Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Platform Wars! - helpful or destructive?

Apple Hypin´ Announcement!
Apple has announced that they will have an announcement by the end of the month. Not very surprising in itself. Apple has had much success using this form of advertising in the past to create speculation and rumurs and thus hyping the effect of their announcements when they actually announce their announcements... Confused? Don´t be!

Just understand it like this: Apple will tell us something that may or may not be of interest, but to be sure we are listening, they tell us that they are about to tell us something so that we will keep a close eye on them and be open minded when they finally come around to telling us what they want to tell us.

Ehm... I can see that didn´t help much... Well, let´s just say that Apple wants to tell us something by the end of this month...

What are they planning?
According to Good Ereader Apple is about to launch a self-publishing platform for ebook authors making it easier to publish your ebook through iBook.

So far, so good...

Amazon has had such a platform (DTP) for some time now and this will be Apple´s response.

Is it a good development?
I suppose that for Apple, Amazon and some of the other retailers in ebooks this is a natural course of action and though I agree that competition between companies is usually good for the consumer and for the international economy one thing pokes me right in the eye: they all have a catch! You have to give up your right to publish elsewhere!

See, when you are an indie author you are by definition concerned about your freedom to write, publish and earn your way as you see fit. Some may think this is a sort of arrogance towards the publishing industry, but understand that the publishing industry has flushed out the very ground base of it´s right to exist: Author Servicing!

In the old days, when you planned to publish a book you would send your manuscript to a publisher who would read it through and decide weither it was worth their effort to go further with it. If they found your manuscript worthy of publishing they would help you edit it, proof read it, create a cover for it, print it, advertise it and distribute it. All in some variation of cooperation.

Today, when you want to publish, the first step of getting a publisher to move on with your manuscript is still the same, but as soon as you get approved for publishing, you´re on your own! You edit it yourself, you proof read it yourself or ask a friend to help you with it, you get someone to create a cover for you (if you´re really lucky the publisher may do this for a certain fee) and if you want people to know about your book the entire marketing departement sits about 15 inches behind your laptop.

Considering all of this, the only advantage you have as an author publishing through the big dogs is the distribution process. No wonder more and more authors decide to become independent!

In comes Smashwords.com in 2008 making it both easier and more effective to publish your work and the market changed. Now you can publish via Smashwords who will proof read your book before shipping it to other retailers among which are Barnes and Nobles, Kobo and.... well, whaddayounow: Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks!

Amazon´s DTP requires you to publish exclusively through Amazon and Apple´s new publishing platform? Surprise, surprise..... Exclusive Publishing!

Thank you, but no thank you!
Sorry guys, but I simply fail to see any reason whatsoever why I should renounce my freedom as an Indie Author to publish through those platforms as long as I can keep my freedom using Smashwords.com

Smashwords does have a rule that resembles exclusiveness: you are not allowed to use the ebook formats created with Smashwords´ Meatgrinder automated tech. - but that seems only fair, since they are the ones providing that option. But you fellas at Apple and Amazon demands me to renounce my rights to my own work and that´s a whole different story!

The platform wars
This platform war is about to be derailed and from history we can learn that in the end only one platform survives - and in many cases the winning platform isn´t even the best.

Mainly two examples come to mind: the qwerty vs. Dvorak Keyboard Layouts and the VHS vs. BetaMax videotape war!

The qwerty keyboard was patented for type writers by Christopher Sholes in 1868 and the first to use it was Remington in 1873. At the time it made good sense, since it combined effective type writing with as little jamming of the keys as possible, but when the electric typewriter was invented in the 1930´s the jamming problem disappeared. Then Dvorak invented the Dvorak Keyboard Layout based on studies of physiologi and typing speed. It never was any real success because the cost of replacing a well proven type writer layout with a new one was just too risky.

The war between BetaMax and VHS was won by VHS even though almost every expert claimed the latter to be of poorer quality. The main reason was that the porn industry decided to use VHS.... food for thought in itself...

What´s the best ebook platform?
Honestly: I don´t know! But what I do know is that if I was asked to point out the one thing most important to an author, my answer would be simple:

The freedom to write and get read!

I believe I am not the only Author with this as my highest priority, but don´t take my word for it... Instead, comment on it, if you´re an author yourself and tell the world:

Your turn!
For you as an Author, what is the most important thing when it comes to publishing?