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Friday, October 05, 2018

Why KU is killing ebooks

A reader has a theory:

1. Ebooks are introduced, everyone who reads gets a Kindle or reader, and fills it up. Many books are free and classics. The problem is that there are more books than you can read in a lifetime.

2. KU shows up. The Super-Readers end up on KU as for the money it is the best deal going. Books become a complete commodity on it. 

3. Regular, but not super readers still have too many eBooks to ever read but still pick up a few. 

4. So many forms of entertainment exist from on-demand videos, YouTube, Twitch, games, the world is filled with immediately accessible amusements. Reading slackens for Regular Readers. 

5. KU continues to grow, and more and more Super Readers flock to it, causing a drop in regular eBook sales.

6. Regular Readers realize the ephemeral nature of eBooks. There's nothing to pass on, nothing to see or savor like the printed page and they don't have the time nor inclination to read dozens of books a month like the Super Readers. (I stopped using an eBible and no only take notes in a printed one)

7. Regular Readers instead opt to buy printed books for the ones they truly love. They can pass on hardback, leather bound, and beautiful books which stand the test of time. Pulp Fiction and casual reading are left to the occasional eBook. 

8. Super Readers continue to devour KU.

I did an analysis of our ebook sales and was surprised to discover that with 7 exceptions, Kindle Unlimited is simply not worth it even without taking potential non-Amazon sales into account. So, we're going to be removing most of our books from KU and returning them to the Castalia House store over the next three months. By the start of the new year, most of our books will be available from all the major ebook platforms as well as our online store.

Remember, every dollar in the KU pool represents about THREE dollars removed from the ebook sales pool. And because the overall market is not growing, it is a zero-sum game.

We're also going to reduce the number of new fiction authors we publish. Because repeated experiments have demonstrated that even the very best-selling KU novelists don't sell very well in print, and because the success of KU puts us in a catch-22 situation with them regardless of whether they sell well through us or not, we are going to focus our efforts on strategic properties that we create, own and develop rather than those that we merely publish.

Because non-fiction a) sells well in print and b) is not popular on KU, our non-fiction publishing will continue without any change in focus or strategy.

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87 Comments:

Blogger Daniel October 05, 2018 1:04 PM  

That is a predictable shame. One of the cultural contributions of CH is as a filter of really high quality fiction. It is too bad that the infrastructure is incompatible with that passion.

Blogger VD October 05, 2018 1:08 PM  

One of the cultural contributions of CH is as a filter of really high quality fiction.

If anything, our filter should be even better than before. If there is something that is genuinely great and the author really wants to publish with us, we won't reject him. But we're talking John C. Wright/China Mieville quality work.

Blogger tublecane October 05, 2018 1:13 PM  

I've purchased only a handful of electronic books (including a certain two on the subject of SJWs). I'm not in the special KU club, but mostly read free books whose copyrights have expired. (Right now, Fenimore Cooper's the Crater.)

Meanwhile, I own a large collection of real books and visit the library. Because extended screen-reading isn't very pleasurable.

Blogger RobertT October 05, 2018 1:16 PM  

I didn't do an analysis, but it didn't look smart to me. But on the other side, it works. It's extremely difficult to find a decent book, and it's less aggravating to flush a KU book than a $15 kindle book.

Blogger Rick October 05, 2018 1:16 PM  

Speaking of time machines — perfect time for this question.
Cervantes walks into a publishing company..
Would Don Quixote sell today?

Blogger Avalanche October 05, 2018 1:20 PM  

I love the 'back-of-the-house' glimpses you give us Vox, of both the comics biz and Amazon and books of either kind. I always read the Alt Hero (e-)comics as soon as they come (I'm a backer) and then immediately order several print copies (Gold Icon!) from Castalia as soon as each goes up there.

I'm with Tublecane: while I LIKE carrying 100 books in my tablet; I prefer reading a real book and then passing it on to the right person who needs to read it. (It's also why I own two paper copies of, among others, SJWAL and SJWADD -- my personal copy and my loaner copy.)

Blogger James Dixon October 05, 2018 1:31 PM  

> By the start of the new year, most of our books will be available from all the major ebook platforms as well as our online store.

I'm sorry to hear that, but it does make economic sense and I understand. Time for me to read as many as I can while they're available I guess.

What about Arkhaven and Dark Legion? Will the comics be removed too?

Blogger Lurker October 05, 2018 1:34 PM  

"Remember, every dollar in the KU pool represents about THREE dollars removed from the ebook sales pool. And because the overall market is not growing, it is a zero-sum game."


Nice catch. Some suggestions, there is a lot of space on the side panels to CH and how about some little stars underneath the titles like the Amazon books site has. Will CH have a review section more resembling Amazon? Also I noticed when I clicked on the CH main link from Gulag I was taken to the About page that has a blog like format, shouldn't that main link go straight to the bookstore?

Blogger LonestarWhacko October 05, 2018 1:37 PM  

I'm what you would call a "super reader". KU is a great deal. Here's the thing....I couldn't spend the money for everything I read. I was raised as a reader, and possess the talent of "immersion" in what I read. I actually was taught to speed read back in 1964. Most folks today aren't involved readers, imo.

It's a great deal, and I truly enjoy reading the entire work of an author. Say what you will, but I'm not alone.

Blogger David The Good October 05, 2018 1:38 PM  

So long as we can keep reading Richard Cain, this seems like a good plan.

Blogger DJ | AMDG October 05, 2018 1:41 PM  

I don’t see any online subscription service being a long term sustainable business model. Participation WILL reach a critical mass, and the only thing that can sustain it is more and more content which costs money. But is subscriptions cease to increase, no new monies can come in to justify the increased inventory.

Yearly paid subscriptions are a non-starter in most models as consumers are unwilling to commit dollars long term like that. Further, subscriptions are bought for a month and almost immediately cancelled month over month because no one really wants UNLIMITED, they just want access to the two or three items they desire for a lessor fed than if they bought them out right.

I would like to see content creators bypass the digital media platforms altogether and instead form into like minded collaborations or guilds or networks. Then they could sell digital subscriptions to their networks and provide whatever medium for delivery they want.

Blogger SmockMan October 05, 2018 1:45 PM  

By the start of the new year, most of our books will be available from all the major ebook platforms as well as our online store.

With Walmart getting into ebooks with Kobo, this is a good thing. From what I hear the kobo has surpassed the kindle hardware. Blue light filter, waterproof, and overdrive.com within the reader. That will probably be my next eReader.

Blogger Warunicorn October 05, 2018 1:54 PM  

I'm not a "super reader," but I do read some when I have the time. (I have about 35 eBooks I've purchased so far.) I even re-read some books I love.

To be honest, I never saw the appeal of Kindle Unlimited. If I wanted to read something without paying for it outright, I could just borrow it digitally from my local library (provided they have anything I'm interested in). If I really liked an eBook, I would buy it outright.

As an aside, as much as I like real books, I always hated the clutter they create. (And I hate clutter, period, which doesn't help.)

Blogger Warunicorn October 05, 2018 1:55 PM  

SmockMan wrote:By the start of the new year, most of our books will be available from all the major ebook platforms as well as our online store.

With Walmart getting into ebooks with Kobo, this is a good thing. From what I hear the kobo has surpassed the kindle hardware. Blue light filter, waterproof, and overdrive.com within the reader. That will probably be my next eReader.


I've been thinking about this too.

Blogger Stickwick Stapers October 05, 2018 2:00 PM  

After the novelty wore off, I mostly quit buying ebooks. Unless it's something I plan to only blow through once and never refer to again, I want the real deal. Nothing compares with having a physical book in your hands (and on your shelf).

Blogger Farinata October 05, 2018 2:01 PM  

Does this mean you'll finish the revised edition of SOS this Fall?

Blogger James Dixon October 05, 2018 2:08 PM  

> If I wanted to read something without paying for it outright, I could just borrow it digitally from my local library

Kindle Unlimited has far more books (and honestly a better selection) than our local library.

Blogger S1AL October 05, 2018 2:11 PM  

"After the novelty wore off, I mostly quit buying ebooks. Unless it's something I plan to only blow through once and never refer to again, I want the real deal. Nothing compares with having a physical book in your hands (and on your shelf)."

I like ebooks for travel or quick reference, but I otherwise agree. The ideal situation for me would be if companies started offering a hybrid deal - buy the physical edition, get a cheap ebook.

Blogger Dirk Manly October 05, 2018 2:15 PM  

@11

Read up on the history (and demise) of Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI). The "Lifetime subscription" option is literally what drove the company into bankruptcy.

Blogger James Dixon October 05, 2018 2:15 PM  

> buy the physical edition, get a cheap ebook.

I thought Amazon was doing that for a while. Hmm, looking... OK, here it is: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201362970

Blogger Revelation Means Hope October 05, 2018 2:19 PM  

Vox,
regarding the long term strategy of building alternative infrastructure for publishing books, how does cutting out some of the authors, who may not be as great in quality but may develop over time, figure into this new plan?

Based on your post today, and previous comments, this new plan sounds necessary to keep focused and stay profitable to continue driving toward long term success.

What is interesting is the difference in strategies between here and Alt*Hero. Where the strategy is not to be in the top 200 in quality, but to get the model and infrastructure built with a minimally viable product and then work up from there. But the similarity in the two is that both are based on having excellent plots and writing, which are really the key elements in both mediums.

Blogger Nathan Housley October 05, 2018 2:22 PM  

Looks like there might be a bit of a creators' preference cascade in the works concerning Kindle Unlimited, from what I've seen discussed by authors in the litRPG community and elsewhere. Many are pulling their titles from KU for various reasons. Certainly, the last couple months' KU new releases have been comparatively barren compared to earlier this year.

Blogger Revelation Means Hope October 05, 2018 2:22 PM  

Thanks for the heads up Kindle Matchbook. I just downloaded David the Goods "Grow or Die" to my Kindle. The Return of the Great Depression is also available. Probably a bunch of other Castalia House books, too.

Blogger Warunicorn October 05, 2018 2:29 PM  

James Dixon wrote:> If I wanted to read something without paying for it outright, I could just borrow it digitally from my local library

Kindle Unlimited has far more books (and honestly a better selection) than our local library.


While I'm sure that's true, I just can't see myself paying for KU since I don't read enough to justify the cost.

Haxo Angmark wrote:got about 200 books in my kindle library, but only because I couldn't find a hard copy for sale anywhere...and of these I've read only about a dozen: and only after printing them out, page-by-page. The esthetics and ease of handling of a hard copy book absolutely rout staring at an e-book on a hot screen.

Dedicated e-readers aren't back-lit (they're front-lit), so there's that; they're much easier on the eyes vs. tablets.

Blogger Scott October 05, 2018 2:37 PM  

Super reader here, but not a KU member. I have about 120 items in my Kindle library and have read all but three. The Kindle I s handy for travel and doctor visits. I do prefer printed books though as my Librarynis mostly coffee table books I use as art reference for my work. These don’t work on Kindle very well. I do read a lot of popcorn SF on the Kindle, though. Lots of starship and laser stuff. For 99 cents to 2.99 is about my price.

Blogger Tars Tarkusz October 05, 2018 2:47 PM  

The problem with ebooks is their pricing. I was a very early adopter of ebooks and read books on a Newton in the early 90s from text files. I remember later on, when they really started to become mainstream and sold on Amazon, the ebooks were more money than the print books!
While that has improved and ebooks are generally less money than printed books, it's really not by very much. Ebooks should be extremely cheap, but they are not. Once the file is created, the marginal cost for each sale is basically zero less Amazon's cut. If the price difference is $2 on a $9.99 book, I would rather just pay the full $9.99 for an actual book than the $7.99 for a file I can't access. This is only if the book is new. You can usually pick up a used copy for less than the price of a new ebook.
Lots of people were predicting this problem before ebooks really took off. The best example I can think of was the comparison to candles. Nobody really needs candles, but they are everywhere. Ebooks could have worked, but the lure of all those bucks was too irresistible.

Blogger Resident Moron™ October 05, 2018 3:07 PM  

Because I've purchased Guy Gavriel Kay books before, I received recent notice from Amazon of an upcoming release. Since he hasn't published anything for some years, this is good news (potentially) to his fans.

But the Kindle price is an eye-watering US$19.75

The hardcover is US$27.

I read a lot so I use KU fairly regularly. But while I prefer physical books for all the reasons mentioned above, I use Kindle as a litmus test to decide if they're worth buying in solid form.

Since I'm old enough to prefer ownership to renting my habit is to buy CH books on Kindle, borrow others on KU.

I take it, given the above, that Vox would approve of this approach?

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit October 05, 2018 3:09 PM  

Will you continue with to offer print editions of your Young Adult market authors, particularly in November & December? Can we hope for more Rod Walker, for instance?

Blogger EH October 05, 2018 3:10 PM  

I hope the CH site gets improved significantly. It wasn't pleasant to purchase when I tried previously.

Blogger Riejun October 05, 2018 3:10 PM  

Vox: I am a hybrid reader, physical copy for non-fiction and KU for fiction. One option I wish though, was that I could pay a few dollars more and purchase a bundled physical and digital copy, just like BlueRays/DVDs. Would this option be viable from a business perspective?

Blogger EH October 05, 2018 3:13 PM  

I'm not on KU even though many of the books I read are. I'm willing to pay for the books. Hopefully, the author gets more in that case. My price point is $4-5. I hesitate at $10 and avoid $15 at almost all costs.

Blogger Trid October 05, 2018 3:19 PM  

I'm a super reader, KU is really just a private, electronic library. Most of the books I read are good, but not $2.99 good. Almost all of them are not worth the cost or storage to get physically. But if some of Jim Butcher's works were to become available in bound-alike collections...

Having backed Alt-Hero, I've been also checking them out on KU, hopefully it's directing that much more $$$ towards VD et al.

Blogger Ahärôwn October 05, 2018 3:25 PM  

As an aside, as much as I like real books, I always hated the clutter they create. (And I hate clutter, period, which doesn't help.)

That's what bookshelves are for.

Nothing compares with having a physical book in your hands (and on your shelf).

Indeed.

Also, what's a super reader? So many KU books/month? (I don't own one).

Blogger Jeff aka Orville October 05, 2018 3:29 PM  

Vox, I'm following Nick and Jason's approach and will quick-release my sci-fi series and trust the algo to push it. If I understand the process they Cole and Anspach use, it requires being in KDP. Is that your understanding too?

My first book, a non-fiction, has been on KU for almost a year, but I also put up a paperback edition as well. On actual sales I'm averaging 30% for paperback. Aside from the KU loss, my casual newbie observation is that some indies are leaving money on the table by not having a print version of their work.

Blogger Don't Call Me Len October 05, 2018 3:29 PM  

Nothing compares with having a physical book in your hands (and on your shelf).

Except being able to Ctrl + F something.

Blogger Stickwick Stapers October 05, 2018 4:19 PM  

Except being able to Ctrl + F something.

True, but for any volume that's offered in ebook, you can run a word search on books.google.com.

For non-fiction, I almost always buy the ebook + physical book when they're offered as a bundle on Amazon. Hopefully that's something CH can eventually do.

Blogger Taqiyyotomist October 05, 2018 4:27 PM  

My eyes cannot read regular books any more. Never thought that I'd be old enough or poor enough to need one of those big fresnel lenses the old people use. Time flies, I guess.

I have yet to finish any SF/F book I've either bought or been given (thanks, Vox) in the last ten years. Too much else going on. And I don't even watch movies or TV series, hardly at all. I watched the Marvel stuff on Netflix, until it became too senselessly violent or sick for my taste.

All of my reading is online. All of it, except when I dip my toe back into Vox's Throne of Bones, every so often, when I think my brain can handle it.

To think that I used to devour 5 books a week, since I was ten, from the local libraries. All of Clarke. All of Rice. All of Tolkein. All of McCaffrey. Charles Stross, Frank Herbert, Larry Niven, Greg Bear, Robert Jordan... many more.

I think I could read whole novels in episodes, now, as chapter-length blogposts. But not on paper. My eyes can't do it. My attention-span can't do it. I used to throw myself headlong into series books, too.

I can't tell you how many Stephen King books I read. I'm as sad that I devoted brain cells to that as to the fact that I memorized NWA and Ice-T lyrics at the same time.

I'd like to read all of Arts of Dark and Light some day. Maybe I should get into audio books. Or save up for Lasik surgery. Great post, many great points.

Blogger Taqiyyotomist October 05, 2018 4:30 PM  

(And when I say I can only read online, I mean on a 40" monitor, three feet or less from my face. Either on the internet or with Kindle.)

Blogger Joseph Maroney October 05, 2018 4:33 PM  

My own experience with KU is that I used it to preview books to see if I wanted to buy them. I usually ended up not getting to them at all as I already have a backlog of books I've purchased.

Blogger freddie_mac October 05, 2018 4:38 PM  

@31 Riejun
I am a hybrid reader, physical copy for non-fiction and KU for fiction

Never got into KU, but I've got the ebooks for fiction. I've found that my retention is much better with physical books, so I still purchase physical copies of nonfiction. Fiction tho -- $5.99 is my upper limit, and I've got dozens of ebooks that I haven't read yet.

Blogger Lovekraft October 05, 2018 4:43 PM  

heatiste post on the Irish, ah the Irish and their fighting spirit. God bless 'em.

https://heartiste.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/the-prickly-mick/

Blogger Tars Tarkusz October 05, 2018 4:52 PM  

KU isn't great for customers either. About a year and a half ago I got KU for a month or two and it really wasn't worth it and I doubt it is worth it for most people. I think it has gotten better, but back then books I wanted to read weren't available. Nearly all of them were low-budget books. KU is bad for both customers and publishers. It wouldn't surprise me if most of the people signed up for KU aren't using it that much and so Amazon makes a lot of money, but everyone else suffers.

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella October 05, 2018 4:57 PM  

I don't do KU b/c I really prefer inexpensive ebooks. I like the innovations that happen at $2.99.

Having said that, a nook bricked, and I lost a whole set of books that I enjoyed a great deal. But I also lost boxes of books to a flood.

I want hardbounds that I can refer back to. I'm appreciative of the second-hand market that Amazon built.

I haven't ever downloaded outside of amazon or b&n, b/c I am that tech illiterate. Even downloading and dragging and wires looks too complicated for me, relative to simply clicking a button.

I would say: if you could sell from your publishing arm, maybe you could have a second-tier of books that you like a great deal, but don't publish yourself. A curated collection? Amanda Hocking had what looked like a book spinner widget on her sites that linked to goodreads. It had her books ,and books that she liked. There was sort of a taste level.

It's similar to the buyer who chooses books for Costco. I've learned not to trust the buyers for Barnes and Noble.

Blogger VD October 05, 2018 5:08 PM  

What about Arkhaven and Dark Legion? Will the comics be removed too?

No, KU works as effective advertising for them.

Blogger Joseph Maroney October 05, 2018 5:10 PM  

"It wouldn't surprise me if most of the people signed up for KU aren't using it that much and so Amazon makes a lot of money, but everyone else suffers."

I fully expect that to be the case. In the four months I had it, I would have been better off using the fee to buy a book.

Blogger Dirk Manly October 05, 2018 5:22 PM  

Really, KU should be for books that are in the public domain, and maybe short stories from authors to use as teasers to get readers to buy their full-length books.

Anything else is really financially suicidal in the long run.

Blogger pyrrhus October 05, 2018 5:35 PM  

KU represents the commoditization of literature...And commodities become cheap.

Blogger The Observer October 05, 2018 5:49 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger JaimeInTexas October 05, 2018 5:54 PM  

I go through cycles. There are times that I am Super Reader, maybe Uber. On the average I am not a heavy reader.
We home schooled for over 18 years and, a few years ago, we purged our library. Got rid of really good books but we do need space for living. We are probably need to do another purge but it will be difficult. I appreciate electronic form, especially for the fiction books.

Blogger Matthew October 05, 2018 5:55 PM  

The Overgrown Hobbit wrote:Will you continue with to offer print editions of your Young Adult market authors, particularly in November & December? Can we hope for more Rod Walker, for instance?

Yes. We are working on getting all three of his novels in print right now, in a smaller size much like a mass market paperback. Later we'll publish an omnibus in a larger size.

Blogger LonestarWhacko October 05, 2018 6:04 PM  

I tend to mil sci-fi and spaceoperas. KU has a bumpercrop. Mackey Chandler, for instance....the only reason I ever found out about him was a referral from KU. Great reading. Thing is, I read a lot. I went the 1/2 price paperback route for years.....but the selection was skimpy. The best authors don't mess with KU. I understand why. But the world is changing.

What happens as the pool of available money for top shelf books shrinks? Non-fiction and technical would probably do okay for a while. Most of the authors I read are fairly prolific. Kinda like the old Western dime novels. They fit in what I personally want to read.

What I've noticed over time is this.... apparently, there's some money to be made, as long as you are creative and prolific. Chandler said he made a decent amount of money, it he's above average, imo. Strong Libertarian streak.

I won't ever spend a lot of money on books anymore. KU works for me.

Blogger The Greay Man October 05, 2018 6:14 PM  

I hate to break a rule but, if NATE sees this, I left him a comment on his blog on the last post. Decided to reach out after a decade or so.

Thanks.

Blogger Ford Prefect October 05, 2018 6:19 PM  

I'm just a single data point, but I largely match the theory.

My reading is largely split between fiction and technical books. Mostly, I prefer ebooks for the technical side of things as they tend to be obsolete after about 5 years (literally cannot give them away). Yes, they are recyclable but it still seems like a waste of good trees. As for fiction, if I really like a book I will buy a printed version.

As I get older (double-nickels), I'm trying to reduce the size of my physical library in advance of the day I have to move into smaller quarters. eBooks are great for that.

Blogger VD October 05, 2018 6:30 PM  

I'm following Nick and Jason's approach and will quick-release my sci-fi series and trust the algo to push it. If I understand the process they Cole and Anspach use, it requires being in KDP. Is that your understanding too?

KDP is absolutely necessary. As we've learned, KU-based bestsellers don't translate outside of KU very well, which has serious implications for those authors down the road.

Blogger InformationMerchant October 05, 2018 6:33 PM  

Ok, KU for me in the last month:

I flipped through 6 books that I'd already read, just not on KU.

I read 9 books that I hadn't read before. Of those, I would probably have bought about half if money was no issue but I definitely wouldn't have bought 2 of them.

I read 18 comics (eCONomics counts as a comic for this). I had read some of them before, but I reread some of the Arkhaven ones three times.

------

The problem you have is, you only get paid if I read one of your books, so you want me to read your books. But if I can pay $15 and read everything you publish, you're not selling me much each month. Worse, I'm giving the $15 to Amazon and not to you. So I need to read a lot of your books each month for that $15 to actually get to you.

You're leaving the comics up there, which actually works out really well in my case as I doubt I'd buy Dark Legion comics, but I will buy print versions of collected Alt Hero comics and read them when they come out on KU.

Blogger VD October 05, 2018 6:34 PM  

Vox, regarding the long term strategy of building alternative infrastructure for publishing books, how does cutting out some of the authors, who may not be as great in quality but may develop over time, figure into this new plan?

We don't care. In the current environment, there is no reason for a publisher to attempt to develop a writer, because if they are successful in doing so, the writer will want to go off and do his own thing on Amazon.

It's better for the publisher to focus on developing content rather than writers because they can always hire from the pool of good writers who don't manage to become independent bestsellers.

Blogger VD October 05, 2018 6:37 PM  

Does this mean you'll finish the revised edition of SOS this Fall?

No. I will not. I'm going to finish Corporate Cancer and get that out. As it happens, we have a much more important book on which I need to focus.

Blogger God Emperor Memes October 05, 2018 7:14 PM  

Don't you use the Kindle app on your phone?

Blogger God Emperor Memes October 05, 2018 7:15 PM  

Yes but I ran out of space for shelving.

Blogger Brick Hardslab October 05, 2018 8:20 PM  

Vox what does this mean for a publisher to be successful he'll need a more paper and ink type of audience? Do you think Amazon weights recommendations and rankings towards ku offerings?

Blogger VD October 05, 2018 8:28 PM  

Yes. Yes.

Blogger Blume October 05, 2018 8:39 PM  

The super readers are 10 books or more a month.

This post is spot on for my reading habits. Having kindle unlimited means you already payed for books so you feel obligated to read what you paid for first and then buy more books. And having already spent a certain amount of your book budget you have less left over for other books.

Also as to Kindle Unlimited Best Selling Authors not translating outside the system, I think this mainly has to do with price point vs quality issues. Most of my KU reading is fun fast paced easy reading. They are essential pulps or the stereo type of pulp we have in our heads. So we are happy to pay pulp prices but not slick prices.

Blogger DJ | AMDG October 05, 2018 8:55 PM  

Netflix is down 15% from its July high. And Disney hasn’t even launched its TWO streaming services yet. Disney owns a crap ton of content and I bet they’ll have no problem selling subscriptions. Over time, as Netflix and the others lose exclusive use of content, owners will want there stuff on the Disney service. Watch as Disney charges content owners to place their product on the service AND take a share of the “rental” usage fees instead of paying content owners to host.

Blogger Austin Ballast October 05, 2018 9:27 PM  

And DVDs killed videocassette sales, while those have gotten hit hard by streaming services.

Progress happens.

Adjust.

The modern system of getting rich off of being an author has had a much shorter time cycle than most realize.

Too many expect art to pay for their life, under some compulsion. It also leads to the idiotic copyright rules we have now.

Blogger xavier October 05, 2018 10:07 PM  

Osprey offers a 25% discount when you buy the digital/paper title. That's something i'd be open too. But that would be for titles I really really want.
I wish the European publishers would adopt this approach instead of just foisting paper only titles.

xavier

Blogger J Van Stry October 05, 2018 10:55 PM  

My experience has been slightly different that yours I think. That is, at least in the last year. When a couple of authors (including one I knew) got banned by Amazon for no apparent reason (and one of them was making a healthy six figures a month and was in KU) I pulled everything out of KU immediately. I had a very long discussion with someone from senior management who assured me that Amazon had no problems with me, and wanted me back in KU.

I did eventually go back, after two months. What I found was, that income wise, it was pretty much a wash. I made less sales being out of KU, but as I was making a higher royalty rate, my income was pretty much constant before and after.
(Sales on other platforms during that time weren't worth talking about.)

During the time I was out, I was contacted, directly via email, by a lot of my fans who told me that they were on a fixed income and couldn't afford to spend more than the $10 a month they spent on KU. Or others that told me they read so many books that it wasn't affordable to them to spend more than that $10 a month.

So the decision to go back was primarily motivated by my fans asking me to. I admit that I was also motivated (to a lesser extent) by the extra advertising Amazon gives me for being in the KU program.

As long as Amazon doesn't go back to acting like idiots, I'll stay with it for now. Amazon has done a lot for me, and has had a very big hand in my current success, so again, I'll stay with them as long as they don't go off the tracks again.

Blogger LibertyPortraits October 05, 2018 11:21 PM  

Maybe but Robinson Crusoe definitely wouldnt.

Blogger Blume October 05, 2018 11:34 PM  

@ j Van Stry, are you talking about Michael Scott Earle? My friend noticed he got pulled down a couple months ago. I thought he got it fixed but even today I couldn't find him on Amazon.

Blogger justaguy October 05, 2018 11:37 PM  

I prefer to buy my ebooks with the forlorn hope that I will always be able to access them. I'm assuming that Amazon's longevity is greater then my own. BTW, I filled up way too many bookcases before Kindle came out, but quickly switched to ebooks. I like to read a book I haven't looked at for a decade or so and re-read it. KU doesn't give me that option.

Blogger Frank Lee October 05, 2018 11:51 PM  

Having followed the ebook market from the beginning, the numbered observations are another riff off the "Kindles are full!" panic about five years ago when self-publishers who wrote crappy books found out they couldn't sell them easily anymore. Along with a regurgitation of various "Amazon is destroying/commodifying/cheapening books” by: selling ebooks at all, selling too cheap, allowing self-publishing and now creating KU. Amazon is evil for lots of reasons, but the best writers are doing much better with Amazon around than without it.

Books aren’t commodities. Most people don’t buy simply the cheapest ones. If they want a particular author, and they have money, they will buy it. If they don’t have money, for decades and decades they could get books free at the library or for pennies in a discount bin. Free and cheap books are nothing new.

Readers come in more categories than those who read or don’t read a lot. The bigger differences that matter for ebook sales is their disposable income, tech savvy, and preferred genre.

I don’t read much, but I buy lots of ebooks just incase I might want to read them sometime. I make enough money that buying a (reasonably priced) ebook that might interest me later is cheaper than the time wasted in trying to remember and find it later. I like having a Kindle filled with a big library available to me if I’m on a long flight or whatever. The issue of too many books on my Kindle never comes up. Yes, I load it up with free books too, but that doesn’t stop me from buying more. I also have Kindle Unlimited, which I mostly use to check over ebooks before I buy them. (It’s also part of a larger Amazon package which includes Amazon Prime, so the cost is a minor issue.)

Case in point, I had vaguely heard of Vox Day from online arguments, mostly that he was evil incarnate. I finally got curious and found SWJ’s Always Lie on Amazon. I pulled it into KU (having to give up one of the other ten books I already had, but hadn’t read). I read the first couple chapters. It was great. So I quickly bought it and the sequel. Then deleted the first from KU so I had more space. KU isn’t a substitute to buying books for me. The 10 book limit is too restrictive. If I like a book, I’m very likely to buy a digital copy. I almost never buy hard copies of anything because I don’t like the clutter.

The people who pump through KU without buying are hard core genre fans, like romance or military sci-fi, or people on a tight budget who wouldn't be able to buy much if they didn't have the alternative.

Here’s my rewrite:

1. When Ebooks were introduced, people bought junk because it was new. They don’t anymore.

2. KU shows up. People with money sign up because what the fuck, it’s cheap. Hard core genre readers on tight budgets also sign up to save money.

3. Tech savvy nerds who don’t read much buy lots of ebooks because they have money. They don’t give a shit if their Kindle has too many.

4. Overall, the number of hours of reading books (as a percentage of the population) has been declining since movies were invented. TV, video games, internet made it worst. But Amazon and KU only encourage reading and buying.

5. KU has NOT caused a drop in overall ebook sales. Inconclusive evidence that it affects some genres or types of readers.

6. Nerds love the ephemeral nature of eBooks. Book snobs still like to buy print.

7. Readers have always been happy to spend money on things they really love, if they have money. They will trade up from paperbacks to hardbacks, leather bound, toys, etc and have since the printing press was invented. Nothing new here.

8. Like many subscription services, KU probably makes most of its money from people who don’t use it and are too lazy to cancel.

None of this is to say that KU is always a good option for publishers, as your own experience validates, Vox. But isn’t only used by heavy readers, and in many cases, like my own, it can lead to sales.

Blogger JRH, esq. October 06, 2018 12:09 AM  

Nice to hear from you, Mr. Van Stry, and glad you made your peace with KU. I plowed through your Portals to Eternity series on KU and really enjoyed them.

Blogger JRH, esq. October 06, 2018 12:17 AM  

Portals to Infinity I mean.

Blogger tublecane October 06, 2018 1:15 AM  

@64- Getting rich off being a writer was always a fluke. More used to be able to make a living, but for instance Scott Fitzgerald couldn't even be a novelist like he wanted but had to crank out short stories to eat. He was improvident, but still. Many famous names in the history of literature had day jobs.

If you're not a King or a Rowling or have some other source of income, more likely than not you're in New Grub Street territory.

Blogger Bob Loblaw October 06, 2018 2:00 AM  

VD wrote:One of the cultural contributions of CH is as a filter of really high quality fiction.

If anything, our filter should be even better than before. If there is something that is genuinely great and the author really wants to publish with us, we won't reject him. But we're talking John C. Wright/China Mieville quality work.


That's good. There are a whole lot of crappy books on Kindle.

Blogger James Dixon October 06, 2018 4:42 AM  

> No, KU works as effective advertising for them.

Good. The Arkhaven and Dark Legion releases alone make Kindle Unlimited worth keeping for me.

Blogger VD October 06, 2018 4:51 AM  

I had a very long discussion with someone from senior management who assured me that Amazon had no problems with me, and wanted me back in KU.

It's pretty simple. Your books are being favored by the A9. Ours are not. So it makes sense for you to be in KU, because you will sell well there. Ours are not, so it doesn't.

No one at Amazon has contacted me after I pulled even more books than that out of KU.

Blogger James Dixon October 06, 2018 5:11 AM  

> I prefer to buy my ebooks with the forlorn hope that I will always be able to access them.

There are ways to ensure that, but this isn't an appropriate place to talk about them. Search engines are your friend.

Blogger Corp Mgmt October 06, 2018 10:07 AM  

I read 8-10 a month on KU. I do KU->ebook or physical when I find value.

Vox - Is it possible to publish a 'teaser' version that only has 2-4 [select?] chapters, and advertise it as such on KU (or CH)?

The preview's available now are simply too short to get a feeling for the actual content/plot/writing. The first of a series works too, as long as we know going in that the rest cost $. Perhaps prequel novella/novelettes as a KU option.

Blogger VD October 06, 2018 10:25 AM  

Vox - Is it possible to publish a 'teaser' version that only has 2-4 [select?] chapters, and advertise it as such on KU (or CH)?

I thought of that, actually. I don't know what the rules are regarding that. Based on what I know of the KU crowd, that won't work. They'll just delete and move on to the next KU novel.

Blogger Corp Mgmt October 06, 2018 11:18 AM  

Thanks Vox. As a follow up and as an official member of that KU crowd, I'd question that generalization. I never know what 'next' is going to be. Until it is tried, who knows? Perhaps 'next' is another teaser (or 10)?

As long as I was warned in advance that the book is a sample or teaser and an effort to support the writer [because KU doesn't pay], I'd be just fine with that. I might buy an entire mil-sf series one at a time if I got hooked. Right now there is little need to.

The trick would be to set the expectations up front. Then it is OK to follow up with the "continue the exciting adventure at CH! [click here]" trailer. (Reminds me of the 1960's Batman series trailer! Same Bat-channel!)

Blogger James Dixon October 06, 2018 11:29 AM  

> Vox - Is it possible to publish a 'teaser' version that only has 2-4 [select?] chapters, and advertise it as such on KU (or CH)?

Amazon already has a Look Inside feature which allows that without the books being on Kindle Unlimited.

Blogger InformationMerchant October 06, 2018 12:26 PM  

Quantum Mortis gives a 3 chapter look inside.

https://amzn.to/2y6sikm

Blogger Nathan Housley October 06, 2018 6:58 PM  

"Is it possible to publish a 'teaser' version that only has 2-4 [select?] chapters, and advertise it as such on KU (or CH)? "

Tor did something similar for Sanderson's Wheel of Time books and Scalzi's Redshirts prior to the release of each. I think they even charged for one of them.

Blogger Taqiyyotomist October 06, 2018 10:53 PM  

I really do hope that something like (game geek here) Steam or GOG replaces both Amazon and Google for digital reading materials. Something completely apart from both.

Aside: I still use Amazon, because I have quite a library of both books and music, and I buy quite a bit through them, because there is no better choice. I buy the music on Amazon, I get the digitals, then I get the actual CD. Then I give the CD away. I still use Google for search. DDG just doesn't cut it -- Google is first result, every time. Then again DDG doesn't own YouTube, which is what half my Google searches are for.

I hope both go the way of AltaVista and Tripod, but I don't think that's going to happen, bar armageddon.

(Has Duck Duck Go gotten as good as Google in search?)

Vox. You pioneered Infogalactic. Castalia House et al.

A book platform? Oh, goodness.

Blogger Taqiyyotomist October 06, 2018 11:06 PM  

Sanderson did Wheel of Time? What? After Jordan kicked it?

I did not know that.

Blogger J Van Stry October 07, 2018 12:56 AM  

@68
Yes, I've been reading his stuff and talking to him for some time now. He's really a pretty cool guy.

Blogger Tlotsi October 09, 2018 5:20 PM  

Is Comixology killing digital comic books?

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