Monday, July 06, 2015

Subscription Ebook Services

I recently posted about the new changes to Kindle Unlimited, and in the comments someone said:

Several times you state as a fact that readers want a subscription service. I'm a reader. I'm a heavy reader as a matter of fact. I couldn't possibly be less interested in a subscription service. You might want to gone down the blanket statements.

This argument reminds me of one I heard five and a half years ago, which prompted two blog posts from me.

People have an emotional attachment to printed books. So much so, that the most repeated argument against the universal adoption of ebooks is "I love print, and no ebook will ever be able to take its place."

My response then is also appropriate for this current comment. I blogged in two parts. The first part basically stated that a book isn't words on a paper page. A book is the movie playing in the reader's head. 

The second part stated thatPeople want inexpensive media at the press of a button. Books will follow the same model as movies, music, video games, and TV.

Wanting things is part of human nature. And things we want don't get on our want list until after we've experienced them. I didn't know I wanted ebooks until Amazon invented the Kindle and made it a viable reading alternative to paper books. Instant delivery, wider selection, and lower prices lured me to their platform and proprietary format.

But I'm an early adopter. I like technology, and I try to keep up on what's newest and coolest. I'm one end of the Bell Curve.

At the other end are late adopters. They resist new tech for a myriad of reasons. Maybe they like the old tech. Maybe they're uncomfortable with new things. Maybe they're uninformed, or stubborn, or content. There are still some people who refuse to read ebooks.

But as tech marches forward, as it gets better and cheaper, paper will have less and less of a consumer footprint. If you want to keep reading, especially new and harder to find material, you're going to have to eventually read it on some sort of electronic screen.

I see going from paying for ebooks, to renting them, a smaller but similar jump.

Subscription services have been around for as long as print has been around. Newspapers. Magazines. Book clubs. Comics. People paid a monthly fee, and got their media delivered.

I was a member of the Columbia Record Club for years. They had a much larger selection than any of my local record shops, and their prices were reasonable. I had multiple accounts to take advantage of their introductory offer of 11 albums for just a penny.

My family was late to the cable TV phenomenon. We were happy renting RCA Selectavision CED movies, and saw no need for pay TV. I also had a Tandy 1000 computer when I was a kid, but didn't understand the need for a modem to join Prodigy or Compuserve. Pay monthly for access to stuff? Nah... I'll just pay for stuff as I need it.

Naturally, I eventually got cable and Internet, and they've become so omnipresent that I consider them utilities, like electric and water.

We got our first cell phone in 1996. It was for emergencies only. In 2015, many people no longer have land lines because cells are so omnipresent.

Netflix, and pay-per-view cable, and the Internet, have changed viewing habits nationwide. Back when I was growing up, you watched whatever was on TV. Now, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want. And in many cases, you rent the media, rather than own it. The terms "cloud" and "streaming" and "binge watching" are 21st century terms coined to describe the new ways we're consuming media.

When I say that readers want subscription services, I'm not making a prediction, or a blanket statement. Many consumers want these services, and we have ample evidence they do.

Remember what makes consumers adopt new tech. In no particular order:

1. Cost.
2. Simplicity.
3. Selection.
4. Service.

At this point in history, Amazon is the retailer with the hightest level of consumer satisfaction.  Good, fast service, easy as pie, with the lowest prices.

They've been #1 for nine years.

Readers are a type of consumer that seek out a type of media; books.

Keeping all of this in mind, at what point does Amazon Prime become a utility?

The reason I got cable, and Internet, and a cell phone, and a Kindle, is because they became things that I wanted. Cable got better, competitors made it cheaper, the selection got wider (service still sucks). The Internet got cheaper and bigger and more advanced. Ditto cell phones. Remember paying for texts? I was late to texting, and had cell phones for over a decade before I began to text. Because texting got easier with smart phones (no more pressing 2 three times to get the letter C) and became part of the package so there weren't extra fees.

The tech and I converged.

I'm not alone. Tech starts out clunky and limited and expensive, and gets bigger and better and cheaper and we eventually wonder how we ever lived without it.

Ebooks will never replace paper books. But paper books will become niche.

Subscription ebook services will never replace ebook sales. But ebook sales will become niche.

There is no need to pay to own something when you can get unlimited access to it--and ten million other titles--24/7 for a small monthly fee. If you read more than a few books a month, subscription services will give you the most bang for your buck.

In 2011, Spotify (a streaming music subscription service) had 1 million paying users. In 2015, it has 20 million. Why so much growth, so fast? Especially when it is competing for listener dollars against trillion dollar behemoths Apple and Walmart?

Apple and Walmart sell music. Spotify rents music.

More and more consumers are embracing rentals for digital media.

Now, I don't subscribe to Spotify. I was willing to give up CDs for mp3s, but I've been buying music on iTunes for the last ten years. I've got wifi speakers throughout my house that sync with my family's iPhones and iPads, and I'm very happy with owning my music library.

I didn't think I could possibly be less interested in a subscription music service. My audio needs are met.

Or so I thought.

This recent family vacation, I didn't take my iTunes library with me (Apple offers syncing with the iCloud, but that costs extra).

However, Amazon Prime--Amazon's subscription service--offers streaming music to members.

We could listen to a lot of the music I already owned, and Amazon's clever algorithms also suggested some new music that my family might like. Which we did. And which I don't need to buy, because there it is, in the cloud, in a service I already pay for.

Readers do want ebook subscription services. They just may not know it yet. And just because you haven't adopted them yet, doesn't mean you won't in 2025, when I predict most books will be part of subscriptions, the same way most movies and TV shows and music wind up on cable and Netflix and Prime and Spotify.

Ebook subscriptions are the present, and the future. 

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

If what you say is true (about subscription ebook services being dominant in 2025), then you have just declared that authors only had a brief, fleeting Golden Age of viable indie prospects, roughly 2009 to 2020. That sucks. It also means, if you are an indie author reading this blog, Hugh Howey's blog (who says the same about subs services), then it's time to write as MANY books as possible as QUICKLY as possible. I say this because, god love'em (and I DO love Konrath and Howey) they already "made" their big money, so it's easier to take a position of "Hey, this is just the new way of things, it will be alright."

No, things won't be alright.

This indie ebook situation has allowed many people to make a decent living on writing alone. If they didn't get rich like the two afore mentioned authors, subs services will basically destroy their meager livelihood. I will fight subs services to my last writing breath, and only allow my books to be added to subs services until either the payouts are comparable to the royalties of books 'sold' currently (not likely) or until I'm "forced" to (inevitable).

In the meantime, to indie authors not already rich, I suggest you write fast and often, before Amazon and Apple "force" us to take subs services (and the lower revenue they provide) as the only option to reach their built-in consumer bases.

Stephen W. Gee said...

In which case, that pesky exclusivity clause is all that's holding Kindle Unlimited back. That's the only reason I'm still assuming I'll have to leave KU eventually, once I write a couple more books and develop enough of a readership that I need to diversify. After all, Spotify doesn't demand exclusivity, and they're doing all right.

Joanna Penn said...

I agree with Joe on this - just look at the music industry and the behavior of early adopters there.

I've heard people say that they are getting rid of their mp3 collection because it takes up too much space on the hard drive - much easier to have music in the cloud and streaming to all devices. My husband has been on subscription music for over a year and I've ditched my mp3 collection too.

I publish across multiple platforms so I am not really impacted much by the KU changes right now. I do have some translations in there but not my major series.

BUT/ I absolutely anticipate iBooks and Kobo doing subscription models in the next couple of years, perhaps also Google as well - and of course, we have Oyster and Scribd already, both of which I publish to.

My biggest issue with KU is the exclusivity of KDP Select - I would like to be able to be part of KU without being Amazon only, and I hope that anything iBooks or Kobo does will be inclusive.

As a reader, I like to buy books - I did try KU but I found I was reading mostly outside of it anyway. but I do read 99% digital and have done since 2009. We got rid of over 2000 print books. It was an emotional shift but now I won't read print in general. It's just not such a good experience as an ebook.

rjschwarz said...

Such a service would be Big Brothers dream. Books could be subley 'improved' and comparisons difficult.

Of couse from an artist point of view that may not be a bad things. Old versions and typos can be removed from the world easily with a new edition.

Anonymous said...

You're right. I'd better cash in on KU while I can. Better get writing!

Joe Konrath said...

you have just declared that authors only had a brief, fleeting Golden Age

No, I haven't. And don't assume that's my takeaway. I purposely avoided mentioning writers in this post, because that's a whole separate issue.

In a nutshell; when there is a demand for something, it can be monetized.

It won't be like is had been. It will be something else. I'll dedicate a blog to that at a later date.

This indie ebook situation has allowed many people to make a decent living on writing alone.

Curse the rain, or sell umbrellas. Ebooks aren't a bubble. But the way consumers absorb and pay for media is plastic, and will continue to change. No one owes anyone a living, and Amazon (and other companies) anticipating and answering reader demand isn't "forcing" anything on anyone, and however things shake out it will result in authors getting paid, somehow.

My teenage son spends hours a week on YouTube. Hollywood still thrives. He spends hours a weak on Steam. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft still thrive. Spotify pays terrible royalties. Musicians still make a living.

Things change, but artists are still valued. There is more opportunity than ever for artists, with new opportunities all the time. The old way; finding an agent, accepting whatever shitty contract you were lucky enough to be offered--that's over.

If selling ebooks is also over, something will replace it. This isn't a bubble.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/ebooks-aint-bubble.html

Kel Brown said...

Books and music subscriptions are two different animals. Music has a lot to offer a subscription service. I don't think books do or rather they do but I don't think they do for majority of readers.

A music subscription is particularly attractive for both the creator and the consumer because the users constantly plays the old music and is introduced to new music for no additional cost. Every time I add a new song to my library of favourites the service becomes more valuable.

The large majority of books are read once. Playing for access to books I'll never read again feels like wasted money. So the subscription breaks down to the simple equation: In a given month (or an average month) are you paying more for the subscription than you would for new books. This price sensitivity also puts it into competition with libraries which you also pay for but you library membership doesn't appear on your monthly visa statement so it doesn't have quite that same punch. On any month you don't read enough to justify the subscription price you feel ripped off. That feeling doesn't balance equally with the number of months you feel like you've come out ahead. Bad experiences/feels out weight good 7/1.

I'm not saying book subscriptions aren't viable but that they become viable for a large population of readers if they're delivered as part of another service (e.g. Amazon Prime). This will probably mean less money for the authors.

Alan Tucker said...

I see lots of people bemoaning exclusivity to Amazon in exchange for the benefits Select and KU offer. Step back for a moment and think about those complaints.

That's like a reader saying, "Man, I'd really like to read your books, but I don't want to pay for them."

How would that make you feel?

Amazon understands that content is king. They will do everything in their power to provide customers with an experience so good, they'll never want to shop anywhere else. Amazon created a device that works well at the lowest price on the market. They created a website that's easy to navigate and offers increasingly spot on suggestions about other things you might enjoy. They innovate faster and better ways to deliver product to your doorstep. And, for books, they have close to a million titles that you can't get anywhere else.

Netflix and Yahoo, among others, have started to create their own programming over the past few years. Programming you can't get anywhere else. Amazon has had its own publishing arms for several years now and, as an extension of that, KDP Select broadens that range of exclusive content exponentially and Amazon provides some additional visibility and marketing channels in exchange for that commitment. We can argue whether those benefits outweigh the cost all day long. The answer will be different for everyone.

But I wouldn't look for Amazon to drop that exclusivity requirement anytime before the next ice age.

Justin Alexander said...

Will book subscription services become a commercially successful niche? Almost certainly. As you point out, similar services have been successful in the past. Libraries also provide a similar (and very successful service), including private libraries that charge the equivalent of a subscription fee.

But will subscription services become the mainstream method of consuming books? Probably not. And the reason is economic: Among American adults who read books (i.e., not the 30% who don't read any books), the average number of books read is 1 book per month. The subscription fee for Kindle Unlimited is roughly equivalent to the cost for a single book and it's difficult to imagine a reality in which a subscription service would be able to support a significantly smaller percentage than that. Which means that, for mainstream readers, a subscription service doesn't make sense: They're paying just as much to have a limited selection and no advantages.

By contrast, the average American watches 150 hours of television per month. It's not hard to do the math and see that Netflix only needs to make up a small fraction of a mainstream viewer's television watching in order for it to be substantially cheaper than purchasing DVDs or Blu-Rays of that content.

Similarly, the average American listens to 120 hours of music per month. So it's easy to see why Spotify makes economic sense, even considering that a purchased song will be used repeatedly many more times than a book or TV show.

In order for a subscription book service to make similar economic sense to mainstream consumers, it would have to be priced at pennies per month. It's difficult to see how that could realistically happen. And so it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which subscription book services are being purchased by anyone outside of a niche of hardcore readers who are consuming double digits of books each month.

Paolo Amoroso said...

Joe, do you think there are any useful similarities between subscription ebook services and website paywalls? Paywalled sites weren't that popular a few years ago, can the growing familiarity of users with subscription models help them make a comeback?

hannahsteenbock said...

I may be in a minority, but I do go back to re-read books fairly often. It feels like visiting an old friend, something I do when I want comfort food for the mind.

So don't say books are only consumed once. In fact, I would probably do the same if I had a library of books in the cloud.

And I'm working on reducing the sheer mass of what I own. Print books are a large part of it. A move is looming on the horizon, and that's when many books won't make the cut. (If only more of my favorites were available on Kindle! Yes, looking at you, trad publishers!)

So, yes, the way we read and buy books may change, but I don't think it's going to influence the number of readers. And I hope I can still earn some decent money with my own writing.

Justin Alexander said...

@Alan Tucker, re: exclusivity.

Amazon's exclusivity policy is a monopolistic tactic aimed exclusively at independent self-publishers.

If they similarly limited Kindle Unlimited participation only to Big Six titles that published with them exclusively, it might be ethically defensible (although Uncle Sam would probably still be jumping up and down on top of their heads). But as it stands, the tactic is explicitly exploitive and is being aimed exclusively at people Amazon knows lack the ability to push back. It's indefensible.

Joe Konrath said...

Good comments. Keep them coming.

Playing for access to books I'll never read again feels like wasted money.

Isn't paying for books you read once an even bigger waste? I own 1000s of ebooks my wife and I will never read again. If all of those had been included in Amazon Prime, I would have saved over $10,000. But under the current terms, those authors still would have been compensated monetarily. Sounds like a win-win.

This price sensitivity also puts it into competition with libraries

Wait until there is the equivalent of a global library anyone can borrow from, for free. I've been thinking about that for years.

Joe Konrath said...

Among American adults who read books (i.e., not the 30% who don't read any books), the average number of books read is 1 book per month.

I don't have the stats, but if memory serves one of the things Lee Child likes to point out is that the majority (or close to it) of books sold annually are a handful of NYT bestsellers and blockbusters.

I see those kinds of books as always being available in print. Name brands, and pop culture phenomenons, hook those people who read one book per year.

But we're not selling to those folks. We're selling to the ones who bought Kindles because they read so many titles. And those folks by themselves, without Patterson or King or Harry Potter or FSoG, read enough and spend enough money for the rest of us to share.

Amazon Prime continues to expand what it offers members. Same day shipping. Music. Movies. TV shows. Books. Prime Day.

Prime is a way to bring in new customers and make existing customers spend more money on Amazon. It's unlike any other subscription service, and will likely remain so unless Walmart, Google, or Apple step up and compete. Amazon's KU program isn't a unitasker; it's part of a much bigger picture.

It will not only be able to sustain itself, it will grow.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, do you think there are any useful similarities between subscription ebook services and website paywalls?

I do, Paolo.

Subscription services are like the Internet. You pay your ISP monthly, and have access to the World Wide Web.

Paywalls are like paying for ebooks.

Website paywalls aren't nearly as popular as the free Internet. And I predict subscription services will become much more popular than ebook sales. Many writers in KU have already seen this happen.

DED said...

At the other end are late adopters. They resist new tech for a myriad of reasons. Maybe they like the old tech. Maybe they're uncomfortable with new things. Maybe they're uninformed, or stubborn, or content. There are still some people who refuse to read ebooks.

I'm one of those people who prefers paper over ebooks. I think it's a textural thing. However I'm no purist. I read plenty of books on my Kindle. As I get older though, I expect to read more ebooks and less paper. Not because of selection, but because my eyes are aging. I need reading glasses for paper, but on my Kindle, I can adjust the type such that I don't need my glasses.

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon's exclusivity policy is a monopolistic tactic aimed exclusively at independent self-publishers.

I disagree.

Amazon isn't, and never has been, a monopoly.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/05/amazon-speaks.html

KU isn't aimed at self-publishers. It's open to all publishers. Large publishers are afraid of it and Amazon and refuse to play ball, even though some of them are involved in other subscription services.

the tactic is explicitly exploitive and is being aimed exclusively at people Amazon knows lack the ability to push back. It's indefensible.

Again, I disagree. We've seen several cases where authors pushed back against Amazon, and Amazon tried to accommodate them. During the Hachette dispute Amazon repeatedly offered to compensate authors, as they'd done during the Macmillan dispute. Amazon removed reviews (which I disagreed with) in response to the moronic sock puppet petition, they just changed KU to better compensate authors. And I'm going to sound egotistical and sapient here, but I'm one of many authors Amazon has been touching base with for years, trying out beta programs and discussing changes in their publishing wings long before the public knows about them, and I can say for a fact that Amazon does listen to suggestion and I've seen them alter their position based on information they've gathered from folks like me.

Amazon could be exploiting authors. They could be squeezing us and offering far less equitable terms. They just haven't been doing that. They've been treating writers as customers.

KU is voluntary. I don't like the exclusivity, and have been whining about that since it was introduced. But Amazon could easily force all KDP ebooks into KU. Hell, they could force ALL ebooks into KU. They'd take a hit, but the Big 5 would fold. I'll take bets now that we see one of the Big 5 in KU by 2017.

Alan Tucker said...

@ Justin

Thanks for your response. Amazon's exclusivity is a cost, a price, for 90 days of added benefits. As I said before, we can argue the value of those benefits all day long. I'm sure Amazon would love to be the exclusive outlet for RandomPenguin books, but the value/cost ratio doesn't work for RandomPenguin, so that deal likely won't ever happen.

Select's exclusivity isn't a noose. And 90 days is lightyears better than a trad pub contract which will last the rest of your life and then some.

Exclusivity isn't new in the business or retail world. Retail outlets get exclusive distribution deals all the time from manufacturers and Uncle Sam doesn't care one whit. The practice is not unethical nor indefensible. If we don't like the terms, we don't participate.

Randall J. Morris said...

Joe, what's the latest with the ebooksareforever site? Have you started selling to libraries? Are you going to open the site up a bit more to more authors soon?

Ann Voss Peterson said...

One observation to back up your points, Joe:

Recently I've done a couple of free book promotions (one of my solo books and one of our collaborations), and in both cases, the KU borrows spiked dramatically during the time the book was offered free. To me, that suggests many people would rather rent books using their KU membership than own it, even when there's no cost involved.

I only have those personal observations, of course. But Amazon has numbers, and I'll bet they say the same thing.

A trend doesn't need to be universal to be significant.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, what's the latest with the ebooksareforever site?

We should have some announcements this summer. :)

Kel Brown said...

A global library for free?

For dead authors sure. Gutenberg is there for that and that's great. Once you kick the bucket and there's no mouth to feed and head to roof we should all be able to read Konrath for the price of our internet connection (and taxes)

But as long as authors with a pulse have pieholes that need filling and Amazon server farms require electricity (its workers paycheques, etc) I don't see how we get a free global library.

Regarding your win-win scenario with subs vs. buy. For customers who read a ton a subscription is great. They get far more for their money than they would just buying individual copies. The authors won't see as much in this case. So That's a win-lose. For the customer who gets a subscription but doesn't read enough, the author might break even or win. So it's somewhere between win-lose-draw. We need numbers. And Amazon isn't very forthcoming on this or kindle (hardware) sales or pretty much anything.

Anonymous said...

Spotify pays terrible royalties. Musicians still make a living.

Hello? Really?!

Anonymous said...

I'm a Scribd customer and I think it's great -- tons of books, graphic novels, and audiobooks for $8.99 per month. So yes, I'm sold on the subscription services. I think Scribd offers a great value. I especially enjoy getting access to a lot of graphic novels, something I prefer not to pay for since I consider them overpriced for the amount of reading time I get out of them.

Mark Edward Hall said...

Re: Ann Voss Peterson. I've had the same experience in recent months when I ran a couple of free book promos. The KU borrows spiked dramatically. It was baffling to me that someone would pay for a book through their subscription service when they could get it free. I'm not complaining. KU has given us yet another way to profit from a free book promo. I don't see a down side.

Iva Vlasimsky said...

An article that makes you think and very good comments. I've been playing with the subscription idea in my head for a couple of months now, so this blog post instantly got my attention. I'm a children's author (picture books) and after my "not so good" personal experience with the iTunes market (one book app there), I thought that maybe a subscription model could reach more readers for all sorts of digital picture books. Because, as someone said, adults read approximately one book a month, but in the same period, parents usually read few picture books to their kids. Plus, if children like the story and the illustrations, they come back to it over and over again. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this Joe, as well as others. Thx!

Justin Alexander said...

Amazon Prime continues to expand what it offers members. Same day shipping. Music. Movies. TV shows. Books. Prime Day.

Sure. But Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited are two different programs and there doesn't seem to be any indication that Amazon is planning to merge them. And the KOLL service that's embedded inside Amazon Prime is a very different subscription model than the Netflix and Spotify service models you're talking about.

Mir Writes said...

I was delighted to sign up for KU last year. In fact, just reading one 9.99 priced book (long sucker at almost 700 pages) made up for the sub cost last month. And I'm reading another 9.99 priced one this month, so that means I'll be ahead too. These are books I wouldn't have paid that price for, but the author put them in KU and I got to discover him. So, guess what? If he ever prices books lower without KU, I will buy them.

I think anyone who reads at least a few books a month will break even or be ahead. I find it most useful so far for non-fiction and for extensive sampling (ie, sampling beyond the little bit you get in the Amazon preview). Makes shopping way easier if I can sample a book's middle, not just the start.

I'm happy with KU as a reader. And I do think subscription may be the future, just like Netflix has been my viewing sub (and Amazon Prime Video). Truth is, unless we rent a flick on On Demand, even my TV is "subscription." I subscribe to a cable plan and choose what to watch based on my options in that plan.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't see how we get a free global library.

You don't have to see it. I see it. And we'll all make money.

Joe Konrath said...

To me, that suggests many people would rather rent books using their KU membership than own it, even when there's no cost involved.

It's tough to go broke catering to people's habits.

Joe Konrath said...

But Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited are two different programs and there doesn't seem to be any indication that Amazon is planning to merge them.

KOLL was the first salvo. KU was the second.

I wouldn't be surprised if KU gets rolled into Amazon Prime as an extra spiff. Just like I wasn't surprised by same day shipping. It seems to be the direction Amazon is heading in.

Patricia Lynne said...

Isn't paying for books you read once an even bigger waste?

Yeah, I can see your point with that, but the main reason I have yet to try the subscription service is my reading habits. I'm extremely sporadic, so I'm one of those people where buying books is the better option. Plus, with the changes to KU, if I subscribed and borrowed a book, who knows when I'd get around to reading it. Last book I read, I listed as "currently reading" on Goodreads. Took me 2 weeks to open it and start reading. I can see myself doing that with borrows. At least when I buy, the author gets the money then. (And that, kiddies, is how TBR piles always grow and never shrink.)

Mind you, none of this is me being against the subscription service. I can see it doing wonders for book bloggers and heavy readers. I have a novella series in Select that I'm keeping there because I'm curious to what will happen. When everyone started yelling "the sky is falling" I rolled my eyes. I wasn't about to panic before I knew anything. I hope it all gets figured out so readers get their books, authors get compensated, and everyone is happy. (Well, mostly everyone. There's bound to be someone displeased no matter what.)

antares said...

I now have so many books on my Kindle that I see a slow-down in response speed. That makes KU attractive.

Some questions about KU:

How many books can I borrow concurrently?

How long can I keep a book before it has to be returned?

Thank you in advance for your answers.

Terrence OBrien said...

But Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited are two different programs and there doesn't seem to be any indication that Amazon is planning to merge them.

Well, they still don't call me for advice, so my indications suck. But we can see they gave Prime members access to lots of videos for the fixed annual Prime fee. So the notion isn't foreign to their way of thinking.

Some questions about KU:

You can have ten books in active borrow status at any one time. If you then want to borrow another, one of the first ten has to be returned. A book can remain on active borrow status as long as you are paying the monthly fee.

Anonymous said...

sounds like the death of writers except for those who had trad deals and had a readership before they ever went indie and who are fast writers who can put out many books a year. Sounds pretty hopeless for new writers who cannot write fast, who never will have a trad deal.

I guess I wonder who will write except those who write fast, or do 'patterson-esque' things, or those who came into indie with significant readership. I wonder if it all will be a caste system like in the current trad system. A very few at the top with their innate advantages from trad and being able to write fast, partner to increase speed... and the ones who are never going to make it, and the carny who sells them the chance, knows that when they take the ticket to ride.

I'm all for instant gratification, sort of. But the petty ways it is often applied, re drink, drugs, food, sex, music, text. Not sure where the supply of those who write but cannot make even a pitiful living at it... will find a place of even a modicum of hope.

Joe Konrath said...

sounds like the death of professional baseball players except for those who have Major League deals and had fans before they ever became a free agent and who are good players who can hit and field the ball really well. Sounds pretty hopeless for new players who cannot hit homeruns and who never will have a MLB deal.

I wonder if it all will be a caste system like in the current MLB draft. A very few at the top with their innate advantages from athletic ability and and college stats and being able play baseball really well.. and the ones who are never going to make it, and the scout who sells them the chance, knows that when they take the ticket to ride.

Not sure where the supply of those who love baseball but cannot make even a pitiful living at it... will find a place of even a modicum of hope.

Joe sez: You were born with the odds against you. Quit. And mope. I'm sorry the universe is conspiring to keep you from pitching for the Yankees. But the world needs ditchdiggers, too.

Tim Tresslar said...

Until a few years ago, I was a business reporter. I spent a lot of that time covering retail and real estate.
I remember in the 1990s when big-box retailers -- such as Best Buy, Borders, Media Play (anyone remember them?) – came on the scene. Mall-based retailers and traditional department stores swore it was Armageddon. Some of them disappeared.
The big-box retailers seemed unstoppable.
Then came e-commerce, which beat the sh@t out of big box retailers.
Now, there’s Amazon, which seems unstoppable.
It is.
Until it’s not.
My point is, people assume present circumstances are permanent. They're not.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of what transpires, my motto remains in effect:

'People are always looking for something; either opportunities or excuses.' You may take years to find the right opportunity, and fruitlessly looking may seem painful - or you can find an excuse in 5 seconds and rest easy.

Be the former, not the latter.
My ebook income:

2010: 40K
2012: 96K
2013: 180k
2014: 120k

Down a bit as you can see, we are playing a game and the rules (algos) are invisible. Quite challenging. But I adapt because looking for excuses is never, even an option.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, first line should read 2011.

If you are an author and reading this don't despair, keep it up. I had 500+ rejections on 4 novels from trad pub up until finding KDP in April 2010. There are bumps in the road, but have confidence you can navigate whatever comes up. KOLL, KU, Sribd, etc. will change the game somewhat, but you can change with it.

Hell, Facebook was free for several years, now I have to spend $50 a day promoting my posts and running ads. But the ROI is excellent. Bookbub now seems to be diminishing returns for me after 2 years, but again still a positive ROI.

Scott Dyson said...

Borrow vs own requires a paradigm shift. I grew up at a time when I had to buy LP's if I wanted the music (in a quality version, at least...I can remember recording some stuff off the radio with a cheap little cassette deck). I still cling to that with CD's, though I do often purchase songs via iTunes now. Same with books. I found it easier to switch to ebooks, in large part because I was writing them and in large part because there is a lot of stuff I can't get in another form for a reasonable price. But a part of me still wanders around a bookstore and looks longingly at the collection of paper, and I still buy books in physical form. OTOH, my kids look at music as something digital. Same with video and movies. I think the paradigm shift will be easier for them, since it's already begun. So the future will be whatever works for them...

Nirmala said...

Regarding the boost in KU borrows during a free promotion....it makes perfect sense to me that this would happen. especially if you are doing a Bookbub or other online promotion of the free offer. All of that added visibility to the title and the boost in rankings simply means more people seeing your book on Amazon. And then it is equally painless to "buy" it or "borrow" it. Both actions cost the reader exactly $0.00. So some people who are heavy users of KU would be in the habit of clicking on the borrow button and probably do not give it a second thought. The only slight downside is that it takes up one of the ten slots for the maximum number of ebooks you can borrow at one time.

In addition, even when an ebook is priced at $0.00 to "purchase", the button still says, "Buy Now" while the KU button underneath says, "Read for Free". If someone is not paying close attention, the "Read for Free" button sounds like a better deal. (Note, I do not subscribe to KU, so I am basing this on what I see on my own books' pages on Amazon that are in KU)

Nirmala said...
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Anonymous said...

that was harsh reply to a sincere thought, Joe. I am not sure why you do that when someone is seeing things from a different angle than you. But it's your blog. Youre entitled.

I was talking about literally millions of writers who dont have track records. They will not make a living even of the most base kind, unless they have a running start, are independently wealthy, have had or will have trad deals, of win a lottery. And there are no ball parks for them at mudville even. The analogy of baseball, Im afraid I dont find applicable as you do.

There are responses to the 'left out and left behind' writers that would be helpful coming from you who seem to know amazon's mind. I had hoped for discussion, not just the first three letters of the word.

adan said...

"Amazon's KU program isn't a unitasker; it's part of a much bigger picture." -

I've felt this is true for a long time, and my vote is for an option to merge KU with Prime.

Re the value of an ebook subscription, one of the things seldom mentioned, yet for me is one of the key values, is I can try out books, then keep or return them within my ten title limit, even sometimes bringing a title back once or even multiple times.

Maybe I needed room for another title temporarily. Maybe a returned title has had a lingering nagging effect on me and I decide I'm ready, no need to read more of it. The subscription program lets me do that.

Terrence OBrien said...

I was talking about literally millions of writers who dont have track records. They will not make a living even of the most base kind, unless they have a running start, are independently wealthy, have had or will have trad deals, of win a lottery.

Of course they won't make a living. There are far too may of them. Consumer don't want all those books at the prices necessary to support millions of writers.

Anonymous said...

TOB / the point was millions of writers dont have a track record of publishing with trads before they enter indie publishing, and thereby have no huge head start of readers already aware of their work[s].

Joe Konrath said...

that was harsh reply to a sincere thought, Joe.

Back when I got started, there were more MLB players than there were writers making a living solely through fiction writing.

No one owes anyone a living. To think that any writer deserves one shows a skewed sense of entitlement at best, grandiose narcissism and being out of touch with reality at worst.

Or naivete.

If you're new and naive, I apologize for sounding harsh. The sooner you realize that this business is brutal, the happier you'll be. Very few folks make a living by writing. Most have day jobs, spouses, and years of experience, and still don't make enough to cover the car payment.

millions of writers dont have a track record of publishing with trads

I'll assume naivete again.

My track record with publishers has ZERO to do with my success. Start reading my blog from April 2009 until present to see understand fully.

I addressed this very topic, along with a link, in my last blog entry, yesterday. Here's the link again:

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/01/reality-check.html

TL;DR - Head starts don't mean anything. You have to write a lot of good books, then get lucky. Amazon has allowed more writers than ever to make a buck, and the new KU changes are a step in the right direction. Rather than lamenting, you should be celebrating.

Iola Goulton said...

"at what point does Amazon Prime become a utility?"

Good question.

I'm not in Prime ... because it's not offered in New Zealand. This also makes the KU question irrelevant for me as a consumer. But if I was still living in London (or anywhere that did have Prime)? Yes, I'd have adopted. And would pretty much consider it a utility.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, TL;DR - Head begins don't mean anything. You need to compose a considerable measure of good books, then get fortunate. Amazon has permitted more essayists than any other time in recent memory to make a buck, and the new KU changes are a stage in the right course. Instead of deploring, you ought to be celebrating.

http://theskilledwriter.com/blog/2016/01/25/how-to-write-an-ebook-that-sells/