Would you like an e-book to go with your print book?

By John Yunker,

I can’t say I’ve ever purchased both a print and digital version of the same book.

But I’ve certainly heard from people who have — and have long yearned for the day when you could get digital and print books bundled together in a reasonably priced package.

In October, for Amazon customers, this day will arrive.

Amazon calls the program Kindle Matchbook, which is an odd title. I keep envisioning Kindling and Matches, which can’t be the intended visual.

You can read the press release here.

In short, Amazon will allow publishers and authors to offer anyone who purchased the print edition of their book a discounted (or free) version of the e-book.  Amazon will cap this additional e-book price at $2.99, and I know publishers will be experimenting with free e-books as a way to spur additional print book sales.

Harper Collins is on board with the program so far, though I’ve read very mixed feedback so far to the program.

Some people like it. Some don’t.

As for us, we’re up for giving it a shot. It will be very interesting to see just how many people want both print and digital versions of books.

Our authors have the option to participate in this service, and most are eager to try it out.

This is a smart move for Amazon, and it will further reinforce the relationships they have built with their customers.

An easy way to move files from your Mac (or PC) to your Kindle

By John Yunker,

When I tried out the Kindle Fire, the first thought that occurred to me was How do I easily get documents onto it?

Of course, any book, song, or movie I purchase from Amazon is automatically downloaded to the Kindle — and made available to my Kindle app on my iPad and Mac.

But what about PDF files or Kindle books that I’ve downloaded or made elsewhere, like Gutenberg.org?

I still use my (now ancient) second-generation Kindle, which shipped with a USB cable that allowed me to drag files over. That’s the old way of doing things.

The Kindle Fire doesn’t even ship with a USB cable.

These days, we have the cloud — that disk drive on the Internet somewhere that will hold all of your documents, songs, and other digital detritus.

But the cloud doesn’t always make things easier. If anything, I find that people are really confused about  managing all these Kindle devices, apps, and clouds.

So Amazon wisely created a simple application, simply named Send to Kindle, that allows you to virtually drag files to your Kindle. There is a PC version here.

Here’s what it looks like when you open it:

Pretty simple — you just drag a file onto it and it then displays a window like the following:

I just used a test document. What’s interesting is that it gives you a choice of Wi-Fi transfer (which means your device is on the same network as your Mac) or Amazon’s “Whispernet” network — which Amazon charges for. I’m cheap, so I opt for Wi-Fi. And as you can see here, the app has discovered my iPad (which has the Kindle app installed on it). If I had multiple devices and Kindles on this network, you would see those as well.

In this example, I’m transferring a PDF file, but I could also transfer a Word document, raw text document, or another .Mobi (Kindle) book.

The file is also automatically saved in my Kindle library — which lives up in Kindle’s cloud. If I were to click the “Manage your Kindle” link I would be taken to my Kindle library web page, where I can see everything in the library.

So far, I’ve used the app several times, and it works as advertised.


Dark clouds (with a silver lining): Predicting the year ahead in publishing

By John Yunker,

When the CEO of one of the world’s largest publishing houses says he sees dark clouds ahead in 2012, this is big news.

It’s big news not so much because there are dark clouds on the horizon, but because a CEO is saying so.

That is, I believe he is preparing his employees for major structural changes in 2012.

And I’m not just talking about staff reductions, though I’m sure those are coming as well. Cost cutting alone is never the solution when an industry is being disrupted.

Reinvention is the only solution in times like these.

So what does all this reinvention mean?

I have a few thoughts, which I’ll translate into predictions for 2012:

1. Big publishers will stop accepting free returns from booksellers

For years, booksellers have been free to return any unsold books to the publisher, often for a full refund (or full credit). This is a practice that’s unheard of in almost all other retail businesses, and it really hurts publishers. Shipping books back and forth alone is expensive, and small publishers (like us) have been forced to not take returns (except for special circumstances, such as author readings). This industry-wide no-return policy has hurt us because booksellers are used to the no-risk policy supported by larger publishers. Yet I believe that even the large publishers are going to start testing the waters with booksellers in 2012, trying to move away from this practice. This is just not a sustainable practice for either party. Booksellers will naturally be forced to order fewer books and to only order those books they truly believe in, but I think this will ultimately be a good thing; hand-selling books that an employee believes in is what good bookselling is all about. Naturally, I’m a little biased as both an author and publisher: Changing these policies will give authors a more realistic view of sales (i.e., no more huge sales numbers, only to be reduced once the returns come in), and it will level the playing field for all of the small presses.

2. Booksellers will reinvent themselves as cultural curators, publishers, community centers, and gift shops (or all of the above).

I don’t want to live in a world with no local bookstores. And I do not believe that Amazon will win and all local bookstores will lose. I don’t believe this because I’ve already seen signs of bookstores reinventing themselves. Many already sell a mix of new and used books, as well as gifts and locally curated art. A few small stores are also becoming local publishers (many indie bookstores with Espresso Book Machines, such as Vermont’s Northshire Bookstore, run small publishing imprints). And a few others are becoming non-profit cooperatives. I’m also optimistic that we’ll see bookstores begin to embrace books from small publishers again. Booksellers need to embrace their role as cultural curators, separating the great books from the awful books instead of just taking co-op funds from large publishers and promoting the same books as Costco. To survive and thrive, booksellers need to stand apart.

3. Big publishers will take fewer chances on new authors.

Based on what we’re hearing from authors who submit to us, it’s brutal out there. Big publishers are cutting back on new authors and putting more money behind fewer authors — and this is great news for us: The quality of the work we’re seeing is amazing. Truly. And, honestly, it makes sense for the large publishers to put more resources behind their established authors. After all, bestselling authors are now being tempted into self-publishing, and the large publishers need to create compelling reasons for them not to jump ship.

4. Small publishers will take a lead in publishing books that matter

This is hardly much of a prediction, as it has already happened. Look at the nominees and winners of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. We’re talking small presses. But the bad news is the university presses are being hit hard as universities cut budgets.

As a small publisher, we’re well positioned for 2012 because we’re small and we’re focused. We’re building a brand centered around “books with a world view” and “eco-lit,” and we’re embracing technology. That doesn’t mean we won’t be in for a bumpy ride as well. But where others see dark clouds, we see a silver lining.

PS:  Publishing guru Mike Shatskin has a great blog post on this as well.

The Kindle Fire is a great deal as tablets go, but I’m sticking with the old Kindle

By John Yunker,

I like the Kindle Fire.

Though many tech gurus have criticized it for not living up to the Apple iPad (and it doesn’t), the Kindle Fire is an incredible deal at $199.

I played around with the Fire for a bit. And despite the name (Fire? Really?) the device didn’t feel cheap at all, as many said. Though it’s not as user friendly as the iPad, I had no trouble figuring out how to use it. The color screen is a welcome sight if you love full-color books. And the fact that you can start watching mov