ENTRIES TAGGED "ebooks"
Kindle Serials, platform domination, and reading robots
- Reading while the book is still being written — Among Amazon’s many announcements this week was Kindle Serials, the rebirth of a very old model known as serial publishing.
- Who’s afraid of Amazon? — Apple & Google should be, according to this article about hardware and platforms.
- Technology shapes art — That’s how Amazon’s enhanced X-ray feature is described in this insightful piece.
How is ebook pricing changing our behavior?
I was on a conference call recently talking about piracy with Joe Karaganis, Brian O’Leary and Ruediger Wischenbart. At one point someone mentioned that piracy can be avoided when content is made available at a reasonable price and in all convenient formats. That begs the question: What’s a “reasonable price”?
I asked the group if they felt $9.99 is the answer. All three of them said that’s too high. Maybe we’re too focused on the 99-cent phenomenon and, of course, it’s hard to state a “reasonable” price when talking generally about all types of books (e.g., trade, technical, etc.) Nevertheless, it’s disturbing to think that the future of ebooks features a race to zero on pricing.
As long as publishers are offering nothing more than quick-and-dirty p-to-e conversions we can’t really expect consumers to pay more, especially since the e-version loses functionality (e.g, lending restrictions, can’t resell). I mentioned when richer products arrive and they leverage the device capabilities they won’t have to be as cheap as the quick-and-dirty conversions. Joe and Brian weren’t very optimistic about that. Brian pointed out that $9.99 has become such a standard in consumers’ heads that it will be hard to break that price point.
Joe then brought up a very interesting point: Pirates tend to be ebook hoarders. He noted that the definition of a “personal collection” has changed from dozens or hundreds to thousands of titles.
That’s when I remembered that I’m an ebook hoarder too. Low ebook prices have caused me to change my behavior. When a book is $9.99 or less I don’t even think twice about clicking the buy button. The result? I now have more unread ebooks on my Nook than I ever had before. And the number is growing. Every week. I’m heading towards a situation where one day I’ll have bought far more ebooks than I can read in the rest of my life and I’ll bet I’m not alone.
What we’re creating here is a world where lots of content is purchased but much of it is never read. Is that really what we want? Is there actually a benefit to publishers and authors when consumers pay a higher price and therefore have more skin in the game?
Consider these purely hypothetical scenarios:
- Scenario #1: An ebook is priced at $1, sells 100 copies but only 3 buyers actually read it.
- Scenario #2: That same ebook is instead priced at $20, sells only 5 copies but every customer reads it.
Which scenario do you prefer as publisher/author, especially if you’re looking to sell the next book in the series?
HTML5 solves today's single-source file, compatibility and rendering problems
Our TOC theme for August was platforms and we transition to the theme of formats in September. In a couple of earlier interviews we talked about the future of iOS and Android as publishing platforms. I also wrote a piece about how the ultimate winner isn’t actually a platform at all. It’s time to bring in an expert and tell us whether HTML5 really is the future of publishing, both as a platform and a format.
I picked one of the smartest people I know for the job. His name is Sanders Kleinfeld and he’s a publishing technology engineer here at O’Reilly. That’s a fancy way of saying he knows digital publishing inside out. Sanders has worked extensively with HTML5 and is the author of our free ebook, HTML5 for Publishers.
New services will test the boundaries between retailers and publishers
One summer morning in 2009 countless Kindle customers awoke to discover that Amazon had remotely deleted a couple of George Orwell books from their devices. There was much debate about whether this step should have been taken and Amazon eventually noted that “we are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.”
That’s a smart adjustment, but how much control should an ebook retailer have over the content it distributes? Should the retailer be allowed to alter any of the content?
Why are we making the publisher-library relationship so complicated?
Why can’t the publisher-to-library sales model simply be the same as it is for every other ebook channel? The only difference is the library can only lend the ebook out to one patron at a time, just like the print version. Set a discount schedule off the publisher’s digital list price and call it a day. Some libraries might want to order one copy while others might want ten. Again, same as the print world.
Publishers are apparently afraid of lost sales. Why is this any more an issue in the ebook world than in the print book world? It’s really an opportunity for discovery and, more importantly, distribution.
New approaches and tools are required to develop and present the highest fidelity content across devices
Remember the old days when print was the only format a publisher had to worry about? Now the minimum output requirements include PDF, mobi and EPUB. But what about the devices used to read those formats? You’ve got to consider eInk displays, mobile phones, tablets and computers.
We’re in the very early innings of the ebook game and our focus is mostly still on quick-and-dirty print-to-e conversions. That means the ebook pretty much renders the same way as the print book. Reading devices offer so much horsepower and presentation capabilities yet the vast majority of our content is nothing more than the printed page on a screen. Why?
What's next if device sales from the two market leaders have plateaued?
I was disappointed to read that B&N’s Nook business was basically flat year-over-year. How could that be in such a red hot market? Ebook sales are skyrocketing and everyone seems to be buying new devices.
The more I think about it though the more I realize that B&N’s results are consistent with other data points we’ve seen this year and part of a broader industry trend.
Expanding reach and creating new revenue streams
We’re all familiar with the in-app purchase model. It’s a way to convert a free app into a revenue stream. In the gaming world it’s an opportunity to sell more levels even if the base product wasn’t free. Each of the popular ereader apps allow you to purchase books within them, of course, but why does it end there? What if you could make additional purchases within that ebook?
Developers and ereader vendors are missing an app opportunity
I read on my GlowLight NOOK much more frequently than I read on my Asus Transformer tablet. I’d say there’s at least a 10:1 differential, so for every hour I read on my tablet I read at least 10 hours on my Glowlight Nook. I’ll bet I’m not alone and people who own both an E Ink device and a tablet probably do much more reading on the former. So why is the apps ecosystem limited to tablets? Why are there no add-on apps for E Ink devices in general?
In a recent TOC newsletter we asked readers “What do you wish your ereader could do?” We received quite a few replies, but one of the more interesting ones came from a person who said they’d like to have apps like Flipboard, Zite and Pulse on their E Ink device. I found that interesting because those are the apps (along with News360) I use almost every day on my tablet. If there were Nook E Ink versions, that 10:1 ratio noted earlier would probably become 50:1 as there would be less reason for me to switch to my tablet for reading.
Old ebooks and clever thinking can create new opportunities for publishers.
I’ve got quite a few ebooks in two different accounts that I’ve read and will never read again. I’ll bet you do, too. In the print world, we’d pass those along to friends, resell them or donate them to the local library. Good luck doing any of those things with an ebook.
Once you buy an ebook, you’re pretty much stuck with it. That’s yet another reason why consumers want low ebook prices. Ebooks are lacking some of the basic features of a print book, so of course they should be lower-priced. I realize that’s not the only reason consumers want low ebook prices, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. I’d be willing to pay more for an ebook if I knew I could pass it along to someone else when I’m finished with it.