Follow the eyeballs

Indie authors are the future of publishing.

Don’t take my word for it. Let Mark Coker break the numbers down for you.

Mark is the founder of independent ebook publishing and distribution platform Smashwords. Numbers? In four years, Smashwords has gone from handling 140 ebooks to 140,000 ebooks. Talk about the great leap forward.

Big publishing is caught in the turbulent cross currents of multiple converging forces. Five big trends are hitting publishing at about a million miles an hour.

  1. Bookselling is moving to the web. Brick and mortar sales are declining. Big publishing no longer controls distribution.
  2. Reading is moving to screens. Ereaders and screens offer a better reading experience at lower costs.
  3. Independent ebook publishing is rising. Indie ebooks outnumber traditional books with higher earning.
  4. Content explosion is putting downward pressure on prices. Excess supply leads to price competition where big publishing can’t compete.
  5. Big publishing is losing monopoly. Big publishing surrendering cultural primacy as independent publishing gains credibility.

Currently ebooks account for 30 percent or more of the US book market with print around 70 percent. As the market of ebooks increases, print will become less important, thereby diminishing the value of traditional print distribution.

Keep in mind those current ebook market share stats are based on dollar sales. Because ebooks are priced dramatically lower than print books, it means the dollar-based data understates what’s actually happening on the unit sales front.

If the same data was calculated based on unit market share, where units equal the number of paid plus free books that are actually read, it’s quite possible that 2012 will be the year when more ebooks are read than print books. If not this year, it’ll certainly tip over in 2013.

Follow the eyeballs. Unit share is a leading indicator for where this market is headed. Unit volume is the strongest measure of which authors are building the largest platforms (readers, and ability to reach those readers) the fastest.

This is where indie ebook authors have a significant advantage over traditionally published authors. Time to market and price being the two most important factors.

Put another way, traditionally published authors are increasingly disadvantaged when they must compete against indies.

What goes for publishing goes for broadcasting and every other media out there.

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