Archive for June, 2011

Flash! Harry Potter e-books announced!

June 23, 2011

Flash! Harry Potter e-books announced!

It’s official! Harry Potter e-books are going to be available at

http://www.pottermore.com

It’s not entirely clear when…Pottermore will officially be “open” to everyone in October, according to this

http://www.youtube.com/JKRowlingAnnounces

but a “lucky few” get into it beforehand.

More later…I’m off to check out the site.

UPDATE: The e-books will be in October. You can try and sign up for notification e-mails…I’ve tried, and it’s failed. I had to click the button several times, and then when I’ve entered the Captcha information (that anti-spam, “type the words you see thing”), an error occurs on submission.

It will be July 31 2011 when you find out if you can get into it early.

I did read the Terms & Conditions…I think it’s funny that they say they won’t be responsible for “WASTE OF MANAGEMENT OR OFFICE TIME” among other things. 🙂

UPDATE: This

Reuters article

 

has a lot more interesting information from Jo Rowling about the site.  That includes this which I am excerpting:

“The ebooks will be exclusively available on the Pottermore site from October in several languages. They will be available on all major electronic reading devices.

“It is my view you can’t hold back progress,” Rowling said of the electronic launch.

“Ebooks are here and here to stay. Later than a lot of people, I for the first time downloaded ebooks and it’s miraculous for travel and for children in particular. I feel great about taking Harry into this new medium.””

I recommend you read the article, as always.

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

New from 7 Dragons: a Calendar app (and an update to Notepad)

June 23, 2011

New from 7 Dragons: a Calendar app (and an update to Notepad)

7 Dragons has figured out the right way to do Kindle apps.

It was exciting to see that they have a new app:

Calendar $0.99 at time of writing

It blows the Jujuba Software version out of the water, in my opinion. It has two of the features I thought were missing in that one: recurring events and searching.

It also has something a lot of you will want: the ability to change the background (gee, maybe you can put Emily Dickinson in there…she’s so popular as a “screensaver” 😉 ).  Actually, it’s pre-set images, but you visually-oriented people will like having the option.

Speaking of visuals, if you indicate something is a birthday, you’ll see a balloon on that day. A “special event” gets a star.

Oh, and I have to give them big praise: the Help file has increasable text sizes! That drives me nuts in some active content.

There were a lot of nice features, but the nicest of all is that 7 Dragons makes it easy.

This is probably a good place for the

Full disclosure: I do have some correspondence with Abhi of http://ireaderreview.com/, and he is part of the team that developed this (although he is always careful to credit 7 Dragons).

As an example of that correspondence (and how you benefit from it) 🙂 , Abhi recently let me know about an update to 7 Dragons’ popular

Notepad app

He kindly gave me permission to post his updated features list:

  • Copy Paste – It works like highlighting in Kindle Books. Press Once to go into Copy Paste Mode – press 5-way again to get options.
  • Persistent Shift. To get capitals you can now press Shift, let go, type ‘a’, and get ‘A’.
  1. The largest font size is now bigger. Earlier it was 30 and now it’s 33. Note: Your current font size doesn’t change unless you go into Aa menu (by pressing Aa key) and change it.
  2. Anti-aliasing option on newer Kindles. On Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi you can turn on anti-aliasing.
  3. Speed Improvements. With Notepad V1.0 once you crossed 100 notes you’d see slowness and would also see things slow down quite a bit once you got to 200+ notes. With Notepad V1.1 even 300-400 notes work relatively fast and everything is faster to use. More on speed improvements at the end of this post.
  4. Word wrap. Now words don’t get cut at the end of a line.
  5. Smart Note Save Notification. Now the note save notification doesn’t take focus and doesn’t stop you from continuing to type. Press Alt+S and the note save notification appears at the top and you can just continue typing.
  6. New Movement Shortcuts. Move around quicker using handy shortcuts:
    Shift+Next Page: Goes to the End of the Note
    Shift+Prev Page: Goes to the Beginning of the Note
    Shift+Right on the 5-way: Goes to the end of the Line
    Shift+Left on the 5-way: Goes to the beginning of the Line
    You can press Shift and Up to scroll up quickly.
    You can press Shift and Down to scroll down quickly.
    Next Page goes to Next Page of the Note (Page Size = amount of the note you see on the screen at one time).
    Prev Page goes to Previous Page of the Note.
  7. Quick Delete feature – Press down on DEL and hold it. After around a second it starts deleting 4-5 characters per second.
  8. Undo Feature – Press Alt+Z to undo your last few moves one by one. If you delete something by mistake or want to undo typing you can press Alt+Z to Undo.
Updating it was a bit weird, because when I went to the page, nothing told me there was an update. What it did do was tell me I had previously bought it, and that I could send it to an eligible device on my account. I sent it to my Kindle that previously had it, and it did do the update.
Abhi has a post that talks about the upgrade…and recommends that you back up your notes first:

ireaderreview post

One other note: if you already have Notepad on more than one device, I think you’ll need to send the update to each device.

As with other Active Content titles, this doesn’t work on the K1, but does work on K2s, K3s, and the KDX.  It doesn’t work in reader apps, and I assume it can’t be purchased outside the US.

For information on more active content, see this category.

If you try these out, feel free to let me know what you think.

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

Amazon to republish 47 Ed McBain books

June 22, 2011

Amazon to republish 47 Ed McBain books

“Back off, tradpubs! McBain is ours!”

This is big news!

When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, crime novels by “Ed McBain” (aka Evan Hunter, born Salvatore Lombino) were a staple. That doesn’t tell you much about the timeframe, by the way: books in the 87th Precinct series were published pretty steadily from 1956 through 2005.

His works have reportedly sold 100 million copies.

There have been TV series and movies of his works.

His books have been New York Times bestsellers.

You don’t get much more mainstream than Ed McBain.

That’s why it matters that Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer mystery imprint got the rights.

It proves that they aren’t just going to work around the edges of traditional publishing. They ran up, jumped the moat, smashed down the drawbridge, leapt up the stairs, and planted their flag right in the middle of the king’s hasty pudding. 😉

While it’s important to Kindleers to have these books, it’s also important to note that these rights are also for paperbooks…and audiobooks. The latter seems a little odd to me as an investment for Amazon, although they do own Brilliance Audio, so they already have a mechanism. I’m just not sure generally how good the audiobook market is.

However, they may have secured those audiobook rights just to secure them. I don’t think this whole publishing business for them is primarily about making money: it’s what I’ve called an “obsolescence offensive” against the traditional publishers. They are saying clearly

“Authors…don’t…need…you”

If Amazon can publish bestselling authors (and satisfy them), that’s a big blow to the tradpubs. That’s especially true if they can make it work in paper, even if paper is of declining importance.

It does make a difference that these are backlist titles. They don’t have to do all of the publicity stuff (booking talk shows, buying the ads)…that’s a place where the tradpubs have a lot of “ins” that are hard to duplicate.  I don’t know how quickly you’ll see a frontlist, non-brand name author go with Amazon. Brand name authors, like Stephen King or Anne Rice, don’t need the tradpubs publicity machine. Everybody is going to hear about a new novel by this type of author, and everybody is going to stock it.

Another question: how does this affect Barnes & Noble? That’s an interesting one! The press release doesn’t say that the e-book versions will be exclusive to the Kindle store. It says they will be in “…print, digital and audio formats”. Does that mean Amazon would publish these books in a format for the NOOK? Maybe. I’d be pretty sure the print books would be in B&N stores. Jeff Bezos has talked about keeping the e-book and EBR (E-Book Reader) markets separate. Do you leverage your publishing side to exclude your competitor…or is it more important for your publishing efforts to be legitimate and challenge the traditional publishers?

I personally think it is more important for Amazon to shake the publishers than to fight the NOOK. Every time Amazon has gone up against the Big Six publishers they seem to lose (the Agency Model, text-to-speech). That’s because you need the books to sell. When John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, threatened to “window” (delay publication) of e-books to Amazon, the e-tailer (and soon to be sales agent), “capitulated”. Customers wanted the books to be available, even at a price set by the publisher.

If the Kindle was designed to sell e-books, is it okay if the NOOK sells Amazon e-books? I think so…it’s been okay that the iPad sells them.

They will be available to any device with a decent web browser, once Kindle for the Web does full books (which Amazon has said is coming).

Whether they are available to NOOK customers or not, this is a big move. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Thomas & Mercer team had a meeting and said, “If you could get any mainstream author, who would it be?”

I expect Amazon to launch a science fiction/fantasy imprint (joining Thomas & Mercer’s mystery/thriller, and Montlake’s romance). I don’t think they’ll get the rights to Harry Potter*…is there an author you think they should pursue in a similar manner to McBain?

What do you think? Am I overstating the importance of one author? Should Amazon be in the traditional publishing business? Should Amazon publish these books in EPUB for other readers? Feel free to let me know.

* I’ve written in another blog of mine, The Measured Circle, about Pottermore, the mysterious Harry Potter website being announced at 4:00 AM on Thursday, June 23, Pacific Daylight Time. It’s possible that Harry Potter e-books (or at least, new short stories) might be published through that J.K. Rowling site. I don’t think we’ll see them exclusively selling the main HP books tomorrow. 🙂 A short story? Maybe…

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

Freebie flash! Wrongful, Candy, Rattler, and more

June 22, 2011

Freebie flash! Wrongful, Candy, Rattler, and more

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and none of them block text-to-speech access. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

Wrongful Death: The AIDS Trial
by Stephen Davis
independent

Haint Misbehavin’
by Maureen Hardegree
published by Bell Bridge

Her Best Catch
by Lindi Peterson
published by Bell Bridge

The Days of Summer
by Jill Barnett
published by Bell Bridge

Chapter 1, Verse 1
by Tom Allen
independent

Cougar Cub Tales: I’m Just Like You
by Sharon Cramer
published by B&F (independent?)

Candy Wars: The Tooth Fairies vs The Candy King
by R.G. Cordiner
independent

Claimed (The Circulate Series)
by K.R. Smith
independent

Dating A Cougar (Never Too Late Series)
by Donna McDonald
independent

The Last Apprentice Prequel
by Joseph Delaney
published by HarperCollins

Pre-order for August 2, 2011

The Last Apprentice: Wrath of the Bloodeye
by Joseph Delaney
published by HarperCollins

Pre-order for August 2, 2011

The Leader’s Checklist: 15 Mission-Critical Principles
by Michael Useem
published by Wharton (independent?)

Bone Rattler: A Mystery of Colonial America
by Eliot Pattison
independent

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

Barnes & Noble: sales are up, but stores drop in Q4

June 22, 2011

Barnes & Noble: sales are up, but stores drop in Q4

All public companies have to report financials…but there are so many complicating factors that it doesn’t really allow for clear predictions.

Barnes & Noble just reported their fiscal year (ended April 30, 2011) and their fourth quarter.

Sales were up 20%…yay!

However, comparable store sales (in the main stores) were down 2.9% in the fourth quarter (Q4).

Of course, as they note in the

press release

sales were negatively impacted because so many of the Borders stores were having going out of business sales. Some of those bargains presumably replaced sales which would otherwise have happened at a B&N.

I thought this was an interesting line:

“For the full year, comparable store sales increased 0.7% led by the sale of digital products, which more than offset the decline in trade books.”

“Trade book” are basically those books you’d find in a bookstore: they are sold through the book trade, traditionally.  Textbooks, for example, don’t count…you don’t walk into a bookstore in a mall and buy a college science textbook.

The term might be confused with a “trade paperback”, which is the larger format paperback. You don’t see those sold at the grocery store or in a spinner rack at an airport very much. Of course, you don’t see spinner racks as much, either. 🙂

So, let’s see…trade sales are down at Barnes & Noble, and Borders is bankrupt. That doesn’t bode well for paperbook sales, even if those aren’t the only channels (online sales, big box stores like Costco, and so on).

Digital sales are up…a lot. B&N is entertaining a purchase offer from Liberty Media, and they like to take a challenged business and flip it.

If this was a sports team, this is a “rebuilding year” for Barnes & Noble. They are investing a lot of money in untried things. They can’t keep spending at this level, so they’d better secure a big chunk of market this year. I think they can, actually, but it’s artificially inflated. They aren’t even paying stockholders dividends for now.

They are doing some smart things, and I think there is a good chance they’ll survive…even if that doesn’t mean having anywhere near the brick-and-mortar presence they did before (at least for books).

You’ll probably see the stock drop a bit from this…but that will make Liberty’s offer more attractive for stockholders, and it may rise again. That may push B&N to decide quickly…if the stock rises too much, Liberty could withdraw or change the offer.

There may not be much of a competitor for Liberty…flipping is a specialized skill. You probably aren’t going to find general investment money that would go into B&N right now, without confidence that somebody knows how to make it profitable five years from now.

I thought this

Reuters article

was a good one…worth a read.

What do you think? Has B&N found the path? Since many of the NOOK sales are in B&N stores, how might closing those stores affect the NOOK? How do the successful Barnes & Noble college stores fit into the equation? Feel free to let me know.

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

John Locke becomes the first KDP author in the Kindle Million Club

June 21, 2011

John Locke becomes the first KDP author in the Kindle Million Club 

There have been seven members of the Kindle Million Club (authors whose titles have had a million purchases in the Kindle store…we can’t really call them “copies”). All of them have had tremendous success in paper as well:

  • Stieg Larsson
  • James Patterson
  • Nora Roberts
  • Charlaine Harris
  • Lee Child
  • Suzanne Collins
  • Michael Connelly

Now, according to this

Amazon Press Release

John Locke has joined it…as a Kindle Direct Publishing author.

That’s right…as an independent.

Let’s see…a million sales divided by the number of titles he has in the store…that’s like a sale per book! 😉 Just kidding…he has more on the order of ten books. However, ten books in five months is a book every fifteen days or so. Naturally, he may have written some of them before the first one was released.

His latest book is

How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!

😉

From the book description:

“By the middle of March, 2011, it had been calculated that “every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day, a John Locke novel is downloaded somewhere in the world.”

…All this was achieved PART TIME, without an agent, publicist, and at virtually no marketing expense!”

That one is $4.99…all the rest of his are ninety-nine cents.

That one was presumably not part of the million they are counting…so, the royalty on a ninety-nine cent book is about thirty-five cents.

That comes out to around $350,000*…in five months.

Now you see why you can get people to try e-book publishing with those PLR (Private Label Rights) books (see this earlier post)?  😉

It’s not that simple, though…people actually have to like the books.

That’s especially true in the Kindle store, where people can get a free sample…and “return” a book within seven days for a refund.

I’m not going to tell you, though, that his books are the highest-rated in store.

They are genre novels, and the Donovan Creed novels are a series…that can help, but I don’t think there is a magic formula for e-book success.

Here are his books…if you try one (or have already read one), feel free to comment this and let me know what you think:

Donovan Creed novels (thrillers)  (in order)

Emmett Love novels (Westerns) (in order)

Locke’s website

I Love My Kindle congratulates John Locke on his success!

One last interesting thing…Locke says that one of his books is downloaded somewhere in the world every seven seconds…how long did it take you to read this? 🙂

* Some of you might be thinking, “Hey, wasn’t Amanda Hocking supposed to have made a million dollars as an independent? Why wasn’t she in the Kindle Million Club first?” Well, many of her titles are $2.99…and that gets you the higher 70% royalty ($2.09). She could have made more money while selling fewer copies

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

It’s on! NOOK Simple Touch challenges Kindle

June 20, 2011

It’s on! NOOK Simple Touch challenges Kindle

“But that is the risk which the strongest always faces in accepting challenges.  If he wins, it is no virtue.  If he loses, it is a cosmic joke for three thousand years.”
–Omne
The Fate of the Phoenix (a Star Trek novel)
written by Myra Culbreath and Sondra Marshak

Clearly, there has been a competition between the NOOK and the Kindle since the former was released.

Since then, though, Barnes & Noble has changed their marketing company…and “this time, it’s personal”*. 😉

When the new NOOK Simple Touch (NST) was introduced, the Kindle was specifically mentioned.  They talked about reflash (the redrawing flash between “pages”), and the number of buttons.

More interesting to me has been the print ads I’ve seen…I still get paper magazines, although I’d love to have a good digital substitute.

The

NOOK Facebook page

has a picture of the first ad I saw.

The headline is

Goliath, meet David

and it shows the NST and an attributed quotation about the superiority of the NOOK over the Kindle (from ZDNet).

I’ve seen the second one in a current magazine, with this headline:

“Books didn’t need buttons for five centuries. Why start now?”

That also has a picture of the Kindle and the NST…and the same ZDNet quotation. The ads, in fact, look very much the same.

The second ad, of course, is a bit silly. The first NOOK had a keyboard…and the current one has buttons. Yes, buttons plural: I’ve seen them suggest strongly that it only has one, but there are physical “page turn” buttons. You could also say, “Books didn’t need built-in dictionaries…” or “Books didn’t need virtual keyboards…”

Still, silly doesn’t mean ineffective in advertising.

It’s also not going to hurt that, for the first time, a NOOK outscored a Kindle at

Consumer Reports

It only beat it by one point, and they say that if the Kindle public library lending is well implemented, that could put the Kindle back ahead.

That doesn’t matter, though…marketshare is more dependent on perception than on the facts.

I’ve noticed more people finding this blog looking for NOOK and Kindle comparisons lately.

The link I put into an MSNBC video comparison between the two devices

msnbc.msn.com/id/42218772/vp/43274166#43274166

is my third most clicked link of the month.

My feeling is that marketshare leaders lose their positions not by underestimating their competitors, but my overestimating consumers’ brand loyalty.

Do I think Amazon is going to do that?

No, I don’t think that’s likely, personally.

They don’t stand still. They care customercentric. They innovate.

I do think Barnes & Noble is going to increase its marketshare with the NST. It’s a bit like innings in a baseball game, and B&N is up right now.  😉

However…

There are two interesting factors right now.

Amazon still seems to be fighting the iPad in their ads (they talk about the ability to read the Kindle in bright sunlight). That does help against the NOOKColor, but not the NOOK.

That’s going to make features a tough fight…you have perceived competitors with opposite features.

Amazon is going to have to think about the branding…

The other important piece is that Amazon is likely to introduce a tablet (or two) this year. If that means they don’t also introduce a new Kindle, that would let B&N gain ground in the dedicated EBR race.

I think an Amazon tablet could do very well…but it’s not going to go to number one in tablets (that’s still going to be the iPad (2)), I think).

There’s a risk in diversifying.

Barnes & Noble has done a great job in securing a place in the e-book world. Their growth in that area has been fast and big. Partially, that’s due to overall growth in the market, but they’ve also really committed to it (even choosing not to pay dividends to stockholders this year so they could have more resources for the battle).

Competition is good. It drives innovation (technological and otherwise, like service), partially by convincing stakeholders that it’s necessary. It’s hard to get the Board to invest money and take chances f you are on top and unchallenged.

I’ll predict right now that Barnes & Noble is going to have good things to say about NST sales before the end of the summer.

What do you think? Have perceptions started to shift? Is Kindle no longer generic for EBR? Can B&N continue to grow when their current economic push stops? Is a touchscreen Kindle inevitable? Feel free to let me know.

* “This time it’s personal” is worth…oh, fifteen trivia points. 🙂 Remember that you only get trivia points if you don’t look it up…you have to just know the answer. What’s the source of that line? If you know, comment this post. It might be tougher than I think it is, but we’ll see. 🙂

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

Freebie flash! Secret, Cyber, Pumpkin, and more

June 19, 2011

Freebie flash! Secret, Cyber, Pumpkin, and more

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and none of them block text-to-speech access. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

The Hawk and the Dove: Book One
by Penelope Wilcock
published by Crossway (a faith-based publisher)

Amarillo
by Eric Wilder
published by Gondwana (independent?)

Mastering the Art of Life: 5 Collected Essays
by Julie Sellers
independent

The Cyber Chronicles
by T.C. Southwell
independent

Pumpkin Jack Skull and Other Tales of Terror
by Jacob M. Drake
published by Smashwords

Secret Sidewalk
by Tom Lichtenberg
published by Pigeon Weather Press (independent?)

Forever Young
by Carl East
independent

Active Reader: And Other Cautionary Tales from the Book World
by Mark Leslie
published by Stark (independent?)

Quid Pro Quo
by Dan Dillard
published by Smashwords (independent)

Missy Tonight
by Tom Lichtenberg
published by Pigeon Weather (independent?)

The Scars
by William Tennant
independent

Aqua Kights
by Scott Cardinal
independent

Hidden Highway
by Tom Lichtenberg
published by Pigeon Weather (independent?)

World Weary Avengers
by Tom Lichtenberg
published by Pigeon Weather (independent?)

Hilda – Snow White Revisited (Hilda the Wicked Witch)
by Paul Kater
independent

The Arrival (BirthRight Trilogy)
by Nicole MacDonald
independent

When Graveyards Yawn (The Apocalypse Trilogy)
by G. Wells Taylor
independent

In the House of Five Dragons
by E.D. Lindquist, Aron Christensen
published by Loose Leaf Stories (independent?)

We Are the Monsters
by Aaron Polson
published by Skull Salad (independent?)

Just Dial 911 for Assistance
by Jason Krumbine
published by One Stray Word (independent?)

Derelict
by Albert Berg
independent

The Adventures of Kid Combat Volume I: A Secret Lost
by Christopher A. Helwink
published by Wheatmark (independent?)

Griffin’s Daughter: Paranormal Romance (Young Adult Version)
by Leslie Ann Moore
published by Ridan (independent?)

Paris: An Illustrated History
by Elaine Mokhtefi
published by Hippocrene

Ancient Rome in So Many Words
by Christopher Francese
published by Hippocrene

Aprovecho: A Mexican-American Border Cookbook
by Teresa Cordero-Cordell, Robert Cordell
published by Hippocrene

Ten Moments That Shook The Sports World
by Stan Isaacs
published by Skyhorse

Soccer Dad
by W.D. Weatherell

Taste of Romania: Its Cookery and Glimpses of Its History, Folklore, Art, Literature, and Poetry
by Nicolae Klepper
published by Hippocrene

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow
by Joyce Magnin
published by Abingdon (a faith-based publisher)

The Kerala Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections from the Syrian Christians of South India (Hippocrene Cookbook Library)
by Lathika George, Latha George Pottenkulam
published by Hippocrene

Brazil: A Culinary Journey (Hippocrene Cookbook Library)
by Cherie Hamilton
published by Hippocrene

How to Read Maya Hieroglyphs
by John Montgomery
published by Hippocrene

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

Reuters: “Spam clogging Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing”

June 18, 2011

Reuters: “Spam clogging Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing”

This

Reuters article

is getting quite a bit of play…that happens after the Huffington Post picks you up. 🙂

It addresses an interesting question, even if the headline is inaccurate and the issue isn’t new.

The core question: should Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing be a service or a publisher?

That may not be what you have seen portrayed as the point. The buzz will mostly be doom and gloom, and checking off buzz concepts: “E-books are stupid and a rip-off”; “Amazon: bad”;  “There’s a sucker born every minute, and ten guys to take advantage of him.”

That last phrase, by the way, is attributed to P.T. Barnum, and you usually only see the first half of it. My understanding is that the quotation is actually by a competitor of Barnum’s and was derogatory about him. The second part is the important one, though, even if the whole quotation may not be accurate.

Every opportunity for progress is a perceived opportunity to rip somebody off in new ways. Uncertainty makes it easier to deceive people…and when somebody is actually making money from something, many people think it is just luck and timing and can be easily replicated.

Independent e-book publishing has made some people a lot of money: Amanda Hocking is an author who we have discussed before who has apparently done very well with royalties…and has gotten into the mainstream media

So (and this did happen before Hocking as well), an exploiter takes that idea (“You can make money in e-publishing!”) and sells it to people. They buy the idea…and it really doesn’t matter if the idea works or not.

Here’s the set-up: you write a fairly mainstream appearing book. I’ve seen it done with a cookbook and a “living green” ecology type thing.  You could sell it in the Kindle store yourself, but who knows if people will buy it? Instead, you license it to other people to publish…lots of other people, ideally. “For $25, you get the right to publish this e-book…and you keep all the profits! You’re an author…with none of the pesky writing to do.”

If ten people buy the rights, you’ve made $250…not bad. That’s especially true if you just cobbled together the book from free sources, like government publications or books that have fallen into the public domain over time.

Does it matter if your licensees can sell copies?

Nope.

That’s why these deals aren’t a share of the royalties…there may not be any. Nobody wants all that accounting, and fifty percent of zero is zero.

What you are selling is potential, and that’s always a popular product. 😉

Is any of this illegal?

No.

Not if you don’t promise people they’ll sell the books.  You use qualifiers like, “You could make…” “Up to ten thousand dollars…” You can put some of the pressure on the licensee, believe it or not: “All it takes is a desire to make money.”

You could even offer people their money back if they don’t make back their investment.

Why in the world would you do that?

It’s because most people don’t bother to ask for their money back. They don’t want to admit they were stupid to go for the deal…which they probably realized in the first place. Putting that guarantee in there will probably mean more people will sign up for it…but not that the same number of people who give you their money will ask for it back.

From the point of view of the licensor, it’s the licenses you sell…not the copies that sell.

The licensee pays the money, publishes the book…and if they don’t make money, “Oh, well.”

The upshot of this is that there might be one hundred of the exact same title in the Kindle store. The licensor probably included simple instructions on how to do that.

What happens when a customer notices that there are one hundred of the same title?

The risk is that it makes them doubt all the books in the Kindle store, or large segments of them. It makes them doubt the numbers Amazon puts out of the books in the Kindle store.

Amazon can, and does, take steps to catch this. The Reuters article even quotes an Amazon representative saying that.

Does it work all the time?

Again, no.

Titles get through.

Is this a massive, the sky is falling problem for self-publishing and Amazon?

In my opinion, not at all.

I honestly doubt that many people notice it at all. It’s not something that’s going to happen with novels, generally, although I could certainly see somebody licensing a generic romance/mystery/science fiction novel and so on for others to publish.

It’s not this huge threat to Amazon or to readers. If you buy the book and you like it, it doesn’t hurt you. If you don’t like it, Amazon gives you seven days to “return” any Kindle store book for a refund.

I am very hesitant for Amazon to start becoming much more restrictive about the KDP.

There are strong forces who would love to see that happen. The Big Six US publishers probably had a “high five party” in their respective offices when they noticed this Reuters piece.

The purchaser is not being defrauded in this case. The book is the book…there are just a hundred different people from which to buy it, and again, Amazon completely protects us on our Kindle book purchases with that return policy. Last I checked, neither Barnes & Noble nor Sony allowed e-book returns at any time.

I have suggested that Amazon could to a “first in wins” policy. They already review books which are submitted. It’s not hard for them to run a title check against books already in the store. If the title is already in the store, that brings up a check of the title.

At that point, the two titles are compared. If the content of the books are the same, first in wins: the new submission is rejected with an explanation. The explanation is in case the first version is an infringement of the second version. The second person has the opportunity to assert rights.

Doing this two stage check would mitigate against rejecting two different books with the same title that are different (that happens a lot). You can’t copyright a title, although you could trademark some things in publishing: a single title isn’t usually one of them, as I understand it. See this informative article by intellectual property attorney Amanda Brice in The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing:

Welcome to The WG2E…Intellectual Property Attorney Amanda Brice

So, this brings back to what I think is the heart here.

These multiple editions of the exact same book by multiple licensees is legal. Amazon wouldn’t have too much trouble detecting them and stopping them (although it’s not going to happen immediately every time).

Should Amazon stop them?

That means that Amazon is deciding what to carry and not carry through their KDP.

They have the right to do that, certainly. Any store does…I’ve always been surprised when people have said it is censorship or a violation of free speech for Amazon not to carry something.

Free speech is a governmental responsibility…not one in the private sector.

If a cookbook store chooses not to carry Stephen King novels, that is neither censorship nor a violation of free speech rights.

Kindle Direct Publishing is one of two things: it’s either a service, like the US Postal Service, that largely ignores the content (with some exceptions); or it is a publisher that makes editorial decisions based on content.

Both have their risks.

In the first case, Amazon risks publishing materials that readers see as substandard or offensive and they stop shopping with Amazon.

In the latter case, Amazon rejects a book because it may offend somebody…and an important work doesn’t get to a wide public. It’s also a lot more work for Amazon.

Proactive content filtering or post-publication reaction?

Wikipedia and YouTube are other places that have this issue. Bad things show up on Wikipedia…but quickly disappear, usually. Infringing works get posted to YouTube, and are removed on request.

I can’t imagine YouTube having a team of intellectual property lawyers reviewing every single upload before it is allowed.

Amazon doesn’t have hard and fast guidelines. I recently reviewed a book that’s going to offend a lot of people (Go the Eff to Sleep…by the way, I’m sure some people were offended that I moderated the title).

They could have software that prevents the “F word” from appearing in books…they have “boterators” (I just made that up…it’s a combination of “robot” and “moderator”) that do that in the forums.

There are many books that deal with all kinds of sexual activity in the Kindle store…and, of course, many books filled with violence.

There are books with a variety of political viewpoints.

I’m not saying that Amazon should just publish anything through the KDP…I’m fine with them limiting duplications as above.  As a former bookstore manager, we certainly made decisions based on content.

However, that’s not really the way Amazon presents itself. If you are going to have “every book ever written”, you are going to have some lousy and offensive books. If it was literally true, you’d be publishing books that were illegal…and you’d run into a lot of problems. We might see Amazon officers in jail.

The Reuters article conflates these PLR (Private Label Rights) books with plagiarism and infringement. That’s a whole different kettle of words. Books which infringe on the copyrights of others are illegal. Amazon quickly removed a book (or the publisher did when challenged) that infringed on my rights:

Infringement, plagiarism, and Amazon to the rescue

One last point: the article (and others) have mentioned that Barnes & Noble isn’t in the same situation with this. If their PubIt! service is as open as the KDP, they will. They just aren’t as big a target…it’s a bit like why you see so many more viruses for PCs than for Macs. If they aren’t as open…my gut reaction is to wish they were.

What do you think? Is having these PLR books in the Kindle store a huge problem? Is there any connection to that with limiting ideas in the Kindle store? Should Amazon just let anything legal go through the KDP, or should they (on the other end of the scale) editorially review every submission? Feel free to let me know by commenting on this article.

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

Freebie flash! Android, Dating, Secrets, and more

June 17, 2011

Freebie flash! Android, Dating, Secrets, and more

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and none of them block text-to-speech access. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

Dude, You’re Gonna Be a Dad!
by John Pfeiffer
published by Adams Media

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood
by Jane Leavy
published by HarperCollins

The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2012
Office of Management and Budget
published by The White House

Surrender the Heart
by MaryLu Tyndall
published by Barbour (independent?)

The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze of Bones Sneak Peek + Exclusive Bonus Card
by Rick Riordan
published by Scholastic

Sasha (A Trial of Blood and Steel, Book I)
by Joel Shephard
published by Pyr

Here’s a bunch of those Vook short non-fictions:

Shoulder Definition in Six Weeks: The How-To Guide

Fly-Fishing for Trout: The How-To Guide

Get J. Lo’s Butt: The How-To Guide

Get a Ripped Chest in Six Weeks: The How-To Guide

Speed Dating: The How-To Guide

Beauty Secrets: The How-To Guide

Ace the Job interview: The How-To Guide

Your Baby’s First Year: The How-To Guide

Eating for a Healthy Heart: The How-To Guide

Android Phones: The How-To Guide

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


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