Traditionalists still relish the idea and feel of a hardbound book. It’s an appreciation for the days before the Internet, when reading was one of our leisurely pursuits. However, those days are slowly fading away, and that demographic is becoming a smaller and smaller group. With the growing popularity of eBooks, on-the-go bibliophiles have chosen to transition to their smartphones for their daily dose of literature.
In the digital age, things move quickly. There was a time when smaller meant better. Now it appears that trend has reversed itself - as smartphones are actually getting larger. This turn-about is due mainly to the growing number of eBook readers preferring to have access to their reading material on the one device they carry on their person throughout the day.
Even Kindle which has carved out a decent market share of the eReader market—and has virtually forced Sony out of the market all together—wants in on the action. And ironically to do so, they've manufactured their new Amazon Fire Phone to be smaller than their Kindle Fire but larger than Apple's iPhone. Samsung also has a dog in this fight, as their Galaxy S5 is now the largest smartphone in the market at 5" vs. Amazon Fire at 4.7"—and with iPhone 5 trailing at 4 inches in size.
Will eBook publishing eventually become subscription-based? Apps like Oyster that's available for Androids and iPhones are one of the front-runners in the all-you-can-read book subscription service. With over 500,000 titles to choose from, and recently named one of TechCrunch's 'Best Apps of 2013' -- for $9.95 per month, readers can borrow as many eBooks from its library as they like.
According to Jacob Kastrenakes at The Verge, "there aren't many companies taking this approach to ebooks yet, and the options out there — including Oyster — are still limited." While Oyster is one of more popular in this category, the downside for self-publishing authors is the service is presently only uploading eBooks from traditional publishers.
Rooster also features a curated reading app. Co-founded by former New York Times reporter Jennifer Lee, novelist Yael Goldstein Love, and Jacqueline Chang (formerly of StumbleUpon), their model is slightly different from some of the others. It’s offering provides readers with novels in bite-sized chunks that can be read in 15-minute intervals, with push notifications whenever a subsequent new installment is ready. Then after a two-week trial period, a subscription fee of $4.99 per month kicks in. However like Oyster, presently Rooster only offers traditionally published eBooks, so indie authors still need to look for other options.
Addressing that need is BookBub. Their service does not charge readers and does work with self-publishing writers. In fact, when questioned in a recent interview about this, the company's editorial operations director Halli Melnitsky noted, "independent authors have been the backbone of BookBub."
She also noted that her firm is more concerned about satisfying the readers' interests and that a diversity of publishing options is something they feel is important. "When a subscriber opens our email, they can’t see whether a book we’re running is from an indie author or a big house . . . they are making purchasing decisions based on how appealing the book looks, whether it sounds interesting and if the price seems like a good deal," adds Melnitsky.
The benefit for indie authors to work with BookBub is they have an exceptionally large and loyal subscription base divided up by genre, with large numbers of readers favoring hand-held devices. However, while the subscription service is free for readers, it's a wee bit costly for independent writers, with a price listing for mystery novels starting at $310, and escalating as high as $1550 for an eBook selling for $2+. Other genres are less expensive and a complete cost breakdown can be found on the BookBub website.
Billions of Smartphones
Today, there are over one billion smartphones in the hands of potential readers, and that number is thought to triple by 2017. This is a market that cannot be overlooked by indie authors. According to Mark Coker at Smashwords, "for each of the consumers, especially the readers in developing countries, your ebook (on smartphones) are only a few clicks away from being discovered, sampled and purchased."
Indie authors should also think beyond just text on the page. Book lovers also like to listen to their favorite stories, as the burgeoning audiobook market has so well proven. Smartphones are well equipped to cater to that demographic. The onboard speakers on smartphones were designed specifically with music in mind, so we know the technology is capable of delivering exceptional sound quality.
In addition to why indie writers need to think seriously about optimizing their work for smaller screens, there are
also a number of apps that are geared specifically to aid the self-publishing author during the creative process. In my previous blog post titled, "4 Smartphone Apps for the On-The-Go Writers," I interviewed the founders behind some of the best software tools developed in the last couple of years specifically for indie writers.
There's a Reason They Call 'Em Smartphones
Reading on Kindles and dedicated eReaders have been the standard bearers for bibliophiles up until now, but going forward the majority of a writer's fan base are preferring to consolidate their reading experience with an all-in-one device. It's just the smart thing to do. With screens getting a wee bit larger, there’s all the more reason for authors to think seriously about formatting their work for this type of distribution medium.
But what about you? As an indie writer – are you on board with seeking options to adapt your work for smartphones? And if so, what steps have you taken in this regard, and do you have any success stories to relate? Be great to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments, and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.