Hachette CEO a shining example. . .

of how out-of-touch much of publishing is when it comes to what their customers want. Arnaud Nourry is a walking, talking example of publishing trying to hold to the old model. Not only does he fail to understand the market but he fails to understand that the market is changing. This attitude hurts not only publishers but also writers and readers.

As you read the Scroll.in article, there can be no doubt where both Nourry and the article’s author stand when it comes to e-books. To start, you have the headline where one thing is made clear: Nourry thinks e-books are “stupid”. Then there’s the author’s own bias when Gill claims Hachette “won against Amazon” with regard to e-book pricing.

Yes, you read that right. The author of the article believes Hachette and, by extension, the other members of the price fixing case won. But that doesn’t fit the narrative. However, that’s not what this post is about. Still, it is important to understand the bias of the author in how the rest of the material is presented.

Normally, I’d have looked at this article and moved on. However, Nourry’s comments about e-books brought me up short.

It’s not that we’re against ebooks. People have to pay a price that is about 40% lower than the print price. And it works. The ebook market has gone down a little bit, not much, from say 25% to 20% in some countries. There is still a readership for ebooks but at a price that keeps the ecosystem alive.

To start, what executive considers a 5% decline in sales “a little bit”? Not many and certainly not when there are so many issues within an industry as there are in publishing. The fact Nourry isn’t more concerned should trouble all of us.

The next consideration is his 40% lower figure and how the price has to keep the “ecosystem alive”. What he doesn’t say here is that he’s talking about the print ecosystem. They are willing to sacrifice e-book sales in order to prop up their traditional sales. That means, whether they want to admit it publicly or not, that they are not committed to the digital market and would very much like for things to go back to the way they were before the turn of the century.

But there is something else to consider here. Nourry makes it clear in the article that he feels it important Hachette sets the price for its e-books. Why? It doesn’t place that same requirement on its print books. If it did, you wouldn’t see Amazon and the other retailers selling the books at a discount. So why don’t they allow the same freedom to discount e-books? The answer is simple. They don’t want to increase the e-book market.

I think the plateau, or rather slight decline, that we’re seeing in the US and UK is not going to reverse. It’s the limit of the ebook format. The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience. We, as publishers, have not done a great job going digital. We’ve tried. We’ve tried enhanced or enriched ebooks – didn’t work. We’ve tried apps, websites with our content – we have one or two successes among a hundred failures. I’m talking about the entire industry. We’ve not done very well.

Think about that for a moment. “The ebook is a stupid product.” The mind boggles. Especially when he continues by saying “there is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience.” What. The. Bleep?

So, using his own arguments, a mass market paperback is stupid because it is the exact same product as the hard cover book. That is stupid and yet it does show where the publisher mindset is. But let’s look at his arguments a bit closer.

No creativity. Of what sort? See, this is where he can say what he wants but, by not giving specifics, it is difficult to critique. The creativity in a book is the text. At least that’s my opinion. So is he saying the books his company publishes have no creativity? Of course now. But the argument against e-books as not being creative sounds sooooo good.

No enhancement. This is where he starts to show his ignorance of the potential, not to mention the reality, of e-books. All you have to do is pick up your Kindle or iPad or whatever you read e-books on to put the lie to this statement. In some cases, you can have the text read to you. You can click on a work and look it up without having to leave your reading app. You can make notes — and see notes others have made. For those Kindle books with X-Ray enabled, you can see character descriptions, etc. But there’s no enhancement.

No real digital experience. What does he mean by this? There are a number of different ways you can look at digital experience. The ability to order the next book in a series without leaving your app is one way. The ability to look up words, etc. (see above) could be a digital experience. Hell, the ability to keep hundreds, even thousands of books on a single device and take them with you is a digital experience.

Now, he does admit publishers haven’t done a “great” job moving into the digital arena. He notes they’ve tried “enhanced” e-books and they failed. What he, and others like him, fail to understand is that readers don’t want the “enhanced” experience in every type of book. If I’m reading fiction, I don’t want the flow of the story interrupted because I accidentally touched something and suddenly I have a video playing.

Then there’s the fact they tried these so-called enhanced e-books at a time when most folks were reading their books on e-ink devices and not on tablets or their phones. e-ink devices didn’t do the enhanced versions. Nor were people wanting to pay the increased price for those versions. It was a potentially good idea that came too soon into the move to e-books.

“We’ve tried apps and websites. . . .” Another indication they don’t understand their customer base. People don’t tend to go to publisher sites to buy their books, print or digital (Baen being one of the exceptions). They go to Amazon or BN or elsewhere. So focusing on a publisher site/app to sell books is not only foolish, it is a waste of money. That is especially true if they aren’t taking the time and spending money to educate the buying public that there is now a new source for their books.

So, even as he admits publishers failed, he doesn’t retract his comments that e-books are stupid, etc. So it really is all the fault of e-books that their efforts failed. (rolls eyes)

I’m convinced there is something we can invent using our content and digital properties beyond ebooks but I reached the conclusion that we don’t really have the skills and talents in our companies because publishers and editors are accustomed to picking a manuscript and creating a design on a flat page.

So here’s the first problem. He doesn’t view e-books as books. He doesn’t get that most people buying an e-book want to read a book. They don’t want something else. The e-book is the format they prefer. That said, if he thinks the problem publishers are facing is that they don’t have employees who have the vision to move beyond the flat page, then hire them. There are any number of graphic designers, etc., who understand the digital world. Editors don’t have to and shouldn’t have to. Their job isn’t the production end — it is the acquisition and preparation of the manuscript only.

So we acquired three video game companies in the last two years to attract talent from different industries and see how we can nurture one another and how we can go beyond the ebook on digital. We need to offer different experiences to our consumers.

Here is another telling statement. He wants to stay in the digital world, just not with e-books. He wants to move into gaming, etc. So where does that leave his readership who prefer e-books? Potentially out in the cold — except it doesn’t. He is forgetting, as so many in trad publishing do, that there is a flourishing indie and small press world out there with authors who are writing books people want to read. Oops.

Nourry’s comments are indicative of what is wrong with the publishing industry, not just with regard to publishers but with regard to bookstores as well. They failed to adapt quickly or well to e-books and found themselves behind the eight ball. Instead of embracing the new technology, they continue to fight it. They ignore anything except their Bookscan numbers. They do their best to discount the fact indie authors and small press authors can and do make enough to live off of — or to at least quit their second jobs. That means we are writing books people want to read and most of those sales come from e-books.

Like BN, instead of taking a hard look at their business model and adapting it to the changes, they cling to the old model. They add new products that aren’t book related and muddle their brand as a result. They see the e-book market as slowing, if not decreasing, simply because that is what’s going on with their own products. They need to pull their heads out of their collective butts and look around.

In many ways, this interview reminds me of one I read with the head of one of the Big 5 early into the e-book revolution. At that time, the CEO not only dismissed e-books as a passing fad but he said writers were like cogs, disposable and easily replaced. Not long after that, his house started releasing mid-list authors and the subsequent drop in profits dumbfounded them all.

All I can say is Nourry doesn’t understand his market, especially not his U.S. market. That’s a shame because there are a number of authors, not to mention readers, who will suffer for his ignorance.

A bit of promo now. Light Magic, the second novel in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series, is available for pre-order. Release date is one week from today.

When Meg Sheridan arrived in Mossy Creek, Texas, she had one goal in mind: to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. Now, less than a month after burying her mother, all Meg knows about the town is that it has always been a haven for the Others, even before they made their existence known to the world. As an Other herself, that should reassure Meg. Instead, it raises more questions than it answers. More than that, she has one very large problem. She doesn’t know why her mother wanted her to come to Mossy Creek. Worse, she soon learns not everyone is willing to welcome her with open arms.

Faced with the daunting task of discovering not only why her mother sent her to Mossy Creek but also with uncovering why her mother fled there years before, Meg is determined to find the truth. Along the way, she discovers something else. Even in death, her mother is looking out for her – if Meg will let her.

And if she will accept the friendship and love of those who knew her mother all those years ago.

But danger awaits her as well. Secrets decades old and resentments going back generations seethe just below the surface. Do those secrets have anything to do with why Meg’s mother wanted her to come to town? Will discovering them help her understand why her mother fled Mossy Creek so long ago?

Or will they lead to something much more sinister. . . and deadly?


  1. The more I read about the modern publishing business, the more I am reminded about the satirical novel “Cyber Books” by Ben Bova. It’s almost as if he saw the future when he wrote it back in the 90’s. The level of cluelessness displayed by modern publishing CEO’s and editors just boggles the mind. Reminds me of buggy whip manufacturers at the turn of the last century.

    1. I have to agree with you. Except these guys don’t have a whip and wouldn’t know where to go to get one. More than that, I doubt many of them care for their product as much as the buggy whip manufacturers did.

    2. Telling that in Cyberbooks it took someone completely outside the “normal” channels to finally get the books to market. In Cyberbooks it was toy companies. In the real world it was Baen and Amazon.

    3. I only read books via eReader these days- and when I see the pricing games that Hachette plays with their books, it pisses me off. I realize I’m only one person, but articles like this only confirm what folks like me have always suspected.

      Also- Nourry is confusing “I don’t like this bit of tech” with “this bit of tech is stupid”. I’m sure his attitude sells well in the good ol’ boys network, but that crap does not fly anywhere else in the market.

  2. Except in the holiday season, when I sell a lot of print versions of my books to people intending them as gifts — the ebook version outsells the print version about 4 to 1. I would agree that Mr. Nourry’s thinking is buried in the past so deeply that it would need one of those massive earth excavators to dig it out.

    1. I can’t think of an indie author who doesn’t sell many more digital copies over print copies. The only reason trad published authors don’t is that most trad publishers do NOT push the e-book and they price it so high that people see more “value” in the printed version, especially the hardcover. And that is exactly what the trad publishers want. They don’t want their business model to convert to more digital over print sales.

      1. Do you have any thoughts as to why this is? Maybe it’s to “keep the masses from putting on airs of equality with their betters”?

        I simply can’t see another reason to eschew the far greater profit margins involved in e-publishing than to deny books to those who can’t afford them.

        1. Not quite. It’s an attempt to maximize their true selling point–relatively cheap access to the necessary infrastructure to print, bind, and distribute thousands of paper books.

  3. My impression is that this guy doesn’t make money selling books. He doesn’t really care about them, the way he talks. He makes money doing something else, possibly acquiring companies and consolidating them, moving his stock price or something like that. He might even make money selling short interest on his own company. What a scam that would be, eh?

    He says he’s got a big new market for his existing US/UK library in India (which he can print and warehouse to his heart’s content, because no punitive inventory tax in India, I presume.) Which seems crazy, because India is not an English speaking nation. Basically I have no idea what this guy is doing.

    What he isn’t doing is talking about increasing his English language sales and spread in Western countries. He’s also talking like there have been no changes in his retail chain, and that Amazon is the greatest thing since sliced bread. He can’t be unaffected by the last remaining big-box chain in the USA teetering on the brink of insolvency. That’s going to be a big hit.

    So, knowing that you don’t get to be president of a big company by being an idiot, there’s something else going on. Therefore, you have to look at why he gave the interview. He’s advertising something. India.

    The plan might be let the USA go hang itself, build the Third World market instead. All those little brown kids need textbooks, right? Just take the USA textbook scam and transplant it whole and complete into India. Or maybe I need some more caffination this AM, I’m a little cranky. 😡

      1. That is true, there are a lot of people with English as a second language in India. But realistically, how big a market is that for US/UK authored books? Big enough for a Big 5 TradPub to ignore North America? The educated class in India is a lot of people, for sure, and growing. But taken as a percentage of the Indian population it isn’t a majority. So why is the CEO of Hachette pushing India?

        That’s what makes me wonder how much money Hachette makes from publishing books, and how much is backfield-in-motion. Large international company, they could have a sideline in Forex trading or some other such non-obvious thing that makes the book business less critical.

        Incidentally, Canada just announced a $1 billion trade deal with India. Out of nowhere. Fricking Shiny Pony is over there this week playing selfies in front of the Taj Mahal. So it may be there’s some big players pushing the whole India thing, and Hachette is one of them.

        Makes you wonder if China is coming unglued, and big players are looking at shifting infrastructure to a democracy for a change.

        1. There’s an article where the author claims China only has a few decades left. It’s agriculture.com/zeihan. Or maybe the CEO has realized China’s IP law sucks?

          1. China implemented the one-child-per-family program for so long that they completely destroyed their chance to be a big contender in the future. And since most families preferred a son over a daughter, there is a gender imbalance. The charts on the CIA World Factbook show that there will not be enough young people around to run the factories and care for the old people. And, since they ran the program for so long, even if they reversed it last year, they are still doomed; takes at least 16 years to turn it around.

            1. Forgot to add: not the FIRST time their plans have messed up. Under Mao, they killed off the sparrows, because they thought sparrows were eating too much grain. And THEN, they discovered that what sparrows really eat isn’t grain, as much as it is locusts. So, the locust plagues came.

              1. China is a great example of what unfettered centralized planning can do: produce massive unintended consequences.

    1. India has a large percentage of English speakers. They just don’t read in English. So he is, as you noted, targeting the wrong audience.

    2. India has a special deal with the textbook companies. Look on Amazon for textbooks. You can find some really cheap stuff from resellers. Some of those were printed in India on cheaper paper, and are not legal to sell in the US, only in India and Pakistan. Those governments got together, and cut or forced a sweetheart deal with the textbook sellers. I wouldn’t count on being able to sell stuff in India at jacked up prices, and continue to fund the current mess off that.

      1. Actually, India is a huge market for English ebooks. Just not so much for American ebooks. They like us okay, but they would rather read Wodehouse and Sherlock Holmes and Georgette Heyer.

        I think the big interest in India is that they have Internet, phones, and a large amount of the population that was never able to afford books, until ebooks came along. So there’s a lot of growth potential for publishers.

  4. I’m afraid I read the original article, and lost the will to live, as in the energy and time to refute the stupidity. But, I’m glad you had the time and energy to do so. Good read.

    1. I suspect that from dealing with What Happened and TSAR Amanda is developing if not an immunity from, at least a resistance to derpogenic (is that the correct term?) texts.

  5. I think we all may giving him a digital experience. One digit on the left, one digit on the right… for those with said digits, anyway.

    I do have some issue with ebooks, but that’s a matter of the ‘reader’ rather than the text, and it is, evidently a Solved Problem. I simply haven’t put money toward the (supposed) solution of a non- (or very minorly) emissive page display device. While I appreciated the hypertext possibilities and all, unless it’s a particularly special illustration (say, a hit & miss engine’s workings) I don’t want it to be really different in actual normal use than real paper and ink. If the book becomes a video game? It will be the very last sale for that publisher as they write etch engrave blast their name onto the Fecal Roster.

    1. Ah, the old digital salute. VBEG

      I agree with you about the “digital experience” while I’m reading. I don’t really want all the enhanced bells and whistles in fiction. In non-fiction, especially if it goes to better maps, etc., it would be great. But they don’t want that. They want to give us videos and music, etc. Sorry, not interested.

      1. In fiction I could even see it in some of the ‘supplementary materials’ that mimic non-fiction (Star Trek’s Tech encyclopedia as an example. Or things like the Silmarillion.) I could also see a LOT of utility for RPG books, though that’s a different can of worms, and I’m not sure if the other aspects would work. Leveraging the digital format for cross referencing, quick rule checks/’related legends’. (Note: Brainstorming here, not sure how much of a market there would be for such things, outside of maybe the RPG stuff and REALLY BIG franchises.)

          1. Eh, I have a pile between Pathfinder and 3.5, and most places don’t seem to want to go through the work of truly hyperlinking their index (it seems a struggle just to get them to put an index IN to some of the books) and leave it at bookmarks. Which is a point of doubt as to whether detailed cross-referencing will happen. Internal text cross linking would be nice.

            What I’d like to see is something a bit more conducive to tablets and readers. The PDF format is slow running and clunky. Get something the size of the Pathfinder Core book and even my relatively new laptop has issues getting it to go without freezing up at every bookmark. I haven’t tried loading it on my kindle. I suspect my kindle would choke and fall over twitching.

              1. Yup, useful for the SRD content. Third party less so. There’s also the online option which is great when my tethering/phone internet isn’t freaking out. (I live out in the boonies. Reception is flakey.) There’s also software like Hero Lab, which gets expensive fast, but is very flexible. The apps and programs aren’t conducive to browsing and finding out what content is there. They’re good for quick reference, but not back and forth.

                My point is that the RPG market is more conducive to a ‘digital experience’ than a regular novel. With some of the other things out there, I’m not sure it would fly, but I’ve often wanted my books themselves more internally (and honestly externally) crossreferencable. With easier methods of jumping back and forth between sections or quick-checking a section without shifting from the document or to the phone. But I think I have digressed.

            1. Rob Howell does an excellent job of including relevant hyperlinks in his books. Know how, in a long series, you may have forgotten exactly what role Squirdlock plays in the Pantheon? LINK!
              He’s got it all tied in to his story bible, so it also has the potential for attracting readers to his other works.

              1. I wouldn’t consider it a recommendation. Seriously, if you can’t cue readers who didn’t read the previous books, you’re craft deficient. This sort of thing in fiction will interrupt the flow of the story and throw the reader out of the book, all because the writer can’t be arsed.

                1. And because it won’t let me edit, that weird, long string of numbers is me, Sarah Hoyt. WordPress logs me out every time I try to comment, then logs me in with email, and assigns me that weird thing above.

        1. Wyrdbard, I agree on the supplemental material. I just don’t want it in the middle of my fiction. I’d love if for maps and for appendices, etcl, however.

      2. I could something like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as portrayed in the TV series. Not entirely static, but anything beyond that was “just enough” and no more. That’s a hard line to… hrmm… it has an analog: brinksmanship. Go to the very edge, perhaps, but don’t actually trigger the big mushrooms. Perhaps the makers need to think of the Readers as nuclear (super)powers not to be messed (too much) with?

      3. I’d be ok if they wanted to add illustrations, because I like the occasional visual sometimes (say, perhaps, like SFF magazines have done, especially with longer stories), but not visuals.

        I can even see a market for things that have a little instrumental mood music as you read along, as long as you can easily turn it off.

        1. I love illustrations, but I don’t want them popping up and distracting me from the story. As for mood music, nope. That is too subjective. Think about auto play on websites. Now apply that to a book. Maybe if they have it as a “perk” but you have to actively turn it on instead of turning it off. . . .

          1. Perfectly happy with opt-in instead of opt-out. Could do the same thing with illustrations – have an indicator show up that you can touch to display the image. It might come up on the screen where it would be appropriate, then disappear 3-5 pages later, giving the person a chance to finish the scene or whatnot before looking at the image.

  6. Never heard of Hatchette and had to look them up. I don’t think I’ve read anything by them. Send the CEO a set of blocks and a TV set to a French version of The View,. That should keep him occupied.

    Really, if they were doing their jobs right, there wouldn’t be an indie market. So if they want to continue business as usual, that’s all the better for us.

    1. They own Little Brown these days so most kids have to read some of their stuff in school since they own the rights to a lot of “American classics”.

      They also own Orbit a SF/Fantasy inprint at about the same scale as Baen with 40 new books a year. Lots of decent authors that I recognize as well.

    2. They own Yen press, which publishes a lot of Asian fiction that I first read in unlicensed translation.

      I’m still ticked at Hachette for their role in the price fixing cartel, and at one time I’d put some priority in picking up Japanese and Korean, partly so that I could go to decent companies for pretty much the same reading material.

    3. Once e-books became a reality, there was no way to stop an indie market from developing, because there are too many people who wanted to write who never got accepted by trad pub.

  7. Isn’t that 5% decline in e-book sales for tradpub releases only?
    And isn’t that mostly due to their rather curious practice of pricing e-books higher than mass market paperbacks?
    From all appearances Amazon, B&N, and a few fringe players are selling indie like crazy with both e-book and POD readily available.
    In my mind the truly crying need in the industry is to provide the customers a reliable means to sift through the steaming piles of Sturgeon’s Law in order to find the gems hidden away. There is simply so much garbage and PC bushwah out there that finding an excellent new author is rather difficult, but still most rewarding. It’s one of the reasons that I haunt Sarah’s blog, MGC, and a few other sites.

    1. Uncle Lar, that is their decrease. It’s the only one they are going to discuss because, duh, indies and small presses are just passing fads and we will soon realize how we are polluting the publishing pool and go back to throwing our writing under our beds, never to see the light of day. Now pardon me while i laugh hysterically.

      The problem is, publishers and agents continue to think of themselves as the gatekeepers — not of quality but of right think. Sure, some are different but the Big 5 fall into the former and not the latter category.

  8. Sounds like his idea of a digital eBook experience is turning text into animation if they are buying game developing companies. Sorry, I want to read, not watch TV.

      1. And would probably go over about as well as the holographic covers they tried a few years ago. They were interesting and cool to look at but no one wanted to pay the additional cost for them.

      2. For a tablet with decent memory, battery life, and the ability to render graphics decently, sure. But I doubt it would work well with an eReader.

    1. I think he’s more interested in the fact that some video games have very successful spin-off novels, and wants to reverse-engineer that to run the other direction.
      That’s the only way I can read it that even remotely makes sense.

      But even that implies that he can’t do (or have his assistant do) basic research on the timeframe and costs of game development.

      1. I’ve played seen enough video games adapted from movies to be utterly boggled by the likely badness of one adapted from a book.

      2. An…interesting idea. However, yeah, that’s definitely a case where if a publisher wanted to do something like that, they’d be much better off trying to make a deal with an existing video game company than build their own.

        As a side note, I think it’s a bad idea. There haven’t been too many video games based on books, but video games based on movies generally suck. The primary reason, IMHO, is that the requirements of a story for a video game and one for a book or movie are so different that a good story for one just can’t work for the other.

        1. The ones I’ve seen that semi-work are all mysteries in the hidden object/casual game market. And they tend not to be the best of the type just… passable.

          1. You’re overlooking the Witcher series. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s stoking this particular fire.

            In general, I agree that the requirements for a good book and a good game don’t overlap a great deal.
            But there are exceptions where I could see it working. Take the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider as a glaring example. It’s as much an interactive movie as a traditional video game. The coming movie of it is going to suck (compressing hours of buildup into 45 minutes just isn’t going to work, and paring down the setting background to bulletpoints is really going to hit the willing suspension of disbelief in the testicles). But I could totally see it being turned into a decent book. ( I’d even go do far as to argue that the Gabriel Knight books were better than the games they were adapted from. And if Joe Staten ever does a novelization of his concept story for Destiny, I’m totally standing in line for a copy.)

            I can think of books that could be turned into decent games. There’d be some changes and some railroading involved, but that’s not terribly unusual.
            The difficulty, is that Hatchette just doesn’t publish that sort of book.
            Pretty much every example I can think of is Baen or Indy.

    2. Aye. Now something useful would be an e-“reader” (reads aloud, plays audiobooks) that could detect when I was falling asleep and set a bookmark a page or two or whatever before that point so I could listen to a “bedtime story” and not miss things or have to guess later.

    3. In terms of media properties, one of the big successes of combining story with digital content are the Asian language visual novels, particularly the erotic (pornographic) novels. A fair number of main stream anime etc… properties were originally sold as pornography. The Typemoon Nasuverse being one of the really big examples. The original pornographic novels in that were Tsukihime and Fate, which were successful enough even in the non-pornographic editions to spawn tons of derivative media.

      So talking of acquiring game companies is much less retarded than it sounds, and is actually pretty sound compared to the rest of what he is saying.

      Question is, which game companies, and what are they doing with the expertise?

      If the game company expertise doesn’t mesh with the business plan for the publishing company, it is a waste. I’m not sure Hachette has real in house storytelling expertise. If you are going to chase that angle, you want the right sort of programmer, the right sort of directer, the right sort of artist, and the right sort of writer. Does the, say, Japanese market stand alone without the pornographic games? Could it have developed without the pornographic games? How much market is there in other languages? Do you need pornography to kick start those markets, and if so, are you prepared to do that? Are you prepared to go in and compete with the existing US English market for such games? I suspect Hachette is not, no matter what contacts it has with Asian developers through Yen Press.

  9. The fact that electronic is the same as print is why he is whining. If “enhanced” ebooks had a market, they could sell the same book twice. Meanwhile, in the real world readers just want a story and pick print OR ebook, and usually ebook. Of cours e, he also thinks the ebook market is 20% of the total. Might be true at the moment if you factor in textbooks and other nonfiction, but he’s really missing the boat on fiction. Oh well…

    1. Well, in his little world of trad publishing, he’s right. He isn’t going to give even the most passing of acknowledgements to indie publishing.

  10. “Nourry makes it clear in the article that he feels it important Hachette sets the price for its e-books. Why? It doesn’t place that same requirement on its print books.”

    Actually they do were they can get away with it. Look further down the article when he is asked about the French law against discounts on books and he says it has worked very well. He also admits the US/UK model of deep discounts also works “That environment, in fact, helps sell more copies of one book, which in France is more difficult.”. He then goes on to say it’s impossible to go from the discount based industry would hate the price fixed industry so once you are ate discount it’s nearly impossible to switch back. Thus the collusion needed in the price fixing vs Amazon to get things to change in the US?

    That is interesting when you look at his other comment that “There are two different geographies to look at for this. In the US and UK, the ebook market is about 20% of the total book market, everywhere else it is 5%-7% because in these places the prices never went down to such a level that the ebook market would get significant traction.” To me that they managed to keep things at the price fixed level for ebooks and protected the paper book ecosystem

    1. So he talks about two models. There’s the French model, where it’s producer vs. consumer in an antagonistic relationship, with the government putting its heavy thumb on the scale to favor the producer. And then there’s the Amazon model, where the producer offers deep discounts as a way to curry favor with the consumer, and the government keeps its cotton-pickin’ hands off. And although both models work, the Hachette CEO clearly favors the antagonistic model, since that’s the one he praises as working “very well” while he says the Amazon model “also works”.

      So this guy prefers an antagonistic relationship to his customers (not to mention having the fat finger of the government on the scales). Yep, I think a digital salute just might be appropriate here.

      1. This is the feeling I get, that he doesn’t view book purchasing individuals as his customers. He’s waaaay up the food chain from the schlub who reads the book. I agree, he talks like a guy that deals primarily with bureaucrats.

        Can’t stand guys like that.

  11. He might do better to look at China, at least if he publishes SF (I do not know if he does, and am not inspired to find out.) In china, English is no longer taught as a foreign language. It is taught as a skill, like arithmetic.

  12. Manhattan is the mothership of echo chambers, and not all of its echo chambers are political in nature. Some of them are industries. Book execs (and the people they employ) are either born into or quickly adopt the culture of Manhattan, much of which cooks down to: “We are the smartest and richest corner of the nation. We know what the public wants. We are the only ones who can provide it.”

    I attended the Worldcon of Book Publishing (originally American Booksellers Association, and later Book Expo America) for twelve years. Part of my job was schmoozing editors and sales reps and handing out business cards to employment prospects. I talked to a whole lot of people, especially at midsize and small press. Not all Manhattan presses are huge. Still, I could tell when I was talking to a Manhattan minion even if I didn’t know where the firm was based. I sensed two things: The illusion of invincibility, and fear, especially after 2000, when the dot com bubble burst and retail bookselling began sliding toward the 911 cliff, from which it never really recovered. The people never sounded happy, and always seemed kind of suspicious.

    By contrast, presses in flyover country were laid back, enthusiastic, and focused on content more than culture and attitude. My company used to share booth space at trade shows with our competitors. We all hung out and bought each other drinks, trading gossip and tips about what worked and what didn’t. Back then (pre-2003) ebooks were still a little futuristic, though forward-looking presses were already selling chapters and whole books online as PDF downloads. We all knew we were going to go that route sooner or later (alas, for my firm we didn’t go sooner and there was no later) and all that remained was to figure out the details.

    My core impressions were these: Manhattan presses worshiped their business model. Any suggestion that it had to change (or was already changing) was met with poorly disguised horror. Their idol was the Lord God Hardcover, which had to be protected at all costs. Manhattan considered the business a zero-sum game. You couldn’t grow the market, but had to take sales from other publishers. Creativity took a back seat to spreadsheets, and the rather insipid principle SMOWS, or Sell More Of What Sells. So Manhattan presses tended to imitate other Manhattan presses, and themselves. I always asked if they ever did focus group testing of big-money proposals. Most waved away the question (talking to hillbilly publishers from Azarona was evidently a source of incurable cooties) and the rest said, “No. Why would you want to do that?”

    So figuring out Hachette and its co-chambered echo presses isn’t all that hard. They’re protecting an ancient business model, shored up by spreadsheets and databases but dependent on big-box book retailing. The model depends on buying sell-in via displays and positioning in retail stores, and chasing sell-through any way they can. Ebooks undercut that model in almost every way that the big guys can’t counter, so they do everything they can to persuade the public (but mostly persuade their co-chamberists) that ebooks are a passing fad or a boutique specialty. They believe in indie about as much as they believe in ghosts. If it doesn’t have an ISBN it can’t be tracked and therefore doesn’t exist.

    This whole culture/business model depends on big box book retail. Once B&N goes under, it all falls down. When that happens, there will be publisher blood flowing like a river down Park Avenue.

    1. Your impressions and experiences confirm my suspicions. You’re right about BN as well. Publishers will go belly up if it does close its doors or do a major downsizing. The sad thing is, this is something they should have seen coming and planned for.

    2. Once a business gets to a certain point, it is far safer for execs to stick to the old model (even if flawed) than to propose something new & risky. Make all the “right” choices, and your job is safe, even if you lose a ton of money. Go with the new & risky, well, you’d better win big, otherwise your job is at risk.

      Another thing was noted by Jerry Della Femina- higher execs don’t see new ideas as a way to benefit the company. They see new ideas as a threat, a means for the younger execs to take their jobs. If they can’t outright steal it, they’ll do their best to sabotage or neuter or stick in their own “brilliant” ideas.

    3. First of all the 20% is a misnomer. Most of us, indie and small and medium presses I know sell 90% easy in ebook. My guess is they’re getting their numbers by running fiction and non fiction together. For non fic most people still prefer paper. Frankly, by doing that, they render numbers useless. Also the fall in ebooks is mostly for traditional. (Because they raised prices.) They don’t capture most of indie. So this is even more useless. Third, apparently these people don’t read? I mean I don’t want my books to sing and dance. Not in fiction. They’ve been trying this for 20 years, unable to get “we just like to read.”
      IOW drinking their own ink and not realizing they’re poisoned.

      1. A good friend of mine in publishing (now retired) used to say that in Manhattan, the publishing business is run by people who don’t read books. I’ve talked to some of those people. It’s true. One actually told me that he started out selling refrigerators and was now selling books, and that there is no difference between selling refrigerators and selling books. Mon dieu.

  13. Maybe I’m not the target market for his enhanced digital content, but all I picture when I’m reading this is sitting down with my Kindle and suddenly having an autoplay video pop up telling me that I can now play “Aes Sedai vs. Trollocs. Try it for free, today, at reallystupidonlinegames.com.”

    1. I figure any terrorist group that wants sympathy merely has to hit CNN’s* servers, claim responsibility, and include “Autoplay must die!” in that.

      * Or anyone else guilty of inflicting autoplay on the world.

    2. NO ONE is the target market for this. I thought it was really stupid when I first heard of it at a writers’ conference 23 years ago (I know, because I was pregnant with younger son.) Again, what this says to me is that these publishing execs don’t read and think those of us who do are “stupid.”
      The advantage of ebooks and why I now read fiction 99.9% on ebook? CONVENIENCE. If I’m in bed, finish a book, I don’t even need to go downstairs to the shelves much less wait to go to the bookstore. Just download the next one. Another point: I read much better on the kindle now I’m over 40. I can adjust font and size. It’s just easier.

      1. Who among us has not had that panic attack of realizing that we were ten pages from the end of the current book and hours away from the next in our to be read stack?
        With my Kindle that stack is right there with me all in a package as small, light, and much thinner than a mass market paperback.
        Of course I’m still working on proactive charging so as to avoid the dreaded low battery message.

  14. Query: how does France stop book smuggling? If they insist that in France an ebook sells for the equivalent of $25, and in the US, that ebook sells for $4.99, and there is an internet and email, not to mention the dark web: How do they enforce that?

    1. They only sell Amazon the rights to sell eBooks in particular markets and demand that the company catch violators. So if I want to buy a French novel here in the US, I’m limited to only about 5% of the catalog because I’m registered as a US customer and the vast majority of French novels that Amazon sells can only be sold in France (or, probably, the EU). If I create a fake account in Europe, Amazon will do things to try to catch me. (E.g. noting that I use a US credit card that’s also used with a US Amazon account.) To really fool it, you need a buddy in the EU with a real address and phone number, and a Kindle that’s only used for EU books.

      Of course I’m not their real target; as you surmise, they’re after people in France who want to buy discounted books in the US.

      The problem doesn’t exist with paper books; I’m free to order those provided I don’t mind paying the full rate and having them shipped from France. In that case, the sale is made in France and everyone is happy. Unfortunately, my reading strategy depends heavily on having an electronic dictionary. (I’d include a link to a page that explains my strategy, but I don’t want to get yelled at.) 🙂

      The sad thing is that I’d be willing to pay the full price (or even twice that) just to get the books I really want legitimately.

  15. I just purchased a semi-enhanced e-book, a guide to skinning a fox and peparing its fur. It includes links to go directly to videos so that you can see precisely what the author is describing in print. Because I’m reading it on an older e-ink Kindle and not a tablet or Fire, I can’t go to the links. That’s fine, because I’m trying to learn about the “after you skin it, do this” part (for a book) not “how to disjoint the paws without ruining the pads and nails.”

    The point being, this is the kind of enhancement that makes sense, for this kind of non-fiction book. The videos are not imbeded, so they don’t hog memory or slow page turns and the like. If you don’t want/need them, they are not auto-playing and irritating you.

  16. He does have a point, though, that an eReader is a computer with lots of potential power but which is mostly just reproducing what a cheap paperback could display. It has been really hard to find ways to use that computing power that would please readers rather than pissing them off.

    For SFF, the biggest thing I want is something to link the text with the map. If there’s a location named, I want to be able to press on it and see it on the map. (Maybe with two or three discrete zoom levels.) That implies much better maps than you’ll get on a Kindle today.

    Something to allow a bit more reader participation might work. For example, if a story mentions a technology, it might be fun to be able to add links to articles that explain (or debunk) it. That would imply making notes to the effect of “add this to my list of things to do when I’m back on my laptop,” since inputting a URL on an eReader is pretty tedious.

    I read novels in four languages, and during my last months at Amazon, I worked closely with the Kindle team to make that easier to do. They eventually incorporated almost all of my suggestions, but one they didn’t do that would make a big difference is the ability to look up words in the dictionary definitions. Intermediate readers will use a bilingual dictionary (e.g. the French/English dictionary, which gives English definitions for French words) but advanced readers use a monolingual dictionary, which lets you stay immersed in the target language. Trouble is, sometimes the monolingual definition ALSO uses words you don’t know, in which case, you’re stuck. (You can open the dictionary as a book and then look words up, but that’s extremely tedious.) It would be better for learning if you could just press on words in the definitions the same way you do words in the main text, but they’ve never implemented that.

    It’d be nice to have a “search inside the series” feature that would only search inside the other books in the series (better: previous books in the series). Usually it’s enough to search inside all text on your device, but occasionally that doesn’t work so well.

    An awful lot could be done to help short fiction, starting with coming up with an effective way to let authors sell individual stories, possibly by the word. (E.g. one dollar per 10,000 words would equate to a $10 novel.)

    So I do think there’s still room to make the device smarter. Do others have features they think eBooks should offer, if only they were “smarter?”

    1. He does have a point, though, that an eReader is a computer with lots of potential power but which is mostly just reproducing what a cheap paperback could display. Actually, you are wrong. Or, at best, you are using the wrong terminology. An eReader doesn’t have that much computing power. It is an e-ink display and, while they have the ability to store up to thousands of books, they are designed solely to read books. Now, if you are talking about using an e-reader app on a tablet, you are right. It does have the power and capability. But most readers don’t want more than the text of the book. They want to read, not have the story interrupted by something extraneous to the plot.

      For SFF, the biggest thing I want is something to link the text with the map. If there’s a location named, I want to be able to press on it and see it on the map. (Maybe with two or three discrete zoom levels.) This is what X-Ray is working toward. The issue comes with the differences in e-readers and apps out there. What will work well on a tablet doesn’t work as well on an e-ink reader.

      Something to allow a bit more reader participation might work. For example, if a story mentions a technology, it might be fun to be able to add links to articles that explain (or debunk) it. You can already do that if you include appendices at the end of your work. You can hyperlink there. However, you have to be careful not to run afoul of the different stores’ terms of service.

      It’d be nice to have a “search inside the series” feature that would only search inside the other books in the series (better: previous books in the series). Now you are going far afield. What you are advocating here isn’t a hardware issue but a software issue. It is also something that may become available with the X-Ray function as it matures.
      An awful lot could be done to help short fiction, starting with coming up with an effective way to let authors sell individual stories, possibly by the word. (E.g. one dollar per 10,000 words would equate to a $10 novel.) Okay, here’s where I have to wonder what the heck you’re talking about. Amazon and the other stores already let us sell short fiction. We can set our own price.

      You keep focusing on making the device smarter, etc. But that begs the question of does a smarter device make a better book? No, it doesn’t. It makes for more distractions and more of a chance that a reader will be turned off by those distractions and not finish the book.

      1. From the context in which Nourry said, “The eBook is a stupid product,” I took that to mean “we’re not taking much advantage of the computing power of the device,” not “It was dumb to make eBooks in the first place.” That’s the angle I’m coming from.

        The Kindle Oasis 2 has a 1 GigaHz dual processor with 8 Gigabytes to 32 Gigabytes of RAM. The first computer I ever worked on had a 1 MegaHz processor and 64K bytes of RAM. The Kindle devices really do have impressive computing power, although I agree the eInk screens are pretty limited. I’m not big on the PC-based Kindle reader apps except for things like textbooks, where you really do need a good bit of screen real estate and where color matters. Oh and I’m a software guy, so I generally think of hardware as “smart” only in terms of what sort of software it can enable. (But the Kindle can enable quite a bit.)

        As for short fiction, my understanding was that if you wanted to sell (say) a 9,000-word novelette for 90 cents, Amazon gives you a much smaller royalty. I don’t really see works much under 25,000 words being sold successfully on Amazon. Perhaps I just haven’t seen enough.

        Finally, sure, I don’t expect the device to do anything to make a novel better, but I do think there are things it does (and might yet do) to make it more useful to readers. That includes software on the device but also software that Amazon could run on its servers. A lot has been done, but I think a lot more could be done.

        1. From the context in which Nourry said, “The eBook is a stupid product,” I took that to mean “we’re not taking much advantage of the computing power of the device,” not “It was dumb to make eBooks in the first place.” That’s the angle I’m coming from.

          Except that’s not what he was saying. Yes, later in the article he talks about tech but that doesn’t diminish his opening statement of the e-book being a stupid product. Trad publishers don’t like it because it doesn’t fit their model. Also, if you were right and he was talking the tech side of it, they wouldn’t have waited 10 plus years to start figuring out a better way to take advantage of the possibilities. Nor would they be doing everything they can to throttle the digital market. Shrug.

          1. It does make me wonder though, how eager were the trad pubs to adopt electronic manuscript submissions and take advantage of electronic distribution of advance reader copies? Those were technology advances that actually saved them considerable money.

          2. Traditional publishers fear ebooks for two reasons: 1.) They undercut the cost of books in the minds of readers, threatening the margins of the Lord God Hardcover; and 2,) They allow disintermediation between author and consumer, i.e., they makes publishers as we know them today mostly unnecessary. Rubbing salt in the wound is the fact that publishing’s lowly underpaid contractors (editors, artists, layout people) remain necessary, and will be with us as long as words are packaged in some form and sold to the public. Publishers, not so much.

        2. Greg Hullender said: “From the context in which Nourry said, “The eBook is a stupid product,” I took that to mean “we’re not taking much advantage of the computing power of the device,” not “It was dumb to make eBooks in the first place.”

          From the article, the guy said : “It’s the limit of the ebook format. The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience.”

          He’s complaining about the electronic eBook itself. The idea of a plain-text book being sold without the intervention of a printer offends him.

          1. Sorry, that was a poorly worded comment written in a hurry.

            He’s complaining about the eBook idea itself, not the machine you read them on. He’s offended by the notion of a plain-text file being electronically distributed instead of printed, warehoused and shipped. It doesn’t do anything interesting, its not even a pre-print galley. Just an unformatted, unillustrated boring Mobi document displayed on a boring e-Ink reader, or even worse, a phone. A plebian, mass-market yawn with no appeal whatsoever.

            But he’s ignoring the advantages: no inventory, no printing costs, no design costs, no inventory taxes, no shipping, no returns, no retail store issues, and best of all, reduced staffing costs and faster turnaround. Fewer people can put out more product at less cost, faster.

            Therefore he’s either the greatest fool in Europe, or he’s got something else going on. Can’t imagine what that might be. Maybe he’s really a Red Lectroid.

      2. My Kindle Paperwhite 2nd Gen has a 1 Ghz. 1 core ARM CPU- a Freescale i.MX6SL- so, slightly more cpu power than the original Ipad. true, it doesnt have the equivalent GPU…

    2. Do others have features they think eBooks should offer, if only they were “smarter?”

      Library management would be nice. Kindle devices and apps are still in the “stone knives and bearskins” stage for that. Also a big “me too” on improved dictionaries and text-handing. Take a look at Read Real Japanese; marked-up Japanese text on one page, matching vocabulary list on the facing page.

      Fully-automated translation is nearly-impenetrable gibberish, but enhancing an ebook in this fashion can be 90% automated, including customizing the level of assistance to match the reader. In fact, that’s how I read about 30 Japanese novels; I wrote a suite of scripts to grab the text from a Japanese Kindle book, ran them through a morphological analysis tool, generated custom vocabulary lists with translation, inserted pronunciation guides into the text, and generated PDFs that could be read side-by-side on two Kindles.

      Relevant SFWA quote from three years ago: “A growing percentage of e-book licensing transactions (often erroneously referred to as ‘sales’)…”


      1. Library management is something that has nothing to do with the e-book itself (the point of the post). Sure, I’d like it as well but that has nothing to do with enhancing an e-book or making an e-book more pleasurable to read.

        As for the dictionary, that again is not an e-book feature but a software feature that is built into the device’s hardware. Also, such features may work very well on a tablet with good processors and memory, not to mention screen resolution, but possibly not as well on e-ink readers.

        1. Ah, I guess I am using “eBook” and “eReader” interchangeably here. Let’s say, then, that I think a lot of changes to eReaders could be very useful to people who like to read eBooks. If we’re only going to talk about changes to eBooks specifically, I don’t think we’ll have very much to talk about.

        2. Library management is something that has nothing to do with the e-book itself (the point of the post).

          No, a lot of it is structuring the metadata contained within the book, just like improving support for layout/dictionary/translation/x-ray/etc involves improving the structure of the content; I doubt if even a quarter of my Kindle books realize they’re part of a series, or have their original publication dates embedded so they can be read in published order, etc. This is “enhancing the ebook as a book”, not the linked article’s nonsense about “enhancing the digital experience”.

          If Amazon isn’t letting you encode useful metadata in an ebook (“I am book 23 of the Riftwar saga, or 12c in chronological order”), then that’s a problem with the ebook itself; you can’t organize by data that’s not there. Even on Amazon itself, half the authors seem to be cramming everything into the titles because they don’t trust the tagging (I will die a happy man if I never see the terms “LitRPG” or “Kurtherian” in a sub-title again; Amazon refuses to believe that I just really, really don’t want to read them).


          1. You are making a lot of broad assumptions here. Not in the order of your comment. Regarding the “cramming everything” into the title, you need to be a bit more specific. Are you talking about what’s on the cover of the book or what Amazon puts on the product page where you have “Title, book x of series”. If the former, that’s on the author and cover designer. If the latter, the so-called cramming isn’t actually happening. It is that when you input the title information, you are also asked if it is part of a series and what volume. Amazon then lists that as part of the title info. It has nothing to do with the author not trusting Amazon tagging.

            As for library management, ie a book knowing if it is part of a series, the problem there is not just whether an author gives the appropriate meta tags but what the e-book reader/app/and store allow it to do. It will depend on how the author converts the working manuscript into an e-books, what programs are used, etc. Again, my contention is it has nothing to do with the original article that is the reason behind my post.

            1. You are making a lot of broad assumptions here. Not in the order of your comment.

              (no idea what your second sentence means here, by the way)

              I was replying specifically to someone discussing improving the Kindle platform to benefit readers. Yes, I understand the difference between the file on disk and the software that displays it. I’m firmly on the side of making ebooks a better reading experience, not whatever the idiot you were quoting wants to molest them into as part of his corporate strategy.

              Everything he describes his team of Top Men coming up with would require significant changes to the platform that “enhanced” “ebooks” could be used on, because that would mean selling expensive physical objects, which is the only business he understands.

              Right now, some of the things that can make physical books a better choice are hardware/software, but a lot of them are limitations in the data files. You can’t effectively make a side-by-side reader like the one I linked, or a decent parallel translation, or any number of other things; the layout support simply isn’t in the file formats.

              In a very narrow sense, Nourry is right, about the kind of books promoted on the Hachette home page. I’d say at least half of them rely on full-page color photos and complicated layouts that don’t render well on an ebook client (if at all, in some cases; I’ve been through a lot of Kindle crashes over the years when something pushed its limits).

              I buy almost all fiction as ebooks, and I buy a lot of it, but I won’t pay over $9.99 for new fiction, and rarely that much for backlist. Seriously, an 18-year-old Banks novel for $15.99? Not a chance. So I agree with you that Nourry is 100% wrong about the fiction market.

              But I still buy most cookbooks on paper, because it’s a better experience. Honestly, I’d like to see Amazon buy MasterCook and incorporate a cleaned-up version of its not-quite-XML recipe formatting in future Kindle software. Or even just add JSON-LD, although I’m not thrilled with its limitations.


            1. It’s software. There is no way no embed that type of stuff.

              Honestly, I miss hunting through the stacks in the public library looking for the little rocket-ship stickers that were the only reliable metadata when I wanted a hit of skiffy back in the Seventies. Modern tagging just doesn’t have the same oomph.

              I’m browsing through an unpacked Kindle title, and in mobi8/OEBPS/content.opf, there are a bunch of official metadata fields, and a generic “meta” tag that contains all sorts of things, only a handful of which are used by the current software (you could, for instance, unpack a book, edit the “text-to-speech disabled” flag, and pack it back up). The actual body text is a subset of XHTML, which could easily be extended to support additional embeds. In fact, the Kindle Textbook Creator allows embedded audio and video, as well as more layout control, so the data files could support a great deal more than they do now. (why this hasn’t been done, and why Kindle textbooks still suck, is a separate discussion, I think…)

              However, right now, the only reason I find anything when I search for “Dresden Files” on my Kindle is because the series name is in the title (for those playing along at home, the “dc:title” tag in content.opf). If there were a standard “dc:series” or “meta name=’series'” tag, then the device would be able to organize them more effectively.


                1. it’s a series designation, which we fill in when we post books at Kindle.

                  I don’t doubt you. I’m just not finding it as a separate field in the file that actually gets downloaded to a Kindle, which was what I was discussing. The data you’re entering is getting indexed for searching amazon.com, but does not appear to be maintained as a distinct entry in the data file stored on the device itself.

                  I’ve decrypted and unpacked about 90 Kindle books tonight, and in none of them was there a separate field containing just the series name or number. In some, dc:title contained just the title while the meta field Updated_title contained “title (series)”, but nothing contained just “series”. Even the file name used on the Kindle was “title (series)_asin”.


                  1. And, again, that has to do with what Amazon or BN or Kobo or whoever has a dedicated e-book reader or app for their store writes into their code. It has nothing — NOTHING — to do with the publishing end of things. It is how their app grabs the information provided by the author or publisher, not what is provided.

                    You also seem to forget that there are ways to manage your library on the Kindle. You can set up collections to organize your books. It’s not that dissimilar from how you would organize your physical books on the shelves at your home.

                    1. And, again, that has to do with what Amazon or BN or Kobo or whoever has a dedicated e-book reader or app for their store writes into their code.

                      You seem to have lost track of the fact that I was replying to Greg’s comments regarding improving the Kindle platform for readers. So, yes, I’ve been mostly talking about the end products that provide the reading experience: the devices/apps that display ebooks, and the actual files they manage and parse.

                      It’s great that your end has separate fields for organizing by series and categories and tags. I think it would be great if my end had access to them, too.

                      You also seem to forget that there are ways to manage your library on the Kindle.

                      No, not at all. I just think they’re crude and nearly useless for a serious reader, which is why I mentioned improved library management in the first place. And yes, I know about Kindle collections; I have to scroll past three screens of them to reach a newly-downloaded book, which takes a while on an e-ink Kindle. This is quite dissimilar to how I organize the four rooms full of bookshelves in my home. (plus the coffee table’s ad-hoc “collections” that resemble the most-recently-touched sorting on the Kindle, but at least I don’t have to wait for the screen to refresh when I switch between views)

                      Amazon’s library management is cloud-centric; instead of improving the tools for managing files on their devices, they want you to “archive” (delete) them and re-download them from Amazon later. That doesn’t help with all the stuff I’ve side-loaded (Baen, Project Gutenberg, Aozora Bunko, etc), which can only be part of local collections that don’t get synced to a newly-purchased device.

                      And, yes, I also know about Calibre, but native functionality would be better, and it doesn’t sync local collections between Kindles, either.


              1. I, too, looked for the little rocketship when at the library or at the bookstore.
                But now I find it MUCH easier just to go to their website. And they even send me an email every month, telling me what’s new.
                But before I even understood what Baen was doing, I had noticed that all of my favorites had the little rocketship.

              2. EPUB version 2 does not have “series” metadata, though (since the file is extendable) there is an informal standard to use Calibre’s extension:

                <meta name="calibre:series" content="series name here" />
                <meta name="calibre:series_index" content="1" />

                EPUB 3, which is the preferred source format for Kindle books now, does offer a standard way of indicating this:

                <meta id="num" property="belongs-to-collection">series name here</meta>
                <meta refines="#num"> property="collection-type"series</meta>
                <meta refines="#num" property="group-position">1</meta>

                And, of course, the Kindle Store metadata has this information as well. So it’s a little annoying that Kindles do not collect books by series (or at least, I have not found how to make this happen), and it’s annoying too that this metadata is not included in the KF8 (.mobi extension) file for when I want to import to Calibre.

                (And yes, I know, inevitably there will be an HTML error in my examples above. Enough should display correctly that you can search on the relevant keywords and find official documentation.)

  17. No real digital experience. What does he mean by this?

    I suspect he’s trying to claim that instead of “books” they should be some kind of interactive stories, more along the lines of video games (or maybe “choose your own adventure” books writ large).

    1. For years now, NY publishing thinks that their numbers are falling because people can’t read, anymore. It hink you hit it. – this is Sarah Hoyt (I have no clue why WordPress does that to half my replies.

  18. And the reason I am an absolute convert to ebooks is because I like to read books. I can carry an entire library of hundreds of books in my pocket. If I have a minute or two free, I can pull out the book and read (yes, even there). If I’m traveling to a country where I don’t speak the language (most of them, as it happens) I don’t run out of reading matter. If I do, well, all I need is an internet connection and a few minutes and I can remedy that problem.

    I love ebooks because I love books. I love the stories they contain. I love the worlds they take me to (although most are much better to read about than they would be to live in). And ebooks give me more of that fix, more places, more opportunities to read more stuff.

    I suspect I’m far from alone.

  19. He seems to see ebooks as something other than books, rather than books that are published in a particular format. He’s completely missing that any ebook does have “enhanced features”–price and convenience. Just like paperbacks were cheaper and easier to carry and store than hardbacks, ebooks are cheaper and easier to store than paperbacks. (Well, they should be cheaper, anyway.)

    It’s like a publisher in the 1960s wanting to add full color illustrations to paperbacks and charging hardback prices for them. He’s completely missing the point of the technology.

    1. MishaBurnett said: “He’s completely missing the point of the technology.”

      Yes, absolutely. And you have to wonder, how does a guy with that job miss something so obvious and so powerful? It boils down to a guy can write and -publish- an all-text fiction book by himself, from the living room couch. A book that makes money.

      There’s no way that guy missed that. He knows. He’s pretending its not an issue. Either because it is kicking his ass and he can’t show weakness, or because his business isn’t being affected at all. That would mean the books aren’t where they get money.

      Maybe big publishers are actually a real estate play? A lot of things are, that you wouldn’t think would be. Some “retail” chains are actually real estate companies with a sideline in clothing and sundries. Zellers used to be like that in Canada. The Zellers store was an excuse to own the land, the stores themselves barely broke even.

  20. I also like the (not actually a quote) “They actually have offices in Boulder. *Boulder.* I mean, why would anyone do that? But, what the heck, they’re doing well enough that we might as well let them have their eccentricities” in the last question. WTF?

    Ugh. -_- He almost has a glimmer of a clue when he talks about how he’s got a different model from self pub–if he actually meant it, instead of just coming up with a phrase of optimum sneer, he might have a point. Having someone find the diamonds in the slush pile is totally a value-add that can be translated to the higher price. And if they were doing it (and compensating the creators as though they’d made a diamond), they’d have a lot less “not-competition” to deal with. Just sayin’.

    (OK, they probably couldn’t also manage the premium they’re insisting on. But they need it. For the ecosystem. Because publishing diversity can’t exist without high-rent New York offices.)


  21. To be fair, I think Nourry actually wasn’t making a value judgement when he called ebooks “stupid.” He was just using the wrong word, probably because English isn’t his primary language. It looks like he meant to say “dumb,” as in non-enhanced. He was just complaining that ebooks don’t go beyond being the same things as print books are, not that they were some kind of mistake in the first place.

    That said, the rest of the points certainly still hold. Who looks at enhanced ebooks’ perpetual failure and just thinks they still aren’t doing them right?

    My own take: https://teleread.org/2018/02/20/the-big-five-publishers-and-the-nutri-matic-drink-dispenser/

    1. Who looks at enhanced ebooks’ perpetual failure and just thinks they still aren’t doing them right?

      I have one ebook that was enhanced well: the annotated version of A Fire Upon The Deep that was released as part of Brad Templeton’s 1993 Hugo/Nebula nominee CDROM. Which still works today, because Templeton didn’t cruft it up with proprietary formats or DRM. Even the short video clips of Vernor Vinge and Maureen F. McHugh still work in VLC.


        1. I just read the RTF files directly, which preserved the inline formatting of his notes; I think making them display as footnotes was a mistake. I’m tempted to see if there’s anything that can still run the HyperCard edition Templeton included, to see how they show up there.

          And, yes, I was half-kidding, because there’s just not much to “enhance” in a novel. Annotations and illustrations are ancient history, audio is a complementary product, and interactive elements are already thoroughly explored by the kinetic and visual novel markets. X-Ray is one of the few actual innovations for improving a novel-reader’s experience. Foreign-language-reader assistance would be another (Amazon Japan could sell a lot more light novels by adding ruby text and vocabulary links that make them more accessible to Americans studying Japanese).


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