Rather than speculate on what might happen in the ebook sector this year, I thought it would be wiser to simply list the developments I’d like to see. So although some, and perhaps all, of these are a long shot, here’s my short list of hopes and wishes for the ebook market in the New Year.
Less DRM – Publishers continue to be their own worst enemy with digital rights management. It’s part of what makes it so hard for publishers to create an effective direct channel, and it provides nothing more than a false sense of security. As I’ve said before, if a reader really wants to unlock and share an ebook there are a number of freely available DRM-removal utilities that are just a few clicks away.
Plus, most readers have no idea where their mobi and EPUB files are stored on their devices; those who do know the location probably already have a DRM-removal tool on their computer.
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New Julian Fellowes Project Treads New Digital Ground (NY Times)
There are few literary mediums that Julian Fellowes has not dabbled in. Fellowes, the creator of the hit historical British melodrama “Downton Abbey,” has worked on screenplays, stage plays, novels and a children’s book. He wrote the book for School of Rock, a raucous new Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted from the 2003 Richard Linklater movie, and he is working on his new NBC series “The Gilded Age,” set in New York in the late 19th century. Now, for his next project, Belgravia, Fellowes is marrying an old narrative form—the serialized novel, in the tradition of Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers—with the latest digital delivery system: an app.
Authors Guild Asks Supreme Court to Review Google Books Ruling (Pub Lunch)
As expected, and against heavy odds, the Authors Guild asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the Google Books case. That request comes after sweeping defeats at the District Court and Appeals Court in the Second Circuit, where judges had little or no hesitation in declaring Google’s book scanning a “transformative” fair use. A related case against the HathiTrust—built on Google book scans—was dropped by the Guild after similar losses at the District and Appeals Court level.
Library of Congress Anoints Graphic Novelist as Ambassador (NY Times)
Gene Luen Yang often mines his life for his graphic novels. He has explored being a first-generation American, and harnessed his love of computer programming. Starting this week, he will have a whole new experience to draw on. On Monday, the Library of Congress named Yang the national ambassador for young people’s literature, the first graphic novelist to be so honored since the post was created in 2008.
Are Author-Editor Relationships Endangered? (Porter Anderson)
One of the things that makes the 2015-2016 transition interesting in the creative corps is a subdued, reflective, sometimes exhausted and often pensive mood. A lot of it revolves around marketplace fatigue. And it might not be helping that one time-honored relationship—that of writer and editor—seems to be changing, for both parties, to what is sometimes a lighter-weight, less engaged partnership.
On Author Brands (Bookseller)
Brands, of course can be reassuring. There’s comfort in opening a tin of Heinz Baked Beans and knowing exactly what you’re going to find inside. But books are a different beast. By their very nature every story, good or bad, is unique. So how do you maintain your brand while also delivering a story that feels fresh and enticing? Should this even be a concern for authors?
Books and Newspapers Will Be OK in 2016. But Magazines? (Quartz)
The reign of the consumer magazine—glossy, beautiful, and once a ubiquitous presence atop living room coffee tables around the world—seems to be quietly crumbling. Print books are making something of a comeback right now, thanks in part to the rise of coloring books and a swelling public interest in children’s literature. Newspapers, catering to hyper-local communities, are faring pretty well, too. In fact, according to a new report from global consulting firm McKinsey, every category of media—from cinema to educational publishing to video games—should see an increase in consumer spending in the next few years. Every category, that is, except magazines.
Digital Opportunities for Chilean Publishers (Pub Perspectives)
Chilean publishers are looking to digitization to help them expand their local and export markets, says Javier Sepulveda Hales of Chile’s Ebooks Patagonia.
How Marketers Can Attract Robots’ Attention (Adweek)
Decision-making consumers are a marketer’s most important focus. Now imagine consumers having someone else deciding all their purchases—computers talking only to other computers, making decisions for their human “masters” without consulting them—deciding what foods they should eat, what detergent to use, what vacations to take. This isn’t some dystopian Hollywood future. It’s today’s reality. We’re all standing outside the club, hoping to get past the velvet ropes, and who is holding the clipboard? Robots.
Digital Publishers Face a Winter of Discontent (Digiday)
The sunny days of hot growth for digital publishers are fading into a memory as many now face a long, dark winter. Many venture-backed publishers are coming up to the limits of scale. Their models were based on eye-popping audience-growth figures and the presumption that business would follow. That’s not always the case. And traffic growth inevitably hits a ceiling.