Back in what some readers consider the dawn of time, 1997, I worked on project designed to change the world.
At that time this new thing called a CD burner was causing a huge problem for the music industry. With a CD burner on their computer a person could make unlimited copies of their favorite music and share it with friends. To make matters worse, if 12 CDs came out with only one good song on each a person with good computer skills could take out those 12 songs and make one CD that was as enjoyable as if they had all $300 worth of CDs.
The project I worked on was based on two simple principals. One, people will pay for things they believe has value to them. Two, people like convenience.
Our project let people go on the Internet, look through a list of songs and buy the ones they liked. In those days we were working with 33 baud modems so downloading them would take all day. So we would burn them to a CD and mail them to the people.
The idea was that people who didn't like spending $300 for 12 songs would pay $30 for 12 songs. The music industry would make money as the volume of purchases increased even if they weren't getting money for songs no one wanted.
A major label saw our idea and bought the rights at a low price and gave us huge royalties for each CD sold as long as they had control over content.
They then forbid any content on the site, effectively killing the idea. Five years later Steve Jobs took the same concept and made iTunes, and everyone who buys music buys it off iTunes.
To make it clear, iTunes has a much better interface and is easier to use than our early model did, but what made it a success was that he convinced the major labels to give up their old business model.
Now, 14 years later, I'm looking at the publishing industry and hearing the same complaints that the music industry had back then.
Just like the music industry back then people are working around the old model and people in power fear this.
Here are the facts about books.
People are reading more than ever, that's amazing! With more things to distract them people are turning back to books.
The Young Adult Market exploded over the last few years. The primary readers of Young Adult fiction is (betcha don't see this coming) Young Adults.
Young Adults grow up, they are weird that way. So not only are there still lots of Young Adult readers, there are lots of former young adults that still like to read.
In other words demand for books has never been higher.
Here is a little opinion, take it for that.
Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series was badly written (again that is just opinion). I believe they sold so well because they were badly written. Way too many books have been over polished and reworked so the raw spark that made them interesting looks too commercial and mass produced. One thing about the Twilight books is they don't look over polished. There is still a raw quirkiness to them that would be lost if the “bad” writing were taken away.
So while the demand for books is higher than ever and readers want (opinion) raw quirkiness. The publishing industry buying fewer books that they want polished to a higher standard than ever before. Then they complain that Amazon and Smashwords are killing them through sear volume.
So to all the people in traditional industries who see demand up but profits down, I say, “Change is not the enemy, new ways of reaching the market is not something to be feared. This is the new face of competition. Either embrace change and work to take advantage of it or find yourself irrelevant in the new marketplace.”
By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE