Monday, June 27, 2011

MARKETING MONDAY: mobile movement

This week I want to focus attention on the eBook market--not how to sell books on Kindle or how to format a Word document--but rather on how an eBook is not a Dead Tree Book (DTB), that is, not paper.

I'm a huge proponent of the mobile market. I've been promoting the idea that handheld devices are absolutely taking over the digital market for a number of years. I discounted forerunners like the Palm and early PDA's since they were too proprietary, too large to slip into a pants pocket, and too complicated (not to mention expensive) for your average non-geek user.

These days, however, the "smartphone" is the mobile standard and has completely dominated the digital world everywhere but the US. Big surprise (not!) The Americans were the last to get on board with every other cellular step the world has seen in the last decade, why should net access and mobile computing be any different? I didn't realize this until I lived overseas for four years (in the Middle East) and saw just how common it was for highly-advanced (for then and there times) devices to be in the hands of people who often didn't wear shoes and never had or would own a car.  It's a totally different world out there beyond the borders of the USA and most Americans are so full of--something--we just can't seem to grasp we are NOT leading the world in the mobile marketplace.

This article in TechCrunch today really clicked with me because of how totally wired in the guy is illustrating the world is--or it is outside the US anyway. Only in America are there people actually saying "I still haven't learned how to do that internet thang." Worse, they said it with pride. *shudder*

Given I'm an author, the eBook market, in particular, has to be of special interest to me and in fact, reading books on phones has been a popular activity in large cities worldwide for at least a decade now. The fact that the American publishing industry is just today starting to talk about an "eBook revolution" like it's some kind of new-fangled development that just surfaced overnight is almost laughable--it's just too sad to be funny, though.

Back in 2003 I was trying to figure out how to create an interactive book. I had just finished the original draft of Coming Home (Dicky's Story) and was still unsure if I liked the ending. I wanted to get readers to click and tell me how to end the book. I had about a half a dozen possibilities I'd worked up and written out.

I figured it'd be really fun for readers to get to see the alternate endings and it'd be really interesting feedback for me, as the author, to get a feel for which path was most followed. Alas, fear of having the book stolen and a lack of methods at that time for protecting the content led to my not producing said interactive book. I'm still trying to figure out how to make a go of it, though. I think interactive books will definitely be coming. I base this prophecy on the paths of development video games have taken from XBox 360 to Kinect. Users of games truly get off on actually being in the game.

Readers of books who become "True Fans" of the work will often lose sight of the fact it's just fiction. They start talking about this or that possibility as though it's real life. Their real life. They want to be in the book. In fact, Tuckerization is one of the most sought-after honors by True Fans. I would actually argue it's unlikely that interactive books won't be happening--and soon! Let's say in the next decade (or sooner).

So how does one plan for such an eventuality? Start getting friendly with your smartphone and be sure you really understand the concept of apps on your phone or tablet device. Be sure you actually use apps and aren't a "tech-n00b" if you're going to author an eBook.

It's not that hard to learn what an app is and how the markets work. The Android Marketplace has huge numbers of apps that are free--you name the topic, and to steal Apple's marketing slogan, there is indeed an app for that! The Apple appStore is nearly the same as iTunes so if you learn the ups and downs and obstacles or tricks to iTunes, you've got a handle on the Apple appStore. And anyone can browse iTunes using a computer or any mobile device. Unfortunately, iTunes is, indeed, everywhere. Hopefully, soon, same will be said for the free Kindle eBook Reader apps.

Don't keep thinking in terms of selling DTBs. That's not to say the only future is eBooks. Of course, it's not! I love my paper books but I know for a fact, eBooks are being read all over this planet, probably at a higher rate than DTBs. Did you know that in Japan alone phone users consumed over a billion eBooks all the way back in 2005. Yeah, today Japanese read on smartphones. Back then, they read on tiny little Nokia picture phones before smartphones were affordable! Before videos were even possible on phones, the Japanese were reading books on their phones on the way to work. And there weren't all that many eBooks out there. I don't have numbers on 2011 eBook consumption in Japan (do you? post a link to a data source in the comments!) but I strongly suspect it is higher. Even with the tsunami. Maybe because of it (everything else is destroyed--eBooks are forever).

Don't assume readers of eBooks will read only on a large computer screen sitting at their desk. Accept that most people actually dislike reading on that kind of screen or in that particular seated position and that's okay. Most people who buy eBooks don't like their desk chair and instead sit in a comfortable chair holding some other kind of device which is not their computer. It's only in America that people still think "screen" must equal computer at a desk. There are a gazillion devices out there which are not computers, do not require desks, and will let you read an eBook. Happily.

Most eBooks in the US are selling on Kindle for a reason--you can read them anywhere. The "buy once, read anywhere" slogan is not just a sales pitch, it's a reality and not just for Kindle format books, obviously. Smashwords, bless 'em, has a similar policy of "buy once and get unlimited downloads to unlimited number of devices." I love it.

More importantly, though, is that any eBook eReader device can be taken not only to your favorite chair, but onto the porch, off to the beach (this coming holiday weekend will see record-highs on eBook sales, I guarantee it!!) or even at the gym on your elliptical machine while you're working out.

Understand that eBook readers (the customers, not the devices) are different than DTB customers. Your average eBook reader probably multi-tasks and might actually skim your book, but since they have a copy of it which won't ever wear out or get "dog-eared" pages, they'll also probably read it more than once.At least, they will if they like it, but then, isn't that the goal of every author? To get readers who want to read our stories again and again?

Well, it's my hope and dream. I think it should be yours, too. Aim high or you can never achieve ....a galaxy (as Lois McMaster Bujold once said in the voice of Miles to Ekaterin at the end of the novel Komarr, available in multiple eBook formats from Webscriptions, right here for one low, low price of USD $4.00)

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