As promised in last week’s “News from the Self-Publishing World,” I’m going to take a closer look at the results of FutureBook‘s Digital Census of 2015 and break down just what the implications are for you and me, indie and self-published authors. FutureBook, an offshoot of the well-known institution, The Bookseller, is now in its fifth year and rapidly becoming a litmus test for the emergence of digital technologies and their assimilation into common usage across the developed world. The conference, which self-advertises as “bring[ing] together more than 50 speakers from across the media world for a day of reckoning, realisation and revivification,” may well come to guide these emergences as well as reflect upon them at some point in the future–it has become so important.
This year, according to the FutureBook, the five main takeaways from the conference are as follows:
1. Mobile overtakes tablets and dedicated e-readers as the device of choice […]
2. Digital sales are still growing, but they are also slowing […]
3. Self-love levels recede as many indie authors report lower satisfaction levels […]
4. Publishing remains very much divided on matters digital […]
5. … And the majority believe publishers remain unprepared for what is coming [….]
I’m going to take these points one at a time, break them down, and hopefully unpack the important details. Here’s what the final FutureBook publication says about mobile tablets and e-readers:
This little summary is, of course, useful in its own way for delineating the boundaries of the conversation at hand–a conversation in which self-publishing authors have a great vested interest. The stakes are high for those of us who depend upon ebook sales for our income, and so knowing where to focus our attentions (and, let’s face it, our money) is handy. (And as we have suspected for a while, we should be focusing on the Kindle Store as a marketplace although perhaps not on the Kindle as a piece of hardware. For more on that, take a look at my post on Kindles in the e-reader-related series I wrapped up last week.) But there’s an aspect of the conversation that this summary neglects: why.
Why are e-readers diminishing in appeal?
Is it something to do with a lack of novelty (they’ve been around for a while now), or because the function of reading ebooks can be better performed with other hardware (like the iPad or iPhone), or because of something else entirely? Reports from industry experts seem to suggest a little of all of the above. One TechRadar article cites “multifunctionality” and “age” as driving the market these days, with readers under 25 reading far more ebooks than the national average but doing so with the devices they’re always carrying with them anyway–their phones. This puts “a demographic bomb” under the e-reader, and as the devices’ primary user base ages out of the buying population, so too will the devices themselves. And this Christian Science Monitor article argues that the whole system has been “top-heavy” from the beginning, with only a handful of companies getting in on the e-reader market in the first place and therefore rendering it fragile and dependent on sales figures that can swing dramatically from one quarter to another. We can’t ignore those other voices, too–like this one from the Independent–that the act of turning a page on an ebook simply isn’t rich enough to edge out the superior experience of holding a print book in hand.
All this to say, we can’t afford to forget that any entry into the canon of Great Technologies can be supplanted by changes in market demands, ousted by demographic shifts, and displaced by some new shiny gadget. Remember that whole “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” expression? Well, it probably originated in the early 1700s, and we still eat eggs and put them in baskets today. By which I mean to say: some things remain the same, and some things change. It seems that what needs to stay the same is our dedication to adaptability in the rapidly changing world of self-publishing.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠
|ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.|