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February 24th, 2008

kindling

Heh. Sort of unfortunate, really.

Anyway. I went over to librarything to catalog my recent kindle acquisitions and while there see who else had tagged stuff kindle. Then looked for groups discussing kindles, which found me the Baen Free Library. Speculative Fiction readers may be interested:

http://www.baen.com/library/

Their for-pay books can be found at:

http://www.webscription.net/default.aspx

I picked up _Retief_ and several Schmitz titles. I didn't own that particular Laumer collection but I did own the Schmitz titles -- just figured it'd be backup reading material on the kindle. For free, which is good. Baen's prices on ebooks are also cheap: Wen Spencer's _Endless Blue_ is $6.00. If I could find it on Amazon, it would likely be $9.99 since that's their standard "hardcover only" kindle price. But I can't find a kindle edition on Amazon, much like the problem I had with _Victory Conditions_ which is not (yet?) available over on Baen.

It's completely mysterious to me how the WebSubscription selection works.

Baen has a bunch of formats available, but the relevant one for kindlers is the Mobi/.PRC one, which works just great on the kindle. It looks like Tor is working on integrating with the Baen stuff, but that it isn't live yet. I hope that it isn't a matter of it was live and got turned off.

Further weirdness: _Wolf Who Rules_ isn't available as a kindle on Amazon, nor is anything by David Weber (other than _Off Armageddon Reef_). I'm not prepared to do a complete search on Amazon of everything available from Baen, but I have to say this is really weird. I mean, Baen is basically selling kindle-compatible (non-DRM'ed) stuff that isn't available on the Amazon site. How can that be possible? Who is screwing who over or is this one of those things where Amazon made sure the top n selling books were available via kindle and everything else is all up to publishers to make it work and Baen is not motivated to do so? Annoying. I _like_ one stop shopping where I can be reasonably sure I'm getting a close-to-the-lowest price. Having to check a bunch of places in series is obnoxious.

kindling: expected payoff calculation

I'm starting to google around about the kindle and I found this guy's extremely geeky analysis of how long it might take for his kindle to pay for itself:

http://john.jubjubs.net/2007/12/03/kindle-my-analysis-of-title-availability-and-pricing/

John, I don't know you and you don't me (AFAIK) but if you happen to notice that I blogged about your geekiness, please understand this is a compliment. It is, in fact, such a compliment that I imitated you and put together a similar (altho simpler) spreadsheet.

After entering 2007's books that I bought on Amazon (title, price I paid, current kindle price if available) and doing some calculations (assume I only buy the kindle edition if it is cheaper, which is not necessarily an accurate assumption because I might now pay more to not have dead wood cluttering up the place), I will note that I spent a little over $1700 on books for myself last year, and switching to currently available kindle editions would only have saved my about $114, implying a payoff in about three and a half years, longer than John. It's worth noting that 2007 is _after_ when I made the decision to buy used whenever possible/cheaper, which may explain some of the weirdness, altho I think more of it is explained by the massive non-availability thru kindle of my kind of reading material in general.

Along the way, I spotted several more anomalous missing books. The second book in Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series, for example, is not available thru kindle, altho the first and third are. Mysterious. Also, _Fire Study_ was just released and isn't available on kindle. I'm going to e-mail amazon about that because I want to read it. Now. Which is the real payoff of the kindle.

Altho now that I look at it, the release date is actually March 1. Hmmm.

kindling: other publishers -- harlequin

I noted in the first kindling post that Baen is giving some stuff away and selling some other stuff for really cheap without any DRM (Mobi, no PID required). I have not yet been able to find any titles for sale on Baen's site this way that are also available thru Amazon's in kindle format.

I'm starting to look for other publishers who sell ebooks online. eHarlequin has a substantial site including several of their imprints. A short sampling suggests the following:

(a) their Mobi (the obvious format to use on the kindle) books require a PID -- so no go.
(b) their Digital Rights deal says no reading out loud. Wow! That may be worth investigating.
(c) they want MORE money for their ebook formats on their site than the exact same book (sample Cast in Courtlight -- 12.11 on the eHarlequin site and 9.99 on Amazon via kindle)

I was over there tring to figure out if any of their Luna titles might be available that I wasn't finding over on Amazon. So far nothing.
Wow. It just gets weirder by the minute. Penguin adopted the PDA readers (Palm, MS and Adobe) and they are charging full list for the eBook. Here's an obvious wacky one:

Glasshouse by Charles Stross on Amazon kindle: 7.19; at the publisher: 24.95
Runes of the Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson on kindle: 8.99; at the publisher: 16.00

To be fair, a very high fraction of what I'm skimming over at Penguin's eBooks is actually available on kindle, unlike Baen.

I'm thinking that Baen maybe doesn't care too much if they sell anything over on Amazon; they probably get more per item by selling it themselves at a lower price, plus they get people looking more exclusively at their product, less distracted by the rest of the world. In general, it's considered poor form for publishers to sell direct and undercut booksellers (even internet booksellers).
Over the last several posts, I've been taking notes, basically, on what I'm finding in the way of competing electronic book content. I'd known about the entirely free stuff (heck, I copy-edited the scanned in _Can Such Things Be_ back in 1992 or so, altho the current Gutenberg version is not the one I did) and had in fact read several books that way. While I do enjoy the occasional public domain work, most of what I read is considerably more recent and considerably more encumbered. My first cut at does-this-sucker-pay is a mixed back. It looks like it will, altho it might take a while, but primarily, its impact will be to change how I consume books. I'm a lot more willing to pay $9.99 for a brand new book than I am to pay $20+ (or even a heavily discounted down to $15+), so series I might otherwise wait a year for in paperback or attempt to buy used on Amazon or eBay after four or five months will almost certainly be kindled instead. I'm also a lot more willing to fork over $9.99 for a book I may or may not ever reread, because I don't have to figure out how to pass that sucker along (a phenomenon which otherwise inclines me to get a book from the library instead). This is important from a publisher perspective, as both changes move me upstream and get more money faster into the pockets of publishers and authors. Library and used book consumers do ultimately contribute because they help people justify the new book purchases --but this change is visible directly in the accounting.

I had thought that a lot of the analysis of the kindle pricing scheme was kinda wonky, because it seemed to me the kindle was aimed firmly at people like me: I buy a lot of books, I read a lot of books, a significant fraction of what I read I want to read NOW NOW NOW, and the stacks of dead cardboard boxes and books I've read and no longer anticipate rereading are a management problem.

With all that in mind, I want to draw attention to this really amazingly bad analysis of the kindle:

http://www.livedigitally.com/2007/11/18/why-amazons-kindle-will-fail/

First piece of ridiculousness: "Unlike newspapers and magazines, the content of books isn’t about timeliness, so digital versions do not offer an advantage."

Second: "The “barriers” to buying a book today involve knowing where to buy a book. Anyone savvy enough to buy Kindle knows where to buy books, and it is highly unlikely they are in massive dissatisfaction with that process."

Well, that and their open hours and shipping time. Amazon fixed the open hours, but even with prime, it's 2 days, more if there's a Sunday involved. And yes, there is massive dissatisfaction. I might also add there is massive dissatisfaction with how fucking hard it is to get a goddamn book to stay open on the table without having a hand on it, which the kindle solves beautifully.

A little earlier, he said:

"The only really viable argument against physical books is they are bigger and bulkier, but that really only applies to hardcover books."

See above, lying flat. And don't tell _me_ bigger and bulkier doesn't apply to mass market paperbacks. You should see the damn boxes in the basement.

Another post (I don't have a good link to it; I read it cached on google) complained that content for the kindle might run him $45/month if he got one book, a couple magazines, a newspaper, etc. I _wish_ _wish_ _wish_ I could get the book habit that low. Amazon books bought for me _only_ in 2007 worked out to $140+/month, and I shop elsewhere, too.

I'm sure you'll be seeing more on this topic from me.

rosetta books, content pricing

R. mentioned this e-publisher since he saw a quote from them saying e-books were maybe $25 million worth of the book industry (which is, like, 1000 that as a whole). R.'s comment was that a tenth of a percent is worth paying attention to, a statement with which I agree.

I did a little digging. Unlike the other sites I've been checking (publisher and otherwise), every book at Rosetta Books appears to be available at Amazon as a kindle. But first, a little backstory. In 2001, Random House lost a lawsuit to Rosetta Books. Contracts for stuff like books sell the rights to publish, and until recently, there was no specific "electronic rights" clause (ditto in the music industry, etc. etc. and back in the day, this was a hang-up for stuff like video as well). For at least a decade now, the standard contract has included electronic rights unless specifically negotiated out. But if you go back a few decades, you're looking at a gold mine of books that people do still read, but never sold the electronic rights -- and which have a long life before going into public domain, post micky mouse law.

Rosetta Books makes a living collecting these rights and then letting other online retailers sell the actual e-books -- they really are an e-publisher. Sometime around 2004 or 2005, Amazon started listing e-books (not kindle format, obviously!) from a variety of publishers including Rosetta, and Rosetta Books partner listing off to the left still includes a lot of these old links, which are now dead. Recall what happened after the breakup of Toys R Us and Amazon.

So what happened? I can only speculate. Which is what I will now do. I think that Amazon made some sort of deal with Rosetta to get that nice product placement link to sell its e-books, and Rosetta got some kind of cut and was happy and best of all, Amazon got to identify every e-book of Rosetta's. Which is why every single book I check over at Rosetta is also available as a kindle, at a slightly lower price than what the other, still-current retail partners of Rosetta is currently selling it out.

Ouch.

I figure Rosetta is still getting a cut of all those e-books (after all, it looks like they've got all the rights). So they aren't done for. But pity the partners.

A lot of the commentary on the kindle has asked whether it's the new iPod. I think that is in fact a really good question, but people are getting all laser-focused in on the look of the reader, and not paying adequate attention to the pricing structures and DRM decisions. .PRC/mobi is a native format on the kindle -- but only in its non-DRM version. And I don't think the kindle format is available on any other reader. Sound kinda like .mp3 and AAC? Like Apple, Amazon is doing a little bit to hoover up sales on other sites, but doing a lot to encourage people to buy on their site -- and making it non-easy to then switch to another reader.

There's been a good deal of discussion about the cost of content on the kindle, which people are comparing (unfavorably) to itunes content. Which is dippy, because it's clearly been matched (9.99/CD = 9.99/book). But a better comparison is to other e-books (see previous posts). So you save $100 if you buy the Sony. But if every single fucking thing you buy costs you $1-$15 more to buy for the PRS-505 than it would for the kindle, it's only going to take a serious reader a year to justify the extra $100. Maybe less.