eBook Bundling

One recent study found that 23% of male adults and 33% of female adults in the United States read ebooks. While this is still far from the majority of individuals, ebook reading is growing and with it, services for selling ebooks grow.

From time to time, I come across a new ebook service that I think is worth giving some attention to. One such service is BitLit.

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BitLit is a new free mobile app that allows readers to obtain free or discounted ebooks of printed works they already own. Similar to Amazon’s Matchbook program that allows Kindle owners to get a Kindle ebook for free or a discounted price when they purchase a print version of the book, BitLit is offering free and discounted ebooks to customers who have purchased a print version of a book.

With BitLit, customers who want to obtain the ebook version of a book they already own simply have to take a picture of the book’s cover and a picture of their name clearly written in ink on the book’s copyright page. The customer then sends the images to BitLit through the BitLit app. The company uses computer vision algorithms to verify the book and the customer’s name and then emails the customer a download link to the ebook, which can be read on any device.

BitLit believes bundling provides an incentive for customers to buy a book. The company has run several pilot programs with bookstores to determine whether books marked with an “Includes FREE eBook” sticker sell better. The early results indicate that they sell almost twice as well as books that don’t include a bundled ebook.

Any publisher can sign up to have their ebook part of the BitLit program. Signing up is free and can be done on the company’s website at www.bitlit.com/publishers/#. BitLit takes a small commission on each sale. There is no commission on free bundled ebooks. However, the service does require that you are able to send your metadata via ONIX feeds.

A number of ebook services have started and crashed. Other have taken off and become popular. I don’t know if BitLit will be a hit or not. However, since it is free to use, and since bundling is a great sales incentive, BitLit offers you one more avenue to promote your books.

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Quality Matters

In her review of a book that contained a plethora of small grammatical and spelling errors, as well as typos, a BookCrash reviewer recently stated:

i found you!

“When Christians venture out into the public arena, they are representing their Savior, ‘who does all things well’. And so we should always strive for excellence.”

I wholeheartedly concur with this blogger’s statement. As authors and publishers, we should strive to ensure that our materials are excellent and reflect our Savior.

In addition to ensuring that a print book is free from typos and spelling errors, another area that continues to plague many independently published authors is the conversion of a print book into an EPUB format, especially if the author is doing the conversion him or herself.

Fortunately, there are a number of tools on the Internet that help authors ensure that an EPUB file is formatted and displays correctly. Online tools such as http://validator.idpf.org allow EPUB documents to be checked for validation and errors in conversion.

Smashwords, a digital publishing platform, even has a great resource for EPUB errors. They list some common errors an EPUB check will find and explain how to fix these errors on their website at https://www.smashwords.com/epubcheck.

Recently, another company, Firebrand Technologies, has released a new EPUB quality assurance tool called FlightDeck. FlightDeck gives publishers and authors clear and actionable information on the quality and salability of their EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 files. FlightDeck is currently being offered free in a 2-month open beta at http://ebookflightdeck.com.

Just as typos and spelling errors turn readers off in a print book, conversion errors that leave poor page breaks, website links that don’t work, and odd characters inserted into the text will turn a reader off to an ebook. Using the resources listed here and elsewhere on the web can help you produce higher quality digital books ensuring that your readers are not disappointed and your books reflect the excellence of the Gospel.

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Potential Pitfall

Publishers and authors are constantly testing new ways to create, market and distribute ebooks since the digital delivery model began gaining traction. In particular, every month it seems I am hearing about a new service that is trying to sell ebooks in a creative way.

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One of the recent start-ups is Bindworx. This UK-based book retailer is selling ebooks in a new way. Instead of buying a complete ebook, Bindworx allows customers to buy pages, chapters, or other small slices of books.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Total Boox (See “Innovative Ways to Sell Digital Content”). Total Boox allows readers to add books to their digital bookshelf and then only pay for what they read. So how is Bindworx different?

With Bindworx, customers can not only purchase ebooks in full, by chapter, page, or paragraph, but they can also drag and drop content portions from different publications to create a new personalized compilation. The end-product can then be purchased and downloaded as an ebook or printed via the Bindworx print-on-demand service with same-day shipping.

In other words, Bindworx lets consumers make a completely new book by taking portions from a number of different books.

Such a system creates some concerns about copyright for me. Will Bindworx’s smashed-up content be free-floating, unattached to its author? My concern is not that the consumer will turn around and sell the new compilation that they have personalized for themselves. Rather, what if a reader decides to quote from their personal compilation. How will they give the correct author credit? Will the author and book be listed with each “section” the consumer chooses for their compiled work?

I don’t have any experience with this new ebook retailer. Maybe my concerns are for this potential pitfall are for naught and the company has it covered. Bindworx does not appear to have made it out of the testing period yet, so maybe they are running into some issues with this new idea.

On the other hand,as new services continue to arise to sell digital content in new and emerging ways, I hope that more effort is put forth by these new companies to assure authors that their copyright material will be protected.

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Way Ahead of the Competition

I recently came across a statistic that surprised me. It shouldn’t have, but it did. I knew Amazon had a corner on the ebook market, I guess I was a little surprised at just how much ebook business they do.

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According to new data from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), Amazon is way ahead of the competition when it comes to selling ebooks in the United States. Based on reader surveys, BISG found that Amazon has about two-thirds of the U.S. ebook market share while its closest competitors—Barnes & Noble and then Apple—have about 10% each.

Did you catch that? Two out of every three ebooks purchased are bought on Amazon, with Barnes & Noble and Apple not just a little behind that, but way behind. Together, these three ebook sellers make up a total of 87% of all ebook sales.

Amazon may have a majority of ebook sales, but that has not stopped competitors from trying to gain some of that market share.

The latest to arise is a new ebook store for indie authors called Libiro. Launched by two self-published authors, Libiro is striving to provide independent authors and small presses an alternative to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Realizing that quality indie authors often struggle to get noticed amongst the crowd on Amazon, Libiro wants to be the place where indie authors can excel.

Libiro gives that author more control than many of the other online bookstores. An author sets the price of a book and it stays that price. Libiro pays a higher royalty than Amazon. It offers an 80% royalty as standard regardless of book length or price.

The service is still in start-up mode, however, since it does not cost any money to list an ebook in this store, indie authors may want to give it a try. After all, the more places your books are listed on the web, the better exposure you get.

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More Good News

The economy may be sluggish, but for small publishers and independently published authors, the news is very positive. My blog post last week on “Self-Publishing has Become Main Stream” reported that 40% of all books published in 2012 were self-published. Today’s post is full of more good news for you.

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BISG’s latest Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading study (the study BISG is discontinuing at the end of this year) found that readers are interested in paying more for ebooks if they got more in return. The study found:

  • Consumers are very interested in “bundling” print and digital versions of a book, with 48% of survey respondents willing to pay more for bundles.
  • Just over half of survey respondents would pay more for an ebook if it could be given away or re-sold.
  • Consumers do not distinguish between ebooks published by traditional houses and independently published options when making buying decisions.

While there is not much small publishers and independently published authors can do about making it easier to give away ebooks or allow readers to resell ebooks, the other findings from the study are actually good news for those who produce books.

This study showed that almost half of the respondents were willing to pay more for a bundle—buying both a print and ebook together. That means you should be offering this option to your potential customers. Offer the print book alone, the ebook alone, and a bundle of the two together. Also, make use of Amazon’s new Matchbook service to sell bundles via Amazon.

If you are unfamiliar with Amazon’s new Matchbook service, you can do the research and find out for yourself—or better yet, just join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). CSPA’s member publishers were informed all about Matchbook and how to access and use the service when it was launched. Join now and you can use our article index to find out about this new resource.

The other really good news in BISG’s ebook study was that the study found that customers do not tend to distinguish between traditional houses and independently published options when making buying decisions. We can conclusively say that there is little sigma left in self-publishing. Hoorah!

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