Kobo Purges Store of Random (Small/Indie) eBooks (via: @PandoDaily, @penenberg, HT: @dangillmor)

Adam Penenberg (editor of PandoDaily) writes about his experience of having his books (two thrillers) swept up in what seems like a giant overreaction by Kobo. This seems to have been spurred by British publisher WHSmith, which took down its entire website because some of Kobo’s eBooks (which were passed through into their catalogue automatically) offended their sensibilities. Adam writes:

Kobo’s rash move came on the heels of another rash move by a British publisherWHSmith, which has taken down its entire website, leaving a statement on its homepage. The company said it’s “disgusted” by “a number of unacceptable titles” that have been “appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours.”

The bigger issue here is that the purge broadly affects books that couldn’t remotely be expected to fall into what Kobo describes as: ‘“pedophilia, incest, bestiality, exploitation and sexual violence or force”’, and disproportionately those by smaller publishers:

It’s hard to believe Kobo’s claims that it’s “inspired by a ‘Read Freely’ philosophy,” which “stems from Kobo’s belief that consumers should have the freedom to read any book, any time, anyplace — and on any device.” That is, unless you want to read my two novels, and thousands of other titles that are not erotica and were either self-published or published by small, independent presses.

Seems like a knee-jerk reaction that will cost Kobo a lot of goodwill.

Read Adam’s article in full here: http://pandodaily.com/2013/10/15/kobos-porn-purge-hits-a-lot-of-innocent-bystanders/

You Have No Right To Make Money Anymore (HT: @rosepowell)

Matthew Ingram from GigaOM describes how Seth Godin answered a recent interview question about writers trying to make money:

In a recent interview with Digital Book World, the writer and creator of the Domino Project [...] was asked about his advice that authors should give their books away for free and that they should worry more about spreading their message and building a fan base instead of focusing on how to monetize it right away. And how would he respond to writers concerned about their ability to make a living from their writing? Godin’s response:

Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word — over.

It’s hard to disagree with him. Writing has never been a particularly financially rewarding pursuit, much like any art form. There will always be outliers who become ridiculously wealthy, but having an expectation of becoming that famous author is counterproductive, in my opinion.

I don’t think books should just be given away for free – things that are free are perceived to have a certain value (ie. nothing) and I value my work a few cents more than that. However, that doesn’t mean books should never be given away for free. Getting a fan base with which you can connect as a creator is important, and giveaways are a part of getting new people exposed to your writing.

Mathew also talks about getting a perspective on your writing with regards to its quality:

[M]aybe those vampire books by Amanda Hocking or the detective novels from million-selling author John Locke aren’t as good as yours, but for hundreds of thousands of weekend readers they are probably good enough. Godin’s point isn’t that you can’t make money; it’s that you have to think differently about how to accomplish that task.

I always ask authors who are concerned about things that apparently make them lose money (piracy is a perennial favourite): ‘If you were guaranteed never to make a single cent from writing, would you stop?’

If you answer ‘yes’ then I think you probably shouldn’t be writing at all. If you answer ‘no’, I think you’re probably ready to think about how you will try to make some money out of your writing.

Read it here: http://gigaom.com/2012/03/06/godin-to-authors-you-have-no-right-to-make-money-any-more/

iBook Lessons: Hardback-only Memory of Light release frustrates would-be epurchasers (via @tuaw)

‘Memory of Light’ is the last book in the Wheel of Time series. I personally don’t care for these books, so don’t expect me to get too excited about the completion of this fantasy series.

In a case of old-fashionitis, however, the book was released by its publisher Tor in dead-tree version only, leaving a lot of people who simply prefer to read eBooks stuck waiting until April 9th, 3 months in the future. Of course the book will be available as a pirated copy in approximately minus-one days, just like all other popular books, so anyone realistically expecting to be able to read it on launch day will, in-fact, be able to do so, without the inconvenience of DRM and for less money.

[R]umors are swirling as to why Tor made the decision it did: specifically, whether Jordan’s widow and editor forced their hands, and if the NY Times bestseller ratings could be skewed by a simultaneous ebook release that would limit the prestigious hardcover fiction numbers in favor of less desirable ebook listings.

The ways of publishers are complex and deep, and it’s perfectly possible they were forced through contractual agreements to release the book in this way. After all, Tor has a very modern stance on ebooks, releasing big chunks of their back catalogue in consumer-friendly non-DRM formats. This object-first approach to such an anticipated release as ‘Memory of Light’ is certainly not the optimal money making strategy:

Back in 2009, publishers began delaying ebook releases, as they noted that ebook sales cannibalized hardcover sales. Even then an Amazon spokesperson was quoted by the NYT saying, “Authors get the most publicity at launch and need to strike while the iron is hot. If readers can’t get their preferred format at that moment, they may buy a different book or just not buy a book at all.”

Also noteworthy is that the book is receiving many 1-star reviews on Amazon in some kind of misguided campaign to pressure the publisher into changing its release schedule.

Now…readers…book reviews do not work that way! Goodnight!

Please, if you’re reading this and you’re upset, do not comment on a book in the book reviews section of a store if you aren’t reviewing the book. Seriously.

Read the entire article here to get a glimpse at this bizarre process: http://www.tuaw.com/2013/01/08/ibook-lessons-hardback-only-memory-of-light-release-frustrates/

Are Publishers Making a Killing on e-Books (via @publisherswkly)

This is part 2 of the original article here. eBook pricing is still all over the place; from my perspective as a reader the market still hasn’t decided on the ‘value’ of a book stripped of its physical container, the content. In one corner of the internet it’s a race to the bottom, in another it’s priced comparably (or even higher) than the same book in print.

Adding some incidental charges, we figured the total cost for you to convert a previously published book to an e-book and print on demand paperback was $1,600.00, not counting the cost of marketing, advertising or publicity. How should you price your book to recover that investment and make a profit to boot? And how many copies must you sell to hit that number?

Richard Curtis over at Digital Book World continues to break it down; hopefully this will help a little bit to shed some light on the flipside of high eBook pricing.

Of course, it’s all about expectations. A reader doesn’t (and, honestly, shouldn’t) care how much a book costs to produce: if it feels too expensive, it is too expensive. The trick is to change consumer expectations, and I don’t think simply selling a digital book for $15 is a healthy way to do so. Readers are not your enemy.

Link: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/are-publishers-making-a-killing-on-e-books-part-2/

Electronic Signing: HelloSign app (via @justrick)

I spotted this on one of the tech-y news feeds to which I subscribe:

We live in an increasingly paperless world, but just try to get someone’s signature without one or more sheets of letter-size stock. Whether you need to collect signatures or fork over yours, it usually means dealing with printed matter.

This made me wonder if there was some sort of use-case here for ebook signing. The HelloSign app allows you to annotate PDFs or images you take on the fly, by signing directly on your screen:

The app gives you two options. First, you can “scan” a paper document by taking a photo with your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Second, if you receive a PDF via e-mail, you can open that attachment in HelloSign.

In my quick tests, both options worked quite well. Once you’ve got your document loaded, it’s a simple matter to add text, a checkmark, a date stamp, and, of course, your signature.

Has anyone used similar technology to facilitate digitally personalising and signing an ebook for a fan?

Check it out here: http://www.macworld.com/article/2010909/app-spotlight-sign-documents-on-the-go-with-hellosign.html

A Million Books Sold; What’s Next? (via @cjlyonswriter, HT @thecreativepenn)

Occasionally I like posting some good news from the self-publishing world. Yes, we all know that not everyone is going to achieve success self-publishing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the successes and see if we can gather tips:

Sometime in July, I passed one million indy books sold. Don’t ask me when; I was busy writing the next book (see, I do practice what I preach).

But here’s the real kicker: that means in one year I’ve outsold what traditional publishing has been able to sell of my books in the past four years.

I now make more in a month than I do in a year from traditional publishing.

C. J. Lyons discusses her approach (as well as linking to the various tips and tricks in her blog), and makes a few predictions:

Prediction 1: As more traditionally published authors enter indy publishing with their extensive backlists, it will be harder and harder to be discovered.

Prediction 2: As traditional publishers relinquish Agency pricing, there will be greater competition than ever for spots on the bestseller lists. As much as we want to treat our books as “art” we are in the business of selling them, and let’s face it, people love finding a great value.

Prediction 3: More authors will turn down traditional contracts once they start treating their writing as a business. Also, more traditional publishers will be offering contracts to indy authors.

Note: she does have a response to each of her predictions, so do check out her thoughts here: http://www.norulesjustwrite.com/a-million-books-sold-whats-next/

Aspire to become the victim of piracy (via @TWLuedke)

A brief article from Travis Luedker was reposted into my twitter feed today, in which he relates his attitude towards the casual piracy of (his) ebooks. It’s always a divisive topic, and many comment threads are devoted to the to and fro of opinions in this field. Disclaimer: I don’t like piracy, but I believe it is a market response to pricing and availability (including DRM), and that it is impossible to affect by any other means. This means that I am inclined to agree with Travis here:

To be pirated is a compliment, I have succeeded in catching the pirate’s attention.  He wouldn’t steal my ebook if it wasn’t valuable.  At least he knows I exist.

Perhaps he even read my novel … that would make me happy :)

The original is here: http://thenightlifeseries.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/aspire-to-become-victim-of-piracy.html

I am not a Luddite (Judith Ridge on eBooks)

With all the excitement about eBooks, it’s nice to occasionally read a reasoned (and entertaining) defence from someone who just doesn’t care for them:

I swear. I promise. I love my gadgets. I’ve been an enthusiastic up-taker of technology since I first laid eyes on an Apple computer back in 1987. I’ve had around eight Mac computers, desk- and laptops, and numerous iThings; I’ve always upgraded my mobile phone as soon as my contracts allowed—and now my 84 year old Dad, who never quite figured out how to use his mobile, thinks I’m surgically attached to my iPhone. (He’s not far wrong.)

So what’s Judith’s problem, right? (I kid, everyone is entitled to their own opinion):

It’s not that I have any particular objection to ereaders, and I certainly don’t think it’s a lesser form of reading. I find those who carp on about the death of the book as annoying as those who think people only tweet what they ate for lunch, or proclaim Facebook the end of intimacy. I am, in fact, delighted that ereader technology will very likely mean that writers will always have backlists that people can actually read, and that even the most obscure classic titles can be accessed at the press of a button. I’m even thrilled at the possibilities it presents for self-publishing and the publication of books that may otherwise be too “niche” for a paper print run to be viable, despite believing that the jury is well and truly out on editorial standards of straight-to-ereader titles.

So I’m all for the ereader. I just don’t want to use one.

Judith describes her own relationship with books and it’s a great insight. Granted, the physicality of print books creates a completely different relationship between reader and print book than that between reader and ebook. I imagine it much like how the relationship between a horse and rider bears little resemblance to that between a driver and a car. Things change; relationships change as containers change: I agree with a lot of what Judith says, and also tend not to read as many books in electronic formats as I do in print. However, I’m really excited to see how a new generation of readers extols the virtues of electronic books (eg. all my books with me all the time!) and how that relationship could never be equaled by mere paper pages.

Read Judith’s thoughts here: http://greylands.theslipstream.com.au/2012/07/i-am-not-a-luddite-judith-ridge/

Legit eBook Lending Site Taken Down by Angry Mob of Authors (via @techdirt HT: @AllanDouglasDgn)

Just have a read. I’m quite annoyed by the unthinking reaction of the writers involved in this, but of course on the Internet it is easier to react than investigate:

A bizarre thing happened late last week. A bunch of authors, playing Twitter telephone, managed to take down LendInk, a legitimate book lending site. (This “discussion” has spilled over to LendInk’s Facebook page.) LendInk, a matchmaking site for Kindle and Nook users to “borrow” each other’s titles, somehow found itself on the receiving end of an irate mob, who accused it of piracy and sent (at least according to the threats) several DMCA takedown notices its way.

Of course, the ‘borrowing’ on this site simply redirects to the perfectly legitimate eBook lending schemes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, enforced by DRM. From the FAQ:

The actual book loaning process is handled by Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, not by LendInk.

Other authors have assisted with debunking some of the outrage, but it’s always more difficult to overcome ‘OMG TEH PIRATES’ than it is to break through the noise with reason:

Before the site was taken/knocked offline, any one of these authors could have drawn the same conclusions as these helpful forum contributors, but most seemed to be caught up in the excitement of the hunt. An in-depth post by April Hamilton of the Indie Author blog points out everywhere these authors went wrong and how easily it could have been prevented.

Honestly, if physical libraries had been invented in the 21st Century, they’d never survive the copyright litigation and social media outrage.

Have a read: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120807/21080519958/legit-ebook-lending-site-taken-down-angry-twitmob-writers.shtml

Do Children’s Books made for the iPad Miss The Point? (HT: @pnpbookseller)

I’ve previously talked up the exciting nature of interactive children’s books as applications, as well as linked to some research discussing their effectiveness (or lack of) as teaching tools, but Jon Page recently posted a link to this editorial by journalist Farhad Manjoo, who asks:

When a young reader engages with the Another Monster app, what is he doing? Is he reading a book? Playing a video game? Watching TV? It’s hard to say.

Farhad specifically points out the ‘Another Monster’ app when discussing the downside of these interactive optimised experiences:

The Another Monster app is an extreme example of what I’ve found to be a common problem with children’s books made for the iPad. They offer too many different kinds of experiences, becoming muddled in the process – and, more importantly, missing the point of children’s books, which is to get kids excited about reading.

I agree with him to a point. Electronic children’s books lie on a spectrum from pure digital conversions to fully interactive games-with-text. Farhad raises good points about children being easily distracted by the tempting ‘home’ button on the iPad, and why they would concentrate on the text in front of them with so many other tempting options, but this really highlights a problem with the hardware, not the individual story applications.

This tempting-home-button problem is fixed in the latest upgrade to the iPad’s operating system, iOS 6, with a setting known as Single App mode, or Guided Access. This locks the device into one application, and optionally disable parts of the screen, meaning Farhad’s complaint about children clicking away from a book application is pretty much addressed (of course iOS 6 will not be available on the first generation iPad, which is the model most often repurposed for children, so…yeah…but my point still stands).

Regardless, it’s a good article about a parent’s experience with digital children’s books.

Link here: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/monsters-in-the-childrens-app-store-20120622-20s3f.html