While Book Wars doesn’t quite hit the mark for a full post pulling out the relevant take aways, I did want to highlight a few things.
eBooks Didn’t Kill Print
One of the biggest takeaways is that ebooks didn’t kill print like many people thought it would. Unlike music, which ate the recording industry particularly through iTunes (now Apple Music) ebooks saw a steep rise then levelling off in popularity. Ebooks still make up lots of sales in the Romance and a few other categories, but it’s nowhere near eclipsing physical books. In fact after their initial rise, ebooks declined in many categories.
This mimics my interest in ebooks. I was an early adopter of the Kindle in Canada (ordering from the US) but after a few years I went back to reading mostly print. I still have a Kindle and find it excellent when travelling, but I don’t travel much so I read the books I own.
Amazon is a Powerhouse
Unsuprisingly, Amazon is a powerhouse in the publishing industry with many small publishers crediting over 50% of their sales to Amazon1. Amazon not only holds much power over the publishers, it holds power over all of self-publishing with it’s different programs that allow authors to put their own works up without needing to interact with mainstream publishers at all.
I’ve benefited from this in that I’ve written and released numerous books via Amazon and continue to earn income from them.
My biggest issue with Amazon is how bad they are for employees and for much of your local economy. At the same time, I purchase stuff there all the time and love the fast shiping and generous return policies.
To fix this we need to see more competition for Amazon. Unfortunately under US anti-trust regulations, we’re more concerned that consumers get a low price so as long as Amazon is giving us low prices we’re likely stuck with them.
Content vs Consumer Data
One big turn in the industry that caught the publishers out was the benefit of consumer data collection. Amazon knows what books you searched for and can market them to you. Until recently publishers didn’t have that data at all and viewed their relationship as one where the book retailers were the customer and not the readers.
This change in data collection as value also sees many social media companies at odds with publishers. Publishers want to have a sustainable economy for the creation of words so that they continue to have a product2. Social media doesn’t count content as the product, you and your data is the product they’re selling to advertisers. Thus they want to drive the cost of the product (your content) as low as possible. This means pits publishers against them because without writers publishers have nothing to sell.
Reading Isn’t Dead, Attention is Dead
While many people say the book and reading is dead, it’s not, what’s dead is our attention. When we look at emails, tweets, posts….we read lots every day. We have lots of time to read, it’s just that the book is a form of reading that requires singular focus.
People say they don’t have time to read but it’s just not true. The average person today reads more words per day than ever before. If you add up all the emails, Instagram comments, texts, tweets, and news articles you read on a daily basis, you’re actually reading the equivalent of a 200-page book each day. – Neil Pasricha3
In the face of such a frenetic pace of life, with messages flying at us, reading a book is a refutation of that life. It lets us slow down and say no to the frenetic pace4 by getting us to focus on a single item for hours or days.