Publishing Everywhere

Kindle/ePub Publishing Methods

7 thoughts
last posted Dec. 6, 2012, 5:21 p.m.
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Revenue Comparison

Consider a blog that has 2,500 subscribers willing to pay the publisher's ideal price of $24/year ($2/month). Of these, say 70% are Kindle users and 30% use either iOS or nook. Here is the actual revenue realized from the available options:

  • Amazon Kindle Blogs: $6,237 per year, paid at irregular intervals. Only Kindle customers are served (1,750 of the 2,500), and Amazon controls the price, setting it at $0.99 instead of $2.00 per month. Readers experience poor formatting and irregular delivery.

  • Leanpub: $54,000 per year. Readers are notified by email of new content, which they must download to their devices ("Send to iPad" and "Send to Kindle" links are provided).

  • Self-managed: $57,507. ($60k less $2,490 in Stripe transaction fees (assuming no chargebacks), and $3 in mail sending fees.) For the extra $3,507, you must provide your own subscriber support and develop a highly fussy conversion mechanism. This option may not be able to provide automatic delivery to reader's devices.

At 100 subscribers per year + same proportions & ideal price, the figures work out to:

  • Amazon: $249.48
  • Leanpub: $2,160
  • Self-managed: $2,300
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Option: Manual Conversion + Sendy/Mailchimp + Stripe

Content could be converted using Sigil+Calibre or pandoc+Calibre. Sendy is self-hosted email sending software, Stripe for payments.

Pros:

  • Ongoing fees are very small. On subscription payments, 2.5% + $0.30. Outgoing emails are $0.10 per 1,000 on Sendy; Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers, after that it costs between $8-$20 per 1,000 subscribers (depending on the plan, up to 10k subscribers)
  • Complete control over formatting
  • Fully branded experience

Cons:

  • Potential dealkiller: it's unclear to me whether any of these services allow you to attach ePub/mobi files to your mass emails.
  • Managing subscriber payments, device preferences, support requests, could be a nightmare
  • Manual conversion of content could easily require adding several fussy steps to publishing workflow.
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Option: Direct subscribers to third parties

Options include:

  • Instapaper + IFTTT (supports iOS, Kindle and Android)
  • Readability (supports iOS, Kindle and Android, but all articles must be sent manually, no automatic delivery)
  • Kindlefeeder (supports Kindle only)

Pros:

  • Little to no time investment; subscribers manage themselves, and no need to add extra conversion steps to publishing workflow

Cons

  • Complete loss of "branded experience"; can feel hacky and/or require extra work on the part of the subscriber
  • Impossible to monetize
  • Small third-party services often have suboptimal reliability and/or unsustainable business models
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Option: Amazon Kindle Publishing for Blogs

Pros:

  • Automatic delivery to devices
  • Conversion is fully automated from RSS feeds
  • Subscribers lists and incoming payments are fully handled for you

Cons:

  • Near-zero visibility into subscriber base, reports available are info-poor
  • Price is out of your control, royalties are low at 30%, payments are intermittent
  • Automatic formatting is really bad. There's no published spec for optimizing your HTML. In my tests on a blog which used fully-validated HTML5, whole sections of articles were randomly reordered, and headings were orphaned from articles by page breaks nearly 100% of the time.
  • No support for non-Kindle devices, not even using Kindle apps for iOS.
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Option: Leanpub

Pros:

  • Conversion is easy, looks decent on all devices
  • Subscriber and payment management built in

Cons

  • Conversion does require additional steps to be added to publishing workflow
  • 10% fees (though not at all bad compared to Amazon)
  • Leanpub sells books, not periodicals, and so has no concept of "subscriptions" as such. The only way to handle subscription-like functionality is to handle it on a yearly basis, and have a book that is "updated" on a quarterly or monthly basis. There is no auto-renew; subscribers will need to be told to buy a new "book" after the current one is finished.
  • No automatic delivery to devices; subscribers do receive email notifications
  • Almost no control over typography for PDF versions.
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There are several problems that need solving as part of each viable solution:

  • Conversion of content into ePub and mobi formats
  • Subscription tracking (optionally, payment gateways and management)
  • Delivery to subscribers' devices (preferably automatic, email notification is 2nd best)
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Collected thoughts on methods for publishing serial content from blogs to Kindles and other ebook readers.

These notes have now been fully baked and published at http://jdueck.net/article/kindle-epub-publishing