NPR’s Morning Edition today looks at the “promise and problems” of ebooks in libraries, focusing on New York’s Queens Borough Public Library. The NPR reporter describes the major problem this way, “libraries are struggling to stock ebooks. Most major publishers impose heavy restrictions or refuse to lend their titles. They are afraid that could undercut digital sales.”
Archive for the ‘Ebooks’ Category
It seems three instances are sufficient to declare a trend. Variety rounds up the news of three ebooks optioned for movies recently; Wool, On the Island and, of course, Fifty Shades of Grey. Says literary agent Jody Hotchkiss,”The effect is that [producers are] looking more closely than ever at the ebook [best seller] list for the original ebook bestsellers.”
Variety provides a list of “currently high-charting ebooks” that have not yet been optioned, some of which are self-published. The list illustrates the range of publishing options these days, as well as the range of challenges for selectors.
The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst — from Entangled Publishing, a non-traditional publisher that selects titles from submissions, and focuses on marketing and promotion, rather than editing (or, as they say, “we let writers do what they do best”). As profiled by Publishers Weekly in January, the company was launched in 2011 by a group of authors to expand publishing opportunities for genre writers, the selections focus on romance. The Marriage Bargain has been on the NYT Combined Print & E-Book best seller list for 6 weeks, as of the current list, reaching a high of #10. A sequel, The Marriage Trap, is coming in June.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire — from CreateSpace, the self-publishing company owned by Amazon. Available in both paperback and ebook, it is on the NYT eBook only list, at #25, after two weeks. The paperback is available through wholesalers and the ebook from B&T’s Axis 360.
Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and others — began life as an online subscription. Amazon Publishing’s science fiction imprint, 47North, released Book One in paperback, available through wholesalers. It’s not on the NYT lists but is at #89 on Amazon’s Science Fiction and Fantasy list. Brilliance (also now owned by Amazon) released the audio.
Beauty by Laurell K. Hamilton — is a 33-page ebook-only “Vampire Hunter outtake,” published by Penguin/Berkley. It landed at #14 on the NYT eBook only list this week and is not available for library lending.
Following the bidding wars for Fifty Shades of Grey (which began its life as Master of the Universe on a Twilight fan fiction site) and the sci-fi Wool, Hollywood continues its fascination with self-pubbed titles.
Film rights to Tracey Garvis-Graves’ On the Island, a NYT E-Book Fiction Best Seller (currently at #9 after 4 weeks; down from a high of #7), were just won at auction by Warner Brothers, reports Variety. In addition to the ebook format (available on B&T’s Axis 360), it is available in paperback (Amazon/CreateSpace, 9781466363212, 3/14/12). WorldCat indicates that few libraries own it.
In today’s New York Times, media columnist David Carr examines the suit that the Justice Department entered last week. It charges Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster of colluding with Apple, against Amazon, to fix prices on eBooks. All but Macmillan and Penguin have agreed to settle (the text of the filing is here).
According to Carr, the action gives Amazon a major advantage; “Amazon has the Justice Department as an ally to rebuild its monopoly and wipe out other players. ”
The press has been in agreement with Carr. The WSJ offered a similar opinion last week, remarking on Justice’s “hyperventilating account of Apple’s negotiations with the publishers” and that “The book industry is defending the very survivability of a book industry whose products are anything but uniform.”
Amazon’s home town paper, The Seattle Times, reports on speculation that Amazon is behind the law suit.
As of today, Harry Potter ebooks are available for consumer purchase exclusively via the Pottermore.com shop.
As of tomorrow at 9 a.m., ET, the entire series will be available for checkout from OverDrive, according to an email sent by the company earlier today. Pre-orders, which had been temporarily halted, have now been restored (and the 10% discount extended through 4/30). The company also says that all holds place on earlier ordering will be honored. The HP books are available in EPUB, Kindle and MP3 audio formats.
In the following video, librarians present the case for ebooks in libraries to major publishers at last week’s Association of American Publishers annual meeting (via Publishers Marketplace). The speakers are ALA President Molly Raphael; Jim Neal, Columbia University libraries; and Tony Marx, NYPL. In the audience are the heads of most of the largest houses in publishing, including many that do not sell ebooks to libraries.
A panel entitled “Redefining the Dialogue between Libraries and Publishers” at the Association of American Publishers annual meeting yesterday featured ALA President Molly Raphael; Jim Neal, Columbia University libraries; and Tony Marx, NYPL.
Reportedly, Marx “generated the most drama” (the UK’s trade publication, The Bookseller), giving an “impassioned address,” (Publishers Lunch). The audience included John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan and David Young, CEO of Hachette Book Group, two of the houses that do not currently sell ebook to libraries for lending,
The other librarians were not in agreement with Marx’s suggestion that libraries should consider introducing more “friction” into the lending of ebooks to address publishers’ fears that library lending will destroy the nascent consumer market for ebooks. Raphael objected to his idea that libraries could stop lending ebook best sellers, focusing instead on “the backlist; on how we can promote people to read…. Books that might not be producing much revenue to your industry. As an educator, I know how much valuable information is stored there.” (Publishers Lunch)
Neal “vociferously opposed” Marx’s suggestion that NYPL would be willing to force users to come to the library to download ebooks (Publishers Lunch).
The reports don’t indicate if anyone pointed out that library budgets already impose a great deal of “friction” into the process, limiting the number of copies of ebooks libraries can buy.
Library Journal reports that a lawyer in the audience noted that “anti-trust concerns might hamper publishers in collaborating to develop a business model and suggested that these could come from the library side instead; Raphael responded that ALA already had a working group in place to develop such options.”
The Justice Department has issued a warning to Simon and Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, Macmillan and HarperCollins as well as Apple, that it may sue over the “agency model” for pricing ebooks to consumers, which Justice says may violate anti-trust laws.
The “agency model” (publishers set the price and the seller takes 30%) was introduced to counter Amazon’s approach of selling ebooks for $9,99, often at a loss, which publishers regarded as an attempt to establish a monopoly. The publishers who adapted the agency model, then told Amazon that they would only sell them ebooks under that model.
Booksellers were also concerned about Amazon’s approach. As The Wall Street Journal notes,
William Lynch, chief executive of Barnes & Noble, gave a deposition to the Justice Department [last december]in which he testified that abandoning the agency pricing model would effectively result in a single player gaining even more market share than it has today, according to people familiar with the testimony.
UPDATE: OverDrive just announced that the Harry Potter titles are available now for pre-order through Content Reserve.
At this point, none of the Harry Potter books are available digitally, but when they are, libraries will be able to buy them to circulate.
When J.K. Rowling announced plans for the web site Pottermore.com, she also announced that it would be the exclusive seller of Harry Potter eBooks. Today, OverDrive announced that they have entered into a deal for both eBook and digitial audio distribution of the titles to schools and libraries.
In the press release, Charlie Redmayne, Pottermore’s CEO, underlined the company’s belief in the important role of libraries;
We are keen to support public and school libraries, and OverDrive, as one of the leading suppliers in this market, provides us with a global network that helps us achieve this, as well as encouraging the discovery of these amazing books across the world.
In addition, the books will be offered in several languages, beginning with English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
The only hitch is that this won’t begin until Pottermore.com, which is still in Beta, is launched. However, this announcement may be a signal that it is coming soon.
Late last year, the Penguin Group suspended libraries’ ability to lend the company’s new ebooks and audio downloads, pending evaluation. The evaluation is now complete and the news is not good. Yesterday, the company announced that they have terminated their contract with OverDrive. For the titles that libraries have already purchased, Library Journal reports OverDrive is negotiating a “continuance agreement,” to allow ongoing access.
The Penguin Group imprints include NAL, Berkley, Dutton, Riverhead, Viking, Dial Young Readers, Philomel, Putnam, and Speak.
The LJ story concludes with this chilling scenario;
…publishers [may] demand a business model in which they will only make their ebooks available to public libraries if they are used in the library or if a patron is required to bring their device to the library and load the title onto the device in the library, then bring it home.
Top executives from ALA visited New York publishers this week to present the case for making ebooks available for library lending. When librarians found out that Random House had asked to be included, fears grew that the one house that has stood firm in making their titles available was about to change that policy.
The rumor was completely unfounded, however. RH told both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly that they simply wanted ALA to know that, “Our commitment to libraries, as imperative to our momentum, if not to our existence as publishers, is greater than ever.”
One small hitch, however, a price increase will take effect March 1.
Librarian response has been positive, since this model is preferable to windowing (not making ebooks available until a year or more after release), limiting the number of circulations, or not making ebooks available at all. As a result, publishing news aggregator, Publishers Lunch “Automat,” commented in its link to the PW story, “It’s Interesting Times When Random House Raising Prices On Library eBooks Is Celebrated As Good News.”
Several libraries immediately placed orders on Random House titles to beat the price increase.
NBC News announced yesterday that it has created a new publishing division, NBC Publishing, to produce ebooks based on information from NBC’s news shows (including The Today Show and Nightline), archives and other divisions (NBC Sports, Universal Pictures and Telemundo).
The head of the new division, NBC v-p Michael Fabiano, told Publishers Weekly that their first original e-book is coming next month, followed by about 30 titles over the year. He also noted that NBC has the capability of distributing titles on their own.
He did not address whether titles will be available to libraries via OverDrive, but indications are hopeful. NBC has hired two people from publishing houses, both of which sell titles via OverDrive to libraries; Peter Costanzo from Perseus Book Group has been named as creative director and Brian Perrin, most recently with Rodale, is director of digital development. Also, an earlier enhanced ebook that NBC published with Running Press, From Yesterday to Today: Six Decades of America’s Favorite Morning Show (Dec., 2011), is available to libraries on OverDrive.
Reporting the story, the online movie news site, Deadline points out that ebooks are likely to evolve into a format separate from print books, with this quote from Cheryl Gould, NBC News SVP who is heading up the New York-based part of the new division,
As the tablet and e-reader markets continue to expand exponentially, and as the definition of “what is a ‘book?’” evolves, we see opportunities to bring readers a unique and immersive content experience. This business enables NBC to use video, audio, and current programming in creative new ways.
In a front-page article yesterday, the Washington Post highlights what librarians have been discussing for months; libraries can’t buy enough ebooks to meet demand, both because of “limited budgets” and because of “little cooperation from some publishers.”
Included is a chart that shows availability of best sellers in as ebooks in local libraries. Seven of the 20 titles are not available to libraries, most of the rest show heavy holds.
An eBook-only title appears at No. 8 on the current the NYT eBook Nonfiction list. It is just the second e-only title to hit that list, (after Sarah Burleton’s self-pubbed abuse memoir, Why Me?), according to tracking by Publishers Lunch.
The book, The POLITICO Playbook 2012: The Right Fights Back, by Mike Allen and Evan Thomas, is an instant digital book, the first in a series of four titles about the 2012 election to be published in a joint venture between the political news site, Politco and Random House. It is billed as “the first in-depth look inside the 2012 Republican race to the nomination.”
As with other Random House titles, it is available for library lending via OverDrive, in Kindle, ePub and audio formats. However, relatively few libraries seem to have ordered it, raising the question of how libraries discover and buy e-only titles.
Co-author Mike Allen, the chief White House correspondent for Politico, has promoted the book on several national television shows, including PBS’s Charlie Rose Show and CBS Face the Nation (bringing a tongue-in-cheek protest from the site FishBowlDC.com that POLITICO’s constant promotion has reached the saturation point).
After OverDrive’s announcement that Penguin had decided to restore access to older titles for library lending via Kindle, Penguin released a statement that this will only be in effect through the end of the year, unless concerns about unnamed security issues are resolved (see last line)
Penguin USA took the decision yesterday [11/22] to withhold the supply of new digital titles from suppliers to US libraries until concerns about the security of the copyright of its authors have been resolved.
In addition, Penguin informed suppliers to libraries that it expected them to abide by existing agreements to offer older digital titles to libraries only if those files were held behind the firewalls of the suppliers.
Following receipt of this information, Overdrive, a supplier of ebooks to US libraries, removed “Get for Kindle” from its offering.
Penguin has subsequently been informed by Amazon that it had not been consulted by Overdrive about the terms of Penguin’s agreement with Overdrive. Amazon has undertaken to work with Penguin and Overdrive between now and the end of the year to address Penguin’s concerns. Penguin will, as a result, restore the supply of these titles until the end of the year in order to return the availability of older titles to all its digital customers.