Borders' idea, of course, is to draw in a bunch of suckers to sign up for their overpriced program in hopes that at least a few of them will actually follow through and send a check. But even if you do plan to use their "publishing" program, you don't actually need to go to all the hassle of signing up for a Get Published account to enter the contest - and you don't need to have a book written, or even in the works - just include a short line with the title or description of a project you might write someday, and you're covered.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
|"The Saga of Beowulf" U.S. Kindle 10-week sales stats|
As you can see from the chart, my sales definitely fall into that category, with something like sixteen Kindle editions sold in the last ten weeks. Now, mind you, this is only U.S. Kindle sales on Amazon, and does not include any print editions, nor Kindle sales in the U.K., nor any sales on any other site or in any other format than the Kindle - and more importantly, without a single ad campaign running for at least the past twelve months (if you don't count this blog as such). These are just residual sales from word of mouth or random searches, or those driven from this page. So all in all I'm fairly pleased that my book has continued to sell at all. It's nothing I can make a living from just yet, but it's a start, and hopefully one day this will be a chart of one week's sales, or even one day's (much less likely, but you never know).
Sales Rank Watcher, which does an admirable job of tracking sales stats for any ISBN/ASIN listed on Amazon, with tools for searching, filtering, and trending stats, as well as saving and printing graphs for future reference. However, it only works with the U.S. site, and being a resident program, only works when running (and consequently using CPU resources and bandwidth), so if you shut it down and forget to start it back up, or your computer freaks out or you shut your system down, you lose that data. Then it starts over with a clean slate. Needless to say, this became a nuisance and wore out its usefulness fairly quickly.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Apparently there are a lot of comic fans out there. Apparently they all live in San Diego, or thereabouts, or plan to visit the sunny seaside metropolis this summer, apparently with the intention of attending the 2011 International Comic-Con to be held at the convention center there. For the second time in as many weeks, the online registration system for event was crashed almost immediately upon opening this morning by the vast influx of would-be attendees, leaving the promoters scrambling for a back-up plan for ticket distribution, thus far without result.
And yet this doesn't seem to be holding anybody back. Maybe they're all just planning on spending the whole weekend there. Maybe they're just not that picky about who they'll go to see - after all, there's bound to be someone interesting there each day. But personally, I can't think of very many other marketing events where people are so willing to attend they don't even care who's going to be there. Star Trek conventions, maybe. Adult video awards shows, certainly. I'm excited to go myself, and I'm not even that big a fan of comics. I don't even know who half the announced guests are. But I bet half the real fans do. And I'd bet they have their costumes made already, too.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I mention this mainly because I will be attending this year, with an eye toward acquiring a booth for next year's convention. You get a price break if you reserve and pre-pay your table in advance, so this will be both a scouting expedition and a chance to save a little money while getting a vacation out of it at the same time. I had hoped to get a booth for this year's event, but as I am hopelessly behind schedule on my current project, that seemed a bit overly optimistic. Looking at my tentative production schedule I realized there was really no way I was going to get The Ring Saga into print by then without quitting my day job, which, unfortunately, I still rely on fairly heavily to keep my computer running and the snow off my head.
But I will go so far as to officially announce that at least the first two volumes will be out in time for Comic-Con 2012, so you can come and visit with me then.
Friday, November 19, 2010
As with Kobo's proposed plan, recipient's of a Kindle ebook gift do not need to own a Kindle device to read or receive their gift: they only need an email address and any version of the Kindle app on whatever platform they prefer. But, of course, with five million Kindles sold this year alone, it's a sure bet most benefactors will already own one, or will get one as a gift along with their new ebook. And you can bet Amazon is counting on it to increase their sales. From a marketing standpoint alone, it's a ridiculously overdue aspect of digital book sales that should have been implemented years ago. But then, better late than never is an appropriate adage, I suppose.
Apparently Kobo's proposed ebook giving program will include the ability to schedule a future date and time to send your gift, whereas Amazon's at present only allows you to send the book at the time of purchase. This is a handy feature others will surely implement, as it makes holiday giving much more convenient. So kudos to Kobo for coming up with it.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
|Click image for larger readable version|
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Two other video clips show off a few of the new LG eInk prototypes. All of these devices seem to hover around the 10" screen size, which looks to become a new standard for color readers, given their ability to showcase graphic novels and comics, as well as glossy color magazines. The image change rate of these LG displays lags way behind that of the Hanvon model, and even current black and white screens. But then, they are just prototypes, after all.
As you can see, the color is still somewhat muted and washed out, like old colorized photographs or those first tentative efforts at making color movies - although they have a certain charm that actually looks quite nice in the periodicals and hand-drawn comics. Vibrant color will come in time, and from the rate of progress and effort being made, it may not take long.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
For example, kids who generally only play games might tend to read if their multimedia device offers that choice in new and interesting ways. Residents of small towns throughout the world who have limited access to large bookstores and vast libraries can have the latest bestseller the same day as everyone else. A family that could never afford to buy several hundred books can have several thousand for the cost of a Kindle. The economics of 30,000 free books available at a touch alone offers an enormous opportunity for literary advancement.
The coming decade will be seen as a dividing line in history, before which books were expensive to produce and cumbersome to cart around, but after which literature is available everywhere to anyone at any time, and personal libraries are just something everyone has with them at all times, allowing for instant access to information and vastly improved literacy rates. Publishers should be ecstatic.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
|Hanvon color eInk reader|
In other news, The Bookseller reported last week on a new study which estimates that 25% of the book market will be digital by 2015. The industry survey, of 3000 people from six key nations, also predicts that 15-20% of the reading public will own e-reading devices, with multimedia tablets making up two-thirds to three-fourths of total sales and dedicated e-readers picking up the rest. Interestingly, Victoria Barnsley, CEO of HarperCollins, said at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair that she believes 50% of books will be read electronically by 2015.
But the study's conclusion was what caught my interest, warning that the book industry will not benefit from this shift "unless it innovates in its operating methods and content," saying that new experimental formats such as "non-linear, hybrid, interactive or social" are where future opportunities lie. In other words, interactive multimedia content that only electronic devices can provide, and against which print cannot compete. So all you game designers and illustrators out there get together with your favorite author and get to work. There's a new wave of digital content coming, and you could be on the cutting edge.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
But several points it made got me to thinking, and over dinner at Andrade's last night I discussed a few of them with my folks. Like most parents, mine are always slightly behind the current trends, being now a few generations removed from the cutting edge, and only moderately up to date on modern technology. But my mom's an avid reader, and she likes to browse the aisles at the local B&N, though I know she also orders books online, since they live out in the country now and the local B&N is not quite as local since they retired. So I asked her where she does most of her actual shopping, and her answer was Amazon.
Not Barnes & Noble's online store, but Amazon. She'll browse the local shelves at B&N, and maybe even buy a book or two from time to time, but more often than not she'll go home to compare their price with Amazon's first, and even put a title in her Amazon wish list until she has enough to get free shipping, and only order then. She doesn't shop at B&N online at all.
And this brings home a major point about B&N that the Forbes blog was making: Barnes & Noble have been unable to take the lead - or even keep up - when it comes making the shift into the internet age. Whereas Amazon is fully focused and committed to an online presence (and taking advantage of every aspect of it that they can, like customized recommendations and email marketing), B&N are saddled with the albatross of brick and mortar stores, and all the requisite operating costs involved. And I would hazard to say that it effects their perspective on book selling negatively, tending to make them too conservative in their vision rather than forward-thinking and innovative like Amazon and Apple.
Now, Forbes is a finance-oriented publication, so when they say Wall Street greeted the NookColor with a yawn, I give that some credence. The blog post points out the Blockbuster comparison that I had mentioned in a previous post, only to say it's an unfair comparison because B&N is more willing to "evolve" than Blockbuster was. This is certainly true overall, but only to a point. They may not recall Blockbuster's abortive attempt to emulate Netflix - though I do, because I was working there at the time - and it was a vastly superior program, allowing the renter to return online movies in store for immediate exchange rather than having to wait for it to be mailed back. And while this came fairly late in their final death throes, it didn't save them any more than the NOOKcolor and B&N's online store will likely save them without a radical change in the traditional outlook. The operating expenses of brick-and-mortar stores are just too great. The fact is that we're rapidly transitioning into a global economy in which the vast majority of commerce is done online. Only physical stores with enormous inventory turnover will be able to survive, and that means diversification. Like it or not, the local independent retailer is dead. And the smoking pistol is now a Gatling gun.
Forbes points out three main factors working against Barnes & Noble's future success, these being:
1. Execution. While Barnes & Noble's brick-and-mortar stores are world-class, that same level of execution has not yet translated to the internet age. Gauging by market share alone, Amazon is firmly in control of the online bookselling game. The NOOKcolor may help some here, but it's unlikely to take the lead away from the Kindle anytime soon. This point inevitably leads to the next...
2. Economic viability. The divided interests of having both online and physical stores limits Barnes & Noble's ability to focus fully on either, and the costs of operating one fundamentally detract from the other. However, this is really a question of the viability of brick-and-mortar bookstores in general, which is only going to get worse going forward. Without some fundamental shift in operations, such as introducing Print-On-Demand kiosks in place of physically stocked backlist titles, the brick-and-mortar bookstore will not survive. And the introduction of eReader "stations" and WiFi networks within those walls will not help, since there's inherently no need to go there to get your digital content. In fact, as the Forbes post very aptly points out, you can buy books on Amazon from within the walls of a Barnes & Noble store.
3. Scope. Amazon's embracing of virtually every product available gives it a distinct advantage over both B&N and Apple (and nearly everyone else for that matter). While Amazon began strictly as an online book retailer, they didn't restrict their inventory options for long. This wide ranging outlook gives them a revenue stream that allows them to dabble and experiment in areas that may not prove fruitful initially, but which tend to pay off over time. Barnes & Noble just doesn't have that luxury, and is, in fact, saddled with huge operating costs which prohibit it to a large degree.I haven't purchased anything from Barnes & Noble for quite a long time - several years in fact - while I've ordered literally tons of stuff from Amazon. However, I still go into Barnes & Noble stores from time to time, mostly to browse the graphic novels section and see what the latest works look like, something which is still imperfectly presented online, almost entirely due to format issues: you often have to see a graphic novel spread laid out to comprehend the overall flow and experience completely the atmosphere which it presents.
So while I was initially quite excited about the pending release of the NOOKcolor, after looking into it further I've decided to wait for a color eInk reader, and to get an iPad in the meantime for reading graphic novels. And that leaves Barnes & Noble out in the cold.
Monday, November 1, 2010
More important is the fact that an unequal comparison is being implied right from the start. As you can see, all print book formats are lumped into one big pile, while each different e-reading device is broken out separately. A more accurate comparison would be to break down print books into hardbacks, softcover, periodicals, children's board books, etc., because what we're really talking about here is format, not content.
Still another important statistic that plays a major factor is the discrepancy in price. Sure, a nice coffee-table book might set you back fifty or sixty bucks, but most books given as gifts cost half of that or less. Even a hardcover new release at $24.95 is a fraction of the lowest priced eReader: less than 1/5th the cost of a Kindle, for example. You can get your kids a book for five bucks and a bow if you like, but the cheapest you'll get off for prodding Granny into the 21st century is $129, and the price goes way up from there. Looking at our poll results, 9.87% of respondents plan to shell out at least $499 for a base model iPad. In economic terms, that's the equivalent of 20 hardbacks gift-wrapped and shipped to all your relatives, or some fifty or so board books and comics for the kids.
But let's look at our poll results another way...
If we ignore the 3.57% who have no literary inclinations whatsoever this holiday season, we're left with 45.58% who intend to give digital this year. That's almost half, which hardly justifies the PW remark that "by far" print books were the most popular gift choice, and that "readers aren't rushing to embrace e-reading as fast as we might think/wish/fear." Compared to the 50.84% who prefer a more traditional holiday experience, 45.58% sounds a lot like ebooks breathing down the neck of traditional publishing to me. And if you consider the monetary footprint represented by that 45%, the results are overwhelmingly in favor of digital. After all, we're not comparing e-books with print books here, we're talking e-readers versus traditionally bound and printed texts. If ebooks themselves were added to the poll - in the form of gift cards or pre-paid downloads perhaps - there might be another tale to tell. But ebooks weren't included as an option in the poll, so that stat will have to wait for another day.
For now, the right half of the pie chart is print and everything else is not. But I can guarantee you the left half will generate far more excitement when it comes time to open presents.
(By the way, who spells "old" Ole' anyway? What exactly is that apostrophe truncating?)