The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide : Summary Edition

Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned about e-readers over the last few weeks as I compiled information for this series, it’s that we as self-publishing authors have cause for both great hope and for concern.  I don’t think I’m an unbalanced optimist when I say that I think the scales tip towards hope rather than despair, either, even though in all things I advocate both caution and meticulous research.

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So, how does someone go about shaping the self-publishing process to suit the current e-reader market and distribution network?  Simply put, there is no easy answer.  As with any technological gadget, niche (or even mainstream) market, and expensive purchase, you have to consider all of the angles––and as an author and producer of digital content, not just as a reader!  Readers have only to consider those aspects of a purchase that lead to user satisfaction; they don’t have to worry about balancing the needs of others when they think about what device to pick up in a store, and which ebook to download from the internet.  Authors, particularly self-published authors, do.  You as an indie or self-publishing author are probably laying out significant packets of money to make sure your book is as beautiful and well-presented and as effectively marketed as it can be, so you want to make sure you’re actually getting your money’s worth.

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The key to a successful relationship with e-readers is, I think, one of establishing healthy boundaries––and knowing when to cut your losses.  And while it’s true that the best of all possible situations as an author is to present your readers with as many options as possible, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Kindle, the NOOK, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the iPad were not all created equal––and they have not all sold in equal numbers.  I set out to give you a fair assessment of the current state of e-readers, and by golly, I really hope that’s what I’ve done.  It’s useful to you to know, for example, that the iPad has outperformed all of its other rivals as a physical product, but that the Kindle store sees the highest rates of ebook distribution.  It’s equally useful to know that readers are turning in droves to their smartphones as reading tools––over and above their dedicated e-readers and even over their tablet computers.  The future of the e-reader, ebook, and in some small part, the self-published author rests with digital clearinghouses like the Kindle and iBook store, the Google Play store, and direct downloads.  (And someday, I’ll take a good long look at how digital book piracy plays into this equation, too.)   tablet computer

If anything I’ve said sticks with you, I hope it’s not something I’ve said you should not do; I really hope you remember how positively excited I am about the new opportunities that are beginning to emerge.  Certain markets and products, like the Barnes and Noble NOOK, might be declining in popularity––but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make your book available to those who choose to stick with it to the end.  First and foremost, you have to decide what your priorities are as an author.  Ease of accessibility?  Or maximum profits?  Or most effective use of time and seed money?  (Just remember that the best way to sell your books is to keep writing and publishing new ones!)  Ultimately, the state of e-readers has reached a stability and maturity that inspires me to think that, yes, we might have been feeling our way in the dark a bit, but we’ve stumbled across something truly wonderful.  We live in a global network rich with innovators, and I truly think we can trust to see ever greater diversification and more specialized opportunities in the digital book market.


Next week, I’m going to start with an in-depth examination of The Bookseller’s key findings in their 2015 Digital Census.  Things are changing rapidly––and perhaps not so much for authors and readers as for the ever-evolving relationship between self-publishing and traditional publishing companies.  More on that in weeks to come!


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 IV––the Samsung Galaxy Tab)

Last week, I examined the dedicated e-reader designed for use with Barnes & Noble’s stores, both digital and brick and mortar––the NOOK.  And if you read that post, you’ll recall that I mentioned Barnes & Noble will no longer be producing a dedicated e-reader, and in fact is no longer producing an e-reader at all; it is, however, lending its name and all of the might of its online platform to the latest incarnation (or should I say “one of the latest incarnations?”) of the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  The resulting hybrid will give Barnes & Noble customers the necessary continuity to keep using the interfaces to which they have become accustomed, while also lifting the burden of production and distribution (at least, partially) from a company that is still, ultimately, struggling to keep its foot in the door of print book distribution.  Amazon’s Kindle store and Apple’s iPad have collectively changed the course of ebook distribution and consumption, whether we like it or not––and like so many others, Barnes & Noble and Samsung are hoping to create the next best thing, or a near-approximation of the iPad that still gives the bookseller an edge of control over the end user.

(There are altogether too many options on the iPad for a bookseller’s tastes––too many apps and too many readable file formats within those apps.  The more options, the less easily a bookseller can drive sales in a particular direction––and profits.)

Samsung Galaxy Tab

But we’re not here to talk about the new tablet (although you can read a most thorough CNET review here).  We’re here to talk about the original Samsung Galaxy Tab series, which is now up to at least its tenth iteration … if not a higher number (they throw in variant names, with the “Galaxy Tab S” and “Galaxy Tab Pro” and so on complicating a neat and orderly numbering system).  The entire line is noted, however, first and foremost for being the first (or among the first, depending on who you ask) to embrace a full Android operating system––and as such, it became a solid, distinct, and direct competitor to both the iPad (which runs on Apple’s iOS) and the Kindle (which varies a bit from iteration to iteration, but for the most part employs a heavily modified and limited version of Android).  I think it’s worth mentioning both tablets like the iPad and dedicated e-readers like the Kindle in the same breath when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy, because the relationship between the two is hybridizing so quickly as partnership projects like the Samsung Galaxy NOOK become the new normal.

Here’s the thing with the Samsung Galaxy Tab series that gives it an edge over the Kindle and the original NOOK: it’s a fully-fledged tablet, with a far wider range of capabilities as a device than a dedicated e-reader.  You can access the Google Play store, and run a whole slew of apps that have little or nothing to do with books, and yet the reading-related apps you can download are beautifully designed and presented, so the e-reading experience is still highlighted and underscored as important to app developers.  Many people rate the average Samsung device as somewhat less responsive and intuitive than the iPad, but Apple is famously canny about using software to create closed loops around its hardware (that is, the average iPad has to be “jailbroken” before it is “hackable”––you have to actually tamper with the operating system to render it more adaptable).  Basically, Android-based operating systems like the ones the Samsung Galaxy Tablets run are way more easy to customize, tinker with, and generally geek out over.

Samsung Galaxy NOOK

And there are a lot of Samsung Galaxy Tabs out there.  There are no hard and fast numbers for me to quote to you, but it’s safe to say they’re not hurting too badly if they have the capital to launch “boutique” or specialized lines like the NOOK hybrid.  (Each iteration costs a lot of money and time and talent capital to design and maintain and run support for.)  Some recent reports do, however, indicate that sales were not quite as high as they should have been––and as the company supposedly reported them to have been––and this is a matter of great concern.  Samsung has the benefit of a large support network and a diverse portfolio to fall back on if one project or device doesn’t sell well; Barnes & Noble had no such safety net, and thus lost its ability to respond effectively to rapidly shifting market demands.

Here’s what you need to know as an author when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Tab: it’s not going anywhere.  Oh, iterations come and go the way my love of rain comes and goes (and boy, does that one fluctuate a lot).  But the great thing about a series like this one is that Samsung will continue to make new additions as long as the market exists and as long as there is a demand for Android-based devices that aren’t locked into being dedicated e-readers like the Kindle.  Customers want variety and customizability, games and work and literature all in one device, without the need to untangle multiple cables or swap out chargers on the nearest wall outlet.  And as long as there are Android-based operating systems, the Google Play store will remain an important distribution point to keep an eye on.

Are you selling through Google Play?  I personally hope so, and if you are and would like to share your story, please (please please) drop me a line in the comment section with all of the details.

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.