Archive for Digital Publishing News
Buying that special someone a book for their birthday or Christmas is on the decline in the United Kingdom. The Nielsen Book Survey has just decreed that the share of books bought as gifts fell from 24% to 22% – equating to a decrease of nine million books.
Jo Henry, director of the research, said that the decline in giving books as gifts would be of particular concern to publishers and called it a “concerning trend” which has also been seen in the US. Gifts accounted for 22% of book sales in 2013, down from 24% in 2012. She is calling for more research to find out the reasons why people are not buying books as gifts as much anymore.
Nielsen also provided data on continuous climb of the eBook industry, as a whole. The survey found that digital eBooks now account for 25% of all book purchases (up from 20% in 2012) and that their growth is at the expense of paperbacks.
There is no true path of ownership when you purchase eBooks, digital comics or manga from online retailers. Instead, you are merely granted a license and if the store closes you will lose everything. In the last few years we have seen BooksonBoard, Diesel eBooks, FictionWise, JManga, Scholastic Storia, and the Sony Reader Store all shutter their doors. Do we need consumer protection laws to protect our eBooks?
When Amazon sells you an an eBook for the Kindle they have the right to remove it at any time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is referenced and Amazon can take your books away if it finds you’ve been naughty.
Being naughty is fairly general and can apply to a myriad of factors. A Norwegian women tried to purchase a Kindle book from the UK bookstore. Under Amazon’s rules, this type of action is barred, as the publisher seeks to control what content is read in which territory of the world. Her account was promptly deleted and all content lost. Should you attempt to break the DRM security block or transfer your purchase to another device, Amazon may legally “revoke your access to the Kindle Store and the Kindle Content without refund of any fees.”
In the past, Amazon has remotely deleted purchased copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from customers’ Kindles after providing them a refund for the purchased products. This was primarily due to a rift with the original publisher and rights issues. Commenters have widely described these actions as Orwellian, and have alluded to Big Brother from Orwell’s book.
When eBook stores decide they cannot stay in business anymore they allow for a small window period that allows you to backup the purchases and store them locally. If you are an average reader who might check the website or a use a reading app periodically, you will likely miss out the opportunity to save your books.
Backing up your books presents a wide array of challenges when you want to read them in the future. When Sony or Diesel eBooks closed, the content was incompatible with the Kindle. Instead, readers had to find a third party reading app for iOS or Android, which are not heavily promoted. If readers have an e-reader such as the Kobo, Onyx or Icarus, they can use Adobe Digital Editions to transfer them over. This program is not the most intuitive and may present a barrier to the non tech savvy.
There are only a few online bookstores of note that do not sell their books using Digital Rights Management (DRM) and allow for a somewhat clearer path of ownership. TOR books is a science fiction and fantasy imprint and they made the call to abandon DRM and sell books directly to customers. Pottermore came into existence as an avenue to use digital watermarks as a way to sell Harry Potter books, and not restrict how a user can read them. Self-publishing companies such as Smashwords leave it up to the author to decide if they want to employ DRM or not, but when you buy a Smashwords title from iBooks, it does have DRM. Theoretically, what would happen to your purchases if Smashwords went out of business?
According to the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers, adult trade ebooks brought in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2013, up 3.8% from $1.25 billion in 2012. Ebooks now account for 27% of all adult trade sales. With this much money at stake and more customers adopting them, consumer protection for digital books is going to be needed.
Australia, Canada, Europe, UK and the United States do not have any current protection laws for digital books. They leave it up to the publishing industry and resellers to determine how best to run their own businesses and to develop their own licensing agreements. With millions of eBooks, comics and manga being lost after purchasing on a worldwide scale, something needs to be done to augment the First Sale Doctrine, Copyright Software Rental Amendments Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act to protect customers from companies indiscriminately removing purchased content or to save it from a company going out of business.
In a move that industry watchers are already calling a direct competition to Amazon’s purchase of book discovery platform Goodreads, TechCrunch has reported through an anonymous tip that Apple has bought Boise, Idaho-based BookLamp, creators of the Book Genome Project discovery site. The site, which pairs readers with books based on the “DNA” of books, meaning an in-depth analysis of the language in titles readers have read, offers suggestions for new reads based on what users have already enjoyed.
According to TechCrunch, things became a little cryptic in April of this year, at least on BookLamp’s end. Once the anonymous tipster let it be known that Apple had completed the purchase for between $10million and $15million, which includes all of the technology and the manpower within the company. Facebook (of all places) provided some more of the clues, as key team members from BookLamp still listed Boise as their places of residence but had multiple FB posts that were tagged from the Cupertino, California, location.
As to how this is going to help Apple take down Amazon, as some reports are already claiming, that remains to be seen. Amazon purchased Goodreads over a year ago, with some estimates on the cost ranging from between $150 million and over one billion dollars. While the move has been good for Amazon, for Goodreads, and even for readers, it doesn’t appear to have been a game changer within the bookselling industry, at least not in the way that these kinds of dollars reflect.
One thing that has come out, though, is a renewed focus on Apple’s part in terms of selling titles through its iBooks platform. With agreements already in place with publishers and even Smashwords, and with the iOS8 update coming this fall that is supposed to make book purchasing even more streamlined, incorporating a search feature for right-fit books makes a lot of sense.
Of course, as Apple explained to TechCrunch, the company has a long history of buying smaller tech companies and then not discussing the details. Apple could just as easily have plans for the BookLamp technology–say in the area of app discovery–that doesn’t have much to do with bookselling.
Verdict: 5 Stars
This book was fun for the very reason that books are meant to be read: it provided an escape into a world of “wouldn’t it be great if I could, but I never will.”
In Freudberg’s title, main character Martin Muntor made it a goal early in life to excel, not in the psychotic driven way of a man who cannot fathom failure, but more in the way of a man who had early examples of how not to live, and rose to overcome them. He takes good care of himself, works hard at a good job, and basically enjoys life.
Until he is diagnosed with lung cancer thanks to secondhand smoke from a childhood surrounded by smokers, only to follow that up with a doomed marriage to a smoker.
Everyone wants to point fingers at lung cancer patients as though to ask, “What did you expect to happen?” But in Muntor’s case, he was neither a smoker nor able to escape from an environment filled with the toxic stuff. Given that the book is set in 1995 when smoking was more prevalent and the effects of secondhand smoke were downplayed, the man is a casual victim who refuses to go down without a fight.
Instead of a medical fight, though, Muntor becomes a man on a mission, hellbent on taking down the tobacco industry, serial killer-style.
Much in the same way that we can enjoy TV shows like Dexter for both the sick pleasure of watching the bad guys suffer and the “it’s never gonna happen but what if” plot, Freudberg’s story line is both a sick pleasure and a fun pseudo-warning to the corporate entities who hurt the population in the name of twisted greed. I’d love to see what the author comes up with in addressing Monsanto, but that’s for another book.
There were places where the writing dragged for me, but I am admittedly not a massive fan of the genre. I can appreciate good writing and a highly unique plot, though, both of which the author provided in abundance.
Find Virgil is available now.
Scholastic, the award-winning powerhouse in children’s publishing, made a announcement today that their ebook reading app Storia would be closing, making way for a bigger focus on its Storia School Edition subscription reading program. In a cryptically worded graphic on their website, a lot of unanswered questions were alluded to, particularly that the ebooks parents have already purchased for their young readers as part of the platform “may soon no longer be available,” and that consumers “may be able to continue using your eBooks by making sure to open them on a bookshelf at least once by October 15.”
While that may leave consumers with even more head-scratching than understanding, a more confusing offer of a refund on all titles purchased is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, parents who act by
August 1st can have a refund on their ebooks, but if they don’t ask for a refund, their content might still work.
The industry has been very forgiving of Scholastic’s recent drops in revenue by acknowledging that the company simply can’t produce a Hunger Games trilogy every year. Just how significant was the series for Scholastic? Given that at one point all three books were in the top spots on various bestsellers lists and that the movie franchise is still in production, it’s easy to see what a monumental percentage of revenue it was. At the same time, Scholastic can’t continue to rest on its publishing laurels and excuse a drop in revenue due to not producing another blockbuster. A recent shareholder presentation outlined the areas where improvement has been steady, as well as sources of decrease.
All in all, it means that Scholastic is smart to fund its drive in a market where it’s possibly most well known with consumers, and that’s in education. As ebook subscription models continue to gain ground with consumers, keeping a student-centric model in motion through classrooms instead of only through private consumer subscriptions seems to be the smarter approach. With the recent announcement of Lee Peters as the new SVP of Strategic Marketing in the education division, there are already new directions underway for increasing the brand and putting Scholastic content where people expect it: in the classrooms.
UPDATE: The deadline for refunds is NOT this Friday, but rather August 1st of next year, and the family streaming service that was announced last April is still available. We apologize for any panic this may have caused.
Apple is looking to beat Amazon at the eBook discovery game with the acquisition of BookLamp. The Idaho based startup has focused their company primarily on analytics services that is specialized on big data.
BookLamp’s claim to fame was the Book Genome project, a book discovery engine that analyzed the text of books to break them down by various themes and variables to let readers search for books similar to books they liked.
BookLamp also provided content analysis services to a number of e-book distributors like Amazon, Apple, and other publishers, screening books for categorization and providing a platform for publishers to screen manuscripts.
The one thing that BookLamp did really well was look at a specific title and extrapolate the underlying metadata. As you can see from the Stephen King example above, it categorizes all of the main themes of the book, to help with indexing and organization in the bookstore.
Apple has not formally announced the amount of cash it has ponied for the company, but the rumor was between $10 and $20 million dollars. BookLamp was actually in negotiation with Amazon prior to the sale to Apple, but the talks fell through.
What will Apple do with BookLamp?
Aside from the clientbase that BookLamp already has, there are a number of things Apple could do with the technology. The first would be to develop a competitor to Amazon X-Ray, which would give you the people, places and things in a book, but also major themes. It would also assist in vetting out titles that would not be appropriate for kids or young teens.
Apple iBooks currently does not really focus on recommendations or personalization. They mainly have a series of top lists, editors choice, or recommended titles from Apple curators. Some of this data is changed based on geography, for example in Canada you would see a number of French language titles.
BookLamp technology would allow Apple to give more personalization based on past purchases. This is similar to the type of data Amazon employs and it often leads to more sales, especially if the data could be displayed on the iPad/iPhone, but also via Email.
Fifty Shades of Grey has crossed an important milestone recently, when it recorded its 100 millionth book sale back in February. Random House originally picked up the book and published it in 2011 to massive popularity. 50 Shades made so much money that the publisher gave everyone a Christmas bonus of $5,000 bonus because of the book’s stellar success. Are we going to see a resonance in demand for the book?
Hold on to your handcuffs and blindfolds, 50 Shades of Grey has just released the first official trailer for the movie that comes out in February 2015. Likely men all over the world will be dragged out to the film or girls may populate it in droves as a night out.
The clip features the moment Mr Grey, played by Jamie Dornan, meets Anastasia Steele, portrayed by Dakota Johnson. The book has been accused of being amateurish full of cliches, but the trailer is anything but. It even has a reworked version of Crazy in Love, by Beyonce.
50 Shades of Grey was originally supposed to be out at the end of the month, but it was going to compete against The Guardians of the Galaxy by Marvel. Instead, this gives the bookselling industry enough time to launch a massive new campaign to promote the trilogy of books. Likely, you will see EL James do key book signings and expect many new titles “if you liked 50 Shades, buy this book.”
With a fairly significant US election looming on the horizon, candidates are already working the public for both electoral and financial support. And with the support of the Federal Election Commission, a whole new form of political contributions is heading their way.
The state of New Hampshire, long considered one of the key states in the national election process, happens to also have more Bitcoin transactions than any other state per capita; given that fact, New Hampshire politicians will be accepting campaign contributions in this so-called “cryptocurrency,” the form of digital currency who most noteworthy example may be Bitcoin. Ensuring the seamless nature of making this type of contribution with e-currency is PayStand, who spoke with Good e-Reader about the viability of this measure.
“It’s important for government leaders to listen to their constituency,” states Andrew Hemingway, a New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidate, in a press release. “New Hampshire is known as the Live Free or Die State and we have always been very strong in our independent ideals. The state has spoken – they want the opportunity to use innovative and convenient payment alternatives. I am happy to accept Bitcoin as political donations and want to make it as simple a process as possible for my supporters to do that. Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is the wave of the future and I want to do everything I can to allow people to use it – including for political donations of all sorts.”
Bitcoin may very well be a misunderstood object of fear, the stuff of science fiction, to those who were already leery of it. The US government’s seizure of more than 150,000 Bitcoins, nearly 30,000 of which have already been auctioned off for around $17 million, didn’t do anything to endear the currency to its critics. The fact that it was seized during the arrest and shutdown of the internet’s biggest black market site all but sealed its fate for some consumers.
Which could very well be why Bitcoin campaign contributions could change that. Where many people think of political contributions as the realm of corporate fat cats’ efforts to buy politicians, Bitcoin and PayStand could actually level the playing field to some extent, by offering a seamless and simple process for everyday citizens to support the candidates they care about more feasible.
“Bitcoin is absolutely moving quickly into all facets of our lives. This election cycle is really the first where Bitcoin is talked about and used for donations, now that the FEC has approved it. And with more and more businesses – and even now the State of California – accepting Bitcoin as a form of currency, it is becoming essential to include cryptocurrencies as a payment option,” said Jeremy Almond, CEO, PayStand. “From day one PayStand has included Bitcoin among all other forms of payment and we are thrilled to be on the leading edge in the political donation process in New Hampshire and throughout the country.”
Other major players in the online transaction sphere, including eBay and PayPal, are working on process to accept Bitcoin payments in a wide variety of denominations.
eBook subscriptions services are making headlines right now, especially following the launch of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. In some ways, correlations can be made that two other pioneering subscription services–Scribd and Oyster–could have paved the way for KU, despite the various differences in their platforms. While other ebook subscription startups have been around for years, Oyster and Scribd have made the most headway with not only enticing readers into the benefits of their programs, but also in working with some publishers to put their titles in the catalogs with the most viable compensation models so far.
Oyster announced today that it is now including web-based reading in its platform, meaning users no longer have to rely on the mobile app for content. While the Android and iOS apps are still fully operative, Oyster added a new layer of accessibility to the platform in a throwback move to browser-based reading.
“Knowing that about a third of ebook readers regularly read on the web, we’ve had our sights set on this launch for some time,” said Eric Stromberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Oyster. “This marks an important next step on our mission to provide the best product on as many devices as possible.”
Billed as the Netflix of reading, ebook subscriptions have kept a similar pricepoint–Oyster’s is $9.95 a month for both the app-based and web-based option to read unlimited numbers of ebooks–while trying to offer compelling content. Oyster has had a measure of success in signing two of the largest publishers in the world to provide some of their content to the growing catalog, and has agreements with more than 1,600 publishers overall.
Oyster’s CEO had some welcoming remarks for the introduction of Amazon’s service into the ebook subscription sphere, seeing the launch of KU as yet another sign that reading consumers are responding to this model.
“We’re not surprised. [Amazon has] pivoted from transactional to subscription-based in other media, and had limited success. They really paved the way in ebooks, and it’s exciting to see them embrace the market we created as the future of books.”
New members can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Oyster by clicking HERE.
The Man Booker Prize for literature is one of the most prestigious awards in publishing and very often the winners go on to critical success. Any author can be considered, as long as their work is in English and published in the UK. Today, the longlist of the class of 2014 have been unveiled, and gives us an indication on some of the most essential reads of the year.
The 13 books themselves are selected by six judges chaired by philosopher Anthony Grayling. They selected four books by Americans, six Britons, two Irish writers and one Australian.
One of the most interesting books on the list was The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. The premise of The Wake is a historical novel set in 1066 and written in what the author calls “shadow tongue”, a mix of modern and Old English. It follows a band of English resistance fighters battling the invaders in the decade following the Norman Conquest.
The Wake certainly is very unique in the subject matter, but what is more compelling is what it took to get it published. Paul took to a new literary service called UNBOUND, which allows authors to pitch their books to the crowd and people can kick in in sums of £5 to £300. Think of it as the Kickstarter of book publishing. The author raised £14,000, and Unbound markets, distributes and handles sales. In its three years of being in business, Unbound has successfully funded 65 books and 40 of those have so far been published. The biggest hit to date has been Letters of Note, a UK best-seller.
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (Viking)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
J, Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Sceptre)
The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
Us, David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Dog, Joseph O’Neill (Fourth Estate)
Orfeo, Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
How to be Both, Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
History of the Rain, Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)
The Man Booker, which is awarded to the best novel of the year in the opinion of the judges, is worth £50,000 to the winner. Previous winners include Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring up the Bodies, and two novels where sales have topped two million copies each, Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
The judges will meet again to reduce their longlist to a shortlist of six titles which will be announced on Tuesday 9th September. The winning novel will be revealed on the BBC television’s Ten O’Clock News direct from a black-tie dinner in London’s Guildhall on October 14.