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.

Go Read This | Exclusive: Amazon Has Sold Over Two Million Kindle Singles | paidContent

See what I mean when I say gold? I’ve long felt that by far the biggest weapon in Amazon’s arsenal (after the platform itself) is the self publishing/publishing abilities of the platform which is a while new kind of threat for publishers and one that is becoming much more real and present a danger than just the shift to digital:

Amazon says that in the 14 months the program has been running, it has sold over two million Kindle Singles. Seventy percent of each sale goes to the author or publisher, and Amazon keeps 30 percent. Amazon wouldn’t disclose its total revenues from those two million singles, but the minimum price of a Single is $0.99 and most are $1.99 (the author or publisher sets the price). So with an average price of $1.87 multiplied by two million, a rough estimate of Amazon’s 30-percent cut is $1.12 million. (How much are some authors making? See our post later this morning.)

via Exclusive: Amazon Has Sold Over Two Million Kindle Singles | paidContent.

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?

Kobo: Publishing, Self-Publishing And Getting Bought

When Kobo announced that they were planning on becoming a publisher I meant to write  a post that said something to the effect of:

That makes sense, in fact it’s essential to their survival. What’s also essential is that they open their publishing platform to writers, and allow them to self-publish their work just as Amazon and B&N do.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble are having considerable success for a variety of reasons, but an important and, I think, underplayed aspect of that success is built on allowing authors to access their platforms.

In many ways, Kindle has become the international ebook platform of choice for writers because it has been the easiest platform to self publish through.

Other platforms have made it difficult to do the same, for instance you MUST use a mac to access the self-publishing abilities on for Apple’s iBooks (seems crazy to me). B&N, despite attractions, has Byzantine rules about providing US Bank Accounts, US Credit Cards and US Social Security Numbers before being allowed self-publish and the only other viable route to it and other markets are via Smashwords (lucky for Smashwords who do a great job) or one of the more expensive aggregators.

I suspect that if you are going to try the ebook market as a way to sell your work and Amazon make it easy (and they do) then you will push their system to your readers helping to spread the word of Kindle rather than the word of ebooks in general.

Of course you could counter by saying that it’s the quality that matters and so we deal with top publishers. That’s fine, but, I suspect, wrong.

Then I read, with some surprise I must admit, that the company (Kobo) has been sold. I hope for Kobo’s sake that the change in ownership doesn’t result in a change of priorities.

I want them to unveil their self-publishing platform and fast. The battle for position in the ebook market is really fierce and while as I argued many moons ago Ebooks Are A Cul de Sac, right now they are the most interesting game in town. Any delay for Kobo\s plans means another chance for Amazon or B&N to sneak a march on them. If B&N’s flagged move out of the US happens soon, you can expect them to ease the restrictions they place on foreign self-publishers opening an easier route to market for many writers*.

It seems clear to me that not having an open and easy to use system to facilitate self publishing is now a damaging and foolish business decision for an ebook platform.

Great chat today with interesting people!
Eoin

* I should add that the KDP is also a godsend for many small independent publishers like my own The Irish Story.

Go Read This | Agents have to do it, but their new service offerings change the publishing ecosystem – The Shatzkin Files

Interesting note from Mike Shatzkin this:

Many of the agents, but not Waxman with Diversion, are specifying that their services are only for existing agency clients. That’s a good way of putting a toe in the water and it’s a good way to minimize the concern of publishers. But it’s not likely to last as the policy for any of them that do this kind of work successfully. If their ebook publishing services actually work and the business is shifting in that direction, why would you turn down an opportunity that came from outside the client base. Why would you turn down the opportunity to offer the same suite of services to all the clients of some other agency that doesn’t want to build this themselves? (That’s an opportunity almost certain to arise for all of them.)

Publishers are also working on self-publishing services. Distributors have been noodling for some time about packaging these services for agents. Knight has promised to do a lot, including a substantial per-book investment, for 15% of the revenue. Are any of these other players now going back to the drawing board to reconsider their pricing? I would think so.

via Agents have to do it, but their new service offerings change the publishing ecosystem – The Shatzkin Files.