In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at the deal between Amazon and visa for global payments and changes at Storytel.
The new Self-publishing News Podcast is out in which Howard and I discuss, among other things, why Amazon removed indie authors' books without warning or explanation earlier this year. I very much look forward to seeing many of you on tonight's #indieauthorchat at the usual 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK time when Tim will be leading a discussion about trigger warnings.
Amazon Reaches Deal with Visa. No More Talk of UK Ban or Extra Fees Elsewhere
Cast your minds back through the vast chasm of time to a month ago. You will remember that Amazon had threatened to stop accepting payment from Visa credit cards in the UK on January 19th. They argue that this was a response to increased transaction fees, and enabled them to protect their customers’ wallets. The 3 million or more consumers whose wallets only contained Visa credit cards weren’t feeling protected. And as I reported at the time, Amazon announced a last minute reprieve pending talks.
Those talks have now concluded. And Amazon’s truce with Visa has become a lasting peace. In fact, an ongoing relationship. Many Amazon UK customers discovered the news when they opened their inboxes last Thursday morning. But the announcement goes beyond the UK. Amazon has announced a global deal to continue accepting visa payment. That deal includes withdrawing the extra fees it had been charging Visa customers in Australia and Singapore.
Artificial Intelligence Refused Access to Copyright Protection
The use of artificial intelligence in the creative process excites and fascinates me. And as a journalist and non-fiction writer as well as a novelist, I write in a space where it’s surprisingly common to share a desk with AI already. That’s probably one reason it doesn’t scare me – we fear the unfamiliar. I am also part of the Futures Thinking Network of researchers at Oxford University. Back in 2019, we held a conference about the future of reading. We very much didn’t talk about whether AI would be creative one day. We talked about when and how.
All of which is background to the latest in a series of landmark judgements this week. The US copyright office denied registration to an artwork produced by AI. The Office ruled, “human authorship is a prerequisite to copyright protection.” There is some fascinating analysis in the original article. But to me this feels very much like the first salvo in an ongoing debate not the last. We are going to have to have a big public discussion at some point about whether there is a qualitative distinction between human and machine minds, and what that might be, and what rights those machines might have. As writers, rather than worrying about whether robots will take our jobs, we should be putting ourselves at the front of that debate by telling stories that bring the questions to life. Thanks to Nate Hofelder for the tip from his excellent Monday morning coffee newsletter.
Subscription: All Change at Storytel and Another Model for Paying Creators
Storytel has been at the forefront of the subscription boom in digital reading. It has enjoyed year after year of double digit growth for its subscription model. And it has doubled down on its business model of opening in multiple local markets where Audible is not already a player. But this week, CEO Jonas Tellander has stepped down under pressure. I highly recommend you read Mark Williams' detailed post about the nature of that pressure. Williams has been covering Storytel's growth for years and is the go-to expert on them. The tl;dr is that the future of subscription is not in jeopardy. The mistake as Williams analyses it was that Tellander took Storytel public to raise funds.
One of the things I report on a lot is how the move to subscription reading might impact the incomes of writers. In recent weeks, I have talked about the difference between capped pots of money which platforms distribute, and uncapped ad sharing. This week, a $200m investment (eek!) in Spotter has put the spotlight on another model. Spotter pays money to YouTube content creators to license their backlist. They give the channel creator cash. And the channel creator gives them all the ad revenue from the existing videos, typically for 5 years. It's a really interesting model. And very different from either ad share or the creator pot. Because it's a payment up front. Kind of like an advance, but for content you have already created. And it pays for you to create new content – which you can then also license to Spotter if you want and all goes well.
Bookstore Sales Almost at Pre-Pandemic Levels But Paper Cost Brings Worry
Sales of print books have been one of the stories of the last couple of years. But this week the emphasis of that story shifted slightly as figures suggested US bookstores were performing strongly. I say “suggest” because the headline of 39% year on year growth in the second half of 2021 obscures the fact that the “on year” bit is a comparison to 2020. And while it’s encouraging news that sales were within 4% of pre-pandemic levels they were still just that. 4% below 2019.
It’s great that bookstores are doing well, of course. But they are not growing the way book sales overall are. And those sales figures include their slice of the online sales pie. Which means their future is far from clear. So we could do without yet more stories about the danger to the print supply chain. This week’s warning comes from Italy. Italian publishers are so worried about the rise in paper costs that they have asked for a 30% tax credit from the government. It's very clear that the crisis for print is not a short term one. And with increasing concerns over printing's carbon emissions, things will need to move quickly if it's not to move from a middle to a long term issue.Amazon reaches a global deal to keep allowing payments using Visa credit cards and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy… Click To Tweet