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7May/110

E-books wag the long backlist tail

On his blog the other day, Eoin Purcell brought up an interesting point about how electronic books are changing the nature of the book market. In the old print market, bookstores could only present a limited number of titles so they concentrated mainly on new releases plus a very small selection of publisher backlists.

Of course, providing full access to the “long tail” of all titles was the foundation of Amazon’s business model, but even then it was limited to titles that were available in print. But with e-books, there’s no reason any title should go out of availability (and Google’s scanning project means that even out-of-print and never-publisher-scanned titles could be available for sale if they ever get the lawsuits out of the way).

Purcell points out that most people don’t focus on whether a title is newly-published or backlist—what matters to them is whether or not they’ve already read it. Where a consumer might be reluctant to buy it (or, more likely, never even notice it) as a beat-up used paperback copy, there’s nothing about an e-version of it that’s any different from the e-version of the very latest thing to be published. (Save that the price of the backlist title is likely to be lower, of course.)

He believes that is making publishers—who depend on good sales from their latest blockbusters to keep going—very nervous. While they could, of course, rake in money from their own backlists just as easily, they’re not necessarily set up to take full advantage of that market yet. (Not to mention that authors whose contracts pre-date mention of e-book rights might have their own ideas about where to take their backlist books.) Meanwhile, publishers such as Open Road Integrated Media are setting up specifically to handle authors’ backlists and finding that the future looks very bright.


As Purcell notes, the jury is still out on whether or not this is entirely a good thing—but certainly it’s going to make the next few years more interesting.

6May/110

Simon & Schuster admits that ebooks save production costs

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At every conference I go to publishers are saying that ebook costs are high because of all the work that goes into them and that publishers don’t save any money when they produce ebooks.  Well, Simon & Schuster seems to have been hoisted by its own petard.

Brad’s Reader caught them out:

Aside from giving specific figures on how much ebook sales have increased, the article also mentions something interesting. I’ve never heard one of the large publishing houses say this (emphasis mine):

“We got out of the gate faster than usual,” said S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy led by sales of e-books that doubled in the quarter and accounted for 17% of revenue with digital audio adding the other one percent (about million). The steep increase in profits was attributed to lower shipping, production and returns costs as well as the “painful” belt-tightening that S&S has implemented over the last 18 months plus the higher sales, Reidy said.

In other words, they are admitting that because ebooks have low production costs, and low shipping and non-existant return costs, ebooks are very profitable.

As Chris Meadows points out “… this makes publishers’ refusal to increase royalty rates on e-books look even more transparent.”

5May/110

E-books and Print Will Survive Side by Side

The recent spike in e-book sales, both in the United States and abroad, has led some to speculate that e-books will one day replace print. Headlines espousing the death of traditionally printed books are abundant.

At the same time, the sluggish response of e-book sales compared to the overall sales of printed texts has led others to proclaim the rise in popularity of e-readers to be nothing more than a fad.

New data that released on e-book sales in the UK actually speaks to both truths. 2010 saw a 400% increase in the sales of e-book and audio downloads of novels and general texts, while digitally published textbook still far overshadowed the sales of general titles.


The point of interest is that this massive increase of e-book sales in the UK came after the August 2010 launch of the Amazon.co.uk Kindle store, despite the 2009 release of the Kindle 2 International version. With only months left in the year, sales still increased to that degree, despite Amazon being only one source for e-books in Europe.

Prior to the launch of the UK Kindle store, Amazon customers were still able to purchase Kindles and e-books, but had to do so through the original Amazon.com website and the sales were based in U.S. currency. With the birth of the Amazon.co.uk Kindle store, e-book purchasing became more streamlined and English-language titles that were making headlines throughout Europe but had not yet gained popularity in the US were now available for e-readers, leading to an increase in interest in e-reader ownership.

While the UK has quite obviously demonstrated a love for digital publishing, the total e-book sales for 2010 was £16 million (roughly .7 million), a mere fraction of the £3.1 billion spent on all book sales in the UK that year.

It would be safe to assume that international readers are quite interested in the titles available for e-readers, but that print versions aren’t going anywhere in the near future.

Related posts:

  1. Amazon eBooks outselling Tangible books 2:1
  2. eBook sales surpass print in January
  3. Books-A-Million Reader from Bluefire brings e-books for mobile devices
  4. Stieg Larsson first author to sell over a million Kindle e-books
  5. Piracy could make books a thing of the past
  6. The future of e-books in Australia
5May/110

E-books and Print Will Survive Side by Side

The recent spike in e-book sales, both in the United States and abroad, has led some to speculate that e-books will one day replace print. Headlines espousing the death of traditionally printed books are abundant.

At the same time, the sluggish response of e-book sales compared to the overall sales of printed texts has led others to proclaim the rise in popularity of e-readers to be nothing more than a fad.

New data that released on e-book sales in the UK actually speaks to both truths. 2010 saw a 400% increase in the sales of e-book and audio downloads of novels and general texts, while digitally published textbook still far overshadowed the sales of general titles.

The point of interest is that this massive increase of e-book sales in the UK came after the August 2010 launch of the Amazon.co.uk Kindle store, despite the 2009 release of the Kindle 2 International version. With only months left in the year, sales still increased to that degree, despite Amazon being only one source for e-books in Europe.

Prior to the launch of the UK Kindle store, Amazon customers were still able to purchase Kindles and e-books, but had to do so through the original Amazon.com website and the sales were based in U.S. currency. With the birth of the Amazon.co.uk Kindle store, e-book purchasing became more streamlined and English-language titles that were making headlines throughout Europe but had not yet gained popularity in the US were now available for e-readers, leading to an increase in interest in e-reader ownership.

While the UK has quite obviously demonstrated a love for digital publishing, the total e-book sales for 2010 was £16 million (roughly .7 million), a mere fraction of the £3.1 billion spent on all book sales in the UK that year.

It would be safe to assume that international readers are quite interested in the titles available for e-readers, but that print versions aren’t going anywhere in the near future.

Related posts:

  1. Amazon eBooks outselling Tangible books 2:1
  2. eBook sales surpass print in January
  3. Books-A-Million Reader from Bluefire brings e-books for mobile devices
  4. Stieg Larsson first author to sell over a million Kindle e-books
  5. Piracy could make books a thing of the past
  6. The future of e-books in Australia
4May/110

Smashwords Partners with ScrollMotion to Deliver Indie Ebooks to Major Mobile App Marketplaces

Scrollmotionsmashwords

From the Smashwords blog:

Smashwords books are coming to an app store near you.

Today we announced an agreement withScrollMotion that will transform over 33,000Smashwords Premium Catalog ebooks into individual mobile apps for distribution to the largest app marketplaces for smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

The relationship will gain Smashwords authors and publishers free entry into the app marketplaces for Apple, Android, Windows Phone 7 and WebOS.

Our partnership with ScrollMotion expands the distribution of our books to the largest, fastest growing app marketplaces, and will enable Smashwords authors and publishers to reach new readers.

According to Gartner Group, worldwide smartphone sales will reach 468 million units in 2011, a 57.7 percent increase from 2010. Apple, Android and Windows Phone 7 above power 63 percent of all smart phones in 2011, and this will rise to 85 percent by 2015. Separately, in the all-important tablet market, which Gartner estimates will reach 69 million devices this year, Gartner predicts Apple, Android, WebOS will collectively power over 92 percent of tablets sold. Gartner estimates sales of tablets will grow to 294 million units by 2015, of which Apple, Android and WebOS are expected to command a collective 89 percent market share.

Over 47,000 books are published at Smashwords today, with over 5,000 new releases in the last 30 days. Over 34,000 of these titles have been accepted into the Smashwords Premium Catalog for distribution to major retailers.

Shipments to ScrollMotion will commence on Friday, and titles will begin appearing in the app marketplaces later this month. All Premium Catalog books are automatically opted in for ScrollMotion distribution. To modify distribution preferences, log in to your Smashwords Dashboard’s Channel Manager. Like all Smashwords retail relationships, authors and publishers will earn 60 percent of the list price.

Read the official press release here.

4May/110

Free Books Online Download Free PDF ebooks – Ebooknetworking


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4May/110

In the era of ebooks, what is a book worth? (III)

Worth

Discussion among commenters regarding the prior two installments of this series, In the Era of eBooks, What Is a Book Worth? (I) and In the Era of eBooks, What Is a Book Worth? (II),continue to focus on interchangeability of authors, with some commenters agreeing with the idea and others (the majority) disagreeing.

I don’t intend to rehash this argument in this final installment, but I would refer readers to On Books: Murder Down Under, in which I review the mysteries of Australian author Vicki Tyley, as an example of an indie author who I consider the equivalent or near-equivalent of some well-known traditionally published mystery writers. Similarly, I would refer readers to On Books: The Promises to Keep Quartet, in which I review Shayne Parkinson’s ebooks. Parkinson is another indie author who I consider the equivalent or near-equivalent of some well-known traditionally published historical fiction writers.

I will note, however, that if authors are not interchangeable, then ebookers are buying a unique, potentially scarce, commodity that is not replicable in the marketplace, justifying high pricing. Additionally, as a unique item, there is no reason why pricing shouldn’t be even higher. In fact, it might be worthwhile for publishers to create an artificial scarcity by limiting the number of ebook versions of a particular novel that can be sold, which, when combined with the lack of author interchangeability, could drive pricing even higher.

However, because I do find authors to be interchangeable, in this final installment I will attempt to determine just where in the continuum of book pricing ebooks should fall.

The publishing business, until recently, began with the hardcover. Publishers set a suggested retail price against which they charged booksellers a wholesale price. Until the advent of discounting of books about 50 years ago, booksellers sold the hardcovers at the suggested price. But to publishers, the selling price didn’t — and continues not to — matter much. Regardless of how much a hardcover is discounted, the publisher gets a “fixed” wholesale price. If the wholesale discount is 50%, the bookseller pays the publisher on a suggested retail price of ; the bookseller then retails the hardcover for any price between 1¢ and (or more), either making or losing money on the sale.

The fly in the publisher’s ointment, however, has been and continues to be returns (see, e.g., It’s Raining, It’s Pouring: Returns in an eBook Age and A Modest Proposal: A 21st Century Publishing Model). When setting the price for a hardcover edition, the publisher needs to consider myriad costs, including returns of unsold copies. Although not a perfect science, production and return costs of the hardcover can justify the hardcover’s pricing, at least to a reasonable extent.

In addition to the hardcover production and return costs, it is the hardcover sales — because it is traditionally the first available edition of a book — where the publisher tries to recoup all of its expenses plus make a profit. The publishing of a paperback version, traditionally, was for long-tail profits.

An interesting thing about print book pricing is that publishers recognize — and have recognized for decades — that even though the production and return costs of paperbacks and hardcovers are quite similar, the publisher cannot charge readers who buy the paperback the same price, or even close to the same price, as is charged for the hardcover. The gap, which is better described as a chasm, between hardcover and paperback is enormous, with the paperback often having a suggested retail price as little as 20% to 25% of the hardcover’s suggested price, and selling for about 50% of the discounted hardcover’s real selling price.

Yet with these enormous differentials staring them in the face, publishers are satisfied — until it comes to ebooks. Suddenly, then, the perspective changes and discounted pricing is a bugaboo because it threatens to “devalue” books.

There is no sense in repeating all the things (and the arguments pro and con) that differentiate ebooks from print books, such as restrictive licensing (lease vs. own), DRM, reproduction costs, warehousing costs, no returns, etc. It suffices to say that whereas publishers see no devaluing of print books that we own and can freely disseminate and even resell when print books are discounted, they see devaluing in discounting ebooks, even though we cannot do any of the same things legally.

With interchangeability of authors, a no-returns policy (i.e., no consumer returns and no ebookstore returns), and the DRM-imposed restrictions on ebooks, there is no justification for pricing an ebook above the price set for the lowest suggested retail price for the paperback version. In the era of ebooks, an ebook is not worth more than a paperback; if anything, it is worth less.

It is worth less because the only thing an ebook provides that a paperback or a hardcover version do not is portability convenience. Once that is eliminated from the equation, an ebook provides nothing else that is superior to the print version. In fact, I’d daresay everything else is inferior. Certainly, quality control is inferior and when I buy a print version that is riddled with errors, I can return it to the bookstore, which can return it for credit to the publisher — something that cannot occur with ebooks as there is nothing to return.

If scarcity were a factor, as it can be with print books; if resale value were a factor, as it can be with print books; if the marketplace set the final retail price, as is the case with print books; if authors weren’t interchangeable; if I could lend an ebook as often as I wanted to whomever I wanted, as freely as I can with print books; if quality control for ebooks equalled that of print books, or even came close; if I owned an ebook like I own a print book; if myriad other advantages of print books were at least nearly approached with ebooks, then higher pricing would be justifiable — but they aren’t and it isn’t.

In fact, what has occurred is just what publishers feared: books have become devalued. But the devaluation has come about as a result of the absurd ebook pricing instituted by publishers, notably the Agency 6. Whereas before readers like me would willingly buy print books at relatively high prices, largely because we saw some value in doing so, we have now been converted to ebooks and are shopping for books at the under .99, and often free, price point.

Publishers fought the .99 bestseller price that Amazon tried to impose. But what they failed to recognize was that the .99 price point was applied to a limited number of ebooks and because ebookers were psychologically happy with that price point, they also bought, without much complaint, ebooks at higher price points — ebookers didn’t actively restrict themselves to ebooks that did not exceed a significantly lower price point. The imposition of agency pricing by the Agency 6 altered buying habits. Now instead of being satisfied with a .99 price point, many ebookers, such as myself, have set a significantly lower price point and actively look for ebooks that do not exceed that price point. For us author interchangeability is fact. Whereas before I might have bought a Stephen King novel, now I ignore King and find low-price equivalents, of which there are many. Similarly, I buy Vicki Tyley mysteries rather than mysteries by P.D. James or Martha Grimes, and I buy Shayne Parkinson historical novels rather than those written by Philippa Gregory or Elizabeth Chadwick.

A restricted ebook, such as is published by the Agency 6, is simply not worth more than the lowest suggested retail price for the paperback version, which is usually 25% to 30% of the suggested retail price for the hardcover. It is time for publishers to stop devaluing their books with unrealistic agency pricing for ebooks and let the marketplace determine ebook pricing, as is done for the print versions.

Via Rich Adin’s An American Editor blog

4May/110

Ebooks will Not kill paper books – At least not for a long time.





Ebooks are not yet the death of paper books:

We read all over the net that paper book publishing is about to become extinct – I disagree strongly with this idea.

I know — obviously, as I am an observer of the whole ereader/ebook industry – that the sales of ebooks is rising all over the world, as more and more people buy themselves ereaders and start to buy most of their books online as ebooks, rather than as paper books.  And at first sight one could be forgiven for believing that this heralds the demise of the classic paper book form, but this idea is ignoring a number of important points it seems to me.

Some of these points are as follows:

  • So far electronic text books have not really made any real impression on the educational book market
  • Not everyone wants  an ereader
  • Not everyone can afford an ereader
  • In many parts of the world it is almost impossible to buy an ereader
  • Paper books have a charm and soul, which no ereader can emulate
  • Ebooks can not be easily lent to friends
  • Ebooks can not be sold as second-hand books
  • And probably a number of other factors that you will be able to think up as well.

Given the points above, which are all incontrovertible in my opinion I believe that the book form that was started by the Chinese way back in the 11th century (not as we in the West believe by Caxton in the 15th century) still has a lot of life in it yet, and will be with us for a long time to come.

Text books:

It is well known that so  far there is no ereader, or even tablet available that is the equal of printed text books, in spite of many attempts to achieve  this desirable goal.   Studies have shown that the dedicated ereader, such as the Kindle, is not really a useful tool for most students, especially at the higher levels, and even the much hyped iPad isn’t really useful yet in this respect.   A lot of development work needs to be done before any device comes along that will meet all the very specific demands of educational use of electronic readers, and I am not really sure that the financial returns this might bring are enough to encourage any companies to do this….    The fate of the Kno ereaders is a good pointer to this problem (They have given up the idea of producing their ereaders, and are concentrating instead on software, which will be computer based).   And this story is repeated over and over again… All attempts so far to make any ereading device that is any use in education has failed or quietly faded away.

This in no way devalues projects such as Worldreader’s project to bring ereaders to kids in the developing world, that is a completely different idea.

Who owns your ebooks?

This is another problem area with ebooks currently, the sad fact is that we pay a lot of money for them (mostly) but are not actually the legal owners of the ebooks we buy.   We are merely licensed to have an electronic copy of the ebook on our reading device with no legal right to sell it on (as we do with our paper books) or even lend it to a friend.  I know, Amazon and Barnes  and Noble have set up a very restricted “lend to a friend system” and one can now borrow ebooks from many libraries, but this is only a one time per ebook deal, so not really the point.

With Amazon this is particularly obvious, as they have the right, and possibility as they have demonstrated, to remove your ebooks from your ereader with no restitution.

So no second hand ebooks will be found in your local garage sale or friendly local book shop…….    Until it becomes possible to dispose of our ebooks as we wish – in other words, become the legal owners of the ebooks we purchase – many people will avoid the whole  idea.

Availability of ereaders:

This is an important factor as well.   In many parts of the world it is impossible, or way too expensive, to get your hands on an ereader.   As an example of this, I have searched high and low in Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines, and not been able to find any ereaders.   I know this situation is slowly changing, but it has a long way to go before ereaders become universally available, and at prices that people can afford as well.

The charm and mystery of paper books:

Another important point for many of us is the feel, smell and look of a “real” paper book.   An ereader is a very convenient beast, as I know very well, being a convinced ereader owner, but  it has no romance, no soul.   When I look at my meters of bookshelves, with all those old and rather battered books on them, I get a frisson of pleasure – all those old friends sitting there, waiting to be taken down and reread.  Such a pleasure.   When I look at my Sony ereader, or my wife’s ereader sitting on the table, I get no particular pleasure.   It is a device, a soulless machine, a convenience, that is all.

I would hate to find myself in a world where the only books one could buy were ebooks….  Can you imagine what ebook shops would be like, they would have all the soul of a DVD store, endless plastic boxes with blurbs on the covers, but no way you could leaf through them to see if you want them.  No, not for me!

I am pretty well convinced that paper books will be with us for a long time yet, and very happy to think this.

Share with us:

What are your views on the future of paper or ebooks?

 




3May/110

Will e-books sell more print books?

I found another “death of print” article, like the ones I mentioned here, though this one at least has a fairly novel take on why publishers should be happy that e-books are coming in. In PC Magazine, John Dvorak suggests that e-books will be a key to selling more books overall.

First of all, we know from anecdotal evidence that people with an ebook reader often buy hard copies of the books they really want. The ebook reader is a filtering mechanism. It reminds me of the Napster era in the music business. During its heyday, people were buying more CDs than ever. Yes, they were bootlegging like crazy, but also buying like crazy. I’ve discussed this phenomenon ad nauseum, but suffice it to say that Napster was like a great sampling system that resulted in sales.

The same will happen with ebooks. The book publishers should relish the prospects of the easy money ahead.

I’m not so sure I buy this. If this is true, print book sales should be surging, but it appears that they’re starting to decline as e-book sales rise. Might there be an error in Mr. Dvorak’s calculations?

3May/115

Read ebooks and pdf files on iPod touch/iPhone


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