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.

Thoughts?

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It's been posited that ebooks will all be free one day and that revenue will be all from advertising. Joe Konrath has predicted this for one.

That's a sickening thought.

It worked for TV content and radio music.  

That's pretty interesting, Eric.  I could easily see that, especially the more "tablet" ebooks go.  You could probably have a video commercial you'd have to watch.  :-)

Don't get  me wrong, I think it sucks but I could see it becoming a reality eventually.  

I shudder at the thought as well (but can't rule it out).

All from advertising?!

I agree; worked for TV. Everyone on a hit TV show (think "best seller") still gets paid. I'm not saying it's right (it is, indeed, rather sickening)... but if ones words are being read, I suppose that's something. Maybe it's a magazine format—I do believe it's been tried—or simply a part of smart product placement.

"We didn't exactly believe your story, Miss O'Shaughnessy," said Sam Spade, gesturing with his refreshing Diet Coke...

How anyone can seriously think they are going to make more in the long run selling novels for .99 is beyond me.

Some of the more savvy self-published authors with several titles are offering one book for $.99 or free, sort of as a loss leader, and then other books for $2.99 (where the 70% royalty kicks in) or higher. At $4.99, self-published authors are actually making more per unit than they would have made in a traditional deal selling hardcovers for $25. At $2.99, they're making over three times what they would have made in a traditional deal selling mass market paperbacks for $7.99. And if the books are good, they're probably selling more copies than they would have sold in paper. And e-books never go out of print.

Yes, that is correct.  But I said .99, not $2.99-$4.99.  I price my e-book at $4.99.  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.

As far as advertising goes--as now happens with cable TV, people have already shown that they would prefer to pay to avoid ads.  For me, I think reading is one of the most enjoyable of life's pastimes.  I'd pay big time not to have the experience ruined by ads.  What good are any books if not to escape those intrusions at least temporarily. 

Well this reminds me that I wanted to add that ebooks are superior to print books in some ways but inferior in other ways. Hence, I can't envision a no-print-books future (only a minority print books future).

It's not ebooks that are status goods, that allow you to show off what you're reading, or what you have read. It's not ebooks that can fill up your built-in bookshelves and enhance the aesthetics of your living room. It's not an ebook you can feel the heft of, or use to shut out the rest of the world so thoroughly, yada, yada.

Very intangible benefits, Eric.  (And you wouldn't need to buy new books to decorate your den :-)   And there's also the fact that it's not a straight benefit comparison.  There's also the whole cost of diminishing resources that will only get more costly in the future.  That's the big reason I think it's inevitable that we'll switch to digital.

Also, people who like the "heft" and such (thank God you didn't mention the smell--that just dumbfounds me when people praise it)  are an aging population.  The younger readers could be more influenced by having cool readers or super features or nifty sound effects when the book opens or some such.

"But I said .99, not $2.99-$4.99.  I price my e-book at $4.99.  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."

But that's nt what he said. He said some authors were using the 99 cent book as a loss leader to pique interest for the books at $2.99 and up. That's a legitimate marketing strategy with a long-term payoff in sight, not the sign of an inferiority complex.

It sounds as though you've decided your books are worth $4.99 and are concerned others (like me, I suppose, at $2.99) are undercutting your prices and costing you sales. If getting involved in publishing and watching house prices over the past five years have taught me anything, it is the monetary worth of anything is what someone is willing to pay for it. We can place our  own values on things, but no one else is compelled to do the same. 

I don;t buy 99 cent or free books unless they're specials put out my someone I already enjoy, or as a trial of a writer who has come highly recommended. That doesn't mean there are not perfectly legitimate reasons for low prices for books by people who do, in fact, value their time and talent.

Is there an echo on this site?  I love being quoted though, I must admit.

I understand completely what others have said.  I also understand what I have said. 

It is foolish to sell your own novel, through any delivery system, for a loss leader or any other reason, for the price of a stale donut.

My efforts are decent and worth more.  If others feel their work isn't, that's their choice.

All I have left to say is--good luck and good night.

One thing important to realize is the structure of Kindle books with their two-tier royalties.  So you make 6 times as much on a three buck book as a one buck book.

But that' an artificial set-up.  It might not always be that way.  

There's that ad vehicle scenario, but there's another possible model: the "all you can eat".  Like NetFlix.  you pay $7 a month and watch all the films you want.   What if they had a two-tier thing where a "premium membership" would let you watch the really hot films they don't offer for streaming?

Now what if there was a retailer that did that for books, maybe a higher tier for more exclusive books, the normal one for every indie title in the world?   And thing is, you can watch three movies a night, but there's a limit to how many books you can read in a month.  

Hmmm... that would probably really suck,. huh?  But it seems more like to me than in-book ads.  I just don't think they'd get enough response from book ads to make that one fly.

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