Archive for the ‘Traditional Publishers’ Category

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.ūüėČ

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.ūüėČ

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.ūüėČ

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‚Äôll 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)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get.¬†:)¬†Shop ‚Äôtil you help!¬†:)¬†By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs largest product category as recently as 2008, but in 2015 their share of the company‚Äôs total revenue‚ÄĒwhich could hit $100 billion soon‚ÄĒis 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‚ÄĒThe 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‚Äôs plan for needs tested library books‚Ķwhere 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.ūüėČ

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.ūüėČ

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)ūüėČ it shows part of Amazon’s direction.

They sent me this in an e-mail:

Amazon Dash Button ‚Äď Program News:

  • We‚Äôve had an overwhelmingly positive response from both customers and partners.
  • We‚Äôre moving into the next phase of the program today.
  • We‚Äôve come off the invitation platform, making the program more broadly available‚ÄĒit‚Äôs open to all Prime members now.
  • We‚Äôre kicking off a new pricing offer – Prime members can purchase each Dash Button for $4.99 and with their first button purchase we‚Äôll 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‚Äôre 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‚Äôre 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‚Äôve 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.ūüėČ

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.ūüėČ

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‚Äôt 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)ūüėČ 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 didūüėČ 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.ūüėČ

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‚Äď$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.ūüėČ

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?ūüėČ 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.ūüėČ 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.

Round up #291: HarperCollins/Amazon deal, $20 off Paperwhite

April 14, 2015

Round up #291: HarperCollins/Amazon deal, $20 off Paperwhite

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

Book collecting: how has the presence of e-books affected it?

I’ll admit to being surprised by this

Wall Street Journal post by Steven Rosenbush

I have collectible books…oh, not books worth thousands of dollars, but I’ve paid $100 for a single book.

I’ve also “collected” all of a single series, although that’s not quite the same thing.

What would I guess would have happened to the collectible book market in the past few years?

I thought prices would have gone up.

My intuition is that people will see the rise in e-books as meaning that there will be fewer p-books (paperbooks) to collect in the future. Lessening supply with the same demand could mean a rise in prices.

I also figured there would be an “endangered species” mentality. Falsely, I think, there was this sense that p-books were simply going to disappear.

Remember that p-books decay. Different quality p-books (in terms of materials used and production methods) decay at different rates, but pages can become brittle with age.

If they are actually (gasp!) read, the situation is even worse for them.

I’ve had people surprised that I could read a mass market paperback and still have it look like new at the end, and that’s not how it is with most people. The spines get broken, people “dog ear” pages, things get spilled on them,they get exposed to the elements…people tout p-books as one of the great technological innovations of all time, and that’s reasonable…but they aren’t invulnerable.

If we stopped making p-books, the world supply of them would dwindle over time, and I thought that would be the collectors’ collective vision.

Nope, according to this article, the business has been stable.

To me, that’s a bad omen for the future of p-books.

On the other hand, collectors aren’t the same as readers (although there is some overlap). A collector (especially one doing it for investment purposes) sees the book as an object…not as a story. If this physical object was signed by someone, or owned by someone, ¬†or is rare in some way…that all makes it more valuable for a collector, but not particularly for someone just wanting to read the contents.

Regardless, I do think there will continue to be a market for collectible p-books…and I do think we’ll eventually see prices rise, even if it hasn’t happened yet.

Will subsers be the new MMPs?

One of my regular readers and commenters, Lady Galaxy, said something that got me thinking about the role of subsers (subscription services) in the future.

Let’s say a novel is released today. We’ll say the hardback is list priced (the price the publisher puts on it) at $25, and the e-book is priced at $12.99.

A year from now, the trade paperback comes out at $15.

Does the e-book drop?

Not necessarily.

A year later, the mass market paperback (MMP) comes out at $9.99.

Then, yes, I’d expect the e-book to at least match that price, if not go a bit lower.

However…

There is a possibility that publishers simply stop issuing MMPs for popular novels.

I think it’s a possibility that books come out at a price like $25 (although I’ve suggested before that some new novels could get as high as $50), then maybe drop some after the first year…let’s say $20.

Then, that’s it.

The e-book comes out at perhaps $12.99…and doesn’t drop (except for sales).

Where do “casual readers” get that book? After all, they are a big part of the market.

They get it after it is on the “frontlist” (that would depend on its success, but let’s call it two years for a popular book…I expect to see fewer books altogether, and the ones from tradpubs…traditional publishers…to stay on the New York Times bestseller list longer on average) when it becomes part of a subser, like

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

MMPs were not really released for people who wanted to own a book or gift a book. They were really intended to be read and then to fall apart…which is not that different an experience from reading a book as part of a subser but not owning it.

I’m ¬†just kicking around this idea, but I do think it’s a possibility.

HarperCollins and Amazon reportedly reach a deal

Four down, one to go.

It’s possible that at some point, a tradpub and Amazon will part ways…but today is not that day.

According to this

New York Times article by David Streitfeld

and other sources, Amazon and HarperCollins have reached an agreement which will keep the publisher’s books in the e-tailer’s store.

While these deals don’t really become public, it sounds like all four of the Big 5 who have come to terms (Penguin Random House hasn’t, yet…that doesn’t mean they are fighting, it may just not be time) have pretty much the same thing.

The publisher sets the price (yes, this is the Agency Model), and Amazon can incentivize them to discount the books.

Publishers haven’t yet figured out how to do without Amazon…and ¬†while Amazon is becoming less dependent on tradpubs over time (Amazon published books regularly top their own bestseller lists…in the Kindle store), they are still in business with them big time.

I think that eventually, that business may consist of backlist titles…which could largely be in subsers (see above).

For now (and this is a multiyear deal), things continue.

Amazon Financials on April 23rd

According to this

press release

Amazon will do its next quarterly financials call on April 23rd at 2:30 PM Pacific.

I think this may be a particularly interesting one…they seem to be pushing a bit into a new direction. We’ll see…

Paperwhite 2 $20 off today

The

Kindle Paperwhite 2 (at AmazonSmile*)

which is the current model, is $20 off today. That makes it under $100 ($99, to be precise) for the lowest priced configuration.

This is the model of Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader) that I use every day.

I like it enough that I chose not to go to the Kindle Voyage…and from everything I’ve heard, I don’t regret that decision at all.

I’m quite happy with both that and my

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

These are both devices which do what they are designed to do very well…I’ve been quite satisfied with them both.

I can contrast that with my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

and our

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

and

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

The Fire Phone is a serviceable phone, but I did like my Galaxy better.

The Amazon Fire TV is good…better than our Roku (which we’ve stopped using). I do expect it to get quite a bit better.

The Fire TV Stick is noticeably not as good as the Fire TV. It takes it much longer to load something, for example, the video stutters quite a bit (it’s on the same network at the Fire TV), and I find I need to restart it every couple of days (by holding in the select and play buttons together for about ten seconds).

The only big thing I see missing in the Paperwhite is sound (especially for text-to-speech, which I use every workday), and for my Kindle Fire HDX, it would be nice to have a rear-facing camera.

I would say this Paperwhite deal is a good one…if you are looking for a gift (they may discount it again for Mothers’ Day), or for a Guest Kindle…or even if you are just ready to replace an older model (keeping in mind the lack of audio), this is a good buy.

What do you think? What’s been your favorite Kindle/Fire model so far? Penguin Random House has always been a bit of an outlier…how will their negotiations with Amazon go? When will a publisher break with Amazon…if ever? What gadgets (including non-Amazon) have you had in your life which achieved the state of satisfying you? 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.

Higher rated: indies or traditionally published?

April 8, 2015

Higher rated: indies or traditionally published?

One of the arguments you hear in favor of buying traditionally published (tradpubbed) books over indies (independently published) books is that there is a lot more quality control in the former.

After all, there are important¬†judgments made before a tradpubbed book is in readers’ hands:

  • The author needs to find an agent. The agent makes decisions based on the quality of the book, and the likelihood that it will be purchased by a publisher. This agent (and there have been famous ones) can’t “fool” the publisher, or the companies¬†simply won’t buy from that agent again
  • An editor then has to buy the book for a publisher. That statement simplifies what can be a complex process. There may be “readers” at an initial¬†level (they may even read books not submitted through agents, but it’s uncommon that those would be published). It may go through more than one level of editor. The editor likely needs to take it to an editorial board, where there is a lot more discussion
  • The editor also works with the author to improve the book. That can sometimes result in significant changes (supposedly, To Kill a Mockingbird was originally written from the viewpoint of an adult Scout, for example)
  • Nowadays, there may be beta readers and focus groups

An indie book may simply be published by the author, with no prior editorial review of any kind.

Based on that, many consumers reason that they are more likely to enjoy a book from a traditional publisher than from an indie.

Is that really the result, though?

I could see arguments why it might go either way. Perhaps the tradpub has¬†¬†saleability¬†as a higher standard than literary quality. Maybe the indie actually does go through a thorough process of review…just not from a publishing company.

I don’t like to just guess (although that can be fun). I thought I’d take a look at the star ratings in the Kindle store for indies and for tradpubs, and see how they compare.

Defining an “indie” can be a bit tricky at times. We can figure that books from the Big 5 (the five largest USA trade publishers…trade books are the books you would have bought in a bookstore…not textbooks and such) are not indies. I would extend that same classification to books from next tier publishers, like Scholastic (American publisher of Harry Potter).

If Amazon publishes a book under one of its imprints (Thomas & Mercer, 47North, and so on), I would also not consider that an indie.

It really would have to do with how the book was selected for publication…and that’s not always obvious. Fortunately, Amazon gives us a separate bestseller list for what it defines as indies.

Best Sellers in Kindle Indie Books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

For this analysis, I’m going to accept their classification.

Let’s start out with comparing the ten bestselling books on the indie list with the ten bestselling books on the Kindle stores general list. I’m going to start out without weeding out any indies on the general list:

The Indies

Rank Stars Reviews
1 4.1 557
2 4.4 6194
3 4.4 394
4 4.8 463
5 4.7 222
6 4.6 341
7 3.9 950
8 4.7 268
9 4.6 441
10 4.8 33
Avg 4.5 986.3

General list

Rank Stars Reviews
1 4.1 11586
2 4.4 30
3 4.4 38
4 4.5 85
5 3.9 50
6 4.8 136
7 4.2 525
8 4.0 564
9 4.6 441
10 3.7 9
Avg 4.26 1346.4

The indies are quite a bit higher rated…nearly a quarter of a star on a five star range is a lot.

There is one book on the general list which has an anomalously¬†high number of reviews…you might be wondering why so many of the general list have such a low number of reviews.

It’s because four of the top ones are part of the Kindle First program…they are available to get for free for eligible Prime members (one of the four for free this month), and otherwise discounted before publication on May 1st. Those are tradpubbed, but by Amazon.

I want to also look at this as a comparison between indies and the Big 5.

Here are the top ten sellers (paid…free is a different list) in the USA Kindle store from the Big 5 (Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster):

Big 5

Rank Stars Reviews Publisher
1 4.1 11586 PRH
7 4.2 525 PRH
8 4.0 564 HC
10 3.8 10 HC
11 4.6 6790 Hachette
12 4.5 11700 PRH
14 4.8 3065 Macmillan
17 4.6 10392 S&S
18 4.5 263 Hachette
21 4.5 478 PRH
Avg 4.36 4537.3

The indies are still considerably above the Big 5 titles in terms of stars…but the average number of reviews for the Big 5 absolutely dominate.

It’s important to not here that I am only looking at the bestsellers. It’s quite possible that the best indies are comparable to the best tradpubs…but that there are more “lemons” amongst the indies. In fact, I would expect that to be the case, intuitively…but that’s a bit harder for me to test.

One more comparison…price:

Indies General Big 5
3.99 6.99 6.99
1.59 4.99 10.99
0.99 4.99 1.99
3.99 4.99 14.44
3.99 4.99 5.39
3.99 3.99 1.99
3.99 10.99 12.99
3.99 1.99 12.99
2.51 4.99 9.99
6.99 14.44 10.99
$3.60 $6.34 $8.88

If, and this is a big if, we can say that the average star rating is a predictor of how much you will be satisfied with the book, you get “better books” from indies for less than half the price of Big 5 books.

That’s definitely an interesting finding…

Now, you may not find that your tastes parallel the number of stars. I’m sure I like some books which don’t have great ratings. I will say, though, that if a book has a significant number of reviews and a high star rating, I find that I don’t think it’s poorly written, even if it isn’t particularly my cup of tea.

One thing to remember: Amazon has a generous seven day return policy for books you purchase from the Kindle store. You can “return” a book for a refund within seven days of purchase by going to

http://www.amazon/com/manageyourkindle

There are many people in the Amazon Kindle forums who think it is inappropriate to return a book just because you didn’t like it, but Amazon doesn’t say that themselves. It appears to be that if you return “too many” (whatever that may be), they may take away the option for you to return it yourself by using the MYK page, but you can still contact them and return it.

While that policy is a great reason to shop from Amazon, I think it’s safe to say that most people would rather read a book they enjoy than return one.

Perhaps, instead of looking at the “People Magazine books”, more people should be looking at the bestselling indies…

What do you think? Do you feel like you are more at risk when you buy an indie of getting one you don’t like? Would you be more likely to gift a tradpub you hadn’t read than an indie you hadn’t read? Do you think tradpubs tend to be more in the middle…not the best books, not the worst? Do you use the star ratings as any kind of guide in purchasing? 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!

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.

Why the Big 5 should join Kindle Unlimited

April 5, 2015

Why the Big 5 should join Kindle Unlimited

I’ve been a happy member of

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

since it became available July 18th of last year.

There are a lot of things to recommend Amazon’s subser (subscription service), where you pay $9.99 for an “all you can read plan”.

I could easily recommend enough books to you that are part of the program right now that you could read (and enjoy) one every day for a year and still have plenty to go.

The biggest knock you’ll hear against it, though, is that it doesn’t have the best-selling books from the biggest publishers.

Actually, if you are talking about the Big 5 (the biggest “trade” publishers in the USA…trade books are the ones you would have bought in a bookstore, not textbooks and such), it doesn’t have their worst-selling ones, either.ūüėČ None of the Big 5 is part of Kindle Unlimited, although some of them are participating in some other subsers (Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster all have some of their books available through Scribd and Oyster).

I think that’s a mistake.

No, not just for me as a reader…I think it’s a mistake for the Big 5 publishers not to be part of Kindle Unlimited.

Part of it might be simple antagonism towards Amazon, I really don’t think that’s the deciding factor. While there are rumors that HarperCollins is considering pulling out of Amazon (something I consider very unlikely, for any length of time), they currently all do business with the e-tailer. It would be a rare publicly-held business indeed that would give up a bunch of business just because their company hadn’t gotten along with another company in the past…stockholders would not be happy.

I think it comes more from a fundamental misunderstanding of how consumers will use subsers…and KU in particular.

It’s reasonable that they would see subser use through the lens of current book buying; I just don’t think it is accurate.

Recently, in an excellent

The Bookseller interview by Fabrice Piault, translated by Barbara Casassus

Arnaud Nourry, Chief Executive of Hachette, discussed the future of publishing, and e-books in particular.

In expressing skepticism of subsers, Nourry said in part:

“This is why I have resisted the subscription system, which is a flawed idea even though it proliferates in the music business. Offering subscriptions at a monthly fee that is lower than the price of one book is absurd. For the consumer, it makes no sense. People who read two or three books a month represent an infinitesimal minority.”

I’m sure many of my readers fall into that “infinitesimal minority”, but it’s a mistake to think that is the only group served.

As a former successful brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I think I have some idea about what motivates people to buy books. ¬†I’m going to put forth five¬†reasons here why I think the Big 5 should join KU…and I made a “shaky” “prediction” that at least one of them would by the end of this year.

1. Just because people use KU doesn’t mean they won’t buy other books

That’s my case. I read KU books, but I also read others. My guess is that for that small group of “serious” readers (you can also use the term “regular readers” or “habitual readers”…people who read way above the average…I might set it at fifty books a year, but even ten a year would be relatively high), joining KU may not even reduce the number of other books they buy. Many of them have never been able to afford all the books they possibly could want to read in a month…this would be a supplement, not a replacement.

2. You don’t have to put your frontlist in KU

This goes with point number one. Let people buy your Gone Girls and your Fifty Shades of Greys, until they drop out of popularity and become part of the “backlist”. That backlist right now, even though it may provide the majority of your income, doesn’t do it based on individual title unit sales. Many of your backlist would be far more likely to be borrowed than to be bought…and while the revenue might be lower, the volume could be considerably higher

3. “Casual readers” are “burst readers”

“Casual readers” are another group than “serious readers” (of course, there’s a third group…non-readers). They tend to read on specific¬†¬†occasions…notably, going on vacation. They might even read (gasp) two or more books on a week-long trip, and then not read the rest of the year. Kindle Unlimited is not an annual membership…it’s month to month. Sure, if subsers didn’t exist, they might buy a book from you for that vacation…but since they do, why wouldn’t they pay¬†$9.99 for a month and take care of ten (!) members of the family? Let’s say the whole Brady Bunch goes on vacation…two parents, six kids, and they bring Alice the housekeeper, and Sam, Alice’s Significant Other comes along, too. That’s ten people. Each one can read all the books they want. As they finish one book, they return it and start another one…and you never get over the ten at a time you are allowed to have. A “burst reader” (I just made that up) often wants to buy more than one book at that time. They also may not be that picky about getting that frontlist title…they might read genre books and classics, for that matter. Get those otherwise dormant titles moving!

4. It’s about discovery

Look, you are trying every which way to find ways for consumers to find your books. You are, rightfully, concerned about the reduction in the number of chain bookstores as “showrooms”. Subsers are going to be the new discovery engines…bigger, perhaps, than chain bookstores were. It’s not going to be hard to do this: put first titles in a series in the subser. Put short stories that supplement the series in the subser. That’s an important point: people won’t mind borrowing a twenty page short story, when they would never buy one that size. Get those serious readers hooked, and they’ll buy your other books! This is much cheaper than starting your own website or doing television advertising, or those other things you’ve been considering.

5. They don’t need to get whole books

This is a big, big factor why people will use subsers! They can get one recipe out of a cookbook, one “how to” out of a do it yourself book, one city out of a travel guide for a country, one exercise routine out of a workout book, and so on. They can bounce from book to book. This is new, and it will change things. Figure out how to make it equally valuable to get a lot of small things, rather than one big thing. Got a book out on all the baseball teams? Break it into one book per team…and get paid every time they borrow each “chapter”. Somebody will borrow a book on their favorite team, who wouldn’t buy a book on all the teams. You couldn’t sell them that way as p-books (paperbooks) in a brick-and-mortar, but you can easily do it in a subser.

That’s five.:)

Consumers are creatures of habit.¬†You know this already. People like to buy things where they’ve bought things before. This is especially true with Amazon, where they already have your financial information, and where many services tie your library together (notes, bookmarks, and so on). I think the value of subsers for consumers is there, and will be recognized. When they do want to buy books (including expensive p-books as gifts at the holidays), they are first going to turn to where they have been reading¬†books…and if you haven’t been part of that, it makes it harder for them to think of you.

Publishers, let’s be honest: do I and my readers benefit if you follow my advice to join KU? Yes, they do. On the basis of the reasons above, though, I think it would also be a¬†win for you. Let me read your ten, twenty, thirty year old titles in KU…and I’ll buy your new ones.

What do you think? Does this make sense for publishers? Will any of them do it…this year? Is this a way for them to make money from books which are going into the public domain (which starts happening¬†again in the USA in 2019)? If you’ve joined KU, has it reduced your book purchases? 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!

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.

 


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