Mercy Pilkington

Mercy Pilkington



is a Senior Editor for Good e-Reader. She is also the CEO and founder of Author Options, a hybrid publishing and consultancy company. Have a question? Send an email to info@authoroptions.com


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Copyright is a hotly contested issue facing both authors and the publishing industry, as rights holders work to strike a balance between safeguarding content and sharing it across a variety of platforms to reach as many readers as possible. In the era of digital publishing, ebook piracy, and open sharing authoring platforms, some industry response has been to tighten the reins even further to combat the over-inflated perceived threat of content loss.

Wattpad, a site which makes discovery possible through more than 30 million reader memberships, is designed specifically for authors to write and post content, then for readers to share that content with their own followers. But one of the chief questions plaguing the concept often comes from new authors to the site: is it safe?

In response, Wattpad announced this week that it has developed Open Stories, a Creative Commons option that authors can choose to let their work reach as many readers as possible while allowing those readers to be a part of the process.

According to Wattpad’s announcement on this new option, “The biggest question facing new writers today isn’t how to protect their work; it’s how to find a readership for it,” said Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger. “It makes complete sense that so many Wattpad writers are gravitating toward Creative Commons licenses: by giving others permission to share your writing, you can open doors to new audiences and new creative opportunities.

“Cory Doctorow has shared five stories on Wattpad under CC licenses, including New York Times best-selling novels Homeland and Little Brother. Today, to coincide with the roll out of CC 4.0, he will share his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, on Wattpad.

Creative Commons is gaining more and more ground as content owners begin to more fully understand the changes that have taken place, largely due to technology and advances in the internet and social media. The original system of licensing permissions to read and share content don’t lend themselves well to the digital publishing age, and CC is working to address the necessary protections while still allowing the freedom of discovery.

“From day one Wattpad has been about self-expression and creativity. With the integration of CC 4.0 creators from around the world will be able to search millions of stories on Wattpad and use them for their own artistic pursuits,” said Co-founder and CEO of Wattpad Allen Lau. “Licensing creative works under CC 4.0 makes total sense in today’s remixing culture.”

An ebook being used by an elderly person
The PA Digital Sales Monitor, new report from the UK-based Publishers’ Association, showed that ebook sales are on the rise for the first quarter of 2014. This report, which showed a 10.5% increase in digital sales, comes at a time when the debate around ebooks and their viability from different angles is starting to make waves again.

According to a press release issued on the first quarter sales, “The growth in sales was also spread across all recorded categories. In the consumer sector digital sales of fiction increased 8%, with a 10% rise in sales of adult non-fiction. Digital sales of children’s titles meanwhile enjoyed a particularly strong performance, with a 33% rise.

“In the educational/professional sector the largest growth was seen in Scientific Technical and Medical (STM) books, where sales increased by 16%, however, there were also strong performances by schools/English Language Teaching (ELT) sales which grew 14%, and social sciences/humanities which saw an 11% rise.”

eBooks as a viable source of industry revenue for both traditional publishing and indie has been called into question in the past, especially given the fact that critics love to indicate the plateau that ebooks seem to have hit with readers. While their growth had seemed to slow in recent years, they remained steady with e-reading fans. This growth indicates a forward movement in the format, giving even more credence to the disputes currently taking place between retailers and publishers regarding sales agreements, and between publishers and their authors over royalties.

Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, said, “The Publishers Association Digital Sales Monitor shows the continuing development and growth of digital publishing in the UK. Increases in digital sales in both consumer and non-consumer sectors shows how publishing as an industry has embraced digital technology and continued its strong track record of innovation and service delivery.”

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Verdict: 5 Stars

This is a book entirely about love: love between spouses, love between siblings, love for nature and the land. When the author’s wife lost her brother to suicide, he had no way of bringing her out of her pain other than through the thing he loved, hiking. Having just completed the 2000-mile Appalachian Trail himself, he turned around and lured his wife on a more than 200-mile journey along the entire John Muir Trail with the purpose of helping her work through her grief while raising awareness about the depression that cost her brother his life.

The book details every aspect of this kind of adventure. Everything from mundane descriptions of how they ate, bathed, slept, and survived, to descriptions of the more harrowing encounters with wild animals, grueling conditions, and uncertainty were outlined in the book.

Avid fans of adventure titles and non-fiction travelogues may find themselves disappointed in this book because it’s not meant to be a title about hiking or about the geography. While those factors play an important role in the story, that’s not the focus of Alt’s title. This is a book about healing through pushing oneself farther than anyone ever thought possible, and refusing to stand by helplessly while a loved one is in pain.

Four Boots One Journey is available now.

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Author Earnings
In what is perhaps the single most telling example of why the traditional publishing fails to address the needs of authors, The Guardian posted an interview with Phillip Jones, editor of the Bookseller, and Nicola Solomon, general secretary of the UK’s Society of Authors. While the Bookseller is a publishing industry news source and the Society has recently spoken out about the poor contract terms that traditionally published authors are forced to accept, both representatives made some laughable remarks about both self-publishing and the Author Earnings reports in particular.

According to the most recent report, self-published titles make up more than one-fourth of the books published on Kindle, yet indie authors make 40% of the royalties, which is more than the Big Five publishers receive combined. Despite having fewer books published, these authors earn more.

But Jones dismissed the AE report on the grounds that (wait for it), we don’t really know who this “Data Guy” is who claims to work with author Hugh Howey on compiling the numbers.

Yes, Jones is willing to overlook the multitude of pie charts and bar graphs that are included in every single AE report, and instead would prefer to shed a disparaging light on the source of the mathematical equations. Jones actually implied that “Data Guy” may be just an Amazon employee whose mission is to spread bad information about traditional publishing.

“The fact that we don’t know who this ‘Data Guy’ is or where he’s come from suggest that we should take the Author Earnings report with a large pinch of salt,” Jones said. “I think of it more as part of Amazon’s PR effort, rather than an objective overview of the digital marketplace.”

Of course, never missing an opportunity to bad-mouth Amazon, Jones continued by saying that Amazon holds all of the sales data and refuses to share it, so how can anyone possibly make a sound decision? As though the traditional publishers don’t know how many books they’ve sold and also aren’t sharing that information?

Solomon was slightly more forgiving as she applauded Howey’s efforts to arm authors with solid data and knowledge, but even she went on to state that publishers earn a significant portion of their revenue from print sales, and Author Earnings only takes into account ebook sales. This is true because most indie authors will earn more from their ebook sales than print.

What Jones and Solomon didn’t grasp is that this isn’t about publisher revenue, it’s about how much of that revenue trickles down to the authors. While Big Five print titles, for example, may sell more than the average indie author’s work, a self-published author has to sell far fewer copies than a traditionally published author to earn the same amount of income. Solomon did graciously point out that publishers’ royalty terms barely produce a living wage for authors, and that change needs to happen before traditional publishing becomes obsolete. What the industry hopefully will recognize is that change doesn’t have to happen as long as authors are kept ignorant of the possibilities for better royalties and equal sales, a fact that AE reports are trying to remedy.

Unlimited
Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, the ebook and audiobook subscription service that lets members pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited access to its catalog, went live today, offering users a thirty day free trial and the option to pay $9.99 a month for the service. According to a press release issued by Amazon, the service is compatible with both Kindle reading devices and tablets, as well as through the Kindle reading app on other popular brands of mobile devices.

“With Kindle Unlimited, you won’t have to think twice before you try a new author or genre—you can just start reading and listening,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Kindle. “In addition to offering over 600,000 eBooks, Kindle Unlimited is also by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and eBooks together. With thousands of Whispersync for Voice-enabled audiobooks to choose from, you can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy. We hope you take advantage of the 30-day free trial and try it for yourself.”

In the most interesting news about the launch, the Unlimited catalog–which features 600,000 ebooks and 2,000 audiobooks–automatically includes self-published works that authors have listed in Amazon’s exclusive program, KDP Select. However, any author who wishes to unenroll from KDP Select to avoid including his titles in Kindle Unlimited may do so immediately, without having to wait for the ninety day period.

Amazon representatives told Good e-Reader this morning: “There are many self-published titles in the catalog. If you have a book enrolled in KDP Select, it will automatically be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. If you do not want your books in Kindle Unlimited, you have the option to immediately remove your book from KDP Select. To do so, please include the ASIN for your book when you complete this Contact Us form. We will remove your book from KDPS right away and contact you to confirm. You can see our forum post on the announcement for KDP authors here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AA9BSAGNO1YJH.”

Self-published authors will be compensated in much the same way as they are when consumers borrow their books through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. When Kindle Unlimited customers read at least ten percent of an indie author’s book through the service, that will count as a “read” for compensation from the KDP Select Global Fund, just as if a non-member had borrowed the title through KOLL.

As an added incentive for membership, readers who join Kindle Unlimited will also be given a free three-month membership to Audible to try out their catalog of over 150,000 audiobooks. Full details on the service and the free trials can be found at amazon.com/KindleUnlimited.

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Most people don’t think of copyright law when they think of gripping drama and suspenseful twists and turns, but the truth is copyright is actually quite fascinating. Of course, no one is more fascinated right now than the litigants in a case involving copyright over Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes characters.

To understand the ramifications of a case that is currently working its way through the courts, it’s important to know the history behind a new book by American crime writer Leslie Klinger. Klinger, a known expert on Sherlock Holmes and other classics, has a new book potentially entitled In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, but the heirs to the original author’s estate are contesting the use as it falls under copyright restrictions.

Here’s where it gets fascinating: under copyright law, a work enters the public domain after a set period of time, roughly one hundred years following publication. Muddying the waters somewhat is the distinction between when Sherlock Holmes was published in the UK versus the US. Further confusing the issue is the fact that the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories were published over a multi-year time span, meaning some of the stories are currently in the public domain, and others still are not; the final ten stories, for example, will not become public domain until the end of 2022.

Just to make it even more confusing, lower courts have already ruled on this specific case, and the result of the ruling is actually very interesting. Essentially, modern authors can use any settings, characters, and specific characteristics of the characters that appear in works that are already out from under copyright restriction, but cannot use any details that are still under copyright without permission and paying a licensing fee to the estate. For example, in one of the later works that is still under copyright restriction, it is revealed that Dr. Watson had played rugby for a specific team when he was younger. This little detail comes out in conversation with Holmes, and is not part of the action of the story, however that detail was only revealed in a later work. Therefore, a current author is allowed to use the character Dr. Watson, for example, but cannot state where he played rugby or allude to an old rugby injury.

Conan Doyle’s estate is attempting to overturn the lower courts’ rulings and sought an “emergency petition” from the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear arguments in the case, presumably citing that there was nothing in the lower court’s ruling that required a new review. Lawyers for the estate have said they will still move forward with their request for a review, but one of the issues that will be determined in court is who has to foot the bill for this legal battle. As it stands, Klinger (and presumably his publisher) has had to engage his own attorneys to represent him against the suit, and the responsibility for paying his legal fees will also be decided by the court.

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It’s the same in every classroom, in every school, in every subject area. Certain students are “getting it” and engaging with the content, while other students are trailing behind, getting more and more lost and less and less likely to admit it. But a new assessment tool that lets students structure their own questions, responses, and discussion points offers teachers the ability to understand what every student is thinking about the material without having to conduct individualized assessments at every step along the way. Even better, the students are equipped to provide their feedback without calling attention to themselves, making them more likely to engage and offer genuine insight into where they might be lagging.

The Verso App lets students work through teacher-driven material and then respond, while also allowing them to see classmates’ interactions after they complete the material. This equips teachers to know before approaching each lesson where the students are still having trouble with comprehension, as well as know which areas the class has mastered in order to avoid wasting instructional time.

“Using the Verso App, teachers enter the classroom fully aware of students’ questions, ideas, misconceptions and what they are revealing as their individual learning needs,” Collin Wood, CEO of Verso Learning, said in a press release. “Teachers now know what they have to do to support every student in moving forward.”

“Since these responses are anonymous, it gives students the confidence to take risks they may not otherwise take. As they collaborate and reward quality contributions with ‘likes,’ they are giving and receiving feedback and using that feedback to shape their thinking.”

Tools like this one have the power to take today’s digital natives and prepare them for the higher order thinking and technology incorporation that so many state and national curricula around the world are now focusing on. Information on the free app is available from Verso Learning at VersoApp.com.

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Author Earnings, who has a two-fold mission that encompasses supporting authors of every publishing path, has released a new report, this time looking not only at the data so far up to July 2014, but also mapping out the trends that the data can help identify.

The comprehensive and exhaustingly complete report provides graphs on a variety of factors in publishing, all aimed at determining where the sales are taking place, how the bestseller lists are ranking works, discovering how authors have been compensated for their books, and more.

“It’s too early to distinguish between global trends and seasonal trends, but the percentage of ebook dollars going to indie authors has crept up for two straight quarters. There could be movement in the opposite direction as the Holidays approach. While it should be a jolt to see that indies are earning nearly 40% of the ebook dollars going to authors, we are starting to take this reality for granted. That’s real progress. As it has proven to be in other fields of entertainment, the indie movement in literature is not a blip and not a gold rush. It appears to be here to stay.”

The July 14th data showed that Big Five publishers’ titles accounted for only 16% of the books on Amazon’s bestseller list, while indie authors, small to medium presses, and publishers who’d produced only one book accounted for 83% of the bestsellers combined, across various genres of fiction and non-fiction.

In what is an interesting snapshot of the data that should put to rest any nasty rumors that Amazon is trying to ruin the book industry with its traditional publishing imprints, only one percent of the bestsellers were published by Amazon Publishing. This speaks to the company’s commitment to launch books they believe in while not necessarily pandering to the “push what sells” mentality that has plagued the traditional publishing industry.

The remainder of the complete report is available HERE.

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News was announced yesterday from the lawyers for the plaintiffs in one of Apple’s side lawsuits over ebook pricing that the grand total the company could have to pay out to consumers is $400 million. This amount was disclosed after the terms of the settlement were released following Judge Denise Cote’s approval of the settlement.

This settlement isn’t to be confused with the Department of Justice lawsuit against Apple for colluding with five of the then-Big Six publishers to artificially raise the prices of ebooks in order to draw some of the control over the market away from Amazon. That collusion, in which the publishers all agreed to switch to an agency pricing model instead of the previously followed wholesale model, causing a sharp increase in the price of ebooks when Amazon was no longer allowed to discount publishers’ titles.

The DOJ lawsuit still isn’t resolved, despite the fact that the publishers who were offered deals settled out of court early in order to avoid costly legal fees. Apple has been found guilty of colluding to fix prices, among other charges, and that decision has been appealed by Apple’s attorneys.

But back to the consumers…

Lawyers and states’ attorneys general have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the consumers to recover some of the millions of dollars they were illegally forced to overpay once the collusion took place, and Apple agreed last month to settle out of court…IF…

If its appeal is unsuccessful. The terms of the settlement that Apple agreed to include a clause that lets Apple get out of the settlement scott-free if the appeal in the DOJ case swings in Apple’s favor. They basically got to have their cake and eat it too, since a typical settlement is an agreement reached in order to avoid letting the issue go any further. Apple got to put a cap on the amount it would pay in the consumers’ lawsuit, all while leaving the escape hatch open in order to not have to pay anything should their appeal succeed.

At this point, the consumers who had to pay artificially inflated prices thanks to Apple’s illegal collusion will either get a share of a $400 million settlement, or they will receive nothing. Sadly, just as in the settlements offered to the publishers, the settlement (if there is one) will be paid to consumers in the form of book credits through retailers’ platforms, meaning the consumers can turn right around and pay their settlement moneys right back to the publishers and the retailer.

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Kids ebooks have been slow to take off, despite the great content coming out from companies like iStoryTime and Scholastic. But Kobo, whose Kobo Kids’ Store offers younger readers a catalog of over 100,000 ebook titles, recenlty secured a deal that would add some of the most beloved children’s books of all time to its catalog. This week, Kobo announced that it would offer 40 of Dr. Seuss’ most well-known and admired titles for children, adding that content to the already dynamic ebook offerings for kids through Kobo devices and the Kobo app.

“Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, expanded our idea of what a children’s book could be. Through fantastical worlds and text both silly and inspiring, Dr. Seuss has always played and continues to play a part in igniting the imaginations of young readers,”said Michael Tamblyn, President and Chief Content Officer, Kobo, in a press release. “It is a part of childhood that every parent looks forward to passing on to their kids and we couldn’t be more pleased to be bringing these essential books to young readers in digital form.”

This offering comes at a time when studies still demonstrate that younger readers tend to not only prefer print when reading self-selected texts, but an alarming study also showed a decrease in reading comprehension when kids were required to read digital editions (as opposed to having selected the ebook for themselves). But why the push for children’s ebooks if they prefer print and perform better with paper? Because the educational landscape is changing dramatically, especially for higher education, and students who aren’t equipped to navigate an environment where their coursework is on device screens may find themselves at a disadvantage. By introducing ebooks at an early age and helping students remain focused on the book throughout its use, these readers will grow up to be better suited to the expectations of an increasing number of colleges and universities.

Unlimited
It’s rare that Amazon isn’t leading the charge in some aspect of the book industry, but news came out today that Amazon is experimenting with ebook subscription models. In the often-compared Netflix climate, this would allow consumers to read unlimited content for one flat monthly fee.

GigaOm grabbed a link to the page for the new feature on Amazon.com, as reported by TechCrunch only a few minutes ago. Interestingly, the image only alludes to 600,000 titles available in the Amazon catalog, not the full ebook catalog, which could mean that Amazon would have the same problem with acquiring content for lending that has plagued the ebook subscription model since it first became news back in 2010.

While several companies are still pursuing the subscription model in some format–whether it’s full-length works, long-form journalism, or e-shorts–two players in the game have actually made a viable model out of it and been able to attract both readers and publishers with content. Oyster and Scribd are currently leading the way in subscription ebooks, and Scribd’s CEO Trip Adler had this to say about Amazon’s potential move into the subscription sphere:

“The apparent entrance of Amazon into the subscription market is exciting for the industry as a whole. It’s validation that we’ve built something great here at Scribd. Publishers, authors and readers alike have all seen the benefit, so its no surprise they’d want to test the waters. Successful companies don’t fear competition, but rather embrace it, learn from it and use it to continue to fuel their own innovation which is exactly what we intend to continue doing.”

It will be interesting to see how Amazon takes on this model, if it actually does so. The Amazon page with the signup button has been cached, but hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.

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As more and more print publishers look for ways to stay relevant in the digital landscape, creative solutions to meeting their readers’ needs continue to evolve. This is especially true of print periodical publishers, as more consumers are turning to other sources to stay on top of news and entertainment.

Hearst Corporation, who is arguably one of the largest media conglomerates in the US with dozens of major newspapers, hundreds of magazines, and even a number of television stations, has announced the launch of a new digital video subscription service aimed at a key market, all themed around one of its most iconic magazines, Cosmopolitan.

Cosmo, as its more commonly called, is a lifestyle magazine designed for a key demographic of women, and Hearst’s new venture will seek out that same demographic with streaming health and lifestyle videos for a monthly subscription fee. Billed much like Netflix and at a similar price point of $9.95 a month, the videos will have a decidedly Cosmo-like flair.

“Basically, it’s Netflix for fitness and lifestyle content…Cosmo-style…with workout videos with names like ‘Get in the Mood Yoga,’ dating advice that takes you into the mind of a man, food and fashion tips and even healthy(ish) cocktail recipes,” said Neeraj Khemlani, head of Hearst Digital Studios and co-president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, in a press release. “It’s our first channel and we look forward to developing more brands–both inside Hearst and with outside partners—into new over-the-top video networks that can be accessed by subscribers on any platform or device, at any time, anywhere in the world.”

“We want to empower our Cosmo audience to feel sexy and strong, without sacrificing any of the fun,” said Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan. “There’s an inextricable link between looking good and feeling good, and CosmoBody inspires women to create that connection whenever they need it, wherever they are.”

The CosmoBody channel is available now.

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UK_P
The Internet was buzzing this morning with the news of UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s intense reshuffling of people and positions in his cabinet, swapping roles for some of them and ousting others altogether. Of course, the headline grabber in the reordering is the loss of Michael Gove as the head of education, a change that has more than a few teachers, parents, students, and administrators breathing a sigh of relief.

Gove was responsible for a number of highly criticized initiatives, including introducing self-paced, computerized learning for some courses at some grade levels, erasing the need to pay a teacher for the position. His most recent horrible decision to be met with public outcry involved removing American literature from the curriculum, deciding that Jane Austen was far more important for young people to read than Of Mice and Men due to the fact that she was British.

With Gove’s departure to a different position, the education role will be filled by Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough. Morgan’s role will also include minister for women and equalities, which on the surface is a good combination to have within the one cabinet office as so much of the global issues in education involve equal access and support for education. Unfortunately, Morgan has come out in the past supporting the student tuition in the UK, which has led to riots in recent years.

If Morgan and her predecessor were so focused on funding in education, hopefully changes that shift the system to a viable model for digital textbooks and ebooks will emerge.

One of the other changes to cabinet positions, unfortunately, could mean trouble for Open Access. David Willetts, minister of universities, led the decision that the UK would institute open access to any scholarly publishing whose research was funded with tax dollars. This initiative has been lauded by supporters in both the copyright and academic publishing worlds for the fact that researchers should be given access to any findings that are footed by the public, therefore avoiding repeats or errors in expensive, time-consuming experimentation. Willetts has been removed from his post, and no replacement has yet been announced.

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