You don’t need Paul Revere…

If we’re honest with ourselves, this is a train wreck we all saw coming years ago… just that nobody was honest enough to say it openly.

Specifically, I mean the news that Amazon Publishing titles took 15 spots in Top 20 Kindle Best-Sellers of 2017 http://bit.ly/2ABc7vv

Now that Amazon is every publisher’s largest customer by a big margin, what does this mean for our industry? What does it mean when publishers spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing and strategizing on how to optimize their sales on the Amazon platform, while Amazon is constantly shifting the way their platform works?

What does it mean when you look for an author or genre and the Amazon-published title comes up higher in the search results?

My publisher friends complain about the difficulty of their contract renegotiations with Amazon. Some suffer from PTSD triggered by recalling their experience.

And it’s not like Amazon has been doing these things secretly. There are no secret strategies. They told the world years ago they would be publishing in the most popular genres (and they know what’s most profitable by looking their sales figures).

They told us they would be translating popular foreign authors. They told us they are moving into other publishing markets like Education (schools & libraries).

They told us they are striving to optimize their buying and reading experience in both print and audio. They told us they will continue to innovate with different sales models, like print +digital bundling (matchbook), subscriptions and timed sales, other bundles and more.

Amazon has been openly telling the world their strategies because they know that the book publishing industry as a whole, and even individually, won’t do anything to stop their progress.

As Amazon continues to progress, it becomes increasingly difficult to find alternatives.

Is it game over? Not by a long shot. But let’s not fiddle while Rome is burning.
The time has come for innovative thinking and guerrilla marketing. The giant is strong and nimble but also has several weaknesses.

Let’s look for new initiatives and business channels that are not yet tapped. For example, let’s look for those companies who will NOT do business with Amazon and champion their efforts.

Sol Rosenberg is an industry consultant and pioneer in digital publishing. He is the acting CEO of 1World Content, Inc. a new initiative to bolster new markets for book distribution and sales.

Innovation is the Only Way to Increase Ebook Sales

Why Is Everybody Fiddlin’

by Sol Rosenberg 

Published at  Publishing Perspectives 

 Deja Vu hung thickly as I read the headline. “Again?” I asked. This time, it was PW with “Soft E-book Sales Underscore Down HBG Results,” coming on the heels of the PW article three day ago “Declining E-book Sales Hit Home.”

That makes three of big five reporting declining ebooks sales. Is this news?  Unfortunately, not so much. The stats and press articles have been reporting this neo-dramatic death march for far too long.

Prima facie, it makes little sense. While everybody and his brother has been getting a smartphone (68% according to Pew Research) and 2.6 billion (with a ‘b’) smartphones globally, while many people are juggling several devices and Pew says 45% of the population has a tablet, we have been nursing a flat (and now declining) ebook market for several years.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. Remember the good old days? In 2012 the LA times (among others) trumpeted “Ebook Sales almost doubled in 2012”  as everyone expected the party to continue.  A survey published in March 2013 projected “Almost Half of Americans Expect to Buy an eBook This Year.

Then, in mid 2013, we saw this from the Book Industry Study Group:

“Once thought destined to reach 50% or 80% of all book buying and reading in the U.S., ebooks have stalled out on their way up to higher altitude.. the share of all new ebooks sold — both in units and dollars — has been flat at about 30% and just under 15%, respectively.”

The news from there forward has been pretty much the same. Roughly 25-30% ebook penetration in the UK and the UK (in the consumer market, broadly speaking)

The declining sales headlines kept coming. There are too many to mention and you must have seen some of them, both in the publishing press and others. Not too long ago, for example, on March 3, 2015 TechCrunch ran this story: “Publisher Revenues Down As Ebook Buying Slows.”  and in October Goodereader “eBook sales plummet 10% in first six months of 2015.

And of course we come back to the two headlines this past week. What do the CEOs of these companies say? Reading their comments are an ode to PC-esque PR mamby-pandyness.“

In a conference call discussing the quarterly results, News chief executive Robert Thomson said the company is “watching closely” the softening e-book sales trend in the U.S.

In prepared remarks, HBG USA CEO Michael Pietsch said soft e-book sales in the quarter were somewhat offset by the “excellent performance of downloadable audio and our distribution business.”

“S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy said she is not too worried about the decline—yet” going on to say she did not blame the sales dip on higher prices and  “… she wouldn’t be surprised if e-book sales started to rise again.”

Really? So the answer is “Let’s keep doing the same thing”  and the market will magically reverse and grow?

So – why is the market declining? Why aren’t we even moving the needle a bit? The number of devices keep rising dramatically, people are spending many hours on their devices — and even reading (Remember the WSJ Article on the “Rise of Phone Reading” ) yet ebooks are declining?

There is, however one company who has been growing their market share. Headquartered in Seattle, you know to whom I’m referring. Especially when you look at the AuthorEarnings September report:

“So far in 2015, the AAP’s reports have charted a progressive decline in both ebook sales and overall revenue for the AAP’s member publishers.

During that same period in 2015, Amazon’s overall ebook sales have continued to grow in both unit and dollar terms, fueled by a strong shift in consumer ebook purchasing behavior away from traditionally-published ebooks and toward indie-published- and Amazon-imprint-published ebooks.”

Here is one of the informative graphics in the report: 

Summary

Perhaps we are left with more questions than answers.

Some things are clear.

1)     That company in Seattle seems to be growing. They also seem to be the ones innovating the most.

a)     They have a great sales experience.

b)     They sell under multiple business models, including:

i)          Subscription: Kindle Unlimited

ii)          Print + Digital Bundling: Kindle Matchbook

iii)          Free Pre-release books: KindleFirst (for Prime Members)

iv)          Lending Library (for Prime Members)

v)          used books, bundles and more…

Mike Shatzkin also alluded to this in several articles: “Book publishing — and book retailing — are no longer stand-alone businesses”

Obviously, things need to change.

We must find ways to innovate and grow our market. Actionable, tangible ways. Maybe even take a page out of what has made others, like Amazon successful.

Sol Rosenberg is the CEO of 1World Content, Inc. and a principal consultant for DDC. He has been a presence in digital content seemingly since the days of the abacus.  

The First Post

Everyone expect the first post to be genius. And why not? You had your entire life to think of one and all you’ve got is “Hello World?”

But seriously, folks – we all know we live in a world that keep changing fast.

What’s most challenging is that the pace of change keeps increasing. Just when you thought you might have things somewhat under control, then whhhuumpp!   here’s another development we didn’t see coming.

It might be a new technology, a merger, buyout, new product, alliance… almost every day brings this kind of news.

That’s where DDC can help. We are dedicated to making YOU, our client,  the newsmakers and making sure you stay ahead of the curve.

Not easy, but that’s where we specialize.