Archive for the ‘Traditional Publishers’ Category

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.

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. ;) 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.

 

Do we have an editor to thank for To Kill a Mockingbird?

February 5, 2015

Do we have an editor to thank for To Kill a Mockingbird?

In today’s shifting landscape of publishing, there is a lot of talk about what value the traditional systems bring to it.

Certainly, authors succeed nowadays with none of the elements of the tradpubs (traditional publishers).

Oh, without a doubt, the vast majority of them don’t.

Undeniably, though, there are books which sell well which have never had the benefit of a professional proofreader, a marketing department…or an editor.

Some people have even wondered why all authors don’t just self publish…why does a brand name author, like Stephen King or Anne Rice, even need a tradpub?

Well, if the narrative we are being given behind the upcoming release of Harper Lee’s “new” book

Go Set a Watchman (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is true, we wouldn’t have had

To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile)

without an editor.

I don’t just mean it wouldn’t have been the same: it probably wouldn’t have existed at all.

Go Set a Watchman can be pre-ordered now for its first publication on July 14th, but there is a reason I put “new” in quotation marks.

It was written a long time ago…before TKaM, in fact.

According to this

The Guardian story by Alison Flood

and other sources, Lee had first shopped Go Set a Watchman to a publisher.

Her editor reportedly really like the flashbacks about a main character, and recommended that Lee focus on that.

So Lee wrote a book about that character as a child…a child with the nickname of “Scout”.

Now, it’s possible that Go Set a Watchman is the superior book, but I doubt it. People talk about a “Great American Novel”, and I don’t believe there can be just one…but certainly, To Kill a Mockingbird would be in the competition.

No, it seems more likely to me that the editor was right. The editor recognized the strength in the original book, and made a suggestion to the author…which improved things.

That’s what editors should do…and why some bestselling authors love their editors and wouldn’t want to leave them.

Some indies (independently published authors) hire people to be their editors, but honestly, I don’t think that’s the same.

I think an editor who is employed by a publisher has a different outlook.

It’s their job to make books better (and to make them sell better)…and their continued success depends on, well, their continued success.

I know some people are thinking that means they need to steer people away from art and towards commercial writing. I joked about that myself in

Lose the lion

However, I think that a book’s artistic merits can be enhanced by having more than just the author involved in its creation.

Some people use beta readers or writing groups to critique their works.

That’s very different from a professional editor…I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but it’s not the same.

I’ll be looking forward to reading the book! I’ll also be thankful to the editor who made the original suggestion to Lee, to Harper Lee for acting on it so beautifully (when the author could have been stubborn and not taken the advice), and to the lawyer who found the manuscript and recognized it for what it was.

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.

Macmillan signs on with Scribd and Oyster

January 17, 2015

Macmillan signs on with Scribd and Oyster

In something I described as “shaky” in my annual prediction post for 2015:

The Year Ahead: 2015

I “predicted” that at least one Big 5 publisher would join Amazon’s subser (that’s what I call a subscription service)

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

That hasn’t happened yet (we’re only about half way through the first month), but Macmillan recently joined up with two of the competitors, Scribd and Oyster.

On Scribd, Macmillan has 1,024 books at the time of writing.

That’s not every book Macmillan has to offer…it’s generally not the “frontlist”, the most recent and popular books.

Still, as pointed out in this

Publishers Weekly article by Calvin Reid

frontlist titles from major publishers are starting to show up more in subsers.

Macmillan joins HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster in offering books to be borrowed through Scribd and Oyster…that’s more than half of the Big Five, with Penguin Random House and Hachette not yet involved.

You might think that these big publishers are staying away from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited out of spite…the tradpubs (traditional publishers) and Amazon have often disputed things with each other (the publishers pretty much have always won…they settled when the Department of Justice went after them, but when it is directly publishers to Amazon, the e-tailer has lost. Text-to-speech is one example; the Agency Model itself ((which was one of the things that brought the DoJ into the mix, since it was used as a tool to raise e-book prices according to the Department)) is another).

However, that’s not how big business works, as a rule. Yes, Amazon removed the “Buy buttons” from Macmillan books when the Agency Model was being put into play. Sure, Amazon put barriers in the way of people buying Hachette books until a new deal was recently reached.

I doubt that Jeff Bezos and John Sargent of Macmillan are going to skip down the street holding hands any time soon.

Macmillan and Hachette both have books at Amazon now, after their respective unpleasantries. If Kindle Unlimited is the right business model for them, they’ll do it…holding their noses, perhaps, but doing it anyway.

I think KU is going to be come increasingly important throughout this year, and be a big point of discovery. People will buy books after borrowing them, in some cases…particularly to give them as gifts.

With more Big Five publishers signing up for subsers, I can only guess that preliminary data is indicating it is worth it. I think the publishers are just negotiating with Amazon.

Subsers have to be great for the backlist “long tail”, where publishers may not be making any money anyway. It’s important to note that even if they lost money in Kindle Unlimited because it cannibalized some sales, they might make a more than compensating amount from additional sales.

We’ll see what happens, but this development makes me a bit more optimistic about my prediction. ;)

What do you think? Will a Big 5 company sign up for KU this year? If they do, will it be just backlist, or frontlist, too? Do you use a subser? Does it seem worth it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what to think by commenting on this post.

Join more than a thousand 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! :) 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.

Round up #276: PRH on subsers, Boehner blocks

November 15, 2014

Round up #276: PRH on subsers, Boehner blocks

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

No Active Content for the Voyage?

This question had come up before, but according to this

post in The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder

Amazon is not planning to add Active Content for the

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

their flagship model.

Hoffelder reports having been told by Amazon that their “…focus is on building the best purpose-built reading devices.”

I suppose I can understand as a goal, but Active Content is one of those really non-intrusive things. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t. Games have been on the Kindles since the very first one in 2007 (although the games on that one were hidden…I played Minesweeper on mine, though). It’s an interesting decision.

There are over 1,500 customer reviews for

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

in the USA Kindle store, with an average rating of 4.3 stars (out of 5). There have been ten reviews at time of writing in November 2014…and almost all of them were five stars.

It’s currently ranked #2,397 free in the Kindle store…out of 64,497, making it in the top 4% of sellers.

My guess is that this really has more to do with associated expenses (adapting the Amazon published ones for new models, customer service) than it really has to do with what customers say. However, I have had e-mail exchanges with the person listed by Hoffelder, and that person has always seemed nice and knowledgeable to me…so I’m sure there is some evidence for what the rep says.

$80 worth of apps free through Saturday 11/15

While I probably do more reading on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

than I do anything else (counting text-to-speech as reading…which I do), it certainly isn’t a “purpose-built reading device”.

I’m sure some people would argue that Amazon is turning away from Active Content to encourage people to buy Fires…but I think they’d be happiest if people had both. ;)

For those of you who do use a Fire and want apps, Amazon has a promotion going on through today (Saturday) with $80 worth of apps being given away. They are calling it an

App Toolbox (at AmazonSmile*)

Note that not all of these will work on a Fire tablet (the ones that don’t may work on the Fire Phone, if you are one of the rarities like me who owns one). ;)

Titles include:

  • Office Calculator Pro: 4.4 stars, 172 reviews
  • MathsApp Graphing Calculator: 4.4 stars, 63 reviews
  • EasyTether: 4.3 stars, 861 reviews
  • Open Document Reader: 5.0 stars, 3 reviews
  • Oxford Dictionary of English: 3.5 stars, 8 reviews…normally $24.99

and twelve more.

Amazon and others advocate for Equal Collection Legislation

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this issue, but it’s back in the news.

Congress is considering a bill which would mean that sales tax would be collected on online purchases in a way similar to how it is collected now in brick and mortar stores.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both support the current legislation, along with many other entities.

The

National Retail Federation

has sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, urging passage. Unfortunately, every link on their website to that letter is failing for me…they may be overwhelmed because of the coverage.

Why does this matter now?

If the current bill isn’t passed before the new Congress takes over in January of 2015, it’s dead…and they have to start all over (again).

It might surprise you that Amazon and B&N are on the same side on this.

Amazon has argued for it before. They don’t want there to be lots of different rules about how this happens all over the country: they want one clear sales tax collection policy (not rate, policy) at the national level.

This (and previous bills) bill is not about people owing more taxes, but it would certainly mean that many people pay more.

Check the sales tax category (linked at the end of this post) for more information, but essentially, what happens now is that many people are supposed to pay tax on things they buy on the internet…and they don’t. Every year, my family adds more when we pay our State taxes for those uncollected taxes…it would be far easier if they just collected them at the time of purchase.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to track your in-store purchases yourself to figure out what sales tax you owed?

Amazon has repeatedly said that when they are in situations where sales tax is collected on their purchases, it doesn’t hurt their market share.

I believe that. Oh, that’s not to say that some people might buy very expensive items from Amazon to avoid having sales tax collected. Of course, they might be quite surprised if they ever get audited…not having paid that will not get you invited to the IRS offices for tea. ;) It might get you invited somewhere else less pleasant, though…

According to this

The Hill article by Bernie Becker

Speaker Boehner is blocking the bill, despite some significant bipartisan support.

It’s worth noting that not every state would collect sales tax on e-books anyway (California doesn’t, when they are delivered electronically…at least, that’s how it was last time I looked), but this still could affect Kindleers.

PRH C.E.O. doesn’t like subsers

Generally, I’ve found Random House to be pretty forward thinking…but this

The Bookseller article by Benedicte Page

makes me question that.

C.E.O. (Chief Executive Officer) Tom Weldon of Penguin Random House makes several statements.

One of them has to do with keeping e-book royalty rates the same, but the headline item is really about not believing in subsers (subscription services), like Amazon’s

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

In this short excerpt, Weldon is quoted as saying:

“We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything you can’ isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.”

Well, as someone with something like 10,000 paperbooks on my shelves, I beg to differ. ;)

Certainly, it usually takes longer to read a book than it does to listen to a song or watch a movie, so you might think you need access to fewer…but you still need to make the choices as to which ones to consume.

While I think there is a lot future in curation (people, and perhaps software, picking books that you are likely to like), having a variety is important now.

Let’s say you like 1% of the books that are published each year. 10,000 gives you one to enjoy every three days. That’s a pretty good pace.

I think subsers are a big part (but not the only part) of the book market in the next few years, and I suspect Random House may come on board with it. Weldon didn’t rule it out, although the CEO thought they were more likely to succeed in emerging markets. If they did there, that might encourage them to join in more developed markets.

I recommend the article: see what Weldon has to say about PRH selling directly to consumers…I think what’s said there is wise.

Join hundreds 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! :) 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.

 

Amazon and Simon & Schuster reach a deal

October 22, 2014

Amazon and Simon & Schuster reach a deal

There is a future for Big Five books in the Kindle store.

That certainly seemed like the most likely outcome, although the day may come when Amazon doesn’t need them any more.

Why even doubt that the biggest bookstore would carry books from the biggest publishers?

Well, Amazon has been in a dispute with Hachette, another of the Big Five…for more than six months. What I call the “Hachazon War” certainly enters another phase with Amazon reportedly reaching an agreement with Simon & Schuster.

It makes it much harder for Hachette to paint Amazon as an “impossible to negotiate with” Big Bad.

It gives authors something to consider…how much of the stand-off is Hachette’s fault? When their deals with that publisher are done, should they be shopping? Douglas Preston, an author who has led the authors who have publicly expressed concerns with Amazon, wants to know the e-tailer has offered the same deal to Hachette. If it has…why didn’t Hachette take it? Retailers don’t have to give the same terms to everybody, of course.

It also changes the dynamic if there is a Department of Justice investigation of Amazon’s negotiating tactics (Authors United has asked for at least a look into it). If nobody can make a deal with you, that makes it a lot worse than a fifty/fifty split.

I’m going to link to stories on this, but I’ve seen both that this will be a return to the “Agency Model”, and that Amazon will be able to discount the books.

Those aren’t exactly contradictory. In the Agency Model, the publisher (not the retailer) sells the books (the former retailer just acts as an “agent”), and sets the customer prices. The publisher could set the price…and still, in some way, let Amazon discount under circumstances. For example, they might allow a three for the price of two deal to be offered. That doesn’t change the actual price of the book.

While we don’t actually know the terms of the deal, it is reassuring that a deal was reached at all. As a reader, I’d like Amazon to carry every book. However, the conditions under which they carry them do matter. I wouldn’t want Amazon to carry S&S books if the prices doubled…well, I guess I would, for folks who would pay that, but I wouldn’t like it for me. ;)

It’s possible that Amazon let the publisher set the customer price within certain constraints…that would be a form of compromise which could work for them both.

My intuition is that Amazon will make a deal with HarperCollins, and I would think they will with Penguin Random House. They’ve had trouble with Macmillan before…we could see a repeat there.

With publishers not standing united, though, I think everybody will deal before the end of the first quarter of next year.

This might also help Amazon’s stock a bit. Investors hate uncertainty.

Here are some of the articles:

Update: there has been a brief

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

in the official Kindle forum about the deal. They don’t say much about it, except that they are happy, it’s a multi-year deal, and it involves both e-books and p-books (paperbooks). Interestingly, they chose to make it a ” no reply thread”…they aren’t taking comments on it.

What do you think? Does Amazon need the Big Five? What should they be willing to give up to get their books? Where is the line in the sand? Will this mean Hachette settles quickly? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds 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.


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