Digital Book World: Day Two in The House

This morning Angela Bole of Book Industry Study Group presented the results of a study on e-books with a pretty wide diversity of people. The crunch over their print cousins was that consumers found e-books cheaper and quickly accessible, and that had a knock-on effect with one third of consumers choosing not to buy a hardback as a result.
We should not underestimate our e-book readers. They know what they want – the ability to immediately talk to other readers of the e-book they have just read. That means publishers are going to have to see e-books as more than just electronic book files, but windows to an entire readership platform. We touched a number of times yesterday in sessions about the need for more community strategies from publishers as well as authors. The survey trends also suggested that once consumers choose e-books they tend to stick with them as a purchase option. Dedicated e-book buyers will remain loyal to e-books as long as publishers don’t start pissing about with a first print edition and later e-book edition. We can talk all we want about Kindles and Apples, but almost half e-books are downloaded to the humble PC, rather than phones or dedicated e-reader devices.
Liza Daly of ThreePress Consulting reckons some e-books from publishers are simply uninspiring, filled with pointless blank pages and even the wrong ISBN’s are used. All in all, there is a worrying degree of downright sloppiness out there. A great deal more colour, dynamics and basic ability to take the format of e-books seriously is required. Stand up publishers—you know who you are!
We had a session which looked at the big players in the e-book market. The consensus seemed to be that Apple and Google’s presence in the e-book market was good for publishers and will help to relinquish some of the stranglehold Amazon has. They jury was out on Apple’s entry with the iPhone and release of the iPad, but the real contender is going to be Google. That doesn’t mean Amazon is going away any time soon and may shift focus to more application, rather than device. Will they let the poor Kindle die? Yikes!
I murdered a Cornish Pastry for lunch and couldn’t get my normal brand of cigarettes, so I had to smoke lights. I hate lights. They’re crap, like sucking on a straw!
A selection of kids-on-the-publishing-block discussed and gave their opinions on e-book pricing.
Tim McCall, Penguin Group USA, reckoned cost is paramount from the moment of acquision to the point the book reaches the customer. As yet, e-books remain less than 4% of the market and need to be looked at more generally rather than individually until they increase in growth and find their market value based on their merit. The pricing of $9.99 does sell more ebooks but not enough to really count. The prices are lower at the moment than their merit but that will help longer term growth.
Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown Agency said Amazon told agents the $9.99 price mark was fair for ebooks. He revealed that converting a book to electronic format cost a publisher about $200 and Amazon sales are driven by location of purchase and not where the buyer happens to be located
Michael Tamblyn of Kobo said his customers bought e-books in the $6 to $12 area for the most part. The Kobo customer wants simplicity in the process of purchasing e-books and the immediacy of attaining those products. We heard something very similar in one of the morning session.
Kassia Kroszer of Booksquare suggested the immediacy of e-books meant the right e-book could be sold for $75 if later editions could lead to updates in information. Publishers need to look at the e-book format and see it as more than just a book. Kroszer echoed Liza Daly’s point in the morning session that dedicated digital publishers produce a better e-book than many large publishing houses. She gave a particular example of a SEO (search engine optimization) non-fiction book.

“[Aaron Wall] spent years writing a book, updating, got a lot of offers from traditional publishers. It sold for $75 and every dollar went to his own pocket. There’s a lot of information on the Internet about SEO, but most of it is free. He used his experience and expertise, and made something people would pay for.”

The Untangling and understanding the ebook supply chain featured Neil De Young, Hachette Book Group; Peter Balis, John Wiley and Sons; Andrew Weinstein, Ingram Digital; Leslie Hulse, HarperCollins – the moderator was Mark Coker of Smashwords.
Ingram Digital
There is still an important role for wholesalers to play in the e-book supply chain. Ingram provides many different platforms for their retailers of sales tracking for publisher’s books. The Adobe platform should be watched closely in 2010 – they are trying to foster innovation. They have many colour edition books but the dominance of the Kindle makes it harder for Ingram.
John Wiley & Sons
Wiley have not implemented a standard operational procedure for digital publishing, but rather see it as part of their whole plan. They support the open formats of PDF and epub. There are other reasons why publishers do not bring out digital editions of titles – not being able to get digital rights to images, especially of older out of print books.
HarperCollins
There is a definite need for an independent auditing body for digital sales. The dark horse for 2010 will be Blio/Microsoft. They should be watched closely.
Hachette Livre
They use ePub but restrict e-book sales to the USA because territories can change quickly and it is hard to track the supply chain to ensure that proper territorial information is been transmitted and complied with. The last mantra of the day was again watch Blio/Microsoft.
[A difficult two days with so much to go through and so many various resources and notes to plough through. Excuse the lack of links and look for the follow up discussions and reviews on all topics here and elsewhere. Thank God the London Book Fair is not till the summer!]

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