___WORDS FROM ME_____________________________________

the bookstore business, and how to fail at it and the ebook store business at the same time

 It’s a strange business plan that says let’s sell ebooks online in our entertainment section of our website, and do them in epub form only -- while in our stores we’ll sell an ereader that takes mobi files. But that’s the course the British supermarket giant Sainsburys have been following the last few years. Not so surprising, then, that Sainsburys are closing their ebook shop down.

They’re not alone in making seemingly suicidal business decisions. For quite a while Waterstones had been selling the Kindle ereader in-store while selling non-Kindle epub format ebooks online.

If the Sainsbury’s decision to sell epubs and Kindles seemed like a company shooting itself in the foot, then Waterstones was shooting itself in the head.

After all, Sainsburys are a supermarket. They sell clothes, CDs, DVDs, stereos, homeware, fresh produce and food and detergents and all the other stuff that you’d expect. Books, too (though sadly the space for books seems to be shrinking in some stores). If they don’t do well in the ebook market and their traditional published books sales fall flat, well it’s a pity, but it’s not the end of their world.

Waterstones sells books, end of. Well, just about. They may sell a few Game of Thrones amulets and cups with some literary link or other, the odd t-shirt. But I’m sure you’ll agree that the mainstay of their business is books.

And yet someone thought it would be a good idea to put the biggest threat to the business’s livelihood in-store and encourage people to buy a product that, by definition, would reduce the sale of physical books. Not only that, but they invited in a company that sells books online, often at a steeply discounted price. Amazon’s range of books in stock is massive, often featuring import titles not readily available in the high street, and if you’re prepared to pay the postage, you can usually have the book delivered to your home in a day or two (or five to seven days for free if your order is over a tenner). By contrast, if Waterstones hasn’t got a book you want in-store, then you can order it from them, and in, say, a week’s time you may get a phone call telling you to come on in and pick it up from the store. Oh, and it’s there at the full retail price.

Given that, was it a smart move to bring in the biggest threat to your continued existence into the store? Not only that, Waterstones rigged up free wifi so you could bring your Kindle into the store and download ebooks from Amazon while you sat in one of their few comfy seats (often after you just looked on the shelves to see the book you were after was £8.99 for the paperback and the Kindle ebook was £3.99). Huh? It just felt like Waterstones didn’t know how to react to the threat of new competition and held their hands up in surrender.

Amazon is already the largest market shareholder in the ebook business in the UK. Its nearest rival (with the damp squib non-arrival of the Nook*) is Kobo. For my money the Kobo ereaders are superior devices to the Kindle ereaders. Formatting is simpler, the display options are considerably more advanced, and they don’t load your screen with adverts.

But all that’s by the by for the sake of my argument here.

The important part of Kobo’s business that needs to be emphasised here is that they sell ebooks alone. They’re not Amazon; they’re not selling physical books at steeply discounted prices. They’re not moving into the food business to threaten Sainsburys, and they’re not setting up bookstores in the high street to rival Waterstones.

In such circumstances, then, if you were going to partner up with a firm selling ereaders and ebooks, surely the natural partner would be Kobo.

The book and magazine retailer WH Smiths followed this plan, and seemed to have got it right. But they needed support. They needed publishers to get behind them, to offer up incentives for buying the Kobo from WHS. Tie-in vouchers or discount coupons with actual physical book purchases, that would encourage both physical and epub ebook sales. Tie them in with another high street retailer like Waterstones and there’d be a bigger presence and more brand recognition for the Kobo ereaders.

But none of that has happened. And now, coming up to the busy pre-Christmas retail season, what’s happened? WHS has stopped stocking the Kobo in stores. It’s possible a few of the bigger stores have them in stock, but I haven’t seen them.

There are some who argue that none of this really matters, and argue honestly and sincerely, because Amazon are doing such great things for writers. This is mostly true. Amazon has broken the shackles traditional publishing has placed on writers. It’s forcing traditional publishers to move on, to get with the future. But right now, Amazon are heading for complete market domination, maybe even a monopoly in ebook and ereader sales. At the moment they are fighting for every penny for their writers because there is some competition left. But will that change when they are the only business in town? Ask their employees in their “fulfilment centres”, on zero-hour contracts, no workers’ rights beyond the most basic. Is that the future for the writers who are so reliant on them too? I hope not. Just as I hope that the Amazon warehouse workers get a better deal soon.     

If you’re buying a new ereader for someone this year, the best ereader out there is the Kobo.

But the best format video device back in the day was the Betamax.

And if you were born before 1980, you all know how that ended. (If you don't, then you can learn all about Betamax here.)

If you want to buy a book, WH Smiths and Waterstones have a presence in most high streets across the country. And Sainsbury’s sell the latest bestsellers, often with a good discount. For now.
* Barnes and Noble - a US book-chain even larger than Waterstones is in the UK - pioneered the Nook as a rival to Kindle. They’ve stopped supporting it now, which in itself is hardly going to endear their customers to them. No wonder that Barnes and Noble are, I think, on their third CEO in nearly as many years.

the best of unsung stories

For a while now Unsung Stories have been publishing, quietly and without any fuss, some really great short stories and books. Their fiction titles are available to buy here and they run a really neat free-subscription service with a new, usually terrific, short story delivered to your inbox every other week. You can sign up for free - not that I'm going to labour that point, honest - by clicking through to here.

If that isn't enough to encourage you to sign up - for free, I remind you - to their subscription list, then being kindly and generous people they have now collected some of the tales that have appeared on their site (and in your inbox if you have already signed up) in a DRM-free ebook, for you to enjoy on your e-reader or device of choice. They're calling it the Best of Unsung Shorts So Far . . .

And you know what? They're giving that away free of charge too.

As they themselves say, "Unsung Stories publish speculative fiction. This means science fiction, fantasy and horror, but especially the fuzzy bits between these genres: hard and soft sci-fi, high and low fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, steampunk, cyberpunk, weird fiction and anything else that defies expectation."

If you like, they're offering the unexpected, something a little bit different. So I hear you ask, If it's unexpected, Mark, what can I expect to find in the book?

Here's the answer.

'Heroics' by Ilana Masad
'Stabbed in the Neck by Dot Cotton' by Daniel Carpenter
'From the Neck Up' by Aliya Whiteley
'What the Light Washed Away' by Joshua Sczykutowicz
'Book Boy' by Zack Graham
'Ouroboros' by Cassandra Khaw
'Charmed and Strange' by Maggie Secara
'Build a Cat' by Peter Haynes
'Quert' by Matt Thompson
'Fashioning Trees' by Mark Patrick Lynch*

Sounds good to me. 

If you fancy a free copy, in either mobi or epub format, just click here.

Did I mention it's free?

Oh, I did.


But, you know, just in case you missed that bit -- it's FREE!

* That last one's me. So this is my declaration of an interest. And while we're at it, a big hello to Jason Isaacs.

dark little dreams

Just released in paperback and ebook format is the anthology Dark Little Dreams. The book is published by Bad Dream Entertainment and edited by Brett Reistroffer. Brett’s put together an interesting and varied collection of stories, and has been nice enough to include one of my pieces too, a tale called Dr Aljimati: Professor of the Forlorn Sky. 

Read a little more about the contents here.

And Publishers’ Weekly review the book here.

If you fancy a  copy and are in the UK, you can buy an ebook version for your Kindle by clicking here. Or you can get a paperback by clicking here.

If you’re in the United States, then click here to get an ebook for your Kindle, and here for the paperback.

The collection is also available on Kobo, and is included in many of the discount promotions Kobo runs. Use any discount coupon to get money off the collection in DRM-free e-pub form by clicking here. Kobo also runs a price guarantee programme, so if you see the collection cheaper elsewhere, do get in touch with them for a refund to the difference.

It really is a nice collection and I heartily recommend it. The paperback is especially lovely, nicely produced and very tactile. Sometimes real books triumph. But the stories stand up for themselves, and if the ebook is your thing – as it has been mine for a while now – then do give it a go.

no fire without smoke

I have a new book out.

I know.

Anyway, it's called NO FIRE WITHOUT SMOKE (see what I did there?), and is one of the last titles to have been accepted and edited and printed and all the rest by Robert Hale Ltd. Hale had been going since the 1930s, and in that time published some names that the reader(s) of this blog will no doubt recognise, from Robert Heinlein, through Elmore Leonard, ‎R. Chetwynd-Hayes, to David Stuart Davies.

With increasingly difficult market conditions (not helped by widespread library closures in the UK), they decided to cease trading last year. I don't think I was to blame for them shutting shop. . .though I certainly can't claim to have produced work of the quality of the aforementioned big hitters.

It's been an honour to have had my books put out by them and I thank all involved in bringing my little fictions into the wider world.

The Crowood Press have taken on distribution of the Hale titles and contracts that were intact at the end of Hale's trading. We wish Ken Hathaway and his team luck and hope they can step up to meet the standards Hale set and by which they had come to be highly regarded.

So my final book with Hale starts like this:

    This is the story of the lady sharpshooter Smoke Winters, and how she went to Inferno, fought and died there, and then went back and fought all over again to save a child that was no blood relation to her and who held her to no promise that I ever knew about.
    It ain't a ghost story, and it ain't nothing to do with ressurection either, at least not as it's written about in the Bible. It's not even about revenge. Or not in the way you might think.
    The reasons Smoke did what she did ... well, I guess they're complicated, and you'll have to work them out yourself in the end. I have my own ideas, but the truth is I can only tell you what she did and just a little bit about why she did it.
    Settle in and give me some of your time. This is what happened.
The book can be bought in its hardcover format online from Amazon Uk here and the Book Depository here. You can find it online in most stores around the world. You have been warned.

© M P Lynch. Powered by Blogger.

©Mark Patrick Lynch 2012-2016

Created by Silver Moose Designs