Friday, February 12, 2010

Free Bonus With eBook Purchase - Act Now!

Kindicts certainly love their Kindles, and who doesn't love books anyway? Well, (and this is really ironic) authors are starting to dislike books. Here are a few reasons why:

Shrinking margins (ROI)
One author (who has had moderate sales success) reported that he was making the equivaluent of $2.75 an hour over the course of two years (the time to write and publicize his book).  Motivation for authors to be excited at the prospect of a book is declining, and the lack of a paycheque certainly plays a factor.

Stolen books
eBooks are more convenient to steal than their physical counterparts.  While it may be true that the vast majority of stolen books would have never generated sales, there is a percentage of people who would have purchased the book had it not been so convenient to steal.  This results in lower sales, and unhappy authors.

More publicity
As book sales shrink, the need to perform book tours rises, which means time away from home, gueling travel schedules, etc.  A minority of authors had touring in mind when they were sequestered in their basement working on their novel.

Pressure from publishers and retailers
Authors face pressure on numerous fronts: themselves, their families, and the publishers and retailers.  The latter two would like authors to pump out best sellers like a machine to keep the 'wheels turning'.  Missed deadlines, poor quality manuscripts, and so on, all weigh on authors, which does not make for a pleasant writing experience.

General lack of control
If authors wish their book to be sold, they must essentially give up rights to a publisher, or to a retailer such as Amazon. What could anyone possibly do about the current situation?  Well, here are a few ideas that may revitalize the book industry:

Interactive books
Many Kindicts may recall early interactive computer books a children; the Broderbund had an entire interactive books spinoff: Living Books.  These never caught on for 'adult' books - until now.
The Kindle (and other similar devices) can support interactive books.  When a book on the European economy has a graph that ranks GDP on a number of factors, interactive sliders could protray 'what if' scenarios. Books with maps could have levels of zoom with annotations - the possibilities are endless.  Authors could add another dimension of value with more dynamic, interactive content.

Giveaways and contests are still very much a common advertising technique. Food corporations, credit card companies, retailers, etc. all use giveaways as a means of promoting their product.  Electronic books should not be any different.  Book retailers could have a giveaway for every 1,000 books sold, and in-book contests (for legal owners) could result in free books, trips, etc.

Discount and specialty seller co-operation
Not all books are sold through Amazon, although it's convenient for researching titles, which seems to make it an essential for author exposure.  If all the cut-rate and speciality booksellers pooled their resources, they could setup a network of research and selling that would enable prospective buyers to find authors and research who have opted out of Amazon.  Even individual authors can self-promote, but it's an uphill climb that relies on a luck.  Smaller book publishers could even let authors retain rights to their books, and just keep a cut of the sales.

Free bonus with purchase
Many kindicts will remember purchasing albums (LPs, records) and receiving a bonus inside - a poster, or other paraphernalia. Kiss and their Kiss Army was particularly effective at self-promotion, branding, and customer loyalty.  Why can't publishers or authors offer a free gift with eBook purchase?  How many times have you heard, "limited quantities - act now!"  That's because it still works, and it would work with books as well - especially if the giveaways were seen as desirable or collectible.  A kindle skin with the author's autograph would undoubtedly be appreciated by kindicts.

Books are dead! Long live books!
The industry is rapidly shifting, but traditional companies (such as large publishers) are choosing to rely on technology companies to chart their future course rather than investing in innovation and reinventing and defining the modern book experience.  Booksellers have the hindsight of the music industry to learn from, but it appears that all the book industry has learnt is how to raise the white technology flag, and bite the hand that writes.

There is hope; small publishers with great new selling ideas are appearing all over the web.  The book industry will change yet again; hopefully, the fine art of book writing is seen as less about the corporation, and more about the writers and purchasers.