Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 25 September 2014

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 08:06 PM PDT

The reading list this Thursday morning includes JA Konrath’s latest take on Authors United, the bankruptcy of a major European publishing services company, launches, acquisitions, and more.

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FT: Amazon looks to launch (the Kindle Store) in Netherlands

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 06:29 PM PDT

4337782718_569a4b231e[1]The Financial Times is now agreeing my scoop from last week, and is saying that Amazon is about to launch the Kindle Store in the Netherlands:

Amazon is looking to launch in the Netherlands after it emerged that the company is in negotiations with a number of Dutch publishers about selling ebooks in the country.

The move to win over Dutch publishers comes as the US technology group is embroiled in a bitter, long-running fight with publishers in Europe and the US over how it prices ebooks.

Sander Knol, director of Xander, a Dutch publisher that has been approached by Amazon, said: "Within the book trade it has been a recurring message that Amazon might enter the market. But now Amazon has actually been in touch and so we are getting close."

My sources are saying that Amazon will open a local Kindle in the Netherlands sometime in October.  As I reported last week, Amazon already supports Dutch in the Kindle Store, and they have posted a job listing for a translator for the Kindle app and hardware.

image by Teemu Mäntynen

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Google Play Books Launches In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, And the Ukraine

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 03:50 PM PDT

google play booksGoogle might not be expanding their ebookstore at quite the same pace as last year but they haven’t stopped. Following the June expansion into Luxembourg, Norway, and 11 Latin American countries, Google Play Books quietly launched in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Ukraine today.

The expansion hasn’t been announced and in fact it technically has not happened yet, but Android Police noticed that the list of supported countries had been expanded by 4 names.

As you can see in the screenshot below (for the Ukraine), the interface has yet to be translated into the local language.


Google Play Books  will soon be available in 61 countries around the globe. This is a larger potential customer base than the Nook Store, but still smaller than Kobo, Kindle, or iBooks.


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Authors United Calls for Antitrust Inquiry into Amazon

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 12:04 PM PDT

5534522313_0cd2b9a4a0_b[1]If you haven’t had your daily dose of craziness today then you might want to pay attention to what Authors United is doing.

The Financial Times reports that AU is now working on a letter to the DOJ, asking that Amazon be investigated for antitrust violations. From behind the paywall (just the good bits):

Authors United, which counts bestselling writers including Malcolm Gladwell, Donna Tartt and Stephen King among its supporters, is soliciting signatures for a letter to William J. Baer, assistant US attorney-general for antitrust, according to Douglas Preston, the Hachette writer who started the group.

 The letter will ask the justice department's antitrust division to "examine Amazon's business practices", Mr Preston wrote in an appeal to authors seen by the Financial Times. The appeal was circulated by the literary agent Andrew Wylie, who has criticised the retailer.


So after not taking sides in taking out a $104,000 advert in the NYTimes, and after not taking sides in sending a letter to Amazon’s board of directors (and then revising it so it was even more insulting), Authors United is now going to not take sides by calling for Amazon to be investigated for antitrust violations.

According to Doug Preston, it’s strictly going to be a legal request. “It's not an emotional or a populist appeal, it's simply citing points of law,” Mr Preston said, adding that he had been in touch with the Justice Dept. “They are expecting this letter and they have told me that they welcome any information we can provide.”

I for one am looking forward to that letter; if Authors United’s grasp of antitrust law matches their grasp of marketing/propaganda then the letter will prove to be deeply entertaining. Oh, there won’t be any valid legal arguments, but that is going to be what makes it so much fun to read.

I plan to file a FOIA request for this letter, but I doubt that will be necessary. We will probably be able to read it on the Authors United website.


Tell me, does anyone else think it’s time to simply come out and call AU for what it is, a publishing industry astroturfing group?

They’re clearly taking a side, and they are arguing a position which authors have at best a remote interest in.

If anything, an author advocacy group should be pointing at how Amazon deals directly with authors and critiquing it, a topic which AU has ignored. I would also suggest that an author advocacy group should be complaining about how publishers treat authors.

By remaining silent on these topics while interjecting in the affairs of Amazon and publishers, Authors United (or The Authors Guild, for that matter) confirms just which masters they are actually serving.

image  by Gabriel ‘Briel’ Rocha

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Goodreads iOS App Updated, Adds Friends Updates and More

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 10:19 AM PDT

GoodreadsAmazon rolled out a much needed update to their Goodreads app for the iPad and iPhone today. The app has a whole new layout, including a different home screen and improvements to the “my books” section.

Readers can now open the app and immediately see what their friends are doing; the new home screen now shows a list of recent updates from a reader’s friends on Goodreads – or at least it is supposed to show that; early reports suggest the feed is having teething problems.

Other changes to the app include support for iOS8 as well as new options for updating your reading progress right from the “my books” section of the app, a “Want to Read” shelving option, custom shelf names, and more.

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You can find the app in iTunes. Goodreads also hints that the Android app could soon receive a similar update.



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How Ironic: Harlequin Authors Stand Up To Bullying

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 08:56 AM PDT

logo-harlequin-sfund1[1]Someone at Harlequin either has a great sense of humor or is completely blind to the irony of the following situation.

There’s a new post over on the Harlequin Reader Service blog this morning (found via TPV blog) which informs us that Harlequin authors are taking a stand against bullying (I wonder if that includes bullying by their publisher):

Hello everyone! Today is a bit of a serious post – regarding a topic that has, in some way, affected every one of us, at some point in our lives. Today, we'll be talking about bullying.

There are so many of us in the world who have been a victim of bullying. Whether it is in the workplace, school, or even just out in public – you should never allow a bully to succeed, or be a bully yourself. Some of our authors here at Harlequin have taken the time to give their advice on how to stick up to bullies.

If you don’t see the humor or the irony, let me explain. That post is full of suggestions on how kids can respond to bullying. If authors used these tips to respond to the bullying behavior of major legacy publishers, they would be labeled unprofessional and blacklisted.

Coming from a major publisher, this is rich. But when you remember that this is coming from a publisher who is being sued for cheating its authors out of royalties, the irony – it burns.

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Are Scribd and Oyster Losing Customers Left and Right?

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 07:21 AM PDT

kindle unlimitedAmazon may be expanding Kindle Unlimited this morning but reports are coming in that their competitors in the ebook subscription market aren’t doing so well. posted yesterday that one market researcher is seeing a precipitous decline in Scribd and Oyster’s subscriber base (via Google Translate):

In buchreport.webinar via subscription products for e-books of the US-market researchers showed Peter Hidick-Smith (Codex Group) that Amazon’s competitors in the United States between the fourth quarter of 2013 and the spring of 2014 “dramatic” subscriber losses recorded, including  Oyster ( -63%) and Scribd (-50%).The Codex-founder leads this finding might, that the subscription services operated at the end of 2013 and have experienced a lot of marketing media reporting what was then subsided. Amazon on the other hand have won with the precursor model of “Unlimited”, the “Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,” 55% more users.

I first read that report yesterday, and immediately followed up with an email to Peter Hidick-Smith with a request for more details. He didn’t respond (again), so there isn’t much that I can add to the report.

But based on what I can see here I do not believe this report is true. Assuming that Google Translate, the reporter who wrote the original piece, or the process of transcribing  possibly misspoken word into text didn’t introduce errors, this report simply isn’t plausible.

The first and biggest problem with this report is that the startups only launched their services in the 4th quarter of 2013, and so they went from having having no ebook subscribers to at least having some.  The claim that the numbers would decline precipitously in the first 6 months beggars disbelief.

What’s more, Scribd offers a service which is available internationally, so any market research based on poling US consumers is woefully incomplete. And then there is the fact that neither Scribd nor Oyster could have lost customers to Kindle Unlimited during that period for the simple reason that it didn’t exist yet.

Update: Speaking of introducing errors, Felix just pointed out that i was misreading the excerpt, which says that KOLL was stealing away subscribers, not KU.

In short, I am ignoring this report until I get more data.

Second Update: Scribd has denied the accuracy of the report:

We are puzzled by the the buchreport webinar report of a drop in Scribd’s subscriber numbers, which is simply incorrect.  Scribd’s subscriber count has grown consistently every single month for the last 12 months.  In fact, growth is accelerating – last month we added more subscribers than the prior two months combined.

And now Oyster is disputing the report:

The report isn’t accurate. Oyster has seen an average of 25-30% monthly growth in our subscriber base since launch, and the rate has accelerated in 2014 as we’ve added content and expanded to new platforms.

P.S. And just to be clear, I am not saying the data is bad; there are any number of things that could have gone wrong, including transcription, transmission, and translation errors. I just think this report is bad, and since Peter isn’t taking my emails I can’t identify how it is bad.

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Kindle Unlimited Now Slightly More So, Launches in the UK

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 05:29 AM PDT

kindleunlimitedRumors circulated when Kindle Unlimited launched a couple months ago that the service would go international in September or October and it looks like they’re coming true.

Amazon’s ebook subscription service came to the UK this morning, bringing with it a catalog of 650,000 mostly indie ebooks which Amazon’s UK customers can access for r £7.99 a month. The ebooks can be read on Kindle hardware and apps, and while you won’t find many titles from the major US trade publishers, you will find a few like Harry Potter and Hunger Games series.

Kindle Unlimited is currently limited to only the US and UK, but reliable sources indicate that it will launch internationally at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is coming up in a couple weeks.


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