M E D I A
E V O L U T I O N
eBooks & eBucks
MONEY, PASSION & CHANGE INNOVATING A MARKET IN FLUX
M E D I A
E V O L U T I O N
It’s the title of canadian eBooks eBucks & artist Feist’s second album released in 2007. I heard it the first time on a quite memorable night, on a lonely road on my way to Malmö, just before we crashed the car actually. But all ended well. No one got seriously hurt and I fell in love with that album. Bought it off iTunes and listened to it on repeat for months. edited by CHR ISTIN PERSSON
It’s the title of Canadian artist Feist’s second album released in 2007. I heard it the first time on a quite memorable night, on a lonely road on my way to Malmö, just before we crashed the car actually. But all ended well. No one got seriously hurt and I fell in love with that album. Bought it off iTunes and listened to it on repeat for months.
I still stream my favorite tracks on Spotify, not thinking of the fact that I’m paying for it. It’s just there with the rest of the catalogue. Last year I saw Feist live for the second time in Stockholm and I bought the vinyl of that same album at the merch-table. I don’t even have a record player. But it speaks in my shelf about who I am. A keepsake. A souvenir. A reminder. So why am I jabbering about my favorite artist and how I consume her music in a publication that is supposed to be about books? Well, easy. Cause we’re heading in the same direction in how we consume ebooks. But we’re not quite there yet. At least I know I’m not. The big players on the publishing market have gotten a lot of company lately. A flood of self publishers and creative digital start-ups are changing C H R I S T I N
P E R S S O N
the game plan. Together, all of them are simultaneously trying to dictate how we consume literature, and at the same time they are realizing how important it is to listen to the readers. Cause it is all changing. Too fast for some. Not fast enough for others. This book is a kaleidoscope of voices who have authority in this field and companies who are passionate and experimenting with models for digital publishing, marketing and e-commerce of books. Not everything in this publication is new under the sun. But sometimes we just need to be reminded about where we are. Then we can look ahead at where we are going. Hopefully without crashing the car. / CHRISTIN PERSSON H e a d o f P u b l ic at io n s at M e d i a E v o lu t io n
I M P R I N T
ÂŠ 201 3 by MEDI A E VOLU T ION A B S t o r a Va r v s g a t a n 6 a MalmĂś 211 19 Sweden w w w.mediaevolution.se email@example.com edited by CHRISTIN PERSSON all inter views by CHRISTIN PERSSON a r t d i r e c t i o n W I L L I A M DAV I S t r a n s l a t i o n s & c o p y - e d i t i n g W I L L I A M DAV I S
printing, ebook conversion, distribution: PUBLIT w w w.publit.se Licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-sa. More information: w w w.creativecommons.se Please circulate! Discla imer : MEDI A E VOLU T ION is f u l ly responsible for getting the discussion about the future of media going. In this publication you can read different views on it. Let's move the world for ward. ISBN 9 7 8 - 91-74 3 7- 9 0 4-4
eBooks & eBucks is published by the media cluster M E DI A E VO LU T IO N .
We strive to strengthen the growth of the media industries in Southern Sweden. Through intelligence, which is one of our action areas, we monitor what is happening in the media industries from a global perspective. From that we extrapolate opportunities and business models that our members and the media industries at large can use in their development. w w w. m e d i a e v olut io n . s e
I grewContents up in a culture that was more than influenced by the presence of books. We had loads of them at home. We had loads at school. We even got to keep them – which I did, just like my peers and our generation. Even now there boxed up school books left from then and the in-between stages. There were clear geographical boundaries where I grew up.
ANDERS MILDNER * — Journalist & Author What Happens When Book Value Drops?
EDWARD NAWOTKA — Editor-in-chief, Publishing Perspectives Publishing Perspectives in the Wake of a Digital Flood
SUW CHARMAN-ANDERSON — Consultant, Journalist, Author Amazon is Ripe for Disruption
HANNES EDER — Head of research & development at Publit It's a Question of Do or Die
LENA HAMMARGREN — Founder of Novellix When the Book-Single Turned into a Music Album
MAGNUS ASPEGREN * — Journalist at Södra Esplanaden Readefine
MARCUS WOXNERYD * — Managing director of UsTwo™
The Curse of Baron von Barry
ELISABETH LENNARTSDOTTER * — Head of Communications, Gleerups. Creating a Better Digital Learning Experience
MALIN NORLANDER — Founder of Pupill Förlag The First Three Years
MARCO GHEZZI — Founder of Bookrepublic
Chief Disorder-maker of the Italian E-lit landscape
*Media Evolution member
Are we ready for what happens when book value drops? 10
M I L D N E R
A N D E R S
I grew up in a culture that was more than influenced by the presence of books. We had loads of them at home. We had loads at school. We even got to keep them â€“ which I did, just like my peers and our generation. Even now there boxed up school books left from then and the in-between stages. There were clear geographical boundaries where I grew up.
On the east side of school lived academics. Their homes spoke of living room walls adorned with books. On the west side lived ordinary workers. They had next to no books. If you wanted to know what would become of people when they grew up, the number of books in their homes was a hint. There is an old story about how they attempt to understand the mechanisms behind social bias in recruiting for universities. Researchers would check for admissions to medical school, an education characterized by class-relation. Next to no admissions was a bad sign. But from time to time a few succeed. As soon as one looked at why these students made the jump to elite education, it was discovered that most came from homes with many books. The potential success in freeing oneself from social legacy lay in the number of shelves of literature at home. I don't know if this history is true. Or whether the research was well conducted. I came to these stories on first look. I do know that this assumption is quite unlikely, and that it fails for all of my childhood friends. I also know that if history tells us anything of the value of things then we are about to see a move away from physical, and towards digital book culture. In modern times books are timely examples of objects that produce cultural identity. (The above example being that lack of books also produces cultural identity). But this identity comes at a high price. Not especially long ago, before book taxation fell, the paperback boomed and publishers' competitive situation escalated, the normal book price was rather high. We didn't think twice about light-heartedly buying books like we do today. There was also another price to pay. Historically, entry into a bookish culture was paid for by generations of effort to gain access to it. Sweden has a considerably long and proud literary tradition. Elementary schools already introduced literacy-based entry requirements by 1842. Thanks to the church, Swedes had been forced to read much earlier. Since as long ago as 1686, by church law literacy was a requirement for all Swedes that wanted to become adults: if you wanted to receive communion, it was necessary to read hymns, prayers and catechisms.
A N D E R S
M I L D N E R
However, reading-ability isn't the same as writing-ability. Writingability in Sweden began to increase by the end of the 19th century, when farmers increasingly needed a written part to their contracts. One should mention that a large portion of the country's population understands reading-ability as intrinsic to writing-ability, as we approach modern times. During the 1800's there were no functioning 'norm' for the Swedish language. Swedes' entire written language can therefore be deducted to Fridtjuv Berg's spelling reformation of 1906, where we took steps from late modern Swedish (nysvenska) to today's version of Swedish. (In retrospect his name is notable â€“ it could be translated to English as 'Peace Thief' â€“ a little ironic, in that a spelling reform considerably removes things from language). It took however until the 1930's for the reform to be widely acknowledged. And if there were really a time when all could both read and right properly, we might be looking even further into the future. Not until 1962 was a complete school system functioning, and a primary school reform accomplished. In other words a relatively short time-span to create a complete education system for the whole population. About the same trend can be seen in similar European countries. How long have we had a complete, widespread reading and writingability for all? A reasonable answer would be 51 years. With the education explosion at the end of the 60's, when more young people started attending university, it became possible for a larger group to have access to books as objects that could create a cultural identity for oneself. That may sound superficial. But show me your bookcase, and I shall tell you who you are. Or at least who you want to be. We use culture as signs. This case is clear not just with books, but with all cultural objects. Our dvd's, our lp's and cd's, posters on the walls, our porcelain, our clothes and our furniture are all signal-objects that speak for who we are or want to be. So why is this historic outing interesting for us today? Well, because books now are quickly sinking in value, as a result of digitization. And when books sink in economic value, so a decrease in their significance in creating cultural identity sinks too. This isn't just a culture studies question. If we're interested at least in new models for business, and which possibilities are now opening up BOOK VALUE FALLS
for entrepreneurs, we must not only understand how society changes without why it does so, and what consequences that involves. When something becomes digitized it is possible, as we know, to copy it many more times. When a whole cultural industry becomes digital that means that the market is rapidly flooded over with available products. The record industry is a good example. At the moment, Spotify adds around 20,000 new songs every day. It has never been as easy to access music as it is today. This means inevitably that the value of each individual track sinks towards zero. I myself pay less than zero-point-one dollars per song that I listen to – and that in a time when streaming music is barely even competitive. Music today is so accessible that it is totally losing its value as a distinctive creator of cultural identity. Those who really want to use music as such are therefore looking for objects that are more exclusive, more difficult to copy, and more expensive to buy. Thus we see Spotify's boom as a minor boom also for vinyl. Just because vinyl, unlike streaming music, allow a possibility to show a sign of just how distinctive we are. Another option is to try a little harder, and take on the role of moderator and regularly filter a flow of new music. But for the masses, music is something that we shall no longer be hoarding. The items we used to parade in our homes – vinyl records and their album covers – shall for the vast majority cease to exist. The book industry still holds this development at arms length. As an identity-creating object, books have already less of a starting chance, as a result of the cheap books now sold in stacks in supermarkets, but it's nothing compared to what awaits when the majority of literature is digitized, and prices are reduced to zero. More interesting, is that we see already signs of a backlash. Two years ago Lotta Lotass published her work Fjärrskrift – a 50 meter long subtitle – packed in a wooden box. The quantity was 100 copies. The interesting fact is that it clearly shows what is required to create exclusivity in a time of abundance. Previously in a world characterized by scarcity, it took only a few meters of shelves of hardcover books to create an identity. The books themselves were exclusive. By contrast today books are available everywhere, and tomorrow they shall be within reach of virtually everyone. And so we shan't be ready to pay large sums for much more than three things: full availability, good filters (that aid us in navigating a A N D E R S
M I L D N E R
transparent flow) and exclusivity (which may well include paper even in future). If we think of a digital future where books are available in the same way as music is today, it shall open a number of interesting doors. The first one thinks of is knowledge dissemination. From an entrepreneurial perspective, perhaps most interesting are the social doors it opens. For whom are books really social objects? What is it in books and readings that we shall want to share with one another via social networks? Which services shall we be willing to pay for in a situation where the books themselves are not seen as valuable in either their economic or cultural terms? Current evidence indicates that it is about notes and discussion. But we don't really know. The book industry has not been willing to peer into this open door. Just as the record industry 15 years ago was unsure and nervous about a digital future, the book industry is careful not to make its content too divisible. Today's large retailers of digital books have therefore positioned ebook readers as the only medium to exhibit its paper version. A crucial question in this context is whether these services shall be developed alongside publishers or not. It is not easy to answer. Publishers rely on content â€“ but are easily sceptical about innovations. This means that relations between digital entrepreneurs and large publishers are much more scarce than they should be at a time like this. Major international players are unavoidable, which leads to something of a stalemate. It is hard to see how local or regional business ideas could have the carrying capacity required to allow business to flow. For smaller languages like Swedish, it may look as if the need for innovation is simply not there â€“ when the truth is rather that it is difficult to get it to draw enough money that it shall also be interesting to pursue. Still: books' shift from scarcity to abundance shall affect all of society. Right down to the way in which we construct our personal identities. Here, if anywhere, there will be room and need for innovation and entrepreneurship in the near future. W H AT A R E YO U R E A DI NG ?
Tracey Tho rn Bedsit Dis co Queen (on iPad)
BOOK VALUE FALLS
Publishing Perspectives in the Wake of a Digital Flood 16
Interview with E D W A R D
N A W O T K A
Editor-in-chief at Publishing Perspectives ‘the BBC of the book world’
Our Skype-conversation starts like any other. How are you, how’s the weather? Sweden is cold. Houston is fine. It’s relatively warm today, but global warming has changed everything. It used to never get cold here and now it can get really cold. Everything gets warmer and colder, its really strange, says Edward Nawotka, editor-in-chief at Publishing Perspectives.
– Lots of wind and storms and stuff, I reply. – Yeah, we get hurricanes quite a lot. We’re a five hours drive to New Orleans. You may have remembered the big flood in 2004. – Katrina, yeah. – Exactly. Half the city moved to Houston so. – Oh really? – We got about 250,000 people. Some of them have moved back, but a lot of them have stayed and some opened up new restaurants, so the food got better.
Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest disasters in the history of the United States. It devastated large parts of the coastal area in the Gulf and the total property damage was estimated at $81 billion (2005 USD), according to the National Hurricane Center. The aftermath was huge, as we all probably remember. It may be a bit overdramatic to compare the digitization and the climate change in the publishing industry with global warming and the effects of Katrina. But the comparison isn't half bad when you think of it. A flood of new opportunities for self publishers and start-ups. A flood of ebooks and cheaper formats eroding the old publishing houses and the market for print. A migration of actors who are essentially being forced to improve the quality of books. “The food got better.” R E P O R T I N G
M A R K E T
C H A N G E
Edward Nawotka and his team at Publishing Perspectives are the corresponding reporters of this global climate change. – The idea basically came as I was a reporter for Publishers Weekly, which is the major publishing trade journal in the United States. I was an editor there for many years. And then I was a columnist at Bloomberg News and I just found myself traveling quite a bit to different events around the world. And what I noticed was that there were no central hub that was looking at publishing as a global business. Nearly all the reporting had a very local focus because that’s natural to the publishing industry. Each of the book sold has a local interest and the issues facing publishers around the world appear to be localized. But obviously with digitization it flattens the globe. And now we are seeing a lot of trends with publishers translating their own books, selling them directly to other countries. Digital ebooks E D
N A W O T K A
have made global distribution of a title very very simple. I mean you know this better than anybody in Sweden because you know it takes some time to translate the book and particularly online books are competing with English language edition directly because people can read English. But when there is an urgency to get a book, like the Steve Jobs biography or Daniel Kahnemann’s 'Thinking Fast and Slow' — which I believe, the English language edition outsold the Swedish edition in Sweden — then you have a real issue to consider. So anyway - the idea with Publishing Perspectives was that we wanted to have a central repository for these stories. – It’s affiliated with The Frankfurt Book Fair; we are teamed up. Essentially The Frankfurt Book Fair is the sponsor or patron, I think is the best word for it. And my idea was that we wanted to establish a platform that allowed the kind of conversations that happened in Frankfurt once a year to happen year round. It’s quite as simple as that. So how do they find all these global contributors and stories? – You build them up one reporter at a time. Slowly. You just have to take an interest in it and it’s about making points of connection really. And the first order of business for any journalist, and particularly in the age of the internet where there is such a proliferation of information, is: “Don’t be boring”. But don’t get me wrong: we are professional and accurate. Since internet naturally amplifies everything — so you see a lot of repetition with little elucidation. Unlike so many others, we do entirely original reporting, stuff that you won’t see anywhere else, and we try to provide a context for it. Our belief is that, essentially, everybody has something to learn from everybody else. Even if their business circumstances are different or their culture is different, there is an opportunity to learn from another person’s experience. And that’s why we called it Perspectives very deliberately, because it’s very much about individual voices and individual experiences. – I’m the editor-in-chief and I live in Houston — I have a dog, a car, a kid and a house...all things that would be financially strenuous in New York. And with the oil business here, it’s incredibly diverse, nothing at all like the stereotype of cowboys and cattle. The Indians who live here, for example, are from India. And the biggest medical center in the world is three miles from my house; my men’s book club is full of radiologists, cardiologists...guys far smarter than me who couldn’t give a damn what I think about a book. We are one of those companies that are essentially PUBLISHING PERSPECTIVES
remote and I do travel back and forth to New York, where we have a fixed office inside Goethe Institute. It’s part of the German Book Office, where our publisher, deputy publisher and sales director work. Otherwise, I have about two dozen regular contributors from around the world: in the UK, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong, Columbia, Spain, India, Australia, Africa, Japan, China...and several who are experts on a region but don’t live there, such as the Scottish author who covers Russia and Eastern Europe from Texas, and the Egyptian who writes about the Middle East from Edinburgh. We wouldn’t be able to do this without the Internet. It would be impossible, or very expensive. I N S I D E
B A S E B A L L
Publishing Perspectives speaks about the industry, mainly to the industry. About 95% of the readers are working in publishing, according to Edward Nawotka. – Inside baseball, you know. Inside baseball meaning it’s industry specific. I think we have the right kind of reader because the kind of folks who are thinking about international issues tend to be at the executive or management level. We also have a lot of translators and the self-publishing community is particularly interested in us because a lot of them see foreign rights as an opportunity to make money. About 55% of the readers are English speakers, natively. So North Americans and British, Indians and Australians. And then about 45% come from around the world. But 30% of those are in Europe and the other 15% are in Asia, Latin America, Africa. A
M A R K E T
F L U X
So if we return to the hurricane metaphor for what's happening in publishing – what does one see right there in the eye of the storm? The old blockbuster movie 'Twister' comes to mind. The two storm chasers played by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are clutching each other tight, strapped around a pole, while the storm tears away the old barn around them. Cows are flying away in the air, making desperate sounds. Of course, in the eye of the storm you can't really see anything. Just a moment of clear blue sky before the ravage continues. So Edward Nawotka and his team are in fact rather the weathermen monitoring the forecast on a screen, in a van at a E D
N A W O T K A
safer distance. His forecast for ebooks is a booming business pretty much everywhere around the world, in developing markets in particular. – In the US and England we are beginning to see a bit of a plateau meaning the growth numbers have leveled off. In the mature markets the big sellers of e-readers have fallen off largely because of tablets. So, you’ve seen the transition from the first generation of digital readers to tablets to now the ‘phablets’, which are the over-sized phones, they essentially serve as a great reading platform. You know 5-6 inch screens. And you don’t need any bigger than that to read. This is about the same size of a mass-market book or a pocket book. I read on a Samsung Galaxy, which is very large. But I mean you still see a lot of potential for growth in markets in Europe and elsewhere. Latin America, for example, is virtually totally undeveloped for ebooks. I suspect you’re gonna see a lot of growth there in the next six to twelve months. – But essentially the biggest trend is that ebooks are corroding the marketshare for print, largely based on price. And another consequence of that, another big big trend is that you’re seeing an explosion in the number of titles. In the US last year it was more than a million new books published when you count them by ISBN (international standard book number) and a lot of that growth is being driven by the proliferation of self publishers. Now these books aren’t necessarily high quality but they are selling very well, largely based on the fact that they are very very cheap. 99 cents to two dollars to three dollars. It’s much easier for a person to point, click and buy a book that is 99 cents and not think about it than to buy a book that is ten dollars. And if the quality is not so good, they don’t care. They’re not disappointed, since the expectation of quality is much lower. T H E
P O W E R
S H I F T I N G
– Publishing has not been a growth industry for a long time. And I think you are seeing a transition in the powerbase away from the large publishers to the individual. That’s a big consequence of digitization. Essentially the power of publishing is being decentralized, Edward Nawotka continues. – The publishing world is pretty much in flux. But it’s in flux in the same way that the entire media world is being disrupted. I mean you have the whole shift from cable and satellite television to internet viewing, you PUBLISHING PERSPECTIVES
know timeshifting on tv. Publishing has you seeing a shift from full length books to books that are broken up into chunks or chapters and being sold by the chapter. You’re seeing a lot of experimentation with new business models. Don’t get me wrong, the industry is still about 120 billion US Dollars world wide. The big publishing groups still control the vast majority. It’s just that a small game by the individual, by 5% of the market, is a huge game in terms of overall proportion for them. 5% of 120 billion is a lot more than 0,5%. But yeah, you’re seeing a lot of flux. I think that there is something of a bubble that’s happening with start-ups, consultants and with digital services companies. But a lot of people are coming to the conclusion that the value of the large publishing groups is in their ability to market a book rather than in their ability to produce and distribute a book. I think that that’s the big difference. – The key issue with the publishing industry is never about disruption or formats or distribution. I think the fact is that it always goes back to the books: the better books the publishers publish—ones that are distinct, and urgent and necessary—the more money they’re going to make. I think for a long time the publishing industry has relied on blockbusters that are not the most sophisticated or interesting books. But they feed an audience need. And then readers are realizing that they don’t have to pay a lot of money just to be entertained. So yeah, I think that if the quality of the books will need to get higher, then yes, publishers are going to need to be more discerning in their decision making about what to publish. And how to publish. F A V O R I T E
E X A M P L E :
S H A D E S
F I F T Y
G R E Y
– At the same time, the big conglomerates will still be where you need to go if you really want a blockbuster. My favorite example is Fifty Shades of Grey. The book was initially self published. But it would have never sold sixty million copies around the world if E.L. James hadn’t worked with Random House. Because they were the ones who had the scale to translate it into several dozen languages, distribute it and market it and sell it. Mind you, E.L. James probably sold a hundred thousand copies on her one, or more, which is extraordinary for an individual, right? But there is a significant difference between a hundred thousand copies and 60 million. There’s no question. So as much as we talk about these changes, you can E D
N A W O T K A
still see the incredible power of the big publisher in those simple examples. But yes, ideally the publishers are gonna need to prove their worth in the next five to ten years. They’re gonna need to justify to authors why they should be working with them. The power balance is shifting. If you don’t mind my saying.
WHAT I’M READING?
I review a lot of translated literary fiction and nonfiction,
so for fun I’m catching up on last year’s bestseller, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I’m reading it as an ebook. And then I’m also reading Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock, which I’m reviewing. And I’m reading that as a paperback galley.
Amazon is Ripe for Disruption
C H R I S T I N S U W
P E R S S O N
C H A R M A N - A N D E R S O N
on the giant ship that breaks the ice and opens up a channel for other companies and publishers to do the fishing.
“You can see how Amazon have broken the ice in the ebook market. They are like a giant ship that plows it's way through the ice, and opens up a channel. In doing so they've also opened up opportunities for smaller start-ups and publishers to say “well, ok, you keep on breaking that ice, you keep on going in that direction and we'll come along behind and do all the fishing!”
Suw Charman-Anderson is a social technology consultant, journalist and author. She currently writes about publishing, self-publishing and crowd-funding for Forbes, and has written about social media, science and technology for The Guardian, CIO Magazine and .Net Magazine, amongst others. As a social technology consultant, Suw has worked with many household names over the last decade. She also helped launch Indian news website FirstPost.com, a property of the Network18 Media Group. The print run of Suw’s first novella, Argleton, was crowd-funded through Kickstarter. A keen bookbinder, Suw combines her love for fiction with her passion for the book as a physical artefact. This is the view from her mirror of the kaleidoscope, on the future of a digitized bookmarket... “ A M A Z O N
I S T H E G O R I L L A T H E R O O M ”
Basically, the issue with Amazon is that whenever you have a very solid entrant or presence in a market – and Amazon has become the gorilla in the room of the whole publishing industry – not just in terms of physical booksale, as it's now moving into publishing, it dominates ebook sales which creates a real dominance that it has, where it's really controlling the market. The decisions that Amazon makes are therefore the ones that everyone follows. So Amazon decide to price ebooks very low and everyone else S U W
C H A R M A N - A N D E R S O N
follows because they feel they need to compete, and the only way to do that is to try and beat Amazon at it's own game. The issue with this is that it only lasts for as long as a company is on top of the changes to the landscape. Amazon started over ten years ago, and things are radically different now compared to the way that they were. People have different expectations about how business works and how they interact with businesses. They also have different needs. Ten years ago there weren't ebook readers and there weren't really ebooks. Amazon innovated in so far as it produced the Kindle, and it's really led the way on that. But the Kindle isn't in any sense perfect as a device: when you look at other ebook readers you can certainly see room for improvement. There's always this kind of opportunity, that someone will come along, whether it's an ebook reader company or whether it's another type of ebook start-up, they could start to erode Amazon's dominance. I think part of the risk that Amazon runs is firstly that their review system is fundamentally broken. They are alienating the self-publishing market and they are alienating readers by deleting legitimate reviews. There was a big furore last year about how many Amazon reviews were fake. It blew up because there were some authors who were faking five star reviews of their own books and faking one star torpedo reviews of other peoples books, and that hit the mainstream media in the UK at least. So I think that people are – book-lovers in particular – becoming aware of the fact that Amazon's reviews aren't legitimate. They're not necessarily true reviews. I think this problem is exacerbated when you get into the self-publishing market, and I say this as a self publisher. As a self publisher – and even as a self publisher – I'm very aware that a lot of the reviews on self-published books are partisan. They are reviews by the authors friends and family. They may be very well intentioned but they are not necessarily very accurate. Once you start comparing the reviews to the quality of the book, you get to a point where you can't trust the reviews anymore. I've seen this in a number of books, say a book talked about on Twitter. I've read the reviews and thought: “Ah, this sounds really good”, then you download it and you discover that not only is it not good, it's terrible! It's very difficult to give an objective view as to whether a book is good or not, but objectively, there are formatting mistakes and there are spelling errors, there are grammar errors, basic errors in plotting and characterization. But the reviews AMAZON IS RIPE FOR DISRUPTION
all give it glowing five star reviews. I think as people start discovering that more, they'll come to distrust Amazon's review system. I think that's one of the problems that Amazon has.
Amazon doesn't really seem to care all that much. What they have done is institute a policy – which they are inforcing – that is if you are an author (Amazon knows because they have your login details, and you log in to author central), and you write a review of another book, they will take down that review, whether it's a legitimate review or not, whether it's a dispassionate review or not. They are taking the line that if you are an author you can't review other books because it's a conflict of interest. There are certainly authors who shouldn't be reviewing other authors’ books when there is a direct conflict of interest. If you're both crime writers for example, it's fairly obvious that reviews should be viewed with some care and suspicion. But if you are say, a gardening writer and you're reviewing a crime novel there is no conflict of interest there at all. You're working in different fields, you have nothing to gain from either inflating or deflating your ranking and whether you write a good review. So this kind of blanket law by Amazon has resulted in a lot of author reviews being deleted. But also in general, fan reviews getting deleted. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason behind which reviews are deleted and which aren't. I think fundamental to human nature is an idea of fairness: if your review is unfairly deleted, it might make you unhappy. So there's this kind of low level ‘grumbling-ness’ around the reviews in the authorship and reading community. Obviously, Amazon doesn't really care because we're not it's core audience. The mass market is it's core audience. I still think it has an impact however because when you look at any buyer distribution, it will have a tendency to be parallell distribution: a small number of people being responsible for buying the largest number of books. So, if you're frustrating and angering your core audience, then that audience may already be big enough – even though it's small – to have an impact. Whether Amazon cares about that, whether it's enough of an economic impact to make them change what they do, I don't know and I wouldn't like to guess, but I think there is potential for problems. I think there are issues as well around the fact that other booksellers and S U W
C H A R M A N - A N D E R S O N
companies are starting to do what previously only Amazon did. So, you thought of Amazon for a long time as being a canonical reference for a book. If you were writing about a book, even if you weren't particularly bothered about affiliate sales, you would link to Amazon because that was the major catalogue. Google Books is now a massive catalogue and the Google Books-page is actually quite useful. It's got links to all the different retailers and actually, if you're writing as a journalist or a blogger, the Google Books Page for a book has more useful information on it than the Amazon page does. The other thing being that other retailers are beginning to place affiliate links. â€œ D A T A
G O L D E N â€?
The other thing is we're approaching a position where the publishers are starting to realise that data is golden. Certainly some of the higher-level authors like JK Rowling and a lot of much much smaller self-published authors are realizing that Amazon gives you no data. As a self publisher I don't know where any of my customers come from when they buy my book from Amazon. I don't know how they find it, I don't know what country they come from, I don't know what else they've bought, I don't know whether they read the reviews and then decided to buy or whether they read the reviews and then decided not to. I get absolutely no understanding of my customers from Amazon. For large publishing houses this is a major issue. They might not see it as such at the moment but certainly some of them do recognize that this is a problem. The question is: how do you become customer-focused, and how do you deliver best value to your customers if you don't know anything about them? So Amazon becomes a barrier then to my business as a self-published author. Amazon is actually, and given that my sales at the moment are tiny, I mean really tiny, Amazon is actually more of a barrier to my future business than it is an enabler. Interestingly I just wrote a post yesterday about some research that shows that nearly half of Amazon book choices are made out of Amazon. Because people are searching specifically for authors books or subjects. They're not using Amazon as a discovery platform, they're using it as a sales platform and it really shouldn't surprise anybody. People are going in to bricks and mortar-bookstores and checking through the physical books and then they buy them from Amazon. They're doing that and seeing stuff through social media. Word of mouth AMAZON IS RIPE FOR DISRUPTION
is still absolutely huge as a driver for book buying decisions. So you have this situation where Amazon is getting in your way, it's actually not a great book discovery platform, it doesn't give you any data, it's deleting reviews and it's starting to get to a point where you might alienate people, where people would actually walk away from it.
Big publishers need to be innovating. The book landscape is changing so fundamentally and so rapidly, and publishers really need to innovate. You cannot innovate however if you can't control the point of sale. So you can't bundle for example, you can't say “hey, buy the physical book in hardback when it comes out and you get the ebook free”. You can't say; if you buy two or more of our titles then we'll knock ten percent off. You can't do any of that because you don't control the point of sale. So you don't actually control the kinds of offers that are available. You're restricted to offering incentives to buyers that have been pre-designed by, and pre-approved by Amazon. And that's really difficult. You can't collect – and this is another key thing – you can't collect your customer contact data either. So you can't say “if you join our mailing list we'll give you exclusives and offers on all of our authors”. You don't own that point of sale so you can't really get at that data. And actually if you compare that to the newspaper industry, this is very similar to what they found themselves in as regards to being on apple iOs – that if they were in the bookstand, Apple owns the relationship with the customer and you as the magazine or newspaper publisher don't get that data. So you can't then up-sell and you can't even begin to form a relationship. They wouldn't allow you to up-sell. So the FT (Financial Times) a couple of years back pulled out of Apple's news-stand and went for apps, because the appstore too has terms and conditions about who gets the customer data and how app purchases are processed. The FT said “we're not going to do this. What we can do instead is a website that acts like a web-app”. That way, it's just a mobile formatted website with a few bells and whistles that allowed them to control the subscriber data, any purchases that are made on site, they have total control over. They get all of the traffic data about where people are coming from, what they are reading. All of that stuff they got in as much detail as their technology is able to gather. They're not constrained by Apples decisions on what can and can't be done. I think that is the same situation that publishers are in. They're constrained S U W
C H A R M A N - A N D E R S O N
by Amazon's decisions and they can't progress without Amazon's largesse, basically. So if Amazon decides to never give, say referral data, how did that person end up on that Amazon page? So, we're in a situation where Amazon is still dominant, but in the long term there are a number of areas where start-ups, established publishers and self publishers could start to nibble away at Amazon's dominance. I think the thing is, what was interesting about that particular article that I wrote, was the number of people who basically said: “I see no evidence of this happening”. This may not happen for another two to five years. But I think that unless Amazon really gets on top of these problems, the opportunity remains where somebody could get that magic moment where they compete with a particular part of Amazon. You don't need to replicate Amazon to compete with them. And equally, my decision for my next novella, The Queen of May, is that it won't go through Amazon at all. At this moment of my career, writing is something that I do in the evenings and if I'm really lucky on a weekend. I'm very passionate about it, but I see it ultimately as business. It's a business that doesn't pay its way right now, I'll give you that, but there is absolutely no benefit to me to be on Amazon because Amazon doesn't work as a discovery mechanism for new authors. You can't just put a new book up on Amazon and watch it go – that does happen, it happened to James Oswald, but he is an exception, and I think it's dangerous to view those kinds of exceptions as being how Amazon works. It doesn't. In fact, for most authors, me included, that is not how it works. As someone with a slightly more pragmatic bend, rather than put my book up on Amazon – I have to promote myself – cause Amazon isn't going to do it for me. I have to build relationships with my fans by mailing list, Twitter, and so on and so forth. I may as well point people to independent shops, whether that's Ganxy, which do a great showcase, whether it's DPD (Digital Product Delivery), which is a shop that allows you to do digital and physical products or both, the point is that both of them supply data. Both of them have good analytics so I can find out if most of my buyers are coming from Twitter: I need to tweet more, or if most of them are coming from my blog: I need to blog more. So as someone with incredibly thin resources I can't afford to advertise, and I think that ads are a waste AMAZON IS RIPE FOR DISRUPTION
of time anyway. I don't have a publicist so I won't be sending out press releases because frankly, who's gonna care? So you have a limited amount of activity that you can do. My activity is predominantly online in social media. So in order for me to start forming relationships with my readers, Amazon doesn't give me a choice. If I want to take this seriously and build a solid fan-base that I have a relationship with – so that I can give them perks in the future – I have to go outside of Amazon. I have to do all of this through third party tools like Ganxy. There's simply no other way for me to get the data that I need to make smart decisions about how I spend my time and money. As with anything there is this sort of maturing process. “ A M A Z O N H A S B R O K E N T H E I C E I N T H E E B O O K M A R K E T ”
You can see how Amazon have broken the ice in the ebook market. They are like a giant ship that plows it's way through the ice, and opens up a channel. In doing so they've also opened up opportunities for smaller startups and publishers to say “well, ok, you keep on breaking that ice, you keep on going in that direction and we'll come along behind and do all the fishing”. I think that's a really strong possibility, and I think that Publit are already in that space of providing competition for Amazon. I am excited about them launching in the UK. I think the more services we have for self publishers and publishers that allow them to take control, even if they only do it for ebooks, even if they say “you know, physical books – far too much overhead, warehousing, distribution, complete nightmare, all of that, we leave that as it is” – even if they only do it for ebooks, you have some books where fifty percent of the sales are ebooks so actually there are a lot of factors that are coming together, that have the potential to shake Amazon. I think the market will be a lot lot healthier if that were the case. I mean I must admit I haven't looked at the Kobo e-reader, but when I look at my Nook, which I got for christmas, the software is dreadful. It's a really bad user experience. You deal with it because when you're in a book, all you're doing is turning pages, but the rest is dreadful! So I think there is a massive opportunity in the ebook market for e-readers, whether S U W
C H A R M A N - A N D E R S O N
J U S T
I think one of the biggest issues at the moments is that ebook formats are just one big mess. Again you're in a situation where people who know all the ins and outs of formats and go “ah well, it's not that bad”. I downloaded an ebook from Project Gutenberg and when I opened it – it was an anthology, the complete works of Shakespeare – I thought that would be a AMAZON IS RIPE FOR DISRUPTION
great thing to have (I've got the complete works of Shakespeare in physical form, and it's a small doorstop with tiny print), but when I opened it, the index had been completely knackered. They'd done it the most bizarre way where there was ‘act one, act one, act one, act two, act two, act two’. Someone really didn't think too much about it so I thought I'll fix it. Because I've got Caliber and all that. I completely destroyed the book in trying to fix it. It just was a complete disaster. I think that one of the issues that I have is when the tools are trivially simple and anyone can use them, we'll see more innovation in ebook design visually. Because people who aren't technical will be able to engage in doing that. There are technical issues because you don't have a fixed font-size or font-type. So there are a lot of challenges in comparison to paper where, you know once you've done it, you've done it.
I think at the moment, the most creative people are being excluded from experimenting on ebooks because the ebook formats and the tools themselves are too immature. Fundamentally I think we need to have some sensible standards applied to ebooks, the technology for how they are put together. At the moment it is, and I say this as a geek, very geek driven. So, it's driven by what the technologists and developers think they can do rather than in the way that authors think or in the way that book designers think. I think that the technology at the moment is hampering the development and the innovation on the design side. That's not to say that all book designers don't know how to deal with ebooks. I think what you do have is a core group of people that understand ebooks as they currently are. We need to make it more accessible and widen that up so that you're not in a position where one says “you know I have this idea but the software or the standard won't let me execute it”. So I think that's a bit of an issue. As for the haptic screens where you get the touch of the paper, I think that would be absolutely fantastic. I'm not sure it would be much of a draw for people, so I don't how much of a curio it would become. Generally speaking – if you're in a good book, you're in the story, you're not paying attention to the feel of the paper and all the rest of it. So I think it would be kind of cute but I'm not sure if readers are all that fussed about it.
S U W
C H A R M A N - A N D E R S O N
â€œ T R A P P E D I N T H E B O O K F O R E V E R , S C R E A M I N G T O B E L E T O U T â€?
I think what I'm more interested in are things like socializing the ebook. How can you do annotations around an ebook? I mean, you can take notes and that on a kindle and share but it's very simple and kind of basic. You can take notes on a Nook, but you can't even get them off the Nook yourself. They're trapped in the book forever, screaming to be let out! There's a lot of work that needs to be done. James Bridle does a lot of thinking around that, I think there is an awful lot of opportunity again to develop the experience into a slightly more social experience. Then you have a challenge in about how you balance the social side of it with the fact that reading is mostly an individual pursuit. You know this is something you curl up on the sofa with a good book. I mean, my husband and I read to each other a lot. But you don't get through many books quickly that way because reading aloud slows you down. You become painfully aware of a books pacing if you're actually reading the whole thing aloud to another person. So I think for most people it's going to remain as a relatively solitary activity. So how to pull that into a more social environment that respects the solitary experience of reading? I think that's a really exciting and challenging question. I think there's so much that could be done but again it's about the fact that until you can put this stuff on e-readers and make it kind of ubiquitous, you're always gonna end up with ghetto-ization of readers. If you have one particular tool - it allows you to read socially. Unless you're using that tool on the platform that it was designed for, then you're not able to engage in that social behaviour. Again this comes back to readametrics (reading statistics). Amazon knows and Barnes & Noble know how far through each book I've got. They know how fast I'm reading, how often I'm reading. If I give up, they know on what page I stopped. They've got all that data there. I'm assuming they're gathering that data. But as a writer I never get to find that out. And if you have an app that is designed to feed that data back, anonamized properly to authors and publishers, then you're only gonna get the data from the people wo are using that app. You end up with little pools that are quite disjointed between the apps that people use and I think again, that's for an industry that isn't massively helpful. It's no good to me that Amazon collect this data because they don't share it with me as the author of my book. AMAZON IS RIPE FOR DISRUPTION
K N O W I W A S P R E V I O U S
M O N K L I F E ”
I think there'se one whole part of this thing that we haven't really touched on and it is the physical artefact. The importance. I know I'm biased because I make books. I love making books. The process of making books is just a wonderful thing. I know I mas a monk in a previous life, who sat in a scriborium and copied out manuscripts just because of the feel of paper. I walk into a stationary shop and go “PAPER!” So I am slightly biased and I will confess that up front, but I think that's one of the key parts that's missing in this whole conversation, by that I mean the general conversation. We focus on Amazon a lot, we focus on e-readers and tablets and standards and formats. And we don't talk enough about the physical book as an artefact. Not just as a paperback or a hardback, but as something emotional and special and something that has some artistery and some personal history to it. One of the reasons that I bind my own copies of my novellas and novels is to give that, to have that influence end-to-end with the whole process. To write it, to print it, to sell it. For me that's the whole process. To be a part of every stage. So that when a reader gets a physical copy of one of my hand-bound books, it is something that I really put my heart and soul into. Regardless of the length of it or what have you, they have this thing that they know has been made with real love and care. It's the crafting. “ E V E R Y H A V E
A U T H O R S H O U L D A G O A T I T ”
I certainly don't say that every author has to learn to bind books. I say that every author should at least have a go at it. Not only because it's fun but also because it gives you an appreciation for what goes into the process. There was a really interesting set of columns that Corey Doctorow wrote around a book that he self-published, called With a Little Help, and basically he found that of all the options that he offered people, one of the most popular was expensive hand-bound books. He got them done by a bindery called Wyvern Bindery in London. But it was still quite a surprise for him and it was very interesting for me to find out just how popular these were, a kind of superluxury special edition. I think that we kind of, S U W
C H A R M A N - A N D E R S O N
in the rush to contain costs and keep a business going, we're kind of missing out on a slight opportunity to go in the other direction. To say: there is a market, albeit a small one, but there is a market for special editions. Beautifully bound books that are a work of art in and of themselves. I hope that one day I'll be a good enough bookbinder to produce something that is genuinly a work of art. I'm not sure I'm quite there at the moment but it's something that I hope to progress towards. To instead of just think about how we fill bookshelves with books or how we take all the books from the shelves and replace them with ebooks, we also need to think about the other end. How do we as an industry involve artisinal makers. And how do we actually become a bit more artistic and a bit more individualistic about how we think of creating books. Being read is important but the act of creating a physical object is also important. I would hate for that to be lost in the focus on technology. “ I N A W A Y I T ' S R O M A N T I C I S M , I S N ' T
I T ? ”
Innovating digital and interactive books is a craft as well, but I guess it is a different skill-set. It is a skill-set that is fascinating and developing. But I think that it's a little bit easy to get kind of sucked into the new and forget that the old actually has an awful lot to offer us still. I'm not swimming in money but I do love to buy books that are beautiful artefacts in and of themselves. If the content is as beautiful as the cover then so be it. But there is a joy in having a book in your hand that has been handcrafted and that has that extra level of detail and... I guess in a way it's romanticism, isn't it? The physical book is still a beautiful object. It's still a romantic object. And it's something that I am really keen to think about how that fits in, essentially from a self-publishing point of view.
WHAT I’M READING?
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (ebook, Nook) Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles, Rosemary Sutcliff (ebook, Nook) Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway (hardback)
AMAZON IS RIPE FOR DISRUPTION
It's a Question of Do or Die
A conversation with H A N N E S
E D E R
of Publit about the necessity for publishers and libraries to collaborate on ebooks
I meet with Hannes Eder around lunchtime in Stockholm Public Library, the beautiful orange building in Vasastaden, designed by architect Gunnar Asplund, and inaugurated in 1928 â€“ in the presence of Prince Eugen and Karl Otto Bonnier among others. It's not quiet at all this thursday in february. The cafĂŠ and airy, circular hall is filled with the sounds
of energetic schoolchildren, newspaper-pages being turned and students hammering away at their keyboards. Our topic of the day is of course ebooks in libraries and as it turns out â€“ in a way negotiating peace.
H A N N E S
E D E R
Hannes Eder and Publit have for the last couple of years been working on solving the core-issue for a future of ebooks in libraries – finding models and systems that work for both libraries and publishers. Because as of today, they're not working at all. So Publit claimed the role of negotiator in collaboration with the virtual unit and research-lab of Stockholm public library. – As it happens before I went into journalism, and then publishing, I worked as a negotiator in Palestine, The Balkans and Northern Ireland. There are similarities with these extremely infected places and that is that both libraries and publishers are realising this is a matter of do or die. They are all afraid of getting ripped off or making fools of themselves because then they will be annihilated. The fear is understandable, he says. This is what Hannes Eder tells us about how things are and what it could be like once you've found the right, solid and anchored model for a collaboration between publishers and libraries on ebooks. B A C K G R O U N D : T H E E B O O K E M U L A T I N G A P H Y S I C A L B O O K
Dealing with ebooks in the library-sector is tricky and it boils down to very basic legal axioms about what is a commodity and what are services? Because an ebook is basically handled as a service. You can't sell it, you can only license it out. The IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) has published an article where it quotes Amazons fine-printagreement, which states that they don't sell you these books, they help the authors license them to you. There is no way to get around that. The real exception is that paperbacks are handled as a commodity and there you have a ‘writer first sales-doctrine’ or the ‘exhaustion-doctrine’ as it's called in the US, meaning that if you sell the book, then whoever buys it can do what he or she wants with it. That's why libraries have worked. Because they've bought the printed books and then they have full rights to lend them. That no longer works with ebooks. The issue then is to find models for this and what the industry has done A QUESTION OF DO OR DIE
in most parts of the world is that – despite this basic difference – they try to make ebook licensing emulate how physical books work in the library world. For a librarian this means that if you buy one copy of an ebook – you can only lend it to one person at a time. If that book is very popular, like the biography of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then you need to buy a thousand copies to be able to lend it to a thousand people at the same time. If another thousand want to borrow it then they'll have to get in line. This model has been a compromise, or one that's been crafted pretty much based on the publishers request for how ebooks should work. This model is now falling apart in most of the places that it's been applied, which is really everywhere in the world except in Sweden. One must understand that ebooks in libraries are nothing you can take for granted. Libraries can't get a hold of new books anymore because of the malfunctioning business models – publishers pulled them out in 2012.
What gradually happened over the last three years in a series of high profile-cases was that the largest publishers – the ‘big six’, (which is now the ‘big five’ after the Penguin Random House merge in 2013) – pulled out of or modified the basic model. Most famously, Harper Collins said that libraries could no longer buy a license as if they owned it. They only had the right to lend it 26 times before it became worn out. The logic was to make ebooks resemble printed books as much as possible. So if you can pretend being able to only lend one copy at a time, why not pretend that it will also be worn out so libraries would have to repurchase the license? There are still libraries in the US who boycott Harper Collins because of this. If you google it, you'll find a website with the question “Do we still boycott Harper Collins?” – ‘Yes, for this amount of days”. And this has accelerated. In Denmark it's down to four lends before you have to repurchase the license. It becomes very obvious that this model isn't working. You can't think or pretend that ebooks shall behave like physical books. S O L U T I O N ?
P A R T N E R
U P !
Another problem with ebooks is that they come in definite editions, which are at best updated, but often barely meet the minimum standards for sale. H A N N E S
E D E R
For instance, publishers can't afford to work with metadata in the best possible way. I think the libraries could do a lot for the publishers here. If they partner up with the publishers and say “We'll help you curate or work with the source-files. See this as a living document and not just as something you produce once and that is a snapshot in time”. Because all these relations that the libraries have in their databases – between which books the author has written, and when and even in which part of the world – you can add all of this to the piece itself for the reader to take home. An ebook is basically the web in a container. At the moment the ebook doesn't behave as something better than a printed book. You don't take advantage of the technical possibilities because the costs are too high. There's also the fact that you don't digitize old books. The publishers can't afford to digitize their backlist and turn it into good ebooks. What does that mean in a market which is rapidly shifting towards e-dominance? It's going to mean that somewhere around the turn of the millennium is effectively year zero. It's going to be very hard to access books in digital format from before then, and this is going to be especially true for all language areas smaller than the English one. Before that there were no digitized books. That's what it looks like in Sweden and also in the States. Unless you go back to the 1920's and before that with public domain-works. Those are being digitized by volunteering enthusiasts. But the struggle with rights, and costs, makes it impossible for anything between 1920 and 2010 to exist digitally – if by digital we mean reflowable ebooks. Print on demand facsimile editions of the most popular backlist titles are always going to be around because they require no OCR (optical character recognition) or proof-reading, and are therefor relatively cheap to produce. I believe in business models that are based on the properties of ebooks and the licensing of them. Sweden is leading the development here, because even if the Swedish E-lib-system is stiff due to equal pricing of all books – it is in fact a licensing-model or an access-model. This library pays for every time you make the book available to a borrower. That is the opposite of the American paradigm, where they try to pretend an ebook is a physical book.
A QUESTION OF DO OR DIE
What Publit is doing now is that we are stepping in and trying to break that stiffness in pricing so publishers themselves can decide what it costs every time their book is made available. Because then, in a way, negotiations will be over. The publisher can say “I want 100 SEK ($16 USD) for every time this book is made available and it doesn't matter if that money comes from the taxpayers through the libraries to me. I can agree on principally the same model as if I sell it on Adlibris for 100 SEK. This would solve the libraries problems of not being able to lend new books because of embargos from the publisher. When it comes to front-list books, my advice is: set a price on the book instead of removing it and let the libraries decide whether it's worth the cost or worth waiting three to six months when the price has dropped to a midlist-level.
This is one of the linchpins that have to be solved and that we are working on. I also think this has great potential in other parts of the world. Both librarians and publishers blog and write about how cool it would be to create a solution like this – and it is happening here now. D U A L L I C E N S E – J O I N T C U S T O D Y O F T H E S O U R C E F I L E
I also think you have to differentiate between a model for compensation and an access-model. IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) writes about that too, that if you go far back and talk about books which might not be digitized today because the publishers don't have the means to do it themselves – then the libraries can step in and help the publisher under a so called dual license. The library brings this to the negotiating table, “We can give you an interest-free loan and you can keep digitizing your backlist with the help of our liquidity. It will still be your backlist and it's a good deal because the alternative is that the books will never again generate a single cent for anyone.” In return the publisher says “Ok, then we'll give you reasonable terms and conditions for lending these books.”
H A N N E S
E D E R
What those terms are exactly needs to be agreed upon from case to case. In the pilot project between Ordfront and Stockholm's city library (more below) the dual license titles will circulate without transaction fees for the next eleven years, but it's also possible to end up with what's called perpetual access, which basically does what it says on the box: you buy a license and you're guaranteed to access that book forever. Mind you, we're still talking about licensing so even with perpetual access the source files still belong to the publisher. What would be really interesting is if you could construct a deal where the library could also gain access to the source files themselves. S O H O W C A N L I B R A R I E S F U N C T I O N A S M A R K E T E R S F O R E B O O K S ? E X A M P L E :
T H E
M Y R D A L - C A S E
In 2012 Stockholm's Stadsbibliotek (city library) delivered digitized versions of 15 books by Alva and Gunnar Myrdal, written between the 1930's and 1980's. The editions were produced by Publit. The Myrdals both recieved the Nobelprize. Only four married couples throughout history have made that achievement. The Curies are of course the most famous ones. It was impossible to find the Myrdal-catalogue in Swedish other than really expensive and rare copies in antique bookstores, and those would be full of messy annotations in the margin. At the same time â€“ these books are used in translation, in prestigious universities in Japan and the States. They are really important books. This was a brilliant test-case for the library, and easy to do because the rights were testamented to the city of Stockholm. So without having to agree with the middleman, the publisher, we were able to do a deluxe-digitization with a printon-demand-edition and an ebook-edition â€“ OCR-interpreted. Of course the cost is about three times as much as a simple facsimile-digitization, but it looks really nice. The books were displayed here in the library and on biblioteket.se. The library made a small campaign and showcased the books, then it spun off. To my recollection, they registered about 2000 lends that spring on just that catalogue. And an average ebook is lent about twice a month. So this is extreme and almost on level with the Zlatan biography. On top of that it was added to Swedish iBookstore. The foreword stated: A QUESTION OF DO OR DIE
â€œThis is creative commons. Spread it as long as you keep the reference to us as producers.â€? Of course, the Myrdal-case is an edge-case because it's not the question of lending books, but giving them away through the library.
But then again â€“ the library is fundamentally defined as an institution which lends things but it's not necessarily so. It's only public libraries who lend books. The library as an institution has been around for 6000 or 7000 years. It's only in the latest 100 years that they've lent books. The only reason they don't give them away is budget-restrictions, and because the paperbook naturally has to be returned in order for the next person to read it. But with books that are published by the library to begin with and where the rights are either in the public domain or creative commons, or maybe even belong to the library, there is no reason not to spread those ebooks unprotected. I think that we are going to see a lot more of these cases where libraries act as the publisher and make original works freely available instead of lending them. They work with curation, highlight contexts and raise attention around an authorship which otherwise might be forgotten. These are things that a commercial publisher wouldn't do. T H E
O R D F R O N T - P I L O T
The first proper implementation of the dual license model is happening right now, in a pilot project between the mid size publisher Ordfront and the city library of Stockholm. Within the project, that includes Ordfront's full catalogue of some 200 ebooks, 25 titles will also be cherry picked out of the publishers undigitized and out-of-print backlist. These titles will then be converted into epub and made available freely (with DRM) to library patrons in Stockholm for the coming eleven years, a time frame arrived upon after calculating how long it would take for the library to recoup the costs of the initial investment in digitization. (The full cost for bringing these titles back to life are shared between the publisher, that chips in for royalty, and the library that covers the relatively hefty costs for scanning, digitizing and proof reading.) In the mean time of course, the publisher is free to make the books available commercially and also to sell the license to lend the ebooks to libraries in other parts of Sweden. H A N N E S
E D E R
To reflect the fact that these titles are brought back to life in a joint effort this part of the project has been dubbed dual licensing. The term originates in the open source community where it's used to describe products such as Linux or Arduino that can be shared freely while at the same time also circulate commercially. Mike Chatskin really nailed it on his blog â€˜The Chatskin Filesâ€™ by saying that the reason why this process has frozen solid is because publishers have nothing to gain by dealing with libraries. Negotiating will only work if there is hypothetically, potentially something in it for everyone. Librarians would disagree and say that it is about fostering the people into reading and so on. But publishers have a knife to their throat. It's an emergency-situation for them and they're not going to scratch the libraries backs for goodwill. That won't happen. But if the libraries can help publishers solve a problem with giving readers digital access to their catalogues then you've changed the conditions altogether. S T U C K I N T H E I N F R A S T R U C T U R E
The publishers are also stuck in infrastructure. And this infrastructure is controlled by retailers, not least in the anglosaxan world with Amazon dominating, then Barnes & Noble and Apple. They are cashing in on status quo. They don't want things to change. Sweden is a safe haven from this because the two largest publishers also own the two largest online retailers. But the clock is ticking and Amazon will come to Sweden. The publishers are fighting for survival and feel pressured by both retailers and libraries. With the right tools and models I think that publishers will realise that libraries are in fact a safety valve. Because that's where you can make points of connections with readers. It's also about discoverability and guidance. Personally, I buy books from Amazon rather than Adlibris or Bokus even though prices are a bit higher. Mainly becasue I need a book about system-architecture, you know. I have to become good at that. But there are a thousand books on that subject and most of them are crap. So where do I go to get any notion at all about what A QUESTION OF DO OR DIE
others think of the book? Yes, Amazon have huge problems with their review-system but it still gives you a hint if one book has 600 reviews and one has six. Amazon are good at that. Or rather, to put it this way: They are the one-eyed king in the kingdom of the blind. No one else comes even near. Bookish want to but so far they are lagging. You check related books and it's just a long list. You start asking yourself: related how?
Nevertheless, it's important, and it's a kind of crowd-casted metadata, completely critical to how people think when they buy books and that's why I go to Amazon and nowhere else to buy them, because I can stroll digitally. Digital casual walks are a lot more difficult, you are dependent on that meta-data. I can still stroll here in the library and read a few pages in a book. The librarian is my guide to just the book I want. That is why I think the libraries have a huge advantage. They are a lot better at metadata and recommendations than both Bookish and Amazon. And there are also niche-libraries like the Kurdish library or the library of the College of Defence, the latter of which wants to meet with me to discuss these issues. They see titles out there that are no longer available in print or as ebooks but they wish to make them available because they can see the demand. There is deep know-how here and nowhere else, which people have that knowledge? They are becoming rare. T H E
I M P O R T A N C E O F P H Y S I C A L S P A C E
T H E
With the demise of the small, independent, physical bookstore – publishers will be even more dependent on having physical spaces where people are around books, talking about them and where authors can give public readings – tours where you can showcase obscure debutants who would otherwise have no exposure. What's happening in the industry at large – not only with eBooks & eBucks – but with printed books as well is the transition into D2C – direct to customer – sales. Bookish is one such an iniative, however with a lump of big player-resources. There are plenty of small actors who sell directly to their customers and are good at it. And that demands being good at making points of connection with your readers on social media and plant a widgetshop like ours on your authors facebook-page or Twitter. It's about H A N N E S
E D E R
being where books are discussed and selling them there. Again, in a way, it's about metadata. If you build a widgetshop or a bookstore based on widget-architecture – then you enable the author or publisher or the authors fanclub to post and sell a book directly embedded in a context which in a way is metadata in itself. Of course Amazon has widgetshops but they aren't very frequently used and, in a way, have become little islands of Amazon. But if I have a community for science-fiction or erotica and the book is sold there, then that is a form of very strong and valuable metadata, right? Nothing beats the physical space for making connections and in the end that will only be libraries, and in Sweden, the Book & Library Fair in Gothenburg once a year. The physical space is important for the authors to meet its readers, and in extension for publishers to cultivate their customer-base. The Frankfurt Book Fair in comparison is a pure business to busines space and the same thing goes for London. Publishers trade rights with each other as they have for hundreds of years. What's unusual with Gothenburg is that they meet the end-customer and it becomes a culture-clash. Now they're starting to get it: “Damn, we have to become good at D2C, building that presence and giving our authors tools for that presence. That means in many cases we have to access a physical space!” It's all connected.
WHAT I’M READING?
Just finished reading The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, a book that I guess many people, myself included likes referring to after just flipping through it and reading the ‘best-of’ parts. Upon sitting down and really reading it, slowly, from first page to last, I found the best-of parts are the ones that aren't evident at first glance. It's such a terrific thought piece on the essence of managing innovation and the nature of disruptive technologies (which Publit is ALL about). Also reading the fourth part of Karl Ove Knausgårds Min Kamp (My Struggle), I love every piece of it, it's a modern classic for sure.
A QUESTION OF DO OR DIE
When the Book-Single Suddenly Turned Into a Music-Album
A conversation with L E N A
H A M M A R G R E N
founder of Novellix â€“ about breaking new ground with audiobooks on Spotify
In December 2012, Novellix was the first publisher in Sweden to release four of their short stories as audiobooks on the streaming service Spotify. The launch was completely in-line with Lena Hammargrenâ€™s ethos of experimenting with new channels and ways of exposing the books they release, for instance on a commercial but in-depth radio station...
[...] instead of public service-radio, or an online dating service for young, culture-concious urban folk.
It all started in a news-stand about three years ago when she was on her way home to Stockholm from Uppsala. She wanted a book to read on the one-hour commute but realized that she wouldn't read an entire pocketbook. It would just be lying there on the shelf with the other unfinished ones. She grabbed a coffee and at the counter she saw a selection of pixibooks, small formatted childrens stories. It sent her back to her own childhood and she had to buy one. – I had also been discussing formats with a translator and very good friend, who I worked with. We were intrigued with the fact that other publishers don't want to work with collections of short stories and the notion that they don't sell. We thought that the format would be perfect for our reading-culture and stressed lifestyle today, you know short and focused. Maybe that the problem is with packaging. Then we sort of merged that with the idea of the pixi-book and that was the birth of Novellix, says Lena Hammargren. The stories are released as separate books, four at a time, four times a year. Some of them have a theme – nordic, classics, or German. Lena Hammargren is also a translator of German literature. But they can also be completely different from each other, which is the point: an opportunity for new discoveries. Up to now there have been thirty-six short stories from a variety of Swedish authors. Every book is newly written and exclusive for Novellix. – They're stories with quality for people who want to read more but don't really feel they have the time. The books come out in print, ebook and audio simultaneously. – I don't think that the different formats cannibalize on each other. The important thing is that it's easy. The text is the core and it's available in a format which fits the moment. If you're reading in a café and having coffee – it could be nice with a paperbook. You want the feel of the paper. Or if you're on a bus on the way home - then you might want to download and read it on your phone. If you're out walking – maybe you want to listen to it.
L E N A
H A M M A R G R E N
In the past couple of months Lena Hammargren has played with the thought that her business isn't primarily to publish books. – I've started seeing us as a digital start-up with the printed books working as marketing for digital formats. That feels pretty exciting. The idea of being on Spotify had been gnawing on her mind for quite a while. She was then introduced to Johan Lagerlöf, CEO of the label X5 Music, in the fall of 2012. – They re-package music for streaming services in similar ways as I wanted to. It doesn't have to be ten tracks. We teamed up and said “let's just try it”, and now it's there. But it's interesting to think of the short story as a single, particularly on Spotify. We have been talking about them as singles in comparison to the novel as an album. At the same time, our audiobooks are 45 minutes long, like a music album, that we then we split up into tracks. So our booksingle sort of turned into an album. That's the fun thing about it – to play around with channels and packaging. Lena Hammargren also discovered a fun bonus with streaming an audiobook, something you can essentially also do in your iOs or Android player: press shuffle. – Because we split them up into tracks, you can just press shuffle and create your own story. That could be a very exciting mix. Moving the book as an identity-marker to digital platforms creates challenges, but also opportunities for social sharing. Goodreads, Readmill and other services now give readers the opportunity to display and share their ebook-shelves with friends. – With Spotify I discovered that you can create your own playlist, your own collection of short stories, and share or send them to someone. Her thoughts start spinning as we speak. It does that often, I'm beginning to realize. – I'm just bouncing ideas off you here, but I'm thinking that you have the sentimental value of print books which might get lost in the conversion to ebooks. But you really have a sentimental value in mixtapes and thematic playlists with songs. I find it a bit spooky how you just get thrown back into a certain era when you listen to them. But that also makes it exciting with the shorter book-formats. Because if you create playlists with entire BOOK SINGLES TURNED MUSIC ALBUMS
novels... you're not going to get the same feeling. Because you never have the energy to read them over and over again. But if you look at our books now that they are split up into tracks, then you might want to share a track as you would a quote. If – I don't know if people would – but if you would create your own short story as a playlist, and you don't even need to split them up, but when the range of streamed audiobooks gets bigger, then you might create a collection that you listen to again and again, which automatically transports you back to, say the fall of 2013. Lena Hammargren is well aware that competion on Spotify will grow. Just after her release, another Swedish company – Storyside launched Kristoffer Craas's book Svenneskräp as a theatrical audiobook, read by Swedish rapper Ken Ring and with the chapters mixed with hiphop-tracks from other Swedish rappers. – Of course it was very noticable for us when that showed up, Lena comments. 54
But she ultimately sees competion as a good thing. – That's the danger in working hard on an idea and to be the first one to launch. I mean, it's great fun if more stories get published that way, that's the whole idea. I'd be interested in hearing what Spotify thinks.
[Malin Cumzelius of the Spotify press-team answers briefly via e-mail: “Audiobooks and podcasts can be delivered within exciting feeds and agreements. We already have a variety of popular podcasts on Spotify that users can take advantage of.”] Lena Hammargren sees the digital form of the short story as the perfect gateway for people who don't listen to audiobooks. – You find an audiobook-novel and you want to buy it. Then you notice that it's 23 hours long and maybe you get discouraged. You might even get discouraged by seeing it's 45 minutes long in our day and age. But it's an easy way to try it. I think it's the same thing with the phone, if you don't have an e-reader. I mean, I read articles and e-mails on my phone all the time. I might not read a full novel on my phone, but I could read a short story.
L E N A
H A M M A R G R E N
Being relatively new and small on the market is tough. But it also creates advantages in experimenting. – If you are a big publisher struggling with rights and pushing everything through vast and heavy lines of decision-making, then it might be easier for us as a small actor to just say go and try little things one by one instead of trying to build something huge that you think is going to be great, however once it's out there, the technology has moved on. We had plans for a long time about our subscription for ebooks and building a massive app. Then we didn't have the money anyway so we just built it small scale on our own to see how it works. Another issue with being on subscribed streaming services like Spotify is the enormous catalogue of millions of tracks. So how do you find four short stories released by Novellix? – We need to build an app for Novellix inside the service but waiting for that at Spotify is like nine or twelve months, says Lena Hammargren. At the moment you can only find them via the website and the link to the playlist 'Novellixhits' or by searching in Spotify on the authors names. They essentially become one of the artists. Author Karin Ströms's story Stamtavla is their as sharing space with her own music albums, but also competing with the likes of Psy's Gangnam Style and Lady Gaga, and of course the other three authors first published by Novellix. One of them is one of Swedens most famous and bestselling authors, and lawyers for that matter – Jens Lapidus – and his story Heder (Honour). That same short story was also number one on Swedish iBooks for a while. Since the start of Spotify there has been a massive debate and worldwide news-coverage about what artists earn per-play on the platform – it's down to cents. – In fact, Jens doesn't earn anything when Heder is played on Spotify. But it might work as marketing for his novels and give him new readers or listeners. We earn a couple of cents per-play and we also have to split that with X5 Music. But we have a different payment-model compared to other publishers, since we are sort of hybrid between a magazine and a publisher as a company. We pay our authors a lump sum in advance and realized quite early on that we could never stomach using any kind of BOOK SINGLES TURNED MUSIC ALBUMS
royalty-method. We're too small, although I try to pretend we're not.
Rebranding yourself as a start-up instead of a publisher sort of implies optimism and looking ahead, and yes, Lena Hammargren is optimistic about the future. – I was in Malmö a while back, giving a presentation about our ebooks and our visions. Afterwards another publisher in the audience said “Well, you're fairly positive... and that's an understatement” and everyone laughed. They said to me that they found it very interesting with someone who's so optimistic and sees the possibilites with ebooks and digital formats. I started realizing how much is happening with us small actors. I tend to forget how strenuous the business is right now. People are worried and scared and find it hard and so on. I don't see it that way. But that's also because I'm not Bonniers or Norstedts with their heavy machinery, which makes it hard because they have to take money from somewhere and put it in ebooks. So far ebooks don't give you any money. But like I said – I have a different perspective. I don't see my business as a traditional company and I never have.
WHAT I’M READING?
I'm reading Karolina Ramqvist's Alltings Början (The
Beginning of Everything) – a forthcoming Novellix author – as a paperback, and Sami Said's Väldigt Sällan Fin as an ebook.
L E N A
H A M M A R G R E N
There is an increasing demand for in-depth journalistic narratives. The technology for reading on computers, tablets and mobiles is continuously improving. At the same time, sales of ebooks increase, even if the market in Sweden still is quite limited.â€¨It is in the light of these conditions that we want to launch Readefine, a business that produces singles, long reads, that are sold online. BOOK SINGLES TURNED MUSIC ALBUMS
by M A G N U S
A S P E G R E N
There is an increasing demand for in-depth journalistic narratives. The technology for reading on computers, tablets and mobiles is continuously improving. At the same time, sales of ebooks increase, even if the market in Sweden still is quite limited.â€¨It is in the light of these conditions that we want to launch Readefine, a business that produces singles, long reads, that are sold online.
Reports with a news-edge, in-depth or investigative. There are already similar services in other countries such as USA, Denmark and Finland. The Swedish magazine 'Filter' sells a portion of its published texts as singles, but there are no company in Sweden focusing solely on this kind of product. Despite a demand for in-depth journalism and long reads. Manifested for example in the current interest in documentary films or in the sales of non-fiction. The Danish website zetland. dk shows that there is a business in selling in-depth journalism on the net. Additionally the conditions in Sweden should be better than in Denmark. The potential market is larger and the amount of news-readers higher in Sweden. Quality and credibility are crucial to successful releases. Here is a possibility to build something new. There are no brands to defend and no consumer base to consider. Ambitions are not to build a large firm with an employed staff of writers producing exciting stories, but rather to work with writers, networks, companies and organisations with different skills to develop each story. Publications on Readefine do not only have to be text. In the long run I want us to produce and sell radio- and tv-reports in the same way. Can the business bear its costs? Sales prices for singles are low, although the price range is large. From 10 SEK to around 50 SEK. It hardly covers the cost for each project. Therefore we must find other sources of revenue. For example through subscription or membership. Readers get access to all singles for a whole or half a year. With the membership comes for example access to more material and possibility to discuss the stories with the writers. Readefine can also guide members to other exciting reports to be found online. Collaboration with producers in other countries can create more visibility, more releases and thus increase sales. By also selling ad-space and consultation services we hope to further increase the revenue. It is possible to successfully finance journalistic projects via donations, funds and crowd-founding. The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism is currently financing the project Naming the Dead, through crowd funding. The goal is to name all the victims of drone attacks in Pakistan. In the beginning of March the organisation had received more than 35,000 USD for the project. Readefine relates to ideas that pervade in different markets right now. It focuses on in-depth storytelling. Varied M A G N U S
A S P E G R E N
narratives that combine different media. A voice that engages and inspires. Readefine also derives from the idea that an open organisation is stronger then a closed one. Every organisation; private, public or non-profit needs to accumulate ideas and solutions from outside. To collaborate outside their own framework to get different, better and more creative results. The traditional boundaries within and between organisations don't hold anymore. The target for Readefine is to become reality in spring. With focus on in-depth stories, creative collaborations and to develop the digital reading experience.
WHAT I’M READING?
At the moment I'm reading Steel by Silvia Avallone as a pocket book, and Bølgebryder by Tommy Heisz as an ebook for ipad, from Zetland.
BOOK SINGLES TURNED MUSIC ALBUMS
The Curse of Baron von Barry
An interview with M A R C U S
W O X N E R Y D
Managing Director of U S T W O â„˘
Our aim was to identify what books canâ€™t do, but can do digitally. We wanted to create an experience that enhanced reading, but didnâ€™t draw the focus away from it.
We think its interesting that you've chosen to do nursery rhymes, papercut and whale trail on your own, without clients. Why have you chosen to invest in books and publishing tools? There’s so much going on in our industry it’s hard to keep up these days. We’ve seen established industries being caught unaware and overwhelmed by disruptive innovation in technology, pretty much changing their entire existence. One minute they are the masters of the universe, the next wondering how it all went so horribly wrong. As a young company, all we’ve ever known is disruption. We’re constantly curious about what can and can’t be done with technology and we’ve quiet literally always put our money where our mouth is – one of our first self-funded projects was a mouth replacement app for people bored with their own mouths. Since then we’ve made numerous other apps all designed to push the boundaries in a variety of areas. 64
So in early 2011 we decided to focus on digital publishing. We knew we could push the publishing envelope into a new direction and question what it meant to be a “book” in the digital age.
What is the driving force to make products that digitize books and texts in new ways? Our aim was attempt to augment what books couldn't do, with what tablets could. The key focus was on creating experience that wouldn’t detract too much from the reading experience. We also wanted to strike a chord with the publishing industry and help push the digital element of publishing forwards. People are naturally drawn to new digital devices like smartphone and tablets, so couple a touch-sensitive glass screen with vibrant characters and interactivity, and you should have a winning combination.
M A R C U S
W O X N E R Y D
I think that you must have marketing strategy too, to strengthen a digital brand, to sell, and get more customers based on what you do? Yes definitely there are numerous marketing opportunities that surround launching innovative products, but you can’t have one without the other. New products need to be marketed and if we get publicity surrounding our products which ultimately lead to new business opportunities then great. Our main focus though when launching a new product is to get it into the hands of as many users as possible.
If the idea is that products should instead carry themselves financially, it becomes clear that the videos you have not got back the money you initially invested in them, for example, Papercut – what might you have learned from that? Traditionally, the authorship of a book can reside with the writer and editor, but with PAPERCUT, this expanded to include developers, designers, videographers and sound designers - all of which led to each title being increasingly labour intensive. Margins in the publishing world are small enough already without the additional overhead of having to supply rich content. The hard facts were that for PAPERCUT to break even we’d have had to sell 25,000 copies at its intended full price. There’s little chance we’ll ever recoup our investment in it. But for us it was never about the money. It was instead about making something that many will argue should have remained a concept. But it’s by making these products and putting them out there, that industry wide knowledge, experience and lessons can be gained and shared. In spite of all this we don't believe that all is lost for this new form of publishing. As barriers to entry are smashed down, we’ll no doubt see a new generation of authors emerge - authors who are as well versed in video and audio design, as they are in constructing a story.
Combining this new generation of multi-skilled creatives with tools like Apple's iBook Author, we’ll new authors telling stories similar to what we wanted to achieve with PAPERCUT – but probably far better and sooner than we or anyone else imagined.
Now Whale Trail is becoming an ebook in cooperation with Penguin. How has the collaboration been and what's been generated so far? It’s been great working with Penguin and we launched our first ebook publication with them in December 2012 called Whale Trail – The Curse of Baron Von Barry. It’s published by Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Children's and it is the first animated ebook aimed at children aged three and up featuring Willow the flying Whale.
It features narration by actor and comedian Peter Serafinowicz and music from the single “Whale Trail” by Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals. Readers of the ebook can either listen to the narrated story or follow Willow’s tale of mystery and adventure into the darkest depths of the sea at their own pace. Earlier in 2012 Penguin announced it had secured the global publishing rights for all languages across digital and physical formats as well as becoming the global licensing and TV agent for Whale Trail. Penguin Children’s will actively be seeking partners on-going in various categories including toy, apparel, accessories and stationery as well as TV and film in 2013.
Then I love the word succailure! Would be fun if you want to develop what it means for your business and digital marketing. Balancing between aiming to succeed, and the possibility of failing. What does one win in the long run when you dare to fail?
Mark my words… selling a one dollar app direct to consumers is in many ways more challenging that selling to our own clients. Making a successful app and bringing it to life and into the users’ hands isn’t easy. To give you an indication, for a studio like ours to design, build M A R C U S
W O X N E R Y D
and market Whale Trail for iOS and Android has cost us 2.5 million crowns (390,000US$). This is a vast sum invested with no guarantee that we will ever see that money back. However every app we’ve launched we have step by step developed our own brand and a press profile, become thought leaders, an industry name, been invited to speak all over the world which in turn has directly resulted in new business opportunities coming our way. App development is not just our form of intellectual property (that one day could make us millions), but also our own unique way of marketing our company. So to that extent we have succailed™.
WHAT I’M READING?
A Fine Line: How Design Strategies Are Shaping the
Future of Business by Hartmut Esslinger The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can‘t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (as audiobook) Russia: A Journey to the Heart of a Land and its People by Jonathan Dimbleby (also as an audiobook)
Creating a Better Digital Learning Experience 68
A conversation with E L I S A B E T H
L E N N A R T S D O T T E R
Head of Communications at Gleerups
Innovating the notion of the schoolbook. Meeting the rapid digitization of the Swedish schoolsystem. Creating a better, user oriented, learning-experience.
Helping the teacher free up more time to engage in the classroom. These are some of the aims of Gleerups, who are venturing into the new field of interactive learning. E L I S A B E T H
L E N N A R T S D O T T E R
The publisher is now finding their marketing aspects and product-development merging. Malmö-based publisher Gleerups have been working with schoolbooks and learning material since 1826, when the young, entrepreneurial publisher Christian Wilhelm Kyhl Gleerup moved from Copenhagen to the university-city Lund. There he set up shop and started publishing books mainly on theology and linguistics, as well as schoolbooks. A lot has happened since, and today Gleerups is one of the leading Swedish publishers in the field of learning material – from age six to university and college-level. They have a strong belief that schools don't need ebooks or a digital version of the printed book, but a new type of educational tool that's better and provides more and new ways of learning: – We've started small scale-publishing of ebooks on college-level, but believe it or not, the demand is incredibly low. I'm surprised about this myself and thought the draw would be bigger. We're not there yet but it will probably increase rapidly in the near future. We'll continue to sell our ebooks in online bookstores just like other publishers. The demand might increase as massive online open courses become more common, says Elisabeth Lennartsdotter, head of communications at Gleerups. Where fiction- and nonfiction-publishers and start-ups strive in their digital ventures to create a better reading-experience, Gleerups are passionate about creating a better learning-experience. They recently transitioned into producing completely digital and interactive books, that combine safe, quality-guaranteed content with the latest technology. Unlike a physical book, the interactive schoolbook can be regularly updated with new knowledge and transformative events around the world. The content is clarified with interesting filmclips, interactive quizzes and informative animations. Gleerups also thinks that it gives the pupils a better overview of the learning material and allows them to study smarter thanks to built-in study tools. It also enables the teacher to tailor the education and add his or her own material. A BETTER LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Elisabeth Lennartsdotter says that there is a growing need among teachers for structured flexibility, as she calls it. They want structured material, but with the flexibility to add and update. The aim is to free up more time for teachers to interact with their pupils in the classroom. – What's interesting with the interactive books as well is that we get a very positive response from parents, since their children can no longer blame not doing their homework on forgetting the books at school. The material is always available on one platform or the other. Parents have also said they appreciate the interactive parts with movies and exercises because it makes it easier for them to help their kids with their homework.
The main idea is to provide interactive books that works not only on computers. Now you can study and complete your assignments on the bus using your smartphone or at home on the family-tablet. This of course raises questions of equality in the ability to use educational material freely and as intended. Despite Sweden having a considerably smartphone and tablet-dense population, not every child has access to one outside of, or even in school. So how do Gleerups meet these challenges? – The digitization of the Swedish schoolsystem has just exploded, but it's evolving very unevenly. There are big differences between municipalities and from school to school, concerning the ability to integrate computers and work with digital educational content. There is unfortunately a large gap here. Of course we want to work for an equivalent school like everyone else. But we can't involve ourselves in politics. Our focus is in developing content. Therefore we don't want to stick to static pdf's. We don't want to develop content exclusively for iPads because then we might exclude pupils who have Android-devices in their homes. Developing platformindependent material is our way of meeting the very different demands of the schools. Several contributors to this book have stated the increasing importance of not only listening to consumers, but engaging in conversations with them. Gleerups has taken this a step further. – We're actually co-producing our interactive books together with teachers and pupils. Thirteen different schools at level 7-9 are now testing material in a pilot project to find out how it's percieved and used in the classroom. E L I S A B E T H
L E N N A R T S D O T T E R
– A big part of the project is that they commit to letting go of the printed books in that subject. And we receive brilliant feedback. For example, we visited a 7-grade classroom and a pupil told us: “You need to programme an autosave-function because I just swiped to another page and lost all my annotations”. And so we learned that in a very direct way! Another fun moment was when a boy raised his hand and tried to excuse himself from the assignment because he'd forgotten his computer. The teacher just answered, “No problem. Use your phone and read or listen on that.” The pupils never forget their phone. Gleerups is experimenting with a forum on their website, Gleerups Lab: – It's a lot of fun to be a part of running this so openly and transparently. In a way, the marketing aspect and product-development are merging more and more for us. We have a huge amount of content and we partly let that content communicate for us instead of using traditional advertising. We're developing our material very close to the client. They send bug-reports, make suggestions for improvements, and write reviews completely in the open for everyone to see on Gleerups Lab. This assures us that once the product is released, we know it's working. It's anchored in the school and in the process – we've secured ambassadors who can vouch for the quality. In the long run, Elisabeth Lennartsdotter hopes that Gleerups Lab can turn into a good platform where teachers meet not only educational publishers, but each other – even nationally. – As an English-teacher for example – once you've added your own material to the interactive lesson and sent it to your class and colleagues – what's to say you can't also share it with every English-teacher in Sweden? That would be something.
WHAT I’M READING?
Right now a book in paper form: I Huvudet på Michael Porter (Understanding Michael Porter) by Joan Magretta
A BETTER LEARNING EXPERIENCE
The First 3 Years
By M A L I N
N O R L A N D E R
of Pupill Fรถrlag
In summer 2010 we started Pupill ebook publishers, Sweden's first pure ebook publishing house. The idea was to be a channel for first-time and other smaller literature, that can be hard to find via more traditional publishers. As ebooks don't entail expensive print costs, distribution and storage our only investment was time. Marketing so far has been via social media and Mynewsdesk. So here, two and a half years later, we can say that ebook sales throughout the whole industry remain pretty slow, but library loans are frequent. Our children's books are best, mostly picture books for younger children.
Therefore we're now focusing on that genre.
Together with Sluggerfilm we have produced many picture-books in pdf-format that we hope shall soon be interactive with moving image and sound. The idea being that these ebooksâ€™ content should be dramatic and animated illustrations with interactive features. Book pages' text shall be complemented with narration. The largest challenge is programming and exporting to different platforms, there are many different formats, and new ones are being developed all the time. Currently, Pupill has published fifty titles in a variety of genres. They are M A L I N
N O R L A N D E R
distributed via Elib, and are available in all internet bookstores, as well as the Swedish library sites. Our writers are both new and established. We have acted as a springboard for many of the newer writers we worked with, into larger publishing houses, which feels great. We run the publishing house alongside our regular jobs. We hope of course that the ebook market shall soon wake up, so that we can spend more time on publishing. Our driving force however is still a passion for words and images.
WHAT Iâ€™M READING?
I mostly read incoming manuscripts on my iPad or iPhone. As I work with graphic design or when I'm cleaning I listen to audio-books, via Storytel, right now Harlan Coben. Before I fall asleep I usually browse gardening or design books.
THE FIRST 3 YEARS
Chief Disorder Maker of the Italian e-Lit Landscape 78
A conversation with M A R C O
G H E Z Z I
founder of BOOKREPUBLIC Italian retailer of ebooks
with culture in the Italian political climate is the last thing you want to talk about. I mean we have big problems, and even bigger problems with the economic aspect of it, meaning that thereâ€™s underemployment,
and companies that are going to close. So the situation is quite harsh right now and culture is not exactly on top of our political lives. Everybody is talking about other things and they worry about other things.
So thatâ€™s a problem. The problem is also deeper and it goes into schools, it goes into culture in a bigger way. But for sure, it adds to the problem that the publishing industry is facing all around the world.â€?
At the end of our conversation over Skype we dive deep into the Italian heritage and society of today and Marco Ghezzi's view on the roles of literature in that context. But we start off in one of the far younger spaces where he and his company reaches out to its readers to hear what they desire. I checked your Twitter account and you call yourself 'The Chief Disorder Maker at bookrepublic'. Yes, exactly! [Laughter]
What’s behind that title? In truth I am also the founder and most responsible for the organizational part and the software-development. So I should be more... let’s say not so much of disorder. But I believe that some disorder at a certain point could be helpful, you know, to keep things going and try to see things from a different point of view. Obviously it’s only 1% of the time and the rest of the time is about organization, order and streamlined activities. But just to try and watch outside of the box, I think it’s useful. So tell me about Bookrepublic – how did it start? Bookrepublic started in July 2010, in truth it was on my birthday, the fifteenth of July. We started our activity with the e-commerce website and started selling all the ebooks that were on the market in Italy. They were very very few. We also started our distribution platform activity, meaning that we teamed up with a number of publishers who wanted to deliver ebooks to the market. That was one and a half years into this part of our activity, and I think we built the strongest and most independent ebookstore in Italy. How has it evolved to the present day? The Italian market has been expanding a lot. For example from 2011 to 2012 the market has increased by four times and right now it’s about 2% of the total bookmarket. So the market is growing a lot. Amazon entered the market last year so we are in strong competition. Apple is there too. But I think that we can find a good way to do what we do best and be different, build great content and a strong relationship with our customers. M A R C O
G H E Z Z I
Is your activity growing due to the ebook market growing globally or are you ahead of the global ebook market? That’s a good question and I don’t have the answer because we’re missing a lot of numbers. Neither Amazon nor Apple release any numbers of their activity and they are the biggest players of the market. But I’d say yes, quite ahead of the growing curve or so we think because of the fact that we started early, adopting early is a good point of entry, and we are building a very good readership. We have passionate readers and they talk about us in a very good way. I've understood that you listen to your customers a lot... Yes, basically we have one person who is just doing that on the social web and through our customer relationship management system and through email. We believe that our strength relies on our ability to talk to the readers. Is that the most important thing? It's one of the most important things. I think it’s all a matter of speed and quality, do things with quality at a great speed. Meaning adding content, building a good marketing picture and having a good relationship with the customer. This means a fast relationship with the customer. If there is a problem we have to be there in minutes. What platforms are you using? We use Twitter and Facebook. We work better on Twitter and believe it offers a better kind of communication, but Facebook is where all the people are so it’s important to be there. We have an open e-mail and an open phone number on our website so if you have a problem you can call us and that’s something that I think we are the only ones doing so... sometimes it’s a mess because a lot of people are calling, but I’d say that’s the way we try to be there. The idea is to be where the readers are and what we are implementing for the near future is starting an affiliate program to connect websites and bloggers who are talking about books in general and give them a possibility to earn some money by linking back to us. That type of contact is important to us. We have our own social network – Zazie.it. That’s devoted to readers, not only ebook-readers, BOOKREPUBLIC
and it’s similar to for example Anobii or Goodreads. We have very large categories of books and it’s growing quickly too. The connection between Bookrepublic and Zazie is also very good so we can kind of intercept reviews and connect using Zazie and show our public and this is good for our readers too. We do a lot of content creation on the website. We are not only showing the products, we are also talking about the products. We make choices, we are bookstore vanguards I would say, we have passions and we like to show that to our readers.
So what are your other visions for the future? The biggest one is that we will be releasing a web-app that will be a reader-app, which will allow everybody to read the content via Bookrepublic.it so you can read via iPads and iphones and so on because I do believe that everyone is going to switch to tablets and smartphones as the primary reading device. The ink-devices that are used now will be decreasing more and more and everyone is going to bring only one device and that will probably be a smartphone or a small tablet and so we are getting ready for that: it is a reading app with all the usual features. You can take the annotations, you can control the brightness of the screen, you can adjust the font-size, you can add books on your own. For example you can use your dropbox and put books there. On top of it we are synchronizing audio and text. We built a technology which keeps the reading part and the listening in synchro, so you can switch back and forth between reading and listening, keeping the point exactly where you started. Keep on reading or start listening and vice versa. So I think this is something cool that only we have. So what made you leave print books all together? You mean us or me? You, Marco, because I guess you have been working with print publishing a long time? I’ve been working with publishing for twenty years. I founded a publishing company and sold it to a bigger one, I moved there and I have been CEO for a large publishing company for 6 years. I’ve been playing in the intersection between technology and publishing M A R C O
G H E Z Z I
for a long time. And what better interception than the ebook, which needs technology? It’s just another way to show a content that you want to read. So for me that’s reason still. I’m still buying paperbooks and I’m not over it. I have a house stacked with them but I think we shall read more and more on devices, sharing what I’m reading with people that I like, following people that may suggest books for me to read next and moving into a kind of a social reading pattern. So if we talk about e-commerce, about selling ebooks, what are the most important factors today and ahead according to you? One of the factors is more of a problem, and the factor is the system by which publishers try to control copyright issues, by limiting the access to the book. If I buy a book in Amazon I can’t move it to Apple iOS for example or vice versa. And if I buy a book with Adobe DRM, I'm dependant on the license for it. So the main factor at the moment is going around the problem that each reader has, trying to read a book. It’s much more difficult to read an ebook than it is to read a print book. Technology is not helping and we need to find a way to get back to a technology that is going to help the reader. Our web-app is exactly this. You buy it, you open it and that’s it, you don’t have any hassle – but reading, moving, copying a shelf somewhere else. This is something. The other point is seeing how, in the publishing ecosystem, we can compensate for the reduced list price. Ebook prices are lower than printed ones, and the industry has to move higher volumes along these reduced prices. Yes, they are pushing towards zero. Which is probably good because the perceived value of an ebook is lower than that of a printed book. I’m not saying they have to be the same – on the contrary. What I’m saying is that there’s less money on the payroll – for the publisher for example – so we have to find a way to deal with a different kind of making money, earning money by increasing the number of readers and working around this problem.
But where do you think the value of the printbook is? Why is it higher? Is it because of the sentimentality? I think so. Because looking at your skype-picture, you are way younger than me but I think you’ve grown up with books, with printed ones, so you have an affection for it. You’ve been around them for a very long time so there is this affection for their content and also for their container you see. The container is also touchable you know. You can look at it, feel the paper. The value we attribute to that is higher than to something that you even don’t have. Because when you look through the licensing-models of ebooks – a lot of publishers and a lot of retailers talk about license – they don’t talk about ownership. So as a publisher, I’m licensing something, not owning it. This is why the percieved value is lower. The effect of the license has a very bad impact on prices, for ebooks the VAT is way higher than for printed books. In Italy for example, the VAT on printed books is 3% of the price. On ebooks it’s 21%. This affects the price, but there's no advantage for the reader, who can't do anything with that VAT. It’s just taxes on top of a product, that kind of make it look more expensive and nothing else. So that’s an issue that I hope is going to be solved in the European Library. For example in Amazon and Apple they are working out of the Luxembourg-VAT, which is 3%. They have a competative advantage and they don’t need it. This concerns books but there are lot’s of other products around Europe that need to be coordinated on the VAT-aspect. So about licensing, is creative commons something that you’re looking into at Bookrepublic? Like a CC for ebooks? Not really. I don´t think we really need to use creative commons. I mean, if you want to, it’s good. We have a few titles with creative commons. It’s publishers who decide which license they are going to use. The fact is that ebooks as a product are viewed on a legal and fiscal way as a software. So for the computer you never buy the software, you always buy the license to use it. On printed books there is not a problem for that. You buy it and then you own it. It’s a piece of paper, there’s ink on it and it is yours. So it doesn’t matter if you choose to do it with creative commons or a copyright or whatever. The problem is that either way you are going to license and not own the ebook. So CC is interesting but not relevant to the matter. M A R C O
G H E Z Z I
What factors are you struggling with right now? Economic crisis, political elections, the fact that we are a strange country. [Laughter.] That’s interesting, the political climate in Italy. How do you work with culture in that climate? That’s the last thing you want to talk about. I mean we have big problems, and even bigger problems with the economic aspect of it, meaning that there’s unemployment, companies that are going to close. So the situation is quite harsh right now and culture is not exactly on top of our political lives. Everybody is talking about other things and they worry about other things. So that’s a problem. The problem is also deeper and it goes into schools, it goes into culture in a bigger way. But for sure, it adds to the problem that the publishing industry is facing all around the world. I was thinking also when we’re talking about Italian culture and the global perspective because I guess you travel a lot around the world and you lecture here and there. But you're also raised Italian with your Italian book heritage. When you continue to build and evolve Bookrepublic, how do you combine your Italian cultural perspective with your global one to distribute books in the best way? Hmm... I’m thinking of a good answer... I’m proud to be Italian. I think we are one the best countries in the world and even if we are struggling and we are kind of not able to choose the right people to lead us, there is so much quality in the little things, in small initiatives, so much quality in fashion, much quality in the chemical industries, in the small companies. I feel comfortable all around because I think that we are passionate in our striving for quality in a way that's uncommon around the world. But each time I go around I’m kind of tired of everyone pushing me with the Berlusconi-deal you know? Because they don’t represent me and I don’t think they represent a lot of people travelling around the world. That’s kind of a pain in the ass. Lesser now probably with the new government but previously it was always the joke with our former managing director. So to try and answer your question I think the passion and the search for quality is the way we try to follow and I think this is very common in the typical Italian way. BOOKREPUBLIC
What’s the best thing about Italian literature and how do you bring it to the world? Well, I’m talking about the writers we have. The easy answer is that there is a lot of Italian history and Italian attitude and sentiments, but that is true also for the Swedish one or the US one. I’m trying to see what would be the more global or international characters that you could bring to the world and that’s not very easy because we always see the national interests of the country. The best writers are the ones that can talk outside of the country, the ones who speak globally. We have a few writers of that kind. I come to think of Roberto Saviano, the author of Gomorra. I think it has been translated into Swedish as well.
Yes, I've read it but in English actually. Yeah. And maybe also there is – the word in Italian is 'letteratura di impegno civile', literature with a civic commitment. You know what I mean? Something concerning the citizens that adds to the content. Not just a story about my dreams or my history or my family or my sentiments or my love. It’s my country. You know? This is something we at Bookrepublic have already done and are trying to do with other authors. We are fighting back things like the mafia and we are doing that with journalists and with judges and also with writers. It's something that has probably happened over the last year that is new again. It was something that was happening a lot after the second world war and then there was a lot of silence. And now there are once again new voices that come out with these civil acts and literature as a civic act. This is going on with Saviano but also with other authors as well, for example Vincenzo Latronico. He works less in a public and more in an introspective way.
M A R C O
G H E Z Z I
WHAT I’M READING?
I just read a book on a tablet. The book was from John Niven. In Italy the title is A Volte Ritorno (The Second Coming) and it’s about a second coming of Jesus, who is sent by God, who took a vacation for one week – and one week in Heaven-time is several hundred years on Earth. When God returns everything is a mess so he sends Jesus back. The son ends up winning the contest ‘American Pop Star’. It was quite fun. I'm also reading a paperback by a Spanish author, Javier Marias. The Italian title is Innamoramenti (Falling in Love) and that was a christmas gift. Before that I read more ebooks and one was from Ian McEwan – Miele (Sweet Tooth) and the other one is Emanuel Carrere, Limonov. So these are my recent readings. The others are bullshit manuals. Or maybe one more interesting book about the order of information. David Weinberger, Too Big to Know.
M E D I A
E V O L U T I O N
eBooks & eBucks is published by the media cluster M E D I A E VO LU T I O N .
We strive to strengthen the growth of the media industries in Southern Sweden. Through intelligence, which is one of our action areas, we monitor what is happening in the media industries from a global perspective. From that we extrapolate opportunities and business models that our members and the media industries at large can use in their development.
The publishing landscape is changing fast. This book is a kaleidoscope of voices from publishers, authors, businesses and organizations that are passionate about experimenting with new models for digital publishing, marketing and e-commerce of books. Here are some of their reflections:
Our belief is that, essentially, everybody has something to learn from everybody else. Even if their business circumstances are different or their culture is different, there is an opportunity to learn from another person‘s experience. Edward Nawotka, editor-in-chief at Publishing Perspectives
I’ve started seeing us as a digital start-up with the printed books working as marketing for the digital formats. Lena Hammargren, founder of short story publisher Novellix
Our aim was to identify what books can’t do, but can do digitally. We wanted to create an experience that enhanced reading, but didn‘t draw focus away from it. Marcus Woxneryd, UsTwo™
We’re approaching a position where publishers are starting to realize that data is golden. Suw Charman-Anderson, social technology consultant, journalist and author
I believe that some disorder at a certain point can be helpful, you know, to keep things going and try to see things from a different point of view. Marco Ghezzi, founder of Italian e-commerce site Bookrepublic
w w w. m e d i a e v o lu t io n . s e