Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Are Printed Books Dead?

With the rise of tablets and other e-readers, some are starting to pronounce the traditional hard back book as dead. As new versions of e-readers like the Kindle become more advanced, the noise about the death of books becomes louder.

Are we really part of the last generation to be able to purchase, own and consume paper books at will? Here are a few reasons why many think we are:

Book shops dwindling

In a world where we can buy things at the click of a button, many high street and independent retailers suffer as a result. In 2011 American book retailing giant Borders closed its doors for good, despite being the prime retailer of books in both the UK and USA (alongside its parent group Barnes & Noble). A lot of this was attributed to the fact that as well as there being fewer people actually reading hard back books, those who did want to read solid printed books usually bought their desired books online. Retailers like Amazon, who are a one stop shop for almost any need you have, took the custom from shops as consumers could buy books here at the same time as making any other purchase. The convenience factor plays a big role here, especially at peak retail times like Christmas. Not only that, retailers like Amazon are able to offer books both used and new at a much lower price than book shops as there are no store overheads, not to mention free delivery on orders of a certain cost, meaning the consumer isn’t put out by ordering this way so it becomes less of an issue that they may not get to open their book for a couple of days.

And so with less book shops comes less need to print as many books overall. However Amazon has contributed to the death of print in a much bigger way.

The rise of e-readers

The first Kindle launched in November 2007 and in the last 7 or so years the device by Amazon has gone from strength to strength with each new model which has been released. The small sleek design, roughly the same size as a paperback but far lighter, proved appealing for those who love to read at any opportunity. Both a popular space saver in your handbag, suitcase and in your home, the Kindle breathed a whole new lease of life into the hobby that is reading. Soon many different brands of e-reader cropped up, offering all the same benefits as a Kindle.

As a result, e-readers and in turn e-books then became popular, fashionable and affordable. As e-books don’t have to be printed and delivered to a store, the cost to produce and sell them then becomes much less than an average paperback or hardback. This means that e-books can sell for much less, and in quite a lot of instances you’ll find e-books for free available in most e-reader libraries. Therefore although you pay an initial expense with an e-reader, it becomes more cost-effective in the long run to enjoy reading this way, which then drives down the need for as many printed books.

The digital world

Although e-readers make up a large part of the digital world, our whole attitude and adoption of the digital technology available to us is another contributing factor to the death of printed books. For example, with an e-reader you can buy a book directly from the library and have it added to your device in seconds. You could have an account linked to your bank details or you may opt to use a payment method like PayPal, but either way, the transaction is almost instant and you can enjoy your books in minutes.

But it’s not just books we can consume in the digital world or even on our Kindles any more. Now you can pay your bills, play games, gamble and so much more too.

With all these factors considered, it’s easy to see why it looks like the death of printed books is near.

Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher

I'm stepping into the way-back machine today to highlight a series I wrote back in 2009 about selling your eBook without a publisher.

Back then I was just getting started with self-publishing. A lot of people were. I used the series of posts primarily as a way to familiarize myself with the various retailers, services, and how to actually produce an eBook. I've learned a lot since then. Still learning, in fact. But I think this series is still relevant. In fact, I think I could expand on it. For example, Kobo and CreateSpace are missing as retailers and service providers, respectively. Both are used by yours truly.

But, for now, here is the 8 part series in its original form broken down by post.

  1. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 1: Introduction
  2. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 2: E-book Formatting
  3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 3: Book Covers
  4. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 4: Amazon.com
  5. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 5: Smashwords
  6. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 6: Scribd
  7. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu
  8. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy

Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy

This is the final post in a multi-part series about self-publishing your eBook. Posts include:

1. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 1: Introduction
2. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 2: E-book Formatting
3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 3: Book Covers
4. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 4: Amazon.com
5. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 5: Smashwords
6. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 6: Scribd
7. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu
8. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy (this post)

This post is about selling strategy. What I mean by this, or rather what I don't mean, is marketing or self-promotion. Both of those topics are important, and in fact this topic probably crosses over into those, but what I'd like to talk about here is this: I've listed one eBook on Amazon, Smashwords, Scribd, and Lulu, but with another novel soon to be complete, what's next? Where do I go from here?

As I see it, here are my options:

1.) Go the traditional publishing route

This may smack of heresy after I just posted seven (eight, including this one) posts all geared towards circumventing the traditional process, but hear me out. There's no doubt we're entering into a new world as far as publishing is concerned, but just because we can sell our work direct to readers does not instantly make the agents, copyeditors, publishers, and other personnel in the publishing industry obsolete. In fact, for those who truly want to embrace writing as a full-time occupation, I still think they're necessary. They bring expertise, leverage, and make distribution into real, physical bookstores a reality. They have access to the channels where most people still get their books from. This is to our benefit as writers.

2.) Give my eBooks (or short fiction) away for free

It's no secret that the most successful eBooks selling on Amazon are given away for free. Some think we're heading towards $0 eBooks, anyway. But free doesn't pay the bills; for full-time writers this obviously isn't an option. But for a new writer who can sustain him/herself in other ways, it might be a viable option for gaining readers. The idea might be to give away one book hoping to sell copies of another. Giving away short fiction fits into this as well. By no means does this mean giving away content for free forever. It might just be for a limited time, to perk up interest.

3.) Serialize my novel here

John Scalzi serialized his first novel, Old Man's War, on his blog before selling it to Tor. J.C. Hutchins serialized in audio format his first novel, 7th Son. The end result for both authors was a publishing contract. In Scalzi's case, he was already getting 1,000 hits/day on his blog (I get 100 on a good day; Scalzi probably gets 100/hour now). Serializing a novel for free no doubt brought in even more readers and attracted the attention of Tor. Hutchins, an unknown when he started, marketed his novel like a madman, gaining a huge following and an eventual contract as well. In these two cases, serialization worked. In general, giving away anything for free is going to work, to a point. Also, keep in mind that just because you're giving away something for free does not mean everyone is going to come to your site to read/download it. Some people still like going to bookstores and buying a "real" copy of a book. Serialization is just another way of getting your work in front of more people. Given the choice between "more" and "less", I'll take the former.

4.) Sell my eBooks here on my blog

Many authors do this, especially as rights revert back from a publisher. It's a great way to get some more life (and revenue) out of a title that has otherwise been remaindered. It's also a nice way to get your novel out to people while you're seeking a contract, which can take a very long time if it happens at all. The biggest plus of selling from your own site is you get to keep 100% (or near to that) of the revenue.

5.) Sell my eBooks through the various eRetailers I covered in this blog series

There are a lot of people who visit, say, Amazon, who probably will never come to my web site. It is therefore important to also sell through other channels, even if you are giving up a larger piece of the pie by doing so. Keep in mind, too, that eBooks that sell well via online retailers sometimes are picked up for publication.

In closing this post…

I don't think any one method is the sole way to go in today's world. Rather, I'm considering a hybrid approach of some of the above once my second novel is complete. I still want to go the traditional route because I think it's the best option for success. On the other hand, I don't want my novel languishing in a drawer while I wait for the luck of the draw to deem my work worthy of being published.

Concluding this series

In conclusion of this series let me just say that I hope I've shed some light on the different options for publishing online. The publishing world is changing; it's best to remain aware of the new possibilities.

[ Amazon Featured Short: The Hope of Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson ]

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iPad: The Day After

The iPad's iBookshelf The wait is over. Apple debuted their all-new entry into the tablet market and it is called the iPad.

I wanted to post this as a follow-up to my post of a couple of days ago where I wondered if the iPad was really the "Kindle-killer" everyone was thinking it might be. Even now, I don't think the question has been answered as there are people continuing to argue both sides with others who believe the two can happily co-exist. We may not know for sure until the iPad is actually released for sale in a couple of months.

Personally, I think there's room for both. The only crossover in functionality is both devices' ability to act as an eReader. The iPad has the advantage of a backlit color screen, but only 10 hours of battery life. The Kindle has the advantage of eInk, which while black and white is so crisp it's like you're reading a page from a paper book. Also, there's no eyestrain with eInk and the Kindle can literally last for weeks without a charge (with the 3G wireless turned off). People looking to read eBooks will likely go with the more specialized eReader device. People looking for more, the iPad. Regardless, we'll likely see more and better features emerge for both devices, something that is a win-win for consumers.

Of particular note is Apple's iBookstore announcement, which is essentially an app that allows you to purchase/read eBooks. In addition, iTunes will begin selling eBooks. What hasn't been mentioned is if Apple will open iTunes to self-published authors similar to how Amazon has done so with the Kindle store. This model would be similar to developers selling apps for the iPhone through iTunes. It's not that far of a step to include eBooks in on this. For right now, though, eBooks will only come from the major publishing houses. Whether the iPad is the publishing industry's savior remains to be seen.

I'll leave you to formulate your own opinion with some related stories I found interesting:

 

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Apple about to change the eReader rules… maybe

Apple, Inc.For the most part I keep topics related to technology and software in particular confined to my technical blog. This blog is, after all, about my literary pursuits. But every once in a while a topic emerges that blurs those lines. Of late, there's been no greater such subject than eReaders, eBooks, and the resulting changes in the publishing industry.

Now, the game is about to change once more as Apple is set to unveil their version of the tablet computer this week. Tablets are nothing new, but they've failed to gain a foothold beyond utilitarian use. There's no doubt Apple's products are revolutionary, evolutionary, and everything in-between (look no further than the iPod or iPhone). Now, if the sheer number of rumors hold any weight, Apple is about to change the eReader market.

Or maybe not.

Rumors News reports price the Apple iPad iSlate (or whatever they wind up calling it) at $499 and up $1000. Yet in an informal poll conducted by Retrevo, 70% of consumers would not be interested in purchasing an iSlate if it's priced higher than $700. Further, Retrevo found roughly half the respondents said they "didn’t think they needed a tablet computer" at all.

Also, compare the rumored $1000 price point with Kindle's current price of $259. The iSlate is supposed to do a whole lot more than just serve as an eReader, but c'mon. For someone who just wants to read eBooks on a small, lightweight device, I think the choice is an easy one.

Even if you never buy an iSlate, however, you still might feel its impact. Publishers are decreeing Apple as their savior (or at least they're hoping they are), largely because Amazon has been lowering consumer's expectations with regard to pricing. I'm not just talking eBooks here, either. Late last year Amazon, Walmart, and later Target engaged in a price war over newly released hardcovers when they dropped prices as low as $9. Now, the publishers aren't losing money when retailers choose to lower their prices by that much since Walmart, Amazon, Target, and others still pay whatever the publisher charges. But how long before those same retailers cry uncle and raise prices, all the while lamenting how greedy publishers have forced them to do so because they will not lower their prices. The backlash could be catastrophic to an already reeling publishing industry.

That's where Apple's role as savior comes in. Apple energized and legitimized the online music world with the introduction of the iPod and iTunes store. Publishers are hoping they'll do the same with eBooks. Also, by making their own deals with Apple, publishers hope to wrest back some leverage over pricing from Amazon.

Personally, I'm curious to see what capabilities Apple's new tablet might have (though I've no intention of purchasing one; I'm quite happy with my Kindle). I'm particularly interested in the possibility of Apple selling eBooks on iTunes and if they'll open that possibility to authors similar to how Amazon opened the Kindle store. Last, but not least, I'm looking forward to January 27 (the day of Apple's unveiling) if only to expunge the rumors and finally breath some reality into this story.

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