Always Write

May 192011
 

A few months after Amazon announced that its e-book sales overtook hardcover books, then paperback books, Amazon today announced that e-book sales on Amazon overtook all formats of print books combined — and that’s even excluding free Kindle e-books and including print books with no e-book counterparts.

From the Amazon press release:

  • Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.
  • So far in 2011, the tremendous growth of Kindle book sales, combined with the continued growth in Amazon’s print book sales, have resulted in the fastest year-over-year growth rate for Amazon’s U.S. books business, in both units and dollars, in over 10 years. This includes books in all formats, print and digital. Free books are excluded in the calculation of growth rates.
  • In the five weeks since its introduction, Kindle with Special Offers for only $114 is already the bestselling member of the Kindle family in the U.S.
  • Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books so far in 2011 as it did during the same period in 2010.
  • Less than one year after introducing the UK Kindle Store, Amazon.co.uk is now selling more Kindle books than hardcover books, even as hardcover sales continue to grow. Since April 1, Amazon.co.uk customers are purchasing Kindle books over hardcover books at a rate of more than 2 to 1.

Pretty remarkable. Amazon is the world’s #1 bookseller, and is now selling more e-books than print books (5% more), and I’m sure the numbers will continue to shift even further in favor of e-books going forward. How long until Barnes & Noble releases a similar announcement? (We probably have a couple of years or so left for that one.)

Another interesting tidbit from the press release was the news that e-book sales in 2011 have tripled from 2010 numbers. The rate of e-book sales and market share increases shows no sign of slowing down.

Also of note: the $114 Kindle Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” (which I wrote about here) has overtaken the other Kindle versions to become the best-selling Kindle at Amazon. Perhaps not terribly surprising considering it is the least expensive version, but it does seem to show that a lot of people don’t mind ads on their Kindles and will accept them in exchange for a lower price ($25 off in this case).

(One last note: the Kindle store now stands at 950,000 e-books, closing fast on 1 million, which it should hit by July.)

DropBox Review

 Posted by at 1:59 AM
May 162011
 

In the random “Really Useful Stuff” Department, I recently started using DropBox, the online file storage / backup / syncing service. It allows you to upload files to be stored online (in the “cloud” you keep hearing so much about). This allows you to (a) back up your files, (b) sync them between computers and mobile devices, and (c) share files (even files too large to email) with friends or co-workers.

The best part? It’s completely free.

The second-best part is that it’s really easy to use, even for the non-tech-savvy. When my sister (who hates computers and only grudgingly accepts that they’re not going away) told me she was uploading photos on her trip to Italy (basically giving her unlimited storage space, since she could then erase her camera’s memory card and take more pictures), I knew it was easy to use. Even better: she shared her photo folder with me and I could see pics from her trip each day. Cool.

To use it, just sign up for a free account and install the free DropBox desktop application (for Mac or Windows; there are also mobile versions for iPhones and Android). It will create a “DropBox” folder on your computer. To use it, just follow the directions below:

  1. Drag & drop any files or folders you want into the DropBox folder.
  2. There is no Step 2.

Your files are now backed up online, and you can access them from any of your other computers (or smartphones) that you’ve installed DropBox on, or any Internet-connected computer (by signing into the DropBox website).

For example, set it up on your home and work computers, and drop a file into the DropBox folder at work. When you turn on your computer at home, the file will be waiting for you in the DropBox folder on your home computer.

There are a million more uses for it (including sharing folders with friends or co-workers, or having an off-site backup, very useful if your computer gets messed up or your house gets flooded or burns down), but those are the basics. Now that I use it, I’m not sure how I got along without it.

With a basic account, you get 2 GB of free online space. (Or you can pay $9.95 a month for 50 GB, or double that for 100 GB.) If you sign up using the link below and install the desktop application, we’ll both get an extra 250 MB, so you’ll start out with 2.25 GB.

I hope you find it as useful as I do. For anyone who already uses DropBox, what else do you use it for? I’d love to hear some ideas in the comments below.

May 122011
 

The Twiller, just $2.99 at the Amazon Kindle Store

I am pleased to announce that the well-known book review site Red Adept Reviews posted a review of my third novel, The Twiller, today. I submitted The Twiller for submission back in June of last year, so you can see how well-respected Red Adept is by indie authors, and how inundated with submissions she is!

A big thank you to Red Adept and her review staff — I’m glad you enjoyed the book!

From the review:

4  3/4 stars

It’s funny, really funny. … Author David Derrico came very close to matching Douglas Adams’ farcical, achingly funny style of writing that fit the story so perfectly. … Overall, this was a fun book to read.

Please do check out the full review over at Red Adept Reviews:

http://redadeptreviews.com/?p=5274

You can pick up The Twiller e-book for just $2.99 at:

Or, grab the paperback from:

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May 072011
 

Last month, I wrote about Amazon’s new $114 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with “Special Offers,” which is available and shipping now from Amazon. My gut reaction was that I like my Kindle (and the serene reading experience it provides) enough that I would prefer to pay the extra $25 (for the regular price $139 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi) to avoid seeing advertisements on my Kindle.

Since then, I’ve heard a little more about the “special offers” that Amazon is providing. A few of the ads are just ads, but a couple of legitimately good deals are being reported so far:

  • A $20 Amazon gift card for $10
  • A $10 Amazon credit when you buy one of a list of e-books, some of which are under $5

Assuming you take advantage of both deals (and buy one of the less expensive e-books that qualifies for the second deal), you’d save an extra $15 (plus get a free e-book), knocking the effective price of the “Special Offers” Kindle to just $99. As I said in my earlier post, $99 seems like a more tempting price point.

Presumably, Amazon will continue to offer deals like that (they mention a potential $6 deal for 6 Audible audiobooks that normally cost $68, for example), which would drive the effective price down further. If you keep it long enough and take advantage of enough of the legitimately good deals, could the Kindle’s “special offers” end up paying for itself?

Personally, I feel so overloaded and bombarded with advertisements in my life, I am loathe to open up another avenue for advertisers to annoy me. (Side rant: how about watching an NBA game, on paid cable TV, and not only getting 1.5 hours of ads for a 60-minute game, but seeing the Company X game summary brought to you by Company Y at the Company Z Arena, and then listening to the announcers plug products and upcoming shows during free throws? Enough already! End side rant.) That being said, if you’re the type who can safely ignore ads (tip: most people are not, which is why advertisers pay so much money forcing you to see them), this is one way to get a brand-new Kindle 3 (that is, in every mechanical respect, identical to the regular Kindle 3 Wi-Fi) for just $114, and maybe significantly less than that when some of Amazon’s special offers are factored in.

On the other hand, it’s always possible that the two special offers listed above are all you’re gonna get, and the rest will just be obnoxious car dealership ads. Don’t blame me if that’s the case! =)

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Kobo Wireless E-Reader at Best Buy for $99

 Posted by at 2:22 AM  Tagged with: ,
May 072011
 

Kobo announced today that Best Buy will carry their Kobo Wireless e-reader (which is their second-generation model), both in stores and online. From now until May 14, the price is discounted to $99.99 (retail price is $139).

My hands-on review of the Kobo Wireless is here. Quick summary: it’s a decent enough e-reader, but I prefer my Kindle 3. The sale price makes the Kobo somewhat competitive, and I do like the very light weight and ability to read library e-books on the Kobo.

Between this, some sales of refurbished Nooks for $99, clearance sales on Kobo e-readers at closing Borders stores, and the new ad-supported Kindle 3 Wi-Fi for $114, it looks like 2011 is shaping up to be the year of the $99 e-reader.

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Kindle to be Sold at Wal-Mart Stores

 Posted by at 5:23 PM  Tagged with: ,
May 042011
 

Wal-Mart just announced that you will be able to try out and purchase Kindles at Wal-Mart starting tomorrow, May 5. The announcement claims they will sell the $189 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G and the new $114 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” (meaning “ads” — detailed further here) — no mention of the $139 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi.

Kindles are now available direct through Amazon, and in retail stores at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Staples.

If you haven’t had a chance to see a Kindle or an e-Ink screen hands-on yet, I definitely recommend you check one out at your next trip to one of the stores listed above. The Kindle 3’s light weight, and how easy on the eyes the e-Ink screen is consistently amazes people when I show them my Kindle.

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Kindle 3G for $189 with Free $25 Gift Card

 Posted by at 11:41 AM  Tagged with: , ,
Apr 282011
 

Kindle 3

Just a heads-up on a very nice Mother’s Day deal from Amazon: buy a $189 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G, or a $379 Kindle DX 2 with 3G, and get a free $25 Amazon gift card. They also include free shipping. That’s like getting the Kindle 3G (review here) for just $164, which is a great deal. The deal lasts until May 8, 2011.

Your Kindle buying options:

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Library E-Book Lending Reviewed

 Posted by at 1:34 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Apr 202011
 

I recently purchased a Kobo Wireless e-reader as a backup and for my wife to use. As I mentioned in my review of it, it is generally a capable e-reader, but I prefer my Kindle 3. However, the Kobo has one feature that the Kindle currently lacks: it is compatible with the system OverDrive uses to enable library e-book lending. (Today Amazon announced that library e-book lending is coming to the Kindle later this year.)

Library e-book lending has several advantages — and several disadvantages — over borrowing a book from a traditional library. On the plus side, you don’t have to physically visit the library to browse or check out a book (although some publishers are pushing for this restriction!). Similarly, you don’t have to return the book — it will simply disappear from your e-reader when the lending period (usually 14 or 21 days) is over. Also, the e-book file you get will be pristine — no germs or markings or torn pages.

On the other hand, publishers insist on certain restrictions on e-book lending. First, just getting started is inordinately difficult, and probably impossible for people who aren’t tech savvy. In addition to getting a normal library card (lending is performed through the library you already belong to or may join), you also need to register online through your library and the OverDrive library system. Then, you need to download Adobe Digital Editions, which is the software that will authorize the e-books to be read on your e-reader. Then you need to sign up for an account with Adobe. Then you find and “check out” the e-book you want (this is the most straightforward part of the process), then download the file to Adobe Digital Editions, connect your e-reader, authorize it using the software, and (finally!) transfer the e-book over. No, your parents probably won’t be able to do all this on their own (well, unless your parents are way better with technology than mine are). 😉

Luckily, I am tech-savvy, so I tried the process out. Getting everything set up took an hour or so of fiddling around, downloading things, reading instructions, entering library card numbers, creating accounts, etc. Then I tried the two libraries I’m already a member of: my city library and the county library.

At the city library (which is the nicest library I’ve ever been to), things weren’t so good online. They don’t use OverDrive, but instead use a service called NetLibrary. The first thing I noticed about NetLibrary is that they wanted me to read e-books on my LCD computer screen, instead of the far superior (for reading) and more portable e-Ink screen of my e-reader. A bad start. It turns out they had a handful of e-books available for download to an e-reader, but they all seemed to be computer programming manuals. Bottom line: I couldn’t find one single e-book available for download that I had any interest in reading.

Next I tried my county library. Their website connected me to OverDrive, which seemed to have a better selection. However, as I searched for e-book after e-book, none of them were available. I finally found a few, but they were all in audiobook instead of e-book format. I eventually found a couple of titles that looked interesting, but all in all the selection was pretty desolate.

Finally, I tried the library system of the next county over. They also used OverDrive, and had a larger selection than the first two (each library maintains its own collection of e-book titles through OverDrive, so even though they use the same system, the selection at each individual library may vary greatly). I actually found a few e-books I was interested in checking out. But only a few: maddeningly, many of the ones I wanted were still available only as audiobooks, and a few series I wanted to read were missing the early books but had later books in the series.

In addition, due to restrictions placed on them by publishers, libraries can only loan each copy of an e-book they’ve purchased out to one person at a time. They have to wait until that copy is returned before lending it out again (they can, of course, purchase multiple copies). On the one hand, this restriction seems reasonable, although it simply copies the print book model when there’s no inherent reason to do so. (Why not allow unlimited check-outs, and just charge the library 50 cents per loan, for example? Or allow X loans per year but allow them to overlap?) In practice, this means that e-books you want to read may already be checked out, and you can be added to a waiting list and be notified when it’s your turn.

All in all, library e-book lending isn’t anything like the “free e-books forever” ideal many people might have in their head when thinking about the feature. It’s cumbersome to set up and use, and the selection (both due to books that are checked out and a limited selection of titles) is underwhelming. But it does work, and is another way to get free content onto your e-reader. My advice: check out the e-book selection at your local library (or any other library you can join; some will allow out-of-area residents to join for a fee) to see if they have books you’re interested in before buying an e-reader based on its ability to read library e-books.

Apr 202011
 

In a bit of surprising good news, today Amazon announced “Kindle Library Lending,” which will bring library e-book lending to the Kindle range of devices and Kindle desktop & smartphone apps. The program will work through OverDrive, the major player in library e-book lending. Amazon says the feature will launch “later this year.”

The lack of access to library e-books was often mentioned as the single greatest weakness of the Kindle compared to its ePub-reading brethren (like the Nook, Kobo, and Sony E-Readers). (I just bought a Kobo Wireless and started checking out library e-books; the process does work, but is difficult to set up and the e-book selection at most libraries is quite limited. My review of the process is here.)

In a nice touch, Amazon will save any notes or highlights you make on the e-book you check out, and will sync those notes up through Whispersync if you check out the e-book again or even if you decide to buy it. Pretty cool for people who like taking notes in their e-books. (The notes will not show up for the next patron who checks the e-book out from the library; they’re saved to your Amazon account.)

All in all, it’s a very positive feature, and another example of Amazon improving (through software updates or added features) the Kindles we already own.

I do have to say I’m a little surprised. On the one hand, adding this feature will probably win over some people who would have bought e-readers other than the Kindle just due to the lack of library access. (Honestly, I can’t think of a single important reason to buy an e-reader other than the Kindle 3 right now — library lending was the one key feature the Kindle was missing.) On the other hand, Amazon already owns the lion’s share of the e-book market, and most e-books borrowed from libraries are e-books that won’t be purchased from Amazon. I always saw library lending as something the other e-readers had to do in order to compete with Amazon.

In any event, look for library lending to come to a Kindle near you later this year.

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Apr 162011
 

Well, that was fast.

This is big.

I’ve been writing monthly updates on industry e-book sales for a year now. Recently, I predicted that January 2011 e-book sales would overtake mass-market paperbacks. They did. But even I didn’t see this coming.

E-books, which have roughly doubled or tripled in sales each of the past several years, not only blew past mass-market paperback sales, not only passed adult hardcover sales, but have now overtaken adult trade paperback sales to become the largest single category of book sales in February. The numbers:

  1. E-Books: $90.3 M
  2. Adult Trade Paperbacks: $81.2 M
  3. Adult Hardcover: $46.2 M
  4. Mass-Market Paperbacks: $29.3 M

According to the release from the Association of American Publishers:

For February 2011, e-Books ranked as the #1 format among all categories of Trade publishing (Adult Hardcover, Adult Paperback, Adult Mass Market, Children’s/Young Adult Hardcover, Children’s/Young Adult Paperback).

Even including the children’s / young adult categories, printed books totaled $215.2 M for the month, giving e-books a staggering 29.56% share of total trade book sales. (Note: this total includes “trade” print books, but excludes educational, scholarly, and religious categories.)

E-Book sales, which accounted for about 8.2% of trade book sales in 2010, hit nearly 30% in February.

The trends are even worse for print, as e-book sales are up 202.3% (more than triple) from February of 2010, while adult trade categories are down a combined 34.4%.

A recap of the past 14 months of e-book sales:

  • Jan 2010: $31.9 M
  • Feb 2010: $28.9 M
  • Mar 2010: $28.5 M
  • Apr 2010: $27.4 M
  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M

It’s hard not to be blown away by these numbers. I expected e-book sales to increase, and predicted a nice bump after the 2010 holiday season (when millions of readers unwrapped Kindles and Nooks and Kobos and Sonys under their trees), but e-book sales for February are over triple what they were just 8 months prior, and nearly double what they were just two months before! February 2011 sales exceeded the (at the time very strong) post-holiday sales of the entire first quarter (Jan, Feb, Mar) of 2010. Amazing.

The two questions I have now are: (1) when will e-books get over 50% of trade book sales, and (2) will e-books stay on the pace from the first two months of the year and hit $1 billion in sales in 2011? (For the record, my predictions are: the first quarter of 2012, and yes.)

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