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Tuesday morning links and thoughts

I am up to my eyes in finishing up a major rewrite so I can finally send Dagger of Elanna to press. Because of that, I forgot today was my day for MGC. So, when I did finally remember, I went looking for any news that might be of interest. I’m going to link to some of what I found and am interested in seeing what you think.

First off is an article from Publishers Weekly. It details the “bad news about e-books“. It seems part of the Digital Book World conference, Jonathan Stolper from Neilsen Books noted that e-book sales from “reporting publishers” was down 16%. He noted that one cause of the decline was the rise in e-book prices. According to him, on average, e-books increased $3 to an average of $8 per title. He also claimed another factor for the decline was the increase in use of tablets by readers instead of dedicate e-book readers. Stolper said that readers who use a dedicated e-book reader buy more books than those who use tablets.

Now, I’ll admit I was surprised to see he admitted part of the problem — a major part, in my mind — is the increased price of e-books by traditional publishers. I’m not sure where he got the average $8 price. It certainly isn’t the average price of new titles coming from the Big 5 publishers. I checked yesterday and the latest e-book coming next month from J D Robb is $14.99. James Patterson’s upcoming book, the 16th in the Women’s Murder Club series, is also selling for $14.99. Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs is selling for $13.99. Those are a long way from the $8 per title Stolper mentioned.

Perhaps he is averaging out the prices of new and old books. If so, he is not only comparing apples and oranges but he is trying to fool us with the old shell game con. Yes, e-book readers look for older books to read and buy them. But most readers, be they those who only read print books or those who read only digital or those who do both look for new books to buy from their favorite authors. Readers understand that there is no reason for an e-book to cost more than they have to pay for the print version. So, instead of buying the e-book, or even the print book, they wait for it to go on sale through Amazon or another online retailer or they go to the second hand bookstore or borrow it from the library.

There is something else that, when considered, shows a major flaw in Stolper’s argument. He discusses only sales form “reporting publishers”. In other words, indie authors, small presses and probably a number of medium sized publishers aren’t included in his data. When you take that into consideration, what you have is a window into what is happening with traditional publishing and not with publishing as a whole. Not that it surprises me. As for the “people who read on tablets buy fewer books than those with dedicated e-book readers” argument, all I can say is he needs to talk to my bank account. I buy as many books, if not more, now that I use a tablet for the majority of my reading than I did before I owned a tablet.

I recommend comparing what Stolper has to say with what Author Earnings said. You can find the Authors Earnings report here.

In other news about e-book pricing, for those who live in Canada, Apple and several major publishers have reached an agreement with the government to end what has been termed anti-competitive pricing. That sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how it impacts pricing. Will Canadian outlets take the approach Amazon did when agency pricing ended here? With publishers setting the price for e-books, will the online outlets start discounting print books more, even if — as with Amazon — it is only for a limited time? If so, how will the publishers react to that and what sort of spin will they put on it to explain their financial losses/gains?

There is a new “publisher” out there for indies. Looking at it, it looks more like a distribution platform ala Draft2Digital and others. Called Pronoun, it bills itself as a “free publishing platform where authors can create, sell, and promote their books”. It might be legit and a great platform. My problem is it says it is free but then talks about distribution fees. Unfortunately, on a quick look at the site, I did not find any real information about what these distribution fees might be. In fact, when I went to the support page and clicked on the link for how much it would cost, I got a 404 page error. In other words, no information. That always bothers me. I want to know before signing up for an account, even a free account, how deeply someone is going to try to reach into my pocket. So, if any of you guys have had experience with Pronoun, I’d love to hear what you think.

Finally, Amazon UK has launched its second literary competition in just a few months. This one has a pretty substantial prize and the promise of a marketing campaign for the winner. For more information about the Kindle Storyteller Award, check here. Full details can be found on the official page for the contest.

Have I missed any recent news you think we need to know about? If so, list it in the comments.

  1. PM #

    Dear Amanda,

    The Supreme Dark Lord has a post on his blog covering similar ground to yours and includes a reference to Pronoun:
    “… it is interesting to observe that at least one mainstream publisher is attempting to think outside the box, as Macmillan has set up Pronoun, a pan-channel ebook distribution system that pays 70 percent on all digital sales, which compares well with Amazon’s Amazon-only 68.5 percent.”
    He doesn’t link to a source, however.
    Best regards

    January 24, 2017
    • Actually I have a Pronoun account. The Supreme Dark Lord, has missed a little of how things happened. Pronoun started out indpendant of any publisher. They were bought by Macmillan within the last year ish. (Honestly this is part of why I haven’t done much with my pronoun account.) Right now I have no books up. They took about 6 months to get the author pages up, a year for some of us. (Mine didn’t go up until after the buy-out.)

      They pay (according to their files) 60 days after the end of the month the pay should be from. They pay only through paypal. The royalties are listed here:

      The thing that worries me is that I can’t see how they’re making their money. And the distribution fees are, as mentioned still a 404. Under “Set your books price” file the Amazon percent seems to line up with what you’d make selling directly through Amazon. This is in line with some of the things they said when they were first starting. But it still leaves me wary since there’s no indication as to how they’re making their money back, which makes me wonder when rather than if they’re going to go under. Or what the catch is. I’ve not put any books up on there, so I can’t speak to a lot of how well they work from personal experience, but I also am skeptical.

      January 24, 2017
      • One of the things I dislike about them is that YOU pay the paypal fees, not them. Even Smashwords negotiated with paypal so that the author doesn’t pay the transfer fees. You’d think the people at McMillian would have understood that?
        Because that 70 percent becomes less than 67.1 percent, after paypal pulls out their 2.9 percent plus 30 cents on your pay.

        So Amazon is still paying MORE than pronoun is on the 2.99 to 9.99 books.

        January 24, 2017
        • Smashwords also took a percentage for being a middle man, a percentage with which they could do things like negotiate fees with paypal. If these guys don’t where is the money for everything coming from (such as servers)? That worries me more than people who don’t charge expecting you to pay the transfer fees.

          My point with bringing up the Amazon percent was strictly a ‘they don’t seem to be charging an upfront fee for their service’ check. I can’t speak to the other markets they distribute to, but I know what Amazon pays, so it served as a reasonable quick check not an in depth financial analysis.

          January 24, 2017
  2. Well as long as the Literary-Industrial Complex is pricing their eBooks at about the same price as a print paperback version, or more than a second-hand hardbound version … then indies with our more affordable eBooks have a wide-open opportunity to tempt venturesome readers with tight budgets.

    January 24, 2017
  3. pavetack #

    “He also claimed another factor for the decline was the increase in use of tablets by readers instead of dedicate e-book readers. Stolper said that readers who use a dedicated e-book reader buy more books than those who use tablets.”

    I wonder if he has cause and effect correct. If tablet users buy fewer e-books than e-reader users, does it really affect the total number of e-books sold? Has the number of e-reader users actually gone down? I doubt it; even with the demise of the Nook, Amazon’s Kindle sales seem robust.

    I suspect tablets (and to a lesser extent phones) are a gateway drug to e-books. Few people decide they’re going to try e-books, and go out and buy an e-reader; perhaps some receive one as a gift, and then buy more books. Most new e-readers start on a tablet or computer. e-reader users self-select; they’re the tablet users who really like e-books, and migrated to a dedicated device. But new e-book buyers come mostly from new tablet/phone users.

    An alternate explanation is that the total number of e-book buyers is increasing, but sophisticated users (heavy buyers) aren’t buying as many expensive (old-school publishers’) books. They’re turning to indie publishers and Kindle Unlimited.

    January 24, 2017
    • I wonder if the number of e-book buyers on tablets splits by platform? I have read that on an Apple tablet you have to go to the Amazon website to buy from Amazon because Apple requires all in-app purchases to go through the Apple Store so they can take a cut. On the other hand, the full range of Amazon apps are available in the Google Play Store, so you can do things just like on a Kindle.

      January 24, 2017
      • This is definitely a thing. Trying to get a file onto an iPad or iPhone is a mega pain in the butt. Getting a file onto a Kobo or other e-reader is drag and drop.

        Kindle for Apple is another pain in the butt. Kindle for Android is less of a pain, but still a pain. E-reader purchases are seamless and wireless.

        January 25, 2017
    • Amanda said: “As for the “people who read on tablets buy fewer books than those with dedicated e-book readers” argument,”

      It’s typical “lie with statistics” study design. Tablets do many things, e-book readers do one thing. So you have selection bias right off the bat.
      Then there’s the fact that there are a large number of tablet users that don’t read e-books at all, another unstated bias.
      Third bias, reading a book on a paper-white e-reader screen is easier on the eyes than a tablet screen. People who read a lot are going to buy one because of that. People who read less will put up with the tablet, they don’t need the super-duper e-paper thing.

      I have put my books on a Kobo for editing purposes. I find the different format and more book-like look of it allows me to find more mistakes.

      The real deal with this article is the $14.00 e-book price of Big 5 publishers. Few are going to pay $14 for e-book (DRM!) when they can get a paperback for $10.00 CDN. Plus tax, of course.

      January 25, 2017
  4. C4c

    January 24, 2017
  5. I like how he had to so heavily manipulate the data so he could make his point. He knows he’s lying, but I guess they are paying him enough to not care.

    January 24, 2017
  6. TRX #

    > $14.99

    Personally, I gagged when the price of a trade paperback went over $6. I don’t ever see paying $15 for a piece of fiction, whether on paper or ephemeral storage. At least, not while used book stores exist. And if those went away, there are many other forms of entertainment to fill the gap.

    I’m probably well off on the cheapskate end of the consumer curve, but I’m pretty sure I have a lot of company.

    January 24, 2017
    • I can’t see paying $15 for a book that, in the end, isn’t even mine. According to the terms of service, I’m merely renting it.

      January 24, 2017
    • A few years ago, when resellers caught on to the 1c book on Amazon (and could charge $3.99 as ‘standard shipping’), I got into the habit of checking used copy prices on Amazon. I’ve just (as in the past two weeks) bought over 30 books as research for my current WIP. Guess what? More than two-thirds of them cost me 1c each, and the rest were all less than $2 (plus the standard $3.99 shipping charge). At $4-$6 apiece, they were cheaper than either ebook or paperback versions. (Many of them were hardback.)

      What’s not to like?

      January 24, 2017
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Hey Big Spender,
      I think there are tighter fists than yours.

      January 24, 2017
    • Paul Beard #

      Australian exchange rates added in of course, but Invasive looked interesting OK, Kindle 18.88, Hardcover a bargain at 17.75. What a joke, do they actually want to actually sell it?

      January 24, 2017
    • Speaking as a man who’s 90 year old father has bemoaned the price of things since the 1960’s, I feel your pain.

      However, inflation is an international policy. All the countries do it. We just went through 8 years of the USA drag racing China to see which one could devalue their money the fastest. Canada appears to be “winning” this race, my Canadian dollar is worth $0.76US today on the exchange.

      Have you noticed that songs on iTunes are $1.29+ and not $0.99 anymore? You -will- be paying $15 US for a paperback, probably pretty soon.

      All the more reason to let the dinosaurs expire and embrace the indie revolution.

      January 25, 2017

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