Blockchain is a really hot thing right now. Publica have just sent the first book on the blockchain, ALLi is working on what blockchain means for writers (I'm delighted to be part of that), and so on. Last week I was at an event in Oxford with some of the leading blockchain academics, and one of the themes that came across was, when considering applications, does something really need the blockchain, or does it just need really good tech? And that struck me as a great reminder to us as writers – truly innovating isn't just about “using the latest thing”, it's about “understanding exactly what something can do to make what you do better, then doing it”.
Exchanges and marketplaces are one of the things the internet can do best. For indies, the highest profile of these are Reedsy, where authors can meet professional service providers from editors to illustrators, and ACX, where authors meet voice artists to help with their latest audiobook. Latest to enter this, er, market are Streetlib Market. At a glance, their offering is much more of a traditional exchange board than the likes of Reedsy, in that service providers gain their kudos primarily from how they perform within the environment rather than bringing their pre-existing kudos to it. I'll watch with interest.
Audiobooks: Bestsellers and Audible
The New York Times is now producing an audiobook bestseller list, for fiction and non-fiction. It will be very interesting to see whether indies chase this as they have done the ebook lists, and if so what tactics emerge.
Mark Williams always has something interesting to say. But when it comes to the Audible Romance royalty debacle, I found his ruminatings even more interesting than usual. We know subscription services are notoriously gamable, and we know platforms are slowly getting to know this, but we also know that they want to give customers the best experience possible. Mark's thoughts square that circle by pointing out, in essence, that all of these things can't always happen at the same time. It's very worth reading his argument in full.
The Different paths of Ebooks Around the World
Ebooks have been in the news this week in so many different contexts around the world that it felt like the best way to handle them was to go on a short global tour. We start in Thailand, where Ookbee, the country's largest ebook store has expanded to become a full digital lifestyle store. Figures on reading habits from the US make very interesting food for thought, meanwhile. The headline is that one in five people have read an audiobook in the past year while one in four have read an ebook (compared to a baseline of 74% who have read any kind of book). The figures are broken down a lot demographically, which is interesting, but while the upward trend in audiobook participation and flattening of ebooks is notable, there is not sufficient granularity to help predict the potential for audio growth this may indicate.
In Europe, meanwhile, the UK has indicated that after it leaves the EU in March 2019 it will not be part of the single digital market, meaning that it will be exiting from harmonised regulation on, among other things, geoblocking and tax. Which in practical terms means more paperwork for indies.
Amazon Prime for Customers on Medicaid
Amazon has announced a heavily discounted Prime subscription rate ($5.99/month from $12.99) for Medicaid recipients. It will be very interesting to see if the move can be traced in a nudge in future years in the numbers of the Pew survey quoted in the previous paragraph.
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Indieathon March 1-31 [online]
Dublin Writers' Conference, June 22-24 [Dublin}