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Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-amazon's-not-driving-writing-to-the-hospital dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has been struggling for price control of the book and ebook markets for years, battling publicly and privately with publishers while making a lot of authors nervous. With yesterday's announcement of "Kindle Unlimited," a Netflix-like ebook subscription service, Amazon is reaching their endgame in disrupting the book-selling business. But there are other companies doing the same thing, and an article at TechCrunch makes the case that it's the general market, rather than any company in particular, that's making it harder for authors to earn a living. "Driving the prices lower isn't likely to expand the market of readers, since book prices don't seem to be the deciding factor on whether someone reads a book (time is). But those lower prices directly shrink the incomes of authors, who lack any other means of translating their sales into additional revenue. That's why I don't think the big revolution for writers and other content producers will come from Amazon, but rather from startups like Patreon, which allow producers to build audiences directly and develop their own direct subscription model with their most fervent fans."
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Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:37PM (#47490141)

    My issue with subscriptions is that companies tend to not pay the content makers much.

    In the past, you made an album as a musician, you got $10-$15. Even a few listeners would more than pay for one's work. First came the $0.99 tracks, then the subscription "revenue" which is little to none, and now album sales are worthless, and musicians have to gig... which is damn hard in areas like Austin where if you are not a hipster crooning about your cat, you won't find anywhere to sing, period.

    Before this, we saw a lot of decent bands. Now, the ONLY thing pushed by mainstream labels is their own synthesized bands and nothing else. 20 year ago, people would laugh at a label making a band like The Monkees and refusing to sign Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones.

    Now, this market killer is now attacking the book ecosystem.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:50PM (#47490191) Homepage

    You are over generalizing. There has been, and likely will be, a market for high quality entertainment - both written word, movies, music. A problem is that this market isn't especially large nor lucrative.

    The big money is in mediocre crap. Always has been.

    What the Internet has done is to throw everything together into a large fungible pool of confusion. And the big actors are well financed corps, not individual artists. Just like always.

    It always has been a struggle for an artist of whatever stripe to make a living (at least while they're alive). There are the high profile exceptions, but the majority of artists don't make big bucks.

  • by BLKMGK (34057) <{morejunk4me} {at} {}> on Saturday July 19, 2014 @04:12PM (#47490283) Homepage Journal

    Amazon has done a TON for indy authors and they've shared their profits. When the big publishers tried to force higher prices on Amazon I stopped buying. You would think these asshats would've learned from the music industry - especially since their wares are so much smaller when downloaded and lose no fidelity at all. Now they've all had to settle for big fines but do you think that this will bring readers back into the fold? I doubt it.

    This guy has some interesting information about what's going on with out the big publisher bias - other than the fact that his bias is he hates big publishing lol []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @04:21PM (#47490327)

    There is literally too much content and most of it looks awful.

    My problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity... --Cory Doctorow

  • by west (39918) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @04:33PM (#47490389)

    Sorry, lost the thread.

    With e-books becoming more dominant and less money coming into the industry, the bookstores die (they're already highly marginal now). With bookstores' death, so go the publishers (after all, any established author will make more money from self-publishing and now the *one* (incredibly important) thing the publishers offer - shelf space - is gone).

    With publishers gone, we all essentially become slush pile readers. The books are nearly free, but the constraint is *time*, not money, and with the publishers gone, we're now looking at instead of 1 in 10 new books being decent, we're looking at 1 in 1,000. And quite frankly, there's movies and Angry Birds on our e-book readers that have a much higher payoff rate.

    Established authors do okay, but the discovery rate of new authors drops like a stone. Sure a handful get discovered each year, but the current book industry discovers thousands each year. (Where discover means they are distinguished enough from the crowd to have a *chance* at success.) As there are fewer and fewer new authors making it (but more and more authors writing for at least a generation while writing is culturally relevant), the signal to noise ratio keeps dropping.

    Even worse, businesses realize that while selling books doesn't make much money, selling services to desperate authors makes a killing. If you are browsing to find a new author you know nothing about, Amazon currently shows us the top 1,000 or so books from mainstream publishers, with a few self-published in the mix. At some point, it makes a *lot* more money by showing us the top 1,000 books from the authors willing to pay the most.

    And unfortunately, unlike mainstream publishers, who invest in a book not because they love it, but because they believe it will be what you want to read, would-be self-published authors aren't buying advertising based on the books quality, but on their own personal resources.

    Amazon, et al. will make a lot of money for decades even as the book market to readers collapse.

    Of course, old favorites won't disappear. They'll be a handful of new discoveries each year from self-publishing. Enough that books won't be "dead". But the idea that book reading will become marginal enough that it's cultural significance will essentially be irrelevant.

    i.e. like poetry.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @05:38PM (#47490639)

    It only takes something like 1000-2000 regular donors to keep a writer in reasonable comfort. In the age of the Internet, that is really not a lot. As good writers want to write and are typically not motivated by money unlike the publishers that just try to get rich on their backs, this is all it takes. Of course, publishers will fight this tooth and nail, as it threatens their existence. An existence that benefits absolutely nobody but themselves though, so their demise will be something eminently welcome. I predict this will not kill all publishers though. There are those that actually respect their authors and customers, are not primarily motivated by money, and have a positive effect on the overall process. These will remain. I doubt however that any of the large publishers will be among the survivors.

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