Tuesday, June 12, 2012

After Long Resistance, Pynchon Allows Novels to Be Sold as E-Books

Thomas Pynchon, author of “Gravity’s Rainbow” and “The Crying of Lot 49,” characteristically declined to speak about his decision.

Full article

Monday, June 11, 2012

Waste charges rattle Library of Congress

Management at the Library of Congress, the world’s largest storehouse of knowledge, has a poor memory. For a decade, problems of overspending, no-bid contracts, and improper care for some of mankind’s rarest books and artifacts have been brought to upper-level attention—but problems have only worsened.

The library’s inspector general, Karl Schornagel, who has monitored and reviewed the institution’s activities for the past 11 years, reported in March that he found $771,163 in questionable spending from the prior six months. The semiannual report also said that employees failed to use $1 million in funds before they expired due to lack of communication and coordination. And an outside consulting firm, Jefferson Solutions, found that more than half of $52 million worth of contracts chosen at random for review were awarded without opening the pool to competitors who could have offered a lower bid.

Full article

Ray Bradbury Interview January 21, 1974

Ray Bradbury interviewed on the public television show "Day at Night"

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Houston librarians keep a wary eye for counterfeit bills

Library checks for counterfeit money after receiving a few bogus bills.

Full article

Waukegan needs Ray Bradbury museum, biographer says

Comment by Sam Weller - Bradbury Biographer

"Ray Bradbury put Waukegan in many ways on the map," he said. "There really should be some sort of place that will house his things, that could bring people from around the world to reflect on his legacy."

Full article

Bradbury biography by Weller: The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury (P.S.)

Thieves make off with library sculptures worth $15K

Scrapper thieves struck at the heart of the Waukegan Public Library, ripping out two bronze statues that were bought by library patrons and displayed in the facility’s County Street courtyard.

Full article

Friday, May 25, 2012

Project Excelsior, Colonel Kittinger, and Felix Baumgartner

Felix Baumgartner is planning a freefall jump from 120,000 feet. He is trying to break the record of U.S. Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger. This jump is being sponsored by Red Bull and they have a website about the jump.

 There are two books that discuss Col. Kittinger's earlier jumps that are interesting reads:

 There is video interview of Colonel Kittenger: The Highest Step in the World, Joe Kittinger & the Excelsior Missions

 Wikipedia entry on Project Excelsior

 Interview with Felix Baumgartner on NPR: Austrian Pilot Hopes To Break Freefall Record

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis

An antitrust suit may provide short-term price reductions on e-books, but once the competition is flattened, Amazon is likely to resume its monopolistic ways.

Note: I think there are many things to question in this article.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Give people time to read.

Harper Collins proposed a 26 loan cap on titles they license to libraries. The thinking was that if a book could be checked out for two weeks it could be circulated 26 times in a year. Restricting an ebook to 26 checkouts was equivalent to the use that a paper library book would have in a year.

This entire issue is contentious and I do not want to debate the number of checkouts in a year. What I did want to discuss was what changes could be made in regards to how checkouts are done if there is going to be a 26 check out cap on a book.

When I check an ebook out from the library why do I have to “return it” after 7 or 14 days? There is no “return” that is actually happening. I am using a digital file and after a certain date the file stops working. The whole idea behind checking out a book from the library is that it will be read. Why can I not take a month or two to read the book?

If we are going to have publishers put a cap on the number of loans why not free up the length of the loan? Why not allow the book to be read over a year? With the cap of 26 the book can only be loaned to 26 people. Why not allow each of these people to have up to one year to read the book?

Longer loan times would allow more people to make use of library books. People are busy and often they cannot finish a book is 7 - 14 days. Now that we have ebooks why not give people time to read?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thinking more about ebooks and libraries and what big publishers should do

Blog post by publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin.

In the post he suggests several things the big publishers should do in regards to libraries. It is likely that publishers will experiment with some of these ideas. I recommend you read the post so that you are aware of them.

E-readers expand, but face obstacles in libraries

The popularity of e-readers is soaring, but good luck finding that hot new title at your local library.
Most large publishers refuse to sell critical portions of their digital catalogs for library lending, and those that do are imposing stiff fees and onerous rules.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Keeping Overdrive books on a Kindle for extended times

Here is a discussion on the Amazon Customer Discussion boards about how ebooks from Overdrive expire on the Kindle.

It seems that if the wireless is shutoff on the Kindle there is no mechanism to expire the book from the device. This allows people that need more time to finish a library book to keep their wireless off so that the book does not expire and they can continue to read the book even though technically it is due.

On the discussion board there seems to be some debate about whether this practice holds up other users that want to use the book. From reading over the thread I think it is the case that the book goes to the next person in line even though the book is still on the other persons Kindle. The library system shows the book as expired so it goes to the next person.

There is probably one person out there that made an investment in a "library" Kindle. You buy a Kindle for $79 and you never turn on the wireless. You then load library books on the Kindle via USB and the books never expire.

Several years ago there was news stories about a new DVD technology that allowed for DVDs to degrade when exposed to air. The idea was that you could have a rental DVD that you did not need to return because 48 or 72 hours after the DVD was first opened and exposed to air in would no longer work. From the articles  the degradation process was based on oxidation and this made the disc unplayable. The idea never took off mainly because of environmental concerns. Every rental under this model would become trash after a couple days. A friend and I joked that if these DVDs had taken off there would be some geeks somewhere that would build an argon chamber to store their rental DVDs in so that they would never oxidize. We joked that someone would build a $20,000 airless chamber to save $500 on DVD purchases.

Ebook versus print books when buying from Amazon as a Prime member

Two article that I saw recently that got me thinking about when I buy print books versus when I purchase ebooks.

For Amazon Shareholders, Prime Boosts Costs And Trashes Profits

Amazon: Print Book Unit Sales Up; More Content For Prime

I am a Kindle owner and a Prime subscriber. If I am purchasing a book to read I typically prefer the ebook version. I have gotten really used to reading books in large print and I am able to do that with any book on my Kindle. This may be the height of laziness but I also no longer have to hold books open. I really like the Kindle because I do not have the weight of a regular book and I do not have to hold the book open.

The reason why so many people have to "curl" up with a book is because they are heavy and you need to get in a comfortable position to read the book. I have been doing a great deal of my reading while I am on the treadmill and the Kindle works better for me in that setting.

That said I am still a very price conscious person and recently prices have been driving me to purchase more print books. Several books I have wanted to purchase recently have been more expensive as ebooks than the paper copy. Because I have an Amazon Prime subscription I can get the paper copy to my door within two days for no additional cost. So when I run into a situation where the Kindle copy is $9.99 and the paper copy is $8.99 I have been buying the paper copy.

The article about Prime trashing profits for Amazon is interesting. I am curious to see how long Amazon will continue to subsidize free shipping. Now that Amazon gives other benefits to Prime members such as the Amazon Kindle Lending Library and the Amazon Prime Instant Video they may be able to drop free shipping at some point and still maintain Prime subscribers because these people still find the other features of value.

I think Amazon may also still have free shipping for Prime but only for the slowest method of delivery. Currently two day delivery is free. I think that Prime members will get regular shipping for free and two day delivery will cost $1-$2. This is still a discount for two day shipping but it will reduce some of the loses for Amazon.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Libraries turn to cloud for e-book lending

Millions of Americans now own Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers. And libraries are taking notice, expanding their collections of e-books they can loan to patrons.
That trend has 3M's attention. The company has a long history of serving libraries. And 3M sees a big business opportunity in helping libraries build, manage and lend their collections of electronic books.
The St. Paul Public Library next month will begin a formal trial of 3M's "Cloud Library" system, along with ten other major public libraries around the country.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An ebook ten years later

In 2001 I read the book  - Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing. It is a nonfiction book about a man that got a job as a guard at Sing Sing prison and recounts his experiences.

At the time I had a RCA REB 1100 ebook reader. The REB stood for Rocket eBook. Rocket was bought by RCA and the first RCA device was given a number as a name.

To buy books the device had an internal modem. There was a little flap that opened and there was a place that you could plug a phone into the reader. You then could download a book catalog using the modem. In the catalog you could put a check mark beside books you wanted to buy. You then connected the device to a phone line and the books you selected in the catalog were delivered to your device. You had to have an account for your reader and when you downloaded books your credit card was billed for the purchase.

Newjack was the first book that I read on an ebook reader. I was able to have an immersive reading experience using the REB1100. I actually found the REB1100 more comfortable to read with than a paper book because I did not have to hold the book open. I could also rest my thumb on the forward page button and moving through the book was very easy. Actually easier than turning pages of a paper book. I also used a large font when I read and this just made it easier to read. During this time I remembering reading a paperback book that had particularly small type and I remember being frustrated that I could not just click a button and have a larger font in the paper book. Paper books are not always what they are cracked up to be. Holy relics beyond reproach and criticism.

I am pretty sure that I paid $5.99 for the electronic copy of Newjack. Every month in the catalog there would be some books that were for sale and would be under $10. Books that were not on sale went for full hardcover price. To buy the ebook version of many books you had to pay $22 - $26. I never spent over twelve dollars and I only bought about 5 books from RCA. They folded in 2002 or 2003 so I was not able to buy books after that. There was a way to load text files on the reader so primarily the reader was used to read classics that I obtained from Project Gutenberg. 

The other day I was on Amazon and I stumbled across Newjack again. It is now available for the Kindle and is selling for $11.99. The paperback is $9.99. It was just funny to see a book that I purchased as an ebook over ten years ago selling on Amazon for more than paperback price.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Publishers And Booksellers See A 'Predatory' Amazon

Booksellers and publishers are worried that Amazon is going to devour their industry. The giant online retailer seems to have its hands in all aspects of the business, from publishing books to selling them — and that has some in the book world wondering if there is any end to Amazon's influence.

Publishers have a problem when it comes to discussing Amazon: They may fear its power, but they are also dependent on it, because like it or not, Amazon sells a lot of books. But lately, the grumbling about Amazon has been growing louder, with some in the book industry openly describing Amazon's tactics as "predatory."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Libraries Struggle to Stock E-Books

The popularity of e-books soar, but publishers, fearing piracy, won't let libraries get their hands on enough of them.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is It Time For You To Go On An 'Information Diet'?

We're used to thinking of "obesity" in physical terms — unhealthful weight that clogs our arteries and strains our hearts. But there's also an obesity of information that clogs our eyes and our minds and our inboxes: unhealthful information deep-fried in our own preconceptions.

In The Information Diet, open-source-Internet activist Clay Johnson makes the case for more "conscious consumption" of news and information. Johnson, the founder of Blue State Digital, which provided the online strategy for the 2008 Obama campaign, talks with NPR's Scott Simon about ways to slim and stretch our minds.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Missouri Library Sued for Barring Wiccan Websites

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the Salem (Mo.) Public Library for allegedly blocking websites related to the modern Pagan religion Wicca.

Salem resident Anaka Hunter said that when she tried to access websites about Wicca, Native American religions, and astrology in July 2010 for her personal research, the library’s filtering software blocked them, the January 10 Salem News reported. Hunter said Salem Public Library Director Glenda Wofford unblocked portions of the sites for her, but much of the material remained inaccessible.

Full article at American Libraries

John McWhinnie, an Expert in Rare Books, Dies at 43

John McWhinnie, a rare-book dealer and gallerist known as a champion of words and images on paper in an age of electronic reading, died on Friday in a snorkeling accident in the British Virgin Islands. He was 43.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Who Word-Processed First? Professor's History Has Writers Staking Their Claims

Writers are approaching Matthew Kirschenbaum, a professor who is working on a history of word processing, to claim that they were the first to create novels using computers.

Full story here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Some things that were true about publishing for decades aren’t true anymore

Back when my father, Leonard Shatzkin, was active with significant publishers — the quarter century following World War II — he observed that very few books actually took in less cash than they required. That is not to say that publishers saw most books as “profitable”. Indeed, they didn’t. They placed an overhead charge of 25% or 30% or more on each book so most looked unprofitable. But that didn’t change the fact that the cash expended to publish just about every book was less than the cash it brought back in.

The exceptions were usually attributable to a large commercial error, most commonly paying too much of an advance to the author or printing far more copies than were needed. But, absent that kind of mistake, just about every book brought back somewhat more revenue than it required to publish it.

This led Len to the conclusion that the best strategy for a publisher was to issue as many titles as the organizational structure would allow. That was a lesson he passed along to the next generation of publishing leadership that came under his influence. And the leading proponent of that business philosophy was Tom McCormack, who worked for Len at Doubleday in the late 1950s, then went on to Harper & Row before he ascended to the presidency of then-tiny St. Martin’s Press in 1969. Tom often credited the insight that publishing more books was the path to commercial success as a key component of the enormous growth he piloted at St. Martin’s over three decades.

Amanda Hocking and libraries

Amanda Hocking is a self published author who has sold over 1 million copies of her books on the Amazon Kindle. Her books are also available in paper via Amazon CreateSpace. She seems to have at least one title that is only available as an ebook.

NPR has a piece about her:  A Self-Published Author's $2 Million Cinderella Story

According to Worldcat many of her books are available in libraries. But compared to other authors that have sold a million copies her book is under represented in libraries. Of course, this makes sense because primarily the books were ebooks and because the books were self published there initially would not have been the reviews that many libraries require for a book to be purchased.

Curious if any librarians have stories about obtaining one of these books for their library? Because the books were self published any interesting hoops you had to jump through to make the books available? Any library actually circulate the ebook version of the book? If so, any comments about the success of that?

Friday, January 6, 2012

The digital future still is a mystery if you don’t publish “immersive reading”

Blog post by book industry consultant Mike Shatzkin


I have made previous mention of my notion that what has been one very cohesive trade book industry would “trifurcate”: break into at least three distinct businesses: 1) books that are straight narrative text intended for immersive reading; 2) adult books that are not straight text, either very chunkable (like cookbooks or travel books) or highly illustrated; and 3) children’s books. Admittedly, even this is an oversimplification.

This conjecture is built on the reality that we’ve learned how to move immersive reading from paper to screen in a way that satisfies the consumer. A pretty simple technological trick — “reflowing” the text so that it adjusts to the screen size alloted to it — makes the text “work” across a wide range of devices and reader software. There are definitely differences among Kindle and Nook and Kobo and Google and iBooks and they don’t offer precisely the same outputs and features on their own devices or on iOS or Android, but the differences are subtle and apparently most people are comfortable with the various consumption experiences.

Full blog post here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ray Bradbury and the ebook version of Fahrenheit 451

In an article complaining about the cost of the ebook version of Fahrenheit 451 it mentions that Bradbury was basically forced to accept the ebook format. The argument was that because 20% of book sales are ebook the publisher would refuse to do a contract with Bradbury if it did not include ebook rights. Bradbury's current publishing contracts were expiring so he was having to re-sign with a publisher to keep his books in print.

Bradbury could have withheld the ebook rights if he really wanted to. Fahrenheit 451 is a extremely solid back title that constantly is selling copies. I guarantee that he could have found a publisher that would have published the book is they only had print rights to the book. In fact, Bradbury does not even need a publisher he just needs a printer. When you have an established book like Fahrenheit you just have to print copies and they will sell.

Now let us look at the part of the article that was complaining about the price of the ebook version of F451. The article states that the book is selling for the ridiculous price of $9.99. What makes this price ridiculous?

The article makes this argument about why the price is so high, "This is for a book that you can buy in a paper copy used for a penny and new for $2.84."

There are a few problems with this argument. First both these prices are for copies on the secondary market. The $2.84 new price is not the price from Amazon but from an Amazon 3rd party seller. To get the book new from Amazon in paper you pay $6.99. And the $6.99 price is for the mass market paperback version. If you want the non mass market version the cost on Amazon is $10.20. The list price for this version is $15 and Amazon reduced that price to $10.20. The hardcover version of the book is $11.86 with a list price of  $16.25. When you compare to these prices $9.99 is not out of line.

In regards to the used copy for a penny that is also bogus. You cannot buy a copy for a penny. You can buy a copy for a penny plus $3.99 shipping. So if you want the book in your hand the absolute minimum you will pay is $4 not $.01. If you don't understand how Amazon penny books you should read this: Making Penny Selling Work for You

I also wanted to comment on one other paragraph in the article:

Of course, some people like to point out that Bradbury's hatred of ebooks is kind of ironic, given that they believe Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship and book burning. But it's not. As we've noted in the past, Bradbury has long maintained that the book had nothing whatsoever to do with censorship, but was about the dangers of new media, specifically television, to entertain people in a way that made them no longer care about physical books. To Bradbury, it seems, the physical book is everything. (emphasis mine)

At the end of Fahrenheit 451 people are the book. Montag is the book of Ecclesiastes. So for Bradbury paper is not the only format.

(ebook version) $9.99

(mass market paperback) $6.99

(Standard paperback version) $10.20

How Freemium Self-published Fiction Is Taking Over China

Here is an article about an interesting model for publishing that has developed in China.

Basically the model is that a site allows people to post stories and other content. The most popular stories are moved behind a pay wall. Many of the stories are serial publications so people get the beginning of the story for free put the latter updates have a cost if the story has become popular.

Read the full article for more detail: How Freemium Self-published Fiction Is Taking Over China

Toward an e-library ecosystem

Teleread has an interesting post about public libraries and ebooks. The post discusses the current situation that one company (Overdrive) is the sole provider for ebook content for many public libraries.

Post at Teleread.org: Toward an e-library ecosystem: Public libraries will screw themselves if they don’t learn from Amazon’s ‘seamless’ approach

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Amazon removes hundreds of "five star" reviews from book

Take a look at the book The Hacker Hunter

Currently the book has six reviews and they are all one or two stars. In several of the reviews there are mentions of over two hundred "five star reviews" for the book. It looks like Amazon removed all the five star reviews because it looks like they were placed by the author.

Here is one of the reviews: This is the first time I've reviewed a book, though I read a lot. Now that I'm in the Kindle world, I usually read a book a week or so. I've experimented with some of the highly rated Kindle offerings and I've been pleasantly surprised - this seems to be a revolutionary way for new authors to get their books and their names out there. But there is always the drawback - fake reviews. I bought this book because it was loaded with raving reviews. After struggling through half of the book I finally had to stop - it just wasn't read-able! Those reviews were obviously faked. I've noticed that the number of reviews has been re-set or something, so Amazon obviously caught on to the problem. Anyway, don't buy this book - it truly is poorly written.

New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009

New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009 (Modern Library)

Book description: New York is a city like no other. Through the centuries, she’s been embraced and reviled, worshipped and feared, praised and battered—all the while standing at the crossroads of American politics, business, society, and culture. Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author Teresa Carpenter, a lifelong diary enthusiast, scoured the archives of libraries, historical societies, and private estates to assemble here an almost holographic view of this iconic metropolis. Starting on January 1 and traveling day by day through the year, these journal entries are selected from four centuries of writing—from the early 1600s to the present—allowing New York natives and visitors, writers and artists, thinkers and bloggers, to reach across time and share vivid and compelling snapshots of life in the Capital of the World.

The book was discussed on NPR: 'Diaries' Reveals New York Through The Ages

The BBC has a video about the book.

(Click cover to see book on Amazon)

Apple eBook Announcement Rumored This Month

Apple is reportedly hosting a press conference this month to make an announcement involving eBooks.

Good eReader is reporting that Apple will announce a self-publishing platform. Here is more from the blog: “Sources close to the matter have told us that they intend on launching a new digital self-publishing platform to get peoples content into the iBookstore. This is a huge step forward for Apple to compete with Amazon (DTP) and Barnes and Noble (Pubit).”