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Early Age, Early Adopters: How Kids’ Aptitudes for Tech Change the Face of Reading

Photo Credit: http://ar.gy/38fP

Children interact with technology in a different way than we do. Their brains are like sponges, which means they are able to intuitively use any new technology without reference to older ones.

Give a child an iPad and watch what happens — within minutes he’ll be more proficient than you. When it comes to eBooks, the demographic difference between young and old readers is just as stark: according to a new study on digitalbookworld.com, more than half of U.S. kids are reading eBooks, which is more than double the proportion of adults who are e-reading.

Consider what this means as these young readers mature to become the dominant consumer block. These readers will be mostly digital-natives, their cherished childhood reading memories formed in the glow of an iPad and not the heft of a book.

While sales for eBooks have slowed their pace recently, all signs point to them becoming the dominant form of book within the next few years. Young readers will take the surge of eBook reading from the Children’s genre to Young Adult, and eventually to Contemporary Fiction. The study also found that young e-readers are reading a lot: 85% of young e-readers are reading at least one book a week, which, if you’ve worked with children, is a pretty outstanding figure.

Still, some impediments remain for young e-readers. Only 54% of children have access to tablets, where most young readers find eBooks. Once tablets and handheld computing become more popular and less expensive, we can expect the number of young e-readers to rise even more.

School programs that utilize tablets, as well as the popularity of smartphones with larger screens, will make eBooks soon indispensable to the learning environment, eventually turning an entire generation into e- readers.

And while we aren’t saying goodbye to print just yet, it does seem like there are going to be swaths of the population in a few short years who simply have never read a print book. For print books, its not the pricing that may be their downfall, it’s the speed at which children can adapt to new technologies.

2013 Predictions for the eBook

2012 was a landmark year for both independent publishers and eBooks. While eBooks surged ahead of sales of hardcover books, independent publishers were heralded with widespread acclaim and acceptance as part of a vibrant literary scene. This piece on NPR, summarizes the hurdles that independent publishers have overcome, as well as a few success stories and author insights. Listening to the piece is a great way to cap a landmark year for independent publishers.

But don’t rest on your laurels just yet! Over at The Huffington Post, there are more predictions for the year ahead, including the idea that the glut of eBooks will probably continue. The guess is that as more independent authors bypass major publishing houses, eBooks will flood the market and that out-of-print titles will find new circulation as previously established authors begin to convert their titles to eBooks. But the increased competition should not scare off aspiring writers, the article states. More readers than ever will be searching for eBooks, providing even more opportunities for authors to find an audience.

Another phenomenon to watch out for is the “Black Swan” effect. The Black Swan effect is when a book from an unheralded author becomes a runaway success despite improbability. Expect to see even more of this in 2013 because large publishers have trouble locating Black Swans because of the myriad boundaries they put between themselves and authors. Publishers need to work through agents, who are yet another barrier between the writer and the marketplace. The marketplace, with its democratic way of allowing the cream of the crop to rise to the top, has a penchant for identifying Black Swans. Readers reward novels that are genuinely good, different, and provide something that readers have not already seen. For aspiring writers, the hope is to be that Black Swan, while publishers will continue to put up barriers between themselves and those classics-in-waiting. Expect more and more modern classics to emerge from the ranks of independent publishers.

Expectations for 2013 are sky-high in the world of independent publishing. 2012 was a year of success after success, and 2013 looks to be just as awe-inspiring. What are your predictions for independent publishers? In which new direction would you like to see publishing go? What are your own personal writing goals for 2013?

Lulu Says Goodbye to DRM

Lulu was founded on the philosophy of breaking down barriers that prevent talented authors from sharing their knowledge and telling their stories. Our goal is to help authors reach the broadest possible audience by providing tools to create, publish, market and sell their remarkable work. In an ongoing commitment to our founding philosophy, we continue to remove barriers when we see them, which brings us to the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM)…

Effective January 15, 2013, Lulu will no longer offer Adobe’s Digital Editions DRM as an option when publishing or revising eBook content in EPUB and PDF formats. DRM works best when administered by those who control how content is purchased and viewed. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble integrate a reader’s experience from purchasing to downloading and finally to reading. These companies do a fantastic job in this area, and eBooks published through Lulu and distributed through these retail sites will continue to have the same rights management applied as they do today.

For readers who download eBooks directly from Lulu.com to the device of their choice, removing DRM on EPUBs and PDFs will remove their need to create an Adobe account, authorize the purchase in Digital Editions or install a third-party application. This creates possibilities for the growing number of readers who want to shop, purchase and download books to their eReaders from sites other than large corporate providers. And we see that as a step towards helping authors reach the broadest audience possible.

Lulu authors with DRM-protected content available today will soon receive an email with additional information about how this change affects their DRM-protected eBooks and the steps required to ensure continued availability of these titles in the Lulu Marketplace. You can also find additional – and more detailed – information about the change here: Announcement: DRM and eBooks Published on the Lulu Marketplace.

We realize that any mention of support for or opposition to DRM in a public blog post, forum, or article will spark a heated debate between publishers and consumers. In the spirit of open communication, we welcome your comments and will respond to your concerns as needed.

Thank you for choosing Lulu to tell your story. We wish you great success in the coming year.

The Rise of “New Adult” Fiction

It’s everywhere you look — media about young people in their 20s, trying to figure things out. It’s on HBO, it’s in film, it’s definitely in the blogosphere (it’s also the writer of this blog post, obviously).

Image by: Pete Ashton

Millenials,” as they’re known, have become a hot commodity in the media landscape, as this tech-savvy generation learns to deal with a recession and a prolonged adolescence that includes internships, grad school, and making a million different decisions about what they want to do with their lives.

So, it makes sense that a new genre of literature might emerge about this set. And, of course, it has emerged from authors who use multi-platform publishing. Cora Carmack, who self-published her book, Losing It, saw her book rise to number 18 in the New York Times bestseller list without it even having a print edition. She was then offered a contract from HarperCollins to write more books, as well as a re-release of Losing It.

The term itself – New Adult (NA) – was coined by St. Martin’s Press as a midway between adult literary fiction and young adult books. It didn’t really take off until this year, however, as scores of independent writers began writing novels that talked about these “Millenials” in an engaging, experimental and exciting way. A new website, call NA Alley, reviews a number of “NA” titles that are popping up from independent authors.

That a new genre would explode from the ranks of self-published authors makes total sense. Publishing through an open platform allows writers to experiment as well as publish books that might not already fit into a niche market. By finding readers, they are creating their own markets, and big publishers are beginning to notice. Publishers now follow the independent authors, not the other way around. 

As readers continue to look for new books that they can relate to, novels have to change with the tastes of each generation. Unfortunately, large publishing is slow. Independent writers, always keeping their ears to the ground, can identify new genres, know what they want to read themselves, and publish it without having to wait for the market to catch up with them.

EPUBs Made Even Easier with Lulu Ebook Enhancements

Getting your eBook ready for the world to see can be a learning experience – for authors and for Lulu. We always want to give you the best, easiest tools possible to get your eBook out there, and part of reaching that goal is making changes to the process to make it as painless as possible. Case in point: the new multi-file upload and table of contents preview features that help you to make sure you’re well on your way to having a distribution-ready EPUB file.

Making your EPUB file was already pretty easy. You can upload Microsoft DOC and DOCX, RTF, and ODF files, and we’ll take care of converting them into an EPUB for you. For print books you could always upload multiple files and we’d stitch them together into one coherent, print-ready PDF. Now you have the same convenience for your eBook. Maybe you’ve been serializing your work or maybe you’re just taking it one chapter at a time; either way, it’s simple to move forward. Just get  your individual files ready with the first line formatted as Heading 1, upload all of the files and move them around so they’re in the order you want, and you’re done! You’ll have a finished EPUB in no time.

(For more info on our recent enhancements, click on the image above.)

Speaking of those headings, if you’ve ever created an eBook on Lulu you might have received an error message regarding your NCX – the eBook’s table of contents that lets the reader jump instantly to any chapter or section. After all, it’s one of the top ten reasons why eBooks are rejected for retail distribution. Creating a proper NCX requires a pretty straightforward but very specific use of styles and headings so that all of your chapters, sections, and subsections line up appropriately. Not sure if you’ve done yours correctly? After you upload your eBook files you’ll now find a table of contents preview that will let you see how everything will be ordered in your NCX. If you’ve used the method above to upload multiple files for your EPUB, this preview is a simple way to make sure everything was put together just the way you wanted.

You’ve already got the Lulu eBook Creator Guide with all the information you could ever want about eBooks right at your fingertips, and these new additions to the Lulu site will help you out even more along the way. Plus, we still have our great paid services available if you want everything taken care of for you with no hassle. There’s never been a better time to create your eBook, and it’s never been easier to do it with Lulu.

Lulu is Saving Your Sanity this Black Friday

The cure for Mall Madness and Cyber Psychosis: Shop the place where imagination is never out of stock… with up to 51% Off*, Nov. 23-27.

If there’s anything more frustrating than endlessly circling a mall for parking, it’s surfing the Web, clicking ‘buy now’ and then discovering that your prize present is ‘out of stock.’ It’ll drive you jingle-bell-bonkers as sure as treacly ‘big box’ muzak.

Avoid mall madness and cyber psychosis by spending Black Friday and Cyber Monday with us. At Lulu, you ALWAYS get what you want because imagination is NEVER out of stock.

Starting on Black Friday and running right through Cyber Monday and into Tuesday (Nov. 23-27), Lulu offers 51% off Calendars and 30% off everything else site-wide* including print books, eBooks, photo books and professional publishing services.

When you create a calendar or photo book, you’re not hoping and praying that another shopper didn’t get to it first. No, you’re creating something beautiful and unique. Something you KNOW will spark smiles year round. And something you can create from the comfort of your own home.

It’s easy, it’s high quality and you can be done in less time than it takes to drive to the mall and back. You know you’ve got photos that’ll make someone’s day, week, month and year. Studies tell us that people are snapping more pictures than ever. Now’s the time to liberate them from your computer hard drive. If you can post a pic on Facebook or include an attachment in an email, you can create a Lulu calendar or photo book — it’s that simple.

So, skip mall madness. Spare yourself the frustration of the dreaded ‘out of stock’ cyber deadstop. Let us help you celebrate he holidays by celebrating your experiences and imagination. They’re never out of stock.

*Offer available in the US Only

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?