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Jan
28

Txtr goes Bankrupt

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Txtr is based in Berlin Germany and has been in the e-reader and e-book business for quite sometime. Sadly, their entire business model is not viable and they have officially gone bankrupt.

Txtr originally burst onto the  international scene in 2008 with plans to capitalize on the e-reader boom.  Production and design issues led to their first device never being released. The company flipped gears in 2009 and started doing development for online digital publishers and traditional book sellers. In 2010 and 2011 they quickly became one of the largest companies outside North America developing whitelabel e-book ecosystems. The company’s portfolio includes clients such as Vol Retail and Weltbilde, who is the largest EU book retailer.

Txtr got a much needed injection of funds in 2011 when 3M wanted to get involved in the digital library space.   The 3M relationship with Txtr goes beyond the obvious financial benefits of being a partner with a large multinational conglomerate, whose presence is felt in many different technology sectors.  When Txtr secured the initial funding from 3M they had toured the company’s headquarters in Minnesota and were blown away by how the research and development aspects of the company was handled.

Txtr and 3M worked together very early on developing the 3M Cloud Library App and  e-reader solution for libraries to loan out to their patrons. The relationship between these two companies really helped 3M quickly become a major player in the industry, giving Overdrive and Baker & Taylor a run for their money. Two years ago 3M suspended their relationship with Txtr and started doing all of their app development in-house.

In early 2013 Txtr bet the farm on the Beagle, a low cost e-reader that was designed to pair via Bluetooth to  your smartphone and send content directly to your device. The intention behind this product was to forge a relationship with Telecom companies and offer the Beagle for free, as part of an incentive program to sell more smartphones and give users a reason to upgrade.  Txtr could not secure any meaningful partners and tried to sell it themselves. Users did not embrace this five inch reader and this was one of the final nails in the coffin for them.

The founders of Txtr formed a new e-book start-up called Blloon that is being marketed via a series of apps in the United Kingdom. Customers purchase credits to read a certain amount of pages in a book, rather than buy the book themselves.  Blloon has a number of publishing partners such as HMH, Open Road Media, Allen & Unwin, Diversion Books, Lonely Planet, Profile, RosettaBooks, Faber Factory, Guardian Books, and Workman Publishing.

Selling e-books directly to customers and developing whitelabel solutions for other companies is not a viable way to stay in business anymore. Not only has Txtr gone bankrupt but UK supermarket chain Tesco has just announced they are also shuttering their online bookstore.

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BookBaby-logo
Since the original innovations in digital publishing and self-publishing first came along, there have been a few upgrades and features added to the concept, but nothing that really shook up the process, at least not in the same way that self-publishing originally turned the publishing world on its collective head. But a new program from ebook and print distributor BookBaby stands to be the first true game changer for indie authors since the recent revolution took off.

While there’s nothing inherently amazing about print-on-demand, being able to combine print-on-demand with a far reaching distribution program is. Authors who currently use CreateSpace–arguably the most trafficked POD service for self-publishing–really only have the option to list their physical books on Amazon, the CreateSpace e-store, and a their own blogs if they choose to fulfill the shipping options themselves. While there is a free expanded distribution option with CreateSpace that at least makes it possible for libraries and bookstores to stock the titles, it sees limited results for most authors.

BookBaby’s new program will distribute self-published print-on-demand titles to retailers like Barnes and Noble through their website (with the potential due to sales and customer requests for in-store sales), Amazon, Powells, NASCORP, Ingram Network, Baker & Taylor Network, plus up to another 150 other outlets.

This program is an add-on to their existing print services, and only requires a one-time minimum order of 25 copies of the professionally printed book. While ebook conversion and distribution is available, it is not required in order to take advantage of the print-on-demand option. That means an author can still offer his ebook on Amazon at his own terms and under his own name, as well as take full advantage of Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program and its benefits, while still offering his print edition through the other networks.

The best part? One of the chief concerns that prevents bookstores from carrying self-published works is the inability to return unsold titles, even at the author’s cost. BookBaby’s program will allow these outlets–from the local indie bookshop to Barnes and Noble’s physical locations–to return unsold books for a full refund, while still not incurring any cost to the author. BookBaby will absorb the cost of the refund.

“This is different from any other Print On Demand program out on the marketplace,” said Steven Spatz, BookBaby President. “Self-published authors deserve to have a place on the book store shelves around the world, and our program delivers the maximum exposure through retail stores and wholesale catalogs.”

Unlike many companies who offer publishing tools for indie authors, BookBaby does not take an additional royalty on each item sold. The full remaining percentage after the retailer’s cut goes to the author. There are metrics involved in factoring the royalty on the print-on-demand titles, but they are comparable to other distributors in the industry.

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If there was every any doubt about the need for authors and publishers to distribute their books abroad, a new report on book consumption in China may have just put those thoughts to rest. While China does boast the largest single-country population on the planet, those numbers translate into an incredible amount of sales within the various provinces.

What is more interesting about the report was the breakdown by genre within the different regions, as well as the accumulation of where books are being bought in the highest numbers. One particular province, for example, bought more books than the combined sales of sixteen other provinces. Capital cities of the provinces and different universities in various provinces were also examined to discover the overall rate of book buying and the genres that sold the most copies in each location.

According to an article on the findings for AnhuiNews.com, “Chinese people purchased 33 million books via dangdang.com in 2014. The top three provinces for book consumption are Guangdong with 16.89 percent, Beijing 11.39 percent, and Jiangsu 7.01 percent. They are followed by Shanghai 6.45 percent, Shandong 6.23 percent and Zhejiang 5.71 percent.”

While this report took into account the total book buying habits of consumers, ebooks also saw a spike in consumption.

“E-book consumption has increased dramatically along with the development and popularization of smart phones. The ratio of e-book sales to hardcopy sales rose from 10 percent to 30 percent in 2014. The top three sales regions are also the biggest e-book markets: Guangdong, Beijing and Jiangsu. It has become popular for readers to read and buy e-books by mobile phone. In 2014, 60 million e-books were downloaded, which is equal to 20 percent of hardcopy sales. That figure is 10 percent higher than that in 2013.”

This news should serve as a conversation starter for authors and publishers–especially smaller press publishing houses–who have yet to explore the options of international distribution, an important market option considering the lack of available English language content in direct proportion to the numbers of English speakers in many of these countries.

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The entire notion of Netflix for e-Books has caught on in a big. A few years ago many publishers were resistant to the entire idea and gradually they have all come around. Oyster is one of the leaders in the field of e-book subscription services, where users pay a low monthly fee and get access to thousands of digital books they can read at their leisure. Today, the company is proud to announce that they have reached an agreement with JK Rowling, to have the entire Harry Potter saga available.

For the longest time Rowling was heavily resistant to the idea of digitizing her titles. The main problem was control, she did not want an established publishing company to take a percentage of each sale and wanted to market the books herself. This led to the creation of Pottermore, the only place online where you can buy the digital editions of every Harry Potter book ever written. One of the things that drove its success was that every title was DRM-Free. This allowed readers to easily transfer them to their smartphones, tablets or e-readers and not have to use 3rd party tools or utilities. The Pottermore initiative was spearheaded by Charlie Redmayne and his efforts were such a resounding success that he was soon tapped to be the next CEO of Harper Collins UK.

When Oyster launched in 2013 one of their top ten searches every single month were the Harry Potter books, now the wait is over. All seven main Harry Potter ebooks and three Hogwarts Library eBooks are now available.

Oyster’s Reader Themes will be replaced by “House Themes,” with designs inspired by Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, and readers can tap the Sorting Hat icon to have one chosen at random. The Oyster Review will also be dedicated to Harry Potter from Jan. 28 – 30, featuring unique editorial content celebrating the series, commissioned and authored by Oyster.

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Draft2Digital has announced that self-publishers who use their service have a new distribution channel. The US company has ironed out a new agreement with Tolino, a German based online bookstore.

The Tolino Alliance was formed in 2013 and their mandate was to combat Amazon in Germany. This marked the first occasion that  Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Club Bertelsmann, Deutsche Telekom all banded together to forge a series of e-reading devices and launch an online bookstore. Not only are books and readers sold all over Germany but recently they expanded to Belgium via Standaard Boekhandel.

It has been said that Tolino controls  42% of the German e-Book market, which is the third largest English-language e-Book market in the world.  Draft2Digital currently has a catalog of 40,000+ books, which makes it a minor player in self-publishing.

Many American authors are pleased at the new distribution channel. In order to enroll your books there is a big red button that will add your titles to Tolino all at once, which makes things easier than doing it one by one.

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Tesco and Kobo have come to terms on the Blinkbox Books business unit. Customers will be able to transition all of their past purchases to the Kobo ecosystem and have the option to buy new e-Books from Kobo in the future.

Blinkbox will be emailing their customers in two to three weeks  with a unique code and a link to a specially created Kobo registration page – You will need to click the link in that email where you will be able to transfer your blinkbox Books library to Kobo.

The existing Blinkbox Books app will be discontinued within a few months, once the majority of customers have transferred their past purchases to Kobo.  In the future, you will need to install the dedicated Kobo app if you want to make new purchases. A firmware update will be sent off to Hudl tablet owners removing the Tesco store and automatically installing the Kobo version.

Kobo has done quite well for themselves over the course of the last few years by taking over the e-book business from companies that went under. Last year Sony closed down their longstanding Reader Store and transferred all past purchases to Kobo. This was a boon to the Canadian based company because it added over 100,000 active customers who started to buy e-books from Kobo, instead of Sony. The same thing is happening now with Tesco and their Blinkbox Books platform.

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indie-authors
In some ways, the current state of digital publishing is even more mysterious to indie writers than when the doors first opened on publishing a handful of years ago. With so many more options than the first wave of publishing revolution, even seasoned, published authors may find some of the new options and features a little daunting.

Two of the many reliable, on-going sources of information will be staging their monthly online events today with topics aimed at furthering the careers and success of self-published authors.

The first is the Alliance of Independent Authors’ monthly “Ask ALLi” roundtable with guest experts Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author who was named one of The Guardian UK Top 100 Creative Professionals in 2013, will share insights into the current state of self-publishing with author, ALLi director, and sought-after industry expert Orna Ross. Together the pair will take questions and offer tips and solutions.

Later tonight, the weekly Bibliocrunch Twitter chat #IndieChat will take place at its usual time, only this week’s guest is far from usual. One of the top issues that continues to plague indie authors isn’t in the writing, editing, or publishing side of the business, but in the marketing and promotion aspect. Tonight’s #IndieChat guest is Shari Stauch, founder of Where Writers Win, a company dedicated to working with authors with a spectrum of budgetary allowances to offer every type of promotion service, from outright media campaigns to simply building their websites.

Participation in both events is free and simple. For the ALLi event, simply sign in to join the Google Hangout by following THIS LINK. The event kicks off at 11am ET/4pm GMT. For the #IndieChat hosted by Bibliocrunch, simply sign into your Twitter account and follow the hashtag at 9pm ET. Remember to include the hashtag in your tweets to join in the conversation.

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Tesco has announced their intentions to close their digital e-Book platform at the end of February. The supermarket chain had been in covert negotiations with Waterstones, but the two sides could not agree on a purchase price.

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “We have taken the decision to close our e-book service blinkbox Books. We’ve learnt a lot since launching the service and whilst we saw encouraging levels of take up, we believe that we can do more for our customers by focusing on our core business. The service will close by the end of February.” The spokesperson added: “Our focus now is on the colleagues affected and our customers.”

Tesco had been operating their online bookstore since March 2014. They tried to promote their new business unit to their established base of shoppers, leveraging their loyalty cards to get discounts. Not only could customers buy e-books on their website, which included a book blog, but also via their dedicated Android app. This app was available via Google Play, but also came pre-loaded on the Hudl line of budget tablets.

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Many people skip a generation before buying the latest and greatest Apple product. The S line of smartphones tends to get lost in the shuffle between major updates in technology. With the advent of the iPhone 6 Plus, the question is, is it good for e-reading? Today, we look at the iPhone 5 and 6 Plus and put them side by side showing the exact same content. This should give you an indication on how both devices handle manga, comics and e-Books. If reading is important to you and you tend to be invested in the whole Apple ecosystem, you don’t want to miss this!


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When the digital revolution kicked off, it sparked a wave–for better or for worse, depending on which supporter or critic you ask–of self-publishing opportunities that many were quick to take advantage of. But there were key groups who were left out at first, namely children’s book authors, graphic novelists, photo array creators, and similar content developers. But thanks to companies like Blurb, Draft2Digital, Story2Go, and many more, there are now opportunities for a wide variety of publishing types.

This has led to an increase in interest in private self-publishing, or a model of publishing in which an individual simply wants to have a professional-looking print or digital edition of a book that will not be listed for major sale. While outlets like CreateSpace function to list a professional-grade print copy on Amazon’s retail website, others like the addition of print services from Nook Press simply make print-on-demand copies available for the author to purchase.

A recent article for Economic Times highlighted the need for cookbooks to have a publishing process, as more and more people are sharing their old family recipes within their group of relatives, and are looking for a professional option. While church cookbooks in particular have long been a fundraising option, the results were often shoddy plastic spiral bindings between two pieces of card stock, while the books themselves had to be ordered in minimum shipments of bulk that the organizations then had to turn around and sell at an astounding price, just to make a return.

With print-on-demand, though, not only is the option available for single-purchase at much lower prices, the option to list the book on sites like Amazon is still there if organizations choose to direct their customers to the retailer and make their royalty that way. Of course, they are also free (and encouraged, even) to order their own copies at a significant savings and sell them at events as impulse purchases.

In the case on the family cookbook featured in Economic Times, the book actually went on to be picked up by HarperCollins India, given that it was a large collection of regional favorites and nothing else like it was available at the time. The publisher has gone on to actively seek out other cookbooks for the same reason.

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One of the early adoption markets for tablet use, K12 digital textbooks, and a thriving e-commerce site to offer ebooks was India, but recent reports have shown somewhat stagnant responses, which experts have attributed to a lack of reliable wifi and internet connectivity throughout the country, as well as concerns about posting credit card information on unreliable digital infrastructure. But a new multi-billion dollar initiative from the Indian government in conjunction with a major telecom provider may change all that with the institution of free wifi in 2,500 cities across the country.

The Digital India project will create some 50,000 to 60,000 hotspots in various cities, and offer citizens data plans through telecom-provider BSNL. These data plans, which will function in much the same way that consumers currently subscribe to data plans, will offer the free data packages, with the option to purchase additional data each month after the free threshold has been reached.

According to an outline of the project, the goals include:

  • Broadband highways to connect all villages and cities of India
  • Everywhere mobile connectivity; wherein mobile coverage will be provided to every nook and corner of India
  • Public Internet Access Program wherein internet accessibility to the web will be provided at subsidized rates (example public WiFis)
  • eGovernance in every government department, wherein 100% paper-less environment will be encouraged
  • e-Kranti, wherein government services would be electronically delivered
    Information for All policy (which includes provisioning of Right to Information using the Internet as a medium)
  • Electronics manufacturing
  • IT for Jobs
  • Early harvest program

How does this affect the publishing industry? Nearly all sectors of publishing have seen lagging adoption–slower than predicted, at least–due to concerns of connectivity. While educational initiatives have put devices in place, retail websites like Flipkart and Amazon India have introduced easy ebook purchasing, and even major self-publishers have brought the platform to authors in India, the lack of internet connection has been blamed for disappointing results in publishing.

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The digital revolution and its subsequent self-publishing hey day have perhaps sparked more change in literature and publishing than any event since Gutenberg started tinkering, but for all of the great talk of “equalizing” and breaking down barriers, what industry watchers were really referring to was text-based novels. A number of demographics in the publishing business were left out, such as comic book creators, graphic novelists, children’s book authors, and more.

But as startups began to recognize the self-publishing and digital platform spheres were overloaded with options for authors, a few other companies began quietly meeting the needs that other companies had overlooked. One such market was the image-heavy ebook space, where books had to be converted into apps for consumption in various operating system-specific app stores rather than sold through e-reading sites like Amazon or B&N.

Story2Go, first interviewed by Good e-Reader at Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013, launched at the time with an inexpensive iOS app that allowed authors and creators to essentially build their ebooks with simple drag-and-drop and uploading features, then rely on the bigger guns to actually distribute the book to a variety of app stores. While the process of creating the file isn’t entirely intuitive–this is no “Children’s eBooks for Dummies” level of process–there are clear-cut instructions at each step of the way to help authors along.

For a limited time, the Story2Go app is free in the Apple App Store, and despite the time that the company has producing and distributing books on behalf of authors, the price to distribute is still only a one-time $99 fee for the first platform, and $149 for multiple app stores.

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Many publishers often think their current Digital Rights Management solutions are enough to combat e-book piracy. This is why the vast majority end up using Digital Watermarks or Adobe DRM in order to make it hard to upload material you have purchased to file sharing websites. Rightscorp, likely the biggest anti-piracy player in movies, music and television shows told Good e-Reader that “we estimate that there were 500 million e-Books distributed in the United States on peer-to-peer networks in 2013 and this will grow to 700 million by 2018.”

Rightscorp has developed 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. In April 2014 they made the company decision to market their services to the publishing industry and actively go after eBook pirates.

Business is booming for Rightscorp right now. The company has just announced that it has closed over 170,000 cases of copyright infringement to date, up 40,000 since November 2014, representing an approximate 30% growth within a 2 month period. They have received settlement payments from subscribers of more than 200 ISPs and has approval to collect on over 1.5 million copyrights.

We are firing on all cylinders and have been able to consistently generate growth on many of our operational metrics,” said Christopher Sabec, CEO of Rightscorp. “The latest count includes more than 1,000 cases closed on the Comcast and Google Fiber networks, which control the largest markets in the U.S. It seems clear that the entire industry is now beginning to recognize our solution as the most effective in preserving the rights of copyright holders – artists and content owners. We will continue to work hard to protect those who create and own intellectual property.”

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 to any discernible degree. 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.

Sales of eBooks reached $3 billion at the end of 2012, up from $68 million in 2008 according to a recent article posted onYahoo! Finance. The article also cited that Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, said that “Kindle owners buy more books now than they did before they owned an e-Reader”. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates “consumer eBooks will drive $8.2 billion in sales by 2017, surpassing projected print book sales, which it thinks will shrink by more than half during that period.”

Rightscorp has not seen the traction in the e-Book space as they have with other media. The company has told me that “While Rightscorp has closed some cases with e-Books, we do not yet have large catalogs of e-Books like we have with movies, television and music.”

This goes to show that publishers believe in the power of DRM to such a large degree that they don’t really care to go after e-book pirates at this stage in the game.  They are more concerned with Amazon having too much power in e-book sales and distribution and trying to find alternative avenues to generate revenue, such as  e-Book subscription websites like Scribd and Oyster.

Categories : E-Book News
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