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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. 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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Favor founders’ foray into real estate tech yields serious questions

(TECH NEWS) As Favor’s founders launch Sunroom, we have unanswered questions that will reveal the company’s intentions once answered.

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sunroom real estate rentals on demand

Popular delivery startup, Favor, was acquired by Texas grocer HEB in February for an undisclosed sum, freeing up the founders Ben Doherty and Zac Maurais up for their next venture. Enter Sunroom which makes property rental tours on-demand.

Sunroom seeks to improve the property rentals process – renters can search available properties, select the addresses they’d like to tour, and then order a “tour guide,” which is a licensed Sunroom agent that is paid an average of $20 per hour, kind of like Uber for property rentals.

The company currently serves Austin but has expressed publicly that they intend to expand.

Property managers pay Sunroom if a qualified tenant is placed, and renters never pay for the app (just like apartment locators, a common practice in Texas). At launch, the company differentiated itself as a tech contender with a $1.5M round of seed funding from heavy hitters like Tim Draper of Draper Associates, and Joshua Baer of Capital Factory.

Maurais told AustinInno, “We knew we wanted to do something inside of the rental market because it’s so massive and affects a lot of people. I’ve had bad landlords in the past and have been renting for the past decade. So I understand first hand.”

He also said that renters can keep application info saved in the app for their next rental experience, “almost like you’re building out your renter’s resume.” Perhaps the long game is building an alternative credit rating for renters? Now that would actually be interesting.

Technologists are inquisitive by nature – put a bunch in a room for a weekend hackathon and with technology, they’ve solved a problem that they hadn’t even thought about prior to the weekend. Thus, the industry is prone to inherently believe they have the answers to everything, and they’re accustomed to make decisions quickly and move nimbly which is something I personally admire.

But if you go to any tech meetup (we’ve hosted one monthly for 10+ years), and mention real estate, their beautiful brains flip into action mode, and there is an instinct that they can fix real estate. As a whole. What sucks about real estate? Not sure, but they know it sucks, and they can fix it.

That combination doesn’t mean they’re stupid or evil, just that they’re fixers. But it also means that endless attempts at “disruption” come from technologists rather than industry insiders with technology experience. And most efforts inevitably fail. Or they pivot into a modified version of the traditional model they sought to innovate in the first place (like Redfin).

Speaking of Redfin, that’s what first comes to mind when we see Sunroom (regarding how they potentially pay agents). But what also comes to mind is the model the founders created with Favor (compete with a national brand locally where they have a soft spot, seek acquisition by a large company to suit their tech needs).

So the future of Sunroom relies heavily on the answers to the following questions that we have sent to them multiple times, without answer:

  1. The 8 agents you have licensed under your broker, are they the only agents on demand?
  2. Who gets the commission on the rental, and what is the split for the $20/hr agent that showed the property?
  3. Do consumers sign any locator representation agreement with you?
  4. Are the agents on salary, hourly, or commission with a bonus of hourly pay for touring properties?
  5. Ben and Zac are now licensed agents – do either of you intend on being the broker when eligible? How’d you find the current broker? What’s the plan there?
  6. Do you guys intend on expanding beyond Austin? Which cities are next, and what does the growth plan look like?
  7. Has Redfin’s model been of inspiration for your model?
  8. What am I missing in why you’re so disruptive?

Further, what does the fiduciary relationship look like? Does Sunroom represent the renter or the property manager, or are they attempting dual agency? Are the agents employees or do they remain independent contractors? See how things can get hairy?

We’ve seen a bajillion startups come and go where outsiders try to get a cut of a commission via a slick app that implies representation, and even more than that seeking to manage the contract portion of rentals, and even MORE that offer showings on demand, but where I see disruption is in the pay model for agents (and the potential to cut agents out of the rental market), but until Sunroom answers basic questions, we simply won’t know.

Stay tuned – they’re either the first exciting disruption to hit the real estate market in so many years, or they’re another group of technologists that see a profit opportunity.

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A visual guide to the Dark Web to get you up to date

The Dark Web isn’t new, but most people don’t know of its existence or what happens in this anonymous corner of the world.

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disrupter smartphone dependency addiction dark posts

There’s the internet that you and I use. The “Surface Web,” which is comprised of the usual sites such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and everything else a search typically shows. But this only makes up about 10 percent of the whole internet. Think about that. Only 10 percent.

Then, there is the other 90 percent of the Internet that we don’t use. The hidden side of the internet, known as the Dark Web.

While it is technically a public space, it can only be accessed via a specific browser called Tor. Despite attempts to index the Dark Web, much is still unknown about its contents. What we do know is that it is the infinitely secret side of the internet.

The Dark Web is full of hidden services including buying/selling drugs, black market sites, whistleblowing, pornography, blogs, abuse and other things that aren’t meant to be public. Hackers often hide under the anonymity provided by the Dark Web.

Likewise, fraud runs rampant, with numerous sites and forums dedicated to scamming and counterfeiting.

Entrepreneurs need to understand the dark web because of its implications for businesses. Many of the services offered via the dark net may pose a threat to your company. It is very easy for your information to be stolen, duplicated and quickly sold, all done in total anonymity and little risk of consequence.

On the Dark Web, a Social Security number costs just $1.00 and medical records go for around $50. Just think about if your credit card or bank details were to be put up for sale.

For the most part, you won’t ever encounter the Dark Web directly. Occasionally, Dark Web links make it onto popular sites such as Youtube, Twitter, Reddit and online forums. However, it isn’t recommended that you start browsing around the Dark Web on your own. Government agencies have long known about the Dark Web and have taken steps to reduce its criminal activity. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is currently working to index the Deep Web.

It’s not all shady activity.

The Dark Web isn’t totally full of criminal activity. The Dark Web was initially developed so that protestors being muzzled by their government abroad could communicate to fight for their freedom. Others, such as whistleblowers, activists, or cryptocurrency users take also advantage of the anonymity. Regardless, you should be aware that the internet, be it Dark or otherwise, is unfathomable and mysterious.

Beyond the confines of most people’s online lives, there is a vast other internet out there.

The-Dark-Web

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The number of digital assistants is rising quickly #robotapocalypse

(TECH NEWS) Anyone remember iRobot? A recent survey shows that the robot apocalypse could happen sooner than later via digital assistants.

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google home smart-home digital assistants

Outnumbered

Seven and a half billion. That’s a number that’s been on a lot of people’s minds lately. It raises some formidable questions, to be sure. Can our infrastructure conceivably support such a vast population? What shifts in markets and demographics, philosophies and principles can we expect from that kind of rise in scale? Where in heaven’s name are we going to get all that white plastic and swipable glass?

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Oh, I’m sorry. Did you think I was talking about human population? That’s adorable.

Robots! Everywhere!

As a robot apocalypse aficionado, I note with horrified glee that Ovum, highly regarded research and consulting firm, predicts that by 2021, four whole years from now, the world will contain 7.5 billion digital assistants.

That is to say, more robots than people.

Awesome. I’m super psyched about that. As I recall from my steady diet of dystopian science fiction, having more robots than folks and ceding control of our lives to them always ends super well.

But seriously

What Ovum is really tracking is a sea change in the nature of applied tech. The big paradigm shift, go figure, was the smartphone. That was where the active process of integrating a seamless digital interface into the tasks of daily life got going, where the assumption became that consumers would handle a given task digitally rather than not.

Go figure, the 3.5 billion digital assistants that already existed as of 2016 mostly lived in phones.

That number is doubling itself because we want that functionality in the rest of our lives. I jest about the robot apocalypse, but the rise of the smartphone led to nothing more apocalyptic than mild irritation of dudes with boundary issues. That’s because the point of smartphones, the point of digitization in general, is to provide consumers with more control over their lives, not less. It’s the opposite of conquest. It’s the claiming of power.

Likewise the rise of the digital assistant

It’s all about exporting smartphone-level interactivity to more stuff. Ovum predicts the rise will come primarily in the form of assistant enabled cars and in-house tech like Amazon Echo and Google Home. The big winner will be Google Assistant, because Google is primarily a service provider.

So at the risk of coming in on the side of our steel overlords, I’m calling this one a good thing.

This isn’t another step toward a Matrix pod. It’s how you get deeper, clearer and more directly interactive with less-than-revolutionary tech like your house and car.

#BringOnTheBots

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