Two Important Launches: Amazon MatchBook and Oyster

Two pieces of major exciting news for the book industry was announced this month!

First, Amazon is launching a new program called MatchBook in October 2013. The program will allow you to also get the ebook edition of any participating printed book you purchase through Amazon (past or future), for $2.99 or less (or even for free!).

This is incredibly important for a couple of reasons:

  1. Consumers that want to convert their library to digital format can do it now
  2. This increases sales numbers for an industry that has been suffering
  3. It actually supports printed book sales. Consumers may opt to just purchase the hardback since they know they can grab the ebook version as well (especially if it’s free!)

Not to be overshadowed, a new mobile reading platform called Oyster is launching the beta version of their iPhone app and has received lots of hype! Oyster has been dubbed “The Netflix for Books”, and for $9.95 a month you get unlimited access to over 100,000 titles from various participating publishers.

If this receives early success (as I expect it will), more and more publishers will flock to them and offer to add their books to their content library. This could be a game changer for the book industry, and will certainly keep it alive. You can read more about this start up venture here.

I’m calling it right now: This needs to be a strategic acquisition by Barnes & Noble if they expect to stay afloat and compete against Amazon.
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Amazing Experience at the San Diego County Library

I went to my local library and was blown away by the technological enhancements that they utilized. First, I discovered that you can rent ebooks at the library, and they support all the major e-readers. For copyright purposes, they treat ebooks like physical books, so there can be a waiting list for an ebook, etc. To learn how to borrow ebooks from this library, they’ve prepared many helpful video tutorials! Watch this short one on how to borrow Kindle books:

Secondly, once I had my books and DVD that I needed for my school project, I walked up to the counter to rent them out. The librarian immediately pointed me to the self-checkout counter. She told me to scan my library card and then spread out the books on the table in front of the computer. The books just started popping up onto the screen! They now use RFID tags to checkout books; I was blown away!

I highly encourage everyone to check out your local library and check out all the technological improvements they’ve made, and share it in the comments below!

Self Published Authors are Hurting the Industry

How many of you are giving free ebooks as gifts to your friends and loved ones this holiday season? None of you, is the answer. That’s because with the price tag of “free”, they can get it themselves, so most likely you’ll purchase the book that they really want. It seems that indie and self-published authors drop the price of their ebooks to “free” as a sales gimmick to gain readers and create a name for themselves. However, what happens in reality is that they just want as many downloads as possible so they can shoot up the ranks of the Top “Purchased” (and I use that word loosely) novel in their genre. But do the ends justify the means? In this case, no. No they don’t.

I can understand how a new author that has no reputation and is trying to make a name for themselves could see that the price of $0.99 or Free make sense for their self-published ebooks. However, an author that sells 100,000 copies at $0.99 will only earn ~$12,000. Earlier, I described what the average income is for authors here, and contrary to popular belief, authors earn very little (especially the self-published ones). Here, take a look at CreateSpace’s (the popular self-publishing service provided by Amazon) royalty calculator here to see for yourself. So if you still think it’s possible to make some money by pricing your book cheap, how many authors do you think have actually sold over 100,000 copies in a year? Take a guess. A whopping 30. I think $0.99 would be a great promotional price, but doesn’t do anyone any good as a permanent price.

Indie and self-published authors are focusing on the wrong thing. They believe that price is the important factor, when I say it is quality that counts. There is no doubt in my mind that when you have a quality product, readers will pay a higher price and will also become returning customers. Not only are many indie and self-published authors reducing the price of books, they are publishing books that don’t have the same level of quality that traditional published works have. I’m referring to editing, fact checking, etc. I’ve downloaded quite a few free ebooks myself, and I’ve come across a lot of novels that I stopped reading due to their need for a copy editor. I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps some indie authors are just too excited to press “publish” that they don’t want to do another round of editing? My book has been “complete” (and I use that word loosely) for 8 months, and I’m still finding things that I want to edit or emphasize.

So, do the ends justify the means? Let’s consider the super success stories of John Locke and Amanda Hocking, each selling over 1 million ebooks. They might be what keeps you motivated, and may be the proof that you’ll use to debunk my opinion, but if choosing the $0.99 price point was used to gain a following, a reputation, and an easy way to enter the market, then why do these mega-authors still keep their books at $0.99 today? Are they afraid they won’t sell if they raise the price? There is no doubt that the publishing industry is in flux and no one knows where it will land, but if more and more quality novels are self-published and sold for $0.99, then they are setting the expectation for the consumer and are therefor hurting the industry. If the market is expecting prices to be that low, then how are authors ever supposed to make a living selling books? Are we destined to always hold a day-job and write at night? Books are something that can take a year’s worth of our time to write (sometimes more), so we shouldn’t be selling them for $0.99. Our time is more valuable than that.

For further insight and detail into this highly sensitive topic, please read through these two articles: