Well, it was an interesting Sunday, in the proverbial sense of the word. When I posted yesterday morning, I had every intention of spending the day writing and watching football with friends. Well, I accomplished the latter. Friends came over to watch — gasp — the Cowboys beat the Giants. That was the high point in the day, sandwiched between news of how my almost 91 year old cousin did in surgery (partial hip replacement) and news that my son had been involved in an auto accident. Both are okay, but it did sort of take the focus off of more mundane things like football and writing.
But it’s back to work today. Let’s start with an article by Julie Bosman that appeared yesterday. This will be the first holiday season when e-readers will be available in such retailers as Walmart, Target and Best Buy. More importantly, they’ll be available at prices likely to entice purchases as gifts. As noted in the article:
“This is the tipping-point season for e-readers, there’s no question,” said Peter Hildick-Smith, president of the Codex Group, a book market research company. “A lot more books are going to be sold in e-book format. It also means that a lot fewer people are going to be shopping in bookstores.”
If things go as forecast, according to the article, there could be as many as 103 e-readers in circulation by the end of the year. To which I have only one thing to say: COOL! Especially the part of the article where the president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, Carolyn Reidy, says she expects e-book sales to “shoot up” on Christmas day.
To revisit a couple of topics from last week, Judith Griggs of Cooks Source Magazine has apologized again for using material from an author without permission. In an interview, Griggs has pledged to be more vigilant about copyright. It may be too little, too late to save the small magazine. The internet uproar over what happened has cost the magazine advertisers, something no publication can afford to lose. However, so much of this could have been avoided had Griggs either not used the article without permission or had simply issued an apology when requested. Instead, her defensive stance may have cost her more than just a few advertisers if, as alleged, she did take articles from such big name sources as Food Network. You can find more about this here. Many thanks to Chris Meadows and TeleRead.com for keeping up with this situation.
Next up is the continuing saga of the book supposedly promoting pedophilia over at Amazon. That slippery slope we discussed last week keeps getting more and more slippery. Amazon has found itself in a no-win situation. If they had left the book up, they would have been crucified for promoting a truly heinous crime. By taking it down, they get crucified in some fora for censorship. Then there are the cries that they didn’t act quickly enough — read that as immediately. And, as predicted, they are now being hit with more demands from other groups to take down yet more books. PETA has sent emails to Jeff Bezos demanding the removal of books about dog fighting, etc. People on the different kindle and amazon boards are posting links to books they want taken down because these books are objectionable. Barnes & Noble is now adding a disclaimer to book published through its PubIt program telling readers to report any objectionable material.
Then there is this article from PC World. Entitled “5 Things to Learn from Amazon’s Latest PR Disaster”, it starts out by talking about how Amazon has backpedaled from an earlier stance about the book. Yes, there is some backpedaling, no doubt about it. The problem arose because Amazon responded too quickly, imo. They issued their no censorship statement before reviewing the title in question. Had they waited — and, yes, it would have been difficult to do so because of all the cries of outrage going viral across the internet — they could have issued a statement saying they were pulling the book due to a violation of their terms of service. Instead, they jumped the gun in a knee-jerk reaction and it’s come back to bite them.
The one thing I will agree with in the article is that this has potentially tarnished the reputation of legitimate e-books. I say potentially — a qualifier the author of the article does not use — because I do think most readers are more forgiving than the author is giving them credit for. Otherwise, the first time someone read something they didn’t like, they’d quit reading — e-book or not. Most people know there are books out there they aren’t going to agree with or enjoy. They simply refuse to buy the book. This is a storm that will blow over.
The real culprit when it comes to tarnishing the reputation of legitimate e-books is poor editing and proofreading. Go to almost any e-book related forum and look at the number of instances where e-books are being criticized because of poor proofreading. It doesn’t matter if the e-book comes from an established publishing house or a new e-press or the author himself. OCR errors, overlooked spelling and punctuation errors, formatting errors are all driving readers up a wall. This is what will hurt us the most in the long run
Overall, however, I think the author of the article has it right. Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy or quick answer to keep this from happening again. If it does, I just hope that the protests go straight to Amazon or whomever and they don’t go viral again. If they do, I’m afraid we will see more and more restrictions being put on the DTP-type platforms, making it all but impossible for small presses and authors to publish through them. And that will be a loss for everyone.
Last week the internet was ablaze with the Cooks Source debacle. For those who might not know what I’m referring to, here’s my post on it. There are links in the post where you can find more background information. Since then, the folks at Cooks Source have issued an apology (of sorts).
I say “of sorts” because they still don’t admit they did anything wrong in using an article without permission or recompense. Nor have they addressed the comment made by their representative that anything on the internet is in the “public domain”. You can read their statement here. I happen to think John Scalzi’s comments about it are dead on point, especially when he states that Cooks never would have addressed the issue had the internet gone viral about what happened.
In other news, Hell must be a bit colder this week. The New York Times has announced that it will begin listing a best sellers list for both fiction and non-fiction e-books after the first of the year. According to the article, the lists will be “compiled from weekly data from publishers, chain bookstores, independent booksellers and online retailers, among other sources.” One of those “other sources” is RoyaltyShare. It will be interesting to see just how complete the data will be when compiling these lists.
Going hand in hand with the news from the NYT is the AAP’s (Association of American Publishers) release of September’s sales figures. E-book sales increased 158.1% over September 2009. The only other areas showing an increase were downloaded audiobooks (73.7%), university press paperbacks (10.6%), higher education (2.2%), and professional books (0.7%).
“The Adult Hardcover category was down 40.4 percent in September with sales of $180.3 million, and sales for the year-to-date down by 8.1 percent. Adult Paperback sales decreased 15.8 percent for the month ($111.5 million) but increased by 1.5 percent for the year so far. Adult Mass Market sales decreased 23.6 percent for September with sales totaling $67.8 million; sales were down by 15.7 percent year to date.”
The year-to-date figures for e-book sales shows an increase of 188.4%. While that is still a small part of a traditional publisher’s overall sales, that figure is growing. The fact is this trend is only going to increase. E-book readers are becoming more affordable. Tablets such as the iPad also make reading e-books more attractive to readers than sitting at their desk reading off their PC or Mac. E-books are here to stay. The only real hurdle still left to clear — leaving aside the elephant in the room called DRM — is how long it will take for an industry standard format to be decided upon.
Until that happens, we’ll continue to offer our e-books in a variety of different formats and all will be DRM-free.