Monday, 30 June 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

OverDrive Shows Off Embedded eBooks, Bing Integration at ALA 2014

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 02:46 PM PDT

66470758-jpg[1]The American Library Association held one of their two annual conferences this past weekend, and OverDrive was there to show off their latest projects. There are many projects which OverDrive has been working on, including a new partnership with Microsoft’s Bing and new fruits from OverDrive’s 2012 acquisition of

If you’re looking for a book, chances are you will be using a search engine. Thanks to a new deal between OverDrive and Microsoft Bing will now be more useful for finding library ebooks and reading samples online. Search for an author or book title on Bing and in addition to the usual search results you will find a sidebar with information provided by OverDrive.

This is similar to the deal Inkling had at one time with Google, only instead of being limited to one publisher the Bing sidebar will show any titles distributed to libraries by OverDrive.  For example, this search will bring up details on a Stieg Larssen title.

After you click the link, scroll down the search results page a bit and click the link which says “read excerpt”. This will take you to OverDrive’s next new trick. OverDrive is now serving up excerpts of ebooks and encouraging interested buyers to find the ebook at an OverDrive library, or in a retail store.

What’s more, OD is also enabling websites to embed the ebook much like what Amazon has offered since 2012. In the case of OverDrive, the ebook will look like this:

I’m told that this feature sometimes doesn’t work (and even when it does it isn’t terribly functional) but that is less important than the opportunities OverDrive just opened up. Now authors and publishers will be able to embed a sample on their website and improve their chances of making a sale.

And best of all, you don’t have to depend on people using Bing in order to make use of the embed feature. The latest statistics show that Bing was only used for 18% of searches in the US in 2013, far behind Google’s 67% share, but since the OverDrive-Bing integration is all handled behind the scenes authors won’t be affected.

Go to Hellman

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SFWA Asks for Comments on Admitting self-Published Authors as Members

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 12:47 PM PDT

sfwa_logo_box_outline_small[1]It’s 2014, and even though the self-pub revolution is 6 years old writers and authors groups are still struggling to come to terms with the idea of admitting self-published authors to their ranks. It was only in March 2014 that the Writer’s Union of Canada voted to allow self-pub authors to join at a later date, and the SFWA is only now asking its members for feedback  on the question of self-published authors.

This was posted to the SFWA blog on Thursday of last week:

The SFWA Board of Directors is asking members to share their opinions of self-publishing over the summer. The Board has asked the members to consider not just whether or not to make it possible for writers to join on the basis of self-published works but also the issues that would have to be addressed, such as confirming income, sales, and other publishing information from self-published writers. The issue should be submitted to the full membership prior to November's business meeting at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.

My initial response to that post was to add that the feedback could be submitted by fax, telegram, Pony Express, and steamship, but then I got my snark under control.

The fact of the matter is, the SFWA set what looks to be a low bar for membership. Self-published works aren’t accepted, no, but to join the SFWA an author only needs to sell 3 stories to a qualified market. That is within the abilities of any of the better self-published authors.

On the other hand, the bar for membership may be low but it is still outdated and archaic. The list of valid markets hasn’t been updated nearly as fast as the publishing industry has changed. For example, Kindle Singles isn’t on the list, and in fact none of Amazon’s publishing imprints are on the list. (I’m sure that’s not the only omission, but it stuck out.)

Say what you will about Amazon, their publishing division meets all the definition of being a publisher. They should be listed, and I bet they would be if not for the 2012 contract dispute between IPG and Amazon. The retailer was pressuring the distributor to change the terms of the contract, which is really neither here nor there, but the SFWA decided to weigh in on the topic and start directing book buyers everywhere but Amazon. Tell me Amazon’s publishing division hasn’t been banned for the same reason, I dare you.

According to some, the SFWA is itself an outdated and redundant organization which exists for no other purpose than to validate existing members and provide a platform for petty politics. I can’t speak from personal experience, but when I see that any number of authors I respect have either let their memberships lapse or declined to join the SFWA I wonder if perhaps the detractors are right.

I don’t bring up the negative opinions to slam the SFWA but to point out that this group has considered updating their membership rules in the past (including one attempt last fall)  and, if the several blogs I found were correct, most of the efforts fizzled.

I think that raises the point whether the latest effort will meet with a similar lack of success. If it falters it will confirm much of what the SFWA’s detractors have been saying will have been proven true.

So what do you think of their plans?

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New List Reveals the World’s Largest Publishers in 2013

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:35 AM PDT

There’s a common misconception that the group which everyone calls the Big 6/5 US publishers are the largest publishers in the world. That’s simply not true, and as you can see in the list which PW released last week there are many publishers larger than the US publishers which get the most press.

25236-v1-197x[1]On Friday Publishers Weekly released their annual list of the world’s largest publishers. The list varies only slightly from last year, and it reminds us that trade publishers like Macmillan, PRH, S&S, HarperCollins, and Hachette aren’t nearly as big as we might think.

According to PW, the world’s 5 largest publishers consist of 4 technical and academic publishers and Random House (aka PRH here in the US). Hachette and Macmillan come in at 6 and 7, but only because they are counted as part of multinational conglomerates (Hachette Livre and Holtzbrink).

Coming in at #16, the next major US trade publisher is HarperCollins. They were beat out by a number of other publishers in the US, including Wiley, Scholastic, HMH, and McGraw-Hill.

And then there is Simon & Schuster, which ranked as the 28th largest publisher in the world in 2013. With $809 million in revenue, S&S is a fairly large publisher in the US market but they don’t have much in the way of operations outside the US. In absolute terms they are small fry, which is why I am expecting one of their larger competitors to gobble them up in the next couple years.

You can find the complete list over at PW. I would suggest bookmarking it so you can come back later (I plan to do so).

Publishers Weekly

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Txtr to Launch a Million Title eBook Subscription Service This Summer

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 09:25 AM PDT

Bildschirmfoto-2014-06-30-um-14.56.50-220x125[1]It looks like the hype surrounding Scribd and Oyster has inspired another ebook company to get into the ebook subscription market.

Late last week txtr, the Berlin-based ebook subsidiary of 3M, pulled the covers off of Blloon, their newest service. When it launches into beta this summer, Blloon will offer readers in the US and UK a completely free reading option.

Users will be able to read up to 3 ebooks each month for free, and paying subscribers who commit to 10 euros per month can read as many titles as they like. Unlike Readfy and 24Symbols, the free reading will not be subsidized by ads. According to Buch Report, the reading will be truly free.

And since txtr is expected to launch Blloon with a catalog of a million titles, readers will have many reasons to sign up and read.. That is far larger than the catalogs of Scribd and Oyster, which at last count had around 500,000 titles each, but it doesn’t surprise me. Txtr has long offered a whitelabel ebookstore platform that other companies could build on top of (Sony was one of their clients). That platform gave txtr an advantage when it decided to move into the new market; in addition to already having reading apps for Android, iOS, and Windows 8, txtr also has existing deals with many publishers around the world.

Blloon is expected to start a subscriber-limited beta test in the UK this summer, followed shortly afterwards by the US. The service is scheduled to launch in Germany in the first quarter of 2015, and other countries will be added at some time in the future.

In Germany Blloon will be competing against Skoobe and Readfy. The latter is still in beta itself, so in all honesty it might not be around in 2015, but Skoobe is a couple years old and is owned by a couple publishing conglomerates, so I would expect that it will still be here. Outside of Germany, Blloon will have to compete with Scribd, Oyster, and (eventually) Bookmate.

Out of all the current competitors, txtr is the only one who offers or intends to offer this kind of freemium service. Some of the services offer a free trial (Scribd, for example) but none have taken the gamble to offer an unending freemium plan which would let users read for free.

That is a bold risk on the part of txtr, and it could well give them an advantage over their competitors. But if I had to guess I would say that the 3 free ebooks per month offer will not last. The constant drain on the bottom line will be the first thing to go when txtr decided to cut costs.

The post Txtr to Launch a Million Title eBook Subscription Service This Summer appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 30 June 2014

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 08:02 PM PDT

Must read stories this morning include ancient ebook history, more problems with library ebooks, why indies shouldn’t take sides in the Amazon-Hachette dispute, a critique of Facebook’s manipulation of its users, and more.

  • Are you optimistic about the future of books? (Nathan Bransford, Author)
  • Facebook's indefensible, unscholarly research [Updated] (VacuousMinx)
  • Has Patreon brought writer patronage into the Kickstarter era? (TeleRead)
  • Media Bias and Amazon (David Gaughran)
  • Opera Mini for iOS Gets Revamped With Data-Savings Options (TNW)
  • There are no good guys in the Amazon/Big Publisher battle (TeleRead)
  • Who wrote the first e-book? (Valley Book Blog)
  • Why E-Readers Are the Next iPods (Mashable)
  • Why It's Difficult For Your (Massachusetts ) Library to Stock Ebooks (

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Is it Too Early to Plan a Wake for the eReader?

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 06:02 PM PDT

7042234055_608e71f484_h[1]Counting the Sony Data Discman, ereaders have been around for over two decades but the market only really exploded in late 2007 with the launch of the Kindle.

And now, 7 short years later, some are already predicting its death. And while it might shock you to hear an ebook fan say this, they’re not entirely wrong.

From what I have seen and been told by contacts at device companies, the ereader market is in a decline.

And that’s why when I read this week that Mashable is ready to hold a wake for the ebook reader, I was not surprised. They’re noting that the major US companies are trying to get out of the market as analysts project that it is going to decline:

The outlook for e-readers, however, is more dire. Forrester forecasts that e-reader sales will fall to as low as 7 million in the U.S. by the end of 2017, compared to a high of 25 million units in 2012.

“Those 7 million will be the people who read more than two books a week,” says James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester. “Tablets and phones have already begun the process of making e-readers a ‘nice to have.’”

McQuivey thinks Amazon will eventually give Kindles away as a thank you gift to consumers who renew their Prime memberships. (An Amazon rep did not respond for a request to comment on this, and the company hasn’t made any such claim publicly.)

I don’t know how accurate that analyst’s predictions are, but I would bet they are not too far off. As you might recall, E-ink makes most of the ereader screens in the world and they have been reporting steadily declining revenues over the past several years. In the two most recent quarters, for example, they lost money in one quarter due to a seasonal drop in screen productions and only turned a profit in the other quarter because of royalties.

E-ink is simply not making as many ereader screens as they used to.

Nevertheless, when I read pieces like the one in NY Magazine the other day I might agree with the trend but still can’t help but roll my eyes at the people who want us to put in pre-orders for sack cloth and ashes. In a post which starts off by misunderstanding the publishing industry and recent statistics, Kevin Roose argues that:

The death of the standalone e-reader might be good news for consumers, who will have one fewer gadget to buy and lug around. But it’s bad news for the book industry. If you’ve ever tried to read a book on your phone, you’ll know why. Reading on an original Kindle or a Nook is an immersive experience. There are no push notifications from other apps to distract you from your novel, no calendar reminders or texts popping up to demand your immediate attention. And this immersion is partly why people who use dedicated e-readers tend to buy a lot of books. (One survey indicated that e-book readers read about 24 books a year, compared to 15 books a year for paper-and-ink readers.)

E-book sales aren’t necessarily correlated with the popularity of standalone e-book readers, and the publishing industry could still have a successful digital transition if it convinces iPhone and Android users to buy e-books in the same quantities as Kindle and Nook users. But there’s no getting around the fact that smartphones aren’t designed for focused, sustained reading. They have small screens, for starters, which make long reading sessions tough on the eyes. But the bigger problem is that smartphones breed short attention spans. On a phone or a multi-function tablet, e-books have to compete for attention with Facebook, Instagram, Pandora, Angry Birds, and everything else you do. It’s the difference between watching TV intently, and watching TV while folding laundry, talking on the phone, and doing the crossword puzzle.

Mr Roose got his causality all turned around. He seems to think that having an ereader turns readers into heavy book buyers, when in reality it’s the big spenders who got into ereaders because the portability justified the cost. (Also, heavy reader =\= heavy book buyer.) Mr Roose would be just as wrong if he assumed that buying a gaming console would turn someone into a heavy gamer.

Most heavy ebook buyers were already heavily invested in paper books; we simply shifted our buying habits. Many other readers wanted to be into books but lacked the time or space for paper books.

Really, what Mr Roose seems to have missed is that the people who are into ereaders now saw the technology when it first appeared, and made a conscious choice to adopt it and use it to read. Give those people a tablet and I would bet that many will choose to use it to read.

In short, gadgets come and go but book buyers tend to stick around for a lot longer than whatever device is the latest fad. Or am I wrong?

image by nickbrett


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