Why eBooks are worth more than paper books

What’s in a book? Well, some words, written on some pages, sandwiched between some covers, and with some text on the front and back. Only now that eBooks proliferate, all that’s changed to a small file of ones and zeroes. Electronic books can’t possibly be worth as much as paper books: there’s no paper, there’s no printing to do, no shipping, no postage. They have no weight. We’re probably all well versed in the arguments for eBooks being cheaper.

But this makes the foolish assumption that cost is the same as price. Cost is not price. Cost is how much it costs you to make a thing – like the writing, paying the advance, editing, proofreading, and production. Price in contrast is entirely to do with the value to the customer. So if a customer gets more out of an eBook, the eBook is worth more, and should sell for more.

What do we get out of an eBook? Well, it’s light, so we can carry lots of them around wherever we go. They’re small, so we can get lots of them in our handbag, and we don’t need to set aside space in our house to store them. They don’t decay, so there’s no depreciation in the physical value of an eBook, no yellowing of pages or pages getting torn. They’re robust, incapable of being destroyed by rain or even eaten by the dog. Ebooks have full colour photos and diagrams where paper books are usually just black and white. In terms of value, the eBook is worth much more than the paper book.

So why don’t eBooks sell for more than paper books?

I once knew a very shrewd business man. He showed me one of his most popular product lines, a metal washer. This plain metal washer, he said, sold at two pence a piece. It had a nice burnished colour to it due to the heat of the manufacturing process. Then he held up another washer, exactly the same shape and size as the previous one, except that it was black.

“This matte black washer sells at just one pence, half the price of the shiny one” he said.

“What’s the difference?” I said.

“It’s the same washer” he said with a smile, “except that I paid extra for it to be painted.”

Would you pay £10,000 for your book?

cash for books

There’s a simple way to work out whether your book or book proposal is ready for a publisher. Ask yourself “If I were this publisher, would I sign me?”

When  a publisher takes on a new author they’re committing several thousand pounds to the project. That’s their money. By signing a contract with you the author, they’re committing to spending their money gambling on you and your book. Does that fact really sink in, I wonder? Think of it, if the boot were on the other foot, would you sign yourself? As a publisher would you spend £10,000 on you and your book, knowing you might not get a single penny of it back?

In my job as an Acquisition Editor I have to make this call all the time. As the person responsible for finding the authors and the books that my boss is going to invest in, I have to be sure each book is worth the gamble of losing £10k, £20k or perhaps even more. So when I contact a new potential author I’ve already done my homework to check that they’re the right kind of person to shoulder this commitment. When I discuss a topic for a book I’ve already done my market research to check there’s a lot of people wanting  a book on this topic, and that there aren’t too many competing books on the same subject. I’ve already checked that the genre is right for our audience, that the subject is hot with that audience, and that there’s demand that we as a publisher can reach.

I noticed from speaking with several fiction authors yesterday that this idea of investment never crosses the minds of the average author. The fact that it is free to send manuscripts out to publishers, and it’s effectively free to self publish, insulates them from thinking about the money. This insulation from monetary concerns is not the author’s fault – after all, authors deal mostly with words, not figures –  but it would be helpful if they thought about the transaction some more before going ahead and writing or prospecting publishers with their manuscript. At the very least we should be able to give a well researched answer to the question: who is the target audience of your book and how many book buying people are there in that audience? Allied to this question is “how will this audience discover the book?”. Yesterday at Swanwick Writers Summer School we looked at eBook Marketing and I started off the workshop by looking at how many books are published per year on Amazon. We were all sickened to find out the number of fiction titles published and listed on Amazon last year in the English language is 264,000. This should lead us to the pertinent question: how will readers find my book among all those others? Great writing, a captivating cover, and a ringing endorsement aren’t going to improve your chances when there’s that many other titles to look at. It’s no comfort either to look at genres: for example the Sci-fi and Fantasy genre had 25,000 books published last year.

Look at the numbers

More than ever before it is necessary for authors to be honest and to look at the numbers. If I were this publisher, would I bet £10k on this book? Let’s not be insulated to the fact that £10k for a publisher is just the same as £10k for you. If it were your money you’d want to be sure that to forego that home extension or private education for your child, you want to publish this particular book instead. What is it about that book that makes you so sure that 5,000 people will buy it rather than any one of the 25,000 other books in its genre?

I have to admit that as an Acquisitions Editor I have rejected 100% of the full manuscripts I have ever been sent

The only real and solid answer to this is to have a niche title that you can prove a market for. Assuming you’re not famous and you’re not a known expert in a field, this is the only way to be convincing to a publisher. You do this either by writing on niche subjects, or by copying the success of another recent author and to position your book so as to leave no doubt that the same proven audience will buy your book too. This is more difficult than it seems, especially when you’ve already written your book, and I have to admit that as an Acquisitions Editor I have rejected 100% of the full manuscripts I have ever been sent. The ability to target a book so that it will sell well is so rare among authors that I have never yet been sent a manuscript that qualifies. If authors send me a synopsis and proposal, then often I can (and do) work with them to refine or even completely change the scope and target audience of the book. If only authors could develop the ability to think “if I were the publisher, would I invest £10,000 in my book?”, there would be no need for me. May that day come soon.

(Image credit http://401kcalculator.org/ )

New web based startup? Get real!

During the course of my work I talk with a lot of the world’s top techies, and what I notice is that a large majority of them or their peers are into some or other “startup”. By startup they invariably mean a web based software product which is designed to scale up rapidly when it takes off. I feel I need to offer an observation here.

Web developers are the most blinkered, otherworldly group of people I have ever come across.

I have heard of Inuits and Amazonians and I guess they’re pretty blinkered too, but developers are worse in one important respect. If Eskimos design a new igloo they only expect other Eskimos to adopt the design. Web developers design a new Igloo and expect it to take off worldwide.

Web developers have a problem in that they are the architects of their own world. Web developers make and inhabit the internet. Being so fluent with the web they are by far the biggest contributors to the content on the web, and this skews the web’s idea of normal. For example, try typing in “cucumber” into a search engine. You can’t tell me that a “behaviour driven software testing” framework is actually as interesting to as many people as the vegetable itself – yet somehow the web places it on an equal footing.

Try typing in “unity”. The top result is a game development engine by that name. You can’t tell me that the world’s entire population is more interested in gamedev than in unity (the act of coming together). This is just to demonstrate that the web is primarily used by web savvy people, and the search engines recognise that.

The upshot of this is that people who spend their days surfing on and working with the web are some of the most unbalanced and disconnected with the real world. Do you see where I’m going with this? Yes, these unbalanced individuals gravitate to the same problems and same solutions for the same audience in the same part of the world, speaking the same language, same gender and same age group and same social status. Is it any wonder that this group all tend to create samey products such as social media clones and social task list sharing apps?

If you’re one of the above, the answer is simple. Go and talk to anyone else than you or your colleagues and just solve one problem for them. Maybe the dustman wants a route planner. Maybe the dentist wants an appointment scheduler with some clever algorithms that will save them time. Perhaps the cucumber salesman needs to be connected to realtime stock information. And you wouldn’t believe how little software exists for these other-than-developers folks who happen to make up 99.8% of the world’s population. Everyone has a need that can be fulfilled by clever use of software, and with the proliferation of handheld computers there’s no reason why a simple web app can’t help out almost anyone anywhere. The opportunity is that the less technical the audience, the bigger their need for well written software to help them with the technicality of their job role or hobby.

The big take home point, though, is get outside your group of friends and off of the net into the real world if you want to solve real problems for real people.

Presentations: Arouse attention at the beginning

Nothing gets my attention more quickly than the sudden movement of a large predator. When this happens, not that it does much in suburbia, my fight or flight instinct is triggered and I stay alert for some time even after the danger is gone. You can use a similar trick in your presentations.

But I can’t find a large animal for hire

You don’t need a large fierce animal for this. Just think about the start of your presentation and begin with a hard hitting story or statistic. If it is something that triggers anger, anxiety, fear or any other strong emotion, you have set the course of your audience’s attention span for the rest of the presentation.

Choosing a microphone for your podcast or screencast

Most stuff that’s shared on the web is amateurish at best, so if you want to rise to the top of the pile all you really need to do is be a bit more professional about what you do. Taking more care of the audio in podcasts and screencasts is an easy win here because most people just use their built-in laptop mic or a skype headset.

How do I choose a microphone?

There are two types of microphone classed by the way they capture sound. That’s the first thing to focus on.

Condenser Microphone. These are great at picking up sound and transmitting it in all its subtlety to your computer. If you want great sound quality these are the ones to go for. However, they tend to be more fragile than other kinds and also require a battery or power source to run. That means if you go for a tie mic you have to have a battery on there too – not so great.

Dynamic microphone. These are more shock absorbent and are perhaps better suited to travel, especially as they don’t require power for them to work. The sound quality is however not as good as the condenser microphone.

The next thing to decide on is whether you need a directional or omnidirectional mic. The omnidirectional captures sound from all over so you have a better chance of having your voice captured if you tend to move around. However, the directional mic cuts down any background sound not directly in its path, so could be the way to go in noisy environments.

My advice to you is to go for what is most convenient for you and the way you have your studio set up, because any of the above choices are likely to give you the higher quality of sound compared to your existing mic. Then head over to amazon and check what’s popular and read the reviews.

Slow shutter speeds for blurred photography

You’ve all seen those lovely night-time photographs that show a road with blurred red and white lines, tracing the car headlights and taillights throughout their journey. You too can get this effect by using a slow shutter speed and a tripod. If you don’t have the tripod a big rock and plasticine will do just as well…

What do slow shutter speeds do?

Slow shutter speeds capture more movement because the shutter of your camera is open for longer. It means the subject matter may move in the meantime, creating that blurred effect. The key is to have some static elements in your composition that contrast with the moving elements, as you can see here in the image from Geraint Rowland.


How to get a light trail effect or motion blur

In order to get the blur effect, mount your camera on a tripod or tree trunk, find the Shutter Priority setting on your DSLR and set it to S or Tv. Then select a shutter speed slower than 1/60. The smaller the number under the dash “/” the slower the shutter speed, and the more blur you will get.

SketchUp’s role in Architectural Visualization (Video)

Here’s a great video from SketchUp Basecamp 2014 showing various professional workflows you can use in all stages of Architecture or town planning. There’s plenty of insights here, especially if you’re evaluating SketchUp or trying to decide on what rendering software to purchase alongside it.

SketchUp book cover thumbFor more detailed instructions on these workflows and more, please check out my book SketchUp 2014 for Architectural Visualization.

“Not only does the author get you up and running quickly, but there is a ton of good advice on how to expand on your use of SketchUp. There is advice on integrating SketchUp with other open source software such as renderers, image editors, and compositors for texturing and post production.”  (amazon review)

Free tutorial video offer: Create a Photo-realistic Interior


I’m pleased to be able to offer a special preview of a tutorial series I’m working on. It’s not yet finished but I’m offering the complete 3 hour video screencast for FREE while I work on adding the narration and finessing the presentation. Please note this video series currently has no voiceover.

Sign up to my newsletter below and you’ll get three hours of tutorial video showing the complete modelling and rendering workflow:

  • Modelling a room in SketchUp (Free software)
  • Setting up materials
  • Setting up lighting and doing a test render
  • Using the free Kerkythea rendering engine
  • Creating Bump Map materials in GIMP (Free software)
  • Advanced modelling techniques
  • Creating curved forms in SketchUp
  • Setting up materials in Kerkythea
  • Settings for test renders and production renders
  • Post processing the final image in GIMP
  • Photo compositing techniques

What’s included:

You will receive an email with a link to the download area containing fifteen videos totalling around 3 hours of footage:


Sign up for my newsletter and get free access to my 3 hour video walk-through showing how I model and render a photo-realistic interior.

Ultra realistic renders possible with SketchUp and Thea

Liviing room interior 3h16 m r

I just wanted to share this image on my blog so that anyone who is not yet using SketchUp for interior design renderings can see the level of realism that is possible with SketchUp and a commercial rendering plug-in. The combined cost of the software required to produce this ultra-realistic rendering image is well under$1000. As you can see from this image soft furnishings are entirely possible to produce.

The whole ensemble here has been modeled just within SketchUp and then exported to Thea render, the workflow for which you can find in my book SketchUp for Architectural Visualization – which is out now and available in all good bookstores.


  • Rendered with Thea Render using settings Presto AO (CPU) 3hr 16min
  • Using the sky and sun for lighting.
  • Modeled with Sketchup, all models by the artist except curtains.


Evaluate Thea Render at http://www.thearender.com/cms/

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PlusSpec brings SketchUp Pro nearer to BIM software

PlusSpec Software

Architects and construction professionals that have made the switch from expensive and bloated CAD tools to SketchUp Pro are generally happy with their decision. SketchUp Pro gives a heck of a lot of power and flexibility for the small price tag and with various plugins and work-arounds can replace most of the functionality of tools such as AutoCAD, Revit and Microstation.

Having seen the potential of SketchUp many of us have been waiting for a long time to see whether a really serious BIM plugin would emerge to help speed up model creation, materials takeoff, and all the admin tasks and coordination that makes larger projects (say £1m+) less optimal to do in SketchUp.

I’m happy to have discovered PlusSpec which was released a couple of weeks ago. It looks like it could be a serious contended for the “SketchUp as BIM” nirvana that we know is possible but up until now hasn’t been implemented. Take a look at the following video, and before you do, note that this software currently costs only $396 per license on pre-release.

Further details:

PlusSpec website https://plusspec.com/

Related posts:

SketchUp 2014 released with BIM support

Can SketchUp be a BIM leader?

BIM: Fact or fiction? (written in 2007)

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