Amazon announced 24 hour sale of digital content which will start at midnight on December 30th. We just passed through Black Friday and Christmas season with various discounts on TVs, hardware, appliances, Kindle and Amazon Echo devices. Now Amazon plans to launch a grand sale of digital content including books, movies, music, TV shows and more as part of Amazon Digital Day Sale.
According to Amazon, you can get up to 80% off hundreds of video game titles, 75% off on hundreds of digital comics, 50% off on top movies and TV shows. Also, you can get other great deals on popular content for your devices.
So far Amazon revealed a portion of items which will go on Digital Day Sale on December 30. It includes Rocket League, Titanfall 2, Destiny: Rise of Iron, magazine reader Texture, Microsoft Office Home & Business 2016, and Amazon’s own music service. Check back on Amazon Digital Sale page for more details.
I am not a bestselling author, nor do I play one on television. I do, however, take a great deal of interest in how those who have managed to make it big with their self-published Kindle books have managed to pull it off. It’s a tough environment and authors don’t have the soft of support system that traditional publishing offers, so there is often a great deal of creativity that needs to come into play. If you are looking to follow in the footsteps of the KDP success stories that we have seen so far, however, there are a few things that are best kept in mind.
Treat Your Audience Well
You already know that social networking is considered the key to self-publishing success at the moment. What a surprisingly large number of authors seem to think this means is that you need to send out scores of random connection requests on Facebook and Twitter, then repeatedly advertise your book over and over again. This is the wrong way to do things.
Anybody who has access to a Kindle will already know that there are more eBooks out there than they can ever hope to read. Make yourself stand out by doing something besides badgering. Answer questions, share anecdotes, build up a conversation about your writing process, or just offer the occasional preview of your newest work. If you treat your readers like people, they will be more interested in what you have to say than any 140-character ad could accomplish.
Unlike with traditional publishing, you will not accomplish much on a book tour. Instead, harness the power of the internet to make your connections as virtual as your Kindle publication. Set up online gatherings, have a community forum on your personal site, make a Facebook fan page, and generally just keep your options open. Under no circumstances should you decide to buy into one social network at the expense of all the others. It doesn’t take much extra effort to at least cross-post news or check comments in a variety of places and you cast a wider net that way.
Build A Network
It is important to go beyond direct advertising as well. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by developing connections with other authors. Readers tend to take their favorite authors’ recommendations seriously, so it is definitely possible to form a circle of reliably interconnected readership with your peers. This is mainly just a way of directing the force that is the customer recommendation, but that can be tricky to get a hold on.
This should go without saying, but often needs to be said. You are writing for an audience. Whether it is a Kindle eBook or a paperback, that audience expects a certain amount of professionalism from you in return for their money. This means that you should exercise some care with your work. Give it an extra
The Pew Internet and American Life Project has recently published a study about the current trend in electronic reading. Their findings signal impressive gains for the Kindle and eReading in general over the past year. It can now be said with some degree of reliability that at least one in five Americans have read a book on a device designed for reading in the past year and nearly 30% of American adults now own an electronic reading device.
There is reason to be excited about this if you’re a fan of the Kindle, but the results should also be taken with a bit of caution. For example, the definition of “device designed for reading” includes tablets like the iPad. If all we’re concerned about is eBooks getting read, then that makes no difference whatsoever. When we look at ownership levels, however, including the iPad or Kindle Fire will necessarily boost the numbers by including people who have no interest in reading on their multi-function tablet.
If we do look at eBook consumption alone, regardless of the device, the numbers are even better. Pew indicates that 43% of Americans 16 and older have read an either an eBook or some other long-form publication in the past year. This includes consumption via PC, Tablet, eReader, Cell phone, and anything else with a screen that might have been handy.
Kindle users are also more likely to purchase their books than those sticking to paper. The report indicates that readers of electronic books are far more likely to buy than borrow, even when libraries are now available, and are generally more likely to say that they prefer book ownership as a rule.
These readers are more likely than their paper-loving counterparts to have read extensively over the past year as well. Readers who take advantage of options like the Kindle report an average of 24 books read per year compared to the 15 of those who don’t engage with electronic texts. This may be specific to eReaders like the Kindle, since the report also indicates that a similar disparity did not show up when comparing tablet user reading habits to non-eReader reading.
This is not the end of the printed word, of course. Print books still account for the overwhelming majority of reading material being consumed. There have been large enough spikes in Kindle use lately to indicate the comparison might be more equal soon, but print still has its place. While most people who use eReaders reported that they prefer eBooks for a variety of reasons, print was still the desired format when talking about children’s books and book lending. The latter point is especially obvious since publishers have forced lending restrictions onto eBooks, but it is a factor nonetheless.
The thing that best sums this up is probably the demographics. While not specific to the Kindle, eReading was measured as fairly even across the board. Men and women are roughly equally likely to have read something electronically. All income groups show at least 20% to the same question. The only real areas lagging behind in adoption are among those with a high school level education or below and readers over age 65. Even in those groups the numbers are higher than ever before, which Pew attributes to the low price of the now <$80 Kindle.
Not much is known at this time about what options are being discussed by the publishers under attack by the Justice Department. We do have good information that there are settlement options on the table and that the Agency Model pricing model currently to blame for high Kindle Edition eBook prices will be on the chopping block regardless.
Reports from unnamed informants close to the matter have indicated that there is reason to expect a settlement within the next several weeks. Neither Apple nor the publishers have responded to any requests for comment at this time. The Justice Dept declined to say anything.
Whether this is a sign of consensus among the defendants or merely that one or two are feeling the pressure and wanting to end what they see as a losing battle should not matter much in terms of the outcome. In the event of one publisher involved in the price fixing scheme reaching a settlement, the terms would undoubtedly involve release of evidence necessary for ensuring a successful prosecution of the rest.
Basically, assuming the news is true, this means that the end of the Agency Model is at hand and that the Kindle has made it through possibly the most harmful barrier to eReader adoption without so far becoming irrelevant. A return to the wholesale model, even temporarily, will mean more affordable reading material for Kindle owners. This in turn should spur sales of the eReading line. Amazon’s willingness to take a loss on bestsellers to promote their product line is what game them over 90% of the eReading market before the Agency Model was imposed and there is no reason to see this practice changing overly much if the Agency Model is destroyed.
The big question will be what comes next. Settlement or unfavorable ruling aside, publishers are not going to give up on their position that readers have no right to expect inexpensive books. It is incredibly unlikely that they will all pull out of Amazon in reaction to this, but they’re going to have to find some new way to prevent Kindle customers from being too happy with digital books.
The case at hand is all about how the defendants collaborated to impose the Agency Model on Amazon. The means to achieve this goal is in question, not the model itself. Depending on the terms of the settlement, publishers could be permitted to go back to it in time. They could also turn to something even more unpleasant for potential customers. It is hard to tell at the moment.
In the short term, the clear winners will be customers. Prices on eBooks should drop abruptly, especially in the Kindle Store, following official announcement of the deal being made. In reality, expectations may need to change with regard to how profitable a new bestseller should be per unit sold. Big 6 publishers will be forced to come to terms with this. Beyond the immediate benefits to Kindle customers there is little that can be asserted reliably about the effects of this situation. It will be interesting to see how the situation evolves. Any thoughts or predictions?
While it is hardly the only place that media piracy is coming up these days, eBook piracy is very much on the minds of publishers and booksellers. There has been some informed speculation made that possibly as many as 20% of all eBooks currently loaded into devices like the Kindle are pirated rather than purchased. The number is almost shockingly high for some and seems to demand a response. The big question is what action could and should be successful.
Since I’m assuming that this reaches a relatively well informed and reasoning audience, I don’t need to spend much time on the fallacy of assuming that every eBook loaded onto a Kindle thanks to piracy is a lost sale. Naturally this is not the case as studies have shown repeatedly when looking into music, movie, and video game piracy. Most of these same studies have shown that piracy does not have any strong negative effect on sales at all, but let’s assume for the moment that at the very least it allows the market trends to shift based on where customers see the most value to be gained for their money.
This is where the piracy “problem” gets relevant. Publishers wish to control the perceived value of their product. It is problematic for them if customers are able to get the same quality of experience from a $3.99 eBook that they do from a $17.99 hardcover, as this has an adverse effect on a mainstay of traditional publishing. Unfortunately, this sort of control can only be exercised in a situation where the publishers can regulate the flow of new work being made available to customers. eBooks naturally render this impossible, especially given how simple it is to choose self publishing these days thanks to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.
Do I agree with the idea that books should lose value in an environment where there are too many of them to possibly read? Not entirely, but that’s just the way things work. If you have two similar titles being offered for wildly different prices then the cheaper one is likely to win out, barring dramatically successful marketing efforts. The only way that piracy really plays into this is in allowing readers to still have access to their favorite authors in situations where they would feel unable to justify paying now-outrageous prices. This is not necessarily a view of the emotional or philosophical “rightness” of the act, just an awareness of the psychology at work.
When it comes right down to it, you can’t stop piracy. No matter how restrictive the DRM, there are always more people interested in breaking it than maintaining it. What you can do is adapt to the market and respect your customers. Publishers who insist that if they can just shut down piracy sites and force Amazon to set high prices for Kindle books then all will be well are deluded. The only way to control piracy is to make legal acquisition affordable enough and simple enough that the alternative is too much of a hassle to be considered. The problem is not that the Kindle allows readers to access files they pick up from anywhere on the net, it’s things like the Big 6/Apple Agency Model implementation that try to freeze an entire form of media into an economic model that no longer functions.
In what is just the latest point of conflict between Amazon and Barnes & Noble over their relative positions in book sales, B&N has announced that they are unwilling to stock any Amazon published works in their stores. It is clearly an informed decision that responds to multiple pressures coming from Amazon.com and online retailers in general, but it also raises the question of whether the Brick & Mortar chain can make such a bold move without drawing customer attention to the value of owning a Kindle.
The stated reason behind this decision is that Amazon has been increasingly successful in arranging exclusivity agreements with major publishers and authors that have prevented the competition from being able to provide the best possible service to their Nook customers. A fair point, and not one that many people would disagree with. Amazon is definitely fond of throwing their weight around. At the same time, however, it is a general admission that the Nook is unable to manage to compete on equal terms against the Kindle as things stand right now and possibly not the best way to reassure customers and investors of the long term viability of the product line.
This also relates to the extremely controversial practice of “showrooming” that has made headlines regularly ever since Amazon released their price check app for iOS and Android smartphones. Since Amazon’s structure allows them to save a great deal of money on things like local stores, they can offer lower prices on a wide variety of things. This is especially the case with paper books, where it is extremely unusual to fail to catch a deal compared to any local retailer. A company that relies on their overt physical presence as much as Barnes & Noble does will obviously be negatively affected by such instant access to price comparisons since it deters impulse buying and turns their stores into profitless showcases for another company. By refusing to carry the physical copies of Amazon’s new publications, they clearly hope to demonstrate to those lured into exclusivity agreements that the Brick & Mortar is still vital to success.
Again, I can’t help but feel that this is a big gamble. If Amazon were not already well ahead in book sales then this would not be a problem in the first place. The Kindle has, thanks to their huge investments and the very exclusivity arrangements that B&N is unhappy with, built up the most substantial library and user base in the eReading world. It will take something drastic to knock them back down to a manageable level, but the idea that Barnes & Noble showrooms can have that kind of influence is questionable.
This feels like something that will end up turning major authors into Kindle exclusives whether they intended to be or not, further devaluing the selection at Barnes & Noble. While they have also declared that these books would still be available through web services, it will take a lot of customer loyalty for that to be a viable purchasing option compared to Amazon.com.
Now that the Kindle Fire is out and making a splash on the tablet marketplace, a commonly heard description by people who aren’t trying to set it up as the next iPad is that it’s “Amazon’s newest, most advanced eReader”. Now, in the interest of complete honesty from the start I will admit that nothing has managed to compare to the experience of E Ink Pearl for me when it comes to reading. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Kindle Fire is horrible for reading, just that for people who happen to have access to both technologies it will likely remain preferable to use the dedicated eReader.
What if you only want, or can only afford, to have one device on hand? The Kindle Fire will work just fine. Thanks to some of the options for display, it is almost pleasant to read even though it’s an LCD and there are some features that work even better with the tablet than they would on the admittedly slower eReaders. Moving from the Kindle 3, for example, to the Kindle Fire will require some adjustments, however, which it might help to be aware of.
Your books are now arranged a bit differently. Unlike on the other Kindles, which show you the books you actually have on your device unless you go out of your way to look at the “Archived Items” category, initially a Kindle Fire will display the Cloud view of your library. What this means is that every book you currently own through Amazon will be displayed, regardless of whether or not they have been downloaded. Kindle App users will likely be familiar with the concept. To download a particular book, just tap it. If you are interested in looking at only books that are already downloaded, though, such as in cases where WiFi is not available, there is a tab at the top of the screen called “Device”. This will narrow it down for you.
The Kindle Fire’s reading app is pretty nice, all things considered. Tapping the bottom of the screen will pull up a menu bar and slider. The slider allows navigation by location or percentage. The menu bar has the familiar “Aa” button that pulls up a Font Style tab to let you choose between all eight font sizes, three different options each for line spacing and margin width, and a few color schemes. Those first two will mostly be a matter of preference while the latter contains the vital “white text on black screen” option that most people will prefer for extended reading. This button will also pull up a tab for Typeface selection, of which the Kindle Fire has eight.
Users of older Kindles will also be pleased to find how much easier it is to interact with the text. Just hold down on a word to select it or drag across an area to make a larger selection. The option will appear to highlight, annotate, or search based on that. The search can take place through Google, Wikipedia, or within the text itself.
Overall it’s unlikely you will run into many problems adjusting to the Kindle Fire. It might not be the perfect reading device, but it does the job better than most. Feel free to leave a note if you have any questions about adjustment I haven’t touched on. I’ll try to answer any questions that pop up.
In recent news, Apple has decided to start thoroughly enforcing their in-app purchasing rules after a bit of a delay. While this is inconvenient for Kindle users, Nook users, and pretty much everybody who isn’t Apple, perhaps the most uniquely affected portion of the eBook marketplace will be the fans of Nook Kids for iPad app. Its narrow audience and specific requirements definitely make it a special case.
If you think about the strengths of the iPad, or tablets in general so far, when it comes to eReading, the biggest factor in favor is the color screen. Not much good for the purpose if you read a lot of bestsellers, classic literature, poetry, or anything along those lines, but absolutely essential for optimal viewing of kids’ books among other things. Right now, the Nook is pretty much the only eBook line handling children’s books in a thorough fashion. One of the things you’ll see on all their advertisements is that they have the “largest collection of kids’ books all in one place”, and that even seems to hold up pretty well.
Now, if you make the assumption that few parents are grabbing their children tablets of their very own, which I think is a fair assumption given the average prices and general fragility of the gadget compared to the toys they might be used to, the change becomes particularly inconvenient. Basically, if my hypothetical child were to have their own Tablet PC or Kindle, it would be in my best interest to not allow them any way to make purchases on the device itself. Whether this is accomplished via parental controls or simple lack of functionality doesn’t matter much. On the same device that I keep around primarily for my own use, that I simply happen to pull out during shared reading time, the lack of functionality is an infuriating factor. Yes, browser-based purchasing is still simple enough to use, but it adds enough steps to the process of acquiring a book that will likely only take a small amount of time per reading anyway that it renders impulse buying less attractive.
This was Apple’s plan, of course. Force people to either give Apple a 30% cut of every sale or lose a large portion of their revenue entirely. When nobody else is offering the same service, it won’t necessarily kill the business, but I would expect interest among iPad owners to fall off to a certain degree. A big setback in the short term that may allow competition to rise up if Barnes & Noble can’t get a better handle on the situation. Personally, I would anticipate seeing Nook Kids for Android apps any time now. The tablet market is growing noticeably, and it is only a matter of time before something pops up that can compete with the iPad. Right now that looks like an Android Tablet. Maybe it will be the Kindle Tablet, maybe not, but as far as the OS choice goes, there isn’t a whole lot else going on right now for portable devices.
As of this morning, Monday the 18th of July, it seems pretty much inevitable that Borders will no longer be a presence in the American retail space soon. Their failure to compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, especially with regard to the Kindle and Nook eReaders, led the company to bankruptcy earlier this year. At this time, Borders Group employs over 11,000 people in over 400 stores nationwide.
At this point, bidding for the company has passed and there seems to be little hope for recovery for America’s second largest book retailer. While earlier this month a buyer had seemingly been found for the troubled company, creditors have rejected the bid based on the possibility that the new owner would be able to liquidate the company after purchase. Unable to find common ground on that topic, and having no other serious bids, liquidation of what is left of Borders seems to be a sure thing.
Overall, this would seem to be a story about a failure to adapt to a changing marketplace. Even before the eBook revolution, digital distribution had become a major, and possibly the major, means of music acquisition for many consumers. Hundreds of Borders Superstores around the country still kept, and still keep, whole floors of CDs collecting dust.
When it came time to jump into eReading, Borders was late to the game and didn’t really manage to do anything to set themselves apart. Their own eBook store, built in 2008 after breaking away from an affiliation with Amazon, was weak to begin with and eventually ended up being replaced outright by Canadian partner Kobo. While they did make a splash as the first company to being a sub-$150 eReader to America by way of the previously mentioned Kobo partnership, no real effort was made to produce or even settle on a single product.
The decline of the company was not abrupt. The last time Borders turned a profit was back in 2006. Still, many will mourn the death of yet another major brick & mortar book retailer as the convenience and lack of overhead that sites like Amazon.com provide make the local bookstore less profitable and less common. Should things go the way they look to be over the next several days, Barnes & Noble may well be the last major bookseller with a nationwide physical presence.
All of this may be good news for Amazon as they become that much more essential for the avid reader. Without a local Borders store, many consumers will be forced to turn to the internet to make their book purchases. It will even likely have some small impact on the sales of Kindle eReaders as the ease of acquisition for less prominent eReading devices, previously sold to varying degrees in participating Borders stores, drops off. Some even wonder whether this might not hasten the decline of the printed book, since it makes the impulsive browsing experience that much less tactile. If one is forced to buy something that can’t be held and inspected ahead of time, it might be better to go for the option with instant delivery and no risk of damage in transit, right?
As we all know by now, the Kindle was a ploy by Amazon to undermine the publishing industry, authors, and the generally transcendent experience of reading in general. It has long been known that reading a book on a piece of electronics will always be sub-par compared to holding an actual paper book in your hand for countless reasons not worth looking too closely at anyway, but the Kindle marketing machine is too strong. Readers have all but given up on paper, books are being burned, libraries are being shut down after falling into disuse, and machines may forever rule our lives. There is one hope remaining, however: The Flipback! Finally, a paper book that can compete with the Kindle in every way that matters.
Ok, that was all a bit ridiculous even for me, but I hope you see what I’m getting at. Recent press surrounding a series of hardcover, cloth-bound, bible-paged books called Flipbacks has made it sound like they’re the latest great hope for paper to make a comeback in the book world. I’ll admit that they are somewhat interesting. Basically, small hardcover books about the size of a bulky cell phone that are meant to be read vertically and one-handed, with pages being flipped upward rather than from right to left. The Flipback is lightweight, highly portable, and probably just as great for travel and commuting as the company making it is advertising. Of course, you’re still going to be paying $19.99 for a single book printed in super-small text on the kind of super thin pages rarely seen outside of a bible.
Even assuming that there were no real downside to this product — no text size issues, no quality concerns, and priced to move — where is there a good reason for comparison to the Kindle or any other eReader? Speaking on a personal level, I would say that this is almost worse for me than a normal paperback. The price is higher, the books themselves are less aesthetically pleasing than your average equally priced hardcover, and I really dislike the “onion skin” paper they are using. These seem to be a possible solution to a problem that already disappeared with the coming of the eReader.
To be a bit more objective than that, I think these Flipbacks have a chance if they can get the price down. Right now you can buy yourself a Kindle for the price of 6 Flipbooks. No matter how portable you can claim them to be, that just isn’t good enough even if they were competing with nothing but regular old-fashioned mass market paperbacks. Many people are likely to find that the paper book “experience” is as foreign with one of these new books as is the Kindle itself, again downplaying the potential for direct competition. There is a fair amount to get used to.
I think, however, that this could take off as a commuter’s impulse buy type of item in the next few years if they can get costs down enough to undercut the average paperbacks. Right now, it is still essentially a test run of 11 titles coming from a single printing house. Is there potential for a reading revolution? Maybe a small one, sure! Do we need to jump back up on the “Kindles are killing books” bandwagon again because paper has suddenly rendered eReaders obsolete? Probably not.