News

Could pay-what-you-want pricing models spell more money for creators?

In the fall of 2007, Radiohead released their seventh studio album In Rainbows as a digital download using a pay-what-you-want model. At the time, the decision blew some minds. Pay what you want? Whatever you want? For a RADIOHEAD ALBUM??

The decision to pursue such an untested marketing move exhibited real guts on the part of the band and, more importantly, a lot of faith in their fans. By reconfiguring the transaction and empowering the customers, Radiohead managed to flip the script. Although fans were given the option of paying nothing for the new album, pre-release sales exceeded total sales from their previous album Hail to the Thief, released via traditional means. 

Then again this summer, the internet was agog about comedian Louis CK’s no-frills sales approach. In December of last year, CK turned heads when he bypassed a corporate release of a comedy special, instead selling it directly to viewers for $5 on his website. Then, in June he pulled a similar move: selling tickets to his upcoming tour directly to fans, rather than through Ticketmaster (which can occasion a 40% service charge). The result of both experiments was stunning: CK made over $1 million dollars in just 10 days from his comedy special and bypassed $4.5 million in ticket sales in two days.

But would this work for books? (So goes the question in my head, always). Perhaps so! According to a story published this week in The Guardian, a pay-what-you-want experiment in eBook bundling is turning heads and making serious cash. Put together by Humble Bundle, Inc., the Humble ebook Bundle is a collection of 13 eBooks sold at a price determined by the purchaser, but of at least 1 cent. Customers who pay more than the average price — currently sitting at around $14 — unlock extra content (more books, in this case). In another interesting twist, customers are given the option of dividing the money they spend between several recipients as they see fit, including the authors, Humble Bundle, and a variety of charities such as Child’s Play Charity, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,  and/or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

And how about the content backing up such a good idea? Surprise, surprise, it’s great stuff! The bundle includes work from contemporary sci-fi greats such as Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi as well as up-and-comers like Lauren Beukes, Paolo Bacigalupi, John Scalzi and Kelly Link.

Sales of the bundle are astounding. In just two weeks, the bundle has made over $1.1 million dollars, with over 80,000 bundles sold at an average price of $14.18. These sales figures are staggering (Lauren Beukes points out that 80,000 copies is “New York Times bestseller-level sales.”) The response to such a radical sales model is heartening.

Pay-what-you-want and direct sales models spell exciting possibilities for the publishing industry. Could a sales plan like this become more regular? How could bundling young authors and bestsellers benefit both? Let’s hear your thoughts on how this could change the game.

Additional Reading: Would you let readers price your book?

New Products and Services in 2013

If you’ve ever wondered what we focus on at Lulu when we’re not helping creators tell their stories, the answer is: YOU, YOU, YOU.Yes, we’re obsessed. And for the last several months, we’ve been pouring over research on you, our customers, and what you want and need. We’re on a constant quest to best serve you in an era when there are so many exciting new ways to share your ideas and experiences.

As a result, we’re now laying the groundwork to develop and unveil new products and services in 2013.  Everything you’ve come to know and love about Lulu will remain. There’ll just be a whole lot more to know and love.

We can’t get into the details right now…but then, we’ve always loved a cliffhanger! Stay tuned, and keep creating.

Tis the Season: Your Photo Book Upgrade is On Us

At Lulu we’ve been working hard to ensure that we are always delivering the highest quality books at the best prices possible. So today we are proud to announce two new upgrades to our lineup of hardcover photo books in the US.

First, we have added white cloth head and foot-bands to our book blocks. Traditionally, headbands have been used to cover up the glue in the binding and as a nice finishing touch on books. We like that traditional touch of class that they add, which is why we’ve always used head and foot-bands on our non-photo book hardcovers. So we’re really excited to now be able to offer these on our photo book hardcovers as well.

Second, we’ve added textured endpaper to our hardcover photo books. We’ve chosen to use Neenah Classic Columns. This is a premium paper with a natural white shade that goes great with any color case. It is more opaque than our previous white endpaper and has a very nice linear finish that is subdued “just enough.” Not only will you be able to see the difference; you’ll feel it as well. We wanted to add a tactile element to the endpaper to separate it from the text block, and this sheet strikes the right balance. We hope you’ll love it just as much as we do.

These holiday upgrades are on us, so create your personalized photo book today to take advantage of the upgrade. They make great gifts for friends and family. When your book arrives, we’d love to see it, so share a picture of it with us on our Facebook page!

Stay tuned for more product improvements in the new year.

Banned Books? You Bet.

What causes a book to be banned? Throughout history, banned books are often those that push boundaries, lead us to question the way we live and reveal uncomfortable truths. By banning them, schools, libraries, governments and other institutions are, in effect, affirming the power of written words and the ideas they express.

“So this is the little lady who started this great war,” Abraham Lincoln once said of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And while not every banned book incites civil war, you might be surprised how many do make the list, even in a country dedicated to protecting the freedom of the press. You also might be surprised by how many of these titles you recognize and have read:

1) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn & The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Books written by Mark Twain deal frankly with race and include words that have fallen out of favor since the time of publication. These two books continue to be banned by school districts across the country, unsure of how to deal with the delicate matter of verbiage.

2) The Catcher in The Rye. This JD Salinger book is one of the most taught books in American schools, and also the most frequently banned. The book deals with sexuality and vulgarity, as well as smoking, drinking, and cursing at a young age. Taught because of its ability to speak to adolescent readers through its young, articulate narrator, the book is frequently banned for its rejection of both education and authority.

3) Animal Farm. George Orwell, a liberal who was skeptical of any government which infringed on basic human rights, wrote this book out of frustration with both the capitalist and communist systems.

Lulu Celebrates Life@50+ with AARP

Where are the Lunatics today? We’re out in New Orleans celebrating Life@50+ with AARP.

At Lulu we believe that everyone has a story to share, and we take pride in helping people do just that. This is why we’re so excited to be here at the AARP conference where the crowd has been sharing some of their most unique, touching, extraordinary, silly and thoughtful stories with us. The wealth of knowledge and life experience here is incredible, and we love to offer services that can help preserve this wealth of knowledge and pass it along from generation to generation, whether that’s in the form of a novel, a recipe book or a photo book.

We are feeling totally invigorated after day one of the AARP conference – a day chock full of great story sharing.

So what’s your story? What memories do you want to share in words or photographs?

The Nexus 7: Good News for EPUB Formatted eBooks

The new Google Nexus 7 tablet is making headlines as the “Kindle Killer.”  Early adopters of the device are reporting that the Nexus 7 can open EPUB formatted eBooks, which you can create right here on Lulu, as well as make use of all the e-reader apps in the Google play store.

Folks are even saying they can just upload all their EPUBs to a Dropbox folder and easily access their entire digital library directly from the cloud.  Looks like Lulu customers just got one more device they can enjoy their open-published EPUB titles on.
Some reviewers are stating that the Nexus 7 beats the Kindle Fire on specs and features.  Determine which device is best for your e-reading needs by checking out these sources:

Are eBooks a Viable Option for the Classroom?

As the last days of summer sublimely trickle away, a good portion of the population returns to school. But first, they must do the necessary shopping. New clothes, some unsharpened pencils, Binders, notebooks, and, for an increasing amount of students, e-readers and tablets.

Looking to cut down on the cost of textbooks, some parents have invested in e-readers. Some school districts have even taken the large step of buying e-readers for their entire student body, looking to spare themselves from buying textbooks that will either get lost or become outdated (here’s a map of schools that are using tablet technology). But are school districts taking full advantage of this new technology? It was only two decades ago that we were wondering about the efficacy of computers in the classroom. Forbes has put together a list of four reasons why distributing tablets in classrooms can stumble. The reasons include theft, no new curriculum to go with the new technology, no available wi-fi, and glitchy products.

Here’s a list of ideas of how educators and authors can help make tablets and e-readers a vital part of the classroom, and help the technology mature past its bumpy introduction.

1) Make sure e-readers are not only used for assigned reading or projects. Allow students to explore different books and media — a school’s library doesn’t have to become obsolete just because the school has gone digital. Libraries can be a place where students can borrow e-books from sites like Overdrive, or other companies that let you borrow books. School libraries can also be a place where a school employee can train students on how to use their new technology in diverse ways.

eBooks, a Two-way Street?

Looking for the future of eBooks? It’s in the clouds! Err, well, it’s in the cloud. Cloud-based computing services let you access all sorts of data – from your address book to your music collection – remotely, via an increasing range of devices, from laptops to cellphones to, you guessed it, eReaders.

So far, cloud-based computing has made huge strides in helping you shuffle your data between the various gadgets you use throughout your day. Apple’s iCloud, for example, let’s me download the latest episode of Breaking Bad on my laptop, watch the first half on my phone during the trip to work, and voila, there it is on my TV when I get home.

Lately, we’ve seen lending capabilities pop up on the Kindle, and publishers like Tor Books are doing away with DRM to encourage sharing between eBook readers, but it sounds like this is just the beginning. Earlier this week, Democrasoft, Inc. and VOOK ePublishing announced an eBook with an exciting new feature: two-way interactivity. According to Digital Book World, the book, 11 Days in May, published by Waterfront Press, will allow “real-time author and reader-to-reader dialog and collaboration from inside [the] e-book.”

In other words, you’ll be able to comment, ask questions, and respond to the questions of others without taking your eyes off the page or flipping between applications. Exciting stuff! And then there’s the authorial angle. This technology, which will allow multiple readers to access the same digital book simultaneously, could really expand the reading experience and lead to a whole new dimension of an author’s engagement with the public.

It’s an exciting time for the eBook. A lot of the news we’re hearing these days is less focused on how digital publishing stacks up against traditional publishing, and more more concerned with the format coming into its own, taking advantage of social media, internet marketing, and developments like the cloud. Increased interactivity is a fascinating prospect, but is it a revolution or a gimmick? Should authors working with the format feel compelled to engage in a digital back-and-forth with their readers, or will this role be taken up by a select few? Time will tell, but I’d love to hear people sound off in the comments.

Unlocking the eBook

All too often, the discussion around the growing popularity of eBooks boils down to antagonisms: digital vs. printed, ink vs. pixels, the new vs. the old.  But more and more we are seeing the differences between eBooks and their paper predecessors erased — or at least narrowed.

Like most passionate readers, I have a few nostalgic hang-ups when it comes to books, and I’m certainly not alone. I like being able to dog-ear pages, write inscriptions to friends, and make notes in the margins. I like the feel of a pulpy paperback and the reassuring heft of a big book in my tote bag. An eReader, on the other hand, offers an entirely different set of joys: storage! convenience! portability!

To go on stressing the strengths of each would really just rehash an argument that’s gone back and forth and around in circles since eBooks started getting serious press, but I couldn’t help revisiting the debate after a recent article I read on the BBC’s Future section. In the piece, Tom Chatfield discusses Tor Books’ decision to release all of their eBooks DRM free. To those unfamiliar with DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management, Chatfield explains:

“Consider the difference between owning a book, and merely owning the right to read a book under certain circumstances – say on a limited number of devices or for a limited period of time. The first is what traditional print publishing offers. The second is the DRM model – one intended to protect publishers and authors against piracy.”

Chatfield goes on to suggest that selling books DRM free, without the use restrictions that most eBooks presently have, opens up “the tantalizing possibility of helping digital reading preserve all the advantages of its weightless, infinitely capacious medium while regaining some of the rich possibilities of physical books – and specifically those communities of lending, discussion, sharing and recommendation that are the traditional lifeblood of reading.”

Certainly there are the interests of authors and publishers to consider with an issue like this, but I am excited by Chatfield’s thinking. Imagine being able to pass an eBook back and forth among your friends, each of you scribbling in notes and maybe even a doodle or two. Think about snagging your favorite quotes and sending them straight to a reading group, or posting them in an online literary community.

It’s unclear what this move spells for the young industry, but it’s neat to think about the potential for eBooks to not only become more like the endlessly shareable, modifiable printed books we love, but to push the boundary of how we can read and talk about books.

Video: What is Lulu?

We’re very excited to show off our brand new “What is Lulu?” video with special thanks to Vance Reeser, co-director, animator and artist and to Noah Smith for storyboarding.

Vance Reeser, a lulu author himself, says he first heard about Lulu a long time ago when searching the Web for a way to collect some sketches into a printed book. “I gave it a shot,” he says, “and was pretty impressed with the results so I ended up using it again for my kids book Edward the Invincible.”

Lulu: How was your experience publishing on Lulu?

Vance: It was fun and very easy. I wasn’t able to turn making children’s books into a career or anything, but that also wasn’t my goal. There’s something very satisfying about having a tangible, very real copy of your book there for people to check out and buy.

Lulu: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Vance: I’d say keep working and power through those early years of work you know is just flat out busted or maybe not quite up to the hazy image in your mind you can’t seem to get on the page/screen. The only way through those hard HARD days is to keep working at it. There are no shortcuts. Stop looking for them – it’s a waste of time. There’s no magic software that makes it easy, no book of tricks… As the years go by and if you’ve stuck with it, it will get better, and what you see in your mind’s eye will slowly but surely refine and you’ll be achieving it on your screen. This is all basically what Ira Glass has said before, but it’s very true!

Lulu: What motivated you to co-direct the “What is Lulu?” video?

Vance: Immanuel (Lulu’s brilliant graphic designer and sneaky nerf gun aficionado) is a friend from my days in college taking design classes, and he gave me plenty of freedom to creatively approach the ideas that needed to be conveyed in the video. That allowed me to take the reigns quite a bit, which is a nice change of pace for me in regard to client work! He made sure we stayed on message and within the style boundaries he had in mind, and I worked out a lot of the visuals with the help of Noah Smith and directed the pacing and how the transitions and elements would move within the “rules.” The initial idea was to do more of a somewhat simple, flat, paper cutout look, but we ended up going into richer, deeper visuals as the project progressed. We did carry over a slower frame rate from the cutout concept, giving it a handmade crafts-y feel I think.

Check out his latest masterpiece, the brand new, “What is Lulu?” video as well as his children’s book, Edward the Invincible. Tell us what you think!