Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

12/07/2015

The Parallel Universe of Publishing


In the traditional or conventional publishing world, there is more and more ‘dark matter’ flying around that it cannot control or measure. This dark matter is generated by the ever-increasing and evolving digital or ebook side of the publishing universe; AND, since traditional publishing (TP) cannot control or measure all the new digital data with the old paper-related devices such as ‘rights’ management (that’s “precisely what DRM represents: an absurd and pathetic attempt to recreate in the digital realm a command-and-control system that profits off the characteristics of *paper*”) then TP simply makes statements such as “digital or ebooks are down or losing sales.”

Truth is, TP cannot ‘measure’ all this increasing ‘dark matter’ that holds much more favorable digital data. So their statistics are skewed or inaccurate based on incomplete data.

Talk about publishing intrigue!

Len Epp, a contributor to TechCrunch, delves into this dark matter in detail in tonight’s research/resource article:

 

On The Dark Matter Of The Publishing Industry

Key excerpts:

“Recently there were a pair of revealing eruptions in the world of ebooks and the volatile book publishing industry more generally.

The first was the announced demise of Oyster, an ebook subscription startup based in New York and backed by $17 million in VC funding.

While the announcement of Oyster’s shutdown is remarkable for its lack of transparency, apparently after its sun sets, Oyster’s excellent e-book reader expertise will be transferred to Google in the form of its founders and probably some of its tech or even the entire company, but perhaps not its pricey ebook contracts with publishers.”

“Now, there were some very smart people backing Oyster, and I suspect that a) they correctly saw that awesome tech would succeed in driving ebook reading, b) they had some kind of plan to monetize their user base, but ran into the common problem of being unable to finance a longer runway than they hoped for, which happened because c) their West Coast-y VC-style optimism prevented them from fully internalizing the willfully destructive, cynical recalcitrance of the incumbent publishers who, perhaps knowing what they were doing, forced Oyster into senseless, self-sabotaging ebook contracts.”

“There was more bad, meaning good, news to come. The next day, the New York Times gleefully reported that ebook sales were down in general. The surprising news was predictably greeted with what Mathew Ingram memorably called “a whiff of anti-digital Schadenfreude”.

Problem was, the news wasn’t just untrue, it was obviously untrue.”

“Essentially, the numbers the New York Times article was based on were limited to just 1,200 publishers, all of them being what is euphemistically referred to as “traditional” publishers — meaning “doorstopper” paper codex publishers whose business is essentially composed of a highly structured web of legal arrangements that historically evolved to maximize profit from the various physical characteristics of, you guessed it, the paper codex.”

“It was like the “traditional” publishing industry just pretended the ebooks being traded outside its own grumpy universe didn’t exist, because their “traditional” methods of tracking couldn’t see them.”

Open the door into the rest of the dark matter and publishing intrigue in The Parallel Universe of Publishing.

 

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05/21/2013

Re Publishing: Single Platform Domination – Risk or Not?


Is the Kindle a challenge to book publishers?

Many print publishing business executives, authors, literary agents, editors, booksellers and distributors – as well as their counterparts in the digital publishing business – recently sat down at a roundtable to launch this year’s Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

Purpose of the roundtable? To plot a publishing industry survival story! (Which begs the question: Do we even need one?)

Even within this inner circle of professionals there is disagreement (and total misinterpretation on the part of some) of what the changing publishing landscape actually means.

Do the churning changes spell disaster or opportunity?

The title of this post was suggested by a fear expressed by Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins UK. She feels that “single platform domination” will be bad for the publishing industry.

Doesn’t she realize that ‘print’ was the single platform domination for the past 500 plus years! And that we are just recently being offered a choice of venues?

This piece by Robert Budden in The Financial Times dot com allows us into the roundtable and the minds of the attendees:

 

Publishing industry roundtable plots a survival story

Serial entrepreneur and Financial Times columnist Luke Johnson could be excused for having a pessimistic outlook on the publishing sector, having “lost a fortune” following his purchase of the UK arm of Borders, the book chain in 2007.

At a roundtable discussion to launch this year’s Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, the co-founder of private equity firm Risk Capital Partners says he “passionately” hopes books continue to prosper.

But, in references to GoogleAmazon and Apple, he warns that software “has become a very serious threat that may well eat” the publishing business.

Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins UK, probably speaks for many publishing executives when she highlights “single platform domination” as “the risk”. “I don’t think it was good for the record industry nor will it be good for publishing,” she says.

The conundrum for publishers is what to do about it.

Tim Harford, an author and also an FT columnist, says the industry needs to take action swiftly, especially in relation to the digital rights management (DRM) approaches of some ebook distributors that lock readers into their ecosystems.

“If you let Amazon and Apple lock in their devices, they are going to slaughter all of you,” he says, referring to book publishers and retailers.

Read and learn more

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04/23/2011

The Hackers Quarterly…and the Apple And Amazon Continuing Subscription Debacle


 

2600 Magazine - The Hackers Quarterly

For those who have not been properly introduced to 2600, the hackers quarterly magazine…I am formally presenting this mag to you tonight.

Along with the introduction is a dissertation on how they are expanding their online publishing platforms (read that as formats)…and how they are championing the elimination of DRM (digital rights management)…which they feel is an anti-consumer restriction/regulation.

What do you think? I admit I’m still puzzling over the DRM details!

By the way, DRM is defined as the use of software or other computer technology to manage the conditions under which copyrighted material in digital form can be accessed.

From 2600.com :

2600 EXPANDS ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING PLATFORMS 

The saga of our electronic publishing endeavors continues. We’ve grown weary of waiting for Amazon and Apple to work things out between them so that subscriptions can be available on the iPad, so we’ve bypassed their stalemate and made individual issues available for those devices. We’ve also made them available for the Barnes and Noble Nook. More is on the way.

The price of the current issue is set by Amazon – we have no control over this. We’re trying to get them to make it available for less and we’ve already managed to do this for back issues. Your support at this time gives us more leverage and will help to set the standard for the entire electronic publishing world.

We’re also fighting to have any DRM restrictions removed from our publications. Please stand behind us on this as it’s our chance to show other publishers that non-DRM is the way to go and that publications can indeed prosper in this environment without implementing crippling and anti-consumer regulations. If you’re annoyed by a policy or restriction of Amazon, etc., posting a negative review actually gives us LESS leverage as it’s seen as a reflection of 2600, not Amazon. Before Amazon accidentally removed Android compatibility, we were #1 in customer service on the entire Kindle Magazine section. The complaints against Amazon that came in after their blunder pushed us way under and were likely not even seen by those in charge. So if you’re happy or unhappy with what WE’RE doing, tell the world via the feedback option. If something annoys you that we’re not directly responsible for, let us know in an email (webmaster@2600) and we’ll look into it.

We’ve made a lot of progress in a relatively short amount of time but we know there’s a great deal more that needs to be done. We find ourselves at a very historic juncture, not just for us but for the whole publishing world.

This is where we stand at the moment:

Read and learn more

Kindle lovers!…Go here to get this blog on your Kindle.


02/20/2011

Popularity of Digital Publishing Increases Piracy…Damn!


Damn is right. Is there no damn, damn, damn justice in this world?

As Ms. Digital becomes the homecoming queen of publishing, pirates are swarming for dates! 

While researching this topic I learned a few new terms and concepts (I must admit I’m a few notches below a newbie techie…not to mention my brain damage).

For instance::

A Torrent (or Bit Torrent) is a file distribution system used for transferring files (one or many) across a network of people. As you do…http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/B/BitTorrent.html

 Seeder. A seeder is a peer that has an entire copy of the torrent and offers it for upload. The more seeders there are, the better the chances of getting a higher download speed. If the seeder seeds the whole copy of the download, they should get faster downloads.

Leech. A leech is a term with two meanings. Usually it is used to refer a peer who has a negative effect on the swarm by having a very poor share ratio (downloading much more than they upload). Most leeches are users on asymmetric internet connections and do not leave their BitTorrent client open to seed the file after their download has completed. However, some leeches intentionally avoid uploading by using modified clients or excessively limiting their upload speed.                                                                                                                                                                     The often used second meaning of leech is synonymous with downloader (see above): used simply to describe a peer or any client that does not have 100% of the data. This alternative meaning was mainly introduced by most BitTorrent tracker sites.

A Torrent file of 2500 e-books is about 3.4 GB and can be downloaded in pretty much of a zip.

A single DVD movie and PC games are larger than the 2500 book file, usually b/t 4 to 7.5 GB’s.

So, at this time, it’s pretty damn easy (and fast) to steal others’ intellectual property!

You must read this revealing article by David Carnoy of CNET.com :

Kindle E-book Piracy Accelerates

Several months ago I set up a Google alert for my book, “Knife Music,” to keep abreast of anything anybody was saying–good or bad–about the thing. Over the months I’ve received news of the occasional blog post and tweets, but more recently I popped open an alert to learn that my book was being pirated–both as a separate file and part of two larger Torrents called 2,500 Retail Quality Ebooks (iPod, iPad, Nook, Sony Reader) and 2,500 Retail Quality Ebooks for Kindle (MOBI).

I had the strange reaction of being both dismayed and weirdly honored that someone had selected my book to strip free of its copy-protection (DRM) and include as part of a collection of “quality” e-books, many of which were from very good authors.

OK, so the use of the term “quality” was a reference to the formatting of the e-books and not the quality of the actual work, but for a moment I wasn’t too bothered. After all, if someone downloads 2500 books, what are the odds he or she is going to even bother looking at yours? I was probably only losing a few bucks, especially considering my e-book is currently priced at $3.99, which only leaves me with about 50 cents a book after the publisher, e-book seller, and agent, take their cuts. (John’s Note: I thought many e-retailers (like iPad) let the publishers keep 70% of sale!) Even if I missed out on selling 200 e-books, that’s a mere $100. No big deal, right?

Well, obviously, for big authors, this whole pirating thing presents a bigger problem–and a bigger loss. But that isn’t what dismayed me so much (sorry, but when you’re a little guy, you don’t care so much about how much the big guys are losing). Rather, what’s shocking, and what the publishers should be most concerned about, is the fact that a library of 2,500 books can be downloaded in a matter of hours. E-books are small files and 2,500 of them can be packed into a single download (Torrent) that’s only about 3.4GB. If you set the average price per book at a measly $2, the worth of said download would be $5,000. Bring it up to $4 a book and you’re at $10,000. (In fact, publishers charges much more for some of these books).

By comparison, a single DVD movie is usually larger than that, as well as many retail PC games, which tend to run in the 4GB to 7.5GB range. A “major” PSP title is about 1GB, sometimes a bit larger (yes, the PSP has been severely impacted by piracy).

I probably don’t need to point this out but I will. I have about 600 books in my paper book collection, which took me years to gather and prune during various moves. Digitally, that same collection could be downloaded in around 30 minutes and stored on a cheap 1GB thumb drive, which could then be copied in a matter of seconds and passed on to someone else.

A lot of people think moving away from paper is a good thing. Maybe it is. But what should also be alarming to publishers is that the number of people pirating books is growing along with the number of titles that are available for download. As I’ve written in the past, the rise of the iPad has spurred some of the pirating, but now the huge success of the Kindle is also leading to increased pirating. Yes some companies, such as Attributor, have done some studies about the issue, and seen increases. But for my evidence one only need glance at Pirate Bay and see what people are downloading and how many of them are doing it.

Read and learn more

 

A

04/26/2010

Do Big Publishers Always Have Digital Rights? NOT!



Older, successful books (even pulitzer prize winners) may be digitally published by the author or author’s estate by other than original publishers…AND this could mean a larger cut of the profits AND introducing fine literature to newer readers… Past “Lions of Lit” can experience a resurgence in popularity!

Pictured at left are Jane Friedman and Jeffrey Sharp of Open Road Integrated Media.

This from the New York Times by Motoko Rich:

After publicly staking a claim to the right to publish electronic versions of books that already have a long history in print, Random House appears to be letting go of digital rights to several works by one prominent author without a fight, potentially opening the way for other authors to take their e-books away from traditional publishers.

Early next month the family of William Styron, a literary lion of the 20th century who died in 2006 at 81, will proceed with plans to work with a new venture, Open Road Integrated Media, to release e-books of titles like “Sophie’s Choice,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Confessions of Nat Turner” and Styron’s memoir of depression, “Darkness Visible.”

Because e-books were not explicitly mentioned in most author contracts until about 15 years ago, disputes have arisen about who has the right to publish digital versions of older books. But along with other publishers, Random House, which releases Styron’s works in print, has said that clauses like “in book form” give it exclusive rights to publish electronic editions. In a letter to literary agents in December, Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, the world’s largest publisher of trade books, said authors were “precluded from granting publishing rights to third parties” for electronic editions.

But in a statement last week Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, said the company was continuing talks with many authors or their estates about publishing e-books of their older works. “The decision of the Styron estate is an exception to these discussions,” he said in an e-mail message. “Our understanding is that this is a unique family situation.”

Mr. Applebaum added that Random House had released e-book editions of two titles by Styron published after electronic rights clauses had been added to contracts. “We are hopeful future discussions with his family members will eventually result in additional e-book publications,” Mr. Applebaum said.

People in the publishing industry said Random House’s apparent acquiescence in the Styron case could lead to a flood of other authors or their estates moving e-books to separate digital publishers.

“I just wonder whether we will see a spate of ‘me toos’ from other Random House authors and agents who feel that they too deserve similar accommodation,” said Richard Curtis, a literary agent and publisher of E-Reads, an e-book company.

With the market for e-books growing faster than any other segment of the industry, traditional publishers are scrambling to secure their digital futures not only by publishing current titles in e-book form but also by digitizing older titles. Some of these books can be very important to publishing houses because they bring in lucrative revenues every year with very little marketing investment.

But many authors and agents have not been satisfied by the royalty rates that traditional publishers offer on e-books. And in the Styron case the family was also lured by Open Road’s promise to reinvigorate Styron’s legacy and introduce his older books to new readers.

“There’s a whole generation, if not two new generations, who aren’t familiar with my father’s work,” Susanna Styron, the author’s eldest daughter, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think a lot of young people are going to be introduced to my father’s work if they aren’t introduced to it electronically.”

Despite William Styron’s literary reputation his books have not sold particularly well in print in recent years. According to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, his biggest selling title last year was “Sophie’s Choice,” with only 5,000 copies.

Open Road, which was founded by Jane Friedman, the former president and chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, and Jeffrey Sharp, a film producer whose features include “Boys Don’t Cry” and “You Can Count on Me,” has a plan to push Styron’s work all over the Internet. In addition to selling the e-books — for which it has designed new “covers” and added biographical summaries — Open Road has produced film clips of Styron’s widow, Rose, and daughters Alexandra and Susanna discussing his life and work, and digitized hundreds of letters, photos and other documents from Styron’s archives at Duke University.

This material will appear on Open Road’s Web site, openroadmedia.com, as well as on Facebook. Open Road will also send out links on Twitter and try to persuade literary bloggers and fan sites to link to the content.

“All of this is going to be used by Open Road to uncover more fans for William Styron,” Ms. Friedman said in an interview last week at the company’s offices in SoHo. Open Road will not charge for any of this extra material. The company said the e-books would be sold through various online retailers, but for now it has a deal only with Amazon.

Rose Styron said she was attracted by the marketing plan. “My children and I felt it would be a fine way to get him back into the public eye,” she said in a telephone interview. “And this sort of publicity would be good for everyone, we thought, including Random House, because people would buy more of Bill’s books in print.”

Ms. Styron also said that the fact Open Road was offering a 50-50 profit share on the e-book editions attracted the family. “Of course we like that,” she said. The traditional publishers, including Random House, have recently moved toward an industry standard of offering authors 25 percent of net receipts (that is, revenue taken in from e-book retailers) for electronic editions. Individual authors have struck different deals with publishers.

Ms. Styron added the family was nevertheless torn by its decision to move the e-books out of Random House because of the family’s long-standing relationship with Bob Loomis, Styron’s friend and editor.

Jeffrey Coploff, the Styron estate’s lawyer, said Random House tried to persuade the Styrons to stay, but that in the end they decided they would be better served by Open Road, and that they had a legal right to seek a separate e-book publisher.

Mr. Loomis said he wished the family had decided to keep the e-books with Random House, but that he understood why it had chosen to move. Open Road is “concentrating on one author, which is a good thing for Bill,” Mr. Loomis said. “I think it’s going to work, if things like this can work.”

01/21/2010

If You Publish on Kindle Your Content Can be Read on Other E-Readers…Maybe


This unnoticed change in Amazon’s DRM (Digital Rights Management)policy is big and may signal bigger changes in the future for clients who use DTP (Digital Text Platform) to self-publish on Amazon’s Kindle.

Frederic Lardinois, who writes for ReadWriteWeb.com, posted this today about Amazon’s changing DRM policy:

Amazon quietly made a major change to its Digital Text Platform last week that went largely unnoticed: small publishers and individual authors who use the Digital Text Platform can now opt out of the Kindle’s digital rights management (DRM) program. While this change only affects a relatively small number of publishers and authors for now, this move could hint at a larger change in Amazon’s DRM policy. Right now, Amazon’s DRM policy means that its customers can’t transfer their books to a non-Kindle e-reader.

Update: Amazon just contacted us to let us know that a DRM-free option always existed for publishers using the Digital Text Platform. Amazon just added new functionality that makes it easier for publishers to set these options.

For Amazon, it makes sense to experiment with this new option on the Digital Text Platform. Given that this is a self-publishing tool, the company doesn’t have to explain this change to its partners in the publishing industry while allowing the company to experiment with a DRM-free solution. Most publishing houses tend to be very conservative when it comes to DRM-free e-book solutions. In the self-publishing world, however, DRM-free books are very common. Self-publishing platform Smashwords, for example, doesn’t even offer a DRM solution.

Right now, you can’t take your Kindle e-books to a Sony Reader, for example. While the Kindle is a huge success for Amazon, the current DRM solution is surely holding quite a few potential customers back from making the jump to e-books.

The Beginning of the End for E-Book DRM?
If the e-book world follows the same path as the music industry, however, chances are that restrictive DRM solutions will disappear over the next few years. At least for Amazon, giving its self-published authors and small publishing houses this option is a first step in the right direction. For O’Reilly, publishing DRM-free e-book has turned out to be an advantage. Hopefully, other publishing houses will also realize that DRMed e-books do very little

Tip of the hat to Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton for noticing this change first.

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