Oops, There Goes One Business Model!

Uh, not my business model.

This is a new feature from atop my Mobipocket publisher page:

Important note on public domain titles:
We want to provide a heads up that we’re working on a policy and procedure change that will fix a customer experience problem caused by multiple copies of well-known public domain titles being uploaded by a multitude of publishers. For an example of this problem, do a search on “Pride and Prejudice.” The current situation is very confusing for customers as it makes it difficult to decide which “Pride and Prejudice” to choose. This note is just a heads up that we’re working on a change. When we’ve worked out the details, we’ll post them here. In the meantime, we ask that you please do not contribute to this confusion by uploading any public domain titles that are already in the Kindle store.

Sad part is, while a lot of people may have enjoyed earning quite a bit of money (we’re talking five figures a month easy) reselling Project Gutenberg-type books in the Kindle store, particularly via Mobi, that business plan was never sustainable.  Amazon is far more interested in lifetime customer retention than they are in earning a few bucks for doling out Darcy.  Whatever the change is in Amazon/Mobi policy… it won’t be good for PG resellers.

Semi-aside, Goodloe was looking for (non-porn) stuff to do, and, as I’m still sorting through glitches in Silk’s workflow, he generously made his usual awesome covers for the “Munsey’s, AKA Munseys, but not the ones that come out as CreateSpace ‘cuz Dec. 31st I ran out of ISBNs but not my lust for free setups” imprint.  Waiting for these new titles to hit the grid, I discovered something quite interesting.

Someone’s been using the DTP store to reissue titles, from PG in general, but Munsey’s in particular, using Manybooks covers and descriptions.  Without an easily trackable imprint…  Who could that be?

It gets more fun, ‘cuz the person I’m thinking of, whoever he might have been, only really started to do this in April, day or so after I mentioned feeling guilty, ‘cuz the first Baynard Kendrick sold way too well in the Kindle store.

Essentially, after that little mention, and its accompanying follow-up book, every PG title, for 2 weeks or so, ended up in the Kindle store, via the DTP interface, by someone using Manybooks covers, descriptions, and author names–but no publisher imprint.  Same person gave up on that, and is now back to Munsey’s.

Who could that be?  Who?  WHO?  I mean, who would use unwatermarked Manybooks images?  Have that kind of skill with automated ebook processing, but want to do it quietly, without a publisher name when everybody wants a publisher imprint?  WHO? WHOOOOOOOOOOO?

Well, we’ll never know the answer.  It couldn’t be someone so dedicated to the public domain he never scans or attributes works.  Nope.  Couldn’t be him.  This’ll remain a mystery. Now, since I never knew the person, and given Amazon’s latest move is yet more proof that PG-through-the-Kindle-store (like PG-through-LSI) is no longer the path to easy riches, here’s some belated advice to whoever that mystery party might be, that I might have given out earlier, if only there’d been more honesty, and I hadn’t had to enjoy the hypocrisy of books laundered through wiki or whatever.

1.  Going the DTP route alone hasn’t worked since Kindle 2 launched.  There’s no longer automated discounting, and, to be honest, I get a lot more attention these days from mentioning a free pulp on Twitter.

2. If you’re going to try to earn a living off PG, you have to have a Mobipocket contract.  Sorry, Mobi don’t seem to give contracts out as often.  And, they just shifted to a no-PD, please! policy… But that’s what you need.  Somehow.

3. Given competition and other factors, the best way to get recognition in the Kindle store is to have a printed edition alongside the ebook.  This accompanying volume “buries,” shall we say, other results, and, for example, keeps Olympia piracy proof without me having to get a lawyer.  Ideally, you realized this last Dec., when CreateSpace still had free set-up, but these days, printing the 2,000 or so titles you’ll need to make a go of it will only cost you $100k…  or so.  Sorry, has to be pro, from what I’ve seen.

4. Pulps don’t sell as ebooks.  I mean, come on, really.  Labors of love, and/or work product of a full-time pornographer trying to keep himself sharp/avoid monotony.  The Kendrick was the shocker, and itself a temporary blip.

5. Whoever you are, and whatever you do, don’t take a make-work job funded by the citizens and taxpayers of the State of California. It’s just not gonna last, and the economy’s likely to double-dip.

Really, should have posted that advisory last Oct.  Sorry, been busy having a life.  Off to Jersey this week, and Book Festival Season starts in earnest Mid-September!

About dmoynihan

Me here.
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  • bowerbird

    david-

    don’t be a tease, man. tell us who you think it is.

    anyway…

    at one time, i was gonna do the work of putting
    the entire p.g. library into amazon and g.b.s.,
    with the proceeds going to michael hart (primarily)
    and project gutenberg (secondarily), but i decided
    it would be too much work for too little return…

    (since i expected to offer the e-books for free,
    and only charge for the print-on-demand version.
    mainly i just wanted to make sure that people could
    “preview” every public-domain e-book in its entirety.)

    if i would have had any idea that the p.g. resellers
    were making _that_ kind of money, i would have
    made a quite different decision. it would be nice
    if amazon and google loaded in the p.g. catalog
    themselves, and shut down all of the resellers…

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.munseys.com dmoynihan

    To figure out how much they were making, you had to first believe Amazon was selling ebooks… Then it became obvious :)

    The shut-down is coming. This is the latest email (from an actual person, not DigitalrightsatAmazon.com!)

    Dear Publisher,

    As part of an ongoing effort to improve the accuracy of our Kindle ebooks metadata, we need you to confirm the following:

    · International territory rights have been supplied in submitted metadata and are accurate to the best of your knowledge

    · Whether or not you’re selling public domain content

    Please help to confirm at your earliest possible convenience.

    Best Regards,

  • bowerbird

    i believed amazon was selling e-books.

    you said so. and i believed you.

    what i didn’t know — and still can’t see –
    is why people would pay good money for
    e-books they can get for free from p.g.

    i guess e-book customers are idiots too,
    which probably is a good explanation why
    all of the e-book bloggers are such idiots.

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.munseys.com dmoynihan

    A lot of it’s demographics. The people who bought Kindles, especially in the early going, were the hardest of the hard-core book buyers. If you were completely new to ebooks, it’s ridiculously easy to browse through the store, click “buy now, buy now,” and get everything you ever wanted to read.

    Over time, that changed, and I’d noticed that people would head off to PG, Hadrien, me or Manybooks (in that order), but they’re so used to just spending hours on Amazon’s site anyway, why leave? People slowly figured it out; Morris Rosenthal’s (POD Vet.) been tracking this. What I’ve seen is, instead of folks buying The Wizard of Oz for $3.95, they bought a 23-volume “Complete Oz” for $.99–But still buying, and still buying enough of the other stuff, to make money for some people, particularly with Kindle’s growth.

    I’m sure there were objections from customers when they found out, eventually, that they’d been spending on free works–probably why Amazon started to add all the $0 works from “Public Domain Books.” Maybe it’s built up to a head now, Amazon could also be sick of incorporating the same 2,000 Kindle titles for the umpteenth time…

    … Or maybe Kindle UK’s coming sooner than we think. Latter would also explain the desperate Sony/Adobe/Overdrive format hype.