My guiding principle for success in e-books in the future: “Don’t get in the way.”
I’ve flipped a couple of good and thoughtful articles recently on principles for success in publishing in the future into the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard.
One was from a retailing insider, Mike Tamblyn of Kobo:
Summing up just the highest level, Tamblyn says we want to read easily, shamelessly, freely, publicly, and privately.
The other one was from a journalist: Joe Wikert post in Typepad Here are Wikert’s headers:
- Being data-driven
- Breaking free of containers
- Owning and leveraging the list
- Building the funnel
I know those may not make much sense without reading them…I’m recommending that you read the post. 🙂 I don’t want to take too much away from it, just give you a feel for it.
I’d boil my advice down to one sentence. Every plan can be tested against the sentence.
It is: “Don’t get in the way.”
If the reader wants to read a book you publish or sell, don’t make it harder for them to do so. There are too many people who make it easy.
I used to ask people: why do we lock our cars? Most people would say so they don’t get stolen. A thief, though, can still steal just about any car, locked or not. It’s just harder to steal one that’s locked. If your car is a difficult one to steal, are they going to give up on being a thief and walk the straight and narrow? Nope. They’ll steal an easier car. So, the answer to the question of why you lock your car is so that they’ll steal somebody else’s car. 🙂 That’s not your intent, but it’s the result.
If a publisher or retailer “locks the car” by not being on all possible platforms (including being in subsers…subscription service), or by not having text-to-speech, or by not letting people adjust margins…many people will go somewhere that doesn’t get in their way. The same goes for price: for many people, $14.99 is too high for an e-book…so they get a cheaper one. We’ve seen that reflected in Amazon’s bestselling Kindle books. “Well,” I can hear a ,publisher say smirkingly, “there are so many free books that I suppose charging anything is getting in the way.” Yes, it might be. You might have to find other ways to monetize your books besides each individual sale to a reader.
How could you do that?
You could sell subscriptions.
You could sell them individual books…as gifts for other people (a big part of the book market).
You could have advertising…on your site. I also do believe that advertising inside e-books could work…as long as it’s very clear ahead of time, targeted, and optional. I’d do it: I’d accept advertising in a book to get the book discounted or free. How do I know I would do that? I read magazines with ads. I see (some) TV with ads. My Kindles/Fires have Special Offers (discounting their initial purchase price).
You could sell information about your customers to other people…with their permission, generally.
Let me be clear: I do think traditional book sales will continue. They may become an increasingly difficult way to lead the market, or even to make much of a profit, but they’ll be around.
One obvious thing: it will be harder for tradpubs (traditional publishers) to shift than it will be for newer, smaller publishers. Some publishers have deals with authors which last for years. They have a big infrastructure, built around the old model. They can do it, and some of them will.
I just suggest they use my test: does it get in the way?
What do you think? What advice would you give to publishers and e-book retailers? Does it seem odd that I advocate for curation, when that might be seen as “getting in the way”? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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