Magazines on a Kindle, Part Two: Ways to Publish

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In my last post on the Kindle marketplace, I covered the reading experience of different types of magazines on various Kindle devices. In this post, I’m going to look at Kindle from the publisher’s point of view. 

Avid Kindle readers are familiar with how easy it is to find a book on Amazon, click to purchase, and have it arrive onto your device in seconds. If you’re interested in selling to this crowd, there isn’t just one way to do so.  In this blog post, we’ll walk through Kindle Direct Publishing, KDP Select, Kindle Singles, Kindle Publishing for Blogs, Android Apps, and hosting your own files for Kindle readers. 

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KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING 

If it’s a book you’re writing, Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP is a good bet. KDP takes your book in formats like Word, HTML, ePub, plain text, rich text or PDF and converts it for you. They offer formatting tips and advice for making sure you’re happy with your content. Additionally Amazon provides both a KindleGen and a Kindle Previewer tool to help you convert & test. Be prepared to spend a lot of time here, though, it can take a while to iterate through format/kindle gen/kindle preview steps.

Once you’re happy with how your content is formatted, you’ll need to provide KDP with some details about the product, preview metadata, keywords, categories, pricing, royalty information, etc. I won’t cover pricing strategies, as there is already a lot of guidance on how to do that, but I will mention that KDP offers two options: a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty. If your price is between $2.99 and $9.99, you can opt for the 70% royalty option, otherwise you’ll be getting 35% royalty.  You’ll also need to select pricing for each of the different Amazon stores (India, UK, Germany, etc.).  Once you’re information is there & your content is uploaded, you should be good to go. 

KDP also have two new programs to allow publishers to make their books available in audio via ACX and in print using CreateSpace.

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KDP SELECT 

KDP Select is an option for KDP publishers that could be a good option if you need marketing or promotional support for new material and don’t mind a period of exclusivity. While enrolled in KDP Select, your Digital Book must be exclusive to Kindle and will be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program where it will earn a share of a monthly cash fund when readers borrow it. Also, you can promote your Digital Book as free for up to 5 days during each 90–day period. Additionally, by including your Digital Book in KDP Select, your Digital Book will also be eligible to earn 70% royalty for sales to customers in Brazil, Japan, and India. Before enrolling in KDP Select, however, be sure you are willing to give Amazon the exclusive right to sell and distribute your publication in digital format while it is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your content (or content that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory where you have rights. 

KINDLE SINGLES

For shorter form content, Kindle Singles is a great option. A Kindle Single is typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words and Amazon describes them as “compelling ideas expressed at their natural length, writing that doesn’t easily fall in to the conventional space limitations of magazines or print books. They can be any topic, and Amazon will consider ebooks recently published via KDP, manuscript submissions or pitches. To submit, you simply email a summary of the work along with the title (and, if you have it, the Amazon Standard Identification Number, or ASIN) to kindle-singles@amazon.com. Alternately for non-published work you can email a manuscript, detailed pitch or proposal. 

Submissions are usually responded to in about four weeks, and if your content is accepted you will receive instructions for submitting via KDP. All Kindle Singles must have a list price of between $0.99-$4.99, and authors can choose either royalty option even if it’s below $2.99. Authors retain all rights to their work, and Kindle Singles are made available in all territories where you have rights. 

Categories ineligible for Kindle Singles include how-to manuals, public domain works, reference books, travel guides or children’s books. 

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KINDLE COMIC CREATOR

If you’re working on comics or graphic novels, Kindle has something new for you: the Kindle Comic Creator. Comic Creator is for comics, graphic novels, manga, and creates a cool guided navigation experience. Unlike the regular, paginated text content of most Kindle publications, you can set original resolution and create double page spreads or facing pages to give comic lovers a great experience. Authors can start from scratch or import from ePub, KF8 or PDF formats. 

Once you’re finished creating your comic book or graphic novel, you can preview on Kindle Fire or Paperwhite devices, and support for previewing on the Kindle app for iPad and iPhone is coming soon. When you’re ready to go, you can publish and sell through KDP as described above. 

KINDLE PUBLISHING GRAVEYARD

Last year I was part of a beta program run by Amazon called the Kindle Publishing for Newspapers & Magazines Beta, but their site indicates now that the program has closed. There is no indication on their site that the program will be reopened. I have continued to ask for details on this program or guidance on periodical publishing for Kindle but keep running into dead ends. 

This article from last year on paidContent mentions that Amazon has not stopped letting publishers on board, but is severely restricting the publishers using their older, black-and-white edition infrastructure. Instead we see a nudge to move publishers towards the self-service option of building an Android app for the Amazon Appstore for Android, which is what we’ll cover next. 

ANDROID APPLICATIONS

With the lack of available information on creating periodicals in mobi format to sell to Kindle owners, I’m making an educated guess that Amazon is trying to decrease its need to have infrastructure here and instead trying to push publishers towards creating their own self-service Android applications for magazines and newspapers. There is some information here https://developer.amazon.com/sdk.html on the Amazon Mobile SDK for those building apps for the Fire tablets, and this includes information on in-app purchasing, working with Whispersync, including mobile ads and more. 

If that all seems like a bit much, there are some publishing platforms available today like Mag+ (if you’re currently using InDesign for creating your content) who do offer an Amazon Appstore bundle option, and Woopie will soon be joining them. (We’re currently planning on creating on our Windows 8 application next, but if you have feedback on this or preferences we’d love to hear from you.)

HOST IT YOURSELF

If your audience is not exclusively Kindle readers, you may like the idea of hosting and promoting your content yourself. By this I mean that you have your own website where you list the available issues, deal with sales & subscriptions, and make content available in the formats of your choice. See this site for a great example of what that might look like: http://pragprog.com/magazines.  If you want to go this route & not limit your audience to the versions they have available, Woopie can save you a lot of time in creating and generating the different formats.

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SUMMARY

That’s a brief overview of what the options are to publish your content for your Kindle-loving customers. For more details definitely check out the Amazon Kindle publisher resources as well as the forums. If you have any questions or comments, or you are working on Kindle publishing at the moment, we would definitely like to hear from you. Let us know what you think!

Magazines on a Kindle? Who knew?

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When I ask people their thoughts about reading magazines on a Kindle, a surprisingly large percentage are quick to dismiss the concept. 

I’m an old-skool Kindle user. I like my black-and-white, focus-on-the-text, no backlight device because it offers no distractions. When I’m using my Kindle, it’s because I want to read. Really read. I use my Kindle primarily to read great content for which the design is less critical to the overall meaning. Magazines for the older Kindle make sense to me when they’re text-heavy, such as the Harvard Business Review, The Economist, or The New Yorker

But for magazines where the design is a primary factor, like Monocle, InStyle, or Fast Company, what is the benefit of a Kindle version? Newer Kindle lines like the Kindle Fire actually offer a good experience here. 

Reading Magazines on a Kindle Fire

I examined several magazines on the Kindle Fire, and most fall into one of two categories: individual Kindle mobi documents (the majority) or a container app with a storefront (this seems to be the minority but my research indicated this is more likely the direction things are heading), similar to most iOS Newsstand publications. 

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Kindle magazine documents (text-based):

The Kindle magazines are a little bit strange to get your head around and first. Many have two views: a zoomed-out view (screenshots of the individual pages) that you can swipe through as well as a reading view. The zoomed-out view has page-turn animations and retains the editorial design and layout. The reading view has nicer fonts, better spacing and a paginated full-text view of the article.  The reading view will remind you of the older Kindle reading experience, except that it also may have color images and some basic but nice formatting. 

I really grew to like this magazine format actually because you can see the editorial design in the zoomed out view, but still get the text in a pleasant reading view. And with the zoomed-out image view, you can get a nice navigation element to swipe quickly through the entire publication. It’s a little awkward going between the two and it’s not perfect, but I like it a lot better than most replica iPad magazines I have seen. 

Android magazine apps (image-based):

The container app magazines seem to be native Android apps. So you have a storefront where you can subscribe or purchase individual issues, a bookshelf to access those you’ve purchased, and a reading view. The ones I examined were huge sizes to download and took a while, probably because the magazines were completely made up of very large images. They were also no strangers to crashing. 

With the container apps, you can expect to find things like the dreaded, “How to use this magazine” page we remember from awkward iOS magazines. But a nice surprise is that these apps incorporate appropriate media like exclusive videos, sound bites and click-to-buy without the burden of having to wonder how to navigate or swipe each page, as with many iPad magazines. 

Two Examples

To show you a bit more what I mean about the formats, I have two examples below: The Economist and InStyle

For The Economist, we have zoomed-out page views (that, due to resolution, can’t go full screen in portrait mode, and can in landscape mode though at that size the text is unreadable). We have the reading view of the articles. And we have the scrubber to navigate quickly through sections. This works for The Economist because its text-heavy, dense nature makes it a good candidate for the reading view. You can quickly read all the content in a comfortable format, and you don’t feel like you’re missing out on a lot of visual additions. 

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Contrast that to InStyle, where every page is a full screen image, and pages slide side-by-side. At the top we have a familiar scrubber for quick navigation. There’s no reading view, and there’s no landscape mode. What you see is what you get. Touching the page will bring down the navigation icons and menus and touching it again will make them disappear. Unless of course you’ve touched an advertisement page, in which case you’ll see a blank page for a few seconds and then realize you’re actually now on that brand’s web page. Oh.

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Slideshow: Example pages from InStyle

While I don’t like this experience nearly as much, I have to admit it works for a magazine like InStyle. The editorial design comes through and is enjoyable to browse. There’s not enough text to warrant a reading view, and the articles that are there have large enough fonts that you can read them comfortably enough. Unless you have accessibility controls turned on, in which case you’ll experience the “black box” of digital magazines as shown in my videos for .net magazine here: http://www.netmagazine.com/features/10-great-ways-make-your-content-portable-and-accessible

Pros for Kindle Magazines

Something I found I love about magazines on Kindles is the pagination. I love not having to think about scrolling. I love that the next page comes from just a swipe or click; I don’t have to poke or prod the page to figure out what content I might be missing, like I always do with iPad magazines. 

A couple of other random pros: 

  • Prices seem to be cheaper, with many magazines in the $0.99-$1.99 range versus iPad’s $3.99-$6.99 range. 
  • Most magazine subscriptions give you 14 days to a month free. All of the non-app magazines I looked at were free for a month. 
  • Kindle reading features: if you’re used to being able to do things like increase font size, change font, and change contrast, you still have these options for the reading views in standalone magazines, which is really nice. 
  • Newsstand search! As a publisher, this might be my favorite part about publishing content to the Kindle Newsstand – it’s actually findable. You can browse by categories instead of just the 30 newest magazines Apple decided to call out. 

Summary

E Ink Kindle lovers like me might have a hard time believing that magazines can be great on a Kindle. But the Kindle Fire HD shows that some really interesting and delightful reading experiences can be created, and that the power of the platform is that publishers can decide the best format for their content. 

This is a two-part article. This half focused on the reading experience of Kindle magazines and why it’s good for both readers and publishers. In the follow up blog post, I will cover the many ways to publish to the Kindle marketplace. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover, feel free to email me at martha [at] woop dot ie.