28 April 2014


The world of ebooks has just gone surreal! OK, so the publishers are collecting data on where in books readers stop reading, how long they stay away, which books are read completely and quickly and everything in between.  Incredible feedback for authors! What will this do to the writing process?   Imagine millions of fans all agreeing that one part of The Hunger Games was written too slow or too fast.  Authors can rewrite...  

Check out this post from Digital Book World (http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/a-plea-let-some-ebook-data-flow/).

A Plea: Let Some Ebook Data Flow

Historically, when all others are concentrating on lowering costs, quality wins.
Publishers with a laser focus on improving the reader experience win over those focused on saving pennies per page. There is an appetite for quality enhanced ebooks at a premium (e.g. audio books, companions).
But it’s not necessarily about simply improving the multimedia experience. The best way to improve revenues, stickiness, and loyalty has always been to ask the customer. Customer data is the best indicator of what does and doesn’t work.
Imagine being able to factor in the subtleties of your readers’ experience. What parts of the book did they like and at what parts did they struggle to keep reading? Which sample of the book led to more sales?  Did they finish the book? If so, how long did it take and what were the sticking points? Who is my audience?
The problem with surveying customers is that the sample size of data is typically too small to warrant rewrites. But ebooks afford us the opportunity to capture this data automatically. In fact, the EPUB3 format allows for embedded JavaScript, so we can leverage some of the same type of detailed analytics we get from web pages (that have been optimized and improved for years) – for ebooks.
Yes, there are privacy concerns. Yes, there are data-ownership questions. Yes, there are platform wars. These are strong forces that have brought down laudable efforts to bring this data to authors, such as Hiptype (a short-lived startup that cracked the problem but was strategically blocked by larger forces).
Platforms are not to be blamed, nor are privacy activists. Their assertions and efforts on behalf of the data and readers are valid. But there is a common understanding that our written word could be improved by what is effectively the best possible peer review system available – a mass contingency of actual consumers. And that little “e” in ebooks allows us to dynamically make changes.
So what’s the answer?
There is common ground between data-driven publishing geeks (such as myself), privacy activists, authors, and platform owners. For example, we can all agree that if most students are incorrectly answering the questions at the end of a lesson, changes likely need to be made. Customer data does not have to include personal information, nor does it have any particular value by itself. However, an author/editor would find it invaluable. The ebook could be improved, the lesson would be more valuable, and scores of students would understand trigonometry better than I.
If we can all agree on sharing some of the most basic data elements (perhaps just with the Publisher and Author for the express use of improving quality and conversion), all parties win. Readers will have a better experience, authors will have created a better product, and publishers will increase sales. Best of all, platforms that make such data available would attract more authors and publishers.
The data-driven publishing movement is a strong current that we can control by defining what data is shared, with whom and for what purpose. Building a dam to stop all data is a detriment to readers, students, publishers, authors, and platform owners.
It’s time to open the flood gates and let some data flow.

15 April 2014

As we get deeper into 2014, the word on the street is that libraries and publishers are trying to make things work, trying to make ebooks accessible, but the relationship is far from happy as discussed here in Digital Book World's blog.  
Libraries Annual Report: Relations Between Libraries and Publishers Over Ebooks Improving
The relationships between libraries and ebook publishers are improving, according to a new report from the American Library Association, but have a ways to go.
In its 2014 State of America’s Libraries report, the ALA writes:
After years of conflict between publishers and libraries, 2013 ended with all the major publishers participating in the library ebook market, though important challenges, such as availability and prices, remain.
In 2013, both Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, which had not been selling ebooks to libraries, began pilot programs which were eventually expanded. Macmillan now sells its entire back-list of 11,000 titles to libraries nationwide and Simon & Schuster expanded its first pilot to a dozen libraries and has started a second pilot selling children’s ebooks to libraries. For the first time since the rise of ebooks, all of the major publishers and the vast majority of smaller publishers sell ebooks to libraries in one form or another.
Some library advocates, however, are far from happy with the current state of affairs.
In the ALA report, Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information, called the library ebook situation “appalling,” explaining that denying libraries unfettered access to ebooks threatens the library mission to “preserve cultural heritage, provide accommodation for people with disabilities, and protect individual privacy,” according to the report.
The report goes on to point out other issues between libraries and publishers when it comes to ebooks, like the various publisher business models, privacy issues, sales of ebooks to library consortia which share the materials, accessibility to patrons with disabilities, digital preservation of content, interoperability of digital files and integration of ebooks into the overall library system of gathering, disseminating and saving information.
Amid these issues that are of concern to libraries, one stands out and ties them all together: Cost. Ebooks, unlike print books, can’t be resold by libraries and, in some cases, are more expensive for libraries to purchase than the general public. A good example of how this can put financial strain on a library is the Cuyahoga County Library System’s acquisition of some 300 ebook copies of Fifty Shades of Grey for nearly $24,000 last year. It’s exemplary of an issue libraries across the country are facing. .
Libraries believe that publishers fear them and fear cannibalization of book sales if they make it too easy or cheap for libraries to acquire ebooks, according to the report:
Major publishers and publishing associations seem to fear that libraries could circulate ebooks to thousands of readers, decimating their profits…. Some publishers refuse to work with libraries, while others insist on charging libraries many times the prices paid by their other customers.
The report calls on the ALA and other professional organizations to devote more time and effort to the issue as individual libraries have little market power on their own.