The Continual EBook Challenge

As still a relatively young technology, publishers face a steep hill of challenges when it comes to being profitable in producing ebooks. Nieman reports on how the industry is adjusting strategy and one of the more interesting points is that most ebooks are read via mobile devices instead of on actual e-readers.

This is brought into context with the recent announcement that Oyster, an ebook subscription service, will no longer be in operation within the next few months. Fortunately for them, Google hired many employees and the author speculates that they are after Oyster’s digital reading experience. However, the deal did not include any of the contracts that Oyster had with publishers. Subscription services for ebooks are a good idea in theory, but more difficult to sustain in practice. Not surprisingly, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited seems to have a better business model to survive. Authors who are included are only able to print with Amazon, while Oyster was just one way that publishers were getting their content out.

The next few years will be telling. Will ebooks go the way of newspapers with digital access accounts? Will authors get paid more based on page views (like Amazon) or by selling ad-space? Will digital publishing of fiction books become extinct? We will have to wait and see.

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