Archive for Digital Publishing News
Amazon has penned an open letter on their website which spells out their mentality in approaching the ongoing Hachette eBook dispute. They primarily contend that selling eBooks at the $9.9 price point sells more copies and garners more money than titles that retail for $14.99.
In a written statement Amazon said “A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.
It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%.
Amazon also made the keypoint of exactly how royalties are pointed to be shared between Hachette and the Seattle based company. “While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.”
In closing Amazon said “Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.”
BookPal has just launched a brand new wholesale eBook operation, that will allow schools, government and businesses to buy titles in bulk.
When you purchase eBooks from BookPal one of the ways to read them is via the BookPal app. It is a fairly robust with the ability to make highlights, annotations, look up a definition and share excerpts with Facebook or Twitter. In order to customize the overall e-reading experience users can adjust the font size, brightness, margins or initiate night mode. You can download the apps for free for iOS and Android.
There are over 50,000 titles available at launch, which come from publishers such as Perseus Books Group, Harvard Business School Press, Gallup Press, Workman Publishing, Storey and Open Road Media.
Amazon has announced a new partnership with Alloy Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. The two sides will publish digitally at first, gauging the market to see if a print run is warranted.
The new imprint, which will also use the Alloy Entertainment name, will publish young adult, new adult and commercial fiction titles. Three titles were released for the Kindle today, as part of the partnership; Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand, Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter, and Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart.
Warner Bros is hoping to leverage films, television and media properties it owns to develop original works for the Kindle. Leslie Morgenstein, president of Alloy Entertainment, said: “One of our strengths is working with talented authors to create and develop properties that have mass entertainment appeal. This program is an exciting extension of our business and will allow us to leverage Amazon’s ability to distribute to an incredibly diverse and broad readership.”
“Alloy has a tremendous track record developing stories, like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, that our customers love,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President of Amazon Publishing. “We’re thrilled to promote these books from Alloy Entertainment with our Powered by Amazon program. It’s a great fit.”
Warner Bros and Amazon have been working together for quite awhile with the Alloy properties. Kindle Worlds, the officially sanctioned fan fiction publishing initiative has been using Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip girls as properties for aspiring writings to craft original stories, set in that particular universe. The solidification of Alloy and Amazon might see some of these authors get proper publishing contracts, but likely we will just see movie and television show tie-ins.
Scholastic has announced in a very covert manner that they are closing the Storia eBook store, as we know it, and transitioning it into STORIA SCHOOL EDITION and Family Streaming Edition. Instead of selling eBooks directly, they intend on adopting the uber popular Netflix for eBooks ideology. What happens to the hundreds of thousands of books already purchased? How does this new subscription system actually work and is it a viable business model?
Storia was Scholastics catch all system for purchasing eBooks on an individual basis. Parents, schools and kids would use the reading app for iOS, Android and the Kindle Fire to purchase books on-demand. In order to preserve your existing content, you have to open the titles by October 2014 or they will be unable to be read them.
You can think of Storia eBooks as dedicated apps, similar to how digital magazines work on the Apple newsstand. If these apps require an update between now and August 2015, they will likely break the book. This is the primarily reason why Scholastic has stealthy offered a refund policy for any books purchased via the Storia platform. They aren’t really doing a good job making this publicly known, as there is a simple one paragraph blurb on their main website about it.
Scholastic confirmed with Good e-Reader that “Our customer service lines are fielding calls, facilitating refunds and assisting schools in transitioning from individual books purchased by teachers to streaming for an entire school. The advantage is easier access and that each ebooks is accessible by more than one child at a time (rather than buying multiple copies) which is a huge plus for the classroom; teachers are also learning about the new student progress tracking features and they like them.”
Scholastic Storia for Education was first announced in April 2014 and will be formally launched at the beginning of September. It is a system that has 2,000 eBooks and will be delivered in a subscription format. The exact rate that schools pay are dependant upon the size of the student body and how much content they intend on downloading. I have heard that the average rate is between $1,500 and $2,000 per year. This system might be beneficial for schools as they can deliver multiple copies of the same book, without having to buy 30 individual copies.
It will likely be awhile before parents and children themselves can opt into the new subscription system. Scholastic has confirmed with Good e-Reader that they are developing a Family Streaming service that is currently in the Research and Development stage. Therefore the sales structure has not been announced as single title or subscription or both. There has been no ETA given for the official launch, but likely we will not hear about until next year. The main priority is to get the new Education system up and running.
Basically, what Scholastic is doing is shuttering selling eBooks directly to schools, parents and kids. Instead, they are adopting a more financially lucrative subscription based system, which alienates families. Why have a parent buy a few titles a year, when you can have steady income generated from hundreds of schools in the US all paying a few thousand dollars a year.
My biggest concern with Storia technology being integrated into Storia for Education is awareness. Parents and Kids may casually use the app on their tablet or phone to buy and read books. They certainly don’t look at the official Storia website or read publishing geared websites like Good e-Reader. What happens when a new 39 Clues book is announced and little Jimmy is a huge fan of the series. They open the Storia app to try and buy it, only to realize all singular title purchases have been suspended and some of their past purchases don’t even work anymore.. Parents will likely be wondering why some titles work and some don’t and blame their device. In the end, they might decide that Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Kobo might be the more viable method to purchase future titles. After all, they don’t change their entire eBook selling paradigm at the drop of a hat.
Buying that special someone a book for their birthday or Christmas is on the decline in the United Kingdom. The Nielsen Book Survey has just decreed that the share of books bought as gifts fell from 24% to 22% – equating to a decrease of nine million books.
Jo Henry, director of the research, said that the decline in giving books as gifts would be of particular concern to publishers and called it a “concerning trend” which has also been seen in the US. Gifts accounted for 22% of book sales in 2013, down from 24% in 2012. She is calling for more research to find out the reasons why people are not buying books as gifts as much anymore.
Nielsen also provided data on continuous climb of the eBook industry, as a whole. The survey found that digital eBooks now account for 25% of all book purchases (up from 20% in 2012) and that their growth is at the expense of paperbacks.
There is no true path of ownership when you purchase eBooks, digital comics or manga from online retailers. Instead, you are merely granted a license and if the store closes you will lose everything. In the last few years we have seen BooksonBoard, Diesel eBooks, FictionWise, JManga, Scholastic Storia, and the Sony Reader Store all shutter their doors. Do we need consumer protection laws to protect our eBooks?
When Amazon sells you an an eBook for the Kindle they have the right to remove it at any time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is referenced and Amazon can take your books away if it finds you’ve been naughty.
Being naughty is fairly general and can apply to a myriad of factors. A Norwegian women tried to purchase a Kindle book from the UK bookstore. Under Amazon’s rules, this type of action is barred, as the publisher seeks to control what content is read in which territory of the world. Her account was promptly deleted and all content lost. Should you attempt to break the DRM security block or transfer your purchase to another device, Amazon may legally “revoke your access to the Kindle Store and the Kindle Content without refund of any fees.”
In the past, Amazon has remotely deleted purchased copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from customers’ Kindles after providing them a refund for the purchased products. This was primarily due to a rift with the original publisher and rights issues. Commenters have widely described these actions as Orwellian, and have alluded to Big Brother from Orwell’s book.
When eBook stores decide they cannot stay in business anymore they allow for a small window period that allows you to backup the purchases and store them locally. If you are an average reader who might check the website or a use a reading app periodically, you will likely miss out the opportunity to save your books.
Backing up your books presents a wide array of challenges when you want to read them in the future. When Sony or Diesel eBooks closed, the content was incompatible with the Kindle. Instead, readers had to find a third party reading app for iOS or Android, which are not heavily promoted. If readers have an e-reader such as the Kobo, Onyx or Icarus, they can use Adobe Digital Editions to transfer them over. This program is not the most intuitive and may present a barrier to the non tech savvy.
There are only a few online bookstores of note that do not sell their books using Digital Rights Management (DRM) and allow for a somewhat clearer path of ownership. TOR books is a science fiction and fantasy imprint and they made the call to abandon DRM and sell books directly to customers. Pottermore came into existence as an avenue to use digital watermarks as a way to sell Harry Potter books, and not restrict how a user can read them. Self-publishing companies such as Smashwords leave it up to the author to decide if they want to employ DRM or not, but when you buy a Smashwords title from iBooks, it does have DRM. Theoretically, what would happen to your purchases if Smashwords went out of business?
According to the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers, adult trade ebooks brought in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2013, up 3.8% from $1.25 billion in 2012. Ebooks now account for 27% of all adult trade sales. With this much money at stake and more customers adopting them, consumer protection for digital books is going to be needed.
Australia, Canada, Europe, UK and the United States do not have any current protection laws for digital books. They leave it up to the publishing industry and resellers to determine how best to run their own businesses and to develop their own licensing agreements. With millions of eBooks, comics and manga being lost after purchasing on a worldwide scale, something needs to be done to augment the First Sale Doctrine, Copyright Software Rental Amendments Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act to protect customers from companies indiscriminately removing purchased content or to save it from a company going out of business.
In a move that industry watchers are already calling a direct competition to Amazon’s purchase of book discovery platform Goodreads, TechCrunch has reported through an anonymous tip that Apple has bought Boise, Idaho-based BookLamp, creators of the Book Genome Project discovery site. The site, which pairs readers with books based on the “DNA” of books, meaning an in-depth analysis of the language in titles readers have read, offers suggestions for new reads based on what users have already enjoyed.
According to TechCrunch, things became a little cryptic in April of this year, at least on BookLamp’s end. Once the anonymous tipster let it be known that Apple had completed the purchase for between $10million and $15million, which includes all of the technology and the manpower within the company. Facebook (of all places) provided some more of the clues, as key team members from BookLamp still listed Boise as their places of residence but had multiple FB posts that were tagged from the Cupertino, California, location.
As to how this is going to help Apple take down Amazon, as some reports are already claiming, that remains to be seen. Amazon purchased Goodreads over a year ago, with some estimates on the cost ranging from between $150 million and over one billion dollars. While the move has been good for Amazon, for Goodreads, and even for readers, it doesn’t appear to have been a game changer within the bookselling industry, at least not in the way that these kinds of dollars reflect.
One thing that has come out, though, is a renewed focus on Apple’s part in terms of selling titles through its iBooks platform. With agreements already in place with publishers and even Smashwords, and with the iOS8 update coming this fall that is supposed to make book purchasing even more streamlined, incorporating a search feature for right-fit books makes a lot of sense.
Of course, as Apple explained to TechCrunch, the company has a long history of buying smaller tech companies and then not discussing the details. Apple could just as easily have plans for the BookLamp technology–say in the area of app discovery–that doesn’t have much to do with bookselling.
Verdict: 5 Stars
This book was fun for the very reason that books are meant to be read: it provided an escape into a world of “wouldn’t it be great if I could, but I never will.”
In Freudberg’s title, main character Martin Muntor made it a goal early in life to excel, not in the psychotic driven way of a man who cannot fathom failure, but more in the way of a man who had early examples of how not to live, and rose to overcome them. He takes good care of himself, works hard at a good job, and basically enjoys life.
Until he is diagnosed with lung cancer thanks to secondhand smoke from a childhood surrounded by smokers, only to follow that up with a doomed marriage to a smoker.
Everyone wants to point fingers at lung cancer patients as though to ask, “What did you expect to happen?” But in Muntor’s case, he was neither a smoker nor able to escape from an environment filled with the toxic stuff. Given that the book is set in 1995 when smoking was more prevalent and the effects of secondhand smoke were downplayed, the man is a casual victim who refuses to go down without a fight.
Instead of a medical fight, though, Muntor becomes a man on a mission, hellbent on taking down the tobacco industry, serial killer-style.
Much in the same way that we can enjoy TV shows like Dexter for both the sick pleasure of watching the bad guys suffer and the “it’s never gonna happen but what if” plot, Freudberg’s story line is both a sick pleasure and a fun pseudo-warning to the corporate entities who hurt the population in the name of twisted greed. I’d love to see what the author comes up with in addressing Monsanto, but that’s for another book.
There were places where the writing dragged for me, but I am admittedly not a massive fan of the genre. I can appreciate good writing and a highly unique plot, though, both of which the author provided in abundance.
Find Virgil is available now.
Scholastic, the award-winning powerhouse in children’s publishing, made a announcement today that their ebook reading app Storia would be closing, making way for a bigger focus on its Storia School Edition subscription reading program. In a cryptically worded graphic on their website, a lot of unanswered questions were alluded to, particularly that the ebooks parents have already purchased for their young readers as part of the platform “may soon no longer be available,” and that consumers “may be able to continue using your eBooks by making sure to open them on a bookshelf at least once by October 15.”
While that may leave consumers with even more head-scratching than understanding, a more confusing offer of a refund on all titles purchased is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, parents who act by
August 1st can have a refund on their ebooks, but if they don’t ask for a refund, their content might still work.
The industry has been very forgiving of Scholastic’s recent drops in revenue by acknowledging that the company simply can’t produce a Hunger Games trilogy every year. Just how significant was the series for Scholastic? Given that at one point all three books were in the top spots on various bestsellers lists and that the movie franchise is still in production, it’s easy to see what a monumental percentage of revenue it was. At the same time, Scholastic can’t continue to rest on its publishing laurels and excuse a drop in revenue due to not producing another blockbuster. A recent shareholder presentation outlined the areas where improvement has been steady, as well as sources of decrease.
All in all, it means that Scholastic is smart to fund its drive in a market where it’s possibly most well known with consumers, and that’s in education. As ebook subscription models continue to gain ground with consumers, keeping a student-centric model in motion through classrooms instead of only through private consumer subscriptions seems to be the smarter approach. With the recent announcement of Lee Peters as the new SVP of Strategic Marketing in the education division, there are already new directions underway for increasing the brand and putting Scholastic content where people expect it: in the classrooms.
UPDATE: The deadline for refunds is NOT this Friday, but rather August 1st of next year, and the family streaming service that was announced last April is still available. We apologize for any panic this may have caused.
Apple is looking to beat Amazon at the eBook discovery game with the acquisition of BookLamp. The Idaho based startup has focused their company primarily on analytics services that is specialized on big data.
BookLamp’s claim to fame was the Book Genome project, a book discovery engine that analyzed the text of books to break them down by various themes and variables to let readers search for books similar to books they liked.
BookLamp also provided content analysis services to a number of e-book distributors like Amazon, Apple, and other publishers, screening books for categorization and providing a platform for publishers to screen manuscripts.
The one thing that BookLamp did really well was look at a specific title and extrapolate the underlying metadata. As you can see from the Stephen King example above, it categorizes all of the main themes of the book, to help with indexing and organization in the bookstore.
Apple has not formally announced the amount of cash it has ponied for the company, but the rumor was between $10 and $20 million dollars. BookLamp was actually in negotiation with Amazon prior to the sale to Apple, but the talks fell through.
What will Apple do with BookLamp?
Aside from the clientbase that BookLamp already has, there are a number of things Apple could do with the technology. The first would be to develop a competitor to Amazon X-Ray, which would give you the people, places and things in a book, but also major themes. It would also assist in vetting out titles that would not be appropriate for kids or young teens.
Apple iBooks currently does not really focus on recommendations or personalization. They mainly have a series of top lists, editors choice, or recommended titles from Apple curators. Some of this data is changed based on geography, for example in Canada you would see a number of French language titles.
BookLamp technology would allow Apple to give more personalization based on past purchases. This is similar to the type of data Amazon employs and it often leads to more sales, especially if the data could be displayed on the iPad/iPhone, but also via Email.