Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


A Renaissance of Novella-Length Journalism and Fiction – Also Known As E-Shorts

Authors of Kindle Single memoirs, fiction and essays share in the profits for their works.

Within Amazon resides another offshoot, a store within a store you might say, called Kindle Singles (KS). Many have, no doubt, already taken advantage of or have heard about KS.

KS is a publishing niche devoted to works of 5000 to 30,000 words – commonly referred to as novellas. They can be edited, splashed with great cover art and otherwise prepared for publication and sale in record short time frames. KS is also proving to be a great entry point into the literary world and for authors to get published AND rake in a substantial 70% of the profits – and the profits have been great here because of great management that has resulted in outstanding credibility for KS along with a great attached purchasing audience and fanbase (this is key).

KS’s great management is provided by David Blum, who has worked for a range of publications, including The Wall Street Journal (where he met his wife, the television writer Terri Minsky, who created Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire”), Esquire, New York magazine and The New York Times Magazine.

Leslie Kaufman , New York Times, says:


Amazon Broadens Its Terrain

David Blum does not have a regular table at the Four Seasons or host celebrity parties at the top of the Standard Hotel.

He does not get a lot of fawning press. After he was fired by The Village Voice and left The New York Press, Gawker Media in 2009 pronounced him “a sad bumbling doctor for dying New York City weeklies.”

But four years is an eon in the digital realm, and in that time Mr. Blum has transformed himself from doctor of the dying to midwife of the up-and-coming. As such, he is a man whom authors want to court.

Mr. Blum is the editor of Amazon Kindle Singles, a Web service that is helping to promote a renaissance of novella-length journalism and fiction, known as e-shorts.

Amazon Kindle Singles is a hybrid. First, it is a store within the megastore of, offering a showcase of carefully selected original works of 5,000 to 30,000 words that come from an array of outside publishers as well as from in-house. Most sell for less than $2, and Mr. Blum is the final arbiter of what goes up for sale.

It is also a small, in-house publishing brand — analogous to a grocery store that makes an in-house brand of salsa to compete with other manufacturers. Mr. Blum comes up with his own ideas or cherry-picks pieces from the more than 1,000 unsolicited manuscripts he receives each month. He then edits them and helps pick cover art.

Amazon Singles usually pays nothing upfront to the author (there are rare exceptions) and keeps 30 percent of all sales. Yet it is an enticing deal for some authors, because Singles now delivers a reliable purchasing audience, giving them a chance to earn thousands for their work. (A quick calculation shows that the authors make an average of roughly $22,000, but the amount varies widely by piece.)

“Every day I become more obsessed with how brilliant the concept is,” Mr. Blum, 57, said over coffee at the Lamb’s Club in Manhattan, crediting the idea entirely to Amazon.

For him, the brilliance is that authors can now share in the profits instead of getting a flat fee. “The idea that writers would participate in the publishing model is just very bold,” he said.

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Limiting E-Book Circulation – A Librarians point of View

Harper Collins  has initiated limited access licenses to e-content for library circulation purposes. A new model meant to retain old print and ink attritions renewal profits. Appears publishers are having a hard time giving up an old print profit process that is simply no longer required in the new “E” world…I guess you can’t blame them.

Christopher Platt, director of collections and circulation operations at the New York Public Library, has some trade-offs from the library’s viewpoint that make a lot of sense and should make the adjustment to library ebook circulation much smoother.

Christopher Platt writing in Publishers Weekly:

The Happy Reader Equation: A Librarian on HarperCollins’s E-Book Pricing Model

HarperCollins generated a lot of controversy and debate with its new pricing model for e-books capping usage. In this week’s issue of PW, Connecticut librarian Kate Sheehan weighs in on the issue, and in PW Daily today we offer another piece by NYPL’s Christopher Platt, who takes a slighter different tack.

Recently, Harper Collins announced a new pricing model for e-books that caps usage, after which it would require a library relicense the title again for another set of uses. They further clarified that by mimicking the hardcover-to-paperback replacement purchase model, the price of the title would come down as it ages.


It has been a momentous few years for publishers and libraries. The economic downturn hit publishers hard, forcing cost-cutting, downsizing, and a review of business models. During all of this, the rapid advance of e-reading became the bright spot on publishers’ balance sheets, and now they are focusing intensely on ways to provide interesting content, engage new readers, and generate revenue in that arena.
Libraries were hit hard too, many of us enduring major fiscal challenges that strained our resources in the face of skyrocketing use. Libraries have downsized, cut back spending and services, and in some cases even closed during a time when their communities needed them the most. For many librarians, the announcement of e-book use limits from a major publisher must have felt like yet another in a long line of punches to the gut. 
HarperCollins is a publisher that has worked hard to build up a great track record supporting libraries, and I know they are a team of dedicated individuals who recognize the value we bring to the table. They, like many of us, are tasked with the difficult job of revising long-held models to stay profitable and relevant. As content and demand have grown in the e-book retail market, publishers have been revising e-book pricing models, and it’s no surprise they are now looking at the library market. I know the other trade houses are watching with great interest, and I applaud HarperCollins for being courageous enough to make the first move. This call for understanding is directed to all trade publishers and my respected library colleagues.
Librarians: public libraries are valued institutions. Remember that we are just one portion of the formula that gets titles to readers, and the only step that is not-for-profit:
Author + Publisher + Wholesaler + Library = Happy Reader


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Google Editions Could Launch eBook Revolution!

Filed under: ebook distribution,ebook revolution,ebook stores,Google Editions — gator1965 @ 2:28 pm

How about an online book store with 4 million books to choose from? Oh yeah!

First of all a simple definition of Google Editions (GE): GE is an upcoming online e-book store that will be run by Google. It will offer universal access and non-restrictive copying…AND books and other products will be able to be read on ANY electronic device, mobile or otherwise.

Kevin Klause (pictured below), reporting for, gives some details about this possible GE-sparked eBook revolution:

The publishing industry has been backed into a corner as of late, as the digital age hasn’t played too nicely with old fashioned paper and ink. Companies that rely on the sale of books and printed media have turned to producing their own e-readers in an attempt to capitalize on digitized publications (see Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook), but stand-alone devices for reading e-publications have proven hard to justify for consumer’s who already own any combination of MP3 player, mobile phone, laptop, and now tablet.

The distribution end of this growing problem for the publishing industry is starting to become less of an issue, however; on top of various eBook devices, the iPad, smartphones, and upcoming tablets are all available as easily accessible channels for delivering content. The problem now becomes an issue of the content itself, a snag Google is hoping to eliminate with the launch of Google Editions. According to Japan Today, as of the beginning of this week Google has reached agreements with over 25,000 publishers and authors. This equates to around 2 million books available at launch. Compare these numbers to 60,000 from iBooks, 500,000 from Amazon, and around 1 million from Barnes and Noble currently available.

If Google is able to include the over 2 million public domain titles it already plays host to on its Google Books service (just a small slice of the 10 million books Google already claims to have digitized in its Books database), the number of titles available grows to over 4 million. An effort to have Editions play nicely with all major devices and e-readers means a truly monumental amount of texts available readily for anyone with a device capable of reading them.

So while the eBook revolution has begun to pick up speed thanks to the run away success of the iPad, the content delivery aspect is nothing new. Yes, the iPad has done great things for reinforcing the viability of e-publications, but it will take a great library of titles for the demand for digitized content to grow. The beauty of Google Editions is that users will not be limited in their device selection in order to tap into the huge library available.

Sure, Editions will be pushed on Android phones and tablets, but you won’t have to own one. Having worked for an academic publisher (perhaps the sector of the industry most affected by the shift towards digital media), I can say that one of the biggest things hindering eBooks is the sheer number of formats and services a book must be prepped for in order to reach a mass market.

No digital book store has quite done for the printed word what iTunes accomplished for music distribution. Could Google Editions be the catalyst for a move towards digital texts as the standard? I think you’d have a hard time arguing against the sheer volume of titles that will be available, which looks to be well more than what could be read in a lifetime.

[Japan Today via Android and Me]


Is Publishing’s Distribution Game In for a Big Change?

The Tim O’Reilly fourth annual Tools of Change Conference just finished up 24 Feb 2010. This conference has become a heavy hitter event in publishing in four short years. Much spectacular news concerning new evolutions in publishing came out at the gathering but none more spectacular than O’Reilly, himself, entering the distribution business for ebooks! And in a BIG way.

I really got an insight into the distribution part of the publishing process reading Mike Shatzkin’s 4th March post on the Shatzkin Files RE O’Reilly’s foray into the distribution business:

One of the most significant pieces of news to come out of Tools of Change is that O’Reilly is going into the distribution business for ebooks. This is indeed, a “tool” of change. It is also a harbinger of times to come that threaten a lot of big companies: major publishers; the big distributors like Perseus, NBN, and IPG; the digital asset distributors including Ingram, LibreDigital, North Point codeMantra, and the fledgling operation at Bookmasters; as well as the digital wholesaling operations at Ingram, Content Reserve, and Baker & Taylor.

The O’Reilly offer is to do whatever conversion is necessary to deliver files to a wide range of ebook channels for free and then to make the ebooks available through that retailing network for a charge of 25% of the dollars received. One prospective client told me that O’Reilly is willing to do a one-year contract.

This both an object lesson and a serious shot across the bow of the legacy giants of the print book business.

We’ve made the point here before that big publishers have a competitive advantage built on print-world capabilities, among them being the ability to get fast printings and reprints; the ability to quickly move books in and out of a distribution center; the ability to ship books according to the receiving requirements of many intermediaries, large and small; and a strong sales network with accounts, mostly brick-and-mortar, that sell printed books. All of these things require pretty massive scale. You couldn’t consider doing them well yourself for a $1 million (in sales) company or a $10 million company and it would be challenging to be competitive doing them with a $50 million company.

The scale required to do effective print book distribution affects both the supply and the demand in the distribution business. It means there are a lot of companies too small to do it well for themselves (creating lots of demand) and very few companies with the scale to do it well (creating a limited supply of providers.) Even so, as the need for scale along with declining overall sales have driven the big publishers deeper and deeper into the distribution business (pushing up the supply of distributors), prices for distribution have fallen steadily for at least the past decade.

Of course, anything that requires expertise benefits from some scale to develop it. And that’s what O’Reilly has in digital distribution. Partly because of the nature of the company’s audience, but largely because they have been aggressive and innovative about exploring every conceivable avenue for ebook distribution and developing a tool set that makes it possible for them to try new channels and opportunities quickly, O’Reilly has more scale, and therefore more expertise, than anybody else in consumer ebook distribution (except, arguably, some publishers in the romance space.) It is quite believeable that they can put ebooks into more channels with more efficiency than anybody else. And that’s an expertise that is largely (but not completely) topic-agnostic.

So we have a real Man Bites Dog story here. In the print world, O’Reilly is distributed by Ingram, which has invested heavily in ebook distribution. But not only does Ingram not get to be the distributor of their client’s ebooks, O’Reilly is issuing what amounts to an open invitation for all other publishers, including their fellow distributees at Ingram, to use them for ebook distribution.

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