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Posts tagged ‘print vs ebook’

The delusions continue

Traditional publishers, especially the Big 5, have been dragging their heels, not to mention kicking and screaming in protest, from the moment the first e-book appeared on the scenes. For years, however, they knew they had nothing to really worry about when it came to the new format. After all, even though it was cheaper to produce and easier to distribute, there was no way for authors to leverage the platform on their own. Traditional publishers were not only the gatekeepers, but they were the sole guards of the industry. If they didn’t like your book for whatever reason, your only hope was to publish through a vanity press and that was a death sentence to any professional career as a writer you might have wanted.

They laughed at Jim Baen when he started offering e-book versions of the traditionally published books released by Baen. They told him the format was a fad and would die away.

They shook their heads and smiled when Fictionwise and Smashwords started giving authors a very small foothold into the market. There was no way anyone would take e-books seriously. After all, who wanted to read a book on their computer.Paper was king and would never, ever fall.

Then along came Amazon. Approximately 9 years ago, Amazon did something no one expected. They opened up a platform that allowed authors to publish their books as e-books and sell them directly through the Amazon store.  More importantly, Amazon created the Kindle e-book reader. Now reading the new format became easy. Better yet, readers could put dozens, no hundreds of books on their devices and carry them with them wherever they went. They could buy books directly from Amazon and the books would be delivered to their devices, making trips to bookstores unnecessary.

We all know what happened next. The Big 5 (then the Big 6) colluded with Apple and others to price fix the cost of their e-books in an attempt to harm Amazon. The Justice Department and the courts were not amused. In the aftermath, the publishers have contracted with the various stores to set the price for their e-books and discounts are only applied with their approval. Once that went into effect, e-book prices for titles from the Big 5 increased and sales decreased.

And the delusion that e-books would not be major players in the publishing landscape set in. They point to the “re-invigoration” of the print market as a reason to believe e-books aren’t in as much demand as they once were. Of course, they forget to talk about how that re-invigoration happened. All you have to do is look at the pricing of books from the Big 5 to know they are doing everything they can to cannibalize the digital market in order to prop up their beloved print books.

Origin: A Novel by Dan Brown came out earlier this month. The hardcover version sells on Amazon for $17.96. The Kindle version sells for $14.99.

Haunted by James Patterson sells in hardcover for $16.38. Paperback is listed at $14.39 and Kindle is listed at $14.99.

The Shining by Stephen King has been out for years. The Kindle version sells for $8.99 while the mass market paperback version sells for $5.43.

Secrets in Death by J. D. Robb sells for the exact same price for the paperback and e-book versions.The price? $14.99.

These are just a few examples. All you have to do is go over to Amazon and you can find hundreds, if not thousands, more. So is it any surprise readers aren’t buying as many e-books from traditional publishers who continue to overprice their e-books? Instead of stroking their egos and congratulating themselves on stopping the trend, publishers should be paying closer attention to the overall sales of all forms of books by ALL authors and publishers. They should be paying attention to the information being complied by Author Earnings. They should look at the best sellers lists from Amazon — which, whether they like it or not, is the gorilla in the book selling market — and see how many of those titles come from indies and small press authors.

There is a reason readers are reaching out to indies to find their reading material. It goes to price, yes, but it also goes to the fact that indies are offering stories that traditional publishing is not.

Oh, but the delusions continue along that line as well.

Publishers, Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle said, have a key role to play as curators of content. “Publishers stand for quality and perfect each product before it makes it to the market.” Of course, he doesn’t explain what he means by quality or the rest of it. If he is talking technical quality, I’d like to discuss with him the formatting issues, poor product quality (as in spines breaking much too easily, for example) and misspellings or other issues that should be caught by proofing that I find with traditionally published books. Sure, you can find those issues with indie published books but, when you are touting yourselves as the purveyors of quality, you should be able to stand behind that claim.

But we all know what he means, don’t we? Publishers are the gatekeepers of rightthink. If you aren’t presenting them with the fad of the day along with the proper tickler list of social issues, etc., they aren’t going to care about what the story happens to be. They have forgotten that readers of fiction want to be entertained. Sure, you can have a message in your fiction but the fiction had better be compelling and entertaining first and foremost or the reader isn’t going to keep buying your product.

But it gets better.

Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy claims that nothing “went wrong” with e-books. It seems she believes people have gotten tired of reading on their screens. Again, a complete disconnect from reality. People don’t want to pay as much — or more — for an e-book as they will for a print copy. But the laugh out loud moment comes further down in the article when Reidy says she firmly believes “a new version of the book based on digital delivery will come eventually, though she does not know what it might look like.”

Blink.

Blink. Blink.

Hmm, wouldn’t that be an e-book? The bells and whistles might be a bit different, but it if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?

And what about her argument that e-book sales have leveled off because we are tired of reading on our screens?

It constantly amazes me the way these folks continue to tie themselves into knots trying to explain how e-books are bad, or are a passing fad or a way for writers not good enough for traditional publishing to get their works into the hands of readers. All I know is that the real numbers, the numbers that look at more than the Big 5 titles, tell a different tale. As a reader, I know I find myself picking up more and more books from indie authors because they are writing stories I want to read and they are doing it at prices that allow me to read two or three or more books for the price of a single Big 5 title. When is the point going to come where an accountant who isn’t afraid of rocking the boat says they can actually sell more — and make more money — if they lower their prices to something reasonable?

Since I’m talking about reasonable pricing and I’m an indie author, I’m going to take a moment to tout my latest. The special edition of Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) is now available in both print and e-book editions. (Hopefully, they will link the two editions shortly.) This new edition contains approximately 20k words of next material. It is only available through Amazon.

The original edition has been released on KoboPlayster, Tolino (link not yet available) and Inktera. It will soon be available on iTunes, B&N and Overdrive.

E-Readers are Dead! Long Live… Ebooks?

Seriously, people. As we see the usually flurry of post-Christmas articles about sales, and what is, or isn’t moving as fast as was predicted, I’m seeing more of the same. Ereaders didn’t sell as well as they did in 2013. Ergo, ebooks are a passing fad, and we can all return to our traditionally published print books now. Nothing to see here, move along, move along…

I’ve got two words for that. One I won’t say, I’m a lady. But as a kid on a farm, I stepped in it a few times.

The other word? Tablets. Well, and phones, but really it’s the same thing. How many people do you know who now carry a smart phone? Of the two of us in this room, I have one, he doesn’t (He does have a Kindle he carries almost all the time). Now, that’s a small sample. Let’s go a little bigger. According to Pew, almost 60% of Americans have a smartphone. You know what you can do with your phone? You can read a book. Lots of books, in fact. I have dozens on my phone. I have even more on my tablet. You know what I don’t have? A Kindle.

So perhaps, just maybe, the decline in ereaders is not the same as a dip in ebooks. I’d hazard a guess to say that most who were going to take the plunge into a dedicated ereader have done so. But there are a lot more who carry a tablet, or a phone, and you can do more than just read with those. I’ve seen it myself, a quiet moment, waiting. Standing in line, at the bank, the mechanic’s… and out comes the phone or tablet. Sure, sometimes that is to text (which is reading, just not (usually) fiction) or play a game, but many times it is to read. I know it is for me. Not only fiction, either, this is often when I read blogs, or comments on the few blogs I find safe spaces to read under.

Something that not many have been paying attention to is the younger generation. According to PlayCollective, 93% of children ages 2-13 now read an ebook a week. Most of that is being done on tablets, where color illustrations for the younger set are appealing. So kids are comfortable with this technology. Are they going to suddenly lay it down and pick up a hardcover? Have you ever held a tablet, and then grabbed a big book? Feel the difference? And you can’t do anything with that book, except read.

I had the pleasure of introducing my sister to my android tablet this winter when I traveled out to Oregon. Juniper is a wonderful sister, and mentally, she’s about able to handle pre-school-level work. I wondered if she might like my tablet, with the touch screen and interactive apps. I don’t have a lot of games on my tablet, and the first thing I showed her, she wasn’t interested in. Then I put a drawing app on, and showed her how to fingerpaint. Oh! Her eyes lit up, and she had a blast learning how to change colors (brush sizes will wait) and doodling on the screen with no mess (she’s not a fan of messes). For the rest of my trip, she wanted to know if she could have a ‘gadget’ for her birthday. Mom and I talked about parental controls (there are many, I know, and if anyone has suggestions, please share!) and apps that she could handle. She’s not quite learned to read, but we think that apps for tracing letters and doing colors, shapes, that sort of thing will be good for her. I am planning on sending her a ‘gadget’ for her birthday, with a pink case (shh! It’s a secret 🙂 )

I digressed into that not only because I wanted to talk about my sister, but to point out that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to computing, tablets, and phones. The world, it is changing. Kids know what they like, and they seem to like these ‘gadgets.’ They also seem to like ebooks, as we are seeing what one news site calls ” a vibrancy and quickness around publishing that can be directly linked to the arrival of the ebook.” Other articles praise the expediency and convenience of the ebook, and point out it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can have both ebook and print book.

That trip I took ? I flew from Dayton to Chicago to Seattle to Redmond (OR) and then back through Seattle to New Jersey to Manchester (NH) to Philadelphia to Dayton (and home, thank goodness!) in a ten-day span, with  my laptop, camera and all lenses, pentablet, and the tablet. The only reason I carried most of that was delicate, expensive equipment I wanted to have my hands on at all times. What did I use? The tablet. The batteries last darn near eight hours, it’s easier to handle during a layover or on a plane in cramped seating than the laptop, and with it, I could read, surf the web (during layovers) and even play games (I have cool ones for learning Spanish and Physics).

I’m not saying you should run out and get a tablet. I am saying that before we predict that ebooks are dead, we’ve got to look reality squarely in the eye. Publishing is not what it was ten years ago. It isn’t what it was five years ago. Readers find books differently, read differently, and frankly, they don’t care who published that book they are enjoying. They’d just like to find more like it.

Can we predict what’s coming? Maybe. Maybe not… we can thumb our noses at those who would have us believe the numbers traditional publishing is flashing before our eyes, though. Kristine Kathryn Rusch, always a voice worth listening to on publishing, wrote something I highly recommend the authors take a look at. She says, “In other words, all of traditional publishing from the introduction of the returns system in the 1930s to the early part of this century was based on educated guesses by the sales department in consultation with editorial. Not based on actual numbers. Not based on real sales figures. Not based on any kind of fact-based system at all.”

Tomorrow, I’ll be writing. Part of the day, I’ll be out of the house. But you know what? When you all comment, I’ll be able to reply with my trusty smartphone. And have little flashbacks to the kids being small, and a certain handy-dandy notebook. Speaking of commenting, when I get Juniper’s ‘gadget’ does anyone have recommendations for apps that would be good? We also need to be able to lock her out of settings so she can’t get in and change stuff, she wouldn’t know what she was doing. As my mother said with fond exasperation, she’d pay good money for a DVD player with childproof settings!