What Impact will Kindle Library Lending Have on E-book Sales?

If you follow the e-book publisher news, you might have seen some mention of the major publisher Penguin Group’s decision to take away, then restore their titles to OverDrive.  OverDrive is used by many libraries to deliver e-books to their patrons.  States including North Carolina have a digital library that is run through OverDrive, and it is the place where patrons have to go to download books for all e-readers, tablets, and smartphones.

A couple of months ago, Amazon began offering Kindle e-books to 11,000 and counting libraries nationwide through a partnership with OverDrive.  The service is extremely popular with library patrons, and there are already long waiting lists for popular titles.

Penguin will restore their titles at least until the end of 2011, and is working with OverDrive to write up some regulations that will fit their needs.

Does this whole issue mean that publishers are starting to freak out about whether allowing library lending will impact their e-book sales?  Probably.  But at the same time, it is also adding libraries to their consumer list.  Libraries have to purchase copies of the e-books just like they do regular ones.  I wonder if there was a big fight with the publishers when libraries started buying books way back when?

I think that the bigger thing that is hurting e-book sales overall is the higher prices.  Kindle e-book prices have gone as high as $16.99, which no one could reconcile paying that for an e-book unless there is no other cheaper option.  The good news is that there are plenty of Kindle e-books out there that are free or reduced price. Most of them are older ones, or ones written by self published authors.

On another thought, in the past, library patrons have checked out newly released books at the library, and then purchased them later if they really liked them.  The same idea will most likely go for e-books.

I can understand the fear that books might end up like music once did with the rise of Napster and other music sharing sites.  I can also understand that it is important to make everything secure so no one gets misled.  But, I think that it is important to keep the consumers in mind because they are the ones who are reading the books.

It will be interesting to see what other major publishers such as HarperCollins and Random House do as Kindle library lending becomes more popular.

Huge Kindle Book Sale!

Check out the Amazon Big Deal sale going on until July 27.  There are over 900 Kindle books available for .99-3.99.  Big name publishers including HarperCollins and Random House are in on the sale.

The Big Deal Bestseller list includes a mix of classics, childhood favorites, mystery, religion, and romance.

One book in particular that I was excited to see on the list is Jim Stovall’s The Ultimate Gift and its sequel, The Ultimate Life.  They are quick, yet profound reads.  A wealthy tycoon leaves his grandson a series of tasks to perform that represent 12 gifts.  The gifts include important life’s treasures such as family, work, money, love, and more.  It is amazing to see the profound impact that each gift has on the grandson and his personality.  A heartwarming tale fit for all ages.  The Ultimate Gift was made into a movie starring well known actor James Garner.

Another is Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.  Jess and Leslie escape to the fairy tale land of Terabithia where they reign as king and queen.  The only way to Terabithia is by swinging across the river.  It provides solace from bullying and ridicule at school.  Then tragedy strikes, and the two dear friends are torn apart forever.  This was one of my favorite books from middle school.

Then you’ll find some old familiar classics Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.  You either love or hate Faulkner.  In addition to the classics, there are some interesting modern counterparts: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Wuthering Heights, the Wild and Wanton EditionPride and Prejudice and Zombies is on top of the bestseller list, but that is fitting considering the popularity of vampires and zombies lately.

Bestselling author Karen Kingsbury has several books on the list.  Her book, Unlocked, is about a boy with autism and his reconnection with his long lost special childhood friend.  My favorite aspect of this book is that it provides some of the dialogue from the autistic boy’s point of view.  A diverse perspective.

Take this opportunity to get to know lesser known authors.  I’ve found a lot of good Kindle books through the free and reduced price collections.  And, of course, great beach and poolside reading!



On Publishers Holding Back E-Books

News about several major publishers delaying e-Book releases in 2010 have been circulating for some time and eventually made it to Wall Street Journal (article about Simon & Schuster and Hachette Book Group, article about HarperCollins). In case you haven’t heard, several major publishers are adopting a policy of publishing digital versions of certain bestsellers (the most frequently mentioned being Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue”) several months after the hardcovers on which publishers typically made significant chunk of profit.

This move seems to be nothing more than an act of desperation. Several quotes of publishing executives pretty much speak for themselves:

“The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback. We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible.

— Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster

“The future of hardcover publishing is at stake. You don’t have a lot of time left to save it.

— Nat Sobel, a partner at Sobel Weber Associates

Unfortunately for the publishing industry the train may have already left. e-Book readers are probably the most wanted Christmas gift. Nook and Sony readers are sold out. Amazon Kindle not being sold out is a small miracle giving it’s killer sales in November that (I guess) are going to be topped by December sales. Sweet $9.99 price point may be only part of the reason. Let’s not forget that in order to enjoy cheap e-Books you need to make the initial $200 investment in eBook reader device (reading on PC and iPhone may get you hooked but after some time most likely you’ll either go for eInk or drop reading e-Books altogether). For me personally the biggest reason for choosing e-Books over paper books is convenience. I will not go into details here about I find e-Books convenient – just read this blog. While book reading was declining for years now, e-Books have revived it.

So why would publishers so desperately want kill the very thing that seems to be saving the books? Because they don’t control it. They have been comfortable with the old model of chopping trees and making books out of them for authors and then promoting these books because authors didn’t have the resources to do it themselves. The system has worked for centuries until the Internet arrived. With Internet you no longer need to chop trees to get your word out to large number of people. The concept was out there for anyone to see for years but publishers ignored it. It’s hard to blame them – when you have a well-oiled machine that has been generating cash for centuries it’s hard to always stay on your guard and constantly look for ways to improve the machine. After all there is always the risk of the breaking the machine instead of making it better. And this works… until someone else who is a newcomer and has nothing to lose comes by and completely reinvents the machine. That’s just the way everything evolves.

With Amazon Kindle publishers don’t control the final price. Amazon is cutting in their current profits by selling the e-Books for $9.99 to establish a market share. Once the market share becomes big enough, Amazon can then either raise the price or tell publishers to lower their cut because then it will be “digital sales or no sales at all” Publishers understand this all to well but they will not be able to turn the tide. While they may succeed in thwarting Amazon’s attempt at becoming a e-Book monopoly, 10 years from now most of the books will be digital (whether though Amazon, Google, B&N, Sony monopoly or no monopoly at all) – there is no doubt about it. With technology advancing as rapidly as it is, using paper hauled by fuel burning trucks to transfer information seems as outdated using horses to plow the field in the age of tractors. I have no illusions – eInk is not perfect – far from it in fact. We already have Mirasol displays coming in color e-Book readers in 2010. Then there’ll be some other technology. But even today’s imperfect eInk and DRM digital books beat the heck out of paper books in many aspects.

Publisher’s side of the story is similar to the one of music recording industry:

If new hardcover titles continue to be sold as $9.99 e-books, the eventual outcome will be fewer literary choices for customers, because publishers won’t be able to take as many chances on new writers.

— Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins Publishers

“The music industry has lost most of their national chains, and the ability to expose a lot of new artists.”

— John Marmaduke, CEO of Hastings Entertainment Inc., a book and music retailer

While fewer new artists may be exposed now, I don’t feel a shortage of music that I like to listen to. In fact I like the fact that major MP3 music retailers like iTunes, Zune and Amazon offer DRM-free music that now plays on my PC, XBOX360 (that I use as media center), iPhone and MP3 car stereo without useless limitations. It may be more correct to say that publishers will get fewer chances with new writers since e-Books open self-publishing possibility to anyone.

Publishing industry has my sympathies, they do not have my wallet though. Personally I’m so hooked on e-Books, that waiting for several months for digital version is not a problem for me at all. The book will be as interesting for me to read in a couple of months too and meanwhile there are other books that I haven’t yet read. The situation is similar to DVD and Blu-Ray disks coming out months after theatrical movie releases. The idea is not to cannibalize movie ticket sales by giving people the ability to watch the same movie at home. I might be a non-typical consumer but for the this dilemma is resolved in exactly the same way – I wait for DVD release  while I watch other movies that were already released. Truth being told I’m even to lazy to go to local Blockbuster or even my mailbox for that matter. If I can get the movie via Zune Marketplace or Netflix “Instant Watch” on XBOX360 that’s what I do. It’s not that I’m ultra-greedy and don’t appreciate movie theaters. I do. But my schedule just doesn’t allow me to go to the movies that often. And movies that I really cared about like “Lord Of The Rings” and “Star Wars” I watched in the movie theater regardless because this is the right way to watch them for the first time. Period.

Amazon.com "going rogue kindle" search

Amazon.com "going rogue kindle" search

Getting back to the Sarah Palin book… If you search of “going rogue kindle” on Amazon you get an interesting list of results: the Kindle edition of the book that is currently available for pre-order for $7.99 (I guess this is Amazon’s way of giving customers extra incentive to wait for the digital version) ranks 3rd after 2 books that are available for sale right now that are only remotely related to the original book in question. These books may be ranking higher because they sell while the book customers really want is stuck on pre-order. So while publishers may be gaining some hardcovers sales, they are also loosing sales to different books that aren’t on a several month hold.

PS: Although I find e-Book reading more convenient, there are some places Kindle or any other eBook reader can’t go. I read paper books to my daughter as she goes to sleep and during the day. Even if I had 12″ color e-Reader with LCD-like response time, 3D holographic animated pictures and surround sound, I still don’t envision myself “reading” it to her. Some books will stay on paper for quite some time just as we still have sail-boats in the age of affordable air-travel and combustion engine.

The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion by J.R.R.Tolkien!

When I last checked Kindle Store none of the J.R.R.Tolkien books were there. There were some books about Tolkien himself and his writings but that was that. Oh, well I though, no big surprise here – you can sell these books in paper for centuries from now and people would gladly buy them, myself included.

I was checking out Kindle Store recently and discovered the most wonderful thing: Harper Collins published most of J.R.R.Tolkien’s books on Kindle! It turns out that some of these books were added as early as April 2009.

I first read Lord Of The Rings in Russian many years ago. Here’s an interesting fact for those who are not familiar with Russian translations of J.R.R.Tolkien: back then there were at least 3 major Russians  translations of The Lord Of The Rings. They were identified by the way Frodo’s last name was translated: there was one where Baggins was just transliterated into Cyrillic and then there were Сумкинс (Sumkins) and Торбинс (Torbins). The latter are variations of Russian word for “bag”.

“The Silmarillion” was probably the best reading experience I’ve had ever. I read it after reading “The Lord Of The Rings” and “The Hobbit”. I was reading the original English text, while listening to my favorite tracks of Blind Guardian, while smoking a pipe, while wrapped in a warm blanket during long winter evenings. I was totally there!

I guess that having to flip paper pages was part of the reading pleasure as well. I’m not sure if I would have had the same experience if I were reading it in Kindle Edition. However it’s still great to see these books finally available on Kindle. Here’s a list of what you can currently buy:

  • The Lord Of The Rings (Trilogy). What’s a bit hilarious is that the first sentence in this book is: “J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Lord Of The Rings is often erroneously called a trilogy, when it is in fact a single novel, consisting of six books plus appendices, sometimes published in three volumes“. I guess that HarperCollins put “trilogy” in the product title just to prove their point even more. You can also get “The Fellowship Of The Ring“, “The Two Towers” and “The Return Of The King” as three separate books if you prefer. The eBook is based on the 50th Anniversary Edition.
  • The Hobbit. In case somebody doesn’t know. It covers events before the ones described in “The Lord Of The Rings” and among other things contains the story of Bilbo finding the ring of power. In case you are wondering – yes, there’s two part movie based on the book in the works and yes, Peter Jackson is producing it. It’s scheduled to hit the theaters in December 2011 and December 2012. In case you don’t want to wait that long – there’s animated film made in 1977.
  • The Silmarillion. It is another great read. It contains legends some of which are referenced in “The Lord Of The Rings” and “The Hobbit” and covers history of the Middle-Earth since it was created until the events leading to “The Lord Of The Rings”: the fall of Morgoth, rise of Sauron and fall of Sauron and forging the rings of power.
  • Unfinished Tales is a collection of unfinished works of J.R.R.Tolkien published by Christopher Tolkien. It contains additional pieces of information related to the events in The Lord Of The Rings.
  • The Children of Húrin covers events that took place 6,500 years after the War Of The Ring.
  • The Legend Of Sigurd And Gudrún is an epic poem that J.R.R.Tolkien wrote in 1920s and 1930s. It was just released in 2009 and is not linked to The Lord Of The Rings and Middle-Earth but rather based on Norse mythology.

This can only be topped by release of exteneded edition of “The Lord Of The Rings” movie trilogy on Blu-Ray :) Currently you can only pre-order blu-ray version of the theatrical cut. However, according to SlashFilm, extended editions will also be released sometime closer to theatrical release of “The Hobbit”.

J.R.R.Tolkien on Kindle

J.R.R.Tolkien on Kindle