Showing posts with label big six. Show all posts
Showing posts with label big six. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 3

Libraries Look To Indie Authors As The Future

I love libraries. One of my favorite memories involves a library. I was as a kid, it was summer and very hot. I biked over to the library on my no-gear bike and sank into one of its absurdly comfortable, enthusiastically orange, chairs. I listened to the whir of the air conditioner and gazed in appreciation at all the books. As I drank in the stillness, for a moment it felt like a sanctuary.

I can't imagine living in a city without a library. I can't imagine there not being any more libraries! But that could happen.

Not only is library use down, but a few publishers--most notably the 'Big 6' (Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Hachette)--are making it more difficult for libraries to buy books. The following is from a librarian from a "mid-sized library system in South Carolina" who wishes to remain anonymous. He writes:
Random House tripled the cost of all their books so, for me to buy a copy of a $7.99 backlist title now costs me $23.97. To buy a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey would cost you $9.99 - that same copy costs a library $47.85. Hachette, beginning October 1, will be increasing the price of their titles by an even greater margin from early accounts. Oh, and Hachette won't sell frontlist titles to libraries at all - we can only buy backlist (and very old backlist at that). Which drew the reply from Sullivan: “Now we must ask, with friends like these...?” I couldn't have said it better myself. (E-books in Libraries: They Still Don't Get It)
What are librarians doing about this? If Librarian X is any indication, they're getting angry and finding ways of procuring affordable, quality, material: they're turning to indies. Librarian X writes:
If you don't sell us your frontlist authors, what will happen in time is that other authors will show up who will take their place ... and the odds are that these others will be self-published or publish through a smaller publisher who doesn't view libraries as enemies. Speaking personally, I don't buy e-book titles from any of the Big 6 any longer. Why bother? I can buy titles from smaller publishers and authors for less than $10 through OverDrive and, in my studies of my circulation figures on those titles, they circulate just as well as the more expensive ones. Why should I care? With my purchasing decisions, I'm buying more titles and showing a return on investment far sooner. My boss is happy and I'm more than pleased to be doing my part to twist the knife even if only a little. (E-books in Libraries: They Still Don't Get It)
This could be a marvelous opportunity for indie authors. Joe Konrath, one of the first and most well-known indie authors, has put together a proposal. He writes:
Blake and I are willing to sell our entire ebook catalog to the Harris County Public Library, and to any other libraries that are interested, under these terms:

1. Ebooks are $3.99

2. No DRM.

3. The library only needs to buy one ebook of a title, and then they can make as many copies as they need for all of their patrons and all of their branches.

4. The library owns the rights to use that ebook forever.

5. The library can use it an any format they need; mobi, epub, pdf, lit, etc. And when new formats arise, they're’re free to convert it to the new format.

In short, the library buys one copy, and never has to buy it again. (Ebooks For Libraries)
.  .  .  .
I've ... gotten lots of emails from authors who want to offer libraries the same terms.

The problem is organization. We need someone to act as a liaison between publishers and libraries to run something like this on a big scale. And I believe that person should be paid. How big a job this will be, and how much of a cut they deserve, can be discussed in the comments section. But indie authors need to come together to offer libraries their books, and dealing with 9000 different library systems would be a full time job. (E-books in Libraries: They Still Don't Get It)
If you're interested in either selling your books to libraries or in helping to organize this gargantuan undertaking, head on over to Joe's comment section.

Of course you don't need to organize to sell your books to libraries, or even to bookstores! Just approach the library and find out what their procedures are.

Whatever you decide to do, best of luck! :)

Other articles you might like:
- 3 Ways To Create Incredible Characters
- Amazon's KDP Select: The Best Long-Term Strategy?
- Save The Cat! The Importance Of Sympathetic Heroes

Photo credit: Paul Lowry

Friday, May 11

The Fungibility of Books

10 minutes ago I had no idea what fungibility was. It's the quality of replaceability that certain commodities have. For instance. money is highly fungible. If were to loan Robyn a $10 bill, one I had drawn a happy face on, I would not be at all upset if the $10 bill she repaid me with lacked a happy face. That is, I was not expecting her to repay me with exactly the same bill. As a matter of fact I would have found it rather odd.

Books, though, are not fungible, at least not in my view. One of my favorite authors is Jim Butcher. If I were to lend Robyn, say, Jim Butcher's latest book, Ghost Story, and she repaid the loan by giving me his novel Stormfront I would have NOT thought the loan repaid. No one book is the equivalent of any other; like snowflakes, they are unique.

You might be wondering, What on earth is Karen on about? Excellent question!

One day, I want to write a post about the Department of Justice's suit against Apple and five of the Big-6 publishers, but this isn't the day. It has been suggested, though, that although there was collusion among Apple and the publishers that the collusion didn't amount to anything because books are -- wait for it -- fungible.

Here's how the argument goes: Sure, we raised prices on a small sub-set of books, the best sellers, but many other books either didn't have their prices affected or they actually went down in price. For instance, many self-published books can be purchased quite reasonably. So it was always possible for a person to buy a book at pre-collusion prices, just not the same book (i.e., not a best seller). So, no harm, no foul, right?

Um. Wrong.

I accept the economic statement, that many people aren't going to buy books at or beyond a certain price point, whether for reasons of poverty or principle, but I reject the idea that books are interchangeable.

White I agree that if the latest book by my favorite author was out of my price range I would not purchase it (I would either wait for the paperback, buy the ebook when it came down in price or take it out of the library), I do view this as a loss. That many other books are in my price range doesn't make it okay that the price of that one book was made high due to collusion.

I mean, I don't want to be contentious, but it reminds me of someone saying, "Well, it doesn't matter if your pet dies, you can always buy another." It's true but so not the point!

Anyway, that's my rant. I don't have them often, so I'm hoping you'll forgive this one. It was sparked by Joe Konrath's latest post, Simon Says. It's quite good, I'd encourage you to read it, especially the first bit.


Friday, October 7

Amazon versus the big-6 publishers

Is it any wonder that Amazon isn’t too worried about competing with Big Publishers? It’s like the Army Rangers taking on the Des Moines elementary school crossing guards.
- PG, Why Publishing is Like Baseball and Politics
PG has written an excellent commentary on Kris Rusch's post, The Way We Were.
Datastreams can be very valuable. Lots of people are working to parse Twitter’s datastream these days.

Passive Guy recently read an article that said news of the big East Coast earthquake south of Washington DC reached New York City faster by Twitter than it did via official disaster warning networks. Researchers are watching Twitter for everything from who’s rising and who’s not in Republican presidential politics to how the latest revolution is progressing in the Middle East.

At this point, the most valuable part of Amazon is the proprietary datastream it receives from its sales each day. An enormous competitor with bazillions of dollars could set up an online store, regional warehouses, etc., but it would be blind compared to Amazon because it doesn’t have the current and historical data and the ability to predict what customers will want next.

Wal-Mart was the first big retailer to actively exploit the value of its sales data. That was one of the reasons it beat Sears, K-Mart and some store chains that don’t exist any more.

Before widespread internet access, each Wal-Mart had a satellite antenna that beamed daily, then hourly, then real-time sales data back to the mothership in Bentonville, Arkansas. Bentonville is a fine place to operate the world’s largest retailer. When you’re digital, it doesn’t matter where you are located. Being in Manhattan is becoming a less and less valuable business asset, but PG doesn’t want to fight with any New Yorkers. He agrees it has a unique vibe and enjoys his trips there. He never heard a cab driver speaking Farsi in Bentonville.

Wal-Mart began to rearrange its stores based upon its sales data, featuring different items on its end-caps (displays at the end of aisle) each day depending on what it knew would sell best on Thursdays. One illustrative story has Wal-Mart putting diapers next to beer on the weekends. Dad’s at home. When he is sent to the store to buy diapers, he decides he deserves a beer for his sacrifice.

Unfortunately, PG heard the Wal-Mart data guru speak at a conference a few years ago and he said the beer/diapers story is apocryphal, but confirmed that Wal-Mart knew about a lot of products that sold better when they’re placed next to each other. With today’s technology, Bentonville data gnomes can drill down to sales made at individual cash registers located half-way around the world.

As Kris points out, sifting through a datastream the size of Amazon’s or Wal-Mart’s to discover important information about where customers have been and where they’re likely to go was impossible before the tremendous boom in computing power. The area is usually described as business analytics or data mining and smart companies do a lot of it. When PG was an executive in a business analytics software company a few years ago, he negotiated contracts with every big and rich firm on Wall Street.

But no contracts with publishers. As we’ve read, Big Publishing is having problems getting ebook royalty reports from Amazon and Nook plugged into their ancient royalty reporting software, a trivial programming job. PG doesn’t see them moving into data mining very quickly.

People sometimes believe that Amazon’s major advantage over traditional booksellers is its willingness to aggressively discount. That certainly plays a role, but the folks in Seattle are also much, much smarter about what sells and what doesn’t.

Amazon doesn’t discount everything every day. The people making pricing decisions know exactly how much money they make from selling a currently-available Kindle ereader. They have a very good idea of how much profit they’ll make from each Kindle Fire they sell for $199 even if Amazon pays more than that to buy the Fire.

Amazon is not just selling a tablet. They’re selling a tablet that will generate a stream of new purchases of ebooks, movies, music and almost everything else they sell. Whatever loss they take on the tablet itself is an investment in a future customer.

Is it any wonder that Amazon isn’t too worried about competing with Big Publishers? It’s like the Army Rangers taking on the Des Moines elementary school crossing guards.
Read more over at The Passive Voice.