Monday, November 15, 2010

What do you know about e-books?

This week the Blood-Red Pencil is launching a series of posts about e-books. What do you know about this emerging segment of the publishing market? Take this quiz to see if you're up to speed!

True or False?

1. Kobo, Ectaco, Nook, and Aluratek are all names of Native American tribes.

2. E-books still haven’t quite caught on.

3. E-books will replace print books.

4. E-books are cheaper to produce.

5. E-books are mostly bought by young techies.

6. All digital readers can read all e-books.

7. Authors make less money from e-books.

8. Digital reading technology will evolve and render currently owned e-books unreadable.

9. E-publishing is only for book-length material.

10. Self-publishing, subsidy, non-subsidy, vanity, royalties, reseller: the age of e-books will simplify the publishing process and negate the need to learn all these terms.


Answers:

1. False. Okay, I was trying to throw a bone to all the rank beginners out there. (Like me, before I researched the articles linked to in this post.) Along with the Kindle, the iPad, the Sony Reader, the Neo, the Alex eReader, Pandigital Novel, COOL-ER, and a variety of smart phones, these are names of digital reading devices.
Read more.

2. False. By mid-year Amazon.com reported that sales of books for Kindle had outpaced the sale of hardcover books, and that growth was accelerating.
Read more.

In July, Amazon.com announced that Stieg Larsson, author of the internationally bestselling Millennium Trilogy, had become the first author to sell over 1 million Kindle books and is the first member of the new "Kindle Million Club." The "Kindle Million Club" recognizes authors whose entire body of work has sold over 1 million copies in the Kindle Store.
Read more.

On Oct. 27 James Patterson became the second:
Read more.

J.A. Konrath and other bestselling authors are leaving print—as well as traditional publishing—behind.
Read more.

And if all that isn't enough to convince you, The New York Times just announced that early next year it will start ranking e-book bestsellers.
Read More.

3. False, says literary agent Alex Glass of Trident Media. At the Pennwriters conference last May, Alex said that in fiction, the commercial genres have embraced e-books first. Those who love literary fiction, he added, will always want to linger over prose printed on the pages of a traditional book. Such readers consider their books as much art objects as reading material. Let’s face it—a digital reader isn’t going to stimulate anyone with its beauty while sitting alone on an empty bookshelf. The crux of the debate is captured in this short Wall Street Journal video.

4. You’d think that would be true. And it will be, one day. It already is true for publishers that have switched exclusively to e-books. The problem is that traditional publishers haven’t yet completely embraced a digital way of doing business. An e-book is typically just one more way of marketing a print book whose costs the publisher has already incurred. Did you know that of the $27.95 retail price for a hardcover, only $2.83 goes for paper, glue and ink? And that there are costs associated with digitizing back titles?
Read a breakdown of book costs here and enjoy a more irreverent look here.

5. False. The largest group of Kindle users is in its fifties, followed closely by those in their forties and sixties.
Read more.

6. False. Want an e-book format that works on any reader? The epub format comes closest at present. But for the time being you may be stuck reading books that work for only one device (or a smart phone that has an app for that device).
Read more.

7. True and False. Since the answer is complex and in flux, consider yourself correct no matter how you answered. Print royalties are typically 15% of the retail price for hardcovers, 7.5% for trade paperbacks, and 10% for mass market paperbacks. At 25% (ebook through an agency) to 85% (self-publishing through Smashwords), authors of e-Books keep more of a lower price. Suffice to say it has never been more important to read your contract carefully.
Read more.

8. False. Lybrary.com assures us that current technology has already proven itself to be remarkably enduring, and that we will pass on our e-books to our grandchildren, who in turn will pass them on to theirs.
Read more.

9. False. One of the joys of e-publishing is that you no longer will have to fit your idea into the traditional model of less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000. We already know that online journals and magazines have been publishing short articles and fiction for some time. In October Amazon announced lower-priced "Kindle Singles" that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book.
Read more about Kindle Singles.
Read more about the possible benefits of self-publishing short fiction.

10. False. E-publishing creates even more options, not fewer. For the frugal self-publisher there will still be plenty of folks willing to step up and take a piece of your profit pie. For a concise explanation of terms, read more.

Looking for royalty-paying, non-subsidy e-publishers? Here’s a list to launch your search.

* * * *
So tell us—how did you score?

If you were on the fence about e-books, perhaps you now realize that if you hope to be published, traditionally or on your own, an e-book might be in your future. Stay tuned to the Blood-Red Pencil for upcoming e-publishing tales and information from our contributing editors.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist for 19 years, she now writes literary women's fiction and memoir.




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39 comments :

  1. I just took the quiz and got 100% (haha). But if I had taken this a couple weeks ago, before I started researching its answers, I only would have felt sure about number 1.

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  2. Awesome research Kathryn. I admit that I have been trying to ignore e-publishing, not because I thought it was a passing fad but because it is changing so fast, it sounded like catching shadows. Your article consolidates current trends and gives links, a perfect resource for finally stopping and taking a look at this emerging technology.

    Jerry
    Memory Writers Network

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  3. Great post, Kathryn. Brings it all together in one place in a fun format. Jerry is right, the field is changing practically every day, and thereby changing publishers and writers worlds. I thing the pace will accelerate and in a year or two we'll wonder what all the fuss was about. Wasn't it inevitable? Hasn't it always been like this?

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  4. This is great, Kathryn. I'd like to see another post about the printing costs per book from publishers who use recycled papers, soy inks, and who don't send their printing jobs off-shore. This is another side to the story we don't hear much about, but I think it's important. It's especially important if printed books of the future are collector items instead of just so much "stuff" that ends up in a garage sale. Like all those paperbacks.

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  5. I got 100%, but that's probably because I've been published by e-book publishers, have an e-reader (and am buying a new one because mine is ancient--pre-Kindle!) and have also published short stories through a publisher and on my own, and am putting my backlist up in digital format.


    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  6. Jerry: Like "catching shadows"--well put. With the info here maybe you and I can catch up to Bart!

    Bart: Thanks for coming to play in my sandbox. ;) I think you're right about the pace acceleration. A look at this year's e-book sales numbers indicate we're already in the middle of that.

    Dani: Thanks for making me do this. Your environmental/political take would be interesting to read.

    Terry: You go, girl! I'm sure we're all dying to know: are you going with the Kindle 3G, or another reader?

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  7. Kathryn - I'm going with the Nook Color because of the back light, LED screen. Yes, it eats battery life, but that's a tradeoff I'm willing to make for the read in bed in the dark feature, which was # 1, 2, 3 & 4 on my list. And if I don't like it, Hubster is also looking for a reader that handles color and PDF files because he wants it for his scientific journals. So I volunteered to 'test' it. :-) We may end up with 2. And once it arrives, I'll definitely review it on my blog.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  8. Thanks for the info, Terry. If anyone commenting here has compared Nook's backlit feature to reading Kindle's e-ink with a book light, I'd be curious to know the comparison. (Can you tell I'm closing in on a purchase?)

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  9. You mean you can't read in the dark with a Kindle? Somebody tell me quick! I'm also confused about the Kindle 3 wi-fi vs. 3G features. Not sure which to buy - there's a $50 price differential. And how long do these gadgets last? Last question - how do I keep all my books from gadget to gadget if I do upgrade.

    See what you started, Kathryn! Questions and more questions! LOL.

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  10. Great post, Kathryn. I'm contemplating issuing some of my out-of-print titles as ebooks, I I appreciate your research and your links. BTW, have you seen "BookBaby," a brand-new subsidiary set up as an economical way to publish e-books by CD Baby? (CD Baby is the largest distributor of independently produced CDs and e-music in the industry, so they have plenty of experience in another sector of publishing.) As for readers, I'd get an iPad over any of the e-readers any day...

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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. Dani: I actually know the answers to some of these questions!

    The Kindle uses e-ink technology that is not backlit--it looks like a book page. To read in the dark you must use a book light. But, this same feature makes it easier to see in the bright daylight if you read outdoors.

    Wi-fi vs 3G: Wi-fi is fine if you are always likely to download books near your wireless network at home or in a business with wi-fi. But if you are using the Kindle as a device for downloading books while traveling, as many do, you'll want the 3G benefit. From what I've read it's worth this added functionality. There are no monthly fees associated with this 3G Kindle option.

    Batteries: They are rechargeable of course, and depending on your data usage that might be every 2-4 weeks. The Kindle, however, does not have user-replaceable batteries as the Nook does. You must send it back to amazon and they send you a new one. In that respect it isn't "your" Kindle--you are purchasing its use. You own the cover you bought for it! I hear that service is very good, within 24 hours.

    You obtain your books on different Kindle reading devices by downloading them from your Kindle account, which serves as a virtual library of all the books you've purchased. If you ran out of memory, for instance (haha--the new Kindle holds 3,500 books!), you could dump books from your Kindle into that account to make room for new ones on your reading device.

    *FUN TIP: You can still share books! I know a woman who shares a Kindle account with a trusted other--same sign in and password. She claims that she and a friend have even downloaded the same book onto two different readers at the same time. Alternatively, the Nook has lendable titles. You can only lend the book once to another person and only for 14 days. The lender cannot view the book during that period, but will return to him afterward.

    http://www.nookboards.com/forum/index.php?topic=740.0

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  13. Thanks, Kathryn, for all your hard work researching this subject.

    I'm anxiously awaiting the launch of the Kindle Singles, as I'm almost through writing my Diary of a Nervous Baby Boomer, but haven't heard of when that will be. I did get a response from them at the beginning about keeping me advised, but nothing since.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  14. Susan: Thanks for letting us know about BookBaby, which I hadn't known about. This field is growing every day, and our network has never been more important to stay on top of things!

    Interesting about the iPad choice, which I'd love to hear more about. I decided against it due to higher initial cost, monthly fees, and additional heft. I already have a MacBook Air (lightweight laptop) so I'm looking for a reader that's just a reader, and uses the e-ink technology. I understand iPads are a superior choice for those accessing magazine and newspaper subscriptions on them.

    What's so cool is that there's something out there for everyone!

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  15. Good luck with your Kindle Single, Morgan, and be sure to report back to us. How freeing that authors will now be able to write to completion, however long that is (once professionally edited, that is!).

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  16. Thanks for all your work on this post, Kathryn! I'm soaking up all the information I can about this new way of reading and publishing as I try to decide how I feel about it.

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  17. Great kick-off to this e-book and e-publishing series, Kathryn. You did an amazing amount of research and this post is worth saving for future reference.

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  18. Lots of great information here, Kathryn. Even though I've been doing some homework, I still didn't get them all right.

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  19. Thanks, Maryann and Elspeth. This e-book series is bound to enlighten all of us!

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  20. Thanks Pat, and feel free to report in if you found contradictory answers in your own research. In such a quickly evolving field there are no absolutes.

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  21. Very informative post, Kathryn. And with great links. Thank you very much.

    I haven't ventured into ebooks, but my husband loves his iPad.

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  22. I understand the Kindle has a lending program, too, in response to the Nook program. Or maybe they are still talking about competing in that arena.

    On the topic of CD Baby - doesn't iTunes (much bigger and harder to get into) also have a book feature? Seems like I've heard of chapter reads you can download through iTunes. I always thought that would be a cool way to attract the YA market.

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  23. Very in depth. Thanks for putting this all together.

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  24. Helen and M Pax: Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to bookmark and digest over time.

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  25. In 2007, I wouldn't have considered ebooks. Here in 2010, I don't see much use for print books.

    I look to my local library as a test canary. Print books are still king there, but ebooks are offered so I know the foot is in the door.

    The most interesting thing (to an author) is that ebooks are making agents useless. Too bad in some ways, since I really do like some of the agents who blog and give good advice. However, they need to be looking into extending their reach to new media. Those who don't will soon be out of work.

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  26. Marva:
    Interesting that you would put agents out of business. They negotiate e-book terms all the time. For now, these rights add onto print contracts. As the balance shifts and e-publishers become inundated with manuscripts, don't you think they'll need agents to vet the books worthy of investment, as they do now? E-publishing may be cheaper but major companies will still have reputations to uphold and won't publish any old piece of bunk. They'll still want to make money off it.

    Marva? Anyone else? I welcome additional insight on this topic.

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  27. Great post, Kathryn! Love the quiz format, and the answers with embedded links, for those who want more info. And most of all, I appreciate all the information you've provided here!

    I love print books, but I really like my Kindle for traveling - keeps my carry-on lighter.

    I worry that e-publishers aren't as discriminating in what they choose to publish, and that will lower the standards for publication in general...

    You say, "E-publishing may be cheaper but major companies will still have reputations to uphold and won't publish any old piece of bunk." I sure hope that's the case!

    Good stuff, Kathryn!

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  28. I share some of Jodie's worry--I hope e readers somehow keep the bar high, while introducing some would-have-been-missed-writers to readers.

    Very informative piece, Kathryn. Thank you.

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  29. Just to clarify, I'm thrilled about the quality of the books I can get on my Kindle - like LJ Sellers' excellent books, for example. But I'm a little concerned about some of the stuff published online by e-publishing websites. Could use some basic copyediting and proofreading, for one thing!

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  30. Thanks, Jodie, for the endorsement. E-books are a great opportunity for emerging and midlist authors because readers will try/buy their work for the lower cost of a digital file.

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  31. Yay! I did great on the quiz. I should though as I've been an ebook author for a number of years and I own a Sony ereader. Plus I'm in the top demographic for owning these things.

    What fun!

    Maggie Toussaint
    www.maggietoussaint.com

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  32. You've done excellent research here Kathryn. Thanks for sharing this.

    Elle
    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

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  33. Very good research and article, Kathryn. I bought an early reader in 1999 and an eBook Reader two years ago as well as a Kindle this year. I've abandoned the other two in favor of the latest Kindle, which I enjoy. I've judged a couple of EPIC contests and am pleased at how ebook writing has improved since the 1990s.

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  34. Jodie and Jenny: I so appreciate your concerns about the quality of literature in our country as this e-revolution continues. May we raise the bar high, and keep it there.

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  35. Elle and LJ: Thanks for reading!

    Maggie: I'm so glad my little quiz gave you a boost. In an industry where our props are often few and far between, there is nothing like getting a gold star!

    Jean: Your comment reads like a history of e-reading. Thanks! Your perception of the improvement in electronically published writing is heartening.

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  36. Kindle's application for the i pod is my favorite. With an i Pod and a smartphone, I don't need another device to carry around, but my i Pod Kindle e-books can be read in the dark with a quick adjustment of the text. I love it. Last count I had 60 books.

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  37. Thank you for the article. I am doing an assignment on e-booking research and it is a very usefull portal if not even a source itself.
    I just have a odd Question: Is it true that many writers are writing their books in Starbucks?

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  38. Cristian: Thanks for stopping by. Since you were here doing research, I will assume you want a verifiable answer to your question, which is impossible. "Many" does not suggest a quantity, and I am unaware of any serious research in this area. No one's ever asked me where I write my books, for instance. I will say this: while the writer-in-a-coffee-shop stereotype is widespread, and stereotypes typically have some basis in reality, there are many more coffee shops in the States than Starbucks!

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  39. Thank you for the answer, but I don't think I would exagerate if I would say that this is the perception of many europeans about the american writers.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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