If you were unaware that Microsoft sold ebooks, then don’t worry, because they’re not anymore. The company announced today that it will stop selling ebooks through Microsoft Store effective today.
That doesn’t mean that the books that users currently have will instantly vanish. Previously purchased books will be available through Microsoft’s Edge browser until July, and anybody who pre-ordered a book will get a full refund as well as $25 dollar credit added to their Microsoft accounts if you’ve annotated your books in any way (but the annotations will still be deleted).
According to ZDNet, Microsoft made this decision in order to “streamline” the strategic focus of the Microsoft Store.
Given the very little exposure that Microsoft’s ebook has gotten, especially considering the massive popularity of similar services provided by Amazon and Apple, it doesn’t seem very surprising that this service is being shut down.
Read more about the termination of the service here.
There’s a scam going on in the eBook industry, and, as with most high-dollar missteps, no one is stopping it.
Before we get into the details of these legal evasions, it’s critical to understand that eBook authors make money per pages read. When authors fill their works with special features to drive the page count into the thousands, eBook readers feel like they’re getting a steal: extra content for the same price. But, for the author, ‘steal’ isn’t that far off.
Image Via David Gaughran
There have been a number of tactics to stop self-publishing abuses designed to arbitrarily inflate eBook profits, but few have actually been effective. Authors are banned from directly incentivizing reviews, but some have found a workaround: Chance Carter, a self-described “bad boy who writes about bad boys,” created a giveaway in which reviewers would earn the chance to receive a Tiffany ring. It’s clear he really is a bad boy: he nested six extra books in the back of his Mr. Diamond (the precious gem is as hard and desirable as the protagonist’s, well, you know).
This is how authors game the system: filling their publications with bonus content to artificially inflate the length of each book. It’s called ‘book stuffing,’ and it’s no game—the top scammers are making $100,000 per month.
Image Via Medium
There’s some measure of justice, even if that measurement is more an inch than a mile. Bad boy Carter was banned after #tiffanygate made its way into the public consciousness… but not for long. Many suspect Carter now writes under the pseudonym Johanna Hawke, who writes about “bad boys and hotties.” He’s back with a different name… and the same game.
Well, how bad could it be if an author includes a few bonus chapters? Given that it’s far more than just a dozen extra pages: pretty bad.
“Pregnant By My Boss” by Cassandree Dee/Kendall Blake is at #20 in the Kindle Store. The advertised book finishes around 7% of the way through. . This author is a Kindle All Star – earning tens of thousands of dollars a month from the communal author fund. @AmazonKDP#tiffanygatepic.twitter.com/sGcLyK71eJ
Self-published Kindle Unlimited authors receive their income from a ‘communal authors’ fund,’ the distribution of which is largely dependant both on what percentage of a book readers complete AND how many total pages readers turn. Amazon has made limited attempts to stop this abuse of the system, enacting a rule that no more than 10% of a book can be bonus content. But many authors have circumvented this system with ‘compilations’ or ‘collections,’ allowing them to hit that 3,000 upper page limit.
This bit of ingenuity is hardly the end of these scammers’ tricks. Many such eBook authors engage in ‘mosaic book stuffing,’ the practice of repackaging previous releases into one new (and derivative) work. While some authors engage in active plagiarism, others will re-use passages of their own works, stitching together some botched Frankenstein’s monster and re-selling it to the public. Others use false links in their novel, which trick readers to skip directly to the end. These authors then get a bonus upon the novel’s completion.
It’s a cheap trick, but the consequences are costing authors who don’t engage in such deceptive policies. The communal fund is, as you may have imagined, communal. Amazon may benefit from the increased sales, and readers may appreciate the extra content. But the authors don’t—at least, not the ones who are honest.
NY Times reports that Serial Box, a digital service that delivers books in weekly chapter instalments, will collaborate with Marvel to publish original content with its iconic characters.
Former global digital director of Penguin Random House Molly Barton (Not related to Hawkeye / Clint Barton) created Serial Box in 2015. Since its inception, the company has gained recognition for applying the TV series distribution model to its books. Readers can purchase “episodes” or entire “seasons” at affordable prices: think $1.99 for the e-book and audiobook versions of any individual episode.
Image via Den of Geek
“We are really focused on the commute and the idea that people have a short window of time in their day where you can make your content fit that window,” Barton told NY Times.
Serial Box currently has two dozen series available, its genres ranging from fantasy and sci-fi to mystery or procedurals. Thor will be the first Marvel franchise to receive the serialized book treatment in the summer, followed by releases for Black Panther, Black Widow, and Jessica Jones.
Also, although Serial Box has yet to release its official announcement, Barton has stated that some of the company’s series would be adapted for television. Whether or not this includes the Marvel Serial Box titles is unknown, but they would be a great addition to the upcoming MCU shows that will reach Disney’s streaming service. And we can hope.
We book lovers are subject to one constant anxiety: the death of literature as we know it. (Okay, two anxieties: the first is fear for our favorite characters’ lives.) The headlines are as clear as they are grim—publishing companies are losing money, physical bookstores are closing, fewer Americans are reading than ever before. It’s frightening for readers and writers alike to consider that the stories we care so much about may not always exist in a familiar, comforting way… or they might not exist at all.
These claims have varying degrees of truth. Yes, many Americans don’t read. But the claim about bookstores disappearing is only partially true: while chain bookstores have continually lost money and closed locations over the past ten years, indie bookstores are experiencing a period of growth. It’s much the same with publishing: self-publishing may be on the rise, but big publishers haven’t gone away. Despite all the grim news, the facts are a lot more optimistic. A recent financial report revealed which book genres and categories generated increasing profits in 2018—and, spoiler alert, it’s actually most of them.
Image Via Kodak
The report compares profits in 2017 and 2018, indicating which genres generated revenue over the last year. This suggests which categories will continue to grow in 2019—and should offer a reason for book lovers to relax!
Though eBooks tend to get the most buzz, particularly with the widely-discussed self-publishing trend, it’s actually audiobooks that experienced the most growth (37.1%). Surprisingly, it’s eBooks that experienced a financial loss (-3.6%). Of course, figures like that can be a little abstract—in concrete terms, eBooks still made $1 billion in 2018.
Children’s and YA books also had notable financial gains, with 3.3 and 4.5% increases respectively.
Adult books generated significant revenue ($247.4 million) although some subcategories experienced financial decline. Audiobook and hardcover sales increased; mass-market paperbacks and physical audiobooks declined significantly. Since we’re pretty sure physical audiobooks refer to CDs and cassette tapes, we’re going to have to follow up with a resounding duh. These results plainly suggest that publishing isn’t dead (or even dying).
Image vIA pENGUIN rANDOM hOUSE
Since publishers’ revenue increased overall (4.6%), maybe now you’ll be able to sleep at night—unless your next favorite read is keeping you awake!
Although there was a time when everyone thought print was dying and that ebooks were going to take over, we have seen for several years now that this is not the case. Multiple studies have extolled the benefits of print books: they lead to better comprehension, they provide a greater sense of progress for the reader, and they don’t have any of the potentially negative effects that come from staring at a screen for too long. However, a new study has found one more reason why people might prefer print over digital.
The study, which was conducted by the University of Arizona, claims that one of the reasons why many people prefer print books instead of ebooks is because print gives them a greater sense of ownership. In an interview with Science Daily, lead study author Sabrina Helm said, “In the context of digital products, we thought it would be appropriate to look at how people take ownership of something that’s not really there — it’s just a file on your computer or device or in the Cloud; it’s more of a concept than an actual thing.”
Image Via Advantage Book Binding
The study included four groups across three generations, and all age groups agreed that they felt a loss of control with ebooks when compared to print. Of course, this feeling is not unwarranted. You can’t share an ebook the way you would a print book, and you can’t resell it when you’re done reading it. Often, you can only download it to a limited number of devices.
Ebooks also don’t provide a sense of identity in the way that print books do. People are often nostalgic about certain books from their youth and have emotional attachments to the physical copies of them. Also, the ability to organize print books on shelves where everybody else can see and peruse them acts as a form of self expression for the books’ owners.
Image Via The Eco Guide
While no age group was enamored with ebooks, the study did find that millennials, the generation stereotyped for always being attached to technology, are even more likely to prefer print that older generations. This is mostly because the benefits of ebooks and ereaders are largely irrelevant to younger generations, such as the ability to enlarge text or the lightweight quality of ereaders.
Basically, a majority of readers don’t feel that digital books provide enough value to make them worth the cost, especially when it’s impossible to own them in the same way you can own print books. Until publishers figure out a way to add value to ebooks and differentiate them from their physical counterparts, print will continue to rule.