In Defense of Many Ebook Formats

Joshua Tallent EPUB Kindle Amazon ebooksAmazon tends to take flak for hanging onto its proprietary Kindle ebook format. But as digital production expert Joshua Tallent sees it, that’s a little unfair.

“Apple has iBooks Author, Barnes & Noble has proprietary formats for children’s books and fixed-layout nonfiction and Inkling has a proprietary XML format, just to name a few.”

In Tallent’s view, that makes perfect sense—because those proprietary ebook formats “just work,” and publishers shouldn’t “try to downplay” their advantages.

“Instead,” Tallent writes, “I think we should be working on ways to make open standards more consistently supported and easier to implement—in other words, learning the lessons that proprietary formats teach us.”

Much more.

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What Matters Most for Publishers Now? (DBW)
Digital Book World wants to know what you think. Based on the current state of the industry, and drawing on conversations at BookExpo America last week, where is the market is headed and why? There are no right answers—take part in our survey here.

U.S. Ebook Sales Down 6% (The Bookseller)
Nielsen’s latest full-year figures drawn from the thirty biggest U.S. publishers suggest ebook sales fell 6% in 2014 over the previous year. Ebooks comprised 26% of total book sales, a share that shrunk 2% since 2013.

Penguin Random House Ebooks Dominate Best-Seller List (PW)
In a development that won’t surprise readers of our own erstwhile Ebook Best-Seller List, the world’s largest trade publisher roundly dominated full-year rankings for 2014 compiled by Nielsen BookScan’s PubTrack Digital ebook sales reporting program. Penguin Random House scored fourteen of the top 25 titles, a footprint roughly in line with what we tended to see week-to-week earlier this year.

Indie Authors Still Find a Place for Print (Tech Times)
Self-published authors at last week’s BookExpo America explained how in many cases ebooks have helped them reach new audiences and added to their bottom lines. But few seemed eager to leave print behind; for many, it’s still the more remunerative format.
Related: Why Authors and Readers Still Want Print

Publishing Platform Puts Reader Metrics on View (Guardian)
A self-publishing platform for short-form ebooks and digital audiobooks publicly displays analytics on the traffic each piece garners. Called MacGuffin, the system was developed by the UK-based Comma Press in order to help authors get a better handle on what seems to resonate with readers—who are able to see the same data that authors can.

China and the Future of Global Publishing (Pub Perspectives)
Reflecting on China’s center-stage presence at this year’s BookExpo America, one observer speculates that the Chinese publishing industry knows it “doesn’t need interaction with foreign or overseas publishers to survive,” and suggests that American publishers might no longer lead the global publishing scene: “Maybe it is time for the rest of the world to stop looking to the United States to offer it clues as to what books are going to be top global sellers around the world.”

Are ISBNs Still Relevant? (IPA)
Ask that question, and expect as impassioned cries of ‘yes’ as of ‘no.’ While this survey of that debate by the International Publishers Association ultimately winds up in the ‘yes’ column, it offers a pretty measured look at the benefits and limitations of the ISBN in the contemporary digital supply chain.

Why Prime Is So Prime for Amazon (TheStreet)
The reason Amazon keeps adding features and enticements to its popular Prime service might ultimately be pretty straightforward. Prime, so one commentator argues, is the main mechanism by which Amazon “reels in valuable consumers and turns them into loyal Amazon shoppers. Once they’re hooked on free shipping, they’re likely to spend more on the site and veer away from other retailers offering similar products.”

Yet Another Shade of Grey (PW)
A new title in E L James’s best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey series is due out in print, digital and audio formats on June 18, which happens to be the titular character’s birthday. Christian Grey himself narrates the new volume, called (shadelessly, this time) Grey.


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