Tag Archives: Joseph T. Sinclair

New Study Group

New Study Group

A new group, Enhanced Digital Book Study Group, commenced operation
Saturday after the BAIPA meeting. The group decided to keep in touch via
a Facebook page soon to be set up. You can join by sending an email
request to Joe Sinclair at JT@Sinclair.com. You must be a BAIPA member
to join.

The primary purpose of the group is to study the integration of
interactivity and diverse media (e.g., audio, images) into digital text
such as ebooks and book apps by means of research, experimentation, and

All BAIPA members are welcome to join. The next meeting of the group has
yet to be decided.

First eBook Library Built in U.S.

From Joseph T. Sinclair –

The first exclusively ebook library has been built near San Antonio, Texas.


The cost savings was a prime consideration in building the library, and the inexpensive operation of the library has also been realized. And the library is popular with the public. It’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that this is the library of the future.


The Astounding New Market for English-Language Books

By Joseph T. Sinclair

How many English readers are there in the world? There’s no telling. But there are estimates of how many people can speak English as either a first or second language. David Crystal, a British linguist, estimates that non-native English speakers outnumber native speakers 3 to 1. With estimates of native speakers at almost 400 million, non-native speakers number about 1.2 billion. The grand total is 1.6 billion.

Some quick statistics shed light on where the markets are for books written in English. The ranking show the total English speakers using English as a first or second language.


United States                                    268

India                                       125

Pakistan                                 87

Nigeria                                   79

UK                                          60

Philippines                            48

Canada                                   25

Australia                                18

New Zealand                         4

The statistics above don’t show the number of English speakers in Europe, South America, Central America, Asia, Africa, and Indonesia where many educated and business people speak English as a second language.

For authors and publishers these statistics are an eye-opener. Do you want to exploit the New Zealand book market or the Indian book market? The Australian book market or the Pakistani book market? Again, we don’t know the literacy rate of the English speakers (as a second language), but we can probably assume that it is higher than the local language literacy rate; the English speakers are more likely to be educated.

You can hardly overestimate the Wow! factor in the size of the potential markets abroad. The question is, how do you reach such markets?

The traditional way has been to farm out the copyrights to foreign publishers. This has been done for a small fraction of printed books to a small number of additional countries for each book. But the world has changed. Easy worldwide distribution is now possible via digital books. No local publisher needed. But how?

Fortunately, the iOS and Android operating systems for phones and tablets invented in the US are the most widely used in the world, and the US has set the standards for ebook formats too. Consequently, English-speaking customers abroad can buy ebooks on Amazon or Apple and read them via the Amazon ebook-reader app or the Apple iBook reader.

The question is, does this avenue fully penetrate the markets? How many people in in the US have an Amazon account? Let’s face it, only a fraction of the total potential book customers have an account. How many people in Pakistan have an Amazon account?  A much smaller fraction.

Apple is a little different in that its ebook sales are tied in with its app sales, and its app sales are tied to its devices. For Android, the operating system, the book vendors, and the manufacturers are separate business entities and are not necessarily tied together in commerce.

The conclusion is that for Apple, the potential ebook market is theoretically 100% of the device market. For Android the potential ebook market is only a fraction of the device market, probably a small fraction, particularly abroad. Why? There are three businesses involved instead of one. Yet, even for Apple, the ebook system (catalog) is separate from the app system (catalog).

Therefore, my conclusion is that ebooks are distinctly separate from digital books that are in an app format. Apps are tied to devices much more tightly, and book apps have larger potential sales worldwide than books in an ebook format.

The startling news for BAIPA members is that digital books have expanded the market for books in English by 300%. The even more startling news is that to reach the expanded market is much easier and less expensive than the traditional way (for printed books). Indeed, it’s feasible for very small publishers. And the even more-than-that startling news is that independent publishers have a huge advantage over traditional publishers.

What’s the advantage? Books in an app format typically sell for less, and traditional publishers cannot sell books so cheaply; think of all that corporate overhead.

I see the future for books is as book apps, not ebooks. Although there are many reasons for this beyond the demographics, the demographics are compelling. Everyone with a smart phone has instant access to apps and knows how to buy and use apps. Not every smart phone user has instant access to ebooks or can afford them.

So we’ve seen the demographics on English speakers. Let’s look at the cell phone demographics. According to industry estimates five billion people now have cell phones. Whaaat? Astounding! About one billion of those are smart phones. In four years, there will be five billion smart phone users. Combine the English-speaker demographics with the estimates on the numbers of phone users and you’re staring at a rising tsunami of English-language publishing opportunities beyond the imagination. You are the deer staring into the headlights.

Are you ready?


©2014 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.

Independent Bookstores

By Joseph T. Sinclair

The news in 2013 was that independent bookstores are making a comeback. The question is, what are we talking about? A book, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, published by St. Martins Griffin, gives us an inkling of what this comeback is all about.

The author of the book, Wendy Welch, and her husband started a bookstore in a remote West Virginia town in 2008, the year of the Great Recession. And it has been successful. It seems to be a countertrend. After you read the book, however, you may come to the conclusion that it’s not a countertrend. It’s an old trend updated, one that may not have much significance for the publishing industry.

First, the Big Stone Gap bookstore is primarily a used-book store. Second, it’s small. Third, it’s a mom and pop business. Fourth, it may be more of a meeting and activities center than a bookstore.

Thus, it’s not a place where a significant number of new books are sold. It doesn’t have the large inventory of a Barnes & Noble, which attracts a lot of business. It’s essentially a very small local business, unlikely to produce a large sales volume. It’s also a very management-intensive mom and pop business that may not scale well; that is, mom and pop may not be likely to open branches in other places. Finally, to stay in business it must become a community center with food, activities, local author readings, club meetings, and the like. It must be a friendly place to hang out.

The more important question may be not whether independent bookstores are making a comeback, but whether B&N can simulate being an independent bookstore. Certainly it has tried. Over a third of a typical B&N store is devoted to music, gifts, and an Internet cafe, not books. B&N also promotes a myriad of local activities, but it just doesn’t seem that B&N can become a place to hang out. It doesn’t have the ambiance of intimacy and friendliness that many independent bookstores do. Can a corporation duplicate mom and pop?

What will happen in the bookstore business tomorrow and next year is a matter of conjecture. This article makes no predictions. Rather the point here is just to raise the question of whether the comeback of independent bookstores is meaningful for the publishing industry. More bluntly put, will independent bookstores sell new books in meaningful volumes?

For those interested in answering this question, there is a new bookstore in Napa, Bookmine (http://www.napabookmine.com), which opened in October 2013. A visit there might indicate the nature of the trend.

Michael Larsen predicts in his blog The One Safe Prediction: 10 Guesses About Publishing in 5 Years (http://sfwriters.org/blog/category/technology-and-writers/) that Espresso Book Machines (EBMs – http://www.ondemandbooks.com) will eventually make independent bookstores viable sellers of new books. That seems a reasonable prediction, until you consider that the price tag is $150,000 for an EBM and that they haven’t caught on in the six years they’ve been available. You have to sell a lot of books to lease or amortize a very expensive machine.


©2014 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.


Writing by Voice

By Joseph T. Sinclair

About ten years ago I investigated voice recognition software, which I found to be surprisingly accurate but not accurate enough to be useful for writing a book by voice (dictating). Nonetheless, I wrote a short book by voice as I was hiking in Colorado (eBay Inventory the Smart Way, published by Amacom). It took about five long hikes (about 25 hours) to complete. And because I hike almost daily for exercise, this was a way to make productive use of my hiking time.

Writing by voice worked out well for me. It was superior to typing and cut my original writing time, as well as my rewrites, in half. Instead of using the software, however, I hired a transcriber; the cost of transcription is high even when the transcriber is very efficient.

After an eight-year hiatus from writing, I recently decided to again pursue a writing and publishing career. Dragon (Nuance) had a sale on their latest software (Ver. 12.5) in April 2013. I thought, why not? So I bought it, and this time I found it to be accurate and indeed very useful for writing.

I had  dictated about 35,000 words by summer and have done much more since, with great success.  In fact, I have so much writing to do now that I’m running out of hiking time and may need to dictate directly into my computer while I’m sitting at my desk.

The software is about $200 (Dragon Naturally Speaking). But the equipment is now inexpensive. I use a highly rated $45 digital recorder (Phillips DVT1000) and a cell-phone headset with a mini-boom mic featuring a windshield (Plantronics MX500i, original price $70,  available for about $20 online).

A $20 cell-phone headset ( JBuds J6M) works almost as well. Of course if you’re at your computer, you don’t need the recorder, just a better-than-average mic. However, if you have professional equipment, you can certainly use it.

In lieu of using a separate recorder, use your smart phone. I’ve used my Samsung Galaxy 3 with both the Smart Voice Recorder app and the Easy Voice Recorder app. They work well. I use a separate recorder only because it’s easier to see the controls in sunlight.

Having experimented considerably with equipment, I can vouch for the items I’ve cited. There are many choices. The point is, you no longer need expensive or professional equipment to record adequate-quality sound for accurate transcription via software.

Go to the Nuance website (http://nuance.com), the Speech Recognition Solutions website (http://www.speechrecsolutions.com), or the Speech Technology website (http://www.speechtechnology.com) for more information on proper equipment.

To make it easy to use the Dragon voice recognition software, I use only simple punctuation commands (comma, period, new paragraph, etc.). Dragon features a multitude of voice commands that I hope to learn someday, to control the equipment and the software. In the meantime, I find that the simple punctuation commands work just fine.

Writing by voice isn’t for everyone or for every book. But it’s worth a try. You may find, as I did, that writing by voice makes getting your writing down on paper, so to speak, quicker, smoother, and more coherently than if you use a word processor.


©2013 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.

Digital Book World Daily

If you’re interested in keeping up on digital publishing, a good way to do it is to subscribe to the DBW Daily, delivered by email each day. It captures the latest relevant news. DBW stands for Digital Book World, which is an annual digital book conference in NYC. However, DBW is also a publisher. Besides the Daily, they publish a wealth of info on digital books. Go to http://www.digitalbookworld.com/newsletter-registration for the Daily and to the homepage at http://www.digitalbookworld.com . — Sent by Joseph T. Sinclair

Book Apps

By Joseph T. Sinclair

Apps (applications) are programs that run on a smart phone. They are typically dedicated to a specific and narrow purpose. For instance, an app might do nothing more than condense 10 steps on the Web into one tap on the phone screen to accomplish the identical purpose. Put several of such functions together, and you’ve made a valuable app. Something so simple becomes valuable to a phone user who is usually doing something other than sitting at a keyboard.

Publishing should take its cue from programming. Dedicate and specialize. Traditional publishers are more likely to publish a book on making household repairs than on a more specialized topic. As a book app author or publisher, however, you can make a book app on just repairing a washing machine.

Rather than publishing a book on Getting a Job for Teenagers, how about a book app on Getting a Job at McDonald’s, or Getting a Job at McDonald’s in Philadelphia (pop. 5.8 million).

The traditional publishers continue their paper publishing in digital form, embracing the ebook. They need to charge enough for an ebook to cover their expenses/profit minus what they save in printing and distributing a physical printed book. This adds up to about a 20% saving at retail on the average book.

A paper book that sells for $24 can be sold for $19 as an ebook, less whatever discount the retailer gives. If the retailer also gives a 20% discount at retail, the ebook can sell for $15. But who will pay $15 for an ebook that covers 27 topics when he or she only wants to read one or two of those topics?

The term “book app” denotes a publication in a book-like form. This could be a manual, a booklet, a white paper, or a short book. Length is no longer a major consideration for publishing information. Value to the reader, short or long, becomes the prime consideration.

A $3 book app on repairing a washing machine is valuable to a person with a broken washing machine. How does this compare to a $20 lengthy ebook on household repairs that may or may not contain adequate information on repairing a broken washing machine?

For publishing book apps, generally speaking, smaller can be better, less can be more. That doesn’t mean that long books have no market. It just means that the opportunities to publish short book apps successfully are there to be exploited.

One cannot overlook the phenomenon that ebooks generally cost $10 or more, and book apps generally cost less than $10. The pricing makes book apps attractive to readers. Because the book apps will tend to be shorter, the pricing can be adequate for publishers as well. Indeed, you can split a normal book into several parts and sell each part as a book app. I recently split an unpublished book into five parts, which I will eventually publish as a branded series of five separate book apps with minimal additional writing.

The real appeal to publishers, however, is the immense size of the potential market for book apps—perhaps as much as thirty times larger (in bodies) worldwide than the traditional book market. The question is, how many of those people are readers or will become readers? The market will answer that question in the days and years ahead.


©Joseph T. Sinclair 2013  All rights reserved.

The Professional Author of the Future

By Joseph T. Sinclair

First, let’s define “professional author” as one whose primary income is derived from writing. There is always a bumper crop of part-time and wannabe writers who maintain the God-ordained right to be “pure” writers with fountain pen and foolscap in hand and who are willing to pay others to turn their scribblings into text that’s usable in a publishing system. But a professional author cannot enjoy that luxury. A professional author needs tools.

The first modern tool of authors was the typewriter. Forty years ago no professional author could make a living without using a typewriter—except the very few who were wildly successful. With the advent of the word processor in the early 1980s, the personal computer with word processing software became the tool “of choice.” Why? Because it is easier and publishers demand it.

Today the tool of choice remains the word processor, primarily because print publishing software and ebook publishing software can import word processor documents to facilitate publishing.  But we can see the first garish colors of sunset signaling the end of this era.

Multimedia (media-rich, diverse media, enhanced, transmedia) publishing has become not only possible but practical too. In this case, practical means anyone can author it and market it today; that is, any professional author can do so. The part-timers and wannabes will continue on with their purity: fountain pen and foolscap. However, real authors will need to adapt to the times.

Perhaps the first adaption was in travel writing. A travel writer would go on assignment with a photographer. That evolved into the travel writer carrying a camera and providing the photography. In fact, if not award-winning photographs, a travel writer is expected to provide at least commercially viable photographs. That requires a professional-quality camera and perhaps even extra lenses. Today a travel writer is expected to submit high-quality photographs in an appropriate digital format.

Becoming a high-quality photographer does not require the equivalent of a MFA, but it does require time, training, money, and commitment.

Certain newspapers recently laid off all their photographers. They expect their reporters to take the photographs now—with phone cameras. Such reporters will now be judged on the quality of their photographs as well as on the quality of their writing. Those who make the commitment to become proficient photographers will have the edge on their peers.

As we stand at the threshold of diverse-media publishing, we can see that authors of the future will be required to have more tools. One important tool is the diverse-media authoring program. Such a program enables users to add audio, video, embedded programming, interactivity, images, and more to text. When the author is finished with an article or book, one click transforms the writing project into a digital product that can be sold or become part of a larger digital product that can be sold. Thus, the author’s tool of the future is the diverse-media authoring program. Adobe’s InDesign/Digital Publishing Suite is a good example (see the Creative Cloud on the Adobe website, http://www.adobe.com).

OK, if you’re Robert Caro, you won’t have to submit your next biography in an InDesign file. But what if you’re not Robert Caro? And most of us aren’t.

What are the implications of using diverse-media authoring software? The answer: using diverse media. Today, it’s photographs. Tomorrow, it’s audio bites, video clips, color illustrations, etc.

For instance, professional-quality audio recording equipment cost 1/6 of what it cost 15 years ago, and it’s smaller and easier to use. It’s not a stretch to think that future authors will be expected to be able to record interviews, street music, street sounds, educational presentations, and the like with some professional skill. In addition, they will need the skill to incorporate such audio content into digital text products via a diverse-media authoring program.

Although video production is much more complex than audio production, there will be certain mundane video functions that authors will be expected to do well, such as conduct interviews.

Most media, once captured, must be processed. Consequently, authors will be expected to digitally process photographs, audio bites, and video clips just as they are expected to rewrite their text an adequate number of times to make it good enough to submit to a publisher. The software to do this is now inexpensive, and is the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars of equipment and software just a few short years ago.

In addition, creating graphs and abstract non-artistic illustrations with software such as Excel and Adobe Illustrator will become de rigueur. You don’t need a corporate organizational chart for the latest steamy love novel set in Miami, but you do need one for a book about General Motors. You don’t need a bar chart for the Miami novel either, but you do need one for a book on the financial history of Texas.

Thus, in a very short time in the history of literature, authors’ “must-have” tools and capabilities will go from the typewriter all the way to authoring software, diverse-media equipment, processing software, and the ability to use such resources in order to produce commercial-quality content.

Does that mean that every author will need to be able to engineer a 32-track rock concert or make a compelling video documentary on the migration of the Artic tern? No. Yet it does mean that professional authors will be expected to have basic skills for every major medium. The skill you don’t have will be the one required for the writing project of your dreams—the one just posted online by a publisher seeking an author. In other words, every professional author will have an incentive to become a jack of all media.


©2013 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.

The Book App — Part II

By Joseph T. Sinclair

In a prior article entitled The Book App, I reported that Kindle Fire has outsold iPads. I remembered that incorrectly from the statistics, and I should have reported out-polled. The source I read had reported not sales but the results of a preference poll.

Yesterday, when Apple announced their new iPads, the company claimed that iPads have about 90% of the tablet market. I have another source that shows iPads with about 40% of the tablet market, Samsung with about half that market share, and the remaining 40% split between others. There is yet another source that puts the iPad market share at 68%. It is hard to know what to make of these conflicting statistical claims. Nonetheless, I think it is safe to assume that about half the market is iOS (Apple) and half Android. After all, it is known that Samsung smart phones outsell the iPhone and that the Android is growing faster than iOS. Android apps are not the same as iOS apps. Thus, when making book apps, you either have to make two versions or decide in which of the two markets you want to make your sales. It is unlikely that this situation will change for a long time. In fact, Microsoft with Win 8 is likely to become a third major mobile competitor in the next few years. Fortunately, authoring software will eventually make this a moot concern, as you will be able to export your book app easily to either Android or iOS formats.


The Book App

By Joseph T. Sinclair

The author of The Mobile Wave, Michael Saylor, states that five billion people out of seven billion worldwide now have cell phones. Soon the one billion people who now have smart phones will be five billion people as cheap smart phones become more available.

Kenya has the most advanced payment system on the planet, the M-Pesa system. Over 40% of the country’s money is in the M-Pesa cell phone payment system. The Masai are using the M-Pesa system. With a spear in one hand and a cell phone in the other, the Masai herd cattle and farm—-and do their agricultural and personal transactions with M-Pesa. (The spear is for warding off lions.)

Americans use a payment system invented in the 1950s. The little plastic cards are 60 years old and facilitate $5.5 billion in fraud each year. Even Europeans have been using smart cards (a more secure credit card with a chip in it) for three decades, another ancient technology, but one that’s better than plain plastic cards.

Smart phones are computers. By the end of the decade, smart phones will be the only computer that most of the five billion people own. About one billion of those people speak English, and a sizeable percentage of the English-speakers own smart phones already.

There are about 700,000 apps available through Apple. There are another 500,000 available through Android. And growing. Apps are digital applications—computer programs. Apps tend to be single-application programs. They are inexpensive. Desktop and laptop applications tend to be multiple application programs. They are many times more expensive than apps for smart phones.

Tablets (part of the mobile wave) sold more than half as many units as PCs for the first time in 2012. PC sales are in decline.

Microsoft has bet the farm on a new operating system (Win 8) that has a seamless interface between smartphones and PCs.

Over half of Amazon’s book sales are Kindle (ebook) versions. Amazon has a 30% market share of book sales in the US. Barnes & Noble has announced that it will close down hundreds of stores in the next few years. Borders is already bankrupt and gone. Sales of ebooks are booming.

Watching the elections in 2012, one saw dozens of people in the crowds shooting photos of the candidates with their smart phones. Not one point-&-shoot camera to be seen. In airports, everyone has a smart phone in their hand watching movies and TV, surfing the Web, texting, listening to music, or reading. Some people even use them for talking. A recent poll indicates that more people prefer to read on their phone than their tablet.

What does all this mean for publishing? First, reading is migrating to digital formats at an accelerating rate. Second, the smart phone (tablets included) is the ultimate device. Publishing on paper, already obsolete, will be an antique mode of mass communication by the end of the decade.

If digital publishing, what digital publishing? The answer is the ebook. Or is it? The ebook is a hybrid. It’s the weird mutation of the codex (book with pages) and digits. It was born when CPUs and devices were expensive, and ebook readers used feeble CPUs and were cheaper. It emulates paper pages. It has deficient multimedia capabilities. It was designed for digital readers that are now obsolete and were never very capable digital devices.

How do you get an ebook? You must have an account at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, etc. Out of the one billion English-speaking people who have smart phones (or will have them soon), a relatively small percentage have such an account. You have to read an ebook in an ebook app. The app is not the ebook.

What about a book app? That is, what about a book in an app format, not in an ebook format?

First, a book app is not limited to a convoluted, mutated, paper/digital format designed for underpowered digital devices. You can do almost anything you want with a book app that you can do with normal programming. Second, a book app is convenient. It’s just an icon and a tap away. It’s not several taps away. Third, it doesn’t require an account at a bookseller. You get apps via iTunes, Google Play, or the Windows Store where you get all your other apps. It’s immediately available to most smart phone users, not just a percentage of them.

Amazon, king of the ebooks, is already firmly in the app business. The Kindle Fire tablet outsells the iPad (and Samsung Android tablets), making Amazon the leading tablet maker. The Fire uses a slightly modified version of Android, and you can place your Android apps in the Amazon Appstore with a minor modification.

The book app market is huge already. Soon it will have a billion English-speaking people.

A book app doesn’t have to be in a page format. A page format is OK for text-only but very awkward for multimedia. A book app can be in a scroll format, a hypertext format, or a format that facilitates smooth media transitions. Or in all three, and also in formats yet to be invented. When such inventive new formats materialize, they do not have to become part of a rigid standard, such as ebooks.

The drawback is that apps are the realm of the programmer, not the content creator. Certainly that’s one reason why we’ve not seen much book app publishing.

But things evolve. Today we have quasi-competent app authoring software, most of it expensive. Tomorrow we will have super-competent app authoring software, most of it inexpensive. For instance, you can already get all of Adobe’s publishing software now (including the Digital Publishing Suite) for $49/month (Creative Cloud). The Creative Cloud includes about $7,500 worth of Adobe software. With Adobe software, non-programmers can now create book apps. Adobe has bet the farm on diverse media publishing.

Competent authoring software will accelerate the creation and acceptance of book apps. Book apps will foster the diverse-media future of books.

Thus, I contend that the future of book publishing is the book app, not the ebook.


Joseph T. Sinclair has had 20 books published in print by major national publishers.  He has recently founded a publisher, Appworth Media, to publish digital books.


©2013 Joseph T. Sinclair  All rights reserved.