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Borders and BookBrewer to Launch eBook Publisher

Posted on : 18-10-2010 | By : Dean | In : ebooks, Literature, Publishing, Technology

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Last week, Amazon announced its Singles program, a service that will digitally publish works ranging from 10,000-30,000 words, catering to independent authors. Today, Borders announced it is teaming with BookBrewer to launch Borders – Get Published, a service that will publish works of indeterminate length. This service will be available to any author or blogger, as it features a method to publish content via feed, directly from a writer’s blog.

Borders promises to make the works available across several devices and readers, including “iPhone, iPad, Android-powered tablets, eReader, Aluratek Libre Pro, and Velocity, Micro Cruz Reader.”

The pricing for the service has also been announced:

BORDERS – GET PUBLISHED(TM) Powered by BookBrewer gives authors a choice of two publishing packages: the $89.99 basic package and the $199.99 advanced publishing package. Under the basic package, BookBrewer will assign the book an ISBN (a $125 value), and will make it available to all major eBook stores at a price set by the writer. Royalties will be based on sales and will vary with each retailer. Authors who choose the advanced package will receive a full version of their ePub file, which they will own and may share with friends, family or submit on their own to eBook stores.

You may have noted that the Kindle (and other devices) are conspicuously missing from the list preceding the press release. However the advanced package offers an ePub version of the text, meaning that work can be transfered between online retailers pretty much seamlessly.

While writers can feasibly put together similar packages for themselves and make them available to any of the online retailers, the pricing and the feature that allows writers the ability to essentially blog their way to a book and edit afterward has a certain appeal. There are already several ongoing blog and wiki based projects like Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear’s Mongoliad.

Certainly, Get Published offers another option for writers without agents or publishers.

The question is whether this is a good thing or a bad one. One of the grand failures of Web 2.0 is that user-generated content produces much more questionable or just plain bad content than it does good. We have to endure hours of the “bad” to find those few second of the “good stuff.” And a novel is a different animal than a two minute song or a video. There’s a real time commitment involved in every single published work. Will these services produce income for the companies like Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble, only to produce stagnant markets? They will certainly (at least initially) be filled with many of the novels that have been shopped at the big publishers and rejected several times.

If the service sounds too close to a vanity press to garner a second look, consider that they offer distribution, and unlike most vanity presses they can and will deliver. And with the initial fees paid, the author is free to take his or her work to whichever retailer he or she desires, at whatever price. Most important, authors claim the vast majority of the profits from those retailers. At amazon, that’s 70% of the profits, far more than any of the big print publishers offer. The pricing model offers legitimate incentive for established writers to publish electronically. It’s a good bet that we will see established authors publishing in these markets.

Another factor to consider, from both a consumer and production standpoint, is that these services have the potential to put the digital rights in the hands of the artists and writers. Decisions about DRM will no longer be made by publishers under this monetization platform. They will be made by the person who should make them: the writer.

Kindle Singles Announced

Posted on : 17-10-2010 | By : Dean | In : ebooks, Publishing, Technology

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Heart of Darkness, Daisy Miller, Turn of the Screw, War of the Worlds, Animal Farm, The Metamorphosis, The Old Man and the Sea, The Awakening. All of these works have at least one thing in common. They were written in that nebulous word count space that publishers rarely risk investing in, at least in fiction: the novella. Henry James called it the “blessed form,” but it’s a form that, despite its wonderful potential, has remained an anomaly in the modern print publishing model–too short for the major houses and too long for the journal market.

However, there’s promise that this form may emerge in new ways. This Tuesday, Amazon made the following announcement:

Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch “Kindle Singles”–Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today’s announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.

Most people agree that the book, in its traditional print form, isn’t going anywhere soon. Sales may be flat and in general decline (last year Bloomberg reported a 1.8% overall decline while ebooks tripled), but enough readers seem to prefer print to keep the industry going for some time.

But the amazon announcement shows that there may niche markets where the digital book can thrive alongside the print one. It seems a perfect fit. The cheaper production cost makes publication viable, and the short length fits the reading pattern of most web/digital readers. There may even be opportunities for new publishers that specialize in forms that perform well in the digital market. The success or failure of ventures like “Singles” will sort that out.

On the other end of the keyboard, “Singles” will provide an amazing opportunity for writers, both beginning and established, to explore the form with access to new published models.

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