Smashwords opens B&N channel for self-publishers

Late Friday, Mark Coker of Smashwords sent the following via email:

Smashwords has signed an agreement with Barnes & Noble to distribute Smashwords
ebook titles, all of which are self-published or from small independent presses.
As you might imagine, we’re thrilled.  Until today, it was difficult if not impossible
for independent authors and publishers to gain such mainstream digital distibution.
Now with Smashwords, virtually any author, anywhere in the world, can receive
broad distribution for their ebook. Additional distribution relationships are
forthcoming.
The Smashwords service is completely free.  We pay the author 85% of the net
proceeds and we take 15%.
We originally hoped to do a formal press release on this news rather than release
it late on a Friday afternoon, but we needed to give our 1,200+ authors and publishers
advance notice so they can prepare their titles for distribution.  It’s tough
to ask 1,200 people to keep such an exciting secret a secret, thus the preempted
press release and my email to you.  We currently publish about 2,600 titles,
double the number from just four months ago.  The books should be listed at B&N
properties within the next 30 days or so.
We posted a link here to inform our authors about next steps:  http://www.smashwords.com/distribution

Smashwords has signed an agreement with Barnes & Noble to distribute Smashwords ebook titles, all of which are self-published or from small independent presses.

As you might imagine, we’re thrilled.  Until today, it was difficult if not impossible for independent authors and publishers to gain such mainstream digital distibution. Now with Smashwords, virtually any author, anywhere in the world, can receive broad distribution for their ebook. Additional distribution relationships are forthcoming.

The Smashwords service is completely free.  We pay the author 85% of the net proceeds and we take 15%.

We originally hoped to do a formal press release on this news rather than release it late on a Friday afternoon, but we needed to give our 1,200+ authors and publishers advance notice so they can prepare their titles for distribution.  It’s tough to ask 1,200 people to keep such an exciting secret a secret, thus the preempted press release and my email to you.  We currently publish about 2,600 titles, double the number from just four months ago.  The books should be listed at B&N properties within the next 30 days or so.

We posted a link here to inform our authors about next steps:  http://www.smashwords.com/distribution

This is a very significant turn, though one that I suspect will be followed by more Smashwords partnerships. The simple fact is that self-publishers are as much a part of the mainstream publishing market as any small house. The barriers have fallen and many authors will test the market without a deal with a publisher upfront. Smashwords makes the market entry very easy and preserves 85 percent of after-retail revenue for the author.

It’s another inventory that, at least now, BN.com and associated readers (Plastic Logic and iRex) can offer directly to readers. It seems certain that Smashwords titles will be available soon in other major online bookstores.

Barnes & Noble moves, embracing Google and Plastic Logic

barnes-noble-e-books-oBarnes & Noble, which introduced its iPhone e-reader back on June 29, launched a vastly expanded e-book store today. The announcement of the “world’s largest bookstore” is actually a combination of several existing catalogs, Barnes & Noble’s previous e-book listings, the ereader.com site and the Google Book Search catalog for a total of 700,000 titles, which may be read on iPhones, Blackberry, PC and Mac client software.

The application, largely a re-skinned version of the Fictionwise e-reader application it acquired, is useful (the user agreement references the ereader.com site as the source of user support). BN.com will store books for repeated downloads. There is no information about limits on simultaneous devices or download limits on the site.

The big news is that Plastic Logic has signed on to link its e-reader device that will ship in early 2010 to the BN.com bookstore, a relationship that BN executives described as “exclusive” during a conference call. This means we can probably expect format conflicts between Kindle and Plastic Logic. Oddly, there was no comment from Plastic Logic about this partnership, which draws a significant battle line in the e-book market.

While B&N has endorsed the $9.99 price point for frontlist titles and bestsellers, the store features books ranging in price from a dollar (including many $4.99 books from Barnes & Noble’s imprint, which has specialized in cheap editions of classic literature) to much more expensive e-books discounted from the hardcover or trade paper price, but well above $9.99. Flexibility in pricing will likely be one of B&N’s competitive strategies with publishers.

DRM is prominent in the application. The manual deals immediately with how to enter an “unlock code” for DRM’d titles.

Usability note about the app on most platforms (iPhone version pictured at right): Once installed, the application displays the title page of the user manual, but doesn’t explain it is a user manual or provide any navigation cues. They should fix that. It would be better if the first thing the app displayed was an “add books” dialog that walked the user right a reading experience of their own choice. Manuals, even good ones, are so 1990s. If your app isn’t intuitive, it needs more work. The PC version of the application opens to the user’s library, which is prepopulated with Last of the Mohicans, Sense and Sensibility, Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Dictionary, Dracula, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice and the user manual.

Strange bargain alert: Windows PC users who download and install the B&N e-reader app get six e-books (all pre-selected by BN.com-described above) free, but the offer apparently isn’t available for Mac users.

In the irony department, the fact that Chris Anderson’s book, Free, which is free on Amazon and Google Books, doesn’t appear in the B&N e-books search suggests that while the site is operating it is not being actively managed with the care one would expect. Either that or it’s a judgment by Hyperion, Anderson’s publisher, that B&N’s store won’t have a material impact on one of its important titles of the season.

There’s no way of telling whether BN will get great traction with the e-book initiative unveiled today. We know free reader applications get a novelty bump in downloads, sales from those downloads aren’t guaranteed. BN may benefit from launching the first business day after Amazon bungled the Kindle 1984 “refund,” but was anyone really waiting for another e-reader before jumping into this kind of reading? No.

Useless Info Dept.: Barnes & Noble’s iPhone app beats Amazon’s in first week

What does the fact that Barnes & Noble’s iPhone app, introduced last week, has been downloaded more than the Amazon Kindle for iPhone app during its first week on the market?

Nothing. It merely demonstrates that free applications enjoy a novelty bump, getting a try by readers interested in reading on the iPhone. Even as a horse-race statistic it means little or nothing.

The cumulative downloads of the Kindle for iPhone app far exceed those of the BN.com app, but the real question is how much revenue is being generated through the apps. Jeff Bezos has said that Kindle users read approximately 1.7 times as many books a month than paper book customers. If BN.com’s app performs the same over time, driving incremental e-book sales, then we’ll have something meaningful to consider.

$9.95 is the e-book price point, B&N says

Barnes & Noble has decided to match Amazon Kindle book list pricing for new and bestselling books, telling members of its eReader.com service that all new books will sell for $9.95 or less, according to InformationWeek and JKOnTheRun.com. In actual fact, because eReader.com has a rewards program that returns 15 percent of sales to the customer’s account for use buying books in the future, B&N is undercutting Amazon’s Kindle pricing by a significant margin, as much as $1.44 a book.

eReader.com also says it will never charge more than $12.95 for any e-book. eReader software is available for iPhone and iPod Touch, Blackberry, Palm OS, PocketPC and Windows Mobile, Symbian, Windows, Macintosh and OQO operating systems.

Barnes & Noble names eBay exec to head digital

Barnes & Noble announced the hiring of Jamie Iannone as executive vice president of shopping for BarnesandNoble.com. In that position, he will oversee “optimizing the online shopping experience” and the management of business development and new business initiatives. Iannone joins B&N from eBay, where he was vice president of global search.

Social networking critique: The press release tells where one can follow B&N on Twitter, Facebook, and so forth, but does not create a link to this new hire. If Iannone has a Twitter feed or a Facebook page, it should be listed there. That would convert some people into followers of Iannone and the company’s progress against the goals stated in the press release.