People are talking about different publishing methods since last week’s announcement of Joe Konrath’s deal with AmazonEncore and most of the discussion has to do with how the deal will affect publishers and writers.
So, I’m going to talk about how it affect readers.
It’s going to be good.
There’s no shortage of books being published every year. I often hear how there are too many books published. But when you start breaking them down into categories and niches are there really too many? And are they easy to find?
One thing that led to Konrath selling so much of his backlist himself as e-books was that Hyperion dropped its crime list. Other publishers have reduced the number of books they publish as well. It really looks like the publishing industry is following in the footsteps of the movie business and spending a lot of time looking for a few big blockbusters.
I’m not sure that’s a good model for books. Or really, it’s not a good model for books sold online – either print books ordered online or e-books. Because the online world isn’t the real world. Just look at the comment threads, so much of what’s posted there would never be said out loud in the real world. This blog is not a good example of that, too many reasonable people here, but we’ve all been to those other kinds of sites. This one, Get Off the Internet is depressing and funny at the same time, something the online world excels at being). There was a story on that website awhile ago about a knitting group getting into a huge argument and having to ban people. A knitting group.
Wait a minute, there’s an online knitting group? Of course there is. There’s an online group for everything.
The online world is about niche.
Joe Konrath’s sales are plenty good enough for him to keep writing books, just not good enough for a big publisher to keep making enough money off them.
So there are probably hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people out there who are in niches too small for publishers to go after. Up until now maybe those people sought out self-published books or fanzines (remember those?) or more likely just did without. Maybe they didn’t even notice they were doing without.
But now they (I really mean ‘we’) have a way to get books that appeal to a very small audience. Books that will look and feel just like big publisher books. This is especially true of e-books, but click over here and order a copy of Needles and you’ll see that POD books have come a long way, too.
And that may be the biggest change to the book business. Not self-publishing or e-books or Amazon Encore or POD or the iPad or the Nook or any of that.
The biggest change to the book business may be buying online where all books get the same amount of shelf space and they’re always in stock.
Of course that means that the pile of books is ten miles high and it’s impossible to find one in your niche.
And that’s where the next most important change is (have I now said that three or four things are the “most” important change? Well, change happens pretty fast online, I can’t keep up). It’s the accuracy of the, “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought___,” button.
And it’s going to get even better.
Amazon will probably follow in the footsteps of Netflix and offer a million dollar prize to anyone who can come up with a collaborative filtering algorithm (of course I had to look that up) that will increase their business by 10%. Here’s the story of the Netflix algorithm .
When this kind of filtering system gets even more sophisticated for books it won’t matter where they come from – self-published, small press, big publisher, AmazonEncore – makes no difference on the Amazon page.
The other announcement that came out last week from Amazon that I think is also great news for readers is the introduction of AmazonCrossings, the new division that will sell english translations of books that up until now haven’t been available.
In many (most?) cases a translated book simply won’t sell enough copies for a big publisher to buy the rights, pay the translator and market in North America and those things are usually too expensive for a small press to be able to pay for upfront.
But if Amazon is the publisher itself it can ammortize those costs over... well forever, I guess. If the books are available as e-books and POD print books and they sell a couple hundred copies a year for fifty years, eventually it’ll pay off.
And it means even more books are available for us. Just imagine the cool Italian noir, the French, the Swedish ones that aren't about some girl who did something but about women?
It really is going to be good.
Now, I should say that like Joe Konrath I don’t think it’s a good idea to self-publish an e-book to the Kindle. But I should date this post because that could change fast, too.