MONDAY MUSINGS – FUTURE OF eBOOKS

Monday – January 14, 2013 

Self-publishing has exploded in the past 3 years, particularly in the form of e-books; and dramatic changes are starting to be noticed in the publishing world, the impacts of which are still uncertain.  Set forth below are two condensed articles relating to this trend, more specifically, to the Amazon phenomena.  The first is one of the 23 predictions for 2013 by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, a competitor of Amazon.  The second is from a blog I copied and, quite frankly, I don’t recall the author.  Therefore, I don’t attest to the accuracy of either, and they should be taken with a grain of salt.  Nevertheless, I thought them thought provoking enough to include here.

12. Amazon’s global ebook market share will decline (Mark Coker) 

Amazon deserves immense credit for catalyzing the ebook revolution. Although Sony beat Amazon to market with a solid e-reader, Amazon helped put ebooks on the map in a way that no other retailer could. In the process, they’ve helped create livelihoods for many writers who previously faced few options. That said, Amazon’s star could dim in 2013, even as its ebook business grows.

Amazon’s ebook sales volume will grow significantly in 2013, but their global market share will decline amid increased competition from well-funded competitors such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others. We’ve seen it already in the US market. A few years ago, Amazon held about 90% market share in the US. Today, thanks to the rise of its competitors, Amazon’s market share has dropped to somewhere around 60%. Amazon also faces a backlash from authors, publishers and partners who have grown weary of Amazon’s heavy-handed business practices. Amazon’s a fierce competitor and a brilliant strategic player. They play the game of chess like few others. Every move today is calculated based on its impact five years from today. By making moves today to exploit opportunities that don’t even exist yet, they have shown an uncanny ability to outflank and outmaneuver their competitors.

Amazon’s potential undoing, however, is greed and bullying. They don’t just play to win, they play to grind their competitors into bloody submissive pulps. They also have a more expansive, more inclusive definition of their competition than any other ebook industry player. Amazon’s working to vertically disintermediate everyone that stands between the content producer (the author) and the content buyer (the customer).  That attitude may come to haunt Amazon in 2013.

Amazon has already shown a willingness to replace one author with another. Witness their KDP Select program, announced one year ago, which encourages authors to remove their books from Amazon’s competitors. The opt-in program aims to remove indie ebooks from the shelves of its retailer competitors, while at the same time making participating authors more dependent upon Amazon. By providing favorable sales advantage to those who opt in to their exclusivity program as compared to KDP authors who don’t opt in, they’re punishing their own non-participating KDP authors by providing KDP Select books preferential discoverability over non-participating books.

Exclusivity works to Amazon’s advantage, but for the author it’s a crapshoot. From the author’s perspective, exclusivity carries with it a set of knowns and unknowns, placing authors in the difficult of position of playing Russian Roulette with their careers. The author can’t accurately predict or measure what they’re giving up by going exclusive  but if they don’t go exclusive they don’t know what KDP Select benefits they passed up.

For some authors, Amazon’s attempts at exclusivity speak to their worst fears about the company. Despite the criticism and bad will generated by these policies, Amazon soldiers on, doubling down on its exclusivity strategy. Either we’re witnessing Amazon making a strategic blunder, or Amazon sees a future none of the rest of us see. A future where Amazon’s the dominant controlling player and any author who wants to reach readers will be forced to do so under the thumb of Amazon’s rules, which are already the strictest and most vigorously enforced in the industry. Time will tell.

Amazon’s actions, such as their controversial Price Check app, have revealed their intentions to do to all brick and mortar retailers what Wal Mart did to Main Street America.

Self Published Authors Get Ready, You’re Being Dumped

                        If you’re a self published author, get ready for some disappointing news. Your usefulness is coming to an end. Yes, you have all worked very hard for very little return in building an empire to be exploited by multinational enterprises, but sadly, your job is almost done and it’s time now for you to be given the ‘boot’.

It all started a year or so back with the Amazon’s KDP Select program that offered ‘manna from heaven‘ in exchange for granting Amazon exclusivity to your books. And yes, it was very nice for a few months, until the rules were changed. Without notice of course. You see, the problem was that self published titles were just way too popular, so their ‘weighting’ on bestseller lists had to be reduced. From 100% down to 10% of their value.

Yet even after this dramatic change, these pesky self published titles managed to claw their way to the top of bestselling lists. Not something that would have pleased the Big Six I’m sure. So more work needed to be done.

The next move came with the massive deletions of reviews on self published titles. No, not the paid reviews by registered Amazon reviewers working on Fiverr, but those nasty reviews written by pesky self published authors who actually read a book and honestly posted a review. Clearly Amazon believed that this was just not right that authors should be allowed to review books, even though major publishers have wrought the book review system for decades and habitually use well known authors to write book reviews. But what’s a little hypocrisy when an end needs a means.

If these measures weren’t enough to ‘kill off’ these pesky Indies, then came this new move.

‘Add to all this the unexplained changes in Amazon’s algorithms that keep the books in the KDP program from competing with publishing house titles as best-sellers.’

My understanding of this last change was to preclude self published titles from appearing alongside major published titles in the ‘Customers Also Bought’ widget on Amazon book pages. Judging by my own ebook sales, it has worked spectacularly well, as my unit sales have dropped off a cliff from October to November.

So what happens after the destruction of self publishing?

To fill the new void that is going to be created by ‘killing off’ the Indies and genuine self published authors, the Big Six are now offering their own self publishing services. This is not self publishing. It is old fashioned vanity publishing that charges anywhere between $1,500 and $25,000 to publish a book, with little chance of success. In fact it is a very old fox in new sheep’s clothing – Author Solutions and Author House. My advice has always been, do not walk away from them, run away! Vanity publishing has such a bad reputation, but as it has now been renamed and re-marketed as self publishing, everything is ok. Right? Wrong!

If you’re a self published author, the message is clear, and get ready for more bad news in the near future. All your free ebook giveaways were for nothing. You were all just way too popular for the good of the publishing industry, who are now struggling to afford their champagne lunches every day. But boy, did you help sell millions of Kindles. Well done. But you’ve served your purpose, now pack your bags and get the hell out of publishing!

Of course, I could be completely wrong about all this.

Thank you for stopping by – VS

 

 

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