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The Current State of Disruption (Planning for 2019 Part 1)

27 December 2018

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

 For years now, I’ve done a year-end review, examining what happened and where the industry stands.

. . . .

I wrote down lists and links and reviewed notes and thought long and hard about things…and still couldn’t figure out how to wrap my arms around what I wanted to talk about.

I initially thought about combining the different parts of the industry under topics, and examine the topic rather than that part of the industry. But the industry is diverging in some important ways, making that way of writing these blogs exceedingly difficult.

This afternoon, it struck me: I write the year-end reviews so that I can focus on what to expect from the year to come.

So rather than look in detail at what happened in 2018, I’ll be looking at what happened with an eye toward the future.

. . . .

A reminder: I write these weekly business blogs for other writers who want to make or already have a long-term career. If you’re just starting out, some of this stuff won’t apply to you. If you’re a hobbyist who never wants to quit your day job, again, some of this stuff won’t apply to you. Don’t ask me to bend the blog toward you. There are a number of sites that cater to the beginner or the writer who doesn’t really care if she makes a living.

. . . .

For the most part, however, dealing with beginner and hobbyist issues doesn’t interest me. I’m a long-term professional writer who has made money as a writer since I was 16, who has made a living at it since I was 25, and who started making a heck of a great living at it by the time I was 35. I started writing these weekly blogs to make some kind of sense out of the disruption in the publishing industry in 2009. I did it for me, because I think better when I am writing things down.

The disruption continues, albeit in a new phase (part of what I’ll discuss below), and so I am focusing on what I need to focus on for my long-term writing career. I hope that some of these insights will help the rest of you.

. . . .

The disruption in the publishing industry will continue for some time now. Years, most likely. I don’t have a good crystal ball for how long it will go on, but we are past the gold rush years in the indie publishing world and have moved into a more consistent business model. It’s at least predictable, now. We know some patterns and how they’re going to work.

. . . .

The disruption in traditional publishing has gone on for nearly two decades now. It began before the Kindle made self-publishing easy by giving writers an easily accessible audience. Traditional publishing became ripe for disruption in the 1990s when the old distribution model collapsed.

Many of you saw it from the outside—the decline of the small bookstore, the loss of bookstores in small towns, the rise of the bestseller only in chain bookstores. All of that came from a collapse in the distribution system, from hundreds of regional distributors down to about five. (I don’t off the top of my head recall the actual number.) That made publishers panic. They couldn’t figure out what kinds of books sold best in the Pacific Northwest as opposed to what sold well in the Southeast, and worse, they didn’t have time to figure it out.

(When I came into the business, a top sales person for a major book company would know that science fiction sold well in California and quest fantasy sold well in Georgia, that the Midwest really enjoyed regional books, while New Yorkers often didn’t.)

Bestsellers sold everywhere, so publishers ramped up the production of already-established authors and sent those books all over the nation. Then, when the crisis leveled out, the publishers did not return to the old ways, scared of what to do. They continued to push for huge sellers rather than grow newer books.

Writer after writer after writer got dumped by their publisher in this period, while some new writers made fortunes because they wrote books that were similar to existing bestsellers.

When the Kindle came around and disrupted publishing, both writers and readers were ready for something new. That combination of forces created the blockbuster indie sellers—which were not blockbuster to traditional publishers. (The writers were making significantly more money, but selling fewer units than trad pub bestsellers.)

Hold that thought for a moment while I remind you that another disruption—a different one—was hitting publishing at the same time. Audiobooks went digital, and exploded. It became easy to download an audiobook and listen to it on your iPod (remember those) or your favorite MP3 player. Some cars made it easy to hook up those players to the sound system of the car.

And thus, commuters wanted everything on audio, and the demand in audio grew exponentially. As so many industry analysts said five or six years ago, if the Kindle hadn’t come around, the big story in publishing would have been the audiobook.

And here’s another publisher problem: most publishers never secured audio rights to the books they published. That money went directly to the authors.

. . . .

For years now, those of us who watch business trends have predicted that book sales would plateau. In reality, “plateau” is the wrong word for overall book sales. Those continue to grow, sometimes in ways that aren’t entirely measurable. New markets are opening all the time, bringing in new readers.

The system for measuring both readers and sales is so inadequate that we can’t count the readers we have, let alone the new readers who are coming into the book industry sideways. However, there is a lot of evidence—scattered, of course—that new readers are coming in. (I’ll deal with this in future weeks.)

Readership is growing, but individual sales are mostly declining. Traditional publishing’s fiction sales are down 16% since 2013. Traditional publishing has a lot of theories about this, delineated out in the Publishers Weekly article I linked to.

Indie writers believe a lot of the trad pub sales migrated to them. Maybe.

But some of what happened here was the inevitable decline from the gold rush of a disruptive technology.

Let’s look at traditional publishing for a moment. Traditional publishing moved to the blockbuster model at the turn of the century, meaning that the books that were published had to have a guaranteed level of sales or the author’s contract wouldn’t be renewed. The sales rose, partly because traditional publishing was the only game in town.

In that period, if you went to bookstores all over the country, and followed that up with a visit to the grocery store, as well as a visit to a story like WalMart or Target, you’d find the same group of books on the shelves. A few more in Target than in the grocery store, and certainly more in the bookstore, but still, the same books. And the airport bookstores were the same way.

If a reader needed reading material, he only had a few hundred titles at any given time in the stores to choose from. So the reader read the best of what he found, not necessarily what he wanted to read.

Then the disruption happened. Kindles and ereaders proliferated. Readers found books they’d been searching for, often for years. The readers also found some genres and subgenres that they hadn’t seen in a decade or more, usually books by indie writers that oculdn’t sell to the big traditional companies.

The boom in ebooks grew and grew and grew. (And if traditional pubishing hadn’t dicked around with pricing, their book sales would have grown even more.) That’s why the S-curves on that graph grow precipitously in between Stages Two and Three. Adoption increases revenue for a very very very short period of time.

That kind of growth is not sustainable for years, though. That’s why I say it was an inevitable plateau. If you’ll look on that graph again, though, you’ll see that both curves end higher on the y-axis—the profit axis—than they were at the beginning.

But hitting that plateau after years of rapid growth and, in the case of traditional publishing, a near-monopoly on the market, is painful. And that’s what we’re experiencing.

Also, sales are spreading out. I’ll talk about this a bit more in the next couple of weeks. But think of it this way. Instead of a lot of readers reluctantly reading the latest blockbuster because they’re trapped in the airport and can’t find anything else to read, those readers are now downloading dozens of books on their phones, and reading a variety of things—some of which we don’t have measurements of. Those readers have left the blockbusters they barely liked behind and found books/authors they like better.

So the money that would have gone to five different authors at three different publishing companies is now going to twenty authors, and only two of those authors are with traditional publishing companies. The books the readers are reading, though, aren’t the latest blockbuster by that author, but an older book that came out a decade ago. The price is lower, and the companies aren’t interested in those sales. They want the newest book to sell the most copies.

The consumer spends the same amount of money, but spreads it out over a wider range. Many of these sales are untrackable. Not all of those twenty authors report their sales to anyone, and not all of those sales were made through traditional channels. A few of the authors sold on their own websites. Some of those books came out of bundles. And some came out of a subscription service like Amazon. The traditional publishing companies lost most of the revenue, because their book sales have legitimately declined.

But that doesn’t mean people are reading less or that fiction reading is declining.

I’m not the only one who sees this. Mark Williams of The New Publishing Standard had the same reaction to the traditional publishing fiction numbers that I did. He wrote on November 18:

The big problem we have is that the fiction market, much more so than the wider book market, is so fragmented now, thanks to digital (by which I mean not just ebooks and audiobooks but online POD and most of all social media democratising the promotion of fiction titles), such that it seems like fewer people are reading fiction, but the reality is likely just the opposite.

The fragmented market is but one thing we’ll talk about in the next few weeks. We’ll look at how writers can use that market to their own advantage.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

PG always appreciates the analysis Kris and Dean bring to the publishing world, traditional and indie. He was going to add a few of his thoughts to Kris’ excellent post, but, perhaps as a result of holiday hangover (not the alcoholic kind), his little gray cells are not as well-regimented as usual.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Here is the most recent Kris Rusch book selling on Amazon:

Bestsellers, Big Publishing, Disruptive Innovation, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

28 Comments to “The Current State of Disruption (Planning for 2019 Part 1)”

  1. Really good read, this one.
    Lots to chew on, starting with the focus on the pre-kindle disruption. Yes, Indies have benefited from the disruption of traditional publishing and have even contributed significantly to its evolution. But Indies didn’t cause it. Neither did Amazon. Amazon’s growth is more of a symptom than the cause.

    If anything, KKR is being a bit conservative in saying the disruption is twenty years old. It’s closer to thirty.

    The first signpost that something was rotten in tradpub was the mid 90’s antitrust lawsuit from independent bookstores over volume discounts to the big box chains. By then the distribution channel was already failing: the reason publishers “knew” what sold regionally, as KKR says, is because distribution was through regional distributors.

    When the small distributors went away, that information of what sold where became a proprietary competitive advantage of Ingram, Baker&Taylor, Borders, B&N, and eventually, Amazon.

    The entire supply chain between the publisher and the reader became a black box that lumped sales into a single bottom line number. So publishers focused on that number: if the B&N buyer didn’t like the cover, they changed it. Or backburnered the book, cutting back the print run, cutting back support. More recently, a lot of the bigger publishers scale their print runs by Amazon preorders. (Remember how that was the button that made Hachette squeal during the catfight?)

    It all really started in the sixties with the rise of the mall bookstore chains but it didn’t really hit critical mass until the mid eighties as the bookstore chains consolidated into a handful and the two big box chains replaced them.

    By 2003 the die was cast.
    It’s been downhill since then. eBooks and audiobooks haven’t really been cannibalizing pbook sales but instead they have supplementing the pre-existing decline by appealing to people who otherwise wouldn’t be buying anything. That where the sales of audiobooks to commuters are coming from, the sales to fans of superhero fantasy, fans of erotica, and fans of cross-genre stories. And then there is the deep backlist that exploded with used book sales around 1999 and with backlist digitalization starting around 2010.

    As KKR said, the market has fragmented because the readers are in command now. Before, it was buy what was available or nothing–and ever increasing numbers were opting for nothing. Opting for gaming, video, or other forms of entertainment.

    (Here, look at this:

    http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Video_game_industry

    “The worldwide the game industry in 2007 was valued at $44.9 billion.[4] This number was expected to grow 9.1% annually to $48.9 in 2011 and $68 billion in 2012, making it the fastest-growing component of the international media sector.[5][6] In 2004, the worldwide industry generated more than $25.4 billion.[7]

    Over a decade before, the US retail video game market was worth $7 billion (1994)[8] and $4.7 billion (1990) before that.[9] This period coincided with the arcade renaissance, when US arcades generated $7 billion in 1994,[10] thus the total US market was worth $14 billion in 1994. The total worldwide retail video game market was worth $20.8 billion in 1994,[11] equivalent to over $32 billion with 2012 inflation.[12] By 1990, over 40% of gamers were adults and over 30% of gamers were female.[13]

    A decade before that in 1982, $1.5 billion of revenue was generated from console sales in the nascent US home video game market,[14] just before the video game crash of 1983. The total US console market was worth $3.8 billion in 1982.[15] This period coincided with the golden age of arcade video games, which generated annual US revenues of $8 billion from arcade quarters in 1981[16] and 1982.[17] At the height of the arcade golden age, the worldwide video game industry was estimated to be worth as much as $35 billion in 1981,[18] equivalent to over $88 billion with 2012 inflation.[19]”

    And this:

    “Worldwide video game industry revenues as of 2017:

    Video game industry – $108.9 billion[31]

    Digital content – $100.5 billion[32]
    Physical sales – $14.6 billion[2]
    Interactive media – $11.2 billion[32]
    Gaming sectors:[32]

    Mobile gaming – $46.1 billion[31]
    Smartphones – $35.3 billion
    Tablets – $10.8 billion
    Console gaming – $33.5 billion[31]
    Digital content – $21.9 billion[2]
    Physical sales – $11.4 billion[2]
    PC gaming – $29.3 billion[31]
    Digital content (free-to-play) – $20 billion[32]
    Digital content (premium) – $6.2 billion[32]
    Physical sales – $3.2 billion[2]
    Interactive media – $11.2 billion[32]
    eXtended Reality (XR) – $4 billion
    Gaming video content (GVC) – $3.2 billion
    eSports – $800 million”)

    And that’s just video games.
    In ten years it has doubled revenues.
    Other entertainment sectors have boomed too.

    The biggest exception is publishing which is stagnant *despite* the boom in digital.

    Indie, Inc is making hay but it’s worth remembering it’s not just tradpub out there. There’s other, bigger fish in the ocean.

    • There are stories like what you are describing, of the Tsunami wave smashing in, people running, trying to stay ahead of the wave, and there is always someone who at one point looks back, sees the wave, and stands frozen, to be hit by the oncoming wave.

      The other variation is the movie 2012:

      2012 movie Charlie Frost
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCkLhEJa4sQ

      I love that movie, but I always turn it off when the plane lands in China.

      – Everybody called the writer crazy, yet he stayed one step ahead of destruction, because he could see what was happening, and he did not stand still.

      I posted this the other day on Dean’s blog:

      Everything changes in 2019, but people won’t realize that it’s happened until 2020 when they look back in hindsight. Get it? 2020 hindsight? Come on, this is good stuff!

      You heard it here first. Or is that “second” since I already posted it on Dean’s blog. HA!

      • Some changes strike too deep into people’s world view that they can’t process the new reality and they retreat into a bubble of denial. It can be a personal tragedy or something external, like realizing that a deeply held belief was a manipulative lie.

        In publishing terms: “eBooks were a fad that is fading away and soon things will go back to normal as digital fatigue sets in.”

        It’s a severe case of Paradigm Lag.

    • @ Felix

      “The biggest exception is publishing which is stagnant *despite* the boom in digital.”

      That statement applies only to Trad Pub, which is sinking in its own self-inflicted sewage. More people are reading more than ever before. There are more writers writing more than ever before, and reaching more people than ever before.

      That’s the fragmentation KKR is talking about. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s a glad thing.

      • Not exactly.
        Fragmentation affects everybody. Indies too. You have seen the plaints from some Indie authors about how Kindle Unlimited is killing sales, right? About how marketing tricks aren’t working like they used to, about Amazon hurting their sales because of X, Y, or Z. It varies by author but every sector is being impacted by the ongoing ripples.

        Yes, the number of readers is growing and they are buying more books. As I said, a lot of people are buying books that wouldn’t otherwise.

        But the total money spent on books and the total amount reaching authors isn’t proportional to the growth in the number of books read.

        This is because a lot of the added reading is going to cheaper books in both digital and print: paperbacks instead of hardcover, discounted backlist instead of new releases, used instead of new, Indie instead of BPH, subscription instead of sales.

        Reader spending is getting diluted because the pool of available titles is growing faster than the pool of buyers. This dilution is reflected most noticeably at the top as top selling titles reach lower peaks and stay there for less time. The establishment press only reports this only for tradpub but the dilution is market wide and uneven. It varies by genre, by author, by book. Not everybody sees the same impact.

        Indies operate at lower price points and many of then get significant money from the mostly tradpub free KU so they benefit from some of the changes but they’re not insulated from the general dilution. Just because the impact isn’t painful enough to register doesn’t mean it not happening. Give it time and anybody who’s been in the indie business long enough will be feeling it enough to notice.

  2. The disruption was yesterday’s news. So are the traditional publishers. The results of a disruptive event might be felt for a hundred years. (Note the continued lack of horses in city streets.) But, the disruption has passed, for both horses and books.

    Traditionals are just one player in today’s market, yet many authors can’t stop using 1985 as their reference point.

    Most of what Rusch said can be simply summed up. Supply started a dramatic increase ten years ago, and hasn’t stopped. Technology indicates it won’t stop, and each successive year will see an increase in easily available and affordable supply.

    What happens when supply increases? Prices fall. They fall for writers who want a long-term career, hobbyists, professionals, amateurs, Cowboy Bob, and RinTinTin. That’s the market they all face. Who cares how it worked in 1985?

    • The people who haven’t adjusted would care that their painfully built up business is vanishing before their eyes.

      • I’m beginning to wonder if that group is responsible for all the stuff we see about traditional publishing, Barnes & Noble, and the Booker Prize. Meanwhile, other authors are dealing with the real market they face rather than the one they wished they faced.

        • Almost certainly.

          Some people are too deeply invested in the old ways to be able to extricate themselves. Some involuntarily, via contract, but many are voluntarily tied by laziness (Grafton, for example) or self-interest (the BPHs, Agents, consultants), or just willful blindness (Pullman, most of the Authors Guild crowd).

          The new normal is messy and complicated and demands constant management and agility versus the old “hone your craft and trust the universe to take care of you”. The old ways grew pretty paternalistic and the new age demands that career authors manage their careers.

          Being able to craft a good story isn’t enough and that scares many. Even established names on the Everywhere Books tier are at risk with the rise of the “eternal” backlist.

          Scary times, for many reasons, for the “I have people for that” crowd but also for Indies; the ripples aren’t over. The need for clearheaded alertness and agility is for everybody aspiring to stay in the business.

          Readers are in command and, oh are they a fickle force.

    • A – I don’t think most technology disruptions are like a giant earthquake – two minutes of shaking followed by years of cleanup and rebuilding or abandonment of the affected locations.

      If you think about huge the disruption caused by small, cheap computers operating in networks, including the internet, that connect such computers with each other and a relative handful of giant computers, such disruption didn’t happen instantly or within 2-3 years after the first PC’s were released.

      We’re coming up on 50 years of personal computers. Here’s a very partial timeline of the first ten years, during which the potential impacts of small, powerful, portable and cheap computers were recognized by some, but had not disrupted the industries that were ultimately most impacted:

      1. Altair – 1975
      2. “Micro-soft” (formed by Bill Gates and Paul Allen) releases a BASIC compiler for the Altair – 1975
      3. Apple I released – 1976
      4. Electric Pencil – first PC word processor – 1976
      5. First 5.25 inch floppy drive – 1976
      6. Radio Shack TRS-80 released to its retail stores across the US – 1977
      7. Apple II released – 1977
      8. CP/M operating system (the basis for MS-DOS) released – 1977
      9. VisiCalc spreadsheet and WordStar word processor released – 1978
      10. 1 million personal computers existed in the US – 1980
      11. Osborne 1 – first portable PC introduced – 1981
      12. IBM PC released – 16 KB of RAM! Two 5.25″ drives! – 1981
      13. Time magazine declares 1982 “The Year of the Computer”
      14. 10 million PC’s were in use in the US – 1983
      15. Lotus 1-2-3 ships for the IBM PC – 1983
      16. Apple Macintosh released – 1984
      17. Windows 1.0 released – 1985
      (See Welcome to Low End Mac – http://goo.gl/M2Z6C6 – for many more milestones)

      That’s ten years of disruptive PC technology that hasn’t begun to impact the lives of most people or destroyed major industries, including traditional publishing. In 1975, IBM was the king of computing and in 1985 that was still the case. (No offense intended toward Apple and its adherents, just looking at revenues generated in the respective technology spheres.)

      With respect to the ultimate disruptive technologies for traditional publishing, I don’t think the technology pieces fell into place until the widespread ownership of personal reading devices that could access the internet occurred.

      The iPhone was introduced in 2007, but, especially in its earlier iterations, wasn’t the ideal device for long-form reading. The iPad wasn’t introduced until 2010, but it wasn’t priced for the masses.

      The Kindle Fire was released in 2011 for $199, but Amazon quickly drove down that price. Currently, the Fire HD 8 inch color tablet is selling for $49.95.

      Kindle readers/tablets are consistently one of Amazon’s top-selling products, so just about everyone can afford a cheap ereading device with which to purchase and consume cheap ebooks.

      • Plus, smartphones keep getting bigger and higher resolution screens.

        That original iPhone had a 3.5″ display with 320×480 resolution at 163 ppi, versus today’s plethora of phones (hardly anybody uses phablet anymore, notice?) with 6-7in screens, even Apple with the iPhone X running a 5.8″ display at 2436 x 1125 resolution and 458 ppi density, which is laser printer territory.

        And that is far from the limit as we inch into the foldable phone era.

        https://www.cnet.com/pictures/foldable-samsung-phone-one-ui-android/

        Also from CNET, here’s the specs for the phone’s two screens:

        “The Cover Display, what you’ll see when the device is closed and looks more like a regular phone, is 4.58 inches and has a 21:9 aspect ratio. Samsung says it has a resolution of 840×1960, with a screen density of 420 dpi.

        “Compared to the Main Display, the experience is more … optimized for focused and handy and quick access and interaction, to leverage the small screen,” Park said. When the device is unfolded, the Cover Display will turn off and go black, he added.

        The Main Display, the bigger screen you see when unfolding the phone, is 7.3 inches and has a 4.2:3 aspect ratio. Samsung says the resolution is 1536×2152, with a screen density of 420 dpi.”

        Note the aspect ratio of the open display; it not quite the 3:2 ratio of folded tablets and hardcover books but it’s close enough. It will make for an excellent reading experience. And so will the foldable tablets that Microsoft and others have been working on.

        The ebook evolution is far from over.

      • PG,
        When the ongoing state is one where we have the continued introduction of new technology, that’s the defining characteristic of the market. That becomes the expected and steady state.

        Computers really did have lots of advances on the basic model, but Moore’s Law became the expected norm. The market isn’t disrupted by what it expects.

        Books are far less interesting than computers. The Kindles retired and stuck in a box in the back of my closet really aren’t any different than the first ones. They are flat pieces of plastic that deliver words to me at a speed where I can consume them.

        They might be faster now, but human reading speed isn’t. Screens might be better, and I can do the exact same thing on another piece of flat plastic called a smart phone. But that hardly constitutes a disruption.

        For fiction and simple narrative, we’re still using a 2008 user interface.

        The disruption in books was the day Amazon opened Select to anyone after traditionals had rejected it. In two days, 46,000 titles joined Select. That was the event. Ever since then nothing has really changed.

        Independents write a book, upload to Amazon, sell the book, promote on Select, and bank the cash. Nothing has changed for ten years. The same model moves on. Different players come and go like in any market, and the early notion that books are somehow exempt from basic economic forces has been totally discredited.

        The folks who think they are the disruption have become the establishment.

        Here’s a simple test we can all do safely at home. Is something expected? Then it’s not a disruption.

        • All true…
          …but…
          …don’t forget the Law of Unexpected Consequences.
          Oftentimes expected events bring unexpected consequences.

          Without going too far, the Agency conspiracy was expected to temper the adoption of ebooks by raising prices and, by bringing Apple and its fans to the market, reduce Amazon’s market power.

          Unexpectedly, it led readers to pay more attention to Indie books, legitimizing Indie, inc as a source for ebooks. It also effectively killed interactive epub in the US and UK, the two most mature ebook markets, and it killed most of the independent ebookstores dependent on it. More, it emboldened B&N to foolishly move to a near-cost pricing model for ereader hardware which led Amazon to bring in ad-supported Kindles (spawning another billion dollar business in the Amazon consortium) and forced most asian consumer electronics companies out of the nascent ereader market.

          That’s a lot of side effects. Most price fixing schemes only alter the price consumers pay and don’t alter the landscape for an entire industry.

          Just because you can see an event coming doesn’t mean you can always predict or prepare for the aftermath.

        • Expected by whom ? And what is it we are expecting. If it is that all consumer sales of long form writing will transition to digital media publishers are not behaving as if that will happen. No shutting down of the low investment fiction divisions to beef up items that need long term investment like history’s or illustrated books. If it is the status quo by definition the disruption is over.
          The kindle is a means to an end. A way to connect anyone anywhere to Amazon’s ebook repository. If amazon can achieve that through something the consumer already owns so much the better. The achievement was turning a shopping trip to the mall into a few gestures on the couch. The failure is that people have to make a choice to install the kindle app and it’s sort of awkward to use on apple devices.There is no impulse buy like is possible with a physical book. It’s not Netflix that comes preinstalled on new televisions.

          • Kindle does come pre-installed on a lot of tablets (Amazon’s FIRE line is a big seller; third behind Samsung and Apple) and some phones. Not Apple, for obvious reasons, but Amazon has a deal with Samsung for a co-branded Kindle for Samsung app. They used to pre-install on some other devices but as Apple has discovered with iBooks, pre-installs don’t mean much these days.

            https://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-and-amazon-give-away-free-e-books-with-kindle-for-samsung/

            As for the serendipidity of strolling the aisles, its value is overestimated by the old school establishment. Consumers have adapted nicely to the discovery tools of the online era: the Kindle store has excellent and fast ways of sifting through the five million strong catalog. In seconds you can drill down to new releases by genre or subgenre or explore the full catalog. It’s the reader’s choice what they see, not the publishers’ payola money.

            And nothing beats the combination of free samples and the also-boughts…
            …except maybe, Kindle Unlimited. Which is a place the BPHs don’t go but avid readers do. That by itself is a major disruption affecting everybody.

            Of course, the single biggest disruption is the Internet itself which has marginalized and even killed entire segments of the non-fiction market.

            • Oh, and yes; Kindle is just a means to an end.
              But it mainstreamed ebooks and the consequences of tbat are still rippling all over:

              https://www.wired.com/story/future-book-is-here-but-not-what-we-expected/

              eBooks aren’t a tiny subsidiary market for techies and enthusiasts anymore. They are a core segment addressing the needs of the avid reader. No small thing for a business heavily dependent on bandwagon sales of “blockbusters”.

              As KKR and many others have noted, the market has fragmented and is spreading its money around more widely. And that fragmentation starts with the avid readers that created buzz for new releases. These days they are more likely exploring the deep backlist or Kindle Unlimited or Scribd than buzzing about a payola-supported new release. That is way more significant than many realize.

          • There is no impulse buy like is possible with a physical book.

            My wife and I were watching TV the other night when some guy was being interviewed. They mentioned his book, and I had my laptop open.

            “Can you order that guy’s book for me?”
            “Yeah, how do you spell his name?”

            The book arrived in a few seconds. She got her Kindle tablet out and started reading. Now, that’s an impulse buy.

  3. I’m intrigued… What is an “Author Preferred Edition” (of Ms. Rusch’s book “FantasyLife and Other stories”)?

    I haven’t seen this term in a title before. And as someone who writes novellas and an Omnibus Edition therefrom, I’m liking this variation.

    • If I had to guess, it’s the author’s version of a “director’s cut” of a movie. I also like the idea in general, because some authors had their originals edited/butchered in a way they didn’t like. I think in a previous post Rusch had said something like that happened with “FantasyLife.” This is a nice way to reclaim the story, without confusing readers familiar with the trad version.

      • Aha. This makes sense. My case is a little different but the analogy to film still applies. My omnibus is expanded with new content. The only negative I see is a change in subtitle keywords. But worth a ponder. THANKS!

    • It’s two things: one is a way to encourage customers to buy your edition rather than the publisher’s (usually when it’s published overseas and you both have the right to sell it in the same market.

      Two, it’s a round about way to get your rights back by publishing in a format that wasn’t licensed by the original publisher. (“omnibus” or “preferred”) In the case of this book, Kris was getting screwed by a weird publisher who was pricing it so that it wouldn’t sell ($16 for the ebook) but who also refused to release or sell her the rights back.

    • What is an “Author Preferred Edition”

      Zillions of them can be found on KDP, written by independent authors.

      • Could be but I’d never seen it before. I just put the phrase into the Kindle Store search bar, and there they are! ‘Course it never would have occurred to me to search for something like that.

        However, one thing this little comment sidebar has done is make me take another look at my latest ebook title/subtitle. And I just changed it. Took about about an hour to show up (on Amazon). Now that is one clear advantage of being Indie. Yessiree.

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