kindle-ipadThe argument for why ebook readers should carry advertising – a new business model for booksellers and authors.

There is no doubt that electronic book reading devices such as the popular Kindle and the very portable iPad have resulted in the e-book achieving a rapid acceptance by book readers. This was confirmed in Amazon’s statement on January 27th, that Kindle ebook sales had for the first time, overtaken paperback sales. As with most things tech, change happens very fast, and the acceptance of e-books is just the latest in a string of market changing products.

Books are not music.

While very easy to equate the e-book revolution with the long running digital music shake-up, there will be a very different end game for e-books. While $0.99 seems to have become the acceptable price for a three minute song, the same price is being promoted by many ebook vendors, publishing houses and independent authors to satisfy a hungry e-reader audience. However it is blatantly devaluing the labour of an author in producing a 100,000 word novel. Equating a three minute song to a 300 page novel is plainly ridiculous.

Authors will starve.

While musicians, singers and bands can use digital delivery of their music to support and supplement their live concert performances and income, a writer is not a performer. Very few people will pay good money to see an author read his or her book. Hardly riveting entertainment compared to a decent rock band or jazz ensemble. So how can $0.99, $2.99 or even an optimistic $3.99 price for a e-book sustain not only an author, but his agent, editor and publisher? Of course volume is one answer, but once you go beyond the big name authors and hit the mid-list, volume becomes a very tough gig indeed.

The bitter pill

Should electronic reading devices follow the trends that MP3 players set, the majority of data stored on them will be free. As much as hanging your head, or worse, burying it in the sand may make a writer or publisher feel better, this is the truth about internet marketing and how people perceive internet and digital purchases. If it ain’t free or at least very cheap, forget about selling your wares on the internet. If you are a writer or publisher and you think a reader will pay as much for a simple 300k data file as for a 300 page book made with paper and love, forget it. Start looking for your saviour.

As evil as it may sound to writers, authors, editors, literary agents and publishers, the only viable way e-books can provide a viable return is for them to carry advertising. Think about it. It’s a screen, so it is perfect for advertising. A small band ad at the bottom of each page as a Kindle reader enjoys the pleasure of a red-hot romance novel or sci-fi nouveau classic. Small, unobtrusive, subliminal and profitable. Imagine the possible financial rewards from carrying 300 individual advertisements within your e-book. Beats a website or blog hands down.

Read the future

There has been an ample amount of nail biting and agonising about the future of books and publishing. Perhaps it’s time for the realists to imagine a different business model and adapt early to the possibilities of change. A few small mentions of soft drinks, motor vehicles, dating services, software, cheap iPads and just perhaps your last book may not look that bad after all. $0.99 may not be such a bad selling price after all if there is the chance to add a dollar or two of advertising revenue. Even free e-books may start to make economic sense.

First published February 2011 for Suite 101

Kindle And E-Books – The New Marketing Frontier
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7 thoughts on “Kindle And E-Books – The New Marketing Frontier

  • 09/03/2011 at 6:56 pm

    If advertising appears, it seems all the more reason for dedicated eReaders to be supplied free of charge when a reader opens an account to make a first book purchase with the likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.. Another way would be to provide a credit on account equivalent to the appliance's value to put toward books.
    A courtesy eReader also makes sense if DRM restrictions remain.

  • 10/03/2011 at 12:56 am

    I think the style of books will change in the world of eBooks. I think we'll see more short stories and novellas and these will come in at the $0.99-$1.99 level, whilst the bigger works will sell for more.

    I think we'll also see more interactive content with eBooks, so readers can start following different strands of the plot. If so, it will mean a very different type of book.

    eBooks can sell for $3.99 and upwards, and my own eBook sales prove that people are prepared to pay as much for an eBook as they are for a printed version. In fact, I'm not sure I would sell more if my eBook was cheaper – I suspect I wouldn't.

    Making an eBook a success at $0.99 takes as much commitment and effort as one selling at $2.99. I think the answer is to come up with a different model for low cost eBooks.

    Sell short stories and novellas at $0.99, and at the back of the book, you promote your other books. The great thing with eBooks is that people can buy your next book from the comfort of their armchair – so if you can offer them a $3.99 eBook after they've finished reading your $0.99 novella or short story, it gives them the opportunity to impulse buy – there and then.

  • 10/03/2011 at 9:13 am

    Food for thought Derek, although when writing my current story am I thinking about blatant commercialism – no.

    I/we write them, other people sell them.

    Putting on my 'reader's head' for a moment, I'm not sure that its a good idea to reduce the product of someone's many hours of hard work down to the level of a tabloid style reading experience…

  • 10/03/2011 at 9:28 am

    Question, Derek – have you got figures that split the 99c books between self published and by 'traditional' publishing houses? Also, discounting the short-period 'discounts'.

    I am not begging the question, am genuinely interested.

  • 10/03/2011 at 10:06 am

    Very hard to get reliable stats Gerry. I think you have to factor in the 'free' book downloads as well. Amazon simply state they have sold more ebooks than books. But I believe they include free books in this stat. Interesting too that Apple announced 100 million ibook downloads last week. (But no mention of sales!)

    All I can say for sure is that I personally sell around 20 ebooks to one paperback currently. I reduced my ebook prices from 2.99 to 99c for a February and March campaign and not surprisingly, have seen a big increase in ebook sales.

    And then there's the question of what defines a book? How do you calculate the ratio of novellas and short stories to 110-130k word books? Michaels's comment earlier made a good point about this.

    All interesting stuff.

  • 10/03/2011 at 10:24 am

    It is interesting. I suppose one of the reasons why I asked this is to get a sense of, to what degree authors that are represented by publishers, are being screwed. I have no doubt that the dynamics you describe are real, the question now is to what extent it is happening.


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