The Future of Content Delivery (is here)

Way back in the long-ago time of 2009, I did a keynote presentation at Balticon titled “The Future of Content Delivery.” I covered a lot of ground in the burgeoning eBook/podcast/self-pub/freemium areas, including a breakdown of the pre-order system ARealGirl and I used to sell over 1,000 hardcover copies of THE ROOKIE in the first week, sans any help from publishers, media coverage, PR or advertising.

If you want to listen to the presentation, click here. You can skip past my bombastic intro and listen to just the presentation by forwarding to the 5:00 mark. It’s got some naughty language, so be warned. It covers a lot of ground, some of which is still useful to aspring authors contemplating if they should pursue a traditional book deal or strike off on their own. I get to the eReader and eBook analysis at about 35:00.

A focus of that speech, however, was how eBooks offered a way for aspiring authors to reach the masses, and how cell phones were going to become the dominant consumption device for reading digital content. This was in the heyday of the Kindle 2 launch, when Amazon was really ramping up efforts to change the game. Change the game it did, sure, but at that time I was convinced that consumption on eBook-only devices would soon be dwarfed by people reading on smart phones and other smart devices. I predicted that while Kindle sales were huge, the numbers sold were statistically insignificant to the sales of smart phones, and that the day of the dedicated eBook readers would soon pass.

So let it be written, so let it be done! At least that’s what app maker Flurry states in a recent study. I found this info through Junkie Gmork (Carmen Wellman), who saw it in this Activity Press article.

Flurry QuoteAccording to mobile app researcher Flurry, almost 90% of time spent reading eBooks, globally, is done using smartphones, not tablets, and not dedicated eReaders. Flurry’s study beaks it down to small phones, large phones, “phablets” (my new favorite word), small tablets and large tablets.

So, Kindles, Nooks and Kobos are great. Tablets? Also great. Kindle Fire and Nook tablets? Even greater. But, still, the amount of eBooks read on all of the above pales in comparison to the amount read on smart phones.

People carry smart phones around with them 24/7. More and more of these people are discovering they can read eBooks on the devices they already use for dozens of other purposes, that they constantly have at their fingertips. Right this very moment, there are over 1 billion smart devices out there (phones and tablets). It means there is a huge, as-yet-untapped market for eBooks, where the reader doesn’t need to buy anything new other than the book itself.

In other words: there are millions of potential customers who can enter the market at a price of “free” to about five bucks. People buy smart phones for many reasons, then later understand their fancy device gives them this cool eBook thing.

This is for a market segment (eBooks) where some experts say a 41% increase in annual eBook sales is a “growth slowdown.”

But, does this massive increase in “digital consumption real estate” (I’ll coin that phrase, thank you very much) mean anything for the indie writer? Absolutely. Blogger David Gaughran’s analysis states that indie publishers have 30% of the top-selling Amazon eBooks. That is staggering to me. Sure, you can expect a few home-run hitters like Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking, but for 30% of the top eBooks sold to be indie titles? Gaughran goes on to estimate that indie writers have captured 25% of all of Amazon’s ebook sales. And Amazon? That’s a big-ass store right there. A quarter of that is lot of sales.

This is just one study. I haven’t done serious legwork to see if other studies support or contradict these findings, nor have I looked into the methodology (not that I am an expert in such matters, to say the least). This Publishers Weekly article only talks about dedicated eReaders and multi-use tablets: it doesn’t mention phones at all. Which is weird.

A bummer, was kind of nice to see these stats and the fancy pictures I put together. But hell, this preso is four years old, which is equal to eight lifetimes in the tech world.

Are we going to see more indie eBook successes, or will Big Publishing catch up to what’s going on and commandeer the market? Are you frightened that eBook sales improved “only” 41% from 2012? Will we get a second season of FIREFLY?


About The Author


  1. Wyll

    For a long time, I was a champion of physical print. Afterall, technology would kill literature, right? I would read physical books until my dying breath to ensure that the art would survive.

    After I got my iPod, I quickly changed my tune. When I bought my iPad, I was fully assimilated.

    It was a little akward at first to read on the small iPod screen, but I got use to it. Reading well written and engaging books that drew me into their universe made me forget I was holding my iPod completely. Factor in the abiltiy to sync with my iPad and allowing me to switch devices at will… I was in heaven.

    I do agree with the length of time spent reading on small readers: I don’t tend to read longer than 20 or 30 minutes, but when you in a line or stuck waiting some place, it is handy to whip it out and start thumbing… meaning my iPod, of course.

    I think the next great battle will be the price war. I see the big boys try to lure me in with their offerings by knocking a few bucks off the cover price of the book, but still keeping it close to the price of a hard cover. When I see the price of a book, I try to think of it not as a value, but as a sign of how much I am willing to spend to support the author. Having said that, I am more inclined to impulsively drop $5 to try a book from an unknown author as opposed to spending $12 to $17 on a book from an author I like.

  2. scottsigler

    @MarkinStLouis, @Prawatts United: I think plenty of people share your attitude about reading for long periods of time, and I would venture a guess that shows most people reading eBooks do so in smaller bursts. You have the phone on you, so waiting 20 minutes at the docs? Got 15 minutes at lunch? On the bus? On the treadmill? Waiting in line anywhere? That’s when I pop out the phone and get a little storytime done. I think as busy and as mobile as people are, a huge amount of reading is done in 15-20 minute chunks. 

  3. Prawatts United

    I find my phone confining for in-depth reading.

    I mean its ok if I’m waiting somewhere and want to kill some time but ideally I want to read with my Kindle if I want to seriously read a book for 1-2 hours.



  4. MarkinStLouis

    Don’t get me wrong: I love my e-ink device. When I’m at home or if I know I’m going to be someplace where I know I’ll want to use it, it is my preferred device. But for times when carrying a larger device isn’t convenient, like say at work or standing in line at the DMV, I’ll be reading on my phone. 

  5. cloysterpete

    I’m the opposite, I’ll never read anything on a phone, terrible battery, you can’t even see the screen if your not in artificial lighting and I love the look of e-ink as its so much nicer to look at. Personally I love that my ereader can’t do anything else, I don’t want it to, last thing I need is someone messaging me on fb when I’m settling it for a good reading sesh.

  6. ScottEPond

    As one who jumped on the ereader bandwagon early on (kindle, Sony ereader, nook, iPad… I’m a damn dirty gadget junkie) – heck, I was reading notepad copies of books on my laptop back in the 90’s – I’m not too surprised about he migration to small multipurpose devices. As soon as I bought my first dedicated ereader (kindle) I instantly thought “this is great, but I wish it could also do…” Even with multipurpose devices such as the iPad (which I love) I find myself falling back to the smartphone more and more. In fact, over the last year when I’ve found myself flying more and more, even though I have my iPad in the seat pocket in front of me and it has a much larger viewing screen, I tend to open and read from my phone. For me it’s a combination of size and convenience, vice huge honking power.

  7. MarkinStLouis

    This really doesn’t surprise me, either. I started reading ebooks way back in 2001 when a coworker talked me in to getting a Palm Pilot. It came with a free copy of The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver. My first thought was “there’s no way I’ll ever want to read a book on such a small device.” About a month or two later, while I had some downtime at work, I decided to try that free ebook, since I had nothing better to do. Once I got use to it, I never looked back. I was active duty Navy at the time, and it was nice having a llibrary of books at my fingertips that I didn’t have to give up half my locker space for!