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Why ePublishing Needs to Grow Up

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With the book industry suffering from the recession despite the seemingly erroneous claims that books are recession proof, it’s with little dismay that I look to the one part of the industry that is actually experiencing growth.   It is, of course, ebooks.   According to the November AAP numbers, every category of retail book business suffered a decline other than ebook sales.

Sadly, many of those in charge in the epublishing part of the industry seems intent on killing ebooks.   It’s as if publishers don’t want ebooks to succeed.   I don’t actually believe that.   I just think that many publishers are simply clueless about how to capture and monetize the ebook market.

When we had dinner with Harlequin back in San Francisco, one thing that Malle Vallik of Harlequin Digital shared with us was the speed at which Harlequin Digital could make things happen to be responsive to readers.   (I think Harlequin is one company that really gets ebooks.   It could be perfect ebook publishing company but for the DRM issue).

Publishing is not used to swift change but it needs to reorient its thinking.   What might work today for pricing, availability, promotions might not work in the one year but the point is to harness the mutability of the internet for your benefit instead of bemoaning how facile a medium it is.

Here are some observations and things I think publishers should do differently.

Release eBooks at Same Time as Print Versions.

It is my understanding that some publishers do not release ebooks at the same time as print for two reasons: a) they don’t want the ebook sales to canabalize print sales and thereby reduce the chance of the author hitting a certain spot on the bestseller list and b) they want to reduce the effect of piracy on early sales.

Neither of those goals are met by not releasing the ebook at the same time as print.   First, the ebook reader will most likely wait for the ebook version to come out rather than by the print version because they don’t want two versions of the same book.   Instead, the ebook reader might go to the library or borrow the book rather than buy a book and then even the ebook sale might be lost.   Second, the lack of an official ebook does not eliminate piracy.

In some cases, I think the lack of an ebook actually encourages piracy.   The JK Rowling books are not allowed to be released in digital format, but piraters had the book scanned and turned into a digital copy within hours of their release. Somehow, as seen by the picture above, a couple of these unauthorized versions were for sale on the Amazon site last night.

Kresley Cole’s fabulous, Kiss of a Demon King, was released on the 20th of January but the ebook is not available until February 1st.   Unless, of course, you want a pirated version.   The pirated version (made from a scan I presume) was out on the internet on the 21st of January.

Simon & Schuster used to be such a forward thinking company.   It once sold its ebooks for 40% off the list price at its webstore. I bought every romane release the came out.   The $3.50 or so price mark required no thinking. I didn’t even care if it was by an author I hadn’t liked in the past.   I figured I should buy it because maybe I would someday, eventually, who knows, like it.

S&S also had an early release program whereby it would sell an ebook of one title a month early.   But now, it’s being out done by its cleverness.   The print copy of Kiss of a Demon King was shipping at least two weeks before the release date.   I’m sure that the early release of the print book did far more to imperil Cole’s placement on the bestseller lists than any timely release of an ebook could have done.    But hey, S&S, if letting the pirates have control over the only ecopy out there for two weeks makes good business sense to you, more power to ya.

Provide Additional Content in the eBook.

So we know that ebooks are full of bytes and bits, right?   And that it doesn’t matter how long an ebook is, that it doesn’t cost anymore to produce (ie. paper costs, postage costs, storage costs)?   Why is it that the print books contain excerpts to other books or future books but the ebooks do not?   Shouldn’t publishers take advantage of the digital medium to include as many excerpts as possible?   Stuff that ebook file full of filler, publishers.   Give the readers a taste of what they are missing.   Include excerpts to all the backlist titles that are in ebook format.   Give the readers the first chapter or the first three chapters of every new book released the same month as the title they are reading.   Include a section at the back of the book to all the etailers that sell the books.   Educate readers about the harm of piracy with a cute cartoon instead of some dopey legal statement at the beginning.

Think of the ebook as the ultimate advertising opportunity for your books and always, ALWAYS, include the front cover of the book and the back cover blurb.   Don’t gyp the ebook reader.   Take full advantage of her desire for instant gratification.   Tantalize her with a taste of what she could be reading next.

Price It Right.

Ebooks are all about instant gratification.   Seeing something you might want to read and being to buy it immediately.   Pricing has something to do with this.   Make the prices low enough and people won’t even stop to think before they hit the “add to cart” issue. Do not price any ebook above the lowest print price.

Experiment

Be innovative.   Try a number of different things.   Because it’s digital and because this is a growing market, you can make changes quickly.   Why not do bundles at a highly reduced price. I.e., why not offer the “Immortals After Dark” bundle for Kresley Cole’s series and include the original novella for $15.00 (that would be 6 books in all) with a coupon for the most recent release pricing that at $5.00.   Or how about the first three “In Death” books by JD Robb at a “Introductory Price” of $5.00 for a three week period leading up to her next release (Promises in Death is fabulous by the way) with a 40% off coupon for the new release (it’s a hardcover).   If sales are disappointing, then next time you experiment in different ways.

How about trying to partner with other publishers.   I.e., do cross promotions.   Jayne Ann Krentz is with Penguin now, but many of her backlist titles are with Random House.   Can’t the two of you get together and do cross promotions to sell her backlist and move her frontlist titles?

How about a publisher run ebook store so that etailers aren’t taking such a big cut of the profits. You could sell at a cut rate price and drive traffice to your special consortium store with your low, low price.

Speaking of driving traffic to one’s site, Harlequin does this by offering its new category releases a month in advance of their print release date.   As a result, many books are sold directly from the Harlequin site wherein Harlequin absorbs the entire profit.   Baen has sold ARC ebook versions of its book.   I would love to see Harlequin, and all other publishers, start to offer early releases of all its books in digital format.

Publishers could experiment with price premiums for the early release.   I.e., instead of letting eBay sellers reap the benefits of an ARC sale, why not pass the early sales onto the author and reap a profit through an early ARC digital release program.   You could price the early releases at a 50% premium mark up.   (I would include a note as to why they are more expensive, i.e., they are being allowed into the wild early).   Sell readers on the idea that this early ARC release is really a privilege, a luxury and hence why they have to pay more for it.   There’s a market out there for it.   Capture it.

Another idea would be to offer a free book, say the first book in the In Death series, to anyone who would pony up their cell phone number.   Then on the release date of the next In Death book, you would send a text message to all those who had given their cell phone with a text message ad saying that the book was in stores right now or available in eform or at online retailers. (include direct links).   To drive first week sales, you could include a coupon code for the book good for only one week.   You could seed the sale of the book by texting / emailing the first chapter.

Use eBooks as Loss Leader

If you believe that your website can sell books then one way to get people onto your website is by offering the ebooks as loss leaders. HarperCollins is experimenting with this with the Browse Inside the Book feature whereby 20% of the book is viewable online, at its website.   It’s not my preferred mode of reading an ebook, but I can see its efficacy if the Browse feature is merely to drive traffic to the site instead of increasing an audience for the book itself.

Get the Rights Thing Worked Out

Digital books are books without borders.   Territorial rights have no place in the digital world.   Get rid of them.   Authors, work to negotiate your contracts so that your digital rights are divisible from your print rights. Publishers, work with the authors to provide them adequate compensation for their digital rights while you are working out the thorny territorial print issues.   Because readers in other countries who want to read in English can either buy a legitimate copy or download a pirated one.   Do you want to make a sale or not?

Get Rid of DRM.   

DRM is not stopping piracy.  Publishers may be  worried that a teenager will mass email Twilight to a hundred girlfriends if there is no DRM but will refrain if there is DRM.   But who are the ones writing the programs to strip the DRM from digital files?  In an increasingly technological world  no DRM is safe from hackers. Tthe average 12 year old who can program a VCR, hack open the iPhone, and bittorrent movies is not going to be deterred from sharing an ebook if she wants.  Closed systems and complicated authentication systems and a dozen separate formats and lack of interopability is not going to grow the ebook industry. The only thing DRM does is to punish legitimate buying customers and deter interested observers.   It does not reduce piracy and there is no report out there that says that it does.

There is evidence, however, that freely made content can actually increase sales.   Two recent examples are the Monty Python move of placing its video content available for free on YouTube and leading to a 23,000% increase in sales and the Nine Inch Nails album that was given away for free was the most sold album mp3 album in 2008 at Amazon.com.

Stop Fucking Up in General.   You are making us look bad.

Anytime that ebooks look more complicated, more dangerous, more of a hassle than print books, the more opportunities those who are on the fence fall off on the print side.   I thought the Fictionwise/Overdrive divorce was horribly embarassing as an ebook evangelist. I hated putting it up on the blog.   I knew by putting it up some people who are not ebook fans would look at this episode as just one more reason to not get into ebooks.   While I have been a loyal Fictionwise purchaser for four years, the Overdrive divorce makes me nervous.   I’m obssessively backing up my digital copies but still, don’t make it harder on me to sell the concept of ebooks to other readers.    I had a hard time explaining to a couple new converts what was going on and why they shouldn’t just by the print version.

In the immortal words of Tim Gunn, publishers, make it work!

Next week:   What I Wish Every Ebook File Contained. Anyone have suggestions, drop me an email at jane @ dearauthor.com

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

107 Comments

  1. ms bookjunkie
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 06:16:10

    Word.

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 06:50:18

    Speaking of driving traffic to one's site, Harlequin does this by offering its new category releases a month in advance of their print release date.

    I love Harlequin with great, big, sloppy, “full on the mouth” kisses for this.

    ReplyReply

  3. steve davidson
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 06:52:36

    Jane,

    very nice – and in most repsects I completely agree with you. But I’d like to hear your take on one specific, seemingly outlandish scenario.

    Please accept the scenario as the working environment, rather than worrying about its seeming ridiculousness.

    Suppose that in advance of publication, you know two things about the market it is targeted for: 1. a closely related market is not only hostile to the book, but to the author as well. 2. that same community has amply demonstrated in the past that they are both capable of and motivated to use whatever means possible (including pirating) to damage sales, sell pirated versions, etc., etc.

    Would you still advocate an e-book version? Staying away from DRM? Simultaneous release (print & e)?

    This is a real scenario and if you feel that you haven’t gotten enough info to make a considered judgment, I’ll be happy to supply more off-blog.

    Thanks.

    ReplyReply

  4. Statch
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 07:04:24

    I agree wholeheartedlly with everything (except that extras in the book file don’t really grab me for some reason).

    Any chance you could entice a publisher to write a counterpoint piece? I would really like to understand better how it looks from their perspective. I’m afraid that from my perspective, they look like dinosaurs, and I’m having trouble feeling sorry for them as they experience their economic woes. I’m sure it looks different from their vantage point, though.

    ReplyReply

  5. Kimber An
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 07:30:12

    Beautifully stated.

    ReplyReply

  6. Azure
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 07:33:20

    A bit more about how much Simon & Schuster has changed–they used to have that very nice discount on their books when you bought it directly from their website. I used to buy the books from my favorite authors there rather than at Fictionwise (unless the book happened to be the 100% Micropay Rebate title). They’re not doing that anymore. Now the ebook is costing the same price as the print version–if not more! I looked at pre-ordering the next Liz Carlyle book from them, only to discover that the paperback is priced at $7.99. The ebook? $9.99. If that’s the starting price it ends up being when it gets to Fictionwise in a couple of weeks, I might skip buying the book altogether.

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  7. Bonnie
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 07:39:02

    Excellent post, Jane.

    And I am really pissed off that I can’t get Kresley Cole’s new book on Kindle until February. Gosh, that is annoying.

    Anne Stuart’s Ice Series? Can’t get the first book on Kindle, but all of the others are available. Someone please explain that to me. Ugh.

    ReplyReply

  8. Angela James
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 07:49:55

    Anne Stuart's Ice Series? Can't get the first book on Kindle, but all of the others are available. Someone please explain that to me. Ugh.

    It’s possible that the publisher doesn’t own the digital rights to that title. That’s the barrier the traditionally print publishers are encountering in digitizing backlist books. Frustrating not only for the reader, but also for the publisher, I’d guess.

    ReplyReply

  9. Fun while it lasted: Illegal Harry Potter copies were on sale in E via Kindle store—plus further thoughts (on publishing’s technophobia) | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 08:01:52

    [...] authorize e-copies of her Potter books for real, so pirates don’t get all the e-business?  Dear Reader thinks that e-publishing needs to grow up. I’d agree, with one more thought: Maybe publishing [...]

  10. Silver James
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 08:20:17

    As a digital reader fence-sitter, a lot of what you said has me rethinking, Jane. But I’m still not sold. I’m middle-aged and technology is not always my friend. That said, my book will be coming out in both electronic and print editions when it’s released so I’m paying attention to the debate.

    For me, though, the cost of the reader and the various proprietary download types is the first stumbling block. I’d have to buy a whole lotta CHEAP ebooks to justify the expense and then what happens if two years down the road, I discover I bet on the wrong horse. Beta vs. VHS, anyone? And then came DVD so all bets were off. C’mon, eReader manufacturers/retailers! I can buy an excellent DVD player for less than $100 and you want me to pay over $300 for an eReader? And the technology just gets better (and changes) each year? FYI, I don’t own an iPod or mp3 player either, for much the same reasons. Lugging my laptop around to read a book doesn’t make sense. Until that changes, I won’t be jumping on the digital bandwagon.

    As you mentioned, what’s up with some ebooks costing more than the print version? Stupidity on the part of the publisher? Greed? That makes no marketing sense.

    I know I had some other salient points to make, but I haven’t had coffee yet and the brain just shut down. The allure of ebooks is mighty when talking about ease of storage, but there are still too many other negatives in my book to take the plunge yet.

    Oh, I do like the idea of extra content added in, and the idea of bundles of titles. I’ll continue to sit on the fence and watch the debate until the industry answers the majority of my questions satisfactorily, though.

    *stumbles off to find caffeine*

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  11. Jane
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 08:27:59

    @steve davidson: So you are trying to sell a book to a small market that does not like books or the author? And will do everything it can to put out a pirated copy to damage sales?

    I guess my question is whether DRM, late release of the eversion, has done anything to protect sales. If not, then it seems to me that trying a different method makes sense.

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  12. Heather Massey
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 08:29:51

    Hear, hear!

    Publishers stand on the cusp right now. Will they embrace the future or have their claws in the past? All they need to do is look at the mistakes of the music industry.

    Once Napster took off, the industry should have said, “This Shawn Fanning guy is onto something. How can we fully utilize it?” Instead, they scratched their collective heads for months, and then started threatening people (i.e., they wanted to shove the genie back in the bottle, but he'd since grown 5,000X too big).

    Later, they begrudgingly gave in to digital downloads, but only after the files had been DRM'ed to death. “All right, all right. You want downloads?” they said. “Here they are. But the files are inferior in fidelity, and you can only play them when and where I say you can. Oh, and should I decide to pull the plug, too bad. You aren't really buying music, you're renting it. Why not just stick to CDs?”

    In other words, here's your gruel and you better like it, ya ungrateful ninnys”-’a message NO business should broadcast (especially when higher bit files were/are readily available for free, legal or not). Pretty soon, the RIAA was about as popular as rusty root canals, an honor that would take decades of hard work to change. Now I may not match Richard Branson's marketing acumen, but I see that as a path best avoided. (The flashing 10,000 watt neon signs screaming, “This way leads to certain death! Go back!!!” provide an oh so subtle clue. ;)

    And yet, I see many in the publishing world starting down that darkened road.

    As I evangelized in my weeklong series on this subject, media providers need to think long term and listen to their customers. They should be asking themselves, “What can we do to provide our readers with the books they want-’in the format they want-’and do so with an irresistible price?” More of this and less of, “We gotta maximize short-term profits as much as possible, and prevent those crooks from stealing all of our books!”

    The best way to prevent theft is to offer people what they want at an attractive price.

    Dumping the draconian DRM is a must. It only angers law-abiding customers, and it's a joke to the real pirates, who *aren't customers*. Non-intrusive digital watermarks would also help. This way, if someone uploads his or her copy of Stephen King's next opus, it can be traced back to the originally source.

    It's worth noting here that some Matthew Broderick/WARGAMES wizard would certainly circumvent this, but the industry should concentrate on minimizing theft-’not trying to stamp it out completely at the expense of sales. Books have been stolen since the days of monks writing by candlelight. The only 100% foolproof way to prevent this is never release it.

    I realize DRM can be an emotional issue for many authors. Many read calls against it as a greenlight for piracy and giving their work away. But strong emotions come from the heart, not the head. When one steps back and looks at the raw data, it's pretty evident that DRM does far more harm than good. Google the subject. The info is there.

    Ultimately, the industry could burn its NY offices to the ground because of its fear of someone breaking and entering. Yes, that threat does exist. And that's not to say such self-destructive action wouldn't prevent theft with absolute certainty, it would. But, where would that leave them tomorrow?

    Switching gears, ebook technology offers great potential for experimentation and risk taking that could not be done with traditional print publishing, and Jane, I applaud your efforts proposing some of the myriad possibilities.

    ReplyReply

  13. e-Vangelism | Moriah Jovan
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    [...] someone else’s piece without using it as a springboard for something I want to say, but Jane said pretty much all there needs to be said. Oh, except, use a common format like, oh, say [...]

  14. MoJo
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 08:39:56

    Jane, EPUB.

    ReplyReply

  15. Preaching To The Choir: eBook Content & Generating Sales | The Naughty Bits
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  16. Jane
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 08:57:36

    @Statch: My guess is that publishers really believe that certain tactics deter piracy and increase print sales. I also think publishers fear the up front costs of digital publishing (i.e., the conversion costs which are inflated because of multiple DRM schemes).

    Additionally publishers will blame authors for not allowing them to have the correct rights and finally, I think publishers place people in the digital arm of their company who don’t actually use/read ebooks. I know that for S&S, the entire team that was there during what I believe to be its more innovative period has moved on to different companies.

    ReplyReply

  17. cecilia
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 09:01:59

    Well said. On the Kresley Cole book – I have to say I’m disappointed about the delay, not just because I have to wait for the ebook, but because she had an earlier title come out in electronic form before the print form not so long ago. I was hoping that might be an indication of good things to come. Clearly I was overly optimistic.

    As for next week’s topic, what I’d like to see in an ebook file is the book blurb on the first page after the title. I can’t see the blurb on my reader, and I’ll often forget which books I’ve read and/or what they’re about (too many books, too few brain cells) so a readily viewable blurb would be nice.

    ReplyReply

  18. Keishon
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 09:03:01

    Speaking of driving traffic to one's site, Harlequin does this by offering its new category releases a month in advance of their print release date. As a result, many books are sold directly from the Harlequin site wherein Harlequin absorbs the entire profit.

    That’s right. Never have I bought a Harlequin anything at Fictionwise. Love ya Harlequin :-) Keep up the good work. Outside of DRM, you’re the best. Hope I have another coupon coming soon because you’re the only one who does this, too.

    ReplyReply

  19. Jessica G.
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 09:13:25

    I must say, I never considered that ebooks might affect an author’s bestseller ranking. Interesting.

    On another note, I think the changes are coming. A great example right now is Orbit’s $1 book each month. They started with “Way of Shadows” by Brent Weeks, which has been the number 1 seller on Sony’s store for a while now (which is incredible, because even a free book hasn’t done this). Orbit is smart- they are putting the first book of a series in hopes to get readers to buy the rest of the series, and it seems to be working. The other two books in Brent’s series are #18 and #20 on Sony’s website.

    ReplyReply

  20. AnneD
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 09:13:49

    what I'd like to see in an ebook file is the book blurb on the first page after the title.

    I’d like to see it right up front, too. I always read the blurb before I start a story, sometimes refer back to it while I’m reading, and find it endlessly frustrating when there is no blurb to refer to without having to go to the computer and search for it.

    I think I got caught up in spam for some reason, but earlier I had replied:

    QFT, Jane, QFT.

    For something that has an appearance of being so simple, NY is making a cake of it.

    ReplyReply

  21. Nikki
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 09:16:55

    I agree with everything you said Jane. I don’t necessarily need a ton of content included in my ebook but having at least the blurb would be helpful. I know that I was looking for Kresley Cole’s newest and saw it on shelves (even though on the official bookstore websites it was not in the store) a good week before the original publication.

    The pricing of ebooks seems perplexing. Why do the books need to be the same price or higher than in print. You are not paying any printing costs, there is no risk of stripping, what makes it more expensive? Unless the publishers are doing it out of greed in the hopes of making a the profit they are losing in print?

    Just to further support making content available, many anime series are uploaded and English subtitles are put on them within days, sometimes hours of the original airing in Japan. Recently several companies made deals to air the subtitled anime in higher quality on the internet. When I saw this, I happily became a member so I could watch what I wanted, when I wanted, as soon as it came out. Why do I need to wait 2-3 years for some American company to buy DVD rights?

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  22. joanne
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 09:24:58

    Great points and so well done Jane, thank you.

    Who’s reading this article?
    Not the publishers who are bailing water from the holes in their boat rather then building a new ship that runs with the waves of the 21st century. I’m just so dismayed about how out of step they are with todays readers. Someone above said they are middle aged and yeah, me too. But I know more about ereaders and ebooks then many people half my age because the publishers aren’t getting it.

    They are not making ebooks available because of the bestseller list?
    Let me help: Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, JD Robb, Kresley Cole, etc, etc, etc….. if they have books coming out, they’re bestsellers so flippin’ release them in ebook form and oh— I don’t know — keep track of ebook sales?

    I would sign any contract in blood (my husband’s) if Harlequin would eliminate the DRM from their books so that they would go on my ereader.

    As a new to ebook reader reader (?) I need all the help I can get and I would like to get it from the publishers who I support.

    oops: and I would love the back cover blurb in my ereader copies… and upcoming glimpses of other books/authors.

    ReplyReply

  23. Lisa
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 09:47:46

    Yea Jane!! I agree with everything you said. I would buy more mass market e-books if it wasn’t for the fact that I can to go to Target, Wal-Mart, and even my local grocery store and buy the paper version of the book for 25% off. It doesn’t make sense to pay full cover price for the e-version when I can buy more books at a discount.

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  24. carolyn jean
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 10:13:38

    This is a fantastic article. I totally agree with everything here.

    Furthermore, on the piracy issue: My sister is a photographer, and she was getting steamed about kids putting up their senior pic samples on their facebook sites without buying the prints. And I was like, get them to link to you. Make it advertising for you. Put a logo and url there.

    Which brings me to the thing about ebooks – not only could they be cross selling other books as you suggest, the way DVDs have previews of other movies, but why the not have an ad or two? Shoes, chocolates, movies, toothpaste. Whatever. Like in magazines. Talk about demographic targeting! They can even target geographically if they wanted, at least with the initial purchaser. Then, who cares if they get copied and redistributed.

    Or, there could be special advertising-supported ebooks distributed for free. That would promote the author’s work, and it would pay for the ebook. Then, you could give free ones without their being loss leaders. As long as there weren’t tons of ads. That would SUCK if there were tons. But a small amount. I would be happy to see what businesses are supporting the fiction I love.

    Also, the nature of the ads would have to be different than the old magazine model. I have tons of ideas about this, being that ad copy is how I personally make a living, though as an aspiring author, it makes me HATE myself a little that I’m thinking this way!!

    Because to be honest, I’m of 2 minds about it–I really don’t want to see ads in my books, but I’m sort of for anything that causes more money to flow to the publishing industry and the authors. Obviously, you can’t stop a song to put in an ad, but you can turn a page and it’s no biggie.

    As an aside, I have an ebookwise, and I can barely get the downloads to work – the interface with the store is killing me! I’m sort of hating it these days. I really want to be an ereader person!

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  25. Meljean
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 10:18:38

    Everything you said.

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  26. Jory Strong
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 10:33:21

    Excellent post! As someone who is able to write full-time because of e-book publishing, it amazes me that the NY houses haven’t jumped on the bandwagon with enthusiasm and determination to make it work for them.

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  27. Jessica Kennedy
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 10:34:36

    I agree with this post. Ebooks are the way to go. Publishers need to embrace it and make it agreeable for all involved!

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  28. Marianne McA
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 10:41:46

    Yes, I’ve had my eReader since September, and I love it. However, I’ve bought exactly one book for it, because the books I want to buy just aren’t available. (Truthfully, I’ve had so little luck finding titles that I’ve stopped even checking the Waterstones site – I just order the actual book from Amazon.)

    The book I did buy was a M&B – DA mentioned it, I was curious, it was available (ahead of the publication date), it was reasonably priced, and very easy to download. I’ll never read it again: it was a throwaway, impulse purchase – exactly the kind of thing publishers must hope readers would do.
    So yes, kudos to M&B for getting it right.

    I don’t think releasing HP as an ebook would hurt sales: there are second hand copies everywhere – if a customer wants to avoid buying the book at the full price, they already have that option. They’re just losing customers who would buy the book in both formats – we’ve got the books, and the audio books, but I’d buy the ebooks as well if they were available at a sensible price.

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  29. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 10:57:33

    I use an Ipaq 4700 and an ebookwise to read my ebooks (I need that backlight!)

    Harlequin and DRM – big grrr. The ebookwise has a proprietory format (IMP) which is easy to do with non DRM’d books, you just drag and drop on to the Librarian program and voila. Can’t do that with a DRM book.

    Yesterday, I was sent to a new pirate site to check for my books. Nearly all that site was print books and there were tons of HMB’s there.

    The publishers are used to a model where the release date of a book is 12 months plus away, and they aren’t changing this to cope with the rapidly increasing ebook market. I’d prefer to retain my ebook rights and sell them to a publisher that knows what it’s doing, and has the model to cope with it.

    And there are legal ramifications. Worldwide rights are pretty much mandatory because ebooks are available worldwide on the day of release (much to my joy, because I live in the UK). So all the contracts have to be altered, sometimes retrospectively, and new deals built up with overseas companies who hold territorial rights. For instance, we in the UK get our print versions of books by Feehan, Kenyon and several others from Piatkus, which holds the UK rights. Tricky, but definitely doable. There are a few other contractual points also, like when a book is deemed to be “in print” (important for the severance rights) and so on.

    And the numbers aren’t entirely reliable because the big names in epublishing don’t yet share their data, so most figures are estimates. I do know that in the last 8 years, the length I’ve been in epublishing, I’ve seen my sales increase exponentially, and I know several authors who won’t leave epublishing for print because of the money involved. Including me.

    HMB have also been experimenting with serials, and I really like the idea. A chapter a day to your phone, or Ipaq? Nice.

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  30. Hortense Powdermaker
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 11:13:09

    You touched on this with your rant about the evils of DRM, but I second MoJo’s mention of the MP3 of ebooks, epub.

    One format to rule them all…

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  31. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 11:20:23

    One format to rule them all…

    I feel a bit uncomfortable about that idea because whoever owns the format rules the market. Three formats, yes, great, as long as that includes html.

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  32. Angela James
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 11:33:24

    I feel a bit uncomfortable about that idea because whoever owns the format rules the market.

    Not really. Who owns the mp3 format?

    If you’re talking a format like EPUB, it’s not any different than having one music format, like mp3.

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  33. KB
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 11:35:04

    Yes, yes, yes. I agree with everything you said (except filler content. There’s nothing a hate more than seeing on the status bar that I still have 1/4th of the book to go, only to have it end and be replaced by excerpts – I wouldn’t mind if there was a marker on the bar to show the change). Especially the part about losing sales, because I do exactly as you said, go to the library instead, read it, then when it does become available, eh, I’ve already read it, I don’t need it that badly.

    I will disagree with Carolyn Jean, though. I’ve paid for the book, don’t put ads in there. If it’s a free download, then sure, I can live with it.

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  34. Collette
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 11:51:25

    Great points, Jane.

    I love the fact that Harlequin releases ebooks a month ahead of the print schedule. Makes me feel like I’m getting in on a great secret. I too used to go to Simon and Schuster but only when they discounted books.

    I will never pay more for an ebook than for a print book and it kind of even pisses me off to pay the same for an ebook. It would be very difficult to convince me that the costs to publish an ebook are the same as to publish a print book. Pass a little of that savings on to me please. I’ll reward you for it with my loyalty.

    I actually avoid houses where they mark up ebooks so that they cost more than print. (See “pissed off”.) Arggh! Wake up New York.

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  35. Anon76
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 12:05:47

    I agree with Lynn in the fact that I think the old boilerplate contracts will definitely need revisited. Digital rights versus print rights should morph along with the times, but sadly, it seems they haven’t.

    As an author, I’m fully aware of the costs to put a print book out. However, I’m also aware that putting said book in ebook version is much less costly. Such savings should be passed on to the reader, and yet at the same time, the author split should definitely increase. Ebook pubs get that. Royalties move to industry standards based on whether the copy was sold as an ebook sale, or a print sale.

    Hence, the mindset of the major print houses has to change, IMHO. They are using all these tricks to protect the ebooks, when in fact, profitability would increase with a looser rein and an understanding that they would get the same profit and perhaps more sales by adjusting their mindset.

    I mean, seriously, how many savvy authors would promote an ebook version of their book that provides a cut of 8% on cover price like the print version if either a) the ebook version is more costly than the print (which ticks ebook readers off) or b) the cover price on the ebook is half the price of the print and they still only get an 8% cut.

    Madness, I tell you, madness

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  36. Mike Shatzkin
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 12:26:57

    Suspect the reason most ebooks are published after the print book has to do with the way the books are made and the workflow. Publishers concentrate on delivering the print version. Only after they’ve got that ready for the printer do they then move on to “convert” to ebooks. As they change their workflows to made intellectual property in an agile file rather than a “book”, it will make workflow sense for the ebook to be available BEFORE the print book (because you don’t need the print, bind, and shipping time and the files would be available simultaneously.)

    The bestseller list point is well taken, but only applies to a small minority of the titles, because most titles are no candidates for the list.

    The point about enhanced ebooks is the key one. There is no reason NOT to do this. Authors should be allowed to display 30-page biographies, and there should be notes on sourcing, excerpts of other books, reviews. Why not? And authors should be able to publish reflections, responses to readers, updates of info (in non-fiction books), etc. Working out the procedures to make this efficient is necessary, of course, but every publisher should be working on ways to deliver enhanced ebooks through standardized processes.

    There is also a lot of work to be done by publishers to make the ebook as attractive, informative, and navigable as possible. The post above about knowing where you are in the book (taking into account that there could be other back matter in it which, by the way, could also happen to you without being aware of it in a printed book!) is on the money. I just read a collection of three novels by a single author from a major house where all the c/r info was in the BACK, after the LAST book! With a Kindle, scrolling back to that isn’t easy, EVEN if you know it is there. Enhanced and linked TOCs are a must.

    The interoperability question is not entirely for publishers to decide. It is the makers of readers who have a razors-and-blades model that depend on selling ebooks for THEIR readers. Publishers are scrambling to be ready for multiple formats, even with epub.

    And the DRM question really backs up to the agents. Even a publisher totally convinced that piracy would not be a problem would have a huge task of persuasion to be able to make it their default operating practice.

    Mike

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  37. NextRead » Links: Sunday 25th January Edition
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 12:27:24

    [...] Author has some thoughts as well. I don't know if I agree with most of them but DRM is an interesting issue. And I can see pluses [...]

  38. theo
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 13:29:48

    There are so many comments, someone else might have already said this, but if not, I nominate Jane to run the eBook publishing world! Things would be so much better all around because her post here makes more sense than anything else I’ve read about eBooks, their publishing, their sales, their costs…

    I’ve been trying a few ebooks on my laptop. So far, I’m on the fence about them as a whole. After awhile, my eyes tire and I can no longer look at the screen. I have no clue if I’d have the same problem with the Sony (refuse to even consider the Kindle) or with a mini-notebook. I do have two books on my MotoQ for the times when I’m stuck waiting either in long lines or at the docs, but that screen is relatively small so eventually bothers my eyes as well.

    That doesn’t mean though that I haven’t kept an eye on the market and watched the changes and pitfalls. I’d be more inclined to invest in a reader of some sort if the market was more uniform and made more sense. Though I love my books and will never feel completely comfortable with any kind of electronic reader, I do see the huge advantage to having one when I travel. Much lighter than carrying 8 or 9 novels with me.

    just my $0.02 :D

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  39. Amy
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 13:32:41

    Anne Stuart's Ice Series? Can't get the first book on Kindle, but all of the others are available. Someone please explain that to me. Ugh.

    @Bonnie — this would be Black Ice, correct? It was released before Harlequin started making eBooks. It could be released as a backlist ebook in the future, though.

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  40. Robert
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 13:37:59

    These are great points and the suggestions you make on pricing and promotion are dead on.

    The only place I'd disagree with you is on DRM and territoriality, and I'd wrap the two together, because they are part of the same issue. If it weren't for territorial concerns, I think publishers would be moving towards stripping DRM.

    Most books are not published globally by the same publisher, and as a result, release dates, price points, vary from territory to territory. This is actually a good thing. It allows publishing houses in the UK, Ireland, Australia to buy English language rights of books published in the US , or to build successful books in the local markets and sell the rights internationally. And those local publishers create opportunities for local authors.

    Now imagine a world where the electronic rights are owned exclusively by the big New York publishers. As the ebook market grows, foreign publishers are unable to profit from ebooks sold in the same territories as the books they license to print. The inevitable result is that those companies will have a harder time keeping their doors open. Removing territoriality will consolidate the industry towards the big New York houses (or, more likely, amazon), and that's not necessarily a good thing for books. As long as ebooks and print books are intertwined as products, the territorial concerns born out of the realities of print distribution and brick and mortar bookselling will have an impact on ebooks, and vice versa.

    The other thing that's worth investigating more closely is whether DRM-free ebooks do actually help sales of print books, there is no evidence that it does (all claims you see tend to cite anecdotal evidence, and ignore actual sales figures) The best one can say is that it works very well for a small number of books (diary of a wimpy kid springs to mind) and not that well for nearly everyone else. (google “free ebook” for examples)

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  41. library addict
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 13:42:47

    Well said, Jane.

    I agree with most of what you said. I'm not a huge fan of excerpts though. Maybe they could just provide direct links to the author's backlist on the publisher's website to encourage more sales.

    Also, not a fan of the selling ARCs idea because of the number of typos, etc. (even though I like the idea of getting my hands on the In Death novels early – LOL)

    I haven't purchased an e-reader yet. Cost is the main reason why. But I also want to wait to see if publishers will wise-up and go with a universal format (or formats – after all we have MP3, MP4, AAC, etc).

    Publishers do need to adapt to the changing market. And they need to do their best to make that change as easy as possible for their consumers.

    And why doesn't the NYT either include e-book sales in their numbers or have a separate “Best Selling E-Books” list? Do audio sales count when they are released at the same time as the hardcover edition?

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  42. Bonnie
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 13:51:36

    @Bonnie -’ this would be Black Ice, correct? It was released before Harlequin started making eBooks. It could be released as a backlist ebook in the future, though.

    Amy, yes – Black Ice.

    Whatever the reason, I won’t start the series until it’s available on Kindle. All of it. And that’s too bad.

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  43. Miki
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 13:52:18

    Amen, Jane. I will try to think about an ebook “wishlist” and send it to the email in the post.

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  44. Sunita
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 14:10:34

    Great post as usual, Jane. I love waking up Sunday mornings and seeing what e-book subject you’re going to tackle. And yes, thanks, I know I have no life.

    Like Keishon, Jayne, and others, I love eHarlequin, despite the DRM, because they seem really to care and to pay attention to what ebook readers are interested in. Aside from the early releases, they have great sales on ebooks. There’s almost always something I want to buy. And I will try books from eHarlequin that I might be unsure about just because if it’s not great, I know they’ve given me a lot of satisfying reads in the past and they will again.

    I just hope the big conglomerate publishers understand that proprietary formats and region-coding are not going to work for them in the long run. The more that people have to use work arounds to read what they want, the less inclined they’ll be to follow legal paths if the illegal ones are easier (not just cheaper). Once again, xkcd nails it:

    http://xkcd.com/488/

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  45. MoJo
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 14:44:45

    Who owns the mp3 format?

    Exactly.

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  46. Stuart
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 14:49:04

    Mike Shatzkin @ 36: Is it that big a job to convert a to-be-printed book to an ebook? Sure, if you need enhanced content (whether that be hyper-linked contents or excerpts of other books) it can take time, but I’m fairly old fashioned: I tend to read a book from start to finish. Surely, all the publishers need to do is in their word processor, go File, Save As… html. It should take minutes, at most, and be available weeks before the printed version. I guess I’m in the minority when it comes to additional content, though.

    Robert @ 40. I’m not sure I follow that DRM is related to local rights. No DRM (that I’m aware of) limits selling to geographic regions, so how are the two related?
    I agree that being able to adjust RRPs to local conditions can be a good thing, but I don’t see that having global (or, at least, English language) rights would naturally lead to just NY publishers having the digital rights. If anything, it would encourage a seperation of digital and print rights, with many publishers from outside the US competing for those global digital rights – potentially a very good thing for authors. I’m not entirely sure that the old idea of local rights works any more, even for printed books, though. It’s too easy to order US edition stuff from Amazon UK to ever wait for the UK edition to arrive…

    Personally, I love the idea of e-arcs, and have purchased several from Baen, who got me started reading ebooks.

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  47. ShellBell
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 15:17:14

    You’ve mentioned 3 of my pet peeves when it comes to ebooks:

    Release eBooks at Same Time as Print Versions It is extremely frustrating when the ebook version is not released at the same time as the print version. It certainly doesn’t make me go out and buy the paperback/hardcover. I’m still waiting for Alexis Morgan’s Dark Warrior Unleashed, Dead After Dark anthology and Kresley Cole’s Kiss of a Demon King to be released as ebooks.

    Provide Additional Content in the eBook. I bought the ebook version of Christine Feehan’s Dark Celebration. It didn’t include the chocolate recipes that were included in the print versions. Although I didn’t plan on using the recipes, given that I paid a hardcover price for the ebook I did expect that the recipes would be included in the ebook file. I have definitely restricted the number of ebooks I buy at the hardcover price since then.

    Price It Right. Instant gratification is one of the reasons I buy ebooks but I definitely think hard before I purchase an ebook at the hardcover or trade price. I usually end up removing the book from my cart. Where is the justification at charging that much for an ebook? I now try to borrow the book from the library and will look at possibly purchasing the ebook when the price becomes more reasonable. If I can’t get the book from the library then I still won’t buy the hardcover or trade priced ebook, so once again some publishers have done themselves out of more sales.

    And why doesn't the NYT either include e-book sales in their numbers or have a separate “Best Selling E-Books” list? Do audio sales count when they are released at the same time as the hardcover edition?

    I’d be interested in knowing that answer too!

    I’m not even fussed about the DRM issues. As long as I can get the ebook in one of the formats I can use on my Palm then I’m happy.

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  48. roslynholcomb
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 16:05:39

    E-books for hardcover prices? Ye Gods. I won’t pay hardcover prices for HARDCOVER! (Except the new Patricia Briggs book, but I’m claiming insanity on that one!) I don’t really mind paying paperback prices, to me a book is a book is a book. I don’t buy hardbacks because IMO, they’re overpriced, and I don’t have the space for them anyway.

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  49. Louise van Hine
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 16:17:49

    e-publication is the future of publishing, and publishers should position themselves accordingly and start changing their publication paradigm. Or loss of revenue will continue to be the stick that drives them to it after a lot of publishers go under, leaving the smaller, more flexible e-publishers thriving.

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  50. jonathan
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 17:20:24

    Book publishers really need to examine and find wisdom with their counterparts in the music industry. Although it has taken some time, the music industry is finally learning a few things:

    1) DRM doesn’t work; it simply restricts legal sales.

    2) Standard format, used by all devices. Features of individual devices will sell those devices, let the music be a stand-alone product.

    3) Price for e-media should be significantly lower than physical media. Price it correctly, and customers can get a better product easier; there will be no incentive to pirate.

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  51. lilitu93
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 17:21:39

    @Angela James:

    Not really. Who owns the mp3 format?

    There’s actually some debate on that, but Thomson/Frauenhofer seem to have the greatest claim to the format: Wikipedia on patent issues.

    Patent issues are part of the reason that other formats like Windows Media, AAC and OGG were developed. MP3 still won out, but now that AAC files are available without DRM from iTunes, AAC may end up becoming bigger in the future.

    As for EPUB as a container/format, I’ve got no problem with it, but the only DRMed version of it is Adobe DRM, and that’s something I won’t buy, due to their history.

    Multiple DRMs are more of a source of confusion than multiple formats, especially for those using non-ereader devices that need software to read ebooks. For example, I use an iPhone and before that a Palm OS Treo. If there’s no DRM and the format is open, then anyone can develop software for it, and if my current reading program of choice doesn’t read a specific format, I can go find another. You don’t have that choice with hardware readers, unless the firmware is updated.

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  52. Angela James
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 17:32:30

    The mp3 question was rhetorical, as a point that one format doesn’t have to mean someone controlling the industry :P

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  53. Angela James
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 17:34:28

    As for EPUB as a container/format, I've got no problem with it, but the only DRMed version of it is Adobe DRM, and that's something I won't buy, due to their history.

    When I suggested EPUB as a standard format, I was suggesting a non-DRM format. I’m not any more of a fan of DRM than most anyone here.

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  54. Jane
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 17:43:43

    @Stuart For newer books, I think that the creation of ebooks from a word doc is quite easy. For backlist titles, I think you have to scan the books in and then convert the image to a text file. That can be very time consuming.

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  55. Courtney Milan
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 18:23:13

    @Angela James:

    Not really. Who owns the mp3 format?

    If you're talking a format like EPUB, it's not any different than having one music format, like mp3.

    Hypothetically, Thomson Consumer Electronics, who own a patent on the MP3 conversion algorithm, which they’ve enforced egregiously enough that they convinced open source advocates to come up with the Ogg/Vorbis standard. (I see someone else has pointed this out.)

    So yes, it can in fact be a problem. I don’t care if we have only one format for eBooks or twenty so long as the one format that we have is open and free.

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  56. eggs
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 18:31:50

    It is understandable that both the publishers and their solid-selling authors are concerned about losing their livelihood while publishers tinker with DRM-free business models. So why not take the focus off the big-sellers while they sort it all out?

    The NY publishers could ‘test drive’ DRM-free ebooks by using the out-of-print backlists of their midlist authors. Readers are often jonesing for copies of these books that they read five or ten years ago as MMPBs but can no longer find copies of, even in second hand stores.

    I would love it if publishers had a section on their sites called “The Vault” or whatever, where I could go and get e-copies of older books like this. I understand there aren't enough interested buyers to justify a new print run for these books, but if they were only released as ebooks? It could work. I would certainly be buying some!

    Currently, neither the publisher nor the midlist (or possibly retired) author is making any income out of these books, so what would they have to lose by negotiating the world-wide electronic rights and giving it a go? If they went with a profit sharing model, rather than an advance payment model, it shouldn't cost too much to set up. And if the publishers used it to test drive the DRM-free business model at the same time, everyone – readers, the publisher and the author – could come out ahead.

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  57. Joy
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 18:31:55

    @ theo

    I've been trying a few ebooks on my laptop. So far, I'm on the fence about them as a whole. After awhile, my eyes tire and I can no longer look at the screen. I have no clue if I'd have the same problem with the Sony

    I started with ebooks on my laptop….then printing to read from paper because my eyes hurt. I bought a Sony for Christmas and it is nothing like reading from the computer. I <3 e-ink. I don’t have to wear my glasses and can read forever.

    However, I hate DRM. This will keep me in print books.

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  58. Leah
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:00:41

    Fantastic post!

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  59. Louise van Hine
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:05:42

    @Joy: I have a Kindle and I can read the page without my glasses, and can read for far longer at a stretch than I can a print book. And it’s easier to hold.

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  60. Kaetrin
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:22:57

    Hear Hear Jane.

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  61. theo
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:23:51

    @Joy,

    I’m a very tactile person. I’ll never give up my books. Nothing else feels like them when you hold them. The convenience of the Sony for traveling, like I said, is what’s drawing me to it. Alas, even after Lasik surgery, I’m back in my contacts and will never be able to give up my reading glasses. Even if I make the font much bigger on the laptop or buy a large print book, I still need the glasses to read :-(

    As to the DRM, I bought an audio book and can only listen to it on the iPod my daughter gave me. Extremely irritating with the price I paid for it to be so limited. I won’t buy any more of those and I can see being the same way with eBooks. I want to be able to load it on whatever, not be limited to one or maybe two things.

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  62. Bonnie
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:26:04

    At Louise: I have a Kindle and I can read the page without my glasses, and can read for far longer at a stretch than I can a print book. And it's easier to hold.

    Louise, I agree. I read quite a lot, so my hands used to cramp up reading paper books. Not any more. I read much faster with the Kindle and with much more comfort.

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  63. Deirdre
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:36:37

    Agree with everything here and would add.

    Please would publishers out of the US wake up and realise that it isn’t just books readers are looking for. I currently have a memory card full of knitting patterns. Much easier to carry around for me than several printed pages. This is not to say that the e-reader isn’t full of fiction, there were reasons I had to get a memory card…

    Also, FIX the formatting. Make it smooth to go up a size and not have reading issues. I have poor eyesight and need to up the size occasionally and also have been known to put the reader at a distance and need it bigger to see it, the poor formatting often means I’m doing more page changes than really keep up with my reading speed even while knitting.

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  64. Jessica G.
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:57:52

    @Deirdre: Are you reading these knitting patterns on PDF? I haven’t had a single problem with reformatting when zooming on LRF books, but PDFs are a whole different story. If so, let me know, and I can show you how to turn those patterns into LRF format so it doesn’t get all wacky.

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  65. TerryS
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 19:59:37

    Another excellent post. Thanks! You’ve hit on so many of my own concerns and behavior pattern you could be in my mind.

    “First, the ebook reader will most likely wait for the ebook version to come out rather than by the print version because they don't want two versions of the same book. Instead, the ebook reader might go to the library or borrow the book rather than buy a book and then even the ebook sale might be lost.”

    It is a shame to completely lose a sale to a used book store because of shortsightedness! How does that help the publisher or the author?

    I hope someone listens that is in a position to effect some much needed change.

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  66. Joy
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 20:01:41

    Theo -
    I’m with you. I like the feel of a book and I suppose there will always be books I buy/borrow in print. What really sold me was the convenience of always having a book – and having extras in the reader versus packing extra books for just in case.

    I’ve yet to buy a new release from a NY publisher in eformat….we’ll see how this year goes.

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  67. Anon
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 22:16:09

    And … the DRM-stripped issue is at the heart of the reason I don’t like ebooks, from an authors perspective.

    Yes, I get the DRM technology just p.o.’s the legit buyer. For the person committed to piracy, it will be a minor obstacle. An annoyance.

    And…that is the reason I fear ebooks. The fact that things can be easily redistributed, well, it sucks.

    So, my book goes out as an ebook. And, very soon after, it goes up on websites where it’s available for free. Not cool.

    And please, don’t tell me it’s like a library. Or a UBS.

    A library–or a UBS–has ONE COPY. One copy of a book does not suddenly replicate into 200 copies. One copy remains one copy.

    If someone down on her luck, unsure of an author, or wanting to support a local business, shops at a UBS, or uses her library, good on her. There are not suddenly 45 more copies of the book out there, available to anyone.

    Figure out the security. Make them non-copyable, non-sendable, and I’m listening. Until then, it sucks, imo.

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  68. Xenophon
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 22:18:56

    Jane:

    I presume that you are aware that the good folks over at Baen books (here and here) have been doing pretty much all the things on your list for more than seven years. And they make money doing it — even after ebooks pay their pro-rata share of the fixed costs! In fact, revenue from electronic sales is larger than all non-US sales combined (Canadian sales come in 3rd after electronic).

    In addition to all that, they’ve demonstrated that giving away older books is a great way to drive sales both in bits and in dead tree format. And that the added interest they’ve gotten via eBooks has made it possible for them to transition from being a mostly paperback house to a mostly hardcover-then-mm-paper house. With the expected increase in sales. And with a sell-through rate over 75%.

    Oh yes, I should also mention that they’ve done it with no DRM ever and no noticeable problem with piracy.

    The only question is why the other publishers are leaving so much money on the table by ignoring their example!

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  69. BBusyBookworm
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 22:30:50

    @Robert: 41

    On Whether or not DRM free books affect sales, Eric FLint has written quiet a bit on this

    First one his old columns at Prime Palaver

    More Specific This Column, Number 6 Where he has backed up his words with numbers.

    While it is an old column, its still holds true.

    He has also Written a number of Columns in Jim Baens Universe, on DRM and this topic which are definately worth a read.

    In this one, he’s made the same point, but with more recent figures .

    Other Columns of interest can be found at his page Here

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  70. Louise van Hine
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 22:35:12

    @Xenophon:

    I didn’t know all that, even though I am subscribed to Baen’s monthly e-magazine. I do know that Tor books is very generous in its e-book giveaways, and very smart. They give away the first book in a popular trilogy that’s 2 to 5 years old in print – and even some new ones whose sequels are trembling on the verge of release, and if you get hooked on the first book, you NEED to order the paperbacks of the sequels!

    I am just speaking anecdotally here, but regarding piracy, there has been piracy in music recordings since the invention of the cassette recorder, and there’s piracy now in the ebook publishing world, and I think a certain amount of bootlegging is always going to happen in the consumer demi-monde, but legitimate fans and buyers are never going to bootleg something, just like they will never download bittorrent movies or use Napster or ITunes, and that is where the lion’s share of the market will always be.

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  71. Jeanne St. James
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 22:47:23

    Amen!

    ReplyReply

  72. Donnageddon
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 01:48:27

    Great post De_Jane.

    ReplyReply

  73. Kat
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 03:32:26

    Publishers should keep a close eye on what the probloggers are doing. They’re very good at monetising free words (and not just through ads/affiliates).

    ReplyReply

  74. jonathan
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 06:25:12

    @BBusyBookwork: excellent refer to Eric Flint’s articles. He documents the point well.

    @Louise van Hine: surely you aren’t putting file-sharing sites like Napster in the same group as for-pay sites like iTunes? iTunes is the site that proved to the recording industry that e-media sales can be profitable, and that DRM doesn’t work. The music industry caved on DRM earlier this month.

    So I had a very odd experience last night. I went on Amazon.com and bought 3 songs (never done that before, I buy CDs and import to iTunes). I went through the download process, it put a tiny app on my PC, and then….. (we’re entering the twilight zone here)….. the songs show up in iTunes. No, really!! And there on my PC in simple, DRM-free MP3 format! I can now use them on my iPod. Or my Sansa. Or Zune. Or any MP3 player of my choice. Now that is cool!

    It’s the same point Eric Flint makes. The pirated music is very poor quality. I don’t want any of it. What I do want is good quality played on a device of my choosing, and I don’t want to pay a premium for something that is cheaper to make.

    Where is publishing’s iTunes??? The reader is begging for it!

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  75. Emma Wayne Porter
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 07:40:18

    We’ve actually got a survey going about preferred ebook formats (http://tinyurl.com/ebook-format-poll if you’re interested). The reason I bring it up is that I really, really hope this format catches on. I’ve overseen the workflow on conversion and hey, one ring to rule them all would rock my world.

    So far, however, precisely no one has chosen it as their preferred format.

    It’s why I cry at night.

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  76. Sandia
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 08:36:38

    I have a Kindle and I’ve been seeing a lot of the release issues like with Kresley Cole’s Kiss of a Demon King. It bothers me that the ebook versions are scheduled to be released so many days after – I’m waiting on the new Kitty Norville release, the new Mercy Thompson release, the new Kresley Cole release, the new SEP release, the new Connor Grey release, and it feels like a whole slew of others that are all being released on Feb 1 or 3 when all the print versions have been available for a while now.

    And I’ve also been noticing that the are releasing the Kindle versions at higher than the print price for the first week then lowers it – I noticed this with Glitter Baby – the SEP re-release. This practice bothers the hell out of me. Why is it that when there are significantly lower costs to produce ebooks, we can’t always reap the benefits of the lower costs??

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  77. Amy
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 09:45:12

    @Bonnie — I have good news! Black Ice is in fact being reissued in ebook quite soon. Look for it on Kindle and other formats by the end of March.
    ~Amy

    ReplyReply

  78. Louise van Hine
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 11:52:33

    @jonathan – re ITunes, I misspoke. I think it was Soulseek I meant – where people can download copyrighted digital files of music. I don’t use the services, so I tend to get the names of them mixed up.

    ReplyReply

  79. Bonnie
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 12:05:15

    @Bonnie -’ I have good news! Black Ice is in fact being reissued in ebook quite soon. Look for it on Kindle and other formats by the end of March.
    ~Amy

    Amy! Thanks so much for letting me know!

    ReplyReply

  80. Dee
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 13:32:49

    Here’s my question, and please forgive me if it’s already been mentioned. Why is it Amazon can sell MP3′s without DRM from major labels and everything is fine and good, but it can’t be the same with ebooks? I used to be an advocate for Itunes awhile back because of the portability until I found out about the DRM free music at Amazon. It completely shifted my spending habits, and also allows me to play music on any damn mp3 player I want, and back them up however I choose. Apple lost me as a customer when my music started disappearing and only certain files were compatible with my ipod.

    When I first started reading ebooks (with no clue on technology or author’s sales) and DRM was rampant, my bff started me by giving me ebooks that she had saved onto a disc. I had 20 or so on 1 disc that I never paid for, but she did. Now, if she hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have even tried ebooks because as far as I was concerned they were over my head (this is circa 2001).

    But since 2006 I’ve bought 1 ebook. One. I find a few factors about ebooks completely put me off.

    Cost for the ebook. Why should I pay $5.99 for a short story or $14.99 for a longer romance when the pb versions are $2.99 and 7.99 respectively? What don’t the publishers get about that? Its not fricking possible that ebooks would cost more to produce than print, yet their greed knows no bounds.

    Cost for the reading device. Ebook readers are hideously expensive (a kindle for $359 or a Sony for $399 vs. Ipod nano $150 or Sansa $129). I can’t help but compare music vs. book when several years ago the music industry and tech companies finally pulled their heads out of their asses and provided the portability we craved. And now the costs (similar to the beta, vcr, dvd player, blu-ray, etc) have gone down after time and demand has settled.

    And now that the economy is in an open pit fall and jobs are in question, people don’t have a lot of money for extras. Pay the bills vs. entertainment. Right now, its more economical for me to go to my local Goodwill store and buy 3 used books than buy 1 ebook that requires a lot of extras from my side ($ for the ebook, $ for a device, charging whatever device, learning all the new stuff I must do in order to read the ebook).

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  81. Angie
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 14:02:16

    Yep, yep, yep, yep, a whole lot of other yeps, and a Hell yeah!” on the DRM thing. It’s definitely getting silly, and I can easily imagine large and established (i.e., old and glacial) publishers who can’t manage to get with the program eventually falling by the wayside, wondering all the while whether the problem was that their DRM wasn’t strong enough or their e-books were too cheap and too easily available. [eyeroll]

    Angie

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  82. Hortense Powdermaker
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 14:30:20

    @ eggs @ 56 – YES! This is a great idea: a mostly painless, potentially profitable way to test the market for DRM-less work.

    I think the Google settlement will also generate sales of OOP (out of print) books, but publisher-issued ebooks would be preferable to the material that Google can offer, because the latter’s computer-screen format is hard to read.

    Either way, it seems like an epic win for both publishers and authors of OOP books that are still under copyright.

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  83. jonathan
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 15:34:25

    @Dee:

    Here's my question, and please forgive me if it's already been mentioned. Why is it Amazon can sell MP3's without DRM from major labels and everything is fine and good, but it can't be the same with ebooks?

    The book industry is several years behind the music industry on this, for several reasons.

    - Popularity. A lot more people listen to crappy music than read books.

    - Arrogance. Each industry looks at the other with disdain, and that will keep publishers in the dark ages for quite some time yet. :(

    - Technology. Recording music and playing it back had to have it’s roots in electronic devices. Publishing is much older, and didn’t need electricity to get started. It’s easier for music to make the jump to high-tech. Hard to think of a 70 yr old industry as “the new kid”, but it is, and publishing can’t get over it.

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  84. jonathan
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 15:55:51

    @Emma Wayne Porter: I checked out your survey, but here’s my problem, and I think I speak for most users in this regard.

    I don’t care what format is the “preferred” format. Somewhere recently I saw someone mention MP3 v. AAC (apple) v. Ogg (open source) relating to music. Really, I don’t care. The differences between each, why each is better/worse, etc, – nope, makes no difference to me.

    I just want to use my e-media on my preferred device.

    If it’s music, I like my iPod. But I don’t care if it uses MP3 or AAC. I just want what I buy to work on it, and I want to keep using it if I buy a different player.

    If it’s books, I like my Sony Reader. But I don’t care if it uses BBeB, LRF, LIT, XYZ, TMI (yes, last 2 are made up!), or whatever. I just want any book I buy, from any source, to work, and I want it to still work if I decide to some day buy a different reader.

    So my preferred format? The one that works.

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  85. MaryK
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 16:19:24

    @jonathan: Well said!

    I checked out the survey and left without filling it out. I’ve not even used half the formats listed; the only one that stands out is mobi because I hate it. I want a format that works universally.

    ReplyReply

  86. Stuart
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 16:42:58

    @Emma Wayne Porter: Why are there two seperate ‘html’ entries? How does ‘plain’ html vary from ‘html for PC display’? I’m assuming ‘raw’ is text and/or RTF?

    It’ll be interesting to see how the survey pans out, anyway. Like Jonathon and MaryK, I want a format that will work universally, and be as future-proof as possible. Which is why I opted for html.

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  87. Keishon
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 21:18:43

    And…that is the reason I fear ebooks. The fact that things can be easily redistributed, well, it sucks.

    It is this narrow minded view on who is STEALING vs. who is BUYING that is really, really sad. Ebooks are the future. Live on EBOOKS!

    Tom Clancy just released a slew of his books in e-format. Yay. I hope more authors will do the same.

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  88. MaryK
    Jan 27, 2009 @ 15:04:04

    @84 – 86: The thing about music formats is that they’re practically invisible. At least, they are to a casual user like myself. So, it’s all about the music. Whereas ebooks, oh man, it’s all about the format – which one you have to wrestle the file into before you can, you know, read the book?

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  89. A broad selection of dangerous reptiles [1/26/09] « What Have We Learned?
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 01:49:11

    [...] And Jane of Dear Author [...]

  90. Chris Meadows
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 09:06:26

    This kind of reminds me of how, a while back, Amazon was found to be selling printed-on-demand bad Star Wars fanfic.

    Seems like Amazon doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what’s being sold by whom until someone calls them on it…

    ReplyReply

  91. theo
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 09:26:39

    @Chris

    There is unfortunately a great deal of fanfic on Amazon that is self-published dreck written by people who, in some instances can’t even spell let alone construct a sentence, and which Amazon has apparently never paid attention to. Phantom of the Opera, Buffy… (though I think Whedon’s been fairly successful at eliminating those) and as long as anyone has the ability to self-pub, there always will be.

    And *I think*, as long as Amazon is making money from them, they have no real incentive to do anything about it either.

    Sad, but most likely true.

    ReplyReply

  92. Amy Wolff Sorter
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 13:44:50

    Very well put. But just one comment about same-time releases.

    My publisher, Amber Quill, releases e-books before the print version. They don’t do it out of any desire to be difficult, but because they work through Booksurge on the print side. AQP is at the whim of Booksurge’s schedule. Most times, the trade paperbacks are released within a week to 10 days of the ebooks, but there have been times when the lag has been as long as three weeks.

    I understand you’re talking more about the mainstream pubs in this scenario, but sometimes it’s out of the pubs’ hands if the actual printing and distribution goes to another company.

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  93. Amy Wolff Sorter
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 13:55:18

    And…that is the reason I fear ebooks. The fact that things can be easily redistributed, well, it sucks. So, my book goes out as an ebook. And, very soon after, it goes up on websites where it's available for free. Not cool.

    I’ve been an e-book author since 2003, and have worked with two different publishers. I have yet to see any of my stuff up “for free” on any web site (unless I put it there, as in the form of out-takes for promotion).

    Yeah, I suppose somebody could take my content and put it up on some obscure web site. And yeah, I suppose it might make plagarism a little easier. And I’m sure that someone has likely downloaded my ebook onto a CD or two, and given it to a friend (not that I’m vain about something like this, LOL).

    But so what? The overall percentage of that happening is pretty low If someone does put my stuff up for free, and other people like it, maybe they’ll come over to Amazon or AQP and BUY some of my other books.

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  94. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 14:14:20

    And…that is the reason I fear ebooks. The fact that things can be easily redistributed, well, it sucks. So, my book goes out as an ebook. And, very soon after, it goes up on websites where it's available for free. Not cool.

    Check the pirate sites. This week, the new books by Suz Brockmann and Susan Elizabeth Phillips went up on most of them, and they’re out hardback only! Pirate sites also feature old Harlequin releases which never came out in ebook.
    Print books are, unfortunately, not immune to piracy and are, if anything, pirated as often as ebooks.

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  95. Statch
    Jan 28, 2009 @ 16:20:33

    And…that is the reason I fear ebooks. The fact that things can be easily redistributed, well, it sucks. So, my book goes out as an ebook. And, very soon after, it goes up on websites where it's available for free. Not cool.

    The thing is, that ship has sailed. It’s not possible to roll back the tide. Publishers can either get out ahead of the wave, and learn how to profit from ebooks, or they can hang back and try to fight the pirates. The music industry has already tried the second option, and it failed miserably (and lost a ton of customer good will in the process).

    I completely understand the sentiment, but there aren’t any options other than those two. Wishful thinking isn’t going to make the Web go away.

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  96. Kurt
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 10:46:51

    Jane,

    Great editorial on the ebook world. However, I am disappointed that you failed to mention the only publisher that I know that is getting everything “right” and doing all your observations – BAEN books.

    Release eBooks at Same Time as Print Versions – they have done that since 1999. In fact you can sign up for webscriptions and get access to the books a month before the official publication date.

    Provide Additional Content in the eBook – Many of their ebooks have additional content or links to websites where more content is available.

    Price It Right – Average single book price is $6

    Experiment – Bundles, webscriptions, online magazine, very active forum, support for fan sites

    Use eBooks as Loss Leader – they put a CD with a lot of content in many of their print books. Those CDs are also available online.

    Get the Rights Thing Worked Out – OK, can’t really comment on this.

    Get Rid of DRM – BAEN has never had DRM on its ebooks.

    -Kurt
    Stop Fucking Up in General. You are making us look bad.

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  97. Jane
    Jan 29, 2009 @ 12:38:38

    @Kurt Kurt, you are absolutely right. I tend to forget about Baen because it is a SFF publisher and I don’t read much in that genre. Thanks for bringing it to my attention again though.

    ReplyReply

  98. Book Bizzo #3 Library lovers, ABC Books in the clutches of the enemy, and a hell of a lot of events and freebies - Book Thingo
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 12:24:07

    [...] Author has more ideas on how the epublishing industry can be improved. Many of the suggestions have already been tried with success by probloggers. I think book [...]

  99. the Kindle2 and ebooks « Collection Developments @ Sno-Isle
    Feb 11, 2009 @ 19:49:23

    [...] does offer insight.  Jane at Dear Author wrote a lengthy and thoughtful opinion piece on “Why ePublishing Needs to Grow Up.”  Some of her points include the need for better pricing, enhanced content, simultaneous [...]

  100. occasional fish » Some book links
    Feb 18, 2009 @ 11:37:43

    [...] interesting thoughts on the future of e-publishing. In my (albeit limited) experience, publishing as a whole is still scared and confused by eBooks [...]

  101. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, ebooks, and the definition of irony | Brad's Reader
    May 26, 2010 @ 11:57:14

    [...] when no official ebook version of a novel is made available, it encourages piracy. I came across this post from the Dear Author blog that [...]

  102. amy amster
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 09:34:25

    Lee and Low Books is an independent children's book publisher specializing in diversity. They take pride in nurturing many minority authors and illustrators who are new to the world of children's book publishing.

    For more about their history and their books, visit:
    Minority Book Publisher

    ReplyReply

  103. Victoria Pinder
    Apr 15, 2012 @ 13:11:39

    You have excellent points in your argument. You made me think, and as an unpublished author with choices on who to go to, what to do, this kind of thinking also comes into play. You rock for being logical.

    ReplyReply

  104. Milena
    Apr 15, 2012 @ 13:33:50

    A great article. But if we’re mentioning publishers who are doing it right, I must yet again name Angry Robot Books. They got me to become a regular customer because their e-books are reasonably priced, not DRM’d, and have no territorial restrictions. This year, they also offered a subscription model. They’re also SFF-only, but I mention them in any discussion on e-books exactly because they Got It Right, and that deserves support.

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  105. Christine Fairchild
    Apr 15, 2012 @ 14:51:55

    This is a savvy report on key problems with the Big6′s approach to (and hangups with) ePublishing…But maybe you shouldn’t tell them how to fix it. Their lack of competency is making indie authors rich!

    thanks again for your great post!
    Christine M. Fairchild
    The Editor Devil’s Guide to DIALOGUE (http://amzn.com/B007K1PZZC)
    The Editor Devil’s Guide to CHARACTERS (http://amzn.com/B007PTQKXA)

    ReplyReply

  106. Mike Cane
    Apr 15, 2012 @ 15:23:03

    >>>It [Harlequin] could be perfect ebook publishing company but for the DRM issue

    Well, that and the destruction of classic crime fiction due to “sensitivity” –

    Harlequin: Saving Readers From Writers
    http://ebooktest.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/harlequin-saving-readers-from-writers/

    Like Anonymous, I do not forget and I do not forgive.

    ReplyReply

  107. Publisher Experiments I’d Like to See
    Apr 29, 2012 @ 04:02:19

    [...] of the ideas here are reprinted from my 2009 article on digital publishing) Share this:PrintFacebookEmailShareStumbleUponDiggRedditRelated [...]

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