Friday, 2 May 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Math of Comixology’s Change in One Handy Graphic

Posted: 02 May 2014 04:05 PM PDT

When the news first broke that Amazon was removing the in-app purchase option from the Comixology  iOS app, I was one of the first to point out that creators would get a larger share of the revenue.

The folks at Graphic Policy agree with me, and yesterday they posted s simple graphic to show just how much creators would gain:


The above graphic shows that creators are going to gain an addition 12 cents on the dollar, and that is probably a pessimistic estimate. GP is assuming that Amazon will deduct credit card charges before splitting revenue, but based on what we have seen in the Kindle Store and in Audible it is more likely that Amazon will cover the payment processing fees themselves.

But even if GP is right, this change is still a significant boost in potential income. No matter how anyone attempts to spin it, the comic industry, and the creators, make out better with this change.

Graphic Policy

The post The Math of Comixology's Change in One Handy Graphic appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Why do so few Mobile Web Browsers Offer a Distraction-Free Reading Mode?

Posted: 02 May 2014 01:39 PM PDT

I am having a problem, and you might be able to help.

Earlier today I set out to write a post which was going to round up all of the mobile web browsers and explain how to access the ad-free reading mode. I wanted to show you how to find a way strip out the ads and see something like this demo of the “Reading View” mode from Amazon Silk:


That looks a lot better than the average web page (which would likely be encumbered with ads), right?

I was going to write a post which explained how to find this kind of reading mode in all the leading mobile browsers, and that brings me to my problem.

Most mobile browsers don’t have this feature.

If you’re browsing the web from the iPad or iPhone, you can find a feature like this in Safari (it’s called Reader Mode). And if you’re browsing from the Kindle Fire, Silk has a similar feature called Article View.

But if you want to browse from Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Dolphin, you’re out of luck. None of those browsers have this kind of reading mode – not on Android, anyway.

Update: Or perhaps I am wrong about Firefox. Some versions of Firefox do have this feature:

You can find Chrome and Firefox plugins that will add this feature, but I can’t find a version of those plugins which will work with the Android version of each web browser. And while Dolpin supposedly has a plugin which does the job, it doesn’t work for me. (If I missed a hidden feature on any of those web browsers, please let me know.)

This being 2014, I was expecting this to be a standard feature on all mobile web browsers, but it is turning out to be rather hard to find.

So here’s how you can help. Do you know of a way to access a distraction-free reading mode in a mobile web browser?

If so, share it in the comments. I would like to find alternatives, and I’m sure that I am not the only one. While most mobile web browsers are good enough that this reading mode is not required, I still like having the option.

The post Why do so few Mobile Web Browsers Offer a Distraction-Free Reading Mode? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Appeals Court Revives eBook Royalty Lawsuit Against Harlequin

Posted: 02 May 2014 09:58 AM PDT

Today’s logo-harlequin-sfund1[1]news of HarperCollins buying Harlequin for $455 million is overshadowed by a recently revived lawsuit. Earlier this week the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling which breathed life back in to a 2 year old lawsuit.

Following more than a year of failed negotiations, a group of authors filed a class-action lawsuit against Harlequin in July 2012. The authors alleged that Harlequin’s practice of designating one of Harlequin ‘s Swiss subsidiary as the publisher, who then licensed the rights back to the parent company, cheated the authors out of their ebook royalties.

Between 1990 and 2005 Harlequin offered a standard contract that included an “all other rights” clause which promised authors 50% net royalties. While that is not a bad deal on its face, the publisher also set up a deal to internally license the digital rights through that Swiss subsidiary for about 6% to 8% of the retail price of the ebooks. This enabled Harlequin to claim that its net receipts were far smaller than what the ebook retailers were actually remitting to Harlequin.

Even though it’s clear that in this case the authors were being cheated, this kind of internal licensing agreement is not unusual in many industries, and that is part of the reason why Judge Harold Baer threw out this lawsuit last April. He issued a summary judgement in favor of Harlequin based on a narrow interpretation of contract law.

Earlier this week that summary judgement was overturned – in part. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t overturn the contract or Harlequin’s internal sleight-of-hand accounting, but the 3 judge panel reinstated the lawsuit on the basis that the license fee was too low.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Baer, J.) concluded that plaintiffs' allegations failed to state claims and dismissed the amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).  See Keiler v. Harlequin Enters. Ltd., No. 12-5558, 2013 WL 1324093 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 2, 2013). For the reasons set forth below, we hold that plaintiffs' claims based on agency, assignment, and alter ego theories cannot serve to modify the terms of the Publishing Agreements and were properly dismissed.  We also conclude that the amended complaint set forth sufficient facts to plead a breach of the Publishing Agreements on the theory that defendants calculated their e-book royalties based on an unreasonable license fee.  Accordingly, we affirm the judgment in part, reverse it in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

In short, the appeals court is saying that the sweetheart deal Harlequin gave itself doesn’t pass muster; had a similar deal been arranged externally the net would have been significantly higher than 6% to 8%.

With revenues of around $400 million a year, the potential financial liabilities runs into the tens of millions of dollars, and I’m sure that’s not news that Harlequin’s new owner, HarperCollins, wants to hear.

But never mind the financial side; the damages Harlequin did to their reputation is already affecting the bottom line. In a time when the ebook market is growing, when more romance ebooks are being bought than ever before, Harlequin’s revenues dropped in 2012 and 2013. By failing to negotiate and then fighting this out in court, Harlequin gave authors a good reason to not sign new contracts and instead sign with a smaller publisher or go self-pub.

It’s not clear whether HarperCollins or Torstar, Harlequin’s previous owner, is liable for this lawsuit.

The post Appeals Court Revives eBook Royalty Lawsuit Against Harlequin appeared first on The Digital Reader.

BookBub Raises $3.8 Million in Series A Funding

Posted: 02 May 2014 08:04 AM PDT

2013 was bookbubthe year of the ebook email blasts but it looks like BookBub has tacked a few more months on to the calendar.

BookBub, a daily deal site which sent out emails about ebook sales, announced yesterday that they had raised $3.8 million in Series A funding. The investors include Avalon Ventures, NextView Ventures, Founder Collective, and Bloomberg Beta.

This 2-year-old Massachusetts-based startup is well-known both in digital publishing circles as well as among readers for its daily email blasts. With a subscriber list that now tops 3 million, BookBub offers publishers and indie authors to get their discounted ebook deals in front of highly motivated buyers. Depending on the genre, BookBub charges anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars to be featured in a newsletter.

BookBub has run 10,000 ebook deals over the past couple years, leading to purchases of more than one million ebooks per month (as well as downloads of millions of free ebooks). “BookBub's traction proves it's filling a huge need for readers, authors, and publishers,” said David Beisel, partner at NextView Ventures. “We meet with countless startups, but it's uncommon to find one that has become such a meaningful part of an industry so early in its existence.”

Part of BookBub’s success is that they don’t just sell placement; they also curate what goes in each email blast.

I haven’t written about BookBub much on this blog but I have  been listening to what authors have said on KBoards, AbsoluteWrite, and elsewhere. Many are puzzled by the standards that BookBub uses to choose whether to accept an authors money (yes, BookBub has turned down money before) but most agree that this can be an effective tool for boosting ebook sales.

The post BookBub Raises $3.8 Million in Series A Funding appeared first on The Digital Reader.

HarperCollins to Acquire Harlequin

Posted: 02 May 2014 06:51 AM PDT

News Corp logo-harlequin-sfund1[1]announced on Friday that they are buying Harlequin for $455 million in cash from the Canadian media conglomerate Torstar. The leading romance publisher will retain its independence as division of HarperCollins, News Corp’s publishing subsidiary.

Torstar acquired control of Harlequin in 1975 and full ownership in 1981. The romance publisher publishes the work of more than 1,300 authors and releases over 100 titles per month, with approximately 40% revenues coming from books published in languages other than English.

The acquisition will need regulatory approval, including in Canada and the US, and it will also require approval under the Investment Canada Act.

While the press release would have you believe that time are great, it’s worth noting that Harlequin’s revenues peaked in 2011 ($459) and dropped in both 2012 ($426 million) and 2013 ($398 million). This looks to me like Harlequin is not making the transition to digital as well as some would like.

HarperCollins, on the other hand, has at least been treading water. Their most recent quarterly report showed some growth ($391 million in revenue, up 4% from $377 million). In terms of revenue HC is about 4 times the size of Harlequin, though of course that is spread across many different genres and categories.

Harlequin is also not handling the rise of self-published authors all too well. What I have been hearing is that Harlequin isn’t paying enough in royalties to keep their more successful authors from departing for greener pastures, both with other publishers and independent. This is probably reflected in their bottom line; along with SF romance was one of the first genres to go digital and it is one of the genres to benefit the most from the self-publishing revolution as well as the rise of new independent digital publishers.

And given that the lawsuit concerning Harlequin underpaying digital royalties was recently revived by an appeals court, I wonder whether Torstar  thought that Harlequin’s potential liabilities outweighed its prospects.


The post HarperCollins to Acquire Harlequin appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Started the Day Against DRM Festivities a Week Early by Intentionally Breaking My Kindle eBooks

Posted: 02 May 2014 05:16 AM PDT

Defective byamazon frown Design’s International Day Against DRM is coming up next week, and fortuitously Amazon has given us another example of why DRM is harmful.

Early this morning I got an email with an ebook I have been waiting for. It was Mytro by John Biggs, which I had backed in the Kickstarter campaign, and the email delivered the DRM-free ebooks I had bought. I’m not one to wait, so i immediately downloaded the ebook and tried to open it in the Kindle app on my PC.

And that’s when I saw this error message:

kindle for pc error message

For those who can’t read the text, it says “The version of the Kindle application has expired and can no longer be used. Please update to a newer version.”

You see, every so often Amazon likes to disable existing Kindle for PC apps and force users to upgrade. This is the first time I encountered it, but according to the support forums thread I found Amazon has been pulling this trick since at least 2012. I’m not the first person to be surprised when my Kindle app refused to run, and I am probably not even the 41st.

I was able to download and install the updated Kindle app, so this was only a minor inconvenience – today. Luckily I had a functional internet connection; if I were traveling, at a conference, or anywhere away from my home, I might have been out of luck.

And this time around I was also lucky in that the update didn’t bork access to my ebook library. Back in 2011 Amazon pushed out an update for the K4PC app which was simply broken. I, and many other Kindle users, lost access to every Kindle format ebook on our PCs, including stuff we bought elsewhere as well as any annotations or notes we made in those other ebooks.

And that, folks, is what makes DRM, and especially Amazon’s DRM, so utterly pernicious. Not only was Amazon able to block me from accessing the content which I licensed from them, they also cut me off from content I own and content I created myself.

So when the Day Against DRM rolls around again next week, it might be worth your time to make sure your content is safe. Like Cory Doctorow says:

If you can’t open it, You don’t own it!

The post Amazon Started the Day Against DRM Festivities a Week Early by Intentionally Breaking My Kindle eBooks appeared first on The Digital Reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment