Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 15 August 2014

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 08:24 PM PDT

The reading list is short this morning. Be sure to click the first link.

  • Availability (Lefsetz Letter)
  • Before You Make a Fixed-Layout Ebook: Five Things to Watch Out For (DBW)
  • Orwell estate hits back at Amazon’s corporate ‘doublespeak’ (
  • Racist content forces Thought Catalog to put barriers between contributors and Twitter (Nieman Journalism Lab)
  • What Does It Mean to Protect Authors’ Interests? [Smart Set] (Jane Friedman)
  • What features do the e-Ink Kindles still need? (TeleRead)

The post The Morning Coffee – 15 August 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Appstore Now Accepts Self-Contained Web Apps

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 03:02 PM PDT

HTML5_Logo_512[1]In a move designed to attract developers with HTML5 apps in the Chrome Web Store and the Windows Phone Store, earlier today Amazon started accepting self-contained apps for its app store.

Developers can now submit apps which are not dependent on an external website like, for example, an ebook app or a news app.

The app has to include all required components and com wrapped in a ZIP file, and and Amazon will offer that web app to millions of Kindle Fire and Amazon Appstore customers.

Amazon has long supported apps which were mere extensions of websites, but with today’s news Amazon is encouraging developers to break free of external dependencies. In much the same way that Chrome adding an offline mode for apps made it more useful, today’s news will make HTML5 apps a viable option in the Amazon Appstore.


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Amazon Expands Pre-order Buttons to All KDP Authors

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 12:03 PM PDT

kindle itunes logoWith no fanfare or official announcement, earlier today Amazon quietly gave indie authors a sales feature some had been requesting for the past several years.

According to a new page in the KDP help section, authors and publishers who distribute their works through Amazon’s publishing portal can now elect to put their next work up for pre-order. Amazon asks them to first upload a draft copy of the work, and promises that Amazon will “publish a product detail page for it within 24 hours of approval”. It’s not clear what Amazon means by approval, but I have confirmed with an author that this is for real.

Pre-order buttons were one feature that many indie authors wanted but few had – in KDP at least. While this option had long been available in iBooks, Amazon had restricted the option in the Kindle Store, limiting it to publishers and a select handful of indie authors.

But not anymore. Now Amazon has extended a much-wanted feature to KDP authors, giving them a way of boosting sales. To those outside the industry pre-order buttons might not look like much but they serve several purposes. For example, Hachette was used the pre-order buttons in the Kindle Store for their sales forecasting, so when Amazon took disabled the buttons Hachette last a valuable source of market info.

What’s more, Mark Coker showed in Smashwords’s last survey that pre-orders can significantly boost sales. One indie author even hit the iBooks best seller list based on pre-orders alone.

But as good as this news is, I have to agree with my source. he suggested that Amazon might have an ulterior motive:

Evil Wylie is obliquely referring to the ongoing contract dispute between Amazon and Hachette. As you might recall, in late May Amazon disabled the pre-order buttons which it was no longer obliged under contract to provide to Hachette.

This raised a hue and cry at the time, and now Amazon is extending the feature to indie authors. I do believe that Amazon is using this marketing option to serve a dual purpose; it helps indie authors sell more, while at the same time it drives home the point that Hachette still doesn’t have pre-order buttons restored.

I do believe in coincidences, but not this one.

The post Amazon Expands Pre-order Buttons to All KDP Authors appeared first on The Digital Reader.

eBook Sub Service Blloon Launches Private Beta

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:43 AM PDT

H4wg3d7V[1]The Berlin-based ebook subscription service Blloon quietly launched a private beta in the UK last week.

With service currently only available on the iPad, testers now have the opportunity to sample Blloon’s extensive catalog of fiction titles for free, and they also have the option of upgrading to a paid subscription for as little as £3.99 per month or £6.99 per month. The paid plans will allow users to read up to 500 pages or 1000 pages, respectively.

Blloon is a more limited service than Scribd, Oyster, or Kindle unlimited, but on the plus side the unused page quote does roll over to the following months.

I don’t have any details on the size of the Blloon catalog, and since I am clearly not in the UK I cannot test it myself, but when Blloon was announced last month we were told that the service would have a catalog with over a million titles – far more than the 600,000 titles in Kindle Unlimited.

Update: Blloon currently offers a catalog of 120,000 titles, and they plan to launch their servcie to the public in September or October with 700,000 titles. It’s worth noting that rumors suggest Kindle Unlimited will also be going international around that time.

Blloon was the most anticipated new ebook service of the summer, right up until Kindle Unlimited leaked and let the air out. This is a new startup from several of the creative minds behind txtr, but is otherwise not affiliated with that established ebook company.

The service is expected to be widely available in the UK by the end of the year, and expand to Germany by early 2015. An iPhone app is in the works, and I would expect that an Android app will also make an appearance.

The folks behind Blloon are highly optimistic for their success:

Our goal is to bring reading back into the lives of modern people – and we’re aiming to achieve this in a number of ways. Firstly, all new users can read for free – any book from our extensive catalog – and can continue to read for free by engaging with the service in any number of ways. We’ve got a fantastic catalog and we are committed to building a model that works for everyone involved – the publishers, the consumers and Blloon too. It’s totally different to any of the subscription services that have launched in the US and will be first to market in the UK.

It would be easy to simply write off Blloon as uneconomical (its relation to txtr is another reason to write it off), but I am reserving judgement. While it looks like Blloon is costlier than Scribd, Oyster, or KU, the real deciding factor for success is the size of its catalog and consumers’ willingness to pay for access to that catalog.

I don’t have high expectations for Blloon, but I am still waiting for more information and before I add it to my death watch list. This market is so new that many assumptions will have to be questioned before making any predictions.

The post eBook Sub Service Blloon Launches Private Beta appeared first on The Digital Reader.

eBooks Reach 6% of the Dutch Book Market

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 09:22 AM PDT

5936748731_cc62b2ec5e_z[1]With ebook sales both up and down at major US publishers, no one knows exactly what is going on with the US ebook market. The same cannot be said for the Netherlands.

A new report from GfK revealed that the Dutch book market shrank in the second quarter, while the ebook market grew. Sales of paper book were down 15.5% from the same quarter last year, reaching 7.9 million units, and market value also dropping 11.5%, to 106.1 million euros.

That bad news for paper books was good news for ebooks, which accounted for 6% of the Dutch book market in the second quarter of 2014, up from 5% in the first quarter, with around 80% of the sales coming from fiction genres.

The Dutch ebook market may not be a large one but it has drawn the interest of the major ebook platforms. Apple, Kobo, Google, and even B&N have all launched a local ebookstore there in competition with the Amazon has also reportedly shown an interest, and is currently looking to hire a Dutch translator.

image by albertstraub


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Amazon Faces New Criticism from Authors in Germany

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 07:51 AM PDT

11882879893_450bebe127_c[1]A group of authors in Germany will be publishing an open letter next week, condemning Amazon for acting like a business.

Handelsblatt reports that 100 German authors, including Ingrid Noll, Nele Neuhaus, Eva Rossmann, and Fred Breinersdorfer, have collectively signed a letter accusing Amazon of taking books hostage.

The letter makes accusations similar to the points raised by Authors United in its NY Times advert. More specifically, the German authors accuse Amazon of manipulating recommendation lists and delaying the delivery of books.

The news of this letter is just breaking today, so I can’t verify any details which they might have to back up the claims, but it does appear that this group has broad support.

We need to educate the reader that the manipulation of recommendation lists and the delayed delivery of books whose publishers fight back against Amazon, the Amazon include everyday,” said Regula Venske, general secretary of the PEN Zentrum (the German chapter of Pen International, a writer’s association)

Amazon is in conflict with publishers in Germany similar to their ongoing contract dispute with Hachette Book Group here in the US. News broke in May that Amazon was in a bitter contract renegotiation (or at least that is how it was framed in the leaks) with a German subsidiary of the Swedish publisher Bonnier.

According to German sources at the time, Amazon was seeking better terms for their ebook contract, and as part of their negotiating technique Amazon was reportedly  reducing the number of copies of Bonnier titles they carry in their warehouses.

I haven’t seen any new news on the Bonnier situation since late June, when the German book industry trade group Börsenverein filed an antitrust complaint against Amazon, alleging that Amazon was a monopoly. I’ve been told that complaint will likely go nowhere.

It’s not clear if the German authors have any evidence to support their claims, but if they do it will be a first. Amazon has been repeatedly accused of delaying Hachette titles as part of its contract negotiation tactics, but so far as I know no one has shown that the shipments have actually been delayed (as opposed to the items simply being out of stock). And as for the claim that Amazon was manipulating recommendations, I have never seen any evidence that was more substantial than industry gossip. (To be fair, those with first-hand info are probably not be allowed to speak to me, a blogger.)

 image by maltman23

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