Monday, March 14, 2011

Ebook Apocalypse...

I was reading JA Konrath's blog the other day and came across something I thought might not actually be true. Konrath assumed (and he's said this before) that there is nowhere for his Kindle money-making power to go but up. The reasoning is that more Kindles are sold each day, adding to the number of potential readers, and, without too much of a leap, more actual readers/ebook buyers. This part sounds right.

But maybe I'm just a little too nervous. I see a potential problem. Assume that Kindles keep selling at an amazing rate. Assume they win the lion's share of the ereader market. Then wouldn't Amazon be smart to lower the royalty rate that they pay out to authors? And if every ereader were a Kindle (or if most were) then what could author's do but accept the new rate? And by offering a high rate now, Amazon encourages writers to flock to them (not exclusively... yet) even leaving behind the until recently coveted print contract.

And if Amazon does get the lion's share of the ereader market (once the dust has settled in a couple of years) it's not like there would be easy alternatives for writers. Unlike products put out by print publishers, the technology of ereaders is not compatible. If I have a Nook, I can't read a Kindle file (I'm guessing). So if I get a Kindle following (complete with groupies) and I don't like Kindle's new rules, it's not like I can just tell the fans to catch my next book on Nook or iPad. I mean would Joe Konrath be willing to tell Amazon to take a hike if they lowered his royalty rate from 70% to 40%? He might. I don't know Joe well. But he'd be losing a lot of readers. Most writers making as much money off of Amazon as Joe makes (or, to be real, even 10% of what he makes) would take the cut and still put up their wares for sale with Amazon. And if the royalty rate were cut to, say, 20%, how many writers could pass up making that number of sales?

Of course, my worst case scenario is for a future that's still a few years away and may never actually appear. Amazon may be fighting it out with the other ereaders for decades. In fact, the fight may never end as new technologies replace what's cutting edge today. I have a two year old daughter and I know for a fact that she won't be taking a Kindle to college.

It's probably nothing. Don't worry. Think of me as that man standing in the middle of the street screaming about pod people and drive on by, honking your horn. You're right to ignore me. I haven't slept in days...



Blogger JD Rhoades said...

I've thought of this as well, especially as e-self-pubbing becomes a bigger and bigger story and more aspiring writers flood the market.

There my come a day when the market collapses.

But that day is not today. Might as well get while the gettin's good.

March 14, 2011 11:26 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

I don't know that I fear the market collapsing as much as I fear that the people like Amazon and B&N will decide to take a larger share of the money and since they control the devices as well as the content it might be tricky for writers to fight back.

March 14, 2011 7:16 PM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

This was the crux of the argument I was having with Joe Konrath over the Amazon/McMillan war. If Amazon drives print out of the market (which is what Joe seemed to be cheering for) then they write the rules from then on. B & N's and the iPad create some competition, but we already have too much power in too few hands in publishing.

March 15, 2011 8:35 AM  

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