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Self-publishing News: The Problem With Ebooks?

Dan Holloway head and shoulders photo

I am about to launch my first publication for quite some time. It’s a new venture for me, a creative thinking card game, and producing it has been very different from many of the books I have self-published, in particular because I have spent so much time working with some remarkable artists and illustrators whose work has been integral to every part of the project, so I want to dedicate this little intro to our partner-creatives, the designers, illustrators and blurbers without whom our own creations would be so much less.

 The Attack on Ebooks

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

This is a story that broke just as I was putting last week’s news together. I decided not to include it because, to be honest, I thought it was ridiculous. But the amount of coverage it has had for the last week would make it questionable for me not to include it. Hachette CEO Arnaud Nourry gave a wide-ranging interview in which he said some very interesting things about Amazon and the market in India. He also said that ebooks are “a stupid product“. There has been, as you would imagine, a lot of reaction. This is not an opinion piece, but it is worth noting that Nourry’s main point is that ebooks don’t give you anything more than print books. There is a lot of hairshirting about how publishers have done a bad job with trying to make ebooks more than this and failed. He is right on both those counts, but that also makes him wrong. As several have pointed out, ebooks offering what print books offer – but in a different format that works better for some people and occasions – is precisely why they’re so good. And publishers spending 10 years trying, but not making progress with the product? All I can say is it’s attitudes like that which explain why so many of us in Indieland so often scratch our heads and wonder.

Signs of Ebook Sales Slowing?

Photo by ål nik on Unsplash

Photo by ål nik on Unsplash

We are used to headlines about flatlining ebook sales in the established markets of the US and UK (and yes, while we are used to them, we reserve the right not to believe them), but the latest figures from Germany show a depressing series of indicators, from flatlining market share to declining customer numbers, with a familiar “slightly more units at a slightly lower price” story. This is a consumer survey, rather than being based on ISBN tracking, which may be one reason the usually waspish Nate Hoffelder doesn’t add the regular caveats about missing indie sales.

Amazon: populating its own charts and feeling the pressure

It’s about as hot button a topic as you can get right now, but the key players in our corner of the world aren’t immune to the controversy over connections to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Many of the world’s biggest platforms have announced they are dropping NRA advertising, and top among those is Amazon, who have faced a lot of pressure over its streaming of NRATV through Amazon Fire. This week, Mark Williams uncovered a slightly more familiar and ongoing cause of concern to indies, revealing that 8 out of 10 bestsellers on the US site are Amazon’s own imprints. The whole article is worth reading. For a while now, Mark has been at the forefront of worried voices over Amazon’s use of its own promotional channels in relation to books it publishes, and the knock-on effects for indies and our advertising and use of those channels.  .

Copyright and Freedom

DAHC on Nappy.co

DAHC on Nappy.co

Can you see how much control I exercised? Copyright issues have been everywhere this week, and I waited till the fourth item. I’ll start with Canada, and the ruling that educators have been being charged too much for the ability to reproduce material for educational use, and are entitled to a $2.30 refund per student per year. This may seem somewhat abstract (unless you write textbooks), but ongoing cases over “fair dealing” and exceptions to standard copyright enforcement really matter.

Which brings us to the big story – the feud between Victoria Strauss and the Internet Archive over alleged piracy by the latter’s massive digital legacy and access project Open Library has reached a head, with Strauss noting a refusal to do what the site said it would do and respond in a timely fashion to a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice – removing her books (though not the accessible format versions, a point on which she admits she has no issue) only when she commented on the site. This matters for a lot of reasons, but it also ties direct to my next item, which comes from the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and claims that DMCA takedown notices are being used globally as an easy way of enacting censorship. Obviously both of these players have a runner in this race as it were, but as always I urge you to read.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

MARCH 2018

Indieathon March 1-31 [online]
AWP Conference, Mar 7-10 [Tampa]

APRIL 2018

London Book Fair, Apr 10-12 [London]
Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival Apr 21 [Gloucestershire]
Self-publishing Conference, Apr 28, [Leicester]

MAY 2018

Sell More Books, May 4-6 [Chicago]
Oakwood Literature Festival, May 12 {Derby}
Crimefest, May 18-20 [Bristol]
Book Expo, May 30 – Jun 1 [New York]

JUNE 2018

Dublin Writers’ Conference, June 22-24 [Dublin}

OCTOBER 2018

Digital Book World, Oct 2-4 [Nashville]
Ness Book Fest, Oct 4-7 [Scotland]
Croydon Litfest, 27 October [Croydon, UK]

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4 Responses to Self-publishing News: The Problem With Ebooks?

  1. Kari Trenten March 2, 2018 at 9:49 pm #

    First off, I appreciate you offering us virtual coffee, such a pretty Kindle, and a binder to go with the latest news. 🙂 The visual comfort is welcome while we process all of this. (wry grin)

    I’m contemplating how much damage one can deliver, how much hurt someone can inflict upon another with just one sentence. I read the whole article by Arnaud Norry, not just the one line about ebooks. That line stands out like a sore thumb with a splinter jutting from it. Many are feeling the sting and reacting to it.

    In truth, I’m torn because I love paperbacks, hardbounds, and ebooks. Each has a place in my reading life. I hope all of these will play a part in my writing career.

    What I’m really struck by is how that one line ended up overpowering the rest of Arnaud Norry’s article. It’s a lesson to everyone who blogs and posts, one I hope I’ll be able to take to heart and learn from.

    Words have a remarkable power to wound…and to heal. Use it wisely, bloggers.

    • Dan Holloway March 5, 2018 at 9:40 am #

      Yes, a very good point – there is a lot in the interview of great value. I am not sure it is a new phenomenon to take a single sentence out of context, but I do wonder if it’s the case that now more people are being interviewed and having what they say circulated, possibly people who previously could have had a rather long and rambling chat and worried only about its direction. It’s certainly something I’m aware of when doing,say, a podcast – every single sentence needs to be weighed up in case people want to look only at it and nothing else – which makes things somewhat exhausting!

  2. Mark Williams - The New Publishing Standard February 27, 2018 at 7:09 pm #

    And with perfect timing Amazon adds a new imprint to the list.

    TOPPLE Books (Amazon’s capitals) “will spotlight the voices of women of color, gender non-conforming, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer writers.”

    http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=RssLanding&cat=news&id=2335020

    • Dan Holloway March 5, 2018 at 9:41 am #

      They have reached the point where there is no longer any need to be surreptitious.

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