Big label music’s rag of record could be on its way to oblivion. Billboard has a web presence, new owners and loyal readership among big music’s insiders. It also has a declining reader base. Big labels are shrinking. Musician culture has moved away from the label driven mass markets. Storefront music has evolved from a shop in major retail center to a much smaller collection of independent destination boutiques. Billboard has made little effort to capitalize on any of these new trends.
Whether this publication is “on the verge of economic collapse,” as one executive describes, is difficult to gauge. But reports from the inside suggest an uncertain climate, with considerable anxiety over future direction. That includes a possible hiring and spending freeze, according to a separate source. It’s the same old economic cocktail of woe, though this time, worsening advertising, subscription, industry, and macro-economic elements could be coming to a head. (Digital Music News)
Billboard may very well be following the path of so many formerly successful publications into extinction. It’s just one more example of old media refusing to adapt to change at its own peril.
The fat lady is performing her aria for ink on dead trees. Sales of ebooks now outnumber the combined sales of hard and paper cover volumes.
Yes, this is only about sales at Amazon, but where Amazon goes the rest of the world soon follows – at least in the book business. It’s truly amazing how rapidly this change has come. The next question for print is how low will it go? While I don’t expect the paper medium to go extinct anytime soon, it’s impossible to predict how far its market share will slide before it stabilizes.
The neighborhood bookstore may be joining the drive in movie as a nostalgia destination. I hope enough of us will support the truly great ones so that they’ll continue to be around into the next century.
When the big publishers own figures show top sales for a major category in ebook format, the tipping point may have arrived… ahead of schedule. Since Amazon’s Kindle is now at price point competitive with the set of bookshelves it replaces and more portable devices are being used as readers it had to happen.
E-book sales totaled $90.3 million in February, up 202% compared to the same month a year earlier, according to a study from the Association of American Publishers. That put e-books at No. 1 “among all categories of trade publishing” that month — the first time e-books have beaten out traditional publishing formats. (CNN Money)
There’s still plenty of room for more disruption in the literary world. I see two very different ecosystems evolving.
Big publishers are attempting to leverage technology to restrict the portability of individual copies while keeping prices artificially high. As time passes look for them to focus on blockbusters and try to keep rights endlessly tied up on their back catalogs. To that end big publishing will continue lobbying lawmakers and using the courts to keep alternative distributors – including authors themselves at a disadvantage. The former curators and distributors of knowledge are morphing into knowledge trolls.
Without the expense of formatting and press run, a growing number of established authors are self publishing while new authors are taking the indie route from their very start. Long out of print and fringe works that are not bound by copyright are once again available to the public. Prices for independently distributed works typically range from free to a few dollars. The next wave of setting knowledge free has truly arrived.
The next print category to fall? Academic publications. With free alternatives, the age of outrageously expensive textbooks and academic journals is ending.The purveyors of these works enjoy an extremely lucrative business, making a long fight certain. Look for more open source courseware and wikis displacing the journals. In the end, knowledge will be set free.
Granted, most of them are ebooks, but with the self published authors cut at 70%, that still means real money for indie author Amanda Hocking. While I’m sure there’s quite a bit more to the back story, Ms Hocking had a little more than help from social network friends in self promoting her nine books.
There’s a big lesson both publishers and authors here. The price of an average book will fall to the $1 to $3 range no matter what you do to prevent it. For writers, being a good storyteller will not be enough going forward. If an author can’t self promote, then he or she will need to give a cut to a promoter, making the profession less lucrative. Publishers who survive will need to evolve into service bureaus working for writers rather than the other way around. Life is going to get tough for anyone who cannot adapt and thrive in the new ecosystem.
For the masses of wannabees, the opportunity to make a living as a writer has never been better. That opportunity comes at a price. You’ll not only need to produce a good product. You need get it ready for market an promote it. To be very successful you’ll need passionate fans who will not only love your work, but tell others about it. If you’re up to the task, your time has come.
By their virtual nature, ebooks don’t wear our like the dead tree kind do. There is also a significant difference in the cost of reproducing a physical vs virtual volume. Since in theory, an ebook won’t wear out, publishers will be missing a little incremental revenue from libraries who will not need to replace them. You might assume that the tiny difference in the selling price between virtual and physical would make up for that since ebooks cost nothing to reproduce. Not so according to Harper Collins. In fact, the company will only allow its ebooks to be loaned 26 times before requiring a library to purchase a new copy. In effect, Harper Collins is now charging a per use royalty on ebooks.
For libraries, there’s a perfectly reasonable solution to the problem. Don’t buy Harper Collins ebooks. If they all stop buying, chances are very good this ridiculous policy will change.
CD Baby is an enormously successful platform and marketplace that facilitates musicians selling directly to fans.. The service sells on its own site, aggregates to other marketplaces like iTunes and Amazon, and produces physical as well as downloads. Artists pay up front for inclusion in the marketplace and receive most of the proceeds from sales.
Applying a similar model for authors, the company has launched Book Baby. Authors pay $99 a year and receive 100% of royalties from marketplaces like Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Google and Sony. Book Babv also offers other services like formatting at reasonable prices.
This adds a different outlet for the self published author. While there is an up front charge the author receives all revenue and is syndicated into the major marketplaces from a single site. This should be reasonably attractive to serious writers and more casual authors will likely self exclude. It’s s safe bet that we’ll see a copycat or two enter the market with a similar offering on a freemium basis.