Round up #136: E-book sales down per AAP, 100 essential non-fiction books

Round up #136: E-book sales down per AAP, 100 essential non-fiction books

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

Amazon’s 4th Quarter 2015 Earnings Conference Call Thursday at 2:00 PM Pacific

People are excited about this one…and it should be telling. Yes, the stock market has been having a rough time, but my intuition is that investors will like this. I won’t be able to listen to it live tomorrow, but I’ll get to it as soon as I reasonably can.

If you’d like to listen to the conference call, you can do it here:


One of my regular readers and commenters, Man in the Middle, recommended this article to me on copyright:

Freedom of Expression and Morality Based Impediments to the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights by Mark J. Randazza

It is a very interesting paper, discussing the effect of countries disqualifying a work from copyright protection if it is “immoral” (or illegal…they don’t say anything about fattening). 😉

Content-wise, I can say I think I’m more along the European concepts of copyright than American.

So, the “oops” here was that I told Man that I planned to listen to it using text-to-speech (TTS) in the car on a commute.

It’s a PDF, and I planned to listen to it using the free app,

ezPDF Reader PDF Annotate Form (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I downloaded the PDF (portable document file), e-mailed it to myself, got in the car…and it wouldn’t open in EZ PDF! Quite odd…I’d never had that happen before. I tried a few different options, but with the limited time I had (I was off to work) I switched to

Yellow Crocus (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which my Significant Other had borrowed through

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

My SO said “enjoyed” wasn’t the right word (it’s not a happy book), but thought it was good.

So, that was okay, but I was a bit puzzled. EZ PDF couldn’t locate it on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX.

Then I realized what had happened.

Instead of e-mailing it as an attachment to myself (which I would then download to my KF), I had e-mailed it directly to the Kindle…which causes it to be converted.

It the text-to-speech (TTS) on my Kindle Fire worked with PDFs, or with the converted PDF, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Just a mistake on my part. 🙂

Amazon’s first Superbowl ad

Amazon has never bought a Superbowl ad before, but they have and it has been posted here:

What is it for? Amazon Prime? The Fire tablets? The Kindle Voyage? Fire TV?

Nope, it’s for the

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

The Echo, which I cover most extensively in another blog of mine, The Measured Circle

does do sports, but Superbowl ads aren’t really about sports.

I’ll let you watch it, if you want, but I’ll say this: it has two celebrities…and it massively under uses the Echo. 🙂 Somebody is writing down a list, which the Echo could remember them, and sync between devices.

I’ve finally gotten my SO to start using an Echo shopping list with me…we can each add things to it (either through the Echo verbally, or on our phones directly) and we can both see what’s on it and cross things off.

Works pretty well. 🙂

Lot of Echo news and rumors…I’ll be writing something in The Measured Circle pretty soon, and I’ll link to it here. One thing: we are about to be able to say that it has “hundreds of Skills” (like apps) available for it.

It’s been busy at work, though, and I’m working on another big project I hope to reveal in mid-February. Last night, I literally fell asleep while writing this post. 🙂 It was right about when it was time for me to go to bed anyway, but that was…interesting. 😉 It’s one reason my SO is starting to convince me that I might want to retire some day…I want more time for writing!

AAP report doesn’t split out mass market paperbacks from trade paperbacks

This report from the AAP (Association of American Publishers) was a particularly interesting one:

It says that revenue from book sales was down 2% in the first three quarters of 2015. E-book sales were down over 11%.

Why would that be?

There would be a number of factors, but as I’ve been noting in some of my analysis, Amazon’s bestselling e-books don’t tend to come from the kinds of publishers who would be part of the AAP.

They come from indies (independents), but also from Amazon’s own traditional publishing imprints. I assume they aren’t part of the AAP, although I don’t know that for sure.

Intriguing to me was that they didn’t separate out mass market paperbacks (the small ones I think most people still of as a paperback…about the size of your hand) and trade paperbacks, which are larger…they tend to be about the same height as a hardback novel/popular non-fiction.

The MMPs have been crashing in sales…e-books sort of took their niche of being relatively inexpensive and portable. So, the paperback category was up…but my guess is that was trade’s gains overbalancing MMP’s losses.

That’s probably why they didn’t separate this time, but have in the past.


I love this!

In this

The Guardian article by Alison Flood

a study is reported where mathematicians studied novels…and determined that they were not only subject to mathematical analysis, but had pretty specific results. They resembled fractals and multifractals.

I know some of you are running the other way, but I thought it was really cool!

You can suggest: the 100 essential non-fiction books

Still at the Guardian, this

article by Marta Bausells

invites readers to suggest essential non-fiction books. This is tied into Robert McCrum’s new list, although it seems like that list is already finished.

I read a lot of non-fiction (although I read fiction as well…I read a lot of things).

That would be tough for me!

I’d have to really think about it, and what I wanted books on the list to do and be.

My first thoughts are to books which give insight into Homo sapiens, both as a species and individuals.

My first gut reaction would include:

  • The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris
  • The Book of the D*amned by Charles Fort
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

However, I then think I’d want my list to be broader…books that gave historical insight (in a different way than Diamond), for example.

Hmm…I’ll have to think about that.

The Independent: “Can we guess how old you are based on the books you have read? Take the quiz”

It was fun to take the quiz in this

The Independent article by Roisin O’Connor

but apparently, at least the answer for me was, “No, you can’t.” 😉 They were way off…at least a third of my age off.

Of course, that makes me a bit happy…I like being atypical. 😉

You can give it a try…let me know if it works for you.

My guess is that it won’t tend to work. A couple of years ago, I wrote

You’re showing your age when you say, “You’re showing your age”

It seems even more true to me now.

What do you think? What are the essential non-fiction books…and what does that mean? Have you been using your Echo for books…audiobooks or text-to-speech? What will be reported in Amazon’s financials call? What would you have done with Amazon’s first Superbowl ad? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


13 Responses to “Round up #136: E-book sales down per AAP, 100 essential non-fiction books”

  1. Tom Semple Says:

    The decline in ebook revenue (not unit sales) is entirely predictable given agency pricing returned last year and people are either going with print instead as that can look like a better ‘value’, or buying ebooks that aren’t being tracked. It’s obviously not logical to derive conclusions about ebook readership, but that doesn’t stop many ‘journalists’ from doing just that. I guess it makes for a better tag line, but to me it just reflects laziness.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      I hope I was clear enough in my short piece…you are, of course, correct that revenue and unit sales are two very different things…and I don’t think the AAP can track either of them effectively for e-books any more.

      We really don’t know if e-book readership is up, down, or sideways. 🙂

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    To me, the essential books of Non Fiction are the books that help explain how we got where we are. I could easily list more than 100. These are the books that came quickly to mind. I stopped where I had to pause to think. It is shaped by my personal interest in history and biography. I alphabetized by author. As I was alphabetizing, I kept thinking of more books to add, but I didn’t want it to grow to the full 100, so I stifled myself. The last are reference books, also essential, but I fear the printed versions are on the endangered species list. In fact, I think some of them are already extinct.

    Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee
    Dee Brown

    Silent Spring
    Rachel Carson

    Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
    Richard Carlson
    [I know, it became an object of ridicule and satire, but it contained a lot of good practical advice that is as relevant today as the day it was written.]

    The Diary of a Young Girl
    Anne Frank

    The Feminine Mystique
    Betty Friedan

    The Civil War
    Shelby Foote

    John Hersey

    Death at an Early Age
    Jonathan Kozel

    Michel de Montaigne
    [He invented the essay!]

    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
    William Shirer

    Hard Times
    Studs Terkel

    Henry David Thoreau

    Democracy in America
    Alexis de Tocqueville

    The Right Stuff
    Tom Wolfe

    Oxford English Dictionary – Unabridged

    Roget’s Thesaurus

    The Elements of Style
    William Strunk and E. B. White

    A Manual for Writers of Research Papers…
    Kate Turabian

    The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy
    [Warning, contains many spoilers!]
    James Trefil

    The Encyclopedia Britannica

    The World Book Encyclopedia

    The New Book of Knowledge

    It would probably be very hard to find those last three in print editions, but if I were stranded on the proverbial desert island with no way to recharge my Kindle, I’d want the print editions of all three! Growing up, I had a complete set of The Book of Knowledge and a lesser known encyclopedia. Also a “medical” encyclopedia that my parents bought one volume per week from the grocery store. And yes, I read them all!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I wouldn’t disagree with any of your choices. 🙂

      I suspect they aren’t going to go with strictly reference works, though.

      By the way, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to find The World Book in paper: there’s a set a few meters from me. 😉 I also have one volume of the EB in my library.

      I have two encyclopedia sets I bought a volume at a time from the grocery store! One was a listing of animals (with a picture, classification, and so on), and the other one was Man, Myth, and Magic. I also used to work for Time/Life Libraries, which was a book at a time, but not from the grocery store.

      Incidentally, I did read The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy cover to cover. I knew all the literature and movie stuff ahead of time…it was interesting for me for things like fine art. Back when I thought I might go on Jeopardy some day, that would have been a cram area for me. I would say I know as much as most people, but I’m not at Jeopardy level.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I think Amazon recently came out with a list of the 100 essential mystery & thriller titles to go along with the earlier list of 100 essential SciFI titles. I found that the mystery list more jibed with my own feelings — unlike the scifi list where I didn’t even recognize over half the titles on the scifi list (before we ever get to the notion of significance), and I probably read 2 scifi’s for every one mystery/thriller.

    While there are some fiction titles published in the trade paper format, the vast bulk of the titles are academic, educational, technical and professional works. Many of them are priced way North of even the price of a hard cover fiction title, and I expect the margins on trade are better too — so it’s not surprising that they bundle MMP and trade — as it obscures the very real (not so positive) changes occurring in the traditional publishing industry.

    I agree with you that the AAP is not the best source for eBook sales.

    But the AAP when given a lemon is trying to make lemonade 😀

    I would agree also with Tom S (above) that the price increases on big 5 eBook titles is depressing demand. Book purchases are very sensitive to price.

    I’m shocked, I tell you Shocked at some of the recent eBook prices I’m seeing :grin

    Used to be a big 5 fiction title would come out first in hardback priced in the $25-30 range, and about a year later, it would come out in MMP at $7-9. Now, however, I think a lot of that delay is disappearing (just as it is in the movie industry). Titles now come out simultaneously in hardback and eBook with the eBook priced at about half of the hardback price — i.e. $12-15 — agency pricing is back with a vengeance.

    I’m not sure that this is a sustainable model for them over the long term . . .

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Here’s that list:

      100 Mysteries & Thrillers to Read in a Lifetime (at AmazonSmile)

      I always find it a bit odd to combine mysteries and thrillers…yes, they may commonly have crime in common, but is Robert Ludlum that much like Agatha Christie? Looking at this list, is the same person typically going to read (and like) Nancy Drew, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Hunt for Red October?

      I have to say, my intuition is that trade fiction and trade non-fiction is a large part of trade paperbacks. Even back when I was managing a brick, we had those. Mists of Avalon is a good example of one that was a solid seller. Now, many novels never come out in MMP at all…hardback, trade paper, e-book, and audiobook…but not MMP. Do you have stats I can see on segments of trade paper? I’d be curious. 🙂

      I do think that the AAP dropping listing MMPs separately is to…de-emphasize the movement in that format. 😉

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        It bothers me when mysteries and thrillers are lumped together, too. However, I plead guilty to having read and enjoyed Nancy Drew, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and “The Hunt for Red October.” I suppose it’s possible that I’m not a typical reader. Mysteries are probably my favorite genre now, but I tend more towards the “cozy” variety, preferably with a cat or a witch somehow involved. And I still like a more “hard boiled,” and flawed detective such as James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux or John. D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee or a kick bootie female like Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone or Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak. I’m not really a fan of Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple. Not sure why not.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Touché! 🙂

        Yes, there are certainly people who like all three, but I wouldn’t recommend the three of them together as being much of a muchness. We both like the Silent Spring, but if somebody said they liked Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys an wanted a recommendation, I don’t think I’d go there.

        I like cozy, hard-boiled, and supernatural mysteries…gee, I’m not that discriminating, am I? 😉

        I think Sherlock is great, although I’d say I like Poirot more than Miss Marple. There is a…cartooniness to those which perhaps doesn’t appeal to you. We aren’t supposed to think of them as taking place in the real world…in a way, they are more symbolic.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        I liked Sherlock Holmes on the holodeck;)

        I agree about Nancy Drew not being a good choice for current recommendations. On Goodreads, I’ve starred lots of books that I read and enjoyed as a child but wouldn’t want to read again now. Still, Goodreads gives me recommendations based on those star ratings.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Well, that’s an indicator (not the only possible indicator) of the strength of Holmes. Shakespeare, Holmes, Oz, A Christmas Carol…they all have been successful in different interpretations (I saw The Taming of the Shrew as a Western, and The Tempest with Balinese shadow puppets, for example), which suggests a sort of universality.

        I’m okay with what I liked as a kid being used for recommendations now. 🙂 That’s an interesting thing for me to ponder…were there books I liked as a kid where I wouldn’t want to read something similar now? I’m not coming up with something…

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        There were many books I read as kid: Tom Swift (sr & jr), Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc., which I’m rereading now — mostly for insights they give about life in the 20’s, and 50’s.

        I only read Sherlock Holmes recently for the first time — I found the back pictures of the state of technology more interesting than the stories themselves — for example: one of the stories published in the 1880’s had a telephone installed in Scotland Yard (I like the Basil Rathbone movies much more than the books).

        For some reason I’ve never cottoned much to Agatha Christie — I do like cozies, but I preferred Margery Allingham). Nero Wolfe is my favorite sleuth — far above anything else — I’ve read every one more than three times.

        When I still went to book stores, I used to really hate their practice of shelving science fiction & fantasy together. I like Sci-Fi; fantasy not so much.

        I don’t have any stats, but Christopher Nuttall is a very prolific indie Sci-Fi & fantasy author who publishes under some of Amazon’s imprints. If you go to his Amazon page, there is a link to his blog where he has a couple of posts on book piracy, and lots of insights into the backrooms of indie and traditional publishing. One item that caught my eye: Tor’s advances/payouts to John Scalzi are so rich that the company finds itself in serious financial difficulties.

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      I saw a cute cartoon commenting on the pricing of digital downloads:

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Cute…but I have to say, the comments are astounding to me…

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