05 September 2013
Sony are still at it. Delivering regular updates to their line of Reader digital book gadgets. Considering how often they release new versions they don’t seem that bothered about promoting the damn things. According to Endgadet.com, Sony pushed their new gadget off into the furthest corner of their stand at IFA 2013.
From the looks of things this new device has some interesting features. There’s the new Integrated Cover, Retractable Light, and a (3 minute) Quick Charge feature, which apparently will give enough charge to read a full novel. Other than that there’s nothing too much to write home about. It weighs 200g, has the E-Ink Pearl anti-glare 758x1024 display, and does a full change in a couple of hours or so. Read the full press release here.
I’ve not owned a Sony Reader since their Touch was released in 2009…wow, has it really been that long! I’m not convinced by the integrated cover - I haven’t used covers on any of my readers/tablets for several years now, or the light - but I am tempted to try out the T3. Perhaps I’ll have to take a visit to my local electronics store once it’s in stock and give it a go.
Have you given the T3 a drive? I’d love to hear what you think of it in the comments below.
28 January 2011
There’s probably just one thing that all book lovers have in common; we read many books. Nothing to complain about here, except perhaps that it get very expensive buying all those books. There is however a solution to help everyone get more books, and for free – borrow an ebook from your local library.
Many libraries now provide their members with ebook lending options, and as smartphones (iPhone and Android) and eReaders are now very popular, this can be a great way to increase your reading without increasing your spending.
If your local library does stock ebooks then they’ll be provided with the Adobe DRM protection system, which means you have use an Adobe DRM enabled eReader to read them. Such devices/apps include; iPhone/Touch, Android, iPad, Sony Reader, Kobo Reader Cybook, etc. Using the free Adobe Digital Editions reader app you can also read these ebooks on your computer.
To help ease people in to borrowing ebooks from their library, OverDrive (the ebook distributor for libraries) has released an app for iPhone (download here) - an iPad version coming soon - and Android, making it much easier to access and download from your local library.
It’s perhaps not the best eReader out there, but still solid enough. Here’s a short video introduction to the app from OverDrive themselves;
I won’t go into the details of how to get books onto your device as there’s already a comprehensive tutorial over at epubBooks.com, which explains everything you need know.
As a member of the Manchester Central Library, I was able to test this out; finding and downloading books was really quite easy. If I was to make one complaint, it would be that the selection of titles is a little limited. Still, ebooks are quite new and I’m sure the catalogue will grow over time.
20 January 2011
Unless you’d decided to live a life of solitude during 2010, you’ve no doubt heard that ebooks and ebook readers, both dedicated eReaders and multi-purpose devices, are hot topics.
At present the ebook market can still be considered a niche sector, but revenues in 2010 show that healthy amounts of money can be made and predictions for the coming years mean that it’s a sector no one will be able to ignore.
Finding ebook revenues for Europe turns out to be quite a difficult task, so we’ll have to rely heavily on those from the U.S., which even though they are not complete, current estimates put ebooks at 9.5% of adult trade sales in 2010.
A report from Forrester Research, Inc. (Read the full Forester research blog post back in November put sales revenue to around $966 million dollars for 2010, but expects this to grow to $3 billion by 2015. Although still low compared to the $15 billion generated from consumer books, it is still a substantial amount.
There are caveats (Mike Shatzkin’s thoughts on the Forester results) to these numbers, meaning they are likely to be well under estimate, and with others are predicting ebooks will be worth 50% of the book market (Futurebook reporting on Victoria Barnsley’s prediction) (varying from 3 to 5 years), this means no publisher can sit back and ignore the impact that ebooks are having.
Dedicated eReaders have also seen a huge growth over the last year, with the Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader generally being considered the most popular. Yet it has been Apple’s iPad that launched the current multi-purpose tablet craze and it’s probably these tablets (due to their larger screen sizes) that will drive up the sales of ebooks. I also see tablets being particularly strong in the non-trade sectors; professional and textbooks as well as digital magazines.
The sales of eReaders hit 6.6 million in 2010 (Computer Weekly: Worldwide eReader sales in 2010) and ABI Research expects them to reach 30 million by 2012, with 2013 being the year that they really “catch fire” (ABI Research: 2013 Will See eBook Reader Markets Catch Fire). Considering that the iPad has sold twice as many units as predicted (TechCrunch: Nobody Predicted the iPad’s Growth), it’ll be interesting to see if those numbers don’t fall by the end of 2011.
With so many eReaders, tablets and smartphones out in the world the demand for digital content will grow and within that content, ebooks is certain play a big part.
Sales of ebooks and eReaders in Europe are well behind that of the U.S. but with recent news that ebooks are starting to make an impact in the UK and Germany (Publishing Perspectives: Sales bode well for German ebook market), Europe is certainly catching up and the next couple of years is going to be a very interesting indeed.
16 January 2011
Last year was the year that firmly placed ebooks in the public mind and yet surprisingly it was the Romance segment that was the fastest growing of all genres within this market - at least according to research done by Bowker (as reported by the NYtimes). As an example of this, Barnes & Noble, the popular American retailer, was previously considered a non-entity in the romance market, yet they have recently taken 25% of the segment for ebooks. Quite impressive.
The most common belief of why romance novels have taken off so rapidly since the [re]birth of the digital reader, is due to people having the option to purchase and read anonymously - would you want to stand at the checkout, or on a packed train heading in London Euston Station, holding up a paper book with some half naked chap on the cover? But with an eReader the contents of your ebooks are all but invisible to those around you.
22 November 2010
If you’ve visited any of the popular eBook forums/blogs over the last year or two you’ve likely seen plenty of debates discussing how eBook Readers will only hit the mainstream once they get down below $100, although in more recent months a $50 number (One example is this Computerworld article: The e-reader market: Still young and restless) has been bantered around (£50 on our side of the pond).
Okay, I’m going to admit that I too used to think like this, though recently I realised that although we’ve certainly reached that sub-£100 price point, I’m not convinced we’ll get below a £50 mark.
The way I see it, there are a couple of reasons why we won’t see many eReaders dropping below this price;
Of course, this discussion could be a mute point as the future of the dedicated eReader is limited anyway—but then that’s an argument for another day!
What do you think? Will we start to see sub-£50 eBook Readers for the masses, or will they remain for the hardcore bookworms?
31 October 2010
Earlier this week Waterstone’s announced they would stop selling eBooks to customers outside the UK, due to people from other countries buying books that should not be sold in those territories (News source: theBookSeller.com).
It’s actually surprising that they’ve left the doors open for this long but according to Waterstone’s spokesman Jon Howells, “This is not a temporary move”. From now on you’ll need a UK address to purchase new titles, although any books already bought will still be downloadable no matter where you’re doing it from.
Although territorial restrictions have been around since forever, it’s only really been in the digital age where we’re starting to see real issues with it. These days everyone expects to visit a website and buy content, but we’re finding it more and more difficult to do that and naturally people go off to find ways round it.
Territorial rights are a funny old subject with many arguments for and against, but considering our modern world I’m not sure if there’s really a place for them any more. It seems to me that people want this content, so why not let them have it – wouldn’t everyone make more money in the process?
As someone who lives abroad I’m always having problems buying digital content (in fact all kinds of goods) due to territorial restrictions. These things just aren’t available in the country I am living in.
25 October 2010
Earlier this week the Publishers Association (PA) made quite a strong statement (see below) on their new eBook lending restrictions for libraries and this has had quite an impact around the web (Teleread.org response on the PA statement).
It’s not all bad, with some of these restrictions seeming pretty standard. However, what’s caused the real uproar is this, “library users [have to] come on to the library’s physical premises and download an e-book at a computer terminal…”
This is really an odd thing to want to enforce, in fact, I’m not even sure if it can realistically be done. For instance; we have to presume that at some point Apple users will be able to borrow from libraries. How are you going to connect an iPad to a public computer? Apple products are heavily tied to their iTunes software and I can’t see the library having different copies of iTunes for each visitor. At some point the Amazon Kindle will also support library lending (or have to be supported), how is that going to work?
The PA says that lending for remote downloads without geographical restrictions is a major issue. Although I don’t see why this needs to be an issue. I’ve not been a member of many different libraries, but when I joined Manchester Library in the UK, I had to provide them with my postal address. Is this not enough for them? Sure, people can use fake addresses (although I don’t know how they’d get their library cards), but then again, people can also download pirated versions of a book directly from the internet if they so desire.
The thing to remember here is that most people are actually quite honest. They do want to sign up to their own library and they will give their own postal address. The library system only has to ask for that users ID, and perhaps do a simple IP check to make sure they’re not trying to download outside of the UK. That same IP check could even look for which city the person is downloading from.
The PA’s statement about how the way the old system works was to say, “under this model, who would ever buy an e-book ever again?” That’s no different than saying, “with P2P access to pirated eBooks, who would ever buy an eBook ever again?” You can even replace eBook with Music album, but hey, Apple is doing a fine business selling music.
I know, and have met many people who actually want to pay for their content. Those people who usually do mass pirating don’t actually read/listen to that content, they just get off on hoarding it on their computers.
Maybe it’s just that they’re scared people will actually stop going to the library itself.
Below you can find the full statement form the PA.
Publishers, libraries and the future of the reading service
You don’t need me to tell you how difficult the times are going to get for the Public Library Service. I am sorry to be standing here today against a backdrop of difficulty of a magnitude the service may never have known before. As a publisher this seems especially disappointing as the last ten years have seen such an exciting re-imagining of the reading service, giving a strong platform to build on. Libraries are a vital component of the reading industry and the challenge you face is one that must be shared by your partners in the publishing industry. Outside the children’s arena until relatively recently publishers had ceased to see libraries as central to the industry. The relatively low commercial significance of library book buying (less than 4% of trade publishers’ income in the UK) has meant that the deeper partnership had not flourished as it once had and after the demise of the Net Book Agreement mass market opportunities and global expansion took centre stage. The threat of this new environment, however, brings new focus to what libraries contribute not just to our communities and society, but also to the reading industry and furthermore to its contribution to the creative economy. So what are we doing about it?
The Publishers Association is working hard now to support the lobbying effort to at local and national level, emphasising Public Libraries’ dynamic potential to deliver social change and its role in the creative economy. We are working with The Reading Agency and other library stakeholders to hep to create public awareness of the issue at local and central government, and are backing a number of initiatives with authors, the media, and the trade generally.
It is not only for commercial reasons that publishers recognise the importance of the library service. Publishing remains an industry with an element of vocation. Many authors and publishers believe simply in the good that libraries do, but the role libraries play in the commercial and economic landscape has brought freshness to the partnership recently. Reader development and the hosting and nurturing of audience have, though, brought publishers to the table for a more active and involved conversation with libraries and that’s part of what I want to talk about today. Before I do that I thought it might be useful to give you a brief overview of what’s going on for UK publishers, particularly in the digital arena. It is the crucial context for our involvement with the Public Library Service as we too face a time of unprecedented change.
Ebook sales represent between 6% and 10% of sales for some US publishers. For some books it’s much higher – Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom has sold 600,000 hardbacks and over 300,000 ebooks so far in the US. In the UK the release of the iPad in April and the Kindle in September has fired the starting gun for a proper ebook market for the first time. Predictions suggest that ebook sales will account for 3-5% of the market by this time next year. To make this possible publishers have to make a giant catalogue of books available digitally which requires royalty agreements, conversion of digital files to epub, storing, pricing, creating metadata, distributing and marketing. It’s a giant remaking of the canon and will take a little time - and all this alongside our usual activities, and with negligible extra revenue. However, there are already large numbers of ebooks available, most new titles will be available simultaneously in physical and print editions within the next 6 months, and within a year or so we should be catching up with the US model where Kindle has over 700,000 in copyright titles available. I’ll come to the question of how that canon is brought to the library service in moment.
Creating ebooks is not all publishers have been doing. We have also been transforming our marketing and our attitude to audience creation. Look at the publication of Stephen Fry’s new book. Penguin created 5 no.1s for the first time. Hardback, ebook, enhanced ebook, app, and audio. Their campaign for the book covered online, offline, home and global markets, created events, and made use of social networks as well as performance. Fry is particularly well-suited to this kind of new model but it created a new benchmark for publishers. It requires new skills. Consumer orientated marketing as opposed to trade marketing. You need technological know-how and imagination to make digital products beyond the ebook. You have to learn how to balance price across a range of products. All publishers will have to invest heavily to allow for this new balance to what they make, where they put their investment, how they generate an audience for all these different products, and how they distribute their wares. The days of pile ‘em high aren’t gone, but it only represents one facet of the campaign now.
It is this interest in developing audience away from traditional media and the book trade that has led publishers to think anew about Public Libraries. I have to say that without The Reading Agency this would not have happened. It is perhaps interesting that a small, entrepreneurial charity has achieved such a strategic shift in partnership with the commercial sector, and perhaps in a future where the service loses some central strategic support with the closure of the MLA this kind of model may create a path for support from the commercial side of the industry. Miranda and her team brought publishers back to the service as an interested stakeholder. Publishers have been taking books to readers in an increasingly mass market high street. The gap between the successful books and those described as mid list has widened dramatically recently, and it has become harder for writers to build careers. Commercial pressures have made partnering with the trade often more transactional, with less room for building audiences for writers over the longer term. Witness the demise of Borders, collapse of EUK, and the sale of Ottakars. Times are very tough. This has led publishers to seek a more direct engagement with readers, though not necessarily to sell to them directly.
The Reading Agency created, with championing senior publishers, a partnership scheme called Reading Partners to make this happen and has done so enormously effectively. After 5 years 39 publishers are now engaged with the scheme and work closely with libraries to bring authors into communities. Major authors are willing to do this now. Faber recently held events involving Kazuo Ishiguro. Iain Banks is due to do one next week, Ellen McArthur and Chris Ryan later this autumn; Lynne Barber, Blake Morrison and lots more will participate in a massive readathon for Penguin’s 75th birthday. More broadly Faber has created a series of poetry and crime events, Random House has done excellent online reading group events, there have been a host of readers days, and imaginative events like Girls Nights In and Historical Readers Panels. Like the growth of festivals from the mid-90s to now I can imagine this network of activities become a perpetual nationwide conversation between authors and local communities. That excites me and other publishers. And going further than that it could also herald the development of the already burgeoning partnership between the high street book trade and libraries. Waterstones are now members of the Reading Partners scheme, and independent bookshops get involved. Connecting the crucial high street stock-holding booksellers to libraries through regular thrilling events could also help the survival of many local bookshops. This may not be your concern, but the survival of an excellent library service and a diverse range of excellent bookshops both seem to me to serve the same goal of a thriving nation of readers which in turn must serve the creative economy, which we know is such a hugely important part of UK plc.
So, publishers are seeking partnership with libraries primarily because it is a place where we can build audience. In doing so we can help bring people to local libraries for events and we can assist reader development programmes. It also gives us a chance to create more awareness around some of our niche publishing areas and audiences including the BME market. There are other things that we can bring – expertise and promotional materials for a start. Publishers create huge amounts of physical and digital promotional materials for their books. Most of this is available to libraries.
When we talk about digital people often jump to the conclusion that we mean ebooks. Well, the first digital revolution for book publishers was in marketing. A few years ago I asked a newspaper editor who his main competitor was. He said CNN. He was having to learn to make moving images, away from text to sound and vision. Similarly publishers are moving from print to moving visuals and audio for their marketing. Our websites are over-flowing with extraordinary content; short films, interviews with authors, promotional videos, samples, audio clips, dramatisations. Our main challenge is populating the internet in places where readers will find this material. Libraries would be an obvious partner in this task. So if you want a website that is rich in content for your library members there is already an abundant amount of material available and working with the Reading Partners scheme I hope that we will be able to get it to you. The Think Tank later this year will be key in deciding best next steps to make this happen.
So what about lending ebooks? For more than a century the author and publishing communities have been in accord with the library service in allowing books to be borrowed from libraries, forgoing any anxieties about lost sales and supporting the central, civilised notion of universal access to learning. This need not change in the digital world, but lending ebooks is a much more complex subject full of greater jeopardy than the lending of physical books. Authors and publishers are already contending with the new challenge of digital piracy and so embracing ebook lending has been slow as authors and publishers have been cautious. Why? Authors and publishers cannot allow a universe in which ebooks can be accessed remotely for no charge without the strictest controls. To do so could undo the entire market for ebook sales. Unfortunately recent activities by some library authorities have only confirmed how potentially damaging e-book lending can be if allowed to operate without controls - some services were lending for remote downloads, without geographical restrictions. This was in breach of contracts between the library and aggregator, and between the aggregator and publisher, and was advertised to the general public as “free e-books, wherever you are, whenever you want”. Under this model, who would ever buy an e-book ever again? Or any book for that matter?
However, Publishers are keen to ensure that lending e-books is possible and want to support public libraries in offering access to e-books on the same terms that apply to printed books. A variety of models and suppliers are emerging and publishers are already working with them. The PA has had useful discussions with the Society of Chief Librarians, The Reading Agency and MLA. The members of the Publishers Association have now created an agreed base line position on e-lending. All the major trade publishers have agreed to work with aggregators to make it possible for libraries to offer ebook lending. The following maximum controls were agreed, though I want to stress that some publishers will chose to be less stringent than others. This is merely a base position to ensure that we are able to start to make the complete, vast library of ebooks available for loan:
Firstly the fee paid by a library in purchasing a book covers the right to loan one copy, of one book, to one individual, for a fixed short term period at any given time – various licensing models exist to support this condition.
Secondly, robust and secure geographical-based membership must be in place for all library services, with permanent members required to demonstrate their residence within the locality and with provisions to cater for temporary membership for visitors.
Thirdly, the system works on a download model, whereby library users come on to the library’s physical premises and download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, such as an e-reader, laptop or mobile phone.
Finally, a downloaded e-book will expire after a predetermined length of time (e.g. two weeks), after which it will cease to be available to read on the library user’s mobile device.
As I say, some publishers may take a more relaxed view, particularly of remote downloading, but the above criteria allow for a strong beginning that replicates physical lending. It is worth also saying that this may not be the only model. Subscription services are already emerging as in the academic world – Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online being a prime early mover.
We will now work with the digital library suppliers to ensure that this service can be quickly brought to libraries. What’s important is that we have been able to establish the principle of support for lending ebooks, and an environment in which this can be done that will put authors and publishers minds at rest while supporting the notion of universal access. It’s an important first step along the way and no doubt once underway we’ll work out further developments.
I will now hand over to Miranda. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you. I hope that the increasing closeness of our partnership will continue. One initiative that Miranda will talk about, World Book Night, will give us an extraordinary opportunity to work together in March 2011, and a chance to shout loud about the essential nature of the library service.
I also hope that our support for you over the coming months does something to assist you in your battle to adapt the service to one that continues to be excellent and that supports the major purposes for which it was designed. You may be sure of our vocal support for that.
24 October 2010
The publishing world is going digital, well, its trying. When we think of the costs involved in this the reaction from many people is, “cool, we’ll save loads of money”, but is this really true? Dominique Raccah from Sourcebooks says not.
Dominique has talk before about how Sourcebooks is finding it very costly to go digital and at this years Frankfurt Book Fair, she is making these comments again. I’m not a publisher myself, and I certainly don’t have experience with print publishing, but Dominique paints a pretty grim picture in this quote (Original Article from PublishingPerspectives);
“E-books have added six overall processes to the production of books, and a further seventy steps within those processes. Think about it: When I print a book, I provide the same printed book to every retailer — Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, whoever. But when I provide an e-book, that’s not true because there’s no standardization of formats. What Apple gets, what Amazon gets is different . . . Then every time there’s a change in operating systems, we need to change again. So that’s a lot of added expense. And this is without mentioning things like Apps!”
No one will deny that there’s additional processes involved in producing both print and digital versions, but I’d be interested in knowing what those extra 70 steps are, because I see this whole thing as being quite straightforward.
First, your book is stored in a master file, likely some form of XML, then from this one master file you can produce output for your print version using an XSLT stylesheet. You then only need to create a new stylesheet for each extra format; one for EPUB (Apple, B&N, Sony, etc), one for Amazon (Kindle AZW format) and perhaps another for a generic PDF.
Dominique also says there is no standardised format, but this isn’t exactly true. These days you have EPUB, PDF and Amazon Kindle format so you can basically get away with just those three.
Sourcebooks is the largest independent book publisher in the U.S. and is home for some very clever and talented people, so you have to take what is being said as pretty much on the mark. However, the way I see it, is that once their own backend has been adjusted they should be able to reduce the additional digital costs to a minimum. Of course, getting all that in place has huge costs, let alone all the staff retraining that would be needed.
Whatever the costs, Sourcebooks, and any other publisher for that matter, is going to have to accept it. If they don’t they could end up losing that top spot as largest indie publisher.
20 October 2010
From the founder of LibriVox, the free public domain audiobooks community website, Hugh McGuire heads up this new venture, Iambik Audio (Visit iambik.com). Working together with authors, narrators and print publishers, they work on a predominantly rev-share basis to record both new and old books, many of which have been overlooked by the traditional audiobook publishers.
This looks like a really great service and best of all, their recordings are free from DRM and are released at very competitive prices of between $5 and $10. Currently their selection is quite small but they have titles from authors such as Gordon Lish, Felicia Luna Lemus and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Lydia Millet.
According their press release (Iambik launch Press Release), “Iambik aims to change the way commercial audiobooks are made [offering] hand-picked collections…a little off the beaten path…with no digital rights management—meaning they can be played on any computer or mobile device.”
There’s no mention about distribution rights but all their current titles have been marked available “Worldwide”. Let’s hope they continue to have no restrictions for those of us outside North America.
19 October 2010
Better known for their photo-frames, Pandigital is trying for the second time to break into the eReader market (Pandigital eReader Press Release). Their first attempt; a full colour 7-inch touch screen reader, was beleaguered with poor performance and an unresponsive touch screen.
Their new model, the Novel Personal eReader takes a more traditional approach, using a 6-inch E-Ink touch display, WiFi connectivity , built-in speakers, on-screen virtual keyboard, and as with their previous eReader they’ve integrated the Barnes & Noble store for direct eBook access.
It’s as yet uncertain how the reader will perform, though as they use only E-Ink, the need for a super responsive touch screen is less necessary and as they are using their own unique User Interface, this could be an interesting eReader.
Due to the fact that they have teamed up with B&N and that their pricing is given in USD ($200 retail) this eReader will likely not be available outside the U.S.
Still, if Pandigital produce a hit then they could well decide to move into other regions where there’s certainly plenty of demand and a good choice of eBooks stores to replace B&N.
engadget.com has a small gallery of images for the Novel Personal eReader here.