With A Little Help

Cory Doctorow shows us how to do ‘wide spectrum’ ebooks. His new near-future science-fiction collection With A Little Help is offered for free in a dozen or more conversions for ebook readers, (inc. mobi for the Kindle), as free downloadable audio books, on-demand paid paperback editions from Lulu.com with four different covers, and as a sumptuous first-edition hardback for SF book collectors (around $300 with shipping). Donations are invited by PayPal for the free editions. By early May he’d reported a clear profit of $14,375, albeit on the back of his considerable name and talent.

The book itself? The Wall Street Journal says

“Cory Doctorow’s latest collection of short stories is one of the best, most closely focused collections that science fiction has ever produced.”

The WSJ also has interesting things to say about the 150,000-word book SF series doorstop volumes that publishers demand (and often demand are padded into tedium, leading to the regrettable rise of the habitual ‘skimming reader’). The rise of these has led to a certain amount of neglect for writers who prefer to craft the novellas and short stories that are perhaps the natural home of the genre. The WSJ suggests that ebooks may turn the tide, emulating the vibrancy and competition of the pulp era that gave birth to science-fiction.

UK Kindle publishers get a pay rise from Amazon

Excellent. British publishers on the Kindle KDP get a pay rise from Amazon! From the official email newsletter…

“publishers can now receive their payment via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or check [cheque] in either Euros, British pounds or U.S. dollars.”

So no more having to pay the bank a usurious £15 charge on each $100 royalties cheque! And, if you choose Electronic Funds Transfer, presumably no more having to trek into the local bank and stand in the inevitable queue. However, these new changes don’t seem to have yet made it into the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) center. Hopefully they will soon…

2010 UK sales statistics for e-books

At last we get some clear statistics on ebook sales in the UK, from the Publishers Association. Journalists have jumped on the headline figure, but that figure lumps together downloaded audio book sales with straight ebook sales — nevertheless, there has been a 20% rise for all types of digital book-based products, to £180m in 2010. Academic and professional books lead the field, with 70% of e-sales. 20% is a comparatively low level of increase, given the release of the Kindle 3 and the iPad — I have to wonder if book piracy among professionals and undergrads was keeping it lower than otherwise in 2010?

As for Kindle fiction, keep in mind that the PA are only measuring sales from the big publishers — not the indie presses that have been doing well with fiction on the Kindle. Nearly one third of the UK industry isn’t a member of the Publishers Association, and some ebook per-publisher sales figures may be dubious. But the “general consumer market” is judged to have quadrupled in 2010, with possibly about £6m of sales for e-fiction. Add on all the indies and self-publishers, and you might currently have a UK market for fiction ebooks and downloadable audio books of around £10m a year in sales. That’s still fairly small compared to the U.S. ebooks market. And puny compared to the whole of the UK book market sales, which topped £3.1 billion in 2010.