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Amazon.com, Ebooks and "Chump Change"

By rjnagle in Media
Mon May 16, 2005 at 11:54:13 PM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

What is Amazon up to these days? Are they the friend or foe of the independent writer?

Amazon's recent purchase of two companies (Booksurge and Mobipocket) hints at a future business strategy geared not only to the long tail concept but also self-publishing in general.

Let's review the problems that plague publishing now.

First, aftermarket reselling of books is decreasing the time window in which publishers and content creators can make money. A book retailing initially at $20 can sell used for 25 cents or less within a year or less (to the detriment of the author's royalties.) The biggest beneficiary of the "aftermarket" is none other than Amazon.com, with its ever-increasing transaction fees (although shopbots like isbn.nu could eventually squeeze these fees down).

Despite efficiency improvements in inventory management and production, books are going out of print just as rapidly, with the slack borne by --you guessed it--aftermarket booksellers (and increasingly, file sharers). Writers lucky enough to find publishing deals find that after a lackluster period of sales, publishers will just let the book go out of print while retaining the copyright. In fact, as Larry Lessig has argued, current copyright law creates a perverse incentive for copyright owners to prevent the market from being flooded with unprofitable and older public domain works.

Curiously, in an age of widespread literacy and access to all kinds of books, people are reading fewer books and when they do, it is the same old crap everybody else is reading . People have offered explanations: competing entertainment choices, the decline of independent bookstores, the abundance of books tied in with other media properties. I still shudder when recalling my brief 1997 stint at a retail bookstore where every display in the store was screaming Titanic and Jurassic Park and Tiger Woods. Litblogging has gone a long way to counteract this narrowing of tastes by exposing people to a wider variety of writers (the same has been happening in the world of MP3 Bloggers) . But mainstream success is still defined by the public as coverage in Big Media, which is increasingly focused on its own media properties.

So where does Amazon.com come in? Although dwarfed in size by Barnes & Noble, Bertelsmann and Time-Warner, Amazon.com still plays a key role in book distribution that all the majors have to deal with. In terms of online market share, Amazon.com is still the de facto marketplace for books.

Up until now, Amazon.com has done well selling content by the big media companies, although it remains open to independents wanting to sell physical content online. Right now, content creators need a way to sell and distribute content with less restrictive licenses (i.e., Creative Commons or Founder's Copyright). People are using more liberal licenses not just to be "nice" but to make it easier to publicize and promote their works. Audience building lies at the heart of the problem. As publisher Tim O'Reilly once wrote, "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy."

By acquiring a Print-on-Demand (POD) company and an ebook software company, Amazon.com is retooling itself to offer a complete publishing solution to authors disenchanted with the current state of publishing. We may soon live in a world where authors can upload content into Amazon's content management system, which then can sell it on demand as a physical object or digital ebook.

People have been predicting ebooks and ebook readers for at least two decades, but here's why now is a good time for Amazon.com to start pushing consumers towards ebooks. Digital content doesn't require warehouse space or an intricately inefficient system of handling returns. Printing in small runs makes it difficult to keep prices competitive, but if you're not even turning on the printing presses, that's no longer a problem. Backend content management systems are becoming more robust and easier for ecommerce companies to maintain; and content creators are becoming more comfortable with handling the tasks of designing and formatting (just look at the diversity of layouts in weblogs).

Independent content creators are ready for do-it-yourself ebook solutions. But what about big publishers? In fact, these guys would like nothing more than a way to kill the aftermarket, and selling ebooks would do precisely that. With ebooks (like iTunes and other forms of digital distribution) nothing goes out of print or out of stock. Copyright owners could potentially have more flexibility about setting the price of content over the duration of the copyright and not have to compete against resellers.

In fact, the only group resistant to ebooks is consumers. Many consumers, never having actually seen or touched a dedicated ereader before, mistakenly think that the only way to read an ebook is on your computer or cell phone. Ebooks published by big publishers aren't significantly cheaper than physical books and are often cost more than the same book in the aftermarket. It makes little sense to buy an MS Reader ebook version of Mark Haddon's Curious Incident for $10 when the used paperback is available on Amazon.com for $5.50. Of course, that ignores the fact that "no namers" could offer their own ebooks at a price closer to "chump change" (i.e., a price regarded by consumers as trivial). It also ignores the benefit of having access to the increasing amount of free ebooks and public domain classics from sites like blackmask and Project Gutenberg .

It's also hard for consumers to wade through the mess of incompatible formats. Although PDF ebooks are ubiquitous, their print-ready formatting makes them ill-suited for ebook readers. Whereas some formats (MS Reader, Mobipocket and Plucker) are readable on more than one kinds of device, others have been designed with specific hardware in mind (Ebookwise 1150, Hiebook). This past year marked two watershed moments in the ebook world: a grayscale ebook reader (Ebookwise 1150) began selling near the $100 range, and a high-end reader (Cybook ) capable of reading most ebook formats began selling near the $400 range. Both devices allow importing of .txt, .rtf and .html files.

Amazon.com's buying of Mobipocket signals two things. First, Amazon.com is poised to stand behind a single ebook format and perhaps to promote it as well. That could be enough to encourage hardware makers to build a device specifically for viewing Mobipocket files. Amazon.com could conceivably be partnering with one or two manufacturers to showcase such a device (selling in the $100-200 range) by next Christmas. Amazon.com could promote the manufacturer, and the manufacturer could then in turn promote Amazon.com as the default seller of Mobipocket ebooks.

It also could mean that Amazon.com's POD service (Booksurge) will start designing and publishing ebooks for formats other than PDF. Perhaps integrating the POD workflow (which is more MS Word/PDF based) into the ebook workflow (which is more HTML/CSS based) might allow Amazon/Booksurge to make publishing services like Booksurge a better deal for writers. At the moment, Booksurge (like other PODs) offers a variety of services to writers, ranging from editing, cover design and marketing.

Booksurge's prices fall in the $500-1500 range, depending on which extras you choose. (Those of Iuniverse.com and Xlibris are similar). On the other hand, after ponying up initial POD costs, writers get a better chunk of royalties, retain rights, stay in print longer (and even get a guaranteed listing on Amazon.com). Plus, there is always the option to "sell out" to a bigger publisher (using POD sales figures to convince them of a book's marketability).

The main disadvantage of POD (aside from the difficulty of promoting them) is the price structure. (Here are the rates for Booksurge, Iuniverse and Xlibris (pdf)). The POD companies price POD books 10-20% higher than traditional publishing. Price isn't always the primary determinant for choosing whether to buy a book, but it is a significant factor when the author is unknown.

But with ebooks, won't the rules completely change? Printing costs depend on the size of your print run, but if there's no print costs at all, you're only dealing with initial fixed costs (plus a transaction fee). In my opinion, that gives the author enormous leverage in setting his or her own prices. Maybe Random House wants to sell ebook versions of Da Vinci Code for $10, but I want to offer my ebook novel for sale at $2 (a price closer to the "chump change" threshold). But would Amazon.com want to sell it?

I would argue that Amazon.com would and should. Sure, giving independent content creators the ability to undersell big publishers might bring down the price of all fiction. But it would also increase the value of Amazon.com's online real estate, providing endless opportunities to sell "virtual end caps" or other marketing extras to those willing to pay (as long as it doesn't interfere too much with the overall user experience).

Amazon.com is already offering digital content for free (see its free mp3 download page) . Its online tipjar (called Amazon honor system) charges 2.9% plus $.30 transaction fee, a rate content creators could certainly live with. Amazon.com is already well-equipped to distribute low-cost digital content and handle micropayments. Of course, Amazon.com could just be waiting for the market to mature and continue selling ebooks from big publishers in the meantime. But the "play it safe" strategy runs the risk of letting a niche player like fictionwise grab the emerging market before there is time to react.

Here are a few things to look out for as the ebook market emerges:

  1. Are ebook software companies continuing to sell reasonably-priced client applications to produce ebooks? (Right now, Mobipocket Publishing Standard Edition costs $150). If these client applications are abandoned, or if the prices go up significantly, that could be a sign that the software company (and accompanying web distribution site) are wrapping the formatting magic into the server product. That's bad for content creators because it allows the publishing/distribution channel to "own" the tools for layout and design.
  2. Will the number of ebook file formats increase or decrease? Ebook enthusiast Cory Doctorow keeps 20 different versions of his first ebook . For most people, maintaining this many versions of the same content would add significantly to the time, cost and aggravation of self-publishing.
  3. Will OS's and hardware companies shift away from supporting software and towards supporting standards? An industry body has set up the Open Ebook Publication Structure Standard (OEBPS) (a simplified version of XHTML and CSS). Current ebook reader software supports the earlier specifications , although support for the more recent and robust OEBPS 1.2 is lagging (partly due to a sluggish market). To simplify the adoption of open ebook standards, two separate groups are working on an open source ebook browser (Openreader ) and open source ebook creation tools. These two projects may become more useful as website owners try to repurpose their web content and blogs into downloadable ebook form.

I haven't mentioned the "problem" of anti-piracy and digital rights management (DRM). Cory Doctorow has already given the definitive analysis about why DRM is counterproductive . I'll add two things here. First, commercial interests will pretty much guarantee that ebook devices will employ some kind of DRM.

But DRM doesn't really matter for the little guy. It matters mainly for mega media companies who have made significant capital investments (in thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars) and need to recoup their investment by selling tens of thousands of copies. The pricing strategies of big publishers have pretty much been "anti-chump change." In other words, set a retail price that no one seriously will pay (aside from library institutions) and then gradually lower the price until the merchandise starts moving somewhere (even if it is only to the remainder table).

But for the independent content creator (say a popular litblogger who is selling ebook novels on his website) the pricing strategy is different. His strategy is not necessarily to maximize price, but to maximize audience. His strategy is to guess the price point readers would regard as "chump change" (so insubstantial that people used to getting things for free won't be bothered by paying it). This may not be the route to becoming a millionaire, but publishing royalties now aren't much better, and at least the poet or novelist doesn't have to wait forever to convince a publishing company to take a risk selling his work.

In an article about self-publishing, Tim O'Reilly writes "technology just changes the middlemen." Ecommerce and emerging ebook technology might just make Amazon.com the new middleman (if it plays its cards right). With ebooks, the independent content creator might gain more control, but end up paying more to third parties (like Amazon.com or Iuniverse) for editorial or promotional services. Maybe the thought of this sounds horrifying. After all, if Hermann Melville or Frank Kafka had to devote time and money to marketing and design, what effect would that have had on their literary output or reputation? On the other hand, putting in a bit of one's own money to literary projects might give writers a reality check about what literary works actually sell these days and help them to appreciate the difficulties of getting noticed in a world dominated by books about dead pontiffs, right-wing loudmouths and More Chicken Soup for Dummies ™.

Robert Nagle (aka idiotprogrammer) is a Houston-based writer who writes frequently about artist advocacy and copyright reform issues. He writes web fiction under various pseudonyms and will be publishing ebook versions of his literary works this summer. This essay (and all his online writing) are available under a Creative Commons license.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Where do you read your Ebooks?
o Cellphone 2%
o PDA (Palm) 9%
o PDA (PocketPC) 4%
o Dedicated Ebook Reader (Ebookwise 1150, cybook, etc) 2%
o My PC 14%
o Laptop 9%
o Only deadtree books; ebooks are still too much trouble 56%

Votes: 41
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o long tail concept
o detriment of the author's royalties
o ever-incre asing transaction fees
o shopbots like isbn.nu
o Larry Lessig has argued
o reading fewer books
o same old crap everybody else is reading
o world of MP3 Bloggers
o Barnes & Noble
o Bertelsman n
o Time-Warne r
o remains open to independents wanting to sell physical content online
o Creative Commons
o Founder's Copyright
o publisher Tim O'Reilly once wrote,
o blackmask
o Project Gutenberg
o Ebookwise 1150
o Cybook
o MS Word/PDF based
o Iuniverse.com
o Xlibris
o Booksurge
o Iuniverse
o pdf
o free mp3 download page)
o Amazon honor system
o fictionwis e
o Mobipocket Publishing Standard Edition
o 20 different versions of his first ebook
o earlier specifications
o OEBPS 1.2
o Openreader
o open source ebook creation tools
o definitive analysis about why DRM is counterproductive
o an article about self-publishing
o Robert Nagle
o idiotprogr ammer
o Creative Commons license
o Also by rjnagle

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Amazon.com, Ebooks and "Chump Change" | 48 comments (47 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Reading ebooks - consumers resistant (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by mberteig on Mon May 16, 2005 at 02:57:49 PM EST

Here's the usual complaints that I have heard:

   1.  Not physical - the comfort derived from tactile manipulation of a physical book and its pages is not found with ebooks.
   2.  Not convenient - requires new book purchasing, organizing and reading (e.g. bookmarking) habits.
   3.  Not visible - browsing for books in a bookstore appeals to people.
   4.  Ebook readers are expensive - psychologically large up-front investment in hardware.

I'm not up on the latest ebook reader technology, but is anyone trying to address these concerns?  In some ways, these concerns are actually related to the advantages.  Does anyone sell ebook readers on a subscription basis?

(careless me - posted as editorial first - grrr.)

Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile

e-books or dead tree (3.00 / 2) (#3)
by hatshepsut on Mon May 16, 2005 at 04:05:52 PM EST

I love books. All books. I have a room in my house dedicated to bookshelves and reading (no TV, no radio, etc.). I would still love to get my hands on a decently-priced ebook reader that would correctly display all the formats I could possibly want.

There are some places where I would prefer NOT to have a real book (especially an old or fragile book). I currently read books (on occasion) on my T3. That is fine, so far as it goes, but the screen is very small, the bookmarking etc. are a pain in the ass, and there isn't a very good selection of books in the format(s) I can currently handle.

I don't see ebooks replacing dead-tree types, I see people getting an ebook and reading it, finding they love the story (or whatever) and would like to have a NICE hard copy (note I say "nice" copy - the crap coming out of 99% of the publishing houses is a disgrace...my sister is in the publishing field and has told me of the disgusting tricks used to make sure books fall apart as soon as possible).

I agree that the feel of a book in your hands is just not the same as a palmpilot, ebook reader or whatever, but there is definitely something to be said for convenience (and for checking out a new author without spending $15 at Amazon/Chapters-Indigo/Etc.).

[ Parent ]

One more point (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by Ebon Praetor on Mon May 16, 2005 at 04:31:23 PM EST

The price-point is too far off.

All of the things you said are absolutely true, and they make the problem with the price-point worse.  Consumers are willing to deal with certain flaws in a medium as long as they are getting the overall package cheaper.  What we're seeing - not just in books, but also in electronically distributed music and movies - is that the total price remains close to the same.

What a lot of the distributors are missing is that people like to own _things_.  They don't like to be able to rent or lease, that's why people are willing to buy DVDs they only watch once or twice.  Without having something tangible that they can know they bought, consumers will be resistant to paying $4 for a book that could be had for $6 in paper, particularly when that $6 book has the qualities you mentioned.

Personally, I read quickly and live in a small apartment. My brother has a lot of the books that I've collected because I don't have the space to store them.  Many books, particuarly technical ones, would be perfect to have electronically, provided they are significantly lower priced than their dead-tree versions.  O'reilly's Safari is a good example of this (even though I still buy the books that I use the most), but in general, if I were to want to buy e-books, even of books I would read only once, I would like them to be priced somewhere in the $1-$2 range preferrably most of that going back to the author.

I was one of those early adopters of the Rocket eBook.  It was a nice device, even though it was large and heavy.  Fast-forwarding a few years to today's technology in screen, batteries, and storage, it's something that I would try again, assuming that my iBook is able to interface to it.  

[ Parent ]

Sharing good books (none / 1) (#15)
by aido on Tue May 17, 2005 at 07:28:12 AM EST

One of the pleasures of finding a really good book is lending it to friends after you've read it. If I discover a really good book, it will make its way to several of my friends over the next couple of years. Its a good way to generate discussion and it's fun to introduce people to cool new things.

You can't do that with an ebook. Theres the issue of DRM, compatibility with whatever format device and format other people are using and. Sharing a real book is fair-use. But sharing of an electronic book is generally regarded as a violation of its licence.

[ Parent ]
DRM can handle this (none / 0) (#19)
by Ebon Praetor on Tue May 17, 2005 at 11:23:54 AM EST

Assuming a non-asinine implementation of some DRM, it is possible to share books in the same way that you can share a physical book.  iTunes, WMP (and I guess others) already do this.  When you want for your song to play on a different machine, you have to transfer the license to that new machine.  You could do the same with an e-book; if you want to give it to a friend then you transfer the decryption keys to them.  Like a physical book, only one of you can have it at a time, so I see no difference from a technology standpoint.

This says nothing about license violations, but if the publishing companies were willing to be reasonable and sell books instead of licensing them, then sharing a book with a friend is still feasible.  

It would be a great boon for companies to do this; their publishing costs drop to almost nothing, and promoting new books by releasing a chapter or two becomes even easier, especially if those chapters were unencrypted and could be shared with friends at will.

[ Parent ]

Sadly, there is a difference ... (none / 0) (#22)
by cdguru on Tue May 17, 2005 at 03:04:53 PM EST

between "a friend" and "everyone on the Internet". It is just too damn easy to make anything digital available to everyone on the Internet and this isn't anywhere near the same thing as "sharing a book with a friend."

[ Parent ]
It's not the reader expense (none / 0) (#42)
by Merc on Thu May 19, 2005 at 12:58:54 PM EST

At least not for me. It's the form factor. I read at least a few pages of a book every day, but the e-books currently available are not compatible with how I want to read.

Every night before I go to sleep, I read a bit of a book. It occupies my mind, pulls it off the day-to-day things, relaxes me, lets me get ready for sleep.

A book form-factor isn't the ideal for what I want to do. Sometimes it's annoying trying to keep the pages from closing on me when I want to shift positions or briefly put down the book. It is also hard to mark my position. I can mark the page with a bookmark, but that doesn't tell me the paragraph I was on. But there's one thing that books have going for them that virtually no e-book reader I know of has yet -- high contrast.

I read my books before going to sleep, and I read them with only a small reading light on. I'm about to go to sleep, so I don't want a backlit LCD screen shining into my eyes. I want the soft reflected light from a page. The technology to provide this low-light reading exists, it even exists in an e-book reader: The Sony Libré. Unfortunately, that reader is weighed down by the most cumbersome DRM crap I've ever seen. Apparently you can only "rent" books for it, they evaporate after 60 days, but hey, their library is a whopping 400 books! If you've never seen e-ink in action, it have to be seen to be believed. You literally think you're looking at a decal on top of the display until it just shifts before your eyes, and the contrast is so incredible that any amount of ambient light is enough to read the display. But with their DRM scheme the reader is nothing more than a really pretty paperweight.

The saddest thing about this is that behind the scenes, the Libré apparently runs Linux. the world's most restrictive DRM on a Free OS. How pathetic.

I wish someone would forget the DRM and make an e-book reader that addressed *my* needs, not the needs of the content cartels. Make me an e-ink reader that can display only plain text files, HTML, and plain-old-ordinary PDFs and I'll buy it in an instant. Maybe I won't be able to read "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants" on it, but there are tons of Project Gutenberg texts available to me.

[ Parent ]
+1 just for the Cory Doctorow link (n/t) (none / 1) (#5)
by shambles on Mon May 16, 2005 at 05:01:27 PM EST

People are more important than Truth - Edgar Malroy
DRM is doubly doomed for ebooks (2.66 / 3) (#6)
by Polverone on Mon May 16, 2005 at 06:17:18 PM EST

Unlike music or movies, it's not even possible to compress ebooks in a lossy fashion to discourage DRM-stripping and recompression. Without knowing anything about a DRM system's internals, I can already defeat it trivially: buy one legitimate copy of an ebook, write a little program to advance through every page and take screenshots, then feed the screenshots through an OCR program. Now I can send it as text, .doc, HTML, PDF, etc. to anyone I please. Not only does DRM fail to prevent copying, it bothers some technically savvy people to the point that they will see it as morally justified to unencumber and share ebooks by the truckload. It only takes one leak for a movie or album to make its way to hundreds of thousands of internet users. I can't imagine why it would be different with ebooks. A DRM system that stops only 99.5% of users from copying is effectively worthless, regardless of what DRM system vendors say.

I would gladly buy ebooks on two conditions: they need to be in an open and unencumbered format, like PDF without any "security" settings active (easily bypassed with xpdf but still annoying), and they need to be significantly cheaper than the cheapest print edition -- say at least 30% cheaper. That's what it would take to make me a regular ebook buyer. There are some sorts of ebooks that I would buy even under less favorable conditions, because the ability to do full-text search at the click of a button can be very convenient and that's something paper can't offer. It's going to be very hard to entice me with most ebooks today when I can get $0.50 hardbacks, $0.10 paperbacks at library sales and ebooks are DRM'd and/or proprietarily formatted.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.

99.5% would be a lot less (none / 0) (#8)
by D Jade on Mon May 16, 2005 at 09:06:40 PM EST

For Audio all you have to do to bypass DRM is to burn the music to CD. Then you can extract it again or copy the cd as many times as you like. Now many users already know how to do this and have been doing it for some time with non-DRM media files. DRM doesn't really stop anyone.

The other thing with DRM is that often companies will sell a 192-KBPS file and then a Lossless PCM WAV file for a higher cost. So quality isn't really an issue either.

One thing though is that music lovers would be more inclined to purchase a digital download as it is fairly priced. Such high markup on the cost of a CD or Record is disgraceful and a lot of people have resorted to piracy because the record companies are basically robbing them of their money.

Digital downloads not only provide more choice at a lower price, they also provide the artist with more freedom. Companies like EDM digital are at the forefront of independednt electronic music and allow their users to publish their material for download on the site. EDM takes a fraction of each sale as a hosting fee and the rest is given to the Artist/Label to do what they want with it.

Much fairer than record companies who sell a $5 product for $30 and give only about 1% (if that) of the sale to the artist.

But they will tell you that digital downloads are bad because they encourage piracy. However, I've not yet met anyone who would steal a product that is fairly priced. Most people I know who download music (there are a lot of people who do) download it for the following reasons:

1 - The cost of a CD is so high and is not worth the music they provide.
2 - The song is played on the radio 20 times a day, each time earning the recording artist's record company a nice fee.
3 - People are not willing to buy a whole album just because they like one song from it.
4 - People are not willing to spend so much on a CD when they may not like it.

Everyone I know who has downloaded music that is commercially available will purchase the works if they like it. The way things stand with commercial music though, most of it is worth throwing away anyway.

The best action record companies could take to stop piracy is to start publishing good quality music instead of appealling to the lowest common denominator.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

speaking of which (none / 0) (#9)
by wre on Mon May 16, 2005 at 10:30:16 PM EST

irc.nullus.net #bookwarez

That's where I go when the public library doesn't have it in their stacks.

[ Parent ]

What can you find? (none / 0) (#10)
by Polverone on Mon May 16, 2005 at 11:13:27 PM EST

I'm interested in history, "literary" novels, and non-fluffy scientific/technical books. The few times I've stumbled across pirate ebooks on p2p or www, it's been mostly stuff I'm not interested in, like piles of computer janitor manuals and Robert Jordan or Stephen King novels. Is IRC more satisfying than that? If, say, I wanted to find Cormac McCarthy's fiction and The Nature of the Chemical Bond by Pauling, would I have better than a snowball's chance in hell? I've always shied away from IRC because most chat logs look like they come from two-finger typists in the terminal stages of ADHD.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Okay (none / 0) (#13)
by wre on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:50:33 AM EST

Cormac McCarthy - yep, I see some of that in the "@find mccarthy" lists.

21:42 <SyLord> !sylord McCarthy, Cormac - Blood Meridian.lit
21:42 <SyLord> !sylord McCarthy, Cormac - Border Trilogy 03 - Cities of the Plain.palmdoc.pdb
21:42 <SyLord> !sylord McCarthy, Cormac - Border Trilogy 1 - All the Pretty Horses.lit
21:42 <SyLord> !sylord McCarthy, Cormac - Border Trilogy 2 - The Crossing.lit
21:42 <SyLord> !sylord McCarthy, Cormac - Border Trilogy 3 - Cities Of The Plain.lit
21:42 <pera> !pera McCarthy, Cormac - All The Pretty Horses v1.1 (rtf).rar
21:45 <BW-majecki> !majecki Cormac Mccarthy - All The Pretty Horses (V1.1) [rtf].rar
21:45 <BW-majecki> !majecki Cormac McCarthy - All The Pretty Horses.pdb
21:45 <BW-majecki> !majecki Cormac McCarthy - Blood Meridian (v0.9) [htm].rar

The basic IRC downloading protocol is: "@find <keyword>", and then you get a bunch of messages like above. Then you paste into the channel the ! and everything after it, and the bot sends you the file.

For nullus.net's bookwarez, you'll need to read !rules first to see which sub-channel you wish to download from. The Cormac McCarthy stuff is in the main one - #bw.

Pauling's Chemical Bonds book - nope, their technical section is mostly computer janitor I think. Personally, I'd look at the nearest university library for that kind of thing.

[ Parent ]

cool (none / 0) (#14)
by Polverone on Tue May 17, 2005 at 02:50:09 AM EST

I must learn more of this mysterious IRC. I already live within easy biking distance of a university library; I'm just curious as to what is available online. Thanks for looking.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
The Article Writer Responds: (none / 0) (#16)
by rjnagle on Tue May 17, 2005 at 07:56:39 AM EST

Here's some thoughts about how to find good content online . The short answer: it ain't going to be easy, but it's possible for those who look hard enough.

[ Parent ]
WTF, ebooks? (1.75 / 4) (#7)
by ant0n on Mon May 16, 2005 at 06:20:19 PM EST

rjnagle, I don't know in which time you live, but I live in 2005. And ebooks are sooo 2000. Next there's an article about PDA's, or what? I loled.

-- Does the shortest thing the tallest pyramid's support supports support anything green?
Patrick H. Winston, Artificial Intelligence
Radio is soooo 1980 (none / 0) (#20)
by Ebon Praetor on Tue May 17, 2005 at 11:26:59 AM EST

Since the Walkman came out, who needs radio anymore.  You can listen to your music anytime you want at your own selection.

Wait, what's this XM/Sirius satellite radio thing...?

[ Parent ]

i pretty much agree (none / 0) (#25)
by Delirium on Tue May 17, 2005 at 07:03:52 PM EST

I seriously don't listen to the radio any more. I sure as hell wouldn't pay for XM/Sirius, which despite a million channels still doesn't play anything I want to listen to. I do listen to some internet radio stations, though.

[ Parent ]
No it's not (none / 0) (#31)
by ant0n on Wed May 18, 2005 at 05:37:15 AM EST

Radio is not soooo 1980, because Radio is a medium that works and still exists and is used by billions of people. Ebooks is a medium that has failed and nobody uses it, because you can't take an ebook into the bathtub or read it in bed. Okay you could take a laptop into bed to read an ebook, but that would look seriously gay.

-- Does the shortest thing the tallest pyramid's support supports support anything green?
Patrick H. Winston, Artificial Intelligence
[ Parent ]
+1 SP... (none / 0) (#11)
by gr3y on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:12:22 AM EST

but you should really mention the Perfectbook Machine.

I am a disruptive technology.

Out of print POD (3.00 / 4) (#12)
by ffrinch on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:34:01 AM EST

My big hope for the BookSurge buy was that Amazon would be able to leverage its influence to get publishers to open up their back catalogues. POD technology made whole idea of "out-of-print" obselete, so it's rather sad that Amazon lists so many books I want but can't buy.

I don't really care about the long tail of unsellable vanity publishing crap, but there's a goldmine of traditionally-published books that, for whatever reason, are just no longer available. Some of them can't even be found second-hand; some can be found second-hand, but are sold for 10x the original cover price.

"I learned the hard way that rock music ... is a powerful demonic force controlled by Satan." — Jack Chick

The problem with POD publishing... (3.00 / 4) (#17)
by localroger on Tue May 17, 2005 at 08:14:53 AM EST

...is that most of the players are out to rape both the readers and the authors. Most of the players are charging consumers rates for e-books typical of physical books, or even a bit higher, even though they do not have to actually print, warehouse, or ship physical books. And they are charging authors setup fees for POD publishing which are consistent with what traditional vanity presses charged when they had to actually set type to do a print run.

There is only one word to describe these practices: Greed. If you want to know what's choking the publishing industry, that's it in a nutshell.

Anyway, there is a company that is already doing what you are suggesting Amazon might want to do: Lulu dot com. Lulu lets you do setup as .pdf for copy and .jpg for covers, meaning you can use free or commodity tools to set up a book. Their prices are based on a raw production price and they let you add whatever royalty you desire to that. They charge zero for the privilege of accepting your .pdf and .jpg and preparing to accept orders online for you. Their charge for electronic content is minimal. That is the way to do it, and that is why if you want a physical copy of my book you have to order it from them.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer

lulu (3.00 / 4) (#21)
by stoolpigeon on Tue May 17, 2005 at 01:06:21 PM EST

I was amazed that lulu wasn't mentioned in the article. They completely remove all barriers to publication. If you have open office and an internet connection-- you can have a book available at lulu with an initial cost of zero. In my mind that is huge.

If you want to pony up a few bucks-- they offer services. But they are not required. Personally I think this is one of the biggest events in publishing and I'm really surprised it has not received more press.
I ran. I ran so far away.
[ Parent ]
Booksurge and payments (none / 1) (#23)
by civex on Tue May 17, 2005 at 03:21:01 PM EST

Although Amazon provides the benefit of having the book available on their Website, the first link that shows up when I google 'booksurge pod' is
which says the author got credit for 31 booksales, only 9 of them through Amazon. Interestingly, the author claims to have autographed more books than that at signings and that the book rankings were going up during periods no books were reported as being sold. Oh, and the author says she hasn't been paid for the reported sales.

This is really distressing, as vanity publishers may be the only resort of the obscure author, and getting the book promoted through Amazon would be quite helpful in sales.


[ Parent ]

I second Lulu (none / 0) (#46)
by Arkaein on Thu May 26, 2005 at 07:33:03 PM EST

There really isn't a much better solution possible, as long as you don't mind doing the work to get people to the site. They manage all the billing and printing, you get 80% of royalties. If you sell PDFs that's 80% of total sales, as they don't charge any fees beyond the 20% of royalties they keep.

I have experience through a book I wrote an sold (and am still selling) through Lulu. At the time of writing I was unemployed but had this website (see sig) with a small but dedicated fanbase, and I figured it was worth a shot to try making aliving selling more of what I featured on my site for free. The project didn't make much money in the long run, but close to $500 is about $500 more than I would have made during that time without a job, so I consider it time well spent and a worthwhile learning experience (the book only took a couple of weeks to write, because I had already done the majority of the work developing the content in my free time).

The biggest factor in making Lul a great deal is the 80% royalties. You set whatever royalty you want for your book. Actual dead tree versions simply add the royalty to the printing cost so you get the same amount for a printer version as an electronic one, and you can give the option to customers for ever versions you want to make available. All of my sales were PDF, meaning that before I lowered my prices I made $4 for every $5 sale. How many professional authors get that kind of rate?

About the only downside is that people who want to buy your book probably won't already have a lulu.com account, while they probably will have an Amazon account, but that's pretty minor if you can convince your audience that the book is worth buying in the first place.

The ultimate plays for Madden 2005
[ Parent ]

Don't try to make sense of it (none / 1) (#18)
by Thought Assassin on Tue May 17, 2005 at 08:26:13 AM EST

The book market doesn't make sense. It can't as long as it is based on copyright. When every vendor is a monopolist, and the savvier consumers can provide for themselves better on the black market, how can you expect it to make sense? Everything else is a temporary work-around until (unless) consumers come around to the fact that they are being shafted by the industry and are buying more detrimental legislation with every encumbered copy they shell out for. Only then would the publishing end be forced to quit the "intellectual property" protection racket and produce what the free market demands.

eBooks, DRM, and the Library (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by Kadin2048 on Tue May 17, 2005 at 04:29:52 PM EST

Although I think the OP is right about ebooks having DRM in the future, it's too bad the publishers won't get a clue. They [i]already[/i] compete with 'free' -- free is the library. Now sure, it doesn't offer the dubious convenience of downloading texts on your computer, but on the plus side you get an actual paper copy. All without paying a dime. I live pretty close to a good public library, which has a decent fiction selection, and a small university, which has a respectable selection of technical and academic books. I almost never buy a book unless I have some overriding reason to want to own it (and when I do buy one, it's almost always used via Half.com).

It's not that I don't want to support authors, but I'm not unfamiliar with the royalty agreements most writers have to agree to to get published, and I see no reason to spend $20 on a hardcover book or $8 on a paperback just so the author can get a few cents.

Personally I don't think that ebooks will change the way I read much. I'm one of those curmudgeonly people who want everything except technical literature on bound paper. I can't imagine sitting in front of my computer here to read a novel (the closest I've gotten to that is the Fiction section here on K5). Maybe some of the ebook reader peripherals will be better, I'm not sure. I have a problem with them because they destroy an advantage I've always felt that print had: it requires no interface other than the language and reading skills you (hopefully) learned in elementary school. If you have the book, you don't need anything else. I would be loath to trade that in for some device that has batteries and power cords and a low contrast display (compared to ink on paper, an LCD is shit in sunlight). So pardon me if the thought of ebooks isn't particularly thrilling.

The print-on-demand model, however, does thrill me. That's something I could really get into, if the pricing structure was right. Make the cost of the electronic book the author's royalties (plus a hosting fee), and I'll pay for the printing cost. What would be especially great would be if I could pick and choose content: imagine making up a "mix book" of poems you especially enjoyed to give to a friend, or short stories.

What would also be nice are some options in printing: I don't need or want to pay for 100-year archival life, acid free paper and a sewn cotton binding in every book I purchase. Some of them only need to last six months (especially textbooks for courses I'm less than interested in) and I'd be fine getting them printed up on newsprint or other low-grade paper with cardstock covers and a comb binding.

So perhaps I was too harsh on ebooks. If they were sold separately from the printing, it might be a good idea. Let consumers buy the text -- the author's actual product -- and pay the author. Then let them choose the printing and binding, and get it as a physical book if they wanted. High volume readers could just take the digital file to a 'ebook reader' peripheral, while occasional readers would be better served getting a PODed bound version.

Amazon & the little guy (3.00 / 3) (#26)
by johnny on Tue May 17, 2005 at 08:00:52 PM EST

Amazon does deal with us little guys quite well. Amazon is apparently set up to make money on people who only sell dozens of copies (long tail, etc). Their process is pretty straightforward, but if something goes wrong or if I have a question, they answer email within a day or two. I long ago gave up trying to deal with other online booksellers, for example, BN.com, but I've sold thousands of copies of my self-published books through Amazon. They take a pretty big cut, but I still make money. I recommend them. As someone who lost his shirt on an independent bookstore that went bust, I am predisposed to hate Amazon, so my recommending themn to self-publishers is something of a turnaround for me.

I don't have any particular interest in ebooks. I make my books available for free download (PDF) & hope thereby to encourage people to buy printed copies of my books. I have no idea where this is all tending in the long run, although I hope it bodes ill for the megacorporate publishers and well for the little guys.

My K5 article "Adventures in Self-Publishing" is here.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che

ebook and print (2.50 / 2) (#27)
by cronian on Tue May 17, 2005 at 09:55:27 PM EST

I think they should start giving away a free ebook copy, when people order the print copy. That way, people could get used to dealing with an ebook.

Call me impatient, but I hate having to weight a few days for my books to arrive from Amazon. Although, a lot of the time, I'd prefer a hard copy.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
Offtopic as all hell but "weight"?? (none / 0) (#41)
by Merc on Thu May 19, 2005 at 12:23:17 PM EST

C'mon, I'm tired too but your homonym hurts my eyeballs.

[ Parent ]
my experience with self-publishing (none / 1) (#28)
by bcrowell on Wed May 18, 2005 at 12:37:52 AM EST

This story has reignited my interest in K5 -- thanks! After the long period when the site appeared to be dead, and then seeing how many recent front-page stories were little more than ads, I'd been just about to take K5 out of my bookmarks and stop visiting.

I've written some Creative Commons-licensed physics textbooks, and I run a web site that catalogs free books and accepts user-submitted reviews of them (see my sig). I think anyone who's contemplating self-publishing and/or writing a book that will be available for free should keep two things in mind:

  1. Nobody who's doing this stuff knows what the hell they're doing, and that includes the publishers. Everybody is just casting around for the mysterious new model of what publishing is about.
  2. It's lonely. There are probably only a few hundred people worldwide doing serious work on free books, and although there are lots of authors doing self-publishing, only a tiny percentage of them are doing it for good reasons -- the rest are doing it because they suck.

I wish we could decouple the electronic-versus-paper question from the free-versus-proprietary question. They're completely orthogonal, and every discussion about free books seems to end up being dominated by a discussion of the merits of the various "e-book" formats and readers, and whether or not you can cuddle up with an e-book after the kids are asleep. One thing people need to realize is that paper is free. The paper, printing, and binding cost is only a tiny percentage of the cost of a book. To a first approximation, none of what you're paying for a paper book is the cost of the physical object.

I've been happy with my own self-publishing experience. I'm breaking even, I'm reaching readers, and I'm having fun and exploring my possibilities as a human being. It doesn't get much better than that!

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance

Why free? (none / 1) (#30)
by aido on Wed May 18, 2005 at 05:32:54 AM EST

I'm interested to hear your reasons for publishing free books.

Some reasons I can think of are:

  • Idealogical: The author believes information should be free.
  • Vanity publishing: The author can't get a publishing deal but wants their book out there
  • Market Traction: A free electronic version encourages readers to buy a dead tree version.
  • To attract page-views: A free online book is used to attract readers to a site. The author makes money from other sources such as advertising or affilliate programs or some such.

[ Parent ]
another reason (none / 1) (#32)
by pyramid termite on Wed May 18, 2005 at 01:39:01 PM EST

practical - the author realizes that the profit from traditional publishing or e-book publishing is so small that it's not worth the effort and investment to charge for the work when it can be just placed online for nothing with little effort

i'd say poetry certainly falls into this catagory ... there's no real financial incentive to try to sell it

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]

tipjars are always an option (none / 1) (#33)
by rjnagle on Wed May 18, 2005 at 02:02:44 PM EST

One point I didn't make in the original article was the possibility of tipjars. I'm a big proponent of that.

[ Parent ]
tip jars (none / 0) (#36)
by bcrowell on Wed May 18, 2005 at 02:50:13 PM EST

Has it worked for you? I tried it many years ago, and although thousands of people were downloading the books, not a single person ever sent me money. Maybe I just didn't make it convenient enough.

One problem with the tip jar idea is that it comes off very unprofessional. I'm trying to get other profs to take my books seriously.

The tip jar concept, to me, also carries the connotation of software sold as shareware. The whole shareware scene was a dead end in the 1980's, IMO. It never got any momentum, because it didn't encourage cooperation. I think the Linux model is more worthy of emulation.

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance
[ Parent ]

not worth the effort? (none / 1) (#35)
by bcrowell on Wed May 18, 2005 at 02:45:28 PM EST

the author realizes that the profit from traditional publishing or e-book publishing is so small that it's not worth the effort and investment to charge for the work when it can be just placed online for nothing with little effort
I'd agree with this to some extent. Putting my books online for free, and self-publishing them in print, has actually been a lot of work, but it's been work I enjoyed. If I worked with a traditional publisher, they'd take over some of those tasks, but they'd also be able to make demands on me to do thing that I wouldn't enjoy (e.g., writing material on topics that I don't think should even be taught in a one-year course, or writing new homework problems every few years in order to bring out a new edition and kill off the market for used copies).

The money is a nonissue. Either way, it's not enough to affect my life significantly.

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance
[ Parent ]

why free (none / 0) (#34)
by bcrowell on Wed May 18, 2005 at 02:41:23 PM EST

In my own case, it's partly market traction, partly because I think it's unethical to make my own students buy my book without any option of getting it for free, and partly because I think the economics of the print publishing industry produces bad textbooks (the publishers are trying to maximize sales, which they think they can do by including way too many topics in the book).

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance
[ Parent ]

Paper is a meaningful cost (none / 0) (#38)
by Polverone on Wed May 18, 2005 at 07:15:14 PM EST

If people use ebooks just as a distribution medium, and let readers print their own copies, the cost of printing is significant. Printer paper and ink/toner can easily cost you 3-4 dollars for a book even if you already have a printer. The cost of printing a book at home is comparable to the cost of buying a paperback produced by a real publisher, and that's ignoring time spent, any sort of binding, or how to get a more comfortable form than 8.5x11" sheets.

If you're talking mostly about textbooks and technical material, there's a much larger gap between paper price and book price. I once bought a ~130 page softcover book on cell signalling for $120. Ugh. Paper alone does start to look free for that sort of material, which is why textbook photocopying enjoys a measure of popularity. Still, I think it's hard to achieve the same economy of book production at home that large publishers enjoy, so the savings of self-printing aren't as great as I'd like at the lower end.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

cost of printing (none / 0) (#43)
by bcrowell on Thu May 19, 2005 at 10:01:20 PM EST

It depends a lot on the book. A paperback novel, as you note, is impossible to print yourself for less than it costs in the store. Ditto for an art book, or any book that requires color on every page. For textbooks, however, it's more reasonable. I sell printed copies of my physics textbooks for a little more than it would cost to print them by yourself. After the book store's markup, and sales tax, they end up costing about half what you typically pay for a physics textbook.

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance
[ Parent ]

eBooks Just a Cover Story (none / 0) (#39)
by lash marks on Wed May 18, 2005 at 10:20:07 PM EST

eBooks are just a cover for Amazon to say to their institutional investors, see how cool we are, we're selling eBooks, even though nobody knows what they are, or especially, how to make money writing them. The only e-money makers are in trades magazines, and all Amazon is doing is WalMarting book sales and kyping royalties that should go to the author. Think of the ebooks being written every day on the street, that only those who were there will "read". Ya' read me? It's just another con, a shuck, a jive. P.S. Saying you're "breaking even and meeting people", sitting alone in a closet spending eight months writing a novel, so lonely girls in Singapore can e-mail you and say your ebook made them feel less lonely and innocent is, well, pretty dry toast.

[ Parent ]
Value of a publisher... (none / 0) (#29)
by urdine on Wed May 18, 2005 at 02:09:49 AM EST

It's the same as the value to a musician in the music industry.  The Internet and ebooks solves only one part of the issue, distribution.  There are still two very important areas not addressed - marketing and editing (producing, for music).  Unless this new world of Amazon includes an editing service and some sort of marketing that makes sense, it can never come close to the current publishing world.  I'm not saying that ebook-only sales are bad, but just that this is a niche product for niche markets that don't warrant the full hassle of a publishing house, but knowing what we do about the long tail, I sure there's still a siginificant market here.

marketing and filtering (none / 0) (#37)
by bcrowell on Wed May 18, 2005 at 02:59:04 PM EST

Marketing is very important if you want to dominate a market, or if you want to take something somewhat popular and turn it into something extremely popular (Pokemon cards, for example). But look at Linux versus MacOS, for instance. MacOS is heavily promoted via traditional advertising, whereas Linux isn't. And yet MacOS's market share is now down to, what, 5%? That's getting to be in the same ballpark as Linux's 1-2% share of the desktop market. In other words, making your product free can be a very good method of marketing. Similar situation with Firefox vs. Internet Explorer. Firefox's market share is now 1/10 of IE's, and I assure you that the advertising budget for Firefox is not 1/10 of what MS spends to keep convincing the public that they should use IE.

Filtering is all well and good, but in the age of the internet there's no reason it should be done by the same people who do the production, marketing, and distribution. Look at what AM radio is like. For filtering on non-free books, people can just use amazon.com. For free books, see my sig.

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance
[ Parent ]

eBooks Just a Loss-Leader (none / 0) (#40)
by lash marks on Wed May 18, 2005 at 10:34:36 PM EST

You can always tell when a new wave has crashed and burned on the beach, when you start noticing the Tony Robbins 'you can make a million' buzzwords in the self-publishing literature, or read pundits who say s--t like, "The old days of big players in the economy collecting consumers, audience, distribution, manufacturing efficiency, buying power, or capital in the grip of centralized control are waning. That used to be the way to find efficiency and size. That used to be the way to scale. But they are being foiled by our new distributed world. And they are being replaced by a more efficient means of finding size and efficiency. Aggregation is the new scale. " Say whaa? Nobody is making money on eBooks, they're making money selling banner ads and clik-thru's maybe, but it doesn't even cover their time to respond to the PayPal prompt, "I just paid $1.95 for your ebook, now e-mail it to me before I demand my money back from PayPal after you send it to me." Read the fine print on PayPal. Anyone can accept delivery on your virtual item, and them get their money back saying they never received it, and your only recourse is protracted arbitration, for $1.95 which didn't even cover your time to log on and send the thing to the "buyer in the first place. My best novelist story back when I was writing and self-publishing was this person who admitted to me her first self-publishing attempt she got conned into printing an entire garage full of paperbacks, which she confessed she burned on cold days. But she said the experience lit the flames of passion and rage under her, and she eventually sold her second novel, so there you go.... eBooks are just a loss-leader and always will be. Amazon's game is to fill a whole website with loss leaders, and then push revenue stream over profits to their investors, promising some day, oh lord!

Chump Change--$1 (none / 0) (#44)
by BooksForABuck on Sat May 21, 2005 at 09:34:17 PM EST

I enjoyed the article. In the years I've been working with PayPal, selling eBooks for $1 each (at www.BooksForABuck.com) I have had not a single experience with a customer refusing to pay. I think giving readers a chance to experiment with new authors, or with known authors experimenting with things they don't ordinarilly write, is a winning idea--if, as you say, readers can buy the book at an affordable price. I'm not sure my $1 price is sustainable forever (inflation happens), but eBooks don't have to sell for $10 or more. Rob Preece Publisher, www.BooksForABuck.com
Your source for affordable electronic fiction
All this price talk seems to miss the point IME... (none / 0) (#45)
by pocopoco on Mon May 23, 2005 at 03:38:29 PM EST

I don't really agree with the article's comments on price and its views on how paper versions compete with electronic versions.  I have hundreds of e-books, not counting subscription services, and price wasn't a factor in a single one of those purchases.  When I buy it has pretty much always been a matter of wanting the e-book or the paperback before seeing the price for whatever reason.  

Camping trip?  Paper, no question.  The few e-book readers I tried had the worst screens imaginable and killed my eyes when I tried to use them for long periods.  So I now use a PPC with high resolution and sub-pixel rendering.  But the battery power is limited and the PPC is expensive so I don't risk it getting wet or lost, etc..  

Other reasons I always go paper is when I want to share with friends.  We tend to trade huge stacks of sci-fi books and what not.  E-books are difficult to trade (the other person has to like the same format out of many, there may be DRM that can't transfer ownership, etc..).

Computer book?  E-book, no question.  Full text search will always trump paging through the back of a book for something technical.  Also I tend to need a computer book due to a class or work and therefore need it ASAP.  I would pay triple for the advantage e-books have in this case, instant delivery.

I'm glad there are a few e-book retailers out there that realize e-books and paper versions are very different animals, not just differently priced ones.  Out of all the monthly services I pay for, O'Reilly Safari has got to be the one I'm most satisfied with.  You have a bookshelf of books you can be reading at any one time for a certain fee, also download options.  

Also there is WebScriptions, which makes partial works of authors available, something that was never possible before.  I also love how their download options seem to include every format imaginable when you do buy full books.

Back at my old college, electronic subscriptions to journals for all students saved them enormous amounts since they didn't need a huge library.  OK, this last one is close to price, but it was more of a storage/facilities issue.  

Anyway, it's businesses like this that will make ebooks popular.  Not ones that just screw with the price and ignore the actual reasons people might buy the things.

I like books. (none / 0) (#47)
by LDLOL on Sun Jul 17, 2005 at 12:01:48 AM EST

I like paper books. I like getting them from the library.

Number didn't add up on several accounts (none / 0) (#48)
by morrisr on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 02:33:35 PM EST

While the theory that Amazon is pursuing the Long Tail is interesting from a theoretical point of view, the reality is quite different. For starters, the basic Long Tail concept article originally published in Wired states that one half of Amazon's sales come from the long tail. While their actual sales numbers are closely held, my own work over the years on the logarithmic nature of the Amazon ranking system along with my experiences as a publisher suggest this number is simply wrong. My own estimate is that only 20% of Amazon book sales come from long tail sales, and that proportion is essentially fixed by the nature of the beast. Next, Amazon's total sales have been greater than Barnes&Noble sales for a number of years, their North American media sales are at around 75% of the entire Barnes&Noble chain and roughly equal to Borders, while Amazon's International media sales are now within a few percent of their North America sales. You can argue about what percentage of Amazon media sales are books (the same for Barne&Noble) but it's not public data. Amazon's total sales this year will be about equal to Barnes&Noble and Borders combined! As I commented on the Tim O'Reilly post about self publishing, Amazon has been a true enabling mechanism for cutting the middlemen out of the publishing business. I also sell books through Ingram and direct, but there's a definite business model in selling exclusively through Amazon, especially with technology related books. I can think of a number of authors who generate the majority of their sales through Amazon, even though their business operations aren't optimized for it. By keeping to a short discount on titles sold primarily through Amazon, publishers can almost completely avoid the remainder and used book issues. I've been spending a lot of time lately writing about Amazon and other self publishing issues on my own blog, and what I find myself repeating over and over again is that it's all about the marketing. Authors who can market their own books don't need a middleman, whether they use print on demand or go the traditional self publishing route with an offset run and a distributor. Morris Rosenthal
Morris Rosenthal
Amazon.com, Ebooks and "Chump Change" | 48 comments (47 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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