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Kindle Scout introductory image Amazon

Amazon has just taken the beta sticker off their new author and reading community, Kindle Scout. The essence of this program is to give authors a chance to pitch their upcoming books to the public and readers cast their vote on what ones get published.

Amazon is throwing their marketing and financial efforts behind authors to publish their next book exclusively through them. They are giving an advance of $1,500 and a 50% eBook royalty rate to authors who successfully woo the crowd to get behind their next title. The book will then get hyped with Amazon, and likely the books in the early stages of the Scout lifetime will get a ton of media attention.

“We’re always looking for new ways to add meaningful connections between readers and authors,” said Dina Hilal, General Manager of Kindle Scout. “We’ve been delighted by the submissions so far and are excited to give readers a say in which books they want to read. We also hope they’ll have a lot of fun getting to know authors and their work.”

I think Scout is a really great idea and will assist in a huge problem in the publishing world, the dirge of indie author titles. Every week, thousands of horrendous books are released that pollute the digital ecosystem and hinder the eBook discovery process. In all honesty, indie authors are destroying literature as we know it. Scout attempts to vet out the wheat from the chafe, and hopefully we will only hear about the best of the best and not indie generic title number 19281210912.

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The New York Times is betting the future of newspapers is not paywalls or digital subscriptions, but charging on a per article basis. The Times recently invested in Netherlands based startup Blendle to usher in a new area.

Blendle recently attained three million dollars from the NY Times and and German media giant Axel Springer. The company launched in 2013 and has been billing themselves as the iTunes of news. This has been a hot topic for quite a few years already, and this pay-for-what-you-read model is a huge step forward.

The Blendle service has attracted over 130,000 registered users in just over a year. The essence of the service is to partner up with hundreds of Netherlands based news agencies and pay them a percentage of every article that is read. Each news item price is established by the publisher, so the pricing is not consistent, but everything is really cheap.

The money that Blendle has raised will be used to establish a presence in other countries. They want to include more agencies and sources to be able to have a true European reach.

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apple patent

Newspapers have two forms when it comes to digital reading, apps and replica editions.  Apple is betting on the future of flexible displays with strong media enhancements for sharing the stories that matter the most.

The device – first spotted by Patently Apple – could be used to try and replicate the experience of reading a printed newspaper or magazine but on a large flexible digital display that could be updated periodically and wirelessly.

Apple indicates in the patent filing that its digital periodical is double-sided, so users can read both sides of a magazine. It’s also flexible, so it can be held like a newspaper. The filing shows that the screen can be rolled up for portability.

Apple is betting that flexible screens are the future of news and but this technology can also be used for advertising in their retail stores. Instead of posters and cardboard cut outs, the digital paper can be employed to connect up to Apple servers and dynamically change the content on the fly.

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The Vatican Apostolic Libraryis now digitizing its valuable ancient religious manuscripts and putting them online via its website. All of the content is available for free.

The Library was originally founded in 1451 AD and holds over 80,000 manuscripts, prints, drawings, plates and books printed prior to 1500 AD. The titles are all written throughout history by people who had different faiths or religions, from all over the world.

Not only are paintings, religious iconography and books being published online, but also letters by from important historical figures, drawings and notes by artists and scientists such as Michelangelo and Galileo, as well as treaties from all eras in history.

Finding all of the new digitized material is not easy, the library has a few samples online, but honestly its tedious right now to view the rest. Users have to search the database manually by clicking on each title and scanning through all the pages in each book. By the end of the year, a new rendering engine is going to be implemented with a more robust site-wide searching system.

In order to properly digitize the rest of the library, the Vatican is estimating that it will cost €50 million and take fifteen years. They are looking for corporate sponsors and normal people who want to see this work.

One of the ways they are attracting corporate sponsors is to hold exclusive fundraising events. In June 2014 they had one and gave attending guests an exclusive guided tour of areas generally closed to the public, including the Library halls, laboratories and the caveau where the manuscripts are safeguarded, with dinner in the Sistine Hall. They also seeking donationsof €5 to save a single page in a manuscript, while donations of at least €1,000 will see the backer included on the official supporters list.

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Simon and Schuster has just reached a new agreement with online bookseller Amazon, and empowers the publisher to once again establish their own prices on eBooks. The deal has been in the works since July of 2014, and has remained under the radar, as the Hachette saga has taken center stage.

One of the benefits of the new contract is that the royalties that authors earn will remain the same. It also allows S&S to determine the pricing of eBooks and print titles, but allows Amazon to give discounts as they see fit.

Simon & Schuster titles also will be well promoted on Amazon’s website, a source close to the situation has said. The contract that had been in place previously was set to expire in two months.

Amazon on Monday evening confirmed the deal, adding, “The agreement specifically creates a financial incentive for Simon & Schuster to deliver lower prices for readers.”

Over the course of 2015, Amazon has new contracts to negotiate with Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and HarperCollins. The Hachette dispute has been ongoing since May of 2014, and has still not been resolved.

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The Polish eBook industry is starting to see some significant gains and rose 28% in 2013. There are some differing opinions on the exact figures when it comes to digital publishing. Biblioteka Analiz research exclaims that eBooks are valued at $16.3 million USD, while Pricewaterhouse Coopers is more conservative at $8 million USD.

Piotr Kubiszewski is an independent expert in digital publishing in Poland since 2005. He notes that there is only 40,000 eBook titles currently in circulation and 80% of new books that come out are digitized.

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Publishers are not overly concerned with digitizing their backlist titles right now, because there aren’t enough sales to make it financially viable. In 2013 the book selling industry was valued at $800 million USD, and only around $8-%16 million USD derived from eBooks.

On a consumer level, one of the barriers of eBook adoption is the VAT. Currently in Poland if you buy a digital title you are paying 23%, meanwhile print books are only taxed at 5%. The lower tax bracket on physical titles might be one of the deciding factors when libraries, schools and academia are establishing book acquisition budgets, it simply goes further with print.

One of the bright spots that have really increased the viability of eBooks is the unilateral acceptable of watermarks by the publishing industry. This is a stark contrast to North America, which bogs readers in a mire of Adobe DRM. In North America, the average digital reader is locked into dealing with one particular ecosystem, because of the way they package their encryption. You can buy from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Kobo, but their formats are not interchangeable. You simply can’t buy an Amazon title and read it on your Kobo.

Polish readers benefit tremendously from watermarks, because it does not restrict or hinder your ability to load the book on your e-reader, smartphone or tablet. No third party programs are needed and this makes the entire process more intuitive and encourages the loaning them out to your friends. Piracy is actually reduced because of watermarks, because there is a clear path of ownership and removing the marks is an arduous process, few practice.

The Polish eBook industry is dominated by a number of homegrown companies that have managed to flourish in the last five years. Virtualo.pl, Publio.pl, Nexto.pl, Woblink.com and eBookPoint.pl are the current industry leaders. Piotr’s research has noted that when it comes to eBook sales, 90% stem from EPUB or MOBI, while PDF files only account for 10%.

Amazon currently does not have an official presence in Poland, but that has not stopped the vast majority of readers from using them regularly. Kindle adoption is at record highs, 84% of all book sales from Publio.pl and 73% of Virtualo.pl are sold in MOBI, which is the main Kindle book format. It is very apparent that people are loyal to the Amazon brand over e-readers that are more common in that part of the world, including Tolino, Pocketbook, or Onyx.

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Newly appointed Kobo President and Chief Content Officer Michael Tamblyn took to Twitter today to post a rambling diatribe on why Amazon might not be the best call for indie authors to self-publish with. If you have a bone to pick with our favorite e-commerce whipping boy, you might take a depraved amount of glee from the complete notes below.

1) Indie authors take note: Amazon is, among other things, a machine designed to optimize product prices in order to gain share and sales.

2) Amazon, like every retailer that reaches a certain size, turns to its suppliers to grow profitability by demanding more favorable terms.

3) The Hachette-Amazon fight is an especially public manifestation of that Big Retail process. Nothing new there (Walmart, Target, B&N et al)

4) Some vocal traditionally published authors (but not all) support Hachette and criticize Amazon and…

5) Some vocal independent authors (but not all) support Amazon and criticize Hachette…

6) Defense of Amazon by indie authors makes sense on one level. For them, Amazon is the well-spring, where the self-pub revolution started.

7) But it seems like self-published authors believe they are protected somehow – that what is happening to Hachette won’t happen to them.

8) Some indie authors even muse that the best possible strategy is exclusivity with Amazon, leaving readers on other platforms behind.

9) In the long run, I don’t think that Amazon makes a big distinction between a publisher and an indy author – they are both suppliers.

10) Hachette and the rest of the big 5 sit at the top of a list of suppliers to be “improved” from Amazon’s perspective.

11) Hachette is first because one negotiation with a big publisher makes a lot of bestselling books more profitable. That’s efficient.

12) I don’t think anyone believes that Amazon will stop with Hachette. With a successful conclusion, all pubs will go through the same thing.

13) They will move down the list. Midsized or smaller publishers come next. (Assuming this all isn’t being pursued quietly in parallel.)

14) From Amazon’s perspective, how is an independent author any different than a publisher? Still a supplier, to be made more profitable.

15) The indie author’s situation is most tenuous of all. If >80% of sales come from Amazon, *no leverage when it’s your turn to be “optimized”

16) An indie author, like any publisher, can take her books away if in conflict with Amazon. But it hurts the author *way more than Amazon.

17) A reasonable author response to the Amazon threat wdb: “they won’t need to do that to us. Our prices are already where they need to be.”

18) (Indy authors on Amazon are penalized if their books are too expensive, so that’s largely true.)

19) But that assumes that the Amazon battle is about price. It’s not. It’s about profit. And _any_ supplier can be made more profitable.

20) If indie authors are 20% of Amazon’s total sales, then it’s hard to imagine that indie authors aren’t on that list to be improved.

21) But if the Amazon battle extends to indie authors, authors will have less leverage. Especially if they are exclusive.

22) The mechanisms for the Amazon squeeze are in place, agreements allow it. Self-pub inclusion in Select, Unlimited, KOLL are early examples.

23) Selling other publishers and authors, Amazon can survive without Hachette, but uncomfortably and less profitably.

24) With a diverse base of retailers, Hachette can survive without Amazon, also uncomfortably and less profitably.

25) Both parties having other options is why this dispute wasn’t over in a week or a month.

26) The litmus test for an indie author: could your income survive a conflict with Amazon? If not, it’s worth thinking about how you could.

27) To paraphrase: “First they came for the big New York publishers, but I wasn’t published by a big New York Publisher…”

28) Then they came for the mid-sized publishers, but I wasn’t published by a mid-sized publisher…

29) Then they came for the academic presses…

30) Then they came for the literary presses…

31) Then they came for me.

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Adobe Digital Editions is used by millions of libraries and readers to transfer eBooks to their devices. This can include e-readers, tablets or smartphones. Whenever you add an eBook to the ADE library, information is transferred to the Adobe servers in plain text. The data comprises of your User ID, Device ID, IP address, how long it took you to complete the book and percentage of the book read. Anyone with the correct tools can monitor your reading habits and it doesn’t take much for all of your private information to fall into the wrong hands.

It is important to note what exactly is transpiring when eBook information is sent to Adobe. Many media outlets are incorrectly reporting that all EPUB and PDF books on your computer are being scanned and sent to Adobe. The only books that are affected are the ones you import into  Digital Editions for the purposes of sending to your e-reader, smartphone or tablet.

Libraries stand the most to lose from the Adobe Digital Editions firestorm. Chiefly because unless you use a dedicated app from 3M, Overdrive, or Baker & Taylor on your device, you will end up using it to transfer content to your Kindle, Kobo, or Nook. This is a critical piece of software needed to transfer a book borrowed from the library to their device.

The Amazon Kindle is a bit of a different beast than all other e-readers. infoDOCKET’s Gary Price noted that whenever a user checks out a library ebook on a Kindle device, Amazon gets access to their reading data as well (per the Kindle terms of use). He added that “the dedication and vigilance to user privacy that the public (both library users and non-users) appreciate from libraries is not the same in the digital world (for many reasons) and we need to do more.”

“Sending this information in plain text undermines decades of efforts by libraries and bookstores to protect the privacy of their patrons and customers,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Corynne McSherry wrote in a blog post about the issue.

“People expect and deserve that their reading activities remain private, and libraries closely guard the confidentiality of library users’ records,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “The unencrypted online transmission of library reader data is not only egregious, it sidesteps state laws around the country that protect the privacy of library reading records. Further, this affects more than library users; it is a gross privacy violation for ALL users of Adobe Digital Editions 4.”

An Adobe spokesperson provided the following statement: “Adobe Digital Editions allows users to view and manage eBooks and other digital publications across their preferred reading devices—whether they purchase or borrow them. All information collected from the user is collected solely for purposes such as license validation and to facilitate the implementation of different licensing models by publishers.” Some of these models could include eBook subscription services that pay the author after a certain number of pages are read.

Adobe has announced that they are issuing a patch for the latest version of Adobe Digital Editions. The company noted that “In terms of the transmission of the data collected, Adobe is in the process of working on an update to address this issue.” It is unclear on what they mean, but likely they will try and improve eBook security so that the transmitted data is not in plain text.


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Vote

Indie authors constantly look for ways to make their title standout in a crowded marketplace. Thousands of new eBooks are released every single day and getting readers or developing a core following is great challenge. Amazon is seeking to assist indies with a new program called Kindle Scout.

The premise of Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book receives a publishing contract. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.

Authors can submit their title to Kindle Scout and it normally takes a few days to see if you are accepted or not. What makes me happy, is that there are dedicated Amazon staff that are vetting out titles, to ensure some semblance of quality and control. The eBooks themselves have to be 50,000 words or more in Word format and in addition needs cover art. In order to submit the title to Kindle Scout there are some requirements, such as author bio, a photo of the author, description and a special thank you. The personal message is automatically sent to any reader that nominates your book to get published.

Kindle Scout campaigns last 30 days and if your book gets enough votes, Amazon will give you a $1,500 advance to keep it off rival platforms for five years. They will also lend an assist in marketing the book and this should lead to more sales.

I like the ides of Kindle Scout. It basically is a solid avenue for the readers to decide what gets published. If the cover art or description of the book is sub-par to convoluted, it will likely never see the light of day. Hopefully, the end goal of Kindle Scout is to educate indie authors on what can get funded and what cannot. It could serve as a possible case study to analyze the books that make it, and the ones that don’t. There should be some constituencies.

Major publishers are likely looking at Kindle Scout with salivating eyes. The platform may give an indication of new literary trends and what type of genres are resonating with readers. What is the hot new trend with the hardcore reader that actually takes the time to vote? This type of data is valuable for for an industry that is bestseller dependent and who loves a franchise.

Here is an example of what a Kindle Scout campaign looks like.  Authors who are interested in learning more can check out the Amazon hype page.

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Major publishers are notoriously fickle about embracing new trends and give sloths a run for their money. We have seen this transpire with eBook subscription services and getting involved in digital libraries. The Science fiction community has been one of the most agile, and many companies such as TOR have completely embraced the DRM-Free mentality. Saga, a division of Simon and Schuster has just announced they are also going DRM-Free.

Saga is being billed as an all-inclusive fantasy and science fiction imprint publishing great books across the spectrum of genre, from fantasy to science fiction, commercial to literary, speculative fiction to slipstream, urban fantasy to supernatural suspense.

Saga’s first list will be released next spring with four titles by Ken Liu, Genevieve Valentine, Lee Kelly, and Zachary Brown. The eBooks will be available at all major e-book retailers and simonandschuster.com.

This is a good move for S&S to take a gambit with a new imprint that actually hasn’t sold any books yet. I think the most important aspect of this story is that the publisher is setting up an internal infrastructure to monitor the ramifications of going DRM-Free and how this will effect eBook piracy. Will readers embrace Saga just because its DRM-Free? Will the media give them kudos and endless free publicity like they did TOR? This all remains to be seen.

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Samsung

Samsung has been enjoying the position of being the number one device maker in the world for Android driven smartphones and tablets. They have been enjoying a solid 65% market share of all Android devices sold worldwide.  Given the popularity of their devices they have been really hyping their forays into digital publishing, to bring e-reading to the masses. 

Samsung is serving as the inaugural Innovation Partner at this years Frankfurt Book Fair. They are showcasing the company’s mobile devices and their digital reading capabilities at the world’s largest trade fair for the international publishing industry. It is currently running from October 8th to the 12th.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, Samsung will work with its partners to engage and support both publishers and consumers through a series of events, such as panels and experiential areas. This includes the Samsung Galaxy Studio, where attendees can experience Samsung’s latest mobile devices which represent the next step in mobile lifestyle and culture, such as the Galaxy Tab S, Galaxy Note 4, Gear VR, Gear Circle and the Level series premium audio products.

“As books continue to reach consumers in various electronic forms, we strive to deliver the most advanced and innovative device options that embrace new forms of creative storytelling and content,” said Younghee Lee, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing, IT & Mobile Division at Samsung Electronics. “In that spirit, we partnered with the Frankfurt Book Fair, where we have been demonstrating our commitment to the global publishing industry and our devotion to address the diversifying reading experience, as evidenced in our industry-leading suite of mobile products, led by the latest Galaxy Note 4 and Tab S.”

“The publishing industry is rapidly advancing as consumers move from an analog reading experience to a digital one,” said Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair. “We are proud to have Samsung as our first ever Innovation Partner and are delighted to showcase the way technology is changing people’s lives and the way they consume content.”

Samsung began to focus on digital reading in 2010 when it developed the Readers Hub. This was a dedicated area that made available eBooks from Kobo, Newspapers from PressReader and magazines from Zinio. In 2013 they developed a cool feature called Reading Mode, which adjusts the background color of the tablet for easier reading.

Amazon and Samsung make for some very strange bedfellows, but earlier this year a specialized Kindle app was developed for the Samsung Galaxy S5. This gave new smartphone owners the ability to buy and read eBooks from Amazon. As an added incentive every month 4 free eBooks are made available and readers can select one to read, without having to pay a dime.

One of the largest e-reading partnerships ever struck was a deal Sasmung made with Barnes and Noble. In late 2014 the two sides formally unveiled the Sasmung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK in the United States, the first-ever full-featured Android tablet optimized for reading.

“Samsung understands the importance of digital reading as well as the challenges that face the market, from both a device and content perspective,” said Michael P. Huseby, Chief Executive Office of Barnes & Noble, Inc. “By putting reading first with the Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK, Samsung has responded to consumers in a way previously unseen in the mobile technology industry.”

Samsung continues to develop innovative mobile technology to enhance and refine the digital reading experience. With the company’s Adaptive Display technology, the long challenge of tablet display glare has been solved, making digital reading outdoors and in low light easy on the eyes.

In June 2014, Samsung partnered with Marvel to bring its incredible library of 15,000 digital comics to Galaxy Tab S owners through its Marvel Unlimited application. The two companies are also working together to extend Marvel content into new mediums with premium content on both the Galaxy Tab S and Gear VR.

“At Marvel, we aim to create an incredible digital entertainment experience that duplicates the same joy and emotional connection users feel when reading traditional print content,” said Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment. “Our partnership with Samsung has helped us maintain that level of quality with the ability to deliver our digital comics on innovative devices that not only recreate, but go beyond the colors and quality of print. We are also collaborating with Samsung to take our creative storytelling off the page with exclusive film and virtual reality content that can be accessed on their incredible mobile products.”

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Jeff Bezos is the proud owner of the Washington Post and he is hoping to build some synergy between the newspaper and the Kindle. Within a few weeks a special version of the Post will be loaded on the new Kindle Fire line of tablets. it will offer a curated selection of news and photographs from the daily newspaper in a magazine style format.

According to Business Week the project has been dubbed Project Rainbow and is being led by Kerry Lauerman, the former editor-in-chief of Salon.com. Lauerman joined the paper as a senior editor in July to work on “an initiative focused on the fast-growing mobile readership,” according to a Post press release announcing the hire. Lauerman reports to Cory Haik, the Post’s executive producer for digital news.

Once the new Post app drops on the new line of Kindle tablets, it will also be available to read on the new $79 Kindle and Kindle Voyage. The app will also be ported over to Android and iOS, but users will have to pay a monthly subscription fee to access the content. Kindle owners of course, will get it all for free.

Will a free news app from the Washington Post be enough to convince people to buy the new Kindle Fire tablet? Likely not, the vast majority of newshounds do not pay for news anymore.

americanhorrorstory

There is no denying that people are drawn to the things that they fear watching a horror movie or reading a good book is strangely compelling. According to Glenn Sparks, Ph.D, a professor and associate head of the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University, one reason for the appeal is how you feel after the movie. This is called the excitation transfer process. Sparks’s research found that when people watch frightening films, their heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increases. After the film is over, this physiological arousal lingers. That means that any positive emotions you experience are intensified.

Why are the best horror premises that you have ever heard? If you are in the publishing industry you have often heard countless elevator pitches on the next great horror novel. Authors are always on the lookout for something that inspires them to pen a Kindle Single or a feature length novel. Reditt is riding to the rescue, in an excellent post that entitled “What is the best horror story you can come up with in two sentences“. Here are a few of my favorites.

There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping. I live alone.
I couldn’t tell if the noise was a cry of sorrow or cackle of laughter. Then I realized I was the one making the noise.
I always thought my cat had a staring problem, she always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.
My grandmother told me that it was a gift to see the angel of death in front of people’s houses, to know that he’d be collecting someone there soon. I thought it was a gift too, up until the day I began to see it in front of every house.
I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”
They celebrated the first successful cryogenic freezing. He had no way of letting them know he was still conscious.
“I can’t sleep” she whispered, crawling into bed with me. I woke up cold, clutching the dress she was buried in.
My sister says that mommy killed her. Mommy says that I don’t have a sister.

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