Archive for E-Book News
Publishers and distributors of e-books in Japan have voiced concern over the proposed hike in consumption tax from the current 5 percent to 8 percent by April 2014. However, while the taxation would apply to ebook publishers and distributors in Japan, the same when sourced from overseas vendors enjoy immunity from the tax net. As such, retailers such as Amazon or Rakuten’s Canadian arm Kobo are not required to pay consumption tax in Japan. This as per the local players are allowing the overseas vendors undue benefit vis-à-vis their domestic counterparts.
As per the current legal system, ebooks purchased and downloaded from servers outside of Japan are deemed transactions, and are hence considered to be outside the purview of consumption tax. It is only the items and services purchased in Japan that are subject to paying consumption tax.
“Online shoppers are sensitive to prices. One of the reasons that foreign vendors gained a large share in the Japanese market was the unfair environment regarding the consumption tax,” said an executive with bookstore operator Kinokuniya Co.
This, as per Daiwa Institute of Research Holdings Ltd. is also leading to the Japanese government losing out billions of yen in revenue every year. The loss is pegged at a substantial 25 billion yen in 2012 alone. The domestic players are urging the government to come up with a quick solution though anything of that sort seems unlikely to emerge before spring 2014 when the higher rate structure will come in place. Government sources have assured local publishers and ebook retailers they are investigating the matter and have assured a level playing field for all though that is not expected to happen anytime soon.
“At the time the consumption tax was introduced (in the late 1980s), few imagined that the Internet would develop this much. The Finance Ministry should start upgrading legislation to create a fair environment,” said Yoshikazu Miki, a law professor at Aoyama Gakuin University.
In-depth details on what motivates reading in children have come out in a new book, published by the world’s leading publisher of children’s content, Scholastic. In Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want – and Why We Should Let Them, authors Jeffrey D. Wilhelm (Boise State University) and Michael W. Smith (Temple University), explain that there has to be more to books for young people than just the typical academic requirements.
The results of the professors’ findings have led to an awe-inspiring but earth-shattering conclusion: school-based reading instruction should focus even more on self-selected texts for pleasure reading, and less on rote instruction from corporate lessons.
“At a time when the Common Core Stare Standards and high-stakes assessments turn the eyes of parents, teachers, and policy-makers to what reading can do for you, we should not lose sight of the deep and manifold pleasures it can bring to you,” Smith said in a press release. “Those pleasures are what motivate reading in the here and now and what make it likely that young people will read in the future.”
“Never underestimate the power of pleasure in motivating and sustaining reading and improvement in reading,” continued Wilhelm. “And never underestimate the deep psychological work, psychological satisfaction, and human development that is occurring for readers of freely chosen texts. Books that are often marginalized by educators or parents are often the best choice for the readers at any given point in their own human developmental journeys.”
As one of the leaders in curricular publishing, too, Scholastic’s release of Wilhelm and Smith’s title will hopefully hold some level of sway over administrative decision making at the local and state government school boards, allowing more time during the school day to be spent on individualized reading for pleasure rather than simply reading for the sake of the curriculum.
Reading Unbound is available from the Scholastic Teacher store for pre-order, and will ship in January. Free samples of the content are available for download now.
One of the most potentially useful features of digital publishing was the ability of authors to publish their short stories without the tedious process of anthology selection. In the past, authors who pen short stories had to submit their stories to collections publishers, and those anthologies are typically only published periodically; barring that, the author could try to submit a full collection of his own works, of which few are traditionally published and almost never from a debut author.
Digital publishing and self-publishing threw open the doors to short story publication, and a resurgence in the genre has been enjoyed by readers of short form literature. Companies like Vook, Atavist, and Now & Then Reader have contributed to the renewed interest in the essay or pamphlet publishing of centuries ago, and today, Amazon Publishing announced its effort to bring short stories to the forefront of publishing.
StoryFront, the company’s short story imprint, not only will focus on publishing high quality short fiction, but will also be the source of a weekly digital literary journal that will specifically feature short stories and poetry from new and veteran authors.
“Based on the continued success of short fiction on Kindle as well as the enthusiastic response to Day One—we received thousands of subscriptions in the first week—we know readers are hungry for short stories and excited about exploring new genres,” said Daphne Durham, Publisher of Adult Trade and Children’s Group. “With StoryFront, we’re feeding that enthusiasm by offering a wide range of stories curated by a team of editors who are committed to the craft.”
StoryFront already has quite a number of stories released from several bestselling authors, including works that are closely tied to existing novels but that didn’t require another full-length novel in order to share with readers. The platform is also bringing translations of well-known international short stories to US reading audiences.
Africa has long been referred to as the dark continent, which means there is ample scope for the light to shine; and that is exactly what is happening in that part of the world. Focusing on just one measure of development, internet usage in Africa has hit the fast lane. Even this can be termed an understatement given the astounding 3,606 percent growth rate that internet usage has reached in the continent achieved since the beginning of the new millennium. Of course this has led to a ripple effect as this has spurred the demand for internet based service, with digital publishing being just one of them.
“The proliferation of smartphones across Africa, combined with the inevitable burst into e-commerce, means that we would be foolish to ignore what is about to happen with publishing in Africa,” said Jeremy Weate, associated with Abuja-based Cassava Republic, a Nigeria based e-publishing firm that publishes fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. The obvious reference here has been to the more than 160 million Africans that connect to the internet, with it being smartphones that has emerged as the most preferred device to get online.
“Moving to e-books addresses some of our most significant challenges with print books,” Weate further added.
“In Nigeria, it is a tough ask to find a printer that can offer reliable services, a wide range of paper and guaranteed product quality.
“We don’t have to worry about printing, warehousing, distribution or engaging in fruitless marathons across the continent for payments that will never come,” said Weate.
A higher access to internet is also seen by publishers as a means of drawing the Africans to read more books, a trend that has been lacking sorely among the masses. Such an endeavor is getting further impetus with the efforts of Worldreader, a non profit organization that has been distributing e-readers among school children in the continent with the aim to dram them to read ebooks. Statistics depicting Worldreader’s efforts too are commendable, having delivered more than 70,000 ebooks among 13,000 children in nine countries in the African continent.
Meanwhile, Weate also stressed on promoting reading ebooks via smartphones given the wide reach these have already achieved.
“Many young Africans are already comfortable reading on mobile devices and we think this trend will continue as the price of smartphones gets cheaper,” said Mr Weate.
With this being the trend, it could just be a matter of time before major ebook publishers and device manufacturers such as Amazon, B&N, Kobo and such make a beeline for the African market.
Amazon has relaunched its reader-centric promotion from last year’s holiday season, Twelve Days of Deals. Each day, different titles will be steeply discounted in both ebook and print editions. The promotion kicks off each day at 12:01 PST, and runs for twenty-four hours.
Today’s deals are titles that were selected from Amazon’s Best Books of 2013, so features the following titles:
• Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch—$2.99 (80% off the list price)
• Philipp Meyer’s The Son—$2.99 (82% off the list price)
• Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites—$2.99 (77% off the list price)
Print book deals will be discounted throughout the day (8 am PST – 8 pm PST) in four hour increments. Today’s deals in print books are:
• Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch—$8.99 (70% off the list price)
• Philipp Meyer’s The Son—$12.99 (53% off the list price)
• Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling—$11.99 (54% off the list price)
“We’re so excited to include our pick for the best book of the year, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, in 12 Days of Deals, and we have many great books lined up for every day of this promotion,” said Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Books & Kindle at Amazon, in a press release today. “We think giving the gift of reading is always thoughtful, whether you’re wrapping a book for under the tree or gifting a Kindle book.”
For more information on the specials, click HERE.
Kobo has pulled their Windows 8 e-Reading app from the Microsoft App Store a few weeks ago. This move will now prevent owners of the Microsoft Surface or anyone on a Windows 8 PC from downloading or reading eBooks.
The Windows 8 Reading App by Kobo was originally developed before Windows 8 officially launched. The Canadian based company had the app all ready for the first wave of Beta testers way back in February 2012. Before the app was pulled, thousands of readers were using the app every day to buy eBooks and other digital content and then read it.
We have reached out to Kobo many times during the last few weeks to get an official comment. I had originally thought that they pulled the app to allow for the integration of their new magazine and kids book services, but it seems they have totally abandoned it. It seems basically that the entire app was not up to Kobo’s standards and many users have moaned that it was barely functional.
In the meantime, you can use the internet browser on any Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet by visiting the Kobo Instant Reader. This is an HTML5 reading app that was originally developed to give Apple iPad users the ability to buy eBooks using the Safari web-browser. It was basically a clandestine effort to bypass the mandatory 30% commission Apple takes from in-app purchases.
Throughout the recent controversy over inappropriate and explicit content being listed in ebook retail websites alongside children’s and middle grade titles, the same questions kept coming to the surface: how did this happen, and how do we prevent it? Unfortunately for the authors and publishers of much of the questionable content, the immediate solution was to block nearly all titles with adult themes. Two retailers shut down their ebookstores altogether, while Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo all removed titles that they felt were in danger of being found by young consumers.
While the content has been slowly replaced in a one-at-a-time fashion, statements from at least one retailer have announced the position that they are under no obligation to sell any titles that do not meet their standards for appropriateness. Another retailer, Amazon, has taken the steps to evaluate the keywords that self-published authors associate with their titles and has begun the process of removing ebooks whose metadata and keywords seem intentionally misleading.
But in order to protect consumers, OverDrive announced today that it has created an online children’s reading room for its partner libraries. The purpose of this cyber sphere is to provide a safe and vetted location for young patrons to enjoy all of the same features and benefits that other patrons can have through the main OverDrive portal.
“eBooks are not just for adults, and we believe this site will help us highlight some of the great children’s content that we have to offer,” said Sharon Grant, Digital Branch Manager at Kitsap Regional Library where the digital reading room was piloted. “More importantly, we believe this site will save people time because it effectively highlights books by reading levels, age groups and interests.”
According to the press release on the launch of this child-safe library environment, “The eReading Room is a safe environment for children, independent of the larger digital collection, yet easily accessible and fully integrated – seamlessly working with your existing catalog. OverDrive offers clean, friendly, simple design options and the choice of including juvenile and/or young adult fiction and nonfiction titles. All titles in the eReading Room are also cataloged by reading level, ATOS scores, and other reading metrics to help parents and teachers select titles to aid in literacy campaigns. Adults and kids can sample titles in OverDrive Read prior to checking out a title.”
Hopefully, efforts such as this one will be sufficient to protect the interests of all parties involved. While young readers should not be subjected to material that is willfully mislabeled with the express purpose of attracting children, authors who have taken the appropriate steps to put their content only in front of mature audiences should not suffer under the sweeping changes that retailers have had to make.
Last month, Amazon’s traditional publishing arm and its host of imprints at Amazon Publishing announced a new incentive to get people reading on their Kindles: Kindle First. Each month, the editors at Amazon Publishing will select several titles from a variety of genres to be released a month early to Kindle users and Prime members. While these titles will be pre-released for $1.99–or free, for those Prime members–readers can select only one title each month to have at the steep discount and early date.
Today, Amazon Publishing announced the list of Kindle First titles for December, which include:
• Soy Sauce for Beginners, a beautiful debut novel about family bonds and personal identity by Kristin Chen,
• The Widow File, a political thriller of industrial espionage and military intrigue by SG Redling,
• Sweet Nothings by award-winning romance author Kim Law, which tells the story of a bachelorette baker and the man who convinced her of true love,
• Timebound by Rysa Walker, a fantastical novel about a 16-year-old time traveler that won this year’s overall grand prize as the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Inclusion in this selection may be especially poignant for Rysa Walker, as this year’s young adult ABNA winner who eventually won the grand prize as well. Originally a self-published title, Walker didn’t think much beyond her indie roots when she entered the contest. As she explained to Good e-Reader at the time of the announcement in June, “I self-published because the traditional publishing industry wasn’t working for me. I tried for a year to get attention from an agent and in almost every case I didn’t even get an email back from them saying why they weren’t interested or even that they’d gotten my email with the attached file.”
Are customers really responding to the opportunity to be the first to read a book? Possibly, as last month’s Kindle First titles all became number one bestsellers in their respective categories, as well as held spots in the Top Ten for all books. To find out more about Kindle First, click HERE.
Verdict: 5 Stars
Fans of the author’s suspenseful legal thrillers will love this title that revisits one of the settings that made John Grisham a household name. Almost twenty-five years after the release of A Time to Kill, Grisham takes us back to Ford County and back into the fray of legal dramas.
From the book’s description, “Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.”
Critics of the book have argued that this one is “typical Grisham” and that it follows the plot lines that we’ve gotten really, really used to from him. Having said that, there are a couple of surprises in the book, as well as some unanswered questions from the first round that the author springs on us. The courtroom drama and masterful depictions of well-researched settings more than make up for any predictability in the plot, as does his handling of a fairly common plot line of an elderly dying man leaving his entire fortune to a random fringe character, in this case, his maid.
Sycamore Row is available now in print, audiobook, and ebook.
According to a story in the New York Times, author Arnon Grunberg is going digital. But what makes his project unique is the fact that he’s going digital while he writes the book…and he’s doing it with electrodes attached to his head.
Yes, rather than the typical story of an author–even a well-known and highly respected bestselling author like Grunberg–going digital with the publication process, Grunberg is part of an experiment he helped establish to monitor his brain activity while he writes his most recent novella. Even more sci-fi oriented, the first fifty readers of this project’s outcome will undergo the same electrode0based response recording while they read the finished novella.
According to the article by Jennifer Schuessler, “Over the past two weeks, Mr. Grunberg has spent several hours a day writing his novella, while a battery of sensors and cameras tracked his brain waves, heart rate, galvanic skin response (an electrical measure of emotional arousal) and facial expressions. Next fall, when the book is published, some 50 ordinary people in the Netherlands will read it under similarly controlled circumstances, sensors and all.”
The purpose of this futuristic undertaking? To try to discover the connection between creativity and the consumption of that creativity by readers. And while the researchers will work to figure out how the readers’ brains connected in various ways with the author’s work, Grunberg himself sees a more invasive approach to the project, likening this type of connection with the way retailers like Amazon invade on the reading experience via e-readers.
The Justice Department came down hard on Apple for the agency pricing model where it established they colluded with major publishers to create a fixed price for digital books. When everything was all said and done the court appointed a monitor to insure Apple was complying with the antitrust settlement. Today, Apple is blasting the monitor that is charging them $1,100 per hour and saying they had no choice in finding someone better.
Former US Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich was the man selected by the courts to keep tabs on Apple. In the first two weeks of work, Bromwich invoiced the Mac-maker $138,432. That number includes not only his own hourly fee, but that of a number of legal assistants brought in to support the role, and a 15% “administrative surcharge” on top.
Apple said they were left hamstrung with the choice of monitor, given the role was filled by judge Denise Cote. “Mr. Bromwich appears to be simply taking advantage of the fact that there is no competition here or, in his view, any ability on the part of Apple, the subject of his authority, to push back on his demands” Apple wrote, Bloomberg reports.
One of the biggest complaints that Apple has is the fact Bromwich is demanding interviews with Apple CEO Tim Cook, board member Al Gore, and Jony Ive (“whose sole and exclusive responsibility at Apple is to perfect elegant product designs,” according to an Apple attorney.
Bromwich has fired back at Apple by saying “You people seem to think I’m working for you. Apple has sought for the last month to manage our relationship as though we are its outside counsel or consultant,” he wrote in a letter to Cook and his board last week. He Continued “My fees are reasonable, and you have no idea what a reasonable fee looks like. Also, it doesn’t matter if you think my fees are reasonable, because you don’t get to negotiate them: You just pay them. The court will approve them.”