Recently on Facebook, a spokesperson for an independent bookstore said, "Small stores like ours will continue to be successful by providing something that many readers find critical--human interaction and meaningful conversation about books."

But will they continue to be successful?

I like human interaction and meaningful conversations about books as much as anyone. But then I enjoyed human interaction and meaningful conversation about records and movies, too. My preferences, however, didn't save all the record stores and video rental stores from disappearing, and it won't save most of the bookstores from disappearing either. Sad, but true.

I love paper books, and I still buy them sometimes. But, when you get down to it, e-books are a vastly superior delivery method for the written word; so, naturally, e-books will eventually take the lion's share of the total book market. We can fight it, or we can embrace it, but the end result is going to be the same.

So, we might as well embrace it, IMO. I'm 52, and I happen to love e-books, and I love my Kindle. And, when I think about the enormous amount of pollution created by producing and transporting and storing paper, I love my Kindle even more.

Trying to make the point that some people will always insist on good old fashioned paper books, the same bookseller I quoted above mentioned that the sales of vinyl records increased 40% from 2010 to 2011. But it seems to me that any sort of increase in the sales of obsolete formats is largely irrelevant. What we really have to look at is total market share, and that remains very small. Way too small to support the brick and mortar stores of yesteryear. Vinyl records are a niche market, and that's all they'll ever be from now on. Forever and ever and ever. Just like buggy whips.

And, in the not-too-distant future, dead tree books.


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At least, in bookstores, you have a reasonable expectation of a "polished" product. A title on the shelf has been through several filters. On Amazon, you can download thousands of titles for free, or under $1, and often get what you've paid for. While I am a convert to the e-book and its technology, I do also recognize the potential dilemma of encountering every 17-year-old wannabe writer out there (no offense, 17-year-old wannabe writers) throwing their stuff up on Amazon without the slightest clue as how to write a novel.

I just don't understand people who complain about their being all those books out there.  I almost never get books that suck.  Am I the only one who has figured out how to evaluate before buying?

Jude.   Funny, I was just talking about that pistol  design issue on FaceBook.  (I'm a big of a gun nut, poster girl for Ruger)  Great example of technology that hasn't really been improved on since the 20's.  Revolvers, even more so.

But if ray guns come out and suddenly you don't have to make and store and ship ammo, it's going to be on the way out.  Sure, there'll be collectors buying guns, maybe for centuries.  But nobody's going to be starting up any new pistol companies.

Same here. I find I'm no more likely to buy a sucky e-book than a sucky paper version. I also don't randomly order up free and 99 cent books, either. I don't buy a book unless I'm already pretty sure i want to read it, based on recommendations from people i trust, either in blogs or social media sites (here and Facebook).

E-books are a great innovation.  One problem though is that many of their avid supporters seem to be on a race to the bottom.  There will be less dough per unit for everyone involved to whack up, including writers.  Surely when you reach .99 or free.  Even at a considerably higher price, when all is said and down, writers will in the end have a lower net income.  That's why I wouldn't be in a hurry to cheer on e-book market dominance.  At least in the way it is headed now.

Even at a considerably higher price, when all is said and down, writers will in the end have a lower net income.

It'll be the same. Some writers will make a great deal of money, some will eek out a living, and some will make nothing. But at least with e-books there's a level playing field when it comes to distribution, so everyone who wants to give it a try has a fair chance.

Hi Jude,

I still stand by what I said.  If the race to the bottom continues the overall net income of writers will decrease.  Hopefully the race to the bottom will not continue.  

As far as a level playing field, I agree 100%.  

I think that's too simple a way to look at it.  If I can sell more books at less money....  Walmart isn't going bankrupt.  Publishers trying to get $12.95 for ebooks are the ones in trouble.   John Locke did all right with 99 cent books.

Let me ask you this.  How many writers do you know right now who make a living or pay their rent with book sales, compared to ten years ago?

It's a redistribution, but I don't think it works like that.  History is full of examples of technology and marketing lowering consumer prices and making millionaires in the process.

Think of it this way.  Do you think people have a "budget" of buying 6 books a month?  Or do they have a "budget" or spending $35 a month, or whatever, on books and will just buy more books?    I read a ton of ebooks.  Most are 10,000 to 40,000 words.  I think that's great.  The only reason it's been "decided" that books need to be 90.000 words long is because of the printing process.

Great point. I have said for years the greatest benefit to e-books is they allow a story to be exactly as long as it needs to be. It's not economically feasible to print 35,000 word books, but an e-book is just as easy, regardless of size.

The "race to the bottom" analogy has another flaw. E-books are a new phenomenon. Once people figure out what proportion of free or really cheap books are crap, they'll learn to refine their buying criteria. Things will stabilize in a similar situation as had always existed, long the lines Jude and Cammy May have indicated: some will get rich, some will plug along, and some won't make it. They'll just be doing one of the above in a slightly different manner than before.

Well, that at least is the positive side of all this.  That plus the fact that many of us had no choice in the matter.  However, the possibility of incomes eroding faster and faster for self-published authors does exist and scares the hell out of me.  I came to e-book publishing fairly late (summer 11) and did not get the reins into my own hands until a full year later.  My early take was significant and promised to beat my publishers' advances all to hell.  But the good days are over.  The competition is enormous, and most of it comes from free or 99 cent books.  The big houses get in on this by running their own promotions.  My only option is to hold firm to a fair price and hope that the quality of the books will eventually assert itself.

I love my kindle. I read indie and trad books in e-form and print. As Cammy said, I can judge a book by its sample, so I rarely download any turkeys. But what makes ebooks win out for me is the convenience. My nearest bookstore is half an hour away and even amazon will take a couple of days to deliver. I can have an ebook in my hands within *seconds* of wanting it. Awesome.

How anyone can seriously think they are going to make more in the long run selling novels for .99 is beyond me.  Eventually you would have a core base of fans with a fairly set number of sales each novel.  That .99 would have to be sliced up with the distributor (Amazon, etc.), expenses, your labor and other costs.  Do the math.  Most corporations in other fields learned long ago that the only reasons to radically low-ball was to drive competition out of business or vastly increase volume.  I don't think either applies in this situation.  Not enough people are going to be attracted to a .99 novel.  To me that screams--"I stink and my publisher knows it."  

Do a very few make fortunes with this pricing system?  Yes.  Will a very few in the future make fortunes with this pricing system?  Probably.  But the key words are--A VERY FEW.

"Do a very few make fortunes with this pricing system?  Yes.  Will a very few in the future make fortunes with this pricing system?  Probably.  But the key words are--A VERY FEW."

Agreed. Just as it is now.


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