Articles tagged "ebooks"

Are eBook borrowers eBook buyers?

The struggle to get eBooks into libraries continues. Large publishers seem to be at an impasse, unsure whether giving libraries the rights to their books will drive down sales. Independent publishers, on the other hand, have been making their own eBooks available to libraries for some time, be it independently or through a platform.

For authors, libraries are a great way to broaden readership, but does it also help the bottom line? What we really want to know is: Are eBook borrowers eBook buyers?

According to a survey (New Survey Supports That Ebook Borrowers Buy, Too) conducted by the library-lending platform Overdrive and the American Library Association (ALA), readers who borrow eBooks from a library also end up buying more than three eBooks per month. Not only do readers who use digital libraries end up buying books, they’re actually more enthusiastic to buy after a visit to the eBook library.

“Library lending encourages people to experiment with new authors, topics and genres — which is good for the entire reading and publishing ecosystem,” Carrie Russell, director of the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, said.

With the major publishers slowly, and hesitantly, entering the library market, now is a great time to get an eBook into the library, especially when selection is so limited and the appetite so huge. According to the survey, over half of respondents would consider buying an eBook they encountered on a library site, and almost 60% considered the library their main interaction with new titles. (For us, who follow books tirelessly on the Internet, that seems nuts! But this proves that libraries still play a huge part in book culture and book promotion).

It will be interesting to watch over the next few months how the transition of eBooks into libraries goes. It might be the perfect opportunity for independent publishers and independent writers to gain a foothold in a voracious marketplace, one that’s not as conventional as a bookstore, but is deeply entrenched in the book-reading ecosystem nonetheless.

Would you offer your eBook to a library? Have you? Do you believe the results of the survey or does your own experience tell you otherwise? Let us know in the comments.

eLumes brings innovation to eBooks

Another day, another innovation in the field of digital publishing. New York based tech startup Orson & Co. has announced a plan to totally overhaul the concept of the “enhanced eBook” — just don’t call it that to their face. According to a recent piece on DigitalBookWorld.com, Orson & Co believes that a  truly immersive eBook experience, one that takes full advantage of the medium’s potential, isn’t being delivered to readers and they’re out to change this.

Orson & Co.’s new product, eLumes (a pun on “illuminate,” if I’m not totally off the mark) is essentially publishing iOS apps that mimic eBooks. According to the same report from DigitalBookWorld, the first such project by the company, (an eLume version of Orson & Co. co-founder Richard Mason’s The History of a Pleasure Seeker) “has several enhancements, including original images, original audio files, author videos, original essays diving into the historical context of the novel, and archival images… [as well as] A read-along feature narrated by Dan Stevens, star of the hit BBC drama Downton Abbey.” Mason maintains that the format “makes a new kind of storytelling possible.”

I’m not totally sold on the bells and whistles eLumes seem to promise, but the folks at Orson & Co. acknowledge that previous attempts at an immersive, multimedia eBook have fallen a little flat — they seem gimmicky, or too unlike, well, a good old fashioned book. What Mason seems to be arguing is that these apps can take real advantage of this new technology and deliver an interesting new experience. And that, I will admit, intrigues me.

These days I tend to read with a smartphone or laptop close at hand, Googling unfamiliar words, Wikipediaing historical events or concepts as they appear. These technologies help expand what I read. They help me experience an exploded version of a book, in a sense, one where I can examine all the parts. While this may be a far cry from a book with embedded video or a novella with a soundtrack, it’s not totally removed. I’m curious what a multimedia eBook could offer, especially if it’s pursued with the integrity Mason seems keen on delivering. What do you think: Flashy distraction or added depth?

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.

eBooks: A Home for Long-Form Journalism

Have you heard the phrase ‘eBook singles’? If not, this refers to short pieces of fiction or journalism that are sold for less than five dollars. The success of eBook singles has paved the way for bigger players to get involved. Last week The New York Times released its first eBook Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, which is a long-form, reported piece about a group of skiers trapped after an avalanche in Washington State.

The eBook itself contains original material that wasn’t included in the newspaper version of the piece, and uses several new techniques that enhance news reporting. Seeing a reputable periodical like The New York Times embrace eBooks is a testament to the value of the format. For years there has been talk that journalism is at a crossroads and that newspaper reporters are in a race to the bottom – getting paid less for stories that have a dwindling readership. But, what we see happening here is simply indicative of a change in both format and pay-schemes.

Journalists and media outlets, by taking advantage of eBooks, are entering a voracious reading market. When people buy e-readers, they read more, and they’re able to read a wider variety of content. E-readers can provide an outlet for long-form journalism pieces that are too long to fit in the layout of a printed newspaper, but too short to publish as standalone books. As readers and writers, we welcome the return of long, thoughtful, journalistic writing. Cheers!

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?

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.

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.

Hiptype: Analytics for eBooks

I run a website, which means I constantly check Google Analytics to see which stories are being read and how readers are reaching my site. It’s an incredibly useful tool that helps me figure out my audience, what my readers enjoy, and when best to post certain pieces. This type of real-time analytics has been revolutionary for websites, letting media groups find out whether their tweets are making a difference, whether their “tags” are working, and if their highfaluting SEO strategy is working.

Of course, as an author, this might all be gibberish. That is about to change. Hiptype, a young start-up, is looking to bring the wonder of analytics to eBooks. While it’s still in Beta and not yet available to all publishing companies, Hiptype represents a new, inevitable approach to gauging the eBook market. By noting when readers make a comment on a section, or share an excerpt, authors and publishers can see what interests and excites readers.

This leads to some interesting dilemmas and the question of privacy on the internet. Many publishers, authors and marketers would like to use this technology to learn more about their readers. There are two ways to look at it: as an invasion of privacy or as a research tool designed to deliver you the most relevant content. Your internet-surfing experience can be tailored to you based on what your browser knows about you (what words you search, what websites you visit, etc.). With this information, advertisers can target specific ads to you based on your interests. For avid readers, this can mean that when you go searching for eBooks, the eBookstore will recommend books that people similar to you have enjoyed.

Likewise, authors and publishers can use this information to target a specific audience with an eBook and to improve marketing efforts. You can also use the information about your primary audience to create more relevant content for them. For instance, let’s say that you discover that your books are very popular with veterans. With this knowledge you may decide to include a character in your next book who is a veteran.

This is just another avenue of creative possibilities that has been opened by the internet. We imagine that this type of analytic eBook information will become ubiquitous in the coming years.

As writers, how will you use this information? Will you tailor your books to your audience? Are you interested in knowing who reads your books?

Would you let readers price your book?

Piracy is rampant. Music, eBooks, and films are all susceptible to being illegally downloaded for free, which deprives creators of compensation for their art. In the digital age, one way to combat piracy has been to use a “pay what you want” pricing model.

Ever since the band Radiohead released its highly anticipated 2007 album In Rainbows with a “pay what you want” scheme, it’s been viewed as a profitable way for large, highly successful bands to earn money in the era of internet piracy. But what about for smaller artists? And what about for books?

StoryBundle offers a “pay what you want” payment method for bundles of DRM-free eBooks, with each bundle comprised of a group of excellently reviewed eBooks from a specific genre. Readers decide how much of the money will go to the author, and how much will go StoryBundle.

This kind of innovative pricing leaves authors at a crossroads, choosing between making a surefire profit on their work (if priced at a consistent level and counting on good sales) or leaving it up to the goodwill of readers. If you’re beloved (like Radiohead) you stand a good chance of making a considerable amount of money. Still, this is a big risk to take.

The genius part of the StoryBundle project isn’t the pricing, though — it’s the bundling. By bundling your work with other authors, particularly if they are in the same genre, you stand a greater chance of reaching new readers, as well as a better chance of making money in a “pay what you want” model. When consumers buy a single book, they might be inclined to only cough up a dollar or so. But if they are buying five, well, that seems more like something that should cost $10. Of course, you’re still at the mercy of your readers.

Innovative pricing and bundling are just among the options writers get when they publish an eBook. By avoiding the overhead cost associated with print, they can experiment and become more entrepreneurial with selling their work. Not only that, but if a certain pricing model doesn’t work — then chuck it. If you find that a DRM model isn’t working for you, then maybe try being DRM-free for a while to see how sales go. Or even reach out to other, similar authors, and see if a bundle is something they’d be interested in.

The key thing is to keep trying new ways of selling your book. Remember, you have to be just as creative while marketing your book as you are when writing it.

Independent eBookstores

Malaprops Independent Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina

Malaprops Independent Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina

It was only a matter of time: eBooks have gone indie. New, smaller websites are capitalizing on the success of eBooks by offering a boutique, curated experience which allows independent booksellers to promote less mainstream eBooks, including ones that have been self-published. By creating a culture around selected titles, indie eBookstores are acting like independent bookstores used to back in their heyday. With “staff picks,” events, and author interviews, these indie eBookstores are the future of a mediated and targeted book-buying experience.

One eBookstore, Emily Books, which bills itself as “An Indi(e) Bookstore,” has a subscription plan. It mails out recommended eBooks as well as entitles the subscriber “to exclusive events and priceless feelings of satisfaction, sophistication, and intellectual superiority.”

In an interview with The Billfold, co-founder Emily Gould  tells readers why they should look for eBooks from these emerging websites:

“If you buy a book from Emily Books, two genius ladies with great taste have not only okayed it, they’ve worked really hard to share it with you.”

Another indie ebookshop, OnlyIndie, allows independent authors to competitively price their works, as well as increase their returns as the book gains popularity.

So the personal touch has begun to be given to eBooks. As a writer, this is an incredibly good thing. It means the book culture that fawns over smaller books, ones without a large publisher behind them, can now begin to do the same with eBooks.

Booksellers don’t only play a role in making sure you get a book into your hands, they make sure you get the right book. That’s why independent bookstores have long fostered a community that prizes great books over ones with mass appeal.

As a Lulu author, it makes sense to reach out to these emerging indie ebookshops to see if they’re interested in offering your eBook. By not only having a bookseller, but a champion of your work, selling your book, you instantly expand your appeal and visibility. It’s apparent that in the coming years, more and more of these indie ebookstores will enter the market, and the author that knows how to tap into their energy will be one who not only finds a broader audience, but also an energized bookseller.