Yesterday, Tim O’Reilly announced that, after a seven year run, O’Reilly Media would no longer organize their annual “Tools of Change” conference. Of course, like many I was asking a fearful “Why? What’s not working?” Which is why I was thankful to see this quick exchange between LibraryThing founder Tim Spalding and O’Reilly-founder Tim O’Reilly:
The two Tims talked via Twitter briefly where Tim O’Reilly said that there was a definite opportunity cost:
“Expensive in NY, not very profitable, not enough resource to do everything we want”.
So it sounds that, yes, as ebooks settle into their own and trends are maturing and flattening, it was really a numbers decision to pull the plug on the Tools of Change conference.
The TOC conferences have been fun. While many other digital publishing conferences have popped up over the past few years, TOC tended to focus on “high level views” of publishing and technology. While the details were mentioned and listed, there were more chats and sessions on trends and next year’s tools than this year’s strategies and products.
Speaking of which, it sounds like (paragraph 5) O’Reilly plans on rolling out their own publisher-focused tools in the coming months. I’m anxious to see what they can offer that other services and add-ons don’t already. It’d be exciting to see then apply their forward-looking experience to current publishing tools and services. We’ll see.
I buy 100% of my non-fiction as paper books and about half of my fiction as ebooks. This is because, when it comes to non-fiction, device makers have yet to consistently deliver a reading experience that comes close to paper when reading charts, graphs, maps, highlighting, writing in margins, etc.
I wanted to share this 16-second video as an example. I took it at a B&N while checking out the largest most expensive nook HD they had on display. So here I am flipping through their sample ebook of The Hobbit, viewing an inline graphic:
Do you know how frustrating that is? The screen actually goes black. . . every. . . time. Imagine what it’d be like trying to view a business book (logging 15 seconds just to see an image) with a gazillion charts or a travel guide with detailed neighborhood maps!? I know everyone is moving at a break neck speed and trying to keep up with formats, devices, standards, unlocking content, etc. but we’re all killing the book if we’re not openly honest about on which devices ebooks fail and where they work.
I bet publishers never thought they’d see themselves in the “customer service” field. But I know they’re getting more and more calls/emails from upset customers because their “book doesn’t look right”. Trust me when I say that reading a travel guide, a Kindle Fire customer will have a totally different experience from a Kindle Paperwhite customer. But the book gets a bad review all the same, even when it’s the device’s limitations. Someone should have helped that customer understand what they were getting when they bought the device as well as when they bought the book.
I hope publishers, device makers and device sellers will be more honest and open about what the eReaders and eBooks are good for and when a pound of paper yields the better user experience. No one wins when the reader is frustrated.
Flipboard has integrated Apple’s iBookstore into its app. So now you can subscribe to any of the iBooks category listings. You simply add the “channel” (face it – it’s a catalog you’re adding) via the usually content panel. You can tell what is an Apple iBooks feed by the icon given.
Once you’re in the category page you’re able to flip through like any other Flipbook section. All of the images and copy match up with what you would see in iTunes and iBooks.
At any point you can click on the catalog and buy the eBook. Flipboard has everything that sells via the app under their affilate program. So Flipboard will get 3%-5% of the final sale. It’s a smart move for Apple as it gets their books and platform in front of people who are already readers. But I’m not feeling it just yet. . .
I mean – it’s a catalog. I use Flipboard daily (sometimes it feels like hourly). I subscribe to a gazillion RSS feeds, in Google Readers and then sort through them in Flipboard. It’s wonderful. All of the cool online book-related content Flipboard has gotten good at surfacing for me is now under the Entertainment category with a couple listed under Cool Curators category. I guess as long as it’s always made clear as to what is catalog and what is sourced from all of the cool online stuff Flipboard has gotten good at surfacing for me, I won’t be too upset. I mean everyone has to make a buck.
I wonder what it would take to set something up so all the local bookstores could feed their new books into a reader like this? Seems simple enough, if you could get all of the bookstores to agree on one system of entry. But it would be very cool to wake up every morning and see what’s new on shelf at the book store down the street.
The American Bookseller Association is teaming up with 20+ publishers and independent booksellers across the country for a special week of promotions called “Thanks for Shopping Indie”. The ABA helped get special pricing on a select set of titles for independent bookshops, so they can pass that extra-lower price on to their customers.
The event kicks off in conjunction with Small Business Saturday (Nov. 24th) and runs through December 1st. So mark yoru calendars and be on the lookout for the “Thanks for Shopping Indie” logo as there may be some good book deals to be had.
It’s great to see this promo. I was so disappointed when Google left independents hanging. I’ve stopped by a few local shops looking for the new Kobo displays, but haven’t seen any yet. So yes, I now have the perfect excuse to canvas the town this weekend and visit all of the local shops.
Over the past couple of days it has become apparent that the folks running GoodReads are hiding some book reviews. While this initially sounds really really bad, it seems to be an effort to help their members “play nice”. It’s the classic story of a few bad apples ruining it for everyone else. I’m not going to link specifically to all the posts, forums, blogs, etc. that spawned all of this, as I don’t want to join the flame wars, but I do think it’s important that we all know what and how GoodReads is changing.
The impetus for the changes in policy has to do with GoodReads allowing both authors and readers to be active on the site. Authors get blogs. Readers don’t. Readers can leave reviews. Author’s can’t (but they can have secondary “personal” accounts to do reviews with, but that’s another issue). So what’s been happening with a few passionate (and not so mature) authors is:
1. A reader pans a book on GoodReads, gives it a one star rating and maybe adds it to their “Readers to Avoid” shelf.
2. The author stumbles upon this and blogs about the negative review on their GoodReads blog, often making observations of the reviewer’s “lack of a brain”.
3. The author’s fans see this post and flock to the reviewer’s profile spewing forth bad stuff.
4. The reviewer’s friends start reviewing the author and the author’s fans’ activities (rather than reviewing the books), and things escalate.
5. The reviewer and a couple of friends get fed up and quit using GoodReads.
So what GoodReads has started doing is letting users know that their review has been hidden, if it doesn’t meet GoodReads criteria of a book review. So now, if you bash an author for their stance on importing bananas from Brazil, your review will show on your profile page and in your shelves, but not on the curated community book page, because your ‘review’ had nothing to do with the book. Also, your GoodReads friends will be able to see it, but that’s it.
This seems to ‘kind of’ fix the problem as it removes the match strike that sets these immature authors and fans off. But there is really nothing to stop these bad apples from harassing readers. I am not sure if more changes are on the way or not. We’ll have to see how all of this evolves.
I dabble on GoodReads (if you want to say ‘hi’ please do, it’s always fun chatting with other readers). But I check in on LibraryThing every day, so come join the fun over there if you haven’t already.
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.
— Andy Woodworth (@wawoodworth) July 5, 2012
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I can not express how sad this makes me. Google has announced that they will pull all support for selling e-books, from independent booksellers. They seem to be playing the same game that Apple and Amazon are. I guess starting in January 2013, they will be no different.
I am guessing their plans like: giving away the Android operating system, supporting the ebook infrastructure for bookstores, etc. just wasn’t paying off fast enough. So they’re copying the iTunes/Amazon model, with the launch of Google Play.
No doubt someone like Copia or Kobo will step in to fill the void, but I’m betting many many booksellers will just throw in the towel. Who can blame them? Why sign on with another service, if they can just be bought by Google or Amazon who kick the bookseller back to the curb?
The capitalist in me says Google is a business and needs to do what’s right for their business, just like all these indie bookstore owners have the right and should do what’s in their best interest. But I remember the materials that went out when Google was courting the American Booksellers Association and indie stores. None of it was conditional. None of it said “Now remember one day we may pull the plug”. At a minimum Google could preserve their “Do No Evil” mantra by supporting their current roster and just say “we won’t be taking on any more shops, because it’s not working like we thought”. That would be honest and fair to those shops who jumped on board to support ePub, Google Books and serve their store’s customers.
This really is another indicator that indie bookstores need to stay indie. Totally. They need to develop in-house talent for delivering books and products to their customers. They need to undertand how websites, Twitter, Facebook and ebook reader devices work. And they need to stay as close to their customers as they can. Hopefully groups like the ABA can step in and offer strategic help as lots of bookstores’ e-book sections go dark next January.
Now that I think about it, publishers really should get involved. I mean they want these shops to sell their books. I wonder what publishers could do to make it easy for indie store owners to sell their e-books… widgets… iframes… hmmm…
Blogs I Like
- B’ham Public Library
- Book Chase
- Book Patrol
- Bookshelf Porn
- Exile Bibliophile
- Fine Books Blog
- Loud poet
- Nathalie Foy
- Oh My Godwin!
- Reed Next’s Next Read
- Turn the Page
- AL.com Books
- AL.com Books Forum
- Alabama Center for the Book
- Alabama Writers' Forum
- Bham Wiki
- Book TV
- Menasha Ridge Press
- The Literacy Council
- Book Art
- Book Collecting
- Book Column
- Book Covers
- Book Design
- Book Reviews
- Book Sale
- Book Talk
- Bookstore Ideas
- Digital Publishing
- Free Books
- Friday Finds
- Gifts for Book People
- New Releases
- On the TV
- On the Web
- Publishing Industry News
- Site News
- Tools for Readers
- Upcoming Titles