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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11/03/2013

Self-Publishing – Is it Meaningful or Not?


Meaningful? How would I know?

Meaningful? How would I know?

Is self-publishing meaningful? Depends on what you mean by meaningful? And meaningful to whom? That makes sense.

Self-publishing has gained respectability, earned fans, made authors known, got many more books in front of many more readers AND earned mega-bucks for a ‘few’.

For most writers/authors, however, the money from self-publishing is NOT pouring in — BUT, their books are being read by many more readers than they would have under previous model/s.

For that matter, the money from traditionally published books did not pour in for most writers/authors either — since, under the traditional pub model, 10% of the authors earned 75% of the royalties 🙂

So, the stats are not significantly different between self-publishing and traditional publishing.

The following 10 minute video titled ‘Can self-publishing ever be meaningful’ with speaker Steven Lewis, a self-published author and digital media strategist with a sense of humor, delves into more self-publishing stats and fills out the word ‘meaningful’:

 

 

 

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05/11/2012

Ebooks Trending Up or Down? Does it Really Matter?


Ebook Trends Up or Down?

Ebooks growth has been nosediving a bit of late; but, are the lackluster trends really something to be expected after such a rapid period of  initial, and probably, unsustainable expansion.

Probably.

Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director of Digital Book World, dives into some neat gadget numbers and analyses while providing some expert links:

Wave of ‘Bad’ E-Book News Dark Cloud or Blip?

A mini-wave of middling news has hit the e-book world in the past several weeks in contrast to the usual positive narrative about explosive growth and boundless opportunity. Is it a dark cloud on the horizon or just a blip on the radar?

Mixed metaphors aside, what’s really going on with e-books right now? Despite the “bad” news, experts and observers say that e-book publishers have little to worry about.

Profits are down at romance-book publisher and e-book vanguard Harlequin due to print declines that were not offset by digital gains. The Association of American Publishers announced weaker-than-expected adult trade e-book growth in February, the most recent month for which numbers are available. The rate of increase for Simon & Schuster’s digital sales continued to decline, according to the company’s first quarter results. And after a banner fourth quarter 2011, sales of Amazon’s Kindle Fire reportedly fell off a cliff in the first quarter of 2012 (which could be good or bad news for e-book publishers, depending on how you look at it).

“I’m not hearing alarm bells from publishers yet,” said James McQuivey, Ph.D. and principal analyst at Forrester who covers the book industry. “So I can’t say whether there is an overall softening or just unevenness in the data or just that each of these things is potentially explainable as due to circumstances specific to the players involved.”

While the above news isn’t exactly “bad,” it contrasts somewhat with the long-term narrative of e-book growth that has been steady since the Kindle came out in 2007.

“We’ve become addicted to the pace of change,” said Thad McIlroy, a Vancouver-based digital publishing consultant. “So if any market numbers emerge that suggest that the pace of change may be in some way slowing, we react with disappointment.”

Publishers of e-books should be reacting to such news with “quiet celebration,” said McIlroy.

“Every executive in publishing today already has a 70-page ‘to-do’ list,” said McIlroy, suggesting that a slow-down in the pace of change would give publishers a moment to catch up with it.

Regarding the reported slow down in Kindle Fire sales, industry observer Chris Rechsteiner doesn’t buy it.

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04/15/2012

Is the Ebook Juggernaut Slowing ?


Ebook Sales Falling ?

Matthew Flamm, senior reporter for Crain’s New York Business, wrote the following article today, and, although I get the overall gist of it (I think), I’m left confused by parts of it 😦  

I interject questioning comments in the body of the text. I welcome informative comments to help me out.

E-book sales growth is slowing  by Matthew Flamm:

‘The Justice Department’s lawsuit charging publishers with conspiring to fix e-book prices isn’t the only headache the industry has right now. Insiders say there are concerns that the e-book juggernaut is slowing down.

“It’s not growing the way it was a year ago,” said an executive at a major publisher. “And Barnes & Noble is ordering fewer and fewer books.” Senior execs at the house had been counting on rapid growth in digital sales to make up for the expected erosion of physical book sales, and are now worried about meeting their projected budgets for the year.

In January—the most recent month for which numbers are available—e-book sales spiked 49%, to $100 million, compared with a year earlier, according to the Association of American Publishers. For all of 2011, e-book sales grew 117%, to $970 million. (John’s Note: So far so good)

It was expected that coming off a larger revenue base, the monthly percentage increases would grow smaller (Why? What does this mean?), but executives fear that sales are starting to plateau. Experts say the lower bar of entry for e-book publishing may be a factor (What lower bar of entry for ebooks? What exactly does he mean by this?). “Bigger publishers are starting to lose market share to independent publishers and self-publishers,” said consultant Jack Perry (Does this mean then that the ebook juggernaut is NOT slowing for indies and self-publishers?).’

What do you think ?

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03/14/2012

Publishing Intrigue Con’t: Is Government About to kill Real competition to Save Appearance of Competition?


Gov't Killing Competition?

Hopefully not!

The jury is still out. While the Justice Department is weighing the past, present and future course of the publishing industry (in trying to tame the nefarious price-setting practices of e-books — and by extension of all books), opinionated speculation is running rampant!

This digital-era-caused publishing shipwreck upon ‘conscience island’ could just be the best thing that has ever been visited upon the publishing empire.

Why ? Because the forced dealing with recent ethical questions like price-setting below profitable margins just to run peripherals out of business and create a more monopolistic advantage, will hopefully lead to a clearing up of abuses and unethical practices that existed under the old traditional publishing business model as well!  

But, in order for this to take place, the DOJ must put it’s best foot forward with a real commitment to create a publishing landscape that fosters open and fair competition. Good prices for all concerned will then follow — based on fair market value — not cookie-cutter, one-price-fits-all, dip-shit prices (that will be raised, without any recourse, in the future when the true monopoly is firmly established).

This from Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times:

Scott Turow: Apple didn’t collude, it offered an e-books life raft

Last week shivers shot through the world of publishing when news broke that the U.S. Justice Department warned Apple and five major publishers that it was investigating them for alleged collusion, the Wall Street Journal reported. At issue was the price of e-books: When Apple launched the iPad, five major publishers adjusted their pricing schemes from a wholesale/retail model to an agency model.

In December, Justice Department official Sharis A. Pozen told a House subcommittee that the antitrust division was investigating e-book pricing. A source told the New York Times that the department hopes to decide by the end of April, when Pozen is leaving, whether to file suit against Apple and publishers  Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, HarperCollins and Macmillan.

That would be a mistake, writes Scott Turow, a bestselling author, a lawyer, and head of the Authors Guild. In an update on the Authors Guild website, he writes:

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: Given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets.

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10/15/2011

The Transubstantiation of the Printed Word


Physical bookshelf space was a bottleneck … really an inefficient flaw … under the old printed word publishing model. Not only bookshelf space in the bookstores, but also bookshelf space in the homes of buyers with limited space.

There is a solution, albeit one that will be resisted by some.

This by Mark O’Connell in The New Yorker:

The Book Scrappage Scheme

In a panel discussion on the continued rise of e-books at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury Publishing made an obvious but nonetheless important point. “Print has an inherent flaw,” he said. “It needs shelf space.” It’s a truth that most readers bump up against at some point, especially those who live in small apartments and have to undertake periodic culls in order to free up space for new acquisitions. A company called 1Dollarscan, however, has come up with a somewhat radical solution to this problem. To bibliophiles, this particular cure might seem worse than the disease, but there’s no denying that it is a practical solution to a practical problem. Here’s how it works: you ship them your books, and they scan and digitize them into fully searchable PDF files before recycling the hard copies (i.e. pulping them). As the company’s name suggests, they charge a dollar for every 100 pages they digitize. The service’s appeal is obvious. You free up shelf space for new books (or for things other than books) and you get to keep the actual text itself, which you can access on a computer, tablet, e-reader, or smartphone.

1Dollarscan is the American outpost of a service called Bookscan that has been running successfully in Japan since last year. (Here’s a video of the process in action; it’s in Japanese, but you’ll get the idea.) Like most of his compatriots, the company’s founder, Yusuke Ohki, inhabits a very small living space. In 2010, he decided that his two thousand or so books were occupying more of his tiny Tokyo apartment than he was willing to put up with. He was also concerned about the prospect of his two young children being buried under an avalanche of paper and toppling shelves in the event of an earthquake. “There were lots of news in Japan that bookshelves were falling over in bookstores,” as he told Forbes, “and that people died after being stampeded by books after huge earthquakes.” He decided to scan his entire library into his iPad before getting rid of all the hard copies. Within months, he was running a company that did something similar for the paying public, and employing a staff of a hundred and twenty to do the scanning and shredding. The company took off partly on account of the Japanese e-book market lagging far behind that of the English-speaking world—murky copyright laws, higher prices, and the technical trickiness of rendering Japanese characters on e-reader screens have all been contributing factors. The fear of collapsing shelves invoked by Ohki has surely spread and intensified since the massive earthquake earlier this year; this, too, will have added to the success of his company. In a recent article on 1Dollarscan, the Economist pointed out that the reason the pages are discarded after scanning has to do with “the ambiguous borders of American copyright law.” When a book is scanned for the first time, the company does not retain a master copy; for copyright reasons, it must treat each copy as a unique item. In other words, every time they get a paperback of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” or “The Da Vinci Code,” they have to go through the entire process anew.

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08/20/2011

Coming: Legal Deposition RE E-Book Pricing, Economics of Digital Publishing and Inner Core Operations


Deposing Core Elements of the Agency Model

Class action lawsuits are growing against five major publishers plus Apple RE the infamous “agency model” (where the publisher sets the book/e-book price versus the traditional wholesale/retail model where the price is set by the sellers/retailers (?) … at least I think I have that right) 

Per publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin, who writes the great IdeaLog Blog,  the “agency” model is based on the idea that the publisher is selling to the consumer and, therefore, setting the price, and any “agent”, which would usually be a retailer but wouldn’t have to be, that creates that sale would get a “commission” from the publisher for doing so.

Or, put another way by the ABA (The American Booksellers Assoc): Under the agency model, a publisher sets a retail price for a specific book, which establishes a level playing field for all resellers.

 I have posted on the agency model several times back when it was first named … and damned if I don’t seem more confused about it now!

At any rate, the lawsuits … mostly claiming that e-book prices are being artificially inflated … and their associated costs are spiraling upward!

These details in Publishers Weekly by Andrew Albanese:

More Lawsuits Over Agency Model

A class action lawsuit over e-book pricing filed against five major publishers and Apple has begun to sprawl, with four new “copycat” lawsuits filed last week. Two suits, filed in Manhattan, add Random House as a defendant, while a third suit, also in Manhattan, adds Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Another suit was filed in Oakland, Calif. The claims and assertions of fact in each suit are nearly identical to the original suit, filed August 9 by the firm Hagens Berman: that the simultaneous introduction of the agency model by the major publishers reflects an illegal conspiracy to “artificially inflate” e-book prices.

The filing of copycat suits is very common in consumer class actions. “It is more the rule than the exception,” one class action attorney told PW. If a case is perceived to be a good one, there will be multiple filings by different firms in different courts, and the firms will then compete to see who will become lead counsel. In the coming months, the cases—and there could be more coming—will be organized, and the defendants will seek to have them moved to one court.

According to the filings, the price-fixing conspiracy occurred as Apple negotiated terms with publishers in anticipation of the 2010 iPad release. On January 27, 2010, when asked by reporters how Apple’s e-bookstore would compete with Amazon’s $9.99 price, Apple’s Steve Jobs responded that the prices “would be the same.” That public pronouncement, one suit alleges, “was a signal to Publisher Defendants that each of them had agreed to join the conspiracy.” The following day, January 28, Macmillan CEO John Sargent told Amazon of its switch to the agency model. “This would have been irrational if Macmillan had not expected its primary competitors to follow suit,” the lawsuit notes. “Acting alone, no individual publisher would be able to sustain the supra-competitive prices.” The agency model, the suit notes, effectively ended “retailer discretion” for e-book pricing.

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06/24/2011

E-Books … A Major Shakeup is Coming … Stirred By the Wizard


The Wizaed Cometh

A crossp0st today from my Writers Welcome Blog  (WWB)… One I feel is interesting and important enough to promulgate to those that may not follow WWB:

Pottermore.com is coming! … And bringing with it a real time, online lab that should flush out issues like e-book pricing, eliminating digital booksellers (i.e. Amazon) as the middleman, acceptance of a common format (i.e. ePub) acceptable to all devices across all platforms.

Phewwww! What a statement. Sounds like rocket science when it’s only common sense.

This strategically, ingenious concept will force a faster solution to many bottlenecks created by the various device manufacturers and digital booksellers trying to kidnap the market for its own exclusive profit.

This could only be brought by something so popular and powerful unto itself that it would lend itself to an exclusive sales site, with its own rules, that would draw people away from the status quo.

That power is Harry Potter!

This from paidContent.org by Laura Hazard Owen:

Three Ways Pottermore.com Could Change Book Publishing

After a suspenseful buildup, J. K. Rowling has announced that Pottermore.com will be an e-bookstore, exclusively selling Harry Potter e-books and digital audiobooks. Pottermore could shake up digital publishing as much as the Harry Potter books first shook up print publishing over a decade ago. Here’s how.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) will be cut out as the middleman and could be forced to open up the Kindle to new book-publishing formats. Pottermore.com does not officially launch until October, and right now many details are still unclear. But we know that the site will be the only place to buy Harry Potter e-books and that they will be compatible with a range of devices. Rowling stressed that selling the books directly “means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience and at the same time,” and Pottermore CEO Rod Henwood told The Bookseller, “We want to make sure anyone who buys it can read it on any device. We are talking to the Kindles, the Apples, the Googles, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) to make sure they are compatible. We set the pricing, we maintain the policy of making them available to as many readers as possible.”

We don’t know if that means that Pottermore.com will be selling multiple editions of the Harry Potter books—in the Kindle format, say, alongside formats like EPUB—but it seems more likely that the site would sell e-books in just one format, probably EPUB. Right now, the Kindle doesn’t support the EPUB format. But if any author could get Amazon to change its policy, it’s J. K. Rowling. The Kindle has the largest market share of any e-reader in the U.S.—it’s believed to be between 60 and 65 percent—and it would be an incredibly dumb move for Amazon not to allow the Harry Potter e-books to be read on its device. The company would risk losing users to the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo, and other devices that do support EPUB.

In fact, rumors that Amazon is going to start supporting EPUB have been floating around for awhile now, mainly in association with the news that the Kindle will support library lending this fall. Amazon should probably get on the EPUB train by July 31, when Pottermore.com is going to be opened up to a select million users.

Interesting experiments with pricing. Since Rowling is selling the e-books directly, she can do what she wants with pricing. Her UK publisher, Bloomsbury, and her U.S. publisher, Scholastic, are getting a cut, but these books are being …

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04/17/2011

Ebook Sales Up 202% Over Last Year – Now King Format for American Publishing


Announcing King Ebook Format!

The digital revolution has caught up with, stomped and overtaken traditional publishing (TP) according to the latest report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

AND, this conquering of TP has occurred one year earlier than previously forecasted by industry analysts! How bout them apples?

Of course, anyone who wasn’t in denial saw this coming…the crowning of the e-book as the single bestselling format in American publishing. We just didn’t see it charging so fast!

Welcome, King “E”…how can we serve thee? Or, better yet, how will you serve us? Cheaper prices, faster delivery, more publishing opportunities, etc., etc.? 

I sincerely hope there is an infusion of real money in there somewhere…

Now these details from T3, The Gadget Website:

Ebook sales overtake US paperbacks for the first time

US figures show huge consumer demand for e-readers 

The digital revolution continues apace in the old-tech world of publishing. In the US, the eBook has become the single bestselling format in American publishing for the first time, a year ahead of analysts forecasts.
 
The report from the Association of American Publishers, showed February’s eBook sales were $90.3m (£55.2m), compared to $81.2m (£49.8m) in paperbacks, a leap of 202.3% on the same time last year. Philip Jones, deputy editor of the Bookseller, believes that the UK is set to follow the US trend in the take-up of the technology, “the UK are a year behind but they are catching up quite fast.”

Despite the challenge of the rapidly expanding tablet market, many of which come pre-loaded with an e-reader, the figures show standalone eBook readers have carved out an important niche in a hugely competitive marketplace. Their popularity is down to choice – there are over a million free books on the Amazon Kindle – as well as a lower price-point than tablets, speedy downloads and portability.

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03/14/2011

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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