As more ebook retailers continue to work towards abandoning ship in the US, a global marketplace will become even more important than ever for authors and retailers. With successful and high-volume markets for digital reading already established in countries around the world, an even greater focus on digital publishing is still important.
One of the most difficult but content-starved countries where retailers can maximize their promotional efforts is China. While the ebook space is still rather small compared to both population size and device penetration, consumers within the country are quickly playing catch up to countries who were early adopters of the format.
Unfortunately, China is still a landscape that confounds publishers, despite the abundance of English-language consumers who could presumably purchase ebooks. Publishers have been asking for far too long how to go about bringing content within the borders, and are still just as far from setting up shop as they have been all along.
In an article on the Chinese ebook space for Futurebook, Patrick Crowley sums it up: “What became clear to us very quickly is that the market in China is quite fragmented. There are a number of industries in the hunt for e-book revenues: online retailers, hardware manufacturers, social networks, telecom operators, search engines and even traditional brick-and-mortar stores…China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corporation or CNPIEC regulates over 90% of the publishing content available in the marketplace. CNPIEC is a vital cog in the Chinese publishing market. They have been the leader in importing and exporting printed books to China for some time. CNPIEC recently made a major commitment to build and market an e-book publishing platform for both Chinese and other than Chinese language titles to the institutional market in China. That platform is now active.”
With opportunities going by the wayside in the US under Amazon’s dominance of the market, smart digital retailers, publishers, and authors will have to learn to adapt to a brand-new marketplace in order to reach an audience hungry for content.
Industry analysts are claiming that by 2020 50% of all digital books will be written by indie authors. This is going to create massive problems for online bookstores who constantly wrestle with eBook discovery. Simply put, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo did not design their systems to take into account 25,000 new indie titles submitted to their services every month. They were designed for traditional publishers. Without spending hundreds of millions of dollars in redesigning their entire infrastructure, there is a simpler, more elegant solution. Indie authors need to have their books segregated from traditionally published books.
Traditional publishers are beginning to feel a financial pinch due to the dirge of self-published eBooks. Recently Harlequin stated, “The proliferation of less expensive, and free, self-published works could negatively impact Harlequin’s revenues in the future.” Self-Published books have basically forced the company to shed staff and overhead costs in order to remain competitive.
Forget 2020, right now the onslaught of self-published titles is causing chaos in online bookstores all over the world. Last October a massive firestorm erupted due to hundreds of adult eBooks with topics ranging from threesomes to incest were being listed in the same category as kids’ books. Major booksellers such as WH Smith shuttered their digital bookstores, resulting in thousands of customers unable to buy books at all. This was basically a Kobo problem, since WH Smith actually has a license with Kobo to sell digital books. Not only did Kobo get dissected by mainstream media, but they pissed off authors by deleting over one thousand titles from vanity presses and their own Writing Life platform.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo all have self-publishing platforms that allow writers to submit content right to their websites. Other companies such as Smashwords and LULU have distributing programs that allow their own pool of authors to submit content. There is no quality and control over the books when they are put up for sale, other than abiding by general formatting principles. Since there is no vetting process, there are hundreds of thousands of indie titles listed side by side with traditional publishing.
Not only do we have a massive problem with adult content still creating problems in every major bookstore, but eBook discovery is also being hampered. Indie writers are using keywords they shouldn’t use. Instead of being realistic they are using keywords from other popular books so they show up when customers do search queries for existing titles. Amazon is actually cracking down on this process, but there are too many titles being uploaded to manually get them all.
A few days ago, I wrote a piece about self-publishers not being considered real authors. You are only considered a real author if you can make your living solely from the book sales. If you can’t, you are merely a writer, which is still fine. The reason I wrote that post is the industry needs to define the good writers from the bad. The primary way we can do this is by sales figures; if authors make their living from publishing, they are often considered good writers. Once we can define a good writer from a bad, we can start to segregate them.
All major bookstores have indie titles listed side by side traditionally published books. Normally, traditionally published books have an expectation of quality in editing, cover art, formating, and foreign translations. I am not saying all traditionally published books are good, but there is some expectation of quality in being able to read it. Indie titles have no quality and control, often they are merely submitting a Word document to Amazon and clicking publish. Having indie books listed alongside properly published books is causing massive issues.
My suggestion is for all major online bookstores that take submitted indie content to create their own sections for self-published writers. These titles should not be listed side by side with the traditional press. Indie titles should have their own dedicated sections until such time as they reach a certain threshold in sales. Once they can attain an arbitrary sales milestone, they are drafted to the big leagues and listed in the main bookstore. This idea has merit as every single sports organization in the world as the minor leagues and the big leagues. The minor leagues hone talent and develop them into good athletes who eventually get the call up.
Once you can separate indie authors from traditional published ones, it will solve a ton of issues facing the publishing industry. You will solve the problem of eBook discovery and readers will once again find a solid read faster. Searching algorithms do not have to be totally redone, you just need to have one for indie titles and one for real books. You will not have adult XXX content listed in the kids section or have people stuffing their books with negative keywords. Traditional publishers will seem more appealing and they can tap into the draft pool of indie writers to sign them to long-term book deals. Finally, the issue of Public Domain Books being repackaged as new books will be squashed for good.
If bookstores do not segregate self-published writers their entire ecosystems will be ruined. There will be so many titles listed on their bookstores that you will not be able to casually browse your favorite genre, hoping to find a good read. Take Smashwords for example, what normal human being browses that bookstore to buy and read books? It is a cesspool of poorly edited, poorly written and has no quality or control. These same books are being distributed to every major bookstore, basically creating huge problems. Right now, check out the Amazon bookstore in the Romance section. Even on page 1 is nothing but self-published books, with terrible cover art. These titles need to be culled, ASAP.
Al Kutub is the latest site for the Middle-east all dealing with ebooks, but what makes Al Kutub different from the rest is that the site acts more as a search engine rather than actually hosting the digital books on its servers. It functions by initiating an online search for the requested title and procures it from multiple sources such as forums, sellers, or even social sites such as Facebook. It’s designed to display the ebooks using iframe technology, where Arabic language titles are shown in PDF format.
Users won’t be aware of where the ebook has been sourced from; they won’t even be served the link of the ebook source, which is a clever move as this will ensure users remain tied to the Al Kutub site. Nevertheless, the venture has already attracted a lot of attention, having garnered a subscriber base of more than 10,000 in just a span of 12 days. Mohammed Nemat Allah, who has been associated with Al Kutub for the past three years, has stated they plan to build a database of 120,000 or more titles, which will also include audiobooks as well. Nemat Allah is also confident that their business model is perfectly safe, claiming anyone who has issues with the books showing up on his site can go remove the ebook from the source site first.
Al Kutub has a four tier usage model where users won’t be charged anything for reading and downloading scanned copies. Soon users will be charged on a periodic basis for reading and downloading the books. Users will also have the option of placing an order for the paperback version of the ebook via Al Kutub. Lastly, users will be able to place an order for the paper version from Sour Al Uzbakiya, which happens to be a book hub in Egypt that hosts some of the oldest and rarest books from the region.
Al Kutub also has other ambitious plans which include launching a social networking service having its own messaging and notification center. There will be a reading group where members can engage in discussions pertaining to books. The site will also let users read or borrow content online, while making such activity (including comments) visible to everyone or set to private friends. Nemat Allah also revealed a plan to diversify to other languages such English, German, Spanish, and Chinese in future. The site is currently in its beta stages and the final version will be launched soon. An iOS and Android Al Kutub app will be made available.
Kobo has consistently been rated one of the worst companies to deal with for customer service issues. The Canadian based company realizes they are doing a poor job and are secretly developing a new program called “Click 2 Call.”
The Leaked document says “In our ongoing effort to improve our Customer Experience, we are pleased to announce the introduction of the next phase of our customer contact strategy: Click 2 Call. Kobo Customer Care will introduce this new approach starting with our customers in English markets, then expanding to include all our supported languages. We will begin with North America on March 20th, 2014.”
What will this new program accomplish? Reducing call times: The agent will have all the customer’s information on hand and will not need to spend valuable time collecting it. There will also be Reduced hold times: The agent will be able to investigate and troubleshoot the issue prior to calling the customer. All of these new features collectively will make it easier on the customer to not always have to give their data out, each time they speak to an agent.
The new customer service portal is in testing HERE . It basically asks you for your Kobo account details and what version of the Kobo e-Reader or app you are using. Since Kobo devices are sold all over the world, it even prompts you to choose from a drop down menu where you purchased it from. There are different support options for you to correspond with agents. You can talk to them on the telephone, chat with them online, or engage in email support.
I think this new Kobo customer service solution is a step in the right direction. There has been a thousand horror stories of getting lost in the existing infrastructure. It is basically a merry-go-round of getting bounced to different tiers of agents, who often never return the calls.
Kobo has just inked a new deal with Sesame Workshop to make Sesame Street eBook titles available through the Kobo Kids Bookstore. Through the agreement, more than 50 Sesame Street titles including The Monster at the End of This Book, Count to 10, and How To Be A Grouch are available worldwide starting today at the Kids’ Store.
“As it is one of the most popular reading devices around the world, we are excited to launch Sesame Street eBooks on Kobo,” said Jennifer A. Perry, Vice President of Worldwide Publishing, Sesame Workshop. “We aim to reach children everywhere and our Sesame Street collection gives children and parents opportunities to read together, engage with favorite Sesame Street friends and learn wherever they may go with their Kobo device.”
Kobo’s Kids Store, offering nearly 100,000 titles, makes it easier to find the next great book for children and young adult Readers, with the latest bestselling series, Read Along books, and colourful picture-books.
Kobo offers parents the ability to set up dedicated accounts for their kids so that they can safely explore the amazing books within the Kobo eBookstore. Kobo gives parents the ability to set spending allowances for their kids, pre-select eBooks, and adjust search settings to keep their kids reading safely. Parents can also set reading goals for kids and track their progress with engaging reading stats – all features designed to make eReading an educational, fun, and friendly experience. The dedicated Kids’ Store is currently available in North America.
Here is another take on the concept of a smartphone offering an e-ink display. The Midia InkPhone made its debut at the CeBIT show with rumors of it being finally ready to hit the streets soon enough. We have been seeing the unique phone design from Chinese manufacturer Onyx for over a year now and it’s really good to see it emerge in its production ready avatar at last. Engadget has mentioned that the e-ink phone will be hitting streets in Germany and Poland where it will be cost 140 Euros, which comes to about $195.
As for the salient features of the device, the biggest of them all is the 4.3 inch e-ink display that it comes with. Also with a resolution is 800 x 480, images and texts are pretty sharp too. Then of course there is the energy saving attribute that e-ink display have come to be known for, which in case of the InkPhone stands at 2 weeks of usage on a single charge. This no doubt will be a boon for business users or for those who’d prefer to give up on some fancy features just to gain battery life.
The rest of the specs speak of a 1 Ghz Rockchip CPU, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. There is also a micros SD card slot, 1800mAh battery along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth. The device runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. There is no camera though, something that is increasingly becoming the biggest USP of modern day smartphone devices. The black and white display together with slightly less screen refresh rates compared to conventional LCD panels wouldn’t have made the InkPhone suited for photography in any case. Apart from photography, the other aspects that the InkPhone will be seen lacking will be its inability to playback video or game playing.
The InkPhone will however serve as an excellent mobile ebook reading device and should serve well to die-hard ebook enthusiasts. Being equally readable in direct sunlight will no doubt be another definitive plus for the InkPhone. E-Book reading apps such as the Kindle too works well enough with the InkPhone as should other popular ebook reading apps such as the Kobo, B&N and such. Overall, the InkPhone may not be a mass market device but should serve well in a niche market, which again could be big enough if the device work delivers what it promises.
You can pre-order this phone today at Shop e-Readers.
Good e-Reader is proud to be alongside Publishers Weekly as being the two main media sponsors of IDPF Digital Book 2014. This is now a two day conference that takes place May 28-29, 2014 at the Javits Center, New York City. This is the first year the conference has moved to a full two day format and many of the top publishers, tech companies and authors will be in attendance.
This is the second year in a row that Good e-Reader has thrown in their support for the IDPF. The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) is the global trade and standards organization dedicated to the development and promotion of electronic publishing and content consumption.
The work of the IDPF promotes the development of electronic publishing applications and products that will benefit creators of content, makers of reading systems, and consumers. The IDPF develops and maintains the EPUB content publication standard that enables the creation and transport of reflowable digital books and other types of content as digital publications that are interoperable between disparate EPUB-compliant reading devices and applications.
Stay tuned when we make a big announcement tomorrow on the speakers and sessions.
Hugh Howey is a self-published author who leveraged Kindle Direct Publishing to distribute his Silo Saga about a post-apocalyptic wasteland. They have sold over 300,000 copies in the US and have been optioned for a movie to be directed by Ridley Scott. You might say that Howey is a self-published professional author whot did well for himself. Lately, he has transcended from being a writer to perpetually standing on his virtual soapbox. Indie authors have elevated him to being a poster child for self-publishing and he is giving unrealistic expectations to writers who want to emulate his success.
Wool was one of the breakout success stories for self-publishing. It has been featured on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and was the number one bestseller on Amazon, where it was also named winner of Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book of 2012. He has signed international distribution deals with Random House to have the works translated into foreign languages.
Aside from the success of his books, Hugh is a non-stop promotional machine. Most of his blog posts are endlessly dissected throughout the media and his new Author Earnings website tracks how much some self-published authors are making. In a recent report he said, “Indie authors are outselling the Big Five. That’s the entire Big Five. Combined. Indie and small-press books account for half of the ebook sales in the most popular and bestselling genres on Amazon.”
Hugh is a whirlwind of interviews and Twitter chats that tend to make him accessible to almost anyone who asks. The more hype he builds, the more ebooks he sells. One blogger referred to him as a “patron saint of empowering authors”
But there is a darker side to being Hugh Howey, more than anyone realizes. Indie authors have elevated him to practically a religious figure of the self-publishing movement. He has become the poster child for any writer who has a dream of making it big. He is consistently cited by journalists, bloggers, and indie writers as being a stalwart vanguard of self-publishing and a mirrored reflection of everything indie writers aspire to be.
Recently Howey mentioned, “The key to making it as a writer is to write a lot, write great stories, publish them yourself, spend more time writing, study the industry, act like a pro, network, be nice, invest in yourself and your craft, and be patient. If you can do all of these things, you’ll earn some money. Maybe enough to pay a bill every month. Maybe enough to get out of debt. Maybe enough to quit your job. Thousands of writers are doing this, and we are welcoming all comers with open arms.” You can see by this quote that some of it makes sense. It is also apparent that he is feeding people dreams and wants people to self-publish more.
Howey also tends to make inflammatory remarks to drum up support for himself, his books, and self-publishers in general. “For a long time now, self-publishing has been dismissed as an act of vanity – mainly by frightened executives in publishing houses, who hold up terrible examples of self-published works and say ‘See? This is why we exist.’” You can see by this quote he is alluding that the traditional publishing industry is the evil empire, something self-publishers do not need. Quotes like this manage to rope in more writers who say, “I feel the same way.”
Mike Shatzkin, publishing expert and founder of The Idea Logical Company, called Howey out, saying he is “a much better author and self-promoter than he is a business analyst,” and warns authors his advice is potentially “toxic.”
Hugh consistently makes inflammatory remarks, trying to build resentment towards the traditionally published industry. Recently, he said, “When I was a kid, everybody wished their father owned a candy store.” Hugh’s advice for publishers is to eliminate things that annoy him (non-compete clauses, length-of-copyright licenses, New York City offices) and to lower prices, give away ebooks with hardcover purchases, and pay authors monthly.
His latest business inspiration — a call to arms suggesting to independent authors that they should just eschew traditional publishing or demand it pay them like indie publishing — is potentially much more toxic. Is he most interested in getting more authors self-publishing, or in organizing authors to demand better terms from publishers? Well both, as he is becoming a spiritual figurehead that indie writers with no voice can get behind. He is leveraging popular opinion to try and change the industry. The potential victims of this effort are the very authors he is trying to save. Likely, the outcome of this “revolution” is to widen the gap between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Instead of banging down walls, he is raising them up. Instead of building bridges he is arming them for detonation.
Welcome back to the Good e-Reader Radio Show, your definitive news broadcast on the world of publishing, eBooks and e-Readers. Today, Michael Kozlowski and Jeremy Greenfield discuss the recent attempts to quantify authors in a more simplistic way. This is ruffling the feathers of indie authors that feel they should be called whatever they want. You can weigh in on the discussion HERE at Good e-Reader and HERE at DBW.
Jeremy recently conducted a great interview with the CEO of Harlequin. They discussed the current business climate and how most romance/ertoica writers are self-publishing. This is creating a problem where not enough new writers are publishing the traditional way anymore and is forcing the publisher to get lean.
The DOJ case against publishers in the USA is having reverberating effects on Canadian based Kobo. The Government of Canada is mandating that Kobo abide by the DOJ settlement terms, outside of the USA. Kobo contends the DOJ does not have jurisdiction in Canada to impose their will. We might see Kobo’s catalog dimmishing very soon.
DBW is hosting a series of web lessons to help indie authors. You can find out more information on their latest one HERE.
Library Journal has released the results of its 2014 survey, which tracks materials spending in public libraries across the country. The libraries are categorized according to patron size and circulation size, as well as budget size. In what comes as a tremendous surprise given the frightening state of libraries’ crisis-level budgets, spending actually increased microscopically, which is still far better than a decrease.
The spending on print books, movies/DVDs, and CDs or other downloadable music was interesting, despite the easy availability of movies and music from other sources. While music circulation and spending has dropped, DVDs remain the single best investment with the circulation far outweighing the financial cost.
The unfortunate reduction in print book purchasing could go either way; while ebook spending did increase for most libraries regardless of size, overall materials spending decreased in library systems who had suffered branch closing, reductions in staff, and reductions in operating hours.
In even better news, every category of library size reported an overall increase in circulation for a total 2% increase. In a finding that speaks to the vital role that libraries play, it was those libraries that serve rural communities that reported the highest book circulation numbers, largely due to the lack of bookstores in these communities and the unavailability of “one day delivery lockers” or Sunday delivery from online retailers.
Interestingly, libraries that reported a decrease in total book circulation actually pointed to ebooks as the culprit. With the ease of purchase and download and the more affordable price of digital over print, it appears as though consumers are quick to press the “buy it now” button instead of waiting for the book to become available through the library, either in print or in digital. This phenomenon has been shared for years from companies like Kobo and OverDrive, who’ve worked to convince publishers that library lending and ebooks are good for their business.
The full report from Library Journal is available HERE.
With an already overwhelming presence in the mobile devices segment, Google now wishes to engage with consumers at a more deeper and personal level. The search giant made that amply clear at the SXSW with Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai announcing the launch of a SDK that will enable developers to make apps for wearables. Right now that seems to be applicable more to smartwatches and fitness tracking devices, though Pichai is envisioning the wearable segment to get more and more intimate in the coming years. Maybe we can have smart jackets in future, or even a smart device implanted under the skin to keep track of vital health parameters at all times.
Coming back to the present, Pichai promised the SDK will be made available in just about 2 weeks’ time. This will be accompanied with the way Google perceives the smart wearable segment to evolve in the next couple of years. The company also stated they will come up with a version of Android for use in smartwatch devices. The new OS variant will draw heavily from Google Now and search feature and is expected to be launched towards the end of this month. Google is also reported to be collaborating with LG Electronics in developing a smartwatch of its own in what surely is going to be the Nexus equivalent of a smartwatch device. The smartwatch is slated for launch in June during the Google I/O conference.
The above development is accompanied by similar efforts on part of Google to have its OS be seen in almost as many segments as possible. Back in January, Google had announced the Open Automotive Alliance the comprises of car makers such a GM, Hyundai, Audi, Honda Motors as well chipmaker Nvidia that looked for ways to implement the Google Android OS for use in the automotive sector.