How Will the iPad Affect Content and App Pricing?
Rethinking "Rich Content"

A Couple of Thought-Provoking Quotes

BB_0410cover The latest issue of Book Business magazine arrived this weekend and I was immediately drawn to an article by James Sturdivant called Author Royalties in the Hot Seat.  I wound up underlining two pieces of it, one that's an interesting point and the other that I think is totally wrong.  First, the interesting point:

"One thing remains clear: There are few successful e-books unless there is also a successful paper book [with it]," says Donald Maass, principal of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York.

IOW, today's best-selling, highest revenue-generating ebooks are nothing more than quick-and-dirty e-conversions of a print product.  OK, that's not exactly rocket science but it makes me wonder when that will no longer be a true statement.

So when will a best-selling ebook not have a print equivalent?  I believe it hasn't happened yet because the most popular devices don't encourage anything other than quick-and-dirty p-to-e-conversions.  Heck, the Kindle doesn't even offer full color let alone something like rich video.  That's one of the reasons I'm optimistic that the iPad could be a major step forward.  You might not want to read a novel for hours on end with a backlit display but we'll finally have a viable platform to support richer content.  The iPad could be the turning point where we finally have digital-first, and probably digital-only (since the rich content doesn't have a print equivalent), products at the top of the best-seller charts.  We just need authors and publishers to leverage that potential rather than limiting themselves to simple conversions.

Back to James Sturdivant's article...  Here's the piece I choked on:

"The six big publishers remain the primary repositories of the absolute best in fiction and nonfiction," Ethan Ellenberg says. "I don't see that changing. I think their reach is going to continue to be what it is, and there's no reason why, if we can find a successful model for selling intellectual property … the big publishers won't continue to do well. The whole self-publishing market is really a variation of subsidy publishing of 40 years ago. It ultimately is going to frustrate the consumer, and they're not going to get involved. Who can browse 100,000 books and say, 'Oh gee, I really like this one?' We need tastemakers; we need professionals. I think publishers have tremendous strategic advantages that are not going to go away."

No, no, no!  That's the sort of entitlement mentality that leads to market disruption.  (It's probably the same type of thinking that went on in the Blockbuster boardroom when Netflix and Redbox started up!)  Just because these publishers are the leaders today doesn't mean they'll be the leaders tomorrow.  And if you're looking for "tastemakers", how about considering the community?  I'm talking about the same community that already writes reviews and helps customers figure out which book to buy on Amazon, for example.  Now apply that same approach to the self-publishing world and you've got the feedback of dozens, hundreds, thousands or more, not just the decision of an editor or a publisher.

P.S. -- It's no secret that I'm ditching my Kindle for an iPad.  In case you missed it, here's a series of tweets I wrote describing "Kindle features I won't miss."  I've also launched a new blog called iPadHound.  My Kindle days are numbered (12 days left, to be precise!) and although Kindleville still exists it's officially on mothballs.  If you're interested in following the iPad, be sure to grab the iPadHound RSS feed.


Chris Bates

Wow, there are so many things in that second quote that miss the mark.

Contrary to what Ellenberg believes, the industry will only grow easier for self-publishers to succeed. It doesn't matter if there are 10 million new titles in the marketplace. A self-publisher, unlike their traditional counterpart, only needs one title to break-out - theirs.

And, yes, like you say, Joe; the community will be the tastemakers (but, at the end of the day, haven't they always?).

Mike Webb

The market has always been driven by the people who buy the books and then either read them, return them, or shelf them and never mention them to anybody. Word of mouth still works with books just as it does with any other product. Whether it's put out by an individual author making a name for himself or a big publishing house, I agree it is the community that will decide what is good and what is not.
I say more power to the self published author who knows what he is doing when it comes to marketing the book and themselves.

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