toccon-bug.gif2001 ebook devices, 3 to 7 million in sales, Industry Standard.

Kindle estimated sold about 2 million total.

What went wrong:

Not enough books available. Expensive and tepid publisher involvement.

Prices were too high

High prices, too few titles, no one wants to invest in a device.

Usage patterns : Since they won’t buy a device, let’s put it on stuff they do use. PCs, PDA’s.

Not enough periodicals—didn’t want to make compromises on quality, advertising doesn’t work the same, competition from free websites.

Marketing. The challenge: For consumers books aren’t broken.The most successful free publisher online: is Yahoo. Yahoo publisher the equivalent of the national newspaper.

What does that mean for today?

Short stories. Needed, an itunes for short fiction. Including micropayment.

Subscribe to an author: Next ten short stories for $10.

“There are actually a bunch of authors I would subscribe to proactively on that basis and I think a lot of other people would too.”

The backlist:

“It’s really frustrating as somebody who reads a lot of fiction that I can’t get that stuff…It just shouldn’t’ be happening, we should be making that stuff available electronically.”

Phantom value—when you convince yourself that the consumer values something because that’s what you’re selling.

Questions for publishers:

1. How much reader-visible value does our editing add?

2. How much demand generation do we really do?

“Be brutally honest with yourself about what you’re really doing there.”

Could people laid off contract with authors independently.

3. Do readers value our brand (vs. the author)

4. Will print books go away?

At what point does an author make more money by going electronic only?

When about 25% of book buyers have e-reader devices book publishing will change dramatically.
Penetration about 2 to 3 percent of the population.

The iPad brings the tipping point closer.

Competition between Amazon and Apple brings it closer

If ebook prices go up, the tipping point gets closer—more financial incentive to go electronic only.

But—shouldn’t assume that pricing is stable.

The big change will happen later, but will move faster than you expect.

Profound opportunities in short content and backlist.

Should rethinking the periodical.

“It’s not enough to be relevant, they have to know about it.

“To me the model is the iPad, not the Kindle” Devices you can do other stuff on.


  1. Not sure I agree with what went wrong back then. What about Whisper-net? I think this is the one thing Amazon did right the the earlier eReaders (including Sony) didn’t. Of course it helped that Amazon is big enough to beat up on the publishers to get them to go electronic, but publishers, for the most part, have been going that way anyway.

    I agree that the backlist is a critical factor in the eBook world. So far this month, 90% of my sales are back-list. What this means for authors is that sales can grow, word-of-mouth can work (in the world of paper, by the time word of mouth gets around, the book is off the shelf).

    Yes, it’s always a good idea for publishers (and anyone) to question whether they add value or whether we’re just working hard. I think the answer is yes.

    Rob Preece

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