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

Read to Your Kid With the Perfect Sound Effects Accompaniment

From Offspring:

Last night, I read my daughter a story before bed, like I always do. I picked an old favorite from her bookshelf—Giraffes Can’t Dance. But this time, a musical cast accompanied my narration.

“The warthogs started waltzing …” I read. Just then, a romantic melody started playing.

I continued. “And the rhinos rock ‘n’ rolled …” Suddenly, there was an interlude by an electric guitar.

The lions danced a tango that was elegant and bold.” Right on cue, a dramatic tango tune cut in.

Okay, so there were no actual musicians in my kid’s bedroom—that would have been weird as we were sitting in our pajamas. But it felt like they were there, thanks to a free iOS app called Novel Effect.

. . . .

As you read a children’s book aloud, your iPhone, iPad or connected speakers play custom music and sound effects to enhance the story. The system uses voice recognition technology to drop in the sounds at the perfect moment, so you can go at your own pace. There’s a well-timed “ba-dum-bump-chhhh” in The Book with No Pictures, the hum of machine engines in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, and lively underwater effects in The Pout-Pout Fish. There are even some voice cameos by certain characters—in Where the Wild Things Are, Max appears with his famed line “I’ll eat you up.”

Novel Effect works with more than 200 different books, from classics to recent bestsellers. There are some titles that come with the app, but for most of the selections, you must already have a copy of the book, whether print or digital. (There’s also an option to open a book in iBooks directly in the app.) Once you tap “Read book,” you can just set your device aside and start reading.

. . . .

Novel Effect is currently creating media designed to be used with Alexa, which makes a lot of sense. It’d be nice to not need my phone at all to use the technology.

Link to the rest at Offspring

Amazon just announced a new water-resistant Kindle Paperwhite

From CNBC:

Amazon upgraded its popular Kindle Paperwhite eReader on Tuesday with new features that align it more with last year’s Kindle Oasis — but this device is more than $100 cheaper.

The Kindle Paperwhite is probably the e-reader you should buy if you’re in the market for a new one, but only if the following features sound like they’re worth the upgrade.

. . . .

The new device is water-resistant, which means it can be dropped into a pool or up to 6 feet of water for 60 minutes without getting damaged. Amazon also added Bluetooth and support for Audible so users can switch back and forth between listening and reading if they connect headphones or a speaker. You still need to own the Audible and eBook formats for this to work.

The Kindle Paperwhite is thinner and lighter than last year’s model and has one additional LED light that makes the screen brighter even when it’s used in the dark.

Amazon is adding new presets to its fonts, too. You might read a book in a certain font and size, but then hand it off to a child who prefers a different setting. It’s a useful feature if you share your Kindle with multiple people, or if you wear glasses occasionally but want to toggle between certain fonts and sizes at different times of day.

Link to the rest at CNBC and here’s a link to the new Paperwhite.

PG bought the original Paperwhite not long after it was released and, for him, it’s the ideal device for reading ebooks. He prefers the screen and form factor to that of a tablet for extended reading.

Contra to the OP, PG likes the fact that his Paperwhite automatically dims the screen brightness when the lights go out. (He doesn’t remember if it’s a setting he selected or the default.) For him, a dimmer screen provides a better experience when the room is dark and his eyes are dilated. If Mrs. PG is prudently going to sleep at a reasonable time, the Paperwhite barely brightens the room at all. YMMV.

 

Amazon’s Kindle Oasis has a new competitor: The waterproof Kobo Forma

From Ars Technica:

Kobo’s newest e-reader is going after fans of Amazon’s Kindle Oasis. The new Kobo Forma is the company’s most expensive and comprehensive e-reader yet, coming in at $279 and featuring a waterproof design and an E-ink Mobius display.

Seemingly cut from the same cloth as the Kindle Oasis, the Kobo Forma has an 8-inch display with a large bezel on one edge for gripping. This pseudo-chin has buttons in its center that can be used to flip through pages when the device is either landscape or portrait mode. It’s uncommon to see e-readers used in landscape mode, but it’s a cool feature to have for those who may prefer it (possibly after getting used to reading in landscape mode using smartphones or tablets).

The Mobius technology built into the HD E-ink display uses a flexible plastic layer to make the device more durable while keeping it light. Weighing about 195 grams (0.43 pounds), the Kobo Forma can withstand drops from up to two meters, and it also meets IPX8 standards, which means it can withstand being under up to two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. Kobo also claims that the Mobius tech lets the Forma withstand “more bends, twists, full handbags, and overloaded backpacks” than other e-readers.

. . . .

The new e-reader debuts not long after Kobo and Walmart announced their partnership to bring e-books and audiobooks to Walmart customers, and in turn, to more people in the US. Kobo devices and services are popular in Canada, the UK, and other countries, but only recently did the company decide to come back to the US to try to compete with Amazon in the digital reading market.

Through the partnership with Walmart, Kobo e-readers are available in Walmart stores and online, and customers can access Kobo’s library of more than six million e-books and audiobooks through both the Walmart and Kobo mobile apps. The two companies also have a $9.99-per-month audiobook subscription service that, like Amazon’s more expensive Audible, includes one complementary audiobook each month.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica and thanks to Judith for the tip.

The B&N Nook is on its deathbed

From Good Ereader:

Barnes and Noble has no plans to release a new e-reader this year and the bookseller has moved the entire Nook section to the back of the store in almost 600 locations in the United States. The display areas have been torn down and thrown in the garbage.  The Nook e-reading app for Android and iOS has not been updated since April and I have been told by the engineers that there will likely be no further updates until least 2019.  The Nook Audiobooks app, which is not even promoted last saw an update in February 2018. I suppose it is now safe to say that Barnes and Noble no longer cares about the Nook unit.

Over the course of the past three years B&N has been slashing costs in the Nook division, hoping to make it profitable. The company fired most of their staff and outsourced all firmware and software development to an Indian firm, but they are doing a terrible job. Last year B&N also proclaimed that they are no longer in the technology business and will focus on selling books online and in their retail stores.

A few months ago Barnes and Noble fired Chief of Digital Fred Argir. The bookseller did not publish a press release or mention it during their latest quarterly financial report. He was initially hired by former CEO Ron Boire to gut the Nook division. Under his watch the Nook App Store and Nook Videos was shuttered. The Silicon Valley R&D office for Nook was also closed down and B&N ceased to design their own hardware and just outsourced it to Netronix.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

You Don’t Own the Music, Movies or Ebooks You ‘Buy’ on Amazon or iTunes

From Two Cents:

When you purchase music, movies or books from Amazon or Apple’s iTunes store, you might be under the impression that that material is yours to enjoy forever; that’s how CDs and paper books work, after all. Why rent You’ve Got Mail for $3.99 every few months when you can “own” it and watch it whenever, forever, for $9.99?

But you’d be mistaken. Anything digital is temporary, even if you clicked “purchase” rather than “rent.” One unfortunate side effect of that you won’t experience with a physical book or record: Your purchases may just disappear if licensing agreements change.

. . . .

As outlined in the Twitter thread, Apple states the content provider of the movies in question removed them from the store. And that removed them from the user’s library, even though he had paid money to buy them. It’s easy to see why that’s frustrating (especially since Apple wasn’t willing to cough up a refund for the purchases he no longer has).

“This wouldn’t happen in the physical world. No one comes to your door and demands that you give back a book,” Aaron Perzanowski, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, who studied these digital purchases, told the LA Times in 2016. “But in the digital world, they can just go into your Kindle and take it.”

. . . .

For example, Amazon notes in the fine print that “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. The Content Provider may include additional terms for use within its Kindle Content.” You also can’t sell or redistribute your ebooks, as you might with a physical copy. Apple’s fine printstates that the licensor “reserves the right to change, suspend, remove, disable or impose access restrictions or limits on any External Services at any time without notice or liability to you.”

. . . .

The best option? If you can, buy a physical copy of a movie or TV show that comes with a digital download. At least you’ll have a backup in case your digital copy disappears—assuming you still have a player to watch it on.

Link to the rest at Two Cents

When PG read the OP, one of the first things to pop into his mind was, “born yesterday”.

The author of the OP apparently discovered licensing of intellectual property shortly before writing the article and assumed at least a portion of the Lifehacker audience didn’t know much about the topic either.

“Born Yesterday” was the name of a Broadway play with two revivals plus three different movies.

Here’s a plot summary of the original Broadway play, Born Yesterday, which premiered in 1946, from Wikipedia:

An uncouth, corrupt rich junk dealer, Harry Brock, brings his showgirl mistress Billie Dawn with him to Washington, D.C. When Billie’s ignorance becomes a liability to Brock’s business dealings, he hires a journalist, Paul Verrall, to educate his girlfriend. In the process of learning, Billie Dawn realizes how corrupt Harry is and begins interfering with his plans to bribe a Congressman into passing legislation that would allow Brock’s business to make more money.

As a general proposition, the creator of intellectual property is its owner. Everybody else who wants to observe, read, listen to, etc., etc., that intellectual property is not the owner of the IP, but only has limited rights created by statute or license to do some things with their copy of the IP.

The owner of a physical book can’t make copies of the book and sell them to others because the book’s owner doesn’t own the IP depicted in the book. He/she is only the owner of the paper, ink and binding of that particular copy of the book. The copyright law (statutory and otherwise) which creates and defines the IP in the first place permits the book’s owner to do certain things with the physical book – read it, lend that copy to someone else, sell that copy to someone else, donate it to a library, deface the book, use excerpts or quotes from the book for various purposes, etc., etc.

The same basic rules, adapted to different media by which IP can be duplicated, transmitted, etc., govern copies of the IP in digital form. Just as making a copy of a book to give or sell to someone else is a violation of the creator’s IP rights, generally speaking, making a copy of a CD, a digital file, a photograph, or other protected medium incorporating such IP to give or sell to someone else is, absent permission from the creator or permission granted via copyright law, a violation of the creator’s IP rights.

Enough of this type of blathering.

The OP caused PG to wonder whether an author self-publishing with Amazon via KDP could make digital copies of his/her ebooks disappear from Kindles everywhere by unpublishing the ebook.

The short answer is probably not.

Here are some excerpts from the current Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions that describe what rights an author grants to Amazon:

Paragraph 3 Term and Termination (excerpt with PG highlights)

Following termination or suspension, we may fulfill any customer orders for your Books pending as of the date of termination or suspension, and we may continue to maintain digital copies of your Digital Books in order to provide continuing access to or re-downloads of your Digital Books, as well as digital copies of your Books to support customers who have purchased a Book prior to termination or suspension. . . . All rights to Digital Books acquired by customers will survive termination.

Paragraph 5.1.4 Book Withdrawal (excerpt with PG highlights)

All withdrawals of Books will apply prospectively only and not with respect to any customers who purchased the Books prior to the date of removal.

Paragraph 5.5 Grant of Rights (excerpt with PG highlights)

You grant to each Amazon party, throughout the term of this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, right and license to print (on-demand and in anticipation of customer demand) and distribute Books, directly and through third-party distributors, in all formats you choose to make available through KDP by all distribution means available. This right includes, without limitation, the right to: (a) reproduce, index and store Books on one or more computer facilities, and reformat, convert and encode Books; (b) display, market, transmit, distribute, sell, license and otherwise make available all or any portion of Books through Amazon Properties (as defined below), for customers and prospective customers to download, access, copy and paste, print, annotate and/or view online and offline, including on portable devices; (c) permit customers to “store” Digital Books that they have purchased from us on servers (“Virtual Storage”) and to access and re-download such Digital Books from Virtual Storage from time to time both during and after the term of this Agreement

It appears to PG that Apple’s agreement with the owners of the copyrights to some iTunes movies did not include anything like the language in the KDP T&C’s and that the movie owners could force Apple to terminate rights of its customers who had paid for licenses to those movies.

It appears to PG that an author or publisher operating under the KDP T&C’s or something similar can’t force Amazon to terminate a customer’s rights to access an ebook they bought through Amazon. Amazon can decide to do so, but an author can’t make Amazon pull a digital move like iTunes did.

As usual, PG is a lawyer, but nothing PG posts on TPV is legal advice. If you would like to obtain legal advice, you need to hire an attorney to give you that advice, not read what a lawyer might post on a blog.

PG invites comments that agree or disagree with his half-baked (or fully-baked) blatherings on this topic.

What If Digital Is Antithetical to Learning?

From Inside Higher Ed:

In 2018, the most important article for our “Inside Digital Learning” community to think about was not published here. It wasn’t even published in 2018.

It is the 2017 Educause Review piece “The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon,” by George Veletsianos and Rolin Moe.

Those of us who champion digital learning, and who participate in the “IDL” community, need to take Veletsianos and Moe’s thinking seriously. If nothing else, we should be aware of the possibility that “the rise of ed tech is underpinned by ideology.”

What is the underpinning ideology of “Inside Digital Learning”?

If asked, and I’m not sure that our community has grappled with the question, I’d wager that we’d come to some answer that included adjectives such “critical,” “skeptical” and “a bit wary.” This is not a community populated by unthinking digital learning evangelists.

At the same time, I’d say that much of our community — and here I’d include myself — is deeply invested in the idea that digital technologies have the potential to be a force for good in advancing learning.

We may be critical of how digital technologies are applied in specific cases, but we genuinely believe that, done right, technology can improve student learning within higher education.

But what if we are wrong?

What if digital technologies are inherently harmful to learning?

. . . .

Indictment No. 3: Digital Distracts

The third charge against digital technologies is that they are driving our students (and professors) to distraction. Even those of us who tend to think it a bad idea to ban laptops from classroom have to admit that their presence can sometimes detract from student learning. The case that professors need to learn how to leverage laptops as learning tools may be justified, but it does impose yet another burden on the faculty.

Nor are students the only people on campuses likely to use technologies in a way that inhibits, rather than promotes, learning. PowerPoint has probably set back the art of teaching more than anything else in the past three decades.

How would our discussions on “Inside Digital Learning” be different if we started with the hypothesis that digital technologies are inherently destructive to the goal of advancing student learning?

Would this contrarian viewpoint to the basic assumptions of much of our professional practices change how we think about our higher ed jobs?

Might starting with a critical perspective about educational technologies make any efforts we make to introduce digital platforms to advance student learning more legitimate?

If our digital learning community learns to be more critical, might we develop great levels of empathy for the perspectives of many of our faculty colleagues who are skeptical of digital learning?

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’

Content Warning/Trigger Warning/You’ve Been Duly and Thoroughly Warned Warning

  • This post contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing.
  • Viewer discretion advised.
  • Intended for mature audiences only.
  • This post contains language.
  • This post may engender strong feelings, bloody violence and mild peril.
  • The opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of PG, anyone PG knows or would like to know, anyone PG has ever known (excluding some bad dates in college) or non-subscribers to The Guardian.

From The Guardian:

Here are some things that you can’t do with a Kindle. You can’t turn down a corner, tuck a flap in a chapter, crack a spine (brutal, but sometimes pleasurable) or flick the pages to see how far you have come and how far you have to go. You can’t remember something potent and find it again with reference to where it appeared on a right- or left-hand page. You often can’t remember much at all. You can’t tell whether the end is really the end, or whether the end equals 93% followed by 7% of index and/or questions for book clubs. You can’t pass it on to a friend or post it through your neighbour’s door.

A few years ago, I was given a Kindle. I had become a student again. I was reading lots of books and I needed them cheap and light. But now the Kindle has slipped to the back of the desk drawer behind the Blu-Tack that comes out only at Christmas. Meanwhile, the stack of hardbacks and paperbacks on the bedside table has grown so tall it has spawned sub-stacks on the floor; when I get into bed at night, it is like looking down on a miniature book city. I don’t want to speculate about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms but I suspect it might be something similar, because figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through?

Ten years ago, when the Kindle launched, the idea was miraculous. Here was the ability to carry hundreds of books enfolded in a tiny slip of plastic, countless stories in a few hundred grams. It seems hard to believe when you look at the thick, black plastic surround – stylistically it bears more resemblance to a cathode ray tube TV than a tablet – that it predated the iPad by two years. Within five hours, it had sold out, despite a price tag of $399 (then £195). A decade on, lay a Kindle next to a smartphone or tablet and it looks so much older, while the reading experience it delivers has scarcely progressed.

“It was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. “But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they? I guess everyone wants a piece of trendy tech and, unfortunately, there aren’t trendy tech reading devices and I don’t think people are reading long-form fiction on their phones. I think your average reader would say that one of the great pleasures of reading is the physical turning of the page. It slows you down and makes you think.”

. . . .

Another thing that has happened is that books have become celebrated again as objects of beauty. They are coveted in their own right, while ebooks, which are not things of beauty, have become more expensive; a new digital fiction release is often only a pound or two cheaper than a hardback. “Part of the positive pressure that digital has exerted on the industry is that publishers have rediscovered their love of the physical,” says James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, which published a special Christmas edition of Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, more than 80,000 copies of which have been sold by the chain. (He, in common with most people involved with the publishing of physical books, reads on a Kindle, but afterwards buys the books he loves.)

. . . .

“The physical book had become quite a cheap and tacky thing at the turn of the millennium,” Daunt says. Publishers “cut back on the quality of the paper, so if you left a book in the sun it went yellow. They were gluing, not sewing. They would put a cover on a hardback but not do anything with the hard case underneath. Nowadays, if you take a cover off, there is likely to be something interesting underneath it.”

And that something interesting is likely to gain traction on #bookstagram, a celebration of the aesthetics of books, where books are the supermodels and where readers and non-readers can see cats and dogs reading books, books photographed in landscapes, books posed with croissants, sprays of flowers, homeware, gravestones and cups of coffee, colour-matched and colour-clashed with outfits, shoes, biscuits and in what can only be described as book fashion shoots. You just can’t do a shelfie with an e-reader.

Physical books even feature in this spring/summer’s Fantastic Man magazine, which advises its fashion-literate readership to take five unread books to the sofa and spend five minutes with each one.

. . . .

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it. Summerhayes thinks that “people have books in their house as pieces of art”. One of her authors’ forthcoming works features cover art by someone who designs album covers for Elbow. “Everyone wants sexy-looking books,” she says.

. . . .

“We had a near-death experience,” Daunt says, referring to the recession. But, he adds: “When you come under pressure, you have to raise your game, and that’s what has gone on throughout the industry.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

. . . .

From Apartment Therapy:

A Defense of Books as Decor

Over the years, I’ve been surprised (and also strangely delighted) by the passion with which our Apartment Therapy community approaches certain design ideas. Chief among them: organizing books by color. Few other topics evoke such vehement responses. The argument in favor is fairly self-evident: it looks pretty. (And maybe helps you find your favorite books, if your brain works a certain way.) The argument against delves more into the philosophy of things, and the idea of what a book is and ought to be. I’ve read your comments, and I know you feel strongly about this. A book, the thinking goes, is a repository of information. It is not a decorative object. To think of a book as something that ornaments your space, for its colorful spine or for any other qualities, reduces its importance as a channel of information and imagination. But… why can’t it be both?

. . . .

Gaze at an illuminated manuscript in a museum — although the script and dialect maybe be too obscure to ascertain, the beauty of the text, and the care taken while writing it, gives it a fascination all its own. These texts were written at a time when books were very precious, because printed media was so difficult to create. This is, if you think about it, not unlike our own time.

. . . .

I think it’s this idea—that books aren’t truly necessary, that they could, conceivably, be replaced entirely by another medium—that is at the root of people’s discomfort with the idea of books as decor.

. . . .

Valuing a book only for its cover, as the aphorism goes, seems to devalue the information within. It is a sign of the shallowness, the superficial fronting that defines modern life. Or is it?

. . . .

I love books more than almost anybody you will meet.

. . . .

And it’s a small jump, especially for people who appreciate beautiful things, to go from valuing the fact that a book has a physical essence to valuing the beauty of said essence. At a time when the chief advantage that books have over other media is their physical, tactile qualities, the value of books as objects that elevate the aesthetic of a space is more important than ever.

. . . .

They’re a door in the wall, a portal to other existences whose presence is sometimes obscured by the ivy of modern life. Look, maybe I’m biased, but I don’t think a book will ever achieve the charming obsolescence of a typewriter or a globe or whatever silly artifact currently decorates moderately-priced American restaurants.

. . . .

Sure, some books that are very beautiful have very dumb things in them—but on a grand scale, a vote for the attractiveness of books is also a vote for the persistence of the ideas that have been contained within books for thousands of years.

Link to the rest at Apartment Therapy

 

NYC Library Takes Novel Approach, Posting Books to Instagram

From The Wall Street Journal:

For generations, the New York Public Library has given cardholders the opportunity to head to their local branch and borrow a book. Since 2005, it also has provided them with the option of going online and checking out an e-book.

Now, the library is going a step further and posting classic novels and short stories to its account on Instagram, the Facebook Inc. -owned photo- and video-sharing platform.

The new service, dubbed “Insta Novels,” will be available to all Instagram users starting Wednesday, regardless of whether they have a NYPL card or live in New York City.

The library is starting with just one offering: Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In the months that follow, it plans to add two more: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Franz Kafka’s novella, “The Metamorphosis.”

The idea is to use Instagram to promote reading in general and the NYPL brand in particular, library officials said. It also aims to show that libraries are changing with the times and fully adapting to the digital era.

“We want people to understand that libraries aren’t just those brick-and-mortar places full of dusty books,” said Christopher Platt, the NYPL’s chief branch library officer.

. . . .

The technology works in such a way that when readers are on the Instagram app, they hold the page of a book by resting their thumb on the screen, library officials said. They turn the page by lifting their thumb.

The experience is “unmistakably like reading a paperback novel,” Corinna Falusi, Mother in New York’s partner and chief creative officer, said in a statement.

. . . .

Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, a New York City-based watchdog group, said the emphasis on online reading works against the idea of libraries as physical spaces where books are curated and knowledge is shared.

“It diminishes the sense of place and purpose,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Here’s a link to the kickoff post of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that worked for PG. Click on the Play symbol.

Canada’s Rakuten Kobo Arrives in Amazonian America at Walmart: Ebooks and Audiobooks

From Publishing Perspectives:

You’ll remember Publishing Perspectives’ January article on Rakuten Kobo’s plan to re-enter the American market–generally thought to be Amazonian territory–through a new partnership with Walmart.

On Tuesday (August 21), Walmart eCommerce’s general manager for entertainment, Mario Pacini, has gone onto the company’s blog pages to announce that the advent of Walmart Ebooks by Rakuten Kobo is at hand. The program has its landing page in place, with a “US$10 off your first ebook or audiobook” offer and–perhaps of greatest eventual significance in these audio boom-times–a 30-day trial on a $9.99-per-month audiobook subscription.

Once the customer clicks into the Walmart page for a category of interest–ebooks or audiobooks–she or he is taken to a Rakuten Kobo page. Choose hardcover or paperbacks, and you remain on Walmart’s pages. Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch is reporting that it appears a consumer will need a Walmart account, rather than using a Kobo account.

. . . .

To stay with audiobooks for a moment, the Kobo-Walmart audiobook offer undercuts by $5 the Amazon Audible subscription. Both subscriptions provide one audiobook monthly, Audible for $14.95, Walmart Ebooks by Rakuten Kobo for $9.99.

. . . .

And more broadly, this is a potentially pivotal move for Kobo. While the company has described its “strategy from day one”–that’s Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn using a favorite Amazon phrase, “day one”–as “partnering with the world’s best retailers so that they can easily offer their customers the option of reading digitally.” And it may finally be a way into the big continent-spanning market down the road from Toronto.

Despite partnerships with independent bookstores through the American Booksellers Association, Kobo’s presence in the States has never moved past single digits in market share, although it has maintained the home-team advantage “up north” in Canada.

. . . .

However, expect no one in Seattle to break out in a sweat here. Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem is profoundly dominant in the American marketplace, tied as it is into the Amazon Prime amalgam of advantages to retail consumers. The retailer is effectively a service-member of many US families now, the unquestioned go-to for everything from tonight’s movie to Saturday’s lawnmower and the kitchen pantry’s automatically restocking staples.

. . . .

Some might say this is stooping to conquer, but if the money comes in, Tokyo and Toronto may not be dismayed that American consumers are saying, “Oh, I got that ebook from Walmart” or “Shh, I’m listening to my Walmart book.”

At Inc, Justin Bariso, in covering on Monday (August 20) Walmart’s strong earnings report, points out that while the chain’s huge fleet of brick-and-mortar big-box stores grew at 4.5 percent, its e-commerce business, where Kobo stands, great at a rate of 40 percent, in CEO Doug McMillon’s plan, precisely to better compete with Amazon. The Rakuten Kobo element now can be seen standing beside McMillon’s steps toward more up-market branding in areas like fashion, in which Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and other labels are coming in with Lord and Taylor.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives


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PG says competition in the ebook space is good for indie authors. Among other things, it reduces the possibilities that anyone will take authors for granted.

Walmart’s eBookstore is Launching Today

Nate Hoffhelder has an announcement on The Digital Reader about Walmart opening an ebookstore today:

Walmart is in the process of setting up new ebook sections in the book departments of its stores, Kobo has let slip a promo video for “Walmart eBooks”, and multiple references have been found in Walmart’s help pages.

While there is no sign of the Walmart eBook apps, I did report a few weeks ago in an exclusive scoop that this would launch on the 21st, and here it is.

Walmart is going to be selling ebooks both on its site and in stores. The ebookstore will be located at www.walmart.com/ebooks when it goes live, and it will be managed by Kobo and supported via a subdomain on Kobo’s website.

. . . .

Walmart will sell just one Kobo model in stores at launch, the $99 Kobo Aura. (While the ebook display has clamps for two devices, the second one is sized for a tablet and has a label that mentions the ebook app, not a Kobo device.)

I know there’s a report that Walmart will sell 3 models, but there is just the one card and one price tag for the one model.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG went to www.walmart.com/ebooks which redirected to https://www.walmart.com/cp/books/3920, which, in PG’s breath-taking, stunning and astounding opinion, is a total mess.

It strikes PG as looking like a class project from a 100-level college web development course about three weeks into the semester. The course title is something like, “Beginning Web Development for Art History Majors.”

Fantasy Bestselling Ebooks – Subdivided by Sub-Genre – Free and Paid

Click on the Category to Open

Fantasy Bestsellers – Amazon Ebooks – Paid and Free

– Action & Adventure

– Alternative History

– Anthologies & Short Stories

– Arthurian

– Christian Fantasy

– Classics

– Coming of Age

– Dark Fantasy

– Dragons & Mythical Creatures

– Epic

– Fairy Tales

– Historical

– Humorous

– LGBT

– Metaphysical & Visionary

– Military

– Myths & Legends

– New Adult & College

– Paranormal & Urban

– Romantic

– Superhero

– Sword & Sorcery

– TV, Movie, Video Game Adaptations

Blockchain Comes to E-Books, DRM Included

From Copyright and Technology:

Blockchain technology has reached e-books.

. . . .

B2C applications focus on the user experience, by using blockchain technology to help emulate consumer ownership of digital content. The idea is this: a user buys a digital content file. A record of the purchase is put on a blockchain, which establishes the user’s ownership of the file. The user gets a token — a small digital file — signifying ownership. The user can alienate (sell, lend, rent, or give away) the file to someone else. When that happens, a record of the new ownership is put on the blockchain, and the token moves from the user to the new owner.

The question of whether you own a digital file you’ve obtained legally has been a controversial one for a long time. If you own a copyrighted work, you get a set of rights under copyright law. But if you get a digital file that takes up space on your device (as opposed to a digital physical object such as a CD or DVD), the law says that you don’t get that bundle of rights; instead you get whatever rights the distributor decides to give you in a license agreement, which is a contract. Often those rights are narrower than the copyright rights bundle. For example, typical license agreements of this type forbid you from alienating the file — which you have the legal right to do for physical objects. The law also says that such restrictions in license agreements are enforceable, despite the fact that they curtail the rights in the copyright bundle.

But legal constraints on use are not the same as practical, technical constraints, which may be tighter or looser than the legal constraints. Broadly speaking, there are two current paradigms for this. In one, users are technically able to do anything they want with their files, including sending copies to their million best friends, posting them online for anyone to download, selling copies and keeping the revenue, and extracting samples to create derivative works — as long as they don’t get caught, because the license agreement with the retailer probably forbids those activities.

In the other paradigm, technical constraints make it difficult or impossible to alienate content, share it with others, create derivative works, and so on — regardless of whether the license agreement forbids or allows such activities. This is the case with movies and TV shows; it’s also the case with most e-books in the U.S. and some other countries.

. . . .

The basic concept behind today’s e-book/blockchain startups is to emulate ownership — as a practical, technical matter — more closely than existing digital content distribution systems do. The idea is to use two properties of blockchains that help facilitate digital ownership. First, blockchains are ownerless, so that a record of file ownership on a blockchain is not controlled by a central distributor such as Amazon or Apple. Second, blockchains are immutable, so that if a system puts an entry on a blockchain that you own an e-book, that entry is there to stay forever, even if the vendor whose technology you used to buy the e-book goes out of business. And if you sell the e-book to someone else, another entry goes onto the blockchain that also stays there, unaltered, in perpetuity.

In other words, blockchains enable transfers of ownership that are secure and not controllable by a third party after the fact. But there are other aspects to emulating ownership, such as not being able to send copies to your million best friends or keep your own copy after you’ve alienated it. For this, DRM is necessary. Files must be encrypted, and tokens are really glorified DRM license files that contain encryption keys and information about usage rules.

. . . .

Most e-books still have DRM, at least in the United States, UK, France, South Korea, and elsewhere. Most users expect it, even if some don’t like it. Furthermore, explicitly non-ownership models for e-books have been held at bay, mainly by major trade publishers that won’t license their titles to monthly-subscription services such as Scribd and Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Therefore, a B2C blockchain scheme could possibly work for e-book distribution.

. . . .

Sure enough, both of the startups I’m talking about here use DRM, even though neither of them likes to talk about it. One is Bookchain, from Montreal-based Scenarex, which the company expects to launch next month; the other is Publica, based in Gibraltar and Latvia, which is up and running. Publica calls its Token Key Protocol (TKP) a “successor” to DRM.

Both of these schemes are targeted towards independent authors who want to sell their books outside of the mainstream e-book platforms. Both use the Ethereum blockchain, which supports smart contracts. Smart contracts are constructs that enable rules to be encoded and enforced across all copies of a blockchain. In this case, smart contracts embody rules about e-book ownership. They ensure, for example, that when you sell your e-book to someone else, they get rights to the e-book and you don’t anymore. Or if you bought two copies of the e-book and you give one copy away, you only have one left for yourself.

Bookchain and Publica both enable resale and other forms of alienation. Bookchain allows sellers (authors or publishers) to place constraints on resale, such as minimum or maximum prices, or whether a portion of resale revenue goes to the original seller; whereas Publica doesn’t enable such constraints. Both make their money by taking commissions on all transactions (first sale or resale). Both use the standard EPUB format and have their own e-reader apps: Bookchain’s will be web browser based while Publica’s are mobile apps for iOS and Android.

. . . .

What does ownership mean, anyway? Two legal scholars, Jason Schultz of NYU and Aaron Perzanowski of Case Western Reserve, wrote an entire book about ownership in the digital age two years ago, in which they explain what ownership means in legal terms, lament the deterioration of digital ownership, and propose legal mechanisms to restore it. But in lay terms, ownership means that you get something that you can call your own, that belongs to no one else; that you can point to and keep and protect as your property; that you can alienate as you wish but then it’s not yours anymore. This means that being able to make a file freely available online for anyone to copy and use — while certainly desirable for consumers — isn’t ownership anymore; it’s something else. As a practical matter, it doesn’t coexist with the other attributes of ownership.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

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

From Book Riot:

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

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

. . . .

2. Cliffhanger

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

3. CreepyPasta

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

Link to the rest at Book Riot

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

From Publishing Perspectives:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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

From No Shelf Required:

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

E-book Watermarking

From Copyright and Technology:

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

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

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

From The University of Arizona UA News:

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

These major themes emerged from the discussions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Publishing Perspectives:

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

. . . .

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

University College London Press Passes 1 Millionth Open Access Book Download

From Publishing Perspectives:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Selling Out: Going Wide or Going Exclusive to Amazon

From The Book Designer:

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

The current list of benefits includes:

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

That’s about it.

. . . .

KindleUnlimited

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

The Benefits of Going Wide

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

That’s a lot.

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

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

Link to the rest by David Kudler at The Book Designer

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

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

Traditional publishers’ ebook sales drop as indie authors and Amazon take off

From GeekWire:

Ebook sales are dying. Ebooks are insanely popular.

If the short definition of cognitive dissonance is holding two contradictory ideas to be true, ebooks are about as dissonant as digital content gets.

Yet ebooks may also represent a chapter in the still-being-written story of how keeping track of what’s happening with content hasn’t always kept pace with the technology that’s transformed it.

Let’s start with the bad news. Two new sets of numbers covering 2017 show ebook sales are on the decline, both in terms of unit and dollar sales.

The first, released in April by market research firm NPD’s PubTrack Digital, saw the unit sales of ebooks fall 10 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. In absolute numbers, that meant the roughly 450 publishers represented saw ebook sales drop from 180 million units to 162 million over a year’s time.

The second, just released by the American Association of Publishers, reported a decline in overall revenue for ebooks, a year-to-year decrease of 4.7 percent in 2017. AAP tracks sales data from more than 1,200 publishers.

This ebook decline occurred in an overall publisher revenue environment that AAP said was essentially flat in 2017. So some other kinds of book formats that AAP watches, like hardback books, went up as ebooks went down. For its part, NPD says when combining print and ebook unit sales, ebooks’ percentage of the total dropped from 21 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2017.

. . . .

On the surface it would seem like all of this is going to come as a surprise to boosters who thought ebooks would replace traditional paper book publishing completely.

But there are three key words to keep in mind: “traditional book publishing.” And that’s the good ebook news.

Because the very same technology that allowed traditional publishers to create and sell ebooks also allowed authors to do the same — directly to readers.

NPD and AAP don’t measure those indie sales. Centralized reporting of direct-from-author sales is tougher to come by, but by all anecdotal measures the independent market has taken off, notably in the also-still-large category of adult fiction.

. . . .

One source of numbers for online book sales, including for indie ebooks, is the website Author Earnings. It recently estimated that traditional publisher reporting is, “now missing two-thirds of U.S. consumer ebook purchases, and nearly half of all ebook dollars those consumers spend.”

. . . .

For all categories of ebooks, Author Earnings figures purely “indie” publishing accounted for at least 38 percent of ebook units and 22 percent of ebook dollars in the last nine months of 2017. And that doesn’t include micro presses, Amazon’s imprints, and what it calls “single-author mega imprints” (think J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore).

. . . .

[M]ore than half of SFWA’s membership has done some kind of independent publishing. Importantly, SFWA said, there was no apparent difference in range of income between indie and traditionally published members.

Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon distributes a lot of independently published ebooks, made it a point to note in his annual letter to shareholders that, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”

. . . .

Part of the apparently increasing shift of authors to indie status may be about that money. “In traditional publishing, the writer sees a sliver of the profits — 5-15 percent,” SFWA President Cat Rambo, herself a hybrid author, told me. “In small press publishing, that number goes up significantly, and indie writers get to keep the biggest portion of the pie.”

. . . .

But Rambo also suspected the decline in traditional publishers’ ebook sales may due to pricing, a potentially Titanic-sized problem of publishers’ own making.

“When I see an ebook that sells for twice the price of the paperback version, either someone has lost their mind, is asleep at the wheel, or is deliberately steering the ship towards an iceberg,” she said.

Link to the rest at GeekWire

Are ebooks dying or thriving? The answer is yes

From Quartz:

It is a heartwarming story: In spite of the endless onslaught of digital content, American readers have collectively put down their screens and decided to embrace once more that beloved tactile rectangular prism that reminds us, with its weight at the bottom of our bags, of its immeasurable heft. Since 2015, major news outlets, including this one, have reported the triumphant return of print: that “real” books are back, and ebooks have lost their gleam.

Of course, it’s not entirely true. Yes, ebooks are doing just fine: Americans consume hundreds of millions of them a year. But many of their authors are writing and publishing books, and finding massive audiences, without being actively tracked by the publishing industry. In fact, the company through which they publish and distribute their books, a tech behemoth disguised as a benevolent, content-agnostic retailer, is the only entity with any real idea of what’s going on in publishing as a whole.

Amazon’s power over self-publishing, a shadow industry running outside the traditional publishing houses and imprints, is insidiously invisible. As a result, the publishing industry has a data problem, and it doesn’t look like Amazon will be loosening its grip any time soon.

. . . .

They don’t often get nominated for huge book prizes, noticed by the New York Times book review, or endorsed by the president. But over the past seven years, self-published books—predominantly sold as ebooks–have offered a rare avenue through which writers can make a living just from writing, as opposed to speaking, teaching, and/or consulting. By cutting out publishers, writers sidestep print and distribution costs, increase their revenue, and are beholden to readers and algorithms, not critics, editors, marketers, or sales people. A decent writer with a flair for self-promotion, or a decent entrepreneur with writing chops, can earn serious cash.

. . . .

Self-publishing has since exploded, particularly in romance, fantasy, and science fiction. Though an average is impossible to estimate, top-selling authors can sell hundreds of thousands of self-published books on Amazon, which, with revenue of $2 per book, can generate millions of dollars. For the past few years, mega-selling romance writer H.M. Ward has been making a seven-figure salary across self-publishing platforms, more than half of which came through Amazon. At one point,she cracked double-digit millions in sales. According to one estimate, last year 2,500 self-published authors made at least $50,000 in book sales across self-publishing platforms, before the platforms’ cuts.

. . . .

The information asymmetry between Amazon and the rest of the book industry—publishers, brick-and-mortar stores, industry analysts, aspiring writers—means that only the Seattle company has deeply detailed information, down to the page, on what people want to read. So an industry that’s never been particularly data-savvy increasingly works in the dark: Authors lose negotiating power, and publishers lose the ability to compete on pricing or even, on a basic level, to understand what’s selling.

. . . .

But ebook sales are anybody’s guess. Amazon doesn’t report its ebook sales to any of the major industry data sources, and it doesn’t give authors more than their own personal slice of data. A spokesperson from Amazon writes by email that “hundreds of thousands of authors self-publish their books today with Kindle Direct Publishing,” but declined to provide a number, or any sales data.

. . . .

Without good data, there’s no complete picture of the industry. News stories say digital fatigue is sounding the death knell of ebooks, as readers across the country devour $700 million dollars of untracked digital files. Publishers are less able to see what’s selling in certain commercial genres, and less able to take risks on debut authors. Bookstore attendance becomes lopsided, and a large swath of American readers get algorithm-driven book creation. As authors move to self-publishing, the creativity pool becomes bifurcated.

“I think it hurts everyone,” says publishing consultant Jane Friedman. “Because everyone gets to put forward the narrative they would personally like to believe in.” Publishers believe ebooks were a failed experiment, bookstore owners can cheer the triumph of their raison d’être, print lovers get to gloat that screens will never kill the old-school ways. Self-published authors can keep making money, and trying to light lamps to cut through the data darkness.

Link to the rest at Quartz

The five ways we read online

From Nieman Lab:

From skimming and scanning to (the ultimate) reading, a new paper by Nir Grinberg looks at the ways we read online and introduces a novel measure for predicting how long readers will stick with an article.

Grinberg, a research fellow at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science jointly with the Northeastern’s Lazer Lab, looked at Chartbeat data for seven different publishers’ sites — a dataset of more than 7.7 million pageviews, on both mobile and desktop, of 66,821 news articles from the sites.

. . . .

Chartbeat, Grinberg said, already offers publishers pretty good tracking. “It’s one of the few companies that track what happens with a user afterthey click on a news article,” he told me. “Still, the actual measures it provides are kind of raw. It’ll tell you how much time a person has spent on a page, how far down the page they got, even something called ‘engaged time,’ which is the number of page interactions — mouse clicks, cursor movement, etc. But all of these are not particularly tailored to news; they could work on any web page.”

. . . .

“Instead of just how far down the page a person got, I’m looking at what percentage of the article they actually covered,” he said. “How far did they go down the page, relative to the length of the article? If someone spent a lot of time on an article and the article is short, that’s a good signal. If they spent the same amount of time on a long article, that’s less good.”

Grinberg was able to identify five types of reading behaviors: “Scan,” “Read,” “Read (long),” “Idle,” and “Shallow” (plus bounce backs, in the case that someone gets to a page and almost immediately leaves). Not surprisingly, different kinds of news sites see different kinds of reading behavior. On the sports site, for instance, “we see there is a lot of scanning. I think what’s going on there is a lot of people go to sports sites in order to find a result, like the outcome of a game, and don’t read the full thing. Another example that stood out is the how-to site, where we see that there’s more idling — people read an article, idle for a little bit, then continue. From looking at the articles themselves, it looks as if people are following instructions on how to do something in the real world.”

Link to the rest at Nieman Lab

Traditional Publishing Ebook Sales Dropped 10% In 2017

From Forbes:

Traditional publishers sold 10% fewer ebook units in 2017 compared with the previous year, according to data released by PubTrack Digital. Total sales were 162 million in 2017 rather than the 180 million units sold the year before.

The news won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed traditional ebook sales trends over the past few years: Nielsen’s reports put 2016 ebook unit sales from the top 30 traditional publishers down a full 16% from their 2015 numbers. But this isn’t a comeback story for print, and shouldn’t be considered evidence of a waning public interest in ebooks. The fact that traditionally published ebook sales fell 10% last year isn’t the full picture. As traditional publishers saw sales drop, audiences moved to indie publishers, largely on Amazon. The reason, according to Jonathan Stolper, who was the SVP and global managing director for Nielsen Book in 2016, comes down to pricing. Nielsen’s Books and Consumers survey, according to a Publishers Weekly paraphrase of Stolper, found “that price is the top priority for e-book buyers when considering which book to purchase.” In 2015, the Big Five publishing houses raised ebook prices to around $8 a book, far higher than the $3-a-book price point independent publishers settled on.

The result: Traditional publishers priced themselves out of the market, and their 10% drop in 2017 is just the latest evidence that the value a traditional publisher adds — whether editing, gatekeeping, or marketing — isn’t as highly valued by ebook buyers as a low pricetag.

. . . .

Amazon has propelled at least a thousand authors in its Kindle Direct Publishing program to success in 2017: That’s the number that CEO Jeff Bezos noted were earning at least $100,000 in royalties in a recent shareholder letter. Nielsen’s numbers across 2012-2015 revealed that as the Big Five publishers’ ebook market share fell 12%, small publishers and self-published authors’ market share rose 23%.

Link to the rest at Forbes

The Long and Winding Road To Drm-Free Ebooks In Academic Libraries

From No Shelf Required:

The issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been around for as long as ebooks have been around—and not only ebooks, but digital content in general, including online journals, movies, TV shows, games, and software. DRM is usually discussed in the context of copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which makes circumvention of measures that control access to copyrighted works a civil offense (in some cases even a federal crime). But DRM isn’t copyright. It refers to actual technology—a code or a set of codes—applied to restrict the digital use of copyrighted materials. In the publishing world, it is a way of ‘protecting’ digital books against copyright infringement and piracy, which have been a major concern to publishers since the advent of the Internet. By using protection—usually via three DRM types, Amazon for Kindle, Apple’s FairPlay for iBookstore and Adobe’s Digital Editions Protection Technology—publishers (or copyright holders) are able to control what users can and cannot do with digital content.

This means that people buying ebooks, whether for personal or institutional use, are paying for usage, not possession (as has been the case for centuries with print books). When encrypted with DRM, ebooks cannot be easily (if at all) copied or printed, viewed on multiple devices, or moved from one device to another. Further, they can only be downloaded a certain number of times (even when legally bought online) and, if necessary, blocked in certain territories around the world (or made invisible to users in certain countries). Such restrictions have given publishers and authors some peace of mind over the past two decades, but they have resulted in many inconveniences for legitimate users, including lay readers who purchase digital content on sites like Amazon and researchers who access digital content through libraries.

. . . .

These same restrictions, many believe, are one of the essential reasons for the popularity of ebooks in the consumer market is stagnating. Apart from the fact that users tend to prefer print over digital when reading for pleasure (vs. when doing research), various DRM-related limits placed on ebooks— including territorial restrictions and inability to copy, print, and share—have only contributed to the overall decline in consumer ebook sales in recent years. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January 2018, only seven percent of Americans read digital books exclusively, while 39 percent read print books, and 29 percent read both print and digital.

. . . .

[S]ome trade publishers have been embracing the concept of DRM-free ebooks from the very beginning, including technology publishers like O’Reilly and Microsoft and genre fiction publishers like Carina Press, and Tor.com. On the academic side, many publishers have been providing DRM-free titles on their own platforms for a number of years—including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, SAGE, Springer/Palgrave, Elsevier, Wiley, De Gruyter, Brill, and Emerald, among others—but, until recently, they have not been giving large aggregators like EBSCO the option to distribute their titles DRM-free.

. . . .

In the world of research and academic libraries, the main issue has not been the preference of one format over the other, if for no other reason than for the fact that the sheer volume of academic titles published every year, is overwhelming. Based on the number of titles profiled by GOBI Library Solutions, a major library services vendor, at least 70,000 academic titles are published annually in the English language alone. Since the advent of the first library ebook platforms and subscription databases about 20 years ago, academic librarians have had their ‘hands’ full keeping up with the onslaught of digital resources, while experimenting with ever-evolving ebook business models and understanding their short-term and long-term repercussions. Indeed, the key ebook issue in academic libraries has to this day revolved around the effects of various business models on budgets and libraries’ ability to build sustainable digital collections for their institutions.

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A survey published this spring by Library Journal—whose goal was to investigate academic student ebook experience in four-year colleges, universities, graduate programs, as well as two-year or community colleges—found that 74 percent of students accessing ebooks through libraries believe there should be no restrictions placed on ebooks; 66 percent prefer to use ebooks with no restrictions; and 37 percent have taken a principled stand and only use ebooks that have no restrictions when conducting research.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Kindle Previewer: New and (really!) Improved

From JW Manus:

I’ve been using Amazon’s Kindle Previewer app ever since I started formatting ebooks. Have to say, I was never much impressed with it. It had some useful features and it was a quick way to convert an epub file into a mobi file, and a sort of quick way to convert a Word doc into a mobi file so I could load it onto a Kindle or tablet. As for viewing a book on the computer? Forget it. It looked awful and the screen size couldn’t be adjusted. For some tasks it was essential, but I never fully trusted it to give me a hundred percent true rendering of my ebooks.

Then I got a brand new computer and when I downloaded the Kindle Previewer, I got the newest version.

And oh my God, Amazon, what have you done?

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For those of you, my dear readers, with a Do-It-Yourself frame of mind, this version also converts Word docs. No more need for converting the doc first in MobiPocket and then converting the prc file. Click File > Open Book and select a Word doc and the program will convert it into a mobi file. It won’t be a commercial quality ebook and it won’t build the internal navigation guide, but it does allow you to check your styling and the mobi file can be loaded onto your Kindle or tablet for proofreading.

Link to the rest at JW Manus