In this week’s Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at changes to Amazon’s buy button and what Gertrude the pig means for writers.
ALLi’s new guidebook, 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered: ALLi’s Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing Tips for Authors and Poets, written by ALLi’s Outreach Manager M.L. Ronn (Michael La Ronn), is available now. You can read an excerpt in this blog post and you can purchase the book here. As with all our guides, ALLi members can access their complimentary e-book copy in the member zone. Members: just log in and navigate to “Guidebooks”.
Worrying Changes for the Amazon Buy Button
Amazon’s buy button is the holy grail for many sellers. When a customer wants to buy a product, it’s the thing they hit. In theory they may be aware that other sellers are available. And some may do a search to compare offers or buy from their favourite storefront. But most just click buy. New changes to the way the buy button works in 2021 might have profound effects for us as authors. At the moment, if someone wants a new copy of our paperback book, and we publish with KDP Print, they click the buy button and a book is printed on demand. We get the royalty from that at a rate we know from our dashboard.
From next year, people selling “new condition” items will be able to bid for that buy button. The Society of Authors in the UK and Authors Guild in America are worried. I’m not sure there’s too much of a threat to our sales. Most people who buy our books read them. But if a sufficient proportion of people who don’t read them bid to resell them, I can see that would be an issue. A further change will come from Brexit. Access to Amazon’s European fulfilment network will be limited for UK sellers. And vice versa.
Does New Technology Offer New Opportunities?
You know by now that I get excited about new technology and the opportunities it offers us. And even if I don’t get excited, I think it’s important to keep abreast of developments in technology. Because you might be able to see a chance I can’t.
This week the news has been dominated by one such story. I remember as a postgraduate student when the news unveiled Dolly the Sheep to the world. Dolly was the first laboratory cloned large vertebrate mammal. Everyone watching knew that Dolly signified a shift that would change the world forever. The never knowingly modest Elon Musk this week introduced us to Gertrude the pig. He hopes her effect on the world will be the same.
What makes Gertrude special is the Neuralink microchip in her brain. It’s a technology that Musk hopes will soon create a direct interface between our brains and technology. For us as writers, one of the things that could mean is that the feeling of having a story in one’s head but not being able to put it in the page is gone forever. Until that time, of course, the main function of neural laces as the technology is known will be to provide us with nightmare scenarios aplenty so our fiction can continue to carry Michael Crichton’s baton.
That’s not the only tech that’s been in the news. Over the past few years both artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) have promised fascinating opportunities for “tomorrow’s storytellers.” This week we’ve seen differing fortunes. First we’ve heard about AI Dungeon. This is a game that uses AI storytelling. What it does is expand the possibilities that are available within a certain world. As the storyteller you don’t have to write out every possibility and hope readers didn’t want something else. You create the rules and feel of the world. The reader tells you where they want to go. The AI acts as a bridge between the two and creates the narrative.
But it’s been a less good time for virtual reality. And it’s another difference that Covid has exacerbated. AI’s use in streaming videogames has coincided with a time when people were turning to them as a source of entertainment. VR on the other hand, was hoping that virtual reality arcades would help drive people to adopt the headset-based technology. And it couldn’t be a worse time for arcades. I am still excited by VR. But unlike AI, it does look like the technology’s storytelling breakthrough isn’t coming yet.
Kindle and Data Tracking
Last year I reported on research which examined readers’ deepest concerns about Amazon and data. Professor Lora Dietz found that people were worried about how Amazon was using people’s information. As we’d expect. Back then before Covid, Cambridge Analytica was still one of the highest profile crises on people’s minds. But they weren’t worried about Amazon tracking what you bought. Or even what you browsed. Readers were worried about Kindle’s in-book tracking, the data gathering that could tell if you’d skipped over Victor Hugo’s descriptions of the sewers. Or how many times you’d re-read the juicy bits.
With that in mind, many people will be very grateful to Nate over at the Digital Reader for his step by step guide to deactivating this function.
Are Readers Changing Audiobook Habits?
Interesting data from Storytel in Russia suggests that people’s audiobook consumption may be changing. Until now, self-help dominated sales. That position now stands with science fiction and fantasy. Any sign of the expansion of audiobook genres is welcome news.Amazon's buy button is changing. How will it affect indies, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.
Dublin International Writers’ Festival, 10-13 Sep
Frankfurter Buchmesse, 14-18 Oct [Frankfurt/online]
Over to You
Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.