E-books E-books E-books
20 May 2009
A friend who was in the publishing biz for years (years ago) recently said to me: “You can’t have a conversation about publishing without the word ‘Kindle.’”
I’ve subscribed to the Publisher’s Weekly daily e-mail. Not sure if this was the best idea. Recent headlines include: “Bookstore Sales Down Again” and “The Rise and Fall of Book Output.” Monday’s edition includes a number of links to articles about e-book economics: “Two Takes on E-book Pricing” (one from Mokoto Rich, a follow-up from Mike Shatzkin), “E-book Tipping Point?” and “Self E-Publishing.”
Again, it’s all Latin to me. From what I can gather, Apple’s involvement in e-reading is significant (you can read any Kindle book on an iphone now), as is Barnes & Noble’s acquisition of a major e-book retailer and plans to launch their own e-reading platform in the fall. In other words, Amazon is not — will not remain — the only e-book retailing game in town.
But with hard cover books selling generally in the $20-$30 range, and all e-books selling for $9.99 on Amazon, both publishers and authors do worry: if e-book retailers begin driving down the magic number of what they’ll pay a publisher for content, then publishers’ profit margins drop even further; and authors, well… our dregs get even dreggier, if we’re able to publish our low-profit-margin literary works at all.
I may be getting this pyramid structure all wrong; but the part about authors being at the bottom seems about right.
Everything seems to be pointing to the literary mid-list (by which I mean all non-best-sellers) becoming primarily a nonprofit and self-publishing endeavor. Perhaps some good can come of this — the proliferation of literary collectives, the birth of more nonprofit small presses? What I would hate to see is the disproportionate death of the physical book for the literary genre; it feels, somehow, like if you had to choose, you should be able to get Twilight electronically, but EL Doctorow in hard cover.
But that would assume an impossible world where I make the bottom-line decisions. Moo-hoo-haa-haaa-haaaaaaa……..