Apparently, it’s Alexa’s birthday, so Amazon is having a huge sale on Alexa-related gadgets.
A few weeks ago, Amazon announced another new service they’ll be offering through their ebook store called Kindle Singles, which is meant to appeal to writers who want to publish something in that magical “in between” word count that comes between standard magazine article length and standard book length. The target size for Kindle Singles is 10,000-30,000 words, but Amazon will accept up to 50,000.
With this one simple idea, Amazon has demonstrated why they’re still king of the ebook marketplace — despite the likes of Barnes & Noble and Apple nipping at their heels. The reason why is simple: Amazon is always looking for those niches in publishing that haven’t been filled, and filling them. eBooks on the whole were nothing but a curiosity until Amazon started pushing them with their own proprietary hardware device and made it super-easy to buy and download ebooks straight to said device.
Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, and everyone else has just been playing catch-up to Amazon, and the fact is, they still are. When the Nook was launched, Barnes & Noble came up with two minor new innovations that Amazon didn’t have: ebook lending between devices, and free, full ebook reading while inside B&N’s brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon can’t match the latter, but they’re already planning a Kindle update that will allow 15-day lending.
Barnes & Noble has also just launched its highly-publicized “NookColor,” a dedicated ebook reader that features a color display. Amazon has been rumored to be working on a colorized Kindle, but the reports suggest that Amazon wants to develop a color e-ink display. E-ink, which is used in all of Amazon’s Kindle devices, is easier on battery life than other screen types, and most readers find it a lot easier on the eyes, with stronger contrast ratios between light and dark. In essence, e-ink is supposedly better for your eyes than other screens. NookColor, on the other hand, is an LCD display, just like the iPad and other tablet devices. You could say that Barnes & Noble took the quick-and-easy route just so they could beat Amazon to the color punch.
Amazon is doing their ebook business smart by always thinking ahead. They have a smart, affordable device of their own, and they’ve put their Kindle software on every other electronic device known to man. Their ereading format is entirely proprietary, but if consumers have no problem with Apple’s iTunes store and its inability to play nice with others, then why should Amazon following the same playbook be an issue?
The only stumbling block in Amazon’s way is its Digital Text Platform, the online app that writers and publishers use to submit their books to the Kindle store. Using DTP’s multi-step, often confusing process, is akin to submitting a product for sale to eBay. Barnes & Noble has a more streamlined process, in the recently-announced PubIt app.
But the simple fact of the matter is that no one has yet created epublishing’s killer app. Amazon’s system is by far the most popular, but it’s not inviting to would-be ebook publishers, requiring a steep learning curve. If someone were to come along with a web app that makes epublishing point-and-click easy, that could easily penetrate both online stores and brick-and-mortars… when that day comes, ebooks may just kill the printed page.
Amazon has done things so smartly up to this point, aside from one thing: the DTP publishing process. If Amazon were to be the one to come up with a super-simple, universally-accessible submission process and ebook format, they could just find themselves with a sudden monopoly on the ebook market. In the meantime, Amazon’s stranglehold on ebooks isn’t going anywhere soon, because they got there first, and they never stop looking for new ways of using ebooks to meet consumers’ needs.
You may have heard this week that Barnes & Noble has upped its game when it comes to the fight against Amazon’s Kindle. Amazon has its Digital Text Platform to help writers self-publish their work both in ebook form, and now Barnes & Noble has Pubit, which does the same thing, but claims to be far easier and offer more advantages for writers.
Is Pubit all that and a box of chips? Depends on how you use it. Let’s look at the details.
The pricing for Pubit structure is set to a graduating percentage of revenue that authors keep, which is clearly structured to encourage writers to price their books under $10. If your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, you’ll get 65% of royalties. If your book is less than $2.99 or more than $9.99, you’ll get just 40%. Amazon’s royalty share is split at the exact same price points, but instead of 65/40, Amazon offers 70/35. It’s a marginal difference at the end of the day, and both publishers have their maximum book price set to $200. Neither service allows you to sell your ebook for free (for obvious reasons — these juggernauts need to make a profit).
Amazon promises that ebooks published via DTP are available for sale on Amazon.com within 48 hours after you complete the publishing process. Pubit takes “24-72 hours.”
Advantage: a slight edge goes to Amazon.
Digital Text Platform claims to support .DOC, .PDF, .TXT and .EPUB files, but admits to having the best luck with .EPUB and files formatted using HTML. I myself have witnessed many instances of .DOC and .PDF files that were transformed into Kindle ebooks that were frankly, with major spacing issues and an overall ugly layout. DTP just doesn’t handle stuff like Word and Adobe formatting all that well, so taking the time to create your own .EPUB file that’s properly formatted is the best way to go.
Pubit, on the other hand, has an online converter that (from what I’ve seen and heard so far) appears to work very well for .DOC, .RTF, .TXT, and .HTML files. Pubit offers a Nook emulator as part of the upload/conversion process, so you can preview what your finished ebook will look like.
Amazon’s Kindle format may be all the rage, but it doesn’t play nice with other ereaders. On the other hand, virtually every device now has Kindle software available to download and use for free — be it your smartphone, laptop, or iPad — so you don’t have to own the actual Kindle ereader device to buy ebooks from Amazon. Barnes & Noble’s model is very similar, placing your ebook among their online catalog of books, which can be accessed via the Nook device or their free Nook software for all devices. But what B&N has that Amazon doesn’t is brick-and-mortar stores. Take your portable device into a Barnes & Noble store, and you can peruse any ebook in their online catalog in full for free, for up to an hour, and there’s no limit to the number of ebooks you can do this with. Nook also offers lending technology, that lets you share a purchased ebook from your library with a friend for up to 14 days.
With DTP, your book is automatically added to Amazon’s vast catalog of products; it’s good to be findable on such a humongous database as Amazon’s, yet this advantage can be an equal disadvantage, causing you to easily get lost among listings for not just books, but every product known to man. B&N, on the other hand, is know for exactly one thing: books. Sure, they sell some other products like DVDs and CDs, but you think of Barnes & Noble, and you’re thinking of books. There’s a book-centric identity there that Amazon is far too diversified to match. And you don’t have to worry about your ebook showing up in search results next to hiking boots, printer ink cartridges, or kitty litter.
I have to give Barnes & Noble’s Pubit an overall usefulness score that’s higher than Amazon’s. It’s not drastically higher, but it does offer a number of benefits that Amazon doesn’t.
But the reality of it all is that if you’re serious about ebook self-publishing, you’re going to want to sell from Amazon and Barnes & Noble both. Fortunately, selling from the latter just got a whole lot easier.