Booksellers say they are dying, but refuse to sell books

By Paul Biba from Teleread:

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How dumb is this!  When your market is diminishing, and your revenues are diminishing, just go ahead and refuse opportunities to make money.  The booksellers won’t hurt Amazon, they will only hurt themselves.

From Publishers Weekly:

Earlier this year when Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced a licensing agreement with Amazon to publish and distribute all adult titles from Amazon Publishing’s New York office under the newly created New Harvest imprint, independent bricks-and-mortar booksellers as well as the nation’s two largest chains, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, said that they would not carry them in their stores. Among other reasons for the ban, they cited the fact that Amazon would retain exclusive rights to the e-book edition. With the first two books about to ship—Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine’s Outside In (shipping Aug. 1) and Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?(Aug. 8)—PW got back in touch with booksellers to see if they have changed their minds about stocking their competitor’s titles and found little has changed. In fact over the past five months booksellers have become more entrenched about their decision.

One contributing factor is the growing awareness of the lack of transparency in the way Houghton sold previous one-off titles licensed from Amazon. This helped to account for strong bricks-and-mortar sales for novels like Oliver Potzsch’s The Hangman’s Daughter, which had been originally published by Amazon as an e-book before being sold by Houghton in print. For book two in the series, Dark Monk, a full-page ad in the New York Times Book Review in June made no mention of either Houghton or Amazon, another irritant to booksellers. The fact that indies said that Houghton sales reps have been up front that New Harvest titles—that are in the fall HMH catalogue– have been licensed from Amazon hasn’t made them anymore likely to carry the books.

B&N goes international

From ShelfAwareness:

B&N’s International Plan: Nook Stores, Distribution Partnerships

Barnes & Noble plans to launch Nook digital bookstores in 10 countries within 12 months, the Bookseller reported, noting that a 10-K form filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission “said the international expansion plans were part of its partnership with Microsoft, announced earlier this year.”

According to the document, B&N is also “exploring opportunities to give consumers outside of the U.S.” access to its Nook products “through potential distribution partnerships yet to be announced. While there can be no assurances, the company intends to have one or more distribution agreements in place to sell Nook devices in certain countries outside the U.S. prior to the 2012 holiday season.”

Paper books. E-books. The core is…

Dear reader,

I think that for myself I have decided that the brawl over paper books and e-books and what is better is a non-issue. It is the same kind of argument as why people like a specific colour better, or a brand of car, or a particular kind of cereal.

The core part in the debate is book. It is the text that is in it, the story, the information. Does it matter how it is presented? In a hard-cover book, a paperback, a spiral-backed set of prints, or in any of the formats that e-books come in? I suddenly realised that all that doesn’t really matter. E-books only add to the versatility and ease of getting to the information and stories.

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Read, don’t show

Found on DialyMail.co.uk:

One-third of e-book readers admit to using gadgets to hide that they’re reading erotic novels

  • One-third of users have read erotic novels
  • 58% use their device to hide what they are reading
  • Other ‘shameful’ books include children’s titles such as Harry Potter

E-book readers ‘free’ fans from having to show off what they’re reading – and it seems many users like to go for rather racy fare.
In a poll of 1,863 people conducted in Britain this week, 34% admitted to having read erotic novels on the devices.Around a third of e-book users read erotic novels on their devices, confident that others can’t see them.

Another 57% said that they used their e-reader to hide the fact that they were reading children’s books, such as Harry Potter, whilst 26% said they used theirs to disguise their sci-fi books habit.

Overall, 58% of people admit to using their device to ‘hide’ what they are reading, according to the poll by MyVoucherCodes.co.uk.

Mark Pearson, Chairman of MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, said ‘Having an e-reader does make it a lot easier to disguise what you’re reading, but it was quite an eye-opener to find out how many people use the fact that they have an e-reader to read an adult novel or two!’

An earlier poll of British readers found that a third of ebook readers are too embarrassed to reveal the truth about what they are reading.

One in five said they would be so ashamed of their collection that if they were to lose their ebook reader they would not claim it back.

But the results also showed that 71 per cent of books on the shelves of those who responded were autobiographies, political memoirs, and other non-fiction titles – but those categories accounted for just 14 per cent of e-books read by those surveyed. 

The most popular e-books were thrillers and mysteries followed by romance, humour and fantasy.

Fifty-five per cent said they had read fewer than a third of the books on their shelves while one in 10 admitted they had never read any of them.’

Original article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2149344/One-e-book-readers-admit-using-gadgets-hide-theyre-reading-erotic-novels.html

Easons to Launch eReader This Year

May 23rd, 2012 by Nate Hoffelder · via The Digital Reader who in turn got it from Independent.ie.

 There’s news this week that some booksellers are going over to the dark side, but there’s also one Irish bookseller that is not. Earlier today Easons, a chain of 40 corporate and franchise bookstores, announced plans to release their own ereader.

Details are still scarce on the price, release date, specs, or even the color of the device, but an Easons spokesman did give some idea as to their plans. “We are not getting into bed with Amazon, that is for certain,” he said.

Easons has been working for some time now to add ereaders to their stores. Last November they completed a remodel of 25 stores which added both new ereader stock as well as a petting zoo where customers could try before they buy. And that’s not all they’re doing. “As part of a €20m plan to modernise our entire chain, we will be providing live wi-fi in our stores from this summer and dedicated e-book areas which will permit customers to download e-books from our website. The next phase of this process is to launch our own Easons branded e-reader.”

And when they do, Easons will have a lock on the market. Ireland has a population of 4.4 million, making it an ebook market which is too small to draw the interest of any of the major ebookstores.

E-books do not ‘cost nothing to produce’

Via Teleread, By Chris Meadows

We’ve all heard the argument that e-books should be cheaper because they don’t have printing, shipping, and warehousing costs. Blogger Deanna McFadden, who works in digital publishing, takes exception to writer Michael Chabon’s recent statement that it’s unfair publishers should get the same royalty as paper books for “an e-book that costs them nothing to produce.”

McFadden attributes this sort of statement to ignorance of all the costs and hard work that go into readying a book for digital publication, and grumbles that “Chabon essentially thinks my role, that of e-book person, is essentially worthless”.

Let’s take again the idea that for those two earlier books that essentially cost a publisher “nothing” to produce and actually look at what’s involved. Because the books are older, and let’s assume they are a fair bit older, no digital files exist. That means a gross, labour-intensive few days of scanning the text into a file. Then there’s the time it takes to clean up that file, to strip out all the gunk that scanning creates and make sure the e-text is as accurate as it can be to the p-text, again, more time. And sure, there are companies all over the developing world that will do this terrible work for a low cost (and my thoughts on that are, well, far too long to include in this already too long post). In the end, you’ve got the work into a digital format and it’s ready to be converted to epub, more buttons are pushed, coders come in and clean everything up, and you’ve got an ebook that’s ready to go. It’s proofed and checked and proofed again. Metadata is built, ONIX is created, files are FTP’d to the vendors, Amazon’s mobis are created, various different formatting things are checked, and then the book is for sale — but, hey, apparently, this costs all of us nothing to produce, right? There’s no time or energy or effort or anything put into pushing a button and magically having an ebook show up around the world, naw, it’s nothing compared to boxes and gasoline and shipping and warehouses, right? And I’m even simplifying things here for the sake of making a point — not a week goes by where all of our books end up in the right place, where none of them have some sort of technical issue, where there’s not a problem with data that needs to be solved — it’s complex, time consuming, and, at times, really frustrating.

McFadden does admit she may not be putting Chabon’s words into the right context. And I think that’s right. She’s kind of comparing apples and oranges. Yes, e-books have fixed costs of production, of the sort she describes. So do paper books. And they share many of the same costs, and (as McFadden notes) since e-book publishing and print publishing are often treated as two separate things instead of one thing with two separate products, they often duplicate those costs.

But what Chabon is talking about when he says they “cost nothing to produce” is the marginalcost. It costs a certain amount of money to run off each paper book, to ship it, to store it, and possibly to ship it back and destroy it. But e-books have such a miniscule production cost per unit—a few watts of electricity, a few kilobytes of bandwidth—that they effectively cost nothing to run off each digital copy. So if we assume that fixed costs are equal, e-books will earn those costs out much faster while not adding any marginal ones.

That doesn’t mean that the work of someone preparing those e-books doesn’t have value. It just means that when you start selling a lot of them, there’s a lot more room to cut price and/or raise royalty payments on the electronic version. Or so the perception goes, at least. There’s still considerable argument over whether that is actually true.

The Rise of E-Reading

As the number of Americans that own tablet computers and e-book reading devices has increased, so has the percentage of adults who report that they have read an e-book in the past year.

In a February survey, 21% of adults said they had read a e-book in the last year, compared to 17% who reported doing so in December. This tracked with a major spike in ownership of e-reader devices that occurred during the holiday gift-giving season in December. During that period, ownership of an e-book reader or a tablet each increased to 19% of adults, compared to 10% for each device in mid-December.

Those who read e-books read more books than those who don’t have the devices: The average reader of e-books has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer. For device owners, those who own e-book readers also stand out. They say they have read an average of 24 books in the previous year (vs. 16 books by those who do not own that device). They report having read a median of 12 books vs. 7 books by those who do not own the device).

While e-book reading is markedly growing, printed books still dominate the world of book readers. In a December 2011 survey, 72% of American adults said they had read a printed book and 11% listened to an audiobook in the previous year, compared with the 17% of adults who had read an e-book.

The rise of e-books in American culture is part of a larger story about a shift from printed to digital material. Using a broader definition of e-content in a survey ending in December 2011, some 43% of Americans age 16 and older say they have either read an e-book in the past year or have read other long-form content such as magazines, journals, and news articles in digital format on an e-book reader, tablet computer, regular computer, or cell phone.

Read the full report for detailed findings on these subjects:

(Article originally read at PEWresearch.org.)

People who read e-books read more.

How DRM weakens publishers’ negotiating leverage with retailers

This post originally appeared on BoingBoing – By  at 7:23 am Monday, Apr 2

My latest Publishers Weekly column is “A Whip to Beat Us With,” which describes how publishers who allow retailers to add DRM to their products hand those retailers a commercial advantage to exercise over the publishers themselves.

Jim C. Hines’s e-books are marketed both through a big publisher and solo. The books that were re-priced by Amazon were his solo titles—unagented, and unrepresented by a major publisher. As an individual, Jim has no leverage over Amazon. Not so Macmillan, which controls a much larger number of SKUs and has much more leverage. Macmillan made headlines during its tense standoff with Amazon in 2011 over e-book pricing, but the publisher was able to sway Amazon because it could make a credible threat that it might get up from the negotiating table and take all its books, too—and others might follow.

But Macmillan’s edge—its scale—is also its undoing. Every day, Macmillan sells more e-books that have been locked into Amazon’s format. The millions of dollars that Amazon customers spend on Macmillan’s DRM-locked e-books represent millions of dollars of e-books Macmillan customers lose if they wanted to follow Macmillan away from Amazon. Publishers believe DRM protects their books. But DRM has created a world where publishers who walk away from negotiations with a DRM vendor like Amazon leave their customers behind.

Not just Macmillan. Any publisher that sees a substantial portion of its income from DRM vendors becomes little more than a commodity supplier to those vendors. If Hachette or HarperCollins decided to bite the bullet and pull their titles from Amazon during a dispute, how many of their authors would stay with them, knowing that the world’s largest bookseller and most popular e-book platform no longer carried their titles?

To appreciate this vulnerability, just look at what happened in February with the Independent Publishers Group, a distributor that asked Amazon to hold the line on its discount. They weren’t able to reach an agreement, and Amazon removed all IPG’s e-books from the Kindle store. The day that happened, IPG sent out a communique describing the situation and asking its readers to avoid the Kindle store in future.

Are ebook sales reaching a plateau?

Via: TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics, by a TeleRead Contributor

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From Dead Tree Edition:

When the U.S. magazine industry gets hot and bothered about the latest craze, you can usually bet that trend is about to run out of steam.

E-books were the talk of many magazine people at this week’s Publishing Business Conference in New York, my spies tell me. The web – which is so hopelessly last year – was hardly mentioned. Everyone wanted to chat about their e-books and tablet editions, more so about their cool factor than about whether they were earning much profit.

Meanwhile, the book-publishing half of the huge conference was getting some rather startling news: The once-exploding sales growth of e-books in the U.S. has slowed dramatically, according to research from RR Bowker. (My correspondent’s account is corroborated by Paul Biba of TeleRead.) This just proves Stein’s Law of Economics: An unsustainable trend cannot be sustained.

“We went from exponential to incremental growth,” said Kelly Gallagher, a Bowker vice president, who also referred to “some level of saturation” in the U.S. market. The breathless predictions of two years ago, which suggested that the growth of e-books would soon shut down all the book printing presses and brick-and-mortar bookstores, turned out to be way off the mark.

E-book sales will probably continue to grow incrementally, Gallagher said, but no one has the market figured out. “Anyone who tells you they have figured it out is probably trying to get some consulting money out of you.”

Despite the massive purchases of tablets and e-readers during the 2011 holiday season, the proportion of book buyers who bought an e-book rose from 17% late last year to only 20% in January, according to Bowker’s research.

Recent buyers of e-reading devices are not purchasing as many e-books as the early adopters do, Gallagher said. Many of those who have switched over to full-color tablets may be caught up in “Angry Birds Syndrome”and not doing much book reading on their new gizmos.

And here’s the real shocker: The power purchasers of e-books (60% of the U.S. volume comes from people who buy at least four titles per month) are buying more ink-on-paper books than previously

All reports indicate that the conference had very few of the print-vs.-digital discussions of previous years. Most publishers seemed to accept that they would be making money from print for a long time to come, that digital editions had real promise, and that they needed to figure out how they could make actual money from the web.

The only “print is dead” sort of talk came in regards to textbooks, which some said would be rapidly replaced by e-books and educational software. But the children’s non-textbook book market is a different story, with e-books having less than 5% market penetration and not showing much promise in the tablet world.

“The App Store is a nightmare for finding children’s book apps,” one publisher complained. What we have here is a rare piece of good news for the future of print-media industries: Today’s children will be trained to associate e-editions with work and printed editions with fun reading.