Thursday Midday Links: New eReaders to debut from BN and Amazon
There is a lot of news today. First up Barnes and Noble is set to announce a new ebook reader during BEA which is in a couple of weeks. Amazon is releasing a new ebook reader this fall. The BN Nook 2, as Mike Cane believes it will be called, is likely to have a Mirasol type screen which is a color eInk screen. I saw a Mirasol screen a couple of years ago and it was beautiful. The Amazon ebook reader is likely to be a full fledged Android tablet.
Free ebooks this month:
- 5/1/2011 to 5/31/2011 Long Hard Ride Lorelei James
- 5/1/2011 to 5/14/2011 A Little Harmless Sex Melissa Schroeder
- 5/15/2011 to 5/28/2011 Fortune’s Deception Karen Erickson
- SEALed with a Kiss by Mary Daughtridge
- A Tailor-Made Bride by Kare Witemeyer
Amazon has launched a new publishing imprint featuring romances called Amazon Montlake. Connie Brockway is the debut author in that line. According to Ms. Brockway, this cover is just a placeholder. One hopes so because otherwise I have my doubts about the success of that line. More genre specific imprints are coming from Amazon. We wrote about Amazon as a publisher in 2009:
This was correctly read as Amazon’s foray into the marketplace as a publisher, not just a retailer. While this may have been a surprise to some, it seemed like the natural progression of Bezos’ moves in the last few years. We actually discussed this just last month wherein I suggested the next logical step for Bezos was to become a publisher.
AAR has an email from Brockway about why she’s made an about face from her recent announcement that she would self publish. There is no mention of whether she received an advance (and my guess is that she did not) but she will get a book in print and audio as well as on the Kindle platform. She will also receive editing support. Again, no details of the terms of the deal are released.
Revenue reports are coming in from all publishers:
The company’s total first-quarter revenue increased to $351.4 million from $335 million, and Torstar said sales from Harlequin, which publishes romance novels, more than offset declines in other divisions such as lower print advertising revenues.
“We got out of the gate faster than usual,” said S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy led by sales of e-books that doubled in the quarter and accounted for 17% of revenue with digital audio adding the other one percent (about $28 million). The steep increase in profits was attributed to lower shipping, production and returns costs as well as the “painful” belt-tightening that S&S has implemented over the last 18 months plus the higher sales, Reidy said.
However, “EBook sales momentum was considerable” in the first quarter of 2011, “up 88% compared to Q1 2010, accounting for approximately 22% of revenue in the United States.” Brisk sales in the U.S. for reading devices at the end of 2010 are a key factor in the explosive growth of digital reading in the first three months of this year. HBG has had 23 titles on the New York Times eBook bestseller list since the list’s debut on February 13, 2011.
Pearson (parent of Penguin):
Pearson PLC (PSON.LN) said Thursday that revenue rose 9% in the first quarter, bolstered by its extensive education and publishing operations, and reiterated that it expects sales, margin and earnings growth in 2011.
Pearson said the FT Group has made a “good start to the year”, and that Penguin “continues to benefit from consistently strong publishing and a leading position in digital reading, with ebook sales doubling in the first quarter” from a year earlier.
I wish the Agency publishers would see that their digital sales would grow even more if they did away with agency pricing. However, as long as digital sales show growth I doubt they will.
Not sure how I feel about Amazon actually becoming a publisher. Will the books be exclusive to Amazon or available at other retailers? And that Brockway cover looks like an 80s contempt. So I hope the real cover looks more like an historical.
Yeah, I am a little curious about the Amazon thing as well. If I were an author I would not want my sales locked into only 1 distributor.
@library addict The publisher of Montlake is Victoria Griffith and no one seems to have heard of her in the NY editorial circles. Nor is she a recognizable romance agent. Maybe a super romance lover with a publishing background somewhere else?
Poor Connie Brockway can’t catch a break over at AAR. Now her book will be out in print, but there is much complaining that the ebook will only be available in Kindle format.
I understand the concern. Many aspects of the Amazon Borg concern me, especially now that they’re pulling adult m/m yaoi Kindle books but not m/f. But hello? She’s an author; she made the best choice *for herself*.
I do wish pro-Kindle people would stop telling everyone they can download the Kindle app for other devices. They know that.That’s not the complaint.
ARGH! Jane! I just late last night ordered a Nook Color! Am I going to regret doing that now?
@theo: If it were me, I would cancel and wait.
Actually I don’t think that cover is half bad, especially considering much of the cookie cutter stuff already out there that would make it indistinguishable. It caught my eye because it was different. Yeah, that font is obnoxious and is reminiscent of the font on the old Avon romances of the 70s & 80s, but still I think it is quite a nice cover.
It looks as though Amazon Mortlake is for North America only. It mentions that in the blurb you link, and Amazon.co.uk doesn’t have any sign of Connie Brockway’s November publication although it is already listed on Amazon.com. Are they going to support geographic restrictions?
Sorry – I take it back – they have listed the first three chapters of The Other Guy’s Bride as a teaser.
I think I have 15 days, which would put me a lot closer to the release. Besides, they already marked it for shipping so I couldn’t cancel it. Drat…it figures, doesn’t it?
Amazon’s also planing to expand into mystery, science fiction, and thrillers from what I’ve read.
You can send them feedback about Montlake here…
Word is the Amazon tablet will use a Fringe Field Switching LCD display from Hydis, 180 degree viewing angles and viewable in sunlight.
@theo: Just send it back when it arrives. Amazon doesn’t have a problem with returns. A bit of a pain for you to take it to the post office, but…
J. A. Konrath (who usually tells everything and more) had to sign a nondisclosure about his contract with Amazon for the book Amazon published. I doubt if we will find out any more from Brockway. The book does sound interesting though.
Oh my….visible in sunlight? That would be awesome.
However, I still want a device that switches between eink and LED. Because I do like to rest my eyes.
I was all set to grab A Tailor-Made Bride, thinking, “Yes! A western!” But then, buried in the short review, I noticed it was christian fiction.
Why don’t they label inspirationals clearly? Christian proselytizing is really unwelcome for lots of people. This book is free, but what if I had paid a trade price for it and only then noticed my mistake? Do they want negative reviews from disappointed readers, like Carla Kelly’s LDS inspy got?
I’m pretty shocked, actually, that more authors are not up in arms about Amazon Montlake. Considering how upset people get when agents become publishers or traditional publishers become vanity publishers, I’m FASCINATED by the apparent lack of concern over Amazon’s blatant effort to corner the digital market.
As an author, the LAST thing I ever want is for my books to be available from only ONE vendor. How is that EVER to my advantage? I don’t care if Amazon has 65% of the digital book market; that’s not enough to justify handing over 100% of my potential sales to them. If my readers who have Nooks or Kobos or Sony ereaders can’t buy my book in a format they can use, I lose sales. Yeah, they can download the Kindle app to their computer, but they bought an ereader because they don’t want to read on their computers. Um, duh?
Although I’m not privy to any of the details of Brockway’s deal with Montlake, I would be extremely surprised if she did not get some money upfront. It’s hard for me to believe that she would have passed on NY offers that included money, then accept one from Amazon that did not, especially when doing so clearly limits her distribution and therefore her potential sales. I’m also under the impression that when Hocking was being shopped, Amazon offered for her and there was money on the table in that deal. Steve Axelrod (Hocking’s agent) apparently believed that being available in digital only on Amazon wouldn’t be in his client’s best interests. I don’t think it’s in Connie’s, either, although I could be wrong.
I’ll also be very interested to see how the print versions of Montlake books are distributed. Connie said on AAR that the plan (sic) is for them to be in brick and mortar stores, but unless Amazon plans to use Ingraham as a distributor like all the other publishers, I’m not sure how that’s going to happen.
Also, I have no doubt in my mind that the goal of Montlake is not to acquire debut romance authors and build them, but to cherry-pick existing authors with a following. No one is going to come to Amazon to buy a book from an author they’ve never heard of that’s available nowhere else (or at least, not enough someone’s to make a quantifiable difference). Amazon’s goal is to ensure that fans of the authors it contracts have only one place to buy their books in digital–and I suspect, though I cannot yet prove, print–and that that place is Amazon.
All in all, I see this as Not A Good Thing(TM) for anyone with an interest in books–except, of course, for Amazon.
@Jackie Barbosa: Amazon signed a distribution deal with HMH. I reported about it here.
I don’t know that Brockway ever said she had offers for her book. She referred to it as a book that no one in trad publishing wanted her to write. Or maybe the offer was low enough that the enticement of increased royalties was sufficient to overcome the low advance. We also don’t know the terms of the deal (i.e., Andrew Wylie went exclusive and then a month later the exclusivity was off). Given that these authors are signing NDAs, it is hard to evaluate whether this is a good deal for anyone. Presumably the authors who have “signed” with amazon has weighed the pros and cons.
THE OTHER GUY’S BRIDE is historical? That title screams contemp to me. It’s going to need a very different cover if they want historical readers to find it.
@Jane: Connie did not have offers on the books she’s planning to publish, but I don’t believe she had no hope of being recontracted by a NY publisher. I got the impression she HAD been offered another contract but chose to pass in favor of writing these books that she really wanted to finish.
Of course, I can’t begin to guess what Brockway’s deal with Amazon is, nor would I presume to. Clearly, she and her agent thought this deal was in her best interests. I just think it’s clearly AGAINST the best interests of readers.
But I guess, just as readers don’t have to take authors’ best interests into account, authors don’t have to take readers’ interests into account, either. Everyone for him/herself, eh?
Jackie, I completely agree! I voiced my annoyance further up the thread but have something else to add. I bought a 3d tv back in November. Since then 3d movie makers have been signing deals left and right with specific makers with exclusive deals for the movie on only “their” system. I am NOT buying 4 different brands of 3d tv. Sorry. It just means that when I buy a tv for my bedroom and kitchen I’ll go back to 2d cheapo when I would have enjoyed having 3d on all my sets. They’ve managed to totally decimate any enjoyment I might have had by severely limiting my viewing choices.
Connie Brockway is doing the same thing and so are any other authors who sign “exclusive” deals with a single distributor. Sooooo annoying.
@Jackie Barbosa: I think that what is in the best interests of the reader (low prices, global availability, no DRM, no exclusivity) doesn’t always coincide with the author’s best business interest at any given point in time. I don’t think you can ever argue to a business person that their decisions need to be based on the heart v. the head. It’s why, when I make a DRM or global availability argument, I try to take the point of view of how using DRM or restricting global availability or pricing a book too high is NOT in the best interests of the author economically.
Authors who are signing deals with NY for books that will be agency priced and limited global availability are preferencing certain readers over others. That isn’t an immoral or unethical thing, but it may had adverse economic consequences. Similarly Brockway’s exclusive deal with Amazon which may be limited to North America, may only be available to kindle users, may be priced too high for print readers (I mean, did you see the print price?) may seem like a good deal to her but is, in fact, prejudicing certain classes of readers.
Is it the best deal for Brockway or any others signing with Montlake? I have no idea. If it is for 6 months or for 1 year? Maybe not if the increased benefit makes up for any lost sales in the non Kindle market or the lost sales in the print market. Longer than that and I think the exclusivity can be very damaging but then again, I don’t know what Brockway actually got.
For some reason, I am just not convinced that actual advances are given in these circumstances. I don’t have any information upon which to base this and I could be totally wrong.
@Jane: Everything you say is true regarding business interests of authors not necessarily coinciding with the interests of readers. But in a lot of cases, authors don’t have much choice, at least when it comes to things like geo restrictions, pricing, and DRM unless they want to go the full self-publishing route.
But Brockway did have a choice here. She’d already passed on the NY publishers and decided to self-publish. Her book could have been available globally at a reasonable price without DRM. By signing a deal with Amazon, she chose to pass on all of those options (I can’t believe Montlake books won’t have DRM enabled, although I’m prepared to be surprised) primarily, I think, because self-publishing seemed like it would be a lot of work. (And hey, it is. Especially if you do multiple digital formats and print and audiobooks. It’s actually kind of daunting when you get right down to it.)
I guess I can’t exactly BLAME Ms. Brockway, approached by Amazon with a proposal to take that work off her hands, for deciding it was the better option for her, whether or not there was money on the table (the only reason I suspect there was is that Amazon was clearly willing to fork over big bucks for Amanda Hocking, so I’m not sure why they wouldn’t put something out to entice Brockway, but maybe they didn’t need to). These are long-awaited books, after all, and readers who really want them will probably be willing to fork over for the print edition or download a Kindle app if they don’t have an actual Kindle. And you’re right–there are a ton of other factors we can’t speculate about, like the length of the exclusivity agreement.
I’ll admit that I’m just deeply suspicious of Amazon’s motives and long-term strategy. As a reader, I don’t want to be forced to buy digital books from Amazon because they are the only distributor with the right to sell books by my favorite authors. And as an author, I don’t want to be any more dependent on Amazon for sales of my digital books (either self-published or from other publishers) than I already am. Yet it appears that, in both cases, that is what they hope to achieve.
1) I’m surprised anybody’s surprised by this. When they met with that cabal of agents–what, 18 months ago?–that was Amazon throwing down the gauntlet.
2) As to why no outrage: It’s because we’ve been sliding this direction for the last two years and it’s just sort of par for the course now.
3) As for Brockman’s decision, from where I sit, I can see why she did it. I don’t think it was wise or forward thinking, but I understand the reasons behind it.
@Moriah Jovan: Hey, don’t mistake irritation for surprise! I knew this was coming. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
And yeah, I understand why Brockway chose this path. It does mean she won’t be selling her books to me because I’m not keen on being stiff-armed into buying products from any particular retailer. But that just may be my stubborn streak talking :).
Ah, well. Surprise, irritation. All the same by the time the frog gets all toasty in the hot tub. ;)
I think I’d be more upset with the Kindle exclusivity if I didn’t know how to dedrm books and convert them to whatever format I want. And I’ve been feeling ripped off by Agency Pricing (and, yes, Apple/Amazon are also at fault, but I mostly blame the publishers), so I’m totally happy to have another cheaper source for ebooks.
As for choice between self-pub and Kindle, whenever I complain about the high price of NY pubbed ebooks, the standard line is, that authors have no control over pricing, drm, geographic restrictions. If an author has been with the publisher before agency pricing/ebook boom went into effect, it’s a legitimate answer. But if an author continues to write for the publisher knowing their policies, then at that point, the standard “it’s the publisher’s fault” just sounds like an excuse, cause don’t these authors also have the choice to self-pub? I’m not a fan of the Kindle only deal (I think that mobi is a primitive format), but at least Brockway is owning up to the pros/cons of her decision.
And I agree, the title, The Other Guy’s Bride does sound like it’s a contemporary. Hopefully they’ll refine the title/cover by November.
My disappointment in the whole thing is the lack of availability. I have a color Nook and will not be able to download unless I add the Kindle app to my desktop or rott my NC. If I root, I void the warranty. It is a Catch-22. I probably will not purchase the digital edition and will look for a print edition at the UBS.
Brian did a post on the color nook here the other day and mentioned that if you root to the SD card, it shouldn’t void your warranty because you’re running the OS off the card then and not internally. It was just a couple days ago but I’d read through it and see what he has to say.
@theo: If you go the SD card route you aren’t rooting at all. You’re bypassing the NC’s memory entirely, leaving it stock, and installing a whole new OS, such as CM7, (that runs from SD).
If you’re interested in doing that here’s the original thread about it at XDA…
and here’s a post (along with how to videos) done by Ana Mardoll…
@Jackie Barbosa: Preach! I agree with everything you’ve said.
I thought, based on that title, it’d be a contemporary romance featuring a descendant of the original couple. That said, it’d be a fun historical title if the hero were American (I have no idea if he is one).
Kudos to Connie Brockway for naming her hero Jim, though. This, I admit, took me completely by surprise. More than that odd title. Heroine’s name on the other hand…? Tsk.
It still won’t stop me from buying a copy, though. I’ve already downloaded a three-chapter teaser from Amazon Kindle UK. =D I plan to read it soon, but I’m so nervous. Silly, really.
Interesting that digital sales are up and publisher profits are up, partly due to lower shipping costs, when the publishers used to claim that digital books weren’t cheaper to sell than paper books.
The other books Amazon has had a hand in publishing are text to speech enabled, lending enabled, available where Amazon is available, and the ones I have bought can be downloaded to as many devices as I want simultaneously. I think that is a nice way of Amazon putting its money where its mouth is considering the way other publishers and/or authors have balked at some/all of these features.
The books are also available on audible.com at better than average prices.
I hope that this and Amazon’s other publishing experiments succeed because this may prove to publishers/authors that their fears are excessive and self defeating.
Except it’s not that easy.
A lot of contracts contain an option clause, and so most authors have to let their current publisher see their next work first and offer before going elsewhere. Also in this economy, many are happy to get an offer.
Furthermore, self-publishing isn’t right for everyone. You can’t just slap something together and put it up on Kindle and be done with it. It’s a lot of work, and some authors just don’t want to do that.
It’s like somebody complaining about their boss or company policy, and his friends telling him to get a new job or start his own company. It may not be realistic for that person.
Somewhat off topic, but I have a question about advances. I was under the impression (and it may be mistaken) that (1) advances are increasingly a perk of the past and only offered to very popular authors with established records of high sales; and (2) it’s up to the author if they want the advance since they’re only an advance against future royalties and that some very popular authors opt not to accept the advance, and rather, live off their royalties. Am I mistaken? Naive? Both? : )
I also wonder if the increase in sales revenue for the Agency Publishers is not merely because of the increase in price of many of their books. I doubt very much that many people are willing to pay $14 for ebooks these days. I have started thinking twice about it on author’s that i even recognize. They would make better profit if they at least make the prices for the ebooks the same as the paperbacks.
DS I agree with you. Two years ago I would’ve been shocked to hear myself say this: I don’t feel this new venture will be that horrible. I get more features with my Kindle than I am offered routinely on Sony’s, B&N’s or other platforms.
I’m not feeling the outrage over this latest move from Amazon. Interested and a little leery- but not angry.
@Courtney: 1. In traditional print publishing, advances are not optional.
2. I would only make that choice if the royalties were substantially greater, because otherwise the risk is not worth it. Otherwise…. publishers can change. Someone can claim they’ll support you and get fired the next day, or not get the money from marketing.
Digital first publishing is a different ballgame.