There’s a Question We Should Be Asking Re Kindle Unlimited and Its Impact on eBook Sales
Now self-published writers, who owe much of their audience to the retailer’s publishing platform, are unhappy.
One problem is too much competition. But a new complaint is about Kindle Unlimited, a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books — both self-published and traditionally published — for $9.99 a month.
It may bring in readers, but the writers say they earn less. And in interviews and online forums, they have voiced their complaints.
Streitfeld’s piece is a detailed reiteration of what has been said before, and it raises a couple interesting points – including why Amazon might not care if KU guts the ebook market:
Amazon, though, may be willing to forgo some income in the short term to create a service that draws readers in and encourages them to buy other items. The books, in that sense, are loss leaders, although the writers take the loss, not Amazon.
As I sit here writing this post Sunday morning I can see that, even though a month has passed on this story, no one is asking the right question.
Right now everyone is asking whether KU is worth it for indie authors, and that is not the right question.
What we should be asking is whether traditional publishers are seeing a similar impact on their sales.
Yes, I know that all the talk is focused on indies and KU, but that is not the problem itself; it is just the way that the problem is expressed in the market.
When you get down to it, the actual cause of the drop in revenues is a shift in consumer book-buying behavior as consumers sign up for ebook subscription services and stop buying as many books at retail.
Or at least that is what everyone is assuming; as I pointed out a few weeks ago I am not completely convinced (there are other possibilities).
But leaving my doubts aside for the moment, if a radical change is occurring then it would most likely affect a consumer’s entire book-buying behavior.
This means that if a consumer really does buy fewer books after getting into Kindle Unlimited or another ebook subscription service, they’re buying fewer books over all – including ones published by legacy publishers, indie publishers, and indie authors.
Now do you see why I want more data on trad pub ebook sales?
And that’s not all; I also want more info on indie sales. The fact of the matter is, folks, we can’t know for sure that KU is negatively impacting the ebook market without first collecting a broad cross section of revenue data.
Another way to detect the impact of KU would be through consumer surveys, which is why I am going to be following Nielsen’s press releases closely (I really hope they’ve thought to ask about ebook subscription services).
At this point I only have reports from a double handful of authors. While they could be the tip of the iceberg, they might also simply be seeing the impact of unpredictable market fluctuations (which may or may not be part of an annual cycle).
People have a tendency to see patterns in chaos, or in this case see a market trend in a handful of reports. It may or may not be true, but we won’t know that without getting a better view of the market as a whole.
And that’s why I want more data.
If you have access to revenue data, please look to see what patterns you can find. I’m not asking for you to share your conclusions with me (although it would be appreciated), just look at the data.
But if you do want to share some details (off the record, of course) you can look me up at the DBW conference in a couple weeks.