The long Tail

Createspace & More Book Depository

Eoin Purcell

Amazon as publisher
Createspace has been launched by Amazon and there is MUCH discussion of it.

It combines the power of a Lulu.com or a Blurb.com with Amazon retail prowess. It could be a game changer except that the cost per unit remains stubbornly high. As the Petrona blog spells out:

Amazon’s share of each sale is calculated by taking a fixed charge of $3.15 per copy, plus a charge per page ($0.02 or $0.12 per black and white or colour page, respectively), plus a percentage of the list price (30% for sales through Amazon.com). So a 100-page black and white book sold on Amazon with a list price of $25.00 would earn an author a royalty of $12.35 per sale.

If I get that right the author gets about 49.4% and Amazon the rest. For the author that is no bad deal but the 100 page books that sell at that kind of price are few and far between so the sample is a little unrealistic. A 350 page book @ $25.00 on the other hand would result in about $7.45 flowing back to the author but Amazon pocketing about $17.55. But even more realistically that book might sell for $20.00 so it would result in $3.85 for the author and $16.15 for Amazon. It is impressive capture of value on their part to be fair.

The money/success issue
I cannot decide if this is good or bad. I have previously considered the dangers Blurb and the like pose to niche publishers and feel that at that level the act as a more efficient form of self publishing. They draw borderline commercial projects out of the pool. They also ensure that self publishers can publish without getting fleeced but also do take the odd book that a publisher who specialises in limited run could have made money on.

I simply cannot make up my mind of this is big news or not. I think it is because book buyers on Amazon don’t care who published a book so long as they can get it and if there is information and good reviews a self published book is as likely to sell off it as traditionally published one.

As for the Book depository
They launched a give away! And I got one! Go there and get one if there is one left and remember it is the first of many!

Thinking long and hard
Eoin

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

Blurb to jump into Europe

Eoin Purcell

Where only Lulu.com has gone before
Blurb.com is to expend some effort in building market share in Europe according to The Book Standard:

Starting next month, the company will launch specific website improvements geared toward European users, including the option to view Blurb books in metric dimensions and see prices and buy books with local currencies. The improvements will allow international Blurb users to create, publish and ship books for less.

Important or not?
Blurb has always worried me from the perspective of a publisher. The software it provides they increasingly powerful while remaining easy to use. Whereas lulu.com provides excellent printing for your average paperback, I see blurb attacking niches.

If you read the links Thursday to this report on Trade Publishing and the importance of niches, then you will begin to understand that worry.

After all as the power to design and print books shifts from the hands of publishers and becomes decentralised why should we be able to retain the market share we currently have? Given that books published by blurb.com and lulu.com can be sold online (even at places like amazon.com & .co.uk) and distribution is being outsourced to postal and delivery services, there is no limit to what these outfits can achive if they get into the minds of niche writers.

Takeover targets I wonder?
To a degree I wonder how likely Blurb or Lulu are to survive outside of one of the larger publishers. After all their technology would be beneficial. It would enable the big houses to attach themselves to the long tail. It would also enable them to offer their own POD service and not be totally reliant on Amazon’s or other players POD arms.

Alternatively they could always replicate the infrastructure themselves. But that would cost time, money and commitment not to mention an understanding fo the market. Much better to offer employment to the founders by buy out as Google and other tech focussed companies have been for some time.

Waiting for the first for sale sign
Eoin

The Digital Tsunami

Eoin Purcell

Thoughts on digital

Watching a fascinating (if worrying) documentary the other night on Tsunamis [Yes it has been said to me that between my obsession with documentaries of all sorts, my extreme non-fiction bookshelf and my actual daily work I come close to being the real life nerd] and the potential for a devastating one in the aftermath of an earthquake in thePacific Northwest and a certain point struck me squarely. That was that the idea that the real cause of damage and change is not the initial wave front which is devastating in itself but the flow of water often at the same of slight lower levels as the initial wave front. The quote below from Wikipedia illustrates what I mean:

Most of the damage is caused by the huge mass of water behind the initial wave front, as the height of the sea keeps rising fast and floods powerfully into the coastal area. The sheer weight of water is enough to pulverise objects in its path, often reducing buildings to their foundations and scouring exposed ground to the bedrock. Large objects such as ships and boulders can be carried several miles inland before the tsunami subsides.

And why is this relevant to Digital Publishing and Digital Content?
Because the real damage to the traditional model is not the initial wave of digital content. That after all has been around now for some time and Publishers (Newspaper, Music, Film and Books) are still robust and profitable. It is the wave after wave after wave blows that have followed that initial front that are doing the damage. The only difference is that this wave is not going to subside or reduce or return to its normal flow, this tsunami is going to continue to flow.

And Realities

So what are the signs of real change?
Well for one Adobe have launched a new e-reader and so have Sony. The Adobe product is software and based on your desktop. It is slick and flashy but I don’t like it. I guess that just me. You can get it here but be warned it is still a BETA product.

The Sony product gave rise to rumours of $500,000 sales of e-books in the first weeks of its Sony Connect Store.

It is a tough world out there. Paidcontent.org one of the shrewdest sites and certainly the most prolific poster of news had two interesting pieces on the economics/realities of digital publishing for the newspaper industry. One pointed out that a pessimistic view of online revenues would suggest that it would be: 30 Years Till Online Represent 50% of Total Newspaper Revenues while another highlighted how the: FT Editor Mulls ‘High Stakes’ Of The Digital Evolution.

But some people get it. If you think that the Sony Connect story is real then here is the Real GETTING REAL. 37signals, the web applications company behind backpack (A service I use and love) recently published in PDF format their story. Since it was released they have sold 23,000 books at $19.00. Now that is $437,000 in revenue from one title, with little or no production cost and only the cost of downloads and site maintenance. The actual paper copy will cost $29.00 an amazing price for such a slim volume and I imagine they will get it! Good for them. The real kicker here is that they did all this in digital first not print and then digital.

So what to make of it all?

You may make of it what you will but from it all I draw this:

    1) Digital will continue to pound traditional.
    2) It is likely to be profitable (Scott Karp wonders how profitable)
    3) Traditional Media will have to move more rapidly
    4) WOW you can sure sell e-books when there is a demand!
    5) Sounds like what I have been saying for a while.

Enjoying the length of this post.
Eoin

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 20/10/2006

Eoin Purcell

Snowbooks MD Emma Barnes makes some interesting points about the future of Publishing.
Here

Apparently you can now get Wikipedia on your ipod.
Here & Here
Apparently this is a dangerous link! Do not visit!

Some interesting Long Tail stuff. Music sells when it can be bought it seems!
Here

Is Google Books making books sell?

Reports seem to indicate that Google Book Search is driving traffic to Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and WH Smiths. At least that is what Hitwise are telling us.

This seems pretty logical if you think on it and it fits with what I have said about GBS from the beginning. I wonder how long before Google start to partner with booksellers to sell direct from GBS itself? It would be logical to sell, not just digital versions of in copyright books, but also print versions. the publisher could certainly afford to do the deal. Even if they gave Google some percentage of the cover price/selling price (even a large one) they could still make a great deal of money. This is especially true if more and more of searches end up with native results from the GBS database! What is more Google’s payment system could handle transactions and keep publishers costs down. It is a win-win situation.

I do wonder how long before Google starts to monetize this system with or without the partnership of publishers. Even if Google were to create an Associates type deal with Amazon the revenue could be significant as the traffic from GBS grows. the opportunity lost to publishers would be significant. It is clear to me that the longer publishers resist this, the more the danger of Googel simply saying a) we have the resources to go it alone, or b) yes you can come in with us but we are now so entrenched and powerful the terms are awful.

I like Google Book Search, I agree that it can be improved (See Video Here) but overall it seems bizarre to me that publisher shave not hopped on the bandwagon with greater speed and abandon!

Wondering why

Eoin