Archive for Digital Publishing News
eBook and digital discovery is one of the most hot button issues facing the digital publishing industry. Many existing publishers and small start-up companies such as BookLikes, NetGallery, Slice and many others are throwing themselves into the fray. To stimulate growth and awareness in a burgeoning sector a group of major media industry participants led by The Perseus Books Group, Librify, BookExpo, The AlleyNYC and William Morris Endeavor will organize the industry’s first-ever hackathon, an ambitious collaborative digital programming event.
The Publishing Hackathon at Book Expo America is inviting digital designers, engineers, programmers, and entrepreneurs to spend 36 hours together in teams to develop new approaches to digital book discovery. The Publishing Hackathon will take place on May 18th and 19th at The Alley NYC, the leading digital co-working space in New York. The participants will be briefed by a cross-section of book publishing leaders, and then will form teams to create apps, websites, programming or businesses that can address the issue of book discovery in this rapidly evolving landscape. At the end of the weekend, a team of judges from publishing, technology, media and venture capital will identify the 3 to 5 most promising finalists from dozens of teams participating.
These finalists will have the opportunity to present at BookExpo on Friday May 31st at 3PM. BookExpo is the largest and most prestigious book publishing event in the U.S. with over 1000 exhibitors from around the world and over 20,000 attendees from all facets of the industry. The finalists will take the stage and pitch their solutions to a distinguished panel of judges that includes Jennifer Rudolph Walsh (head of the Literary Department at William Morris Endeavor), David Steinberger (CEO of The Perseus Books Group and Chairman of the National Book Foundation), Stephen Evans (Director SilverLake Capital) and others.The winning project will receive a $10,000 prize, and the opportunity to pitch their idea at a breakfast meeting with Ari Emanuel, Co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor.
Seems like a solid event if you want to check out what the bright young minds can conjure. Of course, Good e-Reader will be live at this event and bring you some exclusives with the new Hackathon.
The New York Times started to include ebooks in print and online editions back in 2011. The company announced today that it is suspending the inclusion of ebook titles in the newspaper and only posting them on the website. The prices of the ebooks will also not be included going forward, due to the shifting economic landscape of online sellers.
Pamela Paul is the current editor of the Book Review section of the New York Times, a post she only attained in April. She said in a statement, “The ebook list has migrated online, the digital world being its natural habitat. Given the fluid variety of pricing in today’s marketplace, we have also stopped including cover prices on the lists.”
The online version of the Book Review is undergoing a bit of revision and is starting to use a blogging template. Obviously, with any new look, many users are voicing their disdain. There is also a new column called Open Book, which focuses on panels of experts at various book publishing events and quotes from notable books.
Many readers are not quite sure what to make about the Times suspending the ebook bestseller list from the print edition. Some industry experts surmise that this may be a gambit to garner more money via online subscriptions for the company’s Paywall.
The process of reading is undergoing a paradigm shift where kids are starting to read on smartphones and tablets more than physical print. The quintessential bedtime story book is being replaced by dedicated kids apps and Amazon.
A recent report by the National Literacy Trust in the United Kingdom surveyed 35,000 kids, whose ages ranged from 8-16. It stated that 39% of children and young people read on electronic devices every day, whereas only 28% read printed materials daily. The number of children reading ebooks has doubled in the last two years from 6% to 12%.
There is a very strong desire to read on a tablet to satiate young folks’ literary thirst. 52% of respondents said they would ideally like to read on a tablet and 32% said they would much rather have a physical book. Young ladies statistically are enamored with the physical book with 68% preferring the printed page, whereas boys account for a 54% preference.
The research also found that those who read daily on screen are almost half as likely to be above-average readers than those who read regularly in print (or in print and on screen): 15.5% compared to 26%. Those who read only on screen are also a third as likely to enjoy reading (12% compared to 51%) and to have a favorite book (just 59% of children surveyed who read on screen had one, compared to 77% of kids who prefer to read print books).
Obviously tablets present publishers with very unique opportunities to directly appeal to their target demographic. Reading on larger mobile screens tends to be the favorite, with 36% of children using it as their dedicated reading device. Computers still are fairly popular with 23% and smartphones account for 23%.
Major publishers are sparing no expense on investing lots of money into dedicated apps. HMH has pumped out a ton of content, centered around the Curious George franchise. Barnes and Noble has the best developed Kids ecosystem in the world, with books that parents can narrate for their children. Scholastic Storia tends to be very popular with kids, as does the relaunched Reading Rainbow on the iPad.
It’s just a known and accepted fact about the internet that there are trolls everywhere. If you post a video of your six-year-old’s dance recital on YouTube, someone out there invariably will down-vote it and make a rude remark in the comments section. There is almost an air of acceptance about the process, a sentiment that users understand that putting content on the internet opens the door to people hiding behind computer screens and spreading negativity, and there’s not much that can be done about it.
One publisher, however, is taking a stand against what it claims is a troll-like level of criticism from an online grump. The problem is, the so-called grump has spent years collecting and gathering data on the subjects he disparages on his blog, and can fairly-well back up his accusations of less-than-honorable business practices aimed at taking money from scholars at institutions of higher education.
In an article by Jake New for The Chronicle of Higher Education, the plight of one University of Colorado – Denver librarian was exposed. Indian publisher OMICS Publishing Group, who claims to publish around 200 scholarly journals, is suing the librarian for $1 billion and threatening him with criminal prosecution, which they claim under Indian law can result in up to three years in prison.
The metadata librarian in question, Jeffrey Beall, has been featured in prominent journals and newspapers for his work on his site, Scholarly Open Access, which exposes publishers and journals who may be operating under false pretenses or bad business practices. Beall’s site has come to be known as “Beall’s List” within higher education circles for its accuracy and comprehensive depictions of academic publishers.
At the university level, the pressure to publish one’s work is incredibly high, and publishers are available to charge a professor or researcher thousands of dollars just to be able to state that his work is published. Beall has written about OMICS’ practices of using prominent people’s names without permission, their charge of as much as $3,000 to publish one’s research, and hosting sham conferences whose names are misleadingly close to real and prestigious events.
For its part, the publisher claims that Beall’s information is completely unfounded and is suing for the potential damage he can cause their company. The group also claims that under India’s laws, Beall can face a lengthy jail sentence for his “unfounded” accusations; Beall’s attorneys are countering that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt on the part of the publisher, and are taking a stand against the accusations.
Fortunately for Beall, his roles as both the originator of the list and his work as a librarian mean he knows the power of excellent documentation and record preservation, and he counters that he has saved evidence of shady business practices on every publisher he’s ever included on his comprehensive list.
eBooks are on the rise for the entire trade publishing sector, and they tend to net the entire publishing industry with stable growth. A recent survey conducted by Bookstats has stated that ebooks now account for 20% of all books sold in the US in 2012, and in 2011 they accounted for 15%. This equates to around three billion dollars in revenue for the entire digital industry, which is up 44% in 2011. Overall, the entire US publishing industry is thought to have generated $15 billion dollars in 2012.
One of the drawbacks of digital is at the obvious expense of printed books. Over the course of the last few years, publishers have adopted a same day digital edition when the printed version comes out. This has not directly influenced hardcover sales, but trade paperback books are on the decline. When paperback books are sold, they are often at supermarkets or drugstores. It is easier these days to just get the ebook months before the paperback version is released, at a cheaper price.
Audiobooks also saw nice gains in 2012. Revenue was up 21.8% year-over-year to $241 million. This is primary due to large marketing campaigns by Audible and Overdrive and the ability for authors to now self-publish their own audiobooks.
According to BookStats, sales through online retailers rose 21.3% in 2012, to $6.93 billion, while sales through brick and mortar outlets fell 7.0% to $7.47 billion. Obviously, on the retail level there are a lot of indie bookstores closing, and with Borders going out of business, there is a lack of availability in your average small town. Most customers are either borrowing digital editions from the library or via online retailers.
There is no shortage of websites that aim to connect books with readers, and most of them offer some pretty familiar features. Find books, rate books, review books, talk about… books. Occasionally, though, a site comes along whose goal is to bring something new to the book discovery realm.
BookLikes, the Poland-based multi-national site whose eight month beta launch finally went public yesterday, does bring some new twists to book discovery. While still incorporating the same kinds of features that have made sites like Goodreads so popular and well-trafficked, BookLinks offers its users a greater scope by creating book blogs rather than profiles.
“We don’t think of BookLikes as a direct competitior to Goodreads,” explained BookLikes’ CEO Dawid Piaskowski in an interview with GoodEReader today. “Whatever you’re going to do on BookLikes is going to land on your profile on Goodreads soon. We’re just a different type of service. If Goodreads is like Facebook, we’re more like Tumblr.”
To illustrate that comparison, Piaskowski pointed to one popular BookLikes users’ site, HappyBooks. Similar to a blog platform that lets users create their web addresses and incorporate the platform name into the URL, BookLikes users establish actual template-driven book blog pages and write their reviews, host comments about titles, and more. What is somewhat more appealing to users and to readers is the ability to link directly through the blog to the sales pages from various retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and more. As a reader clicks the sales page for a book that a BookLikes blogger reviewed, a portion of that purchase goes back to the book blogger as part of the retailers’ affiliate programs.
Despite being headquartered in Poland for the present, BookLikes has already had an international following, with over 8000 users creating pages from twelve different countries. The global scope of book discovery isn’t all the makes BookLikes stand out, however, opting instead to build itself in terms of keeping up with an ever-evolving publishing landscape.
“We have a strange rule that we will release mew features every Thursday. It’s just something we believe we must do.”
Hachette Book Group has publicized its Q1 financial results and digital is on the rise within the company. eBook sales from Hachette now account for over 34% of the company’s entire revenue stream, and tangible books increased by over 14.9%. These increases were partly attributed to a number of their titles hitting the bestseller list, including James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Brad Meltzer.
Not only is Hachette making strong gains in the digital sector in the US, but its international efforts are also paying dividends. In the United Kingdom, ebook sales now account for over 12.4% of sales, up from 9.5% a year ago.
In France, net sales were up significantly (General Literature up 40%) mainly due to the release of the last two installments of EL James’ Fifty Shades trilogy. In the UK and Commonwealth, sales were down slightly (-0.2%), with strong literature sales in the UK offsetting a challenging bookseller retail environment in Australia and New Zealand.
Hachette is seeing strong growth due to the number of bestselling titles in their portfolio. The company actually leads all major USA publishers in having over 80 titles on various bestseller lists for the year so far. Obviously the company has a sound digital strategy, but one of their architects Maja Thomas, senior vice president of Hachette Digital, announced she was leaving the company.
The Bookseller Industry awards has just occurred in the United Kingdom and Pottermore came away with a huge victory. The Harry Potter focused digital company beat out some hefty competition by Random House, Harlequin, Kobo, Penguin, and Bloomsbury.
The Pottermore strategy as a gateway to sell ebooks has been a bit of a case study on how to start an e-commerce site and maintain control over the entire experience. Normally, books are sold and distributed by the publisher and seldom does the author maintain any control over the companies that send the books to libraries and bookstores, let alone international rights and sales.
The essence of Pottermore was to serve as an online destination for people to buy the entire Harry Potter series and their spin-off books. The crew at Pottermore established their own prices and were not held at gunpoint by any outside publishing interest. The books are compatible with almost every major e-reader and tablet, in Kindle and EPUB formats. The one big factor is Pottermore is hardware agnostic, they don’t lock you into a specific device to enjoy reading the books.
Being able to truly enjoy a book, means that you should be able to load it on your phone, tablet, and e-reader without having to rely on bulky third party programs like Adobe Digital Editions. Pottermore took the innovative approach of ditching Digital Rights Management altogether and instead went with digital watermarks. These watermarks bind the owners information on the cover of the book, putting the onus on them if they decide to pirate the books.
The one thing Pottermore did was adopt the trans media approach, which few companies in the world have been able to match. Not only can you visit their website to buy and read the books, but they made an online world to live out the Harry Potter adventures. Every few months, new content is implemented and young folk can join in picking their House, engaging in wizard duels, making potions, visiting Diagon Alley, and getting up to all sorts of other hijinx.
It is no small wonder that Pottermore won the Digital Strategy of the Year Award in the UK. The entire team has been doing a stellar job in adjusting to the digital space and blazing their own trail.
It’s no secret that newspapers, even those with online subscriptions and digital-only editions, are scrambling to keep both subscribers and advertiser revenue while still producing top-notch content. For institutions like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, turning to digital publishing of long-form journalism and back content may do more for their bottom lines than simply bringing the news.
While both papers and several others have turned to publishers like Vook to release volumes of archived collections in ebook forms, other news outlets around the country are looking at keeping their digital publishing ventures in-house in order to save money and exert complete control over their content.
According to an article by Taylor Miller Thomas for Poynter.org, small circulation newspapers are experimenting with their options in ebooks, and are not limiting themselves to news stories. Some are reviving the tradition of the serialized novel or essay, while offering the complete piece as an ebook of print-on-demand title. One paper even creates its own cookbook based on reader-submitted recipes, which it makes available for sale.
But it’s the long-form journalism that newspapers seem to keep coming back to. Despite the sense that society is becoming reduced to streaming scrollers of news snippets and blaring sound bites, readers of every circulation size seem to be embracing the opportunity to go much deeper into a news item, if the number of outlets publishing long-form ebooks is any indication.
Of course, it’s not only newspapers and regional magazines that are turning to digital publishing to meet a greater need for their audiences while looking for new sources of revenue. Television icon PBS has launched a line of ebooks and print-on-demand titles with MediaShift, with two titles already available and more in the works.
As one newspaper professional pointed out to Thomas, there is not only a sense of urgency in terms of finances when it comes to providing a variety of media for audiences. The real fight is to keep audiences in the first place. Digital publishing allows an outlet or agency’s fans to continue to turn to their trusted sources for a broader scope of news and entertainment. As with all aspects of publishing, the ones who will survive are the ones who can adapt to the climate of technology.
Verdict: 5 Stars
As an entire subset of reading, business books have got to be the most diverse. Titles that promise to reinforce business ideas or shake things up give us new catch phrases like “out of the box” or slogans about colorful parachutes. They seem to develop an almost cult-like following among certain sectors of industry, with well-dressed professionals standing around holding paper cups full of coffee and asking each other, “What do you mean you haven’t read so-and-so? He’s changing the whole paradigm!”
The interesting thing about this business book, though, is that not only does it not force its way onto the scene with catch-phrases, but that its creation was actually born from a whole new attempt to shake things up in one key business: publishing.
Finding the Next Steve Jobs by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was the first title released by innovative self-publishing platform NetMinds. Launched earlier this year, NetMinds brings together authors and industry professionals in a very complex system that lets self-published authors pay a portion of the professionals’ fee, as well as pay them via a portion of the royalties. This method ensures that top talent come to the project, but also that those professionals can build their portfolios with high-caliber projects. One of the immediate differences with this title is the Contributor page in the front cover, which lists the names and roles each person played by collaborating on this book.
Bushnell, who founded more than two dozen companies, is credited with seeing something unique in Steve Jobs and giving him his first real ” shot.” As the author describes in the beginning of this book, he was also very supportive of Jobs’ plans to leave Atari and create a little start-up known as Apple.
One of the things that makes Bushnell’s title, co-written with Gene Stone, so appealing is the high level of interest in the subject. This isn’t some far-reaching book for MBA students to read to “get ahead.” Apart from the international interest in Steve Jobs as an individual, Nolan’s title is actually about finding creativity and not being afraid of it. The author shares anecdotes from his many business ups and downs, while still bringing the subject matter back to creativity and how to ignite it. Whether you’re a CEO of a company or you’re the guy who dumps the garbage can in the CEO’s office at night, finding new ways to think about situations and how to put those ideas into practice is a skill that all people can stand to embrace. This isn’t a business book, it’s a “being alive” book.
Online educational provider Coursera was developed through partnerships with more than sixty universities, allowing the company to provide high-quality instruction from world-class speakers and experts. Now, Coursera is working on bringing educational materials to its students via the Chegg e-reader platform at a more affordable price structure.
Through agreements with top publishers like Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, and more, Coursera is working on creating free digital textbooks for its course participants for the duration of the course; participants who want to own the digital title for referencing without a timeline will be able to purchase low-cost ebook editions. The first titles to be released under these agreements, Writing II: Rhetorical Composing by Susan Delagrange, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, Kay Halasek, Ben McCorkle and Cynthia Selfe, and Introductory to Physics I with Laboratory by Michael Schatz, are both books that course students may wish to refer back to as they continue with future courses in line with those topics.
“We recognize the importance of forging partnerships with other stakeholders in the education space in order to help students overcome barriers and evolve the way they access education,” said Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, in a press release. “By collaborating with publishers, we are able to provide access to some of the world’s best resources to Coursera students, supporting our goal of learning without limits.”
The ebooks will be available for viewing and referencing through the Chegg browser-based platform, meaning streamlined device compatibility with any internet-capable device or computer.
Some of the frustration surrounding ebook lending and digital borrowing may be getting a little help, as Spanish company 24symbols announced today that it has partnered with mobile device company Zed for global distribution.
Described as the Netflix of books, 24symbols allows users to read content from a wide variety of publishers on internet-based computers and devices, alleviating much of the concern over piracy since no content is downloaded. Publishers are paid per page view of the book, allowing them to feel confident that their interests and the interests of their authors will be met.
24symbols also supports a social reading experience, allowing users to find friends and compare books, comment on each others’ titles, and more.
Now, mobile device company Zed has signed on with 24symbols to increase global use of the platform; the agreement also gives Zed a 32% ownership of the company. Zed has a customer base of over 400 million users through its agreements with more than 200 service providers and carriers.
“This agreement gives 24symbols a new distribution channel through the carriers,” said 24symbols’ CEO Aitor Grandes in a statement. “From now on, we are going to be able to reach millions of users worldwide that can only access premium digital content through their carriers”.
Subscription-based ebook borrowing has received a slow adoption in many places, and publishers have shown their concern over ensuring that their return on the borrowed titles is worthwhile. At the same time, customers have countered that per-book rates aren’t ideal, given that book length and reading speed vary so greatly. 24symbols’ model is aimed at meeting the needs of publishers and readers by tailoring the payment structure to consumed content.
As new data leads industry experts to believe that tablet and smartphone sales are soon going to outsell desktop computers by two-to-one, market watchers are paying close attention to how consumers are going to process information. With tablets slated to outsell this year alone and smartphones predicted to reach sales in the two billion unit range by 2015, publishers are faced with having to move into a more intentional digital advertising focus or risk losing ad revenue.
A report by Monotype Imaging’s Brand Perfect initiative, Adventures in Publishing – The New Dynamics of Advertising, outlines how publishers can expect to more effectively reach consumer readers in order to hold onto ad revenue that keeps their publications afloat.
“Many brands know that they need to be developing campaigns that work across multiple devices, from the desktop, or even the TV, down to the smartphone,” stated Neil Ayres, editor of BrandPerfect.org, in a press release. “To support this, brands need adaptive media that enable them to reach consumers directly. This will only happen if more publishers invest in websites that satisfy readers regardless of what devices they use to access them.”
According to Brand Perfect, “Of the 78 consumer-facing English language publications detailed in the report, 83 percent have at least one app available in the Apple® App Store, Newsstand app or the Google Play™ service. Of these, 65 percent have published iPhone® apps and 40 percent have published apps for the Android™ platform. All 78 publish on the iPad® device. However, only 25 percent of these were optimized for any form of tablet display, with most publishers using scaled-down versions of their desktop sites instead. Of the German titles reviewed, 10 percent are optimized for tablets. Publishers are continuing to find their mobile footing, as documented in the report, with 38 percent of publications offering an iPhone-optimized option.”
For more information on the cross-platform concept aimed at digital publications, go to BrandPerfect.org.