Wednesday, 27 March 2013

eBooks and the Myth of Market Penetration

Stabilization – it’s been a buzzword lately in the industry.  A lot of folks are claiming that eBooks are close to reaching some kind of saturation point and that they’ll stabilize at a certain percentage of the market. Usually the claim falls somewhere in the forty percent range.
There are a couple of things that make me think this might be wrong.
First, the reach of eBook stores run by companies such as Apple and Kobo is constantly growing. Both of those stores  give authors easy access to fifty countries.  Amazon now has separate sites for nine countries and sells to the rest of the world through the US site. 
The second (and more important) point deals with the fate of the brick and mortar side of book sales. eBooks are an incredibly disruptive force in the market. It’s not so long since the demise of Borders and, yet, folks still talk about stabilization as if nobody else could be in trouble. Barnes & Noble recently announced plans to close somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty stores a year for the next decade.
Call me a jaded cynic, but when a CEO tells us that they need to cut a few stores, it usually means that there’s still a whole iceberg of bad news sitting under the water. Add to this a bad holiday report,  where the Nook division showed a 13% dip for the nine week period leading up to years end, and you suddenly understand why they might be offering a free Simple Touch with the purchase of every Nook HD tablet.
B&N are one of the few remaining bastions of high volume paper book sales. Every time a company like this rolls over and stops swimming, the shift accelerates.  As the number of outlets shrinks, the efficiencies of the old model wither away. With fewer places taking large orders, the print runs will likely get smaller and the cost per unit will go up.  If the trend continues, we may even see the return of the book salesman, driving around their little territories with a vanload of books. Somehow, I doubt they can find anyone willing to hawk books to gas stations or corner markets anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I love bookstores. They’re a great place to pick up a pound of dark roast, a new novelty mug, a nice scarf and maybe even a few toys for the kids, but they haven’t sold me a book for two years now.
I know the graphic would seem to indicate that I want to see an end to paper books, but it isn’t the case. I just happened to think of it while writing this and thought it might be fun to make an image like that. Frankly, the more options that readers and writers have, the less chance that any one company or group will be able to get a stranglehold on the industry.
The reader is the gatekeeper now. It ought to stay that way.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Orbital Decay Free on Amazon until March 16

I’ve forgoten to post about this, but Orbital Decay is free until Saturday night, 16 March. It’s fourth in the series, but can be read as a standalone without any confusion for readers who are new to the series. For an un-publicised freebie, the response has been pretty good so far. It’s topped the High Tech and Horror (freebie) charts in a few countries after the first day.

The next book, under the working title of The Orphan Alliance is in my editor’s hands and should be out by the end of the month. It follows the fortunes of the Human/Midgaard alliance as they bring the fight to the Dactari Republic.

The next story on the whiteboard is going to be another fifteen to twenty thousand word episode in the Orbital Decay line.  

We’ll see what happens next for Ben and his small band of refugees as they race to save our species from the living impaired...

A Black Ships Novella - Fourth in the series
Detective Sergeant Ben Mark's life is falling apart. It's been a long, painful process for years but the pace has just accelerated dramatically. A suicide turns into the case from Hell as Ben realizes that Dr. Mortensen was the victim of foul play.

And he may not be the last.

Ben's own life is in danger as he struggles desperately to uncover what Gaia Biodesign is doing on their orbital lab, and why they are willing to kill to keep it quiet. As he races to uncover the truth, he learns that the entire species may be the next victim.

Just as humanity is finally reaching for the stars, a terrible mistake may knock us back into the Stone Age.

If anyone is left alive...

(approx 18,000 words)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Ten years I’ve waited. The new SimCity looks visually stunning and the game itself appears to have the best mix of complexity and usability. No more running pipes – just drop in your roads and your power, sewage and water are ready to go. So why haven’t I rushed out to pick up a copy?
You have to be online in order to play it.
It doesn’t matter if you just want to try a single player city, you have to connect to the EA servers in order to launch the software.  The servers are already maxed out and a lot of gamers are unable to get in. I’m a little leery of dropping a sizeable chunk of cash for the opportunity to be at the mercy of EA’s budget decisions.
And what happens down the road if they stop supporting the game?
The always online requirement works for games like Call of Duty because few players even bother with the single player campaign, they’re in it for the online play (and who wants to waste time on a campaign that’s ten percent gameplay and ninety percent cinematic anyway).
It works even better for Blizzard, where users pay a monthly fee to access their characters.
Maybe that’s the plan with Sim City? Perhaps they have plans to release DLC that requires a subscription fee. You download the ‘Space Exploration’ module and pay five dollars a month to use it… The digital rights management angle is probably the main reason for the always online requirement, but I have a feeling that they’re going to lose more sales from this requirement than they will from piracy.
Either way, if I can’t play it offline, I’ll pass for now.