Tuesday, December 01, 2009

JA Konrath's 2010 Ebook Predictions

My guesses for the upcoming year...

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.

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 ereaders out there, Amazon will want a piece of the pie and offer different formats.

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 iPod Touch. These devices look, and feel, 21st century. Some ereader manufacturer will come up with a device that just looks right (the Nook comes close) and it will sell like crazy.

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.

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 up marketshare. 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.

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 liaison between 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What are your predictions for the upcoming year?


The Voice said...

I must say the book I wrote already has these abilities. It is on my site wade-inpublishing (dot) com: 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.
Beads on a String-America's Racially Intertwined Biographical History even has trailer previews for books on the inside.

Ali Karim said...

Interesting post Joe,

I just wish more people would actually read.

The ebook IMHO will not get the kids to read [in any meaningful manner], despite all the hullabaloo [I hope I'm wrong], but as society changes, with the march of technology, rise of controlled populations etc I become fearful.

In the older lower tech days, the Fascists, Communists and any Totalatarian regimes would burn books, kill the people who think, dumb-down reality - to keep the population under control.

Today the worsening economy is doing that for us, with white collar job losses, bookstore closures, mindless wars, violence over resources and the relentless rise of the crappy culture of hollow celebrity z-listers, gameshows, surveillance idiotic TV and wank.

I just hope that i'm not playing Cassandra, but I have started to become fearful as books and literarcy become marginalised, society turns towards control - anyone shiver when they see a plasma tv falt screen, kinnda reminds me of 1984


JA Konrath said...

Ali - I'm 100% certain the world will always need storytellers, for all age groups, children included.

But will the novel be the preferred written method of storytelling? I dunno. Newspapers certainly aren't the preferred method of getting news, though they once were.

Technology, the economy, and societal changes all may figure into the percentage of the population who reads for pleasure, but writing is still an essential form of communication. Who'd have thought texting on cell phones would be so popular when the point of a cell phone is to talk?

I believe as long as there is writing, there will be books, in one form or another.

Stacey Cochran said...

I really like:

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.

Ahem.... if there are any literary agents, publishers, or Hollywood types out there, I've been on bestseller lists for 6 months straight as an indie author.

The pump is primed. And I've got a couple of novels that haven't been published anywhere that could break out in a big way... including my St. Martin's Press/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Finalist 'Culpepper' which I've been holding onto like some rare and unusual vintage wine waiting for somebody to snap up.


Stacey Cochran
Bestselling author of The Colorado Sequence

Rusty James said...

I wonder what the numbers are on who is the largest book consumer: romance readers, mystery/thriller?

Would be wise to experiment with ebooks (and the features) using one target group.

Or not.

I just know that it would be a great idea to be able to download a writer's complete library, or choose a book (right away) that isn't sitting on the shelves of the bookstore, and have the ability to see the Wiki page and 'chat' with other fans.

Just the other day I bought a Richard Stark novel at the major retailer and then went around the block to purchase a Jim Thompson at the second-hand bookstore.

$14 for the former, $8 for the latter.

Woulda bin nice to buy 3 or 4 electronic titles at the same price 'and' get all the bonus features to boot.

Lets hope the industry isn't too late on properly developing this one... and that the people demand it.

Peter L. Winkler said...

My predictions:

Multimdia ebooks will not become popular. If I want to read a book, I don't want intrusive audo or video bits. I want a book, not some half-assed, gawdawful text-movie hybrid. If I want the story performed for me or dramatically realised, I'll watch a real film or even a TV show.

Books and reading are a distinctly different experience than film or video or even radio shows of old.

Peter Rozovsky said...

In re your prediction 4), someone said that Netbook computers could be the death of e-readers. Why would someone pay for a machine that could do one think, he reasoned, when they could get one that does lots of things? I wonder if Netbooks and e-readers will converge. That would be a machine worth owning provided that 2) proprietary formatting disappeared.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Debbi said...

Joe, you've previously stated that new authors should break into publishing through traditional print publishers, despite the capability to publish work directly in e-book form. Are your opinions on this changing at all?

Let's assume for purposes of this question that the work to be published has been vetted by an impartial freelance editor and/or a writers group with published authors in it (i.e., it doesn't completely suck).

Jontrout said...

There's a great summary of ereaders in the Wall Street Journal today, Wednesday, December 2nd for all to read. The article pans ereaders and likens them to 8 track players and says get a netbook instead. Interesting.

JA Konrath said...

If I want to read a book, I don't want intrusive audio or video bits.

Intrusive bits like extra scenes and director commentary on DVD? I always watch those, and would do the same for books. DVD and BluRay also offer different scene angles, and real time pop ups that reveal more about certain scenes. They can be turned off, but they're fun and add to the experience.

If done well, a book/video hybrid could be an interesting, unique, and compelling way to tell a story.

What if the ebook reader had an extra color screen, which showed pictures of things the book described? Press the word "Taj Mahal" and it would show a pic.

Or what if the words were dynamic, and moved, like the words on a sing-along video? You could adjust the speed of the words so you'd never have to flip the page--they'd keep scrolling.

Often, as an author, I want my words to have impact, so I'll set them off in italics, or start a new paragraph. I'd love to have more control over my words, such as making them bigger, or 3d, or have them accompanied by a movie-type soundtrack.

The book has been the preferred medium for written stories because there was never technology to do more with the written word.

But other media forms have changed. Movies got sound, and color, and 3D, and THX. TVs got color, surround sound, High definition.

But with books, nothing has changed in hundreds of years.

As a storyteller, I welcome change, and what it could mean for my books.

JA Konrath said...

@Debbi - The only way to make any meaningful amount of money in this biz is to go the traditional print route.

If you have a book that's good enough to be published, you first step is still to look for a big house to publish it, by using an agent.

Ebooks are the future, but in the present they still don't account for may overall sales.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jude Hardin said...

Here's a link to the WSJ article.


A netbook makes a lot more sense to me as well.

Jude Hardin said...

It keeps cutting my link off. :(

Gordon Jerome said...

It seems to me after reading this post that there are three key events that must take place in the e-book world in order to win the revolution:

A major award given to the best e-book.

a bestseller that is on e-book only.

a popular movie made from an e-book.

I believe we'll see this in the next three years, or at least one of them.

I think the great news for authors, however, will be the rise of thousands of indi publishers all wanting to get decent manuscripts. I think that will be a great thing for the art of literature as well, which in turn will be a great thing for humanity.

Gordon Jerome said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stacey Cochran said...

If anybody's interested in e-books, I encourage you to check out this Friday's Book Chatter LIVE at 11 PM (EST).

I have received confirmation from Smashwords.com founder Mark Coker that he will join us for the hour.

Using the IM chat features, you'll be able to post comments and ask Mark Coker questions about e-books, Smashwords.com, and the future of publishing.

I hope you'll join us.

Stacey Cochran
Bestselling author of The Colorado Sequence

Carl said...

I think price really does matter. I picked up Origin from the B&N e-book store for $1.99 and didn't even think twice about it because for $1.99 I'm willing to take a chance on someone I haven't read before. I'm enjoying that book so much I'm already plotting my next e-book purchase from you. If I had to pay $10, $15, or more I may not have purchased that first book and instead gone with some big name that I had read before.

Joseph said...

I predict I will download and read one of your books in 2010. What a breath of fresh air you have been over the last month or so. It is great to read your rational, open-minded and imaginative views here.

Colin Matthew (TheBookPirate.com) said...

I can never give up an acutal book. But if they include a digital copy with a hard copy, I might finally jump on the bandwagon.

Marie Simas said...

@ Joe: "But with books, nothing has changed in hundreds of years."

Hey-- I kinda disagree:

1454 The printing press; I don't think anything has changed the world more.

1873 Typewriter invented

1875 Offset Printing invented

1949 Photocopier invented (making it possible for every jerkwad to make batshit crazy pamphlets and hand them out, Ayn Rand-style)

1993 Digital Press

The world is changing fast, y'all! In 20 years we'll all be reading off some borg-like implant on our fist.

It's not as farfetched as you think. I hear there are people getting their credit cards implanted in their wrists, like those pet micochips.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with JA, ebooks are changing the way we read and interact with others. They will continue to change as technology does, just wait for augmented reality to hit ebooks, that will be interesting.

For those that say it won't, they don't want videos and such in an ebook, you have to think broader, those tech savy teens, the k-12 crowd and college students want those features. In reality, those features will highly benefit research students in higher education, there is a line between the leisure reading crowd for ebooks and the research students, but the line is getting blurred and will continue to do so.

If you don't embrace the changes somewhat, not totally, but some, it could hurt you financially if you are invested in the pub industry but also may hurt your audience who may never find your material or content.

Gordon Jerome said...

I'm writing this here, because this blog seems concerned with this sort of thing. I'd write it in my own blog, but my blog isn't there to help people learn how to publish.

I write this from a consumers point of view, not from any expert point of view, but simply from the fact that I have an account at amazon, and I buy Kindle Books frequently and exclusively.

1. I come to learn about a book.
2. I go to amazon and check it out. If it isn't displayed properly with cover art, description, number of paper pages, at least one review, a look inside option, and availability on Kindle, I pass without another thought.

3. Assuming it is correct as stated in #2, I download a sample.

4. When I get the sample, I expect the book to open to the cover or one of the first pages or the first page of the story. Either way, there better be a menu option for the cover and table of contents. If not, I read no further and delete the sample from my Kindle, when I get around to it.

5. Assuming there's cover art and a table of contents, I go to the first page, and I look at the first few pages. If they aren't formatted correctly in standard Kindle formatting, I don't read a word and delete the sample from my Kindle, when I get around to it.

6. If all the formatting is correct, then and only then, do I start to read. Then and only then do all the aspects of good writing, good story, etc. even come into play.

7. If the sample keeps me reading and I get to the end and care at all about the story, I consider the price. Anything below 2.99 I'll buy. Anything above that, and I will have to have been truly impressed by the sample. I would pay as high as 9.99 for a book I really wanted to read.

These are my observations as a 2-year veteran of Kindle and one who buys ten or twelve novels a year through Kindle.

And just to make my point stick a little more, because I'll bet its an attitude shared by most Kindle people. Every time one of those rules above is broken, the first word that comes into my mind is "JOKE." Self-published, slush pile joke.

T. M. Hunter said...

Apparently, acceptance of e-books is trending... ;-)

ryan field said...

Excellent post.

Jamey Stegmaier said...

Joe--Great post. What you said in the comments section about the novel not changing for hundreds of years really hit home to me. There are so many ways books could evolve--even just in terms of better design--to make them better mediums for storytelling. I wrote a blog entry on this same concept here about a week ago: http://typetribe.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/the-evolution-of-books/

Zen of Writing said...

Interesting predictions. I await the fall of the e-reader price to my price point, which is somewhat lower than $99. (Maybe on ebay I can get one for $19.99.)

Meghan Ward said...

I strongly agree with number 4. I'm reading a Vook right now and wondering whether I should buy an e-reader now or wait until they have video. I also agree with number 6, that there will very soon be a market for people to act as liaisons for authors who self-publish e-books.

Stacia Kelly said...

You and me...we're gonna talk. LOL. You name the TIME...I'll bring the Jack ;)

Conda Douglas said...

I love these predictions! Let's hope they all come true!

Cam said...

A prediction of mine is that we will see the re-birth of novellas and short stories on eReaders. I envision someone (or company) taking on the project of offering short stories for 99 cents each as eBooks only with a 50/50 split with the author for all proceeds.
Or a big name author writing a 35-40k word novella that is too skinny to print releasing it as an eBook to huge applause. Not every book I read needs to be 100k words... some classics are only 75-100 pages long (Flatland, Heart of Darness, etc).
I think we get some books that have lots of fluff b/c the authors feel that they need to hit 75-80k words minimum.

Robbie in Tokyo said...

Very interesting. Your predictions seem viable and likely. I hope to enter this arena very soon.

Unknown said...

Joe, I'm constantly impressed with your posts on E-Books. Such great insights!

Now, I'm off to order a pizza on my rotary phone!

Peter L. Winkler said...


Supplements on a DVD are video segments that accompany a film transferred on video. Further, they are optional and do not intrude during the film. That's completely different than non-textual material inserted into the continuity of a text.

If ebooks become a blend of spoken voices, sound effects and video or graphic effects, then they resemble a radio play, low budget movie or TV show more than a book. In that case, I prefer a real movie or TV show.

Stacey Cochran said...

Hey, Joe, I'm experimenting with loss leader marketing on Kindle... thought you might find this interesting info to file away.

The Kiribati Test is pushing toward the top 100 overall on Kindle.

If we break into those ranks, it'll be interesting to see if that visibility affects sales of The Colorado Sequence and CLAWS.

Paul said...

Why do all e-readers copy books and have you flip pages? I want an e-reader that scrolls through the text at an adjustable pace.


Mike Fook said...

Very good list of predictions! I've written maybe 8 ebooks now and sold some - and it's good to have money come in residually. However, I'm looking also at the middle man idea - like smashwords - but on a limited, even exclusive basis for some authors. AsiaBlackBooks will represent some authors that might just be exclusive if I can talk them into it. We can publish at other distributors like amazon, sony, etc - if we choose to - or hoard the select group of ebooks to ourselves and make people buy them at our site only.

Lots of interesting developments coming.

Oh - my two cents about the Nook - it's amazing and after some updates will be hard for Apple to come out with something that blows it away.


Laura said...

Lots of food for thought here. I'm glad you posted this.

Laura Resnick

Scott Nicholson said...

Joe, I was going to email but figured this might add some more public education. I am getting rights back to my older, out-of-print novels and considering publishing them as e-books. I sold some short stories through Fictionwise years back (2002 or so, the Dark Ages of ebooks) and the money didn't seem enough to make it worthwhile, but later on the sales began increasing.

My major concern is to not get any rights tied up by any entity that wants to control everything but not exploit to the maximum, and mainstream publishers clearly aren't helping writers with their e-strategies, with low royalties and high list prices that insure little income.

On your self-published original titles, do you pay to copyright them with the Library of Congress? Do you have any comparison of your e-book sales in foreign languages? How does your agent feel about your self-pubbing ventures?

I fully agree with getting an agent and print deals, but while I am in transition mode looking for a new agent I want to keep my books out there, and as I always say, no one will ever care more than the writer. Thanks for all this great info.


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