Articles tagged "ebooks"

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.

Music & Writing: A Writer’s Playlist

Maybe it’s because I live in a city filled with distracting noises — car horns, drilling, and shouting — but whenever I sit down to write, I immediately put on my headphones. Suddenly, the world evaporates, and all that is left is the screen, with my words slowly trekking across it, and whatever music I’ve chosen as the tempo. Mostly it’s something ethereal and ambient, Brian Eno or Steve Reich, but other times, when I’m trying to work through a really difficult section, or simply wanting to motivate myself, I put on something faster and more defined, like Outkast or LCD Soundsystem.

Obviously, each person’s musical preference is specific to his or her own taste, and what you want to listen to while you write might be entirely different than what you’d dance to. But how does music affect your writing in general? Do you find yourself more productive when listening to music, or more easily distracted and prone to losing yourself in someone else’s art and not your own?

A 2011 study found that listening to music dramatically increases brain function. A researcher on the study said, “Our results show for the first time how different musical features activate emotional, motor and creative areas of the brain.” However, others disagree. Geekpreneur notes: “The bottom line is that music always replaces thoughts. When you’re doing mechanical tasks — even if those tasks involve implementing creative ideas you’ve already thought of — music can be pleasant and helpful. When you need to think, though, the only sounds you should be able to hear are those of your own inner voice.”

Perhaps as more and more novels find a home on eBook, and writers begin to incorporate more media into what they write, eBooks will come with playlists that inform the story, or even let the reader in on what writers were listening to as they wrote. In that case, let’s get it started!

Post your favorite writing playlist in the comments section, and let the world in on what gets you in the creative mindset.