Tag Archives: ebooks

Dual-screen Hisense A2 smartphone is also an ereader

2017-04-10

Common smartphone screen sizes are between 5 and 6 inches, and the most common ereader screen size is six inches. Reading a book on a bright and colorful smartphone display is pretty convenient these days. The downside is that the color screen drains the battery and it is still difficult to read in sunlight. So, why not build a smartphone with two screens: a color screen for apps and a black-and-white screen for ebooks.

Hisense A2 smartphone ereader. Photo: maistecnologia.com

Hisense A2. Photo: maistecnologia.com


The Hisense A2 is the latest product that has implemented just that. The smartphone comes with a 5.5-inch color display and a 5.2 E ink display. One side of the phone is used as an ordinary smartphone and the other side an ereader. Two devices in one product.

01net had an opportunity to get their hands on a Hisense A2 prototype. Their first impression was positive, so it seems that we finally could have a proper dual-screen smartphone for ebooks by the end of 2017. The price is expected to be around 400 euros.

Similar products have been available in some markets earlier. Yotaphone has returned to the business, introducing the Yotaphone 2. Its availability, however, is unclear at the moment. Also Onyx, which has successfully introduced a number of ereaders recently, had a dual-screen smartphone earlier, but it didn’t live long.

The Hisense A2 is already available in China, running on Android software.

Bonnier takes digital disruption seriously, establishes publishing company for ebooks and audiobooks

2017-03-28

Very few (if any) traditional book publishers have given their ebook business the freedom to independently from the mother ship run their operation. Bonnier opens a new publishing company Bookery in April 2017 which specializes in ebooks and audiobooks alone. This is the classic method for managing disruption caused by a new technology in large companies: let the new company compete in the changing markets on its own terms.

ereader on top of stack of books
Media company Bonnier operates in 15 countries, primarily in Europe. The company was established 200 years ago in Sweden, where its headquarters still are located. In addition to books, the family owned business publishes magazines, newspapers, broadcast media, and owns bookstore chains.

If a visionary manager tries to run a new business within a large corporation like that, he or she is often doomed to fail. The new business may compete in different terms than the primary business, and may even compete head-to-head with the corporation’s main business. It is not usually tolerated, and the new business doesn’t have room to operate.

So, establishing a separate company for a new business indicates that the headquarters is serious about the new thing. In this case, Bonnier has determined it is time to take digital book publishing seriously.

The management for the new digital-only company has been hired from outside Bonnier. The CEO of Bookery Åsa Selling told SVB: “We believe series and short texts work well in digital formats. Above all novels, but also non-fiction. Now, we will talk to authors who are willing to write stories for the new formats. They can be plain ebooks, but also audiobooks that are something else than simply recorded readings.”

Bookery aims at sourcing and publishing 20-25 new titles per year with the first ebooks available in 2018.

Are travel coloring books the ultimate relaxation option on the road?

2016-12-01

There are times during every traveler’s journey when it would be smart to switch off brains from constant planning ahead, working, or worrying about what can go wrong. Some (printed) book publisher believe they have a cure for traveler’s anxiety: the travel coloring book. Coloring books for adults were recently popular, but now, it is possible to find a coloring book for your special interest, such as travel.
travel coloring books, cover images
The theory is that since the world inside a travel coloring book is already organized and static, the tourist can manage the world drawn on the pages of the book by coloring it the way he or she wants. It is supposed to take your thoughts away from anything that may burden your mind and from everything around you.

Maybe that is exactly why many travelers have their music collection on a smartphone or on an iPod with them and they listen to their favorite artists when they want some distance to the world around. Some travelers, surprisingly, read books, whereas others watch movies, or sip gin and tonics.

There are many ways to relax on the road apart from coloring books. Yet, it is an interesting trend. Whoever was the mastermind that thought of producing coloring books for adults must be congratulated. Creating a new trend is once-in-a-lifetime event.

If you want to color Paris or San Francisco on your flight across the Atlantic or the American continent, it is possible (Amazon). Or perhaps you would like recolor 30 World Heritage Sites in your favorite colors? Kobo bookstore markets ebooks that contain drawings that you can print out and then recolor.

The New York Times discovered that some upmarket hotels give guests coloring books and crayons as they check in. There was a time when it was cool to have the morning’s newspaper delivered behind your hotel room door in the morning, and a time when Wi-Fi was new. Now, it is books.

What about ebooks? Are there any coloring ebooks that you could use on your Kindle ereader or on the iPad tablet? Not really. While it is possible to produce an ebook application or Apple iAuthor book that lets you change colors of objects on the screen, these types of interactive multimedia ebooks are very expensive to create. Travel guidebooks that feature reliable and useful information on your destination can be viewed here.

If the coloring book trend continues after 2016, we may see a few ebook coloring books in the market. Otherwise, it is the old, proven paper, ink and crayon technology that dominates the coloring book business.

Globally, ebook markets to continue steady growth during the next few years

2016-10-22

In North America, where Amazon kicked off the modern ebook business in 2007, some book industry experts today are lamenting the recent decline of ebook revenues. Ebook markets outside the US, however, have a different situation and possibly also outlook for the future. PWC, a consultancy, forecasts that globally ebook sales continue to grow steadily, whereas print book revenues continue their gradual fall. PWC’s forecast is projected until 2020.

pwc, book publishing forecast 2020Annual growth rate for ebooks 10.4% and for print books -0.4% until 2020 according to PWC.
In regions like Europe, Asia and the Pacific, the adoption of ebooks have been a lot slower than in the US. For instance, in many European countries the market share of ebooks from the total book market is at 1 – 5% level. There is room for growth. Plenty of it. Sales channels are still being established (for instance, grocery store Aldi in Germany and subscription service Storytel in Scandinavia), tax laws are being amended (in order to treat ebooks equally with print books), self-publishing services are being set up, and people are realizing that large screen smartphones are reading devices.

Do you remember when the Internet bubble burst in 2001? It had been a wild run since the IPO of Netscape in 1995. For some pundits, 2001 was the end of the Internet business and tech business. Well, what happened? Today, they are shaping our world in all fields of life: transportation, entertainment, shopping, working, relationships, you name it.

The fact is that the world is taking its first baby steps in the new era of digital media that today also features electronic books. Today’s ebooks are more or less direct conversions of print books into electronic format – sometimes not even conversions if an ebook is delivered as an PDF file. Multimedia and augmented reality are some of the technologies that may get smartphone-generations to read commercial ebooks just like they read fan fiction, messages or watch online videos. Books will develop with technology, but the concept of book is so strong that it will remain.

So, yes, PWC’s cautious forecast for global annual ebook revenue growth of 10.4% is way more likely to happen than the decline of revenues in the US would turn into a long term trend.

pwc book publishing market forecast

Finally, European Union agrees that ebooks are books

2016-09-19

It is the content that matters. A book is a book regardless of the method you use to read it. A book printed on paper conveys the same ideas, information, excitement and messages as an electronic book enjoyed on a tablet, ereader or smartphone. Now, the European Union agrees with this concept. It means that the VAT for ebooks can be the same as it is for printed books.
kindle page flip video
So far, the VAT for ebooks in EU countries has been higher than for printed books. In some countries paper books don’t have VAT at all, but ebooks may have 15-24% VAT. It is a significant price difference.

France rebelled against the different VAT levels for books and ebooks already in 2013, but EU told France and later Luxembourg that they have to follow the rules. Ebooks were considered electronically supplied services rather than media products because ebooks are being delivered electronically, and there is no physical product. The great project to standardize VAT levels in EU had already started, and media products were part of it. France, Luxembourg and other countries were told to wait for the big VAT reform.

Now, Financial Times reports that Pierre Moscovici, the EU tax commissioner, agreed that ebooks are books. The commission will propose legislation to address the problem during October 2016. National governments will have to approve the initiative after that, but it is difficult to see why any government would want to stop it.

The next interesting story will be the level of VAT for ebooks. Will it be as low as it is for printed books, or will the VAT for paper books be raised to the same higher level than it is for ebooks?

Book lover’s vacation accessories

2016-08-28

It goes without saying that a book lover loads a fresh stack of ebooks on his or her tablet or ereader when packing for a vacation. In some countries the busiest vacation months are also the hottest months for ebook sales. But you also have to think about the destination climate, mode of transportation and technical standards when packing electronics (or paper book) for the trip.

Bookpub has published a great blog post where they introduce 11 products for book lovers who are going to a vacation. The ereader case and stand pictured above is one of the 11 accessories. You can find all the products here.

Readers adopted fiction ebooks quicker than non-fiction: Non-fiction ebook market has room to grow

2016-07-18

Book market statistics provided by publishing organizations are often quoted as the only authoritative numbers that reflect what is going on in the book trade. Many industry analysts have disagreed with these “official” numbers for years saying that they only represent a portion of the market: sales of big publishers. Especially, the emergence of digital books has brought a huge number of small publishers and self-publishers whose book sales is not tallied up in the statistics published by, for instance, AAP, Nielsen, or publishers’ associations in Europe.

An analyst who calls himself Data Guy (at Author Earnings) has discovered a way to collect data from ebook sales independent of which organization (or person) has published the title. He has created a system for extracting data from Amazon Kindle Store web pages. Therefore, all the statistics he can provide is from the US. Nonetheless, it is useful reference for ebook authors and publishers across the world because the US is the pioneer and the leading country in ebook business.

In July 2016, Data Guy gave a speech where he presented statistics specifically concerning romance literature ebook market in the US. The included data, however, has many valuable lessons for all authors and ebook publishers. Here are a few highlights from his speech.

author earnings: Slide07 july 2016

Source: Author Earnings.

In the US, non-fiction books has slightly over 50% of the print book market, and fiction slightly under 50%. In many European and Asian countries, non-fiction books have way larger market share from the print market. For instance, in Finland non-fiction print books had 35%, text books 35%, fiction 26%, and ebooks less than 4% market share in 2015.

Now, Author Earnings reports that non-fiction ebooks have only 12% market share in the US ebook market. Fiction dominates the ebook market with 88% share, and roughly half of purchased fiction is romance. Although we haven’t seen the ebook market in Europe segmented by genre, we believe the overall situation is roughly the same: non-fiction ebooks haven’t been adopted as quickly as fiction.

Yet, the potential to introduce something new to new generations of readers is in non-fiction and text books: digital media lets authors and publishers embed more attractive images, animation, photo galleries, interactivity and even moving pictures in books. You can view samples of this in Klaava Travel Guide titles.

author earnings, Slide12, july 2016

Source: Author Earnings

In the US, Amazon really dominates the ebook retail sales with 75% of title purchases going through the Kindle Store. Amazon UK has similar, some claim even stronger position, of the national ebook market, but elsewehere in Europe, other stores compete successfully with Amazon. For instance, in Germany Tolino is a major player in the ebook market. In Scandinavia, Adlibris and Storytel are big digital retailers (there is no Amazon store in Scandinavia yet, but Nordic citizens buy from Amazon.com if they want Kindle products).

It is still early days for digital books. The market developed quickly in English-speaking countries, primarily because of romance and crime titles. Fiction ebooks are replicas of print books. The big technical development is still to happen, and non-fiction and text books will drive the development. For instance, Amazon Page Flip is one of the early signs of things to come. It is a marvellous new feature for browsing non-fiction books.

Ebooks are slowly gaining market share in Europe as print books decline

2016-02-14

Ebooks made a quick breakthrough in countries where English is the dominant language after Amazon introduced the Kindle ereading system. From the beginning, Amazon’s ebook selection was huge, and prices were reasonable. In Europe (apart from the UK), the situation is different: ebooks haven’t gained the same status as printed books. Slowly, but surely the situation is changing in Europe as well, because ebook sales is continuously growing and print books are declining.

EU organization European Parliamentary Research Service has drafted a report that looks at the book market in Europe and possible reasons, such as country-specific taxation policies, for the slow development of ebook markets.

eu: ebooks vs print, 2008-2014
Data source: European Commission, Analysis of the media and content industries: The publishing industry. EPRS report “E-Books: Evolving markets and new challenges”.

The statistic sums up only five EU book markets, but (again, apart from the Great Britain) the trend is clear: ebooks are slowly finding readers, whereas printed books are losing readers. In 2014, the market share of ebooks was about 10%.

What is missing in Europe is the quick quantum leap that took ebooks to a new level in the US around 2010 and 2012. Then, ebooks gained 20-30% share of the book market. Recently, ebooks have taken a step back when the big publishers started controlling ebook pricing.

Why the quantum leap hasn’t happened in Europe? There are many small countries and a variety of languages. Many regional publishers have not made their back catalogue available as ebooks at all. It means that the ebook selection in a small language area may only be a couple of thousand titles. Ebook prices can be almost at the same level with print book prices. Poor selection, poor pricing strategy, and little marketing for ebooks.

The attitudes are changing in Europe. EU is examining ways to tax ebook and print books according to the same principles. Ebook selection is growing and big European publishers are reporting big growth numbers for digital products. One of the largest publishers, Bonnier, recently told that its ebook sales increased 69% in 2015 compared to the year before. The total share of ebooks from the sales in 2015 was 10%.

Just a reminder that books are a huge global business compared to other media businesses. With an estimated value of US$151 billion, books have outdistanced music (US$50 billion), video games (US$63 billion), magazines (US$107 billion) and even film and entertainment (US$133 billion).

Online media subscription service Playster bundles ebooks, music, movies and games

2016-01-13

After Netflix hit the big time with online movie subscriptions and Spotify made online music available at low or no cost to listeners, the book industry has been looking for a similar solution. Is it possible to create a low-cost service that lets readers consume as many books as they want? Many have tried, but it still remains to be seen if it works for books. Now, Playster has a new value proposition: a bundle with books, movies, music and games in one subscription package.
playster ebooks, subscription
Playster media package of ebooks, movies, music and games costs 29.50 a month. You can read as much as you want, watch movies, listen to music and play games.

Playster sells individual media subscriptions as well. Unlimited books is 11.95 a month. The first month is free, but you have to give your credit card details.

We haven’t tried out the service yet, so we haven’t seen the book selection or how smoothly the Playster service works.

Nonetheless, the bundle package has potential. Perhaps it is too much for an individual person, but for a couple or for a small family it could be a good choice.

Other ebook subscription services are, for instance:
Scribd
Bookmate
24 Symbols
Safari Books Online
Mofibo (in Danish, Dutch and Swedish)
Skoobe (German)
Nubico (Spanish)
Amazon Kindle Unlimited (available in U.S., UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and India)
playster ebooks

Ebooks Are Top 5 Digital Content Type for All Age Groups

2015-06-18

Young generations didn’t grow with printed newspapers, magazines or books, but a mobile phone firmly attached to their hands. It is not a big surprise that the Millennial generation consumes media content on their smartphones whereas Baby Boomers rely on desktops, laptops and even traditional media. Somewhat surprising is, however, that the types of digital content that different age groups like to consume on their computers and mobile devices are almost the same with ebooks at 4th.

The top 4 most consumed content type on a PC and on a mobile device is exactly the same for all generations:
1. Blogs
2. Images
3. Comments
4. Ebooks
The fifth most consumed content type for Millennials is audiobooks, case studies for Generation X, and reviews for Baby Boomers.

digital content types by age group, buzzstream

The survey was conducted by BuzzStream and Fractl who surveyed over 1200 individuals, and classified them into three age groups: Millennials (born between 1977 and 1995), Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1976), and Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).

Another, even larger media study was recently conducted by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The Digital News Report 2015 – Tracking the Future News surveyed over 20 000 people in 12 countries, focusing on differences in news access between digital and traditional media and between age groups.

The research by Reuters indicates that 45 years is the dividing age in media culture. People who are younger than 45 rely on online news sources, whereas people older than 45 primarily get their news from television.

news sources by age, Reuters
Reuters also discovered that in many countries the Internet already is the primary source for news for all age groups on average. People in Finland, Australia, Denmark, Ireland, USA and Brasil specified the Internet as their number one news media source.

main news sources for media users, Reuters

Read Ebooks for Free in Exchange for Sharing the Titles with Your Followers

2015-06-08

Who wouldn’t want to get ebooks for free (and legally)? Sure, Gutenberg.org and other services have books that have entered public domain because the authors’ copyright periods have run out, but what about current fiction and non-fiction books? This is what Bookgrabbr is trying to achieve: get a free book, but share your good fortune with your social media followers.

bookgrabbr free books

First, you sign up for Bookgrabbr with your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin credentials. Then, you can read a book from Bookgrabbr’s selection on your computer, tablet or smartphone. On a PC, you access the book in your browser, but if you like to read on a mobile device, you can download the Bookgrabbr app (or read in a browser as well).

Well, the service worked as advertised. I could read a book for free in exchange for sharing the happy news to my followers on Twitter. The book selection on Bookgrabbr, however, is very limited. Apart from a few public domain books, there is not much to read. Obviously, people behind the service intend to grow the selection in the future.

bookgrabbr tweet
What’s the catch? For a reader, who wants to get free ebooks, the catch is marketing. Bookgrabbr gets readers’ social media contact information and can later send them messages concerning the author’s other books or similar books that are on sale on the store. For publishers, Bookgrabbr could be a channel to market backlist titles.

Driven by Disruptive Innovation, Book Publishing Is in Slow Transformation

2015-05-26

The disruptive innovation of ebooks and readers has become so self-evident that even industry experts tend to forget that digital book business is still taking its first baby steps. It is a long way to go (years, tens of years) for ebooks before the dust settles. That’s why I was glad to read an excellent article by Gareth Cuddy (the founder and CEO of Vearsa) where he analyzes the state of the ebook industry and where it is heading.

Professor Clayton Christensen coined the term disruptive innovation in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma . The key concept is the way new technologies disrupt established markets by introducing simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moving up market, eventually displacing established competitors. Examples are personals computers that displaced mini computers with terminals, and mobile phones that displaced traditional telephones.

Ebooks and digital media in general (music, movies, tv, newspapers, magazines) are not only technically capable of displacing their analogue counterparts, but also the time is ripe for radical renewal of the book industry as well as other media industries.

Gareth Cuddy uses Steven Sinofsky’s application of Christensen’s disruptive innovation as a framework for analyzing the development of digital publishing. Sinofsky’s four stages of disruption are:

  • Phase 1: Introduce product with new point of view. “A limited, but different, replacement for some existing, widely used and satisfactory solution.”
  • Phase 2: Rapid Linear Evolution. “The traction in the disruptor camp becomes undeniable. The incumbent continues as normal but tolerates and begins to incorporate changes into its own business.”
  • Phase 3: Convergence: complete value proposition relation to legacy. “Even when technologies are disrupted, the older technologies evolved for a reason, and those reasons are often still valid.”
  • Phase 4: Re-think the entire product category. “The last stage of technology disruption…when a category or technology is re-imagined from the ground up.”
  •  
    Gareth Cuddy determines that digital publishing is in convergence phase (phase 3). He argues that the plateauing of ebook sales, the resurgence of print titles in 2014, and the talk of ebooks going “out of fashion” prove that convergence of the old industry and new technology has started. He also points out that print vs. digital is also not a battle to the death.

    innovation in publishing, gareth cuddy

    Here is where I disagree. I see digital books still firmly in evolution phase ( phase 2).

    Ever since the Kindle and EPUB formats were introduced and the first ereaders became available, nothing has changed in digital technology. We still don’t have interactive, multimedia EPUB3 or KF8 books, we still don’t have color screens in our ereaders. We have, however, some development: book lovers and young generations who have adopted tablets and smartphones as their reading devices.

    Sure, ebook sales has developed favorably in the U.S. and UK, but elsewhere ebook sales are still minimal. Ebook evolution is only taking its very first baby steps. In most markets outside English markets, books are being converted to ebooks, digital sales channels are being set up, and because the traditional book business isn’t used to moving fast, all this takes time. Even tax laws in the EU have to be changed so that ebooks and paper books are treated equally.

    I expect the evolution phase of ebooks to continue until 2020. A massive development and massive business opportunity for the book business is the school and academic market, as well as non-fiction market. These markets will need more advanced technical solutions and licensing models than the industry can offer today.

    Phase 3 (convergence) will be about digital publishing and self-publishing that will find new ways to work with established businesses. New business models will emerge. Convergence will be about new retail models, like subscription services that already have begun to develop. Convergence will also mean that multimedia and interactivity will be introduced to books in a meaningful way.

    So, I expect phase 4 (re-imagination) to start in 2025 at earliest. After a fast start, ebook publishing will take its time before it finds the future of books. New business models, new book concepts will be created, but before majority of customers – people who read books – are convinced that new is better than old, the industry has to keep innovating.