back. No pillow, just a mattress. Just flat. A careless moment on a motorcycle in college adjusted PG’s spinal column a bit, so ultra flat feels perfect.

He’s mentioned his weird-looking prism glasses before. They slip over PG’s computer glasses (which work better than no-line bifocals) and make reading very pleasurable. The featherweight Paperwhite is easy to hold with one hand and PG’s right thumb is just as automatic as his paper-turning right hand used to be.

Coronavirus Worklife: Rakuten Kobo’s Michael Tamblyn

From Publishing Perspectives:

A crisis like the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is like a crucible for an industry like publishing—which already has had its share of disruptions, of course.

In a talk delivered to the Digital Publishing Summit and Readmagine 2020 conference that continues this week, Tamblyn expanded on many of the issues and challenges he and his team based in Toronto were just starting to look at when his Kobo Italy staff and Grupo Mondadori worked together in mid-March to deliver free ebooks to quarantined Italians as one of Europe’s most fearful virus outbreaks was taking hold.

. . . .

Tamblyn mentioned that he and his employees were working from home voluntarily—to find out where the pitfalls might lie “on our own terms.”

What he would learn, he says now, was much more and fell into three categories:

  • What was learned about how Kobo works as a company during this (and implications forward)
  • What was learned about readers and relationship to reading
  • What was learned about the industry as a whole

For example, he says, Kobo was accustomed to its factories in China and Taiwan coming to a halt in production during the annual Chinese new year celebrations in January. That, Black Friday in November, and the week leading up to Christmas, he says, are the key tech-industry “high holidays” that normally can affect production and operations.

But of course, this year, the Chinese new year—which he calls “doubly important” because factories close completely in China and Taiwan—was different. “Because everybody who left for new year to go home and visit their families, Tamblyn says, “didn’t come back. For the first time in living memory, the new year holiday at the end of January was extended by a week.” As Wuhan and other zones would become locked down and factory production halted, companies like Kobo were faced with new difficulties in supply.

“How long would it be before we could make new e-readers?” was the question, Tamblyn says.

By February’s end, the company’s manufacturers were back to about 50 percent of capacity.

. . . .

“The least interesting question was the remote work question.” Kobo had had staffers working remotely for five years or longer. “We’re spread across offices in Toronto, Taipei, Dublin, and Darmstadt. And we have a Japanese parent company that has prioritized video conferences as necessary for good communication ever since we were acquired in 2012.”

Being as accustomed as they are to remote working, Kobo has given all its employees the option of working this way until at least January 2021, Tamblyn says. “If we can start to open up, we don’t expect to be able to bring back more than 25 percent of our employees at one time until a vaccine is found. And some will probably stay remote permanently. And that’s okay.”

“Big things” that Tamblyn says they’ve learned from this element of the experience will be part of “the new normal for us” will involve the fact that, “the hard parts of working from home turn out to be child care, roommates, bad connectivity, lack of home-office space.” The most common reasons employees ask to come back to work are just such difficult conditions at home.

. . . .

“It turns out,” Tamblyn says, “it’s never been about the office. It’s always been about the people. And that with the right tools and habits and rituals, culture can be strengthened and maintained without people being in one building.’

As services unlock, he says, “Our headcount will get bigger but it will get more spread out.”

. . . .

“We were able to sell more e-readers with all of our 10,000 stores closed than we had forecasted to sell with them open,” he says.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG thinks Mr. Tamblyn sounds like a smart guy.

Although it has little to do with indie authors, who overwhelmingly work from home, PG has heard and read the same sort of observations from others who are not irrevocably locked into the traditional office mentality.

On occasion, PG has received feelers about various types of employment, but has declined to pursue them because they would have required him to move to a new location. PG has moved a great many times during his life and has lived in his present location longer than he has in any other and enjoys the feeling.

Had any of the job opportunities included a “stay where you are” element, PG would not have politely declined them almost immediately.

Hiring the right employees is the most important task of any successful business. Current technologies (and likely future extensions of those technologies plus other technologies few can imagine today) make physical presence in a physical office of an employer less and less valuable. A great employee who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away provides great value plus her/his employer doesn’t have to pay the recurring cost of a physical office for the employee, which can be extraordinarily high in major metro areas. The more talented the employee, the larger the office he/she will expect.

The Pandemic’s ‘Acceleration of Trends’

From Publishing Perspectives about the ‘Digital Publishing Summit / Readmagine 2020:

Today (June 2), Wischenbart has given a Presentation of the Digital Consumer Book Barometer in the first of the day’s two sessions. A man of several brands, Wischenbart produces, among them, the Digital Consumer Book Barometer as one of his projects. Others are the Global Ebook Report and the Global 50 Ranking of the Publishing Industry, along with Frankfurter Buchmesse’s CEO Talks series.

. . . .

The “barometer” looks at developments relative to ebooks and audiobooks primarily in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland—the German-language core markets, in other words—with additional input from Italy, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico.

And in the case of this year’s report, it’s important to note that Wischenbart’s observations take us to the time just before the world pandemic of the coronavirus COVID-19 began to lock down the hardest-hit markets on which the report focuses. In that sense, then, the research can be seen as a kind of baseline before the damage—in some cases wreckage—would begin to upend publishing in the Worldometer system tracks as 213 countries and territories.

. . . .

Wischenbart tells Publishing Perspectives in an exchange prior to his presentation online today, that the status quo before the COVID-19 crises was already characterized by “some significant developments and challenges.” He lists:

  • A growing pressure on prices in the digital offer
  • Consumers who naturally switch between digital and analog formats
  • Consumers who similarly switch between reading and listening—or may be gradually changing their primary mode
  • Purchase vs. subscription
  • Streaming capabilities and library lending
  • Steady growth in downloaded audiobook sales, although the format’s sector remains a small percentage of most markets—in the audio-friendly US market, for example, 8.9 percent in March, per the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot

“These trends and patterns shaped the year 2019,” Wischenbart says. “It’s to be expected that these deep shifts will have an even greater impact on publishers and retailers in 2020″—and that would have been the case even had a novel coronavirus not imposed historic barriers to sales and production worldwide.

Another interesting, associated effect of the pandemic was the UK government’s sudden decision to drop its VAT on digital reading seven months before it had been planned, to help locked down readers find safe digital reading material while being asked to stay home. That was a case of a long-overdue correction to an anomaly in a market that long had charged zero VAT for print, but 20 percent for digital products.

. . . .

“Publishers certainly earn money with higher-priced offers with comparatively low sales,” Wischenbart says, “up to €15 euros for an ebook and more than €20 euros per download for the audiobook. But the price trend was clearly pointing downward.”

Wischenbart says he sees a hardening of the price ceiling in Spain and Italy, he says, where before the pandemic hit, €10 had become the most that consumers would pay to download an ebook. And overall, he says, the trend was universal toward “the cheapest offers” in the digital markets he was studying.

. . . .

The importance of bestsellers, Wischenbart says, has generally been seen to increase in ebooks much more than in audiobooks. In audio, in the markets he’s looking at, he says he sees romance, children’s and YA books, the midlist and backlist being more prominent than bestsellers.

. . . .

Like most specialists, Wischenbart says he sees an upturn in digital reading consumption during the pandemic. This is something stressed by Xu Hai of China’s vast Phoenix Publishing & Media in his interview with us for our Coronavirus Worklife series.

Wischenbart agrees, though, of course, that it’s yet to be seen how lasting the virus-driven changes in consumer behavior may be.

And as he looks forward to what may be effects in play from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he lists:

  • The question (as raised by Xu Hai in China) of hybrid users: are consumers who may have been print-bound, so to speak, now more open to digital–and even more attracted to digital?
  • Ever greater competition between various media, formats, and the battle for consumers’ attention and time—what Rakuten Kobo’s Michael Tamblyn (who speaks on Thursday for Readmagine) has called “the attention economy” in which all publishers must “fight for time,” the limited time of consumers
  • More competition between established “core actors” in the publishing space and newcomers, new entrants into the markets

. . . .

[T]he overriding impact of the pandemic on digital publishing might be as an accelerant. The advent of the inconveniences and impositions of the locked down experience may have caused existing trends such as more segmentation between consumer sectors to speed up.

If indeed the pandemic has collapsed time in speeding up consumer adoption of one form of reading or to speed up consumer transfer from, say, reading to more film and television consumption, then the most watchful and agile publishers are the ones who’ll be ready to respond as these effects become more evident.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Bookshop, Hummingbird Sales Skyrocket

From Shelf Awareness:

At Hummingbird Digital Media, which is an American Booksellers Association Marketplace partner for e-books (Hummingbird also sells downloadable audio), sales in the last four weeks have risen 1,315% over the previous four weeks, according to president and chief visionary officer Stephen Black Mettee. For the year to date, sales are up 1,000%.

Hummingbird’s bookstore count has jumped 25% since the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. although there are still some bookstores that haven’t signed on.

Mettee’s take: “Some bookstores had been slow to embrace e-books and audiobooks. I think as we come out of this–and we will–we’ll find bookstores making digital sales a more important part of their business. That will just make independent bookstores stronger overall. A silver lining in a particularly dark cloud?”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

7 reasons why ebooks are better than printed books

From Business Insider:

I have always been a book worm. When I was eight, I even won an award for “being an avid, spontaneous reader” (my reward was a book — a beautifully illustrated version of “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett).

Growing up, my room was full of shelves upon shelves of paperbacks and hardcovers. I kept a journal to remember all the books I had read. I scorned people who bent the corners of pages instead of using a bookmark, I couldn’t imagine marking up a book with a pen or highlighter, I hated when book spines cracked or covers bent.

When ebooks came on the scene, I thought they were ridiculous. Why would I want to read on a digital device when I could hold a lovely physical book, when I could smell the pages and have the satisfaction of turning real pages? I was, in short, a book fanatic.

I tell you all this because I’m never not surprised that I am now an ebook evangelist.

It all started when I (accidentally) became a tech reporter and I started to review e-readers. At first, I disliked having to test them and eagerly awaited going back to my paperbacks, but then I started traveling a lot for work and something clicked: Ebooks are good!

Ebooks vs. books: Why are ebooks better?

  1. They are much more portable than physical books, so you can carry dozens if not hundreds or thousands of them around with you on a device that weighs less than half a pound.
  2. You can download them in a matter of minutes so you don’t have to wait for them to be delivered if you ordered them online.
  3. You don’t have to go to the store to buy them.
  4. They are never out of stock because they are digital files.
  5. You can get many ebooks for free from Project Gutenberg, Amazon, and your local library.
  6. Ebooks often go on sale, so you can get bestsellers for $1 to $5. You can follow BookBub for deal alerts.
  7. They come with fun features like sharing highlighted quotations on social media, looking up words in the dictionary as you read, digital bookmarks, and much more.

Link to the rest at Business Insider

Collins makes hundreds of books and resources available for free

From The Bookseller:

Collins has made hundreds of books and learning resources free for teachers and families as schools close over the coronavirus.

The firm is giving free access to its online learning platform, Collins Connect, for the length of the school closures. The platform is for both primary and secondary schools and is home to learning and teaching resources for a range of subjects including English, maths and science at all levels, as well as international curricula.

On collins.co.uk it will also be providing free resources and support to parents who have children at home. It includes more than 300 e-books from its Big Cat reading programme, activity sheets, a times tables practice tool, revision and PDF downloads of many of its titles. Collins is adding resources daily to the site.

In addition, Collins will be enabling free access to textbooks in e-book format for schools that are already using its titles in the classroom so that pupils can continue their learning at home.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Morocco’s National Library goes digital as country locked down

From The New Publishing Standard:

Morocco is among the many countries closing libraries to help contain the Coronavirus threat, and as elsewhere, it is turning to digital to ensure services are not halted.

The National Library of Morocco in Rabat (BNRM) is among numerous Moroccan public institutions shifting to a work-from-home policy and a commitment to providing digital content in lieu of physical products.

Morocco’s schools closed a week ago, in stark contrast to the UK, which only closed schools this weekend, and the USA, where the government continues to send out mixed messages, leaving governors and mayors to take the lead and protect lives.

But like many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, the belated realisation of the value of digital means the transition from physical, in-class education and social support to online is a slow and cumbersome process.

Morocco World News reports that the BNRM says it will,

offer online administrative services to its subscribers, and access to electronic documents including legal deposits, manuscripts, magazines, books, and more.

The library will adopt a work system that doesn’t require its employees’ physical presence, opting instead for video chats to carry out administrative meetings.

Remote educational activities will replace lessons and classes, allowing students to stay at home and continue studies.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

OverDrive Reports Record Digital Borrowing in 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Public libraries around the world generated a record level of digital content circulation in 2019, providing patrons access to more than 326 million e-books, audiobooks and digital magazines, a 20% increase over the previous year, according to a report by Rakuten OverDrive, a digital distribution vendor for libraries

According to the report, 73 public library systems in five countries each loaned over 1 million digital books over the past year, including eight systems that hit the million loans mark for the first time. Among the top digital library lending systems are the Toronto Public Library (6.6 million digital loans), Los Angeles Public Library (the top U.S. library with 5.9 million digital loans); and the National Library Board of Singapore (the top lender outside of North America with 4.2 million loans).

According to the OverDrive report, the increase in digital borrowing represents the “library’s role as a valued discovery channel” for publishers and authors. Nevertheless, the OverDrive report on digital lending comes in the wake of continuing concerns by publishers that digital borrowing may undermine book sales. These concerns have led to a continuing dispute between publishers and libraries over efforts by some publishers to restrict the ability of libraries to offer digital access to their titles.

According to the OverDrive data, the number of e-books borrowed rose 15% in the year to 211 million; digital audiobooks borrowed jumped 30%, to 114 million, and 59 million children’s/young adult checkouts took place, a gain of 27% over 2018.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG thought publishers’ concerns about consumers borrowing physical titles from the library instead of buying them at bookstores had been resolved a long time ago. If lending libraries and the consumer behavior they enable were dangerous or fatal to publishers and physical bookstores, such damage would have manifested itself long ago.

If it makes sense for publishers to sell physical books to libraries with the understanding that the library is going to lend the book and the publisher will receive no incremental income from such loans, nothing about ebooks should really change the underlying business considerations. With the specialized software the library uses to lend a copy of an ebook and delete it from the reader’s device at the end of the loan, the likelihood that ebooks lent through the library are going to be pirated is lower than those sold (licensed) through Amazon where no such automatic deletion function is built into the ebook management system (at least to PG’s knowledge).

Here’s an excerpt from the help file of Libby, a popular (the most popular?) lending software used in the United States:

Books are automatically returned to the library on their due date. When they’re returned, they’re also removed from your Loans and deleted from your device (if downloaded).

PG has noted before that on a scale of most to least sophisticated marketers and advertisers, traditional publishers are at the bottom, just below used car lots and payday lenders.

Why?

Free samples are a long-time staple of advertising and promotion campaigns for a variety of products.

Perhaps there are physical bookstores that do not allow visitors to leaf through and read parts of books as part of the shopping process, but PG is not aware of their existence. Such consumer behavior is sampling. Amazon permits the same behavior in its bookstore. No one expects that everyone who samples a product will purchase it.

If sampling was not a reliable method of increasing sales, PG expects retail establishments would end the practice.

If a reader borrows an ebook from a library by an author she hasn’t read before, from the reader’s perspective, that’s another form of sampling. (In this case, the publisher receives some compensation from the library for licensing the book in the first place.)

If this instance of book sampling is successful and the reader enjoys the book, then returns it to the library and looks for the next book in the series or another book by the same author and finds a two-month waiting list to borrow that next book, the reader is only a few clicks away from buying the next ebook by that author on Amazon and starting to read it in a couple of minutes. The reader may even purchase a printed version of the book she has borrowed and enjoyed for her own physical library, sign up for the author’s and/or publisher’s email list, etc.

Discovering a great new author and buying other books written by that author is a far more frictionless process with ebooks than it is with physical books. Going to a physical bookstore to buy that book requires transporting oneself to that store, hoping the store stocks the book, etc., etc. Buying a physical copy of the book from Amazon involves a wait of at least one or two days.

The incremental cost of goods for the publisher in creating, storing, transporting, etc., a copy of the second ebook is probably zero. The same costs for a physical book are definitely more than zero.

A sophisticated seller would be overjoyed to sell products with no incremental costs of producing and transporting those products instead of dealing with the costs and friction involved in selling physical products. Bill Gates, Microsoft and a lot of other people and business organizations have become extremely wealthy from selling organized collections of electrons.

The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.

PG’s last post on December 24 was about the following Vox article that purported to talk about what a bust ebooks have turned out to be.

If you missed it in the holiday rush, there were some good comments and, yes, it is a Vox article, so you can assume the author was born yesterday.

From Vox:

At the beginning of the 2010s, the world seemed to be poised for an ebook revolution.

The Amazon Kindle, which was introduced in 2007, effectively mainstreamed ebooks. By 2010, it was clear that ebooks weren’t just a passing fad, but were here to stay. They appeared poised to disrupt the publishing industry on a fundamental level. Analysts confidently predicted that millennials would embrace ebooks with open arms and abandon print books, that ebook sales would keep rising to take up more and more market share, that the price of ebooks would continue to fall, and that publishing would be forever changed.

Instead, at the other end of the decade, ebook sales seem to have stabilized at around 20 percent of total book sales, with print sales making up the remaining 80 percent. “Five or 10 years ago,” says Andrew Albanese, a senior writer at trade magazine Publishers Weekly and the author of The Battle of $9.99, “you would have thought those numbers would have been reversed.”

And in part, Albanese tells Vox in a phone interview, that’s because the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. “They’re glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print,” he says. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. “Older readers are glued to their e-readers,” says Albanese. “They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.”

Ebooks aren’t only selling less than everyone predicted they would at the beginning of the decade. They also cost more than everyone predicted they would — and consistently, they cost more than their print equivalents.

. . . .

When the Kindle entered the marketplace in 2007, Amazon had a simple sales pitch: Anyone with a Kindle could buy all the ebooks they wanted through the online marketplace, and many of those ebooks — in fact, all New York Times best-sellers — would cost no more than $9.99.

$9.99 is a steal for a new book. At the time, most hardcovers were averaging a list price of about $26, and many cost more. But for Amazon, this price point was an apparent no-brainer. The first generation Kindle was expensive, and value conscious customers needed some incentive to buy into it. Why would anyone spend $399 on an e-reader if they couldn’t expect to make up at least part of the cost in a discount on ebooks?

And while this point is often glossed over, Amazon was actually following a precedent set by publishers in its pricing model. In her opinion for US v. Apple, Judge Denise Cote noted that before 2009, most publishers discounted ebooks by 20 percent from the price of a hardcover, which often led to a suggested list price of around $9.99.

But by 2009, publishers had changed their minds. Now they considered the idea of $9.99 ebooks to be an existential threat. Printing and binding and shipping — the costs that ebooks eliminated — accounted for only two dollars of the cost of a hardcover, publishers argued. So the ebook for a $20 hardcover book should cost no less than $18. And according to publishers, by setting the price of an ebook at $9.99, Amazon was training readers to undervalue books.

. . . .

Before we delve further into the weeds here, a quick primer on how book prices are set. Print books are generally sold under a wholesale model, which works like this: First, the publisher will set a suggested list price for a book; say, $20. Then it will sell the book to resellers and distributors for a discount off that suggested list price. So if Simon & Schuster wants to sell a $20 book to Amazon, Amazon might negotiate a discount of 40 percent for itself and end up paying Simon & Schuster only $12 for that book.

But once Amazon owns the book, it has the right to set whatever price it would like for consumers. The $20 list price that Simon & Schuster set was just a suggestion. Under the wholesale model, Amazon is free to decide to sell the book to readers for as little as a single dollar if it chooses to.

Until 2010, ebooks were sold through the wholesale model too. So if Simon & Schuster was publishing a $20 hardcover, they could choose to set a suggested list price of $18 for the ebook — two dollars less than the hardcover — and then sell that ebook to Amazon at a 40 percent discount for $10.80. And Amazon could, in turn, feel free to sell that ebook for $9.99 and swallow a loss of 81 cents.

To be clear, the numbers we’re using here to get a handle on how pricing works are imaginary. (Amazon negotiates different discounts for itself at different times from different publishers, sometimes around 40 percent, but at other times higher and at other times lower.) But we do know that Amazon was making very, very little money off ebook sales in 2010, and was in fact probably losing money on most of them.

. . . .

“Amazon can still discount whatever they like on the print side,” explains Jane Friedman, a publishing consultant and the author of The Business of Being a Writer. On the ebook side, however, Amazon now lists publisher-mandated prices, often with the petulant italic addition “Price set by seller.” “So the market is very weird, and often the ebook costs more than the print,” Friedman says. “Sometimes it feels like Amazon is trying to make the publishers look ridiculous.”

And because ebooks are often more expensive than Amazon’s heavily discounted print books, traditional publishing’s ebook sales seem to have fallen off — and Amazon is more dominant than ever in the print book market. “It’s so much cheaper,” says Friedman.

In this new market, high ebook prices make it harder than ever for young authors in particular to survive. “The split has really hurt debut novelists,” says Friedman. “It’s hard to ask readers to take a chance on someone unproven at that high price point, and since the ebook market does lean towards fiction, it’s hurting the new people.”

Self-published authors, meanwhile, are flourishing. They’re allowed to set their own ebook prices just like publishers are — and consistently, they set their prices very, very low. “It’s a shadow market,” Friedman says. “Novelists with huge backlists go and put them out as ebooks independently. And if a reader has a choice between reading this great series at $2.99 a pop or a $12 novel, what are they going to pick?”

Antitrust law professor Christopher Sagers argues that the outcome of the DOJ’sebooks case shows that the real problem with the industry is not just that Amazon has a monopoly. The big trade publishers, he says, have a monopoly too.

“There used to be hundreds of publishing companies. They’re now mostly owned by five,” Sagers says. (After that Department of Justice lawsuit, Penguin merged with Random House, and the Big Six became the Big Five.) “Why are ebooks expensive? It’s not because Amazon is vicious. It’s because there’s no competition at the wholesale level.”

. . . .

The Big Five publishers “are huge, and they have been able to put in place practices that are kind of unfair and that authors have to put up with,” Friedman allows. “That said, they need that kind of size to be able to effectively deal with something like Amazon. If you look at an indie publisher, I wouldn’t want to be one of them.”

Link to the rest at Vox and thanks to DM for the tip.

PG notes that the OP devotes one paragraph to independent authors and that paragraph implies that indie authors are primarily publishing their revered backlist titles.

Unlike Big Publishing, nobody is really beating any publicity drums for indie authors.

One other point the OP doesn’t discuss is that Barnes & Noble is still cratering and, when it finally goes down the drain, retail bookselling via physical bookstores will take a huge hit and publishers who have failed to develop their chops selling ebooks and encouraging readers to buy them will regret that their profitability will take an enormous hit.

Kindle: A Year in Review

From Day One – The Amazon Blog:

Kindle was the first of its kind in so many ways when it was introduced in 2007: it was the first time you could think of a book and be reading it in 60 seconds; the first time you could connect to a cellular network to download something and not get billed for the data; the first time you could access an entire store of books while on the go; and the first time you could take your full library with you anywhere you went.

Over the years, while the design and features of the device have evolved, what hasn’t changed is Amazon’s singular goal of making reading more available and enjoyable to people around the world. Today, we offer readers millions of e-books on Amazon.co.uk, and we continue to invest in developing new features and benefits that readers love. We want it to be easy for customers to find their next favourite book and get more out of their reading experience as well as make it easy for authors to connect with readers. Worldwide, we see customers buying more e-books from a widening variety of authors and publishers. Kindle book sales grew again in 2019, in thanks to independent publishing, Kindle Unlimited subscriptions and Amazon Publishing.

. . . .

This year the range of titles available in Kindle Unlimited expanded, with more than a million titles now in the service, including even more of Britain’s best-loved authors and books. Along with all seven books from the original Harry Potter series, books by David Walliams, Agatha Christie, Bernard Cornwell, and many more now feature. We also launched full magazine subscriptions within Kindle Unlimited including BBC Good FoodBBC Top GearNational GeographicMarie ClaireTime, and more.

July saw the launch of Amazon Charts in the UK, a weekly bestseller list that shares the most read and most sold books across all formats each week. The Top 20 Most Read list is the first ever bestseller list to measure which Kindle and Audible titles Amazon.co.uk customers are reading and listening to.

Link to the rest at Day One – The Amazon Blog

Kobo’s 10th Anniversary

From Publishing Perspectives:

On Sunday (December 15), Rakuten Kobo [reached] its 10th anniversary.

. . . .

In any week, [Kobo CEO Michael] Tamblyn says, Kobo will deliver ebooks to some 150 countries. “Over the course of a year,” he says, “we’ll hit all the countries the United Nations recognizes and a few others.”

. . . .

The operation also has localized merchandizing and/or other partnerships in some 25 countries. The catalogue available through the retailer comes in at between 5 and 6 million titles.

At the end of November, another new market was opened: Vincent Chang in the Singapore Straits Times welcomed the introduction of Kobo’s e-readers to the island nation

. . . .

And that factor in itself—leading with a line of e-reading devices—is a clue to how Kobo has become the most purposefully internationalized player in the digital reading industry.

“It’s been really interesting too look back over the development of the company, you know,” Tamblyn says, “to look at how we achieved the position that we have and what were some of the decisions we’ve made that resulted in that. Out of all the startups that we were on the starting line within 2009, why are we still standing? So many others have gone away. And we need to take that point of retrospective as we get ready for the next 10 years.

“One of the things we’ve learned is that this is a business that rewards scale,” he says. “It definitely helps to be one of the big players in the space. But it also rewards diversification.

“We see a third of our sales coming from Asia, a third from the Americas, north and south, and a third from Europe.

“We do see ups and downs in individual territories,” Tamblyn says. “We see individual markets peak and then plateau. We see other ones start slowly and then accelerate. And spreading ourselves out—realizing that this is a long game as opposed to something to be won in a couple of years—has given us a lot of resilience and diversification. And that’s allowed us to keep going when a lot of others didn’t find themselves able to get that critical mass.”

. . . .

The January 2018 announcement of Kobo’s partnership with Walmart in the United States drew widespread attention in the world industry.

Already well recognized for its emphasis on international expansion and partnerships, Tamblyn had taken a turn into a market he’d effectively conceded years earlier to Amazon’s dominance. What made the Walmart arrangement clever, of course, was that it integrated the Kobo offer into Walmart’s growing online retail effort, meaning that Kobo had landed, effectively, as the big-box retailer’s in-house vendor in the field.

Walmart had the same reason Kobo did to want to build its online presence in the American market: Amazon.

“Walmart, when you look across its entire portfolio of e-commerce,” Tamblyn says in his interview, “is really pushing hard on being that strong competitor in the US. They’ve been a great partner to work with, and there’s still a lot more we can do in that channel. So really this past year has just been getting us started.”

But asked if the success of the Walmart partnership doesn’t turn on the fact that Kobo can ride the energy of that huge company’s online expansion, Tamblyn has another approach.

“There were a couple of pieces” to the arrangement, he says.

“One is that we want to be where readers are, where books are getting purchased, where people are showing up and making shopping decisions about reading—so we can introduce ebooks and audiobooks to them. And we can do that in a place where they’re already showing up for that reading experience every day.

“So that has us looking at each individual market in terms of where is there a great retailer who has access to that customer in a privileged way. At the same time, who sees themselves as being in a competitive battle with those big ecosystem players—Amazon, Google, Apple—and wants to hold on to that customer and retain that reading relationship with them over time?”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Why Online Mobile Publishing Is the Future

From Publishers Weekly:

Every young writer’s dream probably goes a little something like this: Start writing a book, publish it online, and gain a massive fan base from all around the world. Then find ways to monetize and gradually make writing a main source of income and transition to doing it full-time. And who knows, maybe later down the road, Hollywood comes knocking and a passion project gets turned into something for the big screen?

That’s exactly the story of Bi Chu, a Korean writer who found stardom publishing his work online. He’s published eight popular stories to date, including They Say I Was Born a King’s Daughter, an international hit. On the Chinese entertainment platform Tencent, the title reached more than 100 million views in 40 days. In the U.S., on online comics and novels platform Tapas, the title has grossed over $600,000 from micropayments alone.

These days, apps are where most digital media consumption is happening—especially among younger millennial and Gen-Z audiences—and bite-size stories optimized for mobile reading provide a highly engaging form of entertainment media. Even in the era of video streaming, reading still has its place. It’s an easy-to-navigate medium where readers can control the pace of consumption (whereas a 40-minute video can’t easily be sped up).

The publishing industry laments that young people don’t read anymore, but they actually read more now than ever—think Twitter feeds and Reddit comment sections. It’s the traditional print books that are losing ground, and publishing needs to fundamentally change to suit today’s mobile audience.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Publishing Your Ebook Is Changing on Smashwords

From The Book Designer:

This is a third and final perspective in my publishing strategy trilogy, a drama festival with three events, Amazon and Ingram being the earlier performances. There have been five-week breaks between these theatrics as I proceed in the Joel Friedlander modern publishing ecosystem.

If you want to distribute your ebook through Amazon directly and then also to “every ebook vendor beyond Amazon,” how should you do it? Smashwords is my recommended choice.

Non-exclusive is my chosen publishing survival mantra in book/ebook publishing. I work with Amazon directly, but am non-exclusive. I also think this is the healthiest approach for all citizens who control “knowledge products” in our society, meaning books/ebooks. We need as much diversity in the marketplace of ideas as we can arrange. Diversity in the marketplace is a socially desirable goal.

I have always wondered what percentage of ebooks sold in America are sold on Amazon. I have heard a lot of folks say 60% for several years. But recently a couple of knowledgeable people said the figure is higher. If you have credible info on this, please share it with us.

I wanted a way to distribute my ebook with Amazon and beyond Amazon. My targets would be Apple Books (formerly called iBooks), B&N ebooks, Kobo, and all the other vendors. How would I do this?

. . . .

I decided years ago, in my first ebooks, to proceed with BookBaby for two ebooks. They did and still do a good job. But revisions of my ebooks with BookBaby will require a substantial new cost, as I understand it. In Amazon Kindle and in Smashwords, I can simply write over the file at no cost. So I switched to Amazon direct and to Smashwords for “everyone else,” which is what I recommend now for ebook distribution.

. . . .

Details of Financial Return to the Author in Kindle, Ingram, and Smashwords

Authors need to keep track of exactly the cash returned to them in sales from their participation in each of these publishing ecosystems.

With my $4.99 ebook, how much do I earn today in the various structures?

Amazon Kindle

In Amazon Kindle, the formula appears to be 70% of retail, but after a delivery fee, which depends on ebook size.

Your ebook on Amazon must be in the recommended $2.99-$9.99 range to get the 70%. The return appears to drop to 35% when you are out of compliance regarding the recommended ebook prices.

. . . .

IngramSpark

In IngramSpark the formula for ebooks appears to be 40% or 45% return of retail price and there is no restriction on price parameters.

. . . .

Smashwords

In Smashwords, the situation is both simple and more complicated.

When Smashwords sells one of my ebooks in Apple Books, as an example, it appears that I earn 60% of list. For Libraries, the return is 45% of list.

However, Smashwords also has its own internal selling ecosystem, so my book in that structure appears to net for me 56% to 85% of list. The details are granular. Mark Coker recently wrote me about this as follows:

“For sales through the Smashwords Store, the percentage is based on the total amount of the shopping cart. The author earns 85% net where net = the purchase price minus the PayPal fee. So, for some common price points it would be 56% for a 99 cent ebook, 74% for a $2.99 book, 76% for $3.99 and 80% for books or shopping cart totals over $7.99. The easiest way for you to get the exact percentage at different price points is to log into your account, click publish, then enter sample prices into the pricing calculator. It’ll display a dynamic pie chart that shows how much is earned at each price for each channel.”

. . . .

Smashwords, as well as IngramSpark, does not appear to penalize authors who want to price their ebooks above $9.99. Two of my travel journalism colleagues, experts in their niches, like this set-your-own-price approach. They have their niche markets and are able to command higher than $9.99 for their ebook products. On Amazon their return would drop to 35%.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Perhaps it’s time for another exploration of Smashwords and IngramSpark, but PG’s long-ago experiment with non-Amazon platforms resulted in very few sales for Mrs. PG’s books.

While PG was on The Book Designer site, he discovered that Joel Friedlander, book designer extraordinaire, had vastly expanded his collection of templates for the interior design for various types of books. You find all the design templates here.

For the last two of Mrs. PG’s books, PG has used KindleCreate (if the link doesn’t work for you, just Google KindleCreate), a free downloadable book formatting mini-program.

KC has worked pretty well and none of Mrs. PG’s readers have complained, but Joel’s templates address some of KindleCreate’s shortcomings (in PG’s eyes):

  1. KC only has four different formatting templates (and to PG’s untutored eye, only one looks good enough for Mrs. PG’s books.)
  2. KC is tightly-integrated with KDP (good), but the file it produces doesn’t seem to be useful for anything but publishing with Amazon. No Epub sites need apply.
  3. Additionally, PG couldn’t find any way to adjust anything in the file produced by KindleCreate in MSWord. Any problems with the final ebook file could only be addressed with the very limited KC program.

PG would be interested in hearing other comments about KindleCreate vs. MSWord-based templates from visitors to TPV who are familiar with both.

Open Access: It is up to librarians to make it happen

From No Shelf Required:

In the past few years, the book and library industry has witnessed many lively discussions about the present and the future of the Open Access (OA) movement and its sustainability for both academic publishers on the one end (i.e., those who need sustainable business models to produce quality content that can be shared openly for years to come) and libraries and academic institutions on the other (i.e., those who need to support it financially in order for it to keep going, because, without their investment, OA fails publishers, authors and the scholarly community at large. Most such discussions focus on what OA can and cannot do for librarians and publishers. Less often, however, they involve those two sides discussing how their actions (and inactions) affect those who are supposed to benefit from the idea of open access and open science: scholars and researchers. More specifically: scholars and researchers in countries where access to science and scientific knowledge remains sparse and uneven and where libraries do not have the means of supporting their academics and scientists the way libraries in the more developed parts of the world do.

. . . .

The goal, therefore, was to discuss the impact of OA on research globally and consider if the promise of OA to equalize access for users and researchers beyond the most affluent academic markets is being achieved. This helped center the discussion around the following: Do researchers have access to freely available academic content as much as we assume they do? Do they know where to find it? How easy is it for them to find it? Are the sources and platforms available to them delivering a quality user experience? And are scholars around the world able to take advantage of the new publishing opportunities afforded to them through various initiatives?

. . . .

North America and Europe are seeing the highest usage of OA books, while Latin America and Africa are seeing the lowest, with Latin America, in particular, lagging behind the rest of the world.

The panelists also discussed OA publishing models and their success in countries where Open Access is vibrant as well as in those where it is still emerging; the costs involved for researchers to publish Open Access; ways in which users in emerging markets benefit from OA content; and the role of academic libraries—large and small—in providing the necessary support.

. . . .

If we consider, for a moment, the sheer number of OA initiatives unveiled in recent years, and the volume of quality content made available OA, it becomes obvious that the scholarly community has made great strides in figuring out what works and what doesn’t, both with journals and with monographs. Publishers and scholars are certainly not objecting to the concept of publishing Open Access. On the contrary, they seem more eager than before to embrace OA publishing possibilities and opportunities (KU alone works with over 100 publishers, ‘unlatching’ books by hundreds of HSS and STEM scholars each year; likewise, IntechOpen works with tens of thousands of scholars worldwide to help them publish their scientific findings and make them widely available).

Indeed, if at this point in the OA narrative, the issue isn’t whether the publishing community is willing to embrace an entirely new way of operating, the ball is back in the court of academic libraries and academic institutions. And questions again arise: Will libraries continue to set aside significant funding to support OA, or will they, in the face of limited budgets, marginalize OA content in favor of subscription products and services?

. . . .

The average STEM book which would have comfortably sold a couple of thousand units a few years ago is now achieving only a few hundred. For the print market, OA has shown to be excellent publicity and (what remains of) print sales hasn’t been detrimentally impacted . . . .

. . . .

Similarly, few academics are aware of the more liberal terms available through OA licenses, including author retention of copyright and flexible content reuse compared to the more traditional copyright-transfer type of agreement . . . .

Scholars are increasingly aware that OA edited book publications (or ISBNs) have comparable submission, review, decision and publication times. Typically, OA book chapters demonstrably achieve higher impact – through greater discoverability, downloads, citations and online mentions – and so for scholars seeking deep dissemination of their work, OA books are an attractive option . . . .

. . . .

The industry should embrace all colors, flavors, and degrees of Open Access and remain more tolerant when applying the standards. New techniques and services must be created to reduce the ‘handicap’ of indie publishers . . . .

. . . .

The majority of researchers don’t really care about the publication method, as long as they have access.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

For visitors to TPV who have not seen previous posts about the world of academic/scientific publishing, here are the basics:

  1. Traditional academic/scientific journals are generally owned by one of a handful of academic publishers who have consolidated their ownership of various publications that were formerly owned on an individual basis over a period of years.
  2. Traditional academic/scientific journals are available via very expensive subscriptions, the cost of which has escalated substantially during the past several years. Some college/university/research institution libraries are unable to afford these costs and, consequently, are not able to provide access to some publications to professors, students and researchers.
  3. The authors of the articles appearing in academic/scientific journals, particularly those in junior/intermediate positions need to publish articles in respected journals in order to retain their jobs and obtain promotions to more secure positions.
  4. Typical publishing contracts offered to authors by traditional academic/scientific publishers require the author to transfer copyright ownership to the publisher and pay the author no royalties other than a few copies of the publication. Any financial benefits from their writings come to the authors via improved job prospects or enhanced employment security from their current employers.
  5. To add insult to injury, many academic/scientific publishers require the author to pay a fee to the publisher when the paper is submitted, ostensibly to cover the publisher’s costs of managing the process of peer review. Thereafter, for accepted papers, some publishers charge the author a per-page “printing” fee and/or a separate publication acceptance fee.
  6. Peer review of papers submitted to academic publishers by teachers/professors/researchers to determine the validity/credibility of the content, methods, conclusions, etc., of the submissions is generally performed by other teachers/professors/academic authors in the field who receive no monetary compensation for their work from the publishers. Non-monetary compensation may come to reviewers via more favorable reception of future papers written by those reviewers when the papers are submitted to the publisher.
  7. After a slow start, academic/scientific publishers are reaping the substantial financial benefits of electronic subscriptions to their publications.
  8. Despite the lowered costs of distributing many of their publications electronically (instead of printing, warehousing, shipping, etc. physical copies of the publication), academic/scientific publishers typically sell subscriptions to their publications in expensive bundles that include popular as well as less-popular publications. The largest publishers will not sell a subscription to a particularly useful single publication in an unbundled form. Institutions in poorer parts of the world are often unable to afford the costs of these bundled subscriptions, depriving their professors/researchers/students of access to the latest developments in a scientific/technical field.

The Open Access movement described in the OP is an effort by a variety of researchers/educators/scientists/academic librarians to recreate the infrastructure provided by traditional academic publishers for authors and institutions on a less-expensive basis.

Konnie Huq and 90 MPs call for end to ‘reading tax’ in UK

From The Guardian:

Children’s laureate Cressida Cowell and former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq have joined 90 MPs calling on the government to scrap the “reading tax” on ebooks and audiobooks.

Huq, who is now a children’s author, led a delegation to the chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid at his Downing Street residence on Thursday to deliver a letter signed by the MPs. In it, they demand the government “end the unfair tax on learning by zero-rating VAT on e-publications”.

Readers currently pay 20% VAT on all digital books, including ebooks and audiobooks. Print books have been zero-rated since VAT was introduced in 1973, “on the general principle of avoiding a tax on knowledge”. Campaigners against the digital book tax argue that it unfairly affects readers living with sight loss and disabilities, who may rely on the technology.

. . . .

“The government rightly does not apply VAT to printed books, newspapers and magazines, acknowledging the intrinsic value of reading and knowledge and the importance of the accessibility of these materials,” write the MPs, who include former cabinet ministers Penny Mordaunt, David Mundell and Stephen Crabb, and former leader of the House of Commons, Mel Stride. “However, as consumers embrace the benefits of digital technology, more readers are unfairly penalised for the format they favour. This anomaly must end.”

On Thursday, Huq said: “It is fantastic to be in Downing Street to fight to remove the unfair tax on those who need to read digitally. As both an author and a mum I know how important it is for children to grow up reading, regardless of whether this is on paper or screen.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The Internet Is for Everyone, Right? Not With a Screen Reader

From Wired:

A few weeks ago, Lucy Greco heard a story on NPR about more clothing retailers shuttering their stores and moving online. Oh, great, she thought, recalling some of her past experiences with online shopping: “You’re clicking on something that says, ‘graphic graphic graphic,’ or some numbered file name, or some gibberish like that.”

The internet can be like this for Greco, who is blind and uses a screen reader to wayfind online. Screen readers convert display text into synthesized speech or refreshable Braille, giving visual displays an audio equivalent. But many websites have features that make them impossible for her to use—unlabeled graphics, forms with missing field labels, links mysteriously named “link.” Greco says she runs into issues like this “90 percent of the time” that she spends online. When she does, entire chunks of the internet disappear.

Since the 1990s, the popular narrative of the internet has been one of progress: More people are online than ever and the web is increasingly open. But today, the internet is far from fully accessible. By some measures, it’s gotten even worse.

There are around 7 million people with a visual disability in the United States, according to the National Federation of the Blind.

. . . .

One study by an accessibility software company this August found that 70 percent of the websites it surveyed, ranging from ecommerce to news to government services, contain “accessibility blocks,” or quirks in the design that make them unreadable with assistive technology. Another accessibility report analyzing the top million homepages on the web estimates that just 1 percent meet the most widely used accessibility standards.

Link to the rest at Wired
.

 

Major Public Library System Will Boycott Macmillan E-books

From Publishers Weekly:

With Macmillan’s controversial embargo on new release library e-books set to begin in just two weeks, PW has learned that the King County (WA) Library System has decided it will no longer purchase embargoed e-book titles from the publisher.

“Despite months of discussion and advocacy, Macmillan continues its position to embargo multiple copies of e-books,” writes King County Library executive director Lisa Rosenblum, in a note sent to fellow library directors (and shared with PW). ”Therefore, effective November 1st, KCLS will no longer purchase e-books from Macmillan. Instead we will divert our e-book funds to those publishers who are willing to sell to us.”

The King County Library System, headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, is one of the nation’s busiest and best library systems, circulating more than 21 million items every year. It has earned a coveted five star rating from Library Journal. And for five years running, King County has been the top digital-circulating public library system in the country, logging more than 4.8 million checkouts of e-books and digital audio in 2018.

In her note, Rosenblum acknowledged differing opinions among public library staff around the country on whether to boycott Macmillan e-books, and said King County’s decision was ultimately driven by two reasons: one “pragmatic” and the other “principled.”

As for the pragmatic side, Rosenblum explained that King County has pledged to readers to limit the wait time for any title to around 3 months. “Not allowing us to purchase multiple copies of an e-book for two months artificially lengthens the queue, triggering more of the same title to be purchased than would have occurred if we had been allowed to buy for the first two months,” she explains. “With an ever-increasing demand to buy a wide variety of digital titles, we do not think this is the best use of public funds.”

. . . .

The “principled” argument, Rosenblum says, is to send a message to other publishers that public libraries cannot accept limits on basic access. To do so, she writes, would “profoundly” change the public library.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG has posted about this stupid plan by Macmillan before here and here.

Suffice to say, this is harmful to libraries and those who use them and unlikely to generate significantly more revenue for Macmillan.

As far as Macmillan’s justification – that library patrons will buy more Macmillan books if they can’t borrow them, PG expects this is likely the case in the short run. However, as library patrons continue to discover new authors they love through the books they borrow, and buy books from those authors, and tell all their friends how great those authors books are, Macmillan is short-changing its owners and its authors by effectively giving up on a major (and free) source of additional sales.

As compared with purchasing advertising and giving big discounts to Barnes & Noble (is that still a thing?), whatever dribs and drabs Macmillan fails to garner from regular library patrons who decide they simply must read whatever Macmillan claims is the latest and greatest instead of borrowing a different book are a drop in the bucket compared to the priceless word-of-mouth avid readers provide.

Publishing Your Book Is Changing on IngramSpark

From The Book Designer:

I continue our saga about a new upload of a self-pub book to the standard folks. What if you haven’t done this in the last couple of years? What’s new?

I discussed the Amazon Kindle print book/ebook in some detail in my last post, which was Publishing Your Book is Changing on Amazon Kindle.

. . . .

So, is there a publishing life beyond Amazon Kindle? The answer is a definite yes, from my perspective. Moreover, authors play an important role in keeping our publishing system healthy by succeeding with a diversity of suppliers.

I want my printed books to be sold in independent bookstores, such as Book Passage, near me in California. They could do a direct order from Ingram or get consignment books from me.

I want a print-on-demand (POD) manufacturing source that would be acceptable to independent bookstores, plus chain bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble. I want a manufacturer who supplied libraries.

For all this I need Ingram. I also want some “Ingram-manufactured” books to sell to individuals and at events where the folks may not be “Amazon-friendly.” There are raging controversies about the book-selling ecosystem, as you probably know.

I also want my ebook version in iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and other ebook retailers beyond Amazon. For my ebook-for-everyone-beyond-Amazon, I chose Smashwords. I’ll discuss Smashwords next time in my “every-five-weeks” column in Joel’s publishing ecosystem.

. . . .

So, is there a publishing life beyond Amazon Kindle? The answer is a definite yes, from my perspective. Moreover, authors play an important role in keeping our publishing system healthy by succeeding with a diversity of suppliers.

I want my printed books to be sold in independent bookstores, such as Book Passage, near me in California. They could do a direct order from Ingram or get consignment books from me.

I want a print-on-demand (POD) manufacturing source that would be acceptable to independent bookstores, plus chain bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble. I want a manufacturer who supplied libraries.

For all this I need Ingram. I also want some “Ingram-manufactured” books to sell to individuals and at events where the folks may not be “Amazon-friendly.” There are raging controversies about the book-selling ecosystem, as you probably know.

I also want my ebook version in iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and other ebook retailers beyond Amazon. For my ebook-for-everyone-beyond-Amazon, I chose Smashwords. I’ll discuss Smashwords next time in my “every-five-weeks” column in Joel’s publishing ecosystem.

. . . .

The big new decision with Ingram, of course, was whether to move my four earlier books from their Lightning Source world over to the newer IngramSpark realm. Then I would place the new book also in Spark. After studying this, it appeared to me that a change was appropriate. So I requested it.

The Ingram response on this was fairly hospitable. As in all systems, the quality of your Customer Service experience can vary.

Here is what happened:

  • Ingram said they would add an opt in to change to Spark on my Lightning Source page, with the words Learn About Spark. This did appear, upper right center, in small type on my page. I almost missed it.
  • The “migration” from LSI to Spark proceeded smoothly and in an orderly way. I was required to sign the Global Distribution agreement and an Ebook Agreement, even though I was not uploading an ebook at this point.
  • Once I made the migration from LSI to Spark, they said it would be one-way. You are not coming back. That was OK. I did not plan to go back.
  • The prices for printed books would be the same, they said. I always choose the 55% discount because that is what is needed to get bookstore sales.
  • It appeared that with Spark I would avoid the $12/year Market Access fee that LSI charged for each of my titles each year. That would be welcome.
  • It appeared that, as a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), I would have a code and could avoid book setup fees. That would also be welcome. The book setup was a $49 cost. Later updates of the interior or cover file would incur a $25 charge, however, as I understood it.
  • I had a personal rep in LSI, but never used the service. So I felt no loss without a personal rep in Spark.
  • I had options for bank credit payments, etc. in LSI for large orders, rather than a simple credit card, but never used it. So, no loss. I could continue dreaming of imagined bulk purchases of my books. You will be among the first to learn about this when the lightning strikes.
  • Spark also appears to be an ebook-selling structure, not an option at LSI. I noted this, but did not intend to use Spark for selling ebooks at this time. I’ll watch to see how the Spark ebook option develops.
  • A welcoming note from Spark was encouraging. It had lots of their self-pub educational resources listed. Amazon Kindle, IngramSpark, and Smashwords are all major author-learning ecosystems if you take advantage of their how-to posts and videos.
  • When I engaged Spark in an online chat, they always sent an email follow-up with all the chat documentation written out. That was helpful. The chat was always so immediate that I had little desire to call by phone.
  • In one chat, for example, their rep confirmed that my book in IngramSpark would automatically show for librarians in the Baker & Taylor library listings, even if I did not spend $85 to advertise my book in their Ingram/Baker & Taylor catalog. That was good to hear.

I uploaded my new book in the PDF form requested. The system appeared to save everything as I moved forward. I first posted all the book data and then uploaded the interior file. All was saved.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Projected Ebook Revenue – World-Wide

From Statista:

  • Revenue in the eBooks segment amounts to US$13,669m in 2019.
  • Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2019-2023) of 2.7%, resulting in a market volume of US$15,231m by 2023.
  • User penetration is 12.9% in 2019 and is expected to hit 14.5% by 2023.
  • The average revenue per user (ARPU) currently amounts to US$14.38.
  • In global comparison, most revenue is generated in United States (US$5,487m in 2019).

Link to the rest at Statista

At ‘Captions’ Hearing, Judge Hammers Audible’s Fair Use Argument

From Publishers Weekly:

If the decision to issue a preliminary injunction against Audible’s “Captions” program comes down to fair use, Audible may be in trouble.

Over the course of a 90-minute hearing on Wednesday, federal judge Valerie Caproni appeared thoroughly unmoved by Audible’s defense of its Captions program, and highly skeptical that Audible’s plan to scroll snippets of computer generated text alongside audiobooks in its app should be called anything other than what it is: reading.

Opening the day’s arguments, the plaintiff publishers’ attorney Dale Cendali told the court that Audible’s Captions program was “quintessential” copyright infringement, and was quickly engaged by Caproni, who questioned whether the “clunky” experience of Captions really competed with reading a book. Cendali, well prepared for the question, responded that Captions didn’t need to be “a substitute” for a book for it to be harmful. Captions “provides a reading experience,” Cendali stressed, “saying it is something other than that just doesn’t make sense.”

. . . .

Cendali hit all the major points in the publishers’ complaint, finding a mostly receptive audience in Caproni. Captions is not transformative, she argued, and it is commercial in nature. Despite its “public benefit” argument, Audible is in fact seizing what should be a negotiated right to gain a competitive advantage over its competitors, Cendali stressed. If allowed to go forward, Captions would harm the market for books, e-books, and immersion reading; weaken rightsholders’ ability to license works in other markets; “devalue and cheapen” those rights by offering the feature as a free add-on; and the poor quality of the Captions program would cause reputational harm to authors and publishers who might be associated with a shoddy program, their works wrested from their control without permission.

The last point seemed to especially hit its mark with Caproni as an example of the kind irreparable harm—distinct from the market harm also in play—required to win a preliminary injunction. “As much as there might be a moral rights issue [in U.S. copyright law] this is a moral rights issue,” Cendali argued. “The damage this does would be impossible to measure. Money damages cannot make up for this. It affects the entire industry. This is a sea change, what they are trying to do. That’s why you have all these publishers, authors, and the agents here together. That shows you how dramatic it is.”

. . . .

Captions is designed to work alongside an audiobook, not “divorced” from it, [Amazon’s attorney] argued, and it does not provide a reading experience.

“What do you mean it’s not a reading experience?” Caproni interjected. “It’s words.”

What followed was a strained back and forth about what constitutes reading a book, with Reisbaum suggesting that seeing words as you listen to them is, well, something else.

“The fact that you can see the words doesn’t make it a book,” Reisbaum insisted at one point, trying to convince the judge that Captions is an enhanced audio experience, not a book experience—users couldn’t flip forward or back at their own pace, for example, nor could the text be stored, or shared, or skimmed. The experience was designed to increase comprehension of the “words” that Audible customers have paid for. Caproni didn’t appear to be buying it. “They paid to have the words read to them,” she pointed out.

. . . .

Cendali reiterated that none of the publishers’ agreements granted Audible the right to generate and distribute text.

But that’s a conclusion not supported by evidence before the court, Reisbaum insisted. The parties have acknowledged that they have valid license agreements. Captions is a program to be used with that licensed content. Without seeing those agreements, and where Audible is alleged to have breached them, how does the court know that speech-to-text is not covered under those licenses?

But perhaps the most surprising moment came when Caproni realized that Captions had not launched, and that a launch was not imminent. Why was she being asked to grant a preliminary injunction?

. . . .

The publishers strongly protested. “We beg you to rule on the motion,” Cendali pleaded with the judge, saying that the uncertainty surrounding the Audible program was already impacting the publishers, harming their ability to do other deals. Caproni replied that it was only a preliminary injunction at stake, that there would still be uncertainty even if she granted it. Why not get right to trial and resolve the issue?

“They can’t just do a head fake,” Cendali said referring to Audible’s still unannounced launch date, adding that not ruling on the motion would give Audible “a get out of jail free card.”

“It’s not a get out of jail free card,” Caproni responded. “I don’t have any get out of jail free cards. What I have is a chance card,” she said, pointing out that the publishers could possibly lose the motion. Caproni reserved ruling for a later date.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Physical books still outsell e-books — and here’s why

From CNBC:

Do you prefer reading an e-book or a physical version? It might be a surprise, but for most people, old school print on paper still wins.

Publishers of books in all formats made almost $26 billion in revenue last year in the U.S., with print making up $22.6 billion and e-books taking $2.04 billion, according to the Association of American Publishers’ annual report 2019. Those figures include trade and educational books, as well as fiction.

While digital media has disrupted other industries such as news publishing and the music business, people still love to own physical books, according to Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers’ Association in the U.K.

“I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects,” she told CNBC.

People love to display what they’ve read, she added. “The book lover loves to have a record of what they’ve read, and it’s about signaling to the rest of the world. It’s about decorating your home, it’s about collecting, I guess, because people are completists aren’t they, they want to have that to indicate about themselves.”

. . . .

It’s more than a decade since Amazon launched the Kindle, and for Halls, there is also a hunger for information and a desire to escape the screen. “It’s partly the political landscape, people are looking for escape, but they are also looking for information. So, they are coming to print for a whole, quite a complex mess of reasons and I think … it’s harder to have an emotional relationship with what you’re reading if it’s on an e-reader.”

. . . .

Sixty-three percent of physical book sales in the U.K. are to people under the age of 44, while 52% of e-book sales are to those over 45, according to Nielsen.

It’s a similar picture in the U.S., where 75% of people aged 18 to 29 claimed to have read a physical book in 2017, higher than the average of 67%, according to Pew Research.

Link to the rest at CNBC

With data from the Association of American Publishers and the Booksellers Association in the UK, PG notes a distinct lack of information in the OP regarding how many ebooks Amazon sells in the US and UK. Unless he is much mistaken, the statistics quoted in the OP don’t include sales of ebooks by Amazon Publishing and indie ebooks via KDP.

When PG last checked, in addition to not collecting ebook sales information, Nielsen (now NPD) Bookscan figures didn’t include printed or POD books that weren’t registered with Ingram.

 

The Whole “Library eBooks Kill Retail eBook Sales” Idea Makes No Sense

From The Digital Reader:

I was working on a blog post this morning on Scholastic ebooks being in OverDrive when I got to thinking about the current uproar over library ebooks.

It seems a lot of people in publishing are convinced that library ebooks are responsible for retail ebook sales being down. This belief has been around for over a year now (since Macmillian first established that trial embargo on library ebooks in July 2018), and it’s now grown to include a concatenating belief that Amazon is the one telling publishers about the supposed connection between library ebooks and retail ebook sales declining.

I still don’t beleive that Amazon is doing that; I think it is an example of gossip spread in the industry before showing up in the media. But I don’t want to debate that today; instead, I want to discuss the underlying premise.

. . . .

The idea that library ebooks (in and of themselves) have a negative impact on retail ebook sales simply makes no sense to this ebook buyer.

It simply doesn’t match up with my understanding of how people use libraries.

BTW, the last time I pointed out that a common industry belief made no sense was in late 2017 when I debunked the then-current belief that “screen fatigue” was responsible for declining ebook sales. I never got any public kudos for my work, but when was the last time you heard a publishing CEO blame their falling retail ebook sales on screen fatigue?

No one is mentioning screen fatigue any more; now the bogeyman is library ebooks, and it makes just as little sense as the last bogeyman.

The underlying premise for this belief is that because people can get a library ebook, they won’t buy the retail ebook.  This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of consumer behavior.

. . . .

This runs contrary to the legacy industry assumption that if they deny the consumer the library ebook then the consumer will buy a copy of the ebook.

Take me, for example. I only buy ebooks, but when I think the ebook costs to much (or when I can’t tell if it’s worth the expense) I will borrow the print book from the library.

. . . .

What the legacy industry appears to have forgotten is that for the past eight years they have been training library patrons to settle for print books even when we want the ebook. This has been going on ever since the Big Six started imposing checkout restrictions and high prices on library ebooks in 2011.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

One of the beliefs that underlies the whole “Let’s delay the library book so everyone will buy their own copy” philosophy is that the release of a “big” book by a major publisher is something that lots of Americans will respond to by quickly purchasing their own copy so they can talk to their friends about it.

PG thinks such consumer behavior has become quite rare other than in locales within 15 miles of The Empire State Building or The White House. A major book release flies so far beneath 99% of the American population as to be invisible. There was a time when a lot of people paid attention to what Big Publishing was doing, but that time is gone, gone, gone.

PG is about 100% ebook when it comes to his long-form reading. As he’s mentioned before, he’s purchased a couple of print books that he knows he will like because he found a screaming deal on the price somewhere. They have sat (laid? lain?) within easy reach of PG favorite reading locations for months and months and months.

PG reads long-form nonfiction and fiction for pleasure every day. It’s all in ebook format.

He is currently reading The Ground We Stand On by John Dos Passos, published in 1941, and very hard to find for a reasonable price. PG thinks it qualifies as heavy-duty history, discussing and contrasting the parallel developments of New and Old England during the mid-17th century.

Parts of the book follow Roger Williams, the founder of Providence Plantations, which became the Colony of Rhode Island, and a Puritan minister. Williams was likely the first white man to learn the languages of the Native American tribes along the Eastern seacoast. He wrote the first book on the Narragansett language and helped to settle the Pequot War (1637-38) which could have caused enormous harm among the earliest British settlers.

The book follows Williams back and forth during his travels from the New World to the Old. Old England is in the midst of The Civil War and the Puritans were in control. While in England, Williams published his first book, A Key into the Language of America, in 1643. This book was, in part, the first printed dictionary/phrase-book of the language of the Native American tribes as well as an account of the life and culture of those tribes.

In his book, Williams wrote:

Boast not proud English, of thy birth & blood;
Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good.
Of one blood God made Him, and Thee and All,
As wise, as fair, as strong, as personal.

Williams succeeded in obtaining a charter from Parliament for Providence Plantations in July 1644. He then wrote a book titled,
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience in which, among other things, Williams argued for a “wall of separation” between church and state and for state toleration of various Christian denominations, including Catholicism, and also “paganish, Jewish, Turkish or anti-Christian consciences and worships.” Williams’ writing was not popular with the Puritan-controlled government and Parliament ordered the public hangman to burn all copies.

PG has rambled too much about his latest reading enthusiasm, but, to the best of his knowledge, a copy of Dos Passos’ book in physical form is unavailable anywhere in PG’s general vicinity. However, he was happy to find a copy in ebook form online (not at Amazon) for a reasonable price and is learning a great many things about this period of American and British history of which he was previously unaware.

Why Angry Librarians Are Going to War With Publishers Over E-Books

PG has mentioned this brilliant strategy from Macmillan here and here, but under the principle that you can’t celebrate Big Publishing stupidity enough, here’s more.

From Slate:

If I wanted to borrow A Better Man by Louise Penny—the country’s current No. 1 fiction bestseller—from my local library in my preferred format, e-book, I’d be looking at about a 10-week waitlist. And soon, if the book’s publisher, a division of Macmillan, has its way, that already-lengthy wait time could get significantly longer.

In July, Macmillan announced that come November, the company will only allow libraries to purchase a single copy of its new titles for the first eight weeks of their release—and that’s one copy whether it’s the New York Public Library or a small-town operation that’s barely moved on from its card catalog. This has sparked an appropriately quiet revolt. Librarians and their allies quickly denounced the decision when it came down, and now the American Library Association is escalating the protest by enlisting the public to stand with libraries by signing an online petition with a populist call against such restrictive practices. (The association announced the petition Wednesday at Digital Book World, an industry conference in Nashville, Tennessee.) What’s unclear is whether the association can get the public to understand a byzantine-seeming dispute over electronic files and the right to download them.

In a July memo addressed to Macmillan authors, illustrators, and agents, the company’s CEO John Sargent cited the “growing fears that library lending was cannibalizing sales” as a reason for embargoing libraries from purchasing more than one copy of new books during their first eight weeks on sale. “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free,” he claimed.

Many individual library systems and companies that work with libraries swiftly responded with objections. “Public libraries are engaged in one of the most valuable series of community services for all ages, for all audiences,” said Steve Potash, the CEO and founder of OverDrive, a company that supplies libraries with e-books. “The public library is just something that is underappreciated. It certainly is so by Macmillan.”

. . . .

“If you think about equitable access to information for everybody, there shouldn’t be discrimination or anything like that,” said Alan Inouye, the senior director for public policy and government relations at the ALA. “So consumers can get this book on Day 1 without limitation, but libraries have to wait for eight weeks? That’s just very wrong.”

. . . .

The controversy over Macmillan’s new policy gets at one of the central issues facing book publishing today. “There’s a tension in e-book pricing generally between consumer expectations that a digital file will be less expensive than a physical copy and the reality that very little of the cost of making a book is tied up in the physical format,” said Devin McGinley, a senior industry analyst covering book publishing for Ibisworld Inc., a market research firm. “Publishers are rightly concerned that if the price of books erodes too much, they will no longer be able to cover their creative costs and subsidize more speculative bets on emerging authors.”

. . . .

“They really did not have any reasonable data to support a narrative that if an author’s new book is withheld from public library lending when it first comes out, that might impact the author’s or the book’s sales during those first few months,” Potash said. “That isn’t borne out. The data that OverDrive has is that for every title that actually gets borrowed or downloaded, the library is engaging with dozens and dozens of readers who are discovering the book, sampling the book, or just looking for a recommendation on what to read next.” Potash said that studies consistently show library patrons to be more frequent book buyers overall—which is another reason Macmillan’s letter stung. “They are taking their readers, their customers, their fans, and intentionally trying to frustrate them,” he said.

Link to the rest at Slate

PG will state that whenever a business executive talks about making a decision to avoid “cannibalizing sales,” you will find many other stupid words and acts following shortly thereafter.

Steve Job famously said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” He made this comment when Apple was selling a lot of iPods, and had just announced the iPhone.

Did the iPhone cannibalize Apple’s iPod business? You bet. Were any Apple shareholders upset by this cannibalization? Not really. The iPhone would make Apple the most valuable company in the world.

The first iPhone was announced in January, 2007, and went on sale in June, 2007. One year after the announcement of the first iPhone and six months after its launch, in January, 2008, the value of a share of Apple stock had almost doubled. About six months later, in July, 2008, when Apple launched the iPhone 3G (the first iPhone with an app store), the stock value was 285% of the price only 18 months earlier.

Not many people were worried about iPod sales at that point.

From an interview with James Allworth, the co-author, with Clay Christensen and David Skok, of a new Nieman Reports article called “Breaking News– Mastering the Art of Disruptive Innovation in Journalism.” The Harvard Business Review published a transcript:

Well, if you can see a way of cannibalizing your existing business, then chances are somebody else can see that same opportunity too. And if it’s a choice between you or your competitor cannibalizing that business, I think in almost every instance you will be better off in the long run if you yourself choose to do it.

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

Back to Macmillan, once a book is completed, PG will note that each copy of an ebook that Macmillan licenses to a user costs the company essentially nothing. This cannot, of course, be said about a printed book, each one of which carries costs for printing, shipping, warehousing, handling returns of unsold books from bookstores, etc.

PG suggests that an intelligent executive would be happy to cannibalize the sales of more copies of costly printed books by selling costless ebooks.

 

Pearson Launches Digital-First Textbook Strategy

From Copyright and Technology:

Pearson, the world’s largest educational publisher, announced on Tuesday that it is transitioning to a digital-first model for textbook publishing, moving away from the print-edition-based model that has been the foundation of higher education publishing for centuries. In its press release, the company announced that it will move almost all of its 1500 U.S. textbook titles to continuously-updated digital-first content and will only make print textbooks available on a rental basis.

This is a major turning point in higher ed publishing. Pearson’s move contrasts with that of its rival Cengage, which launched a subscription model called Cengage Unlimited last year. Whereas Cengage is offering access to all e-textbooks from its catalog to students at a rate of $120 per semester or $180 per year, Pearson is renting them individually for an average price of $40. Both Pearson and Cengage will make print textbooks available as rentals only. The e-textbook rental model has been around for several years through providers such as eFollett and VitalSource (formerly CourseSmart, a joint venture of Pearson and other higher ed publishers).

. . . .

Yet the switch to digital-first has a whole host of implications beyond student access or pricing models that indicate how big a deal this is. Higher ed publishers have been talking about going digital-first for many years, and there are several reasons why none of them — at least none of the major publishers — have done it until now.

First are all the implications of moving from one edition at a time to a program of continuous updates for digital textbooks. This requires major changes to editorial processes and technologies, and it requires that textbook authors — typically full-time faculty members at universities — commit to continuous updates to their material rather than committing only to one edition of a book at a time. Pearson has been putting in place the editorial infrastructure and processes required to do this for several years now and has been leading the way in setting standards for online educational content such as EDUPUB.

Then there are all the rights clearance challenges. Textbook publishers typically license thousands of items of content for use in each of their textbooks — illustrations, photographs, quotations, tables, etc. — and do so for discrete editions of those textbooks. In many cases, those rights have to be re-cleared for continuously-updated digital textbooks.

. . . .

The impetus for Pearson’s announcement is very simple: higher ed publishing is (finally?) in enough pain to make these disruptive transitions necessary. Publishers have been competing with a combination of used textbooks, third-party textbook rental services such as Chegg, and course instructors using online materials that are free and potentially more up-to-date than material that had to be committed to print-oriented textbooks months or years in advance.

Publishers’ strategy in coping with these forces over the past several years has been to keep raising textbook prices. But as prices go further and further into the stratosphere and backlash increases, that strategy has become self-defeating; Pearson’s revenues are expected to fall up to 5% in the U.S. this year.

. . . .

The other important implication of digital-first is that it can enable publishers to build their own distribution channels to students, bypassing college bookstores as well as third party distributors like Chegg and MBS Direct. The first evidence of this happening for e-textbooks was in 2014, when the four major publishers involved in the CourseSmart joint venture sold it off to VitalSource, a unit of the publishing services giant Ingram Content Group. The deal involved moving CourseSmart e-textbooks to VitalSource’s platform, and the publishers decided not to make all of their titles available on a platform they didn’t own. More recently, Pearson and McGraw-Hill have been working towards distribution channel control for print textbooks through something called consignment rentals. And certainly Cengage Unlimited is a further move towards distribution channel control by publishers.

It seems likely that Pearson will insist that students engage with its own service to obtain their course materials as part of its digital-first strategy.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

PG says this is entirely about money – killing the used textbook market once and for all plus taking all the markup generated by sales of new and used titles from college bookstore and redirecting that money to the publisher.

PG hopes college and university departments are motivated to create their own course materials and distribute those to their students at a reasonable price. This could benefit individual professors with an additional income stream and help the students avoid piling on more and more student loans to acquire textbooks they won’t be able to keep or sell after the class ends at exorbitant prices.

Microsoft’s Ebook Apocalypse Shows the Dark Side of DRM

From Wired:

Your iTunes movies, your Kindle books—they’re not really yours. You don’t own them. You’ve just bought a license that allows you to access them, one that can be revoked at any time. And while a handful of incidents have brought that reality into sharp relief over the years, none has quite the punch of Microsoft disappearing every single ebook from every one of its customers.

Microsoft made the announcement in April that it would shutter the Microsoft Store’s books section for good. The company had made its foray into ebooks in 2017, as part of a Windows 10 Creators Update that sought to round out the software available to its Surface line. Relegated to Microsoft’s Edge browser, the digital bookstore never took off. As of April 2, it halted all ebook sales. And starting as soon as this week, it’s going to remove all purchased books from the libraries of those who bought them.

Other companies have pulled a similar trick in smaller doses. Amazon, overcome by a fit of irony in 2009, memorably vanished copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindles. The year before that, Walmart shut down its own ill-fated MP3 store, at first suggesting customers burn their purchases onto CDs to salvage them before offering a download solution. But this is not a tactical strike. There is no backup plan. This is The Langoliers. And because of digital rights management—the mechanism by which platforms retain control over the digital goods they sell—you have no recourse. Microsoft will refund customers in full for what they paid, plus an extra $25 if they made annotations or markups. But that provides only the coldest comfort.

“On the one hand, at least people aren’t out the money that they paid for these books. But consumers exchange money for goods because they preferred the goods to the money. That’s what happens when you buy something,” says Aaron Perzanowski, professor at the Case Western University School of Law and coauthor of The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy. “I don’t think it’s sufficient to cover the harm that’s been done to consumers.”

. . . .

Presumably not many people purchased ebooks from Microsoft; that’s why it’s pulling the plug in the first place. But anyone who did now potentially has to go find those same books again on a new platform, buy them again, and maybe even find a new device to read them on. For certain types of readers, particularly lawyers and academics, markups and annotations can be worth far more than $25. And even if none of that were the case, the move rankles on principle alone.

“Once we complete a transaction you can’t just reach into my pocket and take it back, even if you do give me money,” says John Sullivan, executive director of the nonprofit Free Software Foundation. “It’s not respecting the freedom of the individual.”

. . . .

More than anything, Microsoft’s ebook rapture underscores the hidden dangers of the DRM system that underpins most digital purchases. Originally intended as an antipiracy measure, DRM now functions mostly as a way to lock customers into a given ecosystem, rather than reading or viewing or listening to their purchases wherever they want.

. . . .

“This is why we call DRM media and devices defective by design, or broken from the beginning. There’s self-destruction built into the whole concept,” Sullivan says. “This is still the prevalent way of distributing media. That companies still pull the plug is still surprising and frustrating.”

Link to the rest at Wired

PG gently suggests that any lawyer who annotates a copy-protected ebook which resides online is not terribly wise.

PG probably has a moral (but not legal) obligation to remind one and all that, in the click-to-accept license agreement they entered into when they bought their MS ebooks, purchasers almost certainly agreed to not circumvent any copy protection software locking those ebooks up.

He will also remind the same group that, regardless of whether the license specifically prohibited circumvention, hacking copy protection is still illegal under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, specifically 17 U.S.C. 1201. Violating this prohibition carries both civil and criminal penalties.

That said, PG suspects Microsoft will turn a blind eye to any evidence those who licensed ebooks from them have hacked the copy protection in order to make copies of the text.

However, publishers of the ebooks may not react in the same way.

PG hasn’t checked into the nature of Microsoft’s ebook copy protection or the copy protection used by publishers of ebooks sold by it, but, at least some copy protection software (I’m looking at you, Adobe) has, at least in past days, collected information about ebooks residing on computers, tablets, ereaders, etc., and sent it back to the mother ship. In 2014, this included ebooks using Adobe’s copy protection software and other ebooks that did not use Adobe software. See this post and related posts on The Digital Reader for the gory details.

PC suggests that those who have purchased ebooks from Microsoft decide whether they care about losing any of them. If the answer is yes, these readers can use some or all of the money they receive from MS to buy replacement copies somewhere more reliable.

If any visitors have made more than cursory annotations to any Microsoft ebooks, PG suggests the safest route from a DMCA violation standpoint would be to contact the publishers of those ebooks and ask for their help in salvaging the text and annotations. (Go ahead and contact the authors, too. They may have more reputational capital at stake than the publishers do.)

PG thinks Microsoft deserves a lot of heat for orphaning ebooks it sold without a way for purchasers to preserve access to them. For example, did MS think to contact Amazon to see if it could provide MS book-buyers with copies of the same titles from Amazon? If not, why not?

Why not throw some brains into a solution that won’t alienate Microsoft customers instead of refunding the money the customers spent plus $25? If the customers wanted money instead of books, they probably wouldn’t have purchased any books from MS in the first place.

For PG, nothing else has so effectively communicated the message, “We’re Microsoft and you’re not,” for a long time.

For the record, PG has not ever purchased any ebooks from Microsoft and is unlikely to do so in any future life.

If anyone does attempt to salvage MS ebooks, PG would be interested in any details of their experience they might care to share. If they don’t want to leave a comment, they can email PG via the Contact link on TPV.

If PG were advising any of the publishers (particularly publishers of books for readers in various learned professions), PG would suggest that the publishers do everything possible to collect contact information regarding any of their ebook purchasers impacted by Microsoft’s decision and take affirmative steps to communicate with those readers and offer to provide replacement ebooks in one of the other ebook formats in common use.

 

Why e-books, e-audiobooks could be harder to snag at your local library

From The Canadian Broadcasting Network:

You might call her an ideal library-goer: Andrea Querido visits her local branch weekly — even blogs for it — and describes libraries as “a place of community and connection.”

And when Querido’s son was born five years ago, the communications professional fell in love with a new section of the stacks: e-books, which along with e-audiobooks, make up the fastest growing area of borrowing for many libraries today.

“You’d have those late nights and you could be on your phone or your iPod, reading, while he’s feeding or you’re changing a diaper,” recalled Querido, an avid reader and book club member who lives in Brampton, Ont.

But as any library patron could tell you, there can be lengthy waits for e-book and e-audiobook titles — especially for A-list authors. Take, for instance, Oprah Winfrey’s latest self-help title, The Path Made Clear, published in March.

“I think for the audiobook, it’s 135 days to wait. And then the e-book is something like 35 days,” said Querido. “If you’re willing to wait, it’s great. But if you want to get your hands on that, it’s kind of a long time to wait for the book everyone’s talking about.”

That kind of wait could get even longer now, as libraries call out multinational publishers for high prices, restrictive terms and exclusivity windows that they say make it tougher to get e-content into the hands of eager customers.

. . . .

In the last three years, for example, use of e-audiobooks at six of Canada’s largest public libraries grew by 82 per cent, the council said.

But what isn’t widely known is that publishers charge libraries a significantly higher price for digital books than print versions — both of which are loaned out to customers on a one-to-one basis. For example, one physical copy of Linwood Barclay’s 2018 thriller A Noise Downstairs costs a Canadian library $19.20, while a single digital copy costs $65.

. . . .

Multinational book publishers are changing how they provide digital content to libraries: rather than selling e-books and e-audiobooks for perpetual use, they are adopting a business model whereby libraries must repurchase digital content after a set period.

Hachette Book Group is the latest publisher to make this switch, announcing in mid-June that its perpetual ownership model for digital content would be replaced by a metered system where libraries must repurchase e-books every two years. The change, which goes into effect as of July 1, will be accompanied by a price decrease (up to 25 per cent) for a “vast majority” of titles, the company said.

“With the changing digital marketplace, we feel that this business model better supports our entire publishing, library and bookselling ecosystem and unifies our lending terms for e-books and digital audiobooks to make access to our catalog consistent,” Hachette Book Group said in a statement.

. . . .

Penguin Random House, which moved from perpetual access to a two-year metered model in October 2018, said its decision came “in large part in response to conversations and data provided by its partners.”

. . . .

Exclusivity is another thorn in the side of library systems. Macmillan’s sci-fi division, Tor Books, and Blackwood Publishing are among those testing out embargo windows — holding back new and in-demand digital content from libraries for weeks or months, with some claiming library e-lending has had an “adverse impact” on retail sales.

. . . .

“It took a long time for all the multinationals to get on the board with public libraries. It took a long time before they all agreed to start loaning [digital content] to public libraries,” said Sharon Day, director of branch services and collections at the Edmonton Public Library and chair of the CULC’s e-content working group.

After “a period of relative calm,” she said, libraries are now seeing a slide backward in their relationship with multinational publishers.

. . . .

While the CULC says it recognizes libraries can’t pay publishers the same low price point as individual consumers, they are calling attention to what they view as inflated costs for digital content and expressing alarm over the budding trend of restricted access — all of which limits what libraries can offer their patrons.

“We need to be at the place where our customers are, to be providing customers with content the way they want to use it,” Day said.

. . . .

And while convenience is a key reason many have become fans of e-books and e-audiobooks, for others it’s simply a necessity.

Senior citizens, someone at home recovering from surgery, those with mobility challenges, people who are blind or visually impaired, those on fixed or low incomes — there are many different segments of the population that rely on their local libraries for information and entertainment, said Querido.

“I don’t want to say second-class citizens, but when you’re talking about seniors and those who can’t afford it … you’re making that distinction.”

Link to the rest at The Canadian Broadcasting Network and thanks to Desmond for the tip.

PG says a significant number of library patrons are intensive readers and provide book recommendations to their friends. He understands some face-to-face book clubs will not select a book for discussion that is unavailable in local libraries.

PG has no illusions about being typical of any meaningfully-sized subset of readers (other than, perhaps those who are institutionalized), but he seldom feels a need to read a new bestselling book (fiction or nonfiction) right away. He suspects the “event book” that is a “must-read” beloved by major publishers may be reaching a smaller and smaller subset of readers with each passing year.

As long as PG is on a rant, he believes that a great many consumers (including consumers of books) don’t like the feeling of being manipulated to part with their money by large corporations with distant headquarters. For Big Publishing, goosing the sales numbers for the current quarter without understanding the larger consequences of such tactics over a longer term is all too typical.

All of this incents more and more avid readers to look at the work of indie authors. As mentioned, these avid readers also tend to be enthusiastic influencers of other readers.

Revenue from E-Book Sales in the United States from 2008 to 2018 (In Billion U.S. Dollars)

From Statista:

The timeline presents data on e-book sales revenue generated in the United States from 2008 to 2013, as well as a forecast until 2018. The source expects the revenue will grow from 2.31 billion in 2011 to 8.69 billion in 2018.

. . . .

In the United States, the e-books industry has grown tremendously in the past decade, primarily due to a higher supply and demand of e-book devices and applications, but also due to lower prices compared to hard copies, as well as ease of travel and storage. However, forecasts suggest that the number of e-book users in the U.S. is expected to fall from 92.64 million in 2015 to 88.45 million in 2021.

Many e-books are available through American public libraries, which, since 2003, have an increasingly popular e-book lending model of both fiction and non-fiction titles for different audiences.

Link to the rest at Statista

Ebooks at the Library: Delving into the Labyrinth

From All About Romance:

Checking out eBooks at the library has come a long way since I bought my Nook Classic. Back then, most companies did not know how to make eBook lending from the local library work, and staff members at my local B&N had to pass out detailed instructions – that were at least a page long – about how to borrow library books on your Nook. Although I’m an early adopter who managed to read eBooks on a Palm and on an eBookwise, I never got library lending to work on my Nook. Not until I gave up and got a Kindle was I able to make the lending process go smoothly. “So that’s how it’s supposed to work!”

. . . .

Formats make a difference to library users worldwide. In Canada and the UK, Kindle books cannot be borrowed from the library because the format is proprietary. Books can only be borrowed in EPUB and PDF formats. In the UK, the available lending options are Nook, Kobo, Android, and IoS. That may vary by country (and province or county.)

. . . .

Quirks in the search feature aside, wait lists are the biggest drawback to borrowing eBooks from the library. Crazy Rich Asians is the top book that comes out when you check out the Romance section at my library, and although the library has 146 copies of the eBook available, none are available right now. You can place a hold, and if you time it well, you’re in luck. On the other hand, I remember checking the wait list for The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter after Kristen gave it a great review. Whoa. It would have taken a couple of months to get the book, so I caved in and bought the eBook instead. Although it was priced higher than I normally want to pay for an eBook, it was worth it.

So… What’s up with those wait lists? Why are they so long? Many people blame the publishers. For every step forward, libraries are forced to take two steps back. Most users know that they can wait for an eBook to drop in price, but this isn’t an option for libraries, which must buy eBooks at more than list price. Librarian and blogger Jennifer Anne (@kidsilkhaze) explained the issues in a thread on Twitter.

Jennifer Anne starts by stating “So here’s the thing–I am worried that publishing is killing libraries, and that will, in turn, kill publishing.” In a nutshell, eBooks are more expensive for libraries than you think. Although libraries usually get discounts on print books, eBooks are almost always priced extra high for libraries. For example, Penguin Random House charges about $55 per copy – and then requires the library to repurchase the title every twenty-four months. HarperCollins charges list price, but the items can be checked out only twenty-six times before they must be repurchased. Hachette charges about $80 to $90 per title, but the titles don’t have to be repurchased. Macmillan charges $60 a copy for an eBook and then requires repurchase after two years or fifty-two checkouts; because of lending periods, this often means the library only gets about thirty-five checkouts per title.

On top of that, some publishers (such as Tor) embargo libraries so that they can’t lend out the eBook until the book has been out for several months. But by the time the embargo period time has passed, the libraries will probably pass on the titles, meaning that the publisher loses out on the eBook purchase.

Link to the rest at All About Romance

Helvetica, the World’s Most Popular Font, Gets a Face-Lift

From Wired:

“Helvetica is like water,” says a recent video about the most popular typeface in the world. The 62-year-old font family, with its sans-serif shapes and clean corners, is ubiquitous. It is used on the signage in New York’s subway system. It is the brand identity of American Airlines, as well as American Apparel. It is on those unfortunate T-shirts that say things like “John & Paul & Ringo & George.”

“When something is constructed as well as Helvetica, it should last for a couple of hundred years, just like great architecture,” designer Danny van den Dungen told The New York Times in 2007, when the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective in honor of the typeface.

But Charles Nix is not a fan. Nix is the director of Monotype, the world’s largest type company, which currently owns the licensing rights to Helvetica. He doesn’t like that the letters scrunch together at small sizes, that the kerning isn’t even across the board. Designers have gotten used to all sorts of magic tricks to make Helvetica look more legible, like changing the size of punctuation marks to balance the letters. “We jokingly refer to it as Helvetica Stockholm Syndrome,” says Nix.

A few years ago, Nix and others at Monotype decided a change was due. The whiff of Helvetica had begun to stink. Major companies, which had used Helvetica for years in branding and other materials, had begun to eschew the typeface. Google stopped using it in 2011, in lieu of a custom font that looks a lot like Helvetica, but better. Apple followed suit in 2013 with its own font. So did IBM. Ditto for Netflix.

Now, Monotype has given Helvetica a face-lift, in the hopes that it can restore some of the magic to the iconic typeface. The new version, Helvetica Now, updates each of Helvetica’s 40,000 characters to reflect the demands of the 21st century. It’s designed to be more legible in miniature, like on the tiny screen of an Apple Watch, and hold its own in large-scale applications like gigantic billboards.

. . . .

Before there was Helvetica, there was Neue Haas Grotesk. Created in 1957, the typeface sprung from the mind of Swiss designers Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffman. Emblematic of Swiss design and midcentury modernism, it was meant to be simple and clean—a set of letters that would disappear to let the words speak for themselves. In 1961, typeface maker Haas rebranded it as Helvetica and introduced to the wider world.

. . . .

Helvetica Now seeks to remedy some of these issues. The family includes three versions: Helvetica Now Micro, designed for use on small screens, recasts the font with more open forms, open spacing, and larger accents. Helvetica Now Display evens out the kerning for larger type sizes. Helvetica Now Text, the workhorse of the three, is intended for visually crowded environments, so it incorporates more white space into the design for greater legibility.

Link to the rest at Wired

From Edition Guard:

The Best Fonts for E-Books – Ultimate Typography Guide

. . . .

It’s easy for readers to take the number of choices we take for granted.

In the age of digital content, customization has become so ubiquitous that most of us have forgotten a time where there was only one way to interact with written information: the way the publisher intended.

From simple tweaks, like setting your browser’s zoom-level, to more granular ones like your e-book reader’s text alignment and font, creating your “ideal” reading experience is just a view clicks or taps away.

However, with the number of options for customization that we have, often comes the temptation to customize simply for the sake of it. Collectively the team at Edition Guard have lost count of the number of times we selected a new font for our e-book readers, with the most popular justification for doing so being: “I remembered that I could.”

This made us wonder whether there is such a thing as an objectively “better” font for reading an e-book in.

. . . .

[F]rom notable typeface historian and designer Charles Bigelow:

“I recently read nearly every important book, and many of the important papers, on the study of legibility from 1905 to the present….nearly all the good ones say that it is very difficult or nearly impossible to find statistically significant differences in intrinsic legibility between common typefaces read at common sizes and normal distances,” he said in an academic text he published in 2012.

. . . .

Bookerly

Designed in 2015 by independent font foundry Dalton Maag exclusively for the Amazon Kindle, Bookerly is the youngest font on our list. So invested were Amazon in their creation that the font has replaced Caecilia as the default option in all their future devices.

Here’s what the company’s marketing people have to say about the font:

“Warm and contemporary, Bookerly is inspired by the artistry of the best fonts in modern print books but is hand-crafted for great readability at any size. It introduces a lighter, more graceful look and outperforms other digital reading fonts to help you read faster with less eyestrain.”

. . . .

Having been purpose-built for on-screen display, one would think that Bookerly is the easy choice for e-book enthusiasts.

Design writer John Brownlee certainly agrees. “Read Bookerly at much larger font sizes, and some of the fonts delicate touches are allowed to shine: for example, the delicate way the upper arm almost licks the stem of the lower case ‘k’,” he writes in Co.Design.

“Bookerly even includes some lovely ligatures that makes reading on the Kindle feel more like printed typography, like the way the terminal on a lowercase ‘f’ will replace the title on the lower case ‘i’, if they are right next to each other,” he adds. “…it’s a lovely font. And in my testing, I thought it was even more pleasant than Palatino, the typeface I previously used on my Kindle.”

Piotr Kowalczyk from E-bookfriendly.com praised more than the font’s visual appeal, citing Bookerly’s readability as one of its best features.

“The designers of Bookerly font have created a useful visual showing the organic structure of the font. Font serifs are not symmetric, like in Caecilia, the former default Kindle typeface,” he writes.

“What’s more, the serif for each letter is different from the others, what helps create a varied flow of the text,” he said . . . .

. . . .

Baskerville

Designed by lacquered-goods tycoon, John Baskerville (1706–1775), this typeface was created as part of an ambitious undertaking he described as follows:

“Having been an early admirer of the beauty of Letters, I became insensibly desirous of contributing to the perfection of them,” the former and calligraphy instructor wrote in his preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost.

. . . .

A notable difference between Baskerville and other fonts of the era was the increased difference between the letters’ thick and thin strokes, with serifs sharper than its contemporaries.

. . . .

Baskerville is mostly given credit for being the most ornate and historically significant of the fonts available for selection in most popular e-book readers.

“It has respect,” Anna Thompson, Penguin Random House designer told Co.Design, indicating that it would be her choice if she owned an e-book reader.

Robert Slimbach, principal type designer at Adobe Systems, is also a fan, but seems to be one of a small group of readers who considers it a comfortable font to read.

“Its classical characteristics and open counters make it very inviting to read and less fatiguing to the eye,” he told Co.Design.

The font is, however, criticized for some on-screen display issues – most notably as a result of the finer components of the strokes.

“ Rather than showing off how nice the display is, Baskerville does the opposite: it shows how relatively crude it is, resolution-wise,” the experts at Daring Fireball say.

Joel Friedlander over at Thebookdesigner.com feels that, while it is a fine option for printed medium, its Kindle incarnation is “weak-tea.”

Link to the rest at Edition Guard

PG may be atypical in his response to fonts (as he is in so many other ways), but he is mostly oblivious to which font is delivering his reading material.

“[T]he delicate way the upper arm almost licks the stem of the lower case ‘k’” and “Bookerly even includes some lovely ligatures” are well beyond PG’s typical visual comprehension.

OTOH, per the OP, “If you use a typeface that annoys readers or that they find even slightly difficult to read, then you are giving yourself problems.”

PG is thus inclined to live with Kindle’s default fonts in both his e-reading and in formatting Mrs. PG’s ebooks on the theory that the more he doesn’t notice the font, the better.

However, for shorter messages, PG loves the bizarre.

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See Weird Fonts for many more examples

On Creating Bookshelves for an All-Digital Public Library

From BookRiot:

I work for the first all-digital public library system in the country. Our library branches house no physical books; instead, our resources are housed on multiple platforms/apps like cloudLibrary, Hoopla, RBdigital, Lynda, PressReader, BiblioBoard, and many others. I am the Collections & Acquisitions Librarian for my library and it is hands down the coolest job I have had in my decade in public libraries. The no physical books part of my job does not bother me one bit. It’s quite lovely to not have to handle grimy books that have been through dozens of homes.

. . . .

I evaluate, purchase and curate our digital content for all ages. But unlike a traditional public library that offers multiple locations to display physical books, our ebooks and audiobooks must be carefully curated on digital bookshelves. Every month our digital bookshelves change so that our patrons get a different look at our collection. Since they are unable to walk through stacks and go from physical bookshelf to bookshelf, this is our best chance to highlight books that are overlooked or are older. We usually have anywhere from 12–15 digital bookshelves in any given month. I usually highlight monthly observations while occasionally throwing in my dad joke shelves. These shelves may include color puns or just something I think our patrons will respond to.

You may not think so, but this is quite a difficult task. I am quite competitive and I want our monthly circulation numbers to grow from month to month. If we circulated 20,000 items in March, for example, then I hope to circulate 20,000+ in April. But the truth is, my digital curations are either hit or miss with our patrons. I have one chance per month with these bookshelves to impress our patrons enough that they will actually look through these shelves. If they are not interested, they will skip over most shelves and go straight to our New Fiction and New Nonfiction shelves. It’s quite an interesting task.

. . . .

#BOOKFACE SHELF

This shelf is filled with ebooks and audiobooks that patrons can check out to post their favorite Instagram photos using the #bookface hashtag. The tricky part? Try doing this with a Kindle Fire, NOOK, iPad, or other ereader device. It is much more difficult than using a physical book.

DYSTOPIAN NOVELS ARE SO 1984 SHELF

This shelf contains ebooks and audiobooks of fiction dystopian novels. Some books featured on this shelf are The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Blindness by Jose Saramago and American War by Omar El Akkad. Our patrons really love dystopian novels and psychological thrillers.

Link to the rest at BookRiot. Here’s a link to The Bexar County Digital Library and here’s a link to Biblioteca, the tech company that provides cloudlibrary, the digital library infrastructure.

PG noted in the Biblioteca information that the company has helped at least one library transfer its digital content from Overdrive to cloudlibrary.

PG’s local/regional library offers its ebooks through Overdrive. While PG uses Overdrive on a regular basis to read overpriced books from traditional publishers, he has always found the Overdrive customer UI to be pretty clunky. Although he hasn’t been hands-on with Biblioteca’s cloudlibrary, the videos he’s seen lead him to believe that it has a UI much nicer than Overdrive’s.

https://youtu.be/ZJFQ0uNGYRo
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BiblioTech Bexar County Digital Library - Exterior
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B&N Press Now Offers Ebook Coupon Codes

From The Digital Reader

B&N Press continues to add features, lending credence to rumors about an impending sale of the Nook division.

I just got an email from B&N, informing me that B&N Press now offered users ebook coupon codes and better formatting control over book descriptions.

Currently in beta, B&N’s ebook coupon codes give publishers the option to create a coupon code to market and sell their books at a specially discounted price to Nook readers. There’s no meed to worry about price matching on other retail sites., and users control all aspects of the campaign so that they can find and reward Nook readers. This feature is found in the Manage Promotions section from the Projects page.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says he hadn’t thought about B&N Press for a long time.

His initial unmoderated response was similar to one he sometimes has when he sees an article about a movie star he remembers from his childhood – “Is she still alive?”

PG also wonders who might be interested in purchasing B&N Press.

The only entity that initially came to mind was Kobo, but, given Barnes & Noble’s general ineptitude in digital matters, PG suspects any potential purchaser would discount the price offered to take into consideration the expense involved in cleaning up the electronic back office.

Since Apple has a bazillion dollars stashed away and is looking at more content plays in general, perhaps it might buy B&N Press to beef up its offerings.

The first inquiry that comes to PG’s mind for either acquirer is how much overlap there might be between the titles published on Kobo, Apple Books and B&N Press. PG suspects most authors who don’t follow the path of ebook exclusivity with Amazon do so planning to go wide. Once you get your epub up on Kobo, is there a reason not to post it on Apple and B&N as well?

An additional factor that will keep the attorneys for any potential acquirer of B&N Press busy is a potential bankruptcy filing by Barnes & Noble in the future. Care must be taken to avoid having a B&N Press acquisition sucked into that morass.

And iBooks?

PG did a quick Google search and couldn’t find any mention of iBooks in Apple’s big “moving to services” announcement yesterday.

Is there any reason to think Apple is going to pay much attention to iBooks going forward? Anything Amazon should be worried about?

Drop Caps

Mrs. PG has gone back to address some minor typos and a few other corrections in some of the earliest ebooks she published, beginning about eight years ago. Formatting the corrected ebooks has been a trip down memory lane for PG.

As previously discussed on TPV, PG has used Kindle Create to format the books Mrs. PG has published since KC’s first availability. He has found that Kindle Create is very easy to use and produces a nicely-formatted fiction ebook. Until something better arrives, that’s what he’s using for Mrs. PG’s books in the foreseeable future.

In connection with the above-mentioned republication, PG has pulled up the original ebook files which were published with Jutoh. In the process, PG has been reminded about what a powerful and elegant formatting program Jutoh was and is.

Eight years ago, PG was strongly affected by print book formatting (he had formatted POD versions of Mrs. PG’s books) and he brought formatted files and practices into Jutoh for preparation of her ebooks at that time.

Revisiting those early ebooks, PG found drop-caps, page-appearance related formats, etc., etc. He also found he had included some erroneous code in those ebooks that made a few parts of the books look a little off upon PG’s latest inspection.

One example of this was PG’s use of drop-caps at the beginning of chapters and in the body of chapters where there was a major change in scene, etc.

Drop caps have been used in books for hundreds of years for a wide variety of reasons. Here’s an example from 1407, before the invention of the European printing press.

Historically, they marked chapter breaks, with other visual cues denoting the beginning of another long sentence, etc. They were visual cues to permit the navigation of large and heavy volumes. PG seems to remember that some of the earliest bibles did not include anything like a table of contents.

The printing press resulted in the production of many more books, but drop caps continued. In the following printed bible c. 1480, the printer left space the creation of colored drop caps after the book was printed.

(For more on drop caps throughout history, see this Smashing Magazine article)

Back to PG’s formatting.

He realized that he doesn’t remember seeing many drop caps in the ebooks he’s read recently (although he may have simply overlooked them).

For further insight into current ebook formatting best practices, PG found a blog post by JW Manus, a long-time visitor to TPV, who does custom book formatting for indie authors. Here’s part of what she says in a post titled, Why Your Ebook SHOULD NOT Look Like a Print Book:

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend of late: Writer/publishers who want their ebooks to look (and act) like print books–and print designers turned formatters who encourage it.

What those who try to force print design into ebooks seem unaware of is WHY readers like ebooks:

  1. Portability. (I can carry hundreds or thousands of books in my purse.)
  2. Availability. If a book is in digital form and offered for sale, then it is always in stock. If you finish a really terrific book and want to read another of the author’s books, just pop over to the retail site, buy the next ebook and keep reading.
  3. Reader-friendliness. If, like me, you have overworked and/or aged eyes, the ability to increase font size and line height is a godsend. If, like me, you enjoy reading outdoors, an eink reader completely eliminates page glare and the resulting eye fatigue. If, like me, you like to read in bed but your partner wants you to turn off the damned light, if you have a tablet or backlit eink reader or smart phone, you can turn off the damned light and keep reading.
  4. Social reading. For those who like being part of a club, you can connect your books to other readers and share highlighted passages and comments.
  5. Price. Unless the ebook is coming from one of the Big5 publishers, it’s probably inexpensive enough to appeal to even the heaviest readers. They are inexpensive to produce, cost nothing to stock and free/cheap to ship. They should be inexpensive. I bet I’m not the only reader who was priced out of the print market and stopped buying new books, but because of ebooks is now back to buying four or five new books a week.

. . . .

Publishers and formatters drop the ball for one of two reasons:

  1. They don’t understand how ebook reading devices work.
  2. Their priorities are skewed.

If you don’t know how reading devices work, you have no business formatting an ebook. Period. It’s not easy keeping up with everything. Trust me, I spend a lot of time keeping up with updates and changing devices and standards. I have four Kindles, an iPhone, and two computers on which I read and/or test ebooks. I use several programs to test out new techniques. My goal with every job is to produce an ebook that can be read on any device. If you don’t know how ereading devices work, you can format an absolutely stunning looking file in Word or InDesign or Scrivener only to have it completely fall apart or turn into an unreadable mess when it’s loaded onto an ereader. If you’re using Calibre to convert commercial ebooks, chances are you’re unaware as to why that’s a bad idea. The truly clueless seem to be the most proud of creating one-size-fits-all formats for print, epub, and mobi.

. . . .

Drop-caps. They’re pretty, I get it. Unless you are a pro and willing to te st your coding across a multitude of devices, delegate drop-caps to the print version. And don’t forget to test in landscape mode. The results can be… disconcerting.

. . . .

Text-wrapping around images. This is another element that can seriously bite you in the butt. It can work, but only if you know exactly what you are doing (and just because you can do it in Word or InDesign doesn’t mean you know how to do it in an ebook). Consider the many, many, many readers who use their smart phones as ereaders. What happens on an iPhone as it struggles to fit everything on the screen would be laughable if it weren’t so annoying to the reader. It can be pretty nasty when readers need a larger font size, too.

Link to the rest at JW Manus

In Jaye’s post, she includes a page capture of an ebook in which the drop cap looks fine in a Kindle Fire, but not in a Kindle Paperwhite.

So, PG removed the drop caps in the old ebook file when formatting the new one.

 

Harry Potter Forever?

When PG checked out Amazon Charts this morning, he discovered that Harry Potter occupied six of the top ten positions on the Most Read Fiction chart.

The Most Read chart ranks books by the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week. Given Amazon’s domination of the ebook world, Charts should be a reasonably-accurate of the behavior of English-language ebook reader behavior.

If PG’s grand-offspring are any indication, few in their generation will have any concern about reading ebooks (although they still like physical books as well). Plus a cast-off operating Kindle ereader works as well for book-length text as a new tablet or ereader does, so the younger generation in a family may benefit from the occasional hand-me-down or obsolescent device.

In a perfect world for those who are curious about human behavior, there would be some sort of means by which Amazon could track which of the hardcopy books it sold were Most Read so the behavior of ebook and printed book fans could be compared.

On the non-fiction side of Amazon Charts, Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming,  is ranked first in both the Bestselling and Most Read charts.

Observers of human behavior have long observed that people will sometimes purchase non-fiction bestsellers that they don’t manage to read. For example, Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is notorious as a book which is started, but not finished. It is the standard against which all other purchased-but-unread books are measured.

From a 2014 Wall Street Journal article by Dr. Jordan Ellenberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison:

It’s beach time, and you’ve probably already scanned a hundred lists of summer reads. Sadly overlooked is that other crucial literary category: the summer non-read, the book that you pick up, all full of ambition, at the beginning of June and put away, the bookmark now and forever halfway through chapter 1, on Labor Day. The classic of this genre is Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” widely called “the most unread book of all time.”

How can we find today’s greatest non-reads? Amazon’s “Popular Highlights” feature provides one quick and dirty measure. Every book’s Kindle page lists the five passages most highlighted by readers. If every reader is getting to the end, those highlights could be scattered throughout the length of the book. If nobody has made it past the introduction, the popular highlights will be clustered at the beginning.

Thus, the Hawking Index (HI): Take the page numbers of a book’s five top highlights, average them, and divide by the number of pages in the whole book. The higher the number, the more of the book we’re guessing most people are likely to have read. (Disclaimer: This is not remotely scientific and is for entertainment purposes only!) Here’s how some current best sellers and classics weigh in, from highest HI to lowest:

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt: 98.5%
This seems like exactly the kind of long, impressive literary novel that people would carry around ostentatiously for a while and never finish. But it’s just the opposite. All five top highlights come from the final 20 pages, where the narrative falls away and Ms. Tartt spells out her themes in a cascade of ringing, straight-out assertions.

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins: 43.4%
Another novel that gets read all the way through. “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them” is the most highlighted sentence in the seven-year history of Kindle, marked by 28,703 readers. Romantic heat in the late going also helps to produce a high score.

. . . .

“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking: 6.6%
The original avatar backs up its reputation pretty well. But it’s outpaced by one more recent entrant—which brings us to our champion, the most unread book of this year (and perhaps any other). Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty: 2.4%
Yes, it came out just three months ago. But the contest isn’t even close. Mr. Piketty’s book is almost 700 pages long, and the last of the top five popular highlights appears on page 26. Stephen Hawking is off the hook; from now on, this measure should be known as the Piketty Index.

Link to the rest at the Wall Street Journal 

PG notes that the standards applied to Amazon Charts (average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week) and the Hawking Index (how many people stopped reading a book before finishing it) are different, but he finds both interesting.

Amazon provides another interesting collection of data in its list of The 10 longest sales streaks at No. 1 in Amazon history

Harry Potter has four of the top 10 streaks, but Michelle Obama is also on the list and, given current sales trends, may climb higher.

 

Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor, and OverDrive

From Indies Unlimited:

Those of you who use Draft2Digital to distribute eBooks outside of Amazon should have recently received a message that Draft2Digital has now partnered with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 eBook distribution platform.

Baker & Taylor, a massive distributor of books, movies, DVDs, and other entertainment, has been in business for over 180 years.

. . . .

But wait, you may be thinking (or at least I was), Draft2Digital already uses OverDrive to reach libraries. Why do we also need Baker & Taylor?

The short answer is that they offer different services and are used by different libraries. The long answer is more complicated.

OverDrive, as you probably know, also distributes eBooks to schools and libraries. OverDrive was founded in 1986, originally to convert analog video and audio media to a digital format. In 2000, they extended their business online and began what would eventually become one of the first – and biggest – eBook distributors to retailers, libraries, and schools. OverDrive is compatible with just about any ereader on the market.

. . . .

When Baker & Taylor decided to branch out into the distribution of eBooks, they became … well, you could say frenemies … with OverDrive. In 2009, believing they were forming an exclusive partnership, OverDrive signed on to help Baker & Taylor develop their own eBook distribution services, one that was superior to the one OverDrive was currently using. They even gave Baker & Taylor access to their list of accounts, sales and marketing data, inventory, and servers. It didn’t end well.

Now they’re competitors when it comes to distributing eBooks to libraries. Some libraries use both systems; some only use one. Because OverDrive has been in the business of eBook distribution longer, they’re used by more libraries and have, according to some, better developed technology. Because Baker & Taylor has over 180 years of paperback and hardback book distribution behind them, they’re catching up quickly.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

PG notes that libraries tend to purchase their books from sales organizations that tailor their services to meet the needs of libraries.

By opening their doors to indie authors via Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive are making it possible for libraries to easily purchase books from local indie authors as well as the increasing number of nationally-known and read authors who self-publish.

KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers

From David Gaughran:

A situation blew up at Amazon over the weekend which has made most KDP ebooks unavailable to purchase for international readers who use the US Kindle Store — one which has also exposed a glaring security problem.

This issue — which is either a bug or a badly bungled roll-out — is causing great confusion as its effects are only visible to those outside the USA, which might explain why Amazon has been so slow to address it, or even understand the problem, it seems.

The first reports were from a few weeks ago, when Australian readers who use the US Kindle Store were unable to see a handful of new releases. It seems to have spread significantly since then. This weekend I noticed the issue myself for the first time. Buy buttons had disappeared from a couple of my ebooks and they were no longer appearing in Search results or on my Author Page. It was as if they had been ghosted. Readers around the world confirmed the same thing — except those in the USA, where all these books continue to be visible in search and purchasable by readers there.

Looking around the Kindle Store this weekend, it seemed like half of the KDP books I checked were unavailable for purchase to international readers, and similarly missing from search results (and, in some cases, author pages). They were undiscoverable by international readers, in other words, and even if those readers navigated to the pages of those Kindle editions directly, price tags were gone and Buy buttons had been removed.

. . . .

So the system seems to think that I shouldn’t be using the US Kindle Store — even though, like many Irish people, I’ve been using the US Kindle Store exclusively since 2011 — and it is blocking me not just from purchasing this title and many other titles, but is also rendering them invisible in search too, so customers don’t even know there is an issue unless they somehow go directly to the book’s page on Amazon. New-to-you readers internationally who use the US Kindle Store won’t even know the problem exists otherwise, or that your book does, I guess.

It gets weirder because this bug or glitch or whatever it is seems to be very inconsistent. All of my non-fiction is unavailable to international readers. Some of my fiction is gone too, but not all of it. If I Iook at someone random from the charts like Bella Forrest, all of the books of hers I checked are gone.

. . . .

I spoke to Amazon customer service yesterday and tried to explain the issue. Amazon didn’t seem to understand it, and just inserted a US postal address in my account instead, which “fixed” the problem as far as they were concerned. And, yes, I can now see my books and all the others which were invisible to me beforehand, but everyone else internationally still can’t see them or purchase them in the US Kindle Store – which is the only place that millions of international readers are able to purchase ebooks (this point must be repeated again and again as misunderstanding abounds — not everywhere has a local Kindle Store and such readers are supposed to use the US store).

Amazon’s “fix” had a number of unintended side-effects. As Amazon now seems to think I’m based in America, I no longer get charged VAT on ebooks. Instead, a test purchase I made applied Washington state sales tax of 6.5% — the customer service person put in Amazon’s Seattle HQ as my address — instead of the 23% rate of Irish VAT that Amazon is legally required to apply to ebook sales to me.

. . . .

Related issues aside, I hope Amazon starts making an effort to understand what is happening here as this is a particularly bad situation for international self-publishers whose readers will naturally trend international too, and who will be disproportionately affected. It also prevents self-publishers around the world from checking their books on Amazon.com — which they need to do for innumerable reasons.

Whether all this is a (bungled) feature or a bug, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Amazon is taking its eye off the ball in so many aspects of its business right now, at least pertaining to books. Amazon’s greatest strength is that it still has the scrappiness and innovative outlook of a start-up — which seems to be achieved by essentially having 1000s of start-ups incubating under one big Amazon tent, who seem to compete with each other for resources and attention and site real-estate.

. . . .

At times like these, Amazon feels incredibly atomized, made up of 1000s of departments who don’t (and won’t) communicate with each other, For example, if you have decided to make hundreds of thousands of ebooks suddenly invisible and unavailable to millions of readers unless they switch to a different Kindle Store maybe — I dunno, radical idea here — email people about it? And if it is just some horrible bug, which has been growing for several weeks to the point where most self-published books are now ghosted to international readers, maybe start working on fixing it? Just a thought.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

PG notes that David’s post is from November 12. This is the most recent post on David’s blog, so PG assumes the problem he describes may be continuing.

Are Electronic Course Packs Fair Use?

From The Authors Guild:

For the past ten years, in the Cambridge University Press v. Albert case, publishers have been battling with Georgia State University over whether the University’s providing its students with digital course packets that include excerpts (often full chapters) of books constituted “fair use.” Under court rulings in prior cases, the law was clear that providing photocopied course packs without a license was not fair use. In this case, however, the district court has already twice sided with Georgia State University, finding fair use on all but a few excerpts, and now the appeals court has again sent the case back down to it. On October 19, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s second decision that the vast majority of Georgia State University’s digital excerpts were fair use, with instructions for how to get it right this time.

. . . .

This case has been closely watched by authors, publishers, and universities as a measure for when excerpts for classroom use need to be licensed or not. In the intervening decade, many universities appear to have stopped paying for these types of electronic classroom uses. Authors who used to regularly receive licensing income from classroom use report that that revenue source has dried up in recent years. A favorable outcome in this case would put universities on notice that they should start paying for those uses again.

. . . .

One of the major errors that the Eleventh Circuit failed to correct is the district court’s analysis under the fourth factor. The law describes the fourth factor as: “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” As such, a fair use is one that should not replace a current or potential market for the work. The Supreme Court instructs courts conducting this analysis to look at the impact on current and potential markets if the use were to become widespread and unrestricted.

Instead, the lower court looked at whether the publishers already had electronic licenses available to universities in 2009 for excerpts for the specific works—an extremely narrow view of an existing market.

. . . .

Moreover, the court’s rule that the taking must be so great that the copyright owner no longer has the incentive to write or publish was created out of thin air and would make pretty much any particular use fair use. Few individual uses will be so great that they will be the deciding factor in whether to publisher or not (or write for that matter); it is the cumulative effect of these free uses that makes it increasingly hard to publish material that is not highly commercial.

Of greatest concern to authors and other creators is the fact that the Eleventh Circuit failed to remind the lower court to consider the impact on potentialmarkets from widespread use, and to remember that the relevant market to be considered is broader than a particular format. Whether the publishers had already made the particular works available for e-licensing for e-course packs should be irrelevant – yet the district court chose to focus on that point. Under the court’s analysis here, uses of copyrighted material that eliminate potential markets entirely—and thereby eliminate potential income for the authors as well as the publishers—may qualify as fair uses.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild