Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

99 cents a throw

The kindle ecosystem has made some self-published authors rich, and somewhat famous (John Locke is the latest example). But those are often exceptions that break the rule. How easy is it to make some coin in the ebook age. Keir Thomas, an author of computer books, tells us how his 99 cent a book experiment went – using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

As part of my regular but foolish publishing experiments, I put some $0.99 computer books on sale though KDP in March 2011 — Working at the Ubuntu Command-Line, and Managing the Ubuntu Software System

So does $0.99 publishing work, at least when it comes to computer books?

Yes and no. Did you really expect a straight answer?

Do it right* and you’ll sell thousands of copies. Working at the Ubuntu Command-Line is usually glued to the top of the Amazon best-seller charts for Linux and also for Operating Systems.

Something I’ve created all on my lonesome is besting efforts by publishing titans like O’Reilly, Prentice Hall, Wiley, and others…

British Library hearts Google

From the BBC:

The British Library has reached a deal with search engine Google about 250,000 texts dating back to the 18th Century.

It will allow readers to view, search and copy the out-of-copyright works at no charge on both the library and Google books websites.

But what if there’s a fire in the building…

From Ars Technica:

If you want real long-term backups of digitized ebooks, then look no further than dead tree. At least, that’s the consensus of the Internet Archive project, which has announced an incredibly ambitious plan to store one physical copy of every published book in the world.

“Internet Archive is building a physical archive for the long term preservation of one copy of every book, record, and movie we are able to attract or acquire… The goal is to preserve one copy of every published work,” writes IA’s Brewster Kahle in a lengthy blog post about the plan.

I’m not convinced that this is better than a strategy which archives multiple copies in a range of distributed locations.


A few years ago, I appeared in a lighthearted debate at Melbourne University in which I had to prosecute the case that the bookstore was dead. Our team lost the vote on a show of hands, and the bookloving audience was pretty convinced that bookshops would be around for some time. Now, we have Federal Government Ministers predicting their demise within 5 years:

Booksellers’ jaws dropped today upon hearing that federal Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry had predicted that online shopping would wipe out general bookstores within five years.

The minister said this morning he expected that only specialist players in capital cities would survive.

For the record, I suspect that Nick Sherry is both right and wrong. There’s obviously a seachange happening in book retailing at the moment, and booksellers are going to have to reinvent themselves or they will die. BUt I think the 5 year time span is a bit pessimistic. Bookshops will probably continue to be profitable for some time afterwards – they’ll just be on a long slow decline, and of decreasing importance and influence. Have a look at CD stores for a pretty good analogy.

Just read the comments in the article to see what people are thinking…

And this is why…

From The Guardian again:

A Canadian woman’s house is collapsing under the weight of the 350,000 books she rescued from a neighbour who was planning to burn them after her bibliophile husband died…

After trying and failing to sell the books online and to used book stores, Raycraft is now having to contemplate burning them herself. “We’re talking 30 tonnes of books. The weight of the books is pulling the house apart,” she said. “We are kind of at a standstill. I work at two jobs. My husband is a full-time student. We have three kids and no time. And no money. And so we’re at the point now where were looking at having to burn some of the books ourselves.”


The Rise of the App

A couple of links from the Guardian pointing to the role of apps in the new information economy. Firstly, a 21st century version of ‘Wasteland’:

Faber takes TS Eliot into the 21st century today, with the launch, in association withTouch Press, of an iPad app of The Waste Land that includes a video performance of the poem, notes, commentary and readings from Viggo Mortensen, Ted Hughes, and Eliot himself.

And then some reflections from David Starkey on how all this might work:

David Starkey is already a “cross-platform” historian, best known for his projects spanning books and TV. However, there’s now an app for that too. It’s called Kings and Queens, and while its textual basis is Starkey’s Crown and Country book, the iOS app is no cash-in.

Developed by Trade Mobile, the app uses a timeline user interface to explore the history of the English monarchy, with a wealth of background material to dive into, and entirely new footage of Starkey explaining the key points.

“It’s a case of the technology catching up with what I wanted to do,” he says. “Television is a performance, but apps actually reflect thought processes.”


A couple of interesting snippets from a Macworld article on the state of the US eBook market:

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales reached $164.1 million for the months of January and February 2011, a 169.4 percent increase when compared with the same period in 2010. For the same period, sales of combined categories of print books fell 24.8 percent, with $441.7 million sold.

And this:

Big book publishers are experiencing the shift to digital. “We’ve gone from a 90/10 physical and e-book split last year, to closer to 80/20, and expect that to increase again next year to 70/30,” says Maja Thomas, senior vice president of Hachette Digital at the Hachette Book Group, via e-mail while attending this week’s Book Expo. “It is too early to tell how the different paper formats will be affected—although I would expect most mass market buyers to migrate to e [e-books].”