Sawyer in New BookBale Bundle

Through November 30 you can name your own price (so long as it’s at least $2.99) for a BookBale ebook bundle with these six novels –

  • Climbing Olympus by Kevin J. Anderson
  • The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ranson
  • Future Perfect by Nancy Kress
  • The Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey & Andre Norton
  • Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick
  • Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer

StarplexRobert J. Sawyer says it’s the first time ever that Starplex has been available as an ebook, and that will last only until the end of November.

Those willing to pay $10 or more for the bundle will get two bonus books, Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein and The Hemingway Hoax by Haldeman.

All books are in both Mobi (Kindle) and ePub (Kobo, Nook, Sony, etc.) formats, and are DRM-free.

[Thanks to Robert J. Sawyer for the story.]

Baen Ebooks Also Being Sold Through Sony

Ebook pioneer Baen Books is making its ebooks available through Reader Store from Sony for the first time beginning August 9, 2013.

Baen Books has sold its own ebooks for over 13 years at its retail site, Baenebooks.com. These ebooks have always been totally free of digital rights restrictions. 

The move to third-party distribution is relatively new territory for Baen, which has built a name for itself in the ebook arena with an innovative e-Advanced Reading Copy program and limited time monthly discount bundles.  These programs will continue, according to Toni Weisskopf, Baen Publisher.

“We are excited for the chance to work with Sony. Now it will be easier than ever to download your favorite Weber, Ringo, or Correia ebook to your ebook reader,” says Toni Weisskopf, Baen Publisher. “The DRM-free model will not change, and you can be sure we will always maintain our famous ebook pioneering spirit and customer-first orientation.”

Harry Potter’s Sales Wizardry

Pottermore.com sold £3 million worth of Harry Potter books in its first month reports The Bookseller.com. The store went online March 27 and rang up £1 million of sales in its first three days of operation.

The books are sold DRM-free. A spokesman for Pottermore said piracy has diminished since an initial increase because “the community had rejected these illegal versions.” Translation: Piracy hasn’t been stopped, but customers will buy from the legitimate source if they like the price and the platform is easy to use.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Tor’s DRM-atic Announcement

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, will make their entire list of e-books DRM-free by July. The imprints had a combined 30 New York Times bestsellers in 2011.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are designed to give the seller control over the transferability of content after it has been delivered to the consumer. E-books in the Amazon Kindle format, for example, are readable on that company’s devices, but not those of its rivals. DRM is justified as an anti-piracy measure.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing reacted by breezily predicting –

[More] to follow, I’m sure; I’ve had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers…

On the other hand, Laura Hazard Owen at CNN Money questions whether Macmillan itself, the big company that owns Tor, will adopt this policy across the board  –

One should not necessarily infer, from the changes at Tor, that Macmillan is close to dropping DRM across all of its imprints. This decision could be related to competition within the genre (sci-fi/fantasy publishers Baen and Angry Robot are also DRM-free) or to Doherty’s specific role at Macmillan.

Presumably, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, who made the final decision to drop DRM on ebooks from Tor/Forge (according to Charles Stross) will watch how it plays out.

A move affecting only the sf/fantasy market still benefits fans wanting the freedom to store and manage their ebook collections on any device they choose.

One of Tor’s top authors, John Scalzi, is in favor of the change. He thinks DRM is an unnecessary impediment to sales. 

Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does. But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books. Now they will. I support that.

Charles Stross has posted arguments he was invited to make to Macmillan brass about the decision to drop DRM. He admits DRM makes no difference to those who buy a few top bestsellers a year, however, he told execs it makes a big difference to some of the most devoted book buyers.

The voracious 20-150 books/year readers are a small but significant market segment. These people buy lots of titles. They frequently have specialized interests which they pursue in depth, and a large number of authors who, although not prominent, they will buy everything by… Previously they bought paperbacks and hardcovers from specialist genre bookstores or, failing that, from large B&N/Borders branches. They will go to whatever retailer they can find online, and they find DRM a royal pain in the ass — indeed, a deterrent to buying ebooks at all.

It’s no secret he’s talking about sf fans, since he mentions us explicitly a few lines later…

Harder To Burn This Way

What? Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 couldn’t be purchased in electronic format ‘til last month? Ah, but let’s remember who we’re talking about. Ray Bradbury loves libraries filled with words on paper, and once said e-books “smell like burned fuel.”

However, agent, Michael Congdon says he explained to Bradbury that his book rights were expiring and a new contract would be impossible without allowing for e-books, which yield an estimated 20 percent of total sales.

I guess Ray thereupon decided to hold his nose with one hand and sign with the other.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Bill of Rights for E-Book Authors

The Writers’ Union of Canada has released A Writer’s Bill of Rights for the Digital Age to benefit the creators of literary works in Canada:

1

Copyright legislation shall ensure the protection of intellectual property and appropriate compensation for rightsholders.

2

Exceptions to copyright shall be minimized.

3

The publisher shall split the net proceeds of ebook sales equally with the author.

4

The author shall retain all electronic rights not specifically granted to the publisher or producer and shall have approval of any modifications made to the work.

5

The publisher shall not exercise or sublicense ebook publishing rights without the express authorization of the author.

6

When a book is out of print in print form, continuing sales in electronic form shall not prevent a rights reversion to the author.

7

For ebooks, the publisher in its contract shall replace the traditional “out of print” clause that triggers a rights reversion with a sales volume clause (e.g., less than a specified quantity of ebooks sold in a specified number of royalty periods) and/or a finite term of license (e.g., five years).

8

When rights revert, the publisher shall provide the author with the digital file of the book.

9

The Public Lending Right Commission shall provide author payments for electronic books and allot additional monies to this end.

10

Libraries shall acquire digital copies of works in their collections only from rightsholders or their licensing agencies.

11

Ebook retailers shall require the rightsholder’s permission for any free preview or download of an electronic work, and the rightsholder shall specify the maximum amount to be made available.

12

Agents, publishers, aggregators, retailers, and libraries shall ensure that works in digital form will be well protected and will not be shared, traded, or sold outside the boundaries authorized by the contract.

Greg Hollingshead, chairman of the Writers’ Union of Canada, responds to questions about the bill of rights in an interview by the Edmonton Journal:

Q: Many writers seem content to leave matters of digital rights to their agents. Why is it important they are educated?

A: First, in Canada only about 20 per cent of writers have agents.

Second, we believe it’s always important for writers to understand what is, or is not, being done in their name. This is a transformative time in the industry, and it seems important to us that writers not allow the other players in the digital arena to decide what is best for them. There needs to be dialogue, and for this writers need to be informed, and as a union we need to have a clearly stated position, both for our members to consider and discuss and for ourselves to go with to publishers and government.

A post at Iguana Books offers rebuttal and comment, for example:

8. When rights revert, the publisher shall provide the author with the digital file of the book.

This is a can of worms. “The file” usually contains material that the author doesn’t have the copyright for – images, designs, text (such as the index) that other writers have prepared. What the writer actually needs is the file and the list of permissions associated with the publication, so that all other rightsholders can be compensated if their material is used in a new edition.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

Don’t Stop the Presses

Have you heard? Rather than being pushed to the edge of extinction by trends in electronic publishing, English-language printed books have an unlimited future — in India:

“Books matter more in India than anywhere else we publish them,” added Makinson, whose Penguin Group is one of the world’s largest English-language publishers.

While book sales slip in most western countries, the non-academic book market in India is currently growing at a rate of 15 to 18 percent annually, as rapid economic growth swells literacy rates and adds millions to the middle class every year.

[Source: Reuters. Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Francis Hamit: A New Business Model

Francis Hamit of Brass Cannon Books, author of The Shenandoah Spy, shares his new strategy for pricing e-books (from a discussion posted on LinkedIn today):

A NEW BUSINESS MODEL: We are making the price of the e-book edition the same as that of the least expensive print edition.

Most of our publishing since 2004 has been in e-books. Originally we followed the conventional wisdom that e-books should cost less because they are virtual rather than real-world products. We had most titles at about $1.95. We distribute through Ingram, so we only receive, net, 45% of that price. We found that some online retailers were marking up our titles to $9.95 and keeping the difference. We also found that we have no control over what other people charge. Most of this material, more than sixty titles in all, are recycled trade magazine articles of limited interest to the general public. It sells slowly. We raised the price to $4.99. That gives us a net of $2.25 per copy. The rest goes to paying for distribution.  These items are available in just three formats, Adobe, Microsoft Reader and Sony Reader. They sell best in the Sony format. We have one fiction piece “Buying Retail” for 49 cents and that sells ten times as many copies than the rest, but it’s an entertainment product rather than an information one.  Given our new orientation towards fiction and other narrative forms, it’s a sampler. A leader item to attract readers for The Shenandoah Spy and other works of fiction.

It recently came to me, in the wake of the dust-up with Amazon and the big publishers over pricing that anyone who can spend several hundred dollars for the coolness and convenience of an electronic book reader can afford to pay full price for a book, regardless of format. Mr. Bezos may consider all books as just another online commodity to be sold at high velocity at the lowest possible price to gain market share, but my view is that every book is unique and has value regardless of the way it was produced. The current system locks me into surrendering more than half the fair market price of my book to others to get it to the customers.  Each format has front end costs which must be recovered. And I don’t care which format the customer prefers.

I want my percentage.  Making an e-book version available is a accommodation to a customer, but it’s a convenience they should pay a fair price for. My own preference is to sell the print edition and have done with it.  So, if you want to read the book electronically, you pay the same price.

Now some retailers routinely cut the price, but that doesn’t matter to me since that discount comes from their end of the deal and not mine. I have to maintain per-copy margins to survive as a business. I own this book and have put it out at a fair price. Certainly, it’s not the only one on the shelf, but if you want to read it then you have to buy it from me, unless you buy a used copy or deal with pirates. And if you do that, then you were never really a potential customer anyway, were you?

I will cut the price of the e-book edition in the future to match the least priced paperback in the U.S. market. I think if other publishers follow my lead this will resolve a lot of the current problems of print versus electronic pricing.