Posts Tagged With: Amazon

Dodgy / offensive books & ebooks

I see in today’s news that Amazon, Waterstones, and B&N are all going through their catalogues to root out porn / otherwise offensive titles, as it has been found that many self-pub books and ebooks are ignoring the rules. WH Smith has even closed down its website totally until they have sorted out the problem.

As usual, there is always a minority element that abuses systems that work well for the majority, causing problems and reputation damage for the innocent.  One hopes that there will be some kind of penalty meted out, to drive home the point that what one does on one’s own website is different to what should happen in public.

The above online bookshops have reacted pretty strongly, even going to the extent of searching for all ero*tic (in case WordPress also does a keyword hunt, I’m trying to keep these keyword comments clean!)  keywords and removing such titles wholesale. I guess, with millions of books around, that’s the only way to be sure. It does impact on those authors and publishers that are operating legally, but the fact remains that ero*tica is a grey area that has its risks as well as rewards.

Rest assured that no books or ebooks published by us (both Stellium and Zampub), or our personal publishing titles, ever have such content – we check every manuscript pretty thoroughly, as it’s easy to lose credibility, but very hard to rebuild. We probably wouldn’t have taken on eleventy-seven shades of whatever either, along with many other publishers. Would have kicked ourselves later? Who knows. Where do you draw the line? Reminds one of the old joke where the youngster asks his Dad about the difference between fact and potential – the thing is, I can’t repeat the rest, albeit mild, else you might not see this blog! Have to see how far this issue goes.

Trouble is, lines keep moving, so we each have to decide: set our own limits, or go with the flow. Even David Cameron has recently commented that the line is moving so far that there’s a danger of porn becoming the norm.

Also, remember that most of the world’s bankers over the past decade or so, decided to go with the flow…

Categories: Legal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PubNews 27/9/2013

Every so often I get an urge to do a news item. Hope you like. It won’t be regular unless someone pays me. Sasha says, don’t hold your breath, don’t look at me…

 

Google announced today that they have launched ebookstores here in the UK, and in New Zealand and a number of Asian countries in the region as well.

They will be selling epub versions of ebooks, which is the open standard accepted widely by the publishing industry. Major publishers like Penguin, Random House, and Hachette have already signed up to provide content. For anyone who doesn’t know about the different formats, here’s a quick summary:

  • Amazon sells its own proprietary format (AZW), Mobi (also owned by Amazon) and PDF, possibly a couple of other smaller players. It doesn’t sell epub format.

  • Epub format is sold practically everywhere else – Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Waterstones, Google, most other distributors / sellers.

  • Apple iBook Store uses epub with DRM (digital Rights Management), but iPads, etc. can also handle PDF.

  • You can also download Kindle apps that work on Android or iPads, etc., so there’s a reasonable choice of reading systems, especially if you’re using a tablet or smartphone. Dedicated ebook readers like the Kindle are limited in what they can handle.

What’s best? Well, at this point, Amazon is the sticking point with its own format, to keep you locked into their bookstore, and they’re big enough that nobody can deflect them.

However, indications are that dedicated ebook readers are likely to fade out, giving way to multi-function tablet devices, which will give Amazon food for thought, even though they already have a range of Kindle Fire tablets. The planned lifespan of an ebook reader like the Kindle is about three years. I have a couple of kindles that I use, partly for reading, partly for checking how our ebooks look on them, but I probably won’t replace them when they die off. The Android Kindle app works fine on a tablet, and we’re going to bring out more and more colour-content ebooks, which, with some adroit footwork, will hopefully come out on a black & white screen as well. However, colour is definitely the trend for ebooks, and I would rather have one multi-function device to carry around.

 ~~~~~

 The Bloomsbury brand Writers & Artists has launched a brand new service for self-published writers. This is on a section of their website for the well-known Writers & Artists Yearbook, and it will host a number of resources for writers, whether novices or cool dudes.

 ~~~~~

 Wordery, a Global online retailer, launched earlier this week. They are a Bertrams (the UK wholesaler) project, they aim to undercut Amazon book prices from the start, and they envisage an annual turnover of up to £15m.

Quite how they expect to confront Amazon, I don’t know. Amazon can undercut anything you can think of, they counter Sony easily, but on the other hand, it’s good to have competition.

Turning to issues closer to my heart as a publisher, this kind of price cutting devilry just affects book prices drastically, and they don’t recover. It creates problems for authors, publishers, agents, printers, bookshops and others.

I really, really wish that we could have better regulation (see my comments on one of my “Money” articles) of the publishing trade, including protective legislation. Why not limit discounts to, say, 50% instead of the current unlimited scenario?

The government is quite happy to regulate speed limits on the roads, why not discounts on books? It kills off publishers and bookshops, drives authors into misery, what more incentive do they need? All very well to say government shouldn’t interfere, but when there’s total war by the big guns, how do the rest survive? How can anyone compete with 80% discounts to the few major retailers?

All I can think of, is exactly what’s happening right now: self-publishing, with sales direct to the public, whether in paper or ebook format. It may take time for a what can we call it… a sub-culture doesn’t sound quite right, but for a new, independent structure to gel.

So, we provide self-pub services, we’re seeing more and more people getting into the idea, and at this rate, who knows, the big players may regret ignoring the people who provide them with content.

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Books – USA Withholding Tax

Here’s an issue for all the self-pubbers out there; if you have a book or books selling through Amazon, you’ll have received a message warning you about IRS withholding tax regulations. Briefly, if you don’t register with the IRS, Amazon and any other entities selling your books (and ebooks) in the States are obliged to withhold 30% of your income / royalties, etc. And it’s not easy to get it back from the IRS once it’s been paid in.

Amazon does give you a reasonable set of instructions about how to deal with the issue, but it may not be clear to everybody, especially if you aren’t good at dealing with forms and tax stuff in general, so I’m putting down a few pointers here that may be useful.

First of all, the bad news. You can’t avoid the issue. Sooner or later, if not already, any commercial entity that sells things for you in the States will withhold 30% of your sales income, whatever form it takes – royalties, direct income, whatever. They will pass this money on to the IRS, and they can’t do anything later about getting it back – you would have to deal directly with the IRS, and your (relatively) unidentifiable money (i.e. if you’re not registered with the IRS ) would be difficult to trace.

Secondly, the good news. It’s actually not that difficult nowadays to sort things out, usually pretty swiftly.

What are needed are an EIN number and a W-8BEN form. Once you have the EIN number, it’s inserted into the W-8BEN form, and you make copies of that form, sending one copy to each organisation that you deal with. They can then release all the millions of dollars you’ve made with your Seventy Shades of Grey book! Provided you’re based in the UK,  there is an income tax treaty between us and the USA, so in most cases, you won’t need to pay any USA tax. If you’re based elsewhere, the same may or may not apply. Check with the IRS website.

The first step is to get onto the IRS website and download a copy of form W-8BEN. Get all the information needed for the form, fill it in.

Then, phone the IRS (I don’t have the phone number offhand, if you can’t find it or the IRS website, let me know, leave a comment on this article, and I’ll trace it for you).

You can deal with them by snail mail or fax, but the system has been upgraded over the years, and the best way is by phone. You may sometimes have to hold on for ten, twenty minutes, but it’s worth the expense to save you grey hairs. I gather that unless they’re very busy, you may get through pretty quickly.

I have found them to be friendly and helpful. They will take down your details (as needed on the W-8BEN form) and if you have all the answers ready, they will give you an EIN number over the phone. You then complete a clean copy of the W-8BEN form, in fact, make a number of copies, as you’ll need to send / fax one to each organisation you deal with. With Amazon, it’s even easier, you can fill in the details online.

You will normally need to be registered with our own HMRC to take advantage of the income tax treaty with the USA, but everyone is different, I can’t cover all eventualities in a short article.

If you need, I can help with a few general questions about the system, but for more complicated matters, do talk to the IRS people – the feedback I’ve seen is that they are helpful.

Categories: Legal, Links, Money, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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