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eBook revenues outpace print in Q1

Net sales revenue from eBooks have surpassed hardcover books in the first quarter of 2012, pointing to a historical moment in publishing.

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eBooks outsold hardcover books for the first time

According to the Association of American Publishers’ (AAP’s) net sales revenue report, adult eBook sales were $282.3 million, while adult hardcover sales counted $229.6 million during the first quarter of 2012. During the same period last year, hardcover sales accounted for $223.5 million in sales while eBooks logged $220.4 million.

“In Q1 2012, net sales revenue for eBooks was higher than that for Hardcover; this represents a switch of positions in the category vs Q1 2011. In both quarters, however, Trade Paperback remained a clear #1 in net sales revenue despite some erosion. While eBooks continue to show growth, downloaded audiobooks also keep accelerating vs last year – as some experts have said, tied to ongoing popularity and acquisition of smartphones and mobile devices.”

A glimmer of hope for bibliophiles is in the Young Adult and Children’s category which saw growth in revenue for hardcovers, up nearly 67 percent to $187.7 million. This category saw a 233 percent increase for eBooks to $64.3 million, but remains far behind print sales.

Personal story about my bibliophilia

Hi, my name is Lani, and I am a bibliophile. Whew, that feels good to get off of my chest. It may surprise some of you that know me well, because I report on technology and operate a digital publication, but despite the changing technology, I can’t shake my affinity for physical books.

When I was young, we lived in the Texas country with not much to do nearby. Before Kindergarten, I would hide in my grandmother’s classroom as she taught dyslexic children to read through the Phonics program. Like magic, I picked it up, and out of curiosity and boredom, I began reading the Nancy Drew series, which was the only thing that looked interesting in my grandparents’ giant wall of books. Before I started school at age four, I had finished the entire series which made school quite boring as children recited the alphabet and I smuggled novels into the classroom to read while they struggled.

By age six, I was writing poetry and had been published, and my book collection was massive. I was always the kid in the class who read the highest volume of literature, and I won a contest in sixth grade for my reading so much, which I seriously thought would be the pinnacle of my entire life. All of this led to my enthusiastic trip to Dallas that year to a shell of a second story retail location my aunt and uncle had just leased, as they were opening an independent children’s bookstore. The green grass carpet had just been laid, a stage was built, the walls were covered in chalk board material (before chalk board paint existed), a castle had been built in a corner, and there were boxes and empty shelves everywhere. I distinctly remember the smell of fresh hardback books in a box that no shopper had ever touched, and the softness of every single page. There was a glowing pride that swelled up inside of me with every book I had the honor of neatly putting on a shelf.

I worked at the bookstore every summer in high school and the first few years of college, and was able to meet many famous authors, and perform dozens of story times in costume. I loved it. There was this inherent understanding that it was an honor to be around books, because each word was poured out from someone’s soul and shared with the world.

In college, I studied English Literature as well as Spanish Literature, and I was again honored to be educated by novelists and students of the written word. I kept all of my textbooks and novels from college, and every so often visit them when I have time.

To me, physical books are more than just an author’s word that can be translated across any medium. I read eBooks, and I purchase print books, but I still have a different physical reaction when turning pages than I do reading digitally, and I am able to retain more from the pages that smell like a new bookstore. While not everyone has the same affinity for booksas I do, and not everyone could possibly care as much, I still choose print over digital, even as a digital publisher myself. The next generation may feel differently, but for me, nothing beats being honored with a writer’s soul that spilled onto a page that I smuggled into a classroom when I was four.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. HannahShaner

    June 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    As a book publicist for many indie author imprints, I completely understand your sentiment! There’s nothing quite like the smell and feel – and just overall experience – of a printed book. As a publicist for a free DIY e-publisher (Booktango), though, it’s such a different world. I truly hope print books never go out of existence, but it’s only logical to be able to access books like we access everything else – right this second, wherever we are. Interested to see where things go…

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Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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personal finance

In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Business Finance

Delivery startups skim customer tips to pay employees #wth

(FINANCE) Grocery delivery startups are flourishing, but stealing from employees isn’t a sustainable move…

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theft delivery startups

Popular grocery app Instacart has been using customers’ tips to pay its guaranteed $10/hour rate to employees, rather than using the tips as, you know, bonus money paid to workers on top of their normal pay. The way that you’d expect something called a “tip” to work.

According to the report, “Instacart confirmed that when its payment algorithm determines a driver should be paid below that guaranteed $10, the company uses the customer’s predelivery, ‘up front’ tip to cover the difference. The ‘up front’ tip is automatically set to 5% on the Instacart app; if the customer removes the tip, and the payout would be below $10, Instacart itself covers the cost.”

In this system, the customer’s tip for the deliverer subsidizes the company’s commitment to its employees. Once the change to the tipping policy was announced in workers began complaining about how it affected their earnings in 2017.

Even though the app’s customers have taken to social media to compare the policy to wage theft, the practice is actually legal. Because Instacart and other apps in the gig economy classify their workers as contractors instead of employees, they do technically still get 100 percent of the tips in their wages (even if the company doesn’t supply the same percentage of the wage they’d give the worker without the customer throwing in).

This kind of payment structure may be familiar to you if you’ve ever working in restaurants, bars, or another establishment that uses subminimum wages.

Sadly, Instacart is not the only grocery app that uses a dodgy tipping system. Shipt, DoorDash, and others have similar tipping policies. And they aren’t interested in changing them after all this week’s backlash.

If you’re concerned about making sure that you’re supporting the contractors for these grocery delivery services, some of the contracted workers have requested that you provide the tip in cash instead of tipping through the app and activating its algorithm.

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Tech News

How blockchain has the power to improve democracies

(TECH) Blockchain is changing the face of democracy with a magical fix to basically all the problems.

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blockchain

Despite our best intentions to be active, informed citizens in democratic practices, not everyone has time, figuring out how to be engaged can be confusing, and reps don’t always vote how you want. Plus, confidence in Congress is hilariously/depressingly low with all the scandals and thinly veiled corporate interests.

Well hooray for the future, because now we have blockchain technology to propel us out of the murky waters of representative democracy and into a more efficient liquid democracy.

A liquid democracy platform, also referred to as delegative democracy, has voters select a personal representative as a proxy for their vote. In our current set up, elected representatives vote for things on your behalf, and the best you can do other than running for office yourself is call in and ask them to vote your way.

With a liquid democracy, everyone votes on each piece of legislation.

You can assign a delegate to vote on your behalf by proxy when you’re not available. Personal representatives can be removed and reassigned at any time unlike set terms for elected officials.

The delegate can even select a proxy for their votes, creating a directed network graph, where voters and politicians are connected on a publicly verified blockchain. Anyone can be selected as a delegate as long as they’re a legal resident of your jurisdiction registered to vote.

Quick refresher course: Blockchain is essentially a decentralized digital list of records with timestamps and transaction data information. Each individual record is considered a block, which is cryptographically secured and resistant to modification.

Blocks contain a cryptographic hash of the previous block, creating a chain. Once recorded, data cannot be altered without network majority consent. As an open, peer-to-peer distributed ledger, blockchain is a permanent and efficient way to record transactions.

Used by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 for cryptocurrency exchange to create Bitcoin, blockchain has now expanded to the healthcare industry, banking, and now potentially democratic practices.

David Ernst, one of the leaders of the liquid democracy movement, founded United.vote, a platform established to get the ball rolling. The site helps connect voters to personal representatives, and provides a scorecard that tracks how elected politicians’ votes compare to constituents wishes.

“What if instead centralizing authority into the hands of a few strong men, we expanded political power to many, many more voices,” Ernst suggested at the 2017 CyFy conference.

His plan to expand power is liquid democracy via the United.vote platform, which he notes is backwards-compatible with our current system. Ernst is also running as an independent candidate for California Assembly District 19.

He was partially inspired by the Flux Party’s 2016 campaign in Australia, who tried to implement an issue-based direct democracy similar to liquid democracy. Although the party only got 0.15 percent of the vote nationwide, Ernst stands by the idea.

A liquid democracy via blockchain would theoretically increase accountability, participation, and representation.

Through direct participation and personal representation, elections would no longer be necessary.

Instead, voters simply choose someone to represent them, and can select a different person for individual issues. Delegation can be changed at any time, so you’re not stuck with someone if they end up being a total weasel.

So far, only a little over one thousand people have signed up for United.vote, but Ernst stated, “If I got elected, but only 20 people were actually using [the platform], I would still follow those people.”

Although the concept may be ahead of its time (and possibly a wishful Utopian dream), Ernst is confident that these changes can fix democracy.

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