sábado, 31 de enero de 2015

640Kb should be enough for anyone...

Apparently, some 40 years after Bill Gates said that, some people still believe it.

Someone wrote the following comment at Author Earning's Feb'14 report (one of them, this is):
First, that even if Indies represent a big percentage of Amazon’s revenues, revenues is not the same as earnings. There are thousands of indie authors that haven’t sold a single book, (actually, I am one of them…) and they represent a huge cost for Amazon, like server space, bandwidth or help desk support.

Fascinating. One of my ebook collections has some 500 books. Taking crude data from there, it needs some 350 Mb. A tad more if you go into operating systems and filesystems and technicalities, sure. But the fact is that I could put a hundred times my library in my oldish iPad and it would fit. Or in a 32 Gb photographer's card. At about 50€ (end-user price) a terabyte, that's 50¢ the gigabyte. For less than 15 cents I can store the whole collection in a hard drive.

Bandwidth? About par, and mostly only if someone actually buys it. For the rest... about the same bandwidth it costs Amazon that anyone browses a product. Help desk support might be an item, though. Still...

People... Computing, really. It's been there for most our lives, at this stage. Get a grip.

Take care.

viernes, 30 de enero de 2015


And maybe non-fiction in general.

Start here and maybe follow the discussion at Passive's place. I sort of pointed in that direction last August (fourth bullet point).

I also know of a high school in a high-immigration zone where teachers, fed up with the access policies of "e-books" (sold as temporary software licenses: when September comes, you loose notes and access; you better not fail the subject) and their out of date content (not outdated knowledge, but outdated syllabus) has pushed them to mostly forego books and make their own content through CMS systems (Moodle, mostly; some wiki).

So, it's starting there, too. And one wonders. On one hand, certain non-fiction is costly, and I can understand the temptation of going for the advance if, say, you have to travel to Mexico to check pre-Columbine ruins. I do not share the solution, but I see the temptation. On the other... if the trip is already done, if what remains is combing through notes and bibliography (like, say, a travel guide to somewhere you've already been, or an algebra book, or an archaeologist back from Mexico...), the temptation is false. You have a mirage; which might be tempting or not, but that's another thing.

On the other, I'm interested in Mr. Bright's sentence, but it's not explored further, nor can I find the interview itself. I do suspect some of the data from Lulu (*). Still, his points on content and non-fiction are worth considering, and probably something of a trend.

Take care.

UPDATE: It keeps giving.

(*) 90% of print!? Ah, after print costs... And exactly who prints it? What are the choices of supplier?

jueves, 22 de enero de 2015


Are brick and mortar retailers starting to make — or planning to make — real-time point-of-sale numbers available to publishers?

Data Guy, at Kris Rusch' blog

I don't personally understand much of the surprise around TradPub lack of data. I'd think it's been a staple of the discussion these last... 4 years? That's likely to be a good part of the push behind Data Guy's own analysis site. Also, like I commented in my PS some days ago, big corporations tend to be somehow adverse to data. Not always, no; certainly not the best ones. Still, the push is there.

Anyhow, what irks me of "Mr. Guy's" comment is... Why should retailers make their data available to publishers? I don't know about their business end, but readers haven't seen much of a save in costs in the retail price of books, have they. Not while returns got cut in half. Not while logistics improved. By being outsourced, by the way. To, er, Amazon, among others (*).

So, big publishers have outsourced their slush pile and their logistics. They never had market research or contact with pestiferous readers. Nor do they value them that much. They certainly don't want to reduce costs (ask the DoJ; keyword "collusion"). They keep claiming that the book business has very thin margins. That they can't adjust prices any lower (I'm sure those big international corporations only buy them for their prestige, sure). That proper production practices are a threat to their way of life. American, of course. Even when it's French.

So... the rules for a healthy cultural breeding ground:
  • No free books in libraries
  • No cheaper ebooks
  • No slush pile. That's what agents and contests are for
  • No logistics. That's why we have amazon
  • No sales control. That would mean actually tracking things. And maybe even... No! Gasp!
  • No paying writers. Pay bestsellers way and beyond, and use the excuse. No audits. Internal!? What!!??
  • No market studies. It could lead to the previous two.
So, no, I would not be surprised if B&M bookshops didn't make data available. Publishers have become too used, way too used, to have the rest of the industry, from writers to readers, at their whim. without giving anything back. And the rest of the industry, specially writers and readers, is a tad fed up.

Take care.

(*) Which is, again, why Amazon's refusal to do the logistics for Hachette without the bare minimum legal cover turned into such a nightmare for them. They no longer could distribute. Ooops. Or, maybe, they distributed as the always had, but the world is no longer understanding of 3-week delays.

viernes, 16 de enero de 2015

Traditional publishing 2014

I read Kris article as it was published, but I wanted to read it with some more time, comment on it. Christmas has been busy.

I'm going to use her own numbered list as a guide.
  1. 1. Accidentally simultaneous So... NY was apparently confused that Scott Turow didn't have as loyal a following as Grisham.

    Excuse me... Scott who? I first heard of him thanks to the disaster that has become the Author's Guild. Now, granted, my best-seller reading was guided by my father, who bought translated and died four years ago. And it probably helps that his translated books are a chaotic mess (bad covers, many publishers...). Still, four movies against four-teen movies, two TV series and an extra pilot? Who was smoking what to fail to realize that they should have checked?

    But they couldn't collude! Indeed. But they could delay the books a couple of weeks once they realized what was happening. That would mean, however, reaction speed, and will. And getting the head out of the "business as usual around lobster" mindset.
  2. 2. What rise? I still have the feeling that publishers fail to realize how redundant they're becoming. Not useless, mind you, but they no longer have to compete among themselves, but with many thousands of small publishers and writers and services. They haven't seen that. Those that "have" (Kris mentions S&S in her latest post so far) are tightening their hold in their current stock... instead of trying to compete with better terms. In Kris older article, check Exploitable Content later on.
  3. 3. Oldspapers I've mostly stopped following newspapers. We're subscribed to a local paper, at home, which I read seldom and online. I used to be of those guys who tried to follow 3-4 newspapers when he had the time (not all that often) and read a beefy one daily.

    Then some jerks murdered several thousand people in New York... and news couldn't cope. I already had some other outlets, back then, but the even proved (at a moment that I was in uniform and needed a better information flow) that mainstream news were off. There were some other events, here at home, that proved to me that national news were to be avoided [*]. And they keep digging their grave, preaching to the choir. A choir that's getting smaller.

    So, basically, papers are done and gone as sources of news. They could be sources of analysis, of culture, of... many other things. But not in trimmed down supplements on type 9.
  4. 4. Magazines. See above

  5. 5. Blogs. I think blogs will review mainstream, once they realize that the old sources for reviews are done and over. For the rest, I think part of the "problem" is that, for a blogger, WMG Publishing is no different than S&S. It's not a paying customer, but a source of entertainment with an associated cost. Does it deliver? For a SF reader, what's the difference between Baen, McMillan, and WMG? Man, do the Big Five just positively, utterly hate to be on equal terms! And they don't know how to act with people who don't want to be part of the "elite".
  6. 6. Shelf space. And the huge increase of digital shelf space. Not so long ago, if I was at the airport I had several clone bookshops, with basically identical books. For all purposes, the combined catalogue was that of the biggest store. Imagine a magazine publisher whose ads (and articles) were the same in all that group's magazines, only some were shorter and had to leave some adds out. Those chain stores had more placement... of the exact same ad, time and again.

    These days before I board a plane I can check several bookshops, each of them with a basically infinite bookshelf and an algorism for suggestions that is, sadly, better than many bookstore employees. And I can buy it in place. And, if you're doing international, you don't end with spare change in something you don't need (and having to carry several pounds, if you're in for a long flight). It's not that we shop differently, is that we shop ("around") instead of being sold.

  7. 7. Algorisms. See above. Although I'm a weird critter. Those selling tactics usually annoy me. Stacks of Grisham? Who the fuck put that there! I almost tripped!! (And I consider bad form to kick books, even by accident). Also... if so many people buy it, I'll get it from someone... if it turns it's any good.
There are some very specific dates, in Spain, that are big bookpushers. Sure, they sell a lot of books to people who might not even read that book in the whole year. Basing your entire strategy on that kind of event seems a tad shortsighted. I might be wrong, of course, and they know their business like no one else, and it's a special snowflake of a business and they're doing as great as you can expect in this illiterate world.

That must be it, sure.

The thing goes on. How, at this stage, publishers haven't found a way to straddle the point between "the old book is selling like candy by a school!" and "it takes 90 days to get 1 million books into the stores" is something that amazes me. Do something smaller to bridge the gap, guys! Small, almost PoD runs. Then you can have the big run. Every time someone doesn't find a book you're risking a sale.

Take care.

[*] Again, I'd remind you that Spanish newspapers, by and large, are owned by the media and oligarchy establishment. One that was basically grown by dictatorship bootlickers.

lunes, 12 de enero de 2015

It's business

"A publishing company is not a charity. If they smell money they will publish your book. Business is tough."

John Cooper, at The Passive Voice.

The comment above was made by a writer at The Passive Voice, in a post regarding rejections.

I learned a certain kind of business behaviour on my father's knees. He'd been in the same enterprise as his father, and his grandfather. Started as travelling salesman during the late postwar recovery, ended up as manager (and managed the early 70s and early 90s crises). We spent a good deal of the 90s and the 00s discussing current corporations. He simply couldn't accept certain behaviours actually happened (managed to accept them as the economy nosedived; then, he died). He insisted that certain employee retention practices (or their lack) didn't work. That certain consumer relations were not healthy. That...

I did say that he managed to believe what I was saying as the economy nosedived, yes?

There's been a lot of ink on the way that current corporations manage their assets for good quarterly reports but can't manage much mid or long term. To the point where, when someone does invest mid or long term, it's seen as an aberration (Amazon, anyone?).

And it's dawning on me that the mechanism is basically the same. Focus on the short term (quarterly in stock corporations, preorders in publishing), no R+D, no understanding of customer & provider relationships (no matter if they are actually providers or customers of writers; they certainly are providers of bookshops), no understanding of the end customer (it's called a reader; weird critters), no understanding of distribution (Hachette delays some months ago; shipping PoD books overseas...), no understanding of their own portfolio (books as special snowflakes... unless they happen to be written by a media darling), no grasp of their inventory (*)...

Will they adapt? Sure. The corporation will. The current crop of editors, CEOs and such? I doubt it. But the corporation? Well, if Lagardere sold Hachette to a partnership of Konrath, Eisler, Howey and Rusch, the corporation would adapt. Would it still be the same? Well, technically. I think the adaptation process can fall short of that... but not really by much.

Take care.

(*) I know of a big-ish corporation whose Spanish section didn't know how many units of a given item (any item) it sold. They carrier over the prior year's predictions, then slashed the actual sales so that they could actually meet that prediction plus its growth. Unless you had access to the original data (meaning, you were in a specific off-way office) and you had kept that data privately, you couldn't know. Including department bosses, by their own orders. By the same token, publishers accept "returns" two-three-n years after shipping. And they often don't even know how much they have shipped on a given day.

domingo, 11 de enero de 2015

47 º N

Besides Barry's, I got my first Amazon-pub books these last Christmas, both by 47North (SF and such).

I am unimpressed. Not bad books, mind you, but if that's the "revolution" of Big Publishing...

"[...]The cumulative effect will be to render you immune to 99.7 percent of all known forms of sickness and reduce the aging process by one half.”

“What?” Chakrika asked.

“You can actually do that?” Lucius asked. “There were rumors in the empire, but nobody thought anything of it, considered it Commonwealth propaganda.”

Rex smiled, asking, “How old do you think I am?”

“Twenty-seven,” Chakrika replied confidently. “I can always tell.”

“That’s what I would say as well,” Lucius spoke. “But I sense that you’re about to surprise us.”

“Fifty-four standard years,” Rex replied.

Chakrika stared, her mouth gaping. Lucius laughed, shaking his head.

So, the main support characters can't do grade school math.[*] One of those characters is a serial lover. As in "get in love -> manage to get girlfriend murdered -> change planet -> repeat". And it's not an in-joke (or doesn't look like one), but someone we're supposed to take seriously, tormented and all.

Or, in the other book, a main character who gets a Bronze Star + "V" on his first serious deployment. Him and his whole squad. The whole military side on that one is... rote, scripted. Like taken from someone else's tales without running it by a vet. Which can be a choice, but it's a dangerous one. And he doesn't pull it. Maybe is that "born and raised in [Europe]" + "been a soldier" in his bio. Some parts of the tale smell of peacetime draft. And the MoH character is off.

So, not really wrong stories. But not quite right. Could have used some extra input.

I'll probably stick to indie for a while. I wouldn't mind amazon epub that much, but... they only serve mobi.

Take care.

[*] Wait! He can't! About a baby: "Just disease killers and cell repair. You don’t get the age treatment until you’re fully grown." But, of course: "It’s not an exact process." Tell & awe, verbose++, and it doesn't even gel.

sábado, 10 de enero de 2015

Nuking Nook

I don't know when I first started using amazon. Sometime in late 90s (97?), but I was using a different email, and I didn't manage to recycle that user when I changed it... twice.

Still, the reason I used it back then (it's lost a lot of that particular appeal, now, as they tweaked their system to favour their local branches... which aren't quite as good), back before amazon-UK, much less the rest of them, was that it was both easier and cheaper for me to get books through amazon than anywhere else. While I live in a city, mine is not an English-speaking country. So, in a way, my access to (English) books was about the same as someone out in some mountain ranch in Montana.

Amazon made it possible, with some S&H caveats (not really all that many), to get books. Many more titles, much cheaper books, faster books (yes, it's faster to get them from a shop... unless you account for how long it took them to get that title).

Compare to Kobo. Searching things there is a pain in the ass. Either too many results (and you get to wonder how some of those got there, since they don't match your search at all) or too few. And when you try to buy them, you get a 404. Guys, you're a corporation; at the very least, provide a link to the proper off-US site. After dealing with their pain of a search, finding the book... then you get to know they're not going to sell it to you, and they're not even going to provide an alternative. If you want it, you have to go to the European site and deal with the search engine again. And then, get charged extra, both as basic cover price and taxes [*].

So, instead of a worldwide, convenient, shop, Kobo (and others, mind you), we have a shop that insists that you're going to buy from them their way, or else...

Or else? Shove it. It and your business division, of course. It's business, guys. And a business that forgets customers...

Take care.

[*] As an aside, the VAT on ebooks as software is there because the publishing industry hasn't moved a finger against it. If the groups behind Le Monde, the Economist, El País, Süddeutsche Zeitung... pushed for cultural VAT on ebooks, the EU Parliament would work on it so fast they'd be borrowing spare seconds from 3001.

[UPDATE March 2015]: They seem to be working much better, now. Maybe being bought by the Japanese? Their search engine still sucks, but I'm being able to actually find books and buy them without jumping through the obstacle course.

miércoles, 7 de enero de 2015

New year and taxes

Apparently, Spanish newspapers, after getting a law to make Google pay for news (what amounts to a tax payable to private corporations [*]), are paying for ads... now that they no longer show on searches.

On the same venue, ebooks in Europe are now an average 15+% more expensive. Above and beyond any other taxes their publishing corporation pays.

I double dare you to find an EU-sold book in my e-library. If you track my 4-figure e-library, you won't find a single book for which I had to pay more than 20% over the cover price. This is part of the reason. So, the EU tax system no only lost 20% of a 4-5 figure expense, but also any further taxes payable on that (as benefits, employees social security...).


[*] Remember: in Spain, the equivalent to the Big 5 publishing houses are houses with both news and book arms (usually, not bookshops), usually tied to big, stale, money, and tied to bipartisan parties.