Sunday, June 29, 2014

Should Barnes and Noble and Kobo Suspend their Self-Publishing Programs?


Barnes and Noble and Kobo have been running their self-publishing programs for a number of years. The two companies do very little to promote their services via the standard PR channels and most authors are blissfully unaware they even exist.  Should they continue to develop their indie author business or should they abandon them in attempt to refocus their efforts on their core business model?

B&N originally launched their first generation self-publishing program, PUBIT! in October 2010. The intention was to offer American authors the ability to self-publish their work for free and have it available on the main Barnes and Noble eBookstore.  I was told by Theresa Horner, who is the spearhead of self-publishing  that PUBIT never received any big updates and did not get enhanced in over three years. Last year the second generation platform Nook Press launched and allows authors to submit their titles to the US, UK, and most of Europe.

Kobo Writing Life was launched in late 2012, and was a fully developed system that allowed authors to sell their books all over the world. There are advanced tools to set the prices in different markets and even run promotions. The company made a splash promoting it at Book Expo America and had poster children Bella Andre and Kevin J Anderson.

Amazon is the runaway market leader in digital book sales, with many in agreement that they control 75% of the Canadian, US and United Kingdom markets. The Kindle Direct Publishing system nets authors more revenue than Kobo and Barnes and Noble combined. Authors frequently mention they get 100 sales on Amazon and less than 10 on the other platforms.

It is impossible to compete with Amazon with their Kindle Singles, Createspace, Kindle Worlds and their foray into established publishing imprints to get the books in real bookstores.

Many industry experts at the American Library Association Annual 2014 conference in Las Vegas think B&N and Kobo are playing right into Amazons hands. They train authors to self-publish, but do not give them any exclusive benefits to stick with them. It is quite easy to take your ePub, convert it to MOBI or PRC and distribute it to Amazon. Kindle Select gives authors an incentive to stick with Amazon by paying authors when their books are borrowed via the Kindle Lending Library or higher commissions.

Barnes and Noble has lost over one billion dollars on their entire eBook and e-reader business since first entering the market. Things have got so bad, that they have sacked most of their executive team, hired a new CEO, got investment from Microsoft and Pearson and intend on shedding the weight of Nook and spinning it off into another company.

Kobo has abandoned the US market and their Canadian interests are waning with the sacking of close 50 people at their Toronto headquarters and high level executives leaving the company to found their own startups. The Canadian government is investigating Kobo for the agency model and is forcing them to renegotiate their contracts with all the major publishers and abide by the wholesale model. It was this model that killed Sony and likely will kill Kobo in Canada if the court has its way.

Millions of dollars are poured into Nook Press and Writing Life and most people don’t realize how much executives, staff, development, promotion and maintaining the platform really costs. These companies would be better suited to shutter their programs and start sourcing books from LULU, Smashwords, Author Solutions and other established self-publishing communities.

B&N and Kobo are no longer focusing on their core business  model. They have their hands in too many cookie jars and cannot be effective in the things that make them money, selling books. Instead of focusing on selling, they are spending millions of dollars trying to compete with KDP.  The two sides simply are too egotistical to let Amazon control self-publishing completely and are willing to go broke fighting it out.

Should Barnes and Noble and Kobo Suspend their Self-Publishing Programs? is a post from: Good e-Reader

Digital Audiobooks the Latest Emerging Trend in Libraries


The American Library Association Annual conference every year is the perfect avenue to gauge emerging trends. During the 2014 event in Las Vegas, three trends eclipsed all others that had the entire floor buzzing with anticipation. Pay per Use, Libraries as Retail and Audiobooks were the largest issues that had keynote speeches and companies devoted to digital.

3m Cloud Library and Baker & Taylor Axis 360 are both revising their apps geared towards patrons for a better streamlined process to handle audiobooks. Instead of redirecting you to 3rd party services, they have both employed a complex backend to allow customers to browse, borrow and listen to books within a singular app.

Both of these companies are also allowing libraries to have more flexible control over their audiobook catalog. Collection managers will be able to develop their own custom shelves and serve genre specific audiobooks. For example, say a library is doing a monthly program showcasing Fantasy, they could populate the frontpage of the app with a custom selection of content from Urban Fantasy or even Lord of the Rings.

The apps B&T and 3M are developing will be quite different from their existing offerings. Not only can  you listen to books within the app, but you can download them to your tablet, phone or computer and listen to them offline. They will also allow you to pick up where you left off on one device, while using another, with their new syncing system.

3M disclosed that 50% of all of their libraries they serve are very interested in an expanded audiobook solution, while B&T is seeing unparalleled demand.

Audiobooks is a very interesting system for libraries, as many of the top distributors lean on 3rd parties for a full catalog of content.  3M and Baker and Taylor both lean on Findaway World, which is current market leader in production. Findaway has a catalog of over 40,000 titles and maintains production studios, narrators and crew in New York.  Overdrive has their own internal solution, where they approach publishers directly, instead of dealing with Acoustic, Findaway or Hoopla.

Hoopla is an audiobook solution for libraries that floats under the radar, but are quickly making a name for themselves with their exclusive focus. The company has a catalog of 13,000 titles with 1,000 added each month. Hoopla deals with over 100 libraries in the US and charges no licensing fees with setting up the system, which is quite appealing to the average library.

How does Hoopla make money? The company has employed the Pay Per Use model, which only charges the library when a specific title is checked out by a patron. Librarians can establish a weekly or monthly threshold, so they can ensure they will not go over budget. This financial model works for Hoopla because they can promote their entire catalog, while curating the bestsellers on the main page, so finding quality content is ridiculously easy.

eBook sales globally may have flatlined, but audiobook sales have been consistently rising. The industry last year was worth 2.4 billion dollars and has a 6% annual growth rate in the UK. Still, audiobooks are still fairly expensive when compared to an eBook. The average eBook for a library to purchase is around $9.99, while an audio edition costs $29.99. Many distributors told us off the record that they were seeing a 5:1 ratio for eBook loans vs audiobook loans.

In the end, libraries have more choice than ever before on who they want to deal with to power their digital audio solution. They can go with Hoopla, which is dedicated to audiobooks only and does not concern themselves with anything else. 3M, B&T, Overdrive or Recorded Books are all in one solutions that do everything from eBooks, magazines, graphic novels, movies and music.

Digital Audiobooks the Latest Emerging Trend in Libraries is a post from: Good e-Reader

Libraries Begin to Adopt Self-Publishing


Libraries have traditionally been a destination to borrow books, digital content and to train the community via various outreach programs. You can now add self-publishing to the libraries arsenal via a new system developed by Fastpencil and Recorded Books.

Recorded Books has been distributing content to libraries since 1979 and has mainly focused on digital magazines, eBooks and academic content. Recorded Books has announced a partnership with self-publishing resource FastPencil to bring public libraries an electronic resource that enables established and aspiring authors to create and prepare original works for publication.

FastPencil's powerful technology provides libraries with an end-to-end publishing network that helps authors write, manage, convert and distribute books and eBooks. With access to robust management capabilities, libraries can also ingest, store and post library content to patrons.

We spoke to Brad Gray of Recorded Books and Andrew Conway of FastPencil at the American Library Association Annual 2014 conference in Las Vegas. The main question we asked is how will the self-publishing program be marketed to libraries and how will content be made available.

Brad suggested that traditional libraries or schools start developing creative writing or poetry competitions where young people can hone their craft and have their prose judged by library professionals. The winning entries that can be made available for the library to distribute for free to all of their patrons. Since the eBooks are self-published, they do not have to abide by the traditional one book, one lend philosophy.

Andrew thought that digitizing old family recipe books or family vacations would be an ideal way to leverage the technology. This avenue is practical because the FastPencil system allows collaborative sharing, editing and development of the eBook. The end result does not need to be shared with anyone else, but having the option to list it in the library is very compelling, especially with old recipe books.

FastPencil went from a startup just a few years ago to winning the Book Expo Innovation award. The company continues to innovate by announcing their partnership with World’s Best Story to uncover the next big blockbuster story via a social contest. Aspiring authors will be reviewed and voted on by a community of readers, and, ultimately, hand-selected by a panel of best-selling authors. The grand prize winner will have his or her title published by FastPencil PREMIERE, FastPencil’s best-selling author imprint service.

FastPencil is becoming an emerging force in self-publishing because they continue to establish relationships with other startups and veterans. The deal with Recorded Books really gives libraries the option to foster creativity in the community. Who knows, the poetry winner today, might be a Pulitzer prize winner of tomorrow and the books would also be available at the library forever.

Libraries Begin to Adopt Self-Publishing is a post from: Good e-Reader

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

Verdict: 4 Stars

Equal parts mystery and broken family saga with elements of deep dark secrets, this title is hard to categorize into just one genre.

Married couple Siri and Jon head back to her childhood home for the summer so Jon can presumably finish his long-awaited follow up novel. The family begins to unravel in many overlapping places, beginning with Siri’s mom, Jenny, who finally takes a drink after twenty years of sobriety. But even more dirty laundry gets aired involving the tragic death of Siri’s younger brother as a toddler, long-ago affairs come to light, and a young au pair’s body is found, leaving everyone suspicious of the role all of the others may have played in it.

In typical Ullmann fashion, this story is about as dark as it gets. The characters are intriguing, but I couldn’t find a single thing to like about any of them, even the children. By the end of the book, I was hoping for their final comeuppance just to rid the planet of a few of them.

Despite the depressing characters and story line, it still pulled me in as I had to find out what happens to resolve the underlying mystery. Ullmann’s writing style is gripping, even if she carries some of her famous father’s dark plot elements. The translation by Barbara Haveland was flawless and really speaks to the hard work that goes into translating full-length novels.

The Cold Song is available now.

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann is a post from: Good e-Reader

10 Free Kindle eBooks – June 29th

Here’s a list of free Kindle books as of June 29th, 2014. Please note that some of these ebooks are free for a limited-time only and could expire at anytime. Make sure to double-check that they are still free before hitting the buy button. Subscribe to The eBook Reader Blog to keep updated on future […]

Digital Publishers Support Community Causes in Profound Ways

Good e-Reader recently reported on the good work that digital publisher and ebook distributor 0s & 1s is doing in helping smaller, independent publishers and presses digitize and sell their content. With more than twenty presses already working with 0s & 1s and with a mission to provide DRM-free, multiple-file bundles to readers while giving authors an unheard of 80% royalty, the company stands to make dramatic changes in an already evolving landscape.

Now, 0s & 1s is working on the surrounding community as well. From July 1st through July 7th, the company will give 50% of the profit from each book it sells to the charity Housing Works to continue the mission of its fundraising bookstore.

Housing Works bills itself as “a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.”

The bookstore, which has become a tourist destination for its iconic status in the book community, provides not only a source of revenue for the charity through its 100%-donated content, but also by being a stunning backdrop for community events and parties.

0s & 1s has asked that its readers enter the code housingworks at checkout in order to help ensure that the profits are dispersed to the organization during the one-week fundraising period.

Digital Publishers Support Community Causes in Profound Ways is a post from: Good e-Reader