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Monday, April 29, 2013

The Immense Impact of Digital Distribution

E-Books & Digital Distribution

The core reason digital devastated legacy/traditional publishing is, quite simply, digital distribution (DD).

In the pre-digital era authors had to give up 85% of their take to get the only distribution available - Costly? You damn right.

In the post-digital era authors can get the same distribution for only 30% - Better? You damn right.

Let’s analyze DD a little tonight.

Briefly, distributionin the paper world requires trucks, warehouses, a sales force, and longstanding relationships with buyers at dozens of retail operations --- In digital, distribution is a push-button à la carte service offered by companies like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo, and Smashwords. An author so inclined can buy digital distribution for 30% of the list price of the book s/he's publishing – the same digital distribution a legacy publisher offers – and outsource all other publishing functions, all for significantly less than legacy publishers charge for their packaged service.

This now from Barry Eisler reporting in The Guardian:

The digital truths traditional publishers don't want to hear

The choices offered by digital publishing can only be good news for writers, says Barry Eisler. So why are traditional publishers so angry?

Until November 2007, when Amazon introduced the Kindle, the only viable means of book distribution was paper. Accordingly, a writer who wanted to reach a mass audience needed a paper distribution partner. A writer could hire her own editor and her own cover design artist; she could even hire a printing press to create the actual books. The one service she couldn't hire out was distribution. And publishers didn't offer distribution as an à la carte service. If a writer wanted distribution, she had to pay a publisher 85% of her revenues for the entire publishing package: editorial, copyediting, proofreading, jacket design, printing, and marketing, all bundled with distribution.
Was a price of 85% of revenues a good deal for this packaged publishing service? For some writers, it clearly was. JK Rowling became a cash billionaire via the traditional packaged publishing service, and obviously there are hundreds of other examples of authors for whom the packaged service has represented a good value.
But for every author who wanted and benefited from the packaged service, there were countless others who took it – if they could get it at all – only because they had no alternative.
Digital distribution has provided that alternative. And increasing numbers of authors are choosing it.
Digital book distribution is available to anyone who wants it. What in the paper world requires trucks, warehouses, a sales force, and longstanding relationships with buyers at dozens of retail operations, in digital is a push-button à la carte service offered by companies like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo, and Smashwords. An author so inclined can buy digital distribution for 30% of the list price of the book she's publishing – the same digital distribution a legacy publisher offers – and outsource all other publishing functions, all for significantly less than legacy publishers charge for their packaged service.
Tens of thousands of writers newly presented with the lower-priced, à la carte choice of self-publishing are taking it. Many others prefer the traditional route. Some are embracing a hybrid approach, doing one book with a legacy publisher, another with Amazon Publishing, and yet another by self-publishing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

James Patterson Wants Government to Bail Out Book Industry

Renowned author, James Patterson, has placed rather aggressive ads in both the New York Times Book Review and Publishers Weekly lobbying good ole Uncle Sam to come to the aid of the book industry.

Mr. Patterson fears that without printed-on-paper books, literature will somehow dissipate and in his words: “A lot of it had to do with getting kids reading.”

Some observations and clarifications (from my foggy mind’s point of view):

- It’s interesting that he uses the term ‘book industry’ and not ‘publishing industry’ ---      The publishing industry, as a whole, is doing just fine.

- And ‘book’ has to be books-in-print media only - that are selected, published and marketed (also selectively) under an older business model that has become known as traditional publishing.

- Books today are not going away they are just coming in more enhanced formats, which will enhance literature not dissipate it.

- More kids are reading today (and sooner) than ever before in history since the advent of digital and devices.

Tonight we are going to present his interview with Salon in which he discusses his fear for the loss of literature and print books.

Two things before the interview, however:

1) The only thing constant in life is change itself. I dearly love print books and don’t feel they will EVER go away totally. But, there are those (throughout history) that can’t accept change as easy as others and fight it to no end --- Compare it to a big cruise liner heading North; the passengers can walk East & West and all around the decks all they want - but it won’t change the direction of that ship – it is still heading North (inevitable change, meant to occur).

2) Because I advocate for accepting the new digital publishing structure (even with initial faults), getting absorbed and involved in it and making improvements, does not mean I’m against improving the print book system and making it competitive as well in the modern market --- Let’s be honest, though, the TP model, before being challenged, was extremely inefficient and it doesn’t need a handout/s to be the same - it needs to get business-wise and more competitive --- It needs MANAGEMENT.
Salon interview by Daniel D'Addario:

James Patterson speaks out about his aggressive “book Industry bailout” ads

The bestselling author placed high-profile ads asking the government to bail out books. He talks to Salon.

James Patterson is in no need of a bailout.
The author of bestsellers including “Along Came a Spider” and “Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas” currently occupies spots on four different New York Times bestseller lists with three discrete books. (Those would be “Alex Cross, Run”; “Now You See Her,” written with Michael Ledwidge; and “I, Michael Bennett,” written with Ledwidge also.)
Despite his success in a strain of genre fiction not often recommended in classrooms, Patterson has become, suddenly, the closest thing the publishing industry has to an ambassador. The multimillion-seller author placed an ad last weekend in the New York Times Book Review and in Publishers Weekly (depicted below) advocating for government intervention — the same sort of bailout Goldman got — in order to save an industry besieged by bookstore closings and consolidation of the few remaining major publishing houses.
Patterson cited books including William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice,” Joan Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking,” and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” in service of his argument that the American publishing industry has, historically, been able to produce enduring classics — and that its power will be gravely foreshortened, and the number of classics limited, by  attenuated publishing and bookselling industries.
Salon spoke to James Patterson about his decision to publish the ad, and what comes next in the mission to save American book publishing.
Tell me about the decision to place the ad.
I do a lot of things to try to raise level of awareness of what’s going on in country right now. This is an unusual and different time for books, the most unusual in the history of this country. E-books are fine and dandy, but it’s all happening so quickly, and I don’t think anyone thought through the consequences of having many fewer bookstores, of libraries being shut down or limited, of publishers going out of business — possibly in the future, many publishers going out of business.
A lot of it had to do with getting kids reading. I have a site for school librarians, teachers, and kids to go to — readkiddoread.com. It’s a fairly big site: it does a fair amount of good. And I will have 400 scholarships for teachers at 21 universities this year. I’m giving 300,000 books.
So do you think a bailout of books is actually realistic? Or was it a kind of purposefully outlandish “Modest Proposal“?
I don’t think it’s a question of bailing out, necessarily. In Germany, Italy, and France, they protect bookstores and publishers. It is widely practiced in parts of Europe. I don’t think that’s outlandish. But people have mixed feelings about the government doing anything right now.
I haven’t thought about it but I’m sure there are things that can be done. There might be tax breaks, there might be limitations on the monopolies in the book business. We haven’t gotten into laws that should or shouldn’t be done in terms of the internet. I’m not sure what needs to happen, but right now, nothing’s happening.
The press doesn’t deal with the effects of e-books as a story. Borders closing down is treated as a business story. Where we are in Westchester during the summer, you’d think that’d be a bookstore haven, and there’s nothing. And that’s not unusual. I don’t think we can be the country we’d like to be without literature.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Digital Public Library of America - Fruition Is Here

Did you realize that a national digital public library was being worked on? I didn’t. I had read about the concept and that it was a work that would be realized possibly in the future.

Guess what? They launched the Digital Public Library of America this past Thursday!

I Can’t seem to keep up with the magnitude and velocity of changes washing over us. But, then again, I am slowing down --- just a little :)  

One year ago, a group of professors, librarians, and futurists gathered in San Francisco to discuss how they would go about building a Digital Public Library of America.

With all the unimaginable problems and insufferable coordination that would be inherent in such an undertaking --- the launching of such an entity in just one year is a minor miracle!

Megan Geuss reports on The Digital Public Library of America in ARS Technica:

The Digital Public Library of America: adding gravitas to your Internet search

Not only a hub for books, the DPLA made an API so anyone can build a reading room

One year ago, a group of professors, librarians, and futurists gathered in San Francisco to
discuss how they would go about building a Digital Public Library of America. There were still many questions about the project, which had millions of dollars in charitable funding but hadn’t yet meted out a complete vision of its incarnation. The directors cited Europeana and Wikipedia as examples, but they weren’t sure how a digital library would tackle the problems unique to using published content in America. Despite the hurdles ahead, the founders of the DPLA promised at that conference that a live website would launch in April 2013, come hell or high water.

The founders of the DPLA made good on their promise this week. The organization launched a website on Thursday that allows users to browse more than two million archived books, images, records, and sounds. The content comes from the libraries of institutions like Harvard University, the Internet Archive, and the Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco Public Libraries. The DPLA also makes an API available to anyone who wants to add access to this treasure trove to a third party application.

Last year, Ars wrote about the challenges that the Digital Public Library was facing: “The organization must be a bank of documents, and a vast sea of metadata; an advocate for the people, and a partner with publishing houses; a way to make location irrelevant to library access without giving neighborhoods a reason to cut local library funding. And that will be hard to do.”

A lot of these conflicts are still being sorted out by the DPLA community. But the new website is clean and easy to use, and it undoubtedly represents the possibility of a bright future for the digital library. The challenge now is less about searching for an identity than it is getting everyone on board—from local libraries to big publishers.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Amazon Angst - The Continuing Saga (Chapter 1000, I Believe!)

Is this true: 'Amazon has got so big it is now
not competing but destroying the competition.'?
 Amazon, Amazon, Amazon, who, indeed, art thou --- saint or satan?
Not everyone experiences angst over the ‘Big A’; about half according to my own experience.

Some defend Amazon’s aggressive business practices to the death, claiming edgy competitiveness and sharp business practices while others shout foul, foul, foul! You crossed the line! You are blowing up the bookstores and bookseller biz! And fuck you, too!! Blah, blah.

Apparently, even with all the banter from both sides of this issue, the verdict is still out on Amazon’s motives and reputation.

An excellent example of this opinion split is presented tonight through the divergent stances between two publishing professionals: Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association and Eoin Purcell, commissioning editor at Irish publisher: New Island Books.

From Independent Online (iOL), scitech, by Russell Lynch:

Amazon ‘destroying’ publishing industry
·        Amazon launches Coins
·        Kindle reader hits Brazil
London - Online giant Amazon is harming the books industry and threatens to “destroy” competition, the head of Britain's booksellers has warned.
“Amazon is a negative influence on today's publishing industry,” Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, told a panel at the London Book Fair.
“Amazon has got so big it is now not competing but destroying the competition.”
Mr Godfray said the internet giant is dictating tougher terms from publishers and is improving its own margins further by funnelling most of its £3bn of UK sales through Luxembourg to avoid British corporation tax.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ebook Growth Down in 2012 - What Does It Mean for Publishing? - Inside the Numbers

Do you know what the hell
is going on with ebooks?
The Association of American Publishers (AAP), who has been tracking ebooks since 2002, reported the dip in 2012 ebook growth. Growth in 2012 fell to 41% --- You don’t say? Well damn, whoopee do, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is ebook growth for the past three years has been in the triple digits!

Now, a 41% growth in any other industry would be astronomical--- but, not in ebooks with three years of sustained triple digit jumps. So, what does this mean for the publishing industry as a whole?

An interesting question with some even more interesting forecasts and analytical numbers --- which tonight’s post will get into with this insight from Jeremy Greenfield reported in Forbes:

Ebook Growth Slows in 2012 to ‘Only’ 41%; What Does It Mean for the Publishing Industry?

According to the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers,revenue for ebooks for some of the biggest categories grew by 41% in 2012. Ebooks now account for 23% of trade publishing revenues.
In any other industry for any other business, this would be eye-popping growth. For the world of ebooks, it represents a significant slowdown from years past.
The AAP has been tracking ebooks since 2002. That year, ebooks represented 0.05% of all trade publishing revenues. To get to the current 23% number, the biggest gains were made in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the years immediately following the 2007 launch of the Kindle. In 2008, ebooks were 1% of publisher revenue. In 2011, they were 17%. Those were the years of triple-digit growth numbers, a trend publishers thought would continue until ebooks were at 50% of revenue or more.
But in 2012, according to these new numbers, growth in ebooks has hit an inflection point in the U.S. Of course, that’s on a larger base. Adult fiction and nonfiction, children’s and young adult and religious ebooks raked in more than $1.5 billion in revenue last year. That number is sure to increase in 2013, but by how much?
The growth rate of ebooks between 2011 and 2010 was a bit over 100%. If the growth rate in 2013 is similarly cut down to size as it was in 2012, my guess is that it will be in the 18% to 20% range*. If that happens, we’ll be looking at a $1.8 billion industry next year.
Regardless of how much ebooks grow this year, the fact is they probably will grow, but slower than last year. So, what does that mean for the publishing industry?