While writing my recent article about how ebooks are not responsible for falling advances and earnings for authors, I got to thinking about how ebooks could help change the publishing model and provide authors and publishers with new and increased profit streams.
Publishing is a model that hasn’t really changed since paper and the printing press were invented, but electronic copies could provide a huge variety of ways for authors to release and monetise their work, here’s some ideas:
Return to serialisationThis is something we have already seen (on mobiles in Japan), but releasing books a chapter or so at a time and asking people to pay small sums for each is a possibility.
Free chaptersRelease the entire book or portions for free but hold back the end – the idea being that once the reader is hooked using the free part, they’re prepared to pay for the conclusion.
Give away copies to influential readers
Publishers could give away books to select groups (I'm talking about housewives, avid readers, etc) to try and encourage peer review and endorsement – word of mouth is still the most powerful recommendation medium, so publishers could give away copies to influential readers in the hope of them recommending it to friends.
Subsidised ebook readers
Publishers team up with a hardware manufacturer to give away devices as long as the recipients read an ebook from a new author every month and provide feedback.
It may be that reducing the price of a book to very low levels increases sales as it hits the ‘why not?’ barrier, especially if you can get books to be fashionable (apparently some people buy books just to have them on the shelf so they can be seen). Could be a way to combat piracy too.
Publishers selling direct
Rather than give away chunks of money to retailers, publishers could sell direct to readers and keep more of the profits/reduce prices. It may even mean a change in the publishers role as more of a recommendation service, with publishing houses becoming brands in their own right.
Easily recommend new books
At the end of the book add a ‘you might like’ section with a list of new/current titles based on the book just finished on the reader device with links to buy and download or add to a wishlist. When people finish a novel with a warm glow it must be a great time to try and sell them something similar (and better recommendations would be good, I can never seem to find something just like what I enjoyed).
Advertising subsidised books
In the same way magazine and newspapers are covered in adverts you could offer free/low-cost copies with ads between every chapter/page/randomly. On some of the devices they could even be audible rather than visual so as not to interrupt the flow.