Monthly Archives: May 2011

E-Reads Teams Up with Diesel Retailer

Diesel-eBooks.com Announces Direct Partnership with Richard Curtis’ E-Reads

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 1, 2011

Contact: Kelley L. Allen
Phone: (908) 294-1818

Leveraging the power of Diesel’s new Web store platform, E-Reads has designated Diesel-eBooks.com its preferred eBook retailer.

Richmond, VA—Feb. XX, 2011 – The Diesel eBook Store , one of the world’s largest independent eBook stores, today announced that it has entered into a strategic alliance with E-Reads, a leading publisher of quality fiction and nonfiction reprints. Richard Curtis, founder of E-Reads and president of a leading literary agency, is a highly respected and innovative figure in the publishing world.

As part of the agreement, Diesel-eBooks.com will be the preferred retailer of E-Reads’ extensive list of titles on the E-Reads.com’s site. All E-Reads eBooks will be sold without encryption.

E-reads has an extensive catalog of 1200 eBook titles by renowned authors in a variety of genres including romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller Authors include Hannah Howell, Harlan Ellison, Greg Bear, Robert Silverberg, Dan Simmons, William C. Dietz, Janet Dailey, Jennifer Blake, Alan Dean Foster and John Norman, to name just a few.

“Diesel has soared to a prominent place among e-book retailers and we‘re very gratified to cast our lot with them,” said Richard Curtis, President of E-Reads.

“E-Reads is an industry pioneer and Richard Curtis has always been a strong voice for eBooks. We are so thrilled to have them on board as a direct publisher,” said Scott Redford, owner of Diesel-eBooks.com

As part of the deal, a new proprietary PubDesk interface, through which the publisher can access its inventory, run reports and modify its metadata, has been created and will launch shortly on Diesel-eBooks.com.

Diesel-eBooks.com launched its brand new eBook retailing platform in December 2010 and is unique in the marketplace for their expanded categories and their ability to host customer created bundles. Their new site also boosts a suite of new features such as the “Deal of the Day”, social networking , video integration, access to over two million free eBooks via partnerships with Google and Smashwords and a new and improved search engine.

About the Diesel eBook Store
Launching in December 2004, Diesel-eBooks.com is one of the world’s largest independent eBook stores, offering over 2.4 million original eBook titles including hundreds of exclusive cyber bundles for deep discounts. Based in Richmond, Virginia, Diesel-eBooks.com sells titles from hundreds of publishers including Harlequin, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, O’Reilly, Penguin, Random House, and Smashwords and in multiple formats including ePub, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket, and Palm/eReader and PDF for all eBook devices and eReading hardware. Forty categories and 2,700 sub-categories mean customers find it faster at Diesel eBooks.

About E-Reads
Founded in 1999 at the dawn of the digital era by renowned literary agent, Richard Curtis, E-Reads™ is the oldest independent e-book publisher in the field and an innovative leader in the modern book industry. Their mission is to bring out-of-print books back in electronic and print formats and create an independent e-book market for authors.

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E-Reads Teams Up with Diesel Retailer

Leveraging the power of Diesel’s new Web store platform, E-Reads has designated Diesel-eBooks.com its preferred e-book retailer.

The Diesel eBook Store , one of the world’s largest independent eBook stores, today announced that it has entered into a strategic alliance with E-Reads, a leading publisher of quality fiction and nonfiction reprints. Richard Curtis, founder of E-Reads and president of a leading literary agency, is a highly respected and innovative figure in the publishing world.

As part of the agreement, Diesel-eBooks.com will be the preferred retailer of E-Reads’ extensive list of titles on the E-Reads.com’s site. All E-Reads eBooks will be sold without encryption.

E-reads has an extensive catalog of 1200 eBook titles by renowned authors in a variety of genres including romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller Authors include Hannah Howell, Harlan Ellison, Greg Bear, Robert Silverberg, Dan Simmons, William C. Dietz, Janet Dailey, Jennifer Blake, Alan Dean Foster and John Norman, to name just a few.

Read the full announcement here.

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Like My Book? Send Money

A recent innovation for funding movie script and other creative projects is the website Kickstarter.com. You just had to know it would come to books and now it has. It’s called Unbound.co.uk.

According to Wired’s UK website, “Three writers have teamed up to launch a new publishing platform — Unbound — that allows authors to pitch their book ideas directly to readers who then pledge their support through funding.”

Here’s how it works: “Authors upload their ideas to Unbound.co.uk and readers then choose the ideas that they like and pledge their support (from £10 to funding the entire book). Once the idea has enough supporters, the book is written and supporters receive a clothbound limited Unbound First Edition with their name in it. Supporters can track the creative process via the author’s private area or ‘shed’, where they can read the author’s blog, watch interviews and meet other supporters. Rewards for higher pledges include an invitation to the book launch party and lunch with the author.”

Okay, authors, time to kiss up to rich Aunt Edna…

For details read Kickstarter for Book Launches

Credit for the first fan-financed story goes to Stephen King, but here’s a cautionary tale: even so august a name as King struggled to make the venture pay for his story The Plant.   Here is Wikipedia’s summary:

In 2000, King published the novella Riding the Bullet over the internet, making it the world’s first mass-market e-book. However, there were technical problems with downloading, and hackers eventually cracked the encryption on it.

Later that year, King decided to release The Plant directly via his website, unencrypted and in installments. People could pay a one-dollar fee for each installment using the honor system. He threatened, however, to drop the project if the percentage of paying readers fell below 75 percent. He viewed the release as an experiment in alternate forms of distribution, writing on his website at the time, “My friends, we have the chance to become Big Publishing’s worst nightmare.”

More than 200,000 customers downloaded free copies of the story in a 24-hour promotion through the Barnes and Noble website.[citation needed]

The book received over the desired 75 percent for its first installment, but this fell to 70 percent after installment two. With the third installment, the numbers surged back up to 75 percent.[citation needed]

King decided to double the cost of the fourth part of the novel to two dollars, while at the same time doubling the number of pages to 54. He also promised to cap the total cost of the entire book at a total of 13 dollars. Paying readers dropped to 46 percent of downloads. The number of downloads decreased overall as well.[citation needed]

The last installment was published on December 18, 2000. The book has yet to be completed.

Richard Curtis

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Books: The Husband’s Best Friend

The next time your wife complains that you never hear what she is saying to you, plead inattentional deafness. Tell her that it has been scientifically confirmed that your brain capacity cannot accommodate both visual and hearing senses at the same time. Cite the report in the Daily Mail that “Scientists demonstrated that when someone focuses their full attention on something, they can become deaf to normally audible sounds.” “Inattentional Deafness” is the formal name of the syndrome.

Your wife in all probability will have long ago reached a conclusion about the limits of your brain capacity and may commonly resort to getting your attention by whacking the carapace of your skull with a rolled up issue of Vogue. But now that your inattentiveness is grounded in the diligent investigations of neuroscientists you have a perfect excuse for not responding to her. You should therefore carry a book with you at all times and keep your nose buried in it, whether or not you are interested in it or indeed whether or not you are even literate, lest you be bereft of an excuse when you do not hear her addressing a question to you.

Inattentional deafness may have graver consequences than a lump on your pate, for it is also the reason why your visual acuity as a driver may be compromised by listening to the radio or an audiobook – or to that selfsame wife. So, for safety’s sake, you may have to choose between looking and listening.

You can read details of the experiment in Lost in a book? How reading and doing crosswords can block your ability to hear

No sexism is implied in this article. A variety of experiments, such as one published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, confirm that women are more attentive than men. These findings were reinforced by an informal survey undertaken by this blogger at Clancy’s in Times Square, where for some reason a preponderance of male patrons were immersed in books.  In response to being asked if they paid attention to their wives 85% of the respondents said “Huh?”  The same question was then posed to male non-readers. Only 65% responded “Huh?” (and 25% responded “What the hell business is it of yours?”) The remaining respondents concurred with the man who said he paid one hundred percent attention to his wife ten percent of the time.

Richard Curtis

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The Elephant in the Javits Center

Publishers Weekly‘s Judith Rosen described e-books as “the elephant in the Javits Center.” There was indeed an elephant there but I don’t think it was e-books.

Javits is of course the coliseum where the publishing industry assembles annually to celebrate books, extol brick and mortar bookshops and glorify booksellers at Book Expo America. Visitors perform the ritual known as “the crawl,” strolling up and down the aisles of the 675,000 square foot coliseum like browsers in a bookshop the size of Versailles. Though references to digital technology are plentiful they are not inescapable.  You can actually pretend that the book is the reigning artifact of civilized humanity and that the Red Death is not standing outside the ballroom patiently waiting for our dance to be over.

Oren Teicher, the CEO of the American Bookseller Association, shattered the fantasy by reminding his constituency that the plague was already in the room and they damned well need to do something to expel it. “The simple fact is that to most consumers, if you don’t exist online you simply don’t exist,” he said.

To prevent the the printed book from becoming “a relic of an antique era” he called for a host of new business models. The one that raised our eyebrows was ending the returnability of books. If anything is a relic of an antique era it’s the custom of permitting bookstores to return unsold stock to publisher for full credit.  Whatever good reason for instituting returnability a long time ago it has done more to undermine the publishing industry than an invasion force of Kindles, Nooks and iPads.  If anyone seeks the real elephant in the Javits center it is this pernicious practice, and if Mr. Teicher knows of a practical way to expel the beast, we welcome the endeavor.

See BEA 2011: Teicher Calls for New Retail Business Models

Richard Curtis

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Should Bookstores Be Publishers Too?

The following article was published in June 2009.  In view of Amazon’s announcement of the creation of a New York book publishing initiative, we thought you might find it relevant.

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Lev Grossman and Andrea Sachs write in Time magazine about our love-hate relationship with Amazon. Their conclusion? It depends on who’s doing the loving and who’s doing the hating. Defining Amazon is about as easy for us as defining the elephant was for the blind monks of Chinese legend. Time succinctly states the case:

“Amazon has diversified itself so comprehensively over the past five years that it’s hard to say exactly what it is anymore. Amazon has a presence in almost every niche of the book industry. It runs a print-on-demand service (BookSurge) and a self-publishing service (CreateSpace). It sells e-books and an e-device to read them on (the Kindle, a new version of which, the DX, went on sale June 10). In 2008 alone, Amazon acquired Audible.com a leading audiobooks company; AbeBooks, a major online used-book retailer; and Shelfari, a Facebook-like social network for readers. In April of this year, it snapped up Lexcycle, which makes an e-reading app for the iPhone called Stanza.”

As if all that were not enough, Amazon has now become a publisher, too….

To continue click here.

Richard Curtis

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The Real Kindle Killer

This is Book Expo America Week. Though it has traditionally been a celebration of printed books, more and more attention is paid by exhibitors and fans to electronic books.  The following article, published on the Clarion Blog, is adapted from Richard Curtis’s 2011 keynote speech at the Writers Digest Conference.

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Since the Kindle was introduced in 2007 we’ve seen scores of rival gadgets, all touted as Kindle Killers. The Nook can do this and the iPad can do that and the Sony can do the other thing. And it’s true, they’re all wonderful in their own way. But I want to talk about a reading device that I’m crazy about that I think has been neglected in this tidal wave of hype.

Behold, emerging from 500 years of beta testing, the real Kindle Killer.

To continue click here.

Richard Curtis

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Larry Kirshbaum to Run Amazon NYC

For some time it’s been clear that Amazon was moving in the direction of original publication, such as its announcement of a romance line and the hiring of a science fiction editor.  But no one could foresee that Amazon would jump in with both feet.  That has changed with a blockbuster announcement that will undoubtedly dominate Book Expo America and create major earthquakes in the book industry landscape.

According to an Amazon source, Laurence Kirshbaum, former CEO of the Time-Warner Book Group and more recently a literary agent, “has accepted the role of Publisher for Amazon’s New York publishing office, effective July 5th.”

Kirshbaum will assemble an editorial team that will develop and manage new Amazon imprints “with a focus on acquiring the highest quality books in literary and commercial fiction, YA, business and general non-fiction,” said the source.

What will happen to Kirshbaum’s literary agency is just one of many questions that will be answered in weeks to come.

Richard Curtis

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The Real Kindle-Killer

Since the Kindle was introduced in 2007 we’ve seen scores of rival gadgets, all touted as a Kindle Killer. The Nook can do this and the iPad can do that and the Sony can do the other thing. And it’s true, they’re all wonderful in their own way. But I want to talk about a reading device that I’m crazy about that I think has been neglected in this tidal wave of hype.

Behold, emerging from 500 years of beta testing, the real Kindle Killer. Like so many other reading devices it’s got a cutesy name. It’s called The Book.

Let’s review some of its features.

* It’s really sleek. At five inches by eight inches, the Greeks would have appreciated the perfection of its dimensions.
* It’s light. It weighs 15 ounces, placing it between the flimsy-feeling Kindle and the weighty iPad.
* It’s flexible: you can roll it up without damaging it.
* Its operating system is 50-pound paper stock bound on the left-hand seam.
* It has no battery that we’re aware of, nor are we able to locate anything resembling a wireless antenna.
* Its graphic interface is ivory-white and its surface packs so many dots per inch that we are able to read eight- or even six-point text clearly in ambient light.
* There is no pixilation whatever.
* How about surface reflectivity? Unlike the Apple iPad, whose mirrorlike surface will blind you at the beach, the surface reflectivity of The Book is negligible.
* It’s almost impossible to smudge. You can press your thumb onto the surface but you won’t see a hint of fingerprint.
* You can drop the book on a concrete floor but when you pick it up it will still operate perfectly.
* Bookmarking is a cinch. You just insert a small card to mark your place, and when you’re ready to resume reading you pick up where you left off without a moment’s delay.
* Pagination? Instead of a progress bar, this gadget reckons your progress in consecutive numbers. Just like the Kindle.
* The Book smells great.
* It sound great, too. When you activate the page-turning feature (the technical term is “flipping the pages”) you will hear a satisfying pffftt. Just like the iPad.

There are admittedly a few design flaws. The Book is not backlit and requires supplemental lighting in a dim room. such as a light bulb. Another small problem is that it must be operated with two hands, one to support it and one to activate the page-turning mechanism. And dictionary and thesaurus lookup are a little clunky, requiring offsite reference texts.

But these are petty annoyances, especially when you hear the price. Fully loaded, how much would you expect to pay for this baby? Three hundred bucks? Five hundred? Would you believe $14.95?

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I may be a pioneer in the e-book business, but as far as I’m concerned the printed book remains the perfect reading device, and anyone who thinks it’s nothing but a fifteenth century artifact is in for a big surprise.

Right now we are totally infatuated with reading on screens, and there’s a lot to be infatuated about. Everyone I know who has a Kindle adores it. And the Apple iPad is a miracle of modern technology. But a time is coming when we’ll rub the fairy dust out of our eyes and discover serious shortcomings in the use of screens for the purpose of reading. And some of those shortcomings are pretty serious. When we realize that they are, we will take a new, good long look at printed books and we will realize that there is simply nothing comparable.

I can hear you saying, “Yeah, but by the time we do realize it, the book industry will be over.” Well, the book industry that I grew up with and that many of you grew up with – that industry may well be over. In my own lifetime I have seen the number of viable trade book publishing companies shrink from around one thousand to around one dozen.

The remaining houses have been granted a stay of execution by digital technology, but even they will be unrecognizable a decade from now, because the paradigm shift will have completely altered the way printed books are published and distributed. So let’s remind ourselves about how they are published and distributed.

As I just demonstrated, there is nothing wrong with books themselves. No creation of science and technology can match it for sensory pleasure. It completely satisfies four out of five of your basic senses – visual, audial, tactile, and olfactory. I’ve never eaten a book, so I don’t know how they taste.

It’s not just the books but the culture of books that I am so enamored of. From the collegial relationships of book-loving men and women to the wheeling and dealing to that unique blend of commerce and culture known as the publishing lunch – the environment of the old publishing world cannot be duplicated by that solitary enterprise known as self-publishing. The narcotic excitement of discovering a new voice, of sharing it with others, of deal making – converting literary value into dollar value, seeing those great reviews and watching your discovery climb on the bestseller list, the adventure, the surprises, the fun, the love – many of my colleagues have described it as better than sex.

But I’m not going to overly romanticize that world, because beneath the surface of all that glamor and money, a disease has been eating the book business.

I said there’s nothing wrong with books. That’s true. But everything is wrong with the way they’re distributed. About eighty years ago publishers and booksellers made a Devil’s pact making unsold stock returnable for full credit. That worked for a few decades, but after World War II the rate of returns began to soar. Today it’s not uncommon for 50% of any given printing to be returned to the publisher, and the industry never solved the problem of what to with returns. Now, you tell any business person that you’re in an industry where for every two units of a product you manufacture you have to eat one of them and they’ll look at you like you’re insane. And the fact is, the publishing industry as we have known it is collectively…insane!

Preprinting hundreds of thousands of copies of a book on spec, knowing that you’re going to sell half of them – and you don’t even know which half – could anything be madder? Shipping them on trucks around the country, storing them in warehouses the size of supertankers, returning them on more trucks, remaindering them at a fraction of your manufacturing cost or dumping them into a paper pulper – surely if an alien from another planet looked at our publishing industry he’d return to home base and report there is no intelligent life on that planet (as happened in a story I wrote called Pulpscape)

The returnability of books has poisoned the publishing industry, causing untold numbers of publishers big and small to merge with or be acquired by more powerful houses, leaving us with that handful of behemoths I told you about. And yet those behemoths are still hemorrhaging cash because the return rates continue to run as high as 50%. What’s worse, the returnability problem has seriously damaged literary endeavor. The big publishers want books that will guarantee low returns, and that means celebrity autobiographies, the sexier the better. So, if you want to know why you can’t sell your Great American novel, it’s because your publisher has just paid $12 million for a collection of spaghetti recipes by some notorious serial murderer. The return rate on that book will be 10%, while the one on your Great American Novel will be 75%.

I’ve been haranguing publishers about this for thirty years and it’s clear they can’t change this crazy business model, or they don’t want to. And besides, it’s too late now, because there’s a new and better one. It’s called print on demand, and most of you understand the concept. Instead of printing books first and hoping to find customers, with print on demand the books aren’t printed until the customer has paid for it. The return rate on that business model? How about zero percent? Go ask that businessperson friend of yours which model he prefers, the one with 50% returns or the one with zero. He’ll give you a one word answer: “Duh!”

Why am I telling you this? Because the print on demand industry is growing at a gallop.

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% each year. Lightning prints, binds and ships 10,000 copies a day on machines that run around the clock. And that’s just one POD company. There’s another big one. It’s owned by a little outfit called Amazon. And while POD is soaring, bookstores sales are soft and getting softer. Borders is bankrupt and Barnes & Noble revenues are down. In the next couple of years you’re not only going to see bookstores close, you’re probably going to see whole chains close.

So, that’s one reason why I’m not writing off printed books. They’re just fine, thank you. But more and more they’re going to be coming to you from a print on demand facility and less and less from a bookstore. Oh, you’ll still be able to buy a book in a store, but it won’t necessarily be a bookstore. As we refine print on demand technology the POD presses like the Espresso will become more and more compact, and in time you’ll start seeing them in drugstores and supermarkets, Wal-Marts and Costcos and Starbucks. You’ll go up to a kiosk, select from a million books, swipe your card, have a cup of coffee and go back to collect your book, still wet and warm from passing through the birth canal. In fact, given how rapidly technology is able to miniaturize machinery, I wouldn’t be surprised if a day came when a print on demand press is reduced to the size of fax or photocopier.

There’s another reason you should continue to be high on print. A growing body of research indicates that people, particularly students, either don’t like to learn on e-book devices, or suffer focus, learning and retention problems. This is particularly true in the field of text books, where students have serious issues navigating reference e-books as easily as they do printed ones.

So, what’s the problem with screens? Anyone who’s spent more than ten minutes reading on one knows how easily distracted we are. Screens mean watching. We’ve grown up watching stuff on screens, websites and videos and movies. Now you look at text on that screen, just plain old black on a white background, and you say to yourself, Is that all there is? No color? No interactivity? No instant gratification? Maybe I’ll just check out YouTube to see if there are some kittens walking on a piano or corgis running on a treadmill. Now, if you feel that way, you shouldn’t be surprised that your kids do, too, and their falling grades reflect that doing schoolwork on an electronic reading device isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Whether you’re an adult or a child, you want to immerse yourself in a book. It’s hard to immerse yourself in an e-book. It’s the difference between reading a book and watching one. Have you watched a good book lately? Not the same thing!

There’s no question that the e-book revolution has arrived and arrived with a vengeance. Thanks to the convenience and low prices, the print book industry has taken a big hit. But it’s still a 24 billion dollar business, and e-book sales represent only nine percent of the total. There’s plenty of fuel left in print, and once the new model of business takes hold, one based on preorder and prepayment, a day will come when you’re as likely to see someone on a bus or train reading one of these devices called The Book as you are to see them reading a Nook or Kindle.

Richard Curtis is President of Richard Curtis Associates, a literary agency, and CEO of E-Reads, an e-book publisher. He blogs on www.ereads.com.

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Rapture Flops, Expo on

If u cn rd ths u r nt ded.

Doomsday, scheduled to take place yesterday, failed to materialize. That means Book Expo America is on.

Fundamentalists, whose loins had been girt and garments rent for months, were deeply disappointed and not a little upset with prophets who obviously committed a rounding error in their prognostication of End of Days. But exhibitors and attendees of Book Expo America, which opens its doors to the public on Tuesday, are rejoicing despite the fact that prophecies of the future of publishing are even more dire than those of the end of the world. (See Prediction of Doomsday Spook BEA Attendees).

Those of you who held back, reluctant to spend money on a convention that might vaporize before it opens, can now safely make plans to attend BEA with relative security. We say “relative” because it is possible that the auguries set for May 21 were a few days off as a result of failure by Biblical scholars to account for one Leap Year in 1996.

That glitch notwithstanding, we’ll see you at BEA.

Richard Curtis

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