A roundup of recent e-publishing stories

Just thought I’d run though some of the top thing happening in e-books and publishing lately.

First, most of us have probably heard about Amazon acquiring Goodreads. Comments have of course been all over the place.

Will Amazon clean up some of Goodreads’ excesses, like the Author Behaving Badly group pack attacks? Well, they haven’t done so well at policing their own backyard, so that’s unlikely.

Will they close off links or references to other booksellers’ websites? Well I’m not sure about links – they claim there will be no change, but that’s hard to believe –  but Amazon doesn’t seem to care about referencing other sites on their forums, where we discuss B&N or Kobo or Smashwords all the time. And I imagine there will be no more direct-selling of ebooks through the site itself; that will probably all go through Amazon. One wonders about the giveaways – will that policy change? Personally I think limiting book giveaways to phyisical copies is a good thing, narrowing down the playing field a bit to those who are serious enough to do it rather than just give away more freebie ebooks.

The big question is, what will Amazon actually do with the site? Will it turn into just another place for Amazon to advertise? It certainly seems like the conflict of interest will hurt Goodreads’ independence and credibility, even if no positive control is exerted. Simply being owned by Amazon will cause those in charge of GR to second-guess themselves when, for example, criticizing Amazon.

One positive thing seems to be the GR Kindle app that Otis refers to in his press release. (Of course, one positive thing for Otis and Elizabeth will be millions of dollars, but that’s another story). However, this closes off the possibility of a GR app for other readers, which is not so positive.

The biggest effect on things will probably be that so-called book discovery in the American market and a lot of the wide English-speaking market will now be controlled largely by Amazon. If you want to find a new book in a genre you like, or check reviews, odds are you will end up on GR or AZ, which will now be under the same roof. This expands AZ’s power over the market to confer its blessing and favor on certain authors an books. One wonders if there won’t be more enticements and coercives along the lines of KDP Select that will make it more and more likely that the route to discovery will most often be through AZ, or else.

—added later: a great blog post by Hugh Howey on this topic: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/3938810-amazon-and-goodreads?utm_medium=email&utm_source=author_blog_post_digest



Here’s an article where one line in particular caught my eye: “My goals in years past have been to clean up metadata and cover art, complete missing series runs and prune out the freebies I really didn’t ever plan to read.

Proof positive, if anecdotal, that freebies have little value. People download them and don’t read them – or even “really plan to” read them. Then why do they download them? For the same reason you pick up a cheap keychain at a convention, then end up tossing it in your geegaw drawer and then throwing it away ten years later. It’s only useful if you actually work your way through the better ones you already have.

Another indication of this principle of perceived value of freebies is some Goodreads reviews/rating I have seen, where the reviewer tagged the book with “freebie,” presumably before they read it (but who knows.) The very fact that someone records the price they paid for a book in their digital shelving system means to me that they will probably ascribe it lower value than one which they paid, regardless of the quanlity of the book itself. So they are more likely to read a more expensive book, and less likely to read a less expensive book – and which one are they most likey to review? I’d say the one they have something invested in.

Beyond that, this is a very good article for authors to read because it shows you how a reader gets rid of books when there are too many. If you as an author want your book to be read, take heed to how this reader chooses what NOT to read; take note of how she decides what is not worth keeping among the excess of digital content she has. With too many books out there now, readers will become more discriminating (by their own subjective measures) and you as an author don’t want to be one she cuts!


Here’s another take on the piracy issue, which give a pretty good perspective: http://boingboing.net/2013/03/20/is-it-worth-spending-half-your.html

The question in my mind is one of practicality. Okay, piracy seems to be bad – though there have been some interesting experiments using piracy to promote one’s book, kind a guerilla-marketing super-KDP Select. That aside, the real question is, what’s the cost-benefit analysis?

If you as an author spend much time fighting piracy, you are probably not getting the most benefit from your time. Think of it like a store fighting shoplifting. If they spend so much doing so the use more money than they lose, that’s foolish. Also, those efforts may drive away customers, if they are intrusive and annoying.

Personally I don’t worry much about piracy. I’ll ask the semi-legit sites to block links to my books, because of the principle of the thing and also because I do believe in steering casual thieves – those who go to Amazon, see a book they want, and then look for a pirate site to get it for free – either toward the dangerous pirate sites, or toward a legit sale.

Why toward a dangerous site? Personally I think the dangerous pirates – those who load malware along with the freebie, or those who try to steal credit card info – are doing me a big favor. I want the casual thief to get his fingers burned, in the same way that I hope a burglar coming into my house falls and breaks his leg. I don’t want the average more-or-less law-abiding citizen to think theft comes at no price.

But I’m not going to waste a lot of my time or money on it, either.

Cheers on this Good Friday.

4 comments on “A roundup of recent e-publishing stories

  1. I just started reading your blog a couple of weeks ago and I want to thank you for the good content. There’s a lot of important epub information out there and I rely on blogs such as yours to keep me informed.

    Btw, I just bought a copy of a couple of your works–Unfettered and Low Justice. It may be a while before I get around to reading them, but they look good and I look forward to them.

    Thanks again for your blog.

  2. Christine,

    I’m glad when I can help anyone, and keeping everyone informed is one of the best ways. Are you a writer as well?

    I hope you enjoy those two works of mine. Once you are finished please let me know what you thought, good or bad. I’m always looking for feedback.



  3. Dave,

    I’ll be happy to let you know what I think of your works. Would you prefer that I do a review? Or would you rather that I comment here?

    You asked if I’m a writer and I had to spend part of the last day thinking about that, so it’s pretty obvious that I’m on the fence. To make a very long story short, I wrote a novel (kind of a romance with a slight bit of suspense) back in the 90’s, shopped it around a bit, then pretty much gave up. That was, of course, before we had the options we do today, and publishing was in the hands of really just a few.

    I’m currently not writing but may do so again in the next five or six months. Right now I’m editing a NF, roughly 385 page, book on the JFK assassination for my husband Tom Swinson. When I get through with that then I’ll reassess. I have some pretty deep doubts about the Indie business. I don’t want to get into that here today, but let’s just say I’m not convinced it’s something I want to do.

    Tom has six books up on Amazon and B&N, and for the past 18 months we’ve (especially I) have been following the business. That’s why I’m so appreciative of blogs like yours. I follow this stuff partly for Tom and partly for myself, in case I ever publish.

    Btw, Tom is a retired Army captain who later went into the foreign service, from which he retired as well. If you go to his website (www.gooseknee.com), click his Bio, then scroll down, you’ll see photos of us and our place in the North woods. The photos are a bit old (I’m in my early sixties now), but that’s us–and our life.
    We moved up here about 17 years ago, lived in Washington, D.C. (among other places) before that.

    Before I close, I’d like to mention that today at 5:05 EST, my alma mater goes up against No. 1 seed Louisville. To complicate matters, I grew up in Louisville and my father went to law school there. I’ve seen many a U. of L. game and I have fierce respect for the Cards. I have a feeling the Blue Devils are going to break my heart today, but, in any event, all I can say is—GO DUKE!!! 😉


  4. Christine,

    If you can’t answer yes to that question, then it’s “no.” Kind of like if you smoke a cigar now and again but otherwise can take it or leave it, you’re not a smoker in my book. Others might disagree but I think there’s a difference between being a writer, and having written something.

    Nothing wrong with that, of course. I just mean a writer has a certain fire in the belly and wouldn’t want to be anything else.

    Well, except richer and better-selling.

    Regarding the books, I’d say if you are going to give them 1 or 2 stars, I’d rather hear your feedback directly and try to fix whatever you saw as a problem. Otherwise, I am of the opinion that 3-5 star reviews are all valuable, even if they identify problems. If nothing else they lend credibility to the book, as sock puppets don’t leave 3- and 4-star reviews.

    I looked at your husband’s books. Editing, formatting and story all look good but here’s the unvarnished truth: if he wants to sell, he needs to put out some cash for better covers. Get a pro to do them and he’ll be much more successful. Maybe get some premades from a place like goonwrite.com. Right now they aren’t going to attract much interest IMO.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s