E-Publishing Predictions for 2013

This may not be happening, but what if it did?
This may not be happening, but what if it did?

Today I received an e-mail update from Mark Coker because I am a Smashwords member (that is, I have published to Smashwords and they see fit to send updates my way about their company).  Mark Coker, president of Smashwords.com, which is a wonderful vehicle for self publishers to publish their work for free in every format at once, is adamant that Amazon Kindle may be destined for a slow death.  He had many observations about the coming year, but his predictions about Amazon really caught my eye.

First, he goes on about how Apple’s iBooks and Nook books have been selling like hotcakes, with Apple seeing a 55% increase on iBooks after Christmas and Nook (Barnes and Noble) enjoying a much needed 35% increase.  However, Amazon’s figures were flat.  His letter reads as follows:

Here’s the potential shocker.  We distribute about 200 titles to Amazon.  Based on what I’m seeing in our trailing 6-week reports from Amazon, Amazon’s dollar sales were FLAT post-Christmas.  Another word of caution, however.  Unlike the sales data from Apple and B&N where we’re looking at results across a catalog of around 140,000 titles, our sample size at Amazon is much smaller.  However, 200 is a reasonably large sample representing a good mix of strong sellers and poor sellers.  The lack of a post-holiday bump would tend to validate my 2013 prediction that Amazon will lose market share in the coming year.  My estimate was largely based on the growth I’m seeing from Amazon’s competitors, which we supply.  If Amazon did in fact experience a busted Christmas in terms of ebook sales, it would signify a weakening of the Kindle e-reading platform.

One of the reasons for this could be the KDP select service which requires self-publishers to list their books exclusively with Amazon and no one else.  Under Terms and Conditions, the KDP contract states:

1 Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or a book that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.

None of the other digital formats require this caveat, and because of that, I have not enrolled any of my books under KDP.  I will continue to publish my paperback editions through them because it is still the cheapest way to do that, but this clause is very troubling.

But, back to Amazon’s future, I think that this may be a trend that could continue.  Apple is a massive corporation that will not be outdone by any competitor.  They have proved this time and again.  Barnes and Noble, as their brick and mortar stores dry up, will be pouring more and more effort into their digital offerings.  The Kindle is a great device (I own one, and love it) but even though the iPad is more expensive, they are still flying off the shelves.  It remains to be seen what the future of digital books will be.

Coker offers a little bread crumb to Amazon, though, admitting that “it’s too soon to label Amazon’s season a bust though, despite the Smashwords data and the anecdotal reports from Kindleboards.  I’d like to see some large NY publishers reveal their sales data across the major retailers.  If they do that, a clearer picture of Amazon’s position will emerge.”

We could all be jumping to conclusions, but Amazon still has the largest library.  I will continue to publish my books through Amazon, Nook and iTunes as well as Smashwords.  The more formats a self publisher can offer for their book is only a plus.  If you publish to iTunes, you need your own ISBN numbers, and this can be pricey, but worth it.  Smashwords offers all of them for free, but it’s fun to have your book listed in the iBook store, and does look more professional.

If you have any comments on this subject, please fire away.  I’d love to hear from you self-publishers out there, and from any traditional publishing people who read this blog and want to weigh in.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

4 thoughts on “E-Publishing Predictions for 2013

  1. I’m just formatting my first ever e-book and so am on a steep learning curve in the e-publishing world. I love my Kindle and would be sad to see it disappear but the world is constantly changing. I suppose our job is just to try and keep up with it.

  2. Interesting, but I’m skeptical. Not to mention that there’s an element of self-fulfilling prophesy at work – his “forecast” could in fact change the market, particularly if indie authors leave Amazon for other platforms in anticipation of this slump he predicts. So, given that he’s a competitor of theirs I would take this with a huge grain of salt.

    1. Yes. Could be that Coker is tooting his horn, hoping that Amazon goes down (his biggest competitor), but the numbers for Amazon digital books were indeed flat. The future will bear out.

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