Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The State Of ePublishing

The state of publishing has been changing a lot as of late. First the biggest Barnes and Noble situation: They removed ability to download ebooks direct from their site and sideload. Not everyone that reads on their devices has every day access to wifi.  Many sideload that don't have Internet connection, or just prefer to archive their books in case B&N shuts down the Nook, which to be honest, it looks more likely every day.  They lost a lot of people with this move.
Then they changed the encryption key method changing it from your name and credit card number to something random. The old method was wonderful if B&N ever closed the Nook store, other devices could read the Nook content.  But not any more.  
And now their botched website which made everything far worse and slower than it ever was.  Ironically, when I purchased my Nook First Edition back in 2010 the site was great.  Simple, fast, and it just worked.  Then about 1.5 years later they did a update and it turned into a huge bloat ridden monster.  They promised this new design was only temporary and they were working on it.  Here we are many years later, and they finally roll something out that is even worse.  And they just named Frederic Arigir as the new head of Nook and esales.  Many are speculating this is just the start of the Nook shut down.  I hope not as with less fish in the pond, the more problems down the road for consumers.  It is also not a good sign B&N shut down all ebook stores except USA and UK on August 7th.
Regardless if you have Nook books I suggest you download them with nook for PC or Nook Study as soon as you can (Google for them, they are still available although unsupported) so you can backup your books.  And if you want to remove the encryption so you can read them on another device should B&N shut down Nook, check out Apprentice Alf's blog (Google it).  He has tools to remove the DRM (copy protection).  While I do not advocate piracy, this is securing your investment.  Just as long as you don't share that investment with anyone else. ;)
Amazon has made several changes to their payment system that has many authors upset, saying that they are paying per page. While technically true, it implies something that is not. Amazon is not truly paying per page, but rather the per section. In other words they only track in about quarter increments. Therefore once someone reads 1/4th through your book, you get paid instead of the whole book when someone reads the first chapter. This is not very different then Scribd, who also used a similar business model. The main reason for the change is due to some authors 'gaming' the system by releasing very short works to be paid more than a author that releases detailed, long, space operas. This should be seen as nothing more than leveling the playing field.  I personally have never been in KDP select, as I do not limiting where my readers can purchase my books. But I understand those that do, and the readers that follow them.
In other news, Scribd has removed most of its Romance category ebooks from the catalog.  In summary, they couldn't afford it.  Scribd's business model is such that they pay full retail everytime someone reads a ebook.  Romance readers are, in general, fast and voracious.  At $9.95 a month from said members, they were spending more than the subscription fee was covering.  And they had a lot of people doing this.  Hence, it was either this change or close the company.  It is sad to see but not unexpected.  Personally though, I would have made a change to offer a limit on Romance genre books per month.  That would allow them to leave the books in the catalog and retain more members than simply removing the entire genre.  Regardless I agree that this choice is better than going out of business as I think more players in the feild the better, rather than handing everything over to Amazon.  While I do not have any large issues with Amazon, a monopoly is never a good situation.
And last, but certainly not least, Authors United and Authors Guild have been in the news. Authors Guild is pushing to change the copyright law. They are proposing that ISP's also be the watchdogs for content. This is a little extreme to say the least. Not to mention the DMCA is already being abused by people to remove content they simply don't like, rather than actually have true copyright complaint. I am against piracy certainly, but they are going way too far. Also while I think that blatant piracy with someone stealing your work and selling it should be stopped at all costs, simply passing on works I would akin to free advertising. The one thing they just do not understand is most people that pirate wouldn't buy anyway. They are not lost sales, and nothing to worry about. Just see them as free advertising as they may share your work (think of it as a library) with someone that will go out and buy your books as they like your work. While you should let pirates run the Internet with free download sites everywhere you go, the Authors Guild are going to the extreme.
Authors United and American Booksellers Association on the other hand is pushing for the Dapartment of Justice to investigate Amazon for antitrust volitions. In short they think "Amazon has used its dominance in ways that we believe harm the interests of America’s readers, impoverish the book industry as a whole, damage the careers of (and generate fear among) many authors, and impede the free flow of ideas in our society."
In essence they are saying Amazon is using unfair business practices in a effort to control the market, hence trying to create a monopoly. I do not think that Amazon's ultimate goal, however I do agree that a monopoly is never a good thing as I have said before. Let's be honest, this whole situation is the publishers fault, not Amazon's. The publishers did not want to embrace ebooks. That changed their business model and they wanted to stay right where they were. That let Amazon come in and corner the market. Is creating a device that consumers wanted and reasonable prices illegal? Certainly not, but the publishers and attempted ebook price fixing was. Now they are trying to go after Amazon in a different fashion. Many of these publishers are charging the same price for a ebook that they do for a print book. The author, in general, gets the same royalty with a ebook that they do with a print book. However the publisher has a lot less costs and more money goes right into their pocket, not the author's.
All they would have to do is lower their ebook prices to a reasonable level, create a nice ebook sales system on their sites without DRM, and Amazon would have serious competition over night. So I don't feel much for these people. They are dinosaurs and need to change or go extinct. I know they don't want to, but that is life.  
One thing is for certain, no matter what, we do not want one company to control everything.  No matter how great that company is, sooner or later problems will result if history is any judge.

Don DeBon is the author of Italian Fever, Red Warp, and Soulmates.  Currently available on  Nook, iBook, Kindle, Smashwords, Oyster, Scribd, and Kobo.