Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kindle Newsbits 8-10-2010

Paul Biba at the excellent Teleread site alerts us to an email from Amazon's Director of Communications, Andrew "Drew" Herdener, to Examiner.com in response to customer reactions to various Amazon account messages (apparently, system glitches) advising that the new Kindles would be shipped in Sept-Oct.

  The Examiner reports:
' “Customers who placed an order before 8 pm PST on August 1st, their Kindles will still ship by the August 27th release date,” Herdener wrote, no doubt relieving plenty of customers who were able to pre-order their less expensive and now sold out Kindle models before the deadline.

Those who placed an order after that date should get them about a week later, says the site. '

As of Monday, Kindle customer reps were giving contradictory answers on shipping dates.  I'd go by the public statement Drew Herdener chose to make.

James Adcock, who helped provide the Magic Catalog for Project Gutenberg book browsing and searching ON the Kindle and then downloading direct to the Kindle, has announced the new mobile version of the Project Gutenberg website, which is itself browsable from the Kindle, using the built-in experimental browser, if enabled for your country.  Direct download of Kindle-readable MOBI files to the Kindle carry no charges, as they don't go through the Amazon servers.

The URL or location address is http://m.gutenberg.org, and I'm glad to see the increasing number of worthwhile sites providing special mobile-device access versions of their pages.

Reader Dan Krodel alerts us to an interesting interview with the head of Random House which features the topics of Random House's "plans for the e-book age, the company's tough negotiations with Apple and why the printed book will continue to dominate publishing."

The questions are unusually blunt.  An example pops up right away, when asking Dohle about the skepticism surrounding his appointment 2 years ago: "Aren't you worried about embarrassing yourself while making small talk about literature with authors and agents?"  And that starts it off.  Dan Brown's marketing/networking instincts bring him into the picture right away also.

The interview is a good read and I highly recommend it.  I'll include here some of Dohle's thoughts on the changing world of books today.

  A bit of Amazon/Apple background.  Random House was the only one of the Big6 publishers to decline Steve Jobs's offer to do an Apple Agency Agreement that would prohibit other online bookstores from offering lower book prices than Apple's recommended higher pricing for/by publishers with 30% to Apple.  Since Random House did not think this wise for its own profitability in the U.S. market, their books are not eligible to be sold at the Apple's iBooks store in the U.S., even though they are the largest book publisher around.

Some thoughts by Dohle on the impact of e-books:
' I see myself as someone who has to strike a balance between creativity and profitability.  Of course, I read a lot more today, which is also because I always have my books with me, not always in printed form, but on my electronic reading devices.  I read whenever I have a few minutes to spare.
I'm pleased to see a reader who's reading on his iPad or Kindle.  Without these devices, perhaps we wouldn't be able to reach that person at that very moment, because he might have left his book at home. But we always have him on the electronic reader.  That minute of reading is a gift.

...I grew up with printed paper, but I have to admit that I'm surprised at how quickly the digital business is growing, especially in the United States.  Nevertheless, the printed book will still dominate for a long time to come.

[Re turnover from e-books]
  It's around 8 percent in the US right now, which represents a huge increase. I can imagine that we'll end up above 10 percent next year.

[On Amazon's announcement that it sold 180 digital titles for every 100 Amazon hardcover books in the U.S. and re analysts' estimate that in 10 years or so printed books will comprise only 25% of books sold]

  I don't agree with that prognosis. I think it's too aggressive, too much hype.  The market share for electronic books, even in the United States, will more likely be between 25 and 50 percent by 2015.  But this development still represents a huge opportunity for us.  It creates new growth.

  I meet people in America who say: I started reading again because of my e-reader -- and so did my children.

[Random House and Penguin are listening to readers.  Will Macmillan's Sargent?]

[On Random House's hesitation to partner with Apple's online iBookstore]

In the English-language market, unlike Germany, there is no such thing as a fixed book price agreement. The bookseller sets the retail price. In Apple's iBookstore, it's up to the publishers to set prices for the reader.  Apple stays out of it and gets a commission.  We have to examine this very closely to determine whether we are willing to make this drastic change to our business model. '

Dohle expands on all this, including his previously stated reasoning that booksellers have taken the risk in these markets and have experience in finding the right price points to reach as many readers as possible.  He explains:
'... it's also a question of the distribution of risk.  Until now, we have sold content, developed and marketed talent and calculated our prices accordingly.  In the United States, the book trade has structured retail prices in keeping with individual market conditions.  It needs to be determined whether publishers really can, and should, do both things in the future. '

SPIEGEL then asks Dohle, "Do you really believe you can do without Apple?"

And for Dohle's artful answer, in all fairness to the magazine, you'll need to go to the Der Spiegel site to read that.

He also comments on the possibility that much lower pricing devalues books and doesn't like seeing it taken to what publishers see as extremes, but he doesn't blame only the e-book movement.
It isn't as if pricing pressure only arose as a result of digital books.  It's just as prevalent in the print world.  Many countries don't have fixed book prices, and there we, as a publisher, have no influence on retail prices...
... it isn't always true that digital books are always cheaper than printed ones.  Sometimes printed books are sold for less at Wal-Mart, for example, than the digital version in an e-book store.

  In other words, there is no reason to claim that the digital business alone is ratcheting up pricing pressure in the book industry. '

Dohle also talks about the trend toward 'enhanced' books, using supplementary video, and wonders if readers are willing to pay more for those.
' ... the book as a medium is also changing. There are cookbooks that explain to you what to do in a video, or that dictate recipes out loud to you.  You don't even have to touch the iPad in the process.

  Still, no one knows whether this is something people really want and if they are prepared to pay a premium for it.

He also responds to questions about Amazon's own entry into publishing and its exclusives with authors who have been with the larger publishing houses and explains why he believes the authors will tend to stay with the publishing houses for the advantages they offer.

Here's the rest of the interview conducted by Markus Brauck and Isabell Hülsen.

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  1. " I don't agree with that prognosis. I think it's too aggressive, too much hype. The market share for electronic books, even in the United States, will more likely be between 25 and 50 percent by 2015. "

    Yes and no. Amazon's prediction may be correct, when it comes to online sales.
    The focus of sites like Amazon will shift ever more to eBooks, with the sales of physical stores remaining initially largely untouched.

  2. B&N doing so badly already (it announced it may put itself up for sale) doesn't auger well for physical stores being largely untouched.

    I did notice that the article wording didn't differentiate between Amazon's selling more ebooks than hardcover ones and implying more e-books were sold by them than all hardcover ones anywhere, which was probably just an oversight in wording.

  3. Any news on Kindle 3-like PDF annotation on the DX?

  4. The mobile Gutenberg site has a nice crisp look and was easy to navigate. Another success for Project Gutenberg. Thanks for pointing it out.

  5. Louise, yes, that Project Gutenberg is just a great site. Neat to have it available on the Kindle so easily if choosing not to use the Magic Catalog instead.

    Be sure to check that latter out though, at Magic Catalog for Kindle.

  6. Louise, yes, that Project Gutenberg is just a great site. Neat to have it available on the Kindle so easily if choosing not to use the Magic Catalog instead.

    Be sure to check that latter out though, at Magic Catalog for Kindle.


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