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September 05 2012

00:00

Aerbook Maker, Kwik Help E-Books Come Alive with Multimedia

In the two years since I wrote a "A Self-Publisher's Primer to Enhanced E-Books and Book Apps," the development of user-friendly tools for authors to build rich-media books has boomed. Aerbook Maker and Kwik are two easy-to-use tools for authors of graphically rich enhanced e-books and apps. Mimetic Books is developing a tool for photographers and artists. The founders demonstrated these Corona-backed tools at the last meeting of the Palo Alto, Calif., Corona SDK Meetup Group titled "Bringing Stories to Life - eBook Development with Corona SDK."

Before I go into more detail, it's worth noting that these are really today's only options for authors who are not programmers to easily create picture books and games. Aerbook Maker is a browser-based, drag-and-drop tool that works much like presentation applications like Keynote and PowerPoint. Kwik is a plugin that extends Photoshop CS5 to create pages of a book and even animations. Mimetic is at work on a plugin to Adobe InDesign.

AERBOOK MAKER

Ron Martinez

Aerbook Maker was founded by Ron Martinez, an inventor with a long resume including the impressive title of vice president, Intellectual Property Innovation for Yahoo. He was there to demonstrate Aerbook Maker, talk about an upcoming Corona partnership, and give a sneak peak of projects in the pipeline.

If you're writing an illustrated children's' book, a book of photography, art, or any other heavily graphic book, Aerbook Maker is for you. Martinez demonstrated how easy it is to drag and drop your files into a window in the web browser. You can drop in photos, audio, video, text boxes, scene animation, and interactivity, then rearrange them and apply styles, colors, and frames.

When you're done, export your content to all the major e-book formats -- to HTML5 for viewing on the web -- and soon you'll be able to print.

A built-in social media feature lets readers share any page of your book on Twitter, Facebook, and other networks. Like Kwik and many other tools for authors, Aerbook is evolving, and though books are not fully or officially supported until iOS 6, your book will probably already work on the iPad today.

The tool is cloud-based, so whether you're just one author, or partnering with a designer or an entire team, the project is scalable and centrally available.

Aerbook Maker's pricing structure is based on export credits at $29 each or $99 for five exports. This removes the Aerbook watermark and generates a final version to download directly to devices and place with e-book retailers. Their services include book and app distribution, and they will help you build your book for a reasonable fee.

KWIK PHOTOSHOP PLUGIN

Kwiksher Book Floating FunKwik is now in release 2.0, and founder Alex Souza showed off some impressive cross-platform e-books: "Fire Cupid" (featured in the Wall Street Journal, TIME, the Washington Times and others), Frederick "Spin" (which soared to the No. 2 e-book in the Dutch App Store), and "Sparky the Shark" (a beloved, award-winning children's tale).

Kwik's capabilities allow much more than creation of a simple color book. You can add audio, sound effects, buttons, timers, actions, drag and drop objects, linear animation, sprite sheets, movie clips, even path animation. Children's book authors will be interested in the ability to sync audio to text so that the words are highlighted during playback. If you have items for sale in the iTunes App Store or Google Play, you can insert in-app purchases. Output your book to a universal app or iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Nook Color or other Android device.

Kwik's creator, Alex Souza, holds a master's degree in Digital Design. In 1995, he was the first developer of a Shockwave game in his native Brazil, and in 2000 was a runner-up for the iBest Top 3 award, Brazil's most important Internet award. Later he worked for IBM and Microsoft, creating applications and marketing Microsoft Office, Expression and Silverlight.

"There are too many updates to 2.0 to list, but physics is a major thing in the new version," said Souza, "so the game-making capabilities have improved." Kwik 2 costs $249.99 for a new license and $149.99 for an upgrade but at launch. Look for it in late September and get introductory pricing at $199.99 and $99.99. The free trial version will allow you to export up to four project pages. For ideas on what can be done with Kwik, take a look at their showcase.

Mimetic Books

Golden Gate Bridge E-Book / AppPhotojournalist David Gross of Mimetic Books presented some of his recent e-books including App of the Week winner "A Wild Flight of the Imagination: The Story of the Golden Gate Bridge," a project he put together for its 75th anniversary. The free e-book weaves interactive photographs, artwork, letters, and newspaper clippings together with music, audio recordings and video.

Gross is a photographer who can code, and he invented his own way of importing his projects directly from Adobe InDesign (the tool that book designers use) and exporting the results to XML. Gross says that Mimetic Books plans to offer an InDesign plugin so that photographers and artists can create books to publish to the iPad and Nook. In the meantime, they do it for you. You choose from a number of designs, then send Mimetic the picture files. They can create a chapter from a properly captioned collection of photos in Lightroom or from captioned JPEG pictures. Or you can hire them to do full-service graphic design, photo-editing, copywriting, editing, animation, and custom programming.

Gross said that as well as using InDesign, "I am working on ways of using Google Apps, WordPress, and a custom browser-based editor to create books. As well, I am investigating whether Kwik can create plugins for books -- Kwik excels in making complex animations, so why should I?"

Regarding pricing, Gross said that "I was offering book apps starting at $850, but I found that clients did not have enough experience in graphic design to deliver 100% complete materials. The extra work I have to do to prepare clients' pictures, sound, and video, and the multiple changes clients make during the creation of the book, I have found a book project generally costs between $5,000 and $15,000. In addition, custom "interactive" pages also raise the price. But, I can produce a basic book app relatively cheaply using my system."

Mimetic plans to have some products ready to go near the end of October.

By now, you might be wondering, so what's an e-book and what's an app? Yes. The lines are blurring as content becomes portable among a variety of devices.

"Book apps are different from e-books," Gross explained. "E-books are data files which are displayed with readers. EPUB is one of the best-known data file formats designed for books of text (not fixed-format). A 'book app' is an app -- a stand-alone program -- that is a book. It's a weird idea, actually, a temporary effect of the state of publishing software and the market. In a rational world, it wouldn't exist, and I don't expect such things to exist in few years. Instead, we will have a few e-book file formats that the different devices can read and display."

Why the Corona SDK?

If you're geeky enough to know that SDK stands for Software Development Kit, you might be interested in the reasons these e-book and app platform developers chose the Corona SDK to power Aerbook Maker and Kwik export-to-app capabilities. They pointed me to David Rangel, COO of Corona Labs, to provide details, and here's what he told me.


"Corona integrates a number of advanced technologies such as OpenGL (widely adopted 2D and 3D graphics API), Box2D (a 2D physics engine for games), physics and more, to allow developers to create great mobile content," Rangel said. "If e-book platforms wanted to replicate these features on their own, it would take them loads of development time and expertise. By building to Corona SDK, they save a great deal of time and get to take advantage of our platform's offerings."



Adding to the previous point, Rangel said, "Corona allows developers to build apps for both iOS and Android, from a single code base. If e-book platforms want to support both of these operating systems, they would need to spend a lot of time and energy building in that support. As we add in more features and platform support for Corona SDK, Kwik and Aerbook Maker automatically reap the benefits."

Designers and illustrators are attracted to the SDK's core engine because of its popularity in the mobile space. Kwik and Aerbook Maker provide the added advantage of allowing e-book authors to create impressive content without the need for code.

Watch the YouTube Video

The folks at Corona Labs recorded the event.



Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Find her workshop schedule and buy the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors on SelfPubBootCamp.com.

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August 16 2012

14:00

Why Self-Publishers Should Care That Penguin Bought Author Solutions

Should self-publishers care that Pearson, the corporate parent of Penguin Group, has acquired Author Solutions and its subsidiaries? Maybe. Because among them are Author House, Booktango, Inkubook, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, Wordclay, AuthorHive, Pallbrio, and Hollywood Pitch.

Thus, the move marks something significant happening in the world of self-publishing. Here's my take on the acquisition and what it means, along with some pundits' reactions to the merger and a report from my conversation with the senior vice president of marketing for Author Solutions, Keith Ogorek.

Why Author Solutions? Why Now?

Keith Ogorek, Sr VP Marketing, Author Solutions

It's no secret that since traditional publishing houses have been suffering, smart agents and acquisitions editors actively seek successful self-published authors. Publishers like Harlequin, Hay House, and Thomas Nelson partnered with Author Solutions (ASI) to create self-publishing services for them back in 2009, both to expand into a profitable business, and to data mine for successful authors in their genres.

Penguin is no different, of course, and its solution was Book Country, a genre-fiction writing community, which only added self-publishing services in November 2011 -- late to the game.

"Sure they've been watching the trend," Ogorek said. "Penguin has already been acquiring self-published titles. With the [ASI] acquisition they will be able to identify self-published authors earlier in the process, the ones that meet the high standards of Penguin."

Bringing in Community

One big question that arises from the purchase is: Will Pearson's Book Country continue as both a genre fiction writing community and self-publishing service retooled to use Author Solutions technologies and services? Or will Book Country revert to a writing community and retire its self-publishing arm to open a new and improved self-publishing service more obviously branded next to Penguin?

"It's part of the discussion," Ogorek said, "We think there's a bigger opportunity in the online learning center there, and it's possible that Booktango could bring in Book Country as part of that. It's a great site for curating content and community involvement. However," he added, "I'd like to talk to you in about a month. After all, we just got married yesterday, and we haven't figured out where all the furniture is going to go."

(Book Country's self-publishing tools area recently went offline while they "upgrade the site.")

Book Country Self-Publishing Tools Offline

A Booktango and Book Country pairing could be interesting, as community is lacking in most self-publishing platforms.

Scribd comes close, with its document sharing and commenting features, paired with a sales platform. But it doesn't distribute, so popular authors like "My Drop Dead Life" author Hyla Molander have to choose print and e-book platforms that get them into all the stores.

Then there's the WattPad community for the young adult market, where authors like Brittany Geragotelis shared her writing and attracted 13 million readers, before deciding to self-publish using Amazon CreateSpace and KDP for print and e-book sales.

As a side note, WattPad and Smashwords partnered to close the gap between community file-sharing and commenting and getting books out into the stores. The right combination of community and publishing platform could attract authors to Booktango and Book Country.

DIY Services ... or More?

Ogorek uses the home-improvement metaphor to explain that DIY services like their Booktango e-book service, along with Smashwords and Amazon CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing and maybe BookBaby, are "for people with skills, who know how to build a deck and want to do it themselves." Then there are the people who don't have the skills, or maybe just don't have the time, "who hire contractors to build the deck." For these authors, they provide add-on services and "assisted self-publishing" tools like iUniverse and Author House, Trafford and Xlibris, for which authors pay into the five figures.

Self-publishers who dream of winning a traditional publishing contract may anticipate that Penguin will notice them if they're popular on Book Country, or Booktango, or whatever it will be called. (Though so obviously impractical, the acquisition dream dies hard, even now, when so many traditionally published authors are jumping to the free services.)

How is an Author to Choose?

Booktango List of Services

Instead of salivating over a possible acquisition by Penguin, self-publishers should be asking how the Penguin/ASI services help them now. Do Booktango and Book Country compete in the current market? Well, yeah. Let's just say that ASI is pulling an Amazon and underselling, giving authors 100% of earnings when they publish with Booktango, without even a signup fee. "It's a business decision on our part," Ogorek said. "We think that authors will purchase services, and we'll have the opportunity down the road to get their books out there and known."

So how is an author to choose? Author Solutions is often criticized for its hard upselling, and Booktango's pages are not exempt. There are "hot deals" on social media consultations, as well as "new" marketing services like Kirkus Indie Review, and blogger review services among the many listed on their site.

Their packaged services (iUniverse, Author House, etc.) are also famous for add-ons, but let's stick to Booktango, whose e-book packages range from free to $189. In comparison, Smashwords is free, giving authors 85% of earnings. BookBaby is closest in structure to Booktango by not taking a percentage, but it makes its money by signing up authors for $99 and in premium services. Amazon KDP gives the author 70% of earnings, and Amazon CreateSpace (print) 80%.

BookBaby, whose premium publishing e-book packages top out at $249, sells add-on services like cover design and advanced formatting, with cover designs topping out at $279. (They can also do web design with their HostBaby product.) Smashwords doesn't sell anything but the authors' e-books, and almost reluctantly passes on an email list of e-book formatters and cover designers liked by its authors.

The Critics Say...

Smashwords founder Mark Coker is a longtime critic of Author Solutions, saying that they make more money from selling services to authors than selling authors' books: "Author Solutions is one of the companies that put the 'V' in vanity.  Author Solutions earns two-thirds or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors' books to readers ... Does Pearson think that Author Solutions represents the future of indie publishing?"

Mark Coker, Founder, Smashwords

It's not news that ASI, along with Amazon, is the company that some publishing pundits love to hate. Jane Friedman, in her Writer Unboxed blog, notes that ASI's acquisitions are "appearing more and more like a huge scramble to squeeze a few more profitable dollars out of a service that is no longer needed, that is incredibly overpriced when compared to the new and growing competition, and has less to recommend it with each passing day, as more success stories come from the e-publishing realm where author royalties are in the 70-85% range. (An author typically earns less than half that percentage for royalties on a POD book.)"

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez of Digital Book World was skeptical of Penguin's claim as to the value of the acquisition, posting in his blog that "my own first reaction was pretty cynical." And he finds Penguin Group CEO "John Makinson's claim odd, as reported by Publisher's Lunch, that he expects there will be a 'new and growing category of professional authors who are going to gravitate towards the ASI solution rather than the free model.'"

I always advise authors to be skeptical of add-on services -- marketing especially. It's generally agreed in the industry that unless you've got very deep pockets, you just cannot hire it out to someone else, and that's even if the book is great. I've remarked many times that authors are as much, or more at fault, as the seller, for paying more than they need for services, and for paying for services they don't need. Especially vulnerable are new authors, and authors recently dumped by their publishing companies, as they would like to believe it can be easy to simply throw money at a service to solve their problem, mewing in an almost deliberate naiveté, "I just want to write."

Lest I sound too harsh, I have often found the language on some of ASI's pages to be convincing, easily frightening uneducated authors into paying for a service that can be cheaply and easily done themselves. In fact, it was the language on Booktango's U.S. Copyright Registration service, along with the $150 price tag, that led to me write my previous post on how to easily and cheaply register your copyright electronically for $35 in 35 minutes.

I asked Ogorek to comment, and he responded with the deck analogy. "It's up to the individual to decide whether they want a product. They may have the time and skills to build the deck themselves, or they may not want to learn how, and hire the contractor instead. We provide tools and services to serve both cases."

The Future

Should self-publishers put ASI's Booktango in the running when they're considering Smashwords and BookBaby, Amazon CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing? Sure. Just resist the upsell.

Should you consider purchasing ASI's iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, or another package? Hmmmm. It is very difficult for a committed do-it-yourselfer like myself to be convinced to recommend these options. I've never taken a hands-off approach to publishing, and I like to know who is editing, designing, and formatting my book, instead of throwing it into a mill and seeing which cubicle it lands in. I may get a riffed senior editor from Random House, or a recent college graduate. But the bigger question may be, will Penguin provide a much-needed publisher's touch to organize the confusing array of products and soften ASI's hard-sell approach?

Will the Book Country community prove to be valuable to authors seeking to perfect and sell their books? Is all the acquisition and activity productive and author-friendly, or is it just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Penguin has a chance to reorganize, rebrand, and remarket Author Solutions companies with a level of transparency that regains the trust of authors and critics in the industry.The activity is worth watching closely.

Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website. Her Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors was updated in early 2012 and is available in print and online at the usual resellers.

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May 03 2012

13:53

Can E-Books Succeed Without Amazon?

E-book author Victoria Hudson doesn't like Amazon or the power it seems to wield with independent writers.

She didn't want to sell her book and short stories on its Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, something she calls "too restrictive to authors." Instead she chose an alternative book distributor based in the San Francisco Bay Area called Smashwords.

"I want my work to be available in as many places as possible," she said.

In the e-book market, Amazon.com is the biggest name in the game. But, as criticism mounts -- especially from people who believe that Amazon, and specifically, it's KDP Select Program, can hurt rather than help writers -- alternatives like Smashwords are on the rise.

But can an independent author afford to bypass Amazon, especially when it provides so much exposure to self-published e-books? So far, the answer isn't a clear one.

The Criticism

Most of Amazon's criticism comes because of the KDP Select program. For most authors at the Kindle Store, books are usually split between two prices -- 99 cents and $2.99. At $2.99, Amazon's take is only 30 percent with 70 percent going to the author. At $2.98 and below, the author's take is only 35 percent.

But the KDP program offers more visibility on Amazon if authors agree to give their book away for free for five days during a 90-day period. The author must also sell exclusively at the Kindle store for those 90 days. While the subject is a hot topic on the Kindle boards, many authors are already a part of the program in hopes of getting momentum and their title climbing the Kindle charts. "Charts are everything for Amazon publishers," said Erica Sadun, an independent and traditionally published writer. "Chart position gives you momentum."

kindlelibrary.png

Authors are also asked to loan out books for free at the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for a chance at a pot of $600,000.

"Successful books are not in this program," Sadun said. "It's the ones trying to get market traction and trying to climb those charts." It is one of the few ways that people can successfully market a book that would have no market otherwise, she added.

Questions sent to Amazon for comment on the KDP Select program and its new publishing arm went unanswered.

Amazon Alternatives

While that may be true, some say that Amazon's heavy-handed attitude is hurting independent authors, and writers are looking for alternatives to the Amazon juggernaut.

Hudson, a writer from Hayward, Calif., has a chapter from a future book distributed by Smashwords as well as "No Red Pen: Writing, Writing Groups and Critique," a handbook on giving better writing critiques.

"Smashwords was an easy way to get the electronic version out to a lot of markets," she said.

Mark Coker created the Los Gatos, Calif.-based Smashwords four years ago after trying to get his own book, "Boob Tube," published.

"The more I thought about the issue, the madder I got that a publisher has the power to stand between me and my potential audience," he said.

Now Smashwords has more than 37,000 authors and publishers and 100,000 e-books in 32 countries -- with a 60-85 percent royalty for authors.

Coker doesn't like the KDP Select program because he questions its fairness. "It's using self-published authors as pawns as a broader campaign to wage war against retail competitors," he said. "If it wasn't for the exclusivity requirement, I would be a big supporter of KDP Select. I love the idea that an author can receive payment when it's borrowed."

The exclusivity also hurts authors, he said. "We lost 6,000 to 7,000 books around the Christmas season," he said. "Yes, in three months you can bring that book back, but you have lost any momentum that you had."

Despite his dislike of some of Amazon's practices, Coker holds no animosity toward the company nor does he suggest writers have any. "For those authors who do not work with Amazon out of principle, that's not a behavior I would encourage," he said. "Authors should be everywhere."

BookBaby.jpg

Another alternative to publishing on Amazon is Portland, Ore.-based BookBaby, which has a $99 "self-publishing made easy" option which formats e-books, offers cover design, and has a better-known sister company called CD Baby that sells independent music. It distributes its books to the iBookstore, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony Reader and others.

"We are taking nothing from the back end and passing on 100 percent of net royalties, so authors get to keep all of the money they earn," said Brian Felsen, president of BookBaby. "Our payments are timely and transparent, and we pay immediately upon receipt from our partners."

Hyperink is a new kind of e-book publisher, one that comes with $1.2 million in venture capital funds and seeks out experts to write targeted e-books.

Kevin Gao, a co-founder of digital publisher Hyperink, said his company looks at search engine data, book sales, and tables of content to find out the hottest book topics. "In general, there are two types of authors: professional writers who are freelance writers interested in writing e-books and experts with an area of expertise," he said.

Gao said the year-old Hyperink launches about 100 titles a month on Kindle, Kobo and the iBookstore, and royalties to authors typically run 25-50 percent. But if experts need help organizing material or their thoughts, or the company needs a quick-hit e-book, Hyperink finds freelance writers to take on the task.

Zach Demby, a 28-year-old writer from Oakland, Calif., answered one of Hyperink's initial calls for writers. He penned an 8,000-word study guide or "quicklet" for the book "Freakonomics" and was paid $200. He received no royalties.

"I just found them on Craigslist," he said. "They paid a flat fee plus royalties ... But I didn't expect any royalties." Now with pay rates cut, Demby said he would rather put his efforts into more lucrative freelancing and his own work.

A recent Hyperink call for writers stated it was looking for new freelance writers to take on 5,000- to 8,000-word quicklets ranging $80 to $130 plus 15 percent royalties.

Gao said rates for writers have gone down on a per-word basis since its launch. "There's a lot more supply and a lot of writers out there looking for work," he said.

Amazon's New Publishing Twist

While the alternatives to Amazon exist, independent authors would be wise to watch what the online retailer is doing. Amazon is reinventing itself and becoming a traditional publisher, making it more difficult for writers to ignore the company on principle.

While the Kindle Store still handles the majority of e-book sales, Amazon has been busy creating its own stable of authors. It began its own publishing arm, Amazon Publishing, last May and published 122 books last fall. The publishing house now has six imprints: romance, mysteries, science fiction and fantasy, international authors, emerging authors, and how-to books. Would-be authors can now submit their book proposal directly to Amazon.

The courting of authors could easily edge out both publishers and agents by offering a direct-to-print service.

"The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader," Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon's top executives, told the New York Times. "Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity."

Barbara E. Hernandez is a native Californian who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has more than a decade of experience as a professional journalist and college writing instructor. She also writes for Press:Here, NBC Bay Area's technology blog.

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April 10 2012

14:00

Pew Survey Shows How E-Books Are Changing the Equation for Publishers, Readers

More Americans are reading e-books than ever, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

The most impressive stat from the study is that 21 percent of adults had read an e-book in the past year, but adults are still more likely to read a printed book. Seventy-two percent of adults (age 16 or older) turn the pages the old-fashioned way.

However, the reach of e-books is growing, increasing from 17 percent of adults before the 2011 holiday season, during which thousands of e-reading devices appeared under Christmas trees, to 21 percent immediately after. The poll, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, captured Americans' attitudes toward reading and digital reading in mid-December 2011 and January 2012.

The data showing that e-books are on the rise will not surprise anyone who's been paying attention to the rapid adoption of e-readers. But what the study really sheds light on is how quickly our relationship with reading is changing in the digital age.

Reading is still in decline, but not by much

Thumbnail image for ebook_flickrcc_by_shall_be_lifted.jpg

According to the study, 22 percent of Americans said they hadn't read a book in the previous 12 months or refused to answer the question. That figure was 12 percent in 1978, 19 percent in 1990, 15 percent in 1999, 14 percent in 2001, 17 percent in 2005, and 22 percent in 2011. Fewer people are reading than ever, but the percentage of people who don't read has been hovering around 20 percent for 20 years now. Increasing use of the Internet since the mid-'90s and ever more available tech gadgets haven't radically changed the percentage of Americans who read books, especially when the study's plus or minus two-percentage-point margin of error is taken into account.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Richard Eoin Nash is a forward-thinking publishing veteran who ran Soft Skull Press, an independent publisher, from 2001 to 2007. He wasn't surprised by this result. "Frankly, this 'reading in decline' business struck me as a bunch of hokum," he said.

Nash currently wears several hats as the founder of Cursor, offering what he describes as a "new, social approach to publishing," the publisher of Cursor's Red Lemonade imprint, and the vice president of Community and Content for Small Demons, a startup that tracks the rich content inside of books, including songs and places referenced in them.

"There is absolutely no sign that reading is in danger," he said. "As a rule, these things tend to get exploited by people looking for stories about how the sky is falling, whether it's because they're looking for funding, or whether it's because every establishment institution that purveys culture in the end is looking for ways to preserve its status. Changes in technology, all other things being equal, tend to undermine its status. So, whether it was Socrates complaining about books or the great comic book scares of the 1950s when four-color printing came about, every time there is a new technology that allows more and different culture to be created, the guardians of the status quo announce that civilization is over."

E-Books Result in More Reading, Even in Men

On the other hand, despite the continued slight decline in reading overall, e-books are increasing the rate of reading among some people. According to Pew, "30 percent of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now. Some 41 percent of tablet owners and 35 percent of e-reading device owners said they are reading more since the advent of e-content."

Many studies have found that men read less than women, and this poll supports that general trend -- 14 percent of men are frequent readers, reading 21 or more books in the past year, while 20 percent of women are frequent readers. However, men who own e-readers report they are reading more now, and men are more avid readers than women of certain categories of material. Men are slightly more likely to read a newspaper daily. Men are more likely than women to read about current events daily (53 percent vs. 46 percent), and men are more likely to read daily for work or school, while women are more likely to read for pleasure. Men are more likely to own only a tablet computer, such as the iPad or Kindle Fire, while women are more likely to own only an e-reader, such as the Kindle or Nook.

Teachers and librarians have often lamented that it's more difficult to interest boys in reading than girls. Could e-books provide a way to interest more boys in reading?

Samantha Becker, research project manager of the U.S. IMPACT Study at the University of Washington's Information School, said, "I think it may be too soon to tell whether e-readers are making readers out of non-readers. But it certainly has the potential to be a hook for boys and other reluctant readers if they are enticed by being able to use technology. The other thing that e-books provide is the ability to link to other resources beyond the print, including videos and other enhanced content that will make reading more fun and interesting. This is an underutilized capability of e-books, particularly for tablets, but I think it will be a growing area of development as the market expands, and eventually there will be books written with enhanced content in mind."

E-Book Enthusiasts are Superlative Readers

E-book users earn a gold star for reading more avidly than any other group. The Pew study finds e-book readers are "relatively avid readers of books in all formats: 88 percent of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read printed books. Compared with other book readers, they read more books. They read more frequently for a host of reasons: for pleasure, for research, for current events, and for work or school. They are also more likely than others to have bought their most recent book, rather than borrowed it, and they are more likely than others to say they prefer to purchase books in general, often starting their search online."

Significantly for publishers who feel the ground shifting under their feet with recent developments such as the demise of Borders and some other traditional bookstores, e-book readers are more likely to buy the books they read, while other readers are more apt to borrow.

"Is this part of a CD moment?" Nash wondered. "We had this moment in the music business where people embraced the CD player over their cassette player, and they started acquiring a significant amount of CDs. At a certain point, that plateaued as people acquired a critical mass of stuff, and then shifted to a more sedate degree of consumption. By consumption, I mean purchase. The amount they listened to remained the same, but the amount they purchased started to taper off. This is highly speculative. I'm not saying this will happen. But as Nassim Taleb (author of 'The Black Swan') always points out, every straight line going up at a diagonal stops some time."

Given that e-book readers are more likely to purchase books than non e-book readers, every publisher will have to cater to them to stay afloat in the rapidly changing book marketplace. Nash observed that figuring out how to do this is the publishers' problem, not the readers'.

"The interesting thing is the reader doesn't have a problem here," he said. "Because for so long, people could only read what a fairly small group of publishers picked for them to read. Readers were living in an oligopolistic world. So we didn't really have to think very much about readers. They were only peripherally part of the equation. From a cultural standpoint, they were absolutely central. But in terms of talking about the industry, they were an abstraction. They were helpless. Now they have power. Now they can choose not just from a much larger group of publishers than existed before, but also from a bigger chunk of publishing history, as books stay in print longer and books that were out of print get put back into print."

He added, "I would emphasize how significant it is that books are no longer going out of print. Most books published in 1986 were not available in bookstores in 1990, so there was this forgetting. We're sort of living in a science-fiction movie where no one forgets, where everything published stays published. That gives readers tremendous power."

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Do E-books Contribute to the Digital Divide?

The Pew poll, which was conducted in English and Spanish, found Hispanics read less than white or black people, and that lower-income Americans read the least: "A fifth of Americans (18 percent) said they had not read a book in the past year. This group is more likely to be: male than female (23 percent vs. 14 percent), Hispanic than white or black (28 percent vs. 17 percent and 16 percent), age 65 or older (27 percent), lacking a high school diploma (34 percent), living in households earning less than $30,000 (26 percent), unemployed (22 percent), and residents of rural areas (25 percent). Those who did not read a book last year also tended not to be technology users."

Do e-books contribute to the digital divide in which those without access to technology are being left behind in a tech-centered world? Becker said, "I don't know that e-books contribute to the digital divide right now, though that's certainly a possibility in the future if e-publishing overtakes traditional publishing and readers are shut out of participating because of excessive restrictions in borrowing and lending, or prohibitive costs for accessing devices and content.

"I think there is some more interesting research to be done around the intersection of reluctant readers and people who also don't use much technology. It seems likely that those folks are probably living on the margins generally, and lack of reading and use of technology is a symptom of their circumstances rather than a cause. Ensuring that rural, poor, unemployed, and other marginalized groups have access to reading and self-improvement has always been a core value for public libraries, and it continues in ensuring access to technology and digital literacy skills. Librarians see this as part of their mission, and e-book access is becoming part of that mission, too."

Looking Toward the Digital Future

The Pew study shows that Americans have begun to move toward reading books, newspapers, and magazines digitally, without waiting for the publishing industry to figure out how to survive this shift.

Nash reflected on the history of the publishing industry to frame the current moment. "In the last 150 years, publishing became a weird artifact of the industrial revolution," he said. "With the industrial revolution, you tend to have this really stark separation between producer and consumer, because you make money off of scale. In an analogue, mechanical reproduction situation, the primary way you're going to make money is because your marginal costs always decline. It starts high and always it declines. So the more you can print of something, the more money you're going to make on each additional unit. With digital, the marginal cost of reproduction is virtually zero. What we're witnessing most clearly is the slow demise of the industrial revolution model. It's interesting because books began it. Books were the first mass-produced object."

As Pew's research shows, only a few years after their introduction, e-books have arrived as an important part of reading in America, whether publishers and booksellers are ready for them or not.

Photo of e-reader by Anders Hoff on Flickr

Jenny Shank is the author of the novel "The Ringer" (The Permanent Press, 2011), a finalist for the Reading the West Book Awards. Her fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Poets & Writers Magazine, Bust, Dallas Morning News, High Country News and The Onion.

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February 28 2012

14:00

How Social Media, E-Books, Self-Publishing Change Writers Conferences

At first, you came to the San Francisco Writers Conference to learn the craft of writing, to hear famous writers describe how they became famous, to learn the secrets of how to create a winning book proposal, to become enlightened by publishers about what they want and, most of all, to pitch literary agents, those elusive creatures who seem always to be heading the other direction.

Today, it's a different story. Today's conference is about all the traditional basics, but also about topics from blogging and tweeting to e-books and self-publishing. I asked four longtime participants in the 2012 San Francisco Writers Conference earlier this month to describe how this and other writers conferences have morphed to include technical content relevant to today's writers.

You can listen to their takes below.

I started with San Francisco Writers Conference co-organizer Laurie McLean, who told me that the core teachings are still there, but two entirely new tracks have been added to handle tech topics relevant to writers today, and the previously unmentionable option, self-publishing.

Laurie McLean
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For more than 20 years Laurie ran a public relations agency in California's Silicon Valley. Then she became an agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents representing adult genre fiction and children's middle grade and young adult books. As Agent Savant, she works with authors to create their author brand, then develop a digital marketing plan to help them promote that brand online via social media, blogs, websites and more. Laurie is dean of the new San Francisco Writers University and on the management team of the San Francisco Writers Conference. In 2012, Laurie started two e-publishing companies: Joyride Books (for out-of-print vintage romance novels) and Ambush Books (for out-of-print children's books).

Listen to McLean on adding two new tracks to the conference offerings here.

Listen to McLean on still sticking with the basics here.

Kevin Smokler
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In 2007, Kevin Smokler founded, with Chris Anderson (editor in chief of Wired Magazine), BookTour.com, the world's largest online directory of author and literary events. Kevin now serves as the company's CEO, regularly speaking at industry conferences and book festivals throughout North America on the future of publishing, books, reading and legacy media in the 21st century. His regular topics include print and digital publishing, legacy media, social media and the web for writers, and business skills for artists and creatives. In April of 2008, Amazon purchased a minority stake in BookTour.com.

From Smokler's vantage, despite all the changes, there are some things that are still, and always will be, basic to publishing -- namely, the need for a quality book and connecting that book to readers.

Listen to Kevin Smokler talk about that here.

Patrick von Wiegandt
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Patrick von Wiegandt is a musician and sound engineer in charge of making each session at the San Francisco Writers Conference available in audio formats for sale immediately at the conference and online after the event.

He's seen big changes "backstage," as in the transition from tape to CD to MP3, but because he also hears all the sessions, he has some interesting insights about how the content of the conference has changed since the Internet came to be important to writers.

Listen here to Patrick von Wiegandt talk about the changes he's seen.

Joel Friedlander

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Joel Friedlander is a self-published author and a book designer who blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.

One of the biggest changes Friedlander sees is the massive shift in how books are being publicized (authors now being asked to do promotions themselves) and how writers conferences are adapting to reflect that change.

Hear Friedlander talk about that change and others he's seeing here.

Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website. The newest version of her e-book, The Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, was released in August 2011 and is available on Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and for the B&N Nook.

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January 18 2012

15:20

Self-Published Authors Still Rarely Make the Jump to Publishing Houses

For many self-published authors, a traditional publisher is an elusive dream. It means a team of professionals taking over marketing, advertising, publicity and the mechanics of publishing one's own book on paper and electronically. It means already forged relationships with booksellers, critics and other writers - and it means more time to write, rather than haggling over the costs of a book cover design or editing.

While both the self-published fantasy writer Amanda Hocking and CIA thriller author John Locke show that independent authors can succeed in attracting big publishers and contracts, it seems, for now, that they are the exception, not the rule.

using the Kindle Store as a talent pool

The rise of e-books and self publishing has certainly enlarged the talent pool for publishers and made it easier to find authors, but that doesn't mean publishers are all taking advantage of the emerging talent.

Debra Dixon, president of Bell Bridge Books, a small press based in Memphis that publishes young adult, science fiction and fantasy titles, said, "I know that we have seen agents trolling Kindle lists . . . But our authors tend to come to us based on reputation."

"I know a lot of folks in the industry and I just don't hear anybody saying, 'I got the greatest author this week -- got her on Kindle,'" Dixon said.

Trina MacDonald, a senior acquisitions editor for Pearson Education, said she discovers authors by finding experts in the field, doing research and hearing from people in the community. "We ask what types of books they would like to see and who would write them," she said. "And then we would make direct contact."

MacDonald said she has heard of publishers contacting writers on Kindle and isn't against the idea.

"I have not approached any authors, but I think it would depend on the book and the author," MacDonald said. "But if they are already self-published you can see what kind of writing they're capable of."

The Truth About Amanda Hocking

AmandaHocking.jpgAmanda Hocking, a 27-year-old independent author who sold more than a million copies of her books, signed a reported $2 million-plus, four-book deal with St. Martin's Press earlier this year, making her an indie success story. The news of her book deal flooded the Internet, sparking reports that publishers are looking for the next Hocking.

But Hocking wasn't a passive participant in the process. She sent numerous queries, manuscripts and book proposals to traditional publishers and agents, only to be turned down repeatedly. Hocking was also a prolific author with nine self-published titles to her name and her popular Trylle Trilogy, had already been optioned for a motion picture. According to her blog, she even had an editor, cover artist and acted on feedback from publishers and agents. By the time she was offered a contract by St. Martin's she had negotiated foreign language rights in Hungary and sold 1 million copies of her books.

She said she chose to go with a traditional publisher because, "I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation."

The new independent author has to be able to market and advertise a book in nontraditional ways on a minuscule budget. That usually means blogs, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and a lot of phone calls and email. That publicity, often called "discoverability" or a "platform," is what sells books and propels them up the e-book bestseller lists. And for most self-published e-book authors, that means making their downloads available at the Amazon Kindle store.

Clearing the Way

Erica Sadun, an author who previously wrote technical manuals such as "The iOS 5 Developer's Cookbook," decided to work on an independent e-book to stay ahead of the technological curve.

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"My friend Steve [Sande] and I were sick to pieces of the 101 days of production before books can get out," she said from her Denver home. So she and Sande decided to pen a how-to for the iPhone 4S's virtual assistant Siri, called "Talking to Siri" and had it out within two weeks of the iPhone 4S launch.

After selling well for six days, it was picked up by a publisher - as it turns out, Sadun's own publisher Pearson wanted it for its Que imprint. "It isn't the normal story," Sadun said.

But Sadun's story isn't uncommon either. Several successful authors have started independently publishing for higher royalties or using it to test out new genres. One successful author that advocates and guides new Kindle authors into self-publishing e-books, J.A. Konrath, had six books published by Hyperion since 2004.

But lacking a following or any exposure, unknown independent authors still have to garner interest however possible.

The Hybrid Author

Dixon said she met self-published urban fantasy author John Hartness in the usual fashion, at a science fiction and fantasy convention.

"When I began talking to publishers and eventually signed with Bell Bridge Books, they were as attracted to my stories as they were that I was media-savvy and self-promotions savvy," Hartness said. "But I don't know of any publisher who would be willing to put out bad stories because their authors are a whiz at promotion."

Dixon signed Hartness in September, about two years after he uploaded his first independent e-book to the Kindle Store.

"We saw what he had done and his platform, which made it more attractive because when you relaunch an author it's a big commitment," Dixon said.

Traditional publishers do shoulder the price of editing, promotion and publicity, and they usually recoup those costs with higher asking prices than 99 cents or $2.99. With self-published authors, the costs for publishers are the same as for a new author. "We treat (the book) as if it has never been published," Dixon said. "One of the strong reasons writers come to publishers is to elevate their book."

While Hartness loves working with his publisher and the process, he continues to self-publish his own work. "I think you are going to see many more hybrid authors," he said.

Barbara E. Hernandez is a native Californian who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has more than a decade of experience as a professional journalist and college writing instructor. She also writes for Press:Here, NBC Bay Area's technology blog.

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May 20 2011

17:00

Mediatwits #8: LinkedIn's Bubbly IPO; Grueskin on the New York World

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Welcome to the eighth episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser along with PaidContent founder Rafat Ali. This week's show looks at the big IPO of business networking site LinkedIn, with the stock price doubling to more than $90 per share in its first day of trading, valuing the company at nearly $10 billion. Things are getting a little bubbly out there.

This week's special guest is Bill Grueskin, the dean of academic affairs at Columbia University's Journalism School. Grueskin talks about the upcoming launch of the school's new online publication, the New York World, as well as how Columbia is putting greater emphasis on students learning about the business of journalism. Finally, Amazon had an important milestone recently, saying it is now selling more e-books than print books. How has the Kindle survived the onslaught of the iPad and tablets?

Check it out!

mediatwits8.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

NEW! Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Mark gets Sonic.net; Rafat get into co-working

1:00: Rafat doesn't miss planning PaidContent events

2:45: Co-working space might motivate Rafat to work

5:10: Rundown on the podcast's stories

LinkedIn IPO

8:10: The market is lacking tech IPOs

10:30: Premium subscriptions isn't a big revenue driver

11:10: Mark gives more to LinkedIn than he gets in return

Interview with Columbia's Bill Grueskin

13:10: Background on Grueskin

15:00: Columbia wanted consistency with student website

18:15: New York World will offer stories to other sites

21:10: Columbia has same challenges as legacy news orgs

23:20: Grueskin explains how Columbia is teaching business to J-school students

26:50: Comparing New York City J-schools

Amazon sells more e-books than print books

28:50: Book industry last to go digital -- but fastest, too

29:45: Mark compares Kindle to Flip cam as utility device

32:00: Rafat thinks of Kindle as "peaceful device"

More Reading

LinkedIn Shares Soar After IPO at WSJ

The LinkedIn Pop at Reuters

LinkedIn's $8B IPO -- Silicon Valley, get ready for housing recovery at VentureBeat

LinkedIn IPO Doubles, Reid Hoffman Now A Billionaire at Forbes

Does LinkedIn signify a bubble? at Globe and Mail

The LinkedIn IPO Millionaires Club at WSJ

Columbia Journalism School to launch The New York World at Columbia University

Amazon Now Selling More Kindle Books Than All Print Books at PaidContent

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about the LinkedIn IPO:




What does the LinkedIn IPO signify?Market Research

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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April 29 2011

17:40

February 16 2011

18:36

How the Kindle Made Single-Story Sales a Reality for Magazines

I've never seen a "Not for Individual Sale" label on a magazine story. So why can't I buy most individual magazine articles in digital form just yet?

Selling stand-alone stories has seemed like a potential business model for magazines and other journalism organizations since the rise of iTunes. Observers hyped an incipient micropayment business model for journalism. But few companies have tried this model, instead offering complete digital editions and, whenever possible, digital subscriptions. The advantages of that approach are clear: packaging more into the product justifies a higher price, and loyal subscribers attract advertisers. Yet with the growth of e-reading on tablets and mobile devices, as well as new options for processing small payments for content (e.g., PayPal, Facebook, Apple's App Store), marketing individual stories may soon gain fresh appeal.

Magazines exploring this option would have to maintain their brand reputation and their editorial voice by carefully selecting stories to sell and ensuring that they respect their relationship with existing readers. Recent experiments with selling individual stories show, however, that it can be done successfully. The only cloud on the horizon could be Apple's new subscription service for iOS, which demands that the company gets 30% of all subscription sales.

Relying on Brand Strength

Well-known magazine The Atlantic ended its monthly publishing of short fiction in 2005, and now offers a single fiction issue yearly. However, the magazine, founded in 1857, wanted to explore other ways to continue its legacy of publishing fiction, and so recently finished a year-long experiment that made two short stories per month available exclusively on the Kindle. These were labeled on Amazon as Atlantic Fiction for Kindle.

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"We wanted to recommit last year to being a purveyor of great fiction," said Scott Havens, Atlantic Media's vice president for digital strategy and operations. "It was an opportunistic play to further our entrance in the fiction market and to test out a new platform."

The Atlantic's access to established writers, such as Joyce Carol Oates and Paul Theroux, was a significant part of its success. Havens said the popularity of each individual story correlated to the prior popularity and "salability" of their writers. When Amazon customers searched for those authors' work, The Atlantic stories also came up in the results.

Overall, Havens said, Atlantic Kindle for Fiction "was a worthwhile effort, and it was a successful financial venture for us." The Atlantic is now working on new ventures for other digital platforms, and the complete magazine remains a top seller on the Kindle.

Success of 'One Story'

Clearly, The Atlantic's pre-existing brand strength and its ability to involve recognized authors factored into its achievement. However, smaller ventures can also establish a reputation for quality. One Story is a non-profit that publishes one story every three weeks in print format, and also publishes them on the Kindle, where One Story is ranked 19th among bestselling magazines.

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Maribeth Batcha, publisher and co-founder of One Story, said that after just a year of availability, readership on the Kindle was as high as the print edition's readership after four years of publication. Kindle and print readers receive a new story every three weeks, representing varied styles and genres.

"There is not a 'type' of story we publish," said Batcha. "We'll really publish anything, but it has to feel pretty meaty and hold its own. It needs to feel like you've gotten a whole artistic experience."

The magazine will only publish an author once, and yet it still has a recognizable character as a publication.

"Over time, people develop a relationship with a magazine....It's not between the reader and the individual story," Batcha said. "There has to be some way you define your curatorial voice. People want choice, but not too much choice."

For mainstream, established magazines, this may be a major challenge in attempting single-story sales. Can a lone story express enough of an editorial identity to appeal to readers on its own? Editors must select stories strong enough to stand alone not only for their quality and timelessness, but also for their ability to effectively communicate to readers the magazine's distinctive larger brand and "curatorial" identity.

Building a Passionate Audience

One Story also counts on the audience's passion for writing itself. The magazine's readers, Batcha said, are "serious." The non-profit magazine seeks donations and is partly grant-funded. It has also organized writing workshops and encourages educational uses of the magazine to promote the short story to young audiences.

A new project that sells individual stories is also hoping that readers' support for substantial, long-form writing and its writers will lead to success. The Atavist, which launched January 26, publishes stand-alone, in-depth non-fiction articles that are longer than most magazine pieces, especially given today's ever-shorter features. The articles, priced at $2.99, are available through the publication's iPad/iPhone apps, as well as on the Kindle and Nook e-readers. Income from the stories is shared between The Atavist and the authors.

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"People don't think readers want [long stories]...but we thought there was an opportunity on the [smart]phone to give people this kind of story that they couldn't get anywhere else," said Evan Ratliff, editor of The Atavist and an award-winning magazine writer. "I do think there's a group of readers who'd like to support writers and creative people in general. If you say a lot of this money is going to the writers, [readers] know who made it and know where the money is going."

Ratliff describes The Atavist's approach as a "hybrid" between magazines and books. "We take some elements from one model and some from others. We're taking our editorial approach from magazines. We have fact-checkers just like at a major weekly or monthly magazine," he said. "We're taking a book approach in the way the story is told. It can have a nice arc to it, and it can have chapters more substantial than magazine sections."

The Atavist is not affiliated with a print magazine, though its founders are interested in partnering with both established and startup book and magazine publishers. There may also be advertising possibilities, though their style may depend on readers' preferences.

"Magazine readers are really amenable to advertising, but book readers are not. It's acceptable in one place, but not in the other," Ratliff said.

The Atavist is also part of a new Amazon venture called Kindle Singles, which Amazon says "allow a single killer idea -- well researched, well argued and well illustrated -- to be expressed at its natural length," generally from 5,000 to 30,000 words. In addition to the two non-fiction stories published as Singles by The Atavist, Amazon also has published short story collections and novellas as Singles, as well as non-fiction pieces based on TED talks. Amazon is taking submissions for Singles not just from the public, but also from publishers, making it possible that magazines and other established publications could sell individual long-form stories as Singles.

Choosing and Packaging Stories to Sell

One reason most journalism organizations haven't attempted a pay-per-story model, even in the form of micropayments, is that breaking news is available in so many places for free. However, these experiments show that readers may be willing to pay for timeless content that offers an immersive experience, as do long-form non-fiction storytelling and short fiction.

"You can't just take a type of article or a piece of work that is very similar to other things you can find for free on the web and ask people to pay for it," said Ratliff. "That's when people get mad. 'Why are you charging me $1.99 for this news?' We're offering a different proposition that offers something unique, that reads to you almost like fiction, except it's true."

The Atavist includes substantial multimedia in its stories -- such as photos, videos, maps, timelines, audio, and slideshows -- which smoothly integrate with the articles' text. One Story is also considering developing short videos -- such as author interviews -- to accompany its fiction. Right now, established print magazines have little incentive to create multimedia to supplement their stories, since most print readers won't go online to check out associated multimedia after they finish reading. However, adding multimedia enhancements for particular stories could make selling them singly more intriguing to readers and more profitable.

If magazine publishers can identify stories that provide rich, deep reading experiences, and then add engaging multimedia to develop that experience even further, they may be able to leverage their brands and editorial authority to market individual stories successfully. Other possibilities might include packaging stories on one topic together in one download, or combining stories from different magazines in a collaborative product. Individual stories or packages of stories can be sold through apps, websites, and vendors like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

However, the iPad and iPhone might become more difficult platforms for single-serve content if Apple keeps a large percentage of the subscription price. It announced a 30% cut for all subscriptions sold in-app, which has brought an avalanche of bad press for Apple. We'll see if that deal holds, or whether competing subscription services, such as Google One Pass pressure Apple to loosen restrictions.

Given the relative ease of repurposing digital content and the limitless possibilities offered by multimedia, magazine publishers may have an opportunity to reach a bigger audience on multiple platforms. If these ventures flourish, it will be simply because readers love to lose themselves in a good story.

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Mass Communication and Journalism Department at California State University, Fresno. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.

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December 29 2010

17:30

2010: The Year Self-Publishing Lost Its Stigma

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For over a decade I've been speaking at conferences about self-publishing to audiences of dejected, rejected authors. There was always a stigma associated with self-publishing, with many people considering it lower quality vanity press.

But this year, new faces appeared in the crowd: agents, editors, and publishers eager to understand self-publishing. Why? Self-publishing books has finally reached the mainstream, with enough success stories to make it a legitimate part of the publishing world.

Here's more about this and other trends in 2010, plus some crystal-ball gazing into what's coming in 2011.

  1. Self-publishing lost its stigma
    rinzler.jpgIn today's tight traditional publishing market, agents, editors, and publishers are now encouraging authors to test market their book by self-publishing. Yay! Self-publishing has finally lost its stigma. So if you've been dissed by agents in the past, 2011 might be your year to try again. Alan Rinzler is a longtime acquiring and developmental editor at major publishing houses and an independent editor with private clients. "Literary agents have been the missing link for self-published writers trying to break through into mainstream publishing," he states in Literary agents open the door to self-published writers. "But new attitudes are taking hold, especially among younger up-and-coming literary agents."
  2. Ease of tech attracts traditionally published authors to go indie
    Technology companies have been wholly responsible for providing tools that let authors easily publish in print and on e-reading devices. "Many of our indie e-book authors are outselling, outmarketing and outpublishing the traditional publishers," says Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, who in 2010 helped indie authors publish and distribute over 20,000 e-books. "Self-published authors are finally gaining much-deserved respect, not only from the industry, but from readers as well." Coker adds that the 60-80% earnings from the retail price of their books "has caused many traditionally published authors to go indie." I like a core group of proven e-book creation and distribution solutions, but keep looking to technology companies and partnerships. Just a few to note are Issuu, BookBrewer, and Monocle with its associated Bookish reader.
  3. The social graph makes conversations and recommendations easier
    Social_Media_optimization.jpgAuthors conversant with social media tools will get even more of a leg up in the coming year from technology services. "There's a lot of buzz about reading moving onto digital devices, but people don't talk as much about the consequences of such a shift," says Trip Adler, CEO and co-founder of Scribd. "It's much easier to share what you are reading if you are already reading on an Internet-connected device with your whole social graph right there. Over the next year, you'll see a lot more books, short stories, poems, and other written material recommended to you by your friends and through your likes and interests." Authors who understand this will cultivate relationships with bloggers and other curators who can make their voices heard above the fray. Among interesting offerings here is BookGlutton, which lets readers and reading groups converse inside a book via a widget. Possibilities are vast: authors can upload and discuss them with a virtual writing group. Reading groups, classrooms, and book clubs can discuss books uploaded from the web or from Feedbooks.
  4. Online communities and curation continue to grow
    storify.pngOnline writing groups and communities like Red Room and Figment are increasingly valuable resources for authors testing ideas and looking for input. For readers, they can provide much-needed recommendations. Twitter and Facebook are also venues for recommendations from trusted bloggers, blogs of peers, famous people, or sources in vertical markets. For literary books, Goodreads provides a really nice social media platform":http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2010/goodreads-takes-next-step-in-social-reading/ in their community of more than 4 million readers. Their iPhone/iPad app (over 30,000 downloads) has an integrated e-book reader, rating system, buying, progress reports. They also launched a free author program that lets you upload, sell, and even promote e-books. Look for sites that offer similar services in niche and genre, and more product innovations that make curation easier, like the ones MediaShift's Roland Legrand mentions in his recent post on Storify.
  5. Content-rich, relevant tools for marketing are still emerging
    Karen LelandIn addition to participating in communities and wooing bloggers, Karen Leland, president of Sterling Marketing Group notes that "one of the most exciting developments in 2010 was the expansion of multimedia into the everyday promotion of books and businesses. YouTube has become the biggest search engine outside of Google. In 2011 I think driving book sales with content rich, relevant video placed on YouTube and embedded in blog posts will expand as a leading source of driving awareness of a self-published book." This kind of marketing also improves book discovery with the proper use of metadata.
  6. But book designers are still frustrated
    Joel FriedlanderJoel Friedlander aka The Book Designer has been frustrated in 2010 by too many competing formats and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time design technologies and standards. "My biggest hope and expectation is that we will get better tools for creating e-books in 2011. Great strides are being made in EPUB and other formats but the device engineers and software coders need to finish developing and hand the tools over to the designers. We are eager to use them to create beautiful books and quality experiences for readers." Good news for Friedlander and other design warriors, EPUB3 is scheduled for review and approval in May 2011, and it's got lots of bells and whistles.
  7. Out-of-print titles continue to be revived, shared, and sold
    bookscanning.jpgFor authors with a stack of out-of-print books, 2011 will be the year to get them into e-book format and recreate an income stream. Among others, the non-profit Internet Archive will scan and run OCR across texts, convert them to the various formats for use in their library for the print disabled (blind, dyslexic or are otherwise visually impaired), and in the free archive. Or, for a reasonable fee, you can exclude them from the archive and get the files to sell them yourself in all the usual places on the Internet.
  8. The single-purpose e-book reader phases out
    ereaders.pngThe iPad was the first multi-purpose e-reader (besides the web browser). More than one pundit thinks that single-purpose e-book readers are transitional devices, and that, in the future, we'll be reading comfortably on book size-and-weight versions of the iPad by a galloping herd of makers including the ones making devices today. Expect some to fail.
  9. Transmedia "immersive" books and apps become more common
    Transmedia, enhanced, and multimedia e-booksAuthors who can think "writing" and "movie" and "gaming" are going to love transmedia storytelling. Especially when multi-use devices and books in browsers become the norm. 2010 saw enhanced e-books and magazines, learning materials, and apps based on books on the rise. Watch for continuing growth in the number of startups, a la those Multimedia Gulch CD-ROM development days, to help produce these "transmedia properties."
  10. Oh yeah . . . print books
    Author services companies will continue to serve up Print On Demand (POD) books for multi-book authors and the masses of people who just know they have a book in them. It's a great business. Who knows, maybe the Espresso Book Machine will make it into the few bookstores left standing in 2011. But bookstore distribution will continue to be a less viable option to any publisher's income stream as mail-order from Amazon and the other major retailers continue to usurp brick-and-mortar bookstore sales. The new smaller, lighter, better multi-use devices will encourage e-reading. That leaves the rich and privileged to order special limited print editions of books by authors they love. Okay, that may be gazing a few years too far into the crystal ball, but look, some authors are already finding it a trend, nonetheless.

Did I catch them all? What do you think were the most important developments in self-publishing in 2010, and what do you see in your crystal ball for 2011? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Carla King is an author, a publishing and social media strategist, and co-founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website.

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December 17 2010

17:48

Books in Browsers? Google, Amazon Bring E-Books to the Masses

For authors and publishers already overwhelmed, last week's news about the Google eBooks store and Amazon's Kindle for web only added to the waterfall of controversy pouring into an already raging river of e-book and publishing hype. The big takeaway from these two announcements, and a recent "Books in Browsers" event that I attended, is that the web browser is an important player in e-books.

Self-publishers can benefit from adding browser-based e-book options to the services they should already be using to sell their books, such as Smashwords, Scribd, and Amazon DTP. This best-of-breed group will get their books in all the dedicated e-book readers, mobile, and multi-use devices, and now, delivered in the browser.

Now here's why browsers are so important, and how to get your books in them.

Browsers: The Forgotten Platform

In the frenzy of formats, platforms, and devices, awareness of the web's importance as a e-publishing platform simply faded into the background. But the Books in Browsers conference in October brought the browser to the attention of many publishing insiders. BIB10 was an astonishingly high-level gathering of 120 people from nine countries, including publishers, librarians, and toolmakers (many of whom were notable and even famous names), for a two-day working meeting. It was hosted by Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, who is largely concerned with building a digital library and providing universal access to books, music, movies and, via the WayBackMachine, its billions and billions of archived web pages.

One of the advantages of the web

birdbook.pngbrowser is that it does not constrain text inside a container. With proper formatting, HTML can provide a beautiful reading experience on a 19-inch flat-screen or a three-inch mobile device. The browser even gracefully delivers transmedia books with embedded audio, video, images, and graphics -- something today's e-book readers are hard pressed to do. Even if a book is enclosed in a container (providing discovery, sales, and downloads), the browser delivery system lets book buyers access their downloads from the cloud -- using any device they happen to be near that has an Internet connection, as long as it has an HTML5-compatible browser. It's worth noting that computers and smartphones are able to take advantage of books in browsers, but many dedicated e-readers can't.

Rise and Fall of Dedicated E-Readers

ereaders.pngWith over a billion browser-friendly, web-enabled devices worldwide we are suddenly back to the future with e-book publishing. One has to wonder, why did all the device and e-book publishers feel like they had to create e-book readers?

One answer is because multi-use devices are simply not as light and comfortable as a book. That's going to change, and when it does, your Kobo, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader will become inconvenient and redundant -- or get smarter and lighter and do more things. Today's versions are pretty dumb and are considered "transitional devices" by people who gaze into tech's crystal ball. For example, Craig Morgan of Publishers Weekly and Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired, talk about this in an interview about Kelly's book, What Technology Wants.

Big Name Game Changers

sony-ebook-store-google-books.jpgThe launch of Google eBooks last week has put books in browsers in the headlines. Hours after the announcement, Amazon announced Kindle for Web, making browsers even more relevant. Kahle saw this coming a long time ago.

"Google's promised Google Editions [rebranded Google eBooks] are going to be available in browsers," he predicted in his Books in Browsers 2010 keynote speech back in October.

Kahle also told us, "Amazon is putting its toe in the books-in-browser world with its recent beta. Then there's Starbucks and LibreDigital's recent announcement that they will make bestsellers readable in browsers while at a Starbucks. Ibis Reader, Book Glutton, rePublish, sBooks, and the Internet Archive BookReader are other emerging technologies for reading in browsers."

Readers can now buy hundreds of thousands of e-books from Google, or download over two million public domain titles for free. They can access their downloaded books on any device with an HTML5-enabled browser from their computers or via apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android-powered smartphones. Buyers can access the books they purchased on any e-reader based on an open platform, like EPUB, which includes the Sony Reader and the B&N Nook. (The Sony Reader Store is the search, purchase, and download engine for Google eBooks.)

Self-Publishing Strategy

If you're self-publishing, you should add Google eBooks to your list of places to sell books. This will get your book into the largest number of e-tailers and devices, not to mention brick-and-mortar bookstores like Books Inc. and Diesel, who are helping their customers buy digital. In order to make this happen, here are your tasks:

Upload your book to Google eBooks and promote it through their partner program.


• Upload your book to the Amazon store through Amazon DTP. (If you publish your POD book through CreateSpace they'll give you a DTP formatted version.)


• Upload your book to Smashwords for sale in their store. Distribute in their catalogs: Their Premium Catalog aggregates your book to major retailers and their Atom/OPDS Catalog gets your book in major mobile app platforms. They also provide HTML and text formats easily read in browsers.


• Upload your book to Scribd for social media attention, previews, sale, and distribution to the customer's device or for display in their browser-based reader.

If formatting is not your forte, or you just don't have the time, you can throw about $250 at a service like eBook Architects who will do it for you.

Ignore the Hype

The above covers the vast majority of sales outlets, but that doesn't mean that other products, services, and programs aren't also begging for attention. I try them out as they come along, but mostly give up in frustration due to their difficult, buggy, and largely beta interfaces.

This is a profitable marketplace -- self-publishing is seeing three-digit growth! -- so there is lots of activity and the hype is not likely to die down anytime soon. Meantime, best practices for self-publishers include sticking with the above best-of-breed products and services, and focusing on quality. Participate in membership organizations and communities (like the Small Publishers Association of North America) that can help separate hype from truth, and concentrate on getting your book to (virtual) press, which means paying attention to writing, editing, design, and marketing.

Carla King is an author, a publishing and social media strategist, and co-founder of the "Self-Publishing Boot Camp" program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website.

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August 13 2010

15:52

August 12 2010

17:42

A Self-Publisher's Primer to Enhanced E-Books and Book Apps

In a previous article I described how self-publishers can easily create, market and sell e-books. In this article we'll discuss the differences and steps required to create more complex enhanced e-books and apps based on books.

In a nutshell, an e-book is a digital snapshot of a book, an enhanced e-book adds multimedia and interactive features as interruptions to the linear story, and a book app is based on a book but acts more like a game with multiple pathways that require the user to interact instead of simply scrolling and clicking.


Enhanced e-books are also referred to as rich media books, book mashups, enriched, hybrid and amplified books. The media and interactivity is provided by you, the self-publisher, who collects and integrates music, audio, video and color photo slideshows, news feeds, illustrations and background materials. You may also provide searchable text, tilt scrolling, internal and external links and Flash animations into the linear story. (Here are some video demos of these features.) To create an enhanced e-book requires the skills of a web developer.



A book app can do everything an enhanced e-book does, but crosses the line from linear storytelling to non-linear storytelling, allowing the user to choose from multiple pathways and select from a potentially huge number of photos, videos, audio files, illustrations, hyperlinks, and interactivity. Apps are third-party software programs requiring a programmer with C++ or Apple's Objective C programming skills.

Much confusion arises from the fact that so many books are simply bundled as apps so they can be sold in an app store. In April 2010 there were twice as many e-books as games in the iPhone App Store, and it's been posited by one pundit that Apple may purge such e-books as they have purged other overly simple apps. There seems to be little point to e-book app-wrapping when compared with more elegant, library-based e-book stores and their e-reader apps (the iBookstore download to the iBook e-reader app, for example), which gives customers a more consistent user experience and keeps the device desktop uncluttered.

What makes a good enhanced e-book?

wwwirelandmag.jpg

A few years ago I produced a multimedia e-zine, Ireland: The Sacred and the Profane. It was offered for download directly from the Wild Writing Women website until I recently found it easier to offer it via Scribd. Though most links, audio and video don't work inside their browser-based reader (they tell me they're working on that), they perform nicely when you download the PDF. The magazine was very time-consuming to produce, but incredibly rewarding and the enhancements offered readers extra value.


What's a good enhancement?

"If it's a book about music history, having music people can play at certain points in the book can be useful," says Amazon's Jeff Bezos, in an interview with USA Today. "You're not going to make Hemingway better by adding animations."


"Enhancements should only be in support of the central proposition of the writing rather than a 'I can do it therefore I will do it' approach," says Peter Collingridge of UK-based Enhanced Editions. New Media storyteller J.C. Hutchins also has some good advice, such as avoiding "self-congratulatory 'behind the scenes' content such as author bios, old drafts of your manuscripts."

jobsipad.jpg

The iPad's capabilities quickly made it the enhanced e-book platform of choice. Designers can create endlessly entertaining distractions within a linear story. The "amplified edition" of Ken Follette's Pillars of the Earth promises a huge cache of multimedia, an interactive character tree, video and still images from the Starz television series, the author's multimedia diary with his impressions of bringing the book to the screen, interviews with the actors, director and producers, and music from the series.

How much does this cost in terms of time and money? It took me months to create the Ireland magazine working in InDesign and with my group who painstakingly reviewed and edited every iteration. It would have been a huge project even without the learning curve, so when Collingridge quoted $8,000 to $15,000 for enhanced e-book production, that sounded about right.

Enhanced e-books are not device-specific but it's impossible to optimize for all of them. For example, audio, video and color simply do not work on the Nook or Kindle, and Flash does not run on the Apple iPad. You'll want to format your book for the platforms you think the majority of your audience is using. Popular format choices are:

  • Portable Document Format (PDF) is for very highly-formatted publications and can be read on many devices. Readers are forced to view the book exactly as it was designed, which, while it offers design stability, means users cannot reflow the text or change font sizes or colors.
  • International Digital Publishing Forum's Open eBook standard (EPUB) is a versatile winner. It's the format used by Apple iPad, Sony's reader, the Nook, and many other vendors. An export feature in the InDesign page layout program (on which your original print book was likely designed) lets you output an EPUB file. The results are not perfect, but they're getting there.
  • Microsoft's XPS platform is used by the new Barnes & Noble Blio software platform. They hype their enhanced e-book features and seamless integration with Quark a la the InDesign-to-EPUB export.
  • Amazon's Kindle/Mobipocket (mobi/azw) format is great for e-books but not a good choice for enhanced e-books because it does not display color or video. ebookformats.jpg

Yes, the relationship between hardware devices, software platforms and formats is complicated, especially with Google Editions and Copia entering the game this year along with the Blio, and there are rumors that RIM is planning an iPad competitor.

When enhanced is not enough: The book-based app

When you've got so much material that linear is no longer practical, then it might be time to consider an app as an add-on product to your book. (The fuzzy boundary between enhanced e-books and apps are discussed in the Digital Book World webcast eBooks vs Apps: The Pros, Cons and Possibilities).

To start the process, you'll first need to have a deep discussion about multimedia, formats, platforms and devices with the team you hire to do the work. "Book-based apps are more likely to be ancillary products with complex graphics and page layouts that can't be handled in something that auto-flows," says Michel Kripalani, founder of Oceanhouse Media (OM). "That's where you cross the line into the need for custom code." Kripalani assembled a team of former interactive CD-ROM and game developers to start his business, and has built over 100 since the company was founded in January 2009.

omapps.jpg"Children's books are especially ripe for apps, and compliment the e-book edition," noted Kripalani in an interview with Book Business Magazine. OM has also created a variety of card decks, calendars, and spoken word apps inspired by books from Hay House and Chronicle Books.


The price tag for a complex, quality book-based app? "In the five-figures," says Kripalini, "and requires a team that "includes C++/Objective C programmers, graphic designers, professional actors and custom narration, music soundtrack and sound effects, interactivity, editors and page layout designers for the different devices."



For the budget-impaired, DIY app builders are emerging. Travel guidebook publishers already know their audience is looking online and to apps instead of to the paper book. For them, Sutro Media has created a browser-based tool to let publishers upload material to a content management system, which then gets ported into Objective C on the back end. Co-founder Kevin Collins says, "these apps do things that books can't possibly do. sutromedia.jpgFor example, you can use all the photos you had to leave out in their book versions, and include live maps and hyperlinks, too."



Sutro does not require the author pay any up-front costs, but they carefully evaluate proposed projects. Their payment model is a revenue-sharing agreement with a royalty split of 30% each going to Sutro, Apple, and the author, with the remaining 10% going to their in-house editor.



If you're a technically inclined DIY self-published author, there is a growing list of inexpensive app development options, here are some for the iPhone. And remember, you'll need to decide which devices you want to reach. You can develop for more than one, but that will add to the time and price tag. Today's popular choices are:



* Apple's iBook app for the iPhone and iPad

* The Kindle or Stanza app (both owned by Amazon)

* The B&N eReader, or Kobo (a Borders partner)

* Google's free ebook reader for the iPhone and Android

* The Kobo app for Android

Selling it: The biggest challenge

corydoctorow.jpg

Once you've created your enhanced e-book or app, how do you get it distributed to e-tailers and to readers? Author Cory Doctorow has long and publicly wrestled with these issues, and has had only spotty success with distribution and sales via the major channels. Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been particularly problematic, as some e-tailers require it.

The enhanced e-book and app space is still all very experimental, but expect industry standards to emerge and the market to adjust to the technical possibilities. Apple is letting self-publishers upload directly to the iPad, as long as they adhere to very strict formatting rules.

Personally, I'm offering enhanced e-books on my own websites and on Scribd, amassing digital assets, paying for InDesign upgrades, studying EPUB, renewing my SPAN membership, and keeping an eye on Mark Coker and Smashwords for an easier enhanced e-book aggregation solution for self-publishers.

Carla King is an author, a publishing and social media strategist, and co-founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website.

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July 30 2010

23:35

4 Minute Roundup: Kindle Gives Amazon More Bang for Less Bucks

news21 small.jpg

4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

In this week's 4MR podcast I look at the surprising success of the Amazon Kindle e-reader in the wake of the hit Apple iPad tablet. While many people expected the iPad to impact the e-reader market, instead the major players cut prices and Kindle sales tripled in the past month. Plus, Amazon announced a new line of Kindles that will cost even less -- with no touch screen or color. Book publishing veteran and MediaShift contributor Dan Brodnitz talked with me about Amazon's successful sell-everywhere strategy.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio73010.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Dan Brodnitz:

brodnitz full.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Amazon's new $139 WiFi Kindle for pre-order at Amazon

Amazon debuts new Kindle design, with Wi-Fi only version at MarketWatch

Amazon - Kindle Sales Growth Tripled Since Price Cut; E-Books Pass Print at PaidContent

Amazon sells out of Kindle at CNET

Tablets Are On The Rise But Don't Count Out E-Readers - Or Amazon at PaidContent

What does Amazon.com's rosy ebook news mean? LA Times' Jacket Copy blog

Amazon Mobile Sales Topped $1 Billion In Past 12 Months at PaidContent

Wasn't the Kindle supposed to be firewood? at CNET

Amazon - Kindle titles outpacing hardcovers at CNET

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about what you the future holds for the Kindle:




What's the future of the Amazon Kindle?online surveys

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

news21 small.jpg

4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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June 10 2010

19:14

Want Your Self-Published Book in Stores? Weigh the Options

The rise of online book retailers means that self-publishers have better access to customers than ever. But many authors still want to be on bookstore shelves. The good news is that you don't really need traditional distribution to get into bookstores.

The Databases

logo_bowkerlink_220x103.gifWith your ISBN and bar code from Bowker in hand (read my previous post that told you how to get control of your own ISBN), it's time to register your title and your contact information in their Books In Print and Global Books In Print databases. Registering with BowkerLink is the first step to enabling the industry to discover your book, and it's free.

Ingram is the largest book wholesaler and distributor in the world and if your book is not listed in their ipage ordering system, it's simply invisible to booksellers. You must have 10 titles a year to be accepted into their program, but this article shows you three ways to get in through the back door.:

  1. Create a relationship with a traditional distributor whose titles are listed with Ingram, and send them an inventory of offset-print books.
  2. Print your book on-demand with the Ingram-owned company Lightning Source, and you're automatically in.
  3. Use a self-publishing services company to list your book with Ingram.

No matter whom you distribute with, a 55 percent discount is standard. (You can offer less, but expect few takers.) When calculating your profit margin, factor in printing, shipping, postage, returns and start-up costs like editing and design -- all the costs of doing business. Don't forget ongoing costs like marketing and publicity, giveaways, promotion and accounting. Direct sales is certainly more lucrative than traditional distribution and you give that up when you sign an exclusive distribution deal. So why bother?

Traditional Print Book Distribution

In traditional distribution you (the publisher) prints a large number of books with an offset printer. The books are sent to a distributor who wants to sell mass quantities of your book to wholesalers and retailers.

Unfortunately, your book isn't really sold until it's bought by a consumer, so when -- not if -- your books are returned (a sad fact about the industry), the distributor then returns them to you.

distributors.jpgThe well-respected Independent Publishers Group has a new branch called Small Press United (SPU) and, if you're one of the fewer than 20 percent accepted into their program, they will present your book to resellers next to offerings from the mainstream press. Also consider Publishers Group West (PGW) and Baker & Taylor (B&T), the most important distributor to the library market.

Big distribution companies have not been eager to work with self-publishers, but that's changing. Still, it's easiest to get in through membership in the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) or the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN). Both are worthwhile organizations for self-publishers thanks to their seminars, advice, discounts, and community.

But don't rule out a smaller distributor who specializes in your niche or genre, especially if you need help with design, editing, e-book conversion, and other tasks in order to publish your book. They may be more dedicated and more effective in providing you with personalized service over the years. As with the self-publishing services companies, you pay these distributors; but since they must maintain a good reputation with booksellers, they carefully vet their authors. Check out IPBA's Distributor/Wholesaler Directory and this list of Top Independent Book Distributors to start.

The downside? You relinquish the opportunity to sell your print book and your e-book direct to the consumer. Measure that benefit against the potential benefits of having hired a sales force, paired with your ongoing promotion efforts, to make your decision to go this route.

POD Distribution With Lightning Source

ls_logo.jpg

The newer print-on-demand distribution model works like this: If a brick-and-mortar bookstore customer asks for your book, the bookseller finds it in the ipage Ingram database and places an order. Lightning Source prints it and sends it to the store, where the customer picks it up.

These days, customers are more likely to order from an online reseller, which cuts out the middle step. In this model, the customer orders a book from the online reseller, who sends the request to Lightning Source, who mails the book directly to the customer on the reseller's behalf.

Along with many other advantages, there are fewer returns because booksellers don't have to order several and wait to see if they sell. You don't have to worry about returns with print-on-demand.

POD Distribution With a Self-Publishing Firm

lulucswc.jpgEven the most basic, do-it-yourself self-publishing services companies -- think Lulu, CreateSpace and Wordclay -- offer services that includes an Ingram database listing for your book in your publishing company name. But since booksellers are definitely not flocking to what they consider the vanity presses in order to stock their shelves, make sure the publishing house name on the spine is your own. (See my previous article, The Pitfalls of Using Self-Publishing Book Packages.) They may -- invisibly to you and the customer -- use Lightning Source or another POD subcontractor to print and send it, which is fine, but realize you're paying a little more for this service.

A Middle Path

Before you seek out traditional distribution, you might ask yourself if you really need it. Many authors are more easily served by direct sales and POD distribution of print and e-books. Think of these options, for example:

  1. Using your website for direct sales via an online store.
  2. Back-of-room sales at personal appearances.
  3. Consignment deals with local booksellers and retailers in your niche.
  4. Using Lightning Source for both printed books and PDF-formatted e-books sold to stores and online retailers in U.S., Canada and Europe.
  5. Using Smashwords and Scribd for e-book sales in many formats for many e-readers (See my previous article for details on How to Pair Scribd and Smashwords for an Ideal E-book Strategy.)

You may be one of the many authors who missed the news that you can get into the Ingram database by printing on-demand with Lightning Source, or the newer news that self-publishing services companies now include this in their packages, too. (Yes, do keep looking for even newer news in this quickly evolving industry.) But do not miss the fact that you are responsible for the marketing and promotion that will create a buzz and sell your book.

The defining fact about traditional distributors is that they vet their work, whereas POD services companies will print and distribute almost anything. A traditional distributor will have opinions. Their reputation is on the line and they want to work with like-minded independent publishers dedicated to success. You should consider them a partner. Until then, an on-demand distribution solution should suffice.

Carla King is a publishing and social media strategist and co-author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook, which grew out of experiences leading workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and on her website.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

May 03 2010

21:25

How to Pair Smashwords and Scribd for Ideal E-Book Strategy

Self-published authors are in a unique position to benefit from the increasing consumer acceptance of digital books. The challenge, however, is that so many companies are popping up to offer conversion, distribution and sales. It's tough for authors to know which vendor to choose for which services when it comes to their e-book. The truth is that it's wrong to look for a single vendor for your self-published e-book.

After spending time examining the options available, I've hit upon a combination of two vendors that stands out for ease-of-use, breadth of offerings, and fair pricing structures. The magic combination that works right now is to use Scribd for social publishing, marketing and sales, and Smashwords for sales and aggregation to e-book retailers. Here's a look at how -- and why -- it works.

Scribd

Scribd is an easy place for authors to make finished works and works-in-progress available online to the public, to converse with other authors, and to start collecting a reader fanbase. Scribd does not deliver books to e-book retailers; rather, it offers authors a sales and marketing platform via the growing Scribd community. Scribd is all about "social publishing."

Authors upload documents in any format (PDF, doc, PowerPoint, etc.) that readers can then buy or view free. The documents can be read on the Scribd site in slide, single-page or book mode. Additionally, the reader can download the document to their computer or send it to their mobile device.

What makes it social? A widget lets anyone embed the document on a website. Members add notes to each other's documents, subscribe to each other's documents and posts, and "readcast" what they're reading to friends on other social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Members can also become curators by collecting documents on a topic, from the "Best Fiction of 2009" to "Chinese History," for example. These features and functions can help an author spread their work, interact with readers, and build relationships with other authors. All of which can help promote your e-book.

Tool for Promotion

Author Helen Winslow Black uploaded an e-book version of her paperback, Seven Blackbirds, to sell on Scribd and found it sufficient to use the service as her main tool for book promotion.

"Instead of a blog, I publish articles and then people comment on them and I get feedback," she said. "I have conversations and interchange, and since I signed up [in May of 2008] I have over 58,000 subscribers. Scribd is where everybody goes to read me."

Another reason why Scribd is becoming a good option for authors is that it recently partnered with Blurb, HP MagCloud, and Mimeo to provide a print service for documents, magazines and color books. The book printing service isn't yet ready for prime time -- creating covers is awkward and book sizes are limited -- but the company rolls out new features fast, so don't be surprised to see it improve. You can now turn your e-book into a printed product, should the need arise, but not at the same quality that print-on-demand services like Lightning Source or Lulu provide.

Trip Adler

Scribd, which has about 50 million unique visitors a month, has published more books than the entire U.S. publishing industry last year. Their send-to-device service lets readers view documents on the Kindle, Nook, iPhone, Android and other devices, but unlike Smashwords, they are not an official aggregator to e-book retailers. That's why Scribd alone won't fulfil your e-book needs.

Scribd wants to be the hub of publishing. Founder Trip Adler told me their goal "is to make it dead simple for anyone to publish original written works and for readers to discover and share this content." They want "authors to use our social platform as a place to share what they are writing and to connect with other writers and readers, and to get their works in front of consumers when and where they want from any device."

Smashwords

smashwordslogo.pngSmashwords is the fastest and easiest place for self-published authors with text-heavy books to distribute their e-book in all formats. You simply upload the text of your book -- no page numbers, no headers or footers -- as instructed in their simple formatting guide.

Mark Coker created Smashwords when he and his wife spent two years attempting to get their own book published. They discovered that "the publishing industry is broken." A longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Coker joked that "the solution to all the world's ills can be solved with technology, so wouldn't it be cool if we created an online publishing platform that would instantly let authors upload and sell books directly?"

markcoker.jpg"The service works best right now for the vast majority of books -- that is to say, the straight-form narrative," Coker told me. The book needs to be in Microsoft Word format with all the headers and footers stripped out. When you upload your book, you choose the formats to which you want it converted and the Smashwords "meatgrinder" churns them out.

But what if you spent a lot of time and money with a designer to format your book with drop caps and special fonts and dingbats?

"As technology evolves we'll be able to bring back some formatting," he said. "It's hard to ask people to devolve their book. Yes, your print book is gorgeous and that 17th century font you chose is perfect. But in the digital realm you need to liberate your words into reliable, reflowable text that can shape-shift easily across all the different devices."

He said it's important that readers be able to customize a book to match their preferences.

"Readers want to maximize fonts, change fonts," Coker said. "They might prefer pink Ariel font against a carved stone background -- they can do that and they are. It helps to remember that people buy your book for your words. When you give the reader the flexibility to murder your book like that you are actually increasing the value of your book."

There's no cost to sign up with Smashwords' Premium program, but your book formatting has to be just right and it has to have an ISBN. They are an official e-book aggregator (distributor) to many retailers including the Amazon Kindle, and they are the 6th largest aggregator to the Apple iBookstore. (Note that if your book is already for sale with an e-book retailer, for example in the Kindle bookstore, it's best not to offer it via this channel, too. There's no current "rule" but if you confuse Amazon they're likely to drop you.)

If you want to print your book you can use Smashwords affiliate Wordclay, an author services company that competes with Lulu and CreateSpace. It's easy and free, but you'll have to format using their templates or upload a PDF. (See my previous article on self-publishing packages.)

As of April 2010 Smashwords has published over 10,000 e-books. So what's next? "We're just getting started," Coker said. "The next three years will be exciting because we'll see e-books breach 25 percent of the U.S. book market. We want our authors and publishers to get a chunk of that."

Where's the Money?

While Smashwords seems very focused on independent authors and publishers, Scribd clearly has bigger fish to fry. They're wooing that market, too, but are also going after traditional publishing, the general document sharing market, and document management systems for the enterprise.

Both companies take a percentage of book sales: Smashwords 15% and Scribd 20% with a 25-cent transaction fee. When Smashwords aggregates a book to a retailer like Amazon or Apple, the author ends up with about half the cover price. In both cases, a much better financial split than traditional publishing.

Scribd recently made a deal with Author Solutions -- the self-publishing service company that owns iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, and Wordclay -- to sell their customers' books for 50% of the cover price, and have partnered with over 150 traditional publishers for e-books distribution. They're also giving Issuu and Docstoc a run for their money in the business document sharing space.

In both cases, authors get a better deal than with traditional publishing (not counting the fact they have to do all the work), and since their services don't currently overlap, it's a great pairing for indie authors.

The Indie Author's Strategy

Both of these services are non-exclusive and very easy to use, so you don't have to worry about locking yourself in. If you want to combine them to create your e-book strategy, here's a breakdown of when and how to do what:

  1. Sign up with Scribd.
  2. Start contributing to the community, post some works-in-progress, comment, "readcast," curate, and collect subscribers.
  3. When your e-book is complete, upload it to Scribd for sale.
  4. Then go to Smashwords to convert your book into all the available formats.
  5. Join the Smashwords Premium program to aggregate your e-book to the Kindle, iBookstore, Sony, Nook, and all the other readers.
  6. Subscribe to the mailing lists of both companies to stay informed and take advantage of new features as they roll them out.

Photo of Trip Adler by Spencer Brown

Carla King is a publishing and social media strategist and co-author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook, which grew out of experiences leading workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and on her website.

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April 08 2010

18:01

Glaser & Son Review the iPad

The conundrum with the iPad is that it's exciting to consider a sleek new form factor for getting news, movies, TV shows, games and web browsing -- but it's less exciting to be first in line to pay the most for the least. We all know the first version of a technology product costs the most and is missing the most features. So I considered myself lucky to get to play with an iPad on loan before delivering it to someone in Europe (where the iPad isn't available yet). I get to test drive it, but don't have to pay.

So I brought in my junior device expert (and 7-year-old son) Julian Glaser to help me compare the new iPad to the Kindle 2 and the iPhone. Julian helped me test out the Kindle 2 in a Glaser & Son review on MediaShift last year. While I was interested in how web surfing, typing and news apps looked on the iPad, he was more keen on gaming and reading books.

We braved the masses mid-week at the Stonestown Galleria Apple Store in San Francisco, where the 16GB models quickly sold out. We settled for the 32GB model for $599 along with a $40 case. The store was filled with high school kids hanging out after school who wanted to test drive iPads, but not buy them. The Apple Store was starting to look like the bowling alley arcades from my childhood.

Julian had not experienced the iPad hype, and had no idea what it was all about.

"So it's like a big iPhone but it lets you read books?" he asked.

"No, you can actually read books on an iPhone too. There is a Kindle app on the iPhone," I told him.

"Oh yeah, I've seen that," he said. "But what kind of games are on the iPad?"

Julian had already spent hours on my iPhone playing games and downloading his favorite free ones (and earning money with chores to buy paid apps). So we gave the iPad a spin, downloading some games, news apps, and books -- paying for some, and getting others for free. Below is our first take on what we liked and didn't like with the iPad, and how it stacked up against the Kindle 2 and iPhone.

Design/Interface

There is no instruction manual for the iPad because you don't need one. If you've used an iPhone or iPod Touch, you know exactly what does what on the iPad. There's the volume switch, the main (or "home") button on the bottom front, and the place to plug it in or connect it to your computer. One new switch lets you lock the portrait/landscape flip that happens when you rotate it. Otherwise, it's all simple and neat. Similarly, the iPhone operating system is familiar and easy to navigate.

When I pushed the front button mistakenly in trying to turn it on, Julian grabbed it and pushed the Power switch and laughed at my mistake. About the only design flaw we found was the weight of the iPad, which feels heavy after a lot of reading. Perhaps future iPads will have lighter batteries. And the virtual keyboard takes time to master, being bigger than the iPhone virtual keyboard and smaller than a regular keyboard. However, I got over my initial frustration with the iPhone keyboard, and figure the same would be true with the iPad's -- practice over time would make it easier.

Games

julian labyrinth.jpg

Julian's major concern was the games. Would they have what he wanted, and would he have to pay for them (with my money)? He quickly navigated the App Store to find the category of his choice (free games), and downloaded Labyrinth Lite HD, Fast & Furious Lite, iPlay Bowling, Air Hockey and his iPhone fave, Rat on the Run. The quick downloads and big screen were a great combination, meaning he'd get to gaming faster.

The Labyrinth game was an inventive take on the old Wooden Labyrinth tilt maze where you try to keep the metal ball from rolling into holes in the top. This game included magnets, cannons shooting at you, and buttons that opened gates. We were both hooked on it. Julian's favorite iPhone game, Rat on the Run, gave him a lot of enjoyment, even though it was basically ported over and didn't have anything new on the iPad. Even without iPad-specific features, the games wowed us just by offering more screen space and vibrant colors.

Here's Julian's take on games while playing Air Hockey:

News Apps and Browsing

I was curious about the various news apps for the iPad, so I downloaded apps from the New York Times, ABC, NPR, BBC, USA Today and Reuters. The only magazine app I saw was the Time magazine app for $4.99 per issue. I liked that the N.Y. Times and USA Today apps used the bigger screen real estate to mimic the look of a print newspaper, with stories laid out on what looked like a front page. By clicking on the first couple paragraphs of a story, you could see the whole story. That alone was a bonus in reading on the iPad vs. the iPhone, where you'd need about 10 finger swipes to get to the bottom of a story. On the iPad, in many cases, the whole story filled the page.

What I didn't get to experience was a news app that really used the iPad in an innovative way, combining text, video, audio and photos in an integrated manner. Sure, Reuters did have video alongside stories, but they seemed more web-like than app-like. I did enjoy USA Today's "Day in Pictures" feature, as those photos really popped on the iPad. What was more surprising was how good it looked to just fire up Safari and browse news sites like NYTimes.com, where the videos played without a hitch. Being able to double-touch to make text bigger or smaller worked easily. I did notice that videos didn't load correctly on the CBSNews.com home page.

Books

kindle vs ipad small.jpg

Is the iPad really a Kindle-killer, as we'd heard? There's no doubt that when we put the iPad side-by-side next to our Kindle 2, it made the Amazon device look like an old TV set from the '50s. The black-and-white Kindle looked gray and old next to the color iPad with its massive screen. While we didn't read long enough on the iPad to know if the backlit screen would cause our eyes to hurt, we did know from experience reading on the iPhone that it wasn't too bad for a few hours.

On the positive side, reading books was easy and pages turned with ease. Picture books for kids looked much better in color on the iPad, and images were laid out within the text. On the Kindle 2, many picture books had strange formatting that broke up images from the text. On the not-so-good side, Julian couldn't find most of the books he wanted in the iBooks app, and ended up settling for a Berenstain Bears book about Sunday School. Search after search came up blank for him in the iBookstore. But both of us liked all the free books that were available because their copyright had expired.

Hear Julian talk about why he liked reading books on the iPad more than on the Kindle:

Screen

The big screen on the iPad is simply gorgeous, and makes it easily the device of choice when it comes to movies, games, photo-viewing and even web browsing. It's tough for the iPhone to compete with the iPad when it comes to all that multimedia entertainment. It seems like a natural for viewing shows or movies on the road for kids, but the bummer is that there's no way for it to play DVDs. I noticed that it does get fingerprinted up pretty badly after a serious Julian gaming session, but I don't really see the fingerprints so much when the iPad is on. Having a case that lets you stand the iPad up on a table could make a difference in reading newspaper or magazine content at breakfast, or watching a movie on the go.

Pricing

There are two ways to look at the pricing of the iPad: 1) It's too expensive for what it can and can't do. Other devices can do all the things an iPad does. 2) It's cheaper than most laptops and can do most of the things a laptop can do, while taking up less space. So perhaps the iPad fits in the category of "netbook" as a compact laptop, but it has no physical keyboard. There's a better chance people will opt for an iPad when they have more disposable income, the features improve, the prices drop, and their other devices become outmoded.

Bottom Line

The iPad is a simple-to-use, elegant device that takes the tablet computing genre and does it better than anyone else. The battery life is long and impressive, and the speed at startup and while using apps is better than any laptop around. It is missing some key elements such as a camera, USB port, expandable memory and swappable battery, but it's possible those features will come in time.

The iPad is a bundle of possibilities and potential. While the first apps out of the gate were decent, it's the apps that will make the iPad a must-have for a broader group of people. While news apps look great, especially with integrated photos and video, there's still a wide range of "what ifs" to come that could get people to pay more for traditional journalism. The biggest one being: What if the news experience on the iPad was really built for multimedia, really built for interactivity and really worth paying for?

And the bottom line for Julian was what came out of his mouth when I asked him if he wanted to use the iPad before he went to school yesterday morning: "iPad! iPad! iPad!" He was hooked.

Hear Julian sing his iPad song:

More Reading

Apple iPad Review - Laptop Killer? Pretty Close at AllThingsD

Apple iPad WiFi review at PC Magazine

iPad Reviews - The Good, Bad, and Ecstatic at PC World

Review - iPad Apps Cool, but How Many Will You Buy? by AP

Looking at the iPad From Two Angles at NY Times

Verdict is in on Apple iPad - It's a winner at USA Today

What do you think about the iPad, if you've had a chance to review it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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March 25 2010

16:52

The Pitfalls of Using Self-Publishing Book Packages

The rise of self-publishing has made it possible for anyone to be an author. Now, some people are also choosing to outsource their book project by hiring an author services company.

On the surface, this seems much easier than finding and hiring a half-dozen professionals to create your book. (For background on the self-publishing industry and author services companies, please read my previous MediaShift article.) But is it worth it? Below are some of the potential danger zones of working with these services, as exposed by authors who were seduced by the promises of quick and easy self-publishing packages. I also offer some advice about avoiding these pitfalls.

Beware the ISBN Acquisition

Larry Jaffee wants his book back.

"Albert Square & Me: The Actors of EastEnders" is based on 18 years of interviews with actors from the popular BBC show. eastenders.jpgHe chose iUniverse to publish his book because "I was looking for a one-stop shop that would run the interference I needed." He bought their Premier program for $899 (on special from $1099), which included the ISBN and bar code acquisition, and distribution in the U.K. Getting into U.K. wholesalers Bertrams and Gardners was an integral part of his marketing plan, as the 25th anniversary of the show was coming up.

"They even talked me into an additional $699 for a program to handle bookstore returns," he said.

The only problem?

"The U.K. bookstores didn't order it because it was a [print-on-demand] book."

Jaffee is planning a second edition of the title, and he intends to do things differently this time.

"I have over 30 interviews that didn't make it into the first edition, so I'll create a second edition with my own ISBN," he said. He'll probably design the book himself in QuarkXPress, and will hire one of his editors to edit and proofread the work. He is considering an offset printer because he fears that printing with Lightning Source will tag it as a POD book, which the U.K. wholesalers reject. (Jaffee need not worry: Lightning Source is a publisher services company whose business model is based on print and distribution. They do not have the same stigma with resellers.)

How to buy your own ISBN and bar codes: Visit Bowker Identifier Services to purchase a block of 10 ISBNs for under $250. Why 10 and not one? barcode.gifBecause they're a lot cheaper in bulk (a single ISBN is $125), and you'll need a new ISBN for each form of the book: print, e-book, audio, new editions and, of course, your next book. Also, if you buy just one, booksellers might figure out that you're a self-published author. You can purchase EAN Bar Codes for each ISBN for $25 on an as-needed basis for your print editions. With your own publishing house name on the book, you can print and distribute offset or print-on-demand or short runs, and booksellers won't lump you in with Lulu, iUniverse, and other POD services.

Great Distribution, Paltry Profits

It's important to realize author services companies do not make their money from selling books -- they make money from convincing authors to buy their services. An author services company sells your book through their program to online resellers like Amazon and in their own online store, and they allow you to buy an inventory of your own book for a set price.

For example, when Jaffee sells "EastEnders" on Amazon, he gets about $2 per book after iUniverse takes their cut. That's an incredibly small payout for a book with a list price of $25.95.

On top of that, author services companies rarely receive orders from brick-and-mortar booksellers, unless a customer specifically orders the book.

grassroutes.jpgWhen Serena Bartlett published the first "GrassRoutes Travel Guide" with subsidy press Lulu, she was impressed that it immediately appeared online everywhere.

"Lulu is really deeply embedded with the distribution companies," she said, "which I thought was great until I wanted to take my book off Lulu and create my own company, maximizing profits with a 'real' distribution deal." (Bartlett eventually made a deal with Sasquatch Books.)

How to get great distribution and a nice profit margin: Get a DBA name and publish your book with your own company name and logo. (Be sure to choose a name that doesn't scream "self-publisher.") Booksellers, distributors and readers are not likely to notice, or care, as long as your book is produced professionally and you have a great website and social media presence. From there, join the Amazon Advantage program to sell your book directly through Amazon.com, or sign up with Lightning Source to get listed in the Ingram database. Sign their print and e-book distribution contracts for U.S., U.K., and Canadian online and brick-and-mortar resellers. If your book is of very high quality and you have a great marketing plan, you can apply for bookstore distribution with a reputable company like Small Press United. You will ship a large number of offset print books to them (the best price breaks occur at 1,000 and 2,500 copies), and they will handle all domestic (U.S.) distribution for you. These channels will all take a 55 percent cut on the retail price, but when you sell your book through your website and personal appearances you receive 100 percent of the cover price.

Print-On-Demand: The Proof is in the Price

Many POD author services companies outsource their printing jobs to the lowest bidder. The result is a lack of quality control. When Bartlett published "GrassRoutes" with Lulu, she was delighted with the ease of the process but said "the print quality was awful. Guidebooks are used -- they're opened and closed and bump around in backpacks. Pages fell out, bindings cracked, covers curled."

Lisa Alpine, a member of my Wild Writing Women group, is a book-birthing coach and author of the upcoming anthology, "Exotic Life: Laughing Rivers, Dancing Drums and Tangled Hearts." She advises using Lulu or CreateSpace only for printing cheap proofs.

"Proofs can cost up to $75 from print companies, but I upload my latest PDF to Lulu, click the print button, and get a copy of my latest experiment in the mail for under $10," she said. "It's an affordable way to learn, to play with the design, fonts, even the order of my stories."

How to print a proof, a short run, get a good POD contract, and a quantity in offset: Use POD author services companies with no upfront costs like Lulu or CreateSpace to print proofs only (do not include the ISBN and barcode). When you're sure of your product, print a small inventory with a reputable short run printer like 48HrBooks (100 minimum), and sign up to print and distribute with Lightning Source, which can take a while, as a representative will need to walk you through the process. When you're ready to print 1,000 copies at a time, find a reputable offset printer. Both Alpine and Bartlett chose Transcontinental. "They're printed on 100 percent recycled paper, have great service, excellent quality, and are priced very competitively," said Alpine. Jaffee may go the same route, but in the meantime he's stuck with the iUniverse contract: He pays $10 per book for a minimum quantity of 500 books.

Marketing and Publicity: More Than a Press Release

Many author services packages that include promotion and marketing cost between $1,500 and $15,000. Karen Leland, a San Francisco Bay Area book publicist and president of Sterling Marketing Group, said clients often come to her on the verge of tears after paying an exorbitant amount of money for just one press release sent to traditional media channels with no results.

karenleland.jpg

"While the best publicist in the world can't guarantee which publication, blog, radio or TV show will run with a review of an author's book, or interview them as an expert, there are certain things a dedicated publicist can do to customize the PR campaign and improve the odds the writer will get picked up by media," she said. "The problem with the generic approach author services companies take is that it's 'one size fits all.' That rarely produces the best results."

How to build your platform and choose a promotion professional: Leland recommends you start promotion activities as many as two years before your book is published. This builds your platform. These activities include getting a website, blogging and taking advantage of social media and networking tools. If you're going to hire a publicist, request a detailed plan that includes the specific projects that will be part of the campaign, the timeline for delivering on these projects, what you as the author are expected to provide to the publicist, and the process by which the publicist will keep you updated on the progress of your campaign. And be sure to ask them to provide other authors as references.

Editing and Design: Big Investment, Big Payoff

The book interior and cover design tools author services companies provide are very easy to use, but they're also proprietary. You have to start all over again if you want to move your book to another company. Also, if you're paying for their design and editing services, remember that their business model is to sell services to authors, not to make your book the next big bestseller.

joelfriedlander.jpg

"It's a crapshoot," said Joel Friedlander, a professional book designer who has spent time correcting bad book covers and interior designs that suffer from poor font choices, inadequate margins, and poorly thought out images. "I have a book from CreateSpace on my desk with the odd page numbers on the left, the even ones on the right, set completely in Times and Times Bold. What a disaster! These companies lead you to believe that you're getting a professional-looking book when all they are selling you is a paint-by-the-numbers standard template that may be completely inappropriate for your book's intended market. It brands the author as an amateur, or worse, incompetent. Find a designer who will respect your work, treat you as an individual, and give you a book that you can proudly sell against the best books on the shelf."

Lisa Alpine's search for a copy editor turned up many who replied to her carefully spelled-out requirements with an email stating, "I'd love to take a look at your book!" and no details on pricing or process. The editor she hired was "the only candidate who professionally returned a price sheet with clear descriptions of the various levels of editing with prices clearly stated for services from proofreading to conceptual editing."

She hired her to edit one chapter to see if their personalities fit.

"The working relationship between editor and author is so close," said Alpine,"that it's essential you're on the same page, so to speak." This is also true for working with designers. Alpine hired Lyn Bishop to consult with her on the cover for "Exotic Life," though she also did part of the work herself since she's competent in Photoshop.

How to get great editing and design: Take a look at Friedlander's articles about book design to get an idea of the complexity of design. For cover design trends, peruse the Book Design Review blog, (though be aware that it was recently put on hiatus). Find an editor by asking around at local writing and publishing organizations, and by asking online groups. Get recommendations and clarity on pricing, and start with one chapter to make sure you're compatible. Print proofs and commit to perfection.

More and more people with serious ambitions for their book are realizing that author services companies aren't necessarily the place to go. More people are starting their own businesses and professionally producing their own books.

In terms of working with consultants, remember that paid professionals are as proud of their work as you are of your own, and they're a joy to collaborate with. For book authors this is, luckily, the more rewarding choice.

"I really savor each step in the process, and getting involved so I don't have to be stressed out and mystified," said Alpine. "You know, we used to throw manuscripts to a publisher and hope for the best. I think it's a real privilege to be able to have control of your own book."

Carla King is a publishing and social media strategist and co-author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook, which grew out of experiences leading workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and on her website.

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February 24 2010

17:50

Book Publishers Welcome Apple Pricing, Mixed on iPad Features

In the aftermath of Apple's January announcement of the iPad, people dished on the iPad name and pundits debated whether a tablet that didn't have a camera, multitasking, or Flash support could compete. But book publishers zeroed in on a different set of questions.

These included how the iPad's iBooks app and accompanying bookstore might shake up e-book pricing and the competitive landscape; whether the iPad launch will give e-books the boost they need to break into the mainstream; and how the features of the iPad's iBooks reader stack up against expectations.

I spoke with several e-book and book publishing pros after Apple's announcement to get their impressions of what they saw and their thoughts on what the iPad might mean to electronic book publishing.

Many in the industry are excited to welcome a new big e-book retailer to the market. There's little question that Amazon and its Kindle have dominated the scene, with more than 3 million units sold so far.

Angela James, executive editor, Carina Press

"The Kindle sells books," said Angela James, executive editor of Carina Press, Harlequin's new digital-first imprint. "I've seen the royalty statements and the digital units move."

But while there is appreciation for what Amazon has done to launch the e-book market, there are also concerns and some complaints. Many publishers hope the iPad will shake up the field. This desire for change was borne out just two days after the iPad announcement, when Amazon and Macmillan engaged in a brief, wild, and unusually public test of wills. The backstory of this dust-up highlights some of the key factors retailers and publishers are wrestling with.

Macmillan vs. Amazon

Shortly after Apple's announcement, Macmillan's books disappeared from Amazon.com, aside from links to sales by third-party booksellers. The next day, John Sargeant, Macmillan's CEO, placed an ad in Publisher's Lunch that gave the Macmillan side of the story.

At the core of the dispute was Amazon's desire to keep prices for e-books low versus some publishers' desire to nudge prices up and also regain some control over how consumers perceive the value of e-book titles.

Amazon's Kindle store sells most e-books for $9.99 -- a heck of a deal for titles that are often priced at between $25 and $30 in hardcover. Amazon has kept prices low in part by using an unusual model that often ends up paying publishers more than the Amazon sale price.

Here, in rough terms, is how it works: Publishers set a "Digital List Price" (DLP) for their titles -- typically at or close to the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the print edition. Amazon then pays the publisher a percentage of that price for each Kindle e-book sold rather than a percentage of the actual sale price. So if a book has a $30 DLP and Amazon pays the publisher 50 percent, the publisher's payment would be $15 per sale, even though Amazon is only getting $9.99 from its customer.

This seems like a sweet deal for publishers. But not all publishers are comfortable with what this approach might mean over the long term. Some are concerned that $9.99 is just too low. They fear readers will get used to that price and Amazon will eventually pull back on its subsidies, leaving print books devalued and publishers' e-book margins slashed.

At the iPad announcement, Apple had already lined up five participating publishing houses, including Macmillan. While the exact terms they'll receive isn't public, it's generally expected that the arrangement follow "the agency model" -- the same terms Apple uses for sales in its App Store. In the agency model, publishers are free to set their own prices and Apple takes 30 percent from each sale.

Let's say the publisher sells the e-book version of a $30 hardcover for $14.99. After Apple's cut, the publisher would receive a little over $10 per unit sold, which is roughly 70 percent of $14.99. This is around two-thirds of what they might have received from Amazon.

You rarely see a company fighting to receive less money per sale, or retailers insisting they pay more per sale. But here's how the Macmillan ad explained what they feel is at stake:

The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short-term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.

Shortly after pulling Macmillan's titles, Amazon capitulated and released their clearly irritated side of the story. Over the next week, two other publishers -- HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group -- indicated that they'd also be pushing for Amazon to switch them to the agency model. And it's expected that many more publishers will follow.

One result of all this could be additional retailers jumping into the fray. Hadrien Gardeur, co-founder and CEO of Feedbooks.com was optimistic about how that might play out.

"It seems as though we may be moving from a world where retailers compete on prices to a world where the publisher will fix the price, all the different retailers will have the same price, and it will be up to the publisher to innovate and try different prices and see what will work best," Gardeur said. "If we have a fixed-price model, we'll likely get much better innovation and more retailers. We can really create an ecosystem with this kind of model, where with the other model it was very hard for smaller retailers to compete."

While there is some concern in the industry that this approach could lead to higher e-book prices and slowed e-book adoption, Gardeur was confident that competition would quickly bring prices back down again.

Looking for a Breakthrough

In addition to more retail competition, the industry is hopeful that Apple's entry will help grow the e-book market. While Kindle sales have shown some of the promise of e-books, Peter Balis, director of digital content sales for John Wiley & Sons, said e-books currently represent roughly 1 percent of most publishers' revenue.

"Apple has an incredible track record of late of converting consumers to digital adoption," Balis said, citing the iPod. "If anybody has the power to follow up on the great work that Amazon has already done to create the tipping point, it's Apple."

Roger Stewart, editorial director of McGraw-Hill Professional, said the key to the iPad's success as a reader may lie in the fact that it's a multi-function device.

Roger Stewart, editorial director, McGraw-Hill Professional

"The reason publishers have long believed the iPad would have the potential to be a game changer is not because it was designed to be an e-book reader," he said. "It's a game changer because it does everything else well and, by the way, it also happens to be a great e-book reader. Most people are reluctant to pay $300 for an e-book reader, but if the reader is just part of the device that you bought for all those other reasons the barrier goes away."

Apple also brings with it a trusted retail presence -- one of the very few that can compare to Amazon's. And the design of the iBooks reader, which hews closely to the look of a print book, appears well-positioned to bring new readers to the e-book market. The simplicity of the iPad may make it effective at helping publishers reach mass market readers who have yet to make the leap to digital books, according to Gardeur.

Andrew Savikas, VP of digital initiatives at O'Reilly Media, wondered whether, by focusing on the iPad, publishers weren't overlooking the larger opportunity, including a well-established platform a base of more than 50 million potential customers who use iPhones and iPod Touches.

"Most of what the publishers seem to be looking for in the iPad...is a large scale market for digital books with a platform that provides the opportunities for rich media and has reasonably attractive payment terms, including the ability for publishers to set their own price," he said. "All of that has actually already been part of [Apple's] existing App Store really since it launched." After we spoke, O'Reilly announced that they've sold 100,000 e-books to date through the App Store.

For Savikas, the development of the mobile web as a platform for readers has the potential to be the larger trend, with the iPad representing one of many devices that will make this possible.

Savikas said the iPod Touch and iPhone are creating "a new, larger market that judges the quality of the product based on very different attributes. They don't care about the quality of paper or the smell of the book. What they care about is convenience -- the fact that it's just a part of a device that's already a huge part of their daily life, the fact that it's a device that's connected to the web and to all the other things that they use on a regular basis."

First Impressions of the iPad

These predictions aside, many publishing folks were only modestly impressed with what they saw of iBooks in the Apple demo. Feedbooks' Gardeur, for example, felt that Apple had tried too hard to create a look and feel that evoked traditional books.

"Always displaying a bookshelf or replicating page turns, for example, can get annoying after a while, and I don't think it's really necessary," he said.

He was also disappointed by his first glimpse at the iBook's typesetting. "There's not even hyphenation on the page," he said. "If you're designing a reading system I think it's much better to offer optimized typesetting and really create something that's beautiful and easy to read rather than trying to replicate pages in a real book."

Although most readers don't think in terms of kerning and leading, Gardeur's concern was that when they start reading, they'll be able to tell that something's wrong, even if they're not sure why.

Mike Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, was impressed by the iPad's hardware, but disappointed by its software.

"I think that this is an evolutionary step, not a revolutionary step," he said offering a list of features he was sorry not to see, including highlighting text, annotating, advanced search, and social media tools built into the reading experience.

"Really, all they've done is replicate the book experience on a digital device," he said. "It's begging to go so much further."

One of the most obvious differences between the iPad and the Kindle is their screens. The Kindle features a monochrome display that uses E-Ink. The iPad uses a backlit full-color display that has publishers envisioning all sorts of possibilities for adding vibrant visuals. While this approach looks impressive, particularly in a demo, no one outside of Apple knows how well it will wear over time and whether reading The Brother's Karamazov on your iPad might turn out to be a lovely but ultimately eye-aching experience.

However the iPad reader performs, it's certain to be improved over time, and Amazon and other competitors are expected to raise their games as well.

"It's a time of huge upheaval for publishing and a time of great innovation for devices," said Carina's James. "It's an exciting time to be both a reader and a publisher, on the cusp of discovering what digital books can do. Even though they've been around for decades, they're still in their infancy."

Dan Brodnitz is a writer and content strategist. He is a past publisher at Sybex, John Wiley & Sons, and O'Reilly Media. He interviews working artists about their creative process at about-creativity.com.

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January 29 2010

23:50

4 Minute Roundup: iPad Mania; Yelp Scores $100 Million

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

Here's the latest 4MR audio report from MediaShift. In this week's edition, I look at the hype and reality around the latest device from Apple, the iPad. While some have slammed it for what it's missing, it's too early to tell how media companies might use it to sell their content. Plus, Yelp gets up to $100 million from Elevation Partners, helping some employees cash out without an IPO. And I ask Just One Question to Google News' Josh Cohen about whether Google should have started working with publishers sooner.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio12910.mp3

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Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

8 Things That Suck About the iPad at Gizmodo

The Anti-Hype - Why Apple's iPad Disappoints at Mashable

The Apple iPad - First Impressions at NY Times

Can iPad save media? Skeptics weigh in at Reflections of a Newsosaur

Debating the merits of Apple's iPad at News.com

Can Apple's iPad Save the Media After All? at Wired Epicenter

Taking A Deeper Look At Media's Appetite For The iPad at PaidContent

Does Apple's IPad Take a Bite Out of Web Advertising? at AdAge

The iPad Is a Multimedia Device. So Where Are the Media? Be Patient. at MediaMemo

Will the iPad Help Media? Possibly. Save Media? No. at GigaOm

Elevation Partners giving Yelp a boost at SF Chronicle

Yelp Taking Big Investment From Elevation Partners at TechCrunch

Yelp Gets Up to $100 Million From Elevation Partners at BusinessWeek

Three's A Trend - First Facebook, Then Zynga, Now Yelp at WSJ

Google Now Collecting Local Reviews From Non-Traditional Sources at Search Engine Land

Google Maps Now Adding Reviews from News Sites, Hyperlocal Blogs and Other Non Traditional Review Sources at Understanding Google Maps

Here's a graphical view of the most recent MediaShift survey results. The question was: "What do you think about Google's intent to run an uncensored site in China?"

survey grab china.jpg

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about the iPad:


What do you think about the Apple iPad?(poll)

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

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