Tag: ebook

Computer program predicts best sellers

Three computer scientists at Stony Brook University in New York believe that they have found some rules which might predict when a book will be a best seller.

By putting already published manuscripts through the machine, they have managed to get a more than 84 percent accuracy.

They claim it will be brilliant for publishes who often kick themselves for failing to spot that books like Harry Potter or Watership Down will do well.

They claim it is the first study to correlate between a book’s stylistic elements and its popularity and critical acclaim.

In a paper published by the Association of Computational Linguistics, Vikas Ganjigunte Ashok, Song Feng, and Yejin Choi said the writing style of books was correlated with its success.

They used a method called statistical stylometry, which is a statistical analysis of literary styles in several genres of books and identified characteristic stylistic elements more common in successful tomes than unsuccessful ones.

They used Project Gutenberg’s database of 44,500 books in the public domain. A book was considered successful when it was critically acclaimed and had a high download count. The books chosen for analysis represented all genres of literature, from science fiction to poetry.

The software took the first 1,000 sentences of 4,129 books of poetry and 1,117 short stories and then analysed them for various factors. They looked at parts of speech, use of grammar rules, the use of phrases, and “distribution of sentiment” – a way of measuring the use of words.

More successful books made a greater use of conjunctions to join sentences (“and” or “but”) and prepositions than less successful books. There were also a high percentage of nouns and adjectives in the successful books. Less successful books relied on more verbs and adverbs to describe what was happening.

This proves to me that John Steinbeck’s Pearl, which I had to study in English, really was the pile of dog poo I said it was – or at least was never going to be a best seller.

More successful books relied on verbs describing thought processes rather than actions and emotions. If you use words like “wanted,” “took” or “promised” you were doomed. Successful authors employed “recognised” or “remembered”.

Choi claimed that in order to resonate with readers, instead of saying ‘she was really sad,’ it might be better to describe her physical state, to give a literal description. In other words, write more like a journalist.

Hacks believe journalists use more nouns, pronouns, and prepositions than other writers because those word forms give more information. So novelists who write more like journalists have literary success, she said. 

Now your books are spying on you

The latest things to start grassing you up to advertising companies and spooks are your favourite books.

According to Apple’s free press office the New York Time,  books are the lastest thing to get advertising spyware.

So not only will you have to put up with the fact that you are paying huge amounts of dosh for something that takes a few dollars to make, it will be ratting you out to the authorities and advertising companies.

Last week, Smashwords made a deal to put 225,000 books on Scribd, a digital library here that unveiled a reading subscription service in October.

It is being seen as a way to exploit reading data. Amazon and Barnes & Noble already collect vast amounts of information from their e-readers but keep it in house. Now a new breed of start-ups, such as Entitle want to make cash by telling the world+dog.

The justification is that the data will help authors and publishers make better books, but the reality is more sinister.

Not only will it mean that readers of a book on cars will get plagued by car adverts for months afterwards, it also means that reader habits will be closely monitored by the publishing companies.

For example, they will know if you ever finished a book. That will lead to an obvious conclusion that some books sell better than others, or are more engaging. This will, in turn, lead to publishers wanting the sorts of books that they think readers are more likely to finish.

This same mentality has plagued the ratings obsessed television industry and led to the cancellation of great shows like Firefly and Alphas.

For example, Scribd’s early efforts have revealed that the longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who did it. Thus if you want to wrote a murder mystery you have to keep it short.

People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but will only read a chapter of a yoga book. Romances are read faster than religious titles, and erotica really quickly.

The top book at Oyster is called “What Women Want,” promoted as a work that “brings you inside a woman’s head so you can learn how to blow her mind”.  Everyone who starts it finishes it. However Arthur Schlesinger  “The Cycles of American History” is only finished by one percent of the readers who start it.

So what publisher is going to invest in something that only a small percentage are going to get to the end of?

The Oyster data shows that books with shorter chapters do better because people are reading in short sessions during the day on smart phones.

Kids of today like books

It has been assumed that the kids of today are obsessed with ebooks, but it turns out that they still like paper.

According to a survey conducted by Voxburner, more than 62 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer print books to ebooks.

Printed books were more popular than movies, newspapers and magazines, CDs and video games. In fact only a third of the age group liked video games.

Luke Mitchell of agency Voxburner, which researched questions about buying and using content with 1,420 young adults said that that the results were surprising because everyone thinks that 16-24s are attached to their smartphones and digital devices.

The reason that 16 to 24-year-olds prefer physical books is that they are seen as value for money. On questions of ebook pricing, 28 percent think that ebooks should be half their current price, while just eight percent say that ebook pricing is right.

The top-rated reasons for preferring physical to digital products were: “I like to hold the product, “I am not restricted to a particular device”, “I can easily share it”, “I like the packaging” and “I can sell it when used”.

Others liked books because they wanted to collect them, or they liked the smell or wanted full bookshelves.

“Books are status symbols, you can’t really see what someone has read on their Kindle,” Mitchell said. 

Apple ran an illegal ebook price cartel

Apple messiah Steve Jobs was guilty of setting up an illegal ebook cartel which raised the prices for his own customers, a court has ruled.

US District judge Denise Cote in Manhattan ruled that the company conspired with five major publishers to raise e-book prices. She said that there was “compelling evidence” that Apple violated federal antitrust law by playing a “central role” in a conspiracy with the publishers to eliminate retail price competition and raise e-book prices.

The move could result in Apple being sued into a coma by angry users who had to pay more because of the company’s anti-trust antics. Apple not only chose to join forces with the publisher defendants to raise e-book prices, but it also equipped them with the means to do so.

Cote said that without Apple’s orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded.

The ruling is not surprising. Apple’s co-conspirators had seen the writing on the wall and settled. But Apple believed that it was absolutely right.

Before he died, then CEO Steve Jobs even bragged about it in his biography.

What appears to have sunk Apple’s case were emails from Jobs to News Corp executive James Murdoch which prosecutors said reflected Jobs’ desire to boost prices and “create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99”.

The decision was not a total surprise as Cote had indicated before the 2-1/2 week non-jury trial began on 3 June that Apple’s defences might fail. Cote also warned Apple that “Steve Jobs said it was ok” is not really a valid defence in the courts.

Bill Baer, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, told Reuters the result was a victory for millions of consumers who choose to read books electronically.

Of course, Apple is not giving up and said it will appeal. However, it has backed down in a similar case in the EU, and settled without admitting liability. If the appeal is upheld then it exposes Apple to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Not that that will bother Apple much. It has $145 billion in the bank.

Nook sinking Barnes and Noble

Despite the fact that it has set up an ebook business based around its Nook reader, book seller Barnes & Noble is seeing the writing on the wall.

The outfit’s latest quarterly sales results show a lack of foot traffic in the stores and that could mean the end of the company’s 675 stores.

Barnes & Noble reported a 7.4 percent drop in revenues and a $122 million loss for the fourth-quarter of its fiscal year. The company only earned $10 million compared to the more bookish $177 million in 2012.

Ironically, it looks like Barnes & Noble’s focus on making Nook e-readers is killing the business. Nook has become a black hole for the company in these results.

Not only was there a 17 percent drop in Nook revenues, Barnes & Noble’s device division made a $475 million loss. This made the traditional business float like a Chicago businessman with cement boots.

Analysts have been telling Breakout that the odds are stacked against Barnes & Noble.

Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities analyst at Belus Capital Advisors said he had no confidence in the company surviving.

He said that the company has been cannibalising itself with branded tablets and e-reader applications. The more it pumped the Nook app across platforms, the more the stores become increasingly irrelevant.


Apple warns book world it must submit

Apple, which is on trial for orchestrating a price cartel on ebooks, has closed its arguments by threatening grave consequences if it does not get its way.

Apple said that an adverse ruling against it would have a “chilling effect” on how businesses investigate new markets.

According to NDTV Gadgets, the company’s lawyer, Orin Snyder, said that if Apple was found guilty, it would “send shudders through the business community”.

It would condemn the ordinary negotiations that companies undertake to enter new markets, he warned.

“A ruling against Apple sets a dangerous precedent,” Snyder warned.

Outsiders agree. It means that companies will not be allowed to collude with others to fix prices and arrogantly brag about it in public.

The trial heard evidence that Apple’s antics with the book publishers did raise the price of books for consumers generally.

This is more or less what Steve Jobs bragged about in his biography.

The trial heard evidence that Apple conspired with US publishers beginning in late 2009 to increase the price of ebooks in an effort to undercut the pricing established by then-dominant Amazon.com. The publishers have settled with the government.

US district judge Denise Cote was not giving Apple an easy time. She had already warned that before the case had opened the DoJ had produced enough paper evidence to prove a price cartel.

Now she has asked if it was correct that Apple “understood publishers were willing to work together to put pressure on Amazon”.

Snyder insisted that there was no evidence Apple understood the publishers were allegedly conspiring together before it proposed creating an online bookstore for its coming iPad.

He said that Apple had no idea the publishing executives were calling each other and having dinners together.

Snyder claimed that there was no such thing as a conspiracy by telepathy.

The Justice Department is not seeking damages against Apple. It wants Apple to be prohibited from the agency model for two years and a five year prohibition against the use of price-parity contract clauses at the centre of the case, among other remedies.

If the government wins, there will be a separate trial which would be held on damage claims asserted by 33 state attorney generals whose case on liability was also being heard during the last few weeks. 

Germans come up with novel ebook DRM

A group of German researchers has come up with a novel form of DRM for e-books.

Dubbed SiDiM, the DRM changes the text and punctuation of an e-book slightly in a way which is unique to each book sold.

While this will not stop the book being shared, it will serve as a digital watermark that can be used to track books that have had any other DRM layers stripped out of them before being shared online.

One researcher, Martin Steinebach, reasoned that consumers will be too paranoid that they’ll be caught if they share an e-book illicitly.

If it does get widespread use it will end the days of trying to restrict movement of e-books between stores and devices, and ties a book to a single account.

Getting rid of the DRM is easy and actually makes the book a lot less heavy in terms of code.

According to Wired, the changes are minor and most people would not find them.

The SiDiM consortium currently has two German bookselling partners. 4Readers and MVB, that it reports to, according to Herr Dr. Martin Steinebach. 

Amazon re-releases its big Kindle

Amazon has surprised the world by bucking the trend on big e-readers by putting its 9.7-inch Kindle DX back in stock 

The huge version of the Kindle was pulled from the shelves last year as people appeared to be favouring smaller tablets.

Amazon has brought back the DX for $299, reflecting the price drop for eReaders which was brought in late last year.

The Kindle DX was apparently discontinued back in October when Amazon announced the backlit Kindle Paperwhite e-reader and a new line of Kindle Fire tablets.

Amazon’s vice president Jay Marine said Amazon had pretty much done with the Kindle DX. It was designed for the text book market which largely fell to 10 inch tablets.

In a statement Amazon has confirmed the e-reader’s return, but there are hints that the move could be temporary. In fact some think that the online bookseller might have found a warehouse of them that it had forgotten about and wants to clear the backlog.

It could equally be a test. Currently interest in the bigger tablets has fallen which means that text book users might still need a cheaper and bigger screen. 

Secret to beating Amazon – Don't sell fridges

Kobo’s CEO Michael Serbinis is telling the world+dog that the way to beat Amazon is to focus on books rather than trying to sell other gear like fridges.

Serbinis told the International Business Times that he is absolutely confident that after only a year and a half in operation his company is well on the way to giving Amazon a good kicking.

Kobo partnered with WHSmith and the Booksellers Association in the UK in order “to reach the most passionate readers” and has launched its Aura HD ereader in response to feedback it received from tens of thousands of “voracious readers”.

Serbinis said that devices will change over time but what was more important was developing a relationship with the customer and building an eco-system for them, which delivers the content they want.

However, Serbinis is still “talking big” particularly when Amazon has exactly the sort of “ecosystem” with its readers that Kobo is on about.

Where he differs with Amazon is that he cares if stores live or die.

Kobo only has 100 shop-in-shop connections within WH Smith stores and has just announced plans for 100 more opening by the end of this year.

It is vital to Serbinis’ plans that the high-street stores remain in place and be successful. Bookshops already have relationships with their customers and it is them that endear Kobo to publishers.

As a result the first publisher deal the company cut took six months, but they now happen several times an hour, he said.

Kobo has been doing well. In December 2012 Kobo tripled its sales year-on-year, growth no other ebook platform can match. It has 3.4 million titles available globally, growing two to three percent every week. It has launched a self-publishing programme called Writing Life, which already has “tens of thousands” of authors and over 100,000 books published in just nine months.

All this is not bad for an outfit which launched in the UK in October 2011 with a market share of zero. It now holds 10 percent of the ebook market in the UK.

But Serbinis thinks that the reason he can take on and beat Amazon is because he does not sell washing machines or radios and is not interested in trying to peddle data services.

As a result it is difficult for anyone in Amazon to get anything done because the company lacks focus, he said. 

Ebook craze is slowing

It is starting to look like the death of bound books has been much exaggerated. For the last few years, technology pundits have been declaring books were dead as a dodo and the world was going to read from tablets and ebooks in the future.

This has been confirmed by shedloads of statistics which show ebooks rushing past traditional book sales.

But the Wall Street Journal has been looking closely at a Pew study on the reading habits of Americans.

The report, with the catchy title, E-book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines, suggests the doom of Gutenberg’s dream, but there are a few stats which suggest that something else is happening.

For a start, print is still the preferred format for American book readers, with 89 percent of them reporting that they read at least one printed book over a year. While this statistic strikes us as shocking, apparently the fact that American’s have difficulty reading was not the point – which was that only 30 percent say they read at least one e-book.

While the percentage of American adults who read e-books increased over the past year, the percentage that read printed books fell, but the changes are not that great.

E-book readers rose from 16 percent to 23 percent, while printed book readers declined from 72 percent to 67 percent. The change is happening, but it is slowing down.

Other sales data suggests that print sales are holding their own against digital books and that ebook sales are slowing down.

The Association of American Publishers recently reported that annual growth in adult e-book sales dropped to 34 percent during the first half of 2012.

Ereader sales are dropping, partly because there is a shift from e-readers to tablets. Sales of e-readers fell 36 percent in 2012, according to estimates from IHS iSuppli, while tablet sales exploded.

The reading of ebooks on tablets is significantly less as readers have to compete with all sorts of distractions such as games, videos and Facebook. It is also harder to read a book on a tablet.

What looks to be happening is that the mass-market paperbacks are taking a kicking from ebooks, but the traditional books, which deliver information are holding their own.

In other words ebooks are fast becoming the way to deliver pulp fiction or for those moments when you are travelling and don’t want to lug a book around.

Children’s ebooks are growing too, but that appears to be part of a general increase in kids book sales. Printed kids books have also been doing rather well lately. In the UK, sales of printed books reached their highest level in three years during the week before Christmas.