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News and tech help for the indie author

Morning Coffee ? 27 April 2018
by Nate Hoffelder
26 Apr 2018 at 9:55pm

Here are a few stories to read this Thursday morning. Frances Caballo has tips on how authors can launch and grow a FB group. Wired has a detailed history of government attempts to build backdoors into secure crypto. Craig Mod reconsiders the Kindle's interface. No Shelf Required lays out the long trip to DRM-free ebooks in libraries. Ben Thompson explains the problems with Google's new chat app. Emily Reas explains how the brain learns to read.

You just finished reading Morning Coffee – 27 April 2018 which was published on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Could Be as Big as Walmart In About Four Years or So
by Nate Hoffelder
26 Apr 2018 at 3:47pm

Amazon is growing at a great rate, but Walmart is still three times as big, and its online sales are growing even faster than Amazon's. Surely the larger retailer will be able to catch up, right? Alas, that's not what my back of the envelope calculations suggest. But first, today's news. According to today's press release, Amazon had a great first quarter: Net sales increased 43% to $51.0 billion in the first quarter, compared with $35.7 billion in first quarter 2017. Excluding the $1.6 billion favorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 39% compared with first quarter 2017. Operating income increased 92% to $1.9 billion in the first quarter, compared with operating income of $1.0 billion in first quarter 2017. Net income was $1.6 billion in the first quarter, or $3.27 per diluted share, compared with net income of $724 million, or $1.48 per diluted share, in first quarter 2017. It is hard to tell what that means in the absence of context, so let's take a moment and compare Amazon's growth to Walmart's. Walmart has not reported their revenue for the first quarter, so in order to compare the two we have to go back to their end of year financial reports (both companies have fiscal years that follow [...]

You just finished reading Amazon Could Be as Big as Walmart In About Four Years or So which was published on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Now Automatically Embeds Video Clips in Book Listings
by Nate Hoffelder
26 Apr 2018 at 5:35am

Amazon has quietly added a new feature to book listings on Amazon.com that will quickly prove to be both a boon and a bane. Authors on Facebook and KBoards have told me that Amazon has added a new "Related Video Shorts" section under the editorial reviews and product descriptions. At first glance this looks like it is intended for book trailers, but it turns out anyone can upload a video for any product. When you upload a video, you get to choose from a list of categories of what the video is about ( unboxing, product demonstration, etc.). I found several book listings with reviews, including Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere. No one appears to be using the feature to post book trailers or other positive reviews yet, but I have found a few videos where buyers had uploaded a video as part their review and detailed problems with the print edition of a book. Edit: I've just read in a (closed) FB group that author can't upload videos to their book listing. This explains the lack of adoption. Thanks, Mark! Amazon has supported uploading video reviews of products for several years now, but this option is still not widely used. But now that the [...]

You just finished reading Amazon Now Automatically Embeds Video Clips in Book Listings which was published on The Digital Reader.

Publisher eBook Sales Fell 10% in 2017
by Nate Hoffelder
25 Apr 2018 at 9:24am

NPD reported on Wednesday what everyone already knew from the past few years of AAP monthly revenue reports: publisher ebook sales are down. From PW: Unit sales of traditionally published e-books fell 10% in 2017, compared to 2016, according to figures released by PubTrack Digital, part of the NPD book group. The service, which tracks sales from about 450 publishers, said e-book unit sales hit 162 million last year, down from 180 million units in 2016. NPD reported that combining print sales from its BookScan service with PubTrack digital sales, e-books accounted for 19% of total units (both print and digital) last year, down from 21% in 2016. The top selling e-book among the trade publishers, it reported, was The Handmaid's Tale published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Back in 2015, when PubTrack Digital was still owned by Bookscan, PubTrack Digital reported that 223 million ebooks were sold by publishers in 2014. That was shown to be under half the market then (around 44%). All independent reports suggest that the ebook market has not significantly shrunk in the intervening years, which means that the  PubTrack Digital data points to a significant drop in market share for the publishers who supply data. I would put [...]

You just finished reading Publisher eBook Sales Fell 10% in 2017 which was published on The Digital Reader.

Morning Coffee ? 25 April 2018
by Nate Hoffelder
24 Apr 2018 at 9:55pm

On this Wednesday morning: The Outline makes the history of page numbers into a page turner.   David Gaughran pokes holes in ReviewMeta's claims about its ability to detect fake product reviews.  Mike Shatzkin notes that the US may have Spanish speakers but it doesn't have much of a Spanish language book market.  Wired points out that Facebook leaves a lot of data out when it lets you download your data.

You just finished reading Morning Coffee – 25 April 2018 which was published on The Digital Reader.

Guardian: Evil Amazon is Evil! Be Afraid! Be Afraid!
by Nate Hoffelder
24 Apr 2018 at 11:53am

The Guardian reminded me today that the more you obsess about what you fear the less you are able to respond effectively. I picked up that lesson while reading the paper's latest FUD about Amazon. Jeff Bezos v the world: why all companies fear 'death by Amazon' he computer on which this article was written is sitting on a laptop stand that tells you everything you need to know about how Amazon does business. At $19.99 (£14.99) a pop, the laptop stand combines everything customers love about Amazon: utility, price and convenience. It?s also a total and complete knockoff ? of a laptop stand that the San Francisco-based company Rain Design began selling nearly a decade before Amazon decided to make its own. Amazon?s innovation with its own version was to replace Rain Design?s raindrop logo with its own smiley arrow logo ? and cut the price in half. ?All Amazon had to do was pick the best one and copy it,? said Rachel Greer, a former product manager for Amazon who runs a consulting firm for Amazon vendors. If you go see the piece you will see it checks off all the bullet points for a hit piece: It discusses Amazon's business [...]

You just finished reading Guardian: Evil Amazon is Evil! Be Afraid! Be Afraid! which was published on The Digital Reader.

Morning Coffee ? 24 April 2018
by Nate Hoffelder
23 Apr 2018 at 9:55pm

Here are a few stories to read this Tuesday morning. GQ has a list on books you should and shouldn't read (Yes, another one).  Indies Unlimited reports that free ebook promotions don't work nearly as well as they used to, but they still work. The LA Times gets defensive on Angelenos' reputation for not reading.

You just finished reading Morning Coffee – 24 April 2018 which was published on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Kindle App for iOS Gains New Magazine Format Courtesy of KFX eBook Format
by Nate Hoffelder
23 Apr 2018 at 6:04pm

Amazon has wrapped a number of file formats around the magazines it has sold on the Kindle platform over the past ten plus years. The original magazine format was based on the old Mobipocket format, and it was replaced by magazines in the KF8 format, which launched in 2011/2012. And now KF8 is being replaced by KFX as the preferred format for magazines on the Kindle paltform. Amazon released a new update today for its Kindle app for iOS. According to the changelog, the updates lets users return ebooks to Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading. There's also a mention of "a new mobile-friendly" magazine format. I haven't seen the magazines myself (no iDevice) but I have asked around and the consensus is that the new magazine format is based on KFX, the "new" file format Amazon debuted in 2015. You can find the app in iTunes. Changelog: Return Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited books from within the Kindle app. Simply long press on a book cover and select ?Return book?. Read your favorite magazines in a new mobile-friendly format. Initial titles include Food Network, Cosmopolitan, Life & Style, Us Weekly, and 15 others. A new setting lets you enable the highlight menu [...]

You just finished reading Amazon Kindle App for iOS Gains New Magazine Format Courtesy of KFX eBook Format which was published on The Digital Reader.

Thirty Minutes a Day is All It Takes to Automate Your Social Media Activity, ...
by Nate Hoffelder
23 Apr 2018 at 8:28am

As I am sure you know, there aren't enough hours in the day to get all your work done. This is why we are always looking for new ways to automate tasks, and why I started the Tech Tools for Authors series (soon to be a newsletter). Sometimes, however, the automation is counterproductive or just isn't worth using. For example, a couple months ago I developed a way to automatically gather tweets from chosen Twitter accounts and load them into a Buffer queue so the tweets can be shared from one of my clients' social media accounts. It's a clever and relatively low-cost trick that ties together IFTTT and Buffer in a way that lets the two services handle the majority of the work automatically. You'll need to invest some time in finding sources, but aside from that the only costs are a Buffer subscription, some skull sweat invested in choosing sources, and the time spent curating the Buffer queue to remove unwanted updates. I have been using it to share headline plus a link but you could optimize it for other uses (cute puppy photos, maybe?). I think it's a really neat shortcut, and I was planning to sell [...]

You just finished reading Thirty Minutes a Day is All It Takes to Automate Your Social Media Activity, But I Don’t Recommend it which was published on The Digital Reader.

Morning Coffee ? 23 April 2018
by Nate Hoffelder
22 Apr 2018 at 9:55pm

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning. David Gaughran has the scoop on the Indie Author Support Network.  Kyle Chayka's piece is titled style is an algorithm, but it rambles on for so long that I can't tell if he ever proved the point.  Miral Sattar has a detailed rundown on SEO for nonfiction authors.  Anne R Allen explains why authors might want a newsletter over a blog.  Matt Sweetwood reveals how his first book reached number one on the self-help list at Amazon.

You just finished reading Morning Coffee – 23 April 2018 which was published on The Digital Reader.

The Padmu Sheet Music Reader Features a Pair of 13.3? Screens (videos)
by Nate Hoffelder
21 Apr 2018 at 6:53pm

It looks like the promised Onyx e-Music Score is less a real device than a placeholder for a similar device from one of Onyx's partners. At the very least there was no sign of the e-Music Score at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair last week, but several sightings of the Padmu. This is a large-screen ereader from an Italian company, Outering. It is based on the older Onyx Boox Max Carta model (not the newer Max 2), comes with either one or two 13.3" E-ink screens, and costs $883 or $1754 USD. That is considerably more expensive than the Max Carta Max 2, which costs $550 on Amazon, but on the upside the Padmu ships with custom software designed for displaying sheet music. There's also a PadMu Controller app for Android which you can use to control the device remotely and open and close files. I really don't see a reason to spend the extra $300 for the single screen Padmu rather than get the Max Carta; you can get nearly the same functionality out of the Max Carta by pairing it with one of the following BT foot pedals and using the Max carta to display PDFs: AirTurn DUO AirTurn PED PRO iRig BlueTurn [...]

You just finished reading The Padmu Sheet Music Reader Features a Pair of 13.3″ Screens (videos) which was published on The Digital Reader.

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