The D Publishing furore, exciting Earls news and if:book’s ebook

So, surely the digital publishing world is winding down for Christmas? The list of announcements and industry stoushes must be coming to an end? Nope, not if the buzz around D Publishing’s contracts, Exciting Press’s Nick Earls deal and if:book Australia’s first ebook are any indication.

According to Crikey’s new Lit-icism blogger, Bethanie Blanchard, the furore over Dymocks’ D Publishing venture’s author contracts continues. She provides an excellent analysis here. D Publishing is a new venture for the book retailer, launched only a few weeks ago. Bookish social media users have been in a flap ever since with warnings for authors over what has been described as “Australia’s worst publishing contract”.

I haven’t seen one of the contracts, but would argue that any author can negotiate with any prospective publisher, and if that publisher won’t budge on clauses of concern, then they’re probably not going to care much about the author and their book/s in the future either, so the author should look elsewhere. Smashwords might be a good start, though it is possible to go it alone too. Services like BookBaby and Lulu are other options to consider.

If they’ll have you, the mainstream publishers still seem to be the best bet in terms of creating a professionally edited, well-designed and marketed product, though Australia’s own Nick Earls has just spurned the legacy publishers to sign a 12-book digital distribution deal with a small US start-up, Exciting Press. Bet they’re excited!

Meanwhile, the good people at if:book Australia have just published a free ebook, Hand Made High Tech, containing ten essays from Australian writers on the future of books and reading in a digital world. It’s edited by if:book Australia manager Simon Groth, and published using the WordPress-powered PressBooks platform. You can download it free for Kindle, as an ePub file for your e-ink reader, as a PDF, or read it online. There’s a hashtag, #ifbookessay, so you can join the conversation while reading too.

The opening chapter is by Associate Professor Sherman Young, author of The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book (UNSW Press 2007) and Media Convergence (Palgrave, 2011). I haven’t yet read the latter, but recommend the former to anyone who is interested in the future of the book. Sadly, it is not available as an ebook, but you can order the print version. It’s a very beautiful object as far as printed book go.

I’m looking forward to reading the second chapter, by Australian publishing veteran Peter Donoughue, the former managing director of John Wiley & Sons Australia blogs about industry developments at Pub Date Critical. It was one of his posts that finally helped me get my head around the wholesale versus agency models for book distribution.

The other essayists are author John Birmingham, founder and CEO of Norg Media Bronwen Clune, digital poet Jason Nelson, journalist, novelist and podcaster Myke Bartlett, comics guru Jackie Ryan, writer and game developer Paul Callaghan and author of the Writer’s Guide to Making a Digital Living Christy Dena.

Non-Stop News November: Part I

Click on the image to see the Google advantage in action.
After more than two years of watching their local publishing colleagues get digital, tech giant international competitors eat into their market, and a handful of locals like Booku.com enter the fray, many of Australia’s top independent booksellers are finally, happily, in a position to provide their customers with ebooks … in time for Christmas, too.

It’s great news for the industry and for consumers. The more players there are in the market, the more seriously the publishers will have to be about meeting our demands, by which I mean providing us with the ebooks we want to read, at an appropriate price point, when we want to read them.

The more Australian retail players there are in the ebook market, the more virtual hand-selling of our own authors’ works there will be, and, one would hope as a result, the more Australian authors being published.

The opportunity that indie ebookstores bring to sell Australian – and in specific cases, hyper-local – books to a global market has to be a good for our literary scene too.

Serendipitous meetings with books we’re sure to love are just as much more likely in an online indie as a bricks and mortar in my view. See how long it takes you to find a book you’d like to buy when browsing in Apple’s iBookstore compared to Booku and you’ll see what I mean.

Speaking of multinationals, it intrigues me that while Google had been talking about launching its ebookstore in Australia for more than a year, it chose to go live the day before the first of several independent bricks and mortar Australian booksellers opened their own ebook arms last month.

The search engine behemoth announced the opening of its own ebookstore, and two others in which is partner (with Dymocks – which is separately soon to launch its own publishing arm, D Publishing – and Booktopia), on November 8, several days after the invitations for the November 9 opening of Mosman indie Pages & Pages’ launch (in partnership with Australian social reading tech start-up ReadCloud), had gone out. A coincidence? Perhaps.

Pages & Pages will be followed later this month (or not long after) by fellow ReadCloud partners including Better Read than Dead (of Newtown), Shearer’s (Leichhardt), Abbey’s (Sydney city) and indie chain Berkelouw. ReadCloud says it is working with some 200 bookstores.

Some will sell the previously mentioned Cumulus tablet.

All of them will face a great challenge from Google in that many of their customers will find them via a Google search. Will Google eBooks pop up in those same search results? A quick test suggests yes, it will, though not at the top of the page. Not yet, not on my terminal, anyway. That said, take a look at the image below and see where Google eBooks appears when you search for “eBooks Sydney”.

For more on Google’s plans in Australia and details of the latest Booki.sh-powered indie ebookstore launches, see Part II here.