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Cohort 9 Newsletter, Issue 4, September 30

“Do All (types of) Writers Have a Stake in E-Pub prices?”

by Michelle Harvey

In a recent post on Slate, its business and economics correspondent Matthew Yglesias doesn’t disagree that writers—he is one, he reminds us—are rightly frustrated that bundling books (print + digital) results in both economic and perceptional devaluation of book production costs. But, as he opines in “Writers Need to Stop Complaining About Amazon Making Books Cheaper,” the market is just operating as it always has, making certain professions obsolete as technology introduces ways to do things better.

“Price-reducing changes often look terrifying … to individual groups of producers, but that’s how progress is made and living standards rise,” he says, citing examples in other industries as well. He goes on to say, “The fact of the matter is that cheap books are a boon to society, and people who think reading is important ought to see it that way.”

Does it make a difference that Yglesias is a news writer covering current events and affairs on a regular basis, rather than a novelist or researcher whose livelihood depends on bulk dissemination of works that take months or years to generate? Are there subsets among “people who think reading is important” who feel differently about the value of a book?

Read the full post here:

“Big Publisher Stumbles Entering Self-Publishing Arena”

by Michelle Harvey

In an effort to tap into the self-publishing movement, Penguin in 2011 launched Book Country, providing a suite of production service packages with fees ranging from $99 to $549 per book. Only months after Book Country’s inception, however, self-publishers were crying foul with accusations of price gouging and otherwise taking advantage of inexperienced writers who don’t have a full understanding of the process.

In the royalty structure, Penguin takes a standard 30 percent cut from authors, then charges an additional 30 percent to upload the work to retailers like Amazon, a step that authors could take themselves, for free. There also may be an implicit assumption that working with the Big 6 publisher might eventually result in a publishing deal. Successful self-published author David Gaughran says, “A much-desired carrot is being dangled in the form of a potential publishing deal with Penguin. … Their backing will lead to some confusion.”

Penguin defends Book Country, saying that the services it provides are superior to those offered on other free sites, and that taking a percentage of sales is de rigueur. The company also does not suggest that writers using the service will have any subsequent publishing advantage.

Whether Penguin is justified in charging for the resources it has on offer, it seems to be a bitter pill for those in the know.

Read the entire article here:

“Is Amazon a Necessary Evil?”

by Kally Lange

Blogger Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader tells authors to sell on Amazon, a “necessary evil”.  A September 23rd post titled “How Not to Succeed as an Author: Tell Readers “Please Don’t Buy my Books on Amazon” was prompted by the recent requests of some authors to not purchase their books through megastores such as Amazon in support of independent book sellers.  Hoffelder sees these authors as working against themselves since “An author’s interests are best served by getting as many copies sold/ read as possible.”  He goes on to state author websites with links to Amazon make the buying process simpler which leads to more sales.  In turn, the authors on a mission to spread the sales around are putting links to a variety of indie book stores including the option to preorder from a local store of the reader’s choice.

It is refreshing to see authors supporting small businesses.  Bill Petrocelli, author of The Circle of Thirteen, stated, “As an author, it’s in my best interest to spread sales around and get as many stores involved as possible.”  My philosophy is “to each his own.”  It should be the author’s decision on how to promote their work on their website.  In this case, the author is the decision-maker on how to balance personal feelings on ethical business practices and profits.

Read the full post here:

Additional information:

“Penguin’s Return to OverDrive”

by Kally Lange

Penguin left OverDrive nearly two years ago due to OverDrive’s “exclusive deal to enable Kindle lending.”  The exact concerns with this policy were never released, but there have been critics of Amazon’s ability to collect data from OverDrive’s library users.  Penguin returns with the added “friction” of sideloading required to complete lending of Penguin books.  Major publishers wanted the inconvenience of traditional libraries to be present in e-book lending, too.

The article relates the customary practice of physical libraries problems, traveling to pick up books and returning them, to sideboarding.  Sideboarding, using a USB connection instead of air downloading, is an inconvenience but not a big one.  For a dedicated library user, this challenge will not impact their choice to borrow from a library over purchasing the book.  Most users will be happy with the addition of over 17,000 Penguin e-books.

Read the full article here:

“Which Publishing Method Fits Me?”

by Kaci Riley

Stanislav Fritz writes about the pros and the cons of the publishing world in his article entitled “EBook Publishing – Good News and Bad News” posted on the Pacific Lutheran University Creative Writing website. Fritz compares eBook only publishers to Do-It-Yourself publishers, as well as small book publishers and presses with both print and ebook offerings. He says an author has to be careful when pursuing ebook-only publishers, as some have “no quality control in either the manuscript screening or the ebook creation process.” Fritz claims that many online publishers are frauds, only looking to make money on expecting authors. He goes on to say that authors may not have to worry about this with DIY organizations, but they do have to worry about being taken seriously. However, there are a few reputable DIY publishers Fritz mentions that seem to be legitimate. Finally, Fritz discusses the small press/book publishers of the world. I agree with him when he states that using “a small publisher that really understands eBooks, yet still produces print books for market perception…should help limit the pool one examines for submission.” By limiting said pool, a publisher can raise his chances of finding a gem of writing.

Personally, I believe that Fritz has it right. All of these methods have their pros and cons, but for now the small press/book publishers have my vote for best choice for authors. At least the authors that want their works to become well respected, easily accessed, attractive pieces.

Read the full post here:

“Bookstore Battlegrounds”

by Kaci Riley

In her blog on *blogcritics entitled “How Amazon Killed Barnes & Noble, and Why We Don’t Care” Erica Verrillo discusses the battle between Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and how that affects the readers and the writers of the world. Verrillo claims that even though “Barnes & Noble had a better product, a better reputation, and a farther reach than anyone else in the book selling business” it just wasn’t enough to beat out the business strategies that Amazon is putting out. She goes into details on how writers can give their eBook away using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program. Readers can get a book for free, creating readership for the author. B&N doesn’t do this. Verrillo claims that B&N just can’t keep up with Amazon’s publishing rates. According to Verrillo, “Books in popular genres could rack up 20,000 to 30,000 downloads in a single weekend.” She ends with this “Amazon is happy. Writers are happy. Customers are happy. Everybody is happy. Except Barnes & Noble. Which is dead.”

Honestly, I disagree with Verrillo on her main focus. She claims that because Amazon is rising in the ranks so quickly, that B&N is already as good as dead. Granted, Borders took a hard road, but that doesn’t mean B&N has to do the same. If they can get their act together and create a great strategy, they could hold their own in this fight. Even though people like their eBooks, there’s still something about shopping at a bookstore and holding the books in your hands as you read the inside cover that just takes the cake. If B&N can harness that, they’ll be golden.

Read the full post here:


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Public Libraries and Amazon?


Ebooks are purchased through such vendors as Amazon or rented through local library websites.  Why can’t it be different and more user friendly?  Peter Brantley suggests merging the two together to ease the process of obtaining ebooks for the reader.  Academic libraries are part of large databases of journals and books available online if you have the correct access code.  Local public libraries also have their, sometimes modest collections, of ebooks available to borrow online with the serial number on your library card and password.  The key difference is large search engines such as Google Scholar allow users to identify their academic institution and access content for no charge thanks to OpenURL.  OpenURL is a mechanism for resources to be searched by ISBNs, authors, titles, and publisher information.  Knowledge Base (KB) then tracks if that particular article or book is licensed by your institution.

The author of “Resolving Public Libraries at Amazon” advocates for public libraries to give their lists of available digital content to Amazon.  For example, I want to read The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory.  On Amazon, I search for the book and a list of possibilities appears.  My local library has a digital copy, but all its licensed copies are unavailable at this time.  I can wait or purchase the ebook from Amazon for $9.95 and keep the copy instead of “returning” the library copy in 2 weeks.  Amazon accounts will be linked with public library accounts.

The proposed idea could be a success once all parties figure out the legal parameters.  It is an interesting idea that excites library users and may scare online book vendors.  However, Peter Brantley suggests economic models will stay intact since a library ability to lend is not enlarged, just made more user-friendly.  On the other hand, Amazon will benefit from having additional information to track on a book’s popularity.  If reader privacy is not a concern, this will be a great tool for ebook readers.  If privacy is a concern, sticking with your local library’s ebook aggregator may be the best option for you.  It’s all about options!


Source: Resolving Public Libraries at Amazon by Peter Brantley — September 4th, 2013