Monday, January 30, 2012

Will the e book bubble burst?

Ed here: That very good writer Harry Shannon found this article in the Guardian UK and linked to it. You've heard of the housing bubble? Will there be an e book bubble? This is long but well worth reading.

The self-epublishing bubble
In August 2011, Ewan Morrison published an article entitled Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?. Here, he tracks the self-

Ewan Morrison, Monday 30 January 2012 06.08 EST

Unlikely to last very long ... a bubble rises. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
The internet is full of ironies. I, for one, could never have guessed that writing about the end of books would generate more income for me than actually publishing the damn things. I've been on an End of Books reading tour since August and it turns out that what the internet gurus say about consumers being more willing to pay for events, speeches and gigs, rather than buying cultural objects, is now becoming true.

At the other end of the political spectrum from me, among the epublishing enthusiasts and digital fundamentalists, similar ironies are playing out: there is now a boom industry in "How to get rich writing ebooks" manuals, as well as a multitude of blogs offering tips and services, and a new breed of specialists who'll charge you anything from $37 to $149 to get your ebook into shape.

This all seems like a repeat of the boom in get-rich-quick manuals and "specialists" that appeared around blogs and etrading. Did anyone actually get rich from writing blogs, you may ask? Well, according to Jaron Lanier (author of You are not a Gadget) there are only a handful of people in the world who can prove that they make a living from blogging: it's entirely possible that more money was made by those who wrote and sold the how-to manuals than by the bloggers themselves. But who cares, right? It's all part of the euphoria of digital change, and technological innovation is as unstoppable a force as fate. Reports show that paper book sales are "tanking" – down a massive 54.3% while ebook sales are up triumphantly by 138%. The revolution will be epublished, and we're all going to be part of it.

All of this ebook talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars, conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers' union which, until recently, was largely against epublication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing (I've personally been asked to speak about it on 12 occasions since August). Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own ebook, and according to the New York Times "81% of people feel they have a book in them ... And should write it"


Peter L. Winkler said...

The article is filled with illogic and faulty assumptions and disregards reality. Morrison argues that because some writers give their ebooks away to generate interest, trad publishers will have to race to the bottom by eventually lowering the prices of their ebooks to the point where they won't be able to pay authors anything.

Where has this guy been? There are plenty of garage bands giving away free MP3s, but plenty of people are paying for them at iTunes and elsewhere. Not one major record company was put out of business by the shift from music recorded on physical media to digital files.

I could say a lot more, but it's already been covered well by a number of the commenters to the article.

Peter L. Winkler said...

This is an insightful analysis:

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