Google just gave us another reason to set up an author/publisher account in their bookstore: Promo Codes.
The ad network giant sent out an email via the Google Play Books Partner Center yesterday which touted a new (?) promo code feature.
We’re launching a new marketing tool for publishers: promo code campaigns. Promo code campaigns can be used to offer select customers a free or discounted book without lowering your book’s list price in the store.
With promocodes, you can:
Offer discounts to customers in 75+ countries
Distribute free books to generate buzz or reviews
Create deals to integrate with marketing campaigns or event promotions
With promo code campaigns, you have three different discount options:
Free allows customers to redeem the book at no cost
Percentage off (ebooks only) allows customers to receive a percentage discount off the book’s list price.
Fixed price promotion allows customers to purchase the book for a lower fixed price.
After creating a promo code campaign, you can share the promotion with your customers via a code and hyperlink (URL) to the Play Store, where they can redeem the code. You can create up to 5,000 codes per campaign and up to 3 promo code campaigns per month.
I don’t know about you, but after Google announced the launch of a 70% royalty offer last week, I was expecting them to launch new tools and services you could use to promote sales in Play Books.
This is a good development, although I do not know if it will have much impact. Based on the response from authors last week, Play Books' share of the ebook market is negligible. Consumers don’t want to shop there, and releasing promo codes isn’t going to change that.
Well, Digitimes says that the screen unit for that larger ereader is going to ship this year.
E-paper solution provider E Ink Holdings (EIH) plans to launch new colored e-paper solutions based on its second-generation Print Color Technology before year-end 2020, according to industry sources.
The new colored e-paper solutions will target mainly e-book reader and e-notebook applications and will also enable device makers to enlarge the sizes of their products to 8-10 inches instead of the current mainstream 6-inch segment, said the sources.
Due to strong demand for its colored e-paper solutions, the company is currently expanding the backend module capacity at its plant in Yangzhou, China, which will boost its capacity significantly after completion at year-end 2020, the sources said.
In case you were wondering, "Print Color" is the name E-ink uses for the tech that goes into its Kaleido screens (see the E-ink website). The reason that it’s referred to as "second-gen" is because Kaleido screens are the second generation of E-ink screens to use a color filter layer on top of a grayscale screen. (The first-gen screens were the Triton screens.)
Digitimes is not a reliable source, so you should not put a lot of hopes in this. Also, production bugs are unpredictable, and have frequently caused delays to release schedules.
But wouldn’t it be great if it came true?
Can you imagine what it would be like if Onyx or Dasung launched a 13″ E-ink monitor?
There’s a problem with how a lot of writers approach writing online; they focus on words.
This is a problem because modern web design is based on the idea that text is complimented by images. In fact, most current website themes are designed with the assumption that images will be used, so when someone publishes a post without images, it often feels wrong in some subtle way.
That is especially true with the upcoming v2.0 release of my Author Website in a Box project. The new release is going to include a design for blog posts which will make them look gorgeous – if you use a featured image with each post. If you don’t, the posts will look vaguely off.
Since I know I will be making this an issue for users, I decided to go ahead and explain how to find and use images in a blog post.
Generally speaking, there are three things you need to know about this topic:
where to find the images
how to choose one
where to put it in the blog post
I already covered the first point in detail in another blog post, so I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, let’s start with choosing images.
How to Choose
The trick to using images with your blog posts is to find an image that says something about your post or its topic.
If you’ve never done this before, that might not be very useful, so let me put it a different way. Ask yourself the following questions about your blog post, and then use your answer to search for images.
What is your topic?
What is the subject of your post?
Is your post connected to a specific place, profession, industry, or what have you?
What is your opinion on the subject of your post?
What emotion or sense do you want to convey with the blog post?
There are more questions you could ask; these are just the ones I use when I go looking for images for my blog post. I have in fact been writing about the same topics for so long that I am having trouble coming up with questions for you, but I am sure there are more.
The thing about the image sites I linked to in my other post is that most have search functions that will try to match your search term with all of the tags attached to each image. Some will even try to match your search term with their AI’s guess about the content in each image. (This is still hit or miss, but the hits are getting better.)
If you can think of words to describe your blog post, chances are you will be able to use those words, to find images.
I have some advice on how you should choose them:
Before you choose an image, take a few minutes to consider the message it might convey unintentionally. For example, a few years back I wrote a post about Amazon hiring Dutch and Russian translators, and illustrated it with a photo of The Hague. This was shortly after Russia invaded the Crimea, an otherwise a completely unrelated event to my post which still managed to turn that photo into a comment on geopolitics.
When you are about to download the images, most image sites will offer multiple size options. Be sure to choose an image at least 1500 pixels wide. This will give you more pixels than you need, yes, but that is better than choosing an image which is too small.
Also, you should consider what the image will look like on FB and Twitter.
Where It Goes
Once you have found the image you want to use, you need to decide how and where to use it.
Actually, the first thing you should do is provide an image credit link when required. Almost all of the photos I use on Flickr are licensed under Creative Commons terms that require crediting the creator, which is why you usually see an image credit line at the end of my posts.
Once you have added that image credit, it’s time for you to add the image to the post.
The very first place you should use an image is as a "featured image". This is a special type of image which is not inserted or embedded in the post so much as it is "attached".
Do you know how a lot of blogs have a large image either right before or right after a blog post title? That is an example of a featured image. It was placed there automatically by the the website after said image was selected by the blogger.
So how do you set an image as a featured image?
Well, that varies between blog themes, but most sites will have a spot in the right-side menu column of the "edit post" menu that specifically says featured image. It should say something like "Set featured image" and if you click it you will be taken to a menu where you can either choose or upload an image.
If you want to just use the one image on your site, that is great. Go ahead and set that as the featured image, and you are golden.
But if you want to use several images, I have additional advice.
Be sure to only use images that stretch the full width of the post column, and not half, three-quarters, or one-quarter the width of the text. I make this suggestion because those partial-width images do not look good on smartphones or in your RSS feed. (It took me about 8 years to notice that detail.)
I also think you should use images sparingly, and that you should avoid making the post heavy on images and low on text. If, for example, you need four images to illustrate a point, combine them into a gallery.
One good way to use images is as section breaks, or to illustrate the key points in your post.
When I launched my Author Website in a Box project last June, one of the first questions that came across my inbox was how to build a bookstore on the AWinaBox site. My answer at the time was to recommend using a third-party service such as Payhip to handle payment processing and ebook delivery.
That was sound advice, albeit lacking in detail, but I knew I can do better.
When I launch AWinaBox 2.0, my answer will be to tell authors to use the template that will come bundled with the project. That launch is still a couple months away, so in the mean time I thought it might be useful to lay out the basic steps for setting up that bookstore so that everyone could use the info.
Update: It occurred to me after I published this post that "selling an author’s ebooks" and "having a bookstore" are two very different things. This post is about an author selling their own books. If you want to set up a bookstore, look into Aer.io.
I am just going to lay out the broad strokes here, and later come back and add the finer details.
The following project is moderately difficult and requires a modicum of skill, but if you can build a page on your and you can embed a FB Pixel, you can sell an author’s ebooks set up a bookstore on an author website.
What it comes down to is that you should use the buttons and code from a service such as Payhip, and embed them on your author website.
The first step is to set up an account at Payhip.
Payhip is not the only company that will handle payments and content delivery, but their platform is relatively easy to learn, they’re not too expensive, and they cover all the basics. If you’ve never done this before, Payhip is a good place to start.
Set up your account, including your payment info.
Create a listing for each title you want to sell. Upload the cover, title, blurb, and the relevant ebook files. At a minimum you should upload Epub and Kindle, and possibly PDF.
Proof all of your listings to make sure there are no errors.
Be sure to save the cover and the blurbs because you will (might?) need them later when you add the buy buttons build the bookstore on your site.
Oh, and BTW, I feel I should point out that you can sell ebooks by sending people to Payhip to buy them. I do not think that’s a good idea; IMO the Payhip pages have a terrible design which hurt my eyes, and I don’t think that they sell very many ebooks.
Instead, I think you should sell ebooks on your author website itself using the buy buttons and other code provided by Payhip.
Here’s how you will make that happen.
Before I tell you to build anything, I should probably point out that if you have a page with all your books in rows, you can add the Payhip buy buttons to the existing page (and save yourself a lot of work).
Also, if you have each of your books on its own page, you could also add the Payhip buy buttons to each book’s page. This is not my preference, however; I want all the books on one page.
If you don’t have those pages, here’s how you set up a bookstore page to sell an author’s ebooks.
Start by creating a new page on your site. Give it the name of "My Bookstore", and add a subtitle which gently reminds visitors that you make more money when they buy direct.
Below that you will need to make a row for each of your books. You’ll need to add the cover, the book blurb, and buy buttons so that they look something like this:
That first button is going to be the Payhip button (it uses Payhip’s code), and the other buttons lead to other retailers.
BTW, you do not have to use buttons (I just have a preference for them). In fact, it might be easier for you to instead use text links. I am finding that getting all the buttons to play nice requires finicky CSS, where text links are much less complicated.
In any case, you will need to add a row for each book to the bookstore page. You’ll need to make sure the covers match the blurbs, and that the buttons link to the right retail pages.
So it turns out that my suspicions about B&N’s server issues over the weekend were in fact correct. The retailer was hacked, and has confirmed that customer information, including email addresses and shipping info, was stolen.
Barnes & Noble sent out an email Wednesday night, informing customers about the hack, and denying that any credit card or financial info was compromised. (I have a couple reports from readers that suggest this is not true, so I am remaining skeptical at the moment.)
I have not received this email, but several readers have. I have included a copy at the end of this post. If you are a regular B&N customer, I strongly urge you to ask your credit card company place security checks on your cards just in case.
On a related note, B&N is still getting their systems back up and running again. In fact, the Nook servers are still down as of late Wednesday night.
Dear Barnes & Noble Customer,
It is with the greatest regret we inform you that we were made aware on October 10, 2020 that Barnes & Noble had been the victim of a cybersecurity attack, which resulted in unauthorized and unlawful access to certain Barnes & Noble corporate systems.
We write now out of the greatest caution to let you know how this may have exposed some of the information we hold of your personal details.
Firstly, to reassure you, there has been no compromise of payment card or other such financial data. These are encrypted and tokenized and not accessible. The systems impacted, however, did contain your email address and, if supplied by you, your billing and shipping address and telephone number. We currently have no evidence of the exposure of any of this data, but we cannot at this stage rule out the possibility. We give below answers to some frequently asked questions.
We take the security of our IT systems extremely seriously and regret sincerely that this incident has occurred. We know also that it is concerning and inconvenient to receive notices such as this. We greatly appreciate your understanding and thank you for being a Barnes & Noble customer.
Barnes & Noble
1. Have my payment details been exposed?
No, your payment details have not been exposed. Barnes & Noble uses technology that encrypts all credit cards and at no time is there any unencrypted payment information in any Barnes & Noble system.
2. Could a transaction be made without my authorization?
No, no financial information was accessible. It is always encrypted and tokenized.
3. Was my email compromised?
No. Your email was not compromised as a result of this attack. However, it is possible that your email address was exposed and, as a result, you may receive unsolicited emails.
4. Was any personal information exposed due to the attack?
While we do not know if any personal information was exposed as a result of the attack, we do retain in the impacted systems your billing and shipping addresses, your email address and your telephone number if you have supplied these.
5. Do you retain any other information in the impacted systems?
Yes, we also retain your transaction history, meaning purchase information related to the books and other products that you have bought from us.
Back in July Google started testing new royalty terms in the US, Canada, and Australia, and now they are expanding the terms to cover all markets. Google sent out an email on Tuesday, informing authors that they are now paying a 70% royalty of the retail price set by copyright holders in 60 plus countries.
I see from my post back in August (Google’s help pages concur) that you must accept a revised ToS to get the 70% royalty on ebooks. If you don’t accept it then you will still get the 52% royalty. Also, ebooks sold in Play Books in other countries will still earn a 52% royalty.
This is a major move for Google; they are in effect matching the royalty terms of the other major ebook retailers, and are giving up the frankly wacky pricing policy. I wonder what took them so long?
According to Google, the 70% royalty is available in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.
Here is the email which an author forwarded to me (thanks, Phil!):
We are making several important changes that benefit our publishing partners.
We are updating the Terms of Service applicable to Google Play Books (ToS) in several ways. The ToS are an agreement that contain important terms affecting your rights when publishing your ebooks on Google Play Books.
We’re increasing your revenue split to 70% in 60+ countries as part of our continuing effort to improve your publisher experience. You will earn 70% of the list price on ebooks sold to customers in these 60+ countries regardless of the price of your ebook. You will continue to receive your current revenue split on sales in the remaining Google Play Books supported countries.
We will unilaterally follow the list price that you provide for an ebook on sales to customers in the United States and Canada. We reserve the right to discount if we see a lower price for the ebook available from another retailer.
We’ve updated the ToS to remove Google Asia Pacific Pte Limited, Google Commerce Limited, and Google Ireland Limited as parties to the ToS and we are adding a sublicense clause allowing Google LLC to sublicense to Google affiliates such as those mentioned above.
Thank you for being part of the Google Play Books publishing community.
The Google Play Books Team
Barnes & Noble is going through the mother of all system crashes right now.
Some time late Friday night or early Saturday morning the retailer’s entire IT backbone crashed, and it took almost all of the company’s functionality with it. Everything from the cash registers to the catalog lookup is down. Even the Nook platform is down.
Edit: A number of B&N employees have called me on this, and they are right when they said that I exaggerated. The systems were still functional, albeit severely crippled by what some reports described as a ransomware/trojan/virus.
What’s even worse is that it’s Tuesday morning, and everything is still borked. I just checked the B&N website, and while I can see the site I cannot log in, much less buy anything. I also cannot access any of the Nook features.
UPDATE: B&N’s systems are mostly back up around 3 pm eastern.
There are unconfirmed reports on Reddit that B&N has been attacked by a virus or other malware. Given that we are now on day four of this situation, it is more than likely that they are correct.
I would advise you to start combing through your credit card statements for B&N charges. If I shopped there I would contact the credit card companies so they could add security checks on my cards just in case a hacker did make off with credit card numbers.
As we recall from the Bowker hack in 2018, sometimes the first public evidence of a hack is bogus credit card charges.
Today is Prime Day, which is basically a version of Black Friday where Amazon offers deals exclusively to Amazon Prime subscribers. While some of Amazon’s "sales" are fairly run of the mill, today’s deals are pretty awesome.
Amazon has put both its Kindle ereaders and Fire tablets on sale. The sales last until midnight on Wednesday, or until the item sells out. For example, the half-off Kindle Unlimited offer will be available until midnight, but the Paperwhite and the basic Kindle will probably sell out.
If I did not already have three of last year’s Fire HD 8 tablets sitting on my shelf, I would get one. (The tablets were intended to be raffle prizes for conferences and other public events.)
Do you see any deals you want to go for?
EDIT: If you do get one of these deals, you might want to also trade in a Kindle and take advantage of the offer where Amazon will give you 20% off the price of a new Kindle. (I am seriously considering doing this with an old Paperwhite.)
A university library found that hardly anyone was filling out the the survey form when they used a print periodical in the library’s collection. They concluded that no one is using the periodicals (that is probably true).
The economy is in the toilet, we are in the middle of a raging epidemic, and Republicans are trying to steal the Presidential election, but the WSJ wants you to know that books can compete with Netflix.
Amazon just took another step towards complete dominance of the book market supply chain. The retailer could already handle everything from production to the retail sale, and now they are moving one step up the chain to also provide the tools that are used to format books as well.
I was just reading in the KDP newsletter that Kindle Create, Amazon’s tool for making Kindle project files, has been updated with support for POD books.
In addition to regular Kindle ebooks and the PDF-ish Kindle format, Kindle Create can now also create the files you would need to upload to create a print edition:
With the latest release of Kindle Create, you can now upload your Kindle Create file to KDP as both an eBook and paperback of any trim size, creating both digital and print versions of your book simultaneously!
Routine but challenging paperback tasks like margins, page numbers, left/right side page layouts, widow/orphan treatment, and table of contents creation are also handled automatically.
The output files are of course proprietary to Amazon, and cannot be uploaded elsewhere (this makes sense when you remember that Amazon’s goal is to dominate the market, not give you a more useful tool). This limits their value, but if you are going to be selling through Amazon anyway, this may have cut out an extra step in your production process.
Calibre just hit a major milestone. The ebook library tool usually gets a maintenance update on Fridays, but today’s update was the 5.0 release. According to the changelog, the two major changes for this release include new features for the reading app, and a Python update/upgrade.
Welcome back, calibre users. It has been a year since calibre 4.0. The two headline features are Highlighting support in the calibre E-book viewer and that calibre has now moved to Python 3.
There has been a lot of work on the calibre E-book viewer. It now supports Highlighting. The highlights can be colors, underlines, strikethrough, etc. and have added notes. All highlights can be both stored in EPUB files for easy sharing and centrally in the calibre library for easy browsing. Additionally, the E-book viewer now supports both vertical and right-to-left text.
calibre has moved to using Python 3. This is because Python 2 was end-of-lifed this year. This should be completely transparent to calibre users, the only caveat being that some third party calibre plugins have not yet been ported to Python 3 and therefore will not work in calibre 5. For status on the various plugin ports, see here. This effort involved porting half-a-million lines of Python code and tens-of-thousands of lines of extension code to Python 3. This would not have been possible without the help of Eli Schwartz and Flaviu Tamas.
Highlighting in the E-book viewer
Dark mode support
Enhanced search in the E-book viewer
Calibre was launched 14 years ago as libPRS500. It was originally a Linux app intended to replace the Windows-only Sony Reader app.
Sony’s then-new PRS-500 had a proprietary USB cable with proprietary drivers (it was 2006, and this was Sony, what can you say). This presented a problem for Kovid Goyal, then a PhD student in California, and he solved it by reverse-engineering the drivers, which he then released as a very simple tool.
The tool quickly gained additional features, including format conversion and support for additional devices. In fact, by the time I first encountered it in the summer of 2007, I could use it to convert the MSReader ebooks I bought so I could read them on my Sony Reader.
LibPRS500 was renamed caibre a couple years later, and this great tool has been getting better ever since.