In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at Rakuten Kobo's commitment to “going wide”.
This week's #indieauthorchat is tonight, Wednesday 1 June, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will be looking at an issue that matters to all of us – how much authors really earn! Please do also catch up with the latest self-publishing news podcast, which you can listen to here. In it, Howard and I look in depth at the recent controversies around the role of librarians in curating content among many other things. I'd also like to use this space to extend very best wishes on behalf of all of ALLi to one of the heroes of the indie world, Mark Williams of the New Publishing Standard, who is currently recovering from malaria.
Rakuten Kobo’s Move to Make Arabic a Primary Language part of a “wider” agenda
It's a week of better and worse news for the “wide” community this week. First up the “better” from Rakuten Kobo. The company’s CEO Michael Tamblyn gave the keynote at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The talk covered a lot of fascinating ground. The key action to takeaway is that by the end of the year, Rakuten Kobo will make Arabic a primary browsing language. This will mean authors can reach more audiences than ever.
But it was fascinating that he positioned this within the overall “going wide” principle. Not only did he impress upon the audience the importance of an ecosystem in which self-publishing was as freely and easily available as possible in as many formats as possible. He also questioned the acceptance of exclusivity models in digital publishing. In particular he pointed out that when it comes to print, it would be unusual for publishers to restrict sales of their books to one retailer. Yet when it comes to digital, we seem to accept that we have to think about whether or not we have to be exclusive in where we sell.
Draft2Digital update on universal book link tool Books2Read
Thanks to ALLi member Karl Drinkwater for bringing this story to my attention. Books2Read is a fabulously useful tool, especially for those of us who “go wide” with our book distribution. In short, it creates a nicely formatted, easy to embed, and easy to use widget for each of our books that includes links to all the stores where the book is available. You can link to local markets, and it works for print and audio as well as ebooks. All of which makes it fantastically useful.
Books2Read is provided and supported by Draft2Digital (they use the same typography for the “2” in a nice bit of branding). Draft2Digital is also a fabulous platform, whose wide reach and easy to use interface make it an essential part of many indies’ toolkits. They are fantastically busy right now as they manage their recent acquisition of Smashwords.
Some members of the community have reported bugs on Books2Read going unfixed and expressed concerns that the tool is no longer being updated. Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who heads up business development, says that, on the contrary, “there are plenty of updates happening to Books2Read, not to mention a list of 100+ improvements slowly being worked on (with bugs as the number one priority).”
Amazon is Still Playing Shop
I reported recently on Amazon's decision to close both its bricks and mortar bookstores and its “4 star” shops. But the digital retailer still seems intent on playing the bricks and mortar retail game. Its latest toe in the water is fashion. Amazon Style opened in Los Angeles last week. And there is a lot of the technology you would expect. Amazon will suggest outfits based on what it knows about you and move you around the store accordingly. Interestingly, one of the driving factors in the new store is a more efficient use of shelf space.
Which links to another interesting story I came across. It seems that Amazon has a warehousing problem. Specifically, it has too much warehouse space. And too much of it is empty. Meanwhile sellers in the fulfilled by Amazon programme are having to pay increased charges to cover Amazon's overhead on those empty shelves. These stories feel as though they are two sides of what Amazon might be realizing is the same coin.
Nibbies Awards reminds us of work still to be done to open up
In the indie community, we talk about awards a lot. At ALLi, we are proud to have Book Award Pro as a partner member, offering a great service to indie authors to help us navigate through the labyrinth and find the prizes that work for us. But that doesn’t change a very glaring anomaly. For many of the leading awards in the industry, we are still not welcome.
I reported recently from one of the big annual gatherings of book awards, the Audies, where the 25 category winners contained just one indie title, Heroine by Mary Jane Wells. This last week saw another of the industry’s big award gatherings, the British Book Awards, affectionately known as the Nibbies. This time there was not a single self-published winner. It’s a reminder that there is still a long way to go for the industry. And a reminder that it is not necessarily that our books are not good enough. It’s rather that for some unfathomable reason they are not eligible enough.Self-publishing News: Rakuten Kobo's Support for Arabic as a Primary Language Shows Commitment to “Wide” Agenda Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month
Wild Words Festival, 3-5 June (Cuffley End UK) – click the link for an ALLi discount (adult tickets £100 from £120, 5-12 years tickets £40 from £60)
Indie Unconference, 9-12 June, Matera
Just for clarification on the Books2Read piece above.
1> I have been asked elsewhere where the B2R news came from: it was direct from Draft2Digital support. I’d suggested some bug fixes and additions that could be useful, but was told they couldn’t be done at present:
“Our lead Developer on Books2Read is no longer with D2D and right out, our dev team’s focus is on the Smashwords merger. […] I apologize for the inconvenience and hope that you can continue to use B2R as is, knowing that we aren’t putting more Development work into this website currently, or that the additional store support you requested won’t be happening anytime soon.”
That’s all understandable. I filed my suggestions for the future, and just let some of my D2D-using colleagues know (since if I’d known that the week previously, I wouldn’t have spent time testing it and reporting on some linking issues and pointing out a few other indie-friendly distributors that could be included).
2> I didn’t write the text in the piece above; I just wrote a summary of what D2D told me in the ALLi FB group, since it’s useful for people to know. I didn’t actually say “Draft2Digital will no longer update its universal book link tool Books2Read” (which sounds permanent!) just that Books2Read isn’t being developed _at present_. I also flagged up what many users might not be aware of, that D2D book blurbs are exported to B2R, but _only the first time_ – future updates aren’t passed through to B2R, you have to do them manually. It’s the kind of tip all D2D users should be aware of. My blurbs had been out of date for some time!
3> I’m a huge fan of Draft2Digital. They are my sole ebook distributor, even to Amazon. I consider them to be great allies to me and indie publishing, with some of the best reporting and smoothest systems out of the many services I use since Pronoun closed. I’ve spent my free time reporting bugs, suggesting fixes, taking part in their excellent podcast, and writing articles analysing elements of their service (such as comparing their print formatting to a custom interior design). I only do that because I am invested in what they do. They’re a great company. When limitations occur (such as DPI image issues) I am always understanding. I know D2D is busy, which is why I’ve tried to be laid back about some other ongoing D2D support issues that have been impeding my publishing regarding epub3s and KEP (for that one I eventually asked ALLi to liaise between Amazon and D2D over this issue – ongoing!). So please don’t interpret anything I said as being negative about D2D. I’m understanding of the challenges we face (e.g. in liaising with Amazon!) At the same time, if you base your business on a service, it’s worth knowing the limitations and which things can be worked around, and which to focus on. Here’s to the future!
Thanks so much Karl for your response and clarification–and for your vigilance and care for your fellow members and other authors. Draft2Digital is indeed a vital service for the indie author community and a much admired ALLi Partner Member, going from strength to strength. We have added a comment to the post above from Mark Lefebvre, who heads business development at Books2Read. Good to know that updates are on the way.