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Move Over BookBub, Fussy Librarian – Goodreads is Getting Into eBook Discounts

8251464902_716d57fe6d_hAmazon announced on Tuesday that Goodreads is launching Goodreads Deals, a daily email newsletter which offers GR members discounted ebook deals personalized to the books listed in their shelves.

From the Goodreads blog:

Book lovers can never have too many books. But sometimes feeding your reading habit can get expensive! And who doesn’t love a good deal? Given that we can’t give you an unlimited spending account for books (we wish!), we’ve come up with the next best thing: Goodreads Deals.

Goodreads Deals are selected for you, because they’re based on your individual Goodreads profile. If there’s an exceptional ebook deal for a book on your Want to Read shelf, we’ll let you know. (It’s another great reason to keep your Want to Read list on Goodreads updated!) And, if one of the authors you follow has a not-to-be-missed promotion on an ebook, we’ll make sure you don’t miss out.

Edit: Goodreads also published a second blog post to inform authors and publishers that there are no submission methods or opt-in guidelines at the moment; the ebooks are chosen at Goodread’s discretion.

“This is the first time we’re tapping into our member’s reading interests to offer deals, and it gives them another reason to keep their lists updated,” Chandler told PW. “Now, when books they’ve already added to Want to Read go on sale, we’ll let them know so they don’t miss out.”

Goodreads Deals is currently opt-in; members sign up, select their genres, and then the algorithms do the rest. The deals are offered based on the books a member has on their Want to Read shelf, or on their Already Read shelf. Members will also be shown deals for titles by authors that the member follows on Goodreads.

And of course there is the daily email newsletter, which brings the deals to you.

This is of course not the first time Goodreads has tried to monetize its membership. The social network had already taken to inserting adverts (sponsored posts) in members' update feeds, and they have also collected affiliate fees when directing members to ebookstores.

Coincidentally, today’s Goodreads announcement offers a new clue to last week’s puzzling story about email newsletter Fussy Librarian losing its affiliate status.

As of this morning, Goodreads is a competitor to Fussy Librarian, BookBub, and the other email ebook newsletter services, and clearly Amazon has been taking a closer look at how its competitors have been operating.

And not just a competitor, but also potentially the largest competitor. Goodreads has 50 million members, and if even a tenth sign up then GR will dwarf BookBub.

How many do you think will sign up?

image by Mosman Library


Daily eBook Deals Are Yesterday’s News, And Tomorrow’s Marketing Tool

5643713521_afc9d770cf_bThe Wall Street Journal has just noticed what authors and publishers have known since at least 2012, that email marketing still works wonders.

The WSJ published an article yesterday which focused on Bookbub and other sites that send out daily email blasts to promote sales on ebooks.

Every day, the company sends out more than 7 million emails pointing consumers to e-books that cost as little as 99 cents each and free titles as well.

A host of big and independent publishers list titles there, including New York-based Kensington Publishing Corp. The idea is to entice readers with a bargain, so they get hooked on a new author or series and eventually buy full- priced works.

"We know we might be shooting ourselves in the foot," says Mr. Zacharius. "But I can’t resist because it’s such a good way to stimulate sales." Every promotion the company has run through BookBub has been profitable, he said, despite the steep discounts.

Several companies have sprouted up offering these sorts of free books or discounts via daily emails, publishers say. In addition to BookBub, which was founded in 2012, other players include, and

None of this is news to readers of this blog. In spite of the repeated proclamations that email is dead, email continues to be a more effective direct marketing/recruitment tool than almost any other method.

Facebook and Twitter might be better at selling to fans, but the email blast is still the better way to convert a reader into a fan in the first place.

16812936603_ae50a8f581_hAnd even the major publishers have reached that conclusion (years ago, in fact). "There are more of these promotion companies, and because their reach has expanded, their effectiveness has increased," said Liz Perl, chief marketing officer at CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster.

Several of the Big Five are even investing in or expanding their own email marketing services, including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and .Penguin Random House. Earlier this year PRH launched LitFlash, a Bookbub competitor, while HarperCollins acquired an email blast service and folded it into Bookperk. And Simon & Schuster has been sending daily promotional emails for some time now.

Really, the only new news today would be that email blasts still work in 2015. I honestly expected, way back in 2013, that email blasts were going to reach a saturation point, after which emails would be regarded as the equivalent of spam, lose their effectiveness, and authors would move on to a new marketing trick.

Clearly I called that one wrong.


images by Skleyminiyo73mripp

Yahoo Mail is Barring Ad-Block Users From Seeing Their Emails

Digiday reports, and several reports on Twitter and the Ad Block Plus forums confirm, that Yahoo has started blocking ad-block users from viewing their inboxes. Instead, a user is shown this:


When sites like the Washington Post actively prevent ad-block users from seeing content, they’re betting that users will disable the ad-blocking extension.

But in the case of Yahoo Mail, that is a sucker’s bet. For one thing, Google has shown us that the majority of users will leave a site when stymied by an interstitial advert; how do you suppose they’ll respond to an ultimatum?

It would be a different matter if Yahoo Mail were some unique service, but it’s not the only web email service, nor is it the only free email service, as users are well aware:

Yahoo is only the latest web company to take a hostile position on the topic of ad blocking. In addition to the Washington Post, Axel Springer is experimenting with blocking ad-block users from seeing bild.deDigiday also reported that City AM, a London-based newspaper, started a trial this week barring ad-block users from reading its articles unless they disable their block. And ITV, the UK’s top broadcaster, has been barring ad-block users since earlier this year.

According to Tom Yeomans, CEO of  ad tech company Yavli, Yahoo could be betting that users will value the investment they made in their email addresses more than a good user experience.

“They’re likely testing this particular approach, banning ad blocker users, on their email service because they know their users will be forced to disable their ad blocker if they want to check their emails within their web browser,” Yeomans told Digiday. “Their users’ email account content are unique to them, so it’s different from news content where they can visit a competing website to get a same or similar experience.”

I wish Yahoo luck with that idea; it strikes me as a great way to get users to leave Yahoo Mail and not come back. And even those who have an identity built around a Yahoo Mail address can still transfer their email activities to another service and keep using the old email address remotely.

So unless pissed off users counts as a win, Yahoo has gained nothing today.

image by JD Hancock

Penguin Random House Launches LitFlash, a BookBub Competitor

There are approximately eleventy bajillion websites that help you find cheap reads, and if that’s not enough then you might be interested the latest project from Penguin Random House.

Yesterday a reader tipped me to the launch of LitFlash, a new service from PRH which, from what I can see from the outside, is some type of black-box clone of BookBub which will serve up recommendations for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and other ebook retailers.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you more. I’ve just signed up for LitFlash, but I am still waiting for an email. According to the about page:

LitFlash is a free daily email that provides you recommendations of low-priced eBooks chosen just for you based on your reading preferences and where you buy your eBooks.

With ten categories to choose from ranging from romance to biography to thrillers, you can get recommendations every day about inexpensive eBooks that readers have loved, including books that may be temporarily discounted only for a very short period of time.

This is potentially a good move for PRH, but it is also a situation where PRH has the deck stacked against them.

LitFlash differs from other recommendation services in that its corporate parent raises a certain degree of suspicion that the recommendations stem from PRH’s desire to sell more PRH titles, and not find you the best deal.

I am subscribed to a half dozen different services like LitFlash, including eReaderIQ, ManyBooks, Fussy Librarian, BookBub, etc. TBH, most of those emails now go directly to my trash folder (I don’t need more recommendations right now) but I stay subscribed because I generally trust the services to serve my best interest as a reader and buyer.

I don’t know that I would feel the same way with LitFLash, and I have Hugh Howey to blame for that. The launch of LitFlash reminded me of something Hugh said a couple months ago when he wrote this about BookBub:

There was a discussion recently in one of my Facebook groups about a possible BookBub for indies. If you don’t know of the service, BookBub has a massive mailing list of readers, and their daily blasts move a TON of titles. Subscribers sign up for their preferred genres and are then notified when books they might enjoy are on sale for cheap. Many an author has hit a bestseller list thanks almost solely to BookBub. The program is so powerful that many consider BookBub to be the best marketing tool available to authors today, if you can snag a spot.

And therein lies the rub. The reason BookBub works is because its users trust them. The works are vetted, and however imperfect this system, it results in a high level of trust and satisfaction. From what I understand, BookBub looks for a minimum number of Amazon reviews, a minimum average ranking, and solid cover art/blurb/etc. For readers, a BookBub promotion serves as a stamp of approval.

Would you trust Random Penguin’s book recommendation service to suggest good, cheap books, and not just ones published by PRH?

Thanks, Karen!

Audible Onebook Lets You Share, Recommend Audiobooks With Your Friends

audible onebookWith the Audio Publishers Association estimating that the audiobook market was worth $1.47 billion last year (and growing fast, according to independent reports), more people are using audiobooks than ever. And between the new program launched today and the recently launched Audible Unlimited service that is bound to grow.

I just got an email from Amazon with the news that Audible was launching a new program called Onebook, which will let Audible customers share their audiobook libraries with their friends.

Edit: Audible has asked me to emphasize that Onebook is invite-only at this time.

This program lets you email your recommendations to your friends. Yes, you can send an email, but you cannot send a recommendation via FB, Twitter, etc.

Readers recommend books to friends all the time on Twitter, FB, Goodreads, and other social networks, so this is rather weak tea, but Onebook does almost make up for its limitations.

The first audiobook you recommend through Onebook is gifted as a free download to recipients. You get to keep your copy of the audiobook, and you can also give it to up to ten people.

All the audiobooks recommended after that first one are sent as simple recommendations, and not free gifts. That makes them the same basic sharing trick as we already do with social media, but on the plus side the freebies and the recommendations can be sent to any email address, and not just current Audible customers.

Onebook is currently only available inside the Audible apps for Android, iPad, and iPhone, and from what I read in the email Onebook is invite-only at this time. The recommendations expire in 30 days, or sooner should the recipient choose to tell Audible that the emails are unwelcome.

You can find more details on the Audible website.

This is an interesting idea, but now that I have played with it for a while I wonder why Amazon did not go for a broader selection of sharing options. Sure, it’s fun to give away that first audiobook, but I bet that listeners would also like to tweet a recommendation while they listen to an audiobook – just like we can do while reading a Kindle ebook.

There’s no reason not to give us more sharing options (and every reason to do so). Perhaps the gripes about Audible’s technical issues are more true than we realize.

Baen Books Reveals Amazon’s Byzantine Policies on Kindle Email Delivery

6568286685_4c9794da60_bWhen I first reported a few weeks ago that Baen Books was one of the publishers which was no longer going to email deliver the ebooks you buy from it to your Kindle, I was the one and only news site to report the strange news that Amazon was blocking publishers but not retailers from using this feature.

While it was puzzling that Amazon would discourage one source from emailing your ebooks to you but not another, I have learned today that the real situation is far more complicated than that.

Earlier today one Baen Books customer noted that his kindle account was still getting the ebooks from Baen. After he asked about this on Baen’s Bar, Jenny Cunningham (a member of the Baen ebooks team) responded with:

It will always work for a limited amount of customers each day depending on the size of the files sent. Once we reach the threshold, which Amazon has not disclosed, they will cut it off. They also have the ability to decrease the amount they let through if we keep hitting the cap. This is why we encourage our customers to use other download methods.

So, it’s basically a crapshoot whether it will work for you.

Cunningham’s comment is behind a registration wall so it is not visible to the public. But it has been seem by several people, including my source (Thanks, Fbone!)

I have no explanation for this policy of Amazon, and I am in fact having trouble believing it really is Amazon’s policy. But it is not entirely crazy, and as a matter of fact it points to a reason why two publishers had to give up the feature while a third publisher (O’Reilly) and several retailers did not.

Suppose Amazon has set a daily cap for each company which limits the number of ebooks they can send to customers' Kindle accounts. Pragmatic and Baen could be the two most active emailers of the companies which had been contacted, and once they realized that they would hit the cap everyday they decided to simply announce that the feature was going away.

The other companies either weren’t contacted, or have not been impacted. O’Reilly, for example, won’t admit to any change in the policy. All they said was "We are hoping to continue this service with Amazon."

I don’t know that we can call that a confirmation of the Baen Books statement, but at the very least it does not disprove it.

I have queried Amazon for an explanation, denial, or obfuscation (I’m optimistic that I can get all three in a single email).

Stay tuned.

image by Sergey Galyonkin

Gmail for Android Gets a Unified Inbox

Gmail has long supported pulling in email from other email services, but unless you wanted to combine both business and personal accounts into one account (a no-no) it’s never been easy to manage the multiple accounts.

Google fixed that with the latest update to Gmail. Where in the past, you had to open the navigation drawer and switch accounts before seeing all your mail, now the Gmail app shows all your emails in a single unified inbox – including @outlook, @yahoo, and even @NotAnAmazonSecrectAgent.

And as you can see in the screenshot below, Google also refreshed the app with a radically changed interface which is reminiscent of the experimental Inbox app.

All Inboxes View - Final

Today’s update also adds  responsive animations (like when you open and close a conversation), the option to save to Drive with only a couple taps (it takes two, not one), and a new larger preview which will give you a better idea of what’s inside.

There’s a new compose button in the lower right corner, and Google has also improved the auto-complete function in the search box.

Google’s also taken the liberty of reformatting your emails. All emails, including the ones from non-Gmail accounts, are now shown in Gmail’s conversation view. This means the  emails will appear neatly stacked as one conversation, allowing you to easily know the context of a message.

You can find the app in Google Play.

Gmail blog

Inbox by Google Comes to the iPad, Also Now Available in Safari and Firefox

Google’s bid to reinvent the email client is still invite only (I have a couple invites to share), but it’s now available on the iPad. The ad network announced on Thursday that it was rolling out a new version of its email client.

Inbox by Google offers a completely different interface from the usual Gmail client. First unveiled last October, the app offers a cleaner look and several new features, including the option to set a message to snooze and have it pop up later.

On the iPad, the app looks like this:

inbox by google ipad


That’s an improvement, but I’m not sold on the iPad app just yet.

The web interface, on the other hand, is quite appealing. It’s now available in Chrome, FF, and Safari, and I’ve been playing with it for the past half hour.

It looks and behaves radically different from Gmail’s other interface, but generally in good ways. The Inbox by Google web app fixes most of the parts of Gmail which I kept tripping over, including the way I accidentally delete, star, and move items without intending to.

Here’s what it looks like in Chrome:

Inbox by Google chrome

I’m planning to keep using Inbox by Google for the near future, but I can already tell that a lot of the work I put into organizing my inbox (filters and sorting, for example) is going to have to be reworked. Much of what I used to have to do manually is now automated.

You can find the apps in iTunes and Google Play. The website can be found at, but you’ll have to first get an invite and install one of the mobile apps before you’ll be allowed to use the web interface.

To request an invite, send an email to [email protected] and Google will add you to the waiting list.

I also have 3 invites, in case anyone is interested.

Amazon Wants to Handle Your Work Email, While TL;DR Wants to Shorten It

4758012938_2fb0f90ed0_m[1]Pundits may be proclaiming that email is dead, but with everyone from Dropbox (bought an email startup) to Google (launched a new app) to Amazon (just launched a service) throwing money around it’s clear that the tech is very much alive.

A couple different email stories crossed my desk today. The first comes via Forbes and the WSJ, which report that Amazon is expanding on their other workplace services (WorkSpaces, Zocalo) with the launch of Amazon WorkMail.

Amazon WorkMail is a combined email and calendar service which is intended to challenge Google, Microsoft, and other tech companies on yet another front. It’s said to be a secure and simple to use email solution which works with existing mail and calendar tools (Outlook is mentioned, but not others).

It’s going to cost $4 a month per user for a 50GB inbox, and Amazon expects to sign up that it can deliver improvements and that companies will be satisfied with the experience. "Customers are not happy with their current email solution," Adam Selipsky, an executive with Amazon Web Services, told WSJ in an interview Wednesday. "A lot of customers feel those solutions are expensive and complex."

Do you know what’s not complex?

A new email app called TL;DR. This app is designed to let users send emails that are only 30 words long, or about as long as this one sentence.

Techcrunch reports that users can also link to longer versions of their missives as well as other documents, and when they browse their inbox the emails are styled like status updates from social networks.


The app is launching today, with Gmail integration. You can find it in iTunes and there’s said to be a Chrome extension, although I can’t find it. Apps for other platforms are coming soon.

What TL;DR is offering as its unique selling point is brevity. Those who use the app are effectively forced into trying to think of how to distill their messages into fewer words, while those who are using other email programs will see their messages cut off at the 30-word mark. For those browsing their feeds, threads can be viewed effectively like messaging conversations.

All in all this is a nifty idea, although it strikes me as redundant. This is basically a private social network based around email. It takes the idea of a tweet or Facebook update, makes it private, and offers users an archival copy in their inbox.

That does sound useful, but given that FB and Twitter direct messages are _already_ forwarded to my Gmail inbox it is also redundant. (Edit: And now that Twitter offers group DMs …)

Given that enforced brevity is already available via Twitter, I don’t see what this app adds. Well, it could add to your frustrations when incoming emails are automatically cut off at 30 words (I’m sure the rest is hidden behind a more button and not actually deleted). But I don’t see what positive aspects are added.

image  by cambodia4kidsorg

ReadZap Wants to Deliver Your Next Read to Your Inbox

readzap logoAre you running short of reading material on your mobile device and looking to get more delivered to your inbox?

Me neither, but just for the sake of moving this post along, let me show you ReadZap.

This recently launched service wants to enable users to "get new book recommendations, and comment and share your observations with your friends, all without leaving the comfort of your inbox". It sends out ebooks in short text installments to users' cell phones and other mobile devices, letting them read with whatever connected device they have at hand.

I personally can’t see the value of this service, but I do know that the developers believe that the time is rip for a device and platform independent service that keeps users from being "tied to entities that control how and when you can access the content you’ve paid for".

That sounds good, and while I am all for readers choosing whatever works for them I would point out that this idea has been tried before at least once, with little visible success.

In 2006, way back in the dark ages of the ebook era, there was an ebook startup called Daily Lit. That company got its start in emailing chunks of public domain works to subscribers, and later expanded into selling ebooks which were delivered in chunks to your inbox. After passing through a couple incarnations, Daily Lit was sold off and used to build Rooster, an iPhone app with a similar idea.

Daily Lit was a novel idea – in 2006. And since it solved the delivery/discovery problem it also wasn’t a bad idea for that era, but the same cannot be said for 2014. While Daily Lit served a purpose in 2006 (and solved a problem for at least some users), in 2014 no one really has any trouble finding new ebooks or getting those ebooks on to their mobile device.

Thanks to the plethora of book promotion sites, the average reader can find more ebooks in a day than they can read in a decade. And given the storage capacities of your average mobile device, you can now store more ebooks on a device than you can read in a year.

And that is why I don’t see the use of a service like ReadZap. Would you use it?

I really would like to hear a contrary opinion, and the comments are open.

Dropbox’s Solution to the Email Problem is Now Available for Android

A year mailbox-logo[1]after buying the email management app Mailbox, today Dropbox launched Mailbox for Android.

Have you ever been annoyed by the clunky sorting options in the average email client? Mailbox is the solution. This app lets you swipe to delete, archive, delay emails in your inbox. It has been available for iPhone and iPad for some time now, but it only launched for Android today (there’s also a beta app for OSX).

This app just came across my radar today, and I wish I had known about it a while ago. The app offers an interface that appears to fix many of the problems I see in the more common email clients.

Gmail for Android, for example, has awkwardly placed archive/delete buttons, and I believe that the stock email client on the iPad is so completely useless for dealing with even a moderate volume of emails that I won’t even express a negative opinion.

But now that I have Mailbox, none of that matters.

tumblr_inline_n3rvc65Uh61rwxcgm[1]In related news, the Mailbox team is also launching a new feature today called auto-swipe. The app will learn from how you sort your email and automatically repeat your actions on any incoming emails. Mute that discussion you don’t care about, snooze messages from your friends until after work, and route receipts to a list — automatically.

Gmail has a similar filtering option, but you have to set it up manually (and it doesn’t always work). I can’t wait to try Mailbox and see how it improves on Gmail.

Mailbox blog

Google Play