On The Media Show

I recorded a piece about ebooks, digital change and self publishing for the media show last week. It’s right at the top of the show and I think it went pretty well:

There’s also a fascinating piece with the editor of the Irish Independent talking about the digital change going on at Independent (kicks off around 13.00 mins or so) and Brian Fallon from Distilled media talking about TheJournal.ie and the other brands in that group.

Go Read This | Random House Digital Imprints | It’s a duck!

No punches pulled by Mick Rooney here:

But what really pisses me off about all this is the amount of hours expended by pundits, experts and online commentators, with their heads stuck under the hood of self-publishing, happy to throw virtual shapes, pontificate and moralise on the cracks and leaks and woes of every self-publishing service provider. When in reality, over the last couple of years, some of the most egregious and contemptible entries into the world of self-publishing have actually come direct from—or under the guise and umbrella of—traditional publishers.

It is no wonder so many new authors want to completely bypass the traditional route of publishing when faced with the horrible deal on the table from Random House? As far as The Independent Publishing Magazine is concerned, Random House is now fully in the self-publishing arena in all but name.

via The Independent Publishing Magazine: Random House Digital Imprints | It’s a duck!.

Go Read This | The Changes Nook Media Must Make | Mike Cane’s xBlog

I will never understand why B&N has not aggressively grown PubIt beyond the US and even there seems to be content to glide rather than soar. Mike Cane get’s it:

Use those storefronts to pimp PubIT! Get the writers in your inventory, as Amazon has done with KDP.

Hold sessions that teach writers how they can create for and publish their books on PubIT. That’s a strategic advantage that Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Google cannot match. No print publisher can match it, either. Why hasn’t this been done from the start? I don’t know. But it needs to be done now. Nook Media can have books that Barnes & Noble will never have — because they are e-only.

via The Changes Nook Media Must Make | Mike Cane’s xBlog.

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 | After viral e-book, Iowa author inks seven-figure deal | The Des Moines Register | DesMoinesRegister.com

I wonder how long before we stop reading these types of stories, either because it has become so established a route to publishing success that it’s not worthy of comment or because no author would be crazy enough to do the deal?

I suspect publishers will just have to keep paring back their at operations edges (the fat if you will, though i sure in some cases they’ll be cutting muscle) in order to offer enough cash and royalties to sink these deals:

“It’s life-changing,” said Graves, who chronicled her path from rejection to viral e-book sensation last month in the Des Moines Register. “I’m happy for my good fortune and humbled by it. I’m not sure what happened.”

What happened is this: The 45-year-old Clive mother of two rose before the sun and work at Wells Fargo every day and tapped out a steamy novel about a 30-year-old English teacher shipwrecked on an island with a 16-year-old student. She was rejected by 40 book agents and 14 traditional publishers so she spent $1,500 for editing and formatting and posted the e-book on Amazon.com. It sold only 100 copies in the first month, then took off by word of mouth and thousands of positive online reviews from readers.

A paperback was offered and by last week the title rose to No. 7 for e-books and print sales combined on the New York Times best-seller list.

via After viral e-book, Iowa author inks seven-figure deal | The Des Moines Register | DesMoinesRegister.com.