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Around the Kindlesphere, February 28, 2010: New York Times Parrots Surprisingly Low Figures on eBook Sales

By Stephen Windwalker, Kindle Nation Daily
Originally posted February 28, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

Should we file this one under “The Count” or “The Miscount?” Only time will tell.

In a 154-word piece that runs today under her byline and the headline “So Far, E-Books Aren’t Making Sales Waves,” the New York Times’ Phyllis Korkki leads with this paragraph:

The publishing industry’s alarm over the electronic book isn’t based on current use. Last year, less than 2 percent of all books sold were e-books, according to Bowker, which tracks the industry.

Korkki goes on to compare that 2 percent figure with other figures that seem to have been spoon-fed her by Bowker:

  • 35 percent of all book sales last year were hardcovers.
  • Another 35 percent were trade paperbacks.
  • 21 percent were mass market paperbacks.
  • That 2 percent share for ebooks was matched by 2 percent audiobooks and far outstripped by 5 percent for that popular format, “other.” 

What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe these percentages are accurate, but they seem awfully 2008 to this observer’s eye based on several data points:

  • The Times itself has reported that the ebook market has been growing at a stunning year-over-year rate since the Kindle’s 2007 launch.
  • Amazon is widely seen as having reached or nearly reached 20% market share in the overall U.S. trade book market. 
  • And Amazon itself, stingy as it is with real numbers, nonetheless volunteered the information that it now sells 6 Kindle-formatted copies for every 10 print-formatted copies of books that are available in both formats.

If ebooks account for only 2 percent of the total trade book market rather than a relentless growing percentage that is now somewhere in the 5 to 10 percent range, would traditional book publishers be causing such a stink about Amazon’s ebook prices?

A little more information about Bowker’s actual measurements would be helpful, and this is just a hunch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they revealed that Bowker’s figures were based on gross sales dollars rather than sales units. But one of the problems with scooping a soon-to-be-published research report before it is published is that it’s impossible, for now, to evaluate the methodology and accuracy of the research.

Meanwhile, the piece would also seem somewhat less hurried and scoop-driven if there was some commentary by industry experts, many of whom one would expect would be surprised by the Bowker report.

Kindle Nation Daily Free and Bargain Book Alert for Sunday, February 28, 2010: J.A. Konrath Has Your Back

by “Jack Kilborn” and Blake Crouch
Price: $0.00

Have you ever come to the point where you start looking at free Kindle offerings like those listed in our Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alerts with a bit of trepidation, based on fear that you’ll hooked on some author’s free novel only to end up spending serious money on Kindle editions of all the other books she has ever written?

If that’s your concern, Joe Konrath has your back.

Konrath is the very successful author of the bestselling Hyperion series of Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels Mysteries that began with Whiskey Sour in 2004 and has continued through Rusty Nail, Fuzzy Navel, Bloody Mary, Cherry Bomb, and Dirty Martini. But while some other authors act as if readers are the enemy by insulting them with remarks like those made by novelist Douglas Preston recently in the New York Times, Konrath has been extremely innovative both in figuring out how to connect with readers and in backing up his commitment to make those connections, as you can see from his blog posts here.

You may or may not already be aware that Konrath has been very consistent in offering free copies of his novel Serial to Kindle owners (and anyone else with a free Kindle App and a PC, BlackBerry, iPhone, or iPod Touch) for long enough to make it #23 on the Kindle Store bestseller list for all of 2009. (The book was co-written by Konrath, under his “Jack Kilborn” pen name, and Blake Crouch). He was also one of the first authors to participate in our popular Free Kindle Nation Shorts series with a vampire story, “The Screaming,” last May.

But if you download Serial and enjoy it, you are not doomed to spending 10 bucks a pop for Konrath’s other books. Here are nine other full-length Konrath titles that

Product Details
The List by J.A. Konrath (Kindle Edition – Apr. 12, 2009)$1.99

Product Details
Shot of Tequila by J.A. Konrath (Kindle Edition – Apr. 12, 2009) $1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
4.8 out of 5 stars (5)

Product Details
Origin by J.A. Konrath (Kindle Edition – Apr. 8, 2009)$1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
4.5 out of 5 stars (36)

Product Details
Disturb by J.A. Konrath (Kindle Edition – Apr. 11, 2009) -$1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
3.4 out of 5 stars (7)

Product Details
Suckers by J.A. Konrath and Jeff Strand (Kindle Edition – Apr. 11, 2009)$1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
4.8 out of 5 stars (5)

Product Details
55 Proof – Jack Daniels and Other Thriller Stories by J.A. Konrath (Apr. 9, 2009) $1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
4.2 out of 5 stars (5)

Product Details
Planter’s Punch by J.A. Konrath and Tom Schreck (Kindle Edition – Apr. 8, 2009) $1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
5.0 out of 5 stars (1)

Product Details
Truck Stop – A Psycho Thriller by Jack Kilborn & J.A. Konrath (Kindle Edition – July 4, 2009) – $1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly
4.5 out of 5 stars (15)

Product Details
Floaters by J.A. Konrath and Henry Perez (Kindle Edition – May 27, 2009) – $1.99
Auto-delivered wirelessly

And if that’s not enough, you can download these Amazon Shorts for 49 cents each and convert and transfer them easily to your Kindle Library:

From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: How Do I Turn My Kindle Off?

Thanks to Michelle for this frequently asked question:

Okay just received my Kindle Love It…. Have a question though how do you know when it is off. When I hold the switch for the required 4 second it looks like it off but I still see the shadow of the words. Am I doing something incorrect. Please advise.

Michelle, unlike most appliances, you do not need to turn your Kindle off when you aren’t using it. The Kindle will generally go into “sleep” mode automatically when you leave it alone, without turning a page or otherwise interacting with it, for ten minutes or so. The Kindle uses almost no battery power in this mode, and it is effectively “off.”

Even when the Kindle is on, the only real drains on its battery power come from page turns, audio features such as MP3 or text-to-speech, and the Kindle wireless feature when the wireless is turned on. You can easily turn the wireless off (or on) by pressing the Menu button and using the 5-way controller to select the “Turn wireless off/on” command at the top of the Menu listings.

If you don’t want to leave this up to the automatic process, you can also follow this process manually:

Move the power switch all the way to the right, just for a second, and your Kindle will go into “Sleep” mode. You will see one of the Kindle’s native screen savers on the display, and the Kindle uses almost no battery power in this mode. If you leave the Kindle wireless in the “on” position when it is asleep, your Kindle will use only a little more battery power, but it will enable your Kindle to receive updated content such as newspaper and magazine subscriptions, blog posts, and new releases of pre-ordered books so that they will be displayed on your Home Screen when you turn on your Kindle.

Occasionally, you may need to do a system restart or cold boot of your Kindle. You can accomplish this either by holding the power switch to the right and holding it for at least 15 seconds or by following these steps:

Step-by-Step: Kindle System Restart

  1. Make sure your Kindle is on.*
  2. Disconnect the Kindle from the USB or Power Adapter cable.
  3. Press the Home button on the right edge of the Kindle.
  4. From the Home screen, press the Menu button on the right edge of the Kindle.
  5. Select “Settings” from the Home Menu.
  6. From the Settings page, press the Menu button again.
  7. Select “Restart” from the Setting Menu.
  8. Wait a couple of minutes for your Kindle to Restart, then give your Kindle another few minutes to update files, blog posts, etc.

*If your Kindle does not come on, or seems frozen, connect it via its Power Adapter to a wall outlet and give it an hour to re-energize itself.

These instructions apply to the Kindle 2 and the latest generation models of the 6-inch Kindle and the Kindle DX. For Kindle 1 instructions see The Complete User’s Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle (First Generation).

Around the Kindlesphere, February 27, 2010: That Story About Apple Denying 1-Click Access for the Kindle App? So Far At Least, It’s a Non-Story

Publishing and ebook bloggers and pundits are claiming that Apple has created an uneven playing field between the iBooks App it will soon roll out for its iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch devices and the Kindle Apps that are available alongside for buying and reading books from the Kindle Store on the same devices. According to Jay Yarow at the Silicon Valley Business Insider, customers using the Kindle for iPhone App “have to leave the app to buy e-books,” whereas “the iBookstore will let you seamlessly buy books from within the iBooks reader app, with the iTunes account it’s already aware of.”

Sounds ominous, except that it is not true in any noticeable or significant way.

Whether Yarow is simply confused, is trying to make a controversy where one does not exist, or is confusing the present (and the Kindle for iPhone App) with the future (and the iPad and or a potentially changed Kindle for iPhone App), is unclear.

Since Yarow’s report rang false for me based on my prior experiences using the Kindle for iPhone App with the iPod Touch, I revisited the experience.

  • I turn on the iPod Touch, press the little Kindle for iPhone App icon, and press the “Get Books” button in the upper right corner. I am delivered instantaneously to the Amazon Kindle Store, just as the Kindle would deliver me (a tiny bit more slowly, I might add) to its version of the Kindle Store.
  • The Kindle Store recognizes me immediately because, in order to have downloaded and initially opened the Kindle for iPhone App, I have already entered the email address and password associated with my Amazon account.
  • I tap on a title from the list of Kindle Top Sellers, Shutter Island, and within a second I am taken to a screen with buttons that include “Buy Now with 1-Click” and “Try a Sample,” and giveme a choice of whether I prefer to have the file sent to my iPod, my Kindle, or one of my Kindle for PC accounts.
  • I see that the bestselling book is priced at $4.39 in the Kindle Store and I tap “Buy Now with 1-Click.”
  • On the next screen, which appears automatically in less than a second, I see a “Thank your for your purchase” message with small print that said “We are sending your item and it will automatically appear in your Home Screen when the download is complete.” Below this text are buttons for “Continue Shopping” and “Go to Kindle for iPhone.”
  • When I tap on the “Go to Kindle for iPhone” button, Shutter Island appears at the top of my Home Screen within three seconds.
  • With another tap, the book opens within another second or two and I begin reading. 

The experience, all in all, takes less than 10 seconds. It is virtually identical to the experience, with the Kindle itself, of going into the Kindle Store to buy and open a book, except that it is a tiny bit faster on the iPod Touch. It takes about the same amount of time it takes me to go to the iTunes Store, find a piece of music, buy it, and start listening.

Which means, all in all, that Yarow’s story is a non-story.

At least for now.

If Apple intends to create special impediments in the buying experience for the iPad, impediments that do not now exist with the Kindle for iPhone App, they would be gumming up the works in an obviously meddlesome way that millions of their own customers would resent. And if Apple intends to add such impediments at this late date to the Kindle for iPhone App, almost a year after its launch, they would probably be leaving themselves wide open, perhaps not for the first time, to anti-trust scrutiny by the Department of Justice. But then, Steve Jobs is probably already “a person of interest” to the Department of Justice.

Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert for Saturday, February 27, 2010: Hundreds of New Free Books Hit Kindle Store!

After several months when the number of free books in the Kindle Store (for U.S.-based customers) was basically frozen at about 19,795 titles, there’s big news today. In the past few hours Amazon has again begun adding new free titles to the Kindle Store. These appear to be newly added public domain titles published by Amazon’s own imprint Public Domain Books, and it is not immediately clear whether there is a particular source, library, or catalog for the initial additions that have brought the total catalog to the 20,136 figure seen in this screen shot taken at 10:49 am EST Saturday, February 27, 2010.

Just click here for Amazon’s up-to-date listing of all free Kindle titles at any given time, and use the categories shown in the sidebar at left (also represented in the screenshot to the left here) to drill down for these categories and further subcategories.

Three things worth noting about the process of searching and browsing within this free book list:

  • You will need to use the categories shown to be able to search the entire list, since Amazon limits such searches to 4,800 titles, or 400 “screens” of 12 titles each.
  • For reasons of its own, Amazon has made it impossible for us to employ the Publication Date sort from the pull-down menu in the upper-right corner to find the most recently listed titles by using a false date such as “March 17, 2006” for thousands of its Public Domain Books titles.
  • As implied above, this discussion is focused on Kindle Store listings as they appear to U.S.-based customers.

Ordinarily an increase of 340 or so free public domain titles to a catalog of nearly 20,000 free titles might be of little import, but there are two reasons why these additions pique my curiosity:

  • Historically, additions of free public domain titles to the Kindle Store have come in huge increments such as the addition of 7,355 new public domain titles in January 2009 and another 12,500 additional titles later in the year. Each of these dramatic additions occurred within a period of less than a week, so we will be watching in the next few days to see if the first 340 is just a first signal of something much larger to come.
  • As we’ve noted previously, the British Library announced recently that it had arranged with Amazon and Microsoft to add 65,000 new free titles to the Kindle Store “this Spring.” There’s no particular reason to believe that the addition of these titles has begun, and a few perfunctory searches show no indication that that’s what going on, but we’re sitting on the edge of our chairs. 

Around the Kindlesphere: A Magnificent Article by Jason Epstein on "Publishing: The Revolutionary Future"

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred. 
By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted February 26, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

It would be possible, from reading the mainstream business and tech media and even at times from reading posts on this blog, to get the idea that everyone associated with the traditional book publishing industry is marching in lockstep with the kind of dinosaur views expressed so cavalierly of late by some publishers, pundits, authors, and $1,959 tablet manufacturers.

Fortunately, this is not the case. While much of the industry continues to speak in unison about its master plan to survive in an ever-more-competitive marketplace by mandating that ebook prices be raised by 30 to 50 percent while demanding smaller wholesale payments from Amazon, there have strong indications from some, including even Big Six publishing executives like Random House’s Madeline McIntosh that there will be significant abstention, perhaps with enough power to reverse the order of march, from the Apple Five’s lemming-like march “into the valley of Death.”

If there is any single individual to whom McIntosh and her colleagues should be paying close attention these days, it’s Jason Epstein. Epstein knows more about the traditional book publishing business than anyone else in the world, having created the Vintage and Anchor paperback imprints for Random House and Doubleday, co-founded the New York Review of Books, and written the best book that I have read on the glory years and the subsequent decline of the best American book publishers of the 20th century. He has demonstrated his openness to new digital publishing directions by co-founding On Demand Books, which manufactures and sells the Espresso Book Machine. His thinking deserves their attention both because he is very much of their industry and also because he understands why it is doomed in its current incarnation and how it can make the most of its own greatest strengths in the changing landscape of 21st century book publishing.

You can get a good sense of what Epstein sees in the first half of this January 2010 interview with Charlie Rose, but for a more comprehensive understanding of where book publishing is and where it is going, I strongly encourage you to read his piece, “Publishing: The Revolutionary Future,” in the March 11 issue of the New York Review of Books.

I use the word “magnificent” to describe Epstein’s piece because he delivers so comprehensively on his stature as perhaps the single individual best positioned to understand its sweep, evident in these first three sentences:

The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends. Meanwhile, for quite different reasons, the genteel book business that I joined more than a half-century ago is already on edge, suffering from a gambler’s unbreakable addiction to risky, seasonal best sellers, many of which don’t recoup their costs, and the simultaneous deterioration of backlist, the vital annuity on which book publishers had in better days relied for year-to-year stability through bad times and good.

Epstein is no partisan of the Kindle or of Amazon: “My rooms are piled from floor to ceiling with books so that I have to think twice about where to put another one,” he says. “If by some unimaginable accident all these books were to melt into air leaving my shelves bare with only a memorial list of digital files left behind I would want to melt as well for books are my life.”

But unlike many ideology-bound pundits he is able to see today’s realities clearly without allow affinity or self-interest to taint views such as these:

  • With the earth trembling beneath them, it is no wonder that publishers with one foot in the crumbling past and the other seeking solid ground in an uncertain future hesitate to seize the opportunity that digitization offers them to restore, expand, and promote their backlists to a decentralized, worldwide marketplace. New technologies, however, do not await permission.
  • The resistance today by publishers to the onrushing digital future does not arise from fear of disruptive literacy, but from the understandable fear of their own obsolescence and the complexity of the digital transformation that awaits them, one in which much of their traditional infrastructure and perhaps they too will be redundant. 
  • [A]ll the world’s books will eventually reside as digital files to be downloaded instantly title by title wherever on earth connectivity exists, and printed and bound on demand at point of sale one copy at a time by the Espresso Book Machine as library-quality paperbacks, or transmitted to electronic reading devices including Kindles, Sony Readers, and their multiuse successors, among them most recently Apple’s iPad. The unprecedented ability of this technology to offer a vast new multilingual marketplace a practically limitless choice of titles will displace the Gutenberg system with or without the cooperation of its current executives.
  • Digitization makes possible a world in which anyone can claim to be a publisher and anyone can call him- or herself an author. In this world the traditional filters will have melted into air and only the ultimate filter—the human inability to read what is unreadable—will remain to winnow what is worth keeping in a virtual marketplace where Keats’s nightingale shares electronic space with Aunt Mary’s haikus. 
  • With inventory expense, shipping, and returns eliminated, readers will pay less, authors will earn more, and book publishers, rid of their otiose infrastructure, will survive and may prosper.
  • Digitization will encourage an unprecedented diversity of new specialized content in many languages. The more adaptable of today’s general publishers will survive the redundancy of their traditional infrastructure but digitization has already begun to spawn specialized publishers occupying a variety of niches staffed by small groups of like-minded editors, perhaps not in the same office or even the same country, much as software firms themselves are decentralized with staff in California collaborating online with colleagues in Bangalore and Barcelona.
  • The cost of entry for future publishers will be minimal, requiring only the upkeep of the editorial group and its immediate support services but without the expense of traditional distribution facilities and multilayered management. 
  • As conglomerates resist the exorbitant demands of best-selling authors whose books predictably dominate best-seller lists, these authors, with the help of agents and business managers, will become their own publishers, retaining all net proceeds from digital as well as traditional sales. 
  • Traditional territorial rights will become superfluous and a worldwide, uniform copyright convention will be essential. 
  • Without the contents of our libraries—our collective backlist, our cultural memory—our civilization would collapse. By the mid-Eighties I had become aware of the serious erosion of publishers’ backlists as shoals of slow-moving but still viable titles were dropped every month. There were two reasons for this: a change in the tax law that no longer permitted existing unsold inventory to be written off as an expense; but more important, the disappearance as Americans left the cities for the suburbs of hundreds of well-stocked, independent, city-based bookstores, and their replacement by chain outlets in suburban malls that were paying the same rent as the shoe store next door for the same minimal space and requiring the same rapid turnover.
  • This demographic shift turned the book business upside down as retailers, unable to stock deep backlist, now demanded high turnover, often of ephemeral titles. Best-selling authors whose loyalty to their publishers had previously been the norm were now chips in a high-stakes casino: a boon for authors and agents with their nonrecoverable overguarantees and a nightmare for publishers who bear all the risk and are lucky if they break even. Meanwhile, backlist continued to decline. The smaller houses, unable to take these risks, merged with the larger ones, and the larger ones eventually fell into the arms of today’s conglomerates.
  • [D]igitization and its buzzword, disintermediation … meant that publishers could now look forward to marketing a practically limitless backlist without physical inventory, shipping expense, or unsold copies returned for credit. Customers would pay in advance for their purchases. This meant that even Amazon’s automated shipping facilities would eventually be bypassed by electronic inventory. This was twenty-five years ago. Today digitization is replacing physical publishing much as I had imagined it would.
  • Relatively inexpensive multipurpose devices fitted with reading applications will widen the market for e-books and may encourage new literary forms, such as Japan’s cell-phone novels. Newborn revolutions often encourage utopian fantasies until the exigencies of human nature reassert themselves. Though bloggers anticipate a diversity of communal projects and new kinds of expression, literary form has been remarkably conservative throughout its long history while the act of reading abhors distraction, such as the Web-based enhancements—musical accompaniment, animation, critical commentary, and other metadata—that some prophets of the digital age foresee as profitable sidelines for content providers.
  • The huge, worldwide market for digital content … is not a fantasy. It will be very large, very diverse, and very surprising: its cultural impact cannot be imagined. E-books will be a significant factor in this uncertain future, but actual books printed and bound will continue to be the irreplaceable repository of our collective wisdom.

At the risk of possibly pushing the limits of fair use, I’ve tried to tempt you with a taste here, but if you care about where reading and the book business are going I anticipate that you will take time to sit down for the entire meal.

Did You Know You Can Read Kindle Nation Daily and Other Kindle Blogs with Your Kindle for PC App?

By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted November 17, 2009 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2009, 2010
Did you know that you can read Kindle Nation Daily or other Kindle edition blogs on your PC with the Kindle for PC App? The Kindle for PC App renders Kindle blogs in crisp, uncluttered fashion and makes it easy to move seamlessly back and forth between a blog and websites to which it links. It’s especially convenient, for instance, in reading posts such as Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alerts and Around the Kindlesphere pieces that are full of links to other reading choices. (I expect this feature will also soon be available with Kindle Apps for the Mac and iPad.)
It is limited for now (1) to blogs only; and (2) to accounts where there is already an actual Kindle as well as a Kindle for PC computer registered to the account. But that’s going to change; more about that further down. Here’s the process, in 7 quick and easy steps: 

  1. Using an Amazon account that is associated with a registered Kindle, subscribe to any Kindle Store blog such as Teleread, Kindle Nation Daily, or Furthering the Worldwide Cultural Conversations. (Or, if you already subscribe to a Kindle Store blog, you can use that blog).
  2. Make sure that you have downloaded the Kindle for PC App to your computer and that it is registered to the same Amazon account.
  3. Go to your Manage Your Kindle page, scroll down to the “Your active Kindle subscriptions,” and click on the “+” sign on the left next to the blog you want to read with Kindle for PC, to expand the information on the blog.
  4. Click on the “Download to computer” button.
  5. Your browser should prompt you to select “Open with Kindle for PC Application (default),” and that’s what you should select.
  6. The blog should appear in the Kindle for PC App which should appear on your screen within seconds, and will also have a cover icon on your App’s home screen.
  7. You will have to repeat this process to see new posts since, at least at present, the blog content is not pushed to your PC as it would be to your Kindle.

That’s all pretty good news, but there is even better news, coming. The first clue for me came when I noticed, right below the Buy Now with 1-Click button on the Kindle blog and periodical pages of my son’s Kindle for PC App, the words “Deliver to your Kindle or other device,” as you can see in the screenshot below: Naturally, we tried this out, only to find glitches along the way in the process. But we then placed a call to Kindle Support and spoke to a very clear and helpful technical specialist named Heidi, who affirmed the following:

Amazon is working to make both blogs and other periodicals from the Kindle Store available across the Kindle for PC, the Kindle for Mac, the Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch, the Kindle for Blackberry and all devices, and that these features are “definitely in the pipeline.”

This is great news whether you are a Kindle owner, a Kindle blogger, or the publisher of a Kindle newspaper or magazine, and it makes our recent primer on how to publish a Kindle blog all the more useful.

Update: If you ever experience difficulty receiving blog updates for Kindle Nation Daily or other Kindle blogs, using the above process to send the blog to your PC is a good way to double check on whether the difficulty is specifically related to your actual Kindle device.