Monday, 1 December 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 2 December 2014

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 07:25 PM PST

Must-read this Tuesday morning include a critique of the EU’s proposed unbiased search, the next stage in online privacy wars, the return of serial audiobooks, and more.

  • An Art Form Rises: Audio Without the Book ()
  • Are book publishers blockbustering themselves into oblivion? (The Globe and Mail)
  • Children’s socioeconomic status ‘affects digital reading preference’ (The Bookseller)
  • Europe's next privacy war is with websites silently tracking users (The Guardian)
  • Forget EU’s Toothless Vote To ‘Break Up’ Google; Be Worried About Nonsensical ‘Unbiased Search’ Proposal (Techdirt)
  • Surviving a Bloated Market (Mystery Author, DEBRA PURDY KONG)
  • UK libraries protest copyright restrictions with empty spaces (TeleRead)

The post The Morning Coffee – 2 December 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Author discontent grows as Kindle Unlimited enters its fifth month

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 03:26 PM PST

1390640732_aa2ab2e743[1]When Kindle Unlimited launched in the US 4 months ago there were many questioning whether it was good or bad for authors, and if the chorus of complaints over the past few days are any indication then the answer will be no.

HM Ward kicked off the discussion on Friday when she revealed that she was pulling out of KDP Select, the program Amazon uses to funnel indie ebooks into Kindle Unlimited. 

Ward withdrew her books not because the average payment had dropped to only $1.33, but because her total revenues had fallen by 75%:

Ok, some of you already know, but I had my serials in it for 60 days and lost approx 75% of my income. Thats counting borrows and bonuses.  :o My sales dropped like a stone. The number of borrows was higher than sales. They didn’t compliment each other, as expected.

Taking a huge ass pay cut while I’m still working my butt off, well that’s not ok. And KU effected my whole list, not just KU titles. :( At the time of enrollment I had about 60 titles total.

I planned on giving it 90 days, but I have a kid in the hospital for long term care and I noticed my spending was going to exceed my income-by a lot. I couldn’t wait and watch thing plummet further. I pulled my books. That was on Nov 1,  & since then my net revenue has gone up. I’m now at 50% of where I was pre-KU. During the time I was in KU, I had 2 new releases. Neither preformed vastly different than before. They actually earned far less (including borrows).

When Kindle Unlimited launched in July, it was hoped that the increase in fees paid for loans would counteract the loss in income from authors not being able to sell their ebooks outside of the Kindle Store.

Sadly, a lot of authors are reporting that that is not the case. This story was picked up over on The Passive Voice, where Mimi Strong concurred with Ward:

I made the "All Stars" list for October. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but $1k is not going to make up for lost sales on other platforms. It doesn't even cover the emotional toll of having to field emails from confused readers who can't understand why they can't buy my books.

In the end, I go with math and ignore emotions. I'm pulling out of KU. If my sales are better on other platforms, I'll stay out. If my sales aren't any better, I'll go back into KU with gritted teeth and a few choice words. Nobody cares but me. I'll go with the math.

Two authors complaining does not a trend make, but it is worth watching.

Speaking of watching, while looking into this story I noted what looks like the beginning of a worrisome trend. There are authors whose works weren’t in KU who are reporting that their incomes had dipped since it launched, almost as if readers were spending so much time reading the ebooks in KU that they stopped buying ebooks. With 750,000 titles, KU could be displacing ebook sales.

Juli Monroe, author and editor of Teleread, mentioned a dip a few weeks back, and there are similar reports from KBoards:

I’d like to add my voice to the choir of KU discontent. Before KU launched, I had seven novels, multiple serials and a few shorts through various names, and I was making a living solely writing fiction.

Along comes KU and now… well, I’m not.

My earnings are roughly 60% what they were back before KU launched with four releases since. I tried out KU for a few of my novels, saw a lot of borrows but a massive loss in earnings, so took them out again.

Now, earnings aren’t what they were, but they’re holding steady again. I have the great people at Kobo to thank for consistently spotlighting some of my books, meaning two months of bigger Kobo sales than Zon right now

And there’s a similar report in the comment section at The Passive Voice:

KU definitely affected the visibility of my books, and as a result, my sales and revenues. When KU launched, my books not in KDPS/KU all dropped in rank crazy-fast. Luckily, I was running two upcoming Bookbubs and sales on other channels made up for the decline in Amazon revenue. However, once the Bookbubs declined in influence, my sales on the other channels declined as well so that I ended up being behind the 8-ball in terms of sales and revenue.

So I took the plunge and went all-in to KDPS again. Lends almost made up the difference and KU honestly revived my older lower selling series. However, I am still down overall from pre-KU levels. As soon as my KDPS terms are up, I'm back out, baby. I may keep my older series and my 99c shorter works in KDPS for the exposure and because even $1.33 is better than $0.3465, but I'm taking my longer better-selling and higher priced books out.

Again, two anecdotes don’t make a trend, but I am trying to keep this post to a reasonable length while also sharing a potentially important news story.


Even at 4 months old Kindle Unlimited is still too new for us to fully understand the effect it is having, and that includes the impact it may be having on authors who aren’t even in KU.

I plan to wait for more info on the effect of ebook subscription services, including Oyster and Scribd, before reaching any conclusions. Those other services offer publishers terms similar to ebook retail contracts, rather than paying them from a pool of money (like Amazon does with authors in KU).

I’m interested in finding out if the larger publishers are also seeing a drop in revenue elsewhere as readers spend more of their time reading books in one of the ebook subscription services.

Do you think that is what the publishers are seeing?

image by phooky

The post Author discontent grows as Kindle Unlimited enters its fifth month appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Kobo to carry audiobooks?

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 09:39 AM PST

Along with Google, Kobo is one of only two major ebook retailers which don’t also sell audiobooks, but that might be about to change.

An observant bibliophile discovered earlier today that Kobo was then listing audiobook titles from HarperAudio in its ebookstore. The listings were incomplete and nonfunctional, but it was pretty clear that they referred to audiobooks:

kobo audiobooks

A brief spin through Google turned up a couple hundred similar listings from HarperAudio. They have all since been taken down, but the ones in the Google cache looked like this:

kobo audiobooks

When I queried Kobo on this topic, they neither confirmed or denied the implications of the listings. Instead, Rene said that “This seems to be an error in the metadata provided in this case.” That is a curious answer, so I double checked the ISBNs. They match up with the respective HC audiobook titles.

Kobo isn’t currently selling audiobooks, and they haven’t announced plans along those lines, so it’s not clear what the new listings mean. They could have been a technical error, but they could also have inadvertently leaked Kobo’s future plans.

Remember, I broke the news on Kindle Unlimited after members of KBoards noticed that several pages for that section had been posted on the Amazon website. That could well be what is happening here.

Kobo could be quietly signing publishers with the goal of launching an audiobook section, or they might be taking the same path as B&N, which slapped the Nook brand on an audiobook platform developed by Findaway World earlier this month. Findaway offers a catalog of 50,000 titles. That’s far smaller than the 150,000 carried in Audible but it could still be enough to attract customers.

On the other hand, this could just be a technical error. We’ll just have to wait and see.

I for one hope that it is true because Amazon could really use the competition in this market. More retailers means more competition means lower prices, and that’s good for consumers.

If Kobo does get into audiobooks, they will be competing with Audible, iTunes, Nook,,, and Random House Audio, which distributes titles and also sells direct. Amazon’s Audible is believed to dominate the market.


The post Kobo to carry audiobooks? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Comparison Review: Pocketbook InkPad vs Bookeen Cybook Ocean

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 05:38 AM PST

pocketbook inkpad bookeen cybook ocean 1The Pocketbook InkPad and the Bookeen Cybook Ocean are the only two 8″ ereaders on the market at the moment, but in spite of having the same size screen they could not be more different.

My Ocean arrived on Friday, and I’ve had it for a few days now. At first I felt an initial distaste for the hardware design, but once I got past that I noticed that the Ocean was slightly faster and did a better job at displaying an Epub. But in spite of being weaker in the software dept, the InkPad is more pleasant to hold and read on.


As I explained in my review, the InkPad has a brown shell with rounded edges and a lopsided design which enables one-handed reading. It has a black rubber pad to the right of the screen and a corresponding pad on the back which makes it easier for me to grip the InkPad.

The Ocean, on the other hand, is all sharp edges with an angled rear shell and page turn buttons placed below the screen on either side of the menu button. And when I say sharp edges; I am not exaggerating; trying to hold the Ocean by the edges is unpleasant.

Both ereaders have a microSD card slot, and they both ship with 4GB of storage. But the InkPad also has a headphone jack which supports an mp3 player and TTS.

When it comes to the screens, the InkPad has a higher resolution screen than the Ocean. The InkPad has a Pearl E-ink display with screen resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, while the Ocean has a “knockoff” epaper display from E-ink’s Chinese competitor, Guangzhou OED Technologies. This screen has a resolution of 1,024 x 768, or about the same number of pixels as you would find on the Kindle Paperwhite.

Both devices have a frontlight and touchscreen. I haven’t found a reason to comment on the touchscreens yet (they’re fine), but I have observed that the frontlight on the InkPad has both a lower minimum setting and a brighter maximum setting (both frontlights can be turned off, of course).

When the frontlight is dialed up near the brightest setting, the screen on the Ocean looks decidedly grayer than the screen on the InkPad. The same is true for when the frontlights are turned off; the InkPad has the whiter screen.


The InkPad and the Ocean each run a proprietary OS developed by their respective makers. The devices each have their quirks, and they offer very different software features.

The InkPad supports apps which add a number of functions, including a web browser, calculator, and games (more details here). The InkPad also supports a broader range of formats than the Ocean, including Mobi, DjvU, and DOC (more details here).

I would like to say some nice things about the Ocean, but in reality all it has going for it are the faster page turn and the formatting options for Epub files. The Ocean offers more formatting options, including ragged right and an option to bold all text, than can be found on the InkPad. On the other hand the InkPad does handle PDFs better. It’s not just the higher resolution screen; the InkPad offers more options, including margin cropping and more zoom options (more details here).

The InkPad also shipped with more dictionaries (the Ocean doesn’t even have an English language dictionary). While both devices have a search function and annotation features, the’re a lot easier to use on the InkPad. Adding a note to an ebook on the InkPad is only one click away, not three. Also, the InkPad offers a separate TOC-like journal for keeping your annotations (highlights, notes, and bookmarks) organized.


As much as I would like to say that each device has its strengths, I can’t. The Ocean is in almost every way inferior to the InkPad. Just about the only point in the Ocean’s favor is the Epub formatting, and that you can buy an Ocean right now from Bookeen. The InkPad is back-ordered.

If I were looking to get one or the other, I would wait got the Inkpad.

Cybook Ocean Specs

  • CPU: 1GHz
  • RAM: 128MB
  • Display: 8″ epaper screen
  • Screen resolution: 1024 x 768 (160 ppi)
  • Touchscreen, frontlight
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSD card slot
  • OS: Proprietary, based on  Linux 2.6.31
  • Wifi
  • Battery: 2.1Ah, one month runtime
  • Dimensions: 150 X 196 X 7 mm
  • Weight: 300 grams
  • Book Formats: ePub, PDF Adobe DRM, HTML, Txt, FB2, DJVU

InkPad Specs

  • CPU: 1GHz
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Screen: 8? Pearl E-ink display, 1,600 x 1,200 resolution
  • Frontlight, Touchscreen
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSD card slot
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery: 2.5Ah, one month runtime
  • Audio: headphone jack (TTS, MP3 supported)
  • eBook Format Support (more details here): Epub, PDF, FB2, DJVu, Mobi, PRC, CHM
  • Office and Other File Format Support: Doc, Docx, RTF, txt, HTML
  • Weight: 350 grams
  • Dimensions: 195.5 x 162.8 x 7.3 mm

The post Comparison Review: Pocketbook InkPad vs Bookeen Cybook Ocean appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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