Readersforum's Blog

September 7, 2011

What smaller publishers, agents, and authors need to know about ebook publishing

Posted by Mike Shatzkin

As the shift from a print-centric book world to a digital one accelerates, more and more digital publishers are creating themselves.

The biggest publishers, with the resources of sophisticated IT departments to guide them, have been in the game for years now and paying serious attention since the Kindle was launched by Amazon late in 2007. But as the market has grown, so has the ecosystem. And while three years ago it was possible to reach the lion’s share of the ebook market through one retailer, Amazon, on a device that really could only handle books of straight narrative text, we now have a dizzying array of options to reach the consumer on a variety of devices and with product packages that are as complicated as you want to make them.

Free or very inexpensive service offerings through web interfaces suggest to every publisher of any size, every literary agent, and every aspiring author “you can do this” and, the implication is, “effectively and without too much help”. Indeed, services like Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) service, Barnes & Noble’s PubIt!, and service providers Smashwords and BookBaby, offer the possibility of creating an ebook from your document and distributing it through most ebook retailers, enabled for almost all devices, for almost no cash commitment.

Is it really that simple?

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July 12, 2011

Are illustrated books getting ready for their close-up? (Pinch and spread…)

By Mike Shatzkin

Last year at this time, the people I know in the consumer electronics world were saying that Christmas 2010 would be the season of the ereader. That proved to be correct, resulting in both a sharp surge in ebook sales in early 2011 and, according to Pew data, a continued acceleration of ereader adoption in the first six months after Christmas.

This year is expected to be the year of the touch-screen tablet computer. With tens of millions of iPads already in consumer hands and a plethora of devices with Windows or Android operating systems coming on to the market this Fall, the shelf space in the consumer electronics stores is positioned to fulfill that expectation.

And somewhere between the monochrome eink ereader and the tablet we have the Nook Color, which has a color screen, some tablet-like capabilities, and more of an ereader-like (cheaper than a tablet by half) price.

I don’t know exactly how many of these devices are out there; it is hard to pin that down. But Apple has apparently sold around 45 million iPads and is on track to sell 100 million iPhones this year. Those are global numbers. They are reputed to have about 75% of the tablet market now, although that percentage will surely drop as competition proliferates. The tablet shipments for 2011 are estimated to be in the neighborhood of 53 million. Gartner says there will be nearly 100 million smartphones in use in the US by the end of this year.

That’s an awful lot of portable screens on which people can well view much more than type on a page.

It was becoming obvious a year ago that the children’s publishing business was being joined by digital competitors betting on the fact that the widespread distribution of color touchscreens would open up opportunities for children’s product that hadn’t existed before. And since publishers have tried to improve on simple book technology for young consumers for years — think about pop-ups, die-cuts, and computer chips that made the books talk and sing — it seems like a reasonable assumption that more and more parents will hand their kids the iPad to “read” in the car (or in bed) rather than a book.

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January 17, 2011

What the powers-that-be think about DRM, and an explanation of the cloud

My last post stemmed from a single catalyst: my frustration with what I feel is the tendency of those opposed to the use of DRM to promote the straw horse that people who defend its use must believe that DRM prevents, or even largely discourages, piracy. I know that isn’t true of me and I suspected that it wasn’t true of most of the powers-that-be in commercial publishing, on the publisher side or the agent side.

I agree with the contention from opponents of DRM that support for it doesn’t have much basis in meaningful data although, in fact, there’s not really much meaningful data on either side on the books for which this debate matters most. For some reason, it feels like the anti-DRM side thinks you need convincing evidence to justify support for keeping DRM, but it isn’t a requirement to advocate removing it. But it is clear that my proposition — that it is wildly inaccurate to accuse DRM supporters of universally believing that they’re stopping piracy by employing it – is researchable. So I took a poll….read more

December 16, 2010

Mike Shatzkin discusses ways e-book sellers can differentiate

In publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin’s latest blog post, he reflects on the way that changes in the e-book market (most notably agency pricing) and the relatively similar features of most e-book readers (barring the occasional pet peeve or badly-formatted title here or there) mean there is no longer any particular advantage to the reader in buying from one e-book store over another….read more

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