Archive for July, 2012

Round up #98: new statement in Agency Model case, “5 or 6″ new “Kindle Fires”

July 23, 2012

Round up #98: new statement in Agency Model case, “5 or 6″ new “Kindle Fires”

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

I may  flesh these out more later today, but there is some breaking news.

Reuters discusses Amazon’s mobile ambitions and SKUs

I heard about this one in a couple of places, including a reader sending it in private e-mail.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/23/us-amazon-mobile-idUSBRE86M0EY20120723

I would put this beyond the level of rumor, although there may be some confusion about it, and it’s not confirmed by Amazon.

Demos Parneros of Staples has said that they now have SKUs for multiple new tablets from Amazon.

A SKU is a Stock-Keeping Unit number (we always thought of them as just “StocK Units”).

The confusion here could be because it identifies what a brick-and-mortar store pulls out of the stockroom to replace things on the shelf (and it has other functions).

If an item comes in multiple colors, or memory configurations, or wi-fi versus 3G, they would each have a different SKU (if the customer gets a choice…if they say they want a “blue one”, you don’t want to have to start opening boxes to be able to tell).

Also very interesting (and good detective work) is that the number of people on LinkedIn from Lab126 (Amazon’s research and development lab) has massively increased.

New statement  in Agency Model case

http://www.scribd.com/doc/100822270/Response-of-Plaintiff-United-States-to-Public-Comments-on-the-Proposed-Final-Judgment

I haven’t had a chance to read the whole statement yet, and this is not the final settlement.

Here’s one statement from it, though:

“The United States received many comments that sought to excuse price fixing asnecessary to end Amazon’s reported ninety percent share of the e-book market, and notedthat Apple’s entry effectuated erosion of Amazon’s share and spurred all sorts of innovations, such as color e-books. But the reality is that, despite its conspiratorial efforts, Apple’s entry into the e-book market was not immediately successful. It was, in fact, Barnes & Noble’s entry—prior to Apple—that took significant share away from Amazon; and many of the touted innovations were in development long before Apple decided to enter the market via conspiracy.”

Correction: I originally reported this as a judge’s statement, because that was what I saw going to the link.  However, it is actually a response of the DoJ (Department of Justice) which is acting as the plaintiff in this case. That explains the strength of the position…you would expect it to be advocatory. My apologies for that inaccuracy. It’s still an interesting document, though. :)

Kindle Touch 5.1.2 bug fix available

If you’ve done/gotten the 5.1.0 or 5.1.1 update for the Kindle Touch, they have a bug fix update you should get:

Kindle Touch 5.1.2 bug fix

By “bug fix”, I meant that it doesn’t features, it just fixes a problem. My guess is that this has to do with a font size problem which has been reported.

Penguin takes over Author Solutions

This was sent to me by a reader in a private e-mail.

http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444464304577537092288601370.html?mod=djemITP_h&mg=reno-wsj

Penguin is apparently taking over Author Solutions…which makes it a tradpub (traditional publisher) taking over an independent publishing platform…think Random House taking over Smashwords,  just for an analogy.

That’s an interesting development…a tradpub could certainly promote indie books in a different way.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon’s Big Fall Books Preview 2012

July 23, 2012

Amazon’s Big Fall Books Preview 2012

Amazon’s famous for taking the long view. It would take a pretty long view for me to see autumn from here, given how hot it’s been lately. ;)

Well, they’ve now released

The Big Fall Books Preview 2012

and an accompanying

press release

The editors as a group picked ten most “intriguing” books. Each of three editors also picked three more books, plus there are a lot more in specific categories.

Here are their ten most intriguing:

All of these will be pre-orders…check the delivery date when you order it if you want to have an idea when you’ll get it.

I have to say, it was heartwarming to see that none of these presumed bestsellers from a variety of major publishers had text-to-speech access blocked. I still see that sometimes, but it doesn’t seem at all as common on new releases.

Also, I’m sure some of you have noticed how many of these books have “A Novel” as part of the title. I see people ask about that. Well, in the case of Kingsolver and Wolfe, that’s actually important information. However, that might seem to be less the case with Ken Follett, and we have to hope it’s the case with Justin Cronin (I don’t think anybody would want The Passage to be nonfiction). ;) I suspect one reason is to make the title more unique for legal and marketing reasons. You can’t copyright a title (although you can trademark a short phrase).  In Cronin’s case, for example, there are a lot of books that are called The Twelve or just Twelve.  That doesn’t mean that Cronin’s copyright is for “The Twelve: A Novel”, but if someone else used that same construction, one could more easily argue that it is confusing for consumers.

I don’t think any of these were particularly difficult choices, if you were looking for bestsellers. They’ll all have considerable publisher support.

I may take a look to see if I can suggest any books for September that would be lesser known, but that I would find intriguing. If you have a book that you are really anticipating that isn’t on this list, feel free to mention it in a comment. I’ll have to evaluate it for advertising, of course, but definitely, if you are unconnected to the book except as a reader, that would be interesting to see.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: The Princess Bride

July 22, 2012

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: The Princess Bride

Rodents of Unusual Size! The Hello My Name Is Inigo Montoya name badge t-shirt! Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride movie has had, shall we say, an “inconceivable” impact on pop culture. ;)

The original book, The Princess Bride, by William Goldman is today’s

Kindle Daily Deal

for $1.99 (in the USA, today, July 22 only…as always, check the price before you click the Buy button).

This is apparently in response to Barnes & Noble making it the NOOK Daily Find yesterday…it’s price-matching, reportedly, although I checked today, and B&N has it for $9.99.

This is a good example of how the competition between the two retailers benefits us as readers. I presume the NOOK Daily Find was created in response to the Kindle Daily Deal. The NOOK Daily Find deal of The Princess Bride meant that Amazon also gave a low price on the book.

It’s also what concerns people about the Agency Model…which makes the publisher into the seller, and makes the price basically the same everywhere.

I do recommend having this one in your library, although I know it is going to be too…silly for some people. Remember, though, that your Kindle library isn’t just for you…it’s for you and for anybody who is or may be on your account in the future. I think it’s pretty likely that somebody at some point will want to read it. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #97: Amazon Yesterday, “romanticized” classics

July 22, 2012

Round up #97: Amazon Yesterday, “romanticized” classics

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Literary classics in a plain brown wrapper

I have to admit…I often run into sex scenes in contemporary novels that I think make the book not as good as it would have been without them.

I’ve never been reading a classic novel (and I read quite a few of them), and said, “You know what would make this book better? If the characters got naked.”

Well, apparently, not everybody feels that way.

Seth Grahame-Smith’s

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

was popular and well-received, and issued in a new wave of literary mash-ups.

It wasn’t the first time that an author had combined public domain material with new material (John Myers Myers’ Silverlock immediately comes to mind…there are many others, like Fred Saberhagen’s The Holmes-Dracula File, Oh, and I’m not going to leave out An East Wind Coming and Autumn Angels by Arthur Byron Cover).

The format, though, of taking the original novel (not just the characters) and adding scenes…that caught other publishers’ attention.

Total E-Bound Books is now doing a series of books which add “romance” to classic novels.

Clandestine Classics

I think I may be justified in using those quotation marks, since their book information includes a “sexometer” rating and an “erotic rating”.

When I first read about this recently, one of the books I saw listed was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That puzzled me a bit. I have to admit, I first think of romance novels as being for women and, well, there aren’t really many women in that book. Certainly, once we get to the main part of the book, there aren’t any. Then, it occurred to me that one possibility is a romance between two male characters.

Checking the book on the site, yes, that’s what it is.

They also have a gay romance version of A Study in Scarlet, with Holmes and Watson as lovers.

They have Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and others…there is a diversity of romantic connections.

You can read excerpts and buy the books at their website: I didn’t see them in the Kindle store.

This is all legal, of course, under the current laws in which books fall into the public domain. If you think people shouldn’t be able to alter the classics this way, then you might be interested in the idea of permanent copyright.

By the way, the idea of taking a classic and adding a romance angle reminded me a bit of my piece, Lose the Lion. The difference is, I was kidding…

Amazon Yesterday Shipping (video)

wOOt!* I thought this was a fun parody:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA_gwzx39LQ

For those of you reading this on an RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle…anything but a Kindle Fire), I realize you won’t be able to click on the link and jump there. On a video-capable device (a computer, a SmartPhone), you can go to YouTube and search for

Amazon Yesterday Shipping

Tom Gauld: New on Your E-Reader (cartoon)

I enjoyed this one also. :) I think you’ll be able to see it on your RSK…I’ll test it out on mine after I publish it.

https://twitter.com/tomgauld/status/222286541521829888

Update: it took a couple of clicks, but then I could see this cartoon just fine on my Kindle Touch.

Forbes: “Nothing Against Jeff Bezos, But I’ve Personally Been Shrinking Amazon’s Profits — Here’s How”

Forbes article

This is an interesting article (I recommend it) talking about how Prime free shipping may be hurting Amazon’s profit margin…significantly.

I particularly found the chart of that profit margin worth seeing.

The article claims that in 2011, Amazon “…had shipping revenues of $1.5 billion but spent $3.9 billion.”

A net negative of 2.4 billion dollars is significant, obviously.

The question is whether those shipping losses are made up by profit on the items being ordered…and if they will be by inspired purchases in the future.

I also think Amazon’s profit margins are being significantly impacted by other expenses…all those licensing deals they are signing for video, for one thing. They just made a deal with Warner Brothers that brings the first three seasons of Fringe and The West Wing to Prime Instant Video.

They are also likely spending significant money on research and development on hardware…something that they didn’t really have six years ago.

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series being shopped to cable TV

According to this

Deadline.com article

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, which is a popular time travel romance series, is being adapted by  Ron Moore (the recent Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, the Roswell TV series).

I haven’t read the series myself, although I’ve seen people mention it quite often. I may give it a shot at some point…I like time travel novels (I enjoyed The Shores of Kansas, for example…unfortunately, not available in the Kindle store).

For those of you have read it, I get the impression that this would be a big sweeping thing to adapt (not just the first book)…I wonder if they are pitching it as a “fantasy series like Game of Thrones”.

Well, that’s a pretty eclectic set of stories! I should say, I got started on some of these through the free Flipboard app on my Kindle Fire.  I’m now starting to read it first thing in the morning, like a daily newspaper.

If you have comments on any of these (even if they just made you smile), feel free to let me and my readers know.

*wOOt (or WOOT) is internet slang. It’s an expression of joy and triumph. One of the origins is “Want One Of Those”, but you’ll certainly hear others (including from gamers). Spelled the way I did, with zeroes instead of Os, it’s “l33t speak” (or LEET speak). That’s also internet specific slang…it’s short for “elite speak”. l33t often swaps letters for numbers and vice versa…as you can tell, it’s not a spoken slang. :) Amazon owns a daily bargain site called http://www.woot.com/.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

New app brings book organization to Kindle Fire

July 21, 2012

New app brings book organization to Kindle Fire

Book Collections
by Digital Media Revolutions
price: $2.99 at time of writing

One of the most common concerns expressed in the Amazon Kindle community about the Kindle Fire is that there isn’t a good way to organize the books on the device, like the Collections we have on some of the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire at this point).

No question.

That’s been what I call a “Shrugger”. That’s something I recommend managers look for in their businesses. A “Shrugger” is something that people think should be different, but they don’t see a clear path to the change…they just shrug their shoulders when someone new points it out. Identifying those can be important in fixing problems, yes, but also in changing the way people feel about their organization.

“Why doesn’t the Kindle Fire have Collections?”

Shrug.

Does the Fire need Collections or folders or some way to group together similar books?

Ask the people who have flipped through a hundred titles on their Carousels. :)

After all, Amazon estimates that the Fire can hold 6,000 books! That’s in the same part of the memory that holds video, music, magazines, personal documents, and so on (not apps), so if you have any of that, you can’t hold the full 6,000.

Still, that’s a lot of books, and I can understand why people just don’t want them all piled together. In my paperbook library at home, I meticulously organize them (alphabetizing the books, for example).

When I first saw the Book Collections app for the Kindle Fire in the Amazon Appstore, it intrigued me a bit. However, I did see quite a few bad reviews, and I don’t often pay as high as $2.99 for an app. I didn’t feel an urgent need  personally: as I’ve mentioned before, I usually only keep about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices at a time.

However, a reader in a personal e-mail asked me about the app, and said that they were waiting for my review. :)

That was the nudge I needed, and I went ahead and got it.

First, the performance issues that had prompted the bad reviews initially appear to have been resolved. Simply stated, it works. :)

Second, it does what you want it to do. You can create your own “collections” on your Kindle Fire, name them whatever you want, and move your books into them. You can then access the books from those collections (or “Book Folders”, as the app calls them).

I’ll wait for a minute while a bunch of you click the link in the post with just that much information. :)

Done? Okay. ;)

Now, let’s get into a bit more of the detail.

Installing it was easy. The app itself .93MB of memory…that’s really not big.  Angry Birds, for example, is 19.71MB…more than twenty times as large.

When you open the app, it scans for documents on your Kindle Fire. For me, it found a lot of things that weren’t Kindle store books. Some of them I might never want in there, but it was actually really nice to have my Kindle store books, my personal documents, and even Microsoft Office documents and pdfs I’d downloaded as attachments to e-mails in the same place. It included magazines and samples, but no audio, video, or apps.

Once the items are imported (it certainly didn’t take a minute), you have a section for “Book Folders” at the top, and “Unsorted Books” at the bottom. I’m not sure “unsorted” is the right word to use here…maybe “uncategorized” would be clearer.

There are three pre-built folders:

  • Currently Reading
  • To Read Next
  • Favorites

When you “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second), you get the following choices:

  • Open (so you can read it)
  • Move to (so you can put it in a Book Folder)
  • Edit Book Data and Location (more on that a bit later)
  • Remove (this removes it from the app…not the Kindle)

Choosing “Move to” brings up a list of the Book Folders in the app…just tap one to move the book there.

You can’t long press a Book Folder…you can only open it.

Once a Book Folder is open, you can use the Menu button (horizontal lines in a box), you can either remove the folder or tap a button that says, “Edit Book Data and Location”. That’s not what that button does…it lets you rename the Book Folder.

When  you are on the first page, hitting Menu lets you rescan or create a new folder.

All of that works. You can create folders and put books in them.

Next, some negatives:

A book can not be in more than one folder.

There are no sub-folders (that’s like the Collections on the RSKs).

A big one for me is that you can’t sort the “Unsorted Books” (hey, I guess that is accurate) ;) , or search them. I just had to swipe through the list to see them.

When you read a book from within the app, your position in the book is not communicated to your Kindle Fire. In other words, lets say you open a book within the app and read 100 locations. If you later opened the same book not in the app, it wouldn’t know you had read those 100 locations.

The way they address that is with that “Edit Book Data and Location”. Choosing that lets you enter a location number, enter a percentage, change the title, and enter or change an author name).

Interestingly, the location and percentage don’t check each. You can say you are 50% through the book when you are only ten percent. What you say here also doesn’t affect opening the book outside of the app, I believe.

There is no Help within the app. There is a Facebook icon, but it didn’t seem to do anything for me…nor did an icon for what I assume is the Kindle Fire Department.

I do really want to commend the creators. I e-mailed them and got a very quick response answering my questions. That’s important to me…it shows that they care about their customers. I know that some people in that situation think I get special treatment because I’m a blogger, but believe me, people ignore bloggers. ;)

We’ve had some correspondence on some interesting potential I see for the app, and they did tell me about some improvements under development.

Overall, I’d say that a lot of people will find this valuable. It’s a good idea, although I think that it could be refined. I would guess this is not a group that has produced a number of apps in the past, or has invested specifically in usability (many developers don’t). That said, they’ve done what Amazon hasn’t.   My guess is that they will fairly rapidly enhance it, partially as they realize what end users want.

Bottom line: if you want to organize your books (and your personal documents) on your Kindle Fire, I recommend Book Collections.

Special thanks to my reader for asking me to review this! I really appreciate it when people take the time to tell me about things they think I and/or my readers would want to know.

If you’d like to comment on this post or on the app, feel free. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #96: Matchstick, Touch security

July 19, 2012

Round up #96: Matchstick, Touch security

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Security flaw found in Kindle Touch

I personally don’t worry too much about security flaws on RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire, at this point).

The main reason is that I don’t think most people have very valuable things on their RSKs.

The exception might be if someone could manipulate the Touch (for example) to place orders for things other than Kindle store books (which can be “returned” within seven days of purchase for a refund), but that would be a considerable challenge.

You’d need to have stored credit card or other payment information on your device, or stored access credentials to a site that has your payment information.

I just don’t think very many people have done that on an RSK.

heise Video (sic) claims to have found a gap that allows a malicious website to send executable commands to a Kindle Touch:

heise Video webpage with video

That page is in German, by the way…I read the Google translation.

For this to be a problem, you have to visit one of these websites using the experimental browser on the Kindle Touch…and the site has to send a command that does something bad.

Interestingly, the page suggests that this is going directly to a root-level command…which bypasses restrictions that Amazon has put on the device.

I can see why Amazon might not have publicized this…if Kindle owners can easily send commands to their own Kindles, that could cause a problem (both by modifying the software which complicates support, and by placing agreements Amazon has with content providers in jeopardy). Of course, this doesn’t say it is easy to do…

Kindle Fire charging dock with speakers

Grace Digital MatchStick

One of the general concerns I hear about the Kindle Fire is that it isn’t loud enough.

I think I’ve improved that on mine with the free app

Volume Master Free

This dock is a much more sophisticated solution…but it isn’t free. :) It’s currently being introduced at $99.99 (that’s thirty dollars off).

Currently, you plug the dock into the wall (a battery is reportedly coming). Your Fire then fits easily into a bracket, which both charges the Fire and lets it uses speakers.

The reviews do indicate that the speakers (which can be equalized) are good.

I should be clear: I have not used this one yet, I’ve just heard about it.

Having a battery so you can take the Fire outside (for music in a park, for example) would make this more valuable.

The other thing I would want is an option to wall mount it. Hey, I don’t want to stop reading just because I’m brushing my teeth, and I don’t like to have my Fire on the counter around all that water.

The mount does allow you to rotate the Fire while it is in the dock.

One other thing…you can plug other sound sources into the dock with an included cable.

If you do try this, feel free to let me and my readers know what you think.

The Daily Beast: “How We Lost Bookshops Thanks to Amazon and Publishers”

Tim Waterstone, of the famous British bookstores, has an interesting piece in The Daily Beast.

Writing as a brick-and-mortar magnate, I’m glad Waterstone doesn’t just blame Amazon, but talks about the publishers’ part in how bookstores have declined.

I also liked this comment about people who were taking over bookstores:

“They read nothing, and knew nothing about the world they were entering.”

That’s important…you can’t apply the same strategy to selling books that you can to selling cereal.

Serious readers are different…if we weren’t we wouldn’t have been picked on in school, right? ;)

People who buy a lot of books (let’s say 100 books a year) are proud of that activity. They respect it. They want to buy their books somewhere that respects it.

I keep going back to this, but people will pay more money for books from a brick-and-mortar store if they like the store…well, the people they perceive as running the store.

As a former bookstore manager:

You will not beat the internet on price.

You will not beat the internet on selection.

Can you beat them on convenience? Do people really think driving to the store is convenient nowadays? Is that easier than 1-clicking from your couch?

You have to beat it on service, rapport, and the experience of going.

Konichiwa, EBRs!

Japan is a huge consumer of pop culture.

Movies, TV, videogames, and yes, books, play a big part in the life of its citizens.

You would think, with Japan’s association with high tech, and with Sony having introduced EBRs (E-Book Readers) well before Amazon, that the Tokyo subway would be packed with people reading on screens with nary a paperbook in sight.

Well, that hasn’t been the case…yet. In this

Guardian article

they do a good job of explaining the upcoming competition between Amazon in Japan and Rakuten (whose executive, Hiroshi Mikitani, recently showed a t-shirt reading, “Destroy Amazon”).

In Japan, I would say that you don’t automatically win because you are from Japan…or because you aren’t. :)

This is definitely going to be a fun one to watch!

I think that sometimes Amazon moves too slowly…and I’m not convinced that the result is much better because they waited.

Disappearing ILMK sales…ranking

This was a weird one. I’m very thankful to my subscribers that ILMK (this blog) is usually in the top ten of any kind of blog in the Kindle store. It’s been in the top 100 for more than 1,000 days.

However, when I checked it the other day, it wasn’t there at all…not in the top ten, not anywhere that I could see.  There was no sales ranking on the Amazon product page, which was really strange.

I e-mailed Amazon, and it’s reappeared…but I am wondering what happened there. It was definitely disconcerting, and I’ve dropped down a few places, which may have been because it wasn’t there for that period.

Anyway, it appears to be fixed now. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Books in 2011: more sales, lower gross, profit…

July 19, 2012

Books in 2011: more sales, lower gross, profit…

The BookStats report has been released for 2011.

This is a joint study from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group.

While the actual report costs over $2,000 for non-members, the “key highlights” being released are interesting.

I’m going to give you a major caveat first.

Since these figures are most likely based on tradpubs (traditional publishers), I think they are going to miss a great deal of e-book sales. If you are an independent publisher, I believe you are far more likely to be an e-book only publisher. Your income is going to come from e-book sales. You may not have year-to-year comparisons…if you just got into the publishing business this year. :)

Even without that, e-books are now the mainstream format for adult (as opposed to children’s books) fiction.

That’s right…if you buy paperbooks, you are now the niche market. ;)

That’s not exactly right. E-books were number one, but they count mass market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, and hardbacks separately. Brick-and-mortar stores were still the number one channel for book sales.

However…

E-book sales are exploding, still.

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

e-book unit sales increased 210%.

Let me do a quick calculation, though.

Gross increased 138% (2.07 billion versus 869 million).

If the 210% is correct, there are many more e-books being sold…but at lower prices (since the gross isn’t increasing at the same rate as the units).

Again, this won’t count all of the ninety-nine centers from indies.

I’m generally seeing this headlined as overall book sales are down, and according to the report, they are.

However, trade sales are up.

What are trade sales?

Those are the books you’d buy in a brick-and-mortar store, basically. It’s popular fiction and popular non-fiction.

It doesn’t include textbooks.

To sum this up: e-book sales increased quickly enough to offset the loss of sales of trade p-books.

Now, I have seen this headlined as profits being down.

We don’t know that, based on the highlights.

I’m trying not to give you everything from the highlights, and I do recommend you read them.

The key question on the profit is this: is the amount that the overall US publishing sales are down made up by lower costs?

That’s much trickier than a lot of people think at first (it’s not just about the cost of paper and ink).

Renting server space costs less than renting store space…you can store the equivalent of a million copies of a book on a server (actually, you produce the “copies” as they are needed) much less expensively than having a warehouse with a million copies of a p-book.

Publishers don’t have to buy back unsold e-books.

Publishers don’t have to account for remainder sales of e-books separately, as they do for p-books.

Publishers likely do, though, pay more to authors for e-books than they do for p-books (especially for ones that sell over 10,000 copies…see http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/tradpubs-are-doing-digital-only-imprints/).

My intuition here is that publishers are profiting more for trade books than they were before, thanks to e-books.

The loss may be coming from non-trade books…and e-books haven’t conquered that in the same way.

One other interesting thing, and then I’ll leave the rest to you reading the originals.

Publisher are making a lot more on selling directly to consumers than they did before.

That’s definitely something to watch.

If you don’t need to go to a store to shop, do you need to go to a retail website?

What is a publisher let you directly subscribe through them to Stephen King’s future novels? Maybe they give them to subscribers a week earlier?

Would you wait for Amazon in that case?

Without the retailer (or “sales agent”) cut, publishers could (hypothetically) lower prices.

To figure out where we are going to get brand name authors’ books in the future, we have to look at Amazon as a publisher and publishers selling direct to readers.

All in all, it’s fascinating stuff.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #95: B&N gives YA books with NOOKs, Donald Sobol dies

July 17, 2012

Round up #95: B&N gives YA books with NOOKs, Donald Sobol dies

Author of Encyclopedia Brown dies

Reading is complicated.

Imagine that you had no idea how to read, and had to start from scratch.

Here’s a letter. This letter can represent various sounds.

The letter combines with other letters to make words.

No, this word doesn’t sound like the individual letters…but if it didn’t have all those letters in that order, it wouldn’t be that word.

Those words combine with other words. The word may not mean the same thing when it’s next to that word that it does when it is next to that other word.

Those groups of words eventually combine into sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books.

That’s just the beginning.

The sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books have both logical meaning and emotional meaning.

With all that work, why even get started?

Reading is fun.

Reading makes you feel good.

Reading improves you.

Learning to read is like building a rocket ship, a time machine, and a mind-reading device all at once.

That doesn’t make it easy, though.

To become a lifelong reader, you need to read something that entertains you, that shows you positive things, and that is at a level where you can enjoy reading it.

Donald J. Sobel’s Encyclopedia Brown books are just that experience for many young readers.

They are short mysteries. As a kid, you can empathize with the “boy detective”, and admire how he is often smarter than the adults. The stories are similar to each other, making them familiar…but they stand alone. You don’t have to worry about which one to read first.

When I was a bookstore manager, you could see a kid joyfully picking up another Encyclopedia Brown book to buy, sometimes with carefully saved allowance money.

After nearly fifty years of making readers out of the world’s children, Donald J. Sobol has passed on at the age of 87.

New York Times article

If you want to read Encyclopedia Brown (or give one to a child to read), you can (but don’t have to) start with the first one on your Kindle:

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

or, if you want to make sure it’s new, you can pre-order the 28th book in the series (Sobol was still writing this year), due to be published on October 25th of this year:

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme

For other Sobol books, see

Amazon’s Donald J. Sobol page

By the way, if you go there on your computer, you may notice something I’ve recently been seeing at Amazon: “Shopping-Enabled Wikipedia”. You can click or tap that link and go to the Wikipedia article. The connection between Amazon and Wikipedia is an interesting one, with Wikipedia integration on Kindles and now on the Amazon website.

Get four teen e-books free when you buy a NOOK tablet in a Barnes & Noble

While this blog is called “I Love My Kindle”, that doesn’t mean I don’t like other EBRs (E-Book Readers).

Watching the strategies is fascinating.

I would say that Barnes & Noble leans more, in some ways, toward curating and guiding customers, while Amazon leans more towards unbiased quantity.

That may come from B&N’s experience as a brick-and-mortar. I think many people associate bookstores with knowledgeable experts who you advice about what to buy.

Ironically, I don’t think that’s what the Barnes & Noble chain (or Borders, for that matter) was doing really well.

I may be exaggerating this difference, though…Amazon does give you recommendations. However, I do think Amazon is more about giving you choices than giving you advice.

Barnes & Noble is now (through August 5, 2012) giving you  four specific teen e-books when you buy a NOOK tablet in a Barnes & Noble store.

They book the books for you…they aren’t giving you a gift certificate and letting you choose.

Believe it or not, some people like that.

If you are looking to buy a tablet for someone, you might not know which books to pick. If that’s the case, you may be thankful for the expertise of Barnes & Noble in picking the books.

Barnes & Noble Teen deal page

Many, many times, I’ve seen people ask if the Kindle comes with books. I’ve seen people like the idea that some EBRs have come with fifty or a hundred books.

That’s not how I feel about it for me personally. I would have preferred that my Kindle for Amazon didn’t automatically put some public domain classics on my SmartPhone (which it did). Books are a very personal thing to me…I want to pick the ones I have.

I have to admit, though, I wouldn’t have known to pick these ones, although they do seem like popular choices:

  • Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz (text-to-speech access is blocked, so I’m not linking…that would also stop me from buying a tablet under this deal)
  • Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
  • The Enemy by Charlie Higson (TTS access blocked)
  • Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

It’s an interesting set…I’m not sure that all four books would typically appeal to the same reader, although of course, many readers are eclectic, like me.

One other thing that really caught my eye about this…it’s only when you buy the NOOK tablets, not the NOOK Simple Touch (with or without Glowlight). That could have to do with the cost, and it could have to do with which line needs more of a boost.

They also are requiring that the purchase be made in a store, not on line. B&N appears to still be committed to getting customers into their stores…

Barnes & Noble introduces NOOK for Web

This is huge news, and I got the news release after I started writing this post.

Barnes & Noble is introducing

NOOK for Web

It’s similar to Amazon’s Cloud Reader for the web…but honestly, Barnes & Noble is doing a much better launch.

For one thing, their web reader works in

  • Internet Explorer
  • Chrome
  • Safari
  • Firefox

Amazon still hasn’t released the Cloud Reader for IE.

For another, they are giving away six books through July 26th. You need to get to the end of the (free) sample to download it to your library.

The books are

You can read these right now online for free, without even signing into an account.

I tested this on my Kindle Fire. It worked fine…better, in fact, than on my netbook in Chrome. On the netbook, I found I had to go to fullscreen mode. With my Fire, no problem.

Yes, I could pinch and spread to increase the text size. There was information about the book (although they used a small italic “i” to indicate it, which made it look like it was to italicize something).

I haven’t had time to get an in-depth sense of the reading experience, but this is an important development, and I think it is going to appeal to a lot of people.

I had predicted a rise of “web books”, and this will definitely help me get a checkmark on that one. :)

I don’t see a reason not to get these free books…if you try this out, feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

B&N press release

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Chris Christie supports equal collection

July 17, 2012

Chris Christie supports equal collection

I’ve written before about the issue of equal collection legislation.

The basic idea is that many residents of states don’t pay the use tax that they usually owe when they purchase items from out of state sellers.

It’s different with in-state sellers (such as your chain brick-and-mortar stores, or “Mom and Pop” stores). Those stores can be compelled by the state to collect sales tax at the time of sale.

Most people, I think, perceive this as meaning that you don’t have to pay sales tax on out-of-state purchases from places like Amazon, even though that’s not what it means. Oh, I suppose you don’t “have” to pay it, but you owe it in the same way that you owe income tax.

Different states have tried different ways to redefine things with so-called “Amazon laws”.

Amazon itself supports a national sales tax policy (not a national sales tax). They want all internet retailers to have to collect the sales tax at the time of sale. Why would they want that, when it presumably gives them a competitive advantage not to have to do it?

For one thing, they don’t want to be singled out. If they collect sales tax, other online retailers should have to collect sales tax the same way.

This has also been perceived as something Republicans would support less than Democrats. It is additional regulation on businesses: it may be perceived (again incorrectly) as raising taxes (rather than as changing the collection method).

That’s why it’s big news that Chris Christie, a leading light Republican, has supported equal collection:

Wall Street Journal article

Christie doing it may lead to other Republican governors supporting it.

However, it’s important to note that this is a deal between New Jersey and Amazon…it isn’t Federal regulation.

I also want to point out that there are people who think that having equal collection policies (however they are achieved) will right a wrong and allow brick-and-mortars to compete more fairly with online retailers.

I’ve said before (as a former bookstore manager); brick-and-mortars can’t compete with the internet on selection. I don’t think they can compete with it on prices (even with sales tax collection). Online retailers can charge for shipping, but I do think it is more efficient to be an online retailer in many cases. One big issue? No shoplifting. Yes, you’ll still have employee theft, but shoplifting is a much bigger issue than you think.

It will “level the playing field” a bit, though.

I’ll go back to my basic principle: people will shop in a brick-and-mortar, paying higher prices, having the inconvenience and expense of driving there, and having the smaller selection…because they like the people who work in/own the store and want to support them.

That’s the trick. I know, I know…it’s easier said than done.

“Another romantic lunacy.  We assume that a personality problem can be liquidated merely through an understanding of it – as though a man could lift a mountain once he admitted it was heavy.  No: recognition is not synonymous with solution.  I fly toward freedom as a moth toward the candle, and nothing so insubstantial as Reason will turn me aside.”
–Dr. Charles “Doc Bedside” Bedecker
Chthon
written by Piers Anthony

While this is a very tough time to get anything passed at the Federal level, I could see how, if all the states had already required equal collection, the Feds would then step in to unify it.

States have a significant motivation to make this happen (they need the money), and Amazon has a significant motivation to guide the process so the impact affects them and their competitors evenly.

Are the days of no tax collection on internet sales numbered? Not numbered, I think…but an end seems likely.

Oh, I should mention (despite that being a good exit line) ;) that most of the proposals I’ve seen for this have minimum sales thresholds. If  you sold your old bicycle on eBay, you might not be required to collect sales tax (the buyer would still pay use tax, I think). If you sold a thousand old bicycles, that might be different. Think of it selling just a few items like having a garage sale, in terms of enforcement.

What do you think? Will there be a national policy mandating collection of applicable sales tax on out-of-state internet purchases? Would that violate the interstate commerce clause? Does it matter for this issue which party wins the Presidential election? Is the current situation unfair? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Tradpubs are doing digital only imprints

July 15, 2012

Tradpubs are doing digital only imprints

Paperbooks are still largely done by tradpubs (traditional publishers). If you are an author and are going to be your own publisher, you are likely going to go with an e-book. Yes, you can use print-on-demand options, like Amazon’s

 CreateSpace

However, if you walk into a brick-and-mortar bookstore, the vast majority of the p-books you see will have been published by tradpubs.

If newly published p-books are going to be mass-produced, it’s likely going to depend on those traditional publishers.

That’s part of why it’s very interesting to see those tradpubs moving into e-book only imprints.

If that works really well, we could see the end of 100,000 print runs…maybe even 10,000.

That has all sorts of implications.

What does it do to brick-and-mortar stores?

What does it do to the used book market?

What does it do to p-book prices?

If very few books have large runs, it means that most bookstores won’t be able to have thousands of titles. It may make competition between stores just to be able to carry titles higher, and may make the “destination” bookstore the one that survives.

It might also mean that p-books are only a small feature in another kind of store…and that they could be a lot more expensive.

This

Publishers Weekly article

by Jim Milliot, Calvin Reid, Gabe Habash, and Rachel Deahl is a good survey of what tradpubs are doing with digital imprints.

An imprint, by the way, is a specialized line of books within a publisher.

Publishers are doing e-books only both not only for original books, but also for the “long tail” of older books.

I’m going to suggest you check out the article, but I do want to call out one interesting strategy.

F+W Media is doing an “all you can plan” for e-romances:

Crimson Romance

You can subscribe to the site for either $12.99 a month or $59.99 a year.

For that amount, you get online access to all of the books at the site…no restrictions.

New books are added each week.

While it’s not entirely clear to me, it appears that you can only read them online for that price, although they do talk about downloading.

I’ve talked about subscription services as a possibility before, but this is one way to put it into practice. You don’t own the books, by the way…if you stop subscribing, you don’t have access to them.

I’ve been careful in this post to talk about “mass-produced” p-books. The PW  article gives you details about when there might be print runs (and what the royalties for authors are…sell more, get more, for one thing), but it also talks about print-on-demand.

Print-on-demand doesn’t have the economy of scale of a full print run though. Oh, I probably should define those terms. When a publisher does a “print run”, a certain number of copies are printed, basically at the same time. They do that before they know how many will actually sell…and they do end up buying back copies (usually for store credit…at least, that’s how it worked when I managed a bookstore) that don’t sell.

Print-on-demand doesn’t print a book until you know there is a sale. Less economy of csale…but less waste as well.

Does that balance out?

Not at all! CreateSpace p-books are much more expensive, from what I’ve seen, than their e-book counterparts.

Here are a few examples for you:

The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series Book 1) $0.99 as an e-book, $14.99 p-book

Informed Consent $0.99 as an e-book, $11.99 p-book

Out of the Black $4.95 as an e-book, $17.99 p-book

I just looked at the most popular Kindle store books “published by CreateSpace”, and pulled out a few.

As you can see, a POD book, at least in this case, is typically ten dollars or more than the e-book.

I’ve shared with you before my reader Roger Knights’ ideas on print-on-demand machines in stores.

If those could be done profitably (which both requires them to be able to produce the books inexpensively enough and have the books and the experience that shoppers want), that would be another challenge to traditional large print runs.

I think if I worked in a giant “book factory”, I’d be a bit concerned.

What do you think? Are the days of the traditional publisher doing huge print runs on the way out? Would you pay for an all-you-can-read program? What if  the books were only available for you to read online? Will e-publishing imprints bring back out-of-print books…could someone revive the Ace Doubles that way, for example? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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