Go Read This | With 2 million members, Storybird is ‘reverse-engineering’ the picture book

A very nice, very smart, very exciting idea:

Initially, Ury and his cofounder, Kaye Puhlmann (both formerly consumer experience designers for digital ad agencies; Ury has worked with clients like Apple, Nike and Starbucks), imagined that families would be the primary users of the site. “Parents reading on the iPad to their kids in bed,” Ury said. Parents and kids are indeed using Storybird — “and a lot of people create stories almost as extended greeting cards,” Ury said — but it turns out the largest demographic is teachers and students. Over 125,000 schools are now on Storybird, with teachers issuing assignments to students and using the site in the classroom to help kids with their writing skills. The most recent demographic — and “the most voracious,” according to Ury — is teen and tween girls. “They are using it for what I’d almost call conversation and communication,” he added, sharing images and messages with each other online “the same way you might use Tumblr.”

via With 2 million members, Storybird is ‘reverse-engineering’ the picture book — paidContent.

Go Read This | Smashwords: Smashwords Supports EPUB Uploads With Smashwords Direct

One of the things I think Smashwords has gotten right is their start with Word focus of conversions. It makes SO much more sense than building ebooks from crazily complex design platforms. With the launch of Smashwords Direct, the company has bowed to pressure, but Mark offers a rather nice defence of the “Meatgrinder” tool that Smashword’s has used to date (and will continue to use:

Meatgrinder has been vilified and demonized over the years, despite its proven ability to produce high-quality ebooks.  Although Meatgrinder’s not perfect, some of the criticism has been unfair.  Many authors have needlessly avoided Smashwords out of misplaced fear. 

One author volunteered that they’d heard such horror stories of Meatgrinder from their publisher that they kept their books off of Smashwords for that reason.  That’s really unfortunate, both for the author and Smashwords, because the vast majority of Smashwords authors have received professional-quality results with Meatgrinder.  Our Meatgrinder-generated Premium Catalog books are pleasing millions of readers each month with rarely a complaint.  Our retailers have told us in the past that our books have dramatically lower failure rates (measured in the fraction of a percent) compared to others.  This tells me many authors who have avoided Smashwords out of misplaced fear have unnecessarily missed out on up to five years of sales and platform-building opportunity.  I suppose if there’s a silver lining to the launch of Smashwords Direct, it’s that maybe we can help writers do the right thing (achieve full Smashwords distribution) for the wrong reason (availability of Smashwords Direct).

via Smashwords: Smashwords Supports EPUB Uploads With Smashwords Direct.

Apple: Some Skepticism And A Jaundiced Eye

I’m constantly amazed at how easy it is for Apple to generate publicity, rumour and spin for its forthcoming product and service launches. On occasion, I’ve been as guilty as everyone else when it comes to this.

The one rolling in tomorrow has generated considerable coverage and is variously supposed to involve new authoring tools for ebooks, a revolution in the text-book industry or new distribution routes for self publishers.

Of course that is all fine except that there are some pretty good authoring tools for ebooks, not to mention many fine companies supplying such services. There are already several companies pursing the text-book market with a view towards radical change. Apple’s ebook distribution platform is frankly lacking (how many companies could get away with providing direct access to their self-publishing services ONLY to those who have a MAC*) so I hope personally that they decide to improve that side of their operation. Looking at their marketing image and text, I reckon I’ll be disappointed.

It is possible that Apple will launch something revolutionary tomorrow but I doubt it. I can’t help but feel though that Apple seems to be seen as a white knight by commentators inside and outside of the book publishing industry.

This is almost completely unlike Amazon, a company that has TRULY revolutionized the book publishing industry (or rather rode the wave of the changes revolutionizing the book publishing industry like no-one else), but is becoming the favourite target for attacks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Amazon apologist (In fact I pointed to their long game fairly early on) I just think we need to keep our heads and a fairly hefty dollop of skepticism in hand when we discuss Apple. It has an impressive track record of being right, but its victories are Apple’s and rarely (except as a handy by-product) anyone else’s.

Keep that in mind tomorrow,
Eoin

* Yes, I know you can use an aggregator, but please, why is this a restriction?

Go Read This | Will print and ebook publishers ultimately be doing the same books? – The Shatzkin Files

Mike Shatzkin looks at the current realities of ebooks and print books and what is happening. I think we are only a few months shy of encountering the kind of events I describe here, at least in the US:

In fact, the current improvement in the profit picture suggests that the big houses have done a remarkably good job of managing the transition from print to digital so far. What is implied by the reported numbers, but receiving little attention, is that print sales are down pretty dramatically. Print runs are down with one trade house telling me that their midlist non-fiction first printings having typically declined by 40%. A larger house suggested that the print being shipped from their warehouse is down 35% in less than two years. I’m not close to the numbers but that might mean that for segments of their list shipments are half what they were less than two years ago.

Smaller press runs mean higher unit costs for printing and binding but they also mean fewer units are sharing the cost of design and page make-up. Many of the fixed overheads in publishing houses: warehouses, production departments, catalog creation, and lots of IT, are really only necessary to support the print component of the business. For the past two decades, commercial success in book publishing and, as the demise of Borders has made clear, in book retailing depended on an efficient supply chain. Being in stock but not overstocked, shipping quickly, being able to get fast turnaround on reprints, processing returns promptly to facilitate collecting accounts receivable, and providing accurate data to accounts as well as to internal stakeholders all require investment but generate value that shows up in

via Will print and ebook publishers ultimately be doing the same books? – The Shatzkin Files.

Go Read This | Angry Robot 12 Month Subscription – angryrobotstore.com

The first thing to say about this is that it’s incredibly cheap. £69 for lots of books is good, by any measures. The second is that it’s incredibly smart. The third that I’d expect this to be the first of many such plans offered by small, medium AND large publishers.

The thing about subscription plans though, and this is more a note to watch for future activity, is that they are of greatest benefit the readers when they cover a very wide number of titles. I’d expect the subscription selection to increase, even if at the same time the number of downloads permitted is reduced. That growth could come either by acquisition, publication or partnership with other science-fiction and fantasy genre publishers. What’s more, as the list grows, it would be very sensible to sub-divide the list along more niche lines (and maybe even charge more):

A 12 Month Subscription to Angry Robot Titles – download your first titles, now!

Every new Angry Robot title between now and 12 months from now.

That’s a minimum of 24 eBooks for one, small, up-front price!

We publish a minimum of 24 new eBooks a year, and you can get every one of these over the next 12 months for the price, indicated. We publish 2 books most months, none in December, but usually 3 in April and September.

If we publish more than 24 books between the start and end of your subscription, you will get those free of charge. Omnibus editions and re-releases are not included as part of your subscription.

via Angry Robot 12 Month Subscription – angryrobotstore.com.