As can be expected, I have some gripes w/ the logic presented.
1. Yep. Lots of people are going to fail. As the numbers of people increase, the amount of failures will increase exponentially. Will it hurt the publishing model? Not really. People who buy books... shocker, BUY BOOKS! I own a Sony e-reader. I also have a shelf full of paper books. Why? Because I caught them at the libraries sale and it would be cheaper to buy it there than buy it online. Because I found them as I wandered through the bookstore. Or just because...! Am I becoming the minority? Yeah, probably, but these things go in spurts anyway. Anyone remember how reading had died w/ children before Harry Potter? Yeah, me too.
2. Stars are leaving the e-publishing world for mainstream publishing. Yep. And? We have a member of this very site that did so. And I bet, if that contract went away, because he is a WRITER, he would go right back to e-publishing.
3. When I read this, I found it strangely similar to the b&w comic boom that followed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With that success, tons of b&w books hit the market, saturating it in search of easy profit. When it was over, only a few (GOOD) survived. Comics continued, though some shops that hedged their bets on the B&w craze didn't, and actually entered another boom - the Image boom where everything was collectible and people bought multiple issues to sell in 10 years for millions of dollars. Some of those books survived too, but most (I'd dare say 95%) died a quiet death that hardly anyone noticed. And comics continued. Where shops hurt again? Yep. But strangely enough, you still can find a comic shop in most major cities. Why? They have a fanbase. Even if paper dies and electronic takes over, it'll move online (and some already have). Are books the same? In their nature, largely so, w/ their own problems and strengths, the greatest of which being... us. The readers. Who help good product that we find out about grow. And who kill whatever we don't like.
Look for instance on how he announces that "paper" books are down 53.4%. What the actual figure tells you is that mass market paperback sales were down 53.4%, not all print books, and only in the U.S. and only in September. The figure he quotes for e-books at 138% growth were for nine months, not just September. Why did mass market tank? Economic factors, rising gas prices (trucks) and a little thing called Borders going bankrupt and closing up stores all over the country (which as we previously discussed had nothing to do with e-books.)
It's that kind of shading that messes up other, clearer facts. The reality is that e-books aren't a bubble, unless Amazon suddenly decides that they don't want the self-publishing folk no more or want to charge them huge prices, which is possible, but not likely on the incentives front at this point. Even if Amazon did decide to drop the self-publishing market, at this point, it would likely develop elsewhere, probably at a slower rate but certainly not the equivalent of a financial recession.
What is on a bubble are the e-readers, but everyone knew that going in. That's why they are all shifting over to having tablet products. The Kindle was just the warm up kindle to the Fire. E-books are not restricted to e-readers -- any communication tool with a screen will do. Eventually, you'll be able to read books on your t.v. screen if you like in giant print. Holographic displays of text in the kitchen will definitely be a boon to the cookbook market. As long as we have words and writing, we will have books, which, again, are simply long pieces of text. How much money anyone can make off them is always up in the air.
What he's not wrong about is the predatory practices going on to make money off of the folks trying to do self-publishing. This always happens and we've been talking about it for some time. Paid book reviews. Publicity services. E-book formatters and distributors. Some of these can be helpful services, legitimately priced. But even established companies may try to take advantage, and so that is a process that occurs in the establishment of a new market. That's why I feel the hype that self-publishing is a rebellion warring against the supposed Evil Empire of large publishers is so damaging and companies that do have something to offer, like Smashwords, should not, in my view, resort to it just to increase sales.
The reality is that a lot of people will rush into self-publishing hoping to make money, they won't do so well on that and they'll drop out. But self-publishing is entirely too useful for it to be damaged from this. People still have mortgages, dot.com companies still exist (and Facebook stock will sell for billions.) The only reason a "bubble" matters is that people gamble on it in the stock markets. I am not aware of massive stock speculation on companies solely in regards to self-publishing operations. Self-publishing for all the enthusiasm is, like the rest of publishing, a really low money industry. It's not of more than passing interest to the financial world and then mostly in terms of the electronic gadgets people read e-books on.
That seems to be the big problem in these discussions of the intersection of tech and publishing -- people think the e-books are as important as the gadgets and software programs and so will create some sort of fantastic new world. They aren't; they're just the frosting. But you always want to have frosting around, at least some people do.
Heh, Kat, the publishers earned that title the old fashioned way - they worked for it. The damage is self-inflicted, and continues to be this way as these folks fight to keep their antiquated business models alive. Can't say the other side of the coin is particularly sparkly white, either. Amazon, Apple, these guys are true wolves in sheep's clothing as far as author's are concerned. Pray neither gets full control of the marketplace. These days it's hard for an author to trust anyone but themselves, so no wonder the sentiment.Quote:
That's why I feel the hype that self-publishing is a rebellion warring against the supposed Evil Empire of large publishers is so damaging and companies that do have something to offer, like Smashwords, should not, in my view, resort to it just to increase sales.
All I'm saying is, the guy plays very loosely with facts and I don't think comparing e-books to housing mortgages makes a lot of sense. But that's not a business friendly message, is it? Can't really sell anything if you're saying that we're dealing with neither Armageddon nor impending utopia.
J.A. Konrath thinks differently: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/0...ok-bubble.html
He also just made 100k from Amazon in selling his ebooks.Quote:
1. People fear change. When change happens, they dig in like ticks and try to defend their long-held and closely-cherished beliefs. (BTW, another term for long-held/closely cherished belief is prejudice. And prejudice ain't good.)
2. The same memes about ebooks keep getting circulated again and again and again because folks are too lazy to do any kind of simple research to inform their opinions.
3. Ebooks are going to follow the examples set by the music, movie, and TV industries. The future is digital, and anyone who disagrees with that is seriously out of touch with reality.
At that point, they'll have the world's largest book distribution network, be one of the world's largest publishers, and the largest producer of e-reader devices. (Unless Apple takes over that, which is still possible.)
I don't see that scenario as being one that's good for the industry or consumers.
Reporters and commentators know this and some pander to those who get orgasmic over disasters. And if there isn't a disaster they'll balloon a tiny bump into a cosmic crash, or just flat make one up.
Tabloids are more blatant about it. But even respectable publications like the Guardian can't resist a story well-written enough that it hides the fact that the writer is bending or inventing the "facts" which supports their thesis.
And on Konrath's points.
"1. People fear change. When change happens, they dig in like ticks..."
An over-simplification. Some dig in - and die, which in business means "go out of business." Some fewer rise to the challenge. The larger the business the more often they resist change, which is why smaller businesses tend to be the ones who adjust. But even the large businesses sometimes change.
Often larger businesses adapt by buying up the smaller businesses. Some then suppress or cannibalize the smaller business. Some instead use those businesses to invigorate themselves.
We've seen both effects in the publishing world.
"3. [Publishing's] future is digital, and anyone who disagrees with that is seriously out of touch with reality. "
Another over-simplification. A working engineer for over 40 years who's helped CREATE the future, I know that every tech product has advantages and disadvantages.
This is the case with ebooks and "pbooks." The two have complementary advantages and disadvantages. Smart publishers will use that potential synergy. I'd guess that we've only begun to see how such publishers will creatively do so.
One example I've already seen at Baen Books, which has a big chunk of tech-smart readers and editors. Baen will often put a CD in the back of a new book by an author which contains all that author's backlist and out-of-print books. Some magazines have also begun putting digital media inside their mags to supplement the mag content.
Bookstores can also be creative. In fact they already have, in several ways. For instance, at checkout some stores scan the bar code on the back cover of all books when receiving them. This automatically adds them into their electronic inventory systems. Then on checkout an individual book is subtracted from inventory. This also has the benefit that books are rung up even faster, making customers happier and more willing to come back to that bookstore.
My favorite bookstore has now gotten a recommendation program in their pay stations which gives its checkout clerks advice. I had one say today (after glancing at a readout) "You know that author just came out with a sequel you might like."
Readers are also creative. I've a friend, for instance, who usually buys both the ebook and the pbook of a novel. Then she'll switch between reading it depending on her circumstances and mood. Waiting in line and in the car wash she'll read from her tablet. At home she'll read the printed book. Sometimes she'll also switch because reading an ebook is (for her) more tiring than a pbook.
A lot of publishers also use digital methods in non-obvious ways which hysterical pundits ignore. Everyone has a desk computer, and probably a digital phone as well. This is used for routine communications, as in every business.
They also have publishing-specific uses. Book queries are increasingly digital. Book submittals also. Books can be edited digitally by everyone concerned - agents, purchasing editors, copy editors, authors proofing their copy-edited books. Artists often create book covers digitally, and send them to publishers digitally. Type setting and printing has been digital for a long time now.
Dinner and my evening warm-up writing is done. Now back to my heroine Dr. Sylvia Connelly as she flies to the South-American tri-state area. She's finally discovered what group of white slavers killed her while trying to kidnap her and force her into whoredom. This is very bad luck for them. She's now an immortal shapechanger who has a sea monster alternate form. And she is really pissed.
Three good hours, three good chapters. Had to stop several times for some quick research of air travel times, place names, and veggie & terrain of the tri-state Argentina/Brazil/Paraguay city. Especially around the Iquazú Falls area. Helped a lot by photos taken by tourists of a hotel & its surroundings near the Falls.
Had to take a break from the computer, so had a snack while reading the latest Economist. Which actually gave me more info about this particular topic. For a subscription form fell out, and a fact stood out.
The magazine subscriptions include a year of both print and iPod, iPad, and Android versions of each issue. Plus you can view them on your computer. You can go back and forth between the emag and pmag version.
Here is a case of synergy between electronic and print publishing. Each supports the other, not competes. In this particular case.
That last fact is crucial. The Economist was recently featured in a trade magazine for the publishing industry. It was cited as one of the few magazines to ADD readers and increase their profits, while many formerly successful mags have been losing money and readers for years. This kind of adaptation to the epublishing era is one reason why.
Absolutely not. They're using the publishing operation as leverage in the industry with publishers, rival booksellers and again most importantly, with rival gadget makers. They don't need to merge with anyone, just partner up, which they've already done.Quote:
I think that in time, they're going to expand their publishing side and will eventually merge with one of the traditional publishing houses.
They don't care about having the largest book distribution network, they don't want to be one of the world's largest publishers, and they aren't that concerned with being the largest producer of e-reader devices. The e-reader device was just a warm-up that allowed them to build infrastructure and get the lead in multiple countries to being an electronic content gadget supplier, and will settle into being a small niche part of the overall product line. The money is in the tablets. Look also to Amazon probably developing a smart phone and possibly a social network of some kind. Amazon is aiming at Google, Apple, Verizon and other much larger companies than anything in publishing. And Apple doesn't have an e-reader, nor do they want to have one. Apple is launching their tablets and smart phones. E-books was just one more thing to add to the pot in their iStore. That's why they had no problem agreeing to an agency contract with publishers for e-books. They honestly don't care what e-books are priced at. It's just extra content.Quote:
At that point, they'll have the world's largest book distribution network, be one of the world's largest publishers, and the largest producer of e-reader devices. (Unless Apple takes over that, which is still possible.)
Again, all these fancy claims about the e-book market are based on the idea that e-books and book publishing is a big money, big importance business. It's not. It's useful, but it's a blip in the bucket. The big money is in electronic text and video content, like from Rupert Murdoch's media empire, and the equipment to play them on a pay for each item basis. It is the monetizing of the Web, which all these industries have been after for the past two decades and which is way more important than turning print books -- a backwards, nowhere business -- into electrons. Amazon can certainly mess things up and will ruthlessly undercut what it sees as rivals while at the same time partnering up with them in lucrative business deals (normal business practice,) but it doesn't care about publishing (and will probably eventually sell the publishing operations it's starting.) Bezos picked books as Amazon's starting product out of a hat. He can afford to do anything he wants and lose huge sums of money on publishing to do it because the money comes from a massive retail and advertising empire, not books. It's the Web, not the e-books, and downloading bits of the Web into devices, downloading that people will pay for in devices that they will pay for and expand on and continually upgrade, that is the money tree.
Facebook is about to do its IPO for billions of dollars. Do you really think that Stephen King is of any importance next to that? It's like a bunch of minnows talking about how they own the ocean while the whales sail over them.
E-books are neither vital to the universe nor doomed. Self-pubs are neither important nor are they shut out of some of them making money. And the electronic elite do need to step out of their bubble once in awhile. Regardless, self-publishing is not like the housing market, and it's not the Fountain of Youth either.
We fiction writers are very tunnel-visioned about ereading and publishing. We need to wake up and see the bigger picture. "Faction" is a much bigger market than fiction, in books and in magazines and newspapers. And video is even bigger still. The few days surrounding Superbowl Sunday will generate more business than the last several DECADES of fiction sales.
The Amazon Kindle was the Ford Model A. The Fire is its Model T.
We have to remember we are at the very dawn of ereading. A decade from now Amazon may be like Ford in today's auto market. Still a big player, but only one.
Think how much the gasoline-powered wheeled vehicle has changed since Ford and his predecessors. Today we have tiny skateboards powered by one-cylinder engines, and giant earth movers the size of small ships, and all the possibilities in between. SUVs and sports cars and motor cycles. And many different companies all making the vehicles, other companies selling and re-selling them.
Being sci-fi people we should be able to avoid the historic tunnel vision of most of the media, and take a longer look at ereading.
Should. My bet is that most of us won't. We, supposedly the most forward-thinking people on the planet, usually are as tunnel-visioned as everyone else.
Again, I disagree. Amazon is very much looking at hardware. That's why it's a retail empire. Its main concerns are not Random House or even Barnes & Noble, but WalMart and Google and trying to keep a foothold in the very large market that Apple, Sony, Microsoft, etc. play in. But Amazon is happy to make large amounts of money off of content download and advertising. All the Web companies are.Quote:
Amazon sells content, hardware is secondary. (Or maybe tenth-ary! Do you know how many hundreds, even thousands, of different kinds of products Amazon sells? Maybe even Amazon does not.)
We have to remember we are at the very dawn of peak oil. :)Quote:
We have to remember we are at the very dawn of ereading.
According to several analyses in the business community Amazon sells their Kindle ereaders and the Fire tablet at a loss, but makes up for that by selling content for them at a profit. Plus you can use them to buy everything in their inventory, up to and including big-ticket items selling for thousands of dollars. So you do not need a computer to be an Amazon customer.
The fact that e-books are the frosting does not change that Amazon would like to be the major provider of e-book devices and e-books.Quote:
But again, not so that they can play king of the e-book market. It's so that they can establish themselves as a software and hardware gadgets producer. E-books are not the money makers again for e-readers -- magazines, databases, documents and web content are. E-books are the frosting.
Did Time Warner need to merge with CNN? Did Disney need merge with NBC? Did Google need to merge with YouTube or start a Facebook like social network?Quote:
Absolutely not. They're using the publishing operation as leverage in the industry with publishers, rival booksellers and again most importantly, with rival gadget makers. They don't need to merge with anyone, just partner up, which they've already done.
While I’m at it, Amazon started off as a bookstore. It didn’t *need* to sell an e-book device and it didn’t *need* to get into e-publishing, but it did that anyway. And it did that after it became the biggest online retailer in the world.
You’re assuming that a large company can only be interested in one thing at a time. Amazon is breaking into the tablet market AND becoming the world’s largest shoe store AND is developing search engines AND has on-demand services for books, CDs, and videos AND is a video game developer.Quote:
They don't care about having the largest book distribution network, they don't want to be one of the world's largest publishers, and they aren't that concerned with being the largest producer of e-reader devices. The e-reader device was just a warm-up that allowed them to build infrastructure and get the lead in multiple countries to being an electronic content gadget supplier, and will settle into being a small niche part of the overall product line. The money is in the tablets.
Amazon has acquired 30 different companies since its inception.
As long as there’s money to be made then Amazon will attempt to make money, and they’re already in the book distribution, e-pub, and digital device market.
Again, you’re assuming the company can only do one thing at a time. Why did Amazon buy Zappos, a shoe store? If publishing is small potatoes, surely shoes are as well? Why did it acquire diapers.com?Quote:
Look also to Amazon probably developing a smart phone and possibly a social network of some kind. Amazon is aiming at Google, Apple, Verizon and other much larger companies than anything in publishing.
Because it’s a large conglomerate expanding in a very predictable way.
Both the ipad and the iphone are e-readers.Quote:
And Apple doesn't have an e-reader, nor do they want to have one.
My ‘fancy claims’ are based on the fact that Amazon is big and books aren’t. That’s the entire basis of my speculation. If books were big, I wouldn’t worry about one company coming in dominating the industry. Notice that despite Amazon owning a video game developer, I don’t care about them breaking into that industry.Quote:
Again, all these fancy claims about the e-book market are based on the idea that e-books and book publishing is a big money, big importance business. It's not.
As are comic books. Yet TimeWarner bought DC and Disney bought Marvel.Quote:
It's useful, but it's a blip in the bucket.
While I’m at it, Simon and Shuster are owned by CBS. The idea that small businesses and industries can’t be gobbled up by larger businesses and industries isn’t one that hold water with me.
Yes, it was crucial for them to do those things and these were all integrated media deals. (And Disney bought ABC. NBC is owned by Universal, who had the same goals.) But Amazon does not need to own massive publishers to do what they need to do. In the 1980's, media corporations bought up and merged book publishers in the belief that these companies were going to be the new growth opportunities and major players in media and information systems businesses. They threw a lot of money around, cut costs and employees, made the publishers buy a lot of weird, not particularly useful other kinds of companies. But publishers maintained the same low growth rate and debt-balancing act they had before and the side companies tanked and were sold off. So while the Big Six are still owned by various media conglomerates, the corporate gold rush in book publishing stopped in the 1990's because book publishers did not become like movie studios. Amazon is, I'm reasonably confident, smart enough not to get sucked into the same trap. They can afford to front a money-losing publishing operation to get what they want on the Web and in retail, and partner up with various willing publishers, but there's no compelling need to buy the publishers, because as you note, Amazon is not a media company, unlike some of the deals you listed above. It's a retail empire and Web corporation that also wants to be a major player in electronics and Web businesses. Buying up a book publisher does not help with that. Even if it wants to get into film, there are other companies they could buy easily to help with that.Quote:
Did Time Warner need to merge with CNN? Did Disney need merge with NBC? Did Google need to merge with YouTube or start a Facebook like social network?
And selling CD's and DVD's where the real money was. It could have easily been something else. Bezos considered several different products, but books had some early advantages -- chiefly that it's a debt-based business so you can ride debt for a long time and not fail. As quickly as it had the venture capital to do so, as you note, Amazon started selling anything it could manage, turning itself into a department store, not a bookstore.Quote:
While I’m at it, Amazon started off as a bookstore.
Not an e-book device, an electronic reading device. When the Web is based on text and text files, an e-reading device was the obvious entry point and much easier than trying to break into the oligarchy of the phone market. They absolutely needed to do it. As for e-publishing, that's part of monetizing the Web, so Amazon certainly wanted to do that. The publishers were not in a position to really get the ball rolling on electronic publications as a real retail market, so Amazon seized the opportunity, which gave them tons of content for free to sell as paid downloads -- not just the e-books. Amazon is not invested in book publishing, but in digital.Quote:
It didn’t *need* to sell an e-book device and it didn’t *need* to get into e-publishing,
Yes, exactly -- Google, not Random House. If acquiring book publishers gave them a significant advantage, even if it was a long term thing, then they might do that, but already all the focus on e-readers is adapting them with color, video, and the tablets with Net service, graphics capabilities and apps. It's possible that Amazon may end up buying a media conglomerate which will also happen to own one of the big publishers, which would let them compete with Google/YouTube dominance, etc. but that would take an enormous chunk of their assets and their acquisitions are focused on retail sales and digital services instead.Quote:
You’re assuming that a large company can only be interested in one thing at a time. Amazon is breaking into the tablet market AND becoming the world’s largest shoe store AND is developing search engines AND has on-demand services for books, CDs, and videos AND is a video game developer. Amazon has acquired 30 different companies since its inception.
No, I'm saying the opposite.Quote:
Again, you’re assuming the company can only do one thing at a time.
Because they are being WalMart and Sears. And they want to keep their online dominance against WalMart and Sears. Amazon will use publishing in ways that are useful for it, such as a show pony for the Kindle launch. It will have a stake in publishing. But it doesn't need to own publishing because it's busy trying to own other, more profitable things.Quote:
Why did Amazon buy Zappos, a shoe store? If publishing is small potatoes, surely shoes are as well? Why did it acquire diapers.com?
So is my desktop computer. You can e-read on any device with a screen. But Apple does not have a dedicated e-reading device that only does e-reading. Their interest is in multi-use, multi-function computer devices and software -- tablets, smart phones, and they're coming for your television. They have no interest in taking over book publishing as one of their ventures. Data feeds are money and e-books are a very limited, small, one-time data feed with little to no advertising revenue and little useful growth.Quote:
Both the ipad and the iphone are e-readers.
Sorry, "fancy claims" wasn't referring to you, but many previous arguments on the Web. I should have rephrased it. Amazon dominates retail on books, especially with Borders gone in North America, but they've done so largely because they've been able to maintain a bottleneck in online retail (and avoid sales taxes.) They are loosing that control in both print retail and e-books -- gradually, but steadily. Anyone can sell on the Web and there are big companies -- WalMart, Target, Google, companies in Japan, etc., who are now taking chunks out of Amazon's market shares. (WalMart and Costco are the largest retailers of books in North America.) So Amazon is expanding its market shares in other areas while trying to maintain its base as much as possible.Quote:
My ‘fancy claims’ are based on the fact that Amazon is big and books aren’t. That’s the entire basis of my speculation. If books were big, I wouldn’t worry about one company coming in dominating the industry.
The Big Six global publishers are owned by CBS Corporation, News Corp., Bertlesmann, Lagardere, Georg van Holtbrinck and Pearson -- multi conglomerates that own everything from education software to t.v. empires and film studios to aerospace, and all are heavily involved in digital, electronics and Web businesses. Holtbrinck, for instance, owns one of the largest social networking sites in Germany (and thus Europe.) They all have vested interests in owning their publishing arms for integration. While Amazon is no small cookie, being worth billions, and it's possible that some of these companies would sell Amazon an imprint or division, it would be extremely hard for Amazon to take over all their publishing operations. To do so would mean abandoning its efforts against even larger companies like WalMart, Google, etc.
Amazon can, though, scare the pants off publishers with promoting the self-pubs and the new publishing operation, similar to scares that cropped up from Borders and Barnes & Noble in the past with Amazon much better equipped. And that gives them leverage in their negotiations with companies and efforts to remain dominant in books retail. Having a direct publishing operation also gives them entries to multi-platform film and merchandising as HarperCollins and Random House are currently doing. So it's worth them having publishing operations, but not attempting to take over the whole production side of the market. Amazon should, logically, have much more interest in media companies than book publishers, but it's not going to be able to swallow the large boys there. And I'm not sure that's what they're after. They seem more interested in the data side.
That was because of the movies and because Marvel and DC were starved for cash. It makes perfect sense for those two companies to buy the comics producing films and film and merchandising content for them.Quote:
As are comic books. Yet TimeWarner bought DC and Disney bought Marvel.
What this guy is saying in the article is that Amazon's domination in any area isn't going to matter because the self-publishing market will devolve. I don't think that's what's going to happen either.