25 de setembro de 2011

Leituras Digitais (18 a 24 de Setembro)

Rubrica semanal de notícias e artigos relacionados com a edição de livros digitais.

Amazon’s strategy before agency was to aggressively discount the most high-profile books, the ones that the reading public would most often search for, in order to send the strong signal that their prices are the lowest and to force less-affluent competitors to engage in costly price competition. In this case, that strategy is being applied successfully, although both iBookstore and NOOK can respond. Whether one thinks it is a good thing or a bad thing that the deepest-pocketed retailer can spend $20 a copy on a big book to promote a price perception depends on your point of view but this clearly demonstrates what the publishers, the retailers, and the consumers face when a high-profile, high-demand book is sold without the price discipline of agency terms.
I don't think this is malicious, and I don't think it's something we're doing on purpose. I just think it's difficult for us, on this side of the digital divide, to remember that there are people standing on the other side of what can seem like an impassable gorge, wondering if they're going to be left behind. Right now, more than 20% of Americans do not have access to the internet. In case that seems like a low number, consider this: That's one person in five. One person in five doesn't have access to the internet. Of those who do have access, many have it via shared computers, or via public places like libraries, which allow public use of their machines. Not all of these people are living below the poverty line; some have voluntarily simplified their lives, and don't see the need to add internet into the mix. But those people are not likely to be the majority.
Now. How many of these people do you think have access to an ebook reader?
I grew up so far below the poverty line that you couldn't see it from my window, no matter how clear the day was. My bedroom was an ocean of books. Almost all of them were acquired second-hand, through used bookstores, garage sales, flea markets, and library booksales, which I viewed as being just this side of Heaven itself. There are still used book dealers in the Bay Area who remember me patiently paying off a tattered paperback a nickel at a time, because that was what I could afford. If books had required having access to a piece of technology—even a "cheap" piece of technology—I would never have been able to get them. That up-front cost would have put them out of my reach forever.
“It’s not just that journal prices keep going up without any evident relationship to costs,” said Robert Kiley, head of digital services at London’s Wellcome Library. “There is also a concern that so much research, which in many cases has been funded by the taxpayer, is locked behind publishers’ pay walls.”
A Game of Thrones author George R R Martin has become the latest author to sell one million copies of his books for the Amazon Kindle.
The Harper Voyager author joins Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins, Michael Connelly, John Locke, Janet Evanovich and Kathryn Stockett in hitting the digital milestone. Russ Grandinetti, vice-president of Kindle Content, said: "George R R Martin's series is simply epic."
It’s a Firefox plug-in that functions kinda like dotEpub, only it’s better. GrabMyBooks will not only get the content from a webpage, it will also let you combine several pages into one. And it gets better. You can also pause the conversion midstream and edit the content to fix the more annoying formatting errors and generally clean up the files. it will also accept RSS feeds as a source.
The art community has not always welcomed change. It venerates tradition, and art-enthusiasts of every era are reluctant to deem worthy works that do not conform to time-tested notions of beauty. Despite increasing acceptance of modern and contemporary art, the same resistance to change may exist today. The opera and ballet stubbornly adhere to their traditional performance methods, and that’s how their patrons like it. Sometimes, though—as publishing houses around the country have discovered this year—change cannot be ignored.
It took Google to get this going, and it shouldn’t have. Publishers could have taken the lead with tightly focused projects; they could have marked themselves as innovators instead of litigators; they could have probed the technology and economics of digitization at a time when all this was under their control.  They would not be fighting a rearguard action today, hoping to stuff the genie back into the bottle, praying for the retention of copyright.  Incidentally, there was in fact an online service called GEnie (General Electric Network for Information Exchange), which launched in 1985. Litigation is what happens in the absence of foresight.
Publishers have learned neither the lesson of the music industry nor of their own foray into agency pricing. The absolute worst thing that can happen as ebook reading expands geometrically, is for most of that expansion to occur at Amazon. The more dependant ebookers become on the Amazon eco system, the more power Amazon will be able to exert over pricing, taking us back to where we were before agency pricing. With the Harris results in front of them, publishers should be thinking about how to combat the Amazon eco system before they can’t.
That was the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn when it didn’t combat the iTunes eco system early enough, focusing instead on the Napsters of the world. Apple is really just a more sophisticated Napster, smart enough to throw some placating crumbs the music industry’s way. Now the music industry is at Apple’s mercy; soon publishers will be at Amazon’s mercy, at least in the United States, which remains the largest book market.
But today, e-books have made post-publication tinkering newly convenient. Amazon sends e-mails to customers to inform them when an updated text—with assorted typos and factual errors corrected—of a book they’ve purchased is available for download, as it has done with titles ranging from The Lord of the Rings to Stacey Schiff’s Cleopatra. Could the e-book become a mutable thing that evolves with its circumstances, independent of the book it descended from? And is this a sign that our expectation for a book is shifting from finished product to perpetual work-in-progress—or just the logical conclusion of a long tradition of multiple, unstable texts?
Key European stakeholders have approved a “ground-breaking” set of principles for digitising and making publicly available out-of-print books and journals. The accord could serve as a template for dealing with the vexing problem of orphan works, those for whom the copyright owner cannot be found, according to International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations CEO Olav Stokkmo.
According to my source, Barnes & Noble held a planning meeting last week. One of the topics discussed in the meeting was B&N’s marketing plans for their ebook readers and how they would be promoted next quarter.
I have, in my hot little hands, a slide that may have been used in that planning  meeting. It mentions that B&N will have 3 ebook readers next quarter, not 2. According to the slide, the NookColor will be getting a brother tablet.
On Demand Books’ Espresso Book Machine has had a difficult time gaining traction with just a couple of dozen booksellers using the printer, but the company hopes that will change now that it has reached an agreement with HarperCollins under which HC will make available over 5,000 trade paperback titles through the machine.
Harper will begin making its trade paperbacks, both children and adult titles, available starting in November. Titles from Zondervan and HarperCollins Canada will be available early next year. Titles will be sold under the agency model and prices will be the same as regularly-printed books. Authors will receive a regular print royalty. Booksellers must stock some HC print editions to qualify for what HC calls its “Comprehensive Backlist” program. The number of print editions a store must stock will be determined by the size of the outlet. HC estimated that depending on the size of the store, physical stores carry between 25% and 80% of its backlist.
The reason that I’m finally being truly critical about Amazon is two-fold. First, at this moment a huge number of book buyers are facing a choice. All the former Borders customers out there have to decide where they are going to get their books now that Borders is closed. There are three choices: 1) Barnes and Noble. 2) Amazon. 3) An independent bookstore. At first glance, it will seem that I’m trying to deter customers from shopping at Amazon (and, it won’t break my heart at all if you choose to avoid Amazon after reading this). But what is more important to me is that I provide you with information so you make as informed a choice as possible. Your dollars are your economic votes. Where, how and with whom you spend your money determines what businesses survive and thrive. Just like any election, I think an informed group tends to makes wiser choices.
New York Times E-Book Best Sellers

A version of this list appears in the October 2, 2011 issue of The New York Times Book Review. Rankings reflect sales for the week ending September 17, 2011.

E-Book Fiction

1.                      THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett
2.                      NEW YORK TO DALLAS, by J. D. Robb
3.                      THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE, by Darcie Chan
4.                      KILL ME IF YOU CAN, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
5.                      THE ABBEY, by Chris Culver

E-Book Nonfiction

1.                      THUNDER DOG, by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory
2.                      HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
4.                      UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand
5.                      A STOLEN LIFE, by Jaycee Dugard

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