Monthly Archives: January 2011

E-Reads Participates in Kindle Lending Program

Taking an electronic leaf from rival Barnes & Noble’s playbook, Amazon has announced a lending feature for its customers.

‘The Kindle Book Lending feature allows users to lend digital books they have purchased through the Kindle Store to their friends and family,” says a recent Amazon.con release. “Each book may be lent once for a duration of 14 days and will not be readable by the lender during the loan period.”  As loans are not sales, authors will receive no additional royalties, but it is hoped that loaned e-books will attract new reading audiences.

For would be lenders and borrowers, details may be read here.

Richard Curtis

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Are POD’s E-Books?

Last week’s Digital Book World conference lived up to its billing.  Each hour was filled with stimulating speakers and panels focused on every aspect of the emerging world of e-books.

Every aspect except one, that is.

As the three day event progressed I realized that one subject was being overlooked. I pored over the conference schedule seeking programming about print on demand. I found none.

Why should I have expected any? It was an e-book conference, not a print conference, right? Well yes, unless you think of PODs as e-books that are printed and bound. And I happen to think that’s what they are.

It’s not surprising that few think of print on demand as a form of electronic publishing. Because POD produces a tangible object – a printed book – we lump it together with other machine-made goods.  Of course, all printed books are machine-made, whether offset in large quantities or printed on demand in small ones. But that’s where the resemblance stops.

Offset printing is designed to serve a traditional bookstore distribution model. After publishers make educated guesses about how many copies they can sell, they print copies to distribute in bookstores. Because they cannot predict how many copies will be sold, a great many will be returned to publishers for full credit. In the last few decades the return rate for trade books has soared to 50% and even higher, and if the decline of the publishing industry can be attributed to any single business practice, the consignment model of printing and distribution is it.

Contrast that with print on demand, in which copies are not printed until customers have ordered them on the Internet and paid for them in advance. Although books printed on demand are occasionally returned, the return rate in POD is negligible.

Unlike offset printing, POD is ideally suited for a book industry based on preordering – what might be called the Amazon model, a model that is transforming the retail landscape. (See A World without Inventory, Part 1 and Part 2)

The offset and on-demand business models could scarcely be more different from each other. On the other hand, POD and e-books are twins – fraternal twins perhaps, but twins nevertheless. (They were even born the same year, 1998.) The way you order a POD book is identical to the way you order an e-book. The only difference is that the printed volume is “uploaded” into your mailbox instead of your e-reading device.

When we founded E-Reads in 2000 we made POD one of our foundation stones. We were certain that until a viable popular e-reader was created, the reading device of choice would remain the printed book.  This turned out to be correct.  Until very recently, when the Kindle revolution took hold, POD sales represented about 50% of our revenues. It remains a significant contributor to our – and our authors’ – revenue stream. And of course it provides printed copies to those readers who prefer them to e-books. And there are still a lot of them.

It is also becoming a significant option for small presses and big publishers alike. David Taylor, President of Lightning Source Inc., arguably the largest POD press in the world, reported last spring that business was growing at a rate of 20% to 30% annually. Lightning prints, binds and ships 2 million copies a month on machines that run around the clock, a statistic all the more remarkable in view of the average number of copies per title they print on any given press run: two! And that’s just one POD company. There are others including one owned by a little outfit called Amazon. Many independent publishers are shifting to a purely POD model, and bigger houses use POD to keep books in print after inventories diminish and the cost of doing new print runs is prohibitive.

If we may therefore presume to make a suggestion to the program directors of Digital Book World, some attention to POD in 2012 would be welcome by many attendees. How do I know? Well, about 20,000 people have signed up for the On Demand Expo in Washington DC in March 2011.

Are POD’s e-books? Without a doubt.

Richard Curtis

This is no knock on the conference organizers.
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The Best of E-Reads: For Agents, Timing Is Everything

From time to time we bring back some of the more popular articles and blogs posted on E-Reads. This one is from December 2009.

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Few authors realize it, but one of the most important reasons for hiring agents is that they have a superior sense of timing. “Timing is everything” might almost be called the agent’s motto (“Patience is everything else” might be considered the agent’s second motto). The most successful agents are those who understand that there is a season to push and a season to ease up, a season to fight and a season to turn the back, a season to watch and wait and a season to strike. Sometimes the moment presents itself on a platter; sometimes it has to be worked with brute force like steel on a smithy’s anvil. And there are times when, for all an agent’s scheming, for all his exertions, for all his manipulations, he simply cannot make the thing happen. (That’s usually a signal for me to go shopping.)

To understand timing – and test your instincts against your agent’s – click here.

Richard Curtis

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Bookshelf Porn

For those who not only worship beauty but cannot resist the temptation to touch it, Bookshelf Porn is for you. Book lover Anthony Dever has created a “photoblog collection of all the best bookshelf photos for people who *heart* bookshelves.”

We have all known this irresistible compulsion. But we wonder if Dever has reached high enough. Not included on his blog is New York’s Morgan Library, which for our money is the ultimate book space in the world. But don’t try touching it if you value your hands. The guards tend to get cranky.

RC

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After Dropping Its Shorts, Amazon Launches Singles

After terminating its popular “Shorts” program (see Shorts Cut Off), Amazon has reconstituted the program with Kindle Singles – fiction,essays and original works of journalism. Amazon says the pieces can be “twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book.” Leena Rao of Tech Crunch observes that “Kindle Singles are important because the new format gives bloggers and writers out there who may not have the time to write a long-form book, the opportunity to publish a pamphlet or shorter work. And it seems fairly easy for writer to publish these works, especially since Amazon is looking to build up its collection of content in this genre.”

Amazon Shorts, the company’s first foray onto publisher turf was established in 2005. It acquired original stories and nonfiction, excerpts of forthcoming books and miscellaneous offerings by well known authors and sold them cheaply. Many authors and agents participated, showcasing or previewing their work there, but in time the doors were closed to new submissions as the company focused on Kindle.

Obviously, Amazon felt that the demand for shorter material was still very strong. And it is. With the shrinking of print magazines writers have been desperate for an outlet for more-than-short and less-than-booklength work – 10,000 to 30,000 words, a length that Larry Dignan, reviewing the program for zdnet, says is his “sweet spot.” And Singles now offers it – plus a chance to pick up a few bucks. The pieces will be priced from $.99 to $4.99. Kindle describes the program as “Compelling ideas expressed at their natural length.” With a tag line like that, who can resist hitting the Upload command?

Amazon Launches Its Collection Of Short Works, Kindle Singles

Richard Curtis

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Recycle Your E-Appliances, But Where Will They End Up?

Nothing to do on a rainy day?  Try walking around your home and counting electronic appliances. Bring all your fingers and toes: a public policy organization called Demos says you’ll find about 25. Collectively, Americans own 3 billion.

In all likelihood you’ll get rid of some of them in the next year or two.  You’ll be joining your fellow Americans disposing of 400 million annually.  About 14% of them will be recycled.  What will happen to the rest of them?

Nothing good.

Jessika Toothman, blogging on HowStuffWorks, describes how “A whole bouquet of heavy metals, semimetals and other chemical compounds lurk inside your seemingly innocent laptop or TV. E-waste dangers stem from ingredients such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper, beryllium, barium, chromium, nickel, zinc, silver and gold.” Countless tons of it ends up being shipped to Asia and dumped outside towns where the poor scavenge and sell these deadly “bouquets” for pennies, incurring crippling and often fatal afflictions by doing so. You can read about it in Getting Rid of E-Trash?  Dump It on Asia’s Poor.

Some of that e-trash will be recycled e-readers.  When you replace v. 1 or v. 2 of your reading device with the latest upgrade, what will you do with the one you’re retiring?  It’s not too early to start thinking about where it ends up. The same stew of nasty elements found in computers and televisions can be found in so-called “green” e-book readers. See Greeners Speak Up About Toxic E-Books.

Little by little, however, things are starting to turn around.

Mickey Meece, writing about recycling in the New York Times, tells us that public consciousness is growing about recycling. Perhaps as importantly, the ways and means to do it safely and profitably have increased dramatically.  The consumer electronics industry recycled 300 million pounds last year, up from 200 million in 2009, and “About two dozen states have passed laws mandating the recycling of electronic waste,”Meece writes. “There are many outlets for consumers to recycle, donate or trade-in goods. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list, and the electronics association provides links with a ZIP code search feature to find corporate recycling programs and programs for donating used goods to charitable organizations. Earth911 offers an iPhone app.”

Typical of a green-minded appliance retailer is Best Buy, which Meece says will “will also take up to two larger items a day at customer service, including televisions and monitors up to 32 inches, computer C.P.U.’s, VCRs/DVD players, phones, remotes and keyboards. The company charges a $10 recycling fee for items with screens, but gives customers a $10 store gift card immediately…. For its fiscal year ending March 1, Best Buy anticipates recycling 80 million pounds of goods, up from 70 million pounds the previous year, said Kelly Groehler, a spokeswoman. About 75 to 80 percent of that is computers and monitors.”

Read about it in Giving Those Old Gadgets a Proper Green Burial.

Richard Curtis

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by the New York Times.

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Big Changes at Top for Harlequin

Randall Toye, the stalwart 27-year veteran of Harlequin and one of the principal builders of the publisher’s brand, will be taking early retirement, according to a press release issued by the company. His official title was Vice-President, Series Editorial. Moving into his position is Dianne Moggy, who has served as long as Toye and, like him, has put her stamp on every aspect of the firm’s operation.

It’s hard to read the tea leaves but our instincts tell us there is no deep dark significance to the change, nor does it presage any appreciable shift in the company’s direction and policies.

We will miss Randall, one of the truly good guys in the publishing business. But we are confident that Dianne Moggy will meet all challenges with her vaunted competence and good humor.

The complete press release is below.
Richard Curtis
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After more than 27 years at Harlequin, Randall Toye, VP Series Editorial, has decided to take early retirement. Randall will be leaving Harlequin on March 31, 2011.

Randall joined Harlequin in 1984 as Senior Editor, Gold Eagle (our Action Adventure imprint). In 1985 he became Editorial Director for Gold Eagle/Worldwide Library and added MIRA Books to his responsibilities in 1994. Later, Randall was appointed Series Editorial Director, and in May 2008, he was promoted to VP Series Editorial with responsibility for our global series business, including leading our series relevance initiatives.

Throughout his career Randall has dedicated himself to our publishing business and our authors. In recent years, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that our series franchise has remained relevant and vibrant. Randall has been a mentor to many in Editorial and other departments, and we would like to thank him for all of his talented editorial leadership at Harlequin and wish him well as he begins this new chapter of his life.

While we are sad to see Randall leave, we are also pleased to announce that Dianne Moggy has been appointed VP, Series Editorial and Subrights effective January 31, 2011. As many know, Dianne has also been with Harlequin for almost 27 years. She has worked in our Series business (both Gold Eagle and Romance); led the MIRA editorial program and the expansion of our single title business with the launch of HQN; and, most recently, as VP Overseas Editorial Strategy, Dianne worked closely with our Overseas partners to develop publishing programs with the greatest potential for success. We look forward to the insights and contributions Dianne will bring to the series business.

Please join us in congratulating both Randall and Dianne and in wishing them both well as they move forward.

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Is NYC Still the Center of the Publishing Universe?

Do you have to go to New York City to get published?

At the turn of the 21st century that was a dead certainty. You came to The City (it had no other name nor needed one) to shmooze with your agent and noodle with your editor and you went home not just refreshed, not just energized, but electrified by the intensity concentrated in the Manhattan heartland. You came in confusion and uncertainty but returned confident that you were back on track, having drunk from the source waters of editorial truth.It was as if faith healers had touched your brow and zapped you with enough received enlightenment to drive you for a year or two before it was time to return to The City for another laying on of hands.

Is that still true? Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, who bills himself as “Chief Executive Optimist” of Digital Book World, says so and in no uncertain terms: “For all the talk of disintermediation, real and exaggerated, New York City is still the metaphorical heart, if no longer the primary physical home, of the publishing industry. All of the major publishers and myriad smaller ones are based here, and despite the increasing amount of influence intermediaries like Amazon and their Silicon Valley competitors have, they’re no strangers to NYC airports.”

Thus spake Gonzales as Digital Book World today opened the doors on last Friday to two back to back conferences sponsored by his company FW Media. “Starting today and running through next Wednesday, more than 1,500 authors, publishing professionals, booksellers, librarians and technologists will be gathered at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Manhattan for the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference and Digital Book World 2011. While I may be a little biased, few could argue that the attendee lists for both events are as impressive as their respective speaker lists. I have the great fortune of participating in both events, giving a couple of presentations and moderating a couple of panels, all with one common thread: engaging readers.”

So, authors? Do you take Manhattan? Or can you take it or leave it?

Read details in Publishing Takes Over NYC

Richard Curtis

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Digital Book World Stresses Innovation

Digital Book World 2011, taking place January 24-26, 2011 in New York City’s Sheraton Hotel & Towers, is the only conference of its kind specifically aimed at trade publishers. The conference, chaired by renowned futurist Mike Shatzkin, will focus on:

* Research and Data – Without data, it’s all speculation, so DBW 2011 will feature up-to-date reports on readers’ buying habits, e-book trends and industry projections from a number of sources, including BISG/Bowker and Forrester Research.
* Content Strategy – From the acquiring editor and agent, to the production and marketing departments, DBW 2011 will explore what challenges and opportunities publishers face when they stop acquiring “books” and start focusing “content” and “community.”
* Ebooks and Beyond – From basic and enhanced ebooks to mobile apps and the interactive web, we’ll focus on the best practices and most profitable opportunities for developing, distributing, marketing and selling digital content.
* Metadata is Marketing – In the digital book world, discoverability is king and every publisher (including the biggest houses) needs to know how to enrich their data to increase sales.
* New Business Models That Work – There’s no shortage of ideas how publishers, agents and booksellers need to evolve; we’ll focus on the ones that actually work and can be profitable.

Finally, DBW 2011 will explore how independent brick-and-mortar stores are navigating the digital transition and how publishers can find mutually beneficial ways to partner.

E-Reads’ Richard Curtis will participate in a panel on “Rethinking Rights in a Transmedia World”.

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Conquest, World Domination, and What They Wore

Australian historian and novelist Stephen Dando-Collins has dedicated his career to chronicling the mighty legions of ancient Rome with such highly acclaimed works as Cleopatra’s Kidnappers, Nero’s Killing Machine, Mark Antony’s Heroes, Caesar’s Legion and, most recently, Blood of the Caesars. Now, in his just-published masterpiece Legions of Rome, he goes far beyond military history by describing in exquisite detail the food, clothing, arms and countless other quotidian aspects of life in the legions.

Here’s the book description from his publisher Quercus:

No book on Roman history has attempted to do what Stephen Dando-Collins does in Legions of Rome: to provide a complete history of every Imperial Roman legion and what it achieved as a fighting force. The author has spent the last thirty years collecting every scrap of available evidence from numerous sources: stone and bronze inscriptions, coins, papyrus and literary accounts in a remarkable feat of historical detective work.

The book is divided into three parts: Part 1 provides a detailed account of what the legionaries wore and ate, what camp life was like, what they were paid and how they were motivated and punished. The section also contains numerous personal histories of individual soldiers. Part 2 offers brief unit histories of all the legions that served Rome for 300 years from 30BC. Part 3 is a sweeping chronological survey of the campaigns in which the armies were involved, told from the point of view of particular legions. Lavish, authoritative and beautifully produced, Legions of Rome will appeal to ancient history enthusiasts and military history buffs alike.

This is a must-have book for lovers of Roman history, military history, or just plain history.

For more about the author, you may click on his Amazon author page or visit his website.

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