OPLIN 4Cast #233: E-book gender issues

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Guess what? Men and women are different. While that is obvious in many cases, it may be a little surprising to find that men and women seem to have different preferences and habits when it comes to e-books and e-book readers. Forrester Research has been keeping watch on the digital book market, and our first link below is an article about Forrester’s predictions for that market from 18 months ago. Their most recently released report seems to indicate that they got at least one thing right: women are important to the future of the e-reader business. The fourth article linked below may provide some insight into a problem women may have with the current e-book business model.

  • E-reader growth hinges on women, $99 price tag, says Forrester (eWeek/Michelle Maisto)  “Finally, later adopters—the group with the biggest potential of all—are likely to be women who currently [Aug. 2009] buy or borrow approximately 2.7 books per month. They’re less concerned with having the latest device, they’ll wait for a $149 or $99 price point, and they buy their books from multiple sources. ‘Whereas Amazon was perfectly positioned to sell to the first wave of e-reader adopters, this group may be more likely to buy from a retailer like Wal-mart or Target,’ writes [Forrester Research author Sarah] Rotman.”
  • Female magazine fans flock to Nook Color (New York Times/Jeremy W. Peters)  “On the surface, the reason for the strong performance of female-oriented publications on the Nook is relatively straightforward. Generically speaking, the iPad and other tablets are men’s toys, while the Nook Color and other e-readers are more popular with women. According to data from Forrester Research, 56 percent of tablet owners are male, while 55 percent of e-reader owners are female. Women also buy more books than men do—by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers—and are therefore more likely to buy devices that are made primarily for reading books.”
  • Meredith takes an analytical approach to tablets and e-readers (eMedia Vitals/Rob O’Regan)  “What has [women's publisher Meredith Corp.'s Liz] Schimel’s team learned so far about the user experience? For one, there are distinct differences between users of tablets like the iPad and users of e-readers such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Users of tablets, she said, are looking for interactivity in the form of videos or hotspots—basically, more sophistication from a technology point of view. E-reader users, on the other hand, seem happy just to have content that’s portable. ‘The delight factor there is the fact they can get great magazine content on their e-reader device,’ she said.”
  • E-books drive older women to digital piracy (The Telegraph/Christopher Williams)  “One in eight women over 35 who own such devices admit to having downloaded an unlicensed e-book. That compares to just one in 20 women over 35 who admit to having engaged in digital music piracy. News that a group formerly unwilling to infringe copyright are changing their behaviour as e-books take off will worry publishing executives, who fear they could suffer a similar fate to the record labels that have struggled to replace lost physical sales.”

Nook fact:
Barnes and Noble has specifically targeted women in their marketing of the Nook readers, and that strategy seems to have brought them one of their biggest successes. They now claim more than 25% of the digital book market.

OPLIN 4Cast #226: eTextbooks are different

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

We have certainly written a number of posts on this blog about e-books in the past, but this post is about a specific kind of digital book: “eTextbooks.” These textbook e-books differ in important ways from the novel e-books we’ve posted about previously. Reading a textbook often involves highlighting sections of text for later review and taking notes, things which few people reading novels do. This difference in the reading activity leads to an interesting difference in the preferred hardware for eTextbooks: the reading device needs to have either a touchscreen or touchpad, like a tablet or laptop computer. Most novel e-book reading devices, like the Kindle, lack this. And because tablets and laptops are computers, they can do more things than just displaying text, things which are, in turn, beginning to drive changes in the way eTextbooks are written and marketed. Will students begin to expect similar features when they read a novel e-book?

  • eTextbooks and educational apps: iPads enter the classroom (Singularity Hub/Whitney Ijem)  “High school, college and graduate students alike are making use of eTextbooks from companies like Inkling and CourseSmart. These companies work with textbook publishers to provide digital versions of the cumbersome textbooks we are so used to lugging around. There are also apps available that aid in note taking and information gathering. Older students aren’t the only ones with iPads. In some schools, children as young as 5 are using iPads to learn the basics.”
  • 1 in 4 college textbooks will be digital by 2015 (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters)  “An oft-cited study by the Book Industry Study Group found that 75% of college students say they prefer print textbooks. But Xplana [report] says that rather than take that study as a sign that students will refuse to use digital books, we should instead marvel that, at a time when only 1% of college textbooks are available in an electronic format, that already 25% of college students say they prefer to study this way.”
  • Publishers back Inkling’s iPad textbooks (VentureBeat/Anthony Ha)  “But he [Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis] argued that everyone else is basically adding limited features to a PDF of the textbook and that these e-books are basically developed by the publishers’ business divisions without much input from the original textbook creators. Inkling, on the other hand, wants to publish apps that feel like they were truly built for the iPad, which usually means working with the books’ authors to create new content. ‘It only gets interesting when the content itself changes and begins to respond to your fingertips,’ MacInnis said.”
  • Textbook renter Chegg becomes more social (New York Times Bits blog/Miguel Helft)  “CourseRank, which Chegg acquired in August, lets students see reviews of courses and professors written by other students. Students can also see when a class meets so they can plan their schedule online. They can also see who among their friends have signed up for a given course, the distribution of grades (is this class going to be hard or not?) and of course, what textbooks are required. (Yes, they can then rent them from Chegg.)”

Licensing fact:
Students often don’t purchase eTextbooks; they “subscribe” to them for a term long enough to cover the class term, usually 180 days.

OPLIN 4Cast #220: Turbulent times for publishers

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

No doubt about it, libraries are going through some very tough times right now. On top of draconian budget cuts, they have to deal with the latest anti-library antics of Those Dang Publishers. We tend to forget, however, that these are also very tough times for those publishers, as they watch the business models they have relied on for years become obsolete in the march toward new digital media and new distribution methods. For example, they face business pressure to sell their e-books through “agencies,” while at the same time facing legal pressure when they do. In today’s 4cast, we share a potpourri of recent writings that illustrate some of the new stresses on the old publishing industry.

  • Monetizing the book buying experience (Off the Page/Sheila Bounford)  “Of course not everyone behaves on impulse, and consumers do not have an obligation to buy in store. Those from outside the book industry do not necessarily feel a responsibility to support their local shop if the prices there are higher than online. In a recession customers are much more likely to browse, and then go home and buy online to save money. The key questions therefore are how else can physical bookstores monetize what they offer? And, should publishers be much more proactive in supporting them through increased discounts and other measures?”
  • Random House caves on agency e-book pricing (Ars Technica/Jacqui Cheng)  “Under the wholesale model, publishers like Random House would sell a certain number of books to a reseller (such as Amazon) for a set price, then the reseller would set its own price on each book. This works out well for the sale of physical books that have to be shipped, but not so much for e-books, where there are infinite copies. The agency model, by comparison, allows publishers to set their own prices for e-books and give 30 percent of the sale price to the reseller.”
  • EU raids ebook publishers in price fixing investigation (Guardian/Benedicte Page and Leigh Phillips)  “The focus for the price-fixing investigation is understood to be what is called the agency model, which has been adopted by almost all the biggest publishers for their ebook sales. This is distinct from the traditional wholesale model, in which retailers buy the books from the publisher and can then do what they wish with them. Under the agency model, the retailer acts as an agent of the publisher, which itself sets the retail price of the ebooks, with the retailer taking a commission. Publishers see the agency model as crucial because it allows them to trade with Apple, which was already using it for iTunes, and also to control the price at which their ebooks are sold.”
  • Gannett unveils image ‘reset’ (USA Today/David Lieberman)  “[CEO Craig] Dubow said he wants advertisers and others to see that Gannett [news] properties attract local and national audiences via different media, including the Internet, smartphones and tablet computers such as Apple’s iPad. To help make that point, the company’s properties will begin to prominently identify themselves as part of Gannett. In addition, the company will launch a national advertising campaign that includes the tagline, ‘It’s all within reach.’”

Profit fact:
ECKO Publishing provides a handy online tool for publishers to figure their profit on e-books distributed through various agencies, as well as some interesting agency rules publishers must follow.

OPLIN 4Cast #219: E-book lending (personal)

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

It’s a safe assumption that most of our readers have heard of the recent move by Harper Collins to restrict the lending of their e-books by libraries; the news lit up Twitter and other news channels at the end of last week. If you need a reminder of what’s going on, we recommend the article from the New York Times and/or Joe Atzberger’s blog post. In our blog post, we thought it might be interesting to look at the current state of person-to-person e-book lending. After all, many of the earliest public libraries in this country had their beginnings as interpersonal book-lending groups before they became more formally organized. (Of course, these days the groups are likely to be Internet “friends,” rather than neighbors.) Perhaps we can find some clues to successful e-book lending models by looking at e-book clubs. Or perhaps they’re just having the same problems that are plaguing libraries.

  • New Kindle lending club matches e-book borrowers and lenders (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters)  “The Kindle Lending Club is the brainchild of Catherine MacDonald, who said that when she heard Amazon announce on December 30 that it was finally adding a lending option for Kindle,  she decided to set up a Facebook group—a way to help people find others who were willing to share their e-books. But as interest in the group exploded, MacDonald realized that Facebook just didn’t offer the scalability needed for such an undertaking. ‘I had no idea how viral the idea was,’ she says.”
  • E-book lending clubs (ALA TechSource/Tom Peters)  “What I find fascinating about these eBook lending clubs is that they realized that, once Barnes & Noble and Amazon enabled the lending of etexts, a nascent market had been born. However, it was an inefficient, disorganized market because, if I own a lendable Kindle edition, I have no efficient way to lend that etext to someone else who wants to read it, unless I just happen to know a family member, friend, or colleague who might be interested in reading one of my Kindle editions.”
  • Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ebooks (Librarian by Day/Bobbi L. Newman)  “First let me state that I think the lending rules on the Kindle and Nook are complete rubbish. I mean really the selection is very limited and you can only lend an item one time and for only 14 days.”
  • Kindle & Nook book lending (pafa.net/pollyalida)  “While I love the idea of being able to loan the few books I’ve purchased, the restriction on loaning a title only once will turn me into more of a hoarder than a lender. If I’m going to loan a title that I really enjoyed, I want to loan it to a friend, a good friend. And not just any good friend, but that one very good friend who will love the book the most. And the one who can get through it in the limited 14 days. Don’t bother loaning me anything, I’m a slow reader.”

Club fact (kinda):
Several people have posted lists of e-book lending groups, but the Tom Peters blog post cited above is the most current and (if you include the comments) most complete that we found.

OPLIN 4Cast #215: E-book ownership

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Last week there were several interesting postings on the Internet about the notion of “owning” e-books. We’ve mentioned e-book DRM issues in this blog before, but last week’s discussion went beyond the day-to-day headaches of dealing with e-book DRM to investigating deeper meanings of the current e-book “ownership” explosion. Is there any need or merit to owning an e-book in the same manner that we can own a paper-based book? Can the concept of loaning books apply to something non-physical like an e-book? Which, of course, is food for thought for libraries…

  • The value of ownership and ebooks (Dear Author/Jane Little/1-23-2011)  “Currently digital books are considered leases rather than true sales. If a sale occurred, a reader would be entitled to the rights under the first sale doctrine: resale, trade, loan. Additionally, the question of whether a reader would be able to bequeath her digital library if she passes on to her descendants (like a daughter or granddaughter) hasn’t been addressed as the term of the lease hasn’t been challenged in court.”
  • The downward spiral of ownership and value (Thingology/Tim Spalding/1-24-2011)  “If the Kindle had debuted with an access-based ‘faucet’ model, it would have failed. Consumers would not have traded true ownership for a tethered, metered and monitored product. But we’ll get there soon enough, as each step away from ownership makes the next step more acceptable. Once you realize your Kindle book is not fully yours, you’ll accept it being mostly not yours.”
  • Does the ebook mean the end of ownership? (The Telegraph/Shane Richmond/1-25-2011)  “An awful lot of book buyers don’t care about ownership in the first place. They’re the ones who are happy picking up any old title in the airport bookshop and then leaving it behind on the way home because it won’t fit in their luggage. Those people will take to ebooks with nary a peep and simply making them feel like they ‘own’ their books will make little difference.”
  • What if a book is just a URL? (O’Reilly Radar/Jenn Webb/1-26-2011)  “All you need to use Booki.sh is a web browser — you sign in and read your books. There’s no software or files to download, just complete no-muss no-fuss access to your books. You don’t own your books in the traditional sense — you own the rights to access them.”

Comments fact:
So far, these four postings have gathered over 130 (often lengthy) comments.

OPLIN 4Cast #211: Paying for online content

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

dollar sign with download symbolJust at the end of the year, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report indicating that “65% of Internet users have paid for online content.” In fact, you probably saw some variation of that phrase repeated several times in the media (as evidenced by the titles of the articles listed below). It’s worth going beyond the headlines and paying a little closer attention to the details of this report because it could indicate future trends that affect the borrowing practices of library users. For example, how many people are willing to pay for movies and e-books delivered directly to them over the Internet, rather than borrowing them from a library? What differences are there between age groups and income brackets? What factors determine what types of online content people are likely to buy? And what does all this tell us about the best future use of library funds for purchasing content?

  • Parsing Pew: What the latest online content buying numbers really say (paidContent/Staci D. Kramer)  “…Pew has a very broad definition of content ranging from music, software and gaming ‘cheats’ to newspapers, magazines, e-books, adult content and dating services. The distinctions were often blurred between kinds of content and containers. For instance, one category was ‘a digital newspaper, magazine, journal article, or special report’ but other options included apps and premium or members-only content. That makes it difficult to hone in on what people are willing to pay for—the actual content or the way content is delivered.”
  • 65 percent of Internet users have bought content online (Ars Technica/Casey Johnston)  “Of the people who use the Internet but don’t buy content, those ages 30-49 were the least likely to abstain from digital purchases—29 percent haven’t bought anything, compared to 33 percent of 18-29 year olds and 39 percent of 50-64 year olds. This indicates the 30-49 age bracket makes a good target for companies that are looking to sell online content, as it has the largest overlap between technological literacy and financial security.”
  • Pew shows 65% of people pay for digital content (TechCrunch/Erick Schonfeld)  “What about digital newspapers or magazines behind paywalls or for sale for tablets like the iPad? A respectable 18 percent of respondents say they have paid for news or other reports online. That even beats out the 16 percent who have paid for movies or TV shows. Media companies will love that stat. And ebooks? Only 10 percent have bothered to pay for those.”
  • 65% of Web users buy digital content: More music, fewer e-books (GigaOM/Kevin C. Tofel)  “Digital books for most platforms can be read on a wide array of devices: smartphones, computers, tablets and of course, dedicated e-reader devices. Even though it won’t share sales numbers, Amazon recently pointed out that its newest Kindle is the best selling product on Amazon. Between that news and the cross-platform support for e-book content, I would have expected more spending on e-books from the Pew Internet survey.”

Money fact
The amount of money spent for online content by the respondents to the Pew survey averaged $47 per month; however, Pew noted that a few high-end users skewed this average, and the typical buyer of online content only spent about $10 per month.

OPLIN 4Cast #207: Digitally enhanced books

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

books and globeWe often may think of e-books as a variation of print books, only with the words delivered to an e-book reader rather than impressed on paper. But the fact that e-books exist in digital form creates the possibility of opening the text to interaction with other digital formats, such as digitized video, audio, and the entire World Wide Web. That type of interaction with other content can result in a new, enhanced reading experience. Although there have been some inroads in this direction using e-books for adults—see Copia, for example—most of the innovations to date have involved books for children and young adults. The first step has been clever enhancements of printed books with digital content, but now we are seeing an increasing number of enhanced e-books, or “book apps,” that are strictly digital.

  • Children’s fantasy novel engages readers with augmented reality (ReadWiteWeb/Chris Cameron)  “The novel [The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi] features special emblems on three of its pages which can be used to unlock the augmented reality experience. By holding the emblems in front of their webcam, readers will see a somewhat-interactive 3D map that helps them picture the world of the novel. Animations and sounds play automatically as the experience guides the user around the map.”
  • Interactive books (‘E’ not included) (New York Times/Sam Grobart)  “These three books point to a medium in transition. They still require readers to jump from book, to computer, back to book again. But with the rise of e-readers and other tablet devices like Apple’s iPad, I have to imagine that some author is hard at work creating a fully digital experience that combines text, video, animation and data. Books, movies and video games will all contribute to this new form of storytelling, and I would not be surprised if it happens to children’s and young adult literature first.”
  • On an innovative device, apps lacking imagination (New York Times/Alice Rawsthorn)  “As for books, children’s titles are leading the way with apps that include animated illustrations, often activated by the reader. My favorites are the fabulously surreal ones in ‘Alice for the iPad,’ Atomic Antelope’s interactive version of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and Oceanhouse Media’s ‘Dr. Seuss’ apps. Kids can ‘play’ the Dr. Seuss stories like movies—saving you from reading the same one again and again. Each word is highlighted when it is spoken on the soundtrack.”
  • Enhanced Narnia e-book has promise, restrictions (Wired/Tim Carmody)  “…the visually rich and conceptually encyclopedic nature of the books means that adding maps, illustrations, animations, reference guides, and timelines actually become very useful reading aids. Add in audio readings and commentaries, critical essays, and you have something that could become the equivalent of a deluxe DVD edition of a beloved book.”

Publishing fact:
Major publishers are currently trying to determine how to price and market enhanced e-books. According to the Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins has only eleven enhanced e-books in their catalog to date, but are intrigued by the possibility that about half of consumers would be willing to pay significantly more for enhanced e-books as opposed to standard e-books.

OPLIN 4Cast #200: E-book Developments

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

open book with digitsWe’ve done three OPLIN 4cast posts about e-books in the last six months, and this one makes four. We try to mix our topics and avoid repeating ourselves, but last week there was just too much e-book news to ignore. This time the news items that caught our eye were not necessarily the stories about e-book sales or marketing, but the stories about significant changes to e-book content. These changes are certainly food for thought; for example, will libraries have any way to offer patrons new types of “books” designed from the ground up for digital distribution? (While you’re thinking about that, you might enjoy Eli Neiburger’s presentation—part 1 and part 2—from the September 29 LJ/SLJ “ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point” virtual summit.)

  • Amazon to publish “Kindle Singles” (Ars Technica/Jacqui Cheng) “Amazon is rolling out a separate section of its Kindle store meant for shorter content—meatier than long-form journalism, but shorter than a typical book. Called ‘Kindle Singles,’ the content will be distributed like other Kindle books but will likely fall between 10,000 and 30,000 words, or the equivalent of a few chapters from a novel.”
  • Amazon introduces a format for shorter e-books (New York Times/Nick Bilton) “This medium-length format has traditionally been difficult for writers to sell to publishers as it doesn’t fit into the mold of a printing-press distribution model. In a digital distribution system, those pricing structures no longer exist, and a digital price can be adjusted accordingly.”
  • Borders partners with BookBrewer to turn blogs into eBooks (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters) “While there is a lot of competition in the eBook and self-publishing space, one of the key features of BookBrewer is the ability to turn an RSS feed into a book. This will have appeal not simply for independent authors, but for bloggers and for educators.”
  • Feds give $1.1 million for e-textbooks for vision-impaired students (Chronicle of Higher Education/Travis Kaya) “Typically, college students who have trouble with standard book formats could only turn to their disabled student-services offices to have textbooks translated into braille or scanned with rudimentary text-to-speech computer software. [...] With more advanced technology, [...] developers are digitally reformatting hundreds of books that can be rented online at a much lower cost to the students and the institutions.”

Young Reader Fact:
A study conducted this summer by Scholastic Corporation found that a third of children age 9-17 say they would read more books for fun if they had access to e-books on an electronic device; however, two-thirds of the children also agreed with the statement, “I’ll always want to read books printed on paper even though there are ebooks available.”

OPLIN 4Cast #190: Digital Romance?

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

printing pressAs of Monday, Dorchester Publishing, which claims to be the oldest independent mass market publisher in America and is known as a romance publisher, switched away from traditional print publishing to only e-books or print-on-demand. Is this a harbinger of things to come?

  • Dorchester drops mass market publishing for E-Book/POD model (Publishers Weekly, August 6) “President John Prebich said after retail sales fell by 25% in 2009, the company knew that 2010 ‘would be a defining year,’ but rather than show improvement, ‘sales have been worse.’ While returns are down, the company has had a difficult time getting its titles into stores as shelf space for mass market has been reduced.”
  • Paperback publisher goes all digital (Wall Street Journal, August 6) “Romance fans in particular have already embraced e-books, in part because customers can read them in public without having to display the covers. In addition, type size is easily adjusted on e-readers, making titles published in the mass paperback format easier to read for older customers.”
  • The ‘vanity’ press goes digital (Wall Street Journal, June 3) “Much as blogs have bitten into the news business and YouTube has challenged television, digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that’s threatening the traditional industry. Once derided as ‘vanity’ titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”
  • Authors do what? (Smart Bitches Trashy Books/SB Sarah) “But the real matter at hand, aside from placing bets in the death pool as to whether Dorchester is circling the drain or has bought itself some time, is what do you think authors with print books formerly scheduled to come out this fall should do to shift their marketing and promotional plans as new digital-only authors?”

Libraries do what?
If you’re wondering how to add Dorchester titles to your library print collection now, they have signed a deal with Ingram Publisher Service to do print-on-demand copies for selected titles.

OPLIN 4Cast #187: E-books vs. print

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Amazon announced yesterday that it sold more Kindle books than hardback books over the last three months.  While the format of the book may be changing, people are continuing to read more and more.  Digital and print books will coexist for quite a while.

Bonus link:
How many e-books does your library have? Librarians and patrons in the US and Canada weighed in with their stats.