Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

About the Kindle, the Nook and Two Giants

I got a Kindle recently but must admit I'm not crazy about it. To me an ereader just doesn't compete with the sensory pleasure of holding a print book while reading in bed, preferably when buried under a down comforter. However, I'm enjoying using it for research. Another WiDo editor has a Nook and we're comparing notes on what books are successful where.

It appears that the indie authors who are doing incredibly well on the Kindle, like Amanda Hocking and John Locke, aren't bestsellers on the Nook. It appears that Amazon, as always, has positioned itself as a leader in the publishing and bookselling revolution, making the Kindle especially attractive to the self-published. While Barnes & Noble is pushing the offerings of the large publisher (just like in their brick and mortar stores) and  sort of "hiding" the self-published books. So basically they each have their niche that they established with print books some time ago, and are continuing in ebooks.

It's hard to see any ereader competing with either the Nook or the Kindle any time soon. There's the iPad, which is useful for so much else and somewhat heavy for reading. I like the size of the Kindle for reading and I have read a couple books on it. However, the iPad isn't designed just for reading and besides, one can also access the Kindle and Nook on the iPad. So there we go again-- the ebook wars seem to be between the two bookselling giants--Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I hate to see either of these behemoths getting a monopoly on ebook publishing and royalty rates. That could be bad news down the road for authors and publishers, especially if Amazon follows its pattern.

Amazon was very accepting of indie authors and small publishers when it first started selling print books, and a whole new world of possibilities opened up for those who had been shut out of the bookstores. But then Amazon's discounts and charges got steeper and steeper as to eat up any small profits made. Gradually as they became more well-known, you had to have your books listed there to get online sales. But you didn't make any money on those sales unless your little indie book became a blockbuster and you could justify a huge print run. (Like The Shack). Small digital press runs would kill you on Amazon sales. They still do.

This is what I don't want to see happen in ebooks-- Amazon taking greater and greater discounts and paying authors less in royalties while Barnes and Noble shuts out the self-published and small presses. That would simply be a reflection of their print book business models.

Now I'm no expert, but this is what I saw in the past decade with these two giants, and what I fear in the future for ebooks. Here's a couple warning signes to watch for: Amazon cutting its royalty rates. B & N putting the big publisher books front and center (similar to how those with deep pockets pay for front table space in the stores).

Not to rain on the happy indie ebook parade, but I'm just saying to be careful out there. We writers should be aware of the market yet avoid fads. Especially avoid rushing to self-publish at the expense of quality. And watch your back. There are giants lurking about.




35 comments:

  1. My book's available in all formats, but I'd have to ask my publisher which one sells best. Oh, and do you know the top three ways people read eBooks? The iPad/Apple products are third and right on the heels of the Kindle at number two, but number one is still the PC. Go figure.

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  2. I have a kindle and have read one book on it so far. I missed having the book in my hand and turning the pages. I think I will get my greatest use of the kindle when traveling. Will lighten up the handbag considerably.

    The big guys are always trying to cut the little guys due. It seems to be the case in all areas.

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  3. Ann, that's what I'm figuring. Traveling may change things but when I'm home, reading a print book is one of life's greatest pleasures.

    Alex, The PC? How interesting! I can't stand to read a book on my computer. Not for pleasure anyway. Editing is a different thing altogether. Another thing to watch is Apple really moving on this market. Altho I don't think people buy an iPad as a reader, if they already have it and love it, why not read on it as well? But to me, it feels too much like reading from my laptop.

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  4. Interesting post! In the UK, there's really no big competitor to Amazon at the moment, so it's good to hear what's happening in the States.

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  5. I agree with you about the iPad... I can't imagine reading a book on the same device I can access e-mail, and twitter, and facebook... I'd be horribly distracting.

    I too still like print books better. And suspect a lot of people feel that way.

    The whole put all your eggs in Amazon's basket scares me too... SP authors are handing over a lot of power to Amazona (a company that refuses to pay sales tax and has consistently looked to lower costs, and improve their own profit at the expense of others).

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  6. Interesting post, Karen. It's always good to hear your perspective for you're so often on target. Truth be told, when I got my Kindle it was with a rather negative attitude -- I'm only getting one 'cause I'm sick of lugging books on trips and woudn't forsake REAL books otherwise. Well, er, well, hmmm, I totally love the Kindle but still buy books to snuggle into the sofa with when I don't wanna snuggle with the Kindle. (Hmmm, sounds like I'm sleeping around, LOL!) I remember when Amazon launched. People thought it was a joke. Amazon ate huge losses for years. Very clever people at Amazon...apples are so nutritious...hmmm!

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  7. Giants are always scary.
    The little guy usually ends up paying. The print world is no better in Oz.

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  8. Thanks so much for this. I suspected ebooks weren't doing so well at B & N but hadn't heard any statistics. And you're right about Amazon becoming such a huge monopoly. That much power in one place is always dangerous.

    I'm glad to hear your assessment of the Kindle. Most people I know have had the same reaction--OK, but doesn't replace a book.

    And as for travel--a friend said her Kindle was a nightmare on her last trip. She has flying anxiety and at just the times she wanted to be buried in a book--take-off and landing-- passengers had to turn off electronic devices. She's taking paperbacks next time.

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  9. And watch your back. There are giants lurking about.

    Hilarious! And so true. It's imporatnt to watch yourself. Learn the market and what's the best option for you.

    I have a Kindle and though I love to put ebooks on it I still love my paperbacks more. Kindle is for the one's I'm not sure about and my ebook self published friends.

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  10. Thanks for sharing your research, Karen.

    I recently purchased a Kindle and wondered if I would like it because of the pleasure I've always derived from holding a physical book. Surprise, I've already gone through several books and read a home-state newspaper that I receive daily. I love the convenience of ordering books, also. (Ah, instant gratification.)

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  11. kind of makes you feel like David from the Bible. wonder what kind of "rock" it's going to take to bring down Goliath. or at least make him a little shorter.

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  12. I have a Kindle which I have enjoyed reading a lot, but I still read paperbacks too. I'm headed to Barnes & Noble tonight to purchase a Color Nook for our son's 18th birthday (he wants it), it will do more than be an ereader which is what he wants, plus it will hold documents and apps (he's headed to college this fall) and we can buy some of his textbooks for it.

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  13. This is an intersting post. I can see the print model happening for the ebook because its all a business and of course the big guys want the money. It's a shame. I'm hoping the micro-transactions of ebooks will keep it all viable for the little guys though. That is, they sell many for less. I won't pay over a certain amount for an ebook -- no matter how popular the author is.

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  14. I spit at all things kindles and ereaders! LOL!!!! I'm kidding!! I;d not say no if someone gave me this as a pressie but, no, not for me.!!!!!!!

    Sorry this comment's gone a little off topic to become a rant against the machine!!! Off I go to find some herb tea! take care
    x

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  15. Old Kitty, This comment made me LOL, haha, and especially the herb tea comment at the end. *chuckle snort* I was the same way until I decided it was necessary for my "research."

    Lynda, Not that making money is evil or anything, I mean business is business. But sheesh-- I'm just worried about Amazon and B & N monopolizing the ebook market and squeezing the writers and small publishers dry which is exactly what happened with the print model. Maybe I'm just tired of writers working so hard and then taking the shaft. Which makes me very happy for those SP's who got on board the Kindle at just the right time and are making a killing. I say, Hooray for all of you!

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  16. I find my kindle to be amazing when I am rocking my daughter or she falls asleep on me or something like that where I only have 1 hand available to hold the book. I also love the variety of books that I have access to with all the indie stuff I have been reading.

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  17. It took me a while to warm up to the Kindle. I'm a huge fan of print and I like flipping through the pages to reread a favorite part. When we went on vacation I was thrilled to have the Kindle along, though my husband and I both discovered that we prefer the iPad for reading for two reasons: it has its own built in light so you can read in the dark, and it makes no noise when you turn pages. The click on the Kindle drives my husband insane when I'm up reading and he's trying to sleep :P

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  18. Thanks for the warnings!
    And from the user reviews I've read about Kindles I think I wouldn't go for it if choosing an e-reader...

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  19. I haven't tried Kindle. I heard that it is easy to read.

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  20. Fascinating stuff. If they'd make a waterproof Kindle I could read in the bath I'd definitely get one!

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  21. Still no e-reader for me...and I'm off to the old fashioned library today!

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  22. Such great research! I'm a little nervous about the whole ereader future, but I have to agree that I love having a printed book in my hand. There's something about it that I love. =)

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  23. Great post! I don't have a Kindle, yet, but I am planning on buying one. The savings that it will provide will pay for the purchase, in a short time. I think that the affordability of ebooks, as opposed to printed books, is what is so appealing.

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  24. Thanks for the interesting post, Karen. I have nothing against ereaders. For some they are wonderfully convenient, but I'll always prefer hold-in-my-hand page turning books.

    *joins Old Kitty for a cup of tea*

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  25. Interesting insights. I'm really intrigued about how self-publishing and e-books are going to evolve in the next ten or so years.

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  26. I like my Nook. It's easier for me to read these days than a lot of the printed books. But I like to be able to easily "flip around" in a book. Sigh. I often feel like this isn't my world anymore. It's a jungle out there where book publishing is concerned.

    Thanks for commenting about my brother's death. I feel sad for me and my family because I was going to fly him out here to Virginia in October. He lived all his life in Salt Lake. He really want to go to Monticello. He was very excited about Thomas Jefferson. But at least he knew that I wanted to do this for him.

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  27. I have the I-Pad and I use it regularly along with all my pbs and hardbacks. I especially like it for taking in the car and in planes...works great in doctor offices, etc. I DON'T like reading on the computer. As a writer I look at all the options. One thing I'm noticing that is NOT discussed much...I see MEN reading on their telephones, not just short stuff but books. I eat out often and I people watch and I find this really interesting because men don't discuss this kind of think as much as women do.

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  28. this is a good summation of what's going on! :D I'm more sorry that Amazon is killing bookstores. I have a Kindle, and I'm adjusting. I just hate the thought of losing the bookstore experience. :o| <3

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  29. Thanks for the heads up on participating. Quick question. I know I can schedule ahead of time however, since I'll be on vacation until 4/10, how do I link up as I'm not bringing my laptop?...:)JP

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  30. Home in the Hollow, I guess you will have to do double duty of linking up with other bloggers when you get back. I would definitely let them know in advance however, so people understand why you aren't returning the favor when they are commenting on your posts and following your blog.

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  31. Yes. Like you, I also don't like having a few players on the field. It doesn't allow for other competition, and it can easily create a like it or lump it scenario, putting profit before fair payments to authors.

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  32. A lot of people comment on the "feel" of a book. I totally agree with that, ao it came as a huge surprise to me that I got over it so easily. What I miss is seeing new books in my bookshelf...

    I don't know if you recall my eReader post of a couple months ago. I reported that a manager at my local B&N told me that the company was in trouble.
    Did you know that B&N is now UP FOR SALE?

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  33. Pat, I was under the impression that B and N was also in Chap. 11 bankruptcy like Borders. I knew they were up for sale, since last year I believe. Still theyre doing pretty well with the Nook, getting on that bandwagon real fast unlike Borders which has their ereaderthat no one knows about.

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  34. This is an excellent post, Karen. I still don't have an e-reader. I certainly will never buy one. But If I win one, maybe I'll give it a go, but I can't ever imagine enjoying reading on a screen! I had no idea about the stuff between amazon and B&N. Hmm .. I should read more publishing news ...

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  35. I have a Kindle and I love it. If I love a book, I'll buy it in hardcopy so I can look at it on my bookshelf. *grins* Confession: I buy my hardcopies from Amazon most of the time. I should probably change my buying habits, as I love to wander through bookstores, I just don't have the time to get there.

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