ePublishing Week in Brief – April 29th to Mai 3rd, 2013
Amazon makes Kindle app to make e-books accessible to the blind
Amazon has released an app that makes it easier for the blind to read Kindle electronic books on iPhones. Advocates for blind people say it’s a significant step for a company that’s lagged other technology companies in making accessible products.
Last December, under gray skies and a steady rain, dozens of visually-impaired people marched and chanted outside Amazon’s headquarters. They chanted, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The broken Kindle’s got to go.”
They were protesting the lack of accessible features on the Kindle and Kindle apps to allow blind people to read e-books.
Now, Amazon has released an updated Kindle app for iPhones and other Apple devices that incorporates text-to-speech technology.
Chris Danielsen is a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, the group that organized last year’s protest. He says until now, blind people couldn’t read Kindle e-books on their iPhone or iPad.
Amazon and ‘big 6’ publishers seek dismissal of Book House lawsuit
Amazon and the nation’s six biggest book publishers, including Random House, Penguin Group and HarperCollins, are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza and two other independents challenging the way digital books are sold.
U.S. Southern District Judge Jed S. Rakoff heard arguments April 25 in Manhattan.
It’s unclear when he will issue a ruling, said Alyson Decker, an attorney at Blecher & Collins PC in Los Angeles representing the independent book stores.
The class-action lawsuit was filed Feb. 15, arguing the publishers and Amazon have created a monopoly over electronic books which controls prices and hurts
Kobo’s greatest asset? It’s not Amazon
The warm welcome for Kobo’s new e-reader is hardly surprising given the anti-Amazon feeling at the London Book Fair
Kobo launched a new e-reader at last week’s London Book Fair: the Aura HD. Clearly taking aim at Amazon’s ever-expanding Kindle lineup, the Aura comes with the highest definition screen of any e-ink device yet, and the fastest processor, meaning it can turn pages quickly and browse the web with ease. Coupled with Kobo’s UK focus and its partnership with WH Smith, the lovable old stalwart of the high street, it’s no surprise that it was warmly welcomed.
One of the other reasons Kobo is generally liked by the industry is that it’s not Amazon. Far from the pleasantries of the Aura launch, another LBF event focused on Amazon’s perceived dominance of the market, and particularly its suspected, but largely anecdotal, exploitation of the “grey market” in books. One Spanish publisher complained to Publishing Perspectives that Amazon had been selling imported versions of one of its bestsellers in Spain, thus cutting into its own sales. As a result, they’re also counted as exports, meaning lower royalties for the author too.
Amazon Eyes More Profits with Less Shipping
Amazon.com Inc appears to have figured out the secret to being more profitable: Sell less physical stuff.
The company reported slowing revenue growth and offered a disappointing outlook for this quarter on Thursday, exacerbating uncertainty about the health of its business beyond the United States.
But that may be masking a fundamental shift in its business on home turf. The Internet retail giant that once specialized in moving books and other physical items quickly is increasingly trying to do the same in the digital world, where profit margins are higher, partly because e-books, music and video files and are transmitted electronically at high speed.
Throw in a fast-expanding third-party merchant business, where Amazon simply books a cut of sales from seller listings on its website, and the retail giant’s margin outlook is looking a lot better.
“Over the long term it does help margins,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie. “You don’t have to put these things on a truck and ship them.”
In the first quarter, net shipping costs stood at 4.7 percent of sales, down from 5.1 percent a year earlier.
How I overcame snobbery to self-publish an e-book
Mark Bastable, who has had three ‘proper books’ published, explains why he has embraced the digital age for his new novel.
Mark Bastable: ‘self-publishing, one has to accept, is a sales job’
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is,” Steve Jobs said in 2008. “The fact is that people don’t read anymore.” It was an off-the-cuff attack on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, which he predicted was doomed to failure.
Five years later, Apple’s iBookstore competes aggressively against Amazon, and in 2012 e-books accounted for nearly 30% of all books sold in the US. According to new figures released by the Publishers Association, the total number of books sold in the UK last year – paper and electronic combined – rose 4pc to hit £3.3 billion in 2012. Digital sales, including the Kindle range and smaller tablets such as Apple’s iPad mini, were up 66pc to £411 million.
Satisfying though it is to see a clever person like Mr Jobs get it wrong, I have to admit that, as a writer, I was also sniffy about the potential of e-books. This was due at least in part to snobbery.
When e-publishing was introduced, the eager early-adopters were individual writers, often those whose books, having failed to excite a literary agent, had languished on the dusty hard-drive for years. Suddenly, the web provided access to a readership via channels that weren’t patrolled by Bloomsbury naysayers armed with commercial preconceptions and pat rejection letters.
Publishers report boost from e-books
British publishers have reported their biggest annual sales ever and insisted rumours of their demise at the hands of growing e-book consumption are greatly exaggerated.
Sales of consumer e-books, the measure of the digital market for mainstream fiction and non-fiction, were up 134pc to £216m Photo: Alamy
By Christopher Williams, Technology and Telecoms Editor6:51PM BST 01 May 201310 Comments
Total spending across printed and digital formats rose 4pc to hit £3.3bn in 2012, according to the Publishers Association.
Printed books still account for the vast majority of sales and slid by just one per cent to £2.9bn.
Publishers were cheered, however, as continued growth in the digital market more than made up for the shortfall. Digital sales, including the hugely important market in e-textbooks and titles for e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle range and a new wave of smaller and lighter tablets, led by Apple’s iPad mini, were up 66pc to £411m.
Sales of consumer e-books, the measure of the digital market for mainstream fiction and non-fiction, were up 134pc to £216m.
That was down from growth of 366pc in 2011 so the resilience of printed books offered comfort to publishers who feared they could be as badly battered by technology the record industry has been.
Is sales tax on e-books, iTunes next?
Tax-free digital content’s days may be numbered
Most online purchases will be subject to sales tax under the law under consideration in Congress. But there’s one big exception: digital books, music, or any other content composed of ones and zeros.
Scheduled to be voted on May 6 in the Senate, the Marketplace Fairness Act, would mark the beginning of the end of tax-free shopping for clothing and electronics. Supporters say it will help put an end to “showrooming” — where people visit physical stores to shop for items they later purchase online — while critics contend it will hurt e-commerce and small Internet companies.
The legislation would put the onus on vendors — instead of consumers — to pay tax on online purchases made on sites like Amazon.com(US:AMZN) , eBay(US:EBAY) and smaller e-commerce companies. The Marketplace Fairness Act doesn’t specifically mention digital content, but leaves interpretation up to state law. “It does not change what digital goods are subject to state sales tax,” says Rachelle Bernstein, vice president of tax for the National Retail Federation, “but it does require companies to collect that tax.”