Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting books to #1 on Amazon

This book (Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman) is currently #1 on Amazon. Amazon maintains a page of books that are movers and shakers and this book has moved up the most of any book I have ever seen. It went from a sales rank of 335,530 to 1. Amazon list this as an improvement of 33,553,000% increase.

A few things to note. The book is published by Wiley and at least once a year a motivational or get rich quick book published by Wiley jumps to #1 on Amazon. Here are two other titles that have done this in previous years:

Multi-Family Millions: How Anyone Can Reposition Apartments for Big Profits

Bailout Riches!: How Everyday Investors Can Make a Fortune Buying Bad Loans for Pennies on the Dollar

What surprises me is that they clearly have a system to kick books to #1 on Amazon. If they offered to sell this method it would be more useful than some of the fly by night get rich quick schemes being peddled by these books.

Like the other Wiley books the Wicked Success book has some similar characteristics. If you run searches online looking for media attention that might be driving the sales of these books you find none. One thing I have noticed with all these books is that they are able to go to #1 on the day they are released or the day before they are released. One of the other books mentioned above had gone to #1 and all you could do was pre-order it. I think the trick they do is order a thousand copies before the book is officially on sale on Amazon. This pushes the book up to #1 then they cancel all the orders. Amazon reflects orders into the sales rank within an hour or so of a sale so you would get the benefit of the sale for sales rank even if you cancelled the order. I am a little surprised that Amazon has not found a way to keep people from gaming the system like this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Various models of a Netflix style book collection on Amazon

Some news reports have been announcing that Amazon is considering creating a Netflix style program for ebooks.

Amazon eyes Netflix for e-books: A move to get more Prime subscribers


Amazon as a 'Netflix for Books'? How Reading Changes

I wanted to look at some of the options that Amazon could take in regards to creating a Netflix style book collection.

Model 1: Amazon would have a collection of several thousand books. People would pay a separate monthly fee to access this collection. If you pay the fee you have full access to the books in the collection. You could open and read any book in the collection while you are a member.

Model 2: Amazon would have a collection of several thousand books. People would pay a separate monthly fee to access this collection. You could access a selected number of books per month. Number you could access would likely be 2-3 books per month.

Model 3: Same as Model 2 but the 2-3 books you “access” would be yours to read in perpetuity on your Kindle. In Model 2 when you cancel your plan you would no longer have access to the books. In Model 3 the books you select you could continue to read after the plan ends.

Model 4: Amazon users that paid a monthly fee could access any two Kindle books per month including new releases. Example: You pay Amazon $10 per month. A new Kindle ebook is released and it cost $14.99. As a member of the plan you could read this book for no additional cost beyond your monthly subscription fee. Every month you could select any two books to read as part of the plan. Model 4 is different from Model 3 in that you would not be limited from selecting Kindle books from a specific pool but could select any Kindle book. I would assume that there would be some kind of limits. For example textbooks would likely be excluded from this plan.

From some of the news stories I have read it sounds like Amazon is leaning towards Model 2. I am assuming that they are leaning towards this model because it would be less threatening to publishers.

I think that publishers would be fairly safe with Model 1 because you can physically look at only so many books per month. If you did not have access to the collection when you were not a member there would not be a fear about someone getting a 1 month subscription, downloading a thousand books, and then cancelling their subscription. On Netflix if you cancel your subscription you no longer have access to the collection. Models 1 and 2 reflect this Netflix style. (I would argue that Model 1 is closest to what Netflix currently has) Model 3 and 4 would allow having access to the books even after you were not a member. Neither Model 3 nor 4 allow you to download a huge number of books so there is not too much possibility for abuse.


What model would you like to see Amazon adopt?

Have you thought of a model that is not listed?

What impact do you think this will have on publishing, book prices, and libraries?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Pale King

To publicize the release of “The Pale King,” a posthumously published novel by David Foster Wallace that is set in an Internal Revenue Service processing center, Hachette Book Group created a marketing campaign centered on the traditional tax day: April 15.

Except that’s not really when it went on sale.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble were selling the book on their Web sites on Wednesday, long before many bookstores would receive copies. Nicole Dewey, a spokeswoman for Little, Brown, part of Hachette, said the official on-sale date for the book was March 22, but the publication date — when the book is available everywhere — remained April 15. (A countdown clock on the Hachette Web site ticks away the days, hours and minutes until April 15.)

“I don’t really understand the confusion,” Ms. Dewey said. “This happens all the time. There’s nothing unusual about it.”

Full article in the NYT

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Judge Sets Trial Date in Georgia State University E-Reserves Lawsuit

Buried beneath the news of the Google Settlement’s rejection last week, a federal judge in Georgia has paved the way for publishers to go to trial in a contentious copyright case involving e-reserve practices at Georgia State University. On March 17, Judge Orinda Evans denied a GSU motion to dismiss the final count in the suit, setting May 16th as a trial date. The order comes after Evans denied all three of the publishers’ motions for summary judgment, while granting two of three GSU motions to dismiss, in October, 2010. She allowed the action to proceed on a single, more narrowly drawn charge of contributory infringement.

Full article at Publisher's Weekly

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kindlefish Turns Kindle Into Worldwide Translator

The 3G Kindle is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sure, you can read books on it, but with its web browser, you can also access Wikipedia from anywhere in the world. Until now, though, there was one thing it didn’t do so well — translation. That has been fixed by Kindlefish, made by Gadget Lab reader Nicholas.

Nicholas found that Google Translate is badly suited to the e-reader’s admittedly limited web browser. “Standard Google Translate doesn’t work for the Kindle,” he writes on his blog, “and the mobile Google Translate page returns text that is too small to be easily read, and a little clunky for use on the Kindle.”

To get around this, he wrote a new front-end called Kindlefish, a homage to the universally translating Babelfish from Douglas Adams’ five-part Hitchhiker’s trilogy. The interface is simple, letting you set three preferred languages for quick access, and one input language (English by default). You just type your phrase on the Kindle’s little keyboard and hit the “Translate” button.

Full article at

Monday, March 21, 2011

Conn. Prisons Agency To Review Library Books

The state Department of Correction will review its library collections after learning that Steven Hayes, convicted in the 2007 Cheshire home invasion, read books in prison depicting violent murders and the burning of victims.
The new rules for Connecticut's prison libraries will be in place around July 1.

Full article.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What is the value of book?

How much do you think a good story is worth?  I don't mean a book necessarily since books can be collectible and that's not what I am getting at here, but how much do you think a novel length story is worth?

When deciding this you might compare the value of the read vs. other entertainments such as the cost of a movie rental? The price of a video game? The cost of a newspaper or magazine? The drop in fee for a local gym or that knitting class at the community center?  For me the value varies wildly depending on how much I enjoy (or expect to enjoy) the book.

With that in mind I have been thinking about the current "race to the bottom" debate in e-publishing that has been raging on the blogosphere. For those of you who are unaware it essentially boils down (in an inelegant way) to publishers claiming that self published authors are going to ruin publishing by offering eBooks at rock bottom prices; while the self-published authors are claiming that large publishing houses are bloated profiteers.

Full blog post at Bookfinder

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Three Largest Bookselling Chains Mapped

Publisher's Weekly has a map of the store locations of the three largest booksellers.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Open Letter to Cory Doctorow

Open Letter to Cory Doctorow

In your post about the HarperCollins situation you wrote this:

And that's why libraries should just stop buying DRM media for their collections. Period. It's unsafe at any speed.

I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, "Oh, no, sorry, we didn't mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts," the libraries' answers should be "Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing." Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you'll get more negotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won't notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?

There is a point I think you are missing. Many librarians do not just want DRM free books. They want to OWN the book you sell them. When they OWN the book they can sell the copy they bought or give it to someone else. For one of your books why not go beyond the Creative Commons license and create an ebook version that when sold is the equivalent of a print book? If someone buys one copy of the ebook they should have the right to sell one copy of the ebook. If they sell their copy they should not have a copy after the sale. This would require them to delete the copy they have, once they have made a sale and transferred a copy to another individual. This new purchaser would then OWN the copy of the book and could also sell their copy.

I think it would be an interesting experiment to see what it actually means to have first sale rights in an ebook.

Libraries demand their rights. What are their responsibilities?

This post is in response to the controversy regarding HarperCollins putting a cap of 26 loans on ebooks that they offer to libraries through vendors like Overdrive.

In the article UNLOCKING THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES: DIGITAL LICENSING THAT PRESERVES ACCESS (16 U. Balt. Intell. Prop. L.J. 29) there is discussion about libraries not being pirates and as such should not be treated as pirates.

...our public libraries are not Grokster or Napster and should not be
considered so by publishers. The public library is not in the business of
providing the pipes for unfettered access to copyrighted works.

The article goes on to say:

Like publishers, the public library is in the business of disseminating information, encouraging consumption of that information, and promoting respect for authors, artists and scientists.

I think most librarians would agree with the two statements from the article. 

Some librarians are now calling for an eBook User’s Bill of Rights. What I do not see in any of the "bill of rights" are any discussion of the responsibilities of libraries. What are libraries going to do to protect and support authors in the new digital environment?

Why did HarperCollins put a limit of 26 uses on an ebook? There are doing this because consumers are out forum shopping for libraries that have digital content that they can use. Instead of buying ebooks people are joining libraries in other states so that they can use their ebooks. Take a look at these two comments that were posted on ebook discussions by people telling how they are getting content for their Nook and Sony readers.

The Free Libary of Philadelphia ($15 a year for non-residents) just recently added all of the magic tree house books. I live in the Washington DC area and get most of my books from the DC library and the FLP (both have great selections). I've been noticing both of them adding more and more children's book lately.

I live in Florida and just sent a check for $15 for my library card for the Free Library of Philadelphia. I understand I can borrow ebooks from them. My local library doesn't offer ebooks yet. Has anyone used this library. How does it work? I understand it uses overdrive. Any suggestions? How long will I be able to have a book? Thanks all.

So in these two examples we have people in DC and in Florida using ebooks from the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP). If you live in the city the library is free but if you live in another state you can join for $15. Numerous people have joined the FLP to get cheaper access to ebooks. Logic is very simple. If a single ebook cost $10-$15 one ebook borrowed from FPL made up for the $15 spent to join the library.

FPL has a blog post about the 26 book cap: HarperCollins makes changes to library e-book sales and lending

What the publishers see is a world where everyone joins one library and uses the ebooks from that single collection. The publisher view of the world may not be completely clear but it would be useful to stand in their shoes and look at their perspective before librarians denigrate publishers as evil for instituting the 26 loan cap. In addition to demanding "rights" libraries need to also be looking out for the rights of publishers and authors.