Kindle tests ebook cover design tool

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For indie authors who have been sweating blood over their ebook cover designs, there’s good news for a quick fix to this frustrating chore.

Digital Book World reports today that Amazon is developing a cover creation tool for its Kindle Direct Publishing platform for self-publishers. According to DBW, the KDP Cover Creator tool is now being tested by a limited number of authors, with full roll out expected soon.

Digital Reader, which broke the news in Nate Hoffelder’s April 3 blog, has screen shots of the beta version and some comments from readers who had tried it.

According to DBW, the Kindle tool will “come with access to thousands of royalty free images in an image gallery and will also allow for users to upload their own art. A variety of pre-programmed layouts, color schemes and fonts will also be included.”

 

Library ebooks may actually generate sales

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Book publishers could be missing a lucrative boat with their efforts to curb free circulation of their ebooks through public libraries.

Traditionally, the publishers have treated libraries almost as parasites that siphon off sales with their free-circulation practices. Through a mix of licensing agreements, high prices and, in some cases, outright refusal to deal with libraries, the publishers have tried to restrict library circulation of their e-titles.

A new survey of 75,000 library ebook readers — conducted by Overdrive and the American Library Association – suggests, however, that they may be shooting their sales in the foot with their anti-library tactics.

As Michael Kozlowski of Good E-Reader explains, “the study confirms 57 per cent of people use libraries as content discovery engines. Patrons often will see a book and will end up making the digital purchase. Fifty-three per cent of all people surveyed have thought about buying an ebook listed on the libraries website and fifty-three per cent borrow ebooks and also buy them.”

About one-third of the readers actually buy the ebook to add to their personal collection after they have read the library edition, he says.

That’s hardly the profit-eating monster that publishers have long feared.

Bearing in mind that Overdrive and the library association have a horse in this race, the study suggests library ebook circulation may actually be an effective way to market the publishers’ new offerings.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I’m an enthusiastic borrower of ebooks from my public library. And I still buy way too many books – both in digital and paper format.)

Kobo launches self-publishing portal

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Kobo Inc. has introduced a new self-publishing portal for independent authors and publishers.

Unveiled at Book Expo America in New York today, Kobo Writing Life is designed to help writers become the best authors and publishers possible, the company said in a release. The platform is touted as quick and easy-to-use, with features that provide key reader insights and marketing tools to engage with fans on a global scale.

Currently in the beta stage, the portal uses industry standard ePub files, allowing authors to offer their self-published titles for computer, smart phone or whichever e-reader the reader may choose.

The company said authors will be able to use the self-service e-publishing portal at no cost, and will have control over all aspects of publishing, including price setting, advertising and marketing. Royalties are said to be 10 per cent higher than comparable self-publishing platforms.

“When we started working on Kobo Writing Life, the first thing we did was ask authors what they felt was most important in a self-publishing platform,” said Michael Tamblyn, EVP Content & Merchandising, Kobo. “They were incredibly clear: openness, control, great royalties, incredible reporting and global reach. It should be powerful but drop-dead simple. And there should be people running it who care about writers — not like dropping your treasured manuscript into a machine. We can’t wait to see what authors will do with this.”

Kobo Writing Life is being tested by 50 authors in its beta program. It will be available in English at the end of June for the more than 1,600 authors already signed up. Additional languages and country-specific support will be added in the coming year.

Writers who are interested in signing up for Kobo Writing Life are invited to visit www.kobo.com/writinglife.

IPG’s ebooks return to Kindle Store shelves

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Publishers Lunch reports that the Independent Publishers Group and Amazon have reached an agreement that will end a three-month standoff over sales of the distributor’s ebooks in the Kindle store.

The dispute, which began in February, saw about 5,000 IPG titles removed from the store. Although details were not made public, IPG has said it objected to proposed terms that would have substantially reduced authors’ earnings.

The standoff affected only IPG’s ebook titles. Amazon continued to sell paper versions of IPG’s books throughout the dispute.

IPG was established in 1971 to represent titles from independent presses to the book trade. It has since grown into a major distributor, providing a range of services to a variety of small and large publishers. It represents several U.K. and Australian publishers, and sells directly into the Canadian market through the Toronto-based Manda Group

E-sun shines on short-form writers

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The rise of ebooks is injecting new life into a couple of story-telling formats that have been languishing on the fringes of literature for decades.

Amazon reported last month that it has sold more than two million Kindle Singles since it launched the service in January 2011.

These mini-ebooks, which typically run between 5,000 and 30,000 words, have breathed life into the kind of works that are virtually unsaleable in contemporary print markets – those that are too short to be real books and too long for a standard magazine article.

The cover prices are low – from $1 to $5 – but several writers have already managed to parlay the platform into substantial returns, a task made much easier by Amazon’s generous royalty rate.

Even established writers are being encouraged to dip their toes in the short-form waters. Right now, for instance, Ontario author Margaret Atwood is sitting at number 2 position on the Kindle Singles list with her 42-page story, I’m Starved for You.

The good news for writers is that publishers are, for the first time in years, offering these shorter works to the general public. They are putting them in their digital shop windows. People are looking. People are buying. Readers are reading.

The even better news is that Amazon is not alone in embracing the shorter form. Other publishers are starting to break into the market with their own short-form offerings.

There is Byliner, for instance, which specializes in “single sitting” stories (and also features Atwood’s I’m Starved for You). It offers curated archives for its members, in addition to a slate of original commissioned work.

And for non-fiction fans, The Atavist publishes nonfiction stories for digital devices like the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, and Nook. The Atavist’s specialty is long-form journalism, a kind of reportage that had, only recently, seemed destined for extinction.

It’s still early days, of course, but there is definitely a sense of excitement around the shorter-form digital format. The potential is there for shorter-form works to break into mainstream reading.

The day may come when short-story writers can climb out of their basements, dusty manuscripts in hand, and emerge into a sunlit landscape where they can actually sell their “cracking good yarns” to members of the general public. For real money. At last.

James Bond revived in Random ebooks

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Ebook Magazine reports that Random House will republish Ian Fleming’s original James Bond books in both paper and ebook formats this year.

Under a 10-year deal with the Fleming family, Random’s Vintage Publishing imprint – a sister imprint of original Bond publisher Jonathan Cape – will assume worldwide English publishing rights (excluding the U.S. and Canada) next month and publish the books this summer.

Bond’s digital revival under the Random banner will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the appearance of the first Bond film, Dr. No, in theatres. Jonathan Cape published  Casino Royale, the first in the series of 14 Bond books, in 1953.

The deal will bring Bond books to all major ebook outlets. Previous ebook versions were published by the estate and marketed through Waterstones and Amazon.

 

PayPal backs off ebook censorship

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PayPal, the online payment service, is apparently pulling back from its hard-line ban on processing the sales of ebooks containing themes of rape, bestiality or incest.

According to mid-week reports, PayPal’s revised ban will apply only to potentially illegal images and text-only ebooks containing child pornography themes. In addition, the focus will be on individual books rather than entire classes of books.

Earlier this year, PayPal warned some ebook publishers and distributors that it would “limit” their PayPal accounts unless they removed offerings “containing themes of rape, incest, bestiality and underage subjects.”

The policy was criticized by the Authors Guild, the National Coalition Against Censorship and others, which voiced concern that banks and payment companies may be exerting too much control over what books can be written, published and read.

PayPal had told ebook distributors earlier this year that the original policy was put in place partly because the banks and credit card companies it works with restrict such content. Major credit card companies denied, however, that they would apply such restrictions to lawful material that seeks to explore erotica in a fictional or educational manner.

Writers see danger in copyright bill

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Former Toronto Star columnist David Lewis Stein made an impassioned plea against the federal government’s new copyright act in Sunday’s edition of the paper.

As now written, he says, the new copyright act would severely harm Canadian writers, musicians and performers, while at the same time diminishing the cultural sense of ourselves that we have spent so many years building.

Stein outlines some of the potentially harmful aspects of Bill C-11, which is now undergoing clause-by-clause review from a legislative committee. He points to the digital revolution as the driving force behind those proposed changes to the act.

“Artists have good reason to love this revolution. It offers us so many new ways to get our work out to people,” he says. “The difficulty comes in getting paid for what we do. The ‘fair dealing’ section of this new copyright act will actually reduce the rights to their own work that writers now have. They ought to call it ‘unfair dealing’.”

Stein says Greg Hollingshead, chair of the Writers Union of Canada, went to Ottawa last week to warn the committee that this bill “is likely to launch an unintended assault on the intellectual property of Canadian writers.” He was part of a coalition of 68 concerned arts organizations.

Stein hopes committee members were listening to that warning, because if the bill passes as it is now written, “it could be exceedingly harmful to people who have given so much of their time and passion to furthering the arts in this country.”

The legislative committee studying C-11 is chaired by Glenn Thibeault (NDP – Sudbury). Members are Charlie Angus, Scott Armstrong, Tyrone Benskin, Peter Braid, Paul Calandra, Dean Del Mastro, Pierre Dionne Labelle, Chungsen Leung, Phil McColeman, Rob Moore, Pierre Nantel and Geoff Regan.

Comments can be directed to committee clerk Christine Holke David at CC11@parl.gc.ca or 613-947-6729.

 

Indie authors thrive in Kindle Store

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Indie authors are burning up the bestseller e-charts in the United Kingdom, according to a press release this month from Amazon.co.uk.

The company says independent British writers are matching the success of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader with its Kindle Direct Publishing platform to take top spots in the Kindle Store’s bestseller list.

In the last quarter of 2011, Lancashire novelist Kerry Wilkinson was the Kindle Store’s #1 bestseller with his independently published Locked In, the first book in his Jessica Daniel detective series.

Wilkinson has also released two other books in the series, Vigilante and The Woman in Black, using the Kindle publishing platform and together they have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the Kindle Store at Amazon.co.uk. Books four and five in the series, Think of the Children and Playing with Fire, are due for release this year.

Also finishing high in the standings was Katie Stephens of Surrey, a self-confessed ‘chick lit’ writer, who saw her debut novel Candles on the Sand become the #5 bestselling book in the Kindle Store in the last quarter.

Kindle was the biggest selling product at Amazon.co.uk in 2011 and sales of Kindle books in the three months following the launch of the all-new Kindle were almost five times higher than the same period in 2010, the company said.

The Kindle Direct Publishing gives writers a free and relatively simple way to self-publish their books for distribution through the Amazon Kindle Store.

 

Lulu.com reports big rise in ebooks

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Lulu.com is reporting that it was the top source of independent content on the iBookstore and Nook Bookstore last year.

According to a Friday post on the Lulu site, ebook creators published 115,517 new ebooks on Lulu.com in 2011, an increase of 22 per cent over 2010. More than 60,000 of those titles are now available in the iBookstore or Nook Bookstore.

The self-publishing partner says it now has 620,000 titles in its ebook catalogue and is planning for “the next generation” of ebooks.