E-Book News - Part 2

Archive for E-Book News

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At this morning’s keynote event from the 2014 PubSmartCon in Charleston, South Carolina, publishing industry professional Jane Friedman spoke on the roundabout definition of what it means to publish in the current climate. Examining it from its early roots, all the way through publishing via blogging, the session explored what authorship and readership have come to mean.

“It was the rise of literacy that allowed authors to make a living because it increased the market demand for books. But what’s interesting to me in the current dynamic is how everyone is becoming an author through social media and other instant publishing tools, whether that’s WordPress or KDP or Smashwords that allow you to control when, where, and how you distribute your words.”

Friedman went on to explanation how the growth of universal literacy has led to the concept of universal authorship, in which anyone has the ability to amplify their reach through publishing.

“This greatly changes the environment that we’re in, whether it’s in trying to increase visibility, make money, or either one. The universal authorship trend has driven up the number of titles that get published…but this is not even beginning to capture the entire universe of content that’s out there.”

Friedman was, of course, referring to the number of titles–both traditionally and self-published–that are known to be published under an ISBN number, something that not all books have. These numbers are known to be much higher than her data was able to indicate.

“Publishing is a button that you can press and distribute your ideas instantly to a worldwide audience. It used to be more of a rarefied process, controlled by the so-called gatekeepers or by people who were professionals who had very specialized knowledge. That’s not necessarily the case anymore, that calls into question, ‘What does it mean to publish when anyone can do it?’”

Friedman’s question has been asked by both supporters and critics of the current trends in publishing, but she portrays and industry where readers transform the social fabric surrounding the culture of books. But her more profound statement involved an understanding that Amazon is not an enemy of publishing, but the failure of publishers to sell to consumers and understand their readers in a more personal way is that enemy.

One suggestion Friedman carried for an industry that is struggling through the scarcity of attention for the abundance of content out there is to better understand the reader-book relationship and return attention to the readers. A number of trends she highlighted that are especially working for authors where they are is the mobilization of reading on smart devices, the return of serials through a wide variety of platforms, and the verticals of companies that are already making headway in the industry.

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Oyster is one of the more prominent eBook subscription websites and it is starting to distinguish themselves from a crowded marketplace. The company is trialing new speed reading technology from Spritz.

Spritz has been in the news a ton lately, as their speed-reading technology is going to be integrated in the Samsung Galaxy S5. The essence of the platform is to allow users to crank up how many words per minute a body of text will produce. Spritz is fairly useless on large screen displays, but really shines on smartphones, where reading lots of text is daunting.

There is only a single title right now using Spritz and is available at OysterBooks.com/Spritz, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” — the renowned business title by Stephen Covey with over 20 million copies sold to-date – is available for free. Oyster is challenging the public to complete the 432 print-pages of the book in  under 2 hours.

This offer is a first-of-its-kind collaboration and Oyster and Spritz are excited to hear from users about the experience. They’ll evaluate the response and consider bringing additional full-length, in-copyright books to the public together again in the future.

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Samsung has announced that they have reached terms with Amazon to have a custom built Kindle store for its flagship Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. The store will launch in two weeks and phone owners will be able to download 15 eBooks for free as part of the deal.

The plans for the custom version of the Kindle Store will launch exclusively for the S5 for the first few months and older phones will get the service later in the year. Samsung wants to make the new Kindle store a big selling point of the phone.

The free books will be available from a pre-determined list. Users will get four “prominent” titles a month to choose from and be able to select one to download for free and read.

Amazon already has an Android app that people all over the world use to install on their phones and tablets. The one for Samsung was built exclusively for the resolution and specific screen size. Likely, you will get a better experience with this iteration, than the stock one. Still, free books is fairly compelling and the Kindle store will be preinstalled on all S5 phones, which is good promotion for Amazon.

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A person browses through media websites on a computer on May 30,

Men are giving up on reading books and instead are switching to movies, internet and blogs. Overall men are starting to realize that they are not reading as much as they should, but according to a new study, there are many other factors.

OnePoll did a study on behalf of UK based Reading Agency and talked to over 2,000 young and adult men. 63% of men admit they simply don’t read as much as they think they should. Many blamed a lack of time while, a fifth said they find it difficult or don’t enjoy it.

As men start to get older they tend to read less, as life gives them more distractions. 46% of the men reported reading fewer books now than they did in the past; a third prefer the internet and 30% engage more with film and TV. Not surprisingly a staggering one in five men confessed that they have pretended to have read a specific title in order to appear more intelligent. Meanwhile 30% stated that have not read a single book unless it was mandatory reading in school.

The study also drew the interesting conclusion that men are not visiting libraries or bookstores anymore. They tend to shop for more practical things or zone out on a movie on television or Netflix. Women on the other hand tend to loan books to each other and participate in the bookstore scene.

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Residents of the US, Canada and Australia have early access to a new feature on eBook discovery website GoodReads. In the largest single act of synergy since Amazon purchased GoodReads last year, customers can now have all of their Kindle Books synced automatically to their bookshelf.

How do you know if you have this new feature? You’ll see the Add Amazon Book Purchases link in the Tools list on the left hand side of the My Books page (and a small announcement at the top of the page). Click on either link and you will be asked to sign in to your Amazon account. You’ll then see your Amazon book purchases. You can go through and rate each book and select the appropriate shelf for it. GoodReads gives you full control over which books to add, so you can avoid adding any books bought as gifts or anything else. Any book not rated or added to a shelf will not be added to Goodreads.

Members in the U.S., Canada, and Australia can also use the Add Your Amazon Books option on Goodreads on Kindle Paperwhite (first and second generation devices) and the new Kindle Fires. This is great for people who have installed the latest firmware updates to give you access to GoodReads right on your tablet or e-reader.

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Fictitious Harry Potter Sport Quidditch Comes To Real Life
The world of Harry Potter is very real to some people, so real in fact that there are live Quidditch matches and yes, college teams. Even better, these college and fan teams actually have a Quidditch World Cup competition, taking place in Florida. the fact that none of the players has a flying broom is not a deterrent.

This year, for the seventh World Cup, author and inventor of flying Quidditch JK Rowling reported on the match, commentating as Ginny Weasley, long time fan of the sport. Her reports can be found posted on the Pottermore website. Of course, these would be news reports, under the sports section, so fans must go to the Daily Prophet office on Diagon Alley in order to find the updates.

According to a press release from the team at Pottermore, “To deliver the reports, Pottermore has opened a brand new location on Pottermore.com – the offices in Diagon Alley of the fictional wizarding newspaper the Daily Prophet, which fans can visit for the first time and discover this exclusive new writing from J.K. Rowling.

“The posts begin with a report on the opening ceremony of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. With characteristic humour, Rowling describes how the international teams’ mascots, magical creatures from the world of Harry Potter, took part in the ceremony and caused havoc for their handlers.
We find out why more than 300 crowd members are suffering from shock, broken bones and bites following the ceremony, and why failure to bring their usual mascots, a troupe of performing trolls, caused a great deal of trouble for the Norwegian delegation. A ‘live’ match report details the thrilling action between Norway and Ivory Coast in the first match of the tournament.”

This is not the first time Rowling has written more information about the wizard game, as two pieces of writing on the game were posted earlier this year. The live version may be more exciting to fans than the wizard rendition, as it has been featured in popular films like The Internship and the Disney Channel show “Jessie.”

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One of the often overlooked formats in the focus on digital versus print books is the audiobook, a separate entity that–despite a long standing history–still gets relegated to only certain titles. Through the launch of companies like Audible and the later ACX platform, audiobooks are currently enjoying a resurgence among old and new fans alike.

Findaway World, a company that has partnered with publishers around the globe to produce audio renditions of titles, has a catalog of more than 50,000 audiobooks, but offers them in unique and innovative ways through its digital platform and through its Playaway devices.

Playaways, a concept whose technology seems backwards at first glance, is actually a brilliant tool for putting audiobooks in front of as many listeners as possible, specifically in school, library, and even deployed military outposts. The devices are essentially MP3 players that contain only one book, making it possible for a large number of patrons to borrow the preloaded devices. While Playaways come with an inexpensive pair of ear buds tucked nicely in the hardshell case, many schools and libraries encourage users to keep their own headphones handy in order to borrow multiple titles.

Now the creators of the Playaway have launched AudioEngine, a platform that allows seamless access to Findaway World’s catalog of titles. Authors, publishers, and rights holders can incorporate their audiobook editions into AudioEngine through submission and agreements with Findaway World.

“We have one of the world’s largest collections of digital audiobooks and had been focused on preloaded devices,” said Ralph Lazaro, VP, Digital Products Group, in an interview with Good e-Reader. “We started to build apps for partners who wanted audiobooks, and we would build custom apps for them. Along the way, we started to see the growth potential of the audiobook market–it was a $1.2 billion dollar market in 2012 and $1.6 billion in 2013–and most of that growth has come from downloadable streaming which is picking up a lot of the market share.”

Publishers are responding to that growth by releasing more audio titles than ever before, with audiobook new releases reaching 200% growth over the year before. Of course, ACX has enabled self-published authors and small press publishers to tap into this growing audiobook market as well. Digital downloads have also enabled a new breed of reader to enjoy the titles; in the past, audiobooks came on CD and offered eight to ten hours typically of content. With mobile devices, listeners can enjoy their books whenever they find themselves with time, and then return to the title later.

According to Findaway World, several leading companies are currently using AudioEngine to power audiobooks in their platforms, including 3M (Cloud Library), Mackin (MackinVia), Baker & Taylor (Acoustik) and Follet (Catalist Digital), with many other large retailers, content providers, and distributors launching worldwide throughout 2014.

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A revolution in writing and publishing conferences will kick off tomorrow in Charleston, South Carolina, one that is working to bridge all aspects of the publishing industries to better enable professionals of every kind. Alongside self-publishing mainstays like Hugh Howey, Nook Press, and Bibliocrunch will be speakers like Stephanie Bowen of Sourcebooks and Tracey Adams of Adams Literary. Algonquin Books Executive Editor Chuck Adams will speak, as well as Penguin Random House’s Executive Editor Tracey Bernstein. Also on hand to present will be Amanda Barbara, founder of Pubslush, a crowdfunding platform for self-published authors.

The fairly evenly split representatives from both aspects of the industry demonstrates one of the factors that makes this conference unique. Unless there will be a stripe painted down the middle of the conference, relegating the traditional industry to one side and the self-publishing industry to the other, the intention of the event is to empower anyone who has any involvement at all in the world of books to better understand the nature of the industry in its current climate.

Tonight, Bibliocrunch‘s weekly Twitter chat, #IndieChat, will feature PubSmartCon speaker and industry expert Porter Anderson, as well as PubSmartcon’s Kathy Meis. The event begins at 9pm ET under the indie chat hashtag.

Good e-Reader will be covering the event, with an eye especially on understanding how events like this are bridging the gap. The traditional industry, while maybe not yet embracing indie publishing, has certainly come a long way from the days in which a vanity press-produced title was the kiss of death for an author’s future publishing career; it’s now becoming more and more common for publishers to seek out authors whose titles that have a proven following thanks to self-publishing. At the same time, the attitudes the once permeated the self-publishing industry, namely complete and unwavering artistic control and a feeling of isolation, are falling away as authors look to the traditional industry professionals for information and guidance.

A complete list of conference speakers and events can be found HERE.

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First there was Paper.li, an app that allows users to create a digital “newspaper” based on the story links their social media connections share. Then came Facebook’s Paper app, which serves as a curated offering of a user’s shares from contacts. But now, The Guardian is rolling out an actual print newspaper that will contain stories curated from share algorithms.

The printed paper, which will only  be available in the UK once a month and mostly to corporate offices, is called #Open001 and will be based on computer searches for most shared content, kind of like heading to Yahoo News or Twitter and clicking on what’s trending.

While it might seem like a good idea to offer a paper that only contains the news that the public finds relevant, there are inherent flaws with a system like this for more widespread distribution. First, are social media contacts really the most trusted source for important information, or are readers really going to be wowed by a print paper that contains an unfathomable amount of news about Miley Cyrus’ latest antics? Does important news like the Arab Spring or the US Congress’ latest attacks on minorities and the poor, for example, really have the power to compete with Justin Bieber’s mug shot?

More important is the very real concern that this is a smoke and mirrors approach to keeping print newspapers alive and well. As more and more long-standing newspaper publishers shutter their doors due to lagging advertising and subscriptions, will sending out a print version of what users can see on Twitter be enough to revive an interest in the medium?

As with all areas of the publishing industry that are struggling to stay afloat, the key to survival rests in offering something different that can’t be had–often for free–from another source. A day-old piece of paper with yesterday’s trending headlines isn’t the way to keep readers’ interests.

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Amazon customers in Sweden will have to wait it out to begin buying their discounted goods and books from Amazon.se. The current owner of the domain, a fifty-seven-year-old small businesswoman, won’t sell it, despite reports of repeated attempts from the retail giant to purchase it.

The domain, purchased in 1997 by a Stockholm-based advertising agency called Amazon AB, doesn’t actually lead to a website, but rather to a landing page that simply states it is under construction. This has caused many critics to accuse the woman of holding the domain hostage, as so-called domain squatters have done in the past; these people–whether thugs who drive up the price or smart business people who capitalize on their foresight by purchasing domains before anyone needs them–typically sell to the business or person who wants that domain for a nice profit.

What many vocal opponents who are crying “selfish” have forgotten is that it’s not uncommon for businesses to buy the various domains associated with their company names in order to protect their brands and prevent confusion for their customers. It’s highly likely that the ad agency’s clients would accidentally find themselves on the local Amazon retail portal instead of the agency should the sale of the domain go through.

Amazon has already been at work making headway into the region. The retailer recently inked a deal with a Scandinavian book distributor, Bokrondellen, to begin selling Swedish books through its other country-based domains. At this time, Swedish book customers can register through one of the other domains for book purchasing, despite Amazon’s attempts to initiate a Swedish domain.

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It is shockingly easy to enter a book into the Pulitzer Prizes in Letters competition. The author (in most categories) must be an American citizen, the book must be available for sale in print, it must have first been published that year, and the person submitting the book has to send four copies of the book and a fifty dollar entry fee. That’s it.

It’s easier and cheaper to submit a book to the Pulitzer jury than it is to get a driver’s license. So why aren’t more indie authors doing it?

It may possibly be the mindset that the Pulitzer, whose journalism award is equally prestigious and possibly more well-known due to its significance in reporting, is for the elite authors only. But by the entry rules’ own guidelines, there is no requirement–unlike some other well-known and allegedly prestigious awards–that the book be traditionally published, nor that the publisher submit the book for entry. The author herself can enter her work.

Incidentally, the Pulitzers have been awarded for 2013, with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch taking the prize for fiction. Other category winners include Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall (biography), Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin (non-fiction), and 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri (poetry).

In wholly related news, the Amazon/CreateSpace Breakthrough Novel Awards released the quarter final list yesterday, narrowing the field even further from its original 10,000 entries in each category. In this stage, editors from Publisher’s Weekly will read and review the remaining titles, providing that valuable feedback to the authors before further eliminations take place. The final round will be determined by reader votes later this spring.

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Kindle Direct Publishing is a self-publishing platform that individuals and small presses use to add their eBooks for sale on the Amazon bookstore. When customers purchase an authors books, normally they did not know about it until 24 hours later. Today in a bold move, Amazon has introduced live sales data that will inform authors in real time when their book is purchased.

Self-published authors can celebrate as Amazon introduced a brand new Sales Dashboard on the KDP Reports page to give you up-to-date reporting of paid, borrowed and free orders as they are placed in Kindle stores worldwide. The new dashboard also helps you track royalties earned as payments are processed for these orders.

You can filter the Sales Dashboard and Sales & Royalty Report by title, marketplace, and timeframe. The information you currently receive in the Prior Six Weeks’ Royalties reports is now available in the new Sales Dashboard and Sales & Royalty Report.

One of the great elements about the new dashboard is the immediate feedback for authors engaged in a marketing campaign. You will be able to track sales for just that book for a set number of days while you’re running the campaign, and decide if it was worth the effort or not.

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Photo courtesy of nbclatino.com

Photo courtesy of nbclatino.com

Renewed concerns about students who use tablets for reading have surfaced as experts now fear the “bells and whistles” approach to enhanced ebooks are actually stunting student comprehension. At last week’s American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, researchers Heather Ruetschlin Schugar and Jordan T. Schugar presented their findings from a study that pitted middle school students with print and digital books. The results of the subsequent testing showed a higher level of comprehension when the students read print books.

The books, created with iBooks author software, may have contained too many features like hyperlinks, images, and embedded video, leading the students to try to garner enough information about the story from the extras rather than interacting with the actual text. Other features often found in children’s ebooks include games, tactile interactions like the ability to manipulate the background, and even audio sounds that play while the student reads.

Other researchers have already concluded that some students actually comprehend better when multimedia enhancements are offered alongside the text. A study reported on last week from Booktrack demonstrated that adults and older students retain more of what they read when music that fits the story plays in the background. Also, sound effects that coincide with troublesome or unfamiliar vocabulary can help language learners, such as a car horn beeping as the new word “honked” is introduced.

What researchers are now starting to notice is that there is no one-size-fits-all method for reading fluency and comprehension. Students learn in different ways, a fact that has been known among educators for decades. Features that enhance learning for one student can easily hinder it for another, so curricular decisions and opportunities need to be made available in a wide variety of formats.