Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Kindle and its book pricing a big hit in the UK. Publishers complain about territorial control flaws.


That's what Pocket Lint's Paul Lamkin reported a couple of days ago, at any rate, when news that the Kindle  (UK: K3) is now the biggest selling product on the UK site was, to Lamkin, "proof that we're a nation of Kindle-maniacs."

  He added that we should check their Amazon Kindle review to "see what all the fuss is about."  That takes us to several images, so here's the link to their full review.

  Here are a few excerpts from that review -- since I've chosen quite a bit, you can see there's a lot more and you should go to the site for the rest of it:
' Controls and connections lie across the bottom of the Kindle, offering a volume controller for audible and music content along with a 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a Micro-USB connector and a sliding power switch.  A mic opening is also present here, but at present lacks any supporting features - we suspect it would be for a simple voice notes function.
  The keys have a slightly abrasive feel to them, but the action is clean enough. In terms of response, this is governed by the screen, which is quick to react and a real improvement over E Ink screens of the past which were a little slow to register and change.
  Being a connected device, and supported by Amazon, the Kindle will let you subscribe to various newspapers and magazines, all for a fee. We elected for a trial of the Financial Times; presented as it is it is perfectly readable, and using the 3G connection in the device, it will automatically be loaded with the latest content when you rush out of the door in the morning to catch the train.
 For many, the sheer simplicity of the system makes it really appealing. No computers, no wires, no need to authenticate anything with Adobe Digital Editions to deal with the DRM. It also isn’t restricted to your Kindle only: Amazon also offers Kindle access through your PC or Mac, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch and Android handsets, and we’ve also seen Kindle on the BlackBerry. So you don’t need to fear that your content is “locked in” to your Kindle.  Cleverly, it also auto-syncs the position you have read up to, meaning you’ll be able to read a few chapters on your phone whilst sitting on the bus, and pickup on your Kindle when you go to bed.
  To see what Amazon’s pricing looks like alongside EPUB-selling rivals WHSmith and Waterstones, we compared the top 5 titles from the New York Times best selling hardcover fiction list (prices as at the date of this review publication). Whilst this isn’t entirely conclusive, it’s an indicator or where the Kindle Store lies.

  There is free content too, as Amazon have Kindle editions of many out-of-copyright classics. This is one area where other readers have worked hard, offering EPUB versions of these texts which can be sourced online, but Amazon has dealt with this too.

  The reading experience on the Kindle is excellent. The screen looks great and doesn’t suffer from reflections or glare, fulfilling the aim of being as close to reading on paper as possible. ... As a complete cross-platform ebook solution, it is the most cohesive around, but remember that if you opt for a non-Amazon device in the future (Sony or BeBook for example) you won’t be able to move over your Kindle content.
  the Amazon Kindle offers exceptional value for money, considering that some rivals are asking for twice as much and offer no content solution. You lose on some of the format freedoms, but you gain on simplicity. The Kindle Store prices are good too and this is an important consideration. ... '

The Bookseller has a story on how a few publishers have done tests on Amazon's territorial controls and "regularly circumvented them."

  Maybe they ought to take a look at the fact we're in the Internet age where country boundaries don't mean much and reconsider some of their digital-rights dramas that don't pertain to normal books but to software and find a way to make things work for everyone instead of for no one, including them at this point.

  An Amazon UK spokesman responded in a rather dry way, "Each customer has a content catalogue associated with their region or country, and we display the appropriate catalogue for each country."

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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  1. Andrys wrote:

    "Maybe they ought to take a look at the fact we're in the Internet age where country boundaries don't mean much and reconsider some of their digital-rights dramas that don't pertain to normal books but to software and find a way to make things work for everyone instead of for no one, including them at this point."

    That would require common sense, rational thinking, and a bit of vision. How long do you think they will resist, Andrys?


  2. "reconsider some of their digital-rights dramas that don't pertain to normal books but to software and find a way to make things work for everyone"

    What did you have in mind? As an author and publisher, my copyrights are valuable properties. Without those I have nothing.

  3. Gordon,
    The blog article is about territorial controls. Are you planning on forbidding sale of your book to the UK or to the rest of Europe or to Asia?

    How did it go with Apple, did that ever happen once they opened their self-publishing area?

  4. "What did you have in mind? As an author and publisher, my copyrights are valuable properties. Without those I have nothing. "

    Sure, and you're shutting yourself off from the majority of your potential market by refusing to sell your work to people in hundreds of countries.
    For some old works there are legal hurdles in place, maybe, lack of clarity about copyright.

    But why are major publication houses like DAW and TOR blocking new publications from being sold in Europe (for example)?
    Or are they waiting for a means to include region codes in eBooks the same way DVD players have region codes allowing them to charge twice the price to European customers that they charge to Americans?

  5. Andrys,

    I realize the issue involves marketing territories. These are rigidly controlled in all publishing contracts. Without the controls an author has no protection against spurious accounting. Since the UK is the largest foreign market for American books, it's essential to authors that it be treated as an independent entity, rather than a subsidiary.

    Apple finally came through for us. Nice of you to remember this. We launched 4 eBooks on the Apple platform back in August and have followed with B&N, Borders and now Sony.

  6. Gordon,
    Good to hear that worked out for your e-books at Apple and now elsewhere.

    On the other, the blog entry was entirely about territorial controls, not about any other aspect of digital rights.

    The marketing territories are not "rigidly controlled" in "all publishing contracts" since they don't even apply to phsyical books (!).

    Why then is it "essential" for e-books?

  7. Andrys,

    Contracts I signed as an author certainly did include rigid controls of marketing territories, which were spelled out even in various english language contracts (USA, UK, A/NZ etc.) Since a copyright establishes an intellectual right, it applies to both paper and digital editions of a book.

    For more on all this:

  8. Sorry, what I actually mean is that in almost every case where the e-book cannot be bought in a country, the print book CAN be because physical book authors and publishers are not shortsighted enough to say NO to people being *able* to buy from those countries.

    Love of 'rights' for self gets in the way of allowing people to buy the books you want to sell. Remember the topic here, people being UNABLE to buy e-books they want to pay for in their areas. It is a huge crisis for overseas customers and an embarrassment to the industry. Some theorize that some publishers want to encourage physical books sales and not e-books sales and I must say it happens to fall in line with how the old-school larger companies price e-books.

    To see the depth of dislike of such nonsense, see Pogue's latest discussion.

  9. Yes, well, we authors do love our rights. Sorry about that.

    You're on a slippery slope here Andrys. Whenever publishers help themselves to territories they do not own, authors come up short. Ebooks are a promising new way of delivering books to readers, but do keep in mind that if publishing follows the self-destructive music industry model, you are going to end up with very little new reading material on your Kindle.

  10. Gordon,
    I'm stil speaking of the type of 'rights' that keeps readers who WANT your books, from being able to buy them. You keep avoiding that in favor of some strangeness.

    I'm not worried about having no new reading material on an e-reader due to any self-destructive moves of publishing -- there'll always be a way to get good (and bad) content to readers.

  11. To clarify: publishers who use loopholes to sell outside a licensed territory typically use other "loopholes" to avoid paying author royalties.

    The larger danger for authors--and publishers--given the current downward spiral in ebook pricing, is that books will become loss leaders for eReaders. This is exactly what happened to encyclopedias when Encarta was offered for a fraction of the cost of a paper encyclopedia. Shortly thereafter Encarta itself was "bundled" with a PC as a way to sell new hardware packages.

  12. Gordon,
    Thanks for the clarification.

    Books and e-books will co-exist for a long time, and if some publishers can't find a way to make money on the e-books without charging as much for them as they do a print-copy, then that is just sad. More nimble publishers will do well. A number of us buy a hard copy of any e-book we love. Obviously, that won't be for every one we read.

  13. Yes, paper books and eBooks will coexist, for how long is anyone's guess. However, the number of people who are willing to buy both editions, for love or any other reason, is tiny indeed.

    "Nimble publishers will do well," but only in a business environment in which copyright laws are respected and enforced.


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