The Year in E-Books 2014

The Year in E-Books 2014

Every year, I look both backward and forward. This is my annual post, looking at what happened this year. If you want to see the details, please see the ever-expanding ILMK E-Books Timeline. For posts in this series for previous years, see The Year in E-Books category. For a more numerical comparison between 2014 and previous years, I’ll be doing my Annual Snapshot tomorrow.

The Hachazon War

Unfortunately, the biggest e-book story of the year wasn’t about stories.

It was a dispute between Amazon, a retailer, and Hachette, a publisher. It clearly seemed to be about e-book pricing, and it took months before they came to an agreement.

During that time, I wrote more than ten posts relating to it:

Hachazon War category

Quite simply, I wasn’t happy with Amazon’s tactics. I can understand that their motive may have been to keep prices lower for their customers, but they took active steps to make it harder to get e-books.

This story did cross over into the mainstream. In part, that was because of famous authors stepping into the fray…books may get nowhere near the coverage that movies and TV do, but Stephen King still gets attention.

The story even made Entertainment Weekly’s “The Bullseye” feature. A Kindle was shown about as far off the mark as possible, with the line

“Amazon vs. Hachette: literally making it difficult to read since 2014”

I think this may have given Amazon its biggest public relations hit since they remove an unauthorized version of George Orwell’s 1984 from people’s Kindles in 2009.

While some authors publicly supported Amazon, and readers continued to buy, I think we may see continued efforts at damage control.

The Rise of the Subsers

Without a major hardware upgrade to Kindles/Fires and other EBRs (E-Book Readers) and tablets, I think the thing that will have the biggest impact on the future of how we read was the subsers (subscription services).

That’s where you pay a set amount (per month, per year) and gain access to books, rather than paying for them on a title by title basis.

Oyster, Scribd (the app became available on the Kindle Fire in February of 2014), and Entitle (which is more like a book club, where you own the books…Ellen Degeneres has promoted it) all may have increased their public profiles, but there may have been a bit of a Bambi Meets Godzilla moment when Amazon stepped in with

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

in July.

True, they didn’t have any of the Big Five publishers onboard, but they had a lot of good books and the selection has been growing.

Paying a set amount for access to hundreds of thousands of books is going to appeal to a lot of people…especially people who are in relationships (including legal guardians and children) where they are trying to support a serious reader.🙂 Now that you can gift KU (that came late in the year), we’ll see it even more.

I think this is a significant enough development to affect publishing to some extent, and even how we read (shorter books may become the norm).

Some authors didn’t like, but others may find it to their advantage.

I don’t think a lot of people are going to pay for multiple services, although some will (just as they may have Netflix, Hulu, and use Prime video).

Amazon Tries the High End

When the Kindle was first introduced in 2007, it wasn’t cheap…it was $399, and there were less expensive EBRs (E-Book Readers) on the market.

Later on , though, and especially with the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s hardware tended to be less expensive than established competitors.

This year, Amazon introduced the

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which $199…one of the highest priced EBRs in the market. They actually raised the price of the lowest priced Kindle (while adding in a touchscreen), and the Fire Phone was introduced at $199 with a contract…not a budget price.

We have to see yet how that worked. The Fire Phone was clearly a liability when Amazon put out financials…but the Voyage seemed to be pretty well accepted, and I don’t think the extra $10 hurt the “Mindle Touch” (as I call it).

New Kindle/Fire Features/Services

  • Gift cards can be applied to e-book purchases
  • Bulk actions come to the Manage Your Kindle page
  • #AmazonCart (get a Kindle book sample from a tweet)
  • Find My Kindle feature added to some Fires
  • Whispersync for Voice added to some reader apps
  • Indie books published through Kindle Direct Publishing can be pre-ordered
  • KDP Kids and Kindle Kids Book Creator
  • Set a default device for Kindle e-book delivery
  • Family Library (share books across accounts)
  • Word Wise (in situ definitions of “difficult words”)
  • Kindle book samples are stored in the Cloud

A number of these have been requested for years (Family Library, storing samples, Find My Kindle, default device), although the implementations may not be exactly as everyone wanted.

Apple Appeals

Apple is still fighting the decision against it in the case brought by the United States Department of Justice. Late in the year, it started to look like they might win on appeal, but we won’t find out until next at least 2015.

It feels to me a bit like we have moved out of the “frontier years”. Everybody recognizes now that the e-book market is a real thing…and that has pluses and minuses for readers.

On the plus side, lots of the backlist books are becoming available.

On the negative, there will be legal fights and more public disagreements.

Established companies will begin to solidify their positions, and there will be fewer opportunities for newcomers.

However, I also think the cat is out of the bag as far as new distribution methods, and the democratization of publishing. There will be more new authors finding readers…but they may be doing it through a finite number of primary channels.

Join over a thousand readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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