Demystifying the Digital Census : E-Readers are OUT, Mobile is IN

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.

futurebook

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:

futurebook

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 selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT 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.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part V––iPads )

I started off this series by examining the Kindle, and then the NOOK, and then the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  This week, I’m going to take a (quick) look at the whole suite of Apple products that have by and large eroded any hold the dedicated e-reader held over the general reading public.  I’m talking about the computers you carry around in your pockets and backpacks, the mobile forward operating bases and command centers of your life, the little devices that have had a big impact on how we interpret our lives and arrange our days: the iPhone and the iPad.  Apple manufactures laptops, too, though making room for more traditional computers in this conversation might lengthen it to a mere century or two in length.  You might say that I could “talk for hours” about the changing role of the home or personal computer in everyday life.  I’m just going to allude to the fact that you can use an Apple Air or its predecessors to read e-books, using the same apps you might use on your mobile device.

It’s possible. It’s just that a laptop tends to not be the preferred device for most consumers who own more than one kind of Apple device.  And there are a lot of people who own multiple Apple devices.  In 2012, USA Today reported that roughly half of American households had at least one Apple product.  And the numbers didn’t end there; the article also stated that: “Americans don’t stop with just one device. Homes that own least one Apple, own an average of three. Overall, the average household has 1.6 Apple devices, with almost one-quarter planning to buy at least one more in the next year.”  And that was in 2012!  And when it comes to the iPad specifically, there’s even more reason to be hopeful: according to a report from the Stamford Advocate (drawing upon a longer piece for the Business Insider)  that’s so hot off the press it might smudge if you even look at it, Apple Inc just reported its quarterly earnings and the outlook for iPads remains good, despite a slight decline in total global tablet sales.  The Stamford Advocate’s Jay Yarow records Apple’s CEO Tim Cook as saying: “70% of people planning to buy a tablet plan to buy an iPad, per [a] ChangeWave survey.”  Seventy percent!  And that’s on top of the 200+ million units sold prior to 2014.  So, in summary … there are a lot of iPads out there, and there will be plenty more, as Apple continues to dominate the tablet market.

steve jobs with ipad

But what does this mean for you as an indie, hybrid, or self-publishing author?  Do people really use iPads the way they would use dedicated e-readers like Kindles and NOOKs?  As illustrated by this article for PC Magazine, the matter of what constitutes a dedicated e-reader and how it’s different from a tablet like the iPad has grown steadily more confusing.  Everyone more or less admits that they like the look and feel of the dedicated devices (which eschew backlighting, making for a more comfortable experience) but they are more likely to purchase a tablet like the iPad because of its versatility.  An iPad can simply do more, the general opinion runs, even though many devices like the new Kindle have a whole suite of apps a la tablet, and many tablets (including the iPad) have Kindle apps to sync a person’s reading experience via the Cloud.

In theory, it would be entirely possible to own a Kindle, an iPhone, an iPad, and a Macbook laptop, and move seamlessly from one device to another, picking up on one where you left off on the other––including if you happen to be listening to an audiobook version on your iPhone and use the WhisperSync function.  WhisperSync means you no longer have to worry about trying to find your place, even if you’re switching back and forth between reading and listening to a given book.  (Have I mentioned that I “nerd out” over technological innovations like this?  Ones that actually make life easier?  I do.  Often.)

So, yes, people really do use their iPads as their primary reading devices, in part because they’re so easily integrated into a larger “reading experience” as designed and made possible by Apple’s entire product line.  And because the iPad runs on an app-based (or “application-based”) operating system, you as an author need to know how best to make your books discoverable to the average iPad user.  Consider this list by ZDNet of top ebook apps as downloadable through the App Store:

  1. iBooks (Apple’s own signature e-reading app)
  2. Amazon’s Kindle app
  3. Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Library app
  4. The Kobo Books app
  5. The Google Play Books for iPad app
  6. The Bluefire Reader for iPad app

… and it’s worth noting, before even discussing the pros and cons of each app, that all of these apps are downloadable for free through the App Store, even if the content for them must be subscribed to, purchased, or loaned (in the case of both Bluefire and the Overdrive Media Console app, which are favorites of many public libraries which offer downloadable ebooks in addition to their physical lending collections).  Books with half a century under their belts are (for the most part) available under Public Domain, and many of these classics are available for free in a variety of formats.

Now, don’t get me wrong, but even while all of this is great news for readers, it doesn’t necessarily make for light work for you, the indie author.  Why?  Because, with so many reading app options easily available on the iPad, the chances of readers discovering your work diminishes with every app your book is not available through.  Not to mention, you probably want to make a profit, so a library’s free ebook loaning system doesn’t benefit your bottom line at all––unless readers run out of time and end up purchasing a copy in order to finish (which does, on occasion, happen).  In summary, it’s a good idea to cover all of your bases and not just the “big three” of ebook sales (Amazon, Apple, and B&N).  Google Play has been on the uptick ever since its creation as the primary sales conduit to devices running Android operating systems, but now it’s emerging as a contender for iPad owners as well, after the development of an attractive and intuitive app for iPads.  The Kobo Books app and the Adobe Reader app should also be kept in mind––many readers enjoy the streamlined experience of opening .PDF files with the Adobe Reader app, so you should not rule out offering a .PDF download of your book through some online retailer or your own personal website.  Basically, the more places a reader is likely to see your book, coupled with more ways and editions and formats in which it can be downloaded, the more likely that reader is to spend hard-earned currency on purchasing your book.  Balancing expense (of time, energy, and money) against discoverability is, perhaps, one of the trickiest of self-marketing arts that you must master––but you’re not alone.  We’re here to help, and to be a sounding board for your own strategic plan!

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 selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT 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.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part III )

Did you know that Barnes & Noble sells an e-reader?  If you haven’t stopped by one of their brick and mortar stores in the last few years, you might never have known.  This is because the tablet in question never quite got the sales momentum that its primary rivals, the Kindle and the iPad, had automatically built in.  (More on that in a moment.)  And the NOOK, as Barnes & Noble has dubbed their creation, already seems to be on the way out.  I stopped by a Barnes & Noble while driving through central Montana, and … gone are the enormous beautiful displays, the wide sweeps of banners and posters emblazened with larger-than-life-size images of the tablet, its logo, and cheery recommendations on what ebook to read next.  It looks as though we’re back to basics when it comes to our favorite (by default, since it’s our only) big brick and mortar bookstore!

But what about the NOOK?  Should you as an author care about the rise and fall of this non-gargantuan piece of technology?  The short answer is yes.  The reasons why can never quite be summarized as a “short answer,” but I’ll do my best to stick to the important bits.

William Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble, holds up the new Nook Tablet at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York

The first NOOK was launched in October 2009, almost exactly six years ago.  By 2011, the NOOK had captured approximately 13.4% of the total global market share for e-reading devices.  But as 

The NOOK store still does brisk business.  This is in part because readers still love a good physical book in hand, and B&N is now the only large remaining bookseller, and therefore it has both a solid built-in captive audience for its internal promotions.  It may also be attributable in part to the parent company’s deft hand at package deals and perqs.  (If you bring your NOOK into a B&N store, you have free access to their entire ebook collection while there!  Who knew?  Not me, until I started researching for this blog post!)  Here are the numbers according to number-crunching website Statista.com:

NOOK sales according to Statista

As you can see, NOOK sales are certainly, shall we say, “plunging.”  But Statista still reports approximately $263.8 million dollars in sales for 2015 to date, and that’s not an insignificant percentage of the total ebook market.  The real concern, for you as an indie or self-published author, is whether any of those sales translate into profits for authors outside of the traditional Big Five publishing houses.  And that data simply isn’t available, though anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the NOOK store is not the most profitable place to publish your ebook.  Which is not to say that it’s not a worthwhile place … however, it’s far more likely you’ll connect with a greater number of new readers through the Amazon Kindle store or through Apple’s iTunes/iBooks interface.  This is because most search engines and indexing algorithms will promote results in these two digital stores over that of Barnes & Noble, for whatever reason (and there may be several reasons, some shady and some legitimate, and some mere rumors).  And although Kindle sales have fallen and tablet sales seem to have plateaued across the entire global market, Amazon and Apple have both proven innovative and flexible enough to roll with the punches, and their devices have held up better to changing market demands.

Half of your job as a self-published author is to tackle matters of self-promotion and marketing with the business acumen of an entire PR department and the ruthlessness of a CEO.  Is a strategy proving ineffective?  On the chopping block it goes.  Is one particular edition of your book not selling?  Out the window, sayonara.  Is a social media platform or blogging interface sucking up more of your time than seems worthwhile when balanced against outreach to new readers?  It may be time to refocus.  This is why it’s so vital that you know what’s going on with the NOOK before you decide whether or not you want to pay a hybrid publishing company to publish or spend hours of your own time agonizing over the creation of an ebook edition to sell on the NOOK Store.  If your book is already moderately successful, you may find that it helps round out your total bundle of offerings.  But if you’re just starting out and you don’t have much of a budget, you may want to stick with options that are guaranteed failsafes.

Don’t despair for the NOOK.  Just don’t be sucked into thinking that, just because Barnes & Noble has been around a long time (and now enjoys a certain kind of monopoly over the physical bookstore market), readers will pay back your investment in the NOOK store with any kind of enthusiasm.  As the ebook and ereader markets mature, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: more iterations of the same device will not equate to more ebooks sold and read.  In fact, readers are turning back in droves to the physical book … and that’s not such a bad thing, in the long run.

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 selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT 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.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide (Part I)

We’ve crossed the Rubicon, dear readers.  There’s no going back, when it comes to the print vs. digital divide, at least if we’re speaking on the commercial level.  There are quite substantial numbers of readers who are introduced to books via their smartphones and computer screens and then move into the musty world of mahogany bookshelves and neighborhood used-book stores … but these numbers represent not so much a desertion of one form for another, but rather the natural progression of addicts who will simply, and always, want more–more good words strung together, more stories in their hands, more eyes to peer through and lives to live in the way that only literature makes possible.

I’m here to speak about e-books and e-readers this week and in the weeks to come.  We’ve just finished a tour-de-force marathon of social media platforms spanning several months, so it’s time for a bit of a change of pace … but without sacrificing our desire to examine trends and patterns and possibilities with the fine eye of a book connoisseur.

ereaders

The data is in, and readers have spoken.  As this infographic (courtesy of Publishing Technology and Nielson BookScan) shows, e-book sales dropped slightly from an all-time high in early 2014, but they’re not going anywhere fast.  (I should also note that the initial speculations for this year seem to indicate continued stability.)  The digital market has matured, and readers are simply spreading their pocket change around, and being more selective as they do so.  Essentially, it’s not just “still” useful to publish your books in digital form, but it’s actually more useful than ever–readers now know how to find what they like, as the information infrastructure–including indexing search engines like Google and Bing, and social media platforms with a literary bent like Goodreads–has matured alongside the market itself.

ebooks vs print

But how does an author, especially an indie, hybrid, or self-published author, go about figuring out how to navigate both the debate and the process?  Well, first, you have to know a little bit about e-books and e-readers themselves.

And so we dive off into the deep end of a new series.  This time I’m going to walk you through the process by examining each big player in the e-reading market (past and present and future, at least so far as I can see it), from Kindles to Nooks to iPads to chips implanted into your brain.  Okay, okay, I’m kidding about that last one … for now.  In all seriousness, I hope that this series will be of use to you as you take next steps into the oft-hazy world of digital publication!

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 selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT 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.

Top 4 iPad Apps for Readers

The iPad is perfect for people who love to read! Whether you prefer books, magazines, or newspapers, there is an app for everybody. Here are five of my favorites.

Zinio

This app is perfect for readers who love magazines. The best part: Zinio subscriptions are often under $10 for an entire year.

Kindle

Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader for iPad has the largest library of titles. No matter what title you are looking for, you can probably find it using the Kindle app. If you buy a book, you’ll be able to read it on your iPhone, iPad, Kindle device, and other smartphones. Plus, WhisperSync lets you pick up right where you left off on another device.

Press Reader

If you are an avid newspaper reader, this app is for you! There are 1700 international papers in its library, so there is a newspaper for every interest.

Flipboard

Flipboard is a web reader that combines all the things that interest you. In one place, you can view social media articles and photos as well as relevant headlines and web content. A recent update has even added Google Reader support for RSS. This app is customizable and allows you to share your comments.

What are your favorite reading apps?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the 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 at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Espresso Book Machines Offer Self-Publishing Authors a Jolt in Sales

Oh, the publishing industry has come such a long way since the days of minimum advance orders, massive preprinting and prohibitive upfront production costs. Technology has not only given digital readers the gift of instant downloads, but now has given hard copy traditionalists the ability to choose a book digitally and have it in hand in the time it takes to press a few buttons on a vending machine.

In fact, the Espresso Book Machine® (EBM), as the name implies, is essentially a vending machine for literature. Just as an espresso maker both makes and vends a piping-hot beverage on demand, the EBM produces a paperback copy of your selection on the spot. The buyer selects a title and the EBM instantly prints the selection, complete with a full-color cover, that is indistinguishable from a preprinted paperback plucked from a bookshelf. The machine even cuts the book to the proper size for that title!

All that in three or four minutes. You can’t even make a latte that fast.

It’s understandable why so much excitement is brewing over this technology. Booksellers and libraries, wise to many readers’ undying love for both tangible reads and instant gratification, are keen to offer as many new releases as possible, even when shelf space is hard to come by. Naturally, authors are drinking it up, as well; any gadget that serves up their books without requiring huge advance printing and shipment costs is a sweet deal. Authors only pay a small preprint cost and receive the full retail price, minus a consignment fee.

Espresso Book Machines are already working overtime in libraries and universities all over the world, including but not limited to:

  • New York Public Library
  • University of Michigan Library
  • New Orleans Public Library
  • San Francisco Internet Archive
  • University of Michigan Library
  • Manchester Center Northshire Bookstore
  • University of Alberta
  • McMaster University Bookstore
  • London Newsstand UK
  • Library of Alexandria, Egypt
  • Melbourne, Australia Angus & Robertson Bookstore

More vending locations are being added all the time. Self-publishing giant Outskirts Press has added the Espresso Book Machine as an affordable distribution option for its authors, and it’s a smart addition to any book marketing plan. The small set-up fee makes the book available at all of the EBM locations and automatically uploads your title to new machines as they’re added to the EBM network, at no extra charge.

Combine an EBM edition with Amazon book listing, and iPad, NOOK and Kindle editions to maximize access to your book and make it easier for readers to make the decision to buy. Of course, you can still keep your car’s trunk stocked with your latest book just in case, but the Espresso Book Machine can help you lessen the load when preprinting isn’t possible.

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com. Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist not only published Outskirts Press authors, but also all authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

Top 5 Reasons to Self Publish in April

April is one of my favorite months. The weather is getting warmer, and the flowers are in bloom. Everyone is slowly starting to come out of winter hibernation. Plus, April is a great month to self publish a book! Here’s why:

You can put your tax refund to good use.

Instead of letting it sit in the bank or wasting it on material items you’ll forget in a month, invest in something great: you! Whether you’re a creative writing wanting to publish your debut novel or a professional wanting to increase your platform, publishing a book is a wonderful investment.

April is National Poetry Month.

April is the perfect time for poets to publish their collections. Take the jump, and do it in honor of all your favorite poets.

Spring is a time for new beginnings.

Spring is often associated with new beginnings and rebirth. So start your new beginning today by going from aspiring author to published author.

Celebrate April Fool’s Day by proving you’re not a “fool.”

Too often people dream of writing a book and never do it. Whether you want to share your family’s recipes, write the next best-selling young adult book, or build your credibility with a nonfiction book, now is the perfect time. Stop waiting for the right moment, and take the plunge.

Save 20% off an iPad.

Every month, self-publishing companies such as Outskirts Press offer promotions. This month, Outskirts Press is offering 20% off an iPad. For details, visit their website by clicking here.

ABOUT WENDY STETINA: Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction, or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.