Writers Taking on 2011: Part II

Self-Publishing eBooks

(Haven’t Read Part I yet? Click here!)

Claire LeGrande, an aspiring author and recent Library Science graduate, also feels that independent publishing is the new way to go. “The rise of the indie/self-publishing movement could very well encourage authors to write more freely, to write what they want to write without having to worry about a publishing house considering it “sellable” or not,” she says. “As I’ve seen through my own observations, if something is well-written, and the author is a smart, savvy marketer, the book will find a strong audience quite well on its own, without the backing of a publishing house. It seems that there is still a rather large stigma amongst both authors and readers that if something is self-published, it must not have been good enough to be published “the real way,” but that is just simply not the case. I think that authors and readers are gradually realizing this, and while it might take a while for the paradigm shift, eventually, self-published authors will be given the same legitimacy and respect as those published traditionally through a New York house.”

Companies like  Amazon.com are leveraging this new channel, by allowing writers to self-publish in digital format through the Kindle. “Amazon is rocking the boat with their new self-publishing policies,” O’Neale says. “They’re giving authors a chance to self publish and keep a big chunk of the sales, which is nice for the writer. When you sell through a publishing house you get a very small piece of the pie, but Amazon allows you to enjoy most of the pie.” Amazon pays self-published authors 70 percent of the revenues from their book sales, and if a writer already has a loyal fan base, and understands the shifting landscape of social media, this may be the best option for them, regardless of the strength of traditional publishing houses. And self-publishing websites like CreateSpace.com and Lulu.com give writers all the layout, design, marketing and distribution tools they need to have a professional end product. For a price, of course.

Social media and the presence of smart phones, eReaders, and tablets are a few tools making it easier for both best-selling and undiscovered authors to get their work out there, to reach current and potential fans. The Internet took over. It’s true. We’ve got to accept this. But this isn’t the first time the publishing industry faced significant change. It survived the radio and video eras by keeping a clear focus on content and the customer. Books are a unique medium: they are not supported by advertising. The business model is completely different than the television, film, and even newspaper and magazine industries. We don’t use advertising to sell books, and we don’t need advertising to support the content within books. But what do we do when we find ourselves in a paperless world? A recent study, conducted by Morgan Stanley, gives us a few insights into global internet trends.

One of the major trends is the increase in the global use of wireless internet. People want what they want when they want it. And they now have the technology to demand this at their fingertips. The cell phone and the tablet are increasingly becoming the go-to spots for entertainment and news. Users are connected all day, every day, to an affordable, fast, and easy-to-use media source. They have access to nearly everything, from yesterday’s episode of House, to the latest NY Times Bestseller. It’s the instantaneous nature of the internet that attracts them, and the mobile phone and tablets support that immediacy.

“Anything that allows a reader to read in a way they would like to be reading, when they would like to be reading, is by definition good for their experience of reading,” says Hugh McGuire, the founder of various digital publishing projects, including: LibriVox.org, iambik.com,  bitesizeedits.com,  bookoven.com, pressbooks.org. ” Ultimately the objective of the publishing industry must be to make it as easy as possible for readers to read however they want whenever they want.”

The data supports this assertion. The use of the iPhone and iTouch has grown exponentially since their launch in 2007. In their eleventh quarter, these devices had a subscriber base of 86 million. AOL, launched in 1994, had only 8 million subscribers in its eleventh quarter, while Netscape had 18 million.

And it’s not just the phone that’s growing the mobile web. Better processing power, smaller computer chips, lower prices, and expanded services have led to a strong pattern of device integration. Ten billion or more devices now support the mobile web, including the iPad, Kindle, GPS, home entertainment systems, and game consoles. Integration will only continue to increase in the coming years.

One of the things to come out of the mobile space is the app. Apps allows mobile users to quickly get the information, entertainment, or game that they desire. In April 2009, there were 18 million smartphone owners using apps. One year later, that number had jumped to 38 million. What do app users do on their phones? 48 percent simply browse, 40 percent maintain their social networking sites, 30 percent check the news, 20 percent look up sports or movie information, and 10 percent shop at online retail sites. There are 200,000 apps available for the iPhone. Over four billion have been downloaded by a total of 86 million users. That’s 47 apps per user. All since summer 2008. The Android phone has 50,000 apps available. 400 million have been downloaded by 10 million users, for an average of 22 apps per user. All since fall 2008. The Apple iPad is a newer technology, highlighting on the integration technologies available today. It reached a user base of one million in only 28 days. “The more and more people use things like the iPad and the Kindle, and the easier the devices are for people to use, the more and more that print is going to become rare. More traditional,” Bond says.

The incumbents of the technology sector are taking these changes in stride, and often driving them. Apple and Google are at the head of the smartphone battle. Amazon.com is leading the ereader and ecommerce revolutions. Netflix is perfecting content streaming of movies and videos. But new players are motivating change as well. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way people connect with each other. Skype allows users to make free calls to anybody with internet access. OpenTable and Yelp are harnessing the power of location-based services. And Hulu is taking on Netflix in the content streaming business. Innovation is coming from all directions right now. The worst thing any industry could do at this moment in time is to maintain the status quo. If everything around you is changing, than you have to change as well.

…more to be posted soon…

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