Monthly Archives: February 2014

Print Is Dead! Long Live Print!

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You’ve all heard of The Book Depository. No, they haven’t started to sell ebooks at last. Given they are an Amazon company it’s unlikely they ever will. The Kindle store is the only ebook shop Amazon needs.

But we end this month with a couple of interesting – and for many, quite unexpected – developments in the publishing world.

Reports from the Christmas / Holidays season suggest many indie book stores not only did well, but literally broke records for print sales as 2013 ended. Then earlier this month B&N’s annual report revealed print sales yet again delivered a not unsubstantial profit. In fact were it not for the Nook store draining its resources B&N would be looking pretty buoyant.

We’ll come back to Nook another time, as we remain optimistic about Nook’s long-term prospects. The doom and gloom merchants revelling in Nook’s misery right now (why is that so many indie blogs supposedly supporting indie authors and reader choice will go out of their way to kick a man while he’s down?) may yet have their hopes dashed by a change of fortune when Nook is sold on to an operator with the muscle to make it work.

B&N’s management themselves are very optimistic about the future of the Barnes & Noble stores, and see the sale of the Nook operation as their only hurdle to survival. Print, in their view, still has plenty of life left in it.

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What’s this go to do with The Book Depository? Well, as we said above, it’s owned by Amazon, so whoever is in charge of it ought to know which way the wind is blowing for print, right?

Kieron Smith was The Book Depository’s Managing Director for five years. He left as recently as last November. Safe to presume he has a very good idea about the future of print. needless to say there was speculation when he left that he was deserting a sinking ship. That Amazon’s focus was now on ebooks and print would fade into oblivion.

Smith clearly thinks otherwise. This spring he launches a new, global online store called bestlittlebookshop.com. It kicks off simultaneously in four different languages – English, German, French and Arabic, and we expect more will follow.

No, there will be no ebooks in the new store. Smith is betting on print not just surviving globally, but thriving, alongside the continuing growth of ebooks, much as we’ve predicted will happen.

It’s not clear yet whether Smith’s store will stock indie PODs in the way The Book Depository does. Our guess is no, but hopefully we’ll be proven wrong on that.

Meanwhile a reminder to all indies that POD distribution made enormous leaps in 2013 and bizarrely your POD titles may now be available globally in even more stores than your ebooks are!

We say may, because if you are with CreateSpace you need to physically tick the Extended Distribution box to get your POD titles out into the wider world. No charge. Extended Distribution is now free from CreatreSpace, and far wider-reaching than when it was charged for.

Those using Ingram, Lulu, Bookbaby, Feed-A-Read or some other POD facilitator may need to check the websites to make sure they are getting into all the new channels. These are now standard, and free, but may need to be opted-in.

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Imagine. Your print books available to readers across the world. As we kicked off 2013 it looked like POD would forever be nothing more than a means to get a “real” book in the hands of your great aunt Dorothy to prove you really have written one and it’s not just a picture on a screen. Now POD can be a firm part of your Go Global In 2014 strategy.

Yes, these PODs still have to be ordered and delivered, and that can take several weeks to some destinations as printing and shipping is still done from the USA or a couple of key European destinations (expect that to change soon) but the simple fact that your print titles are available in countries as improbable as Brazil, India, Pakistan or Paraguay dramatically increases your chances of being discovered.

If someone spots your POD title but doesn’t want to pay the price and delivery charge, or is just too impatient, there’s a good chance they might buy your ebook instead.

Of course, if you’re ebooks aren’t available…

Being there is half the battle.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Mining Your World Rights – Think Outside The Book

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Earlier this month is was announced the Hallmark Channel is to partner with author Sherryl Woods to produce a TV series centred on her Chesapeake Bay novels published by Harlequin. It’s not clear from the report whether this is actually Harlequin handling the deal, or Woods’ agent (presuming she has one) or a direct arrangement between Woods and Hallmark.

The details are irrelevant to us as indie authors. So why are we running this item?

Because while there have always been film and TV deals from books, this sort of thing is happening more and more, and not just among trad-pubbed names.

Indies should constantly bear in mind this is a digital revolution, not just an ebook revolution. It’s not only ebooks and audio-books that are going digital. Production costs for film and TV are also plummeting as digital technology develops, making films and television programmes cheaper, easier and faster to make.

Simultaneously the number of channels and outlets available to distribute TV programmes and films is growing by the day, not just over the airwaves (that is so last century) but across cyberspace.

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Today Amazon UK and Amazon Germany launch Prime services for TV and film downloads. It’s been a long time coming and will undoubtedly boost KindleFire sales. Of course the US has been enjoying this service for a long while now. But Kindle countries like France, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Mexico are still out of the loop,

As with books, while many publishers and distributors (not least Amazon) are still structurally contracted to territorial and geographical borders, there’s no reason in principle why a TV programme or film cannot be as widely available as an ebook – that is to say, to anyone with a smartphone, tablet, phablet or other computer device in the world with strong internet access.

Publishers are just coming to terms with the idea that world rights can literally mean that. Producers in other media won’t be far behind.

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Current talk on the tech blogs is about 5G, the next generation of internet access, where a complete film will download in a blink of an eye. And who knows what realms of science fiction 6G will bring to life…

TV and film production companies are growing like topsy, and are looking for content. So far as we know Sherryl Woods isn’t a teleplay writer and won’t be writing the telescripts for the Chesapeake series Hallmark will broadcast. But she’s supplying the content.

You could be too. Yes, it helps if you have a top-name agent to contact film and TV producers to present your work for big or small screen adaptation. But it’s not a prerequisite. And especially among the smaller and newer production outfits there’s a desperate shortage of good ideas coming forward.

Nor is it a prerequisite to have sold millions of copies of the book before you can interest a producer. Yes, that will get their undivided attention, but plenty of film and TV productions have no prior history at all. It’s about the concept.

If you have a great idea and can prove an audience liked the ebook version of that idea you’re already half-way to an option (whereby a production company pays you a non-refundable fee just to stop anyone else grabbing the rights while they look into it further).

And you don’t need to limit yourself to production companies in your own country. While a thriller set in New York or LA is obviously best adapted to the screen by a production team in the US there’s no reason why an historical novel or series set in France or Italy cannot be produced just as easily by a production team in France or Italy as by a production team in Australia, the UK or America. At a production level it’s just about costumes, countryside and horses, after all. Just think “spaghetti westerns”, or the British TV series Robin Hood, which was actually filmed in eastern Europe.

And while a Bollywood studio might struggle with casting for a film about the American Civil War many other successful ebooks might be adaptable to local conditions. Many thrillers, historical novels and mysteries, for example, could be tweaked to be set pretty much anywhere. And of course for fantasy and sci-fi where the emphasis is on CGI it could be made pretty much anywhere. Entire films and TV series could be created in someone’s bedroom!

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Amazon is leading the way right now with fan-fiction ebooks in KindleWorlds, whereby they arrange with the producers of very successful TV, film and other intellectual properties to let indie authors write their own versions and get paid for it.

Let’s hear it for Amazon. This is probably the most innovative thing they’ve ever done. A fantastic idea.

But here’s the thing. Just as Amazon takes ideas and develops them, so can and will other retailers. We can expect plenty of copycat KindleWorlds initiatives in the near future, and these will be useful additions to the indie armoury.

But here’s the thing. You don’t have to wait.

If you adore a particular film, TV series, or even video game, and think you have a novel in you based on the content, put together some ideas and approach the rights owners. No need to wait and hope it might one day join the growing number of properties Amazon is sub-letting for indies to chomp on.

The rights owners will be as aware as anybody of the low production costs and ease of distribution for ebooks that could bring htme a lucrative new income stream and new exposure.

Don’t sit around hoping to get lucky. Make your own luck. Before someone else beats you to it.

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That last line is worth repeating: Don’t sit around waiting to get lucky. Make your own luck. Before someone else beats you to it.

If your ebook has sold in telephone numbers in the US or the UK but you can’t get a sale two months in a row in France or New Zealand, and don’t even know how to get your books to the market in the Philippines or Thailand (If not, shame on you! Go back and read the EBUK archives!) then don’t sit there sulking. Do something about it!

Divest yourself of the Indie Old Guard mantras that all publishers are the spawn of Satan and will rob you blind. Try reaching out to the hundreds of thousands of innovative small publishers, micro-presses and even bigger publishing houses in far-flung countries and offer them a digital deal.

In the olden days it was the huge production costs of printing a book and the logistics of distribution that meant publishers took on very few new authors and brought out very few new books. But digital has changed all that.

Set to one side the indie mantra that you must at all costs hold on to your ebook rights. What, your ebook rights in Thailand and Malaysia? Your ebook rights in Argentina and Mexico? Your ebook rights in Sweden and South Africa?

While we constantly remind everybody how you can get your ebooks to these markets on your own we also constantly stress that these sales will be significant collectively. Not so much individually.

Taking your #1 best-selling ebook in the US and sticking that same ebook with the same cover and blurb in an ebook store in the Philippines or Paraguay, in India or Indonesia, is just the first step. If you want to make a serious impact in foreign markets – especially selling an English-language title in a non-English-speaking country – then you need to customise. More on this in future posts.

For those who haven’t got the time, wherewithal or inclination to produce custom versions of their ebooks for specific overseas markets, why not do a deal with savvy local publishers in those countries whereby they will do all that for you?

It’s not going to impact on your sales at home if you sell your Thai ebook and audio rights to a Thai publisher and your Malaysian and Indian ebook and audio rights to a Malaysian and Indian publisher, or the translation rights for both the ebook and audio rights to a small press (or even a big one) in Indonesia.

No, you won’t be seeing 70% royalties, but you might get 35%, which is as much as Amazon will pay you for a sale outside the Kindle countries anyway. And you’ll have a local small press team optimizing your book for the local market. Their local market. Which means you’ll have a good chance of selling well.

Do that over a few dozen countries and those 35%s will soon mount up. And the more your book gets international recognition the more likely other small or even big publishers will come offering to translate for their domestic markets.

Remember, as the global ebook market grows local publishers will shft more and more to digital-only, where they can poduce and put out books for a fraction of the ost of print.

Plus you’ll likely pick up more sales from your other titles still stuck in the DIY easy-access channels as more readers discover you.

If you’re planning on Going Global In 2014 don’t miss out on the incredible opportunities opening up. Think outside the book.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Firefox Fires Global Ebook Market Expansion

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For most of us, when we think of Mozilla Firefox, we think of the Firefox web-browser, which more than holds its own against the likes of Chrome, Opera or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

What will be less familiar to many is that Mozilla Firefox has also partnered with hardware firms to bring Firefox smartphones to fifteen different markets last year. Kicking off 2014 seven new Firefox smartphones were launched this week.

Firefox mobileNo, they’re not cutting edge and they aren’t going to have Apple losing sleep over the future of the iPhone. But this is a foretaste of something much more exciting to come.

$25 smartphones.

Of course us rich westerners wouldn’t be seen dead using a $25 mobile. It wouldn’t have the latest totally pointless accessories we can’t do without, and more importantly we’d lose all street cred, So these $25-a-piece  mobiles are aimed at the emerging markets. Places like Costa Rica, Guatamala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama in Latin America, and Croatia, Czech Republic, Montenegro and Macedonia in Europe.

We can expect much more of the world to follow. And we can expect other operators and manufacturers to jump on the low-end market bandwagon very quickly, because the sheer number of new customers will more than make up for the lower margins.

Firefox Alcatel smartphones

For authors this is exciting news. Smartphones, tablets and phablets are already making access to reading possible for the first time to millions of people across the globe for whom books are simply not available, but the cost of devices means smartphones are still an unaffordable luxury to the vast majority.

Over the next few years, as low-end devices proliferate, we are going to see literally hundreds of millions of people in the developing world able to e-read for the first time, on top of the hundreds of millions in the more advanced nations who now read print and will be making the transition to digital.

And here’s the best bit. It may seem paradoxical but the global digital market is going to be  many, many  times bigger than the print market ever was, even while the print markets continue to survive and even thrive.

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As we are always reminding you, English is the lingua franca of the world. Your greatest asset.

Over the next decade the potential audience for your ebooks and audio-books is going to grow and grow and grow, as e-reading and e-listening spreads.

We also say being there is half the battle. For the current western markets that is indeed the case. With very little effort indies can get into pretty much all the current key markets in North America, western Europe and Oceania.

But that of course leaves most of the world out of the equation. As yet the big western retailers have largely shown themselves indifferent to the emerging markets. Google Play leads the way, and bizarrely Nook might not be far behind (more on this in another post), and Kobo could yet surprise us, depending on what direction Rakuten’s new man in charge of Kobo wants to go,

The key to the emergent global ebook markets is not, as you might expect, distribution. Apart from Africa most of the globe is well-covered one way or another. No, the stumbling block for global ebook expansion is payment processing.

This – not any anti-Amazon sentiment – is why we rule out Amazon playing any significant role in these new markets, and why Kobo and Nook are also no-hopers.

Google Play have proved themselves versatile and adaptable, and may yet pull this off (as we’ll be showing in a post on glocalization shortly they are well ahead of any other western company) but our gut feeling is that when it comes to the emerging global ebook markets the current players – even Google Play – are going to be left in the dust by newly-formed Far East operatives who have built themselves up by solving exactly problems such as these, and who have none of the baggage that weighs down the West’s current big players.

We’ll be looking at the nimble newbies in future posts, and show you how forward-looking authors can position themselves to be not only in with the new kids on the block, but also how they can be building a loyal fan-base in countries these new kids will be supplying, even before their ebooks are available for sale.

Remember, the savvy indie author plans for the next five years, not the next five weeks. The ebook market in 2019 is going to be as different from today as what today is from 2009.

The opportunities emerging as the global markets develop are mind-blowing. Forget not partying like it’s 2009. it’s time to stop partying like it’s 2013!

It’s time to Go Global In 2014.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter

Far more than just the UK

How Much Water Does It Take To Make An Ebook?

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Here in the UK we’ve had more than our fair share of water lately. It hasn’t stopped raining since forever, and hundreds of thousands of Brits are still dealing with the consequences of devastating floods across the country.

Back in the summer of ’76 we had six entire weeks without rain. Californians might not find that too remarkable, but it was a big deal in the UK. Roads melted, water was rationed, people queued up in the street with buckets to fill up from tankers, and industry ground to a halt.

What’s this got to do with ebooks? Simply that print books, newspaper and magazines all have something ebooks don’t have. Paper.

And to make paper you need copious amounts of water. No big deal for your typical industrial nation in North America or Europe, but in some parts of the world water shortages are a major problem for publishing industries who  are forced to import paper or have books printed abroad and shipped in.

Factor in poor infrastructure (electricity supply, roads, bricks & mortar stores, etc) and it’s easy to understand why reading is less common in places like Africa, the Middle East and vast tracts of Asia. Even those lucky enough to have received an education will struggle to find – and afford – books.

We’ll be coming back to Africa later this spring, with some in-depth reports on what we believe is going to be one of the biggest growth markets for ebooks over the coming decade. But we can get a foretaste of things to come by looking at North Africa and the Middle East.

Next month we launch the Ebook Bargains Middle East newsletter. Coincidentally an Arabic-language ebook store has recently set up business, although the emphasis is on Arabic. So far as we can tell they are not taking on, or looking for, English language ebooks at this stage.

We stress at this stage. That will change, and other ebook retailers will soon get in on the act.

Bizarrely none of the big western ebook retailers – not Amazon, not Apple, not Kobo – serve North Africa and the Middle East. We hope Google Play will grasp this particular nettle in 2014. It’s very unlikely the others will.

But if they don’t some forward-thinking new retailer from the Far East will step in and fill the distribution vacuum, as Middle East publishers embrace digital more fully.

For those of us able to get our works translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi and the myriad other languages of the region the opportunities are immense. If not, we always have our fall-back position. The English language.

Do they read English in the Middle East? We’ll have a guest post shortly by an ex-pat in the region (to mark the launch of our Ebook Bargains Middle East newsletter in March), which may surprise you.

But it’s not just ex-pats and a handful of academics that speak English there. Here’s the Egyptian Daily News. And the Saudi Gazette. And the Iran Daily. Then there’s dual-language Israel. Here’s Israel’s English-language Haaretz. Nor is just newspapers. Here’s the website of the Bank of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. English is the lingua franca of the world, even if we haven’t got an English word for lingua franca.

English-language books have never taken off in a big way in the region because the problems outlined above that make print books an expensive proposition are exacerbated by English speakers being fewer and further between.

Digital levels the playing field.

The English-language is your greatest asset. Don’t waste it by only targetting your books at a handful of English-language countries.

It’s time to Go Global In 2014

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter

Far more than just the UK

Around The World In 80 Ebook Stores – 1: Book Soup

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We’ve picked up a lot of new subscribers this past week, and those unfamiliar with the EBUK blog may be thinking Eighty Ebooks Stores? I can’t even think of eight!

Obviously we’ve chosen that number as an acknowledgement of the great literary heritage from which we all draw inspiration and on which we all seek to build, but actually eighty is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many of these myriad “new” ebook stores are little more than just-add-water instant micro-stores. White label stores attached to bricks and mortar bookseller websites, or even to retailers that have had no previous association with books.

They are cheap and easy to set-up, low-maintenance and bring the retailer another stream (trickle  in most cases) of income. We’ll look at just how White Label stores work, in another post.

When we say micro-stores we mean micro in terms of customer base, not ebook selection. Many of these micro-stores are powered by much bigger ebook retailers or distributors, like Kobo, ‘txtr, OverDrive, Copia, etc, meaning these micro stores may stock literally millions of ebooks, including yours.

If you check out the Ebook Bargains US newsletter you’ll find we feature a different micro-store each month, all attached to bricks and mortar indie booksellers. This is from today’s newsletter to US subscribers.

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It’s actually Book Soup’s last day with us. There will be a different indie ebook store featured from tomorrow. Book Soup’s website can be found here.

Having your titles in the Book Soup ebook store won’t make you rich and famous. None of these micro-stores will ever deliver more than a handful of sales. So it is worth the bother?

Absolutely. For three very good reasons.

  • By getting your ebooks into these indie bookseller micro-stores and – better still – giving the store some promotional time occasionally, you help keep indie booksellers in business. Their percentage on the handful of sales you make will be insignificant on its own, but if they make a handful of sales from many thousands of different titles over the year their percentage may be the difference between them staying open or closing for ever.
  • That same handful of sales won’t be making you rich, or even buy you your next coffee and muffin. But if you make a handful of sales over a year in each of a hundred different micro-stores that soon mounts up. It won’t pay the fuel for the private jet you bought with your Amazon sales, but it will still be worth having.
  • Discoverability. As we’re always saying, being there is half the battle. If readers are have been loyal to their local book-store and have eschewed the undoubtedly cheaper prices from Amazon or B&N in favour of an indie book store so far then they are unlikely to desert that store to go digital. If the indie bookseller has an ebook store attached the readers will buy their ebooks from that store too. Regular Kindle, Nook and other users may recommend your title to am indie bookstore customer. The indie book store customer may find your title and recommend it to a Kindle or Nook customer. It’s win-win if you are available.

In the case of Book Soup customers will actually be buying from the Kobo ebook store. And if you have your titles listed in Kobo there’s a very strong possibility they’ll appear when a Book Soup customer uses the Kobo search engine on the Book Soup website.

We’ll be looking at Kobo’s US partner stores in a special feature on Indiebound soon. Here just to say Kobo provides ebook stores and ebooks to a rather large (and growing) number of indie bookstores in the USA.

This is micro market fragmentation in action. As above, individually these sales may be insignificant. Collectively these stores and their sales matter. Not for nothing is Amazon itself now following Kobo’s lead and partnering with indie bookstores where it can.

More on Amazon’s partner stores another time. Here just to say Kobo got in first and is way ahead of the game. Check out Indiebound to find out just how many indie booksellers not only have websites with your POD titles on, but also have their own ebook stores carrying literally millions of titles, powered and supplied by Kobo.

No official figures on this, but Kobo are believed to have a mid-single figure share of the US ebook market. That may not sound much, but when it’s a market as big as the US ebook market that’s not to be sneezed at. And our guess is the bulk of those sales are coming through Kobo partner stores in the US, not the localized Kobo-US website itself.

Retailer Round-Up

All the Indiebound indie bookseller ebook stores, including Book Soup, are supplied by Kobo. To get into Kobo you can go direct via Kobo Writing Life or through pretty much any aggregator. We find the Indiebound link to be very temperamental. If it doesn’t work for you, the address is www.indiebound.org/ebooks. Do persist. it will be worth it in the end.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter

Far more than just the UK

Global Ebook News Round-Up

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It’s the weekend, so just a few snippets today from the international ebook scene.

Indonesian Dragon

Lenova is a big name in devices in the Far East. Last month it launched its latest smartphone, the Vibe X. Just one more device readers overseas might be reading your ebooks on.

Of course new devices are hitting the markets pretty much every day. We mention this one because it comes with an exclusive app called Dragon. This is an aggregating news and messaging app that is likely to take off big time across the region.

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It comes complete with Google Play Books pre-installed. Google Play is the only international ebook store currently supplying the dynamic Indonesian market.

This app is likely to be distributed across the S.E. Asia region soon. Google Play is the only international ebook store with a significant presence here. Draw your own conclusions.

For further information about the fast-growing Indonesian market, see our post here.

Prime Movies and TV Finally Come to the UK. And Germany.

Here in the UK we’ve been watching the countdown to Amazon UK’s launch of its unlimited video and TV streaming service for Prime members.

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This will bring more eyeballs to Amazon UK and boost KindleFire sales,  which in turn will bring more eyeballs to the Kindle UK store.

Our thanks to The Digital Reader for pointing out the launch is also happening over at Amazon Germany.

This is a long overdue move by Amazon to give KindleFire owners outside the US some of the many benefits Americans get.

Netflix UK has been here a while, but has not done anywhere near as well as in the US, thanks in large part to a rival operation called Blinkbox. Regulars here at the EBUK blog will be familiar with the name Blinkbox. It’s owned by the UK supermarket chain Tesco, the same one about to launch the Tesco Blinkbox Books ebook store. Interesting times ahead.

Fan Fiction

While enjoying the increased options to view, TV and film fans would do well to keep an eye on Amazon’s innovative venture Kindle Worlds, which allows indie authors the chance to write books about selected TV and film shows and get paid for it.

While Kindle Worlds in unquestionably leading the way in opening up commercial fan-fiction to indies, there’s plenty more opportunities on the horizon. More on this soon.

Comic Books and Books of Comics

Archie Comics are bringing out novels featuring their comic characters. The first appears next week, with another due out this summer.

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This is nothing new in itself. Marvel and DC among others have been producing novels about their characters and worlds for many a year. These are commissioned works, of course, but as we’ll be showing in a special post next week, there are plenty of opportunities arising for savvy indie authors to get in on the act at a broader level.

Ukraine’s Best-kept Secret

The Digital Reader this past week reported a new a ebook app from Pocketbook, a Ukrainian-based outfit most of us will never have heard of, but that we might want to keep an eye on for future.

We’ll be covering Obreey and it’s partner store LitRes in detail this spring when we take a closer look at the emerging ebook markets in Russia and the CIS.

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Google Play is already in Russia and there are strong indications we may see a Kobo Russia and a Kindle Russia store this year, but don’t hold your breath waiting.

Some indies are getting into LitRes, and if you check out the Obreey link above you’ll find it has an English-language version of the store selling English language ebooks. Nothing to get excited over right now, but the Russian / CIS ebook market could yet bring rich rewards.

Meantime, if you do make the effort to get in now you might just find yourself a big fish in a small pond.

Indie Ebook Stores Gifted Cash By Bestselling Author

Back to the USA now, where gazillion-selling author James Patterson has  just handed out cheques to fifty-five indie book stores totalling a quarter of a million dollars, with the plan to give away one million dollars int total. Why? To ensure indie book stores survive the transition from print to digital.

No, there is no stipulation the stores must promote the Patterson books.

Here at EBUK we regularly feature indie bookstores in our Ebook Bargains US newsletter. Many indie book stores now have their own ebook stores complimenting their print books, and pretty much all indie bookstores at least have their own website where you’ll very likely find your PODs for sale.

We’ll be looking at the rise and rise of the indie ebook store in detail soon. None of them are big enough to make a difference to you on their own, but collectively you could be gaining a lucrative new income stream if you are getting your titles into these myriad micro-outlets.

Subscription Audio-Books For Kids

Of course ebooks and POD are just two of many opportunities for indie authors to reach new audiences. Audio-books is another. If you write for children you’ll love this new audio-book subscription service for kids.

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As we’ll be exploring in future posts, audio books have reach far beyond the obvious, and audio should be high on the list of priorities for indie authors wanting to go global.

Many ESL (English as Second Language) readers may have learned the language from visiting English-speaking countries or simply from TV, film and radio. They may well having a good understanding of the spoken word but struggle with making sense of the written word. A perfect new audience for your titles if you have audio-versions.

And that’s just one of several opportunities for global audio we’ll be looking at shortly.

Tweet Your Way To Jakarta

Back to Indonesia now, where Indonesian Idol, said country’s very own version of that wonderful / dreadful (delete as appropriate) TV show is allowing viewers to vote for their favourite act with tweets – paid tweets.

As we reported before, Indonesia is the third biggest Facebook country in the world and safe to presume twitter gets  a fair bit of use there too.

The aggregator and ebook services provider Bookbaby has a free PDF download called Twitter For Authors In Ten Minutes A Day which, if you’re not comfortable using twitter may be worth grabbing.

We know some authors are doing well using twitter to reach readers globally. Ditto Facebook, Google+ and all the other SMP options. We’ll be looking more closely soon at how you can use SMP to boost international sales in the most unlikely of places.

Bookbaby have been in the news this week due to a new promotion-partnership with two key reader-focussed websites, Goodreads and NoiseTrade. You can of course sign-up with both Goodreads and NoiseTrade quite independently of Bookbaby.

Bookbaby offers some great free-at-upload distribution options, including Copia and eSentral which most other aggregators haven’t got covered.

Retailer Round-Up

No retailer round-up today as this is just a snippets post. Retailer Round-Up will be back with our next Feature  posting.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Is Ebook Bargains UK Anti-Amazon?

Recent posts here on the EBUK blog have triggered a mixed reaction. Among the dozen or so who contacted us directly yesterday a few were getting the impression we are anti-Amazon, while the majority were pleased to see the debate being opened up.

Anti-Amazon? One problem seems to be that we’ve recently increased the posting schedule to keep things topical, and have had a run of stories that some have seen as attacking Amazon.

Well, we certainly don’t sweep under the carpet issues on the international ebook scene that will effect indie author prospects. Pretending that Amazon is the only show in town and can meet all your global needs simply isn’t an option.

The whole point of the EBUK Project is to provide a resource centre for indie authors who want to reach out globally and become truly international bestsellers.

To that end we have on the one hand the blog and associated resources (a new site will be live soon with a lot of extras coming on-line) aimed directly at indie authors wanting to go global, and on the other hand the readers’ newsletters aimed at helping authors reach buyers in those new markets.

None of that can be effective by ignoring the downsides of the various retailers, whoever they are, Nor in pretending the changes happening in the international ebook markets will somehow not affect us. Fore-warned is fore-armed.

We’re committed to playing a small role in building a healthy international ebook market where readers and authors alike have multiple retailers and other outlets to choose from and can reach all parts of the globe.

~

We’ve been pretty scathing about Kobo’s disappointing launch in India, the absolute farce that is Kobo UK without indie access to W H Smith, and the on-going mess that is Kobo distribution to partner stores in Australia and New Zealand, and we will be coming back on all these issues again and again.

Yes, we’ve noted that Amazon’s global plans seem to have ground to a halt, but we’ve also said exactly the same about Apple and Kobo, while citing Google Play as the most promising international player for the rest of this decade. That doesn’t make us pro-Google, anti-Apple or anti-Kobo, yet it seems it does make us anti-Amazon.

We’ve said time and time again that Amazon is the most important player in most of the English-speaking markets right now and an essential place to be for all indies. But we’ve also made clear its limitations – the many regions Amazon doesn’t serve at all, or surcharges – and how indies can circumvent those problems through other retailers.

We’ve made clear that, while ebook retail is still the most important part of the ebook market right now, it is just one part, and that indies are missing out on wonderful opportunities by ignoring the trend towards ebook subscription services and digital libraries, which we believe will in time usurp the central role of the retailers.

If it’s anti-Amazon to discuss ebook subscription services and digital libraries beyond Amazon’s remit then so be it, but it’s a pretty lame definition.

~

Market fragmentation seems to have a lot of people confused, so let’s spell it out here.

When we talk about market fragmentation and falling Amazon market share this is not anti-Amazon. Falling market share does not necessarily mean Amazon is losing sales. Often its just the opposite.

The ebook market is going to get bigger and bigger, at home and abroad, and Amazon’s sales will get bigger and bigger too. But so will sales on other retailers. It’s a win-win situation if you are getting your titles out on all platforms.

But Amazon’s market share will still be falling. How can that be? Here’s the paint-by-by-numbers explanation.

For the sake of argument let’s say there are 100 ebook sales happening and Amazon is getting 65 of them (as per the Forbes report – 65%) then 35 are happening on other platforms. Amazon here has 65% of the market.

What happens if the total number of sales then doubles to 200, but Amazon only sells 100 of them and the rest are shared between the smaller established retailers and a handful of newcomers?

Suddenlt Amazon’s market share has just fallen from 65% to 50% – but it’s selling more ebooks than before. In fact it’s seen a 35% increase in sales.

The ebook market is going to get bigger and bigger, both at home and abroad, and Amazon’s sales will get bigger and bigger. But so will sales on other retailers, even as percentage market share falls.

In our last report we said we expected Amazon’s UK market share to decline drastically as Tesco Blinkbox and Sainsbury get serious this year. That does not mean we think customers are going to desert Amazon, stick their Kindles in the drawer and go buy from Tesco and Sainsbury instead. Far from it.

What’s going to happen is Tesco and Sainsbury, thanks to their access to literally millions of people who probably have never given a second thought to e-reading before and who for whatever reason are not on Amazon’s radar – are going to embrace digital for the first time, especially when the price wars kick in this summer season.

Many will sign up with Amazon, boosting Amazon’s overall sales, but many more will sign up with Tesco and Sainsbury and some of the smaller UK players like Sony, Waterstone’s and Foyles.

Ebook sales will soar across the board – all platforms will benefit. But market share will be further fragmented and Amazon’s market share will fall even as its sales rise.

At the same time as Amazon’s market share falls, Tesco Blinkbox and Sainsbury market share will increase. One more paint-by-numbers example to make sense of all this.

If Amazon sells 50 out of 100 total ebook sales it has 50% market share. If Sainsbury sells 20 and Tesco on its first day sells 10 then Sainsbury has 20% market share and Tesco 10%.

Supposing in the next week 200 ebooks are sold as more people go digital. Amazon sells 90 of them, and Tesco and Sainsbury sell 50 each.

Amazon has sold almost as many as Tesco and Sainsbury combined, It’s actually seen a staggering 80% increase in sales! But Amazon’s market share has dropped 5% to just 45%.

At the same time Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s market share have increased. Both now have 25% of the market each, which makes them collectively bigger than Amazon but Amazon is still the biggest player by far.

Amazon is a winner. Tesco and Sainsbury are winners. Readers are winners. And if we have our titles in among those sales indies are winners.

Nothing anti-Amazon about falling market-share there if you follow through the logic.

Think about the situation in the US. Amazon’s market share has plummeted (what other word describes a fall from nearly 90% to 65%?) since 2009. But we all know without question that Amazon is selling far, far more ebooks to far, far more readers than it was in 2009.

Amazon is still the biggest player in the US. Period. But its market share is has fallen drastically. Fact.

The two are not mutually exclusive, and it’s not anti-Amazon to talk about falling market share. It’s simple maths.

The point we are making with the constant references to market share is this:

The next generation of readers going digital are taking advantage of a far greater choice of devices and of retailers and other ebooks outlets than existed when Amazon led the way with ebooks in 2009-10. And this is a global phenomenon.

~

To come back, then, to the last few EBUK posts and put things in context:

For the record, Mark Coker at Smashwords triggered the post about Amazon’s price parity policy, in the wake of the announcement of Sony North America’s imminent closure. We followed up on that because it appeared Mark Coker was unaware the price parity policy was not legal in the UK and EU and had been stopped. And from the feedback we’ve had nor were most indies.

The post on Indonesia and the Far East could not be written without making clear, for indie hoping to sell there, that Amazon blocks downloads to most of the region while Google Play has recently opened a dozen ebook stores there.

KDP has a drop-down list of pretty much every country in the world, including all these Far East countries. No, Amazon doesn’t actually say they will sell ebooks there, but the intimation is clear when you tick world rights and supposedly include every country listed…

Readers come to the EBUK blog for news, views and clues on the global ebook markets. We wouldn’t be upholding our end of the bargain if we left readers mistakenly believing Amazon was covering all the bases. It’s not anti-Amazon to point out said company blocks downloads or surcharges in these countries. It’s simple fact.

The post on Bella Andre signing with Kobo again was reporting a newsworthy incident. Nothing anti-Amazon about it, but it seems reporting good news about Amazon’s rivals is anti-Amazon to some.

The most recent post seems to have raised the most eyebrows, but as we said in our opening words, in reference to the headline “Does Amazon take its customers for granted?”, this is not what we are saying, but was the argument of a respected economist, writing over at Forbes.

The issues raised have a bearing on the future of the Kindle stores and therefore on the future livelihoods of indie authors. This stuff needs to be out in the indie forums and debated, not hidden away because it’s not what we want to hear.

~

Finally, a reminder that in our daily newsletters for readers every day without fail we lead each listed title with the Amazon links.

Here’s the US news letter that went out today. And here’s the UK, the Australia and the Germany newsletters that went out today.

We could, if we were anti-Amazon, bury the Amazon US links below the links for B&N, Books-A-Million, Apple, Smashwords, All-Romance, Diesel, Sony, Blio or even our guest indie ebook store Book Soup but no, the Amazon links are right up there at the top.

We could, if we were anti-Amazon, put the Amazon UK links below the links for Waterstone’s, Foyles, etc. We could put the Amazon links below Angus & Robertson and Bookworld for Australian readers, and we could put the Amazon Germany links below the Tolino Alliance store links like Thalia and Hugendubel in the Germany newsletter.

Even when Amazon hasn’t got a local store we still put Amazon at the top. Here’s the South Africa newsletter, with links to local South African stores like Kalahari and Exclus1ves below Amazon’s.

As we made clear yesterday, we are not an affiliate site and do not favour, or disfavour, one retailer over another.

Forthcoming reports include some very favourable pieces on Amazon, not least on Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, which we regard as one of the most outstanding developments for indie authors since KDP was launched.

But for each topic, where there’s a downside to the involvement of any retailer, we’ll report on that too. It’s what we’re here for.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Does Amazon Take Its Customers For Granted?

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No, we’re not saying it does, but this is a suggestion by a respected economist over at Forbes this week, with the attention-grabbing headline Is Amazon Making A Big Strategic Mistake?

Economics reporter Panos Mourdoukoutas opens with this observation:

Of all big strategic mistakes leaders of fast-growing corporations make, one stands out: Taking the customer for granted. Blinded by growth, these leaders assume that their products and services are unique and indispensable, so customers will always be there to buy them at any price.

Mourdoukatos was talking about Amazon’s wider customer base, not indie authors, but he could just as well have been.

As we noted in a recent post, Amazon has just 65% of the US ebook market. As noted in other posts Amazon has seen market share plummet in Germany (estimates vary from 60% to 65%), has seen market share on a downward slope in Australia (the new Kindle AU store was a desperate measure to stem the decline – down to 65%) and Kindle UK saw the supermarket ebook store Sainsbury challenge the mighty Zon head-on in 2013. With Tesco’s Blinkbox Books to launch this spring we fully expect Amazon’s UK ebook market share to be savaged in 2014.

And this is just the ebook retail markets. This takes no account of the wider ebook market share being grabbed by subscription services like Oyster and Scribd and by digital libraries supplied by wholesalers like OverDrive (one hundred million digital downloads in 2013) and other distributors.

No, you won’t see this reported on many of the Amazon-centred indie blogs, but here at EBUK we are not (and will never be) an affiliate site, which means we are totally independent. We don’t make extra money on click-throughs on ebooks to selected retailers so we have no reason to favour one retailer over another, either in listings in our daily promo newsletters or when reporting on the global ebook market scene.

That said, don’t misconstrue anything here as anti-Amazon. Amazon is still the most important retailer for most indies, and even if Amazon drops below 50% of the ebook market that still makes it one helluva player.

But indies need to be aware of the wider debates about the future of their favourite ebook store, and of the ebook markets in general. It’s not 2009 anymore, Amazon isn’t the only show in town, isn’t the biggest retailer in many countries now, and may not always be the biggest where it is now the dominant player.

The savvy indie author plans for the next five years, not the next five weeks, and to do that they need to keep an eye on where things are going, not just where they are now, and certainly not to make plans on how things were yesterday.

Bricks & clicks vs bricks & lockers

Amazon is the online giant of the world. The world’s biggest online retailer. But one that struggles year-in, year-out to make a profit. As the Forbes report notes, Amazon in 2013 “amassed close to $75 billion in revenues at razor thin margins.”

Now $75 billion in revenue is not to be sneezed at. By any reckoning that’s serious money. But Amazon brought in that money with a profit margin of just 0.37%,  and while Amazon shares are still remarkably high there’s no question the shareholders are getting restless.

To put things in context Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer in the world. Period. While Amazon brought in revenues of an impressive $75 billion, Wal-Mart brought in a rather more impressive $475 billion. While Amazon managed a profit margin of just 0.37% Wal-Mart managed a far more substantial 3.6%.

 Gunfight at the UK Corral

 Wal-Mart doesn’t have an ebook store. Yet. But it’s coming.

One possibility is for Wal-Mart to buy the (supposedly) ailing Nook, as we’ve predicted several times, or even B&N itself.

Wal-Mart has been watching the rise and rise of Sainsbury in the UK and will not miss a trick as Tesco’s Blinkbox joins Sainsbury in a pincer attack on Kindle UK that will see the mother of all price wars in Britain this summer.

Indie authors – already banned from W H Smith, and blocked from Sainsbury and Tesco (so much for Barry Eisler’s assertion that indie authors have the same distribution capacity as trad-pub  authors) – don’t stand a chance as Kindle UK desperately price-matches Sainsbury and Tesco to hold its ground.

If you’re quietly smirking at the thought of a couple of backwater British grocery stores snapping at the ankles of the mighty Zon, think again. Tesco is constantly in the top five largest and most profitable retailers in the world, just behind Wal-Mart. It has pockets more than deep enough to match anything Amazon can do, and like Wal-Mart is it past fed-up with Amazon’s constant encroaching into supermarket territory.

While the online giant Amazon talks about developing a bricks & mortar presence but never seems to get past warehouses, retail lockers and vending machines, the big bricks & mortar retailers have been very actively laying the foundation for their bricks & clicks future.

And ebooks are going to play a very big part in that. Both Sainsbury and Tesco in the UK are working very closely with the Big 5 to make sure Amazon UK’s stranglehold on the British ebook market is broken this summer.

Earlier this month is a post entitled What do we do if Amazon stops growing? Futurebook’s Philip Jones noted that UK publishers were “unfeasibly excited” by the prospect of the Tesco Blinkox Books launch.

In the US it’s no coincidence that Wal-Mart recently grabbed Nook’s top man with the connections with the Big 5 in America.

Indies complacently putting all their eggs in the Amazon basket need to see the way things are trending, not the way things were. Change happens, with or without us.

Prime reasons for diversifying your marketing strategy

As we reported yesterday, while Amazon had nothing to say about ebook sales growth in its report for 2013 it was a very different story for Kobo, reporting over 40% growth.

Indies who choose to go exclusive with Amazon rely on the co-called “free bounce” (the sales boost that comes after a free run using KDP Select) and Prime loans (Select ebook titles are available for Prime members to borrow free) to counterbalance the lost revenues on other platforms.

But a glance at any indie forum will show most authors are seeing ever-dwindling returns with the free bounce. Prime borrows were a novelty a year or so back but with ebook subscription services like Oyster and Scribd (among many) offering all you can read for  $10 a month, and digital libraries offering more and more, the ability to borrow one book a month free with Prime from a very limited selection of Select titles is ever-less exciting.

In a report entitled “Amazon Prime memberships poised to tumble with price hike” last week Investor’s Business Daily noted,

After posting disappointing fourth-quarter results on Jan. 30, Amazon said it’s considering raising the price (of Prime membership).

Of course a rise in the price of Prime will be just one of many price hikes across the Amazon spectrum. We’ve already seen Amazon cut back on free delivery in both the US and UK, and other cost-cutting exercises are expected, along with price rises, as shareholders get ever more restless that the world’s largest online company can’t make a profit.

Yes, it’s been investing heavily, but so have Wal-Mart and Tesco, and they seem to manage just fine. In the Forbes report we opened this post with, Panos Mourdoukoutas, talking about over-capacity and weakening demand, concludes,

But with customers resisting a price hike, Amazon may find itself with too much capacity in the face of slowing demand, extinguishing already thin profit margins.

Is Wall Street ready for this prospect?

Never mind Wall Street. Are indies?

Retailer Round-Up

Amazon – all Amazon sites are accessible direct through KDP or through pretty much all aggregators.

Kobo – direct through Kobo Writing Life or through most aggregators.

OverDrive – direct or through Ebook Partnership.

Scribd – direct or through Smashwords or Bookbaby.

Update: we are advised Bookbaby’s feed to Scribd is purely for the Scribd store, not for the subscription service. For that you need to be with Smashwords. Thanks to Jim for the tip.

Oyster – through Smashwords.

W H Smith – not a chance.

Sainsbury – not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Tesco Blinkbox Books – not a fire-proofed snowball’s chance in hell even if you say please.

Update: There may be a back door into Tesco Blinkbox Books after all, See comments, and thanks to Jen for the tip.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter

Far more than just the UK

While Kindle Ebook Sales Plateau, Kobo Soars

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As we all know, ebooks sales have levelled off in the USA, which is why recent reports from Amazon have been conspicuously quiet about Kindle ebook sales at home. And even quieter about Kindle ebook sales abroad, where Amazon has been facing stiff competition from the Tolino Alliance in Germany, the supermarket ebook store Sainsbury in the UK and myriad alternative ebook stores in Australia. When Kindle ebook and device sales are going well Amazon miss no opportunity to let us know it. Their recent silence on this matter is golden.

While Google Play continues to roll out international ebook stores (forty-four and counting) it seems Amazon’s international Kindle expansion is on hold. There are strong rumours we might see a Kindle Russia store this year, but there have been strong rumours in the past about a Kindle Chile and a Kindle Netherlands store, which came to nothing. As Amazon shareholders get restless about Amazon’s continuing failure to deliver meaningful profits, it seems unlikely we will see many – if any – new Kindle stores this year.

The last expansion by Amazon Kindle internationally was in August last year with the Kindle Mexico store. The more recent addition of the Kindle Australia store simply consolidated an existing market of Australian and New Zealand Kindle users, bringing nothing new to the table.

Not that Kobo has been dazzling us with new partner stores lately, but at least Kobo have been seeing continuing growth. A possible factor in Bella Andre’s decision to go exclusive with Kobo.

While Amazon kept the bad news quite Kobo delighted in telling us that revenues were up 40% in 2013 and the Kobo userbase had seen a 50% increase. Several sites reporting this, of course, but we’re linking to The Digital Reader again for this because Nate Hoffelder has a couple of little gems tucked away in his assessment.

Earlier this month Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis stepped aside to let Takahito Aiki take over at the Kobo helm. For those out of the loop Kobo, originally a Canadian company, was bought out by the Japanese-based on-line giant Rakuten, often referred to as the Amazon of the Far East. Until now Rakuten has stayed firmly in the back seat so far as driving Kobo’s ebook business was concerned, providing funding but little else.

Despite this, as just mentioned, Kobo saw its revenue rise by 40% last year.

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Yes, we know. Most indies are selling next to nothing on Kobo, so how can this possible be so?

But as we’ve said before, Kobo has a very limited focus on the US market. In the wider world, on the other hand… Kobo is the biggest player in Canada and the Philippines and a significant player in France, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Not least the UK, where it still supplies trad-pubbed titles to WH Smith, even though indies have been banned from the store.

If you’re not seeing significant sales from Kobo and other platforms then, as we keep saying, don’t blame the other retailers if you spend half the time in Select or promotion and marketing is geared almost exclusively to Amazon. You reap what you sow…

~

 What does the future hold for Kobo and indies?

Well for Kobo the future is bright. The Digital Reader describes Aiki as a

turnaround specialist (who) previously ran Fusion Inc, one of Rakuten’s telecom subs…Fusion was a money pit when it was acquired by Rakuten, but by the time Mr Aiki left it had generated over 1 and a half billion yen a year in operating income (aka operating profit) in 2012, and 1.9 billion yen in the first 9 months of 2013… If Mr. Aiki can have a similar effect on Kobo it’s potentially very good news for Kobo’s customers (as well as anyone who hates Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market)…

So looking good for Kobo customers who want to read trad pubbed books.  Kobo is going to go from strength to strength.

But (the likes of Bella Andre aside) will we indies do anything more than cadge a ride on Kobo’s coat-tails? We’ll be coming back to Kobo and the future for indies very soon, with what may be a bleak outlook although (see below) there are some promising developments too.

For now, a reminder that, as well as the Kobo international store Kobo has “localized” stores in the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and elsewhere (these have territorial restrictions so you may need to live there to access them) as well as ebook partnerships with a large number of retailers. If you are listed with Kobo you may be lucky and find your titles in the following partner stores:

Chapters Indigo in Canada, Livraria Cultura in Brazil, National Book Stores in the Philippines, LibriMondadori in Italy, Fnac in France, Crossword in India, Angus & Robertson, Bookworld and Collins in Australia, Whitcoulls and Paperplus in New Zealand. There are plenty more, though sadly W H Smith UK and W H Smith India are both off limits to indies, and that’s very unlikely to change.

~

Kobo is a significant international ebook player, however much your sales and the Amazon-obsessed indie blogs tell you otherwise.

Don’t misconstrue any of this as anti-Amazon. Amazon is still the biggest player in several countries – and especially the US, UK and Germany – but Amazon is not the only show in town and indies need to stop partying like it’s 2009.

Kobo is an essential part of your ebook toolbox if you plan on going global in 2014.

~

 Since this post is about Kobo a couple of snippets from the Kobo newsletter just released’

Kobo have just launched Kobo Next, an indie-exclusive recommendations engine. In Kobo’s words:

 Customers can find their next great read on the Kobo Next page.

This section highlights self-published titles exclusively, and NOW has prominent placement on the Kobo site and in new releases emails worldwide.

That’s not the only thing Kobo are offering indies. They also have five places available on the Pubslush crowdfunding blog for authors to interest potential investors in their next book to help fund editing, cover design, formatting, etc. But you’d best hurry. The deadline is February 21, just a few days away.

Here’s the link for the Kobo Writing Life February newsletter. Along with Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace newsletters this should be an essential part of your indie toolbox, whether you go to Kobo direct or through an aggregator.

A final thought. Kobo is owned by Rakuten, a Japanese company. The Japanese company Rakuten have just announced their Global Strategy Briefing. You can read about it here. In English. And if you’re thinking that’s just a translation of the Japanese original, check out the link and watch the video where Rakuten’s Japanese head honcho delivers his (somewhat lengthy) address in person to the media and shareholders. Guess which language he delivers that lengthy address in…

 Retailer Round-Up:

Another simple one. To get in the Kobo partner stores, in the Kobo localized stores and in the Kobo international store you simply need to be in Kobo. You can go to Kobo direct through Kobo Writing Life, or through pretty much any aggregator, including Smashwords, D2D, Ebook Partnership, Bookbaby, etc.

Also mentioned were Amazon Kindle (go direct via KDP or through pretty much any aggregator) and Google Play. Again, you can go direct if in a Google Play country, otherwise the only aggregator loading to Google Play appears to be Ebook Partnership.

As ever, if you know differently, do share.

Ebook bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

The Scoop on Indonesia – Beauty Pageants and Ebooks

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Whatever you may think of beauty pageants, the latest Miss Indonesia pageant is worth taking a look at.

No, not for the girls. If you want to see the winners follow the link, but here at EBUK we prefer to look at the bigger picture. And the bigger picture emerging in the Far East is one all indie authors should be keeping any eye on.

As we say here constantly, the English language is your greatest asset. It is the lingua franca of the world, and trad pub is raking in the cash from English language ebooks sales overseas. Not just in the obvious places like Australia and New Zealand, or in west Europe, but in places you might not expect, like Vietnam, or Indonesia.

~

When you think of Indonesia you probably think of tsunami disasters, Muslim extremists or an impoverished, backward country whose only contact with the outside world is the luxury holiday hotels on those beautiful beaches, where a handful of rich westerners will never leave the poolside to see the wonderful country beyond.

The reality is rather different. Indonesia is one of the emerging powerhouses of the Far East. Not only does Indonesia have its own off-and-on space programme, but huge investments are being made in Indonesia’s digital future and many Indonesian companies are leading the way in the conquest of cyberspace.

One sign of Indonesia’s obsession with the web is the Miss Indonesia pageant. While Maria Asteria Sastrayu Rahajeng took the key Miss Indonesia 2014 title, there were other crowns to be claimed. Jesslyn Anggasta Hardi is Miss Online; Siti Anida Lestari is Miss Chatting; and Olivia Pramaisella is Miss Social Media.

Miss Social Media? Seriously. Miss Social Media and Miss Chatting are new additions to the crowns available, but Miss Online has been about a few years now.

The new titles are sponsored by a Chinese outfit you’ve probably never heard of called Tencent who run a social media platform you’ve probably never heard of  called WeChat. Think of them as the Far East’s answer to Facebook. Only bigger, better, and far more ambitious. We’ll come back to WeChat another time. Store away the names Tencent and WeChat in the ebook toolbox. You’ll need them later.

For now, let’s stick with a social media platform we all know of. Facebook. Because bizarre though it may seem Indonesians have actually heard of Facebook too.

In fact, Indonesia is the third biggest Facebook country in the world. It’s growing at such a rate it is predicted it will knock the UK off the number two spot very soon.

And get this. Twenty-one per cent of Indonesian Facebook users conduct their FB business in English.

~

But let’s get back to Miss Indonesia.  First off, if you do chose to click on the link to see Miss Indonesia 2014 and Miss Social Media and the other co-winners you’ll find they could easily pass as participants in any western beauty pageant.

Divest yourself immediately of any stereotype notions you may have that all Muslim countries are clones of Afghanistan and run by the Taliban. The Far East nations are embracing western culture, not fighting it, and that includes ebooks.

Ebooks in Indonesia? Well, not from a certain American online giant, who prefers to block downloads to most of the Far East and surcharge the few it does allow to buy. Sorry, you won’t be making any inroads into the Indonesian and Far East markets if you’re in KDP Select, or relying on Amazon to make you an international bestseller.

Apple too has a very disappointing show of iBooks stores in the region. Which is a shame because Apple i-devices are widespread and hugely popular.

Kobo has a great partner store in the Philippines, and is planning to expand into Indonesia and across the region, but who knows when and if this will be carried through?

But western indies wanting to reach Indonesian readers need look no further than Google Play, the fastest-growing and most globally innovative of the big ebook retailers.

Google Play has an Indonesia ebooks store and a Vietnam ebook store and ebook stores in Singapore and Malaysia and… A full report on Google Play’s global strategy soon. Here just to say Google Play has forty-four dedicated international ebook stores and that could easily double this year.

And if you’re thinking Vietnam must be even further behind than Indonesia when it comes to the digital world then check out this eye-opening post on Vietnam from Tech-In-Asia. Vietnam has almost forty million internet users and twenty million of them are on Facebook!

So yes, Vietnam has ebook stores and even their own self-pub portals. But for today, let’s stick with Indonesia.

Most Indonesians will be reading on smartphones and phablets (tablets that double as phones) and while the numbers are still relatively low, the take-up is increasing rapidly. Not least because many Asian tech companies are now producing their own devices and selling them far cheaper than Samsung and Apple can afford to do.

You may never have heard of Smartfren or Mito or Evercoss, but then, most Indonesians have never heard of the KindleFire. But these names you’ve never heard of before and never will again are devices many Indonesians could be reading your ebooks on.

True, readers across Asia could download a Kindle app, but if Amazon is blocking ebook downloads or surcharging buyers, or offering a limited range of Amazon-centred payment options that cannot be used  by most of the world, the Kindle app is pretty irrelevant across much of the globe.

Which is where glocalizing global ebook players like Google Play have the advantage, and why, alongside Amazon and Apple and all the usual suspects, you should be making sure your ebooks are in the Google Play store.

Not, of course, that Indonesia is reliant on the rich west to get ebooks. There are plenty of local and regional ebook stores in Indonesia. No, you’ve never heard of them, but here’s the thing: You don’t live in Indonesia.

Hard though it is for us westerners to grasp, the rest of the world is not sitting back waiting for Jeff Bezos to grace their countries with a Kindle ebook store before they start thinking about digital reading.  Least of all in far-flung Indonesia.

While some may be using Google Play to get ebooks, others may be using US stores that don’t impose territorial restrictions on downloads and payments – stores like Smashwords or Diesel or Blio.

Or they may use the regional players like Thailand-based Ookbee or Malaysia-based e-Sentral.

But many more will be turning to domestic retailers like Scoop, BukuOn, BukuTablet, TokuBuko, Wayang Force and a host of others. And several of these have their own self-pub portals.

Click on the link above to Jakarta-based m-commerce ebook and e-magazine retailer Scoop and you’ll find that while there are local language titles available the actual site is in… English. We cannot overstate this point. If you write in English and are ignoring the global markets you are missing out!

No coincidence that the Indonesian company Scoop has already expanded into English-speaking countries like India, Malaysia and the Philippines, and is partnered with Thailand-based Ookbee to cover the rest of SE Asia.

We’re still investigating the options for western indies to get their titles into the domestic retailers, including Scoop and we’ll return to this subject in the near future with a full report.

For now, we leave you with this thought.

The ebook world is flat. People pretty much everywhere, in any country on the planet, are potential readers of your books. From the skyscrapers of Manhattan to mud-huts in Malawi, the biggest obstacle to you selling your ebooks all over the world is… you. Because you’re relying on a handful of insular retailers and not making your titles widely available.

As we’ll be showing in forthcoming posts, places even more unlikely than Indonesia and Vietnam are embracing ebooks. From the rainforests of Colombia or the pampas of Argentina to the wind-swept Sahara or the jungles of the Congo, people are reading ebooks .

But if they can’t find your ebooks they’ll just read some else’s titles instead. It’s your loss, not theirs.

Just how widely are your ebooks available?

It’s time to Go Global In 2014.

 

Retailer round-Up

 

  • Google Play can be accessed direct if you have the patience of a saint, or through the aggregator Ebook Partnership.
  • More on the domestic Indonesian retailers Scoop, BukuOn, BukuTablet, TokuBuko, Wayang Force and others soon.
  • Smashwords can be found at Smashwords.
  • Diesel can be accessed through Smashwords.
  • Blio can be accessed through Smashwords via Baker & Taylor.
  • E-Sentral can be accessed direct or through Bookbaby.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.