Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Remember when Amazon set the pace for ebook pricing?
Remember when they set prices designed to build a market from scratch – and did just that – built a market from scratch?
If you don’t recall a time before Agency Pricing, a time when Amazon fully ruled the ebook roost, dust off your history books. That time is coming back, in very short order, and it’s going to completely redefine the publishing and ebook landscapes (again).
Once the DoJ case is officially adjudicated (with all signs pointing to the Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster deal being the final structure of the settlement) we’re going to see an unprecedented 30-70 days where the ebook market and competitive landscape will be complete re-written – literally in real-time.
Despite all of the upheaval that’s coming, what I’ll be watching most closely is discoverability – specifically the ability for authors to build audiences in light of massive price competition from retailers and publishers.
With prices crashing through the floor, upstart authors losing their ability to compete / differentiate / build an audience based on price and publishers frantically racing to develop direct to consumer (reader) relationships in a bid to re-establish themselves as the foundation of the ebook market, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for readers to keep finding new quality works.
When best sellers are priced at (or nearly at) the same level as unknowns, the decision to venture off the beaten path will become more difficult. This is the same concept as purchasing Kleenex vs. the store brand tissue. If the price is close enough (<10% variance), you’re buying Kleenex. It’s only when the price variance exceeds 25% that consumers begin to react negatively to a brand and seek information about alternative products.
This will happen with books, too, because it’s the same purchase reflex. I know author (brand) X. I don’t know author (brand) Y. They are roughly the same price. I’ll take author (brand) X. We’re going to see a number of upstart authors struggle even more to build their brand as a result – despite their development of quality works.
Conversely, I fully expect we’re going to see a large number of upstart authors excel in this new environment. They will work diligently to reach their audience. They will be accessible, responsive and humble. They will fully understand that audience engagement is THE way they build their brand and their business. They will create brand new experiences (Google Hangout anyone?) and brand new products (shorts, etc.) for their readers. They will open the kimono and let readers into the creation process – effectively helping the readers assume ownership of the works even as they are created.
Let the doom and gloom rain down. The death of publishing, the death of books is upon us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are entering a truly amazing age of writing, storytelling, publishing and reading (consumption). The innovations taking place in this sector will amaze readers (and the market). These innovations will engage a brand new generations of readers – led by those who care the most about books – authors.
The publishing glass isn’t half full or half empty. The publishing glass is gone.
What we’re entering is a brand new era that, once again, Amazon will lead by sheer force of will and desire to be the dominant force in books.
This time, however, it won’t be only about price (although price will dominate the headlines).
This time I expect we’ll see the playing field change even more as authors (very intelligently) enter the fray.