Wednesday, August 26, 2009

eBook readers get free library books

Sony's announcement that their eBook readers will be able to access library books is huge! Amazon's Kindle set the revolution by providing free lifetime wireless access so that you can browse, buy, and download books straight to the device without having to juggle computer connections. There are free books available, but generally not of the latest publications.

Now, with the ability to check out books from the library, the eBook reader market will explode! I've checked out an audio book from the Houston Library using my laptop at home, and synchronized it with my Windows Mobile phone to listen to the book while jogging. It worked pretty well, and the book expired and disappeared at the end of its checkout period. I was even able to renew it. But this was a novelty for me.

Putting this type of power and ease on a device for the mass market is another story. It will cause people to buy eBook readers, and it will cause libraries to purchase more licenses for simultaneous checkout. Amazon would be foolish not to include this ability in their Kindle.

The need for book publishers to market their books to the library will increase, just as the sales to the library increase. Libraries. Hmm. Makes me think of another eBook angle.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Independent publishers' days are numbered

In yesterday's post I wrote that most current eBooks are simple text, whereas multimedia eBooks are the real future. Since everything is in transition, know that I do believe there is a large market for text eBooks. I'm just pointing out that eBooks are becoming mainstream, so if you want to be on the leading edge, you have to go out further. Text eBooks will become the dominant force over the next few years. But what about beyond that?

We know the story. When radio came out, people said newspapers were dead. When television came out, radio was a goner. Now that movies over the internet are becoming more popular, broadcast and cable television will lose the spotlight.

You might be inclined to say that none of the obsolescent media have gone away. Although that is true on the surface, the fact is that their value has been eroded. Which is cheaper advertisement today, not counting production costs: three minutes of radio or television?

In terms of production costs, those has gone through the roof. When you add pictures to sound, the cost goes up. Likewise, when you add video to eBooks, the costs will rise.

Although anyone today can compose a novel and place it up for sale as an eBook all by themselves, collaboration is the key to greater works. Do you want to have nice photos, video, or the programming required for interaction? Here is where the networker or larger publisher will have the advantage. Greater investment will be required for the future's interactive multimedia. Publishers will have to hire the talent or contract for it. If independent publishing means an individual doing it all, they'll be left behind.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Simple eBooks are not the future of publishing

Most people are pretty sure that traditional print publishing will be overtaken by electronic publishing. Currently, electronic book sales are a small challenge to print book sales (1% and growing), but as more people become comfortable with reading books on an electronic handheld device, this will change. The convenience factor of having all of your books with you at all times, even if the actual storage is on the internet and you only have a window into them, will overwhelm the value of the printed page. Stuck at an airport? You're not stuck with paying airport prices for a limited selection of books. Buy from more online, and start reading within minutes.

But I think that the current eBooks are kind of funny. They remind me of so many technology transitions of the past.

When I was young, my family moved to the country where we could explore far and wide. For me, one of the most amazing things we found was in the old decrepit barn. Tucked away in the corner, and camouflaged by color and cobwebs, was a small electric lantern. Yes, electric lantern. You see, prior to electricity, folks used oil-filled lanterns with large globes and wire bails (hoops for carrying). So it appeared that when the manufacturer of this lantern decided on an electric wire and lightbulb, they packaged it into a form familiar and presumed convenient for the existing purchasers of lanterns. How quaint!

Likewise, most of us have seen the original automobiles that look like horseless carriages. These are evolutionary changes, and so it is with the majority of current eBooks. Most are just transcribed books from print.

What do I want from eBooks, then? I always want more value. The convenience of buying and receiving instantly is great. The convenience of having my reading with me whereever I am is luxurious. But I'm reading them on a handheld computer that has much more potential. Yes, I'm talking about multimedia in all its rich, interactive forms.

There are a few good examples out there. Take a look at "Buddy the Bus" for the iPhone. This app uses full color, can read to you, and offers five language choices for both the text and the audio. And if you consider the now aging Leap Frog book reader, where you can touch the props on the pages and have them yelp, you can imagine books that go far beyond our old printed pop-up books. It won't be just kids who will appreciate full animation. Can you visualize the advantages of a "How to fix" book with video clips?

Come on; use your imagination, and you can be a leader in this expanding world of publishing!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Android Marketplace is developer unfriendly

An iPhone app developer recently asked us to enhance DashBook's sales report importing to take advantage of an iTunes sales report feature that shows the country where an app was purchased. Naturally, we obliged. It will be nice to expand our market to the publishers of phone apps, as well as all of the indie music publishers who use iTunes. Developers also need to account for the royalties or splits as they contract out work to various talent. And of course, book sales on the App Store are quite common.

Well, that got my interest up to explore the other app stores. Having used an iPhone for a while now, I believe that Apple's tight grip can kill them. Not allowing a user to choose which apps can continue in the background is absurd. The Android system, on the other hand, is much more open and allows developers to write anything they wish, although publishing pornography is still forbidden.

Thus, the Android is my pick as the best competitor for Apple's iPhone system. So I started to research the Android Marketplace to see if I could find examples of their sales reports. Hmm. I have to pay $25 before I can read details about publishing on the Marketplace? Bizarre. Further research turned up inquiries by developers who are at a loss as to how to account for sales tax on their sales. Do they have to review each individual transaction to determine if U.S. sales tax was charged if the composite transactions report doesn't contain that detail? Wait! The developer is accountable for sales tax? Does Android Marketplace or Google affect the developers' nexus?

Oh, this is pitiful.

Apple's App Store and iTunes Store simplified this for publishers by taking on the role of a reseller, just like the prior online bookstores. If Android Marketplace does not do this, few developers will make the mistake of publishing there more than once.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tracking documents

DashBook is great at tracking royalties owed and paid, invoice pay status, shipping status, inventory whether at your warehouses or on consignment, and now we've added another ability -- track your documents within DashBook.

Have you ever generated a royalty report or thought through a royalty calculation but had need to look at the actual royalty contract for confirmation? Well, now you can attach your royalty contract to your DashBook royalty agreement. You can attach your standard contract or attach the specific signed contract. Actually, you can attach any document. Just click on your attachment to view it.

You're not limited to attaching documents to the royalty agreement, either. Perhaps you want to attach a purchase order to the sales order, a scanned business card to a contact, or event photos to a book.

DashBook v3.1 now allows attaching any document to many places of the program. We include the ability to view many of the file formats while within DashBook, such as pdf files.

As before, you can freely download DashBook to try it for yourself. Even if you've downloaded a prior version, such as our version 1.0 from just a year ago, please visit our website to see all the things that DashBook can do for you now.

Check it out at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DashBook v3.1

It's a wrap! DashBook version 3.1 is out the door. Well, it is on the internet for anyone to freely download, and existing DashBook customers will automatically receive the update the next time they run DashBook.

As I wrote in the prior post, the big news for v3.1 is the ability to import orders from text files. We have included common vendors such as Lightning Source (LSI), Fictionwise, and Amazon, but also made the import flexible so that you can map your report columns to DashBook's expected data. Send us the maps you create so that we can add to our "out of the box" experience!

With the import, DashBook automates the process from beginning to end. You can start using DashBook by pasting in your complete list of ISBNs (if you're a book publisher), and DashBook will fetch your titles and authors. Now you can import your sales report to get orders created automatically, and you can still use DashBook's facility to electronically pay your authors and email them their respective royalty reports all at once. Job done. Move on to more fun.

I'll post later about another new feature in DashBook v3.1 that lets you attach your signed royalty contract to DashBook's royalty agreement.