Book Depository Free Ebooks


The wonderful people over at The Book Depository have rolled out a free ebook program. Kieron Smith, Managing Director of The Book Depository, said [in their press release]:

We wanted to give our customers a really wonderful present this Christmas. We’re continually working to increase the number of books that we have available on our website – 2.4 million at present, which is an unparalled number. Ebooks are much talked about at the moment but difficult for people to try, this gives people a chance to experiment, read something new and try ebooks all at no risk and free of charge.
We’ve not launched ebooks for sale as yet, but will do soon, this promotion is a great way for us to start talking to our customers about what they want from the format.

Quite wonderfully in my opinion, the program uses PDF. After all most people who don’t know anything about ebooks, know about PDF and feel confident in downloading them. I think the ebook program is nicely executed. It is smooth, fits into the rest of the site where you would expect it and offers something very interesting to readers.

I’m hoping this also drives print sales for The Book Depository’s Dodo Press. I’ve downloaded these two (1,2) for free, what will you get?

Lots to enjoy here,
Eoin

Publishing success in Ireland, Part One

Eoin Purcell

The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz
The bestsellers at London City Airport - DSCN3939 From Flick User Larsz

The votes are in and the numbers have been crunched
You have to love Polldaddy for that. It might have been nice to poll a few more votes given the rather huge traffic the post got but then, you never expect everyone who actually arrives to take action. Based on a sample of 91 in an incredibly unscientific study here is what I know readers of this blog think about success in the Irish book market:

1) A remarkable 82% believe that sales have to be 4,000 or above before they would be considered a success
2) A paltry 12% think 1,000 is a good marker
3) Most amazingly a full 21% voted for over 10,000 units as a measure of success.

The results from the Polldaddy poll
The results from the Polldaddy poll

And where do I stand?
Well the Irish Consumer Market (ICM) has some great data sources, the most important being Nielsen Bookscan. I base my thoughts on success around the yearly Top 1000 titles. Did a book in year of release make it into that select group. And in case you think that it is not a select group consider these stats from 2008:

1) Value of the entire ICM in 2008 €165,357,704.81, value of the Top 1000 in 2008 €53,351,537.91 or 32.26% of the market

2) Volume sold in the entire ICM in 2008 13,952,693, volume of the Top 1000 wold in 2008 4,691,181 or 33.6%

3) Top 1000 ISBNS as a percentage of the recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008: 0.36% (ie there were 278,782 recognised ISBNS in the ICM in 2008)

So even though they accounted for only .36% of the books available to buy, the Top 1000 represented 33.6% of the Volume and 32.2% of the value. That is pretty select.

Some more context
Before I go into details, I’ll unpack that a bit. The Irish consumer market panel includes the large chains (easons, Hughes etc), most of the medium and small chains (Waterstones, Book Centres, Dubray) a flurry of independents and some of the Supermarkets. That has some peculiar effects. For one thing depending on the type of book you selling it can either grossly understate your sales (this is especially true for a very local title or for a title with an extremely heavy independent and local bookshop bias to its sales pattern. Equally, if a title is VERY commercial and likely to suffer heavy price promotion and discounts, the results tend to look better versus the rest of the market because unlike the majority of books, these titles tend to be bought almost exclusively from outlets that report to the Nielsen panel.

So with that in mind a general rule of thumb is to add another 30% to the sales of titles that fall into the local/independent bias to think in terms of REAL sales for those titles. I’m not going to do that here, but it is a useful piece of information (at least until more indies join the panel and begin to send data to Nielsen).

And the numbers per book?
Based on 2008 a book made it into the Top 1000 with 1,879 units of sales. The 1000 book in 2008 was Poetry Now: Ordinary Level. The top title sold 51,777 units and somewhat unsurprisingly was This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.

Admittedly that is quiet a range: 1,879-51,777. Anywhere within that is a very creditable performance. For instance:

The 900th Best-selling book, The Last Lecture By Randy Pausch sold 2,005
The 800th Best-selling book, New Europe By Michael Palin sold 2,194
The 700th Best-selling book, World War II: Behind Closed Doors By Laurence Ress sold 2,434
The 600th Best-selling book, The Irish Discovery Map of Wicklow, Dublin, Kildare sold 2,662
The 500th Best-selling book, Filthy Rich by Wendy Holden, sold 2,994
The 400th Best-selling book, The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford, sold 3,430
The 300th Best-selling book, Better Than Sex: My Autobiography by Mick Fitzgerald, sold 4,321
The 200th Best-selling book, A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern, sold 5,612
The 100th Best-selling book, The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, sold 8,287

What can we take from this?
In short, the quantities, even in the top 1000 remain fairly small. In fact, you only get into double figures at the 75th best-selling book. You don’t see anything over 15,000 until the 43rd best-selling book. There are no titles selling over 20,000 until the 27th best-selling book and over 30,000 doesn’t happen until the 9th best-selling book.

Is there more?
But just looking at the raw numbers means very little. What genres lead the way in the Top 1000? Are their secrets hidden in the numbers? Which publisher has the best strategy? Is there an Irish publisher who dominates the list? What publisher operates outside the list? Well the next post in this series will look at some of those patterns and try and drill down into the best strategies ti adopt to achieve healthy sales and how to break through the noise and into the Top 1000.

This is fun is it not?
Eoin

All your base are belong to AMAZON

Eoin Purcell

Sometimes you get tired of being outmaneuvered

In some senses, what Amazon launched yesterday with Amazon Encore is neither that amazing a project, after all there have been several small-press or self-published titles taken on board by large publishers as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, nor is it even that innovative, Authonomy is at its core a way to tap the self published and slush-piled manuscripts out there in the wild.

But the key point is that this moves Amazon directly into the role of publisher as James Bridle makes clear on his post on the topic:

It’s been a while coming, but some of us have been predicting this move for some time: Amazon have finally made it to the penultimate step on the publishing chain. I say penultimate, because although they are now, by any definition, a publisher, they still appear to be cherry-picking from existing books rather than seeking out their own authors.

I think this move suggests a couple of key questions:

    1. 1) Who benefits most from this (and conversely who hurts the most because of it)?
    1. 2) Can it be extended?
    1. 3) Will there be a reaction?

First, Cui bono

On the face of it, this seems like an amazing opportunity for the author, reading her Amazon blog she certainly seems happy. Amazon’s platform (and as Personanondata point out platform is pretty key) allows for so many things that the average (or small press) publisher cannot. View for instance the neat homemade (and windy) video that amazon have on the main product page. The extra push that Amazon can give a product is really impressive. It will certainly be interesting to see how this works. I think it is fair to say then that the author gets a fair shake of this tail, though it would be interesting to see how the royalties split out.

As for the publisher who backed the book in the first place (always assuming that this encore element remains true) the deal is a win-win. So long, that is as rights for the project were acquired to begin with. A smart author would try and retain the rights for any potential Amazon Encore deal if that was even remotely possible. but allowing for the rights being with the publisher, they will surely gain something from the deal, though if the split of revenue is as one sided as in the case of the new amazon blogs-on-kindle deal (70-30 in favour of amazon) it’ll not be a huge amount. So there is a sense that the publishers who are “chosen” will benefit. But a note of caution from two sources Personanondata & James:

Amazon as producer is a subtle but important change in the operations of the largest retailer. I often mull what would happen to some of the largest publishers if they lost their top two or three authors to Google or Amazon. It may be that the Amazon Encore program sets the stage for a much larger program by Amazon to establish their own publishing and media production operation – their content supply – that feeds their retail presence. There may be further ramifications from this seemingly innocuous press release.

Those who suggest they’ll just keep picking stuff up from the little guys hasn’t been paying attention. In the last five years Amazon have, in addition to dominating online bookselling, bought a book social network, a major print-on-demand supplier, a complete end-to-end self-publishing system, pretty much the entire used books marketplace, the biggest audiobook distributor, the best iPhone ereader, and designed, built and delivered the only truly mass-market dedicated ereading device, with a proprietary format that sets them up to be the iTunes of eBooks.*

It’s big, it’s scary, it’s Amazon. But the publishing industry is under so many different pressures at the moment, this is unlikely to be as big as it could be: Amazon don’t want to annoy their major suppliers, not too much, and not yet. They will though, and by that point, they’ll be past caring. Like Google with their ebooks programme, they’ve been given so much leeway for so long, they think they can do whatever they like, and chances are, they’re right.

So, there is a benefit but they might just eat publishers lunch next week, next month, next year or next decade!

Second, Extension

Sure this can be extended and it is clearly being set up to do so. Amazon is in a great place to carry out their program to almost any conceivable scale. That in itself should indicate that they intend to extend. If you don’t believe it look at what Barnes & Noble have done in Classics and Rediscovered titles and you will get the idea.

But add to it the previously mentioned POD set up, they wouldn’t even need to expend extra capital on print runs, they’d be able to deliver books on demand so even if a huge proportion of the titles failed, their costs would be lower than the major publishers and the bookstore publishers too. That competitive advantage would be added to the fact that they wouldn’t have to pay a retailers discount unless they were selling to the retailers themselves. In effect, aside from what the author and their agents can grab from the chain, Amazon with Encore has successfully placed itself in control of the entire value chain of which I wrote some more about last week but didn’t quite count this in.

And third, reaction

In many ways, there is nothing publishers can do. Amazon is a major customer and now (or for some time, quietly) a competitor. No action that publishers can take in the short term will change that. In order to really reacte, publishers will need to change the game with a much longer term and strategic move. So far most of the discussion seems to centre on the idea of community building and niche curating. I think this is certainly a useful suggestion though as I have mentioned before, the other arm of Amazon’s tool shed (self-publishing & POD) suggests that even that niche strategy may not be a feasible bolt hole.

Conclusion

The long and the short of it is the best reaction is to wait-and-see, to plan and to strategize and quietly (or nosily if you wish) put in place the blocks that will move your position away from an over dependence on Amazon. To that end I am pleased that Ireland is as yet somewhat immune to the Amazon leviathan. Despite our proximity to the UK market, sales through Amazon remain somewhat restrained, firstly by postage and secondly I think, by the more conservative nature of the Irish consumer who seem to be a bit slower in embracing internet retailers (not that some people aren’t taking advantage of the bargains available online).

Still tired of being outmaneuvered but thinking through how best to react in the long term.

Eoin

PS: For those who don’t get the title reference see here

rBooks just doesn’t do the business

Eoin Purcell

I don’t normally complain
But this really got me thinking today:

MakingMoney

I opened an account at rBooks just to see what it was like. I have mentioned the service before. I inidcated that I was a huge Terry Pratchett fan and when my home-page opened I was offered a massive discount on Making Money his latest book.

However there was a snag. The release date was listed as Monday 24th September so I was pre-ordering not ordering, the discount was only 20% (£15.19) and judging from the site I would have had to pay a delivery fee anyway. I would have been very disappointed had I not already bought the book in WH Smiths in Stansted airport for only £13.99 on Thursday evening on my way back to Cork!

Why hobble yourself?
Now far be it from me to tell rBooks and Random House how to sell (they do fairly well without my help) but the question does pop almost instantly into the brain, why on earth would you hobble yourself like this? If retailers are selling the book and for considerably less (in truth I nearly bought it landside, full price but in a rush to get through security left it till airside and thus saved a £5!) why wait for the official launch date to sell the book? is it some internal system thing?

Part of me likes to think that there is a reason I simply do not fathom but I suspect that there is not!


Befuddled

Eoin

PS: Had I been smart enough to wait I could have gotten it from The Book Depository @ £12.23 Delivered but it would have cost £14.47 Delivered on Amazon.co.uk.

More on O’Reilly TOC

Eoin Purcell

If you weren’t enormously envious of everyone at TOC before now . . .
(And personally I was) then you will be now. It is not just that everyone who is anyone is going, its that the discussions sound so wonderful too.

For instance the POD discussion covered on the O’Reilly XML.com pages by Simon St. Laurent:

Why? I think the basic reason is simple – I’m one of those terrible people who’s always looking for books you can’t find easily in stores. They’re out-of-print, available only from the publisher, or otherwise obscure. Ingram was my friend when I ordered through stores, and then Amazon made a lot of things easier. At O’Reilly, I want POD for all kinds of reasons, from keeping old books in print to providing a way to test out new ideas without having to print 5000 books.

I’ve been expecting POD to happen for years. I spent too much time working at Kinko’s, I guess – I’d seen books getting made, if not the fine offset books typically sold in bookstores.

So here, now, it looks like it’s finally here. Lightning Source and other printers are offering print from PDF at rates that aren’t too insanely horrible relative to offset plus the cost of warehousing.

There’s still definitely a place for offset printing – offset has great economies of scale, and if books move out quickly, then the warehousing and other distribution costs don’t matter much. Offset will probably always make sense for initial print runs of books that will sell thousands of copies in a year – but that’s actually a relatively tiny share of the total number of books out there.

You can read much much more of the detail here. At least TOC has enabled em to widen my blog count for publishing and innovation in publishing. So for that at least thank you Tim O’Reilly.

An envious book nerd.
Eoin