Sunday, August 23, 2015

eBook Reading on Smartphones: the Future?

The publishing world was turned upside down when the first e-books appeared 15 - 20 years ago.  The Kindle e-reader was not the first, but it is until now the most famous e-reader and helped Amazon to built their e-book imperium.  When you check out the 2015 e-book reader rating, one of the many Kindle types that are now on the market, the Voyage, is the “Gold Award Winner #1” for 2015. #2 is the NOOK GlowLight, then the Kobo Aura H20, and then another Kindle, the Paperwhite.  In North America these are the highest regarded ones. In Europe it looks a bit different, at least in Germany, the Tolino is on its way to surpass the Kindle.
Contrary to former predictions, not the e-reader - 
but the smartphone will be driving future book sales!
Tablets such as the iPad or the Kindle Fire are currently the most popular (41%) platform to read e-books, 11 % more than three years ago, but 3% less than last year.  However it’s not e-readers that will be driving future books sales, it’s the smartphone.  But people who read primarily on phones has risen to 14% in the first quarter of 2015 - from 9% in 2012, according to a Nielsen survey.  And about 54% of e-book buyers said they used smartphones to read their books sometimes.
Meanwhile, those reading mainly on e-readers, such as Kindles and Nooks, decreased over the same period to 32% from 50%.  Wattpad, the serial publishing platform, explains that phones are encouraging people to read more. 90% of their 40 million monthly users read on mobile devices.  Nearly two-thirds of respondents who read on their phones said they do it, because they didn’t have their e-reader or tablet with them.
Reasons to Read on the Phone
It might be convenience. If you are standing in line at the grocery store or the bus stop, waiting at the doctors or dentists office or riding home on the subway, you may not have a print book or an e-reader or tablet with you. But chances are, you are carrying a smartphone. And I have even seen people reading on their smartphones while pushing their baby’s strollers or walking their dog in the park - where an audiobook would be much more appropriate. Around 65% of American adults now own a smartphone, and predictions are that in a couple of years it will be over 80%
The size and clarity of new smartphone models, make reading easier - if you have good eyes I might add.  The release of the iPhone 6 series, Apple has seen an increase in the number of people downloading books through its iBooks app.  And among all new Amazon customers using Kindles or the Kindle app, phone readers are by far the fastest-growing segment.
Free Reading on SmartPhones at Trains and Airports
Publishers are now experimenting with ways to make the mobile reading experience better. They are designing book jackets with smartphone screens in mind. Simon & Schuster, for example, offers free e-books at hotels and airport lounges in New York, California, Missouri, Florida, Texas and Hawaii.  Users can read as much of each book as they like for free, while they stay within the prescribed geographical area. And Penguin Random House introduced free excerpts of e-books on Amtrak’s Acela Express trains.  Online e-book retailers, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Barnes&Noble offer smartphone apps for reading books.  They automatically sync all devices linked to the same account, so a reader can open an e-book on her phone and pick up exactly where she left off the night before on her e-reader or tablet.
The literary world is divided over whether a phone can deliver the experience of deep, concentrated reading.  Scholars who study the subject note that smartphones are an important part of the effort to improve literacy in developing countries where books and computers are out of reach for many people.  Reading on a phone is better than not reading at all, these experts all agree.
Drawbacks of Phone Reading
A neuroscientist who studies the reading brain: “For most people, a phone will make concentrated reading more difficult - if not impossible."  It’s not as easy to share an e-book with friends as you can with print books.  Many people still read in print part of the time.  If deep, concentrated reading is possible despite the ringing, buzzing and alerts that come with phones - I am not sure.  Phones will certainly not replace print books altogether.
However, one should stop worrying about how other people are reading, 

and be glad that they are reading at all!


Phone Tips for eBook Readers
The blogger at EbookFriendly advises: “The underestimated power of smartphones is that they are great testing devices.  If you want to try ebooks, it doesn’t mean you have to immediately buy a Kindle.  Just get a free Kindle application for you mobile phone and you’ll learn – in no time – about all advantages of ebook reading.  Standard features of book reading applications are:
  • customization of font size and typeface,
  • themes or backgrounds to choose from (at least day and night mode),
  • text highlighting, note taking, bookmarks,
  • dictionary and reference,
  • instant access to ebooks stored in your cloud library,
  • syncing bookmarks and latest read locations,
  • ability to add your own books,
Book reading apps usually let you discover new books within the app.  The exception is iOS, where this quite obvious feature is offered only by the Apple’s e-reading app iBooks.  Find more tips on his blog.  Smartphones are multi-purpose devices.  Reading ebooks will never be their primary purpose.  But they are extremely helpful in extending book reading to “not planned” places and circumstances.”  Read more here.
What About Audiobooks?
The question is whether the phone is appropriate for long-form reading, if other options are available.  Audiobooks are certainly an even better way of “reading” as you can listen to your favored book - hands-free - even if you are exercising in the gym or when you do intense gardening.  I personally love listening to audiobooks, especially on long road trips, when discerning radio stations are not available and I have listened too many times to the same CD’s.  In many cases, audiobooks have also proven successful in helping students to access literature and enjoy books.
The best phone screens are listed in a article


Friday, August 21, 2015

Writers Residency Joshua Tree Ntl Park, CA

Mark your calendar for next spring to apply for this Writers Residency in Palm Springs, California area and check out their website for details:

Joshua Tree Ntl Park Residency for Writers and Artists

photo Joshua Tree Ntl Park

Artists were among the first to record the visual beauty and the drama of the American West on canvas and in photos. Carleton Watkins, Ansel Adams, Thomas Moran, William Henry Jackson, and others awakened a nation to the magnificent waterfalls, geyser basins, and wildlife found in what would become some of our nation’s most revered national parks. They looked beyond nature as a raw resource; they spoke in defense of disappearing wildlife and vegetation. They saw beauty and virtue in places promised to the future.

The Joshua Tree National Park Artist-in-Residence Program offers visual, performing and literary artists a residency from two to six weeks long during the months of March, April, October, and November of each year.

The accommodations within the park are located at the Lost Horse Ranger Station, in a rustic and self-sufficient cabin with nearby panoramic views of the park. In exchange for the adventure of living and working in a national park, the resident artist will have the opportunity to create a body of work and to share it with the surrounding regional and Southern California communities.  Deadline for this year July 1.



In exchange for the adventure of living and working in a national park, the resident artist will have the opportunity to create a body of work and to share it with the surrounding regional and Southern California communities. AIR artists’ proposals are encouraged to address content related to Joshua Tree National Park and build better understanding and dialogue about our national parks, natural resources, and environmental desert issues.
Links to the 2016-2017 residences will be available in 2016 and accepted through June 1, 2016.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Free Books Not a Viable Marketing Option



Years ago, advertising on BookBub (for hundreds of dollars) was an insider tip among self-publishing authors, at times when giving your book away for free was a viable marketing option, and ten-thousand of books were "purchased" for free. But much has changed since then: Amazon invented Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited, and readers who signed up with these subscriptions get already free books. The number of free book downloads has decreased tremendously and advertising companies such as BookBub got "picky", authors are shocked to learn their books were rejected. 
Why Do Ad Companies Reject Books?  
Very easy:  with new books, even if they have several 5-star reviews these advertising companies cannot make enough money through their affiliate program with Amazon. Only books that are already bestsellers are accepted by their “editorial staff” (whoever this might be and whoever their "qualifications" are...).  
Maybe not a loss, as we hear from so many writers that the success with them is dwindling rapidly...

During a research of book advertising companies I came over their website, studied it very carefully and read several press releases that they had blasted out. 

As a trained marketing professional, I asked them several questions, e.g.:
1. What are your Nielsen numbers?
2. Are your email lists acquired or genuine through many years of reader contacts obtained?
3. How can you proof the subscriber numbers?
4. Are you belonging to an affiliate program with Amazon or other online retailers 

Answer for question 1:

Only through persistence and several emails later, I got half-answers:
No, the amount of advertisers is not confirmed by Nielsen or any other organization. 

I also was wondering about their relatively low number of followers on Social Media and very few tweets to promote their customers, considered what these writers pay for.
With the right platform and lots of followers on all Social Media sites, author interviews, blogs about their book, choosing the right genre, and professional promotional help etc. every writer/book can get into #1 in their books genre. 

Number 2: no comment from them, despite several emails.

Number 3: See number 1:  The amount of subscribers can and will not be verified.
Their subscriber forms contains a dozen or more categories / genres that people can choose - and if someone is interested in several (or all genres) they get newsletters for all of them.  Which means in turn, they might be "counted"  as not only one subscriber, but as many as they choose genres.  So much about inflating subscriber numbers... And they don't work with independent analyzing companies, that would rate the amount of advertising / subscribers.  As always Writer Beware!

Number 4:  It took three emails with inquisitive questions, til they submitted to work with an affiliate program. Until this spring, advertisers who were enrolled in Amazon's affiliate programs, earned up to 7% for each downloaded book in the KDP Select free book campaigns, now it is only 4%.  These commissions are only paid for books that are at least 99cents - not for free books.

Affiliate Members are obliged by FTC rules to let each customer and advertiser know that they make additional commissions, aside from the advertising fees.   NO, THEY ARE NOT DISCLOSING THIS!  In March, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its guidance for advertising disclosures in a guide called .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising.