Ebook sales end today

control centreHere at the control centre of ICT in Education we’re preparing to wind down the selling of our ebooks. Unfortunately, the new EU ruling on VAT has meant that we need to spend time looking at whether it is cost-effective to continue selling ebooks, and if so how best to do so. In the meantime, the shop is being shut down from midnight GMT tonight, ie 30th December 2014.
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Our ebooks may be discontinued

Paperless officeNew EU rules on VAT (value-added tax) come into force on 1st January 2015. At present, the tax applied is the rate prevailing in the country of supply. Thus my ebooks are taxed at the rate of 20%. From the beginning of next year, this will change, and the rate of tax applied will be according to the place of purchase.

There are technical difficulties associated with the administration of this approach.

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Let's think about eBook Cover design

I’m involved in a great 5 week course (free!) for teachers called "Crafting your own ebook". I’ll be leading a session soon on the subject of designing a book cover, and although I’ve found some great resources, I thought I’d turn to the community to find out what tips and/or websites others might suggest.
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Reading and technology

Ebook readersWhat do you think of when you see the words “reading” and “technology” in the same sentence? I tend to think of e-book readers and how easy it is to transfer stuff to, and then read, on my phone. But there is more to it than that. According to Dyslexia Action, around one in ten students struggle to read standard print.

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4 Reasons to get published, and 7 reasons to self-publish

Terry's BooksIn this day and age, in which anyone can publish and distribute their books electronically, or self-publish them by going down several routes (none of which need include the traditional vanity publisher), why should anyone bother approaching a traditional publisher? After all, very few of the thousands of manuscripts that publishers receive find their way into book form, and of those that do, very few hit the big time.

There are, in fact, at least 4 reasons to try to get published by the age-old process of going to publishers. On the other hand, there at least 7 reasons to abandon the commercial publishing route, and do it yourself. In this article I look at both options, in particular from the perspective of an ICT co-ordinator in a school -- although the points could easily apply in many other contexts.

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Experimenting With E-Junkie

I've written several ebooks over time and am always interested in looking at different ways of selling them. The free ones are easy to deal with: I just upload them to my website and tell everyone where to get them. Ones for sale are more complicated, because you have to take into account other things, like:

  • Sales tax, in my case VAT.
  • Temporary URLs -- otherwise some people would just post the URL and effectively make the book available free of charge.
  • Shopping carts which are automatically updated as purchase requirements change.
  • A variety of payment methods.
  • An automated thank you email and/or redirect to a 'thank you' web page.
  • Bundles/deals, should one wish to offer them.

I've just started a free trial of e-Junkie. I've read a couple of articles in which people are singing its praises. One attractive thing is that, unlike many services, it doesn't take a transaction fee. Typically, that runs at a fixed amount, like one dollar, plus a percentage. That doesn't sound much, but if you want to make the books available at a fairly low cost you will find that hard to do: don't forget, PayPal, or whatever payment method you use, also takes its share.

E-Junkie was easy to set up. I only needed to look at two things in the documentation: how to enable the VAT charge for EU residents, and how to set up the API settings for PayPal to handle payments. And that was only because I didn't look at the set-up page to start with. I have to say that so far this is the easiest set-up of this kind that I've implemented.

The transaction side of things appears to be just as easy. When you make a purchase you are redirected to a page with a download link straight away, and you also receive an email with the same information plus a receipt for your records.

Now that I have set up the PayPal link, and other 'fixed-cost' items, uploading new ebooks should be easy.

Fingers crossed!

It seems to me that this sort of service could have use in a school setting too. Some schools sell DVDs of school plays and that sort of thing, to raise money for charity or to offset the cost of school trips for poorer pupils. At $5 a month for the lowest entry level, e-Junkie may be just what's needed. I notice, for instance, that you can set up tax rates for individual countries and even individual states in the USA. It may be worth giving it a whirl for a week.

Ebooks: No Need For Publishers To Worry?

Still safe?Are ebooks merely a footnote to publishing? I attended a Society of Authors' conference yesterday afternoon, and the panelists seemed to take that view. Apparently, according to the latest stats, ebooks in the UK account for only about 2% of the published output, and next year it's not predicted to rise to much above 3%. From this, the panelists concluded that the book industry was unlikely to go the way of the music industry.

Far be it from me to question the experts, but it seems to me that a few things are not being considered here.

Firstly, it's generally the case that when there is a sudden transformation, it's almost impossible to predict that it's going to happen. There's even a theory to help explain such changes: catastrophe theory. A good example is boiling water: until the last second, there is almost no indication that anything dramatic is about to happen to the state of the water.

So, just because only two or three percent of published books are in the form of ebooks should not, in itself, give any comfort to publishers at all.

Secondly, it is now technically feasible to sell books in single chapters. It used to be the case that you had to buy an album, and hope that most of the tracks were OK. Now you can buy only the tracks you want. By the same token, why should I have to buy a whole book, when there may only be one or two chapters that are relevant to my needs? One of the things preventing this may be that there are not good enough micropayment systems around (I say 'may' because there wasn't the last time I looked; there may be now).

Thirdly, when it comes to niche publishing, the situation may be different. I wonder, for example, what the proportion is in educational publishing or, even more specialised, ICT in education?

Fourthly, and this was actually stated by the panellists present, it is essential these days that if you're going to publish a book, you have to make sure there is an e version. This advice probably comes naturally to those of us have been experimenting with print-on-demand.

Like a lot of people, I like the feel of a 'real' book, and I like being able to put physical bookmarks and post-it notes in it, and to annotate it (in pencil, of course). But given ebooks' convenience and lack of weight, and the growing ubiquity of devices on which to read them, I think the panellists were perhaps being more optimistic than may have been justified.