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WHEN? The Inevitable Reality of Multi-Binding Bundling

In order to exhume the lede, here’s the most important bit: Atomic Fez Publishing hereby publicly commits to bringing bundling of eBook editions of all of its titles when someone purchases printed copies of them.

Now that you know that, there’s a fair bit in this particular topic to be unpacked, so shove this page into your favourite “text only display” application, bookmark it to read when you have more time, or simply get comfy and learn why.

Four Bindings, One Book, Lots of Convenience
Four Bindings, One Book, Lots of Convenience

Something I’ve hemmed and hawed about since starting Atomic Fez back in the autumn of 2009 has been the idea of selling a printed copy of a book along with a copy of the electronic version of the same title; either as a free add-​​on or at a nominal, additional fee.  When this series of questions comes to mind, I’ve occasionally shoved something out into the ether via Twitter or Facebook, to little response. That being the typical result, I usually shrug and put it at the back of my mind for contemplation later.

Then there was an announcement last week about a new programme from Amazon wherein a purchaser of a printed copy automatically gets a Kindle copy as well. There’s some limitations with this to start: titles are only from a selected list of 10,000 titles, this offer is only within the USA (until they sort out the usual distribution agreements with publishers presumably), and so on.

Yet again, it got me thinking about the idea and was it something Atomic Fez should do: would anyone notice, would they care, would it actually be something that would make people decide to buy a book that they might not consider otherwise? Once more deciding to think about this whole idea later, I returned to whatever happened to be screaming at me the loudest from my in-​​box.

Later that same day, I saw this about that Amazon announcement:

This made me wonder perhaps this is the time that the market is ready; perhaps I am now ignoring the Will of the People, and – instead of being ahead – am behind their desires regarding books & technology? If that last bit was the case, it would be the break in a record of having been well-​​ahead of the curve with both the offering of eBooks and ensuring they were DRM–free. This was a bit of a blow, as I’ve prided myself on being both a pragmatist as well as an anticipator of readers’ needs.

So I tweeted the following:

To this, there was a surprising amount of response, and much of it practical as well as media-​​savvy! Granted, it was Twitter; well known as a repository of media-​​savvy people.

For the most part, I agree with all of the above.

For the most part, you’ll find it difficult to get a CEO of one of the Big Six Publishers¹ to agree with much of anything above.

Preconceived Notions

The trickiest bit, in the minds of the “Important People in Big Buildings,” is this tweet:

As far as The Deciders are concerned, that’s at least half-​​wrong and their mind-​​set is entirely based on something of which you may never have been aware:

You do not own the books on your shelves, and you never have. As David says, you’re buying the ‘rights’ to the content, but your access to those words is specifically limited to only that specific copy in that binding. You have have no right – expressed or implied – and thus should have no expectation to access any other copy of those words in that or any other binding. You don’t even own the copy, only the access to its contents. Period. 

You see, the book (in whatever form the binding takes) is simply a way to get words into your eyeballs. Thus, if you want access to the story, you have to buy a copy of the book – hardcover, paperback, ePUB file, Kindle file, PDF, whatever – and you’re expected to buy a new copy every time you want to change the way you access those words carefully arranged in a specific order by an author. A paperback is bought which permits you access to those words in that specific format, and with that specific copy only. If you want a copy of the story in a hardback, or a Mass Market Paperback, or a Large Print edition, or whatever, you better be ready to shell out more money. The same holds true when you want to get a copy of the book in an eBook format of your choosing: you’re entering into a new agreement with the publisher for access in a different fashion.

This is the same purchasing model we saw with the music labels selling us our LPs on 8-​​Track, Reel-​​to-​​Reel tape, Compact Cassette, Compact Disc, then on newly re-​​mastered CDs so that the audio is compressed (making it louder and less precise, but don’t get me started on that topic), and now as MP3 or AAC files. A bit of a scam, yeah… but, hey, we’ve been getting away with it for years, people! seemingly is the approach of the Big Six Publishers, using the example of different bindings in the previous paragraphs.

Part of the problem with this shocker of a statement – the problem, as seen by the Big Six, is that it happens to be a shock, not that the situation is as outlined; they’re fine with that – is that it’s only with the recent innovation of eBook technology as a practical format that they’re finally able to enforce in a meaningful way something they’ve tried to do for years: shutdown used book selling and trading. All of those represent “lost sales” in their eyes, just as Public Libraries do. People walk in, take a copy of a book, then walk out… without paying for it…? Who authorized this anarchy…? The fact that the biggest proponent and creator of public libraries was Multi-​​Ka-​​Billionaire Andrew Carnegie is something that seems to escape their notice, but let’s never mind about that.

The inherent flaw in the taking of the attitude the Big Six do is simple: people don’t use their products that way. People lend books to others, with the recommendation this author is awesome, you should read his stuff; try this one first. What that supposedly incorrect instance is doing is akin to “hand selling,” were it to take place in a bookshop: the salesperson recommends a particular book, puts a copy in the customer’s hand, the customer has a look at it, and nearly always buys the book. It’s one of the most labour intensive, and sure-​​fire, sales techniques in the industry. Even if a copy is passed to someone without any payment being involved, the end result is fantastic word-​​of-​​mouth advertising, and you can’t value it enough.

Unless you’re a CEO at one of the Big Six.

The fact that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy probably made more money for Pan Books through that grassroots level marketing style has been forgotten. Just like anyone, I found out about the five-​​part trilogy² because someone handed me a copy of the first book in Grade 9, told me to read it, and half-​​way through I knew that I had to buy the entire run of them. If no one had bothered to do that, would we have ever heard about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and so on? It was the same thing again, only for a younger audience who took to wizards in the same way the first crowd took to men wearing dressing gowns in space. It’s a kind of “the first taste is free, baby” approach to getting you trying something³.

There is an argument to be made against used book shops, and you’ll read that in a post next week, but that’s not the point here: it’s the fact that publishing has done a very poor job of explaining how it works, how it does business, and how the price is determined in the end when you buy something.

Cold, Hard Facts of the Publishing Business

Don’t worry, I’m not about to start being an apologist for the Big Publishers. What I’m doing is explaining where they’re coming from, the poor dears.

The RRP [or “Recommended Retail Price” you see printed somewhere on the cover] is what everything is based on: the royalties the author gets are based on a percentage of the RRP, the retailer is charged a price based on a discount subtracted from the RRP (typically 40 – 60%), and whatever is left is for the publisher to pay all of their costs getting that book to the retailer and customer.

  Speaking of distribution, here’s an article providing “3 Takes on Why Bookstores Are Dead (and Why That Might Not Be Such a Bad Thing)” partly explaining how bookstores might actually only support the old-​​fashioned – and arguably daft – model.

The publisher has to front the money for everything you haven’t seen in order to make that book the best that it is: costs for editorial staff, marketing, adverts, shipping, office space, printing of copies (both final copies and galley versions for proofing which are also sent to reviewers), shipping to the distribution firm, as well as shipping to retailers centres plus then back again as all books are “returnable” if unsold. That last bit becomes a bit like “consignment sales” in a way, but it’s the way it’s been done for at least 80 years (which seems like 80 years too long to me, but… whatever). The publisher provides a fair bit of value to the entire mix. Both author and publisher deserve remuneration for their efforts, as do the distributors and retailers who ensure copies get into the hands of actual human beings who read. No one begrudges that, probably.

But – and here’s where the Big Publishers’ argument departs from reality – people do not know about all of those costs. The only thing the average person considers to be a part of the cost of the book they purchase is the following:

  • “royalty” for the author (because they wrote it)
  • “profit” for the store (because they’re a business)
  • “printing and shipping” of a physical item which the publisher probably pays for (because that’s what I’m reading)
  • “other stuff…” (don’t know what it is, don’t care; probably someone’s smoking cigars with plentiful hookers and equally plentiful ‘blow’)
     

That’s it. Nothing more, and it’s the Publishers’ own damned fault for people not knowing.

When I tell people I’m a publisher, they haven’t a clue what that means. Typically the next question is “so what kind of books do you write,” which means I then explain I’m not an author. “Oh,” they then say, “so you print them… in your basement?” No, I doubt any publisher has had their own press production since the start of the 1970s, frankly. Some specific company is contracted to do the job of printing, binding, and boxing them for shipping. “So… what do you do, then?”

Between the draughty garrett-​​located Author and the book in their hands, there’s this massive gap in the reader’s awareness of what Publishers actually do; other than rip off authors and charge $34.95 for a hardcover, and often only slightly less than that for the eBook.

Yet, when the average person screams at paying more than $14.99 for an eBook, the publishers defend themselves with “but we have costs to cover!” and wonder why anyone would scream about the price in the first place.

Here’s a secret, civilians: the printing and binding and shipping of your hardback probably isn’t more than $3. If it’s from a smaller publisher – Faber & Faber, or Coach House Press, say – it’ll be north of $4, but not by much. The smallest cost in publishing is the physical object you think of as a ‘book.’ Getting those words in that precise order with the author’s consent, on those spots on the page, using that spelling, with that cover, which you heard about through that review /​ newspaper ad /​ bookmark /​ billboard /​ flyer /​ newsletter /​ contest on Goodreads /​ in that window or table display, that’s the expensive part. The publisher pays for all of that, and won’t see a nickel in recompence until probably a year after the ‘official publishing date’ when the retailers finally are able to calculate the amount of inventory that they’ve taken delivery of which won’t be returned to the publisher unsold.

Again: this is something publishers do, and have always done, so it’s not offered up as “woe is me,” only “here’s what’s behind the offered defences from those who feel entitled.” They’re not actually being greedy, they really do need to pay oodles of people other than one editor, one author, and some guy running a Gestetner™ machine cranking out books downstairs near the furnace room. 

However…

Listen to the Market, Don’t Dictate to It

Yes, the idea of bundling an eBook with a printed copy of a book makes a lot of sense, because people read that way now. This is something that the Big Six doesn’t quite get. They’re – understandably – stuck in the mind set of “publish hardcover, wait six months and strip un-​​sold hardcover copies for pasting new outer wrapper on for Trade Paperback sales; wait six or eight months and release smaller Mass Market Paperback edition and sell to airports, druggists, and grocers.

If you were to propose the notion of selling two different editions of the same book, at the same time, at or near to the same price as only one of them, it would be a good way to watch the top of a CEO’s head explode. Yet, this is exactly what the customer says is of use to them, so it behooves the CEO (or their minions) to figure out a way to provide that in a fashion where the market can continue to afford to produce books people will buy. If they do not, then the invisible hand of the economy will move on and offer its money to someone else, and the Big Six will go the way of milkman: out of work due to people getting their supply from someone else.

People now read on their Kindle, their iPad, their iPhone, their tablets, their Kobos, their laptops, their multiple Android and Windows devices… as well as the printed editions. The genie is out of the box, and they’re either still trying to stuff it back in there or simply hope it goes away so they can get back to the old way of doing things.

It’s no wonder that people such as Publishers Weekly’s Alex Crowley are now asking “Why Are We Still Not Bundling E-​​books?” As Lee Rosevere pointed out above, for years now the music people have bundled MP3 or AAC files with purchases involving vinyl and sometimes even CD copies of albums. Logically, you want the consumer to enjoy the art of the music or stories and thus rave about it to others, so that you can then… all together now, folks… sell more copies of the album or book.

Then there’s a rapid increase in the adoption of this, witness the the news that “Morgan James to Launch E-​​book Bundling Program.” Last August, the people at Angry Robot started doing this and tripled their sales on the bundled titles. People have asked why it’s not being done yet as early as February of last year, although I haven’t bothered to look for any earlier than that. Certainly I had started thinking about it by the spring of 2010, and I hadn’t come up with it on my own, so someone must have been suggesting it by that point.

There’s more than a few things to sort out in the way of practicalities, not the least of which is how do you ensure only people who actually bough a printed copy get a set of the files? Morgan James has solved it this way:

The publisher will be partnering with BitLit, a Vancouver-​​based smartphone app company that enables readers to claim free or discounted eBook editions of print books purchased through traditional channels. With Morgan James, the customer redeems his or her free eBook alongside the purchase of a print book by using a smartphone to take and send photos of authenticating materials, much like digital deposit apps used by major banks. The customer will sign a page at the front of the book, take a photo of the autographed page, and then send both that photo and a photo of the cover to BitLit, who will then provide an eBook file in the customer’s preferred format.
Publisher’s Weekly

This seems a bit convoluted, and when the process was presented to a randomly selected eBook consumer the other day (no, it wasn’t me) the response was along the lines of “look, if you’re going to offer me something like that, you have to make it as easy as possible otherwise I’m not going to bother.” The suggestion then was – quite logically – that the same process as the “Digital Version” for movies on DVD or BLU-​​RAY discs could be followed, with some sort of sticker with a random number placed inside the book’s cover that the purchaser then enters into a box on the publisher’s web-​​site. How someone of Atomic Fez’s size would accomplish this wasn’t discussed (it probably involves Secure Socket encryption for a download link, among other things, otherwise how do you authenticate both the number and the fact it hasn’t been used previously, and WOO-​​DOGGY that sounds spendy), but that’s clearly the publisher’s problem: this is what the customer wants, it’s up to us to figure out how to accomplish the thing to make it work for both us as a business and for them as an end-​​user; just like it always is.

So…

Where Do We Go From Here?

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure how we do any of the above, as there’s multiple issues involving secure downloads, prevention of abuse of the system, possible effect of DRM making a complete dog’s breakfast of the whole thing, and – if DRM was found to be a non-​​starter in making this work – massive trust issues for the publishers despite the DRM–free nature of audio files when purchased from companies such as eMusic.com or from the Apple’s iTunes Store.

One thing I am certain of, however, is that this is what the customers seem to be leaning towards, and it’s the publishers’ job to figure out how to provide it across all platforms, in all the variant stores on these interwebs, and in a way that protects the financial investment they have made in bringing the authors’ words to the eyeballs of readers, as well as protecting copyrights while not harming the ease of people reading the aforementioned words. It’s not easy, but it cannot be impossible. 

One thing it also cannot be is anything like the approach the music industry took initially, or the one the film industry continues to take. That way leads to complication for the end-​​user and ultimately to failure of the business model. No one benefits there.

Something we have to ignore right from the start is geographic markets. They don’t exist anymore, people. Someone in Australia doesn’t understand about “UK Publishing Rights (with the exclusion of all Commonwealth Countries and/​or Territories),” they just want to read a copy of Bryant & May and the Invisible Code and “take my money, what’s so bloody difficult about that?” 

Additionally, the notion of an eBook release being different than the initial publishing date is simply daft. All markets should get the eBook edition at the same time as the first printed edition is available somewhere. If you need to shift Heaven and Earth to print copies on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as in China and India, in order to match your hardcover’s initial arrival on shelves with the eBooks being released for the Kindle, Sony, Kobo, and Apple’s iBookstore, then do that. Scholastic, Bloomsbury, and Raincoast accomplished it for “Harry Potter,” so obviously it can be done.

If there’s a delay of a few weeks between the eBook coming out and the printed version, so what? It doesn’t seem to harm the music business, does it? People understand that it takes time to ship a box to their door, but they do not understand why it takes six months to get a file into their eReader; mostly because it’s not supposed to, and that’s how Amazon’s Kindle created the eBook market – pretty much from a blank piece of paper – in the first place.

Conclusion and Future-​​Gazing

Atomic Fez Publishing hereby publicly commits to bringing bundling of eBook editions of all of its titles when someone purchases printed copies of them.

Be assured that the entire Atomic Fez Publishing operation is slaving away all the hours of the day in headquarters [image below] to make this work for all people involved both in the creation and consumption of eclectic, genre-​​busting fiction!

As noted above, I haven’t a clue how this is going to happen – especially as there’s a brand-​​spanking-​​new distribution agreement with Midpoint Trade Books in NYC to factor into the practicality of the matter, never mind the distribution through the various high street and on-​​line stores – but it will.

For now, if you’ve bought a printed copy of a book published by Atomic Fez and want an electronic copy, head to THIS PAGE HERE and use the information provided to request one, along with some sort of basic information about where and how you purchased your copy. You’ll shortly get an eMail from me (really from me, yes, there’s no one else working in this one-​​man outfit) giving you a link to a page where you can download a *.ZIP file containing DRM–free ePUB, KMZ/​MOBI, and PDF files for your selected title, which can then be loaded onto your device of choice.

Moving forward, hopefully there’s going to be a simpler way to do this; as well as other people adopting it as well.

The basics of any business is “supply and demand” and you cannot tell the market that what we supply is what you demand, because you’ll hear about it right quick [c.f. “New Coke”].

One of the ways you can influence the demand is by showing the customer what they’re missing, using the aforementioned first taste is free method. “Try it and see how you like it” is always a good thing to boost potential sales, as often times people really don’t know if something works for them without actually giving it a go first. This is a new technology for many, and there’s still some confusion about what eBooks are and are not. Often times it’s easier to not bother explaining and simply shoving people in the direction of experimenting for themselves. Thus, bundling works for the uninitiated as well as for those who already are conversant with eBooks. It’s “all win” here, people!

NOW THEN: What do you think? Does this sort of “2-​​for-​​1″ bundling offer appeal to you based on the way you read now? Even if you don’t read eBooks now, might you see yourself doing so in the future, or even sooner if you were able to start using a “buy one get another really cheap” arrangement as a transitional thing? Do you think it’s a case of unnecessary consumption and people should choose one or the other formats, pay the going rate for that version, and support the publishers’ and authors’ efforts using the “one price, one binding” approach we’ve had throughout the previous 100 years? Or is some sort of middle ground what you think should be done?

Speak your mind in the comments. Gwaan!

Click to learn more about Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine [new tab or window]
Atomic Fez headquarters and nothing at all to do with Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine. No. No no!!!

Footnotes

  1. Term used to refer to the six largest publishers in the United States: Random House, Penguin (USA), HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan. When their sales are combined, they represent something approaching either 90% of the market or 90% of the New York Times “Best Seller List,” or something equally insane. [ ↑ back ↑ ]
  2. Hush now; surely you know Douglas Adams wasn’t good at math? [ ↑ back ↑ ]
  3. Those of you recognising the phrase would be wise not to admit that. Let’s just move on and never speak of this again, shall we? [ ↑ back ↑ ]

ROUND-UP: Too Much News for One Post!

…but somehow I’ll cram it all in.

[pause for inevitable ‘that’s what she said comment from somewhere in the back of the crowd

So… herewith: a whole bunch of news!

Change of Publishing Date for Sleepless Knights

Due to overwhelming demand, all printed copies destined for stores and libraries in the United States of America has been re-​​scheduled to September 24. Note that orders placed directly with the publisher through this site remain entirely unaffected. The only copies this covers are the 2nd official run of the paperback destined for retail outlets distributed through Midpoint Trade Books.

CLICK to read the interview [new tab or window]Interviews A-Plenty

Read an interview with Mark H. Williams!! He tells you all sorts of things like his preference for coffee v. tea (depends on the time of day), cats v. dogs, and many other exciting things!  Head here: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1477641-an-interview-with-mark-h-williams-author-of-sleepless-knights

Also: listen to Bell Book & Podcast Episode #2, wherein Ian Alexander Martin (the publisher in charge of this so-​​called house) babbles about how editing gets done, the publishing industry and its anarchic developments, what the Big Publishers think about the books you think you own but never actually have (the publishers do, actually),  http://pgbell.wordpress.com/2013/bbp2/ and how he actually resembles a Hollywood Movie Star.

If you’d prefer to hear something from Mark H. Williams about how he writes (which interests many people far more frequently than the publishing nonsence), head to http://pgbell.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/bell-book-podcast-1/ for a shorter, more fun podcast. 

For more Bell Book & Podcast yumminess, subscribe here:

and so on.

Sleepless Knights Launch Party!

Some more information about the event in Cardiff can be found on the author’s blog in the post titled “Launch! Party! Prizes!” Meanwhile, here’s some pretty pictures.

Images of the diorama competition entrants as well as wonderful images of the launch (above)!

As mentioned a few posts ago, Mark held a competition on Twitter using the hashtag #DioramaFriday.

DIORAMA FRIDAY WINNERS!

Draken was hopeful that he'd be in Mark's book but Sir Kay wasn't convinced ... by @Indigo_Blues_
Draken was hopeful that he’d be in Mark’s book but Sir Kay wasn’t convinced …by @Indigo_Blues_
The palisade's guard by Zoe, aka @SaidHanrahan
The palisade’s guard
by Zoe, aka @SaidHanrahan

These photos below are also quite nice.

LAUNCH PARTY FUN!!

Mark H Williams reads from Sleepless Knights at the launch. EXCITED!
Mark H Williams reads from Sleepless Knights at the launch. EXCITED!
PHOTO BY: Laura Cotton ‏@lalscotton
CAKE!!!
CAKE!!!

Other bits about the launch can be found here: http://pgbell.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/sleepless-knights-book-launch-and-podcast-update/

THE NEW NORMAL: Less Paper, Indie Book Stores Thriving

Yes, you read the title correctly: eBooks are expanding their market share but Independent Book Stores are doing quite well, thank you very much. This is as I predicted, but I’m not going to be smug about it as, about a year ago, it looked very, very bleak for the one-​​location shops going it alone.

The first article, from North American industry bible Publishers Weekly, provides an incredibly lengthy list of the top sellers in the eBook format for last year. So lengthy I haven’t a clue how many there are mentioned there. Yowza, is it ever long. Still, a scan for the names you recognize will come up with at least one title for each author, often several. Stephen King, a long-​​time advocate and fan of the eBook (and considering the size of Under the Dome, fans ought to keep that in mind before investing that volume of space on their shelves) even makes an appearance with his novel about the Kennedy assassination. The Fifty Shades of Grey series is predictably at the top, proving the anonymity of a eReader is something people take advantage of; and the Game of Thrones series is also scattered through the top of the list. Tom Clancey shows up a few times, as does John Grisholm. So do other authors, but it seemed best to get those out of the way right off the bat.

The point here is that people like to read, and the thing that I started hearing when the Kindle first came out–I’m reading more and more now–seems to be continuing un-​​abated. The more they read, the more they read; tautology aside. 

The second article is something that I hoped would happen: people running their own bookstores are learning to turn lemons into lemonade (sorry about the hoary old phrase) and are turning their businesses struggling to compete with the large chains, into more successful places to get people in in order to enjoy the book as a destination. Celebrate the book, they cry, here we are to act as your enabler! Given the large chains have fewer and fewer locations – and those locations have fewer and fewer employees – the independents aren’t in competition with anyone who provides an actual browseable inventory of titles. The automatically generated suggestions on line where “if you liked Guy Adams’s Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God, then you’ll also enjoy Accountancy for Cornish Tin Mining, 1845 – 70 (Vol.3)” clearly has never worked no matter how many times they change the calculations. In the shop, however, Lucy or Andrew (or whoever), will point you instead at either Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine or  Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin and you’ll be far better off as a result. This is something that the local stores have always done very well, and the modern reader – possibly having grown-​​up in an on-​​line world – knows not the joys of having someone point them at their new obsession of an author. Thus, the indies are playing to their strengths, this time with a whole new generation.

SNOW: An Open Letter to People Panicking

PEOPLE OF BRITAIN: Congratulations on your recent delivery of Snow™! 

The photos you’ve been seeing, however, do not show a carved road in either Canada or Norway, they’re from from Japan. For one thing, those vehicles are driving on the left, and we don’t.

CLICK to embiggen
Actually, the northern end of Japan.

We do not have snow like that here in the Dominion of Canada, even though we do all live in igloos and get to work using dog-​​sleds.

Here’s some real information for you (thank you again, Inter-​​Net®):

The snowiest bits of North America:

  • 974.1” Thompson Pass, Alaska (just north of Valdez) in 1952 – 1953.
    • The Thompson Pass is very very very close to Alaska and kind of Canada but it’s marginally Canada in the same way that The Isle of Skye is only marginally Great Britain. 
  • 963” Mt. Copeland, British Columbia  (near Revelstoke) in 1971 – 1972. Maximum depth unknown.
    • This is deep in the east of British Columbia in the Rocky Mountains. Nearly Alberta. Rocks thrown from here could land in the next province.

The snowiest bits of Canada Proper (not a scientific or geographical term): 

  • Saguenay, Québèc had 342cm over 96 days. That’s snow-​​fall not ‘on the ground accumulation’, so it’s not quite what we want
  • St. John’s (we have two, but I think this is the one in Newfoundland) had 180cm of ‘on the ground accumulation’ on February 9, 2001, and that’s unusual for them.

The areas where one can be as free of snow as possible

  1. Victoria (just a short ferry ride from me, and is the Provincial political capital)
  2. Vancouver (just the end of the street from me and is the Provincial business capital)

PLUS you’ll notice that on that first page is a picture of the Japanese road you’ve seen claimed to be Canada, and another shot much like the ‘Norway’ one with the tour bus is just below that. Apparently they use “snow melting” techniques to dispose of the stuff from the roads.

NOTHING TO DO WITH "BLACK FRIDAY" OR "CYBER MONDAY"

The title is as it is due to just about anyone I’ve come across in the last little while being well and truly tired of hearing either of those phrases. If you’re in Canada, a close third is “Grey Cup”, or “Presidential Election” if you’re in the USA, or any use of the words “phone hacking” if you’re in the UK. So let’s move on before we all acquire a case of the dry heaves, shall we?

Ah… the open, airy, spacious experience that is the new paragraph… ahhhhhhh.

This is a bit of a “catch-​​up”, “bits and/​or bobs*  which got missed”, word about some “new stuff”, plus a bit of news about pricing.

First: NEW STUFF!

Let’s say, for some reason, you think the world of Atomic Fez, and love it so much you’d like to declare to the world your support of it. How might one do this, you ask yourself? Why, by ordering something with the mighty logo of Atomic Fez Publishing, that’s how! Shirts, mugs, bags, caps, beer steins, glasses, hip flasks, cocktail shakers, even “unmentionables” for both ladies and gentlemen!

There’s two shops on the interwebs, in order to increase your options for the sake of flexibility.

So if you are already thinking of getting one of Uncle Warren Ellis’s shirts on Café Press, there are options for Atomic Fez to add to your order and make your shipping charge go farther.

On the other hand  If you don’t want to tell people that “Warren Ellis put his disease in me”, then you can head to the Spread Shirt store and fill your life with all sorts of Atomic Fez stuff! I’ve not yet located other worthwhile things in Spread Shirt. No doubt they are there, they just haven’t been found by me yet. 

Here’s the two options: 

Spread Shirt

or

Café Press

 

So… there you are.

New Books Fully Available!

CLICK for details of this titleAfter some nagging and sorting and more nagging and some payment of bills, there are the full range of both The Designated Coconut and The House That Death Built available in the shop (click the cover images or the titles for the particular pages).

While the print runs for the North American market won’t be done until the spring of next year, those of you in Canada or the United States of America can order copies today if you just can’t wait until then for your very own copy, you’ll just have to pay the shipping cost for the extra distance to your address from the United Kingdom (which, honestly, isn’t that much or a rise in charge). 

CLICK for details of this titleIf you prefer your books to be electronic, however, WAIT NO LONGER! as those editions are available in all three flavours: locally sourced, the international Kobo store, or your nation’s Kindle Store (there’s seven to choose from)! All are available now, just remember that the most money ends up in the hands of authors with the “direct from Atomic Fez” option, and you can still load those on any device you own that displays eBooks, and they’re always DRM-​​free for your technological and “future-​​proof” convenience. The authors thank you for supporting their ability to have real roofs under which to eat actual food (greatly increased health has resulted in extensive lab testing when including both these things in a writer’s environment).

Most Prices Newly Reduced!

After some time has passed after initial excitement over a title, people need a little incentive to re-​​awaken their interest in a book they might have passed over initially. Thus, some alterations on some prices for earlier titles in a rather downward direction (IE: old books cost less). Also, the new books available here are at special “direct from the publisher” prices, even when brand new.

The third thing that’s changed is the “one penny less than a full, round number” is gone. Honestly, who are we kidding here? Yes, there’s the famous idea of if it’s priced at $19.99 people don’t think of it as $20, that seems too expensive idea, but it’s probable that everyone is entirely wise to that by now. If a book is £8.99, I suspect that all of your are saying to yourself “right, so that’s just over a ten-​​pound note by the time there’s postage added” just the same as if it was priced as “nine pounds”. So, when the prices being charged went down, the rounding was included along the way.

Here’s an example of how this works, in case you got lost along the way of my oddly constructed explanation.

Wicked Delights by John Llewellyn Probert
Cover of WICKED DELIGHTS Recommended Retail
(or “Cover”) Price

$39.99 (Canada)
£22.99 (UK)
$39.99 (USA)
Old “Atomic Fez
Direct” Price

$39.99 (Canada)
£22.99 (UK)
$39.99 (USA)
New “Atomic Fez
Direct” Price

$30 (Canada)
£15 (UK)
$30 (USA)

So much easier, isn’t it?

The buttons for the various editions and nations have been moved over so that it’s more obvious as to what’s applying to which thing, so that ought to go some distance to helping everyone understand what’s available. 

Conclusion

There’s not much point in me forcing people to operate under my rules if they don’t either make sense to you or you think they’re stupid. After all, you’re supposed to want to buy these books and navigating your way through complications and mystery options isn’t going to do anything for your happiness, which is going to have a damaging direct effect on the number of those books being read by people… which is not what any writer wants. 

Thus, please let me know what you think of all of the above, either by replying directly to me through Graphic used to foil SPAM or by commenting below, whichever you’re most comfortable with. 

Thank you for your time reading this, your custom, and your support of independent authors and their publisher.

* I’ve always wondered, if a table is covered with ‘bits & bobs’, and all of them but one fall on the floor, what’s left? A ‘bit’, or a ‘bob’? Answers on a postcard to the usual address. [ ↑ return ↑ ]

The Mighty logo of Atomic Fez Publishing logo and colophon designed and Copyright © 2009 Martin Butterworth of The Creative Partnership [ ↑ return ↑ ]

Anywhere but here. Thanks. [ ↑ return ↑ ]

This Week's Fish-Wrap №47: Is Amazon Run by Coke-Heads?

Let’s try this once more, shall we? Earlier today this appeared, only the text was entirely made-​​up of quotes from roles played by Samuel L. Jackson in various movies, courtesy of the web-​​site SAMUEL L. IPSUM (Mother*cking Placeholder Text, Motherf*cker!), which generates far more interesting text than the classic “Lorem ipsum” material used by most layout people.

So… erm… Basically I created the post, put some text in to hold some space where the actual content would go, put a in image in, then some relevant links at the bottom, and then… walked away and forgot about it. More fool me. :: ahem ::

Amazon [he says, rapidly changing the subject from the previous one of “just how daft is Ian getting in his middle-​​age?” to a more news-​​worthy one] has recently been getting a fair bit of flack from all sides for their decision to become ‘a real publisher, just like Atomic Fez’, although the last part of the phrase isn’t one that’s commonly a point made by anyone. Not only are they to be the original publisher of works, they will be publishing these works in electronic and printed formats, as well as selling the books through a distributor so that the books will be on shelves of bookshops the world over. In theory, anyway.

WWI War Financing Poster (by Haskell Coffin, 1918)
WWI War Financing Poster (by Haskell Coffin, 1918)

The problem with the plan is quite simple: the same businesses that Amazon is in direct competition with are now to be their retail partners. One minute they’re crushing Barnes & Noble, Borders, or everyone’s favourite local independent book shop; the next minute they’re saying ‘look, just before you go completely bankrupt, could you do a big display in the window with our new titles?’, and wondering why they’re getting the stink-​​eye from everyone in the place including the university kids on holiday fill-​​in duty.

If you’re thinking “no no, Jeff Bezos and his crew surely wouldn’t be that insane, would they?” let me assure you they are either filled with so much chutzpah they don’t think they can lose, or they’re really oblivious to anything other than that which is the nano-​​second of existence of “now”.

Or, possibly, they’re on so much cocaine their irises are white as snow. After all, they do seem to be far more focused, energetic, and enthusiastic about everything than just about anyone else in the entire world, short of seven-​​year-​​old boys on a sugar high let loose in a LEGO Warehouse.

The enabler in this little affair is Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “New Harvest” imprint, which will be exclusively dedicated to the release of Amazon.com’s titles, including upcoming titles by James Franco and Deepak Chopra. Clearly these are not merely Poems About My Cat (A Collection) we’re talking about here, but potential ‘hot titles’ by people the common reader will be interested in, or at least be aware of (which is far more than could be said of about 98% of any books released in a given period of time).

Amazon are the same people who released a smartphone ‘app’ prior to Christmas which permitted the user to scan the barcodes of up to three books in a store, thus providing the user with a guaranteed discount on the price of that book (up to a maximum of $5 per item, I think) as long as that same book was ordered through Amazon instead of buying the ‘over-​​priced’ book in the store they had in their hands at that very second. ALL HAIL duplication of effort! Not only do you choose a book by going to the bookshop and are reminded they still exist, you then guarantee you contribute nothing to its existence by literally going out of your way not to give it your custom! Hurrah! Let us all go to Cloud Cuckoo Land where books are cheap and plentiful, and no one needs to look further afield than Amazon for all ones worldly needs!

Now, given the above, you would think that Amazon would pooh-​​pooh the notion that getting copies of their own publishing house onto shelves in real bricks-​​and-​​mortar shops, wouldn’t you? “Stores?” you might be forgiven to presume they would respond, “do they still exist? Why would you want to go to one of those? Just sit in your chair, move the mouse around a bit, click a few times, and we’ll bring the world to you!” Oddly, this is not what they’re doing. No no.

Through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s distribution network, they are attempting to get their books into the very same shops they recently sent people into with their smartphone apps, possibly in an effort to get every single dime available in the book industry chain. The only thing they haven’t got – in addition to the eBook hardware, eBook software, print-​​on-​​demand via Lightning Source and Create-​​Space, plus now the actual publishing house, and a host of other ventures under their vast umbrella – is actual retail outlets. According to the New York Times, that’s possibly next. If true, perhaps this is a test of how much they can use books to lure people in as a loss-​​leader for their other products like shoes (Amazon now own on-​​line shoe-​​retailer Zappos.com, by the way), BLU-​​RAYs, and iPad accessories. Who knows?

Personally, the thing I find most surprising is the sheer unmitigated gall and blatant effrontery of them expecting to get a piece of the action they’re attempting to reduce to rapidly diminishing returns. It’s a bit like acting as a real estate agent in the area in which you’re also enacting a policy of lebensraum, and you’re actually re-​​selling the land to the people who are already living there. Plus, you still get a commission on the sale, any the tax on the transaction itself, plus future property taxes for maintaining your now possessed territories. Win!

Honestly, what part of this whole thing made someone think “yeah, that’s a great idea; let’s do that!”…? 

The cocaine suggestion doesn’t seem so ludicrous now, does it?

  • MediaBistro.com’s eBookNewser, “Author’s Guild Argues That Amazon’s Dominance Comes From Antitrust Laws”; Wednesday, February 1st ~ READ THIS POST
  • MobyLives, which is the blog of Melville House, “Amazon finds a beard to sell books from its publishing unit”; January 25thREAD THIS POST
  • Publishers Weekly, “Books-​​A-​​Million Won’t Carry Amazon Titles”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST
  • Globe & Mail, “Indigo joins growing boycott of books published by Amazon.com”; Friday, February 3rd (and correction on the following Monday) ~READ THIS POST
  • Publishers Weekly, “End of the Line for Dorchester?”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST
  • The New York Times, ‘Bits’, “Amazon Has Tried Everything to Make Shopping Easier. Except This.”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS ARTICLE
  • Publishers Weekly, ‘PW Tip Sheet’, “This Has All Happened Before”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​​​​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and/​or announce the latest news Atomic Fez has about the publishing house, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

TERRIBILIS, by Carol Weekes! Order your copy today!

This Week's Fish Wrap (№35): Pre-Order & Win Signed Books

As a slight change to the usual format of things here on a Monday – probably due to the fact that everyone and their brother seem to be on holiday, busy entertaining friends who are on their  holiday, or generally not doing anything except either trying to stay away from the summer heat or the gigantic storm raging through their area – Atomic Fez announces the second of its AMAZING BOOK CONTESTS!

Pre-​​order a printed copy of Dirk Danger Loves Life by Chris Rothe, or Terribilis by Carol Weekes, and you’re entered to win a COPY SIGNED AND DEDICATED TO YOU BY THE AUTHOR! Atomic Fez doesn’t do “limited, numbered editions” of its books, this is even more special as a result!

In March of last year, people purchasing a copy of Wicked Delights at the World Horror Convention (imaginatively named “World HorrorCon”) were able to Win Breakfast With Author John Llewellyn Probert and His Retinue! …which basically consisted of his girlfriend and the publisher, so the last bit was more of something akin to “by the way, if you accept the prize, you also get stuck with this lot; sorry about that, but them’s the rules”. Here’s the post about how that went.

TERRIBILIS, by Carol Weekes! Order your copy today!
TERRIBILIS, by Carol Weekes! Order your copy today!

This time, things are much better, and far more people get to participate! You don’t have to go anywhere, nor do you have to put up with a couple of extra loonies barging their way into the situation! No no! All it takes is your money!

Terribilis comes in a hardback edition for the UK & International markets, and a paperback binding for the North American market. Thus, the winner of this title, no matter where in the world they happen to reside, will receive a hardback copy even if they’ve only paid for a paperback one!

Dirk Danger Loves Life only comes in the one, paperback binding, so there’s only the scribble of the author to make it special, but he’ll be encouraged to write something particularly funny in your book. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll do it, too!

So, what are you waiting for? Click the titles of those books, pre-​​order you copies today (they’re in the middle of production right now), and wait for the happy message that you get a book which has been defaced by the author themselves!

TINY PRINT
All valid entries will be drawn from orders for books placed on or before September 26th, 2011. Payment must be received by that time. Entrants will be included in the drawing only if they are ‘civilians’, none shall pass from those who are ‘book dealers’, ‘wholesalers’, or libraries and are already being granted preferential discounts form the Recommended Retail Price of the book(s). The draw to decide the winner will be conducted by the Publisher, using an elaborate system of bits of paper with people’s names on them, which have been stuffed into a pillow case, hat, or some sort of vessel that’s handy at the time. Two draws will be conducted, one for each of the two (2) titles (books). The winner(s) shall be notified of their win prior to the author(s) making mark(s) on the book(s), thereby permitting the winner(s) to specify their name(s) and/​or the name of a cherished love one and/​or someone they’re going to give the book at holiday time. The decision of the Management is final, and no appeal will be permitted or even listened; no really, cry all you like it’s not going to change a blessed thing. This offer is unrepeatable, mostly due to the details being so complicated it’s impossible to remember them all, but it does permit a lovely Elvis Costello reference, doesn’t it?

QR Code of the link to this article (in theory, I've not tested it)

E-Books Without iBooks Bookstore %#@^ing Things Up

Thanks to Warren Ellis in THIS POST, my attention was drawn to THIS POST over on the Massive Sqwertz blog. It’s essentially about “how to get your comic or book out to the people without having to use Apple’s retail set-​​up – called the iBookstore, naturally – which inevitably shall involve USA tax numbers (and if you’re a foreigner then you’ve got some forms to fill-​​out), the Agency Price Model, the possibility of having your content pulled if they don’t think you’re avoiding ‘naughty words’ sufficiently, and a chunk of money going to Steve Jobs’s little dog and pony show for the benefit of reaching billions of people wanting to see fancy things on their shiny iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch, or whatever.”

iBooks, on iShelves, on your iPad (click to initiate embiggenator)
iBooks, on iShelves, on your iPad (click to initiate embiggenator)

A shorter way to explain it would be to quote Mr. Ellis himself:

This might be fucking brilliant. A method for selling ebooks and comics to devices that doesn’t involve Apple. Laid out in what looks like almost idiotproof detail by Brett Jackson.

Oddly enough, the process outlined in the article, is astonishingly close to what Atomic Fez already has done with its electronic books since Day One: PayPal, automatic access to content, DRM–free, easy to read on a smart-​​phone.

There are some specific differences to the system as outlined in the article at the second link above, however.

  • I don’t use the QR Code image or IS.GD shortening for links
    • The PayPal button is pre-​​programmed with links longer than the average arm and leg, plus someone else’s appendages on top of that
  • I don’t have a canned e-​​mail reply to the buyer
    • Right after the transaction is completed via PayPal, the purchaser of books through the Atomic Fez site is automatically directed to a “dedicated to the title” download page
    • The Kobo & Kindle buttons take the customer to those sites, and it’s up to those companies to sell you e-​​books at that point
  • The file at the end of the transaction isn’t a PDF
    • It’s a *.ZIP file which contains an ePUB file, a PDF file, a PRC file (which you can re-​​name the extension of to AMZ for the Kindle), and an HTML file of the book
  • The transaction isn’t termed a ‘donation’
    • Which means Atomic Fez  pays the transaction fee of whatever percent of the selling price is (3.5% sticks in my head, however), what with it being an actual business and all
  • Uses the $_​_​.99 price model
    • Because I probably get off on being a sneaky bastard making you think that $4.99 isn’t five bucks
QR Code of the link to this article (in theory, I've not tested it)
QR Code of the link to this article (in theory, I’ve not tested it)

There’s a lot to be said for those extra details, however, especially if you’ve got a web-​​comic or book you’ve written, and you really want to figure out how to get things to people easily and are starting from scratch at this sort of thing. Due to being involved with small-​​press publishing for a few years now, some of the solutions were already known to me, but some of those specifics were things I had not thought of. For instance, the plan suggests using QR codes as a promotional tool; even shaving the pattern [image, right] into the back of someone’s head or the back of a dog. These new version of a bar-​​code are something which are quite new, and are intended mostly for mobile smart-​​phones. I don’t own a mobile*, and the use of them in adverts for links to purchase e-​​books (or anything, really) isn’t something that had crossed my mind as being something customers might like to do… or would you?

What with the PayPal buttons, the secure transaction is possible for everyone zooming here on the web. The site also uses a plug-​​in called WP Touch created by the geniuses at Brave New Code, guaranteeing that you can see most of the site on your smart-​​phone with the simplest of ease. In theory, the PayPal buttons should work just as well on the tiny screen of a mobile handset as on the screen of your laptop or desktop computer. So far, no one’s complained, so everything ought to be covered there.

That said, here’s the identical things to the plan done here that aren’t really pointed out in the list above.

  • All files are 100% DRM-​​free (for the ease of everyone’s life)
  • Downloadable immediately (so it can happen whilst I sleep)
  • Includes a PDF that’s guaranteed readable on your device… somehow (plus other formats too)
  • Uses PayPal for SMS–sending of money (probably; although you do need to go to this site to do it, instead of typing ultra-​​short link into your handset).

So, it’s not unheard-​​of, but certainly does have market exploitable aspects to it that ought to be taken a look at: shortened URLs, donation status, shaved dogs, and so on. It’s the way forward for just about anyone who wants an easy-​​to-​​implement solution(although maybe without the dogs).

The other thing that occurs to me is that much of the above is based on the purchasing of electronic books. This same process could easily be applied to buying printed books as well. No reason not to, what with people browsing the web on their mobiles; why not buy paper books this way as well?

Now, however, it’s over to you: does any of this make buying of electronic or paper books easier for you? Does any of it make buying them more attractive to you? Does it make the site, me, or our cats – should they have these patterns stenciled onto their fur – more attractive to you? Thoughts, anyone?


* The wife is now using my old one as I never really leave the house, and it’s not a smartphone anyway. Frankly, if I did get a mobile for myself, I’d get John’s Phone, which does everything it needs to, and if I go to the UK on business I can just swap-​​out the SIM-​​card instead of paying incredible roaming charges for only three weeks’ use once every 18 months or so. Besides, I already have a camera and a netbook, so why do I need those in my mobile as well? [back ↑]