Germany

Amazon Steals Everyone’s Thunder Again (But Quietly)

Fascinatingly clever (if predictable in many ways) move from Amazon to extend the reach of its Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) to the UK, Germany and France. By doing so it demonstrates very clearly that it is Amazon who is really driving the pace of development in ebook adoption and ebook retail. What’s more, it is making clear that its rivals are struggling to match its services to authors and readers within their own ecosystems. As the focus of ebook growth moves rapidly beyond the USA (has moved already in truth), Amazon is making the case for giving it exclusivity even more compelling.

Amazon.com, Inc. today announced that the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is coming to the UK, Germany and France later this month, bringing Kindle owners with a Prime membership over 200,000 books to borrow for free as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates. Independent authors and publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing KDP who enroll their books in KDP Select can be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library in the UK, Germany and France, as well as the US. With the new lending libraries launching this month, the KDP Select fund has been increased by $100,000 to $700,000 in October, with a larger increase anticipated in November. Authors will earn money every time their book is borrowed from any of the lending libraries – in September, authors earned $2.29 per borrow, which is more than many KDP books earn per sale.

via Amazon Media Room: Press Releases.

What amazes me the most about this move is just how dangerous it is for the ebook retailing rivals who have yet to open their doors to self-published content. In reality only Kobo has a fully functional platform for self publishing authors beyond the USA (Apple does too, but only to the extent that those who have a nice Mac can access their iBookstore, but not everyone has a Mac).

Nook’s platform is US only, though the talk is that this will change soon, the longer B&N & Microsoft exclude non-US citizens from the service, the longer Amazon has to lock in exclusive content for three months at a time. It’s not that the content individually is necessarily compelling, but given the wide field of talent in question, some is sure to be winning material, even if much of it isn’t great. The trick is, of course, that Amazon is armed with the tools to sort, grade and sift through this mass of titles and to promote, suggest and even work with the best (or just the most saleable, let’s not forget that the goal is money-making not literature spreading).

I’ve talked before about how important authors are to the success of an epublishing platform and ecosystem. Sometimes I think the retailers agree with me on this, other times I think they only pay lip service to the idea. Perhaps that’s a lingering snobbery regarding self publishing authors (which is foolish, idiotic and wrong-headed in an age when some of the biggest writers are rapidly moving towards self publishing, are already self publishing or have emerged from the self publishing space). Perhaps it is a desire to avoid dealing with so many small accounts and the headaches of customer service and platform development that entails. Who knows, but the longer these ecosystems remain closed shops to direct author engagement the larger a lead they allow Amazon to build up on them.

Every author Amazon signs up for KOLL is three months of exclusive sales for Amazon, three months lost revenue for their rivals. More importantly it is three months of sales data and analysis for Amazon that no-one else will have. That’s especially important when a title is loaded into KDP & KOLL for the first time, before getting a look in elsewhere. What will happen when one of those sign ups turns out to be the next EL James? What will happen is that Amazon will sign that author up directly, before the KOLL period ends and the game, for that author, is up for the other platforms.

It is not just dangerous to rival retailers though. If Amazon succeeds in convincing enough authors that KDP & KOLL are the way forward and along with them, exclusivity, companies like Smashwords and other aggregators of self published content will be put in the position of having to justify their offering. As long as a vibrant market for content persists of course (and despite this move, we do have a vibrant market for content) everyone has room to move and grow.

So yes, this move is illuminating, it suggests that Amazon is still the pace setter and is capable of moving faster and more aggressively than anyone else (still, after five years). Kobo has started something of a price war for self published authors though, by offering a higher royalty to authors who use their self publishing platform. If this keeps self publishing writers committed to an non-exclusive policy then it will have been a wise move. I’m sure it is a smart response from a smart company, even if it is one that admits to a certain weakness in terms of the capability of their platform, but then competition doesn’t (and indeed shouldn’t) always mean matching your rivals move, but finding clever and novel ways to best them where your strengths lie.

What that in mind, Kobo and other Amazon rivals would do well to pay attention to Baldur Bjarnason‘s piece on FutureBook about how Ebook publishing platforms are a joke, pay attention that is and offer some of the services he mentions to self publishers asap.

Go Read This | Following Germany, Google Play Now Goes Live in Spain | Publishing Perspectives

For me, this news illustrates a number of the trends I’ve been thinking of recently in ebooks.

  • The key players are now (generally speaking) larger than publishers and booksellers (at least traditional publishers and booksellers).
  • There are many moves left in this game and declaring a victor anytime soon seems like folly to me. Any number of players could come to the front (and fall back again too).
  • Strategically, everybody except Amazon benefits from loosening of drm restrictions and sites like Play make the most sense in open environments. in fact Google’s whole book play seems to be founded on the premise of the ebook market moving towards drm free selling of ebooks.
  • The notion of reading/books as a standalone activity is becoming much diluted and it is being placed much more squarely in the entertainment continuum which has both positive and negative implications.

The store opens with what perhaps is the best selection of titles in the Spanish digital market, and includes most of the big and medium sized publishers, such as Grupo Santillana, Roca Editorial, Random House Mondadori, Grupo SM, Grupo RBA, Grupo Edebé, Grupo Planeta, and on…

Midnight or no, people have already started to download books and Fifty Shades of Grey is thankfully not among the most favored by readers, although the wee hours of the night would seem perfect for the mommy-porn novel by E. L. James. The average price of books downloaded most often thus far are below five euros, underscoring habits imposed by competing e-tailer Amazon.

via Following Germany, Google Play Now Goes Live in Spain | Publishing Perspectives.

Kobo Launches Germany’s Largest E-Bookstore, Beating Out Amazon | paidContent

I’d expect this to test three things:

  1. As Kobo and Amazon compete in Germany and push greater awareness of their deices, will the greater availability of devices that will create drive ebook uptake
  2. Fixed pricing means that self published books will have a huge pricing advantage if the authors chose to use it. Will self published ebooks begin to gain more purchase in Germany because of that?
  3. Now that you can reach German consumers on multiple platforms digitally, will there be more translation of foreign language texts into German for digital sale?

There’s more of course, but those are the ones that interest me.

Kobo—and presumably Amazon—chose to expand to Germany first because the German book market is the second-largest in the world, after the U.S. E-books are still gaining traction there and in the rest of Europe, and “it’s a market where local experience matters,” Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis told us. “Creating a locally merchandised offering with local recommendations was key.” He said Kobo employees have been working with German publishers to add titles to the store for over six months. The company is also in discussions with German retailers and booksellers and will soon announce local partners. Book prices in Germany are fixed, with all e-book prices set by publishers.

Kobo is simultaneously launching German-language iOS and Android apps, and will launch its German-language E-Reader Touch in August, for €149. $208.23/£131.51 An international version of the Kindle, which costs €139, $194.25/£122.69 is available in Germany and other countries, but it has English-language menus and an English keyboard.

via Kobo Launches Germany’s Largest E-Bookstore, Beating Out Amazon | paidContent.

Go Read This | Why Multichannel Bookselling is the Future | Publishing Perspectives

I’ve been struck by how many booksellers are doing well by selling ebook readers. A casual comment hit me over the weekend when someone mentioned that the falling prices of non-branded ereaders was impacting overall revenues. That goes to show the value of owning the device as well as the channel to sell content on the device. On the other hand, it must be painful for bookshop staff to be selling devices that will ultimately close the majority of bookstores!

E-book-news.de recently reported that Thalia’s e-reader, the Oyo sold unexpectedly well in stores, not online. People wanted to touch and try out the readers. But once those Oyo readers are in use, their sales will be exclusively online, and it’s hard to imagine their e-books won’t cut into store sales you don’t have to go to a Thalia store to pick up your online purchase, which cuts out an important opportunity to buy stationary and a toy!, or that a more e-reader-educated generation might not be comfortable buying the readers online in the first place.

via Why Multichannel Bookselling is the Future | Publishing Perspectives.

Frankfurt 2010

I’m leaving Dublin this afternoon for Frankfurt, Germany to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010.

This year I have a busier schedule than I had originally imagined I would, but a fun one nonetheless with some downtime too (though perhaps not enough).

Tuesday sees talks at both O’Reilly’s smashing Tools Of Change Frankfurt-2010 and Canada Livres’ International Rights Seminar.

I’ll be talking about The Irish Story and what small (and large) publishers can learn, do and plan for based on it. In many was it is a talk about the practical side of my Pecha Kucha speech at Tools Of Change 2009.

At Canada Livres, I’m taking a slightly different look at things, from a more theoretical direction, but with some practical advice for publishers, remembering too that Canada and Ireland are both alike and very different.

On top of that I’ll be meeting publishers from near and far and reporting for Irish Publishing News. You can follow my Tweets which will be tagged #fbf10 for the fair and #tocf10 for Tools Of Change, not sure what the Canada Livres hash-tag is but as soon as I have it, I will update.
I’m looking forward to it.

If you are around, see you in Frankfurt.
Eoin

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Image Credit, Danny Sullivan (via Flickr), Attribution 2.0

iBooks For The iPod Touch Quick Review

iBooks I posted the news part of this over on Irish Publishing News but I thought I add some thoughts about it here, where I’m free to comment.

The News Bit
Apple‘s iBooks program is now available for download for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but only after users update their iPhone & iPod Touch operating systems to the new iOS4.

Irish readers do not yet have access to paid titles in Apple’s iBookstore, the iTunes for books, but they can download free Project Gutenberg ebooks to the iPod or iPhone and can also read the free Winnie The Pooh ebook that comes pre-loaded in Apple’s iBooks.

Read The Rest

The Review Bit
First things first, iBooks on my iPod Touch is terribly slow. Slow to load the bookself, slow to load a book once clicked on and slow to respond to gestures. I’m used to that though, I find pretty much all ereading software on the Touch slow. It’s one of my major issues with ereading.

Once you get over that it has some decent features, the Dictionary, Highlight, Note and Search features for instance are pretty damn good and invoked fairly easily. I like them all and find them useful. I expect much more so with books other than Winne The Pooh.

And it’s there that my biggest problem arises. Right now all I can get is free Project Gutenberg ebooks and the free Winnie The Pooh book provided by Apple. Hopefully when the iPad goes on sale we will actually see some recent or new books for sale. There is no word yet on iPad pricing in Ireland but we can assume that it will be close to the price in France and Germany, €499.

The actual reading experience is not noticeably different to Amazon’s Kindle App, certainly not good enough to make me change unless the selection and price is worth the discomfort. Overall I’d say that iBooks is adequate, no better or worse than pretty much all the other ereading software for the Touch. Maybe that will change once I actually use the iPad itself rather than iBooks on the Touch.

Waiting seems to be the theme of the day!
Eoin

The iPad Hits The UK (and some other places too)

It’s on sale now!
The company’s website is warning that iPad orders made now will not be sent out until 7 June. It sold more than 1m iPads in the US in the first 100 days after the April launch, making it a faster seller than the iPhone.
Here

Welcome to Agency Town
After weeks of no-comment the three publishers finally released statements on their move to the Apple agency model at 10am today at Apple’s request, though The Bookseller broke the news an hour earlier.
Here

Consumers will do what consumers will do
But John Herbert, 42, city analyst, said: “It does books? I might in the end read e-books on it, but it’s not my main reason for getting one. I’m thinking about movies, music, the web; something for the commute, really
Here

Available on the island, just not the southern end of it
APPLE ENTHUSIASTS in Ireland will be able to get their hands on the iPad from today as it goes on sale in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.
Here

Tom Tivnan love iBooks
my first thought on iBooks: yeah, this is the real deal. Miles ahead of the Sony Reader, Kindle or any other e-reader on the market. I have been reading e-books on the iPhone, but the far bigger size of the screen adds a new dimension. The ‘flip’ page technology is smooth and comes as close to a real book experience as you are likely to get digitally. After having a look at this, I can’t really see anyone ever wanting a monochrome e-reader.
Here

The FT injects some reality, which is nice!
In other words, analysts trying to calculate the iPad’s prospects in Europe would do well to remember that the continent’s patchwork of publishers and local laws make simple pan-European deals unlikely. Apple’s relatively small European team has been advertising for publisher account managers. On the evidence so far, they will be busy.
Here

And so does Charlie Brooker
I doubt many readers will persevere to the final page of a novel, unless it’s a book in which the lead character squints a lot, in which case you’ll have a certain empathy.
Here

Mediabistro & publishing perspective’s Edward Nawotka throw out interesting thoughts
Nawotka concluded: “The Europeans tend to be more conservative. It’s taken them somewhat longer to get into eBooks. You can see that reflected in the way they dealt with the iPad launch. It’s no secret that this is going to be a trendsetting device. I’m getting pictures in from Australia, the UK, and Germany–the Apple Stores are just thronged. A lot of the publishers just waited until the last minute to sign up and get their stuff ready.”
Here

And we have an early bestseller!
Chris Evans’ memoir, It’s Not What You Think (HarperCollins), is the early ebook bestseller at Apple’s iBookstore. The book, recently released in a mass-market format with an r.r.p. of £7.99 has been selling at around £5.20 at UK bookshops on average in recent weeks. But at a bargain £3.99, the ebook has shot to the top of the UK iBooks chart.
Here