E-Books

DOJ Calls Apple “Ringmaster” In Price-Fixing Plan

Ahead of the June 3 trial start date of its price-fixing lawsuit, the Department of Justice is portraying Apple as the “ringmaster” that drew publishers into a scheme to sell digital books on the agency model.

In a memorandum filed in court yesterday, the DOJ ascribes tactics to Apple that ranged from enticing to coercive as it persuaded publishers that it offered their best chance to “challenge the $9.99 price point” set by Amazon.

Five major publishers named as defendants when the lawsuit was filed last year have since settled. According to yesterday’s filing, when the publishers “voiced fears that signing an Apple Agency Agreement would subject them to harsh market conditions unless the other Publisher Defendants signed too, Apple assured the publishers that they would be acting in concert to move the industry.”

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr, speaking to The New York Times, disputed the government’s claims.

“We helped transform the e-book market with the introduction of the iBookstore in 2010, bringing consumers an expanded selection of e-books and delivering innovative new features,” Mr. Neumayr said.

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Posted in E-Books

Microsoft to Buy Nook? Insider Monkey’s “Highly Placed Source” Challenges TechCrunch’s “Internal Documents”

Barnes & Noble’s digital future seems cloudier than ever as a new story is contradicting reports that Microsoft wants to buy Nook Media.

For those keeping score, it’s TechCrunch citing “internal documents” that Microsoft is offering $1 billion for the division versus Insider Monkey claiming a “highly placed source inside Microsoft” says it has no plans to acquire Nook Media.

Which source to believe? Beats us, but maybe a little information about the sources will help.

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Posted in E-Books, General

Microsoft Nook Bid Raises Questions About B&N

Reports that Microsoft is offering Barnes & Noble $1 billion for its Nook ebook business raises questions about the fate of the only remaining national chain bookseller and about  the future of digital book selling.

Since TechCrunch broke the story last week, citing leaked internal documents, pundits have widely speculated that Microsoft is interested in acquiring Nook content, but will kill the device business.

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Posted in E-Books, General

NYPL President: Big Six Now Allow E-Lending of Books “Anywhere and On Any Device”

Downloading ebooks from your local public library is poised to become much more widespread.

Anthony Marx, New York Public Library President, announced in an op-ed in today’s NY Times (subscription required) that Hachette Book Group has now joined the other Big Six publishers in agreeing to allow e-lending of its titles. Citing surveys that show that most Americans don’t know that libraries offer ebooks, Marx sees a need “to educate patrons that they can download library e-books anywhere and on any device.” Library e-lending, when permitted by publishers, generally allows one-at-a-time, two week uses of ebooks. Library users may download the ebooks from their homes after using their library cards to log in to the library’s website.

Marx discusses the variations in e-lending terms among the Big Six publishers: Penguin and Simon & Schuster offer their entire lists to public libraries through licenses that expire after a year; HarperCollins also offers their entire list with licenses that expire after a title is downloaded 26 times; Random House offers its entire list for unlimited uses, charging a premium for the license; and Macmillan makes only a limited portion of its list available.

The numbers show substantial room for growth in ebook downloads from the NYPL (and, no doubt, other public libraries):

The New York Public Library had 100,000 copies of 37,000 digital titles in circulation last year, compared with 6.5 million copies in circulation of 1 million print titles. Just as libraries decide which physical books to purchase and how many of each, we now will be deciding the same for e-books.

As those with library cards learn that they “can download library e-books anywhere and on any device,” we may soon see a rapid shift in ebook buying habits.

Posted in Authorship, E-Books, Royalties

Ebooks, International Part 2: In Russia, Amazon Readies Kindle. Can Harvard/Goldman Alum Make It Work?

Earlier, we reported on ebook developments in Brazil. Now, on to Russia.

Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch reports that Amazon appears to be getting ready open ebook operations in Russia. Although Amazon hasn’t confirmed the report, on April 19 Forbes posted news at its Russian website that Amazon had hired Arkady Vitrouk to head its Russian office. Vitrouk is the former CEO of ABC-Atticus, a Russian publishing conglomerate owned by Alexander Mamut, which Forbes says is one of Russia’s 50 wealthiest people.

Lunden of TechCrunch confirmed Forbes’ report through Vitrouk’s LinkedIn profile, which lists him as director of Kindle Content for Russia. (It also shows that he attended Harvard Business School and worked at Goldman Sachs before joining Atticus Publishing Group and now Amazon.) Lunden dug further, finding that Amazon is seeking to hire two content acquisition managers for Kindle Russia, and a senior manager for Kindle content pricing in Russia.

Ebook pricing may prove to be particularly tricky in Russia, where digital piracy is rampant. One commenter on Forbes’ Russian site seems to think so, asking what sense it made for Amazon to enter the Russian market, “if the books on the Internet [I] will not be buying one.” (Translated by Google.)

The Russian Federation has been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Priority Watch List for years. (Brazil, which we discussed in an earlier post, lags Russia as a haven for piracy in our government’s estimation. The USTR places it on its Watch List — without priority.) Perhaps things in Russia will soon improve, however. On December 21st, the USTR announced that it had reached an agreement with Russia on an Intellectual Property Rights Action Plan. The IPR Action Plan calls for Russia to take various steps to combat online piracy.

Then again, maybe not. The new IPR Action Plan was announced shortly after the 6-year anniversary of a US-Russia bilateral agreement (referred to here, p. 23) on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. Russia’s been on the US Trade Representative’s Priority Watch List ever since.

Arkady Vitrouk has his work cut out for him.

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright, E-Books

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.

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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

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