Ebook Revolution?

Ebook Revolution?

Ebook revolution? Not quite.


I meet and talk with a great number of up-and-coming writers, many of which believe the way forward is exclusively eBooks and the complete abandonment of print editions. 

There is an erroneous belief that there is no overhead or cost to eBooks and neither is there the need to actually sell them in person. This is an illusion at best and a lie at worst. At the end of the day, although these facts are in themselves true, what money might be saved on print will most definitely be consumed in necessary marketing. Otherwise, you're just one voice in a cyber-ocean of tens of millions screaming into the void. 

In tandem to this misinformation is the propaganda that print is dead and we are on the verge of a "paperless society," along with the rhetoric of print and paper being ecologically unhealthy, damaging and irresponsible.

The truths of this matter need to better be understood. (The paper industry (paper mills) put more trees in the ground than they remove.)

"Paperless devices" - during their manufacturing and end-of-life disposal - are an ecological blight. It is only with the use of creative accounting (in which we conveniently omit considering these electronic devices' manufacturing and disposal carbon footprint) can we arrive at their ecologically beneficial conclusions. 

We are being bamboozled on several fronts, by big corporations and capitalist governments. Until we begin moving towards the divorce of democracy and capitalism, we must ourselves be diligent and clear-minded free thinkers.... but that's another topic.

So, what brought us to this point? A decade ago, they had predicted the fall and decimation of books in print. They predicted 80% of all books would be electronic. Although eBooks are definitely here to stay and there is definitely a niche market, these doomsday predictions, like all apocalyptic cult’s forecasts, were blatantly wrong.

 Today the opposite stands truth, with 80% of books in print and only 20% as eBooks. So, what happened?

 This article touches upon many of these points and an interesting history.


Admittedly, I put little to no marketing effort into selling eBooks, and as 2019 wraps up, once again, I have concrete numbers to back this up. My eBook sales constitute only 2.8% of my total sales. And even if I were to double my marketing (and I realize there is not a direct 1:1 correlation between marketing and sales) and thus double my eBook sales, I would still be looking at approximately +/-5%. Clearly, eBooks are not the monster they were predicted to be. 

 So, what led to this?

 A surprising major demographic in eBooks are baby boomers (due to their failing vision and adjustable font size). 

 Contrary to what some local authors believe and state ("Millennials love their devices"), they are only half correct. Millennials and Gen-Z do not "love their devices", but love their social media. Not the same things. Their preference, apparently, are for printed books

Another unpredicted event was the cost of eBooks exceeding print editions (which very much surprised me!) and can ultimately be contributed to little more than greed from the big eBook publishers: an industry that is becoming more and more consolidated. Fewer and fewer companies are buying up more and more of the market share. Thus, ultimately heading towards a monopoly. (But this could actually be good news for the Indie-author).

 When earlier e-readers cost somewhere around the $400 mark, it made eBooks significantly less palatable. eBook publishers often discounted their eBooks by 20% of the cost of a hardcover to combat this. However, post 2009, these eBook publishers changed their minds. (And why would they base their math off a hardcover price as opposed to a paperback price? Seems somewhat artificial and arbitrary. Or should I just say creative math to justify greed?)

When Pronouns (a multiplatform distributor) were forced to close, Amazon offered - on the condition of keeping one's titles exclusively on Kindle - to maintain all that eBook’s ratings and reviews. Otherwise, they would all be lost. Not the nicest of options and somewhat predatory. Definitely not supportive of the Indie-author Recently (as I personally use Draft-2-Digital in lieu of Pronoun) due to policy changes, Amazon once again changed their policy to forbid 3rd party distribution platforms. Again, an attempt to make life difficult for the indie-author.  

Although these are underhanded business practices, they betray the concern the big eBook publishers have. They fear the rise of the indie-author and are putting concerted effort against them. Ultimately, it's a round world. What the big print publishers of yesteryear did to the retail book stores, have been done to them by the big eBook publishers.

Although all of my books are available in eBooks, I am no fan of Amazon. I see eBook availability as a necessary evil, contrary to many who focus exclusively on the electronic market. I see many up and coming indie-authors use Amazon to get their print editions as well. Their price models are somewhat of a scam. Although their per unit costs sounds good, the author is thoroughly screwed once their delivery fees come into play. 

So, what does the future of books, eBooks, publishing, and authors look like? I believe this is a pivotal question, because ultimately, I believe we hold this answer. 

What do YOU want to do?

What does YOUR literary landscape look like?

This article is a reprint. (c) Copyright 2019 Courtesy of Michel Weatherall.

Michel Weatherall

Michel is a Canadian novelist and poet nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize for Poetry and Faces Magazine Ottawa 2019.
Link to Broken Key Publishing


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