October 8, 2011

Horace Dediu’s Asymco blog does an exemplary job of tracking the technology industry with what he calls “curated market intelligence.”
Recently, he’s had a series of articles comparing iTunes download rates for various media (songs, apps and iBooks). So far, his stats have shown iBook downloads fairly far down the stack. Pretty discouraging if, like me, you’re waiting for a new publishing model to help you revive an old book.

  • Download rates for iBooks are quite low (full article), with apps even more valuable than songs.
  • The log scale trendline, while more encouraging, shows that songs are 10x more downloaded than books, while apps are 10x more downloaded than songs (full article).

Given what we already know — that the publishing industry is in considerable flux, with some distributors closing down their brick and mortar stores, and new publishing models trickling in (especially for eBooks) — this author wonders:
What difference will the Kindle Fire and the new touch-enabled Kindles make on the overall book publishing ecosystem?
I’m not talking about the impact of “iOS vs. Android” or whatever other tablet competition you prefer. From an author’s thoroughly selfish point of view, having multiple entry points to your work is a huge bonus. Amazon’s offer just got better. They now have traditional printed book sales, PLUS four devices, all optimized for accessing their bookstore. And one of them (Fire) is moving toward becoming a more general purpose device.
The big question is whether consumers will actually buy the new models. At their price points, I’m betting there will be lots of Kindle’s under the Christmas tree. More than a few will be the new Fire, if only because it has the promise of being an iPad, without the cost [1]. My view is that it’s a quite different device, more a 21st century version of the Sears catalog than anything else. Amazon doubtless aims to drive business AND get boatloads of (aggregated) data about our purchases.
But there’s something else going on here… something of personal interest if you’re an author. Amazon’s free “Author Central” service provides another way to promote your body of work. Amazon also has some Publishing Programs that make it easy to submit your work and have it converted to the Kindle format, especially if you’re comfortable letting their servers do all the conversion. If not, you can always pay somebody.
Clearly, Amazon is positioning itself as the distribution AND publishing hub for new book formats. Barring any Facebook-style privacy meltdowns, it’s a good thing. If you’re an author. But stay posted. The full story is still emerging.
[1] Anecdotally, my nephew is getting a Kindle Fire for that very reason. He tells me it’s for his school-aged kids, as well as a bulwark against more iTunes purchases. Good luck on that last one, buddy.

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