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Monday News and Deals: Publishers Glum About Digital Future

There are two big tech publishing conferences that take place in the spring.  One is Digital Book World and the second is Tools of Change. (The latter is one that I’ve gone to for 3 years).  Different companies collect data and present that data at these conferences.  One such survey conducted by Forrester Research Inc. says that publishers aren’t looking forward to the rise of digital because it doesn’t appear that digital format is bringing about more book purchases.  Indeed, with the adoption of tablets, reading may actually decline.  Anecdotally, when I first got my Kindle Fire, I spent about a week watching video and not reading.

* Readers will be better off, 61% in 2011, down from 74% in 2010
* More people will read books than did before, 60% in 2011, down from 66% in 2010
* Readers will read a greater number of books than before, 47% in 2011, down from 66% in 2010

When asked about their own companies, the pessimism became more pronounced: Only 28% of publishing executives think their company will be better off because of the transition to digital, down from 51% a year ago.

I’m not sure why readers aren’t better off.  I’d be interested in hearing how publishing executives think that readers will be worse off. I suspect it is because they believe that it will reduce the number of options that readers will have in stores? Or possibly reduce the variety or quality of book?

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The Guardian did a nice obituary for Penny Jordan.

Penny Halsall, who has died of cancer aged 65, was a prolific writer of women’s fiction, and one of Mills & Boon‘s most popular authors, under the pen name Penny Jordan. She wrote more than 200 books in a 30-year career and was phenomenally successful, with sales of 100m worldwide. Her work was translated into 25 languages.

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The Guardian also picks up on the flameouts between authors and reviewers arising out of negative reviews on Goodreads (and elsewhere).  I think this falls under the rubric of all publicity is good publicity at this point.

Whose book is it anyway? The hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it’s no longer truly yours – even though it’s got your name on the front and it lives inside you. It belongs to the readers now. All you can do is steel yourself as you push it out into the world, stay gracious, and get busy with the next one.

And if you can’t stand the heat of the blogosphere – don’t Google yourself.

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The week discusses McDonald’s move toward offering books.  A book with every Happy Meal? I’m totally down with that.

“The latest big name in books isn’t Amazon — it’s McDonald’s,”says Lindsay Goldwert in the New York Daily News. For the next month, the fast-food giant is replacing the plastic toy in every British Happy Meal with a book. The giveaway books — six installments of Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farms series — are a tie-in with Steven Spielberg’s new film adaptation of Morpurgo’s War Horse.

As an aside, Ned took the tot to see War Horse and she cried during the entire movie.  Two kids and a few horses are shot. It was pretty traumatic for her.  Getting back on topic, selling books in non traditional places is something about which I am a big fan.  I’m still waiting to see the Berkley Heat + Victoria Secret connection.

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I was somewhat surprised to see an advertorial for BlueInk Review, a company that will sell review services to self published authors. The company says that many of its reviewers also review for respected literary institutions.  I am wondering if the reviewers’ identities will be kept a secret like at Publishers Weekly and Kirkus?

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There don’t appear to be any great new deals.  The discounts I’ve seen are ones that I’ve posted about in the past so I’ll wait until Wednesday or Thursday and do a big post rounding up the sales. Dukes are still on sale!  You can click here to see past deal postings.

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

32 Comments

  1. Brie
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 10:32:14

    “Two kids and a few horses are shot. It was pretty traumatic for her”

    It was pretty traumatic for me as well, and I’m 26…

  2. Corina
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 10:33:00

    For most non-agency books, Fictionwise has a 50% off coupon right now (says it’s only good through today but they always seem to last a little longer.) Code 011312

  3. Susanna Kearsley
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 10:35:59

    I teared up in the preview at the cinema for War Horse. In fact, I get a lump in my throat just thinking of the premise. I’m not even going to attempt the movie :-)

    Thanks for posting the link to the obit for Penny. She is very much missed.

  4. joanne
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 11:36:21

    I’m so confused about the sales figures that come out of these reports and surveys. The AAP says sales are flying high. Who’s right, who’s wrong and who is supplying the information and who is checking that the information is correct?

    Also because guilt is the number one promoted disease among parents I’ll tell you that I cried through almost all of Bambi and I never, ever forgave my mother…. Suggest that Ned rent Secretariat and see if he can make it up to the poor kid! (poor dad, too)

  5. Jayne
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 11:45:32

    @Brie: @Susanna Kearsley: @joanne: This is kind of the “feel” I was getting for this movie and confirms my decision not to go see it.

  6. Author on Vacation
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 11:46:41

    Whose book is it anyway? The hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it’s no longer truly yours – even though it’s got your name on the front and it lives inside you. It belongs to the readers now. All you can do is steel yourself as you push it out into the world, stay gracious, and get busy with the next one.

    And if you can’t stand the heat of the blogosphere – don’t Google yourself.

    I agree with this. I stopped reading reviews on my work ages ago. However, the advice is also worth passing on to reviewers.

  7. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 11:47:58

    I’m not sure why readers aren’t better off. I’d be interested in hearing how publishing executives think that readers will be worse off.

    Could they be thinking that readers will be financially worse off due to the current economic climate?

  8. DS
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 11:54:49

    @joanne: Hated Bambi but I blamed Walt Disney since he also traumatized me with Old Yeller. Odd how it was easier as a child to deal with painful things on the page rather than played out in front of your eyes. I cried while reading The Yearling but it wasn’t nearly as painful as Bambi or Old Yeller.

  9. LG
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:02:49

    “One such survey conducted by Forrester Research Inc. says that publishers aren’t looking forward to the rise of digital because it doesn’t appear that digital format is bringing about more book purchases.”

    I can’t say what my spending would be like if I owned a tablet, because goodness knows I didn’t correctly predict my spending after buying an e-reader. However, I can say that my new book-buying has definitely gone up since buying an e-reader. Prior to getting my Nook, I bought maybe one new book every other week. I bought lots and lots of used books. I still buy lots and lots of used books, but now I also buy lots and lots of e-books (usually all at once, during sales), all of which count as sales of new books, since it’s impossible to buy used e-books. The sad thing, as far as my TBR pile goes, is that my reading hasn’t necessarily increased as a result. The TBR digital and physical piles just keep getting bigger and bigger.

  10. courtship
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:07:16

    I don’t know why publishers are all gloom and doom. Since I got my Kindle last November I have bought–and read–ten times more than I used to with paper books. I’m also accumulating digital books at a pace I never did with paper books (because I am an anti-clutter person.) So with this reader anyway, they are getting a whole lot more dollars from me on the digital side.

    Thanks for the War Horse warning. I was also thinking about seeing it but suspected it would make me cry too hard.

  11. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:10:41

    I went to Penny’s funeral today. It was a lovely service, and afterwards Penny treated us to one of her blow-out parties. There was only one thing missing, but she was definitely there in spirit She’ll be sorely missed, not least for her mentoring of new authors and the hard work she did for her charities.

  12. P. Kirby
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:19:53

    I got my husband a Kindle Fire for Xmas and he loves it. He has, however, spent the majority of his time playing Angry Birds and Zombies Must Die, watching movie trailers and surfing the web. I should note, that he doesn’t have an iPhone or any other web capable gadget (besides the computer), so that part is rather novel for him (and me). He finally downloaded a book–by David Gemmel, his favorite author–last week and started to read it. (It hasn’t occurred to him yet to download one of mine, though–heh.) But…he’s a rather sporadic reader anyway, sometimes going months between books. In his case, going digital probably won’t lead to more book purchases.

    Despite being epublished myself, I haven’t made the transition to digital. I don’t have anything against the idea, but reading on the computer sucks, and “the plan” to share the Kindle Fire hasn’t panned out.

  13. willaful
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:40:20

    I had a children’s lit teacher in library school who was pushing for that McDonald’s idea 20 years ago. Guess he’s happy! My response was that if they did, the books would be crap; I suspect we’re both right. (No comment on the original books, which I’m not familiar with, but short cheap adaptations tend to be lousy.) But I’m not longer as down on crap as I once was.

  14. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:43:02

    I hadn’t thought about how tablets could take readers’ attention away from books, but it makes total sense. I went back to using my ereader because I found that when I was reading on a tablet I kept checking my email, tweetstream, etc. Ereaders are single-focus and tablets aren’t.

    Ereaders have come down a lot in price, but if you can use a tablet to read ebooks, casual readers will do their reading that way rather than getting a dedicated reader, which will change the way they read but not the amount.

  15. Keri Ford
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 13:19:46

    Popeye’s (about 95% sure it was Popeye’s) put a book in son’s kid meal and I LOVED IT! It’s been about a year, but I picked Popeye’s several more times when we were in town just because of the book. The books were simple, but color. Fairly short, but there was a story there. I seem to remember comparing it to what you’d find in a cereal box.

    Sonic often does cool things too. I’ve seen MadLibs and recently a scaled down version of a card game. Last summer they had a Get Fit type thing going and the toy was a small Frisbee or small reusable water bottle and others things like that to encourage outdoor play.

  16. Tina
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 13:35:16

    Regarding books with Happy Meals: This reminds me of a neighbor of mine who is a english professor …well, all my neighbors are college professors, actually, as I live in a college town. But anyway, she always give out books with candy on Halloween. She has an enclosed front porch and it has baskets and baskets of books sorted roughly by age group. And she’ll have the kids pick out a book before she’ll give them candy. I loved taking my kids to her house and they loved it too. I swear they loved poking through the books as much as they loved getting the candy.

    She’s a bit more popular than the nutrition professor who offers broccoli as an alternative on Halloween. Believe it or not, some kids actually take a broccoli floret.

  17. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 14:01:10

    @Tina:

    she always give out books with candy on Halloween.

    Brilliant.

  18. cleo
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 14:58:27

    I have a NookColor and I buy a lot of ebooks. The first month or so I spent much, much more on ebooks than I ever did on regular books, and then I came back to my senses. Even now, I’d say I’m buying as many or more books than before and I’m also buying e-copies of print books I own.

    I mostly use it for books. I think it kind of depends on the type of reader you are – people who read a lot will not stop reading a lot after they buy a tablet. I bought it for my commute and I do use it to read on the train (as well as at home). I’ve noticed that on my lunch break at work I’m just as likely to use it to surf the web as I am to read a book. At least so far, I haven’t gotten into the apps.

    And fyi (don’t remember if you posted this one already) – AllRomance ebooks has a 30% rebate for Harlequins Jan 15 – 31.

  19. Lolita Lopez
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 15:42:03

    Chick Fil-A also gives out books with kid’s meals. Kiddo is under 3 and that’s the under 3 alternative to a toy: a book. They’re nice books too. Some are small board books. Others are small versions of old skool Golden Books. (The Shy Little Kitten, The Poky Little Puppy, etc.) I’ll probably continue asking for the under 3 option even after she’s a “big girl.” I ‘d rather have books cluttering up her play area than cheap toys!

    Oh and I’m another Kindle reader who buys and reads more than when I was paper only. It’s that 1-click button! I can’t resist.

  20. Cara Ellison
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 15:43:21

    I bought a Kindle Fire last Tuesday. It arrived on Wednesday. I’ve spent $800 since then on books (averages out to $160 a day for five days). I’ve never been so out of control in my life. I don’t think ebooks are the problem that publishers think they are.

  21. Kelley
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 16:03:24

    I hate to keep bringing it back to price, but I know there are a lot of us out there who refuse to pay the $7.99 for an (MMPB) ebook from the big 6. Maybe the drop in their sales has more to do with that then the actual ebook reader. If I see that price point, I head to Target, my UBS or B and N where I can get a 20-40% discount. So those numbers which could have been ebook sales then become MMPB or no number in the case of the UBS. What’s funny is I started buying replacements for my library when the price point was $6.39 which was about Amazon’s discount on ebooks. We’re not talking a major discount here but at least a symbolic nod that the products were not the same and lacked the same utility. There were about 6 books I would have bought or pre-ordered today on Amazon. I didn’t buy any of them. I want the story but I’m not so in love with my Kindle that I’m unwilling to buy books in any other format. Price wins every time in feeding my voracious reading habit. :-)

  22. Eliza Evans
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 17:06:26

    @Lynne Connolly: Lynne, thanks for sharing that! I had no connection with Penny Jordan at all, beyond sneaking her books to read when I was a teenager, but she was clearly well-loved by her fans and those who knew her.

  23. SHZ
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 18:33:10

    @Lynne Connolly: Thanks for sharing that.

    I’ve seen War Horse described as Black Beauty meets Saving Private Ryan. I am not someone who gets teary over a horse, but I have no idea how they thought that was ever going to work either for kids or grown-ups!

    I love the quote about authors and reviews. If only authors would actually listen to that advice and believe it.

  24. SHZ
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 18:35:48

    Hmmm. The Guardian is a newspaper I had a lot of respect for – HAD, now that I see so many typos and wrong words! What happened?!

  25. Lynnd
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 18:42:39

    @Kelley: I certainly agree that the agency pricing isn’t helping, particularly in these economic times. When e-books were cheaper than their MMPB versions (I bought lots of books at $6.39), I spent a lot more money on e-books than I do now. It was much easier to justify spending $6.00 – $6.50 each on a couple of books at a time, rather than $8.99 – $10.99, plus taxes for one book (I’m in Canada, books are more expensive). Now if I buy an e-book at agency prices, it’s usually only one at a time and it is a book I really want. I buy more when I have a coupon or there is a discount. I am also not taking many chances on buying new authors. Now that many of the agency 6 books are often more expensive than their MMPB counterpart, I’m just passing them by or borrowing the print version from my library (if the ebook isn’t available). If my library doesn’t have it then in many cases, I’m just not reading the book. The authors I bought in hardcover (not many), I’m still buying in hardcover, but that means that my book budget is reduced by that amount and I’m being much more careful with that budget. I’m also not willing to pay more for less and I don’t have the room or the inclination to buy MMPBs over e-books. Luckily I have a huge TBR, both virtual and paper so I’m not lacking anything to read.

  26. Ros
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 20:13:19

    @SHZ: The Guardian (commonly known as The Grauniad) has always had a terrible reputation for typos and other errors. Not wholly deserved, but there have been some bad blunders.

  27. lorenet
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 21:15:21

    @Cara Ellison: I have to agree with you. I have read and purchased much more in digital than I ever purchased in paper. 2010 was an expecially painful year for my amex card :-)

  28. SAO
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 22:12:43

    Maybe the publishers believe “true readers” read paper. You get these screeds on the internet every now and then. The feel in your hands, the physical thrill of turning a page, etc.

    I’m sure that the move to E is going to reduce options for readers of non-E. The big box will shrink until it becomes more like an airport bookstore. Nora and Grisham and some magazines.

  29. Samantha
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 03:36:54

    What the big publishers mean is “they’re not buying as many books produced by us.” Readers who use tablets and ereaders tend to buy from a wider variety of places–smaller pubs, self-pubbed authors, etc.

  30. Maili
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 08:58:23

    re: War Horse

    I won’t watch it. I know I’ll end up crying so hard that my tear ducts would need an ambulance. I however would like to recommend a fantastic non-fiction book: “Animals in War” by Jilly Cooper.

    Cooper is a British romance & women’s fiction author who’s well known for campaigning for years to get some kind of a national recognition of animals’ involvement during wars. Her efforts resulted with a monument to war animals in Park Lane (next to Hyde Park) in 2004. You can see the memorial here http://www.animalsinwar.org.uk

  31. njoireading
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 09:02:13

    I have to agree on buying a lot, and I mean a lot, more books since having an ereader. But…..price is also a problem. Lately BN has pre-orders at considerable savings for a lot of books, and I snag those. For ebooks that are the same price as the MMPB I will go somewhere like Target to get the discounted book. Also, the UBS is still a favorite haunt. With that said, I have trolled through the ‘net finding many epub sites where I can download an ebook for under 4$US or even less. Found several new authors that way, as well as some older books that either were favorites I didn’t keep or books I was never able to find. My ebooks can stay with me and I don’t have to ever take them to the UBS or library. Of course that means, when I end up having to actually read my DIK’s I better have AC power so I can keep my color nook juiced!

  32. willaful
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 21:16:11

    @Samantha: Oh, excellent point. There’s a whole world of ebooks out there, out of the mainstream.

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