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Saturday, December 31, 2011

How About Some Final Stats for 2011 Publishing

Print or Digital, books are still books
My last post was on some publishing trends for 2012.

Let's now take a look into some final analytical numbers for 2011 publishing ... What the hell is the state of the union RE publishing, anyway?

The following is a cross post from my Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue Blog:

Did the Book Industry Take it on the Chin in 2011? Inside Some Numbers

It’s really hard to tell by the analytical parameters that the old book industry trackers (such as Nielsen BookScan) has set up to take the measurements. BookScan doesn’t even track e-books yet! What the hell are they waiting for? You have to get e-book numbers through other sources such as the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Let me say now that books are books … regardless of the media they are presented in. And they should be included in any analysis of the overall health of the book publishing industry.

But, this bit of industry analytical dabbling in the following article from Crain’s New York Business by Matthew Flamm does provide an interesting insight:

No happy ending for book industry

Book sales in 2011 dropped 9% overall, with mass market paperbacks seeing the biggest declines. Adult hardcovers—the industry’s biggest moneymaker—saw a 10% drop.

The book industry took it on the chin in 2011, though e-book sales continue to offer the promise of better times to come.

Through Dec. 25, total unit sales of physical books fell 9% to 640.6 million, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks 75% of the market. That compares to a drop of 4% in 2010, and 3% in 2009.

Some categories were hit particularly hard. Sales of mass market paperbacks, a category that has been hurting for years, fell 23% to 82.2 million copies. More troubling, perhaps, was the 10% drop, to 164.1 million units, in the adult hardcover category, which is the industry’s biggest moneymaker. Trade paperbacks proved the most resilient of the major formats, with a 6% sales decline, to 351 million copies.

Among subject groups, adult fiction suffered the most, with an 18% plunge to sales of 160.3 million copies. Commercial fiction tends to sell particularly well as e-books. Adult non-fiction was down 10%, to 263 million copies.

(John’s Note: By the way, how many know the definitions of (or differences between) the following categories: adult fiction, commercial fiction, mass market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, adult hardcover?)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

E-Book Publishing Trends in 2012

In 2011 digital publishing outgrew its pants almost every week it seemed.

Well, hang on to your asses because 2012 e-book maturation and development will be even more explosive!

And e-book pricing ... which has become the big white elephant in the room ... will focus more on individual true content value and quality and not be subject to a preconceived price for e-books as a whole.

This then is from Laura Hazard Owen on PaidContent.org (The Economics of Digital Content):

What’s Coming In 2012: Book Publishing

This is the second in a series of posts over the next week that will highlight key people, companies and trends to watch in 2012 in the sectors we cover most, from publishing to legal, and from mobile to advertising.

2011 was a busy and eventful year in book publishing—but 2012 promises to be even more so, as various issues that started bubbling up in ‘11 shift and mature. Here are three predictions.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble make a deal, sort of: As Amazon becomes a full-fledged publisher, it has not yet dealt with its bookstore distribution problem. For now, bricks-and-mortar bookstores are still an important place of discovery of new titles. While some have argued that Amazon will simply ignore these bookstores, that the company always takes a long-term strategy and that it won’t care if it misses some physical store sales, I think the company’s recent beefing-up of its force of sales reps suggests it does consider bricks-and-mortar stores at least somewhat significant for now. And with the company publishing books by more high-profile authors like Tim Ferriss and Penny Marshall, readers will be looking for those books in stores.

While a few indies have said they’ll be reluctant to carry Amazon books, Barnes & Noble has said straight out that it won’t carry Amazon titles in print in stores if it can’t also sell them as e-books. I predict that Amazon will offer a select number of new titles, in both print and digital formats, to Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS). The arrangement will probably be less than ideal for Barnes & Noble in some way, because I think Amazon will try to find a way to use Barnes & Noble stores as showrooms while still directing buyers to Amazon.com (NSDQ: AMZN). Maybe Amazon will set high list prices on all of its own new digital titles (it’s already done this with its upcoming Tim Ferriss book), while continuing to sell those books at major discounts in the Kindle store.

E-book pricing will shift to quality-focused debates: The e-book pricing debate up to now has generally focused on the idea that all e-books should cost the same and that all should be priced low. But why should a self-published or mass market thriller necessarily cost the same as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel in e-book form? It doesn’t make sense to me to say that all e-books should cost $9.99 or less.

I am not the only one who thinks this, even though most commenters hated my $9.99 e-books post. Author John Scalzi recently announced that he’ll delete those comments on his blog “in which the focus…is how you don’t like the price of the e-book.” He writes:

"I think it’s important to understand that eBooks are not special snowflakes; they’re just books in electronic form. As someone who prefers to read in eBook form, you are not substantially different from someone who prefers hardcovers, or trade paperbacks, or mass market paperbacks. If someone who preferred paperbacks (or at the very least paperback pricing) showed up on my site on a regular basis to whine and moan about how books should always be priced at that paperback level, on a comment thread that is meant to be on another subject entirely, I would find them tiresome too. Books: They have variable price points! Based on release dates, consumer interest and format, among many other factors!"

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas to All :)))

From my family to you:

We sincerely wish all a joyous and blessed Christmas.

We pray each and every person on the face of the earth, and in the vast universe beyond, is touched in a special way by their Higher Power during this special time ...

John & YonSuk Austin & Family

Top Left: John R. Austin & wife YonSuk
and Grandson standing 2003
Top Right: YonSuk 1982 Bottom: YonSuk 1983

Top: Daughter & Son-In-Law & Grandaughter
standing on left
Bottom: Granddaughter @ Concert in Taugue, S.Korea 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Are App Developers Publishers?

Skulls: book-app from publisher Touch Press

Many apps have contributed greatly to digital book publishing (introducing multimedia and interactive features for example) and paved the road to modern publishing ... AND have already staked out out future paths for publishing to expand in.

So, are app publishers true publishers or developers?

Now I know many people get hung up on definitions of terms, especially when those same people have been brought up in  certain older environments where terms had more singular meanings ... before the advent of newer technologies that have possibly broadened meanings.  

Here is an interesting article by  in the Apps Blog of The Guardian:

Touch Press talks digital publishing, Kindle Fire and inspirational book-apps

'We have broken into the Garden of Eden, and it's upon us to take advantage of that opportunity,' says Max Whitby

2011 has been a fascinating year for book-apps, as publishers and developers experimented with multimedia and interactive features, and wrestled with the challenge of selling enough apps to recoup the investment in those features.

The Elements remains the biggest success story of the book-apps world. Its publisher Touch Press has sold more than 250,000 downloads of its flagship iOS app, bringing in more than $2m of revenues for the company according to chief executive Max Whitby.

It has been followed by a succession of book-apps from the firm, including Solar System and The Waste Land in partnership with book publisher Faber, and recently X is for X-Ray and Skulls by Simon Winchester under its own steam.

Touch Press is a transatlantic collaboration, with an office in the UK headed by Whitby, and two high-profile co-founders – Theodore Gray and Stephen Wolfram – in the US. 2011 has seen the company grow to a staff of 25 people, having raised a second round of funding in the summer.

"Quality is the heart of what we do," says Whitby, explaining why the company has grown relatively slowly. "Our relationship with Apple is only as good as our last title. The day we ship a crap title will be a sad day. That constrains how fast we can go."

Right from the start, Touch Press has presented itself as a publisher rather than an app developer – something that Whitby says meets with mixed reactions from the book publishing industry.

"The world of publishing divides between companies like Faber who understand that the way to work with us is as a partner and jointly make something as a team, and those who just see us as an anoraky developer who can do stuff at a price. We just don't do that: it's not the way you make something interesting and new."

Touch Press' founding team were in the right place with the right backgrounds when Apple launched its iPad in 2010. Wolfram and Gray had worked together on advanced computing system Mathematica, while Whitby was involved in the BBC's Interactive Television Unit in the heyday of CD-ROM, eventually leading a management buyout of the unit to form his own multimedia publishing company.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

The Digital Reader, Digital Book Price Switch Strategy :)

From left,the Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire tablet and new Kindle displayed…
My theory on the strategy of e-reader and e-book pricing is that it was mapped out prior to public knowledge or acceptance of either.

You know ... sell a new well marketed hardware product (e-readers) at a premium at first (to recover initial research & manufacturing cost) ... but stuff it with a large assortment of low-cost content (cheap e-books consisting of backlists, old titles with expired rights, works by hungry new authors etc.) to sweeten and increase sales ...

THEN, when the consuming public gets hooked on the new reading media device, DROP the e-reader price and UP the e-book price (content price).

I like it because it will give writers more value for their work ... and properly align reward for creativity.

Just thoughts running through my crooked mind. I love being an armchair quarterback :) It's not as if this strategy is a new concept.

This from The Wall Street Journal via Chicago Tribune:

Readers getting cheaper, but rising e-book prices causing sticker shock

Cheap new e-readers are expected to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season. But new owners of Kindles and Nooks may be in for sticker shock on Christmas morning: The price gap between the print and e-versions of some top sellers has now narrowed to within a few dollars -- and in some cases, e-books are more expensive than their printed equivalents.

When Amazon.com Inc. introduced its first Kindle e-reader back in November 2007, the $9.99 digital best seller was a key selling point. Today, the price of a Kindle has plummeted to under $100 -- from $399 back then. But e-book prices for some popular titles have soared.

Take Ken Follett's massive novel "Fall of Giants," for example, which costs $18.99 as an e-book. On Wednesday it was selling for $16.50 as a paperback on Amazon.

The digital price increases are the result of a decision by the six biggest publishers to set their own consumer e-book prices, a move that effectively bars retailers from discounting their e-books without permission. No such agreement exists for printed books -- where retailers are free to set their own prices. So while a best-selling e-book price is often less than half of the hardcover price, heavy discounting of the print version closes the gap.

Industry executives say this new state of affairs may already be hurting e-book sales, which have skyrocketed over the past three years and are today 15 percent to 20 percent or more of major publishers' revenue.

"Some people who see $12.99 and $14.99 for e-books may find those prices a little expensive," says Scott Waxman, a literary agent and digital-books publisher.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Inside Higher Ed: The Right of Scholars, Writers and Artists to Freedom of Thought and Expression

Essays of A.K. Ramanujan   
More intrigue involving a scholar's work ... And possible censorship.

A revered scholarly publisher, Oxford Press, who should know better, did finally come to the right decision RE very popular(but lately controversial) works by the late Indian scholar,  A.K. Ramanujan.

Details here by Scott Jaschik from INSIDE HIGHER ED:

About-Face by Oxford Press

Just weeks after hundreds of scholars blasted Oxford University Press for ending publication of certain works that have become controversial in India, the press announced that it would republish the works, and distribute them in India and elsewhere.

Oxford made the announcement Friday in an e-mail to the scholars who signed a letter to the press expressing their anger over what was viewed as caving in to right-wing Indian nationalists who were offended by some of the work of the late A.K. Ramanujan. The author, during a career largely spent at the University of Chicago, was considered one of the most influential scholars of Indian cultures and literatures. The scholars charged that the press -- by stopping distribution of Ramanujan's works -- was engaged in scholarly "self-abasement."

Immediately after the scholars sent the letter, Oxford played down the dispute and said that the various works of Ramanujan were out of circulation for economic reasons, withdrawn due to "minimal sales," not due to any pressure in India. While the press offered to meet with the concerned scholars, officials indicated that there was no need to change any publishing decision.

But on Friday, the press reversed course. Its letter to scholars said: "Given the current concern expressed by members of the scholarly community about the availability of The Collected Essays and Many Ramayanas we have taken the decision to reprint both titles immediately and make them available in India and beyond. We are also making Questioning Ramayanas available again. All three titles are available to order from the OUP India website and bookshops across India."

The Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic revered by many Hindus. An essay by Ramanujan -- "Three Hundred Ramayanas" -- has infuriated some in India for references to Rama, a Hindu god, that were not consistent with right-wing Hindu beliefs. That dispute led Delhi University in October to agree to stop teaching the essay -- a move that Salman Rushdie said amounted to "academic censorship." And the controversy then led a group of scholars worldwide to demand that Oxford either start publishing the books again, including in India, or to give up copyright over the books so that others could publish them.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Just What is an Indie Author and Publisher?

What is an Indie Author?
More insight from writer-publisher-entrepreneur-businesswoman Joanna Penn (Please visit my post Future Publishing and Book Selling – An Insight RE Joanna on my Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue blog) for even more background.

Confusion is evident in the fast changing world of publishing ... especially in understanding just what in the hell is an 'indie' author and an 'indie' publisher ... I know I get mashed potato brains thinking about it at times! :)

Here is a post by Joanna Penn from her Creative Penn blog that brings clarity and is one of the best, all-inclusive explanations I've heard to date:

Self-Publishing And The Definition Of An Indie Author

I’ve been at two publishing conferences in the last week and it’s evident that myths and misconceptions abound when it comes to independent authors and self-publishing.

Book Machine’s Publishing Now even had a debate on the motion “Self-publishing is devaluing publishing.” In a heated discussion afterwards, I could see that the definition of ‘indie’ as it applies to authors is still misunderstood. Of course, when mainstream publishers like Penguin announce their own self-publishing arms, it can be difficult to know what the hell is going on!

This is further demonstrated in the leaked Hachette internal memo on the relevance of publishing companies where they equate self-publishing with just digital distribution, which we (hopefully) all know is only the final step in the process. Joe Konrath & Barry Eisler respond with their comments here which is worth a read.

Eisler defines self-publishing: ‘it means you keep the rights to your book and publish it yourself using distributor/retailers like Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony, typically retaining 70% of the cover price instead of the 17.5% offered by legacy publishers (for digital editions). This isn’t what “most people” mean when they say self-publishing; it’s what everybody means when they say self-publishing.

But it’s true that to many people self-publishing means bad quality books with no editing published by one of the vanity presses and the main concern is that this crap is flooding the world and readers can’t find quality in the mass of rubbish. I know these books do exist but I hope you agree that we can do a lot better than that these days. I also believe that readers are the new gatekeepers so sales online, reviews and rankings will ensure that the cream rises and bad stuff drops out of the picture.

The term ‘indie author’ has been increasingly claimed by authors who want a new label, one that does justice to the work involved.

This is my take on the subject but please add your comments and thoughts as it is definitely a moving target and no doubt there will be continued debate on it. I do mean for this to be an inclusive definition and you may sit somewhere on the spectrum of indie or you may be traditionally published. People have different aims for their books and their writing careers and I respect your choices, I just wanted to add to the debate!

Indie author means truly independent

At its most basic, indie means there is no separate publisher involved. Many indies may have setup their own micro-press, so their books still have a publisher name that is not the author’s name but the publisher is not one of the author services companies. The indie author most likely owns their own ISBNs. The indie pays the bills and is paid by the distributors e.g. Amazon/Smashwords directly. The only middleman is the distributor.

There has been a blurring of the line between indie author and indie publisher that seems to be mostly related to size and scope of the business. I am an indie publisher of my own books so it’s basically the same thing as being an indie author, but there are small & midsize independent publishing houses who don’t like the term indie being used for people like me. However, there are increasing numbers of micro-businesses being set up by authors who also publish other author’s books so these perhaps count as indie publishers.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Independent Booksellers Reluctant to Carry Amazon Titles in Stores

More intrigue (and actual gossip) RE Amazon's publishing imprints :)

Seems the bricks-and-mortar indy bookstores are bucking selling the Amazon publishing printed versions.

Publishers Weekly says Amazon’s “fast-growing [publishing] group had an outsized impact on the industry.”

But, research seems to indicate that Amazon Publishing has not had an outsized impact on the industry ... in fact their numbers as reported by Nielsen BookScan are quite lackluster.

These details by Laura Hazard Owen in mocoNews.net:

The Truth About Amazon Publishing, Part II

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) says it will double the number of original titles it publishes next year, to 400, and add more imprints, including a couple in New York. Much more interesting is what the company doesn’t say in that interview—and those omissions reflect the difficulties I explored in “The Truth About Amazon Publishing” last month.

Seth Godin Is Forgotten; Print Sales Are Poor: Publishers Weekly lists Amazon Publishing’s five top sellers in 2011, “in both e-book and print” (i.e., I think, in those formats combined): The Hangman’s Daughter; A Scattered Life; Elizabeth Street; Easily Amused; and Alison Wonderland.

SEE ALSO: The Truth About Amazon Publishing

Now, wait a sec. I checked the print sales numbers for each Amazon Publishing title last month, using Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 75 percent of hardcover and paperback sales (including print sales on Amazon). Here, according to BookScan, are Amazon’s top 5 print bestsellers in 2011 (I verified these titles’ BookScan numbers this morning):

1. The Hangman’s Daughter (imprint: AmazonEncore): 28,467 copies sold in print

2. Poke the Box (imprint: Seth Godin’s The Domino Project): 24,883 copies

3. Do the Work (imprint: The Domino Project): 8,933 copies

4. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail (Imprint: Amazon Encore): 6,000 copies

5. Anything You Want (imprint: The Domino Project): 5,920 copies

Three of these are Domino Project titles and that only The Hangman’s Daughter is listed as a top seller in the PW article. Here are the print sales for the titles PW lists as Amazon Publishing’s bestsellers:

1. The Hangman’s Daughter: 28,467 copies sold in print

2. Elizabeth Street: 1,073 copies

3. Easily Amused: 681 copies*

4. A Scattered Life: 629 copies*

5. Alison Wonderland: 205 copies

*These books are sold in Sam’s Club, which does not report sales to BookScan; their sales are likely higher than the BookScan numbers.

Some thoughts here:

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Good Reasons To Self-Publish AND Good Reasons To Traditional Publish

The much advertised reasons to self-publish have become well known to interested students of the art of late ... But, there are equally good reasons to traditional publish as well :)

Journalist and author, Edan Lepucki, mentions her reluctance to become “Amazon’s bitch” ... I just love that expression!

Mathew Ingram, a senior writer with GigaOM, writes a cool article with many informative links (including Edan Lepucki with a nice list of reasons why a writer might decide NOT to self-publish): 

What purpose do book publishers serve?

We’ve written a lot about the disruption in the book-publishing industry over the past year or so, with Amazon not only creating a huge market for authors to self-publish on the Kindle — thereby avoiding traditional publishers altogether — but also signing writers to its own imprint, and cutting the Big Six publishing houses out of the picture. But it should be noted that working with a publisher can have its benefits as well as its disadvantages, and writer Edan Lepucki has put together a nice list of reasons why someone (including her) might decide not to self-publish. If publishers have any weapons against Amazon, they are on this list.

Lepucki, who writes for a magazine called The Millions and is also an author, says while she sees the benefits of self-publishing — the freedom from a traditional book contract, the ability to control the way the book is marketed, that self-publishers typically keep a larger share of the proceeds, and so on — she has decided not to self-publish her first book. In an earlier essay, Lepucki wrote about how she had given up trying to market her work to publishers, but despite a number of authors describing how easy self-publishing is, she says she has decided to pursue a traditional book deal (others have come to different conclusions: despite some misgivings, Marc Herman says he decided to publish his journalism about the Middle East as a Kindle Single instead of as a traditional book).

Publishers can help a book rise above the noise

One of the reasons the author says she has come to this conclusion is that, while many people seem to see the publishing industry as dead in the water, she still believes there are good publishers out there, that they serve a purpose and that their recommendation of a book has value. As she puts it:

I trust publishers. They don’t always get it right, but more often than not, they do. As I said in the piece that started me off on this whole investigation: “I want a reputable publishing house standing behind my book; I want them to tell you it’s good so that I don’t have to.”

This gets at one of the issues that keeps coming up every time I write about self-publishing, and how Amazon’s Kindle and other tools allow a writer to reach readers without having to go through a publisher. These posts often get comments that could be paraphrased as: “But then the world will be full of terrible writing, and how will we find the good stuff?” And certainly one of the primary functions a good editor or publisher can provide is to filter through content and select the best (of course, that also means that much potentially valuable writing is not chosen).

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