2% of best Kindle books of 2010 under $9 or 35%?

Amazon has its Best Books of 2010 list and it’s included two interesting lists for the Kindle –

  1. Top 100 Editors’ Picks of 2010. 
  2. Top 100 Customers’ Favorites of 2010.

These lists are remarkable in how different they are from the Top Kindle Bestsellers List. In particular, we’re talking about the percentage of $10+ Agency Model books that make their way on to these lists.

Analyzing the differences between Best Books of 2010 lists and Bestseller lists

First, let’s look at the Editors’ picks –

  1. Books above $10 – 56. 56% – Really?
  2. Books at $10 (including books between $9 and $10) – 42. A healthy 42%.
  3. Books below $10 – 2. How could there be just 2 books priced below $9 that are good enough to make it to the Top 100?

The editors would have us believe that out of the best 100 books this year 56 were priced above $10 and still are (or are now suddenly priced above $10). They would also have us believe that only 2 out of the 100 best books of the year are now below $9.

Might as well call this the ‘We love the Agency Model’ list.

Next, let’s look at the Customers’ Favorite Kindle books list –

  1. Books above $10 –  47. Customers picked $10+ books 47% of the time? Guess the Ken Follett 1 star reviews were counted as up votes.
  2. Books at $10 –  38.
  3. Books below $10 – 15. Interesting that only 15% of customers’ favorites were books below $9. Apparently, Stieg Larsson and all the indie authors are getting ignored totally.

It’s really hard to believe that customers somehow picked 47 books priced above $10 as their favorites.

These two lists would indicate a colossal success for the Agency Model – Editors are picking 56 books priced over $10 as their favorites for the year and readers are picking 47. Publishers might as well try $25 Kindle Books next.

It’s so strange because there have been so many complaints and so many $9.99 boycotts – surely, all the protests must mean something.  

Are people just complaining and then buying books over $10? Have we bowed down to Publishers?

Well, that’s really, really, really hard to believe – that customers make the effort to give a 1 star rating and write on the kindle forums about an overpriced book and then turn around and buy the same book and vote for it as their favorite.

The second list (Customers’ Favorites) obviously isn’t using reviews because Ken Follett’s $19.99 opus is in there. A book with hundreds of 1 star reviews makes it to the Top 100 – That would only be possible if the list is based on raw sales and disregards reviews. That in turn would mean that all we have to do is look at raw sales and then we can confirm that the Agency Model has won out.

What books did Customers actually pay money for?

Surely, that’s the most reliable measure of ‘customer favorites’ – that all of us customers bought the book with our hard earned money.

Well, thanks to the Bestsellers Archive which has replaced the super useful Movers and Shakers section we get a picture of Kindle users voting with their pockets –

  1. Books above $10 – 31. What? Only 31% of the bestsellers were above $10. That seems rather different from the Editors’ 56%.
  2. Books at $10 – 32.
  3. Books below $10 – 35. This couldn’t be right. Didn’t the great editors tell us that only 2 books below $9 were worth reading? How dare we stupid readers challenge the authority of the Editors? How could we waste our money and time on 35 books priced below $9 when Ken Follett has decided we should spend $19.99 on his opus?

Please Note: 2 were not books so the total is 98.

This is a remarkably different list from the other two – Is it not?

Making sense of the discrepancy

Here are the results and a brief interpretation in italics –

  1. Editors’ Top 100 Books of 2010 – 56 are books above $10 and 42 are books between $9 and $10. The Agency Model has succeeded wildly and lower priced books have had no discernible impact (only two were below $9). It’s the dream world of Publishers. 
  2. Customers’ Top 100 Books of 2010 – 47 books above $10 and 38 books between $9 and $10 and a mere 15 book below $9. The Agency Model is doing very well and book prices are stable and lower priced books have a rather insignificant market share (15%) and are probably only a distant threat. Kindle users have complained but they’ve still paid higher prices.  
  3. Customers’ Actual Purchases aka The Reality List – 31 books above $10, 32 books between $9 and $10, and 35 books below $9.

So which would you trust more – Editors trying to save their fast disappearing jobs or Kindle owners like us who’re voting with our cold hard cash?

There are a few key things the Reality List tells us –

  1. The Reality is that customers are voting with their wallets and the Agency Model is failing miserably.
  2. There are now more books under $9 being sold than books over $10.
  3. There were more books under $9 sold than either books priced at $9.99 or books above $10. Not only is the Agency Model losing we are also losing the $9.99 price point.
  4. Ken Follet wasn’t just rewarded with a 2.5 stars review rating – his book is the 98th best-selling Kindle book of 2010. 90+ authors sold more than him – that’s got to hurt. 3 independent authors sold more than him. Don’t care how much he’s making from his $19.99 novels – that has really got to hurt.
  5. 3 independent authors made it into the Top 100 bestselling books of 2010 list. It’s the beginning of a very dangerous trend if you’re a Publisher.

Here’s the real icing on the cake – It’s getting even worse for the Agency Model.

A Harsher Reality – The Current Top 100 List 

This is how the Top 100 list looks right now –

  1. Books above $10 – 27. It’s a mere 27% – The market share of Agency Model books in the Top 100 is around half of what editors would have us believe.
  2. Books between $9 and $10 – 30.
  3. Books below $9 – 40. Dear Editors, books below $9 aren’t 2% of the Top 100 – They’re 40%. It’s a ridiculously huge difference and strong proof that the Agency Model and $9.99 are both toast.

Please Note: 3 non-books were on the list so the total is 97.

There are some remarkable things in here –

  1. The number of books below $9 in the Top 100 has actually gone up to 40 out of 97. That’s the reward Publishers get for messing with Kindle owners – 40% of the bestselling books are below $9.
  2. There is a bias towards new Agency Model releases – new books obviously sell more plus all the preorders add up and boost sales rank. Despite that there are only 27 books priced above $10 in the Top 100.
  3. In the mind of editors – 56% of the best books of 2010 are above $10 and 42% are between $9 and $10. Our reality list of actual sales in 2010 says that it’s only 31% for each with the majority of Kindle book bestsellers (35%) being priced below $9.
  4. The current reality list (our current top 100) says 40% of Kindle book bestsellers are below $9 and only 27% are above $10.

As things get worse for them Publishers and Editors get more and more detached from reality.

Kindle Owners are in the drivers’ seat – whether they realize it or not

There are two factoids that illustrate that all the power is in the hands of Kindle owners now –

Firstly, despite Publishers’ attempts to impose the Agency Model on us we made books below $9 the largest share of the Top 100. 35% of the Top 100 were priced below $9 while only 31% were priced above $10.

Secondly, we’re making things worse for Publishers. As of right now, 40% of the Top 100 are books below $9.

The Agency Model is failing miserably and it’s also led to the death of the $9.99 price point. Publishers can get editors to conjure up whatever lopsided lists they like – Kindle owners are the ones with the money and the power and they’ve destroyed Publishers’ attempts to con them.

Defending the rights of people who hand out 1 star reviews

There’s a very interesting discussion going on in the Kindle forum and almost everyone seems to be against people who give books priced over $9.99 a 1 star review.

Here’s most of the original post complaining about 1 star reviews by the $9.99 boycotters

This is directed to those One Star Reviewing books that are over 9.99…

Please Stop. Really.

I understand that you believe this will in some way aid the boycott cause and force the publishers to lower the prices of ebooks. Low reviewed books won’t be bought and they lose money, right?

Possibly. But at what cost?

1. You hurt the author. The author has possibly written an excellent book, deserving of praise. You give it a low review for something not in their control. It doesn’t make sense. By all means, don’t buy it…but don’t lie about it being a bad book.

2. Hurts the cause. I don’t know about you, but when I see that a book I like doesn’t have 4-5 star rating, I go and check out what people didn’t like. When I see that the low rating is because the person wanted to make a statement about prices…it makes me wonder why I support the boycott. It comes across as mean-spirited.

3. It hurts you. You now come across as rabid extremist. If that’s how you wish to be viewed, keep it up. I certainly don’t wish to be associated with you.

So please…remove the unwarranted reviews and stop the negative actions. Victory at any cost isn’t worth it if you lose your integrity.

It’s beautifully written. It almost makes me want to not write against it.

The $9.99 boycotters are my heroes

Here are some of the things the $9.99 boycotters are helping enable –

  1. Keeping some books at $9.99. 
  2. Keeping other books at $12.99. If it weren’t for the $9.99 boycotters we would have had $15 and $20 prices a long time ago. If not for their current efforts the new Agency Model benchmark wouldn’t be a mix of $9.99 and $12.99 – It would be a mix of $14.99 and $19.99.
  3. They are keeping ebooks alive. No matter what people might think $20 ebooks would not have survived.  
  4. They are keeping eReaders alive. Without $9.99 books there wouldn’t be people buying the Kindle or Nook.
  5. They are hurting the worst offenders. Publishers and Published Authors (yes, those pure authors who have no choice but to listen to their Publishers – those naive innocent authors who’re trying to get 50% royalties) who promote $14.99 deserve to be hurt financially.

By voting with their dollars and by raising their voices the $9.99 boycotters ensured that people now have the luxury of both reading ebooks on their eReaders and complaining about the $9.99 boycotters i.e.

It comes across as mean-spirited

You now come across as rabid extremist.

This is the reward people get for fighting the good fight.

All of us, whether or not we support handing out 1 star reviews or the $9.99 boycott are going to get a taste of this soon. When the people who laugh at us for spending $399 or $379 or $189 or $109 on a dedicated eReader get the benefit of cheap ebooks, lots of selection, and sub $100 eReaders (soon).

No good deed goes unpunished.

The fallacy that Authors are the good guys and 1 star reviewers are rabid extremists

Not sure what part of –

  1. Publishers want to take advantage of readers and get as much money as possible.
  2. Published Authors are with Publishers because they get paid by them.
  3. Neither party has shown any affinity towards readers.

The author of the forum post is missing.

It’s human nature that we want to be both the good guys and get what we want. It’s some sort of cosmic joke that people don’t just want to win and get things their way – they also want to get applauded and be prom queen.

It’s not always possible. In fact, it’s not possible a lot of the time.

Publishers are using this part of our nature – our desire to be good guys – to fight their pricing war. They talk about doing things the right way, about saving books, about making sure authors get paid. Never mind that they’re trying to take advantage of authors too.

Publishers are treating us like Sheep

This is what Publishers and published authors are trying to do – Kill off eReaders and eBooks. Failing that, keep ebook prices close to paper book prices and increase their profits.

This is what they are trying to sell us on – $15 and $20 ebooks that can’t be re-sold and can’t be shared. However, they aren’t saying that – they’re gradually creeping up using $12.99 prices and by appealing to our desire to be the good guys.

We are sheep. Born to be shorn. Born to be talked into how shipping and storage and paper and ink cost nothing. Authors hide behind Publishers and Publishers hide behind excuses and we buy it.

Prices are already waffling between $9.99 and $12.99. 2 years of effort might be undone. All because we are sheep happy to believe that Publishers and Published Authors have our best interests at heart.

Voting with our Dollars and 1 star reviews are BOTH needed

Voting with our dollars helps. It reduces sales and it ensures $12.99 and $14.99 books don’t get as much publicity.

However, there are a few problems –

  1. New books will still rise a lot. There are pre-orders that all get counted on release day and more people buy new releases. So even books that are boycotted still show up in the top lists. It makes the $9.99 boycott seem much less powerful than it is.  
  2. Publishers can use incremental pricing and fry us like frogs in hot water. They are playing around with $10.99 and $11.99 and $12.99 and if that works the next stop will be $14.99 and then $19.99. If people keep silent sooner or later they will be in a position where they wish they hadn’t been silent.
  3. There’s no way to hear from other readers and there’s no way to reach other readers.

Voting with our dollars is an invisible vote. It’s also one whose impact isn’t as visible because of the pre-orders effect.

It’s a classic communication and information gap. It seems as if the $9.99 boycott is failing when it’s actually doing wonderfully well. Despite the Agency Model lots of Publishers are pricing books at $9.99.

Why 1 star reviews are a necessary evil

There are probably lots of other people who are holding off on buying $12.99 and $14.99 books.

By leaving a 1 star or 2 star review we/they get to talk to each other and strengthen their resolve. Publishers get to hold secret meetings and leverage Apple’s iPad to fight the $9.99 boycott – The least we should be entitled to are the forums and the reviews.

Pricing is a part of the review. It indicates value for money. It indicates whether Publishers think we are sheep or paying customers. It indicates what the value of books is perceived to be.

We tend to forget we are in the middle of the Book Wars

This is war – companies are going bankrupt. This isn’t a civilized tea party where you have to courtesy and show how well brought up you are.

There’s a lot at stake –

  1. What share of the pie middle-men get. Currently authors get just 8-15% of books. As a reader you should be a bit concerned that 85% or more of the money you pay is going to other people.  
  2. Who has the control. Do we really want to have Publishers decide what books we get to choose from?
  3. A fair shot for authors. How many authors never get a chance to send out their books because they don’t meet some Publisher criteria?
  4. Reasonable prices. With ebooks we don’t have re-selling and we don’t have sharing and yet Publishers want $14.99 while hardcovers sell for just a little more. $9.99 is an extremely reasonable price.
  5. A win for customers over manipulators. Detach yourself from your emotions and beliefs and look at what Publishers have been doing – They’ve been playing around with prices and feeding us different sob-stories and trying to see how they can maximize the fleecing.  

The democratization of Publishing is at stake. There may be a way to be super polite and also win the book wars – However, it certainly isn’t apparent. In fact, it currently seems like by being super polite we are losing out – eBooks have climbed from $9.99 to $12.99 and Publishers are delighted at how gullible we are.

For the first time we have seen huge advancements – eReaders that let a lot more people participate in reading, eBooks that are cheaper and more convenient, anybody being able to publish, authors getting 70%.

All of this is at stake. Yet we have people who want to be the good guys – people who would rather be polite and civil than see a revolution in books.

If we or a group of Kindle owners give 1 star reviews it is because it is our only weapon to preserve all the things worth fighting for in books – anyone being able to publish, authors getting 70%, more people being able to read, more growth in books.

Gandhi had said that the bigger sin is to silently let someone take advantage of you. By protesting higher prices we aren’t losing our integrity – we are demonstrating it.

Perhaps we should be happy we have people who care enough to be rabid extremists – If it weren’t for them and all the other $9.99 boycotters we wouldn’t really have eReaders or eBooks. Perhaps then people could be happy buying $20 paper books, being exploited by Publishers, and cherishing the feeling of being non-rabid and run of the mill.

Kindle in February – War Season

There are so many wars and potential wars going on it is overwhelming. February is turning out to be a crazy month for the Kindle and eReaders.

The Fight for $9.99

The Fight for $9.99 continues –

  1. The authors gloating over Amazon backing down just realized that Amazon’s exact words were ‘we will have to back down’ and not ‘we have’. Lots of Macmillan authors are still missing the Buy Now button at Amazon.   
  2. Rupert Murdoch (whose News Corp. owns Harper Collins) also brought up $9.99 and the iPad and that Amazon would have to agree to higher prices.  
  3. Author John Scalzi is trying to rally readers – Does he really expect readers to rally for a price increase from $9.99 to $14.99?

Authors are collateral damage and that’s unfortunate.

Here are Rupert Murdoch’s exact words (courtesy Media Memo via Seeking Alpha) –

We don’t like the Amazon model of selling everything at $9.99. They don’t pay us that.

They pay us the full wholesale price of $14 or whatever we charge.

We think it really devalues books and it hurts all the retailers of the hard cover books.

We are not against [inaudible] books. On the contrary we like them very much indeed. It is low cost to us and so on.

But we want some room to maneuver in it. Amazon, sorry Apple in its agreement with us which has not been disclosed in detail does allow for a variety of slightly higher prices.

There will be prices very much less than the printed copies of books but still will not be fixed in a way that Amazon has been doing it.

It appears that Amazon is now ready to sit down with us again and renegotiate pricing.

It is quite amusing to hear Publishers talk as if they are the ones that buy books. Have to give credit to Mr. Murdoch for admitting that the costs are lower for eBooks.

Barnes & Noble a takeover target

B&N stock has been going up as Ron Burkle attempts a hostile takeover

Ron Burkle, a financier who is fond of raiding retail companies, plans to take a 37% stake in the nation’s largest bricks-and-mortar book seller, Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS). Burkle’s Yucaipa investment funds have already bought 18% of the book company

Unfortunately Mr. Burkle seems far more motivated by the future of his bank account than by the future of Publishing –

Burkle may believe that the real estate under Barnes & Noble’s stores has hidden value, and if he gets control of the company, it may be based on his gamble that the real estate is worth more than the book firm’s $1 billion market cap.

If he takes over B&N the Nook might see an untimely demise.

Scroll Motion partners with textbook publishers on iPad textbooks

Engadget and WSJ write about Scroll Motion’s deals with Textbook Publishers for the iPad –

 The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Kaplan, Pearson Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt K-12, and the educational sector of McGraw-Hill have all made deals with the company to develop textbook apps and test-prep / study guide apps for the Apple iPad

This is pretty important news. A lot of people think the iPad’s success is going to be dictated by the kind of apps it has and textbook, study guide, and test preparation apps certainly add value.

WSJ talks a bit about the prospects for eTextbooks and iPad’s possible role –

Whether the iPad will be the digital device to transform the classroom remains to be seen. “Nobody knows what device will take off, or which ‘killer app’ will drive student adaptations.

Finally, WSJ reveal some details of the Scroll Motion textbook apps –

The features of its iPad deal with publishers include applications to let students play video, highlight text, record lectures, take printed notes, search the text, and participate in interactive quizzes to test how much they’ve learned and where they may need more work.

Record lectures and take printed notes – that sounds quite alright.

Reuters reviews Apple Vs Amazon

Reuters has an article covering Amazon vs Apple and this very interesting factbox –

A look at the companies:

* Market capitalization: Apple $176 billion, Amazon $56 billion.

* Fiscal 2009 revenue: Apple $42.9 billion, Amazon $24.5 billion.

* Total cash, equivalents and marketable securities: Apple $39.8 billion, Amazon $6.4 billion.

* Fiscal 2009 free cash flow: Apple $8.9 billion, Amazon $2.9 billion.

* Fiscal 2009 operating margin: Apple 27.4 percent, Amazon 4.6 percent.

* Employees: Apple 34,000, Amazon 24,000.

Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon – all the giants have their own favorite wars and sometimes they are amongst each other.

More eReader and Kindle odds and ends

  1. Apple has forced iPhone Reading App Stanza (which is owned by Amazon) to end USB transfers. Now only WiFi transfers are allowed. Apple has also asked Stanza not to reveal why it had to make the change.
  2. Amazon have revived their Kindle Deals page and are promoting Carpool Diem by Nancy Star. It is priced at $1.99.

Still cannot get over John Scalzi rallying readers to fight Amazon and enable $14.99 ebook prices. Expecting readers fighting to raise ebook prices – Author delusions know no bounds.