Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Apple Better Not Miss About eBooks

Christian Novel Is Surprise Best Seller
Mr. Nowak, a maintenance worker near Yakima, Wash., first bought a copy of "The Shack," a slim paperback novel by an unknown author about a grieving father who meets God in the form of a jolly African-American woman, at a Borders bookstore in March. He was so taken by the story of redemption and God's love that he promptly bought 10 more copies to give to family and friends.

"Everybody that I know has bought at least 10 copies,"
Mr. Nowak said. "There’s definitely something about the book that makes people want to share it."

Thousands of readers like Mr. Nowak, a regular churchgoer, have helped propel "The Shack," written by William P. Young, a former office manager and hotel night clerk in Gresham, Ore., and privately published by a pair of former pastors near Los Angeles, into a surprise best seller. It is the most compelling recent example of how a word-of-mouth phenomenon can explode into a blockbuster when the momentum hits chain bookstores, and the marketing and distribution power of a major commercial publisher is thrown behind it.

Just over a year after it was originally published as a paperback, "The Shack" had its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list on June 8 and has stayed there ever since. It is No. 1 on Borders Group's trade paperback fiction list, and at Barnes & Noble it has been No. 1 on the trade paperback list since the end of May, outselling even Mr. Tolle's spiritual guide "A New Earth," selected by Ms. Winfrey's book club in January.

Its publisher, Windblown Media, a company that was formed expressly to publish "The Shack" in May of last year, estimates that the book has sold more than one million copies. According to Nielsen Bookscan, which usually tracks about 70 percent of sales, the book has sold about 350,000 copies, although those numbers do not include sales at stores like Wal-Mart or direct sales from the publisher's Web site, theshackbook.com, which may have accounted for an unusually large percentage of the book's sales.

Emphasis added by me.

Hello, ebook publishers.

Can someone who buys an ebook at your estore also buy ten copies for friends?

Even if such purchasing was possible (which I don't believe it is; although there might be a Gift Card/Certificate workaround), how would the gift-giver know what ebook format each friend or family member could use?

PDF? Kindle? Sony LRF? MobiPocket? eReader? Microsoft Reader?

And what if you bought one format and the person wanted or actually needed another? ("Well, Bob, I appreciate the gift, but that Sony Reader [LRF]/ Amazon Kindle [Kindle] died on me and I can't read this ebook on my Macintosh screen!")

I know print publishers will argue that if you buy in PDF and then want a different file format, it's like first buying a hardcover and then having to pay again for a paperback.

But this is e.

We're down to what really matters: the words.

Penalizing people due to proprietary or non-universal containers is ridiculous.

These are things Apple must pay attention to if it intends to wade into ebooks.

Apple has already made sure both Mac and PC users can use iTunes and Safari. I hope the same will be true for any ebook file format Apple creates or -- better yet -- outright endorses, such as ePub.

And there must be the ability for people to gift others.

One other point for both writers as well as ebook publishers:
Brad Cummings, a former pastor and the president of Windblown, said the company, which first shipped books out of his garage, spent about $300 in marketing. Word of the book ripped through the Christian blogosphere, talk radio and pulpits across the country.

Emphasis added by me.

Are any ebook publishers out there spreading the word about books that have caught fire? Do any of them have professional PR either on staff or on hire?

And, lastly, a word for writers:
Mr. Young, Mr. Cummings and Mr. Jacobsen worked for 16 months through four rewrites.

Emphasis added by me.

Rewrites aren't worth much until others have seen it and made their suggestions. Never, ever forget this caution.

Previously here:

For God’s Sake, Get eBooks Going, Steve Jobs!
iPod Air: See You In September?
Quote: Eleanor Randolph
A Gadget Too Far
First Apple eBook Device?
East Coast Corporate Liberal Meets An eBook
It’s Now All Down To Apple Vs. Google
Writer Mark Billingham On eBooks, More
Writer Steven Poole Gets Bad News Too
What eChanges Will High Oil Prices Bring?
Writer Richard Herley Gets Bad News
eInk eBook Readers: They’re All Dead, Jim!
Amazon: Already Toast
More About That HarperCollins Plan
Future iPods: Piper Jaffray’s Blind Spot
Quote: Warren Ellis (Again)
Writers Don’t Fear The Future: Publishers Do!
D.I.Y. Book Anthologies?
The Long Tail: A Lie?
David Rothman Just Saved Google’s Android OS
The Three Companies Apple Should Acquire
Apple And eBooks: Why The Delay
For The Record: Apple and eBooks
I’m No Fan Of The Kindle. Nor Is He.
Memo To Steve Jobs: People DO Still Read!
HarperCollins Tries Free eBooks — World Laughs.
Self-Published Ebook = DIY Or Vanity?
The Three Big As: Apple, Amazon, Adobe
One More Time: Apple And Ebooks
Steve Jobs Is Up To Something. Probably Big.
Does Apple Want To Be King Of Ebooks?
Ebooks Are Now
Print Publishing Is In Self-Destruct Mode: eBook S.O.S.
The Urgency Of eBooks

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