E-Book News - Part 2

Archive for E-Book News

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The Brooklyn Public Library system announced recently a new initiative to digitize backlist newspaper archives in order to make them available to the public via their online portal. This initiative, which will make all copies of the original Brooklyn newspaper, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, available, was supported by both grant funding and the loaning of microfiche from the Library of Congress.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle was a hometown paper in circulation from 1841 through 1955. As part of the BPL’s historic Brooklyn Collection and its digital newspaper portal Brooklyn Newsstand, this collection is made possible with help from Newspapers.com and several other sources.

According to an article for Library Journal by Gary Price, “The Brooklyn Newsstand will now provide the public with free access to the entire collection of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper ranging from the date of its publication in 1841 to its close in 1955. Previously, thanks to a 2001 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), BPL was able to digitize a microfilmed copy the Eagle from 1841 to 1902 and make those years searchable in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online database. As with the IMLS project, the second phase of digitization completed by Newspapers.com uses negative microfilm provided by the Library of Congress.”

Without digitization efforts, these newspapers–and thousands of others like it around the country–would sit in obscurity in a microfiche cabinet, possibly in an unused space of the library building. Now, these documents can have a renewed focus and offer new insights to a generation of readers that might not even be aware that the paper existed. More important, they can now be accessed by users around the world who otherwise would have been barred from physical access to the documents.

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It took them long enough, but some of the biggest names in books and porn have finally realized that sex sells. That’s why Cleis Press and Penthouse will begin publishing a new line of digital erotica titles, set to launch this fall.

Billed as the Penthouse Variations On series, this line of titles will eventually be a title of six different anthologies, with the first title to come out being Variations On Oral which the publisher has declared to be “quality erotica” for “discerning” readers.

While Penthouse may best be known in pop culture for its magazine, it is also the owner of Variations magazine, which has a high percentage of female readership. Likewise, the new publishing venture will aim for a female audience. Interestingly, romance and erotica, while traditionally predominantly purchased by female readers, has also been shown to be overwhelmingly authored by women.

Co-founder of Cleis Press Felice Newman stated in a press release, “We are excited by this opportunity to expand the readerships of both Cleis and Penthouse in this fresh cross-pollination of sex positive culture. Together, we plan to develop a unique series that will take the erotica market by storm.”

Cleis publisher Brenda Knight went on to say, “Newman has a keen focus on what appeals to female erotica readers. She knows what works and what doesn’t, and has made a real contribution to a more sex-positive America. We are great admirers of Penthouse and their enormous impact on sex and culture.”

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Rightscorp is well known in the video and music industry with their 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. It looks the company is gearing up to take on the publishing industry industry and actively go after eBook pirates.

“We recently announced a deal to represent Mark Sisson, author of the bestselling book The Primal Blueprint. This marks our entrance into the multi-billion dollar book publishing industry, an area where we feel we can add value to our clients and our investors,” said Christopher Sabec, CEO of Rightscorp. “eBooks and eReaders have become very popular since the release of the Kindle in late 2007, but just like any medium, the creation of digital format opens them up to digital theft and copyright infringement. With a $3 billion market and growing, the digital book market is an ideal place to add protection and secure revenues. We are now expanding our focus to include monetization and protection of online books and are already in discussions with other authors and industry trade organizations about how we can help them.”

The entire publishing industry brought in close to 12 billion dollars in 2012. Sales of eBooks reached $3 billion at the end of 2012, up from $68 million in 2008. Industry experts expect that by 2017, digital will be worth $8.2 billion. This market is ripe for the picking for Rightscorp.

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. 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. 

Why isn’t the publishing industry and magazine companies concerned with digital book piracy? You only have to look at the Apple Newsstand and companies like Comixology. All of the magazines and comics are basically are stored in the cloud and delivered in an app container.  Comixology has spent a copious amount of money on their app to give you Guided View technology and Marvel has added the ability for a comic to be narrated with audio.  You now have magazines, books, comics and other rich media delivered in a way where the user will never see the file locally. This takes piracy right out of the equation.

At the moment, book piracy is dwarfed by that of the music, movie, and game industries. But it is gradually growing. Shortly after the launch of the iPad, TorrentFreak took a look at a small group of popular business titles and calculated that unauthorized eBook downloads on BitTorrent grew by 78% on average–and that was when Apple had sold only about 300,000 iPads.

Rightscorp currently represents more than 1,000,000 copyrights with more than 40,000 copyrights in its system. Rightscorp has already received settlements from subscribers of more than 50 ISPs and closed over 60,000 cases of copyright infringement to date. The company is entering the eBook market with some trepidation, but I can see them implementing a scare tactics campaign and releasing daunting reports to put the fear of god into publishers and authors.

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TED is one of the leading conferences where luminaries all over the world give a 18 minutes or less talk. Past speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sal Khan and Daniel Kahneman. Today, TED has partnered with Simon & Schuster to publisher a 12 book series.

S&S plans on rolling out a new title every month or two beginning in September 2014. Some of the books set to be published include The Virtue of Stillness by Pico Iyer, How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek, and Storytelling in the Age of Distraction by Nicholas Thompson. The books will feature a signature look with cover art designed by the legendary jacket artist and TED speaker, Chip Kidd.

TED and Simon & Schuster will distribute the books and eBooks in all available sales channels, and the books will be supported by TED’s media partners and the highly-trafficked TED.com website.


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On last week’s IndieChat event, hosted every Tuesday night on Twitter by publishing solutions company BiblioCrunch, the guest speaker was from a new tool, InstaFreebie. This platform allows authors to easily create a free version of their books–with or without DRM and reader watermarking, as they choose–in order to share them with readers. I happened to mention that I used the platform in March and between InstaFreebie and KDP Select gave away over 200 copies of my books in March alone.

The response was immediate: “Aren’t you worried about those lost sales?”

At this year’s London Book Fair, taking place now, self-publishing success story Hugh Howey spoke on a panel with the UK head of Kobo Writing Life, one of the top three major self-publishing platforms. Howey, who has openly stated in the past that his story is not typical for indie authors, explained the purpose and the benefits to giving away free books as a reader engagement tool.

Many publishing industry professionals caution against giving away free content, as they feel it reduces the value in the eyes of the reader. Likewise, surveys have shown that low price points for books make readers respond negatively, as if thinking to themselves, “How good can it be? Even the author didn’t think it was worth a whole dollar.”

But Howey’s point is that only truly undervalued books are the ones that no one reads because they can’t find them. In this time of difficulty for book discovery, offering your content–especially backlist content–to readers is a way to entice them into getting to know the rest of your list.

Howey went on to expand on his fear that the current climate of self-publishing will continue to perpetuate the model that traditional publishing has always experienced, namely that there will be a limited number of bestselling and successful authors at the top, followed by the remaining “unknowns.” He explained that the self-publishing market should be a place where every author can find his audience, and enjoy some measure of success, regardless of how that success manifests itself.

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Over on the Smashwords blog, CEO and founder Mark Coker posted some interesting information about the demographics of the bestselling authors on the site. According to the Smashwords bestseller list, published each month by Publisher’s Weekly, the top twenty-five bestselling titles on Smashwords for the last many months have all been written by women.

All of them.

Coker himself went to the iBooks store and Amazon US to compare their numbers and found the women outnumbered men there as well. Sixty-four percent of the top twenty-five titles in iBooks were written by women, and fifty-six percent of the Amazon bestsellers were written by women.

While Coker can give some explanation on the Smashwords site–romance is the top-selling genre there and the majority of those titles are written by women–that is certainly not the case with iBooks or Amazon. Also, only two-thirds of the top twenty-five books on Smashwords are romance; the remaining titles are historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery, not genres that are fully dominated by female writers, although women do figure highly in those numbers.

Coker himself has no explanation for the clean sweep by female writers, but did have this to say:

“Why are women dominating the Smashwords bestseller lists, other than the fact that these women are all super-awesome writers? One likely factor is that romance is the #1 bestselling genre at Smashwords, and romance is overwhelmingly written by women. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m constantly blown away the smarts, savvy and sophistication of romance authors. These ladies have pioneered many of the ebook publishing and distribution best practices that so many indies take for granted today. But strong romance performance doesn’t fully explain the story.”

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Not long after digital publishing improved the reading experience with portability, the option to change font size, and the instant access to new titles, developers began looking for ways to improve digital publishing. Enhanced ebooks offered never-before-seen full-color images, hyperlinks provided more information, and embedded video added an extra layer of content to a book.

One of the concepts that launched early but (unfortunately) didn’t seem to take off with consumers was audio soundtracks that played while readers worked through the book. Not audio narration and not limited to music, these soundtracks were designed to move at the reader’s pace and fit the action of the story at that time. While the idea didn’t seem to get the attention that things like embedded content for tablet-based textbooks received, soundtrack reading is getting a new life through Booktrack.

The company launched some time ago and has rolled out new features–like Booktrack Studio, which lets readers create these accompanying soundtracks from a library of some 20,000 different tracks–that have enticed more than 300,000 users to join, and led to the creation of almost four thousand reader-built ebook soundtracks since its recent launch.

Now, Booktrack has secured $3M in funding to increase its capabilities and add new avenues to its focus, including a self-publishing angle and a classroom function. The latter focus, Booktrack for education, stands to become one of the more exciting innovations in classroom application for digital reading since the adoption of ebooks in K12 classroom. Multiple studies have shown that user engagement in both adults and students increases with the addition of music or other audio enhancements, leading to higher rates of reading comprehension and longer time spent engaging with a book.

The Blackwell book shop in Broad Street Oxford, England, UK

Blackwell’s is one of the premier bookstores in the UK and the company is launching a new digital learning service that has been built for students, academics and professionals to download and annotate eBooks on any device.

Blackwell’s learning is launching this September and it will provide publishers with a secure additional sales channel, the ability to sell print and digital content in one place whilst gaining access to detailed consumer insight data. The service, which will integrate with university virtual learning environments and learning management systems, has been built in partnership with academics and students to ensure it meets the needs of key stakeholders from day one. Right now, as you can see Blackwell’s is trying very hard to build a system to attract publishers and schools to do business with them.

“Blackwell Learning has been in development for over nine months. It is built by a dedicated British technology team,” explains Matthew Cashmore, Blackwell’s Digital Director. “In addition to benefiting from Blackwell’s inherent understanding of the academic sector across 135 years, it has been actively created in association with a large and diverse group of academics and students.”

Cashmore adds that Blackwell Learning will deliver a consistent and enjoyable user experience across all devices online and offline, enabling students to buy and annotate texts which can be shared through a built-in social media interface.

“Students will be able to bring their own technology to access the service free of charge,” he adds. “This is just the first stage for Blackwell Learning and for the new digital development team on Silicon Roundabout”. “We know from conversations already held that publishers, academics and students are all very excited about its potential and we have already begun looking at additional post-launch features and other new products for this and other market sectors.”

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With indie authors often barred from prestigious writing and book awards, smaller companies have had to launch their own forms of author recognition. IndieReader and Foreword Reviews are known for two of the more widespread awards, as is Amazon/CreateSpace’s ABNA awards. But in a publishing climate in which many newspapers and media outlets still have policies against even reviewing self-published works, let alone awarding them, those other awards can feel bittersweet.

But some headway has occurred now that The Guardian has announced its monthly award to recognize self-published works, with the support of industry mainstay Legend Times. According to a press release on the award, the motivation for the move is simply the self-publishing has become too important to continue being ignored.

“The phenomenon of self-publishing over the last couple of years has become too big for any of us to ignore. We’ve showcased some of the proven stars on the Guardian Books website. We’re confident that our partnership with Legend Times, who lead the way in industry innovation, will give us a chance to find the brightest and the best in this dynamic new sector,” explained Claire Armitstead, Literary Editor of The Guardian.

While judges for the award will still include traditional publishing industry professionals, the acquisitions editor for independent publisher Legend Times will also weigh in. Authors may submit one English-language novel per year, always during the initial two weeks of any calendar month. For entries, go to http://www.theguardian.com/books/series/self-publishing-showcase.

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As libraries look for news ways to stay relevant and meet their patrons’ needs, increasing numbers of institutions are implementing digital lending. eBook lending, along with movie, music, and audiobook streaming, is helping these entities keep their doors open by offering the content their patrons need in the platforms they want to consumer it.

But one area where digital adoption has traditionally been slow to take root is in children’s and teens’ books, a fact that digital content provider OverDrive is helping to erase with the opportunity for its member libraries to offer digital eReading Rooms. These virtual spaces work much the same as a physical location that caters to young library patrons, but still keeps the need for digital adoption in mind.

A recent blog post from OverDrive outlined how one library in San Antonio is making headway with the incorporation of two eReading Rooms, one for younger readers and one focused specifically for teens.

“The San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) is committed to providing the best possible customer service to our patrons, and kids and teens represent large segments of our patron population. The ability to customize the collections within the eReading Rooms allows us to tailor the content to align with library initiatives like the Summer Reading Program and Teen Tech Week and yearly themed content such as National Poetry Month and Women’s History Month. Also, developmentally appropriate material is now more easily accessible to teachers and parents since content can be searched by reading and interest level. These eReading Rooms bring attention to the great richness of SAPL’s collections, while helping us to accommodate the evolving interest that our patrons have for accessing content digitally,” explained Caitlin Cowart, Community and Public Relations Manager, in the post.

While Cowart went on to explain that a project like this is not a catch-all solution for encouraging reading and library participation, it is a valuable tool for reaching patrons where they are and for making the library an important part of the community for all citizens, not just the few who come to the physical location for content, education, and technology needs.

“The library understands that the digital marketplace is maturing. Remote, online access to library content and resources that is personalized and user-friendly drives the virtual user and positions SAPL as a responsive, innovative resource for a new, technology-conscious generation of library patrons.”

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For better or for worse, digital reading is here and it’s everywhere. Subscription-based ebook reading is finally taking root, news and magazine apps have been optimized for smartphone and tablet consumption, and even browser-based scroller feeds offer headlines and story teasers to consumers throughout the day.

In some ways, the widespread adoption of digital reading has lead to an illusion that more consumers than ever before are reading, even if that doesn’t necessarily translate into book consumption or publishing sales. Whether it’s Facebook status updates, text messages, or War and Peace, people are reading.

But is this a case of quantity over quality?

An article by Michael S. Rosenwald in the Washington Post has highlighted the dangers of having so much content available literally at our fingertips, leading to a phenomenon researchers are calling “digital brain.” Essentially, there is so much to read now that consumers are merely skimming the content, looking for the highlights and a few keywords before moving on to the next activity. Besides training our brains to enjoy an attentive-deficit-disorder approach to reading, scientists fear we may lose the capacity to read for in-depth understanding, knowledge enhancement, and pure enjoyment.

According to the interview, “I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing,” said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.

Wolf’s fear seems to be a valid one, considering the development of the human brain over time to reach the capacity we now have for the written word. But what may be even more alarming than our continued ability to read and enjoy the written word is the devaluation that this skimming behavior brings to literature and news. As our online world takes precedence and we train ourselves to look for the shorter sentences that permeate digital text, will our ability to read and enjoy the classics suffer?

Researchers like Wolf say yes. But while some are alarmed by this apparently unnatural evolution towards a different mode of reading, we have to remember that we no longer speak like Shakespeare’s audience members or write like Chaucer’s early fans. The evolution of written content isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the capacity to find interested reading remains intact.

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After a lengthy court battle over ebook price fixing and collusion with several of the Big Five publishers, Apple’s legal drama is far from over. Apple has now requested a stay of all proceedings while waiting for the appeals on two rulings handed down last month by Judge Denise Cote.

The trial and subsequent proceedings have not gone well for the tech giant, with Apple’s attorneys openly stating that this amounts to nothing more than a witch hunt and that the judge presiding over the suits has agenda against Apple. While the publishers involved in the case settled out of court but maintain that there was no wrongdoing–citing that the settlement terms were ultimately less expensive than the legal fees to fight the lawsuit–Apple was not offered that opportunity yet has remained smugly confident that it will come out on top.

In this recent motion, Apple’s attorneys state their confidence in winning the pending appeals is the deciding factor. In their minds, if and not when they win, the proceedings would be undermined if they were allowed to move forward at this time.

Apple has had its share of pain in this process, with an outsider moderator appointed to oversee the company’s dealings in order to avoid future antitrust violations. The company was accused of not playing nicely with its court appointed moderator, leading to new appearances in court to be reminded that they will comply with the ruling and turn over crucial documents in a timely way to this moderator.

Apple is awaiting the May court date to determine the damages they will pay for attempting to oust Amazon in the e-reading market by colluding with publishers to artificially raise ebook prices. Although the early figures on the damages seem staggering on the surface, the 200-plus million dollars can actually be tripled under punitive damages regulations; that resulting $800 million–give or take a few million–would be approximately .5% of Apple’s cash on hand.

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Penguin Random House has launched a new initiative that will allow readers to discover and purchase new eBooks. The My Independent Bookshop project is currently UK based and will be coming to the US later this year.

The essence of the social platform is that it encourages readers to set up their own virtual bookshops to share their favourite reads as well as discover, recommend and review books online. The free site launches today in closed beta, kick-starting a month-long period where select authors and book fans will be invited to join the community and start creating their shops. Anyone with an interest can also register at www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk to be among the first to set up their virtual bookshop when ‘My Independent Bookshop’ goes live to the general public.

There is a strong social media element to the Bookshop with users being able to connect with Facebook, Twitter and Google+. This makes it easy for readers to give their friends, family and fans in their social networks a window into their shops. Through the website itself readers can also share and request personal recommendations from among the ‘My Independent Bookshop’ community if they choose.

The second part of this bookshop is to purchase eBooks through the system. All books in the virtual shops are available to buy online through hive.co.uk, the ecommerce arm of Gardners wholesalers, which is connected with hundreds of independent bookshops across the UK. As part of the registration process, ‘My Independent Bookshop’ users can choose their favourite real-world independent bookshop to connect with. Hive will then pass a commission from any purchase made through the website to their chosen shop.

Transworld author Terry Pratchett has praised the way the platform will support independent bookshops. He said: “Independent bookshops supported this jobbing genre author long before the geeks were let out of their wardrobes, being able to support these talented retail wizards through ‘My Independent Bookshop’ is a very, very good thing.”


Categories : Bookselling, E-Book News
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