It’s been eight long years since Amazon rocked the reading world with the introduction of the Kindle. It was certainly not the first e-reader device on the market, but it was the first one with the power of Amazon’s PR team to put it in consumers’ hands in a big way, and it was the first one that came with the world’s largest online bookseller to feed it.
And the industry hasn’t stopped changing since then.
But one of the more dynamic areas of digital publishing that has brought with it tremendous change is in the abundance of companies who offer some for of publishing solution. Whether it’s for individual authors with a dream of finally publishing their books or major powerhouses in the content field who wanted to digitize their catalog, there was no shortage of startups–both great and fairly evil–who came out to offer their services for a fee.
By now, many of the original players–primarily those who saw instant dollars signs instead of a long-haul industry option–have moved on, leaving behind a few steadfast game changers. Some of them, unfortunately, such as Author Solutions just won’t take the hint and go away, while others like Vook have shifted and adapted many times over the years to keep up with a changing market.
Vook, which recently announced its acquisition of both Byliner and Booklr, has rebranded itself as Pronoun and has shifted focus to working directly with authors with an unheard of free model that gives 100% of the royalties to authors. This emerging new concept is intended to fix a broken publishing industry, but just how broken is it?
“Though the publishing industry is filled with people who care deeply about books, it always privileges someone above the author — whether it’s the retailer, the distributor, or the publisher. When there’s a conflict of interest, the author loses. When margins increase, the author is the last to benefit,” they stated in an announcement this week.
The post highlights a crucial issue facing the digital publishing industry, whether it starts with traditional or self-publishing: we still don’t have a way to use technology to make a book more visible. We can blame the glut of content out there, but that’s a pretty easy target. There were books than any consumer could ever read long before self-published authors filled Amazon’s catalog with vampire-dinosaur-Big Foot-erotica. But despite the promises from the industry, no one has found a foolproof way to take an ebook file and put it directly in front of its ideal customer.
That will be the next wave of revolutionary startup in digital publishing, the powerhouses that find a way to fully address book discovery. Where players like Amazon, Goodreads, and other recommendation engines have failed to help either authors or readers with the issue, the next winner in publishing will have the technology to help books rise above.