Tomorrow, I will continue my free guide to self-publishing with a section on pricing. Today, I want to look at some of the big news stories of the last week or so.
The E-Reader War Hots Up
On Monday, Canadian upstart Kobo launched a new touchscreen e-reader for the tasty price of $129.99. It only weighs 200 grams (take that, iPad!) and uses the same e-ink technology as the Kindle (easy on the eyes, can be read in sunlight). It can store up to 1,000 books (and can be expanded to 30,000 with memory cards).
One thing Amazon should take note of is that it will be available in multiple languages: English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian, and “customers will be able to use a localised store in their own language”. As a contrast, Amazon only ships the Kindle in English and with English instructions, usually with a US plug attached.
The following day, Barnes & Noble – who seem to have no interest in the international market – announced their new touchscreen e-ink Nook. While they have trumped the new Kobo on memory (can store 2,000 books) and battery-life (2 months rather than 1 month), it just doesn’t look as pretty. It will retail for $139.99
Amazon countered with their latest offering, an ad-supported 3G Kindle, priced at $164. The ads only display on start-up and when the Kindle is “sleeping”, but if that bothers you an ad-free version is available for $189.
Expect even more models and even lower prices by September in time for the holiday season. What will this mean? More people switching to e-books, and a surge in e-book sales as they “load up” their devices. This market is getting bigger all the time, and it’s only going to get bigger.
Waterstones Bought for £53m
The largest book chain in the UK – Waterstones – has finally found a buyer – news that will be cheered by everyone in the book business in the UK (and readers too). Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut’s first move was to appoint highly respected indie bookseller James Daunt as the managing director.
Excellent analysis over at Declan Conner’s blog.
Liberty Media makes play for Barnes & Noble
In a surprise move, John Malone’s Liberty Media have made an offer to buy 70% of Barnes & Noble in a deal that would value the company at $1.02 billion, if it goes ahead. One of the prime motivators for such a high price seems to be the outstanding success of the Nook colour, which has captured some market share from Amazon.
New Imprint for Amazon
Last week, Amazon launched their fifth publishing imprint. Thomas & Mercer will focus on mysteries and thrillers, launching with four titles in the fall. This comes hot on the heels of their announcement regarding their new romance imprint, Montlake.
In addition, Amazon have snapped up industry heavyweight Larry Kirshbaum to set up a further imprint which is expected to focus on non-fiction and literary fiction. Hiring the former head of Time Warner Books, and more recently LJK Literary Management, is a clear statement of intent from Amazon.
While Amazon has been slowly getting into the publishing game, this latter move is a clear ramping-up, and will make it very real for a lot of people in trade publishing.
It will be interesting to see if anyone (indie bookstores, Barnes & Noble) refuse to stock Amazon’s books.
Konrath’s Indie fight & Smith’s gift card
On that note, there was another dust-up over at Joe Konrath’s blog. This time, Konrath was the target of some ire, rather than his guest. He had gotten wind of a mooted boycott by indie bookstores of his new title Stirred (co-written with Blake Crouch), in response to it being published by Amazon’s new imprint.
Konrath was clearly stung by this, which is understandable given his history of marathon book tours and all-day signings, and he made a plea to indie booksellers not to go through with it. He rounded off his post with some interesting suggestions on how indie booksellers could survive in the digital age.
Things, as usual, heated up in the comments, with some anonymous posters suggesting Konrath was getting his just desserts for voraciously championing e-books and Amazon. Many indie writers defended him, pointing out that if all indie writers disappeared tomorrow, indie booksellers would still face the exact same set of problems.
Others chimed in to add to Konrath’s & Crouch’s list of ways indie booksellers could weather the digital storm and partner with indies.
However, my favourite suggestion came separately in a fascinating blog post from Dean Wesley Smith. He has a superb, creative idea on how indie booksellers could sell e-books that I’ve never heard before.
Check it out, it could be a low-risk way for indie writers to get their books into indie bookstores, without creating a print version, that works well for both parties.
Eoin Purcell & The Value Web
Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the moving parts in this chaotic new publishing world. Eoin Purcell does a better job than anyone in his latest blog post of explaining how all the parts fit together.
In essence, he shows how the old linear publishing value chain (from author, to agent, to publisher, to distributor, to bookseller, to retailer, then to reader) has broken down, and what is replacing it is something far more chaotic and complex.
EPUB 3 Introduced
Have you ever wondered why it seems that most e-books are fiction? As someone who is assembling a non-fiction title right now, I can tell you they are a lot more complex.
All those bells and whistles that print books use to break up text – different fonts, boxes, graphs, pictures, charts, pictograms, and creative layouts – are difficult or impossible to do with e-books because of the limitations of the various formats (especially MOBI, which is favoured by Amazon).
At the IDPF conference in the run-up to BookExpo America (which is taking place right now) they discussed the release of EPUB3, which is hoped will become the new industry standard. I hope so too, it will allow a lot more flexibility in formatting, which is crucial for non-fiction.
Amazon To Accept EPUB Files
In related news, Amazon has told publishers that it will begin accepting EPUB files in the near future, and, crucially, will allow Kindle readers to read EPUB files (instead of MOBI). This is a great move, and will streamline book production in the future.
Writers who sign with Amazon’s imprints are usually bound with exclusivity clauses regarding the sale of their e-books, i.e. the Kindle store only. This will make prospective deals with Amazon’s imprints juicier for writers, as they will no longer be locking out fans who own e-readers other than the Kindle.
If You Go Into The Woods got an excellent, thoughtful review from BookedinChico. I’m very grateful, thank you. Also, Irish author JJ Toner gave Transfection four stars on Goodreads.
I’m looking forward to his upcoming release, a collection of science fiction shorts very much in the mould of Douglas Adams and Grant Naylor. You can read the blurb here.
Transfection Competition Winners
The competition was a great success. There was a big surge in blog traffic, and sales for both my titles jumped. Because I am such a big softie, I decided to give a free copy to everyone who helped spread the word.
I have email addresses for some of you – you should already have your free copy – and I have sent messages to the rest on Twitter.
It’s likely that I missed one or two, so if you entered (retweeted, posted on Facebook, or blogged), and you haven’t heard from me by now, please get in touch – I have a free copy of Transfection for you. You can leave a note in the comments below, or send an email to david dot gaughran at gmail dot com.
Don’t be shy!