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Ebooks Outsell Booky Books. So What?
The popularity of ebooks has readers spoilt for choice but among books of questionable quality. Amazon’s latest move could lead ebooks to real legitimacy in the literary world.
May 22, 2011 2:19 by Alex McNabb
With the news that ebooks have now outsold booky books, we can perhaps now recognise the tipping point has been reached.
One fascinating report I’ve seen of this year’s London Book Fair neatly paints a picture of an industry reeling as it comes to terms with the ferocity of the changes taking place around it. More and more writers are taking to putting their works up on the Kindle store and other self publishing platforms rather than go through the relentless round of submissions and rejections that getting published entails.
HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray, speaking at the LBF, called this time ‘a watershed’. Murray was noting that sales of a number of HC’s front list titles were running at over 50% on ebook formats – he also noted that the growth in e-readers (to 40 million) was having a disproportionate effect on the market because e-readers had reached ‘core’ readers, people who buy over twelve books a year.
There are reports of Amazon employing editors and seeking an editorial director. This is interesting precisely because if Amazon decided to have its own imprint, it could pick from the many new titles being uploaded to the Kindle e-book store and take the best of them and place them under its powerful marketing wing – with editors guaranteeing the quality of books under that imprint.
That would address one major complaint of the post-ebook era – the lack of qualitative guarantees where so many authors now have direct access to the market without the checks and balances of editors and the like. Yes, this gives a more egalitarian market with greater choice for readers (and less Katie Price schlock being pushed in our faces), but it also atomises the market (there is such a thing as overwhelming choice) and makes it potentially hard for readers to work out when a book is total rubbish. I have to confess, of my current crop of 34 Kindle books, one non-fiction title turned out to be a rip-off project.
But with editorial input, an imprint, Amazon could possibly create something a little like Authonomy done right. Everyone’s uploading their books, the best of those books are plucked out and given sheen by Amazon, which could sell books under its imprint at a premium (because you know they’re good) and effectively become its own publishing house. Now a publishing house that owns the majority of the distribution medium becomes interesting. It would be like one publisher owning every high street bookstore (remember them?).
It’s also potentially massively anti-competitive, but that’s another kettle of frogs.
This story was originally published in Alex McNabb’s Fake Plastic Souks.