Category Archives: eBooks

How to Totally Overinterpret a Survey, Library Journal style

Pew Research Center released the results of a survey about young adults and their use of libraries and reading habits. This was taken as great news in the library community, and Library Journal declared that “Teens still love print media.”

Unfortunately, that’s not at all what the results reported, nor what the survey asked.

From the study’s findings:

Among all those ages 16-29, 19% read an e-book during 2011, while 25% did so in 2012. At the same time, however, print reading among younger Americans has remained steady: When asked if they had read at least one print book in the past year, the same proportion (75%) of Americans under age 30 said they had both in 2011 and in 2012.

In fact, younger Americans under age 30 are now significantly more likely than older adults to have read a book in print in the past year (75% of all Americans ages 16-29 say this, compared with 64% of those ages 30 and older). And more than eight in ten (85%) older teens ages 16-17 read a print book in the past year, making them significantly more likely to have done so than any other age group.

So can we conclude that “teens still love print media”?

No. We can say that 75% of 16-29 year olds have read at least one print book in the past year. And that is more than those over the age of 30.

Textbooks, anyone? I am 18 credits (halfway) into my graduate library science degree, and I fall in the 16-29 age bracket, and I have used one digital textbook so far out of those six classes. So yes, I too have read at least one print book this year, even though all of my pleasure reading has been happening on my Kindle or iPad. If we can say that textbooks are driving the print book usage, then it’s no surprise that those who fall outside the range of traditional high school, college, and graduate students are reading less print books.

Pew acknowledges in their full report (PDF) that previous research they have done has shown that “younger respondents are more likely to read for work or school” (p. 16). Fiction books are very easy to find in an ebook format. Even popular non-fiction is, too. However, textbooks still lag behind.

An interesting result – that is generally ignored because 75% of young adults reading one print book in the course of the year sounds like a big number – is that the percentage of young adults who have read one ebook increased from 19% to 25% in one year.

Pew did not ask if young adults preferred print books to ebooks. We can say that young adults are more likely to read a print book than an ebook (75% read a print book, but only 25% read an ebook), and more likely to read a print book than older adults (75% to 64%), but we cannot conclude that it’s because they prefer print. It could be that there are many school-related texts that are not available in an ebook. I don’t know if I would call my digital textbook an ebook – I used it through a web-browser and it was quite interactive (it was very unbook-like). So perhaps young adults are not reporting these as ebooks.

In any case, Library Journal (and others) blew the headline. It could simply be about, as the New Republic also concludes, availability rather than popularity or preference. There’s no way to know, since Pew didn’t ask why young adults were more likely to have read a print book than an ebook.

I’m glad that young adults are still reading print books. And I’m glad they’re using libraries and don’t think libraries should be gutted to make room for more technology. But let’s be honest and cautious about the survey’s intentions and its findings. The fact that 85% of teens aged 16-17 reported reading one book at all is cause for celebration.

Couple’s steamy romance e-books save their home – CBS News

A great story this morning about independent authors! Be sure to check out the video interview:

From the article:
“With each book, their sales climbed higher. Then this spring, a romance called “Falling Into You” — about a girl whose first love dies suddenly — jumped onto the New York Times Best Seller list. Jasinda was out driving with her kids the day it hit #1 on Amazon.

“I was crying hysterically,” Jasinda said.”

via Couple’s steamy romance e-books save their home – CBS News.

If You Need a New E-Reader You Should Get a Nexus 7

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When the Kindle Fire singlehandedly of the Android operating system Google finally sat up and said, “Oh, ****, we gotta get in on this game!” The same thing that Amazon said after Barnes and Noble released their first tablet.

Google finally said enough is enough; this is how you make a tablet for content consumption. After playing with mine for a few hours now, I agree. This is what a tablet should be: responsive, light, solid, capable, and intuitive.

Now, just so you know, I’m about to argue that you should ditch your Kindle Fire and your Nook Color/Tablet for the Nexus 7, which is just pure Google and entertainment goodness. If you’re rocking a traditional e-reader, the Nexus 7 probably isn’t for you, since I assume you’re not interested in tablet devices.

Here’s why the Nexus 7 is worth it:

CNET rates the video battery life of the Kindle Fire at about 7 hours, the video battery life for the Nook Tablet at 9 hours, and the Nexus 7 video battery life at 10 hours. Note that these are CNET’s tests, and not Google’s or Amazon’s or anyone else’s. CNET is a reliable source of information. Strong battery life for video playback (a demanding task compared to reading) shows the overall quality of the battery, hardware, and software. Advantage: Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 also weighs about 12 ounces compared to 14.1 for the Nook and 14.6 for the Fire. If you’re going to go portable, go small or go home, I always say. I’ve held Nook Tablets and Kindle Fires while working with patrons at my librarian gig, and the Nexus 7 feels and looks slimmer. Advantage: Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 lets you read books from Amazon, Bamp;N, Google, Smashwords, Kobo, your local library – everyone but Apple’s iBooks. But you wouldn’t get those on the Nook or Fire anyway. You do lose the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, but I’ve never met anyone who is super excited about that anyway as a reader. Advantage: Nexus 7.

With the Nexus 7 you also get Bluetooth. This is important because that means you can pair a wireless keyboard with it and use it as an extremely portable netbook replacement. Advantage: Nexus 7.

The new version of the Android OS is also absolutely gorgeous. I have an iPhone 4S – the newest model – and in my opinion, Android 4.1 puts iOS 5 to shame. And I’m an Apple fanboy. Ask my wife.

In terms of storage expansions, only the Nook Tablet and Color give you an SD card slot. However, because the Nexus 7 is rocking a full Android experience, you get the benefit of mini USB to full size USB port conversion adapters that allow you to attach a flash drive or externally powered hard drive to your Nexus. Admittedly not particularly sleek or stylish, but still pretty clutch. However, the lack of an SD card slot is a fatal flaw for some folk. Advantage: Nook.

The Kindle Fire gives you access to the free (if you pay $79/year) movies and TV as well as free book borrows of the Amazon Prime membership. But, you can get Netflix just fine on your Nexus 7 and for me, the selection on Netflix is better. As for the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, while I’ve benefitted from it as an author, I don’t find it particularly attractive as a reader. It’s hard to borrow from, and the selection at my local library is much better. Advantage: Nexus 7.

Now here’s the best part. The Nexus 7 8 GB model is just $199.

Same as the current generation Kindle Fire and $50 less than the Nook Tablet.

If you’re a Bamp;N fan, there’s no reason not to get the Nexus 7. You can enjoy all titles that Bamp;N has to offer and that you’ve already purchased with the Nook app, as well as Netflix and Pandora, plus you can video chat with your family over Skype or Google.

If you’re a big Amazon user, and subscribe to Prime, you might want to wait and see what the Kindle Fire 2 will offer. You’ll lose the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and all Amazon Instant amp; Prime Video services. There is an app for Amazon Cloud music, however, and it works really well so far for me. For people in the market for a tablet to serve primarily as e-reader but that can function as a full tablet when they want it to, the Nexus 7 is the clear winner.

Audio quality through the speakers is surprisingly good, and subjectively is on par with my iPhone’s speaker, only louder. Apps load quickly and dismiss quickly. Typing is relatively easy for a 7 inch tablet. I had no problems setting it up with my Google account, and it promptly notified me that there was an OS update ready to install which took just a few minutes. Netflix loaded up an episode of Supernatural very quickly, and while the viewing angle wasn’t great, the quality of picture was wonderful.

And finally and most importantly, the Kindle reading app is superb (so is the Nook app). Pages turn easily, you can choose white, sepia, or black for your background, adjust the fonts, etc. I was able to purchase a book from the Kindle store on the device. And most importantly, OverDrive through your local library should be able to show you Kindle titles to check out (YMMV depending on your library system). I was able to successfully check out a Kindle version of an ebook from my local library, all on the Nexus 7. This has been a huge problem for tablets and phones, but at least on stock Android, it appears to function properly.

Further Evidence of the Nexus’ Aweseomeness:
TG Daily – Why I Traded My Kindle Fire for a Nexus 7

Self-Publishing Statistics (via epublishabook.com)



Self-Publishing Statistics – Who are the Top Earners? (via ePublish a Book)

Continued from Self-Publishing Statistics: Women fare better than men at making money from self-publishing So what are the factors that make the difference between the Top Earners (the respondents who said they could live off their royalties) and the others? Two third of the Top Earners are women,…

Continue reading “Self-Publishing Statistics (via epublishabook.com)” »

E-books Will Ruin Scholarship, or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear My Kindle

What is the melting point of a Kindle? Or of Amazon’s servers? (end obligatory Fahrenheit 451 reference). If e-books truly take over as the ersatz knowledge medium, what happens when the power goes out? What happens if a book is only hosted on a single company’s or institution’s server, and that is destroyed? What happens if a publisher or author decides to remove a reference, or change data discussed in a book?

In other words, are e-books not just electronic books but also ephemeral books?

As I prepare to begin my studies to become an academic librarian, the essay prompt for the admissions process asked me about the most important issue facing libraries in the near future. I am currently a public librarian, I know that the biggest issue is how to adopt e-book lending in a way that coheres with the traditional lending practices of physical books. This got me thinking about what e-books mean to an academic institution.

The ability to form and write a scholarly opinion relies on two things: your original idea or angle on the issue, and the ideas and angles on that issue that have been proposed before. How Hegelian of me. But, consider your experience in school: you always needed X number of citations for your paper. Sometimes this number was assigned, and sometimes it was not; but always, “Cite your sources.”

So theoretical progress (new knowledge that builds on established knowledge) relies on the permanence of the reference. Citations only matter if the reference can be looked up easily at a later date. If an academic library converted its collection, or relied on a collection, of entirely electronically housed knowledge, could we still rely on permanent references?

No.

I don’t mean the trivial issue of how to cite a page number when you’re working off a Kindle copy of a book. What if the electronic document is changed – purposefully, accidentally? Or worse, maliciously? Once a printed book is published, it’s loose, it’s in the wild; the publisher and author no longer have control over what people are going to see when they open that book up to read it.

But, once your release an e-book, that can easily be changed. The original file can be slightly edited and re-uploaded. This is a great cost reducer for publishers of fiction. You catch a typo that no one else did, e-mail the publisher, and they instantly push out a new version of the file that corrects the error.

What if someone decides to correct an “error” that isn’t really an error, other than that it conflicts with what that person believes to be true? What if a third party decides to wreak a little havoc? What if the author decides to change their mind and simply remove the file?

You can’t hack a physical book in a way that ultimately destroys, ruins, or irreparably alters the information presented in that book. Academic libraries must continue to rely on physical books regardless of the marketplace’s preference for e-books. Yes, they are cumbersome and bulky. Yes, they cost more to produce, ship, and store. Yes, they can get lost. But they can’t be changed.

Even if a new version gets published, the old version still exists. It can’t be overwritten to suit the needs or whims of malice or politics. What if the next great invention that can stop global warming, or cure cancer, starts as a paper that cites its sources perfectly and relies on a miniscule piece of theory in a larger text? But in a few years time that reference is changed by the publisher for some reason. Now, that paper has cited a source incorrectly, or cited information that no longer even exists in that book. The author of that paper now appears to have made up the data she relied on for her conclusion that led to a great advance in science, but that can never be made.

For academics and scholarship, the permanence of the reference must remain a more important priority than cost, space, or convenience. Sometimes knowledge is expensive and inconvenient, but so was losing the Great Library of Alexandria. Electronic media offer a great resource for backing up and as a secondary lending form, but we must continue to retain hard copies for the sake of the future.

Reflections on Two Weeks in the Top 100 of an Amazon Category

When I launched The Unreturned for Kindle on December 2, I had high hopes, but realistic expectations. I was sure that I could convince 40 or 50 friends and family to buy it, and they certainly did. My original plan was to get them to all buy it on the same day, and thus give my sales rank a huge push to begin with and launch me to fame and fortune.

Well, I got all those sales I expected after three or four days, but things petered out rather quickly. Since The Unreturned is a relatively short novel (45,000 words), I decided to convince people to write reviews by giving away free & signed copies of the paperbacks. I managed to get 11 reviews in two weeks through this method, and thankfully, all were positive. Still, my sales did not take off.

So I went nuclear: free. I had joined KDP Select almost right after it was offered. I offered the book for free for two (big) days: December 24 and December 25, and lowered the price to $.99 (from $2.99) after that. I had nearly 1500 downloads over those two days, and made it to #3 in Free Sci-Fi and #332 overall free in the Kindle store, which was impressive.

And then Monday morning (12/26) my sales began, and I was in the paid top 100 of Sci-Fi Adventure by Monday night. By Wednesday I was averaging 90 sales per day, which was amazing, as my book peaked at #26 in Sci-Fi Adventure at that time. Since, the book has spent its time hanging out in the Top 100 of Sci-Fi Adventure and Space Opera for about two weeks; sometimes dropping out, sometimes coming back.

So, reflecting on this, how do I think I got there?

1. Family & Friends
We told some people that the book was coming out, and made a huge deal out of it on Facebook when it did, and overwhelmingly people bought it. Even people that I would never have expected to be so generous bought it. These are mostly the people who also posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads for it so far, and while family and friends can be biased, I told them that if they were going to post a review in the contest, it had to be honest, and reading the reviews, I believe they are.

2. Reviews
People look for products on Amazon and often sort by average customer review (or at least, I do). The 16 reviews I have put my book in the Top 100 when sorted this way -#57 in Sci-Fi Adventure by avg. review and #162 in the whole of Kindle Sci-Fi. I believe that this is not how most people find Kindle books, but I’m ranked well enough this way that it’s helping.

3. Give it away
The two free days were the best idea I ever had, though admittedly, I didn’t invent it. 1400-1500 some people downloaded it, and if I can get just 1% of them to review it, that’ll be 14 fresh reviews. The book’s rank when sorted by popularity also received a boost, which is what I think propelled the initial sales from December 26. Since I have a paperback copy, I’ve listed it on Goodreads as a contest for people to win two copies, a contest that over 300 people have entered in the first ten days, which is some major visibility. Not overwhelming, but still, baby steps.

4. Find the price point that sells
I thought that $2.99 was reasonable for a Kindle book. It apparently wasn’t, because I set it back to $2.99 after I peaked at #26 and my sales
rank tanked; I dropped to #80 literally overnight, and in desperation set it back to $.99. I believe that the book is worth $2.99, but apparently the title, cover, and book description do not entice people to spend $2.99, or maybe they don’t want to spend $2.99 on an unknown author. In either case, the price that allows the book to sell well is what it’s worth to people. I overestimated the book’s value.

5. Twittering?
Absolutely not. I’ve seen zero benefit from this (I track clicks with bit.ly, and I’ve gotten almost none through Twitter). I still tweet the book occasionally, but I’m not going to be one of those people who tweet to buy their book all the time, because after one month, it’s just not
working. I will always be on Twitter as long as Twitter is the deal, but I’m not going to use it for endless self-promotion. I’m going to focus on tweeting content I find interesting, and keeping in touch with people.

6. Content
Above all, content is king. You could possibly manipulate your way into your category’s Top 100 with this method, but ultimately, the book itself is what’s helping drive sales. I was initially skeptical about how much people liked it, but as the reviews keep coming in slowly, it seems that people really do like it. The ‘worst’ reviews I’ve gotten are about the flimsy basis of the science (fair point) and that there were some typos and grammatical issues (corrected). But even my harshest critics can’t find flaw with the characters or overall plotting, which is really what any fiction is ultimately about.

Of Nooks and Kindles

I recently announced on my Facebook page that The Unreturned will be unpublished from all e-book vendors but Amazon. I have chosen to distribute exclusively through Amazon and take advantage of the new KDP Select program.

First, 90% of my downloads have come through Amazon.com. While 10% of downloads came from Barnes and Noble, I’m just not getting enough action or visibility there (my sales rank on Amazon is 7 times higher). The opportunity to let people read my book for free, while still getting reimbursed is too good of an opportunity to pass up. At least, that’s the way it looks right now. Yes, there are some philosophical concerns with Amazon’s move, but the Barnes and Noble community and market for indie authors just does not exist. Seeing other blog posts, I know that other authors feel the same. What it comes down to is whether or not you feel like you’re selling your soul.

The Kindle Lending Library is available only to Amazon Prime members. Given that there are currently less than 1400 books participating in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category, I stand a good chance. Looking at sales numbers, my book should be featured in the top-75, or at least top-100, by sales in the category. The upside and potential to reach a wider audience and develop relationships with new readers is very high, and I believe more lucrative than what Barnes and Noble can offer me.

The downside is that this book is locked into an exclusive e-distribution agreement with Amazon for 90 days. That means no Nook or Google or iBooks versions can be available during that time. The paperback version can still be distributed through any vendor or website: here, Amazon, BN.com, etc.

I know that I have some fans in the Nook community, and this decision was not easy. I don’t know if my next work, already in progress, will instantly go to the Prime Lending Library or not. I have a feeling that it won’t – so many authors will be on board KDP Select by then that it will actually be less competitive elsewhere. The initial gold rush from KDP Select will entice many of the struggling indie authors out there to jump on board, opening up other markets for 90 days at a time.

It’s a risk. There’s no guarantee that anyone will select my book from the Lending Library, and even if they do, there’s no guarantee that I’ll make more than a few pennies off that. But there’s no guarantee that simply leaving my book on BN.com will generate any leads, and there’s no guarantee that of the same with Amazon. Amazon will promote the crap out of the Lending Library because they don’t want their idea to go poorly for them. Books participating should benefit obliquely from that. Since this is my only book, and it’s been available for two weeks, I don’t really have much to lose at this point. If it turns out to not work for me, I’ll opt out at the end of 90 days and try something else.

Self-publishing is inherently risky. I’ve been moderately successful so far – better than expected, not as much as I wished – but to me, this risk looks like it could pay off in terms of getting people interested to see what I do next.

Free iOS Apps for the Reader in You

via http://bookriot.com/2011/10/26/the-four-bookish-apps-you-need-to-have-right-now/

Bookriot.com provides a nice overview of four iOS (free!) apps:

  1. IndieBound, to locate the nearest indie bookstore.
  2. Local Books, to locate all bookstores and libraries near you.
  3. All Bookstores, to compare prices at up to three dozen online bookstores.
  4. And one of my favorites, Goodreads.  The barcode scanner is clutch.
These apps look pretty solid.  I haven’t had a chance to test them on my iPod Touch yet, other than Goodreads, but I would like to add two more apps for your consideration:
OverDrive Media Console
This is the greatest thing for ebooks since sliced bread.  I’m not sure what sliced bread ever did for ebooks, but I hear it was pretty awesome, ranking somewhere between iPad 2 and Amanda Hocking.  This is what you need to borrow ebooks from your local library that require Adobe DRM (basically, to use on anything other than the Kindle).
BookPage
I discovered the print version of BookPage at my library.  The monthly journal provides outstanding access to upcoming releases in all sorts of genres, including reviews, interviews, advice, etc.  One nice feature is the book club recommendations they provide – I know some of my fellow library staff have used them in developing programming.  The iOS app provides all the same material to you on your device. The journal itself is free (likely available at your local library), and the app is free.

While I have an Android tablet at home, too, I haven’t checked to see if these are available for that, other than OverDrive Media Console.

All of these apps provide some compelling features to use. I’m excited to try IndieBound and find out if there are any independent booksellers near me.

What other apps do you use to keep up with your reading addiction? habit?