The NYT reports today that publishers’ “conversations with Google have taken a more flexible tone” since the unveiling of the iPad and Amazon’s concessions on e-book pricing.
Archive for the ‘New Technology’ Category
When we talk about e-books (which we seem to do, endlessly), it’s generally assumed they will continue to be like print books, just transferred to some sort of screen. Sure, e-books offer the ability to get books quickly (assuming they are in the format you need) and to carry dozens of them with you at once. But, frankly, that’s not terribly exciting.
As we become able to integrate text, audio and video on one device whole new forms of storytelling can emerge. Book apps that utilize iPod Touch technology offer a glimpse of that future.
Cathy’s Book was one of the early attempts to create interactive storytelling, using the technology available at the time (way back in the pre-iPod Touch dark ages of 2006). It was selected by YALSA as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
It’s just been released in a brand-new version; the Cathy’s Book App for the iPod Touch and the iPhone (you can read more about it and view a demo here).
Does this new version still work for librarians trying to hook reluctant readers? How can librarians work with a format that can’t be borrowed from the library (note, however, that this app costs just $0.99)?
We’re giving free Cathy’s Book App promocodes to the first five librarians who’d like to download the app and are willing to share their thoughts with EarlyWord readers. Just send us an email, with “Cathy’s Book App” in the subject line and tell us where you work (ends at 5:30 EST Friday, Feb. 5).
Now the big guns are coming out.
Shortly after Macmillan CEO, Jon Sargent asked Amazon to change the pricing model for Kindle books, Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp (which owns HarperCollins) expressed his desire to renegotiate terms and claims that Amazon appears “ready to sit down with us again,” according to a story by Reuters.
Another skirmish in the e-book pricing war took place over the weekend. After Macmillan CEO Jon Sargent flew out to Amazon HQ to ask that Kindle pricing be restructured along the lines of the “agency model” offered by the new Apple iBooks store, Amazon not only rejected the suggestion, but retaliated by no longer selling Macmillan titles (which includes the imprints St. Martin’s, FSG, Holt and Tor/Forge); none were available for the Kindle and print editions could only be purchased through third-party retailers. This was covered in many news sources, including the L.A. Times.
Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.
We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.
Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!
However, as of early Monday, Macmillan titles were still not for sale through Amazon.
What effect will this have on the public perception of e-books? It underscores that only certain titles are available for the Kindle and they can be removed from sale; issues librarians know only too well from dealing with database vendors (e.g., EBSCO & Gale). Corey Doctorow wrote on the tech site, Boing Boing, “this is a case of two corporate giants illustrating neatly exactly why market concentration is bad for the arts.” Futher, he objects to “Amazon draping itself in the consumer-rights flag,” when “Amazon’s ebooks are locked (by contract and by DRM) to the Kindle.” He also points to a post by John Scalzi, All the Many Ways Amazon So Very Failed This Weekend (even if you don’t care about this particular fight, read the post; it’s very funny).
Amazon has worked to give customers the perception that Kindle e-books cost $9.99, but if you are not buying bestsellers, Kindle prices can be quite a bit higher than that. Of the nine titles with full reviews in the current NYT BR, only one is available in a $9.99 Kindle edition; three are not available at all (these do not include any Macmillan titles; curiously, the one Macmillan title reviewed, from Palgrave Macmillan, is available for the Kindle. Guess Amazon doesn’t realize they’re part of Macmillan) and the rest were just $1.13 to $2.83 less than the hardcover price. In one case, the hardcover through a third-party retailer was cheaper than the Kindle version.
But consumers have proven they want the lower prices; none of the titles in the 100 top-selling Kindle titles was above $9.99 when we checked yesterday; the majority of the top “sellers,” 55 titles, were free; 25 titles range in price from $.01 to $9.60 and just 20 titles were at the magic $9.99 price. Clearly, people are still in the experimental phase and not willing to invest in buying content. Amazon sees e-book prices as a key to selling more Kindle readers. So, they’ve rejected the “agency model” (publisher sets the price; retailer gets 30%) even though it would earn them more money per title and get them out of the loss leader business.
Not much information is available on Apple’s iBook app; the best coverage so far is Apple’s iPad: What book lovers need to know, on Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life blog.
See the live coverage of Apple’s announcement here.
I guess “iPad” is an interesting variation on “iPod,” but I wonder if any women had a vote on the name?
Update: It will sell for much less than many had predicted;
Expect announcements of price cuts for the Kindle. The basic model now retails for $259 and the larger Kindle DX, which is the same size as the iPad, goes for $489.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the man who just last year dismissed the Kindle because “people don’t read any more,” now says, “Let me show you another one of our apps that we’re very excited about, an e-book reader…Today we’re announcing the iBooks store.”
He said the store is working with Penguin, Simon and Shuster and a number of other big publishers.
Of course, books will have to compete with movies, tv shows and videogames, which can also be accessed via the iPad.
The iPad site is now up and running.
Months of speculation will end today as Apple finally announces their new product at 1 p.m EST (10 a.m. PT).
You can follow along on live blogs, including the Wall Street Journal‘s “All Things D.”
Textbook publishers are particularly excited about the announcement because it offers a solution to their problems with the used book market. Terry McGraw, CEO of McGraw-Hill showed his eagerness as he spilled the beans yesterday (thanks to GalleyCat for pointing this out):
In the past week, Amazon has managed to capture headlines for the Kindle, with announcements such as,
- the device is the most “gifted” item ever on Amazon
- “for titles that have a Kindle edition, Kindle book sales are 48 percent of the physical sales,” Jeff Bezos, inteviewed in Newsweek
- on Christmas day, eBooks outsold physical books on Amazon’s site
Most media have taken these claims at face value and have gone on to opine about the future of book publishing, reading, and even writing.
There’s one problem — Amazon’s claims are long on comparisons, but very short on actual numbers.
This was pointed out by Bobbie Johnson, the Guardian‘s technology correspondent on Monday. Johnson doesn’t accuse Amazon of lying, exactly, but of using “carefully chosen language.”
The blog “The eBook Test,” is not so polite. In an article headlined, Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud?, blogger Mike Cane challenged publishers to put Amazon to the test by revealing actual numbers for their bestselling eBook titles.
Figures from the Association of American Publishers show a different picture from Amazon’s. According to their latest stats (unfortunately, only through Oct. of this year), trade market eBooks account for only 3% of sales.
It is difficult to get real figures in book publishing. Sarah Weinman demonstrates this as she gamely tries to make sense of Amazon’s claims at the Daily Finance. As she points out, to understand how important Kindle downloads are to the entire business, we first need to know how many physical books Amazon sells and we don’t even know that.
An anonymous commenter on the eBook Test site gives an insider’s view (assuming, of course, that this person is who he or she claims to be),
I work for a trade house, and while I am not going to reveal my identity or that of my employer, I can tell you that our top Kindle sales of any one title are in the range of about 1000 downloads life to date. I am someone who receives the sales numbers for our titles directly from Amazon and I look at them every week; and, I agree that the actual sales numbers are much LOWER than anyone is pretending to have achieved.
There’s the added question of what do “sales” really mean when applied to eBook downloads. On the Kindle books “bestseller” list, 9 of the top 10 are free. For the entire list at this point (it’s updated hourly), 66 of 100 are free.
The tipping point for eBooks may be further off than Amazon’s announcements would make you think.
On the other hand, all the publicity that Amazon is generating may bring it closer.
From the Boston Globe today:
I worry that libraries, even the newest ones, risk becoming fortresses buttressed by books, protecting Gutenberg’s technology for reasons of principle rather than pragmatism. Librarians need to educate themselves, and us, about the possibilities and limitations of digital books.
Columnist Alex Beam goes on to acknowledge that libraries are not totally clueless about the digital revolution. After all, the Boston Public Library, “can hook you up to a website called Overdrive” to download books.
Beam feels that “every large library in the state – heck, in the country – should buy 10 electronic book readers and allow patrons to check them out for two weeks, just like real books.” His not-so- “secret agenda” is to let people test drive them. He thinks they will discover that “to know and use e-books is not necessarily to love them.”
Never mind that lots of libraries are already lending reading devices or that there was a flurry of protest in the Boston Globe itself when the newspaper reported that Cushing Academy in Massachusetts had ditched its entire library for electronic books.
Oddly, after urging libraries to educate themselves about eBooks, Beam concludes, “The revolution may be digitized, but not anytime soon. Support your local library and their dowdy – but essential – collection of dead-tree lit.”
As good as it is to see someone urge library support, it would better if he understood more about what libraries are already doing and the challenges they face (and, we admit, it can be complicated — we’re tempted to quote George Clooney in Up in the Air, “Now this is going to be a little difficult, so stay with me.”)
We invite Mr. Beam to learn more about libraries in the digital world; an excellent beginning is Marilyn Johnson’s This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (Virginia Stanley at HarperCollins Library Marketing is sending him a galley, but meanwhile, he can read the first chapter online).
Mr. Beam also has the opportunity hear author Marilyn Johnson speak at ALA MidWinter, held conveniently in his hometown next month:
Mon., Jan. 18, 2–4 p.m.
ALTAFF Gala Author Tea (tickets are $35; buy them when registering for the conference. If you have already registered, you can call (800) 974-3084 to add tickets):
- Marilyn Johnson, This Book Is Overdue! How Libraries and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
- Holly LeCraw, The Swimming Pool
- Janice Y.K. Lee, The Piano Teacher
- Karl Marlantes, Matterhorn
- Teri Woods, Dutch II: Angel’s Revenge
The Wall Street Journal warns that eReaders may be more akin to eight-track tapes than to iPods.
It seems many people are happy to read books on their computer screens and iPhones. The killer app may be Apple’s tablet computer, coming next year.
We also notice a few people are still happy with ink on paper.
After all the rumors, the actual announcement of B&N’s eReader seems a bit anticlimactic.
But there is some drama — PC World is already calling the Nook the “Kindle Killer,” naming five ways it’s better than its competitor.
Reason Five — B&N has actual stores, where people can look at and try out the Nook.
Bricks and mortar finally has its day!
News sometimes comes from strange sources. The Wall Street Journal reports today that B&N is running an ad in the 10/25 NYT BR for their new eBook called the Nook (photos leaked last week showed the name “Athena” on the device).
As the WSJ points out, one of the Nook’s benefits touted in the ad is the ability to “Lend eBooks to friends.”
The price shown is $20 less than the newly-lowered price for Amazon’s Kindle.
B&N did not comment to WSJ, but they have a press event scheduled for later today.
The New York Times reports that libraries are offering downloadable eBooks and audio. The shocker: users can get them for free!
The NYT explains libraries’ motivation this way,
Eager to attract digitally savvy patrons and capitalize on the growing popularity of electronic readers, public libraries across the country are expanding collections of books that reside on servers rather than shelves.
The idea is to capture borrowers who might not otherwise use the library, as well as to give existing customers the opportunity to try new formats.
Quoted are two major publishers that do no allow their books and audios to be downloaded, Macmillan (which includes St. Martins, Holt, FSG) and Simon & Schuster. John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, says he is afraid that library lending will lead to people “not paying for anything.”
On the other hand, Harlequin believes that library eBook borrowers turn into purchasers.
Images of B&N’s new eReader have been leaked to Gizmodo, giving credence to rumors that the new device will be announced next week (B&N is not commenting).
The images don’t reveal a great deal. The new device looks similar to those already on the market, but with an iPhone-type interface.
Although Gizmodo did not reveal the name, other sites are, saying it will be called “Athena.”
The Kindle Review does a side-by-side comparison of the Athena and the Kindle, which is inconclusive, since so many features of the Athena are as yet unknown (book pricing, whether users can lend titles).
I often see people in midtown Manhattan, taking pictures of skyscrapers with their cellphones and wonder what kind of images they end up with.
They may not be as bad as I imagine. The current New Yorker cover was created using “Brushes,” an iPhone app.
And, rising on Amazon is a book of iPhone photographs. The author clearly has a big following on his blog — he mentioned the book yesterday and it rose to #213 on Amazon. The book is part of the launch of his iPhone photo app., which is also called “Best Picture.”
He describes both in the following video:
The book is published by a small publisher; both B&T and Ingram are showing it on their title files. Libraries we checked don’t own it.