Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Konrath's Ebook Predictions from 2009.

I wrote the following blog post in 2009, a list of ebook predictions.

I'll put my recent updates in bold:

1. Ebook readers will be available in stores for less than $99.I believe this is the magic price point, and the ability for consumers to purchase their device at their favorite department store will finally allow this tech to enter the mainstream.

As of today, the Amazon Kindle is now available for $79. The new Amazon Kindle Touch is $99. Kobo has been $99 for several months.

I expect B&N to drop Nook prices sometime soon.

Also, ereaders are now available in stores, Best Buy, Staples, Target, and many others.

2. Amazon will adopt Epub standard format. I've blogged about formats before, and how proprietary formatting is preventing worldwide acceptance of ebooks. The closest to a universal format is Epub, and once there are millions of non-Kindle ereadersout there, Amazon will want a piece of the pie and offer different formats.

They haven't done this yet. But they are releasing titles without DRM. Now that Amazon has launched several paper imprints, and B&N has refused to carry those paper books unless they can also sell the ebooks, it will be interesting to see how this gets resolved.

3. Ebook readers will improve. Well, no duh. All tech improves as time goes on. But I'm talking about the look and feel of the device, not just what it can do. As advanced as ebook readers are, they still look low tech. Compare this to the iPhone or iPodTouch. These devices look, and feel, 21st century. Some ereadermanufacturer will come up with a device that just looks right (the Nook comes close) and it will sell like crazy.

Amazon Kindle Fire tablet just announced, for $199.

4. Ebooks will go multimedia. The potential for ebooks to change the way a book is experienced has not been explored yet. Author annotation, interviews, video, audio, extras, music, deleted chapters, short stories--these are all benefits that could be added to content at no cost.

Not quite. There are a few companies doing some innovative things, but nothing that has caught on in a big way. Yet.

5. A third party etailer will rise to prominence. Currently, people buy most of their ebooks online at Amazon. But someone with deep pockets will launch a big website and begin to gobble upmarketshare. My guess is this site will be the first to begin offering the out-of-print backlists of published authors. Public domain isn't the key to success. Copyrighted work that is only available used is the key to success, because ebooks can make these vetted, professional books available again. It's a gigantic, viable, untapped market.

Smashwords and Kobo are doing very well. I just launched my own ebook store.

As for the copyrighted work I mentioned, Amazon is buying many out of print backlists from name authors, including Ed McBain and Max Allan Collins. Al's book just hit #1 on Kindle.

6. Estributors will become common. Where there are writers, there are folks who help writers and take a percentage of their income. Agents currently hold this position. But it won't be long until some smart folks realize they can make money being a liaisonbetween the writer and the ebook world, and offer services that include editing, formatting, uploading, and cover art, so the only thing the writer has to do is write.

I'm working with my agent in an estributor capacity. We'll see how it goes.

7. Print publishers will get savvy. Some major publisher is going to realize they can make more money selling ebooks for under $3 than selling them for $15, and they'll give it a try and be successful. Others will follow suit.

In the past two weeks, I've seen no fewer than eight Big 6 titles crack the Kindle Top 10 by selling them for $.99 to $2.99. Once they hit it, they jack up the price back to normal and the sales fall off. But they're learning...

8. Ebook bestsellers will emerge. As more reviewing sites and blogs dedicated to ebooks rise up, word-of-mouth will propel some independent ebooks author to bestseller status. It's inevitable, and both the print publishers and Hollywood will take notice.

Amanda Hocking and John Locke, anyone? I wrote this prior to their successes. I've also sold a movie option on an ebook.

9. Print books will be packaged with an ebook version. Perhaps it will come on a CD or an SD card. Perhaps it will come with a code so the ebook can be downloaded for free. But some smart publisher is going to include the ebook with the print version. A really smart publisher would also include a download for the audiobook version with the package. Then folks wouldn't mind paying $25 for a hardcover, if it came with those downloads.

I talked about this when I spoke at the Google Unbound Conference a few years ago. I've heard rumors of it happening, but nothing concrete yet. BTW, that blog about the conference is from January 2007. This is one of the things I said:

"On the subway today, I counted 7 people with PDAs, Blackberrys, and Palms, and two more with mp3 players. People need their media so much they're taking it with them when they leave their desks. Only three people on that train were reading newspapers. What does that say about the future of print media?"

All the major publishers were there, listening to my speech. None of them listened to me.

10. Exclusivity. If an author is big enough, they are available everywhere: Amazon, Nook, Shortcovers, iTunes, Sony, etc. But someone is going to sign an author exclusively, so their book is only available in one etailer location, to lure people to their device and website.

Barry Eisler. Boy, he did make the right choice signing with Amazon.

11. I'll continue to pay my mortgage with ebook sales. I've been self-publishing ebooks on Kindle since April, and every month since I've earned enough to make my monthly house payment. I'm also going to release a novel exclusively as an ebook in 2010, as a long-term experiment, to see if I can earn more in five years than I could on my previous print deals. This is the beginning of a very long tail, and writers really do need to think about how much their ebook rights are worth over the course of their lifetime and beyond. Because that's how long this technology will be around.

I've earned more in the last eight months than I did on all eight of my previous print deals, combined, since 2003. And this holiday season looks to be even better than last year.

So I got 8, maybe 8.5 out of 11 right.

So what do I see for the future?

1. Publishing houses closing. Maybe it will be bankruptcy or maybe their parent company will just shut the doors. These houses once controlled paper, and because of that they could control authors. Now paper is a subsidiary right (something I wrote about last year, before ebooks were actually outselling paper) and authors can do better on their own.

No lock on distribution + authors now having choices + readers unwilling to pay $12.99 for an ebook = game over.

2. Interactive multimedia. I've been talking about this for over four years. Vook and Hybrid Books are only the beginning. One day enhanced ebooks will be the norm.

3. Ads in ebooks. This is something else I've been talking about for years. The $79 Kindle is ad-supported. As ebooks drop in price (or become free) authors will supplement their income by selling ad space and taking corporate sponsors.

4. Ereaders under $49. It'll happened quicker than the drop to $99 took.

5. People abandoning paper. I've already gotten rid of several hundred paper books, replacing them with ebooks. Watch as more and more people do the same thing, just like they dumped their vinyl and VHS. Thrift shops, Goodwill, the Salvation Army, will stop taking book donations because they already have too many.

6. Global market. Ebooks will be worldwide. Smart authors will work with translators (or smart estributors will have translators on payroll) to exploit these new avenues, which had been closed off to all but the luckiest authors. And even then, foreign deals were notoriously small, and hardly ever earned out. Watch for self-published authors becoming international bestsellers.

7. Bookstores, book fairs, writing conferences, and writers organizations will have to change, or perish. As paper popularity fades, and self-pubbing ebooks becomes more prevalent, there will be fewer and fewer people who gather around paper books.

Companies like Autography will allow readers to get personalized autographs on their ebooks. Add some video-conferencing, and no one will even need to attend another genre convention.

Conferences that sucker authors into paying $500 for a chance to pitch to a Big 6 editor will disappear.

Used bookstores will do well in the beginning, due to all the people dumping their collections, but eventually won't be able to give books away.

All the professional writing organizations will have to admit self-pubbed authors, or their ranks will thin.

8. Pottermore is just the beginning. Watch as more and more authors lure their fans to their websites, without any need of a publisher.

9. We'll see a lot of new stuff from old writers. All writers have shelf novels, or ideas that they couldn't pursue because their publishers wouldn't allow it. There are no longer any barriers to ideas, and we're done with all that bullshit about buy-in and sell-through. The fate of books will be decided by readers, not by a handful of people in a room looking at prior sales figures.

10. Libraries. There are tens of thousands of libraries in the US alone. I currently have 30 ebook titles available. If I sell one copy of each of my ebooks to every library, I've made over a million dollars--and many libraries will buy multiple copies. When Canada, the UK, Australia, and eventually the world get in on the library thing, it's going to be gigantic.

11. I won't continue to pay my mortgage with my ebook sales.

That's because I'm paying off my house with my ebook money. :)

What about you folks? Any predictions for the future?