Category Archives: Digital Publishing

With Big Data Comes Big Responsibilty

This came across Twitter the other day and is so very true:

 My fear is that publishers will use the reader data they collect from eReaders the same way that Hollywood uses focus groups to make movies.

It’s no secret that some publishers are closely watching the reports of “most highlighted passage”, “most shared photos” and “where people quit reading the book”. Lots of good stuff to learn there.

But, there is a reason that the world is awash in too many books, crappy TV and weak movies. . . the people in charge of cranking out books, tv and movies are courting the largest mass of consumers they can. And for mass appeal you make something that equals the lowest common denominator (at worst) or is simply a novelty (at best).

Let’s hope that book publishers have a sense of all of these lessons and can do a fair job of making contributions to their readers’ lives and not just spewing books filled with the most profitable sentences their algorithms said they could string together

J.K. Rowling’s New Book “The Casual Vacancy”

The Casual Vacancy book cover

Harry Potter author has a new not-for-teens book coming out on September 27, 2012. It’s called The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown and Co.) and is being billed as “a big novel about a small town” (read more on their press release). Many are speculating how Rowling will fair without Harry’s, but the publisher is betting big – just look at their pricing for the new 512-page book:

Hardcover $39.00; Download Audiobook $29.98; eBook $19.99

An ebook at half the price of the hardcover seems like a fair proposition, but I am anxious to see if Rowling fans (or Potter fans?) are willing to pay $20 for an eBook. Maybe it’ll be some all enhanced or gussied up eBook. What I’m really interested in is if there is some agreement circulating to keep the price at $19.99 or if online retailers will be allowed to discount the eBook. I guess no one can tell in these days of DOJ filings and pricing talks.

I’m in the global minority in having not read the Potter series and I’m not sure if The Casual Vacancy is something I’ll pick up, but man am I ready for September to see how the book is received and sold.

Bowker eReader and eBook Statistics

BookExpo America 2012 is well underway up in NYC at the Javitz Center. Tuesday, Bowker shared some the results from their latest research. Here are a few highlights from their report on eReader statistics:

1. almost 50% of content downloaded by eReader owners is free

2. 14% of eReader owners never buy an ebook

3. the number one reason is because they “can’t share the book”

4. fiction eBooks still leads the pack in sales

5. eBook “Power Buyers” buy 4 eBooks a month and is a group consisting mostly of educated females; they make up 35% of the customers, yet account for 60% of sales

Jane Little over at Dear Author has a great wrap up of the whole report and BEA happenings from Tuesday. I’d recommend heading over there if you’d like to read more about the report’s findings.

Pando Daily Does It Right

The new tech news/culture site Pando Daily is a daily read for me and I’ve been keeping up with founder Sarah Lacy since reading her book Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good a couple of years ago. They’ve done a great job of sourcing and surfacing interesting pieces. On top of that, they have a pretty solid editorial process. All of which adds up to . . . publishing. Which is why no one should be surprised they have just released their first eBook: Buy This Book Before You Buy Facebook. It’s priced at $3.99 and, so far, is only available on the Kindle platform. I do hope they share their thought process on why “just Kindle”. I’m guessing it’s either revenue related or they felt the Amazon tools were better to self-publish with. But whatever the reasons, there are lessons here for every publisher. Below is a quick rundown of the four points they got right and the one they missed:

1. Identify your silo/niche/subject and position yourself as a category expert. General publishing is in for a world of hurt over the next few years. There is a reason why we’ve seen some big publishers this year launching new imprints. This is something that needs to be considered at the publisher, series, author and title levels.

2. Build a community and engage daily. Things like brand, sales, followers, etc. will all flow from this. Pando Daily is nearing 20k followers on Twitter, which is where they first announced the eBook. In just 12 hours, their ebook moved up from a sales rank of #4,871 to #672 in the Kindle store. And that was overnight. This a function of building the community first and then tapping into it.

Pando Daily ebook stats

Pando Daily ebook stats 2

3. Pay attention to the news cycle and have tools in place to allow you to collect around a specific topic. It’s no coincidence that they are releasing this Facebook IPO eBook today. Traditional book publishing has been good at this… looking long term. But not so good at building books that repsond in the short term. That will have t change. Ten years ago, only marketers thought about the news cycle. Now publishers, acquisitions editors, authors and product folks need to pay attention.

4. Build your product and add value. Do not just collect all of your posts from one category and call it an ebook. You need to add something else. Make it worth your community’s time. For this product they gathered the folks who have been posting about Facebook and asked for some exclusive essays on the topic. And it can’t have been too much trouble for them as the eBook is only about 74 pages. They also had a solid cover design done. All of which add value. This is something the Pando Daily folks clearly understood bringing extra publishing help from the NSFW Corporation news magazine start-up.

5. Promote and sell where your community is. This is the one they missed. I can’t find the book on Kobo, Nook, Google, etc. By restricting to one platform they are allowing a third-party’s technology, accounts, payment processing and walls to restrict their content. I hope they take the time to build an ePub so they can push their book out on more channels.

I hope publishers everywhere are watching outfits like Pando Daily. They are fast. They have low overhead. They are sharp. And they are fighting for the same eyeballs, dollars and readers that traditional book publishers are.