When Books Become Services
Books were once strictly goods—and valuable ones at that, with many considered worthy of inheritance. Now that they download to screens of all sizes, consumers are starting to view books as more of a service, a shift akin to the one that music and movies have seen.
As they enter the service industry, books are naturally expected to be more consumer-oriented, whether in terms of price, availability, accessibility, or even content.
The fluctuating value of ebooks is partly because self-published books are sometimes free, and partly because Amazon, Apple, and the big publishing houses have been fighting price wars, sometimes with government intervention. The price of an ebook now hovers around $8. Although authors receive a larger percentage of an ebook’s sale (generally 25 percent, as compared with 10 to 15 percent from physical books), because of ebooks’ lower prices, authors actually end up faring far worse and publishers much better—thanks to their reduced manufacturing and distribution costs.
With most services volume helps to make up for this discrepancy in earnings, but with writing books it’s often not possible to significantly reduce time to market. Unless writers are self-published, their agents, editors, and publishers, and the varied demands of ebook delivery systems, stand between them and their readers. Additionally, authors are competing on platforms such as tablets and phones that have constantly replenishing sources of content.
Non-ebook content often has a wider audience because of its ease of sharing. Paywalls notwithstanding, it’s far easier to share content from an online magazine than from ebooks. There’s no easy solution to this. Google Books met resistance—and lawsuits—with its effort to let readers flip through books within their browsers. And copyright protections stand in the way of lending ebooks. Even highlighting favorite content and adding notes is limited to the audience on the same platform on which an ebook was purchased.
“Non-ebook content often has a wider audience because of its ease of sharing.”
Ebooks might soon give readers more of a say in the reading experience, however. Some authors have started crowdsourcing essential elements like plots and characters. In fact, serial novelist Charles Dickens used to gauge the reaction to his chapters and change future ones in accordance with popular wishes.
Dickens and his audience might just be the test cases for the evolving relationships between readers, writers, and the mediums in which they meet. Rather than publish his novels in their entirety, Dickens catered to his audience of newspaper lovers by dividing many of his works (including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and others) into monthly serials. To be successful in a world of ebooks, authors might find more success in measuring themselves not against Dickens’ literary skill, but rather his business savvy.
@jiff01read an article from PC Magazine | Jun-13