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Saturday, 12 January 2013

eBooks: Sex, sock puppets and Rock and Roll

 2012 saw traditional publishers suffering from more and more eBook blues, while the new media, the eBooks themselves, continued to rock, roll and shake up the established publishing industry.

I saw an article in The Independent Newspaper this week which I found interesting - the article, written by Samuel Muston, warned of the ultimate effects of eBooks being sold so cheaply - "Those familiar with the 1990s cult teen film Clueless, will know of the phenomenon called "buyer's remorse": when the purchaser of an expensive, unnecessary, but highly prized item is wrought with anxiety after handing over the credit card. I got this feeling in reverse on Christmas Day. Downloading Safe House by Chris Ewan (Faber) for my mother (the first book on her new Kindle), I noticed its price: 20p. A 448-page, well-reviewed work only a few months old was being touted for less than the price of a banana in our office canteen"

The book in question has sold thousand of copies in hardcover at the price of £10, and now that the eBook market is so big books are being devalued to the point of being worthless in financial terms. But, and rare for the UK press at the moment, the writer wasn't blaming Amazon. In fact, Amazon were only price matching. The 20p eBook story actually starts with Sony, whose UK ebookstore began the practice of offering 10 top-flight books at massive reductions in the summer. Back then it was Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child making ripples.

A major book – so why offer it for only a few pence?, the writer asked which is also something I'd like to know - surely, no one, not the author, not the publisher can make any money at such a low price!

The eBook market increasingly runs on a wholesale model. Here's how it works: the publisher produces a book and sets an RRP of, say, £10. The retailer then says: we need this book from you at, say, 55 per cent discount. So the publisher gets £4.50 per book and the retailer then sells it for whatever it wants. The 20p ebooks represent a huge percentage loss for the retailer. So why do it? 

"Because it allows them to consolidate their market share.Then in future  they may increase the price" Kate Poole, deputy chief executive of the Society of Authors, "

There was also an interesting piece on Radio Four earlier this week and this bemoaned all the self published books out there, claiming that traditional publishers are the arbiters of good taste and then if we lose them the quality of books will suffer. The program went onto talk about the success of Fifty Shades of Grey which would have never found a publisher before the Internet. But then it was traditional publishing who, driven by the success of Fifty Shades, snapped every erotic novel they could find and rushed them into stores. Was this driven by good taste or an attempt to cash in on a market they had missed?

Sex, sex and more sex dominated the eBook market for most of summer 2012 and by the autumn things hadn't cooled off with the announcement of a Fifty Shades movie and dozens and dozens of self published erotica novels hogging the eBook charts.

Lot of one handed reading done this year

The eBook world is rocking and rolling.- There have also been reports that there is a general decline in dedicated eReader sales, with Tablet devices becoming more popular. Some are calling this the beginning of the end for eBooks. That, of course is bullshit and this false conjecture has given authors and publishers hope that the printed book will return to the economic dominance it enjoyed before the the eReader device.

The eBook revolution continues. As I wrote above eBooks are Rocking and Rolling, and to continue this analogy if eBooks were Rock and Roll music then we would be in the year 1959, we've seen an explosion of the new pushing away the old and the market's cooled off, but the 1960's are just around the corner and beyond that we have some surely rocking decades to come.

  The real reason that eReader sales have dipped is that so many people now own devices and an eReader is not something you need to buy every other month- eBook sales have not dipped rememeber.

 I recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite but prior to this upgrade I'd used my Kindle 3 happily for several years. I gifted my old Kindle to my daughter and she loves it, so now there are two of us buying eBooks. Tablets are great all round devices but they will never replace dedicated eReaders. Tablets offer too many distractions, for the serious book reader, in the form of countless apps, notifications, videos, emails, angry birds and advertisements.There's also the fact that dedicated eReaders use eInk and this is fast becoming visually identical to real ink and paper.

Make no mistake about it eBooks are are to stay and like all good rock and roll stories there has been some bad behavior -

2012 was the year of the Sock Puppet. No this is not literature's answer to bobby socks, but rather authors creating false online identities to build buzz around their books. It all started when bestseller R. J. Ellory was exposed for leaving glowing reviews online of his own books, and also rubbishing the work of rival authors. When this story broke the fallout was intense with the worldwide media picking up on the story. And then bestseller Stephen Leather, one of the UK's most successful fiction writers, was also found to be using many pseudonyms to praise his books. Among Leather's numerous books are "False Friends," "Hard Landing: The First Spider Shepherd Thriller," "Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish," and "Short Fuses."

"You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself … I have friends who are sockpuppets … One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If you’ve got ten friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right."everyone does it."  Stephen Leather, the  Telelgraph. Newspaper.

The entire sock puppet saga can not be covered in this brief roundup so readers may want to check out the Wiki article HERE 

All in all 2012 was the rockiest of years for eBooks and 2013 is set to continue in the same fashion.

Rock on.


1 comment:

Rayzer Sharpie said...

Kindle for short stories - yes. But not books - I prefer to have a choice there. Many authors put out shorts (Lee Child is an example) for e readers that many never turn up in a printed anthology.
Books should carry a choice of either ebook or printed. But, at least, the kindle has its uses.