June 17, 2009

Many Print on Demand Companies (POD) Fall Short of Promises

Print on demand (POD) is making headway as an alternative for some self-publishers, but a number of companies that employ the process are failing to meet the expectations of authors and book buyers alike.

POD is a process whereby books are printed one at a time with a glorified Xerox machine, as opposed to using a traditional web offset printing press that runs off 50, 500, 1,000 or more copies of a book.

While the actual method of printing is not a major problem, the quality of service offered by the companies in the business of POD can be spotty.

Recently, there has been a spate of articles in major news publications—The New York Times, TIME, US News & World Report and others—discussing the option POD provides self-published authors. However, rarely are the shortcomings of the POD method addressed.

While print on demand offers authors the chance to self-publish, industry insiders question the quality of the editorial and customer support offered by companies like Author Solutions and Lulu, and instead support a new model that includes ghostwriting and professional marketing for those asking, “Where can I get my book published?”

Some shortfalls seen in POD companies include:

· Poor editorial support
· Unattractive cover design
· Amateurish back-cover copy and layout
· Inadequate marketing support
· Embarrassingly bad production quality
· Problems with royalty payments to authors

E-Books Getting Some Color, But Slowly

If you’ve ever read an eBook, you've probably noticed something: they’re all in black and white. But that could change in the coming years as manufacturers race to overcome the many technical challenges faced in switching from black and white to color.

Currently, Fujitsu is the only manufacturer with a color reader. It’s Flepia e-book is only sold in Japan and other manufacturers are finding that overcoming the technical hurdles presented by color—slow refresh rates, inadequate screen size, problems with brightness and poor clarity—is taking longer than they expected.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, says that his Kindle platform is “years away” from a color version.
While Apple is rumored to be working on a touch screen, color reader, it appears that book aficionados will have to wait to enjoy the vivid colors in their favorite books.

Once e-books are available in color, they might include features such as author reviews, links to similar books and even video.

June 16, 2009

Google Gives Orphan Books a Home

Google’s never-ending quest to build a modern-day oracle—a super-repository of all human knowledge—has hit a snag. It has to do with what are euphemistically called "orphan books."

The six-year-long Google Book Search project, which scanned 7 million books into electronic format, included many of these orphan books. These are books with no clear rights holder (for example: the author is long dead, has no heirs and the publisher is out of business).

Orphan books can cover every subject, genre and category.

The Author's Guild and the Association of American Publishers, among others, sued Google because they claimed the search engine giant was violating copyrights by making these orphan books available over the Internet for a profit.

Google recently settled that suit for $125 million while agreeing to give 63 percent of all profits to the Book Rights Registry, a non-profit that will distribute the money to benefit the writing and reading public (whatever that might mean).

So far, Google will have the right to offer a preview of twenty pages of each book and then sell it at a price they determine. But Google isn't out of the woods yet. Other groups are claiming that Google is essentially monopolizing the online-library format. Amazon, for one. We wonder if the original Oracle (the one at Delphi) had to deal with copyright issues and lawyers.

iPod Becomes Second Option for Reading eBooks

With the emergence of Kindle, e-books have become an increasingly popular alternative to paperbacks and hardcovers. Digital books are about to spread further and faster with the addition of the iPhone and iPod Touch as platforms for reading eBooks.

Amazon announced that they are optimizing more than 300,000 e-books for the Safari browser used by Apple. iPhone and iPod Touch owners can preview, download, read and transfer e-books with their handheld devices.

What’s even more impressive is that users can automatically synchronize their devices to pick up on the last page they read, no matter which device they happen to be using at the time: Kindle, iPhone or iPod Touch. Customers can preview and purchase the New York Times bestsellers and even read the first chapter for free before deciding to buy.

Unfortunately, Kindle newspapers, magazines and blogs aren’t yet available on Apple’s handheld devices, but the books that are available can be enjoyed using a bunch of great new features. If you have the iPhone 2.1 software update, which is required for this application, you can read in portrait or landscape mode, change background and text colors, turn pages by tapping on either side of the screen and pinch to zoom into images.

Online Textbooks the Wave of the Future?

Digital text books have now officially arrived: The upcoming school year will be the first without paper textbooks for California, which has one of the largest school systems in the nation.

California is looking to close a $24 billion budget gap, so it’s going to use online textbooks for its math and science courses. Last year California spent $350 million on textbooks alone.

Online textbooks will be easily updatable and students will be able to download their books to handheld devices like the iPod. Poorer students present a problem for budget-crunching California because the state will likely have to purchase computers and readers for those families that cannot afford them.

You can be sure other states will be paying attention. If the Golden state's move to online text books saves them money it could become a trend across the nation as states seek ways to tighten their belts and avoid raising taxes.

What's more, this is just one more giant step in the e-book revolution...

New “In-Motion” Comics Coming to iTunes From Marvel

One of the biggest names in entertainment is getting in on the eBook revolution - in a distinctly unique way.

Marvel comics will sell "In-Motion" comic books in Apple's iTunes Store. The comics will feature animated panels suited to the iPhone and iPod Touch and will include voice-overs from famous actors.

These same comics will later be released in the traditional paper format.

Just a footnote: In the first quarter of 2009, major American publishers earned more than $25 million in wholesale revenues from e-books, according to the International Digital Publishing Forum.

June 9, 2009


Follow our blog as we offer the latest news from the world of publishing.

Get the latest in publishing news

Follow our blog to find the latest in publishing news.