I read with interest Nate’s analysis in The Digital Reader on the Great Ebook Blogger Culling of 2016. Five major blogs, including TeleRead, shuttered or vastly curtailed. Why? I have a different take on this from some people’s: The demographics simply aren’t right for bloggers to maintain this as a niche.
Let me explain. I got started with ebooks probably about as early as one could have, reading on a Palm Pilot back in the Fictionwise days. I’m now in my late 30s. So why did I vastly curtail my blogging habits this year? It was only partly a financial decision—I had a baby. And my fellow TeleRead contributor Susan did as well.
So that leaves the younger folks and the older ones. And anecdotally, I wonder how many of them are reading ebooks these days. My millennial-aged sister swears that none of her friends like ebooks. They take classes on Udemy when they want to learn, and they prefer their fiction on paper. And my older father-in-law, a former ebook junkie, prefers paper again because it’s so cheap to buy them second-hand that he can pack them to take on cruise ships with him and simply leave them there when he’s done. Ebooks, for all their benefits, require devices that are too expensive to be this disposable.
So a demographic breakdown of potential bloggers suggests that the problem may simply be a target market that isn’t the right age for blogging. The younger and older third of the population do read some ebooks but are returning to paper. The middle third of die-hard ebook fans are having babies and establishing careers. Who is left to do the blogging?
Image credit: Here.
@Joanna: Thanks for your interesting analysis. As I myself see it, a number of factors are at work, including the demographics you spotlighted.
I’ve already mentioned Google and social media. And, yes, ebooks are not faring as well as we’d have hoped. Major publishers have not helped by raising prices.
The tech isn’t as good as it could be—notice how stubborn Amazon was before offering something as basic as all-text bold in recent Kindles? Innovation isn’t happening as fast as it should, partly because Amazon dominates so much of the industry.
What’s more, many and perhaps most schools aren’t teaching ebook literacy, so people can truly get the most out of the tech.
Also, consumers may be belatedly catching on to the extent to which DRM dilutes the value of their purchases. Not everyone has the resources and knowledge to strip out DRM or may be put off by Luddite restrictions against doing this even without copyright infringement.
The way I see it, the vast majority of blogs are not anywhere as popular as they were three or five or seven years ago. This includes blogs about ebooks, blogs about self-publishing, blogs about book marketing, and blogs about retirement. Check with the bloggers of these topics and I bet that they will totally agree with me.
Insofar as David’s comments about DRM and major publishers raising prices, this is total nonsense. Fact is, ebook sales as a whole are going down. My print sales of my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” are holding their own even though I recently raised the price of the print edition from $16.95 to $19.95 but the ebook sales are down even though I kept the ebook price at $9.97.
Blaming Amazon is asinine. Amazon created the ebook market. On Tuesday at 10:30 PM, I celebrated with a friend the fact that my total ebook sales (Kindle, iBooks, and Kobo) had reached 25,000 copies. Amazon was responsible for 89.78 percent of these sales. For the record, I place DRM in all my ebooks and price my ebooks higher than most authors do. I bet that I have done better in ebook sales than 95 percent of authors.
Problem is, most authors are not smart enough to analyze what is going on in the publishing game. I recall about 5 years ago when so many wannabe authors were bragging about how they were going to do so well in the “indie publishing” game (mainly at ebooks because at the time they said “print is dead”) and how they were going to drive the traditional publishers out of business. At that time I thought, “What a bunch of hollow heads and morons!” Funny, I don’t see any of these delusional people commenting on blogs anymore. Near as I can tell, traditional publishers are still in business and some writers love to be associated with them.
But I have digressed far too much. You ask, “Who is left to do the blogging?” The answer is simply that there will be a lot of people who will be willing to do the blogging if there is a market for the blogs. It’s no different than asking, “Who will be left to write the books?” The answer is simply that there will be a lot of people who will be willing to write books if there is a market for the books. It doesn’t matter if the writers had babies or have a full time job or are 95 years old. If these writers are operating out of high intention, they will still write books. Some of these books will be blockbusters that earn the respective authors a lot of money.
One more important point: I have noticed over the years that few people ever comment on the Teleread blogs. Why don’t more readers comment? Answer: The articles are not interesting or controversial enough! One of my favorite bloggers, Joe Udo of the “Retire by 40” blog, tends to get 25 to 50 comments on every blog post he does. This tells me that his blog is interesting and appeals to a lot of people. Joe also knows how to write interesting blog posts.
In short, anyone can disregard everything that I have said because they think they know more than me. Good luck. Let me know how it all turns out. Fact is, my total book sales (mainly self-published) have now reached over 950,000 copies. As Jack Canfield said, “Results don’t lie.”
Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
(Over 310,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
(Over 295,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)
@Ernie: Happy holidays. As noted earlier, engagement is happening in new ways. Our warning against anti-librarian McCarthyism drew more than 3K shares on Facebook—see the stats at the bottom of the post. As for boring, well, YMMV. Financial advice appeals to more people than news and views on ebooks and libraries—that’s generic. DRM? I don’t think we can extrapolate just from the information you’ve supplied. It’s at odds with the experiences of so many posters here. I don’t tell people how to crack DRM, but blogs that do find it’s a major traffic draw. Finally, yes, books and blogs are different media. Of course people are still writing books—while promoting themselves in blogs, both their own and others. Comes with the territory. No bill for the free ad you’ve just placed.
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.
I wanted to reply to Mr. Zielinski’s post.
It is a common mistake for people in one genre to assume that the rules for one genre apply to ALL genres. The audience for the advice genre (for lack of a better term!) is substantially different from the historical biography genre and the literary fiction genre. Even if you make the modest claim that authors regardless of genre need to do personal branding for their books to succeed, I can think of several book categories where that is not the case at all.
Even the statement that the number of comments for a blog attests to its level of being interesting depends on many things — and especially the subject matter. Some of the most interesting blogs I have ever encountered have hardly any comments.
My take on the original topic — why are blogs about ebooks floundering — is that more attention needs to be on authors and not technologies. But alas, Joanna, I share your perception that a diminishing percentage of the population care about books in general — much less ebooks.
Good e-Reader continues to do well! We publish a few articles every day and our Youtube channel has gained over 15,000 subscribers this year, we also broke the 50 million view mark.
Yes, as we learned this election cycle, the market for fake news is endless.
Speaking of where’s that Liquavista Kindle you said we were getting this year, Michael?
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Keep in mind that the book market has changed enormously since portable ebook readers first began to appear circa 2000. In recent years, most of those changes have gone against ebooks.
1. People are less likely to hoard print books they’ve read, making a random selection of used books far easier to pick up locally. And one reason for that is:
2. Particular print books are easier than ever to locate and buy. Amazon, Abebooks and others allow readers to find a certain book online in mere seconds. And when a book is that easy to find, it’s easy to find again, hence that pass-on attitude.
Notice that neither of these are true of DRMed ebooks. Indeed, when you buy one, you not only can’t pass it on, there’s a clutter factor in trying to remember where you bought it so you can download it again.
3. Even the ‘read while waiting in line’ dynamics have turned against ebooks as people have discovered the advantages of audiobooks. People who might be reading on their smartphones are listening instead. That is true of me.
4. Competition, particular podcasts. When someone becomes interested in a new topic today, they often don’t turn to a book, print or digital. They see if there’s a podcast on the topic. A weekly podcast is an easy way to learn or keep up with a topic without the complications or costs of buying a book.
5. Digital distractions. On a campus near me I see students sitting on a bench who, a decade ago might have been reading a book. They are now texting friends instead. That may hurt both print and digital reading, but because it is digital, it may be more likely to turn them away from digital.
6. The ugly factor. Ebooks on a wide variety of devices are little changed from when they first appeared on Palm Pilots. They still poorly formatted and, because of the limitations of epub, can’t be made to look much better.
As I often point out, the first movable type book, the Gutenberg Bible, took as its model the marvelously beautiful, hand-done Bible manuscripts of the day. Unfortunately, ebooks have taken those early Palm Pilot ebooks as their model. The result are ebooks that not only look unattractive but that have to stick with genres that adapt well to crude formats. That’s mostly fiction.
In short, in the competition for readers between print and ebooks, most of the changes in recent years are benefiting print. Even price is no longer to an ebook’s advantage. With careful shopping online, you can pick up a used print copy cheaper than the ebook edition sold at retail.
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Great comments, Mike. One more thing: I think that “reading applications” (i.e, flipboard, medium.com and even the old fashioned RSS readers) can be just as compelling — if not more so than ebooks. And all these alternatives are FREE. I love reading fiction — and yet I confess I am often more likely to turn to the Medium app on my tablet than Google Play Books.
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Nobody yet seems to have made the obvious point that ebooks and ebook readers are becoming routine. Ten years ago reading devices were expensive and ebooks were relatively hard to find and obtain. Reading an ebook blog could pay off for me and people like me in directing me where to find the books I want to read and the devices on which I could read them.
Now I can log on to Amazon, find the books I want in a few seconds, download them, run them through Calibre and put them on to Dropbox, knowing that the DropSync app will shortly download them to my Android devices in a form that I can open with MoonReader; and that when I’m in wi-fi range all my devices will be updated with information about the page I’m currently up to.
It’s an amazing collection of technology, and it took a long time to assemble and debug all the steps; but now that it’s done it’s meeting all my ebook needs, and it’s hard to see how I could improve on it. So if and when I read ebook-related articles now, it’s merely for personal interest, not because I’m keen to find ways to make my own life easier.
All new technologies go through this phase. There was a massive surge of interest in PCs during the 1980s and 1990s: books, TV shows, courses for beginners, all bloomed and prospered as people learnt how to come to terms with their new technology. Then they did, and the interest fell away.
I don’t see that the declining interest in ebook blogs has anything to do with a declining use of ebooks; on the contrary, it’s precisely because ebook use has become standardised and routine that we don’t need regular updates about it.
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I was going to come and post something similar, but here you came along and said it for me. Ebooks aren’t the neat new toy they used to be; they’re something everybody’s grandmother reads because they can make the print bigger on their Kindle instead of having to buy large-print edition paper books. So interest has probably dwindled down to just those who are really interested in the business.
For myself, I don’t write as much largely because I simply don’t have the time anymore. I’ve been working 9:00 to 5:30 (and will soon shift to 9:30 to 6:00) taking calls for a health insurance center. I generally arrive there about an hour before my shift starts so I have plenty of time to eat breakfast in their (excellent) cafeteria and get to my station on time. By the time I get home in the evening, I don’t have time to do much more than relax and get in bed.
Even my weekends have been occupied lately, which isn’t good because there’s a hardware review I did promise to write and need to get around to. Will try to do it soon.
So what can you do with contemporary fiction in eBook form besides buy, read and discard it? The need to generate income begets DRM and DRM begets artificial scarcity and reduced functionality so the answer is: not much.
So what is the difference between one of these dysfunctional eBooks and paper books? Again, not much, so a market that could have been dominated by eBooks is instead split between the two.
Finally, what’s the difference between an infinitely disposable work of fiction in eBook form and an ephemeral web site dealing with either fact or fiction? Not much.
With all of these artificial constrains at work on digital trade publishing, it should be no wonder that there isn’t all that much to blog about. Teleread has done an amazing job of finding and writing about interesting aspects of eBooks despite all of this. So perhaps you can make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. I’ve been impressed.
I believe that Jon and Chris Meadows nailed it — ebooks are mainstream, almost boring and for the average reader, the technology is good enough that they aren’t all that concerned about new and shiny innovations.
Ereaders, Android, iOS, even a web-reader on your browser, or download a file and read on the program of your choice, whether it’s Amazon or Google Play or iBooks or B&N or Kobo, the technology for the most part “just works” well enough that the vast majority of readers are satisfied.
The action is not going to be in the technology, but in the content — in the books themselves — and there are plenty of book bloggers in every major genre, Facebook message groups, sites like Kboards and Goodreads, and book promotion services like Bookbub — people are lot more interested in talking about which books are worth reading rather than how they are going to read them.
@Jon and others: Actually the tech could be a lot better for typical readers. Not everyone knows how to strip DRM and make Kindle ebooks readable in something like Moon+ Reader Pro. DRM and formats remain issues, along with the need for decent TTS. So do other issues such as the digital and educational divides. What’s more, TeleRead is about library advocacy, not just ebooks, and issues such as fake news have made our cause more important than ever. So, profit potential or not, TeleRead goes on. We started as an activist site. Back to the future!
I’m actually more interested in what needs to be done, and in making it happen, such as boldface on Kindles or a national digital library endowment, than I am in how many visitors our posts will draw. As for the remaining commercial sites, I would encourage people curious about them to key domain names into Alexa.com. You’ll see numbers have slipped badly. So thankful that TeleRead is once again a cause, not a blog business, even if we continue to be newsy in our own way and will still publish noncause items. Props to Nate, etc. for hanging in there despite the challenges for commercial sites.
Meanwhile thanks to Frank for his kind words. And stay tuned for Chris’s review of the Czur scanner!
My guess is that you’re all right and that other ideas about the decline will come along and also be right. Social change is never simple, single-answer stuff.
Interesting article and I know I’m late to comment. For me, the death of Google Reader was what ended my daily visitation of ebook blogs. Google Reader compiled feeds into a nice, easily accessible format. I tried using some other readers, but none worked as well. Now I just check in on those same websites 3 -4x per year that I used read everyday, sometimes multiple times per day with Google Reader.
@Jenna: Check out the paid version of the Bazqux reader (bazqux.com). I’m very happy with it. Also, remember TeleRead has an email list. Sign up at;