Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Amazon v. Print Publishers

We've covered the story of Amazon's battle with print publishers over e-Book pricing. The Christian Science Monitor has a concise summary of the strange number game behind this battle. In short, it's all about defining the market, for now, rather than profits. Here is a summary of the players'...shall I call it voodoo economics? Nah, that dredges up too many dead topics. Um, here is a summary of what the players want:

Amazon: dear Sirs and Madams: we'd like to buy your e-Books for $13 and sell them for $9.99. Thank you.

Dear Mr. Bezos: thank you for your concern. However, for your benefit, we prefer that you make a nice 30% fee for selling our e-Books. $18.50 sounds like a much nicer retail price.

Motives: Amazon is willing to lose money for now to set the buyers' expectations for low prices for e-Books and own the market. The publishers cringe at the effect that such a low price for e-Books will have on print book sells. Who's in charge here?

In another related article, I saw another motive: Amazon allegedly wants to take the "middle man" (publishers) out of the equation and deal directly with authors.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

eBook Market Analysis

Here is an interesting analysis of the fledgling eBook market and its relationship to the traditional book market. The analysis was done by TBI Research, a new market newsletter that will eventually be a subscription-only publication. I found this by way of agent Kristen Nelson's Pub Rants blog (highly recommended). Adding to the interest of the article are the comments that round out the coverage, including one by Tim O'Reilly, the publisher of the "O'Reilly zoo" software/Internet-related books found profusely in a bookstore near you.

One of the main points of the article is that Amazon is nearly alone, at present, flexing its muscles trying to bring down the cost of eBooks, while losing $2 per sale. It seems logical that eBooks should be cheaper to produce, and they are to a degree, but the degree is not as flexible as one might expect. There are many analogs between the newspaper print/online shakeouts that are happening now and the eBook/online/print book industry. It will be bloody.

One commenter mentioned that eBooks can be sold as iPhone apps. I think the iPhone app market is telling. Presently, many game and utility apps sell for $0.99. The reasoning is that people will pay 99-cents for anything on a lark, even apps that merely make rude noises...and sell 20,000 copies nearly instantly. I'm not suggesting that the book market can sell new books at that price level (and pay the authors a reasonable amount!), but part of the struggle is to find the what-the-heck level for eBooks. There is a point where print copy buyers eyes will arch at a bargain and past non-readers will say, what-the-heck.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

What Matters Now

Here is a free e-book, What Matters Now, that's making the rounds on the Internet. It's a collection of thoughts under a couple dozen categories. I think it can be best summarized using Apple Computer's ungrammatical slogan: Think Different.

Some of the thoughts are folksy, insightful or thought-provoking. I think there are many triggers here for flash fiction stories.

Here are a few examples:

Simplicity – if you can’t tell your brand story to a 9-year-old it’s no good.

If you’re checking for new email every five minutes, that’s 24,000 times a year.

Marx read his Darwin, but he got it wrong--capitalism doesn't self-destruct, it adapts.

Educate a girl, and you educate her children and generations to follow.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

E-Book Backlist Publishing Rights and Challenges

Who owns e-book publishing rights to older backlist books, the author (or author's estate) or the first publisher? Here are two articles about this topic and a third article on challenges to e-book publishing.

In this NYT article, author William Styrom's family is asserting their e-book publishing rights to his books (Sophie's Choice and others). Similar battles are ongoing for Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and for many other authors. Styrom's family believes they retain the rights since the books were published prior to the onset of e-book publishing. In this PW article, Styrom's publisher, Random House, disagrees. Random House chairman Markus Dohle's letter to agents states that Random House

...believes the “vast majority” of its backlist contracts “grant us the right to publish books in electronic formats,” while older agreements “often give us the exclusive right to publish ‘in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions.’

In a related article, Stephen's Lighthouse blog gives ten challenges for e-books, including price, perceived poor quality, a lack of richness and others.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Disney Online E-books Play

Through DisneyDigitalBooks.com, Disney Publishing Worldwide is offering an online e-book service for readers from 3 to 12 years of age. This is a no-device service (ie, no e-book reader such as the Kindle required). Disney has about 500 books online now and intends to continuously expand the offerings. This includes traditional storybooks and chapter books and newer material, such as Hannah Montana material. The service will include features such as storybook creation and a personal space.

Some industry observers [1 2] claim this is an attempt at an industry-defining move, marketing directly to parents, and requiring no special devices. The annual subscription is about $80. There is a monthly subscription of about $8. These subscriptions are for up to three children in the household, according to the DisneyDigitalBooks.com. They have a free trial, presently.

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