The Tribune Company did something that surprised me the other day: it released a new product. An app, to be specific. Newsbeat converts newspapers into audio, so people can listen to them in the car, on their iPhone and in various other Mobile scenarios.
Aside from Tribune newspapers like The Los Angeles Times, Newsbeat will also play content from news providers like CNN and Fox News. Stories can be skipped and, over time, the app will learn what kinds of stories readers – I mean listeners – will want to hear most.
Maybe this will work. Maybe people will stick with the relatively unpredictable and unpersonalized stuff coming from the radio. But the great news, either way, is that The Tribune Company is trying to do something different.
Can book publishers say the same?
Last week, the FCC struck down something called “net neutrality.” You might have seen headlines and decided it was boring. Maybe, for a little while, you were curious about the ruling’s meaning.
No one really knows how things are going to work in a post net-neutrality world. But there are a lot of alarm bells ringing. Let’s break it down and then talk about what this could mean for bloggers, writers and musicians.
The government shutdown is over. For now. After so much productive and rigorous hashtagging on Twitter, complaints on Facebook, and half-plagiarised news articles looking for traffic, our representatives had no choice but to start funding things again. And agree to fund the things they passed this year already.
During that time – while I was caught up in the virtual world of eating different blog posts like Cheetos – I stumbled upon one entitled “The Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by budget cuts, not fire.”
Interesting headline. Related to the current crisis, albeit peripherally. It was enough to get almost 100,000 views since October 8, along with over 200 comments, so I would consider the piece a success.
And the best part? The blog post was advertising a book by the author. A book I actually clicked.
Ebook studies about market shares and sales are all over the place. But eBook studies about reader habits are a little harder to find.
That’s why I was excited to finally see one that talked about… copyright.
What is a book “worth” when authors are being taught by Amazon that the way to promote their work is to give it away? Or when a quick search for “free ebooks” on Google can get you over 100 million results?
Here are the results from “The Online Copyright Infringement Tracker” from Kantar Media. The statistics are UK-based, but have a lot of significance for any author, reader or otherwise lover of books in all their forms.
You wrote the book. You did the research. You got a cover. Finally, you formatted the thing for Amazon Kindle and decided to try KDP Select.
Gleefully, you set up the promotion and let ‘er whirl. You scaled your expectations accordingly. “Maybe a dozen sales, not more… but, you know, maybe it’s the next Fifty Shades of Grey. A hundred sales.”
The downloads come rolling in like a tsunami – ten, twenty, a hundred downloads. Those are great, because it shows people are interested in what you’re writing. Or at least interested in stockpiling free books.
Then, it’s over and you wait for the “ripple effect” you’ve heard about… but nothing happens. That’s it. You just worked on a book for a few years and handed it out to anonymous strangers. You get zero sales from your KDP Select promotion.
When it comes to social media for authors, I’m skeptical at best. The average conversion rate for B2B companies on social media is 1.6 percent and they’re selling a solution to some kind of problem.
Authors are selling a commoditized experience, something that depends on recommendations – word-of-mouth – more than anything else.
In part, that’s what intrigues me so much about Libboo, a new company that is trying to help authors promote their work through “advocacy marketing.”
Libboo offers authors the power to reward their most passionate readers – the ones who recommend your book to their friends – and has the data analytics tools to monitor just who recommends the stuff and how they’re doing it.
It’s a bold step in the emerging world of social commerce. I recently had an email interview with Michael Boezi, Vice President of Strategy, to learn more about the solution and what Libboo hopes to achieve.
I accidentally clicked a press release the other day. This release announced an exciting new “social media system” to help independent authors create buzz for books.
A noble goal, albeit a lofty one. Dog Ear Publishing, one of the many self-publishing platforms in the indie author world, offers the service with a nice little bonus: a 32-page instructional eBook.
I don’t doubt the expertise. I don’t doubt that these guys know what they’re doing and want to help authors get established on social media.
What I do doubt is the price tag for the services: $599. Because I’m not sure there’s any proof that social media can drive (that many) book sales for independent authors.
Today’s the last day of my KDP Select promotion of my short story collection, “Technology & Culture” stink. So if you’re remotely interested in reading short stories about topics that few authors have covered yet, like:
- social media
- cloud computing
- global warming
- a political race full of lawyer-reporters, a popular new profession
Then check it out today! If you don’t have a Kindle, just download the Kindle App for your smartphone and read a short story while you’re in line at the grocery store or something.
You have my guarantee that you’ll like at least one of them.
Ebook sales have slowed down. Flattened. Softened. Whatever word you want to call it. Worldwide sales for the first quarter this year? They declined.
Over at Rough Type, Nicholas Carr speculated a little bit about why eBook sales have so abruptly become steady, rather than revolutionary.
Specifically, he brought up the iPad. I’ve thought about the indirect effect of tablet computers on eBooks, too. Especially when I saw that e-readers are dying.
Take a look at this graph and tell me what you see.
To me, it looks like a complement-to-print-books-future, not a eBooks-are-killing-print-totally future.
Amazon is waging a war against “bookstores” and “book culture.” According to a new article from Salon, anyway.
Well, if Amazon is at war, I guess I’m a soldier. Of the last three books I’ve bought, two have been through Amazon, for my smartphone.
Why? Because they’re obscure business books that I was confident I wouldn’t find in a store. And it was easy.
The one thing I can’t stand in this debate about the future of books and publishing and authors is when people seem to think of Amazon or some other Corporation as a malevolent and unstoppable force.
So let’s stop with the overblown rhetoric and examine the truth about this situation: