Monday, 28 November 2011

How Many Kindles Are Out There?

At the moment, I’m spending a lot of time setting up my new digital publishing venture, Endeavour Press. One of the things that interests me is, how many Kindles are out there. Amazon reported today that over the holiday weekend in the US it had sold four times as many Kindles as it did last year. But, rather irritatingly, it doesn’t actually say how many.

Figures are surprisingly hard to come by. For 2010, the estimates from the analysts are that five to eight million Kindles were sold. Let’s take a median figure, and called it 6.5 million. If Amazon has quadrupled those sales this time around – and based on anecdotal evidence, that sounds realistic – then it should sell around 26 million this year.

Add in the 2010 sales, and, after Xmas there could be 32 million Kindles out there globally. That’s about half the population of the UK. More significantly, I bet nearly all of those people are keener than average readers. After all, there isn’t much point in getting one if you only read on James Patterson book a year. You need to be a 5-10 books a year minimum reader to make the investment worthwhile.

So what proportion of heavy book readers will have a Kindle by 2012? I’d estimate about 40%. That’s what makes this market so fascinating.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Return of Pulp Fiction

The most interesting thing happening in writing right now is the way the Kindle is breaking down old barriers. It is creating a lot of new space for writers, and, rather surprising, it is also bringing back some old forms.

One is the long essay, which is really just a recreation of the polemical pamphlet. The other is the e-novella, which is really the heir to pulp fiction.

Pulp fiction flourished as the ‘penny dreadfuls’, lurid, sensationalist tales that filled Victorian and Edwardian railway bookshops in Britain, and in the ‘pulp fiction’ story magazines that were hugely successful in the US right up until the 1960s.

Both specialised in genre fiction, usually written fast by highly professional writers. The stories ere disposable, shocking, and attention-grabbing. And they were sold cheaply.

Look at the Kindle charts and you’ll see a lot of stuff is very similar. Lots of fairly sensationalist cheap fiction.

In effect, new technology has bought pulp fiction back to life.

The interesting point I think is that some great writing emerged from that tradition. The Victorian penny dreadfuls contained plenty of rubbish and so did the American pulp magazines.

But those magazines also provided the foundation for some great writers. Raymond Chandler, Zane Grey, Rider Haggard, and many others. Upton Sinclair was at one point knocking out 8,000 words a day for the pulps.

They allowed writers to write a lot, to develop characters, and push genres. At the moment, Kindle is allowing writers to do something very similar. There is a lot of rubbish, of course, but I suspect when we look back in fifty or a hundred years time we will decide that a lot of the most interesting work is being done for Kindle, just as it was in for the pulps in the past.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

E-Books Are Blurring The Lines Between What Is ‘Published’ And What Isn’t:

About the most interesting thing happening in the book trade right now is that the lines between traditional publishing and self-publishing are getting blurred. My Death Force series is published by Hodder Headline, but my Black Ops series of novellas I am bringing out myself.

More and more writers, so far as I can tell, are going down that road.

One indicator of that this week was the decision by the International Thriller Writer’s Association to allow its members to post the details of their self-published work up on their website. Until now, they had only allowed work bought out major publishers.

A hybrid model is emerging I suspect where writers do some work for major publishers, and some work for themselves, probably forming their own judgements on what mix will maximise their sales, income and creative satisfaction.

Personally I like the combination. I value the prestige of the mainstream publisher, and seeing my books in the shops. But I like the energy and immediacy of doing my own thing as well. And, I suspect I’ll soon be making more money as well.

But how exactly this is all going to work, however, no one really knows.