Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Ebook Apocalypse, What Would Happen if Amazon Fell? PART I Saints, Sinners, & Statistics

Did you know, that in 2012 eBook revenue surpassed revenue from hardback books for the first time ever in America? And I'm not talking about Amazon's bottom line, I am talking about real numbers from real publishers. That makes a lot of sense to me, considering we are talking about revenues and not total units sold. Publishers like to price eBooks comparably to what their hardback books will go for on Amazon, BN.com etc; and the eBook is without the bulk of paper,  and the need for transportation, warehousing, and the like.

So much is going on in the publishing world, and I feel as though we have all been conditioned to look at in through a red tinged lens in need of blood. But let us step down for a minute.

My first love was books. It would be nice to think that my childhood was all blue skies and ice cream sundaes, but it wasn't. At least in stories when things ended they were usually tied together in neat little bows, the hope that comes from a happy ending in a fictional land is like no other. Pure. So perhaps, I am guilty of not caring so much where the books come from; as much as caring that they exist. And that they continue to exist.

And all writers, readers, and believers should care that books exist.

Barnes & Noble is crippled, and it's likely permanent. So they will either go the way the other massive chain bookstores have gone--conveniently after shutting down tons of the indie stores where they will die a slow and painful death as they wheeze and limp along, OR they will be sold off to Walmart or Microsoft. (Read about B&N's troubles here. I also suggest you read The Amazon Effect here.)

Either way, it seems that arm of book selling is close to changing forever. So where does that leave us?

I live in Las Vegas. Most people have heard of it. It's not some nothing town with no where to shop. Its got anything you could ever hope to see, all in one spectacularly lit place! Well everything except for an indie book store. If there is one here that doesn't just sell used books, I have not been able to find it. Las Vegas boasts a population of more than half a million (569,000+ in 2010) and last year we saw close to 40 MILLION visitors. But the only places I have got to buy new releases are Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, and other big box stores. So if B&N bites the dust, the only brick and mortar stores I have to buy new books at have very finite shelf space. At Walmart for example, new releases are on shelves that span roughly the same space as my office door.

So forgive me, if I have become increasingly paranoid about where I am going to be able to buy books. If I had to pick between the nostalgia of a bookstore, and  all the books I could ever hope to read, I'd pick the books every single time.

It's no secret that I am a fan of Amazon, but that doesn't mean I think they are devoid of fault.

Which leads me to this: Pretend for a moment, that all the people wishing for Amazon's demise could will that into existence. That is what we are going to explore in this blog series. Originally three parts, it has been expanded to include some new articles that came out last week. Though a lot of the scenarios we will be weaving through are hypothetical, this series will require you have an open mind. If you aren't capable of thinking outside of, "Amazon bad. Evil. Must kill." I'll still love you, but you might want to sit this one out.


Katherine Hajer said...

Cool! Sounds like a great series. I'm sorry to hear about the bookstore situation in Las Vegas, though.

John Wiswell said...

There only being one big distributor is bad both if they win or if they fail. The in the former case the consumer can be gouged and products of lesser quality and thinner profit margins can flood the market, and in the latter there's an utter collapse. And I still use and support Amazon.

There are many reasons to want competition. That Apple was willing to dive so deep into becoming a competitor and got tackled is a shame - I hope they will still solidify their platform. All those iDevices make it the most natural competition, over niche sources like Smashwords or Lulu.

Angela Kulig said...

Thanks Katherine, I am sad too. I would totally support one if I had it, they don't fill the same role that Amazon does.

John, ITA. I think Apple is the only one who has a chance to really compete in this market and they had to be stupid. (I talk about this later in the series) But just the number of I-things there are should make them a major player. People like things that are easy, it's easy to buy Kindle books for your Kindle and it's easy to buy ibooks for your ipad/phone etc.