OpenBooks.com » Forum » General Discussions » What do you think about OpenBooks.com?
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Tomasz Staniak

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on April 1, 2015 at 3:51pm Post #1
We've been wondering if you have some ideas to share with us?

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 12:10am Post #592
It's a great idea if you're a reader, but I'm not so sure it's great if you're a writer. If people don't have to pay, they won't. How many people have paid for books so far? My book has been downloaded 53 times, and not a single person has reviewed it, or paid one penny. I'm starting to think this is not a very good idea.

Posted on April 24, 2015 at 10:30am Post #594
Well, William, I guess you need to give it a chance. these days and the future is going to hang on whether or not businesses will be able to convince you to pay money for things you can otherwise get for free. This business model seems to be a nice way of thinking on how to do it. ;)

Posted on April 24, 2015 at 11:41am Post #595
My first think was that this service is great.
Still I think it is great, but I found that I can't offer it to many of my friends (and family) as they don't know English.

I think it could be great if we as community can provide translations to books so Authors can have benefits not only money but also more people can read their books so there is bigger chance to earn more.

Posted on November 15, 2015 at 1:11pm Post #833
I think that is a great idea to do translations. I put one of my favourite books up on Open Books because I believe in the philosophy behind it. And even though I have the book elsewhere, I still keep it up here, because I know good ideas that step outside of existing paradigms take a while (like generations) to make their mark. So I am happy to support OpenBooks, who are putting their time, money and energy into shifting the existing paradigm into the 'economy of trust'. Shifting it into something that fosters the best, rather than the worst, in mankind.
Back to the translation idea. My novel on here, 'The Way Home', has a Polish hero, and the idea of having it translated into Polish has always been in the back of my mind, ever since I learned so much about Poland when researching the book. Anyway, I can't afford to pay for translations, but if there was someone on here who would like to do it, I could make book trailers for some of their books in exchange.
I believe that video marketing is the way of the future, and I am now offering my skills to authors. It costs a lot to have a good trailer made, and so, by offering cheap but effective options to authors, I'm trying to make the most of this trend for us. Anyway, if anyone reads this comment and can translate my book, and would like to see what its about and the skills I'm offering, this is the trailer link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO65a_3DopE

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Tomasz Staniak

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on April 24, 2015 at 11:42pm Post #596
First of all, nice to see you guys! I'm happy you made it here :)

We have just started so there are a lot of rough edges to polish but I wouldn't say, that this model is great for readers and bad for the authors. It is less obvious and more difficult than the models from the current paradigms but it can and it will be profitable. First of all you (and we) need some time, second of all it's not really important how many users have downloaded the files but how many have paid. We will be working on the issues revolving around payments in the next couple of months.

As for the translations... there was such option before closed beta 4 months ago but it has been disabled. Since then we had couple of questions regarding books in different languages and translations of the website itself. We are thinking about it

Posted on May 17, 2015 at 11:53pm Post #611
I have removed one of my books, and, sadly, am thinking of removing another now. Is anybody getting paid here at all? According to your own stats, there paid contributions amount to 1.5% of downloads - and the ratio has only been increasing over the recent months, rather than decreasing.

I had a Pick of the Week, a blog feature, and over 300 downloads - and not a penny from it, on books which sell for $10 on Amazon. How do you propose to remedy this situation?

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Ula Zarosa

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on May 18, 2015 at 12:33pm Post #612
Dear James,
You are right, the number of paid contributions is quite law at the moment and we understand that it is disappointing for authors. However we are very young service, with an innovative, open, revolutionary business model that needs time to be understood and used properly.
We believe that readers need a little time to get familiar with the concept. To realize that we trust them to pay for the books they like and that we deliver great quality.
We are not wasting time though, constantly working on changes that will help us to deliver the important massage that we've got and encourage readers to not only download but also pay for the books. We know that asking for your patience and support is much but we are going for something greater here. This project is about re-creating the long forgotten relationship between writer and reader... this is why we'd like to involve authors more in the promotion process. We really crave for your feedback, we are changing features of the website and it's content... we want to crate more marketing opportunities for the authors. But we would really appreciate if the authors decide to be involved in this process.
We are building this platform for you and if something is not working we are also disappointed. We read your books and we try to do our best to promote the platform. But as we've seen in the media articles some people are skeptical because they are just used to the old ways - being forced to paid fixed prices, not being able to copy the files etc.
So as we see it... great, breakthrough ideas always need a little time to become part of our everyday life. It's up to you if you want to treat us simply as another boring selling platform or if you want to get involved in creating an ethical alternative to what is going on the publishing market.
And the other thing is that slowly we are gathering people that gladly pay for the books. Some come back to pay after a month (maybe they use the opportunity to pay after reading). So we believe that the number will be growing with time. It's a small snowball now.. but it's getting bigger and we just need more effort on both sides (our and authors) to speed up the process and gather bigger community.

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 6:13pm Post #614
I know I'm pretty much noone to speak here, but I felt kinda butthurt now. I mean geez, James. Imagine you live in a Start Trek-ish world where you can get everything for free where you can get food and pretty much everything you imagine from these fancy machines they had which could make matter from non matter. Awesome, isn't it? Nope, not really if you are food producer and this machine makes your fav delicous dumplings. Or you are shoes manufacturer and you can get your nike roshes by pressing a button. Now let's face a fact: internet is this magic box which let you get you fav movies, music and books from thousands sources over the world. And you can't do a thing about it. So why instead of adapting you make complaints?
It's really ridiculous for me. Let's face it - you are not some well known writer, I never heard about you or your works and I read a lot of stuff. Let me ask you a question: how many fan meetings can you make over the world so you can get more popularity? How much can u spend on your books promotion? I guess not so much. Now, here, you've got a whole community of people who love books. people who are crazy about them. So far this is the most social media oriented place in terms of book writers - readers I had an opportunity to see. And as I wrote in my "Second Star" review: it really hurt to see you all writers, creators of new worlds and stories here and rate you bad. You've got every mean in your hands to make yourself popular over broader public. And yet you spent your forum time to complain.
Meh.
Social media: you're doing it wrong.

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Tomasz Staniak

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on May 23, 2015 at 12:22am Post #616
Stanley, thank you for your breathtaking post.

I'm sure that Ula will be more emotional with an reply, as a CTO I'm more 0/1 type of person.

We made a lot of small mistakes in this short time - we have invested a lot of time into features that are not really important at this point and have missed on those, that would be. I understand that a lot of you guys - the authors and the readers may and often feel left alone without our support.

You might have also felt, that we stopped progressing in the last month. We didn't - in fact, we made a lot of effort but it won't be visible for the next couple of weeks. We will try to post a regular update on those changes but for now we often find ourselves without the time or words.

As the authors - yes, Stanley, OpenBooks is not a magic box, that you put a book in and success and splendor comes out. There are opportunities and effort to be made by each and every author that wants to be successful but we won't be leaving you on your own. We are making effort to push out features, functionalities at OpenBooks and outside of the website to help the authors grow. There are some exciting ideas and features already in the works, some of the changes are already known as we introduce them to the most active and involved users of OB, for others it is too early to talk about them. All of them require time to design, implement, test, introduce, descibe and deploy.

We would love to work faster but in fact we are a small team. This also means that as a users of OB you have to be more patient but we also care more as we treat you as living and demanding individuals rather than statistical numbers. That said, if you have ideas, problems etc, let us know either here or through the support. We always read everything you say, even if it takes us long to respond - we are working on it!

Tomasz, CTO.

Posted on May 26, 2015 at 2:45pm Post #617
@Jacek - I see no reason for you to get so emotional in your response. You may not have heard of me, but I do have a certain reader base, and I can't complain on the profits my books have brought me so far through more traditional channels. I'm not using OpenBooks as way to jump-start my career, which has been going on fine without it. Furthermore, I'm quite satisfied with the number of downloads I get from the site - it's pretty much what I'd expect at this stage. It's the conversion rate that makes me worried, and not just mine - the stats available on the main page tell a sad story for everyone involved (358/24602 - still less than 1.5% at the moment, and from what I can tell, it's falling).

I like to believe we're all professionals here, and there's really little merit in the "I just want my books read" attitude. There are many other ways to distribute your work for free on the internet. Crucially, I'm sure guys at OpenBooks want to get paid for their effort, too - otherwise they wouldn't be in the business in the first place, and wouldn't be asking us for our opinions.

Posted on May 26, 2015 at 2:54pm Post #618
As for more constructive ideas - I'm sure you have good marketing people to come up with these, but are you now sending out some kind of follow-up e-mails, say, a month after download, asking to rate and maybe purchase the book? I assume that's the case from what Ula writes in her post, but it's worth asking.

Posted on May 29, 2015 at 3:26pm Post #620
Also, how about introducing ways for authors to incentivise readers to pay, other than just having read the book? E.g. additional content sent after you pay, or being sent the next book in the series only if you paid for the first one, and so on...

These are all things individual authors often do on their websites, but openbooks platform could allow us to do it on a bigger scale.

Posted on June 3, 2015 at 12:54pm Post #622
As a reader I think this is a great idea!

If I like sth I pay for it (like at croudfunding sites or at Steam or GOG for games, that I tried earlier). And I will pay for books I like. If you don't like what you read, there is a small chance that you will ever read the whole book, I think.

If you are not so popular, there is a chance, that I will meet your writing, appreciate it and pay for it.

There are research, people who download music/games through torrent like sites, pays more and often for those products later.

If you are a writer and you treat your readers as a thiefs, than don't bother - please, don't publish. I don't want to read that, probably it's not worth it.

Hope there will be more language diversity on this site.

Regards

Posted on October 2, 2015 at 2:41pm Post #732
I think the business model of OpenBooks is fantastic ! Trust is the basic premise, and
I also think that you need to tweak your model a bit, in the sense that the readers
who download the books must commit to pay. At the time of downloading the books,
minimum 25% or 50% should be taken, otherwise it can become tough to sustain, and
the authors can get demotivated.

My book "Print Your Own Money" has been downloaded 1,115 times, and only 2 readers
have paid. This is quite demotivating. Initially I was impressed with your business model,
but with time, my viewpoint is rapidly changing. I had priced my book at a very low price,
because I thought that being a new business I must contribute to your anticipated success.
But month after month nothing is coming in. No author can survive on hope...

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Ula Zarosa

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on October 2, 2015 at 7:28pm Post #736
Dear Kevin and Anil,

Thank you very much for your posts. We have already take few simple steps to help with the conversion:
1) Now, if a reader is not registered in the service he/she needs to give us an e-mail address with his/hers first download.
2) After submitting e-mail address reader receives a message that encourage him to register in the service - so he can observe his bookshelf get latest news etc.
3) Readers now will be reminded about books that are awaiting their decision, either reader should pay for them or remove from their bookshelf (the removal is the message for the author that they did not enjoy it).
4) We have changed the message inside of the eBooks, now they are more clear and encouraging.
5) We have also added a payment popup, so after each download reader is reminded that he/she can pay right away.
And this is just the beginning, in the near future we plan:
- adding the possibility to use credit card directly (now we have only PayPal payment system) on the site to pay for books easier and faster;
- we want to change author's and book's page to make it more community centered, so readers could see that they are supporting authors and encourage them to keep on writing;

I would be more than happy to hear about your ideas!
I can list more of what we were thinking recently and tell me if you are pro or against them.
- the possibility to organize online and offline meetings with readers via our website
- the possibility for the author to run crowdfunding campaign on the website for his/hers new book
- the possibility for the reader to become a patron of the author and pay a monthly sum to him/her
- the possibility to sell paperback copy for fixed price via other service or our own

We have now prepared short survey for our readers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/X5R3QYY (feel fry to take it) and shortly after weekend we want to create something similar for you - the authors.

We don't want to close our pricing system because we'd like to build new economy of trust, however we would like to create more options for financial support of the authors. More reader-friendly features that will help to build community around the website.

So please feel free to share your ideas because we are now building bigger and stronger team to implement some helpful changes.


Posted on November 15, 2015 at 3:01pm Post #835
I got an email inviting me back here, and so I have spent an interesting Sunday morning reading and commenting on these posts that are about a month out of date. So I'm not sure if anyone will read them. But it has been an excellent way to process a lot of the thoughts I've been having recently. So now I want to address Ula's statements about the future directions of OpenBooks. And I will after i give a bit of backstory.

One of the other people who posted, and was complaining that the model didn't work, had me thinking abut my answer. I suggested to that guy that the target readership for a book called Print Your Own Money, was only going to be interested in taking advantage of this amazing system. They come here to look through what they can get for free, and though they may want to read a book that tells them they can print their own money, as soon as they start reading, if they start reading, its all going to be too much work to even read a book that cost them nothing, no less act on it.

Which got me thinking about my sales. Okay, not anywhere near as many as on Amazon, but I didn't expect them to be, while this idea was gaining momentum. But I have had sales, and I was quite touched when one reader payed three times the market price. And, as my sales have been slowly slipping on Amazon because they have changed the goalposts yet again, I have turned to marketing my other skills to keep the roof over my head. As part of that, I wrote a How To book on visual marketing, and the psychological justifications for focusing on doing more and doing it well.

What came out of it for me was a clear sense of my own ideal reader. I spent a lot of time in the little book explaining the importance of this, using my own experiences as examples. Then I come on here and see a man trying to sell a book in a place that his ideal readers would only consider a bargain basement. Which led me to wondering what my ideal reader would think of this site, and I knew immediately that she would think this was wonderful. The fact she hasn't found it yet is due to many factors, but at least one is within my control. I haven't told my readers about this site. I've been waiting for it to prove itself. And how foolish is that!

My sense of the economic situation right now is that we are on the brink of another 80s dotcom disaster. Everyone is chasing their tails rearranging the deckchairs on the digital Titanic. People who gave up their day jobs to follow their dream of becoming authors, musicians, or other creatives including innovators, are seeing their dreams dissipate. Fear is everywhere. Thoughts are turning to applying for another boring job, like the one they left behind.

But I see the future is still for us creative and innovative Indies, we can still have the dream. Just as the internet has only gone from strength to strength since the 80s when it looked like it was going the way of the dodo bird. we can survive and thrive. But we have to start thinking outside the box and acting on it. And this site is outside the box. There is a world-wide groundswell against the current economic system, probably led by spiritually-minded people who live by a different paradigm. And there are those who are ecowarriors, too. They are just two groups I can think of off the top of my head who would flock to this site if they knew about it. This is their place. A retailer who is living by example and asking the same of its readers. This is no Amazon!

I would love to see communities set up on this site. (See I said I'd come back to the point once I'd covered the backstory!) A hub where people can hang out with like-minded others. It has been incredibly energising to just read comments on here, because it reminds me there is another way of seeing the world, and I'm really not the only one who thinks like this. The internet gives us all an opportunity to connect with like-minded people across the world. But it has to establish more place for people to hang out. A place that isn't FB or G+ or (shudder) Twitter. It needs to connect people from different walks of life, different belief systems, but who all share the values of fairness and trust. Those people also share the love of, or at least a respect for, books. It seems to me that this is the perfect place to bring all those people together. And I would love to see communities here.
Just from the hours I've spent on here today, I have already decided to email my readers and post on a very active (and intelligent) author FB group, about it. Maybe if we all stopped seeing this as an interesting experiment we're exploring, but not yet committed to, and actually put our weight behind making it happen, we'd all benefit. Well, all those authors who know their target readers are fair people who value being trusted, that is. That's it. Stop talking now. lol!

Posted on October 8, 2015 at 3:03pm Post #737
I'm both an author and a reader here.

## My opinion as an author ##

I'm surprised to read disappointment from other authors regarding to the conversion rate. I've experimented a lot with "pay after reading" schemes, and the return I get on Openbooks is so much higher than in my other trials that I have a hard time believing it. One payment out of thirteen downloads for one book and one payment out of... wait for it... six downloads for another. Those are absolute numbers, my books are listed only since a few days, so you definitely can't make a rule out of them. However, for the sake of the experiment, I have not advertised my books on Openbooks, not even on my private facebook profile, so those are definitely organic sales. Still, the numbers are too low to start drawing conclusion. I just wanted to speak up for the authors that actually do happen to have a pretty good conversion rate. Fingers crossed that it lasts.

I find the publication process as easy as it gets. Much better than amazon's, that's for sure. Not as perfect as Kobo's, but then again, Kobo's author platform is too good to be true. Let's not even talk about Smashwords.

I find the generic call-to-action that Openbooks slips in throughout the book well crafted but a little too much repeated. I wish authors could opt out of them if they don't mind crafting their own personalized CTAs with link back to Openbooks.

I write in more language than English. I'd love to see language sections.

## My opinion as a reader ##

I find the download process flawlessly smooth. You don't even have to register! High-five to that, Openbooks! I find the calls-to-action that Openbooks slips in the book not too intrusive. I don't even read them, but they remind me that I haven't paid yet for this book. I think they're very fair warnings.

I read on my smartphone and I very much dislike navigating the website from it. Which I must do because it's so much more practical to have the book downloaded directly to my reading device than to get it first on my laptop and then send the file to my smartphone. I suppose responsive design for the website is high in the priority list, but here's to bump it up a bit.

What would help with that is a qr-code for the download link. So I could browse books on the computer and when I find one I like, I'd just flash the code and it would be in my smartphone in seconds. I do it with a firefox plugin, but it'd be nice if it was part of the experience.

I can read in more languages than English. I want language sections!

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Tomasz Staniak

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on October 9, 2015 at 4:30pm Post #740
Thanks for the opinion Julien!

It's really heart-warming to read that we've done something better than others. Internally, we sometimes tend to loose the touch with reality as we know where we would like to be and what we would like to have already done.

The disappointment of the conversion rates is based on the mistake we've made in the beginning. Authors who published their books in the first couple of months after our public start were subject to a bug in the download counters - this meant that the numbers were higher than the actual download rates. We fixed this some time ago but decided not to fix the numbers to avoid further confusion.

Real conversion rates are not bad given the distribution model - usually every 1 out of 10-20 downloaders decides to pay in the 2 months time-span after downloading and reading and the usual average of payment is close to $2. We are now working hard, as Ula wrote down earlier, to push more changes that will activate the users.

As for the functionalities, there is the whole pipeline for something we internally call Openbooks 2.0, which will be something more than it is now. Mobile is on our priority list as well as new payment methods and additional fixes to the user-experience and user-interface.

Posted on October 15, 2015 at 9:12pm Post #761
I'm very excited about OpenBooks and looking forward to how it will develop. I work for OpenBooks as a reviewer, I started only a couple of days ago and have to say that from the reader's perspective, the process of downloading books can't go more smoothly. No bugs, no errors.

It's great to hear, as Tomasz writes, that real conversion rates are higher than those we see on the website. However, even low conversion rates wouldn't be a surprise to me at this point - the project is still new and people are so used to getting things online for free that we need to be realistic and say that it needs to take some time until they get used to OpenBooks' idea of business. Introducing the features discussed above will certainly help with it.

Posted on October 18, 2015 at 7:39pm Post #765
To my mind, the biggest problem with the (un)paying issue is the fact that people got used to getting all for free on the internet. You can download music in a blink of on eye, you can get a movie in several seconds, and they're all for free, nobody "forces" or encourages you to pay after you're done with your entertainment. So my first conslusion is people are not used to dealing with downloading that way, or might become forgetful easily.
The idea of OB is beautiful - but that's daily practice and people's habits that you're struggling with. Readers are accustomed to paying before they download, not after. The concept is brand new and the might feel like they are offered something for free. The idea of a choice (to pay or not to pay) might easily spoil them.
Having said that, I'm still very surprised with the fact that only 5-6 % of downloaders pay. Surely, some of them might get disappointed 'cause they had expected something different and didn't even finish the book, but I was sure more than a half of them pay. What you propose is the idea of trust and responsibility which some people haven't matured into yet.

Posted on October 26, 2015 at 3:15pm Post #799
As it was mentioned before, Openbooks is a relatively young project requiring time to develop :) and secondly, people are not used to pay for things that are for free. I think that it is a result of the fact that books and music are rather expensive and often below expectations but crowdfunding, Spotify or other similar projects show that people are eager to pay for what they like and support. So I believe that reading for free and paying what you want and what you can afford is a good direction for Open Books.
Coming back to Ula’s idea:
- the possibility to organize online and offline meetings with readers via our website:
It may be the effective way of promoting the books and creating the bonds between a reader and a writer
- the possibility for the author to run crowdfunding campaign on the website for his/hers new book:
For me it’s the most interesting solution: maybe the authors could publish their promo books on Open Books (for instance the first part of the whole series) and gather money to gain support to write the rest.
- the possibility for the reader to become a patron of the author and pay a monthly sum to him/her
It depends on a form because I think that people generally mistrusts subscriptions.
- the possibility to sell paperback copy for fixed price via other service or our own
I think this idea may appear dangerous that Open books would become a book store instead of being a place to share and support. Maybe the idea of providing some gifts for the loyal followers would be better :)

Posted on October 26, 2015 at 3:47pm Post #802
About the crowdfunding:

I've given it a lot of thought. Unless we're talking about already successful authors (that would not need crowdfunding, having already revenue from their previous books), crowdfunding seems ill-fitting for authors. To crowdfund a project, you need for people to get a pretty good idea of what you'll be doing pretty quickly. Crowdfunding typically hinges on a short video and a short webpage explaining the concept. Books are not visual enough for that. Books take time and focus to get in.

Even if an author wanted to crowdfund the sequel to an existing book, people that haven't read it would need to... well read it, to be excited about it. Few people will do that investment. *Even if the author gives away Episode 1 for free*.

I could never come up with a way that an author could pitch a not-yet-written book to the crowd in a way that doesn't require people to read at least a short story from that author. Crowdfunding just doesn't work like that.

Or can anyone come up with a scenario where it would work?

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Tomasz Staniak

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on October 26, 2015 at 4:00pm Post #803
There there, no reason to post so many times ;)

Posted on November 15, 2015 at 3:14pm Post #836
I understand what crowd funding attempts to do. It's like getting investors to support your new business idea, or your next movie. And I don't think the people who need the financial support to write their new book are likely to have the kind of following that could do this. But I saw an interesting idea on an artist's site recently, and it was inline with the sponsorship idea. It asked people to contribute a certain amount a month to support the artist while they worked. My readers couldn't afford to do that. They're struggling to stay afloat themselves. It's a major win if they actually buy my books. But what about getting the support of businesses trying to make their way using the new paradigm. How much media support could they attract by sponsoring authors on here. Not only would the media coverage for them bring them more business, but it would bring more readers here to check out what is on offer. I know such businesses exist because I've read books about them in the past. But I don't remember their names. Anyway, its just a thought. :)

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 9:34am Post #845
My thoughts about download system after using this site for a little longer:

-I wish to have a 'wish list'. Now, if there is a book I wish to read in a near future, I have to download it. Download counter can be confusing for authors, as it implies reading,

-I would count uniqe downloads, not every (I mistakenly deleted one of a book I haven't red, so I had to download it again, therefore changing counter, suggesting double reading)


Posted on December 2, 2015 at 11:41am Post #846
I agree that a wish list would be a good solution (just to have a category on my bookshelf "Wanted to read" or "Interested" instead of downloading books that you later forget to read).
For me the bookshelf on my profile is too simplistic: there are basically only two categories, downloaded and paid books. It's confusing when you have many books. Also adding an option to sort out my read books by rates would be helpful.

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Tomasz Staniak

OpenBooks.com Team
Posted on December 2, 2015 at 11:43am Post #847
We are (still) working on it.

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 11:45am Post #848
I like Milena's suggestion. It'll provide clarity. Hope you
achieve it fast Tomasz !
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