Archive for E-Book News
Kobo is beginning to feel the pinch of prospective lower profit margins in Canada. The Canadian Government is forcing them to renegotiate contracts with all of their major publishing partners. Kobo sees this as being “Devastating for the company” and will relegate them to “an ineffective competitor.”
Two weeks ago, the Commissioner of Competition in Canada mandated to Kobo that it had 40 days to re-negotiate contracts with Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Hachette. Immediately the publishers starting mailing letters to Kobo, demanding their existing contracts be augmented or cancelled completely. Complex contract negotiations take time, and Kobo may find themselves being unable to sell thousands of titles to customers in Canada. In contrast each publisher in the United States DOJ settlement took 16 months each.
The US Justice Department has been running a very high profile case with Apple and the top 5 major publishers. All of the publishers settled out of court with specific agreements. Most of the exact proclivities of the publishers settlements were varied and not consistent, none were publicly available. Kobo is contending that the DOJ lacks jurisdiction in Canada and any settlement in the US, is not binding, because no one knows exactly what they were.
Kobo first started implementing agency pricing with publishers in 2011. The essence of agency was to have eBooks sold at a common value. Normally, the publisher sets the price and Kobo gets 30% of each book sale. If the publisher price matches the book against another site, Kobo would still get the same commission, but at a reduced rate. Each publishing contract is negotiated separately, some adhering to the wholesale model and others agencies, or a combination of both.
A new term most people have not heard of before is called “Agency-Lite.” These agreements arose after the settlement agreements and final judgements that transpired in the US. The essence of Agency-Lite is that allows the publishers to set the price, but allows Kobo to diverge from the sale price. One of the conditions entail the discount cannot exceed the total margin that the retailer earns from annual book sales, this is called the “discount pool.”
When Kobo first formed their company, they abided by the wholesale model, which was tremendously unprofitable. They had lost millions in their first few years trying to compete against Amazon, Sony, Apple and Barnes and Noble. Kobo contends that the Wholesale model is not indicative to an online environment of price matching algorithms.
The Canadian government is now forcing Kobo to iron out new contracts with Hachette, Macmillan, Harper Collins and others. If they can’t do it in 40 days the existing ones will be void and Kobo will be forced to remove thousands of books from their bookstore. Without a full catalog of eBooks from all of the Canadian publishers “Kobo would be an ineffective competitor. Customers choose eBooks and e-Readers based on the breadth of their catalogs”. If Kobo lost any of these “they would cease to be a credible player in the market place.” Conversely, if Kobo accepts the amendments and shifts it operations to Agency-Lite, it will suffer unrecoverable losses.
If you live in the USA, you will likely know that you would find it difficult to find a Kobo e-Reader available. This is primarily due to when the USA adopted Agency-Lite, Kobo saw its net revenues decline and stopped investing in that market. It closed down its office in Chicago and decided to focus aggressively on international expansion. In a legal filing Kobo said that the reason Barnes and Noble and Sony’s business collapsed in the US was directly attributed to the abolishment of agency pricing. Now, we might see Kobo abandon the Canadian market, just like they did in the USA.
The only play Kobo has in a legal battle against the Canadian Government is to play the jurisdiction card. The publisher settlements and the abandoning of Agency pricing was purely based in the United States. The Justice Department and the settlements have no legal jurisdiction in Canada. If Kobo fails to make a case and have to absorb profit loses by switching to a hybrid of wholesale and agency-lite it looks likely Kobo will kill their Canadian ebook business. They certainly won’t be able to compete against Amazon and Apple. I mean they could, but it wouldn’t be worth it anymore.
Subscription ebook reading is nothing new. Companies like 24Symbols have been offering Netflix-style reading since as early as 2010, all vying for an all-you-can-eat approach to reading. It’s been difficult to get publishers on board with the concept without a clear structure for royalties, and it’s been equally difficult getting readers to shell out money to consume books when they’ve been happy with their reading options all along.
Now, a new company is launching with a new approach to the subscription model. Instead of trying to target readers with a “read everything you possibly can get your hands on in a month” idea, Rooster is looking at reading as something that consumers can do in bite-sized pieces whenever time allows. To that end, the company is building a platform that offers serialized content optimized for smartphones, for a much lower price than the subscription big boys.
Rooster’s co-founder and editorial director Yael Goldstein Love spoke to Good e-Reader today about the appeal of serialized subscription reading. While much of the content is currently in the public domain or sourced from the company’s other site, Daily Lit, a different model is underway in which classics are paired with contemporary content.
“We’ve been working directly with authors to try to create content that is specifically tailored for the Rooster experience.”
The shorter length of Rooster content is perfect for smartphone reading during snippets of time, something that speaks to the company’s model. Rather than luring consumers with a model that affords them the ability to read mountains of content for one price, Rooster’s clientele is expected to read serialized and novella-length works for far less than the cost of a typical ebook subscription plan.
Rooster is working with publishers to stock novella length or shorter novels, especially titles that just–for one reason or another–just don’t take off in the way that had been anticipated.
“Every publisher has this list of books that they loved so much, that they thought were just going to find an audience and be loved by so many people, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t pick up or find its audience. It’s just this gem that goes unread. Those are the things we want to find, those books that deserve a second chance.”
While Rooster is in beta at this time, full launch of the site is anticipated for March 11. Users can sign up now for a free two week trial at the company’s website at readrooster.com.
Canadian based Kobo was one of the first e-reading companies to have an app on the Windows 8 App Store. They actually developed it about a year before the official launch of the OS and beta tested it extensively. A few months ago Kobo pulled the app down from the app store, because of a lackluster UI and uninspiring features. Today, Kobo has reissued the app and its now available to download.
The new Kobo Windows 8 app will allow you to buy eBooks directly through the app. It also allows you to pin books you have purchased directly to your home screen, to allow easy access to your eBooks. Once you start reading a book, your exact page is synced across all of your devices.
“We are excited to give our Readers access to their Kobo eBooks on the Microsoft Windows ecosystem,” said Kobo’s Sameer Hasan. “Just like Kobo, Microsoft understands the importance of providing users with greater mobility and new ways to enjoy their favourite content. The Kobo for Windows app is designed to make Kobo content come alive on Windows devices.”
For the next few weeks to celebrate the apps launch, users can get a free copy of “Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Command” by Paul Garrison. It might be worth it to download it just for the free Book!
Finally, Kobo has announced they are developing a standalone app for Windows Phones. Likely it will be for the most current OS and not be backwards compatible with say Mango. There are no details on functionality or when it will come out, but likely soon.
One of the big quandaries of buying eBooks is trying to discover new content, without having to break the bank. Sure there are a number of book discovery sites out there that will email you a bunch of cheap Kindle books, but few sites have a wide appeal. eBookSoda has just launched a new free subscription that lets you deal with many different companies and has a huge genre list of specific titles.
One of the more compelling aspects of eBookSoda is the ability to choose what eBook store you want to deal with. Their selection is basically the whose who of the digital book industry, such as Amazon, B&N, Google, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords and iBooks. There are also over 30 different genres you can select, this will deliver a curated list of titles that are exclusively relevant.
Indie authors often find themselves getting lost in the shuffle. Sure you might have written a good book, but how do you make it stand out in a crowd? Soda has a new system where indies can submit their books into the daily newsletter, to put their titles in the hands of readers who really like a particular genre. To submit your titles is currently free, but they may start charging in the future as it begins to get traction.
Facebook Paper is an iPhone only app and has proven to be quite popular to consume news items and check out your friends feeds. The app has received a big update today that puts the emphasis on the sharing of digital content.
Previously, if a news item caught your fancy you could only share a link on your timeline. Now, you have the ability to share it via Facebook Message, email or text message. This will encourage more articles to go viral, because you have many options to share the story. Speaking of options, there is new language support for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and a host of others.
This app is flagged US only right now, but we do have a tutorial available for people who want to install it.
Academic publishers are finding that there’s strength in numbers when it comes to launching digital content for classroom settings. At a SXSWEdu event today, McGraw-Hill Education and StudySync announced a partnership aimed at bringing language arts materials that are aligned with the Common Core Standards to digital environments for teaching.
“With information available at the swipe of a finger, education in the 21st century must engage students to inspire academic excellence and foster creativity. To be successful, students must aspire to higher levels of reading and writing, learn how to build knowledge to support their opinions and think critically as they parse the plethora of material so simply at their disposal,” said Robert Romano, CEO of StudySync. “Our partnership with McGraw-Hill Education serves to address those essential changes in education by bringing together substance and form to produce the best teaching resources possible to help students achieve success in college and career.”
Under the terms of this new collaboration, McGraw-Hill will not only distribute the StudySync platform to its secondary school members, but will also work with the company to generate even more engaging digital learning content. But one of the features that does cause StudySync to stand out in an already crowded marketplace of companies who believe they can do it better is their Blast content, which sends out a weekly writing assignment based around current world events; students around the world can then connect to discuss the writing assignments.
According to Peter Cohen, president of McGraw-Hill School Education Group, “StudySync is a standout product that successfully integrates the latest innovations in technology with effective curriculum and pedagogy for an era of more rigorous educational standards. Combining it with our products and services will help educators not only boost engagement but drive results.”
A number of companies have tried to combat the growing problem of ebook discovery by building daily email lists and book websites, landing pages that are supposed to draw readers in order to discover the latest in publishing. Companies like Libboo have recently launched a daily feature based on traffic generated called The Midlist, designed specifically to highlight worthy books that are getting some traction, while not necessarily being top of the list bestsellers.
Today, Simon&Schuster announced its own version of a discovery mailer called Off The Shelf, but one thing that makes S&S’s site standout is its publisher-agnostic focus. By highlighting a variety of books instead of just their own catalog of titles, the publisher is taking a rather selfless move in the direction of connecting authors and readers.
“While it is very easy to learn about the latest, hot new must-have books, we know from experience that many readers are more interested in what’s relevant to them regardless of its moment in the publishing cycle,” said Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO of Simon & Schuster, in a press release. “With Off the Shelf, we aim to bring attention to books that were bestsellers you might have read or wanted to, books that you may have missed in the often overwhelming number of titles that get published every year, or simply books that have touched us as readers, left an indelible mark on us, and become friends that we revisit often. These are books that are often spine out in stores, buried on a home bookshelf, or deep within library stacks. We hope that shining a new light on them will help others discover a passion for them as well.”
While more than just a mass email featuring a book or two, Off The Shelf will also offer book reviews, guest posts, author interviews, reading lists, videos, and more. For more information or to sign up for the site’s email list, go to OffTheShelf.com.
Self-Publishing authors have received another boost to their credibility, with the Writers Union of Canada voted in favor of opening up membership to them.
The Writers Union of Canada was founded in 1973 and describes itself as supporting “the country’s authors by advocating for their rights, freedoms, and economic well-being.” Its members are professional writers who must have published at least one book.
“The membership and volunteer leaders of the Union have taken a long, hard, and responsible look at the state of the writing and publishing industries worldwide,” noted current TWUC Chair, Dorris Heffron, “and we have concluded there is a population of highly professional self-published authors who would be well-served by membership in TWUC.”
It looks like the Union will be getting together very soon to hash out the details on what it means for self-published authors to enter the union. We do know that self-published books presented by authors applying to join the Union must demonstrate commercial intent, and must be peer reviewed before being forwarded to the membership committee of the Union for approval based on existing criteria.
What is the peer review process for self-published authors? Will existing unions friends and family get the first crack at joining? Looks we will have to wait and see.