Advocacy

Ebooks, International Part 1: In Brazil, a Publishers’ Consortium and an Early Lead for Apple

The U.S. has a strong lead over other countries in ebook adoption. How are things going elsewhere? Recent news from Brazil and Russia shed some light on the state of the ebook market in two key emerging economies. We’ll present these in two bite-sized reports.

First, Brazil.

Edward Nawotka reports in Publishing Perspectives that ebook sales have lept an order of magnitude in Brazil in recent months. December 5, 2012, was “D-Day” (digital day) for the Brazilian book world  — Kobo, Google, and Amazon all launched their ebookstores that day. Apple had begun selling Brazilian titles in October.

Six large Brazilian publishers had been preparing for their D-Day for more than two years. In March 2010, just as the first iPads were scheduled to ship in the U.S., the publishers announced plans to distribute ebooks through a jointly developed platform known as DLD. That platform accounts for an estimated 30% of Brazilian ebook sales at the moment, Nawotka reports. Apple, Amazon, Google, and Kobo all distribute through DLD, through nonexclusive arrangements.

The early ebook market leader? Apple, according to DLD’s figures, with 29% of sales in March, followed by Amazon with 22%, Google 18%, Saraiva (a Brazilian bookseller) 15%, and Kobo 12%.

These sales amount to little, so far: ebooks are a tiny portion of the Brazilian book market. That’s changing fast. DLD’s sales have increased nearly tenfold since Apple’s October 2012 entry into the market, reaching nearly 44,500 units in March.

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, E-Books

Audio of Authors Guild Seminar on Book Contracts — Traditional, Ebook & POD

Here’s a clip from last week’s phone-in seminar with Anita Fore, Authors Guild Director of Legal Services, on the basics of understanding and negotiating contracts with both traditional book publishers and stand-alone ebook/POD publishers. The clip (about 15 minutes) focuses on traditional book contracts:

Members are welcome to contact us for a link to the full-length audio of the 60-minute seminar and a handout that accompanies Anita’s talk. (Not a member? Join up! You must be a published author to join, but many self-published authors now qualify for membership.)

The Guild is hosting additional phone-in seminars for members this week and next:

Magazine Contract Issues (Wednesday, April 24th)
Anita Fore will discuss several clauses freelancers should be aware of when negotiating magazine agreements. Sign up here.

Authors’ Statutory Right to Terminate Publishing Contracts After 35 Years (Wednesday, May 1st)
Paul Aiken, Authors Guild Executive Director, will explain the rules governing publishing contract terminations under Section 203 of the Copyright Act. Sign up here.

Posted in Advocacy, E-Books, General, Royalties

Amazon’s Kindle Singles a Win for Readers, Authors

We’ve been frequent critics of Amazon’s tactics in conquering established book markets, but credit is due to the company for doing what many would have considered impossible: creating a genuine market for novellas and novella-length nonfiction. In the New York Times this morning, Leslie Kaufman profiles Kindle Singles editor David Blum and cites Amazon’s statistic that about 28 percent of the 345 Singles published since January 2011 have sold more than 10,000 copies. Kindle Singles are a curated list of short e-books (5,000 to 30,000 words in length) available through Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Though publishing arrangements vary — some Kindle Singles are published by traditional publishers, others are self-published or put out by an emerging group of new publishers, such as Byliner — authors may earn as much as 70% of the proceeds from sales. Since bestselling Kindle Singles sell for an average price of $1.50 or so, a self-published author selling 10,000 or more Singles would likely earn revenues of $10,000 or more.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, E-Books

NYT’s Report on David Mamet’s Self-Published Book Heightens Debate

David Mamet’s decision to self-publish his latest book through a new service offered by his literary agency, ICM Partners, adds fuel to the debate raging over whether authors will do better on their own than with a traditional publishing house.

“The announcement by ICM and Mr. Mamet suggests that self-publishing will begin to widen its net and become attractive also to more established authors.” Leslie Kaufman wrote last week in the New York Times.

The news has drawn hundreds of responses from bloggers, authors and others, including bookseller Marion Abbott, who in the Sunday edition of the Times warned about the perils of self-publishing.

The latest post by Huffpo blogger Julie Gerstenblatt offers a cautionary tale that echoes Abbott’s sentiments.

A far more optimistic picture comes from Jon R. Anderson of the Navy Times, who on Friday urged service members to get their story out, writing, “While self-publishing used to bear the vanity press stigma… independent publishing is quickly becoming the preferred road to readers for many authors.”

Self-publishing has indeed borne a stigma, even though it has a history to be proud of. Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” Irma S. Rombauer’s “Joy of Cooking,” and Christopher Paolini’s “Eragon” are prominent examples of self-published works from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries. Is that stigma now gone? Maybe not, but the stigma seems to be fading as the economics of self-publishing improve for some authors.

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, E-Books

User Discussion and Privacy Policies

Now that we’re posting to our blog more regularly, we’ve been grappling with user discussion guidelines. We’ve looked to newspapers for useful models, and The Washington Post seems to have a good one. We’ll use that as a starting point (though we have no plans to implement the “badge” system the Post uses) and assign a staff member to oversee that. Our general privacy policy applies to user comments.

Posted in Advocacy

Scott Turow on Piracy, Lowball E-Royalties & Literary Culture

In a New York Times Op-Ed today, Scott Turow takes on the threat posed by book piracy, e-lending and traditional publishers’ lockstep, 25% ebook royalties to the health of our literary culture. Check it out: The Slow Death of the American Author

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright, E-Books

Turow on Amazon/Goodreads: This is how modern monopolies can be built

Amazon’s garden walls are about to grow much higher. In a truly devastating act of vertical integration, Amazon is buying Goodreads, its only sizable competitor for reader reviews and a site known for the depth and breadth of its users’ book recommendations. Recommendations from like-minded readers appear to be the Holy Grail of online book marketing. By combining Goodreads’ recommendation database with Amazon’s own vast databases of readers’ purchase histories, Amazon’s control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy

B&N vs. S&S: Keep Authors Out of It

There’s an ongoing dispute over retail terms between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble. Ebook sales terms seem to be a key battlefield, but accounts of the dispute are conflicting.

Accounts of the tactics are conflicting as well. It seems clear that B&N has pared back its orders of Simon & Schuster titles — as a story posted by Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) this afternoon confirms. We haven’t been able to confirm, however, that B&N is taking punitive action directed at Simon & Schuster or whether it’s cutting back on book orders generally. It seems unlikely that B&N would be cutting back generally on new titles (it still has many, many stores to fill with books, and new titles are the lifeblood of retailing), but odder things have happened.

We strongly condemned Amazon three years ago when it removed the “buy buttons” from nearly all of Macmillan’s books in an attempt to pressure the publisher into rescinding an announced change to its ebook sales terms. We said then that those “hardest and most unfairly hit are authors with new books published by Macmillan that are in their prime sales period.” See “The Right Battle at the Right Time,” Feb. 2, 2010.

Our views haven’t changed: targeting a publisher by punishing authors as their new books hit the marketplace is an over-the-top tactic that a retailer with B&N’s market clout should never employ. A new book makes or breaks in the first few weeks after it hits bookstores.

Publishers and retailers have fought over sales terms forever.  We hope that reports of B&N singling out new Simon & Schuster titles prove to be unfounded.  New books deserve a fair shot at reaching their readers.

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship

What’s Up With ICANN’s Move to Privatize the Internet Namespace?

Our objections, and those of others, to ICANN’s sale of exclusive rights to .book, .author, .read and other new top-level domains have gained some traction in the media. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the Telegraph and many others have written about our concerns that private placement of such terms will, as Scott Turow wrote, allow “already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power.”

Before we get to our question, here’s some background. Top-level domains are the .com, .org, etc. in Internet addresses.  Such domains in the past have been open, allowing virtually anyone to claim any available domain (mynewbook.com, for example) by paying a fee to Network Solutions, GoDaddy or other registrars. Most of ICANN’s proposed new top-level domains, however, will be closed, allowing proprietary control over these domains. This seems fine for genuine brand names — .pepsi, .nike, .gucci — but problematic for the long list of generic domains ICANN plans to sell, such as .news, .blog, .cloud, .art, .search. The full list is here.

Now here’s our question: Does anyone know why ICANN* is doing this?

We haven’t found a satisfactory answer, which, to us, suggests someone stands to profit handsomely. Is that right? Or is there a public purpose to this that we’re missing?

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*ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It’s a private company with vast power over the Internet, but seems answerable to no one.

Posted in Advocacy

Scott Turow: No Private Company Should Control .book/.author Domains

Yesterday, Authors Guild president Scott Turow objected to ICANN’s plan to sell .book, .author, and other generic top-level domains (“top-level domains” are website suffixes such as “.com” and “.org”) to private companies.  Amazon has bid to be the exclusive custodian of the .book and .author domains; Google is aiming to control the .blog domain.

“Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive,” said Turow, “allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power.  The potential for abuse seems limitless.”

The complete letter follows, and is posted at ICANN gTLD comments web page.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy