Archive for the ‘Traditional Publishers’ Category

HuffPo article: Amazon is “potentially terrorizing”

May 5, 2017

HuffPo article: Amazon is “potentially terrorizing”

Let me start out by saying that I’m not neutral on Amazon (could you tell from the title of this blog?).

I like them as a customer, and that includes as a reader. I’ve never liked any other company more. While they weren’t the only possible option for reading e-books, I, to some extent, equate Amazon and e-books. When the Kindle 2 got text-to-speech, that was a big change that affects me every week to this day.

I am also not an employee of Amazon’s. I do write about when I disagree with what they do. I don’t have any more direct influence over them than anybody else does, and I don’t have a boss there.

However, I have also made tens of thousands of dollars from Amazon, which I report on my taxes. I make that money as an author (and technically, as a publisher). I get royalties on books and blogs, and I derive other income from having the blogs.

It’s not how I make my living: I have a “day job” which is the vast majority of my income.

I’m bringing that up because I’m about to refer you to, and write about, a

Huffington Post article by Brooke Warner

who is identified as “Publisher, Coach, Author”.

The post is reporting what could certainly be a concerning policy change by Amazon. It says, among other things, that Amazon’s goal is to “…disrupt publishing, not to support publishers or authors”.

That is not what Amazon says, of course, so we can treat this as an opinion (which could be suggested to be a deduction based on evidence,)…or Warner has inside information.

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and yes, in my opinion, Amazon has disrupted publishing. While e-books existed before the Kindle, they were a tiny part of the market, and that’s no longer true. If we can say that Amazon made e-books a significant market, we can say that one of the disruptions they caused was that authors could publish a book themselves and have it appear in the same marketplace as a book which was traditionally published.

In my bookstore, for economic/logistical reasons I’ve discussed before, an indie (independently published) book was simply not going to sit on a shelf next to one from Random House or Simon & Schuster. It was very, very difficult for an indie author to make a living…even harder than it was a tradpubbed author (and that was a big long shot as well).

Now, it is possible…and it happens.

I have had years where, based strictly on my income as an author, I wouldn’t have been below the poverty line.

I doubt there has ever been a company which has enabled more authors to make more money…the introduction of paperbacks helped (there are a couple of companies which popularized those), but this is different.

However…

Those authors making the money are largely newer authors who weren’t already established with tradpubs. Just as was argued with paperbacks, people argue that the books aren’t, on average, as good as tradpubbed books. That can be especially true in the areas of proofreading and copy editing…which sometimes doesn’t happen much at all with an indie. Some indie books I’ve read have been beautifully edited and proofread, and wonderful books. I think what we can fairly say is that, with a lower level to market entry, there are a higher percentage of “substandard” books among indies than among tradpubbed…although I wouldn’t say that the, oh, top 30 percent (in a completely subjective measure of quality) are better among tradpubs than indies.

The policy being reported here (and my intuitive assessment of the article is that the policy as reported is true) is that a book being sold by the publisher through Amazon may not get the “Buy” button.

Customers should be familiar with the “Buy” button versus the additional ways to buy. I’m always inclined to use the Buy button method…even though another source might be cheaper. In some cases, the other method might send me a product which is just as good (never used). I bought a whole bunch of kitschy collectibles once from a store going out of business…posters, pictures, that sort of thing, from pop culture (TV shows). I bought them new and unused, didn’t open the packages, and could hypothetically have sold them for a lot more than what I paid for them, and a lot less than the price another store would have gotten. I don’t think I ever actually did sell any of them. 🙂

If you are a publisher, and your new book being sold directly no longer appears as the first choice, that is legitimately a problem for you.

For third-party sellers, it appears to be that you have to “win” the Buy button, and you can improve that by paralleling Amazon’s goals…lower prices, perhaps.

Amazon has the right to do this…they don’t have to sell your books at all, of course. There may be some issue if Amazon is violating an agreement they’ve made with the publisher, but I’d have to see contractual language that promised that the book would be promoted in some way which clearly indicates it would be the Buy button, and that Amazon didn’t follow the necessary rules (which might include notification to the publisher) in making the change.

Absolutely, I can see how this would hurt publishers.

The article also suggests that it significantly hurts authors.

Here’s that argument: when you buy a used book, the author doesn’t get a royalty on that sale. It isn’t part of the accounting.

They did, generally, get a royalty on the first sale…the one where the person bought it who later sold it used.

There are books which aren’t supposed to be sold to others. In the bookstore, we would get “galleys”, pre-publication versions (an upcoming hardback might have a trade paperback style galley…which might not have cover art), which we could read ahead of time so we were knowledgeable and engaged promoting the book on release day. Those would specifically say they weren’t for resale.

There was also the issue of “strips”. From tradpubs, we were generally guaranteed we could sell a book. If we didn’t sell a book, we could return it for a refund (which was usually a credit for purchasing more books from that company). That’s one reason indies were often impractical: they didn’t have that policy.

It would be expensive to ship mass market paperbacks back to the publisher: books are heavy (which is one of the big pluses of e-books, especially for those with certain physical challenges)! Instead, we were instructed to tear the front cover off, and mail those back. You could get maybe twenty of those in a manila envelope, which could be mailed much more cheaply than a box of twenty books.

The book itself would still be able to be read, of course.

It was explicitly stated: we could not sell those “strips”. We could not donate them (we could tell the publisher about an organization that needed books, and the publisher would often donate books there…giving them the write-off, but also accounting for in some way for the author, I assume).

As an employee, I was told I could bring those strips home and read them…it was just that we couldn’t resell them or donate them. It was one of the benefits of working in a bookstore when I was a clerk, and didn’t make much money. The publisher wasn’t usually losing a sale: I wouldn’t have bought the book otherwise.

I have seen strips in used bookstores with a statement stamped on them that if you were buying it, it was stolen goods, basically. I always thought that was brazen on the part of the bookstore, the people who had bought it.

If customers begin buying books by third-party sellers, who may have bought them at a “going out of business sale” like I had done with the posters, and not directly from the publisher, it could mean the publishers lose significant income.

Would the publisher have gotten the money from the sale from the dying store? Maybe…bankruptcy can result in suppliers not being paid, for one thing. The author may get paid based on what the customer paid, rather than what the cover price was, and that could possibly hurt the author.

Note that all of this is about physical books, not e-books…since e-books are not sold used or third-party at this point. It could affect e-book readers if it affects hybrid publishers or authors.

As readers, we may be paying lower prices…so I do think it is good that the article raises people’s awareness. I’ve said many times that I believe small brick-and-mortar bookstores can make it, by making the buying experience such that people voluntarily pay more money because they want to support you.

I think it’s more complicated than the HuffPo article makes it…it concludes with saying, “If you want to support the authors you love, get off Amazon.” Do that, and you’ll kill the income of many indie authors, who publish the books themselves. That’s especially true for e-books. You will likely give authors the highest royalty you can by purchasing e-books they’ve published themselves of their own books. It’s tougher to go from indie publishing to where some of the real money is, like movies and TV shows, although movies do get made from independently published books:

The Martian by Andy Weir (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit by shopping*)

comes to mind.

I’m going to wrap this up by recommending that you read Warner’s article. I suspect you’ll hear about it, and that some people will simply hear that Amazon is ripping off authors, without hearing too much of the details. It has the potential to be a big negative news node for Amazon, like when they removed 1984 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) from people’s Kindles (I’ve written extensively about what happened there) or when they heard that Amazon deleted somebody’s account. I’m not saying this policy is a positive thing, by any means…I just wanted to give you some more perspective in making your own decision about it.

Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.


My current Amazon Giveaways:
Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

by my sibling, Kris Calvin

1 winner

Requirements for participation:

  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (you’ll be notified when future books are added to Amazon…I think that’s the only contact you get, although I’m not positive)

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/ffab73bbd6512571 

Start:Apr 30, 2017 9:46 AM PDT
End:May 7, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

 * 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.

 
Advertisements

Round up #144: Prime Air, read more live longer?

August 9, 2016

Round up #144: Prime Air, read more live longer?

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

Publishing Perspectives: “Sisters in Crime on Diversity: Multiculturalism, They Wrote”

I found this

Publishing Perspective post by Porter Anderson

intriguing.

It’s about a recent report from

Sisters in Crime (SinC)

about diversity within their group of mystery writers.

The whole question of diversity is an interesting one…and one that’s been in the news repeatedly recently.

Do people of similar nature (gender, ethnic background, sexual preference) have similar perspectives? More importantly, do they lack perspectives that people of different (diverse) natures would have?

If someone believes that’s true, than finding out that a group of content creators or “influencers” being less diverse than the general population means that the works produced by that group underrepresent perspectives in society.

This survey (which is available at the SinC website) compared self-reported categorization of the membership with census data (with the exception of LGBT ((Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender…although it is generally used in a more inclusive manner than that, including those who identify as “gender fluid”, or example)) identification, which used another comparison study).

All of the groups were underrepresented by the authors under this methodology except for two.

SinC members (the survey was sent to 3,400 members; SinC is in fifty states) were reported as 93% “White, non-Hispanic”, compared to 62% of the general population…half again as many.

LGBT self-reported at 6%, compared to 3.8%…158% (somewhat higher than the above).

One more, and then I’ll recommend you read the study. I was surprised that people with a disability were underrepresented. I would expect writers with disabilities to be overrepresented…a person can write for a living with limited mobility. I can certainly see how someone who had a change in mobility status would choose to be the writer they perhaps always wanted to be. I’ve walked with a cane for maybe a few years now…it does make doing my day job marginally more difficult. Perhaps being a successful writer nowadays may require a lot of travel, to go to book festivals and such…I know my sibling, author of

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

does travel to those sorts of events frequently.

HDXter, the work horse

When I was a kid, you figured that you bought household appliance and it would last for generations of devices, but human generations. 🙂 It was entirely possible that you would get your grandparents’ vacuum cleaner or refrigerator to use.

While the term had been around for a few decades, it was really in the 1950s that “planned obsolescence” became a popular concept. The basic idea is that companies would intentionally design their products so that the consumer would want to replace it, probably with a newer model from the same company.

Car companies have understood that.

Apple’s phone business has arguably depended on it.

It’s funny, but emotionally, when I buy a Kindle  or a Fire tablet, I feel (not think) that I will have and use it for decades.

Oh, I expect to buy new models when they come up, but that is largely to write about them for you, my readers. I’ve certainly bought them because I’ve been curious about a new feature, but I  expect the old ones to still be around and be part of my life (if I don’t give them away).

Regular readers may remember we had a break-in a few years ago and had a bunch of our Kindles/Fires taken:

Eight of our Kindles stolen

However, I have and use daily a Kindle Fire HDX (now discontinued). HDXter (“H-Dexter”) is the Kindle/Fire I use the most…it’s the one that comes to work with me, the one that does text-to-speech in the car. I use a Voyage and a Paperwhite at home as well, but HDXter has served me incredibly well.

It’s been in Amazon’s own Origami cover, and yes, it’s been dropped or fallen a few times.

Updates have affected it, which is nice…I got the new Page Flip version, for example, which is brilliant.

I have one of the current gen Fires, but I like HDXter better at this point:  it fits my needs.

Reading is life

“Serious readers” may feel like we get to live more by reading books, but one of my regular readers and commenters, Lady Galaxy, linked me to this

New York Times article by Bryan Thomas

which reports on a study that says that regular readers literally live longer.

Here’s the key in a short excerpt:

“Compared with those who did not read books, those who read for up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up, and those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die. Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.”

They reportedly controlled for other factors (readers may be disproportionately part of other groups with average longer life expectancy, including women and those of greater financial means, for example).

There may be a number of reasons for that…it may reduce stress, acting as a form of meditation. I think empathetic people tend  to be more emotionally fit, and there have been other studies which suggest that readers tend to be more empathetic.

“Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Amazon!”

While Amazon’s drone delivery program isn’t happening in the USA yet (it will likely happen in other countries first, due to our approval process moving more slowly), Amazon has launched Prime Air…and it’s a cargo jet!

You can see pictures of it in this

GeekWire post by Alan Boyle

Amazon would clearly like to be able to control the delivery process from store to door. They also are using “Amazon Flex” drivers, sort of like Uber for Amazon package deliveries, for those final miles (they recently delivered the hardback version of the new Harry Potter book between midnight and 2:00 AM…creating some speculation, including here, that it might be some other secret product launch…it wasn’t).

I pity folks at package delivery companies who have based their business projections on how much Amazon was going to use them. It’s a tiny percentage at this point, I’m sure, but if Amazon expands control of self-delivery, it could even cause layoffs at those companies, I would guess.

Stock prices of traditional publishers are…

…doing just fine, thank you.

You might guess that publishers are in trouble…I’ve reported on the rise of indies. However, that’s one of the things about being professional companies with a long history: they understand how to make money, even if how they do it isn’t as “sexy” as just selling more copies of books.

This

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

has a nice look at stock prices, showing that their PWSI (Publishers Weekly Stock Index) has gone up a lot faster than the Dow Jones Industrials.

They break it down by individual companies, and some of the strong players might surprise you…Barnes & Noble (they don’t just include publishers, but B&N has had some “house branded” books before) is up 30.3%…Amazon, by comparison, is up 5.9%. However, it’s a lot easier to rise in percentages when you have a much, much smaller starting number. 🙂

What do you think? Are tradpubs gains short term, or can they survive and thrive? Would you rather have Amazon deliver your packages, or UPS/Fed Ex/USPS? Should the author pool reflect the general population? Should reading be part of fitness/longevity plans? 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!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

 

E-book sales are dropping…off the radar

July 28, 2016

E-book sales are dropping…off the radar

You could easily read the numbers in this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

reporting on sales figures from the AAP (Association of American Publishers) comparing February 2016 to February 2015, and conclude that e-books were, perhaps, just a fad.

Sales of children’s/Young Adult e-books were down 41.7%.

E-book market share in that very important segment dropped almost 5%.

In the adult trade segment (what you would have bought in a bookstore…not textbooks and such), e-book sales declined more than half again as much as the hardbacks in that segment.

Yes, you could think it is all doom and gloomy…and the “only paper books are real books” hardliners could start doing their “I told you so!” dance.

I think there are two major contributing factors to these numbers which don’t indicate a decline in people reading e-books.

First is that so many books are published by non traditional publishers now, and they simply may not be tracked in these numbers. The AAP has never asked me how many books I’ve sold. 😉

Not even a quarter of the top twenty bestselling Kindle books in the USA are from the biggest traditional publishers.

So, even though the AAP got reports from more 1,000 publishers, I doubt that’s anywhere near the majority of e-book published each month.

It might not be a decline in e-reading; it might be an artifact of the reporting methodology.

The second big factor is the rise of at least Amazon’s subser (subscription service):

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

My guess is that the “borrows” in those programs aren’t counted…and they probably shouldn’t be, since they aren’t sales.

That might be having an impact on the measured sales, if people who would have bought an individual e-book are instead reading some of them through KU and others…that might be  an overall increase in e-book reading, although I don’t know that, of course.

My guess? E-book reading is here to stay. 🙂

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

 

AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

April 28, 2016

AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

I think I’d better first explain the initialisms in the headline. 🙂

The AAP is the

Association of American Publishers

It gathers statistics from over 1,500 USA publishers, and traditionally, has been considered a good source for information about what is happening with publishing (and by extension, reading) in America.

However, it’s worth noting that I’m not part of it. 😉

I know, I know…you aren’t either, probably. 😉 However, I am a publisher, in a very small way…just my own works. Anyone who makes books for the public to purchase is a publisher, and I feel confident in saying that there are over a 150,000 in the USA. That would mean the AAP might have stats from 10% of the publishers…and it could be a lot lower than that.

Anybody who writes a book and puts into the Kindle store using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a publisher.

Prior to e-books gaining popularity after the introduction of the Kindle in 2007, there was a lot of investment involved in publishing a book. Very few entities had the resources, and the access to distribution (connections with and acceptance by brick-and mortar bookstores for one…I’m a former manager).

E-books can be published and be equally available for purchase by an individual investing no money as by one of the Big 5 publishers.

That means that the AAP may be decreasingly reflective of what people are purchasing and reading.

To be clear, I’m not saying that reduces their relevancy: the most influential and bestselling books still tend to be published by tradpubs (traditional publishers)…it’s just that you can’t consider the AAP’s data now as being a steady state indicator of the popularity of e-books.

I’m setting that up because if it was a constant  measure, the stat in the headline might be terrifying if you thought it was reflective of reading overall, and concerning if you thought it reflected e-book adoption.

Children/YA is a segment of books intended for children and “Young Adults”. Many of those books are read by adults…The Hunger Games is a good example.

YoY is short for “Year over Year”: in the case, how did 2015 sales compare to 2014 sales?

According to this

Book Business report

and other sources, overall book sales were down YoY, and trade books (the kind you would have bought in a bookstore…not tetbooks and such) were up slightly.

Reported e-book sales were down, with children’s/YA’s sales down by close to half.

According to a graph in the article, it looks like paperback/mass market book rose more in dollars than e-books dropped.

What’s happening here? Are e-books a failed experiment?

I certainly don’t think so. 😉

My guess is that, especially young adult, e-book sales are market shifting to independent publishers who don’t report…and perhaps more importantly, to subsers (subscription services), including Amazon’s own

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

Certainly, when I was a “young adult”, KU would have been terrific for me. Some YAs are almost obsessive readers…they want to read a lot of books. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t get some books outside of KU, but you could read ten books a week at a manageable cost. My record is 3 1/2 novels in a day. 😉

For young children, Amazon continues to improve FreeTime Unlimited. It might not seem like e-books are a good fit for young children, but they can certainly be one element.

I don’t want to take too much away from the Book Business article (I recommend you read it), but I do want to point out one other thing.

Downloaded audiobooks are way up.

While this may be a coincidence, that has tended to be the case since text-to-speech (TTS) was introduced in the Kindle 2.

Publishers blocked TTS access** after influencing Amazon to give them that option…one argument has been, presumably, that the presence of TTS competes with the sale of audiobooks.

I’ve suggested that it may do the opposite…that TTS may accustom people to listening to books, even though the experiences of listening to an audiobook or TTS are quite different.

There may be other factors. I’m sure a lot more people listen to audiobooks because of their inclusion in KU…but I don’t think those listens will count as sales of downloadable audiobooks (although I’m not sure).

Still, I think it’s hard to argue that TTS has significantly hurt audiobook sales.

My intuition is that children and young adults are reading more than they were five years ago…it’s just not being reported to AAP as much.

Bonus note: Amazon financials call is today (4/28) a 5:00 PM Eastern:

Webcast link

I’ll report on that later.

Bonus deal: the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) is $5 off (which makes it $34.99 for it without a voice remote, $44.99 with one). Without a voice remote (and using the free app), this is the least expensive way to get the Alexa Voice Service, most associated with the Echo. They are doing this to celebrate 100,000 reviews and it is for a limited time.  Makes a great gift…

What do you think? Have e-book sales peaked? Is this one year just a fluke, because there wasn’t a new breakout Young Adult series in 2015? Is there a difference in appropriateness for e-books for Young Adults and children versus adults? What is the role of the AAP in the future? 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!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* 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! :)

** A Kindle/Fire with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books.

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.

Unlocking the universal translator: over 600 Star Trek books go DRM free

March 30, 2016

Unlocking the universal translator: over 600 Star Trek books go DRM free

Star Trek was a TV series.

I say “was” because it became so much more.

There was a coordinated effort to keep Star Trek on the air after the second season, which was successful…even if the uneven quality of the result made “third season” a geek slang term for something that wasn’t very good (“That lunch was really third season”).

Then there was an animated series with many of the original cast returning to voice their roles. There were movies, games, comic books, role-playing games, and, of course, novels.

The novels are important, and were important to other fandoms which followed.

It’s worth noting first that Star Trek was always connected with books. The series had actively sought science fiction authors (Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson…) to contribute scripts. It was seen as unusually cerebral television…perhaps even literary.

While there had been tie-in novels and novelizations before (including an original Star Trek novel for “juveniles” written by Mack Reynolds called Mission to Horatius), James Blish’s Spock Must Die! published in 1970 (after the original series was off the air) brought an official, authorized, new story.

The title may have been “Spock Must Die!” but the message was “Star Trek Won’t Die!”

There would go on to be literally more than 500 official Star Trek novels (and short story collections).

500!

For the vast majority of them (and for decades) they’ve been published by Pocket Books (one of the original paperback companies), which is part of Simon & Schuster.

It even has its own stand-alone website:

http://www.startrekbooks.com/

Many of them are available in the USA Kindle store. A search for

Star Trek published by Pocket (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

gets 696 results at the time of writing.

I’ve been happy to see that the Star Trek novels have been available in the Kindle store.

One of my great disappointments with a publisher, though, has been Pocket/S&S choosing to insert code into the files which blocks text-to-speech (TTS) access.

TTS uses software to read a book out loud to you (I typically use it for a week in the car). It’s something I’ve written about many times before because I believe that blocking it disproportionately disadvantages people with disabilities.

That seems particularly inappropriate with Star Trek books to me. Star Trek (especially in the original series, but beyond that) championed diversity, even if it was imperfect in doing so. The original series made a point about prejudice against those with vision issues (who we would now say are “print disabled” or “print challenged”), and Star Trek: The Next Generation (there are novels from all of the series) had Geordi La Forge, a main character who wore a vision-enabling visor.

A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it (including personal documents) unless that access is actively blocked by the publisher.

I was, therefore, very pleased to see that S&S is removing Digital Rights Management (DRM) from the Star Trek books going forward (they show 611 as currently available).

With no DRM, you can convert the file you receive to different formats (so you can buy a book and read it on a NOOK, Kobo, or Kindle, for one thing).

That should also mean that the TTS access is no longer blocked.

It appears that the new files have not yet been uploaded to Amazon, which makes sense. While Amazon doesn’t  specifically label books as DRM free or not (something which I think they should do), they do indicate the number of SDL’s (Simultaneous Device Licenses) available for a book.

Unless it says otherwise, the number of devices registered to the same account to which you can download the same compatible book at the same time is six. Some few books have fewer…and some will show as unlimited (books without DRM are unlimited).

Tor went DRM free some time ago, and I said that other publishers would watch carefully to see how that affects sales and rights infringement.

We haven’t heard any horror stories about Tor’s experience with going DRM free.

This is a major move in that direction.

I applaud Simon & Schuster for this decision.

Live long and prosper…

\\//,

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* 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! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things. 

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.

WSJ: “E-Book Sales Fall After New Amazon Contracts”…but…

September 6, 2015

WSJ: “E-Book Sales Fall After New Amazon Contracts”…but…

I’ve mentioned several times before in this blog that I think Jeffrey Trachtenberg is the best mainstream reporter covering e-books.

I’ve been pleased with the reporter’s depth of knowledge and understanding on what can be a complex issue. Many mainstreamers have sometimes lacked that.

The latest article is getting a lot of play:

E-Book Sales Fall After New Amazon Contracts

Note that this could be behind a paywall…it took a couple of shots at it for me to be able to read it.

The thrust of the article is the possibility that tradpubs (traditional publishers), which have recently raised e-book prices with the return of the Agency Model through new deals with Amazon have seen a decline in e-book revenues.

The latter is true for the ones which have reported…they’ve all seen at the least a lack of growth.

However…

Even though one event followed the other, that doesn’t necessarily mean cause and effect.

It’s often hard to prove specific cause and effect, especially when it involves human behavior (in this case, book purchasing).

My concern with the hypothesis that raised prices following the new contracts caused consumers to buy fewer tradpub books is that this isn’t the first time prices have been raised.

I track them regularly.

The New York Times fiction hardback equivalent bestsellers are almost always going to be traditionally published.

Here are my figures on it, from my most recent reading on September 1st going back for each 1st of the month. I’ll go back to November 1st of 2014, which is right after it was announced that Simon & Schuster and Amazon…that should give us some information from before and after the price changes, since the prices don’t change right after the agreement is reached:

  • September 2015: Average: $12.84 (+$1.33) 3 titles under $10
  • Average; $11.51 (-$0.62) 6 titles under $10
  • July 2015: Average: $12.13 (+$0.16) 5 titles under $10
  • Average: $11.97 (+$1.69) 5 titles under $10
  • Average: $10.28 (-$1.40) 10 titles under $10
  • Average: $11.68 (+$0.57) 4 titles under $10
  • Average: $11.11 (+$1.34) 7 titles under $10
  • Average: $9.77 (+$0.11) 11 titles under $10
  • January 2015: Average: $9.66 (+$0.09) 9 titles under $10
  • Average: $9.57 (-$0.65) 9 titles under $10
  • Average: $10.22 (-$0.86) 6 titles under $10

As you can see, prices haven’t been rising consistently, although they have been  up.

My guess is that there are several factors at play…higher prices might be one of them, but I don’t think it’s a primary factor.

My guess is that one driver may be

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

 

While Kindle Unlimited (Amazon’s subser…subscription service, an “all you can read for a flat fee” way to borrow books to read) launched in July of 2014, it was in July of this year that Amazon did Prime Day and offered Kindle Unlimited to Prime members at a considerable discount.

Those people, in particular, are people who are willing to spend money on books. With the Prime Day deal, they paid at least $44.95 for a multiple month pre-paid plan.

As a happy KU member since the beginning, I can tell you…I feel some…duty to get KU books rather than spending additional money on new books.

I think that KU members may, to some significant degree  (I’m just speculating here) be people who bought a lot of tradpub books, and now are buying fewer.

As I mentioned recently, Simon & Schuster did put a couple of books into KU.

My guess?

Tradpubs may need to really rethink staying out of KU.

I do recommend reading Trachtenberg’s article, and it may certainly be right. Trachtenberg doesn’t say that the contracts are the cause of the change in e-book revenue for tradpubs. There might be some impact from it, of course…but my thought is that KU may be a big impact, and an increasing one in the future.

Update: I decide to add a couple of polls to this, to get a better sense of your experience. I don’t think my readers are necessarily typical of book buyers generally, but I do think we tend to represent “serious readers” (that doesn’t mean we read serious books, although we might…it’s that we read a lot of books).

In this first poll, note that the question is how many you have purchased, not how many you have read. I’m sure I’ve read more tradpubbed books than I’ve purchased in the past year…partially from reading gifts.

Update: I think this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

will be seen by many as having significant relevance to the growth rate of tradpubbed e-book sales.

It looks at “20 Years of Amazon.com Bookselling”, and it has some interesting nuggets. First, this short excerpt:

“Books were Amazon’s largest product category as recently as 2008, but in 2015 their share of the company’s total revenue—which could hit $100 billion soon—is shrinking.”

The article also has a timeline (showing the remarkable growth, especially in the beginning), and Amazon’s twenty all-time bestselling books.

I have my own timeline which is more e-book focused:

 

What do you thank? Are slowing tradpub e-book sales do to higher prices, KU, both…or something else? 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.

 

Round up #306: Overdrive “page turners”, KU gets a Big 5 publisher (slightly)

September 3, 2015

Round up #306: Overdrive “page turners”, KU gets a Big 5 publisher (slightly)

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

A tradpub tests the KU waters

In my The Year Ahead: 2015 post, I speculated in a “shaky” way that at least one of the Big 5 traditional publishers would test the waters by putting some books in Amazon’ subser (subscription service…a flat fee, “all you can read” membership),

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

” I do think this is possible, especially if it is in a limited way. For example, Macmillan might just make some backlist titles, but not the frontlist.”

Well, in this

The Digital Reader post by Nate Hoffelder

it’s pointed out that Simon & Schuster has done just that…but in a really limited way.

Two of Vince Flynn’s popular Mitch Rapp novels (the oldest and the most recent) are available for KU readers to borrow at no additional cost.

This is an important “philosophical” breaking of what felt like an embargo. I’m sure they’ll look carefully at how it affects the sales of those two titles, and other inspired sales (more books by Flynn, for example), but whether it is good or bad, it’s still a quantum shift.

My guess? We’ll see more Big 5 titles in KU by the end of  the year, although I’d be surprised by any really large scale participation.

Changes in the video streaming market

Many of my readers watch streaming video…both on Amazon devices, such as my

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

and as part of Amazon Prime.

Amazon spends a lot of money on licensing video, and what happens there will affect Amazon generally.

Recently, there have been major changes!

Amazon previously enabled Prime members to download some videos to their Fire tablets (I’ve watched Warehouse 13 that way, for example). Now, some other Android and IOS users can also download them.

Amazon Expands Prime Video Downloads to iOS and Android Platforms—The First and Only Subscription Streaming Service to Offer This Feature

That’s a big deal! You can’t do that with Netflix…download some movies and TV shows to watch offline (when you are on a plane, or for your kids on a car trip, for example).

One important question: does this mean that pushing the hardware of the Fire tablets is now less important  to Amazon than getting people to be Prime members even when using other company’s devices?  I think yes. I don’t think Amazon is abandoning tablets or EBRs (E-Book Readers), but hardware development may be becoming more focused at Amazon, as I mentioned recently.

There are a number of players (so to speak) in the streaming video market, but let’s mention four and the changes for them recently:

  • Amazon has just expanded downloading, as above…which is a competitive advantage
  • Hulu just announced a new plan: for $4 more per month ($11.99 from $7.99), you can watch almost all videos commercial free! This is huge for me…we watch some currently running series on Hulu, and it was irritating to have the same sort of commercial breaks you would have on ad-supported TV. We upgraded immediately, and watched So You Think You Can Dance without commercials last night…glorious! I have nothing against advertising (my Significant Other and I have gone to the Clios, the advertising equivalent of the Oscars, more than once), but when I’m paying specifically for TV, it feels like I’m paying twice to watch ads. I’ve taught Project Management, and one of the things to consider is that your time is worth money. If you take your annual salary, you can get it down to minutes…and you should count that when, for example, you need to walk over to printer and perhaps wait in line for it. Let’s say you make $50,000 a year. Even if you figure you work every minute of every day of the year, you can still figure your time is worth maybe ten cents per minute. Will I save 40 minutes a month not having commercials on Hulu? you betcha! At roughly eight minutes per half hour, we saved about 24 minutes last night, I think (I think it is a ninety minute show). All of that is very rough calculation…let’s just say it was so much more pleasant. 🙂 Hulu may have about the same number of commercial minutes as a traditional broadcast, but not the same number of commercials…you see the same ones over and over again
  • Netflix: very significantly, they are going to let a deal lapse with Epix. Basically, they are going to stop carrying a lot of major movies, like The Hunger Games series. Variety might think this is a good idea, but I don’t. Netflix is becoming an original content network in some ways. While original content can be great (I am enjoying the Daredevil series), it’s a far bigger risk. I sometimes just want to watch a major movie…even if it’s older. Those movies are going to Hulu…and it also gives Amazon a positional advantage
  • Apple is reportedly looking at getting into original content…that’s part of why it’s scary for Netflix to count on original content

Netflix has been the powerhouse (people use it as a way to define other things…literary subsers are often called the “Netflix of books”), but I think this is a move in the wrong direction. Prime is many, many things, but even if you got it just for video, it’s only $8.25 a month. Prime video will rise with the downloading, Hulu will rise with ad-free and Epix, and Apple will rise if it introduces original content in the rumored way. What’s going to be new and different for Netflix?

Amazon never stops innovating…and there will likely be some very interesting announcements before the end of the year.

Overdrive is now listing most borrowed e-books from public libraries

I’m not really a user of the public library for e-books.

I have borrowed a couple to test it, but there two main reasons for my lack of use:

  • The selection just isn’t that great. Bestsellers might have a waiting list of  months (libraries have a limited number of licenses, meaning that only so many people have the book at the same time…just like with p-books ((paperbooks))). Other books I want to read are often not available. I have lots of books available to me, especially as a Kindle Unlimited member. The public library just doesn’t have anything that draws me into the additional complication necessary to get one from them, as opposed to getting books from Amazon or that I already own
  • I don’t want to take away from people who can’t otherwise afford books. Yes, public libraries are for everyone…I got massive and perhaps not undeserved pushback when I suggested that tradpubs might be willing to make e-books available to people for free on a needs-tested basis. In other words, the books would not be available for general public library check-out, but would be available to people who could show that they are below the poverty line or otherwise unable to purchase. That sort of plan was announced, as I reported earlier this year: Obama’s plan for needs tested library books…where have I heard that before? 😉. However, since that isn’t generally the case, I feel bad taking using up one of the  library’s licenses to read something which I could otherwise afford, becoming an impediment to someone who can’t afford it

Here is

Overdrive’s Page Turners from your local library

It’s about e-books and audiobooks…neither of which actually have pages, of course, but you know…it gets the point across. 😉

The five most borrowed in August were all major bestsellers (including Go Set a Watchman and Grey). Hopefully, that’s a message for publishers: lots of borrowing from public libraries doesn’t meant that your book won’t be a bestseller.

Dash! Ah-ah…ruler of  the universe!

That headline was a reference to the Queen theme from the Flash Gordon movie with Sam Jones, and…never mind. 😉

Amazon Dash buttons (at AmazonSmile*)

While it’s going to be a bit of a stretch to tie this into e-books (don’t worry, though, I’ll do it…I’m much more mentally flexible than I am physically flexible) 😉 it shows part of Amazon’s direction.

They sent me this in an e-mail:

Amazon Dash Button – Program News:

  • We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from both customers and partners.
  • We’re moving into the next phase of the program today.
  • We’ve come off the invitation platform, making the program more broadly available—it’s open to all Prime members now.
  • We’re kicking off a new pricing offer – Prime members can purchase each Dash Button for $4.99 and with their first button purchase we’ll give back $4.99 to their account.
  • Of course, Dash Button customers also get the same low prices that they see online sold by Amazon.
  • We’re adding new brands and products – we will launch 11 new brands for Dash Button with new categories like gum and trash bags, table wear, and nutritional supplements.
  • We are being thoughtful as we scale the program and we’re focused on increasing the breadth of the categories for customers.
  • With these new additions, Dash Button is now available for 29 different brands, representing more than 500 products for Prime members to choose to purchase with the press of a button.
  • New brands:

o   Ice Breakers Mints

o   Orbit Gum

o   GREENIES Dental Chews and GREENIES Pill Pockets Treats

o   Hefty Trash and Storage Bags

o   Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day

o   Ziploc Brand

o   Depend

o   Finish Dishwashing Detergent

o   Digestive Advantage Probiotic Supplements

o   Dixie tableware products

o   Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein

  • We’ve heard customer usage feedback including:

o   I like how easy it is to order commonly used items quickly. In my case, baby wipes. When I notice I am getting low on the wipes I can very easily and quickly order more by simply pushing a button. A simple push button is much easier to operate than getting the computer or phone out, especially when holding a baby in the other hand. Additionally, I also like that the button has color coded LEDs to tell me whether or not the order went through. It makes it so much easier.

o   I can put it anywhere, which means that I can have it where I’m most likely to notice that I need to reorder. My Gillette dash button is on my bathroom mirror where I shave. When I put the last blade on my razor, it’s right there for me to place the next order immediately, before I forget.

o   I’ve placed the Dash buttons where I normally place the toilet paper and cleaning products to remind me when to order the items.  Whenever I’m low on the product I just press the Dash Button and it’ll arrive in a couple of days.  My girlfriend and I announce when we get the chance to press the button because we’re excited whenever we get the opportunity to press it…it’s fun and efficient. 

It’s the opposite of a multifunction device, like the Amazon Echo. One button, one function…sort of like Amazon’s very successful 1-click way of buying things online.

How could this relate to e-books?

I could see having something like a virtual dash button for e-books (or perhaps a physical one). You push (or click or tap) one labeled “Stephen King” or “Romance”, and you get a new one delivered to your account. It could even be a virtual button on the Kindle/Fire homescreen. It might have to check the price with you first (although you could just review it in your confirmation method), it might have to be configured for your tastes and cost parameters, and it would only be able to eliminate books Amazon knows you already own…but I certainly might use it! That’s especially true if it was curated in some way…tap a button for a J.K. Rowling recommended fantasy book,  for example.

I’m not sure I made the stretch there, but I tried. 😉

My sibling’s book now has over 50 reviews on Amazon…and a 4.8 star average

I just want to congratulate my sibling, whose first novel

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

50 hardback copies of which are also being given away through Goodreads right now

One Murder More on Goodreads

for getting over fifty customer reviews on Amazon…with a remarkable 4.8 star average out of 5!

None of my books have gotten anywhere close to that, of course. 🙂

The Kindle edition is now $4.99.

To broaden this out a bit, it’s worth noting that the book is sales ranked #289,949 paid in the Kindle store. Great reviews, blurbs from top selling authors…and still, I think I can objectively say it hasn’t really broken out (although that number is very respectable…easily top ten percent).

If that’s going to happen, it could still happen at the holidays. For a first time novelist, it can take more than a year for a book to build momentum. This is also the first in a series…and it sometimes takes several books in a series for it to find an audience.

Regardless, congratulations!

An Echo/Alexa article

I told you I’d let you know about Amazon Echo/Alexa articles I publish in The Measured Circle. I hope to do a big round-up soon (there have been a lot of things happening), but I did do this one recently:

Shopping with your Amazon Echo
Have a comment on any of these stories? Feel free to share it with me and my readers!

* 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.

AAP’s (Association of American Publisher’) 2014 report: the huge growth was in…

June 14, 2015

AAP’s 2014 report: the huge growth was in…

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

the AAP (Association of American Publishers) has released its final figures on book industry sales for 2014.

You can see a lot of the specifics in the article, and I don’t want to take too much away from that (I recommend you read it if you want to get a sense of the future-building trends).

I want to just highlight a couple of things.

First, there was generally growth. Oh, not across every genre and every format, but overall, the publishers grossed more. They also generally had higher unit sales.

The latter is probably the more important if you care about how many people are reading (or how much they are reading). If the public as a whole reads 100 books in one year, and 200 books in the next year, they read more books in the second year. Of course, I suppose that if the books were on average less than half as long, they’d be reading less. 🙂

I always try to be careful about asking the right questions.

One of the things I do is “performance improvement”. I look at processes, and see what I can do to make it better.

I’ve had quite a bit of training on this, but I often find that it doesn’t really address the important question.

Let me give you an example.

I was given a sample problem.

A recreational tourist spot is concerned because people are catching fewer of a specific sportsfish. Before we go further, let me say that I am a vegetarian and don’t fish. 🙂 However, that doesn’t mean I can’t address a hypothetical. 😉

We were given specific figures for two years, and asked to formulate a proper “problem statement”.

Well, you could plunge right into trying to solve the problem of why they aren’t catching as many of that species. We were even given a guess by them, that it had to do with barbed hooks and catch and release.

They’ve told us “what’s wrong?” which is the first question we are supposed to ask.

However, my second question would always be, “What’s bad about that?”

That’s because I don’t want to waste time and effort “fixing the problem” if it isn’t really the problem.

Does the place really care if people aren’t catching as many of one type of fish?

Probably not.

They care if they are making as much money as they were.

They might assume that people are less happy, and therefore less likely to come and spend money.

What if, though, they are catching fewer of that fish…because they are catching more of another fish they like better?

What if they are spending more time (and money) in the resort arcade, and less time fishing?

That’s what you need to determine: what’s bad about that?

It might also be, “What would be good about that?” You are usually trying to remove something bad or add something good. The bad exists now; the good is an (currently non-present) aspiration. Of course, the good may be more of something they have now, but the volume they want doesn’t exist now.

What we often really trying to influence is how people feel about things, since that will tend to influence their behavior.

So, my guess is that publishers selling more units means that people are reading more books, and I think an increase will suggest that will happen more in the future…but I don’t know for sure.

The growth in gross could indicate more sales, but may indicate higher prices. Since the book sales were up 4.6%, and the unit sales increased a smaller 3.7%, that suggests that prices are rising faster than unit sales.

Second, there was a particular figure that was literally two orders of magnitude higher (the “tens” is an order of magnitude, the hundreds is another, the thousands is another…that’s pretty much the way it works) than any other figure in the tables in the article!

It is also, I think, highly significant.

“Trade books” are the books you would have bought in a bookstore: not textbooks and that sort of thing, but fiction and popular non-fiction.

Looking at “Trade Book Sales by Format”, comparing 2014 to 2013, the standout was a new category: e-book subsers (subscription services).

They went from .3 million dollars in 2013 to $13.5 million in 2014, a more than four thousand percent increase!

You might immediately guess that was due to the launch of

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

on July 18th of 2014, but it’s unclear if the AAP figures would be impacted that much by KU.

Indies (independent publishers, like me) make up the bulk of KU…and they aren’t members of the AAP.

However, even though none of the Big 5 (the larges US trade publishers: Simon & Schuster; Penguin Random House; Hachette; Macmillan; and HarperCollins) are currently participating in KU (I’m thinking that at least one may join before the end of the year, at least for some backlist titles), other traditional publishers are (Scholastic, for example, is both a member of the AAP and in KU).

The article says

“For both 2013 and 2014, estimates for the entire industry are based on actual sales supplied by about 1,800 U.S. publishers, from which AAP extrapolates by using a variety of sources to estimate sales for publishers that don’t report data.”

That means the AAP is at least guessing at the sales for the non-reporters.

My guess is that subsers are going to see even bigger growth in 2015 versus 2014.

Then, they may slow down.

I think they have a limited, but significant, appeal.

They are most cost effective for (in the aggregate for the user of the account) people who read a lot.

In the case of KU, you can have ten books out at a time. A family with four readers will tend to get more value out of KU than one person…unless that single person reads a lot, and the family doesn’t.

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, my guess (there is a lot of guessing, in this post) 😉 is that the majority of books in a single year are bought by people who don’t buy a lot of books. 🙂

That may seem odd, but look at it this way.

Let’s say that ten percent of the people are “serious readers”…they read a book a week.

We’ll work with a population of 100 people to make this easy.

The casual readers read…let’s go with four books a year.

The ten serious readers read about 520 books a year.

The casual readers read 360 books a year.

However…

At the holidays (including things like Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, graduation, birthdays…) those casual readers buy books for the serious readers, and for other casual readers.

Hm…according to this

Bookmarket.com article by John Kremer

17% of the total books sold are given as gifts.

If my 880 books above represent 83% of the sales, that would make about 1,050 total (rough guess). Let’s make this easy…and say that half of the books are bought by serious readers.

I think the bigger market for subsers is serious readers…so based on all that geeky, highly speculative math stuff I just did 😉 I wouldn’t expect subsers to get easily beyond 50%.

Regardless, that’s a lot of room for growth. 🙂

You can give KU as a gift. If KU gets a Big 5 publisher, and/or people really start to perceive as being a good way to encourage kids to read (I’m hoping Amazon is working on marketing for that…showing a kid saying, “I can’t find anything to read I like”, that sort of thing), it could get higher.

I’d be impressed if the subser sales doubled next year, and were half again as high in 2017.

I’ll keep an eye on it…

What do you think? Will subsers continue to grow? Were my numbers above so speculative as to be silly? 🙂 If you think so, what are your guesses? If we could include indies, how much would that change this? Would e-book growth be much higher? 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.

Penguin Random House: heading for Hachette style fight…or joining KU?

May 27, 2015

Penguin Random House: heading for Hachette style fight…or joining KU?

Reports in the media suggest we may be heading for another

Hachazon War

with Amazon playing hard ball (hardback?) with Penguin Random House, the largest of the Big 5 USA trade publishers (trade books are the ones you bought in bookstores…not textbooks and such). Articles such as this

The Guardian article by Jennifer Rankin

suggest, not unreasonably, that we may be looking at another public and prolonged contract negotiation dispute. That involved Amazon making it harder to get books (both e-books and p-books…paperbooks) from Hachette, another of the Big 5. The e-tailer allegedly pulled pre-order options, kept prices high, took books off sale, and suggested that customers buy other books right on some books’ Amazon product pages.

PRH is the last of the Big 5 in this round of negotiations…Amazon has already reached agreements with Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and yes, Hachette.

Yes, that sort of war is possible…but little old optimist me wants to suggest another possibility. 😉

Random House has always been willing to stand alone from the other tradpubs (traditional publishers).

Sometimes I agree with them and see it as a benefit to readers, sometimes I don’t…but I have always admired their strength of conviction.

I disagreed with Random House when they blocked text-to-speech access in all of their e-books (at least, that was their officially stated policy).

I agreed with them when they were the lone member of the then Big 6 (their merger with Penguin reduced it to five) to stay out of the Agency Model agreement which also involved Apple (and resulted in successful action by the U.S. Department of Justice).

Interestingly, in both cases, Random House eventually reversed their positions…widely allowing TTS access and joining the Agency Model.

Even though that’s the case, they both show Random House’s willingness to lead.

I think it’s possible that these negotiations may involve another opportunity for PRH to lead.

They might become the first of the Big 5 to join

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

That’s Amazon’s subser (subscription service). You pay $9.99 a month for “all you can read” access to close to one million books (we should pass that before the end of the summer, I think).

I’m a happy KU member….even without the presence of the Big 5.

I still see threads from time to time in the Amazon Kindle forum asking if KU is “worth it”.

That’s going to depend on your use patterns.

For example, if you have more than one user of your account, KU is worth more to you than if you have just one.

You can have up to ten books out at a time.

That mean that, easily, my Significant Other and I can both be reading different KU books at the same time. It’s much more likely that I’m reading several and my SO is reading one, but you get the idea. 🙂

A family of four could save even more.

I also find that what it does it have me reading a selection of different, somewhat more expensive books. There are so many free and low cost books that I don’t need KU to have just something to read. What it means is that I’ll read a book that costs maybe $7.99 and up which I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

You might be surprised that there are books that are that expensive in KU…it seems like many people think that KU books are all indies (independently published), which are typically a lot cheaper than that.

That’s simply not true.

While we don’t have the Big 5 (yet), we do have well-known, tradpubs and well-known books. Publishers already participating include:

  • W.W. Norton (Moneyball)
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (the Lord of the Rings, What If?…which was in KU and a New York Times bestseller at the same time)
  • Scholastic (The Hunger Games)
  • Mariner (Life of Pi)

However, it’s also clear that having the Big 5 in there would bring in more readers.

It’s not that the Big 5 are completely averse to subsers…some are involved (at least with the backlist…older books) in Oyster and Scribd.

I think that some participation in KU would be a very good thing for the Big 5. It’s going to increasingly become a source of discovery. You don’t need every one of your books in there. Having short stories in a popular series could be a big draw, and could lead people to buying the series (not just for themselves, but for gifts).

It would take guts, though, for a Big 5 tradpub to join KU. It could not help but be seen as a signal. Joining another subser? That can be seen as a statement against Amazon, not necessarily pro-subser (which worries some authors). Joining KU? That’s an endorsement of subsers generally.

In my annual

The Year Ahead: 2015

I predicted (shakily) that a Big 5 publisher would join KU this year.

I used Macmillan as an example, but Random House (now PRH) was always the most likely to blaze the trail.

The two might not be announced together…general contract agreement and KU participation. It might make sense to separate them by a bit. Amazon also may not announce a general agreement, but it will get into the media.

I would guess that they may also be trying to do this by summer. That’s a great time to promote KU, when people often have more time to read (not just students, but people going on family or other vacations).

We’ll see what happens, but I do think this would be cool! 🙂

What do you think? Does it matter to you if a Big 5 publisher gets into KU? If one joins, will others follow? Will we have a…Random House Rumble like the Hachazon War? Will Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com settle with PRH at the same time? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to reader and commenter rogerknights for a comment which improved 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.

 

 

What do tradpubbed authors really think about their publishers…and about Amazon?

April 16, 2015

What do tradpubbed authors really think about their publishers…and about Amazon?

Huge kudos to

Agent Hunter

for a really fascinating survey of tradpubbed (traditionally published) authors!

You can see the entire dataset of twenty-nine questions (and three more items) here:

http://agenthunter.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Data_All_Final.pdf

to get the results from 812 respondents.

This is an immensely intriguing survey!

I hear it a lot: people are surprised that authors stay with their traditional publishers when they could just self publish and get a much bigger cut.

There are a lot of reasons for that…and they don’t apply to every author.

At this point in the evolution of publishing, being with a tradpub is a bigger benefit if you are already a success than if you are just beginning.

That doesn’t mean that a first novelist shouldn’t be with a tradpub…it’s just that people like Stephen King get more out of the deal than someone who doesn’t have a track record.

Think of it a bit like…taking a cab.

A lot of people don’t own cars nowadays. They may use Zip cars, or Uber, or Lyft, or public transit…or cabs.

So, let’s say you don’t take a cab, but you need to drive through a town.

One option is to own the car.

You have to put your money into it.

You have to deal with the legalities (like registration and insurance).

You have to know where you are going.

The cabs get to drive right up to the front door of the hotel, or to the airport…you aren’t allowed to do that and just leave your car there. You have to park…and pay for parking.

When you independently publish, it’s like owning the car.

With a cab, you have to have the money to pay for it. Then, if it’s a reputable cab, the rest of it is done by somebody else. They know how to get there. They pay for gas, tolls, registration, and so on.

If you are already a success, and you know that when you get to your appointment you are going to make a lot of money, paying for a cab makes sense.

If you don’t have much money, and don’t know that the trip is going to be profitable, it may not.

Let me focus for right now on two questions: I don’t want to take too much away from the survey.

Question 24 says, “Amazon and other e-book distributors
pay a 70% royalty to authors (assuming your price is $2.99–$9.99), as opposed to the roughly 17.5% paid by most publishers.
If you did self-publish an e-book, how do you expect you would fare financially?”

The first interesting thing about this to me is that more than half of the respondents skipped the question!

Now, you may guess that’s due to question fatigue (sometimes, the farther you get in a survey, the fewer answers you get), but about 90% of the respondents answered the previous question.

No, I think there are a couple of possibilities.

One is that people are afraid to think about it. They may even have been shocked by the 70% figure…they might have had no idea it could be that high.

Another is that, well, it has numbers in it. 😉

Not everybody who is good with words loves math. That might have put off some people as well.

The most popular answer (besides “I don’t know”) by far was that they would lose money. 23.78% thought that would happen…only 15.14% thought they would make more money.

The answers make it look as though the choice is between an independently published e-book and no p-book (paperbook) version, or a tradpubbed e-book and p-book.

That’s not an unreasonable thing to say.

Yes, you can do a p-book version independently through Amazon along with your e-book, but that’s a tiny slice of the p-book market…certainly, as long as people still buy p-books in stores (and that includes places like Costco and grocery stores).

Question 25 is even more interesting to me:

“If you were to self-publish, you would have control over every aspect of publication. How would you feel about that prospect?”

Even fewer people answered that one…only about 41%.

You might think everybody wants to be in control of the process…but fully 36.63% of respondents were “Horrified/negative” on it. That’s about 12% more than the “Excited/positive” group.

I can understand that.

Can’t you see wanting to be somebody who just writes? Who doesn’t have to worry about proofreading, and layout, and filing the copyright?

You may think you want to be in control of everything…but do you want to do your own appendectomy? 😉 In my case, I definitely don’t want to be the person fixing my car!

My Significant Other made a great point to me a long time ago.

We are not good at gardening…we just aren’t. Oh, one of us can get out there with a weed eater and cut down the weeds. I did that recently, at least part of it. The weeds were twice as tall as our dogs (we have short dogs). I bought a new weed eater (they have really improved the technology since the last time I bought one!), and literally did it until I came to the end of the line. 😉 When that spool was out, I had to stop…got more through Prime, so one of us will do more of the yard soon.

Anyway, the point my SO made was that, if there are people who are good at doing something and want to do it, and we are bad at it and don’t like it, and (and this point is important) we can afford to pay them to do it…we are keeping them from putting food on the table for their kids for essentially selfish reasons.

One big reason to have money is to help other people, as far as I’m concerned.

We aren’t rich (although that’s always going to be a relative term to people), but we can afford to pay somebody a couple of times a year to trim the trees and cut down the weeds and haul everything away.

For some authors, it may be a bit like that with their publishers. Yes, anybody can try to be a marketer, or a proofreader…but paying somebody (by taking a relatively lower royalty) may be the right thing to do.

Of course, it goes far beyond that.

I’ve helped some people by reading their drafts and making comments.

There is no question that some editors and authors have had terrific partnerships. The editor doesn’t write the book, but helps the author improve it by making suggestions.

I’ve seen it with some authors (who shall remain nameless) where it seems to me that they become brand names…and people stop editing them as strongly, and their work (although not necessarily their sales) suffers for it.

If  you are at all interested in the actual source of the books you read (the authors), I’d recommend you spend some time with this survey. You may also find the anonymous pseudo-tweets they asked people to write (although they have to be shorter than tweets…120 characters)…one set of them is to Jeff Bezos. Some of them are very praising, others are negative…with themes running through both. I have to say, I was a bit perplexed with one accusing Amazon of making “obscene profits”…that’s somebody who hasn’t ever looked at an Amazon financial statement! Many of the comments had to do with taxes, and with treating employees better.

Once again, congratulations to Agent Finder! The questions are entertaining, and the answers informative.

After you’ve read it, I’d be interested in what you think about it…you can tell me and my readers 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.


%d bloggers like this: