Memoir Writers, Don’t Overlook the eBook

by Kendra Bonnett on January 28, 2011

Book Business PaperclipPost #65 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

It’s Friday, it’s cold and there’s way too much snow on the ground. It’s a good day to stay inside and work on our ebook on Publishing Options for Memoir Writers in the 21st Century. I’m eager to finish this so we can make it available on Women’s Memoirs because publishing technology and innovations are creating a lot of interesting new possibilities for authors to consider…and more every day.

I came across two bits of information this week that really define the revolution that’s going on in publishing. My sister the book lover and self-confessed Luddite is standing with her eyes closed, hands over ears and humming The Battle Hymn of the Republic so that she doesn’t have to know just how rapidly the ebook market is growing. But although you and I also love books, we know that we need to stay on top of book buying trends.

memoir writing kindleAmazon reported earnings this week and missed the Street’s projections for its operating income. As a result, the stock took a nose dive–down 10 percent. My first instinct was to fear that book buying was way off, but after looking at the numbers and factoring in all that’s going on in the book business, I think that as authors and publishers we need to come to a different conclusion.

First, Amazon’s revenue only slightly missed the mark: $12.95 billion (yes that’s with a B) versus the Street’s estimate of $13 billion. The operating income was off more: $622 million versus the Street’s estimate of $650 million. You can see all the numbers by going to Business Insider. And no, it doesn’t look as though Amazon is exactly on the skids.

Now here’s the thing that’s more important to us as book folks: Jeff Bezos–Amazon’s founder, president, CEO and chairman of the board–gave us a little insight into the Kindle and ebook sales. He reports that “Amazon.com is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books.” That’s stunning, and if you recall, it was only back in July/August that ebooks first outsold hardbacks. Now almost six months later, Kindle ebooks are outselling hardbacks by a factor of three.

So, second, while the Amazon stock may take a little temporary tumble, I suspect the reasons have more to do with the still relatively low price for most ebooks ($9.99) and the rise in competition. And there’s lots of competition brewing. Although Amazon sells more than 800,000 titles for the Kindle, they are not the only ebookstore in town. Amazon now has to compete with Apple and the loyal Apple base who buy through iTunes for their iPads. And then there’s Smashwords, which is clearly looking to go head-to-head with Amazon over both publication and sales of ebooks. According to founder Mark Coker, more than 11,000 writers and indie publishers already are producing and distributing their books through Smashwords. And new sales venues are popping up, several of which I’ll be reviewing in our new ebook.

Make that Memoir an eBook

My third observation is that the development of new rules governing ebook ownership and new infrastructures make it undeniable. The ebook is here to stay, and the market is maturing rapidly. In January, for example, Amazon announced that Kindle readers could lend their electronic books to friends and colleagues. It’s not a free-for-all as a book can only be “loaned” for 14 days and to just one person at a time. Still, this is a big change that DRM (digital rights management) previously prevented, and I can’t help but wonder if Smashwords’ DRM-free policy has helped to shape this new development. In any case, this is a big win for avid Kindle fans and ebook popularity, generally.

And then there’s this: It’s called eBookFling, created by the BookSwim folks that are often compared with the Netflix model. Well BookSwim is now bringing their model to ebooks and creating a giant co-operative of ebook readers. Members (it’s free to join) list the Kindle and Nook titles they currently have available in their elibraries and then can see what other members have listed. If you spot a title you’d like to read, you borrow the ebook for $1.99 and have 14 days to read the book before the book disappears like Cinderella and returns to the original owner. Interesting.

New innovations in the ebook world are cropping up weekly…sometimes daily. It’s changing so quickly that I’m actually very happy Matilda and I will be producing Publishing Options for Memoir Writers in the 21st Century as an ebook. It’ll be easier to keep it up to date.

And now, I’ll get back to my writing and research.



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