Archive for the ‘Electronic Publishing’ Category

Using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and e-books to get the word out.

 


Book launch 2.0

A modern book launch requires a media blitz that includes a Web site, a blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and more. What happens when an author dedicated solely to his craft is expected to handle such technological promotions? Observe one such case in the video "Book launch 2.0":

Hat tip to Tracy Mayor.


Why e-books don't need copyeditors

Copyeditors are essential to quality publishing, yet the economy and advances in technology have made them vulnerable. Many organizations' management philosophy is that the advent of online publishing offers the opportunity for errors to be corrected post-publication. Those copyeditors who remain in the industry often prioritize stories that are destined for print editions, which do not have that luxury.

The ability to improve something even after its mass market distribution has both pros and cons. On the positive side, there is no longer a deadline to a product's evolution; it can be improved indefinitely, eliminating a penalty against early adopters. It is also affordable for the publisher, who can issue updates without a costly reprinting.

However, it also lowers the standard at which a product ships. Does it have a few typos or unchecked facts? That's no longer a reason to miss a shipping deadline; such trivial details can be attended to once sales warrant it.

We've already seen this trend with video games. Twenty years ago, games shipped on physical, immutable cartridges; any defects would require an expensive recall, which was a powerful incentive to get it right the first time. By contrast in today's age of digital media, consumers don't think twice about their Xbox asking them, "Would you like to download the update to your purchase?"

I expect something similar will happen with books. Once these publications move to an electronic format, readers will become copyeditors, reporting typos to the publisher, who can then correct them remotely. It won't be long before Stephenie Meyer fans have to update their e-books to Twilight v1.1.

What do you think? Does the transition from a static medium to a dynamic one bode well or ill for the quality of our literature? And is that because e-books may eliminate more than just the retailer and distributor from the publication process?


No used e-books, for better or worse

A benefit of e-books is the lack of returns, benefitting publishers who have often contended with the fluidity and impermanency of books shipped versus books sold. But the current technology of e-books is such that the reselling of books is also eliminated. With no physical product, customers have nothing to trade or sell secondhand. This isn't true of all digital media: iTunes Plus tracks have no digital rights management (DRM) and thus can be traded or sold (or copied) freely. But I suspect e-books will be bound to the device to which they are sold, leaving them forever locked to their original buyer.

This must be a bookseller's dream, as it means every copy read is another copy sold. No more will used bookstores or library donations cut into the potential to sell directly to new readers. In some industries, such as electronic entertainment, the used market is seen as the bane of publishers, and even some retailers aren't fond of it. As long as four years ago, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, wrote to some affiliate publishers: "If your aggressive promotion of used book sales becomes popular among Amazon's customers, this service will cut significantly into sales of new titles, directly harming authors and publishers."

But is that an informed opinion? A 2005 academic paper entitled "Internet Exchanges for Used Books: An Empirical Analysis of Product Cannibalization and Welfare Impact" suggests that used books are valuable to the sales of new books:

Our analysis suggests that used books are poor substitutes for new books for most of Amazon's customers. … Only 16% of used book sales at Amazon cannibalize new book purchases. The remaining 84% of used book sales apparently would not have occurred at Amazon's new book prices. … This increase in book readership from Amazon's used book marketplace increases consumer surplus by approximately $67.21 million annually. This increase in consumer surplus, together with an estimated $45.05 million loss in publisher welfare and a $65.76 million increase in Amazon's profits, leads to an increase in total welfare to society of approximately $87.92 million annually from the introduction of used book markets at Amazon.com.

E-books are often cheaper than physical books, though, and they don't deteriorate like printed goods. So is the used books model even applicable to digital media? Either way, are publishers and retailers truly doing themselves a favor by eliminating the secondhand life of e-books?

(Hat tip to TechDirt)


Smartphones squash e-book readers in popularity

With a touch interface, accelerometers, and an online store that boasts over 100,000 apps, the Apple iPhone is fast becoming a mobile gaming device to compete with the likes of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.

But despite the App Store's "games" category enjoying more new releases than any other category in the last year, in September and October 2009, the most popular genre of new app published was book-related. Specifically, "In October, one out of every five new apps launching in the iPhone has been a book… The sharp rise in e-book activity on the iPhone indicates that Apple is positioned [to] take market share from the Amazon Kindle as it did from the Nintendo DS." (This may not be significant data, however, as many of the book apps are duplicates of public domain novels. For example, there are over 30 apps that offer Sun Tzu's The Art of War.)

The trend toward smartphones as e-readers may have already begun. Publishers Weekly recently printed a chart of who owns the e-book market. The iPhone and iPod together have captured 22%, which makes it the second most popular e-book reader, behind only the Kindle itself. It also makes Apple's product line 22 times more popular than the Sony eBook Reader.

Are Amazon and Barnes & Noble approaching the market the wrong way by hawking dedicated e-book readers? Why spend $259 on a Kindle when you can get a multipurpose iPhone 3G for $99?


Issues with the international Kindle

I'm having trouble understanding the concerns raised by the international Kindle, as related in Publishers Weekly. I think that publishers are worried that the correct editions of their catalog will be available in the right territories, lest readers cross borders to buy books that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Is that correct? If so, didn't Apple address this issue six years ago with the iTunes Store, or Microsoft with the Xbox Live Arcade — both of which are available on an international basis? Customers need to supply contact and billing information to make a purchase, and the online stores use that data to determine which products to list. What am I missing?

Is the issue that digital rights are not currently being negotiated on a regional basis, in which case a digital edition currently available only in American markets will now be sold globally, competing with the print editions exclusive to other regions? How is that different from now? As an American, I'm pretty sure I can go to Amazon.co.uk and order a book; if so, then the opposite must be true, and a Brit can order an e-book from the USA store.

The PW article repeatedly reported that the e-tailer (never heard that word before, and can't say I care for it) "has worked with publishers" on this matter. A quotation from an affected or involved publisher might've helped give the article some perspective.


Vooks are just a stepping stone

The Publishers Weekly article "S&S, Disney Try New Models" describes Simon & Schuster's new "vooks", a multimedia approach to publishing that combines literature with video on either your computer or mobile device. It's described as a good venue for "content that will never make it into traditional print".

I'm challenged to believe a publisher would ever say "no" to the possibility of subsidiary rights. If the vook fails, they'll want to salvage whatever they can by repurposing this content; and if it succeeds, they'll want to expand that success to additional markets. Expect to see vooks make the leap (backward?) to dead tree editions eventually.


The Bible according to Lolcats

It amazes me that everyday users of the Internet have still not caught on to the phenomenon of lolcats. Though having only emerged this past January, they have since spread across the Internet, most popularly found on the site I Can Has Cheezburger? and even being featured in the July 2007 issue of Time magazine. As succinctly stated in Wikipedia, "Lolcats are images combining photographs of a cat with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption." Lolcat captions generally employ phonetic spellings and poor grammar, suggesting the low mental capacity of the featured felines (and perhaps of today's cell phone text messagers).

Though I'm personally a fan of these images, I do think they've gone a bit far, as it's apparently not enough for cats to be cute and funny; they need to be spiritual, too. A full-scale effort is underway to translate to this pidgin English that most popular of texts: the Holy Bible. Observe the Annunciation as the Angel Gabriel proclaims Mary to be the mother of God:

Ceiling Cat sended Gabriel, a hovr d00d, to Nazareth (dat is a citi in Galilee) to a virgn naemd Mary. She wuz engajded to a d00d naemd Joseph. Gabriel wuz liek "O hai Mary, u iz realli nice. Ceiling Cat iz wif u." Mary wuz kiend of worrid about dat. But teh hovr d00d wuz all "Doant be afraid. Ceiling Cat iz happi wif u. U iz gonna hav a kittn. Naem him Jesus. He wil be graet. He wil be teh kittn of Ceiling Cat an his daddi will give him David's chaer. He wil r00l Jacob's house forevr."

… If that just doesn't leave you speechless, I don't know what will. I'm by no means religiously opposed to this project, but it does beg the questions: Why? Who has the time to adapt this material? And can I have some of that time? Certainly my day doesn't have enough hours for my own writing…

(Hat tip to Angela Gunn)