Mark Coker – 2017 Book Industry Predictions: Intrigue and Angst amid Boundless Opportunity

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1. Indie authors will continue to capture greater ebook market share in 2017

Indies will capture a greater share of digital reading in 2017. Factors driving this include:

  • Each year the indie author community raises its game to become more sophisticated and more professional. Indies are learning to implement – and in many cases pioneering – the best practices that motivate readers to choose one ebook over another.
  • Indie ebook authors combine quality with lower prices, providing readers tremendous reading value.
  • Even though indie ebooks are already low-priced, indie authors have greater flexibility to lower prices further than do the large publishers. This is a mixed blessing. This also means indies are vulnerable to some of the greatest devaluation pressures because indies don’t wield the collective bargaining power of large publishers.

2. The glut will grow more pronounced

Over the last few years here at the Smashwords blog I’ve talked a lot about how there’s a glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks. These ebooks are immortal and will never go out of print. Thanks to low-cost virtual shelf space, retailers can stock these ebooks forever – even if the books don’t sell. Although it’s great that your book will forever occupy the shelf, and forever be discoverable and purchasable by new readers, it also means that the virtual shelves are becoming more overcrowded every day. The major ebook retailers each stock millions of ebook titles in their online stores, with Amazon fast approaching five million titles. Every day from yesterday forward it will become more challenging to stand out, which leads me to my third prediction.

3. Ebooks will face greater commoditization pressures in 2017

Any time the supply of a product outstrips demand, retailers and producers differentiate their product by lowering the price. When one product is priced less than another, the lower priced product will usually – but not always – be viewed as more desirable to the consumer. Are $3.99 ebooks too expensive? How about 99 cents? How about free? How about authors paying readers to read books, the subject of my April Fools satire on Kindle Power Bucks which is starting to become all too real?

Most authors and publishers will vehemently argue that their books are unique objects and therefore not commodities. After all, commodities like corn or soybeans are by definition similar products, largely undifferentiated in form or quality. Books are the unique product of author creativity, right? The answer isn’t so black and white.”

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