Just thought I’d run though some of the top thing happening in e-books and publishing lately.
First, most of us have probably heard about Amazon acquiring Goodreads. Comments have of course been all over the place.
Will Amazon clean up some of Goodreads’ excesses, like the Author Behaving Badly group pack attacks? Well, they haven’t done so well at policing their own backyard, so that’s unlikely.
Will they close off links or references to other booksellers’ websites? Well I’m not sure about links – they claim there will be no change, but that’s hard to believe – but Amazon doesn’t seem to care about referencing other sites on their forums, where we discuss B&N or Kobo or Smashwords all the time. And I imagine there will be no more direct-selling of ebooks through the site itself; that will probably all go through Amazon. One wonders about the giveaways – will that policy change? Personally I think limiting book giveaways to phyisical copies is a good thing, narrowing down the playing field a bit to those who are serious enough to do it rather than just give away more freebie ebooks.
The big question is, what will Amazon actually do with the site? Will it turn into just another place for Amazon to advertise? It certainly seems like the conflict of interest will hurt Goodreads’ independence and credibility, even if no positive control is exerted. Simply being owned by Amazon will cause those in charge of GR to second-guess themselves when, for example, criticizing Amazon.
One positive thing seems to be the GR Kindle app that Otis refers to in his press release. (Of course, one positive thing for Otis and Elizabeth will be millions of dollars, but that’s another story). However, this closes off the possibility of a GR app for other readers, which is not so positive.
The biggest effect on things will probably be that so-called book discovery in the American market and a lot of the wide English-speaking market will now be controlled largely by Amazon. If you want to find a new book in a genre you like, or check reviews, odds are you will end up on GR or AZ, which will now be under the same roof. This expands AZ’s power over the market to confer its blessing and favor on certain authors an books. One wonders if there won’t be more enticements and coercives along the lines of KDP Select that will make it more and more likely that the route to discovery will most often be through AZ, or else.
—added later: a great blog post by Hugh Howey on this topic: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/3938810-amazon-and-goodreads?utm_medium=email&utm_source=author_blog_post_digest
Here’s an article where one line in particular caught my eye: “My goals in years past have been to clean up metadata and cover art, complete missing series runs and prune out the freebies I really didn’t ever plan to read.“
Proof positive, if anecdotal, that freebies have little value. People download them and don’t read them – or even “really plan to” read them. Then why do they download them? For the same reason you pick up a cheap keychain at a convention, then end up tossing it in your geegaw drawer and then throwing it away ten years later. It’s only useful if you actually work your way through the better ones you already have.
Another indication of this principle of perceived value of freebies is some Goodreads reviews/rating I have seen, where the reviewer tagged the book with “freebie,” presumably before they read it (but who knows.) The very fact that someone records the price they paid for a book in their digital shelving system means to me that they will probably ascribe it lower value than one which they paid, regardless of the quanlity of the book itself. So they are more likely to read a more expensive book, and less likely to read a less expensive book – and which one are they most likey to review? I’d say the one they have something invested in.
Beyond that, this is a very good article for authors to read because it shows you how a reader gets rid of books when there are too many. If you as an author want your book to be read, take heed to how this reader chooses what NOT to read; take note of how she decides what is not worth keeping among the excess of digital content she has. With too many books out there now, readers will become more discriminating (by their own subjective measures) and you as an author don’t want to be one she cuts!
Here’s another take on the piracy issue, which give a pretty good perspective: http://boingboing.net/2013/03/20/is-it-worth-spending-half-your.html
The question in my mind is one of practicality. Okay, piracy seems to be bad – though there have been some interesting experiments using piracy to promote one’s book, kind a guerilla-marketing super-KDP Select. That aside, the real question is, what’s the cost-benefit analysis?
If you as an author spend much time fighting piracy, you are probably not getting the most benefit from your time. Think of it like a store fighting shoplifting. If they spend so much doing so the use more money than they lose, that’s foolish. Also, those efforts may drive away customers, if they are intrusive and annoying.
Personally I don’t worry much about piracy. I’ll ask the semi-legit sites to block links to my books, because of the principle of the thing and also because I do believe in steering casual thieves – those who go to Amazon, see a book they want, and then look for a pirate site to get it for free – either toward the dangerous pirate sites, or toward a legit sale.
Why toward a dangerous site? Personally I think the dangerous pirates – those who load malware along with the freebie, or those who try to steal credit card info – are doing me a big favor. I want the casual thief to get his fingers burned, in the same way that I hope a burglar coming into my house falls and breaks his leg. I don’t want the average more-or-less law-abiding citizen to think theft comes at no price.
But I’m not going to waste a lot of my time or money on it, either.
Cheers on this Good Friday.