WRITING ON THE ETHER: But Wait. Do We Even Like Bundling?

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register, The Colossus of Maroussi

Table of Contents

  1. All Bundled Up
  2. Who Asked for This?
  3. And Circuses

The Metadata HandbookThe Metadata Handbook

A Book Publisher’s Guide to Creating and Distributing Metadata for Print and Ebooks, by Renée Register and Thad McIlroy

This is a one-stop guide for publishers—large, small, and independent. An essential resource for 21st century publishing, The Metadata Handbook covers:

  • How metadata for books operates in the real world
  • Metadata fundamentals and the history of metadata for books
  • Metadata standards and best practices
  • Essential metadata elements for print and ebooks
  • The basics of ONIX for Books, including ONIX 3.0
  • The basics of EPUB 3 metadata options

Available in paperback, PDF, EPUB, and Kindle formats at www.themetadatahandbook.com


All Bundled Up

The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion hardback

The Knopf hardback cover

As has happened in the past, Amazon seems to have some folks in the publishing world feeling that they didn’t get a chance to discuss things. “But…but…but…”

If only we’d known the Amazonians’ Kindle MatchBook deal was coming, right?

I’d have held off on buying the Kindle edition of Joan Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted.

Which is the first book I always want.

But my hardback is in one storage unit.

My paperback is in another storage unit.

The Last Thing H Wanted by Joan Didion paper

The Vintage paper and Kindle cover

And when Vintage Books finally found it in their hearts to produce a Kindle edition—no doubt because I had clicked Amazon’s Tell the Publisher You’d Like To Read This on Your Kindle button about 435 times—I bought it. On July 13, 2011.

But now?

I can read the handwriting on the MatchBook cover.

I’m going to wait.

The 1988 New Directions paperback cover (my favorite)

The 1988 New Directions paperback cover

To see if the good people at New Directions will clamber aboard the new plan and their Kindle edition of Henry Miller’s masterwork The Colossus of Maroussi available for @2.99 or less.

Maroussi being the other first book I always want. Don’t tell Joan.

After all, the Twitter bio on New Directions says, “Founded in 1936 by James Laughlin, New Directions proudly publishes the best literature from around the world.”

This all sounds very promising to me. Doesn’t it to you? Well, of course it does.

The New Directions second edition Kindle and paperback

The New Directions second edition Kindle and paperback cover

Surely, this right-minded press will—I murmur Miller-ishly to myself—jump in and sign on to Amazon’s new program, making e-editions of print purchases from its rich list available on the MatchBook plan and deliver unto me the blue-maze Kindle version of Maroussi with its introduction by Will Self at a bargain rate.

Or will it?

That’s the question. Will publishers be down with this idea?

As we consider this Kindle-bundling turn of events, I’m going to entertain you—my Rod Serling act—with a quiet but intriguing little tour of Maroussi covers. Picture, if you will, more covers for that book than decades since it appeared in 1941.

I’d like a bundle containing every one of them, too.

Laura Hazard Owen

Laura Hazard Owen

The question before us, however, is succinctly put, as ever, by Laura Hazard Owen, oracle of GigaOm and PaidContent, and can you guess under which of those brandings Owen will next appear? Maybe I’ll open a small Ether wagering concession on this.

Availing herself of the Kindle MatchBook FAQ document, Owen writes in Publishers will be able to use Amazon’s new ebook bundling feature for limited-time promotions:

The big caveat is that publishers have to opt in, so not every book is eligible. When MatchBook launches in October, Amazon estimates that about 10,000 titles will be available. A lot of those are likely to come from Amazon Publishing authors (whose titles are automatically included) and from self-published authors, who could opt in starting today.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register And that’s the issue. The program requires that opt-in, a buy-in  from publishers, authors, rights-holders.

Further, as Owen discovers and updates her piece to tell us, it’s not clear at this point how short a period of time might be available, if a publisher wanted to use the MatchBook bundling offer as a promo—nor whether there’s a difference in how easily publishers and self-publishing authors will be able to operate the program. Owen:

Amazon hasn’t committed to the exact length that these promotions could be [active]. In addition, it is unclear how easy it will actually be to add and remove books from the program. But a Kindle MatchBook FAQ for self-published authors notes that authors can “enjoy the flexibility of setting a Promotional List Price for your book,” that they can “un-publish and re-publish your Kindle MatchBook title at any time,” and that, to un-enroll a book from MatchBook, “Select the title you want to opt out of the program and un-check the box labeled ‘This title is enrolled in Kindle MatchBook. Uncheck to opt out of the program.’” This makes it sound as if the process is pretty easy, at least for self-published authors.

Details of the mechanics and agility of the program, then, are to come.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register

Listed at Wikipedia as the first edition cover, 1941

And in writing that piece on September 3, Owen points out, “Of the Big Five, so far it looks as though only HarperCollins has opted in, and only on some older titles.” (I’m dating it for you to flag the fact that, even now, there may be more sign-ons by other publishers. Full-service Ether.)

The program launches in October. It chimes in with an agreeable resonance, of course, with Amazon’s AutoRip service, which provides customers with Mp3 editions of music they bought in a hard medium from the company in the past.

But what’s really interesting is that reactions to the advent of MatchBook stretch about from here to the harbor at Paros, Henry. All over the map.

“Bundling,” the provision of one format with another, isn’t a new concept to us in our digi-rotic stress, of course. But, as it has done in the past, Amazon has caught many in the industry! the industry! with a move that seems somehow to confront us earlier than expected.

Let’s look at some of what’s out there among the Maroussi covers.

Back to Table of Contents

 

Who Asked for This?

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook

Kate Pullinger

One of the first questions that reached me as we were getting the news of Amazon’s MatchBook program came from my friend and colleague Kate Pullinger.

She is frequently called a “digital author” in the UK. I find her wholly human.

Pullinger rightly wanted to know if there’s any research to indicate that consumers actually have asked for bundling.

As usual, Carl Kulo at Bowker was able to help. Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register With permission (thanks!) from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), with which Bowker Market Research produces a study on Consumer Attitudes Toward eBook Reading, Kulo can share this insight with us:

From our survey we know that 48% of ebook buyers are willing to spend extra to have a print book bundled with their ebook. Of those with interest, the median price they will pay is $5.


Notice that this particular data runs “backward” to the case in hand: the Bowker-BISG study is talking about folks who buy an ebook first, then are hypothetically offered a print copy as part of a bundle. It’s that print copy that almost half the consumers surveyed are saying they’d find attractive enough to consider a median $5 extra

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register

Thad McIlroy

Meanwhile, there seem to have been no qualms for our new Ether sponsor (welcome!) and publishing analyst Thad McIlroy, co-author with Renée Register of The Metadata Handbook.

In Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook is Brilliant, McIlroy writes:

It was my mistake to think that the bundling initiative would come from large publishers and then spread like wildfire. More fool I…Waiting for the big publishers could have taken forever.

A Penguin UK edition's cover dated 1972 on a used book site

A Penguin UK edition’s cover dated 1972 on a used book site

My other mistake was failing to consider bundling digital with books already purchased. That’s Amazon’s masterstroke. Publishers don’t know their customers by name (as has been observed with painful frequency). Amazon knows everything its customers have ever purchased.

Quite right. One of Amazon’s promises in the MatchBook program is the ability for customers to quickly look at all their print purchases in the past and, presumably, cherry pick available discounted ebook editions of those they like best.

McIlroy sees authors as the likely drivers in moving publishers to hunker with Seattle on Matchbook:

Larger publishers will surely drag their feet on joining this program. Until they hear from some of their more influential authors who demand that they do so…There’s never been any mileage in the argument that print is better than digital or the opposite. Each offers unique advantages. What better way to resolve the debate than to package both, discounting the version that costs the least to “manufacture” (i.e. digital, which, because of conversion costs, is not quite free) and allow readers to enjoy the strengths of both.

The Booker shortlist Day – a time for every author not on it to look away and remind themselves writing is not a competition.

One influential author already heard from on the point is Hugh Howey

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée RegisterHe had raised the concept of bunding in a Publishing Perspectives interview (ahead of our CONTEC Conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair) days before the Amazon program was known.

In Hybrid Author Hugh Howey on Self vs. Traditional Publishing, he says:

Ebook-plus-audio or ebook-plus-print: ebooks should be seen as both an add-on and an entrance to other products. They should not be seen as competition to print and other formats. Giving away an ebook with every sale of a hardback would do wonders for the hardback market.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register

Joe Wikert

But Joe Wikert—formerly with O’Reilly Media and a highly valued colleague for many of us for his years of work with Kat Meyer on the Tools of Change program—writes it a different way in his blog post, The most surprising aspect of Kindle MatchBook:

As a reader I’m thrilled about MatchBook, but I have to admit it’s yet another reason why I’m kind of happy to no longer be in the book publishing business. MatchBook will only help erode the perceived value of ebooks. When the original Kindle launched in 2007 Amazon convinced us that ebooks should be $9.99 or less. MatchBook will now cause consumers to look at ebooks as a $2.99 (or less) throw-in or afterthought when you buy the print book.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register If Wikert, now  director of strategy and business development at Olive Software, sounds tough on Amazon, make no mistake—he’s not letting publishers off the hook:

Publishers have had plenty of opportunities to take more control over their destiny up to now though. What I’m talking about is the need to create direct channels to their customers. Since most don’t bother with that, they’ve simply handed the keys to the kingdom over to Amazon and they have no one to blame but themselves if they’re unhappy with a program like MatchBook.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register

A 1950 paperback edition from Penguin

And Wikert is predicting that the publisher-buy-in issue at the outset of MatchBook is a testing ground that can be superceded by the retailer later, if it wants:

Here’s what I think will happen: Amazon initially gave publishers the option to participate in MatchBook. Most didn’t. Amazon moves forward with the MatchBook launch next month and they’ll closely monitor the numbers. If the results shows Amazon could open this up to all ebooks without adding significantly to the company’s overall quarterly financial loss, they’ll announce a much broader version of MatchBook down the road, with our without publisher approval.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register

Chad W. Post

The idea that MatchBook’s bundling can “only help erode the perceived value of ebooks,” as Wikert puts it, gets a long, hard stare from Open Letter publisher Chad W. Post. In his MatchBook is NOT a Dating Service for Readers, Post writes that “this discounted ebook version (of a hypothetical book) is only available to customers who also buy the print version.” The prior buy of a print edition, for Post, is the special circumstance that mitigates the lowered cost of the ebook.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register, The Colossus of Maroussi

The cover of a Portuguese translation from Tinta da China, 2011

“If Amazon was reducing all ebooks to $2.99 or free,” he writes, then those who object on the grounds of a general devaluation of ebooks might have a point. But as it is, the less expensive option on an ebook price is  contingent on the customer having bought a print copy.

Here is Post’s clarifying approach to the rationale:

As things currently stand in the book world, if you bought a copy of Javier Marias’s The Infatuations because you love Marias and are willing to shell out $20 for the hardcover version, and then, say, you wanted to take this with you to read Iceland, but, due to the fact that you’re schlepping other stuff, you don’t necessarily have the room for more than your Kindle, you’d have to pay an additional $12+ to get the eversion. Essentially, publishers are treating these two different “containers” (the physical book, the ebook) as separate items to be purchased separately. But that’s madness.

Putting aside the fact that basically no one reads these days anyway, it’s crazy to put your customers in a position where they have to choose between buying either a print version or an e-version of a book when the fixed costs to you (the publisher) are accounted for in the purchase of either one of these. Instead, offer three options: the print book for $20, the ebook for $15, or both for $23. I’d probably choose $23, or maybe $15, but I would NEVER choose to pay $35 to get both. And when a customer has so many other entertainment options, it seems like the smartest thing to do is to make things simple and keep them happy.

And that’s the Amazon genius, of course: the primacy of the customer. The reader.

Back to Table of Contents

 

And Circuses

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register What may be important at a moment like this, in fact, is to purposely look beyond the nuanced, industry-experienced viewpoints of publishing experts and see what the street thinks of something like MatchBook.

You remember the street, right? Populated by non-publishing people. Many of them readers. Out there, nobody’s weeping about the difficulty of writing a book, nor debating the agonies of a traditional publishing business blindsided by the demonic digital disruption.

And those folks are—despite older business models’ efforts to “control the market”—paying the piper.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register, The Colossus of Maroussi

A somewhat ambitious 1975 Pocket Books edition cover

Here’s CalvinAyreNews in London—”Gambling News With an Edge”—where Lee Davy writes Amazon AutoRip and Kindle MatchBook Make Physical Media Sexy Again. It’s in the Gadgets section:

Grab that bedpost tight and prepare to be rocked. Amazon Autorip and Kindle MatchBook have donned their silky black stockings, and slipped on those stiletto heels, as they breathe some much needed sex appeal into physical media.

After extolling the virtues of Amazon’s AutoRip for music lovers, if not sturdier bedposts, Davy turns to books:

In October, US Amazon customers are going to be able to join Kindle MatchBook. A service that allows you to purchase a Kindle version of a print book at a heavily reduced price, and in some cases, even for free.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register, The Colossus of Maroussi

Cover of a 2007 Summersdale paperback edition

Once again Amazon will look after its loyal customers by allowing their back catalogue of physical books to be downloaded onto their Kindle for a knock down price, going back as far as the creation of the online bookstore in 1995. The announcement is not only great news for consumers, but also authors and publishers who will see an increase in revenue through purchases of back catalogue choices…Who would have thought it? A company that actually provides value for its customers…whatever next?

See how it plays on the curb? In this interpretation, authors and publishers, like consumers, are the beneficiaries of a big old, ’bout time, enlightened initiative. “Controlling the market” seems a quaint, Quixotic concept, doesn’t it?

 

Nick Wingfield

Nick Wingfield

Going back to Pullinger’s question, though, Nick Wingfield at the New York Times’ Bits blog, in Amazon Pairs Print and Digital Books With New Program, starts with a doubt that the public on the street is really crying for both formats:

For most readers, print and electronic books are an either-or proposition. There just isn’t a compelling reason to buy both editions of one book, at least not at full price.

Amazon is about to test how much appetite there is for combined print-and-digital book purchases if it cuts the price of Kindle books to less than that of a Starbucks latte.

I like the way Wingfield is able to look at this as a “test.” That’s refreshing.

There’s little doubt some book fans exist who are as enthusiastic about the benefits of e-books as they are wistful for the sight of colorful book spines on their walls. The question is how many of them there are.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée RegisterRiffing on Wingfield’s write, though, Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic, in Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook: Good Idea, Not Such a Great Deal, doesn’t have much time for the “devaluation of ebooks” argument:

After all, e-books don’t cost that much in the first place — the average price of the 25 most popular digital reads hit an all time low at the end of August, at $6.33, according to Digital Book World [DBW]. While that is higher than the prices offered in the MatchBook bundle, many e-books sell for less than that $6.33 price, falling at or below $2.99. So while the popular e-book… J.K. Rowling’s Cuckoo’s Calling goes for $9.99, third on the Amazon e-book best seller list is High Heat: A Jack Reacher Short Story, at all of $1.99. Divergent — the popular Y.A. franchise headed to the theaters — sells for just $3.99. In other words, the $2.99 deal from MatchBook only looks like a deal until you realize how cheap most e-books already are.

 

 

And Greenfield’s piece was written before this week’s DBW list showed another drop in that average best-selling ebook price to a new record in the life of the list.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register

Deanna Utroske

In New All-Time Low Average Price for Best-Selling eBooks, DBW’s Deanna Utroske writes on Wednesday of this week, September 11:

[The] average price dropped significantly for titles on the best-seller list. This week the price sank by nearly $1.00 to the new all-time low of $5.41.

Greenfield’s point comes into sharper focus: what devaluation?

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register

Alastair Horne

We can look to our colleague Alastair Horne for the kind of suggestion that few publishers may want to hear but might do well to consider. In Two and a Half Thoughts on Amazon’s Matchbook at The Bookseller’s The FutureBook, note Horne’s unmentioned use of an image of a bridge.

The advantage Amazon gains from MatchBook lies primarily in drawing new people into its Kindle ecosystem.

Horne looks at that $2.99-or-less price of a bundled MatchBook ebook and notes:

That they’re not asking for more suggests that both parties may have learned the key lesson from the music industry’s decline: that alienating your most valuable consumers is a sure route to irrelevance.

Porter Anderson, PorterAnderson.com, Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, London on the Ether, JaneFriedman.com, Ed Nawotka, Philip Jones, PublishingPerspectives.com, The Bookseller.com, books, ebooks, author, agent, Amazon, publishing, The FutureBook, CONTEC Conference, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt Buchmesse, Bowker, WriterUnboxed.com, The Metadata Handbook, Thad McIlroy, Renée Register, The Colossus of Maroussi

Cover of a 1963 Penguin paperback edition

And then he takes it, for some publishers, from the unpalatable to the unmentionable:

Perhaps now may be the time for publishers to drop DRM, or at least the form of DRM that ties readers to a single bookstore’s device or app. If readers can read their new ebooks on any platform, the gain to Amazon is at least mitigated.

It’s closing in, isn’t it? To contemplate giving up DRM in order to fend off the bridge-too-far of MatchBook’s attraction?—traditional publishing may be running out of options.

Conversations about MatchBook will be struck up, you can bet, at the upcoming DBW Marketing + Publishing Services Conference, at Writer’s Digest Conference West, at Frankfurt Academy’s CONTEC Conference, at Books in Browsers—”wherever fine books are” discussed. It represents another potentially pivotal evocation of what the digital dynamic really means for literature. And it’s another such moment in publishing keyed on Amazon’s leadership.

Wingfield at the Times takes us out sweetly on this one, with a wry note on the Colossus of Seattle:

Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, is fiendishly good at selling people things they didn’t necessarily know they needed. If he can’t sell two books for the price of a bit-more-than-one, then it’s unlikely anyone can.

And what do you think? Who stands to gain from MatchBook? Who could lose? If you’re a publisher, how do you feel about signing on? If you’re an author, are you good to go or not so sure the deal works for you? 

Back to Table of Contents 

 


The Metadata HandbookThe Metadata Handbook

A Book Publisher’s Guide to Creating and Distributing Metadata for Print and Ebooks, by Renée Register and Thad McIlroy

This is a one-stop guide for publishers—large, small, and independent. An essential resource for 21st century publishing, The Metadata Handbook covers:

  • How metadata for books operates in the real world
  • Metadata fundamentals and the history of metadata for books
  • Metadata standards and best practices
  • Essential metadata elements for print and ebooks
  • The basics of ONIX for Books, including ONIX 3.0
  • The basics of EPUB 3 metadata options

Available in paperback, PDF, EPUB, and Kindle formats at www.themetadatahandbook.com


Main image: iStockphoto – Rasica

Posted in Writing on the Ether and tagged , , , , , .

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He's The Bookseller's (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He's a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he's a regular contributor of "Provocations in Publishing" with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal's SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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20 Comments on "WRITING ON THE ETHER: But Wait. Do We Even Like Bundling?"

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Victoria_Noe
I signed up for Match Book, because as an author, I believe in casting a wide net. Make it easy for people to buy my books – in whatever format. What’s the downside – that I make less on the ebook version? Okay, but the customer still has to buy the paperback first. I’m not losing money, just making a few cents less. No one’s being forced into participating, and (at least we who self-publish) the price is decided by the author. As a reader, I find it an attractive option. I won’t do it with every purchase. But a… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@Victoria_Noe:disqus Hey, Viki, Your thinking on this parallels that of Chad Post — this is his point, exactly, that the less expensive (or free) ebook doesn’t go to the customer without the purchase of the print edition first. So it’s not like a rank giveaway and, if anything, those who don’t fear the arrival of digital reading will see it as Alastair Horne points out, a way of helping some people to bridge that jump from print to e- (for Amazon, per se, to bridge the gab between print and the Kindle system). I think many will feel as you… Read more »
BitLit Media
Let me propose two things: book publishing and selling benefit from a diverse physical and digital retail landscape; and Amazon MatchBook has forever etched into the expectation of print and digital bundling into readers’ minds. As was eloquently summarized and referenced above, while reader friendly, MatchBook is set to throw chlorine into the gene pool of both physical and digital book retailers. Alastair Horne makes the points that if publishers would take The Gipper’s advice and tear down the DRM wall, then perhaps the impact can be mitigated. True, perhaps… but what if MatchBook wasn’t the only bundling game in… Read more »
Lexa Cain

This was a very lucid and enlightening post. I find I fall in with Mr. Post’s and Mr. Davy’s standpoint – it’s about making it easier for the customer, which encourages sales. Great post, Mr. Porter. Thanks! 🙂

Porter Anderson
@LexaCain:disqus Thanks for the good response, Lexa, and for reading! Interesting to know you see it as Post and Davy do, I think this definitely catches that sense of the service-to-consumer and sentiment-on-the-street aspect of marketing and convenience that publishing is struggling to come to terms with. It’s an interesting phase of the transition, as the forces that once defined not only what would be published but what would be sold — and how — are now seeing entirely different motivations and concepts (consumer-driven, market demand, tech availability) call the shots. Can’t wait to see all this in five years.… Read more »
Debra Eve
Like you, Porter, I’ve faced the storage unit dilemma, but now all 700+ books live with me and I don’t have the time to savor a book at home, of course. I travel and depend on Kindle, so I’m looking forward to seeing how many the publishers will make available. And you’ve made me want to read The Colossus of Maroussi again! I walked over to my fiction shelf and yes, there is was, alphabetically by author — with Tropic of Cancer and Black Spring, bundled together courtesy of the Quality Paperback Book Club, from back in my broke days.… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@DebraEve:disqus Thank you, Debra, So good to have you here on the Ether, and many thanks for the kind words. I’m so envious of your library-in-one-place AND alphabetized so nicely. (And I’m shocked to hear that QPBC is still in business, too, lol. I have to look into that. Their volumes were quite handsome at the time I last recall seeing them, too.) Fantastic to hear that you might want to read Maroussi again, I keep it with me all the time. You can dive in anywhere and come right out with something turning in your mind. AND so glad… Read more »
Debra Eve

Don’t be too envious, Porter. I count that alphabetized fiction section as the greatest gift I’ve given myself. But by the time I unpacked nonfiction, my life had gone sideways. It’s a mess 🙂

I’m terrified about the bootcamp, quite honestly. But I realized recently, after interviewing Marion Roach Smith, that I’ve got some great NPR, library, and book group material. BTW, Henry Miller is on my list. You know, of course, that Tropic of Cancer was his first real success, at age 43.

Do you have a Twitter hashtag for the Public Speaking group?

Porter Anderson
Good, I feel much better that your entire library isn’t in such pristine order, Debra! 🙂 Don’t be terrified of the Boot Camp, it’s a really supportive environment in which we look for the ways “direct address” gets you right past the fear and into the enjoyment of sharing your work aloud. And the group is small since we work on our feet with each person actually reading material once we go over some principles (some of which are surprisingly counter-intuitive). It will be great to have you. We’ll use the #WDCW13 hashtag for the Boot Camp, just to avoid… Read more »
Victoria_Noe

So glad to hear I’m not the only person who alphabetizes their books (though not all of them). 😉
Do not fear the Boot Camp, Debra. I took it at WDCE this year and found I had much to learn, even with my theatre background. It’s really quite painless as well as exciting to hear the work of the others in the group.
Viki

Porter Anderson

Thanks for the kind words, Viki, it was great to have you in the group last spring. (Debra, Viki went first — bravest of the group. And her rendition of “Whatever Lola Wants”….I’m still humming it. LOL)
🙂
Seriously, thanks!
-p.

Victoria_Noe

You’ll pay for this, Porter: some way, some day when you least expect it.
And just for the record, I never did “Damn Yankees”. 😉
Viki

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