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JK Rowling departed the Harry Potter franchise for a number of years before she penned her first adult themed book. The Casual Vacancy centers around the major themes of class, politics, and social issues such as drugs and prostitution. The book was on the UK and US bestseller lists for over six months and has sold over six million copies. The book is now getting the miniseries treatment from the BBC and HBO.

The three-hour miniseries will be written by Sarah Phelps who worked on EastEnders) and will be directed by Jonny Campbell, who recently directed In the Flesh. Rowling will executive producer via her Bronte Film and Television production company that she runs with Neil Blair, her longtime literary agent and producing partner. The story focuses on a local election in the fictional town of Pagford after a sudden death.

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Most bookstores in North America and Europe have set business hours. They tend to open at 9 AM and go until 10 PM. Indie bookstores often have the standard 9-5 mentality and this sometimes prevent people who work late from buying books. A bookstore in Beijing China is bucking the standard operating hour trend and has just adopted a new 24 hour schedule.

Sanlian Taofen Bookstore in Dongcheng District has pleased local citizens by keeping their store opened 24 hours a day. The bookstore first opened their doors in 1996 and currently displays 80,000 titles across 1,500 square meters, and is one of Beijing’s cultural landmarks.

According to the Peoples Daily Fan Xi’an, president of SJPC, borrowed the 24-hour concept from Taiwanese retail chain Eslite Bookstore. “I was thrilled by the large number of readers found at night in Eslite Bookstore when I visited Taiwan in 2010,” he said.

The bookstore had actually been planning a 24 hour schedule since 2011, but lack of funds scuttled the plans. However, the extra cost has now been covered by sponsorship from the central government and Beijing Municipality — part of authorities’ broader scheme to subsidize a total of 56 bookstores around China. “We no longer have to pay value-added tax, and the government has announced 90 million yuan (14.6 million U.S. dollars) to support 55 operations like us,” said Fan.

Expanded operating hours are serving a dual purpose. One allows people who work long business hours the oportonity to shop in a bookstore during the weekday. Secondly it gives youth something else to do other than bars and nightclubs. A neighboring cafe has signed on to allow books to be taken into the cafe and refreshments into the bookstore.

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Rightscorp is well known in the video and music industry with their digital loss prevention technology that tracks copyright infringement and ensures that owners and creators are rightfully paid for their IP. They developed extensive tracking analytics that allows them to see what content is being distributed through bittorrent and file sharing sites and then goes after the people involved. It looks the company is gearing up to take on the publishing industry industry and actively go after eBook pirates.

“We recently announced a deal to represent Mark Sisson, author of the bestselling book The Primal Blueprint. This marks our entrance into the multi-billion dollar book publishing industry, an area where we feel we can add value to our clients and our investors,” said Christopher Sabec, CEO of Rightscorp. “eBooks and eReaders have become very popular since the release of the Kindle in late 2007, but just like any medium, the creation of digital format opens them up to digital theft and copyright infringement. With a $3 billion market and growing, the digital book market is an ideal place to add protection and secure revenues. We are now expanding our focus to include monetization and protection of online books and are already in discussions with other authors and industry trade organizations about how we can help them.”

The entire publishing industry brought in close to 12 billion dollars in 2012. Sales of eBooks reached $3 billion at the end of 2012, up from $68 million in 2008. Industry experts expect that by 2017, digital will be worth $8.2 billion. This market is ripe for the picking for Rightscorp.

Overall, the publishing industry is not really concerned with eBook piracy. Many of the top companies such as HarperCollins, Hachette, S&S and Penguin have told me that piracy is a minor blip on the radar and does not hamper sales. They all admit it is an extreme minority of tech savvy individuals and statistically people who pirate eBooks tend to be the biggest purchasers of digital content. There has even been some notable authors such as Tim Ferris that harnessed the power of Bitorrent to promote his book, the 4 Hour Chef. He recently said “Torrent conversion is NUTS. Of 210,000 downloads earlier this week, more than 85,000 clicked through “Support the Author” to the book’s Amazon page. We all had to triple and quadruple check that to believe it. 

Why isn’t the publishing industry and magazine companies concerned with digital book piracy? You only have to look at the Apple Newsstand and companies like Comixology. All of the magazines and comics are basically are stored in the cloud and delivered in an app container.  Comixology has spent a copious amount of money on their app to give you Guided View technology and Marvel has added the ability for a comic to be narrated with audio.  You now have magazines, books, comics and other rich media delivered in a way where the user will never see the file locally. This takes piracy right out of the equation.

At the moment, book piracy is dwarfed by that of the music, movie, and game industries. But it is gradually growing. Shortly after the launch of the iPad, TorrentFreak took a look at a small group of popular business titles and calculated that unauthorized eBook downloads on BitTorrent grew by 78% on average–and that was when Apple had sold only about 300,000 iPads.

Rightscorp currently represents more than 1,000,000 copyrights with more than 40,000 copyrights in its system. Rightscorp has already received settlements from subscribers of more than 50 ISPs and closed over 60,000 cases of copyright infringement to date. The company is entering the eBook market with some trepidation, but I can see them implementing a scare tactics campaign and releasing daunting reports to put the fear of god into publishers and authors.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote a lengthy progress report to shareholders at a recent earnings call. The Seattle based e-commerce giant is not known for divulging specifics, whether its revenue or legitimate figures. Instead, they speak in generalities, which makes it quite hard to gauge exactly how healthy their company is. Today, we are going to look at the essential things he talked about, in regards to Kindle, Prime and eBooks.

Bezos said that the company is “investing heavily on behalf of readers,” and he pointed to such 2013 achievements as the launch of the new, high-contrast Kindle Paperwhite, the integration of the “very impressive” Goodreads into the first and second generation Kindle Paperwhite, and the launch of Kindle in India, Mexico, and Australia. The company also launched various publishing imprints and fan-fiction service Kindle Worlds in 2013.

Audible is really growing up fast. The company is seeing massive success distributing their content via iTunes to customers on the iPad and iPhone. The ACX community is growing strong, where Amazon connects authors and producers to boost the catalog even further. Jeff called 2013 a “landmark year” for Audible, noting that Audible customers downloaded “close to 600 million listening hours” of audiobooks last year. One of the breakout titles of 2013 was the Great Gatsby, which sold 100,000 copies in the movie tie-in.

Amazon Prime has recently increased in cost from $79.99 to $99.99. There aren’t many new incentives to justify the price increase, but Amazon did mention they are expanding on their Sunday delivery service with the US Postal Service. There are “tens of millions of Prime members worldwide,” Bezos wrote and more than 20 million products that are eligible to be shipped under Prime.

What is Amazon planning for the rest of the year? They plan on issuing 500 published novels via their publishing imprints in the US and UK. This stems from books they bid on at the recent London Book Fair and mandated by senior agents and editors. The company will also release three new tablets and 2 new e-readers towards the end of the year. Amazon also has just commercially released Dash and Fire TV. One of the big unknowns is what they intend on doing with the purchase of Comixology.

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Good e-Reader is proud to unleash the latest feature to our Android and Blackberry App Store, ratings and reviews. This new system will allow users to leave a written review of the app they download and also give it a rating.

The ratings and review engine is a great new feature that is tied to our mobile android app store. Every Time someone reviews or rates an app within our app for tablets/smartphones it is instantly visible on the website. Our main intention was to build more synergy between the mobile client and website.

In the last few weeks we have developed some really compelling enhancements to the Good e-Reader App Store. One of the most recent was out App Notification System, where users can flag apps that are out of date or require a new version. Since that went in, we have had over 1,200 requests pour in. This helps assist us in having a better curated experience.

Ratings and reviews has been a requested feature for quite sometime. We are really proud of the new system. If you notice any bugs or have any questions or concerns, let me know! Check it out, an example of an app with lots of ratings and reviews is Kindle for Android.

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Barnes and Noble has always been an attractive acquisition target for their Nook or bookstore division. In 2011 Liberty Media initiated a powerplay to buy the chain of retail stores, but settled for a 17% stake in the company. They paid close to $204 million dollars for the equity and it looks like they have had enough. Liberty is selling off 15% of their ownership of B&N and will have a paltry 2% left over.

Many online journalists and newspapers have been lambasting Barnes and Noble for over a few years. The company continues to bleed over a billion dollars in their ereader and eBook initiatives. When word of the Liberty selloff happened the B&N stock plummeted by over 10%.

It is hard to dismiss the fact that the college and bookstore chains are very healthy. They continue to generate profit every financial quarter, but management and Nook Media woes continue to garner negative publicity. The lack of a cohesive direction is prompting investors like Liberty to just abandon the sinking ship.

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Michael Tamblyn has been the Chief Content Officer of Kobo forever. He is primarily responsible for publisher relationships, sales, industry relations and has spearheaded various initiatives such as the Magazine and Kids Store. Today, Michael has been appointed President and Chief Content Officer  of Kobo.

Michael have now have an expanded role to play in Kobo’s overall business strategy. As President, he will work closely with CEO Taka Aiki to continue expanding on the company’s eReading service around the world, while driving the company’s success through sustainable and long-term profitable growth. Basically Michael is now second in command at Kobo and will have a strong voice in the overall business strategy.

Michael Tamblyn was one of the oldest executives at Kobo. He helped launch the Indigo pet-project Shortcovers in 2009 and helped broker the investment money needed to splinter into Kobo. He has been the voice of Kobo at all major publishing events, such as Book Expo America, IDPF, Digital Minds and many other conferences all over the world.

Congratulations to Michael for his elevated role at Kobo. He is one of the most approachable guys in the industry and honestly is enamoured with reading in all forms. He is also a most dapper dresser and always styles and profiles.

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Apple has been running their Higher Education Reseller program in Canada for the  last few  years. The essence of the reseller program is to give discounts to University and College bookstores to stock iPads, Mac Computers, Apple TV’s and accessories.  Apple has confirmed to Good e-Reader that bookstores will no longer be able to order products effective April 27th 2014.

Much to the Universities chagrin, students are buying Apple products directly from Apple or other secondary markets. The schools don’t have a super wide selection of different configurations and most students buy their devices before they leave home. Apple-subsidized on-campus stores are basically financially unfeasible in Canada.

Students will benefit in the short-term with many schools having a veritable fire sale of existing stock. Mac Computers, iPads and other big ticket items will be sold at cost. Universities have confirmed to Good e-Reader that they are trying to get rid of everything as soon as possible, before new products are announced.

Apple will continue offering their Higher Education Reseller Program in the United States for the foreseeable future.  Top universities account for a substantial part of Apple’s quarterly iPad and Mac device sales.


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The dedicated e-reader market is shrinking and the companies heavily invested in this space are diminished from the boom period of 2011 and 2012. e Ink is the primary player in this sector, their screen technology can be found on the Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Sony readers. Chief Financial Executive Eddie Chen recently told investors that e Ink’s revenue is expected to plunge 10% on the next earnings call.

E Ink has been seeing a cumitive decline in sales as their primary customers get more heavily invested in tablets. This has warranted a restructuring of their business and North American operations moving to a singular building.

The company is still heavily invested in the e-paper space, with 80% of their revenue still deriving from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. Taipei-based Horizon Securities analyst Stanley Hsu said “shipments of e-book devices reached a peak of 20 million units in 2012 and then fell to 16 million units last year.”

One of the ways e Ink intends on turning things around is via the red hot mobile phone industry.The company began shipping e-paper products to Russian smartphone vendor Yota Devices last quarter and is hooking up Onyx with their e-Paper Android phone.

e Ink continues to make most of their money from royalties, based on the sales performance of mainstream e-readers. They have also raised capital from new investors in Taiwan and even received an income tax refund.

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Mar
28

Readmill Acquired by Dropbox

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Readmill is a Berlin based Startup founded in 2010 by Henrik Berggren and David Kjelkerud. The company launched a simple e-reading app for iOS and Android that allowed people to buy eBooks from publishers such as Penguin, and engage in a unique social atmosphere. Today, the company has announced that it has been acquired by Dropbox and will be joining their team.

One of thing things Readmill did to separate themselves from other e-reading apps out there was to add a social layer. In February 2014 the company announced an update to its app that lets users make mentions to their friends, giving them the ability to highlight titles and pull direct quotes from the book, even if their friends are not currently engaged in the book. By using the Twitter-like at symbol, users can highlight passages, send them to a friend, and even include a note. The recipient can respond, of course, and a genuine conversation about the book can actually take place. The app also allowed you to upload ePub books to your account through the website and then sync your library to your mobile device.

In a statement, Readmill said “As of today, it is no longer possible to create a new account, and on July 1, 2014, the Readmill app will no longer be available. For the next three months, our first priority is to help you transition to other services and get back to reading. All of your books and reading data are available for export in multiple formats. Our team will be joining Dropbox, where our expertise in reading, collaboration and syncing across devices finds a fitting home. Millions of people use Dropbox to store and share their digital lives, and we believe it’s a strong foundation on which to build the future of reading. We’re delighted to work alongside this talented team and imagine new ways to read together.”

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Mar
27

RIP Diesel eBooks

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Diesel eBooks has been selling digital content for the last ten years. They have seen the industry grow from simple PDF file sharing to the boom period of 2011. The company is unable to compete against the juggernauts of the industry, such as Amazon, Apple, B&N and Kobo. Diesel has announced that starting April 1st, the store will close.

Diesel eBooks originally launched in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2010 that they dramatically revised the website, and made it accessible. Diesel introduced social elements, a better search engine and the ever popular ‘Deal of the Day.’ One of the biggest deals they signed was with publisher Macmillan, who contributed titles from Lora Leigh, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lisa Kleypas, Robert Jordan, Orson Scott Card, Robert A. Heinlein and Jonathan Franzen.

In a statement on their online website, Diesel stated “Diesel eBooks will be closing at the end of this month. It’s been a great ride! We’re exploring our options – eBooks are still in the infant years and there are many opportunities opening up now and in the future. We want to thank you for being such loyal customers. Understand this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t see Diesel in another form in the near future. IMPORTANT: you must download your eBooks here by month end. Downloads will not be possible on April 1st.”

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Kobo has never had a stellar customer service record when it comes to support for their digital bookstore or their line of tablets and e-readers. This is starting to change as the Canadian based company is putting a heavy priority on developing new technologies and changing the way they go about solving customer issues.

International expansion has been the primary focus at Kobo for the last few years. Their template is making agreements with the largest bookstores in the country to get the hardware in the hands of serious readers and strike publishing deals. Kobo customers statistically buy four books a month from the online bookstore.

The Kobo expansion into international markets has subsided and they have recognized that customer service often played second fiddle. Marc Hollenberg is the current VP of Customer Care at Kobo and has been on the job for six months. His focus is aligning the various hardware, software and book departments into a unified customer service department. “It’s much more cost effective to keep customers than it is to acquire new ones.”

One of the new initiatives Kobo has developed is a platform called Virtual Que. This allows people to fill out an online form, such as what device they have, where they purchased it from, nature of the problem and their Kobo account. They can talk to a live agent or instead of waiting on hold, get a call back. This saves time, because the agents have all of the customer data and don’t have to spend the first few minutes of the call confirming a million details.

Technical problems with tablets or e-readers used to raise customers dander. Often, the first point of contact was the Tier 1 representative, who was able to solve most common problems. If the situation was not something that could be fixed, Tier 2 agents would call the customer back. We have heard many stories about calls never coming or customers being given the runaround, when it came to returns or warranties. Marc is trying to change this by “eliminating the tier agent system; all agents are now equipped with the same tools, which has significantly reduced the need for another agent to intervene.”

Marc mentioned that “Kobo has included customer experience as a key strategic pillar, and all departments are aligned with this priority.”

I think Kobo is in the position where they have expanded into almost every major market with a localized bookstore and the ones they haven’t can still easily buy books. With more than four million titles in their library and millions of users all over the world, retaining those customers is a huge priority. This has been challenging for the Customer Care department because they have to deal with a myriad of new and existing languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, German, Japanese and a ton of others.

During the year you can expect the customer service program to get more refined. If you have had an issue in the last year, drop a comment below! Kobo will be dropping by to address specific customer issues and listen to feature requests.

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When it comes to bestseller lists, the average reader will base their decisions on what to buy through them. The New York Times started to include ebooks in print and online editions back in 2011 when the Kindle and Nook first became popular.  The dominant force in generating bestseller lists is Nielsen BookScan, who harvests their data from major online booksellers. Many of the top newspapers in the world, such as the Wall Street Journal, use Nielsen’s book data in their own lists. Sadly, Nielsen is furthering faulty sales data from online sellers and is abusing the public trust .

Nielsen BookScan gleans its online sales data from companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million.  The offline data comes from a myriad of non-traditional bookselling outlets such as big department stores or supermarkets. Nielsen condenses the information and then publishes it to their affiliate list, such as major newspapers, and  then back to the online retailers.

So how exactly is Nielsen providing faulty sales data in their reports? The crux of the issue is authors using services such as ResultSource to inflate their sales figures, effectively buying their way onto the bestseller lists. Since authors do this over a period of a few weeks, it provides falsified data  to Nielsen and then they distribute it worldwide.

Mark Driscoll pastors a large church in Seattle and recently paid a marketing firm more than $200,000 to get his book onto the New York Times bestseller list. The scheme included hiring people to purchase 6000 copies of the book in bookstores, then ordering another 5000 copies in bulk. They even made sure to use more than 1000 different payment methods, so Nielsen BookScan couldn’t track all the purchases back to a single source.

Soren Kaplan, a business consultant and speaker, hired ResultSource to promote his book, Leapfrogging. Responding to the WSJ article on his website, Kaplan breaks down the economics of making the list. “With a $27.95 list price, I was told that the cost of each book would total about $23.50 after various retail discounts and including $3.99 for tax, handling and shipping.  To ensure a spot on The Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list, I needed to obtain commitments from my clients for a minimum of 3000 books at about $23.50, a total of about $70,500.  I would need to multiply these numbers by a factor of about three to hit The New York Times list.”

Amazon bestselling Author  Norm Schriever explained on a basic level how all of these companies operate.  “The formula is simple – pre-order enough of your own books from the right book stores (albeit at a discount) and you will rank high enough to show up on the list.  Then you can re-sell the books to recoup some of your costs.  To avoid transparency, the firms break up the orders into purchases from smaller corporate entities with different names.  It might cost you $50,000-$80,000 to get on the Wall Street Journal’s list, and triple that to be in the big-daddy NYT list.”

So it should now be obviously quite clear that some authors are buying their way onto the bestseller lists. Book sales are the main component, but Amazon is now employing other factors such as book reviews.  Todd Rutherford ran a website called GettingBookReviews.com that reviewed books for $99.99 a pop or arranged 20 reviews for $499 or 50 reviews for $999. He would post them on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booke websites to help authors get noticed. It certainly helped indie darling John Locke, who ordered 300 reviews and went on to sell over one million ebooks on Amazon. Before this website was shut down, it was generating $28,000 a month from authors looking for a competitive advantage.

So how many books do you need to sell to get on Amazon’s bestseller list? Normally you need to get between 500 and 1,000 sales of your book within the first few days following its release to make it to the top 100. If you’re really ambitious and your aim is to hit the Top 5, you’re going to have to be a lot more aggressive in getting higher sales numbers. It seems that a title in Amazon’s top five averages 1,094 print copies sold across all channels, including other retailers, on a typical day. Amazon controls close to 70% of the US eBook market and 30% of selling physical books.

Authors who are abusing the bestseller lists use the above methodologies. They understand the prerequisites of what constitutes a bestseller from the online merchants and brick and mortar stores. Since Nielsen pulls its data primarily from these two companies, their data is false on a regular basis. Many authors can then add the term “bestselling author” to every book they publish and will automatically garner more attention than someone else without the credentials.

Is it legal to buy your way onto the list? Of course, all it takes is a few hundred thousand. If your goal is to be a professional author, this can be seen as an investment into your future. It might even be a really good idea to start your own real world botnet of people willing to buy other authors’ books. Either way, the very definition of a bestseller list is being bastardized and it’s becoming increasingly harder to trust indie authors who are often the most guilty parties.