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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The Disappearing Print Book

The disappearing print book—it’s the subject of publishers and book sellers worries these days. Much angst and thought is going into how to preserve both print books and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Following are two interesting marketing campaigns aimed at doing just that. One is by a publisher and one is by book sellers. Interestingly, both of these entities are not located in the United States, which just goes to show that the disappearance of print books is not just a concern for Americans.

Books are My BagBooks Are My Bag

The United Kingdom’s Booksellers Association is launching the “Books Are My Bag” campaign that will run from September 13 through Christmas. The goal is to use cotton bags printed with “Books Are My Bag” to increase awareness of the importance of bookshops.

U.K. Publishers can join the campaign by ordering bags, use the “Books Are My Bag” banner on your website and in your emails, include the “Find Your Local Bookshop” button on your website, and join the social media campaign by following “booksaremybag” on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and through using the #booksaremybag hashtag.

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Disappearing Ink

One publisher in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is launching “El Libro que No Peude Esperar” (The Book That Can’t Wait) campaign. This publisher is printing books with disappearing ink in hopes of boosting excitement about real, rather than digital, books. These books will come in sealed packages. As soon as the reader starts to turn the books pages, the ink begins to age and fade. Readers will have about 60 days to finish the book before the pages go blank.

Campaigns come and go. Some are successful, some are not. Time will tell whether these two campaigns affect print book sales. While they may have the impact to increase print sales in the short run, I doubt they will do much to halt the march toward digital books in the long run.

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Selling Digital Books in the Physical Realm

As the publishing and book selling industry changes with more people buying books in digital format, how will authors (and retailers) sell digital books in the physical realm—in bookstores and during book signings and author appearances?

Two companies have innovative solutions for this dilemma.

One company, Boxette, based in the United Kingdom plans to sell ebooks in boxes shaped to look like books on shelves. The company will load the ebook onto a USB drive in Kindle, EPUB, and PDF format. The USB drive will be placed inside the box, which will be made to look like the front and back cover of the book (think DVDs but books on a flash drive instead of discs). Boxette has just started. As yet, they have not placed their ebooks into any retail stores, but hope to do that soon. The idea is clever and may take off.

The other company, Author Solutions, a large self-publishing company recently purchased by Penguin, has launched a new program called BookStub for their authors. In essence, BookStub is a service where authors can sell their ebooks in person via a credit-card-sized voucher with a picture of the book cover on one side and a unique product code to download the ebook on the other side.

So, now instead of toting books around in the back of a car, an author can carry books around in his wallet. If Author Solutions can get retailers to buy into this program, the next step would be to have these cards displayed on racks next to bookshelves for readers to purchase the digital version of the book right in the bookstore.

If you are an independent author, you can use the BookStub idea for your books. Simply have business cards printed with the image of the cover of your book on one side and the website and product code where the reader can download your ebook (each product code would need to be unique and only allowed to be used once to avoid multiple downloads per card). Then, you too can sell digital books in person at all your author appearances and as you go about your everyday life.

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When not Will

Do you use Pandora, Rhapsody, or Spotify?

Pandora, Rhapsody, and Spotify are streaming services for music. With these services, it is no longer necessary to buy music either in digital or CD format.

By paying a monthly fee—Rhapsody charges $10 per month, Spotify charges $5 to $10 per month, and Pandora charges $3 per month— users can listen to any music the service offers either through a desktop app on their computer or through a mobile app for their mobile device.

Rhapsody houses 14 million songs, Spotify offers over 15 million songs, while Pandora (the cheapest service) has 900,000 songs. None of these services offer a completely comprehensive listing of every song ever recorded. While enormous, these databases are missing albums by Metallica, Frank Zappa, and The Beatles, to name a few. Many of these artists have been hesitant to license their music for streaming.

I wonder how long until we will begin to see similar services for digital books?

Amazon.com has already begun a service like this for their Amazon Premier members. It is the Kindle Lending Library. Amazon Premier members pay a monthly fee for special services from Amazon.com. One of these services is access to the Kindle Lending Library. Premier members can check out one Kindle ebook per month. They must return each book before they can check out another book.

To entice publishers to participate and allow their books to be placed in the Lending Library, Amazon has created a pool of money for each month of 2012. This money is being used to pay authors and publishers whose books are checked out through the Lending Library. Basically, the pool of money is divided among all the authors and publishers whose books have been checked out during the month, so payment is made based on the number of times a book has been checked out.

There are also a couple of startups that are in the process of setting up ebook subscription services for readers to have unlimited access the ebooks in their database, much like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Spotify do for music. (Christian Small Publishers Association will take a look at these services in our next member newsletter). After all, it’s a matter not of will, but of when these services will launch.

The only question remaining is: Will your books be part of such a service?

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Teens and eBooks

New data from online surveys conducted by R.R. Bowker last fall suggests that teenagers are the slowest age group to adopt ebooks.

The Bowker survey found that 66% of 13- to 17-year-olds say they prefer print books to ebooks. Only 8% of survey respondents reported that they preferred ebooks to print books. These findings surprised me.

One of the big reasons these teenagers cited for their reluctance to read ebooks is that they feel there are too many restrictions on using ebooks. In other words, with teenagers’ propensity toward social technology, these youth are put off by the inability to share digital titles.

Another reason many teenagers gave for preferring print books was that they felt that the size of their mobile screen was not conducive to reading.

If you author or publish books for teenagers, what does this information mean for you?

Since teenagers are slow to adopt digital books, you should not feel rushed to immediately jump on the digital book wagon. You can take your time in researching your best options for moving into digital books.

However, if you publish fiction works for teens, you should be aware that, on average, adults make up 50% of the sales for young adult fiction titles. In other words, adults read young adult fiction also. So, if you publish fiction for teenagers, you may want to move now to make your books available in digital format so you don’t lose some of your adult audience sales.

I have one final thought from the survey to share with you. While teenagers may not be adopting ebooks quickly, they are high users of social technology. Therefore, teens, more than any other age group, are likely to discover a book they purchase via a social network. So, whether you produce fiction or nonfiction titles, social media is an important avenue for your marketing efforts.

May God bless your efforts to reach the future leaders of God’s church and our world.

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