The initial ebook release of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy (released 9/27) was “literally unreadable” according to Laura Hazard Owen of Paid Content — and any number of angry and dismayed Kindle and Nook customers. Hatchette has since fixed the problem, but it’s a major blunder, especially since the ebook price is a whopping $17.99. At that price, customers had every right to expect a perfectly formatted book. For that matter, readers purchasing an ebook at $7.99 have every right to expect a book formatted at least as well as the paperback equivalent, but they don’t always get one. If traditional publishers are going to survive in the digital marketplace, they need to make the formatting and proofreading of ebooks as much a part of the publication process as the formatting and proofreading of paper books. (By the way, why the high price for Rowling’s latest? Owen addresses that question here.)
In an interview with The Independent, Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement and judge of this year’s Man Booker Prize, says he believes book blogs and bloggers will lead to the decline of literary criticism and hence, of literature itself. He’s also pretty dismissive of bloggers as critics. Having read good, thoughtful, well-written reviews on a number of book blogs both prominent and obscure, I have to wonder if Stothard actually reads any blogs, or if he’s going by Amazon reviews (which are admittedly a mixed bag: gushing reviews full of bad grammar and fake reviews planted to boost sales sit side-by-side with thoughtful, well-written literary criticism, with little if any way to differentiate between them until you start reading.) Apparently, others also feel bloggers play an important role; Guardian book blogger John Self defends bloggers in his response.
At The Scholarly Kitchen blog, Joseph Esposito examines whether piracy hurts college textbook sales, using the impact of a foreign-language file-sharing site (coyly nicknamed “Hamster”) as evidence. He makes a good case, and mentions a few tactics publishers may try (or may be trying) to combat piracy.
Literary agent and book packager Jeffrey Ashlock talks about the future of publishing, ebooks, and how the digital age and decline of bricks-and-mortar bookstores are changing the ways readers and authors find one another. (Interview with Jenny Shank, MediaShift blog)
Chris Meadows has an interesting piece on the ebook pricing wars and the latest controversy thereof — Sony UK and Amazon UK’s discounting of some popular ebook titles to 20p (about 32 cents in US currency, at Saturday’s exchange rate.) (The Digital Reader)
A new study by Carnegie Mellon estimates that there is $400 million to be made by republishing — or rather, e-publishing — the 2.7 million books currently out of print. (Ian Salisbury, SmartMoney) That’s all? I suspect the long-term sales potential might be even higher… though it would also put pressure on used book retailers. I can think of a number of out-of-print books I’d like to see re-released as ebooks.
“PR Stunt: Activists Sink Amazon Bestseller With Fake Reviews.” The history of this smear campaign by a small special-interest group demonstrates one of the dangers posed by user reviews. Since user reviews aren’t going away any time soon (nor should they; they tend to do more good than harm), producers and purveyors of both content and goods should probably think about how to combat this sort of thing. (PRNewser)
“Apple and publishers subpoena Amazon in ebook pricing case.” (Laura Hazard Owen, PaidContent blog)
“Author’s ebook giveaway runs afoul of Google copyright bots” , apparently for linking to torrent sites. Even when the links were removed, Google refused to reinstate Google Ads to the author’s website. (Chris Meadows, The Digital Reader blog)
“Poisoned Pen Press Creates YA Imprint.” (Publishers Weekly)
Theorists at Rice University and the University of Maryland believe “Music Underlies Language Acquisition”. It’s a fascinating theory, and seems quite tenable. (NeuroscienceNews.com)