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UPDATE: The Lost Tail: The Myth of Book Publishing’s Long Tail is no longer available as a free download.
The myth of the Long Tail is possibly fading away as the digital book market grows, and it’s operated by few mega e-retailers.
In a limitless world of digital goods, without inventory costs, huge search engines, near-zero marginal cost of digital production and distribution, niche products will get much more market relevance at expenses of the blockbusters. This is part of what the “Long Tail” theory (or myth if you like) has been preaching.
Does it apply to the creative industries? Will book publishers be able to reduce attention on blockbusters and increase focus on the Long Tail?
It’s about time to do a reality check and challenge an unproved but fascinating theory. In this white paper, The Lost Tail: The Myth of the Long Tail, we will show how we applied a novel econometric methodology – devised on purpose – to start tackling this challenge. The preliminary results, based on our actual sales in Italy, shows that the Tail is becoming less relevant (not more) as the digital market grows.
Interestingly this is also highly correlated with the growing concentration of the e-retail market. As the market share of the global players grows, the sales impact of small and independent retailers diminishes dramatically. A highly concentrated e-retail market appears to be less capable to foster and grow a long tail of digital books than it is a not concentrated e-retail market. In fact the overall ebook market has been growing very significantly, but the bestsellers have been taking a growing lion’s share.
There aren’t ultimate answers yet, though. This is more a methodology paper to advance in this challenging quest. Any publisher can easily replicate this approach with its own data and get some insights. Of course, not all markets nor all publishers are the same. There might very well be different, even opposite, results.
However a theory that sometimes work and sometimes does not, is problematic… You will see why there are reasons to be skeptical about this long-standing myth.
“Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths.” –Karl Popper