This week saw two key events in Cultureland, the award to Ocean Vuong of the T S Eliot Prize, one of the most prestigious events on the poetry calendar, and CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2018 in Las Vegas, the leading telescope through which we get to view our cultural future. The close proximity of such events can't do anything but make us ask exactly what our place, as humans, might be in creating our own cultural future – and more important for us as indies, whether we are ready for whatever answer comes along.
What Feeds the Facebook News Feed?
Remember when writers started noticing that posts from their page suddenly had less reach than they used to? And then posts linking to material you had blogged? That was a lot of impact for what were, effectively, subtle iterative changes. We are now about to find out the extent of the impact when Facebook implements a fully announced full-on shift to the way our feeds are put together. It is worth reading Mark Zukerberg's post in full. But the long and the short is that Facebook says it wants the time you spend on Facebook to be more about meaningful interactions. And that means, in his words ” you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
There are several takeaways from this. The first, as when we consider whether to “go wide” or sign up to KDP Unlimited, is that if you put all your eggs in a particular basket and that basket changes you will feel the full effects whatever they are. The second is that whichever view you take of how this will pan out, indies are clearly going to have to make some agile ninja moves in the near future to take advantage or avoid falling behind. There are useful think pieces pretty much everywhere, but this, with its emphasis on the fall of Facebook stock at the announcement, is an interesting place to start.
What are KDP doing?
The latest KDP publishing guidelines have been released, and the one interesting change is that the maximum file size for your book cover has been increased from 5MB to 50. Given the recommended pixel size has been shaved a little in either direction, it makes you wonder what Amazon's planning on letting us do! Talking of which, for a very brief window last week, KDP confused people by seeming to offer a 50% royalty rate, and ALLi's own John Doppler hypothesised why. Personally, I wonder if someone offered a bet to see how many things could be changed to 50 before anyone noticed.
Meanwhile, Harper Collins is the last of the big publishers to finally settle the ebook price-fixing dispute everyone else settled a year ago. On a related subject to ebooks, it seems that print book sales are not quite as resilient as we thought, with print sales in Canada down 3% in 2017. It's a set of figures we haven't really been commenting on as the decline of ebooks has filled headlines but first thoughts are that there must be far fewer ISBN-free print books, making worrying figures more, er, worrying.
Copyright and Tech
Today sees the 8th holding of the Copyright and Tech Conference. There are many aspects of discussion of the legal and business and creative side of the relation between copyright and tech that matter, but especially interesting will be the whole panel on digital watermarking, which is gaining steam again over DRM as the method of choice for protecting digital content.
Upcoming Conferences and Events
20 Books London, Feb 3-4 [London]
AWP Conference, Mar 7-10 [Tampa]
Dublin Writers' Conference, June 22-24 [Dublin}
Digital Book World, Oct 2-4 [Nashville]