Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A little humor for your Tuesday

From Cracked.com: "8 Unexpected Downsides of the Switch to E-books"

#3: How will people open secret passageways? Seriously, if you can't pull a cleverly titled book out of a bookcase to get it to swing open, what else are you going to do? You have to put an artifact in a slot or push a really obvious wooden carving every time? Boy, that is going to get old fast.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

50 Million Shades of Grey

I'm not even going to describe what 50 Shades of Grey is-- if you don't know already by all the controversy, hype, and love surrounding it, you can read about it here on Amazon-- but this is to repeat what a lot of people have already heard, which is that E.L. James, the author, is estimated to have made somewhere in the area of $50 million from sales and rights.

Besides the actual e-book content, there is quite a bit to interest in these figures. First, her sales are split almost evenly between paperbacks and ebooks-- 9.8 million and 9.6 million, respectively. Some people have commented that, due to the nature of the subject matter, a lot of people prefer reading her books on their ereaders because no one can tell what they're reading just by looking at them, which may account for some elevated sales of ebooks. Another factor is the fact that her paperbacks and ebooks came out at the same time in the US, allowing people to freely choose which format they wanted to read in. One look at Amazon will tell you that a Kindle edition of 50 Shades is selling for $9.99 and paperback is selling for $9.57. As we have seen in the ebook pricing struggle being waged with the Department of Justice, for a while now publishers have frequently staggered the publishing so that hardcovers were available for weeks or months before ebooks, and once the ebook was published (for example at $12.99 or $14.99) the paperback would be available at a much lower price (maybe $7.99).

Perhaps the most astonishing fact in the E.L. James figures, however, is the speed at which her sales have exploded. All of these sales occurred over the past six months. To put it in perspective, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series (consisting of four books) didn't reach those figures for three years.

It will be very interesting to see whether or not her sales have plateaued in the coming months, as well as if publishers begin to revise their schedules perhaps to mimic her simultaneous ebook/paperback editions. Also, I guess, if there is suddenly a dearth of erotica in mainstream publishing. That would be pretty interesting, too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Get in line with Dante, Keats, and Shakespeare.

Guys, remember when all the monastic copyists got mad because the Gutenberg press became more popular than them?

Project Gutenberg, one of my best friends and also the website that existed even before the Amazon Kindle for giving away free post-copyright books, has now added a digital self-publishing portal. They're calling it the "Author's Community Cloud Library," and it seems that as long as you are willing to post your content for free, you get to upload whatever you want. From what I can tell it requires that the uploader have also already formatted the book for digital download, as opposed to the Kindle site which will provide some rudimentary formatting for you.

While I don't think it will take off like the Amazon self-publishing portal (you can't get paid by Gutenberg, after all), I can see it becoming useful for some niche groups. Academic writers looking for publication and exposure, I think, will find the writer's community interesting, and also authors who are still in some discovery/early writing stages. It's definitely limited in what it offers, but I think people looking for someone to download (probably more erudite/academic texts, too, as opposed to the commercial popularity of Kindle publishing) and give any feedback or commentary will find it worth a second look.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where are the stats on how often people use their tablets in the bathroom?

According to an illuminating list put out by The Economist (12 stats that matter to digital publishing):

  • More than a third of US adults are expected to own a tablet by 2014.
  • iPad users look at 40 pages of content (unspecified whether web or book) on average per use.
  • The Financial Times has approximately 305,000 print subscribers and 285,000 digital subscribers.
Guess people still aren't reading, though, huh? Maybe we need to revise that line of thinking.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Which side are you on?

I really enjoyed writer and publisher Bob Mayer's article over at Digital Book World: The Great Publishing Wars of 2012. While negativity over the future of publishing and literature has been ongoing for decades now, it seems to have increased since the Department of Justice brought suit against five of the top six publishers for price fixing and colluding. Mayer's opinion piece is refreshingly positive and confident about the future of publishing. His article is very concise and well-written, so rather than quoting and commenting here, I suggest clicking on my link above and going over to DBW to read and enjoy.

In just a few paragraphs, he raises some of the most important questions facing publishing today:

  • Must either traditional or digital publishing "triumph" over the other? What does it mean for publishing when people are taking "sides" against each other?
  • Will either of these "sides" ultimately triumph? Or is this a futile struggle that is ultimately damaging to publishing?
  • What can people in the publishing field do now to succeed in a very tenuous industry?

You can listen to the terrific song "Which Side Are You On?" by the Dropkick Murphys while reading...

Friday, July 6, 2012

My eReader is judging me for not finishing "The Mill on the Floss".

If you have a Kindle, you may already have been aware of what the Guardian reported this week: ereader companies are collecting information on your reading habits.

Knowing which passages prompt a book to be thrown aside, which books are read at high speed and which are dipped in and out of is likely to be even more useful, and Humphrey believes this knowledge could eventually affect what's published.
As mentioned in the article, ebooksellers have yet to use or sell the information. Also, while it's not discussed in the article, the data that they can collect only pertains to the sellers' proprietary books-- if you have PDF files on your Kindle or Nook, for example, they are not tracking which items you have and where you leave off in those documents.

It's not the first time that reading habits have been studied without readers' knowing it. In recent memory, the Patriot Act was passed to allow federal agents to track public library users. The Guardian article goes so far as to cite the ever-popular Big Brother of Orwell's 1984 when describing insidious data tracking. Some people-- including some booksellers-- are coming out strongly against collecting reader data as an invasion of privacy. Others-- perhaps very interestingly the publishers-- see the data for its possibilities in improving the market for the reader. If people are buying one book and stopping a quarter of the way through, in the future a publishing house might reconsider purchasing another book from that same author. From another side, authors might fear this kind of data tracking-- if a threshold number of people aren't reading the book all the wall through, their publishing deals might be in jeopardy-- or welcome it, if the data can better direct their editing to better please their audience.

How do you feel knowing that Amazon and other ebooksellers are aggregating data about your reading habits? How do you see this kind of information being used in the future?