Ten Bold Predictions for 2014: An Analysis

Digital Book World has a list of ten bold predictions for ebooks digital publishing in 2014. Some of them delve into brave new world territory, but for those of us who have been around for a while, who can remember the days before you could carry a device in your pocket that can make phone calls, take pictures, and immediately provide the name of the closest Five Guys as well as the actor who played Joey Pants in the Sopranos – well, every year seems like a brave new world.

While the article is somewhat pitched toward folks in the industry who make a living off of these sorts of developments (or who are afraid of losing their jobs), I find myself drawn, as always, to the impact on readers and writers, the only two communities I really care about. (Sorry, investors and publishers and agents and distributors!)  And in that spirit, it’s prediction number six that interests me the most:

6. More publishers will endorse the subscription ebook model by doing business with Oyster, Scribd and other similar services.

Yes! The reader in me is clamoring for this. Can’t we have a service – ten bucks a month for all the ebooks you want to read? A Netflix or Spotify for ebooks?

But will that be better for writers?

What kind of model would we wind up with – one in which writers are paid pennies on the dollar for their works? How would they replace the income from book sales? Through public speaking appearances (the way musicians are expected to sell concert tickets as a replacement for CD royalties)? Would that be better or worse?

Actually I think the better question may be whether it’s inevitable. Because the reader in me (and by that I also mean consumer) senses that it is.

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3 thoughts on “Ten Bold Predictions for 2014: An Analysis

  1. You could see publishers trying to first leverage their backlists using this model, then deal with new content as it’s published with a slightly different revenue model. Or maybe you can subscribe to genres or even authors. As usual, I think small or independent publishers will be in the vanguard, and what works will then be developed by larger publishers in a model that results in less profit to the writers. But my guess is it will start with backlist.

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    1. I hadn’t thought of the backlist but I suspect you’re right, Jeff. Some of the more difficult hurdles for a self-publishing author (professional level of editing, building an author brand, etc.) have in many cases already been cleared by backlist titles.

      Your point about subscribing to genres or authors is another really interesting one. I’m more of a “all-you-can-eat” subscription consumer – or at least I think I am. I want the whole basic cable package even though I basically only watch ESPN, but if the system were a la carte and I had to pay just for ESPN I probably would go without. I’m happy to subscribe to the few magazines I read. But if it were online, and I could choose between ordering only my four magazines for $.99 each and a service that gave me access to a thousand different magazines, I’m not sure what I’d do. Ten bucks a month? I might. Twenty bucks a month? Probably not.

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      1. That’s part of the key. The larger industry has to find a price point that would have you paying slightly more than the average book buyer pays per year, to justify the additional reading you will probably do. They also have to make guesses about decreases in print book sales under such a model.

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