Every little while, technology is democratized to a point where everyone is once again put on equal footing.
It happened at the printing press. It happened with blogs. It happened with podcasting, and it happened with Twitter. It happens a little bit at a time, and as it does, I’m amazed by the average person’s ability to step up to the plate. Normal, supposedly non-qualified people become journalists, entertainers, or musicians. Everyone proves themselves capable, often despite the misgivings of those in the ivory towers.
Well, it’s about to happen again. I’m starting to see it now, and you probably are too.
iPhone iPod has been out for ten years, and it’s reached a point of such ubiquity that everyone now also has an e-reader. They can push any text to their phone pretty much instantly.
So, this is about the time everyone starts to write books.
This is the time we all become authors.
I can start to see it already. The Domino Project is in full gear. I just received word that Chris Moore published his first book on his experiences in Cuba, direct to Amazon, for three bucks. Joshua just published his own, of short stories, since quitting his job. James Altucher continues to self-publish his work instead of going through mainstream publishers. And let’s not forget Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff, whose most recent, Transistor Rodeo, got its movie rights optioned recently.
So, I was sitting having breakfast with Greg Isenberg the other day when this gem occurred to me: at one point, the internet was nerdy and uncool. Now it is hip and super popular. Those that got in early on the web, won. Those that got in late, not so much.
So our job is now to find the new uncool thing immediately. And right now, self-publishing via Kindle is definitely one of those uncool things.
No prestige, no money, no gatekeepers. Everything that goes the way of the vanity press is supposedly low-quality, but is it really? Soon, we won’t think so. Everyone will be doing it, and you’ll wonder why you never got in on it back then.
We’re all going to be peers. It’ll be about sales and reviews, not about advances. It’ll be about cutting out the middleman. Bloggers, and others with powerful platforms, will realize they don’t need the middleman at all (or rather, that Amazon has become the new middleman, and they do a better job).
Now onto what happens to authors themselves, and their work.
First, friction for a purchase is drastically reduced by a deeply discounted price point. $2.99 for fifty thousand words will significantly impact sales.
Second, a book no longer sits there on your desk. Anyone with an iPhone can hold 1,000 of them. So your most recently read/opened books become your RSS reader, with new things popping up all the time.
Third, add numbers 1 and 2 above and you naturally get many more unfinished books than you’re used to seeing– that is to say, readers not bothering to finish books. You don’t see the unfinished books at the bottom of your Kindle list, so you never finish them, and the price point means you didn’t waste much. New books on the top of the pile end up being tried out instead of old ones getting finished.
Fourth, this means shorter books end up dominating. Seth Godin has it right here.
Fifth, the ebook (or whatever we end up calling it) ends up becoming the midpoint between the blog post and the book. Some authors (many, actually) may stay here since it’ll provide them with enough income to survive and a direct connection to their audience. I’m thinking the Ev Bogue and Gwen Bell types.
Sixth, publishers naturally need to adapt– and they end up at the top of the market, grabbing the best of the ebook markets and offering them great deals (the way publishers like Wiley do with bloggers now).
Sidenote, all of these things are happening already. This post isn’t about the future at all; it’s about the present. Hope you’re ready!