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.
It's true that e-books don't go out of print. Neither does POD. But old titles can lose sales rapidly and eventually just exist on Amazon without selling at all.
Kind of like what happens to old print books from big publishers that don't sell?
Oh, not wait, those get remaindered out and destroyed. But as long as there is a title available on amazon, the possibility exists that the author can drum up some sales for it.
While I embrace e-books as a whole I haven't embraced the practice on a personal level. More out of habit than protest. I also know I'm not built to "one click" my libaries (literary, music, etc) as my eyes (or ears) tend to be bigger than my stomach (or ... ear drums .. lol) and before I know it I'm purchasing, downloading, gathering a ton of material - based on price, cover, synopsis, or whatever draws me that moment - that I likely won't have the time or on occassion inclination to read. Paper books, just on the merit of not lending itself to purchasing hundreds in under 10 minutes and shelving (filing) them in less time than that, will always have supporters (not the least being among those that like to use their e-device memory capacity strictly for videos, music, games and the like). I think that if anything you may see brick and mortars work with publishers to offer exclusive downloads or incentives (much like Gamestop or Toys R Us does with the game design studios. The process being: a code or card for downloadable content is sold at the site. Like say: a hidden chapter of a Stephen King release or a short story based on one of the supporting characters) built to bring in warm bodies that may not have come through (or come through and purchase) otherwise. I think it's more about bookstores adjusting. The product - in this case paper books - will remain in demand (in my opinion) for a good while.
I think books will survive in a physical way but obviously the media competition is eating a huge chunk out of sales. Not just ebooks but electronic gadgets in general are making things difficult for publishers. Everyone wants a smart phone or tablet or whatever and consumers are not earning more money, they have to cut the budget somewhere else. More often than not, they do it by buying less books.
I started a publishing house last year (Crime Wave Press, Asia's English language crime fiction imprint) , specializing in crime fiction and our first four books were all ebook titles, but we are now learning that it makes sense to publish print editions of some of our titles too. So, slowly, slowly, that's what we are doing. And sales so far seem to bear this out. This year we plan to launch our paperbacks with local book chains in Asia. In that part of the world at least, Kindles are still a rarity.
Pricing a novel at .99 is cheapening and degrading the worth of the product. Writing a novel is damn hard work and anyone who believes their output is worth less than a buck has a poor opinion of their work or low self-esteem.
I would encourage authors to experiment with pricing. As our friend Joe Konrath has taught us, the value of a book is not the price point, but the amount of money it makes overall. I have a self-published novella priced at $3.99, and a short story priced at $.99, and right now there is less than $1.00 difference in the amount of money each has made for me so far this month. They're neck-to-neck, even though the short story has to sell more than six times as many to stay even. If the short story proves to make more money at $.99, then I'll definitely experiment with lowering the price of the novella. It has nothing to do with self-esteem, or my personal opinion if my work. It's business.
If you think your self worth is somehow tied to the price of your e-books, then you're in big trouble. Experiment, and find the price point that earns the most money and/or garners the most number of readers. But more importantly than that, keep writing. Write the next book and the next one and the next, trying to make each better than the last. That's the way you'll gain confidence in your work. Not by tacking on an arbitrary price point you feel it's worthy of.
Well $.99 surely isn't an arbitrary price point for a novel, it's a ridiculous one. $.99 for a short story--now that makes sense.
Also, whether someone wants to admit it or not, the value of your labor is always tied to a person's self-worth. Especially, if after months of hard work, you sell it for the price of two cigarets. And I understand volume but no one here is likely to move the type of volume to ever make $.99 novels the more profitable way to go.
It's a fool's errand.
There have been in recent years authors such as Amanda Hocking and John Locke who utilized the 99 cent price point extensively to sell tons of ebooks and make hundreds of thousands of dollars and to eventually sign deals with major publishers. That kind of success doesn't sound like a fool's errand to me.
I think pricing is always relative and ought to be contingent on a lot of factors. I don't believe that anything, much less ebooks, has an absolute price value. But good people can differ on that, I suppose...
Crimespace. So many marketing geniuses. Why are you wasting so much time writing when Amazon needs you so badly. After all they don't know anything about marketing!!
All the signs point to Amazon following in the footsteps of the publishers. They market and promote the bestselling books.
Still, if we can hang in there, they do offer "shelf space" and they cross-reference your books, and they list also-boughts. All of this is better than what traditional publishing does.
I'd say publishers are struggling to follow the footsteps of amazon.
And it's not really like that. They don't so much market and promote books as provide a matrix in which books kind of promote and market themselves.
The better a book sells, the more prominent it is and the more it sells.
If it hits best-seller lists, it really goes. Difference is, the lists are fluid, consumer driven, and less able to be manipulated by publisher capital.
There is nothing keeping any of us from being a best-seller on amazon. Which leads to more sales. Many have done so.
It's really hard for people with a history in pubishing to make the leap over to grasping what goes on these days, I think.
(Doesn't mean I don't think amazon is an evil empire, by the way)
I had this same thought, Brian. Not only can we write like Shakespeare -- every one of us -- but we're all professional advertising and marketing experts.
Wait! Aren't we posting here in oder to learn a business most of us are unfamiliar with and that while the market is constantly changing? We exchange information we have either tested or found discussed by more knowledgeable people on other sites. I don't think any of us think we're experts, just people who are trying to get a handle on this.
Mind you, there is enough variety in our various subjects to make even this sometimes unreliable. Jude has a very different audience than I do, for example. What works for him may not work for me.