Big Changes in the EBook Market

kindle It is no secret that I am a big eReader fan. I’ve talked about it here and here. And from the very beginning I have been a loyal customer of Amazon. With the introduction of the Kindle, I knew I wanted one but waited until 2009. The Kindle Two had just been introduced, giving me the security of a second generation device, plus the slight decrease in price from $399.00 to $359.00 helped.
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A Shameless Plug: AAR-Amazon Kindle Links

Mucho excitement is in the air today.  Amazon has announced a new range of Kindles, including a basic Kindle for just $79 and a $199 Kindle Fire tablet.

If anybody is buying a Kindle today, we’d very much appreciate it if you’d use the links below to do so:

Kindle Touch 3G

Kindle Touch

Kindle Basic

Kindle Fire

AAR will receive a small commission for each Kindle purchased through these links.

- Sandy AAR

What Agency Pricing and EBook Lending Limits Mean for Readers

kindle At first when I thought about the latest eBook news, this piece was going to be a mini rant about how publishers haven’t got a clue about eBooks and how popular they’ve become. But I suspect that isn’t entirely the case. According to the Association of American Publishers, eBook sales for 2010 increased dramatically, rising to 164.4% with eBooks bringing in $441 million, compared to eBook sales of 61.3 million in 2008. EBook sales have jumped 623% since 2008. Quoting Publishers Weekly, “For the first 10 months of the year, e-book sales from the 14 houses rose 171.3%, to $345.3%, 8.7% of the trade sales of reporting publishers…adult hardcover sales from 17 reporting houses fell 7.7%, and sales from 9 mass market houses were down 14.3%. Sales of trade paperbacks from 19 publishers were flat.”
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Publishers: Take my Money. Please.

kindlebooksDisclaimer:  This is a rant from a consumer’s point of view.  No wait, a pissed off consumer’s point of view.

Dear Publishers:

As one of your very best customers who routinely buys multiple books each month, you should care what I think, right?

So, here goes:  Stop making me feel as if I’m doing something wrong – something lesser – when I buy an eBook.  That’s exactly how I feel when you:

  • Hold back an eBook release date until after a print book is published.
  • Eliminate any discounts – the kind of discounts found everywhere on print books – by your stupid Agency Pricing model.
  • And, God forbid, charge more for an eBook than a print book. What – I mean what the hell – are you thinking?

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The Rise of the Nonbook: How Bookstores are Trying to Change with the Times

bearBookstores all over the world are feeling the pinch, just like all other retailers. Many of the bigger chains are coping by selling nonbook items. Today’s B&N or Borders customer can see everything from a funky coffee mug to stuffed animals and Japanese treats. Oh, and don’t forget the coffee and cookies.

This summer, my favorite Barnes & Noble started remodeling, making room for a new section selling educational toys and games. This happened all around the country. All brick-and-mortar bookstores are competing with Amazon as well as stores such as Wal-Mart and Costco that carry fewer books but discount what they sell. They are also competing with the growing eBook field. In the article, Carolyn Reidy, the chief executive of Simon & Schuster (talk about an industry expert) predicts that eBooks could make up 40% of her company’s revenue in the next 3-5 years. Yet publishers are worried that as more brick-and-mortar bookstores close, fewer people (eBook readers included) will be exposed to the latest books. Without the displays, customers won’t know what’s out there.

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The eBook Format Wars

books_really_suckA lot can happen in one week.  Seven days ago, I was madly researching eBook readers, gung ho over the prospect of quasi-unlimited digital storage, heaps of portable reading material, and so on and so forth.  Now, my interest has skydived.  Why?  It’s those bloody format wars.

I’ll just say first off, I have no claims to being a tech expert; I’m a consumer and I try to be informed, but that’s it.  So as a potential consumer, this is how I see it: Without stripping DRMs, there is no single portable device that reads all the major eBook formats.  And that’s a pain.

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My Kindle and Me: A Year Down the Line

kindle-2Let’s start with my first disclaimer:  I paid for my Kindle.

Here’s the second:  I am in this whole ebook thing for the convenience – not to mention a desperate desire to be free of the careless shelving habits of brick and mortar stores that drove me crazy for years.

I’m not a techie (Mac person, so don’t have to be) and, while I don’t like DRM, I’m not worked up about it either.  My blog – and my perspective – is one of a reader who lives in an area with 3G coverage and who simply wanted an easy way to read ebooks.  For me, Kindle is it.

Since I’ve been Kindle-ized for about a year now, what do I love?

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Digital ARCs: Yes, Please!

Galleycat at Media Bistro is hot on the e-ARC thing. Or in hashtags-speak #digitalarcs. 

And, considering that we are hearing from multiple sources these days that publishers are cutting back on ARCs, the timing couldn’t be better.

And now there’s the entry of NetGalley into the mix. 

Here’s how it works. Reviewers simply sign up for the site and request copies of digital ARCs in which they are interested. The content will then, presumably, be delivered to the reviewer upon approval by the publisher.  Hey, and since the company prez also tells Galleycat that the digital ARCs will work for Kindle, the Sony Reader, PCs, and other devices within a few months, this is looking good.

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Amazon and Barnes and Noble Online Pricing: What’s Up With That?

If you haven’t heard by now, there was much outrage in Romanceland in the days before and during the Thanksgiving Day weekend. The issue? The Kindle price for Eloisa James’ When the Duke Returns was reported by AAR Alert Readers to be an incredibly inflated $14.99.  

Much sputtering later (and, okay, so I was one of the sputterers), it turns out that the price was a mistake (I have no idea whose) and a correct price was later posted. Only there’s a problem: It’s $7.99. The exact same price as the paperback edition. And, gee, isn’t the cost to produce an ebook a mere fraction of the cost to produce an actual paper book? Well, good luck with that, Avon.

Being the sleuth that I am, however, I noticed something equally outrageous: The paperback price is listed on Amazon as $7.99. Not the $6.49 or the like to which we’ve all grown accustomed. What the heck happened to the Amazon discount?

But it’s not just Avon. To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt is priced at $6.99 (Forever), Catherine Mulvany’s Wicked is the Night (Pocket) is $6.99, Pagan Stone by Nora Roberts (Jove) is $7.99, and Robin Kaye’s Romeo, Romeo (Sourcebooks) is also $6.99. Berkley Sensation seems to be pretty much alone in holding the discount line with Erin McCarthy’s trade paperback Flat Out Sexy priced at $10.78, down from $14.00.

As for the prices at Barnes and Noble online: Ditto. On all of the above.

And guess what? Of the books that I checked, the prices on the backlists of the authors above are list prices, too. So, in effect, any discounts seem to have been retroactively removed.

The good news is that Avon seems to be standing alone in that Kindle pricing thing. All of the books above – except Avon new releases – have discounted Kindle prices. Which is as it should be.

Since I’m a fan of vast conspiracies, I wonder if there was some sort of meeting in a smoke-filled room amongst various publishers to abandon online discounts? As Amazon repeats over and over, publishers set prices for books.

So, what do you think? In a time when almost everybody is feeling the squeeze, will the price increase affect the number of books you buy? Are you outraged? Or, on the other hand, do you accept the higher prices as a manifestation of the grim reality that many publishers (as discussed here last week) are facing the same economic pressures as consumers? Are higher prices…well, just the price we have to pay?

-Sandy AAR

Kindle: Oh, I Believe!

 

 

It all started as a result of getting regularly dissed by my local Borders.

 Let me count the ways:  Their complete lack of interest in shelving romance anywhere even remotely close to the lay down date, the whiff of condescension coming from employees (hello, Red Suspenders guy!), and the rolling eyes and sighs if you dared to ask them to search the infamous “back room” for books that weren’t on the shelf even though their own computer system said they were in store.

So, why did I rely on such an unreliable bookstore?  Color me naïve, but I live in a major city and I don’t think I should have to pay shipping and handling for mass market books.  And Amazon Prime?  That’s still paying.

I’ve thought about e-readers before, but…well, it just seemed like too much of a project to try to figure out which one was best – not to even mention the whole Mac compatibility issue.  So, I shoved the whole thing aside and continued to get pissed off every time I went to Borders.

Then came Kindle.  I waited.  Then I started reading the buzz on AAR’s message boards and getting great reports from happy readers, not the least of whom was my sister.  It sounded ridiculously easy to use.  And, best of all, no Borders!

To make a long story short, Kindle works exactly as advertised:  It’s fast, you can get most books, and it’s lightweight and easy to use.  (I particularly love hands-free reading.  Who knew you could pet the cat while catching up on the latest Elizabeth Hoyt?) 

Getting manuscripts on Kindle is also a breeze – and, for someone who’s always found it difficult (if not impossible) to read on a computer, that’s a big bonus.  I’m told by a published author friend that editors and agents love Kindle and that makes complete sense to me.   I dream of a world – believe me, I dream – in which ARCs would be delivered wirelessly to Kindle.

The downside?  There are surprising – and annoying – gaps in available books, though Amazon seems to be doing a good job of working through that.  A Kindle is far from cheap.  And, on a larger scale, who wants Amazon controlling the whole ebook thing?   (That just can’t be good.)

Still, the good news is that as technology advances, devices get even easier to use.  I’m sure that somebody somewhere somehow will improve on Kindle (maybe Amazon, who knows?) but for now, they’ve cracked it. And I am one passionate convert.

And, geez, no Borders.  Believe me, I’m not going to miss Red Suspenders guy.

-Sandy AAR