Friday, December 09, 2011

My thoughts on the new KDP Select, plus Facebook and YouTube

In case you haven't heard, Amazon recently announced a new digital publishing program called KDP Select, which is part of the company's more broad KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program. If you are unfamiliar with KDP, it is basically Amazon's program for allowing writers and publishers to publish e-books through Amazon.

If you are unfamiliar with KDP Select, what this program does is allow writers and publishers to make their e-books available to U.S. Prime Amazon members through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Make sense? Probably not unless you're an indie author or a publisher. Basically, think of the Lending Library program like the old-school libraries in which you could borrow books for free, except in this case it's e-books, and technically it's not free since you have to pay to become a U.S. Prime Amazon member.

Still, what this means for readers is they can pay some money and then borrow an e-book each month without having to shell out the full purchase price to read the e-book. Of course it also means the reader will not actually own the e-book, thus the e-book will only be available on their personal Kindle for a month.

Are you lost yet? Sorry. I realize all this might be over the heads of a lot of folks who are not writers or publishers. But, to be honest, this post is mainly for those who are in the know.

For writers and publishers, what does KDP Select mean for us? It opens up a potential other market, with a chance to make some more money.

Unfortunately, at least as things stand right now, there are a lot of down sides to this. You have to read the small print. Actually, I highly suggest anyone considering using KDP Select should read the small print before jumping right in.


Well, first off, if you join the KDP Select program, your e-books within the program are exclusive with Amazon for at least 90 days. If you don't understand the word "exclusive," in this case it means for at least 90 days you cannot sell those e-books that are part of KDP Select anywhere else online, including on your own website. Do I need to repeat this? I hope not. I hope the importance of this got through to you the first time.

Secondly, the money to be made from KDP Select is somewhat questionable. I'm not suggesting there is not money to be made here, but ... well, let me try to explain. If you have an e-book enrolled in KDP Select, you do not get paid the same way you do in the KDP program. In KDP, you sell an e-book and you get paid for it. In KDP Select, each month Amazon allots a certain amount of money to the program, then you would get a percentage of the program. Considering the amount of money Amazon is going to allot to KDP Select could change from month to month, and considering you are being paid a percentage instead of as a straight sale, you will never know how much money you are making or can make from month to month, at least not until it's time to pay you, and then you have to trust Amazon's word on what your percentage of sales should be.

Thirdly ... I'm not going to go into a thirdly. Just read all the fine print. Most of it does not sound very good to me, to be honest.

As you can likely tell by now, no, I am not planning to take part in the KDP Select program. I see little benefit to it as things stand right now. If the program should change in the future, I will reconsider.

I'm read several places online where some indie writers are saying KDP Select is a good thing because they're not selling at any of the other sites anyway, so why shouldn't they just publish everything through Amazon?

Why? Does one have to be a brain surgeon to figure out the why? Because it is never a safe bet to have all one's eggs in one basket. Is that simple and quaint enough for others to understand? In the long run, indie authors are much better off having their e-books (and books, for that matter) for sale at as many different venues as possible.

For example, if an e-book is placed within the KDP Select program, that means at least for 90 days it is not available at B&N, Smashwords, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and plenty of other, lesser-known sites. Even for those who do not sell much at those sites, 90 days is a death sentence for their e-books; one is almost guaranteeing their e-book will never get any recognition at those sites, or anywhere else beyond Amazon. Which is downright foolish. Amazon is big, but it's not the end-all, be-all of e-book sales.

Now let me add here that I do not mean to disparage Amazon. I don't like their KDP Select program as it is, and I have concerns about some of their other business practices, but I don't blame the company for what it does. It's looking for new and/or other revenue models, which only makes sense for a business, especially one as big as Amazon.

However, I would like to bring up a few names: AOL, Compuserve, Netscape, even eBay.

Recognize those companies? Younger folks might not. Older folks will. Us older folks can remember a decade or more back when those companies were huge, dominate forces in the Internet world. All of them are still around, admittedly, but none (with the possible exception of eBay) are anywhere near as powerful, financially strong, popular or as useful as they once were. EBay is still the strongest of that group I mentioned, but even they are practically useless for most consumers nowadays, at least compared to what eBay used to be until about 10 years ago.

I bring up all these dinosaurs of the Internet because I see a lot of today's major players making the same mistakes those companies made a decade ago. Those older websites/companies were at the top of their game at one time, and they did certain things very, very well. Their customers loved the sites, and loved what the sites and companies did for the consumer.

But enough wasn't enough. Those companies couldn't simply focus upon what they did well. They had to expand. They had to try new things. They changed their interfaces, they brought about new products, they did a little of this and they did a little of that ... meanwhile, they moved further and further away from what they once upon a time did at the core of their business model. And eventually, over a few years, they began to lose customers.

I see this happening today, and my prediction would be the same fate awaits many of today's giants, though it might take a decade or so for it all to work out.

Every time I sign onto Facebook, there's some new change, always something annoying and usually not helpful to me as a user. What this does is make me go back to Facebook less and less.

YouTube I have already given up on. The site has changed so much recently, I practically find it worthless.

And, unfortunately, I'm starting to spot signs of Amazon doing the same things. Expanding. Reaching out. Trying new things. All while forgetting about its original mission.

Please don't get me wrong. I realize growth is good and necessary for business. I get that. Really, I do.

But when it gets to the point in which a company is no longer serving its customers, those customers will go away.

It's happened before. It'll happen again.

Just ask Compuserve.


Virginia Llorca said...

On Smashwords, most of my sales were from Barnes and Noble, over nine hundred and Sony almost one hundred. It was a give away, so that is skewed, but it is readership. SBTB shows bestsellers in romance and half of them are freebies. If Amazon allowed freebies I would probably have made one of their lists. No way would I leave Smashwords and give an exclusive to Amazon, much as I love them.

SBJones said...

Ever play the game Magic The Gathering? Remember the first time someone used a card in a weird way you never thought of and you realized how complicated the game really was?

I feel like I have been given the most common card in the game and no one realizes just how much of a game changer this is except for 6 companies who are praying no one takes notice.

Unfortunately, as soon as word gets around, it will loose its effectiveness and those that cashed in early will see the best results, but for established authors the price is too high. Exactly what those who are worried want.

Darby said...

Very good discussion, Ty. I think I agree with you on this one.

Bookblogger said...

I have been seeing a lot of talk about this program, and since I'm not an author I'm not going to spend the time to read the fine print myself. I appreciate you breaking it down like this though. It really does seem like a bad idea for most indie authors as having your book in as many places as possible is probably one of the best modes of marketing.

Lyn Perry said...

Good thoughts. Ecclesiastes thoughts. Time for everything under the sun. :)

mondal said...
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