Self-publishing without ebooks

The importance of a subscription reading service

Photo by Arièle Bonte on Unsplash

I dislike ebooks for many reasons, not the least of which is that they’ve been made to resemble printed books in all the wrong, unnecessary ways. As a medium for self-publishing authors to distribute their works, the ebook is particularly unattractive because Amazon has monopolized the market and so arranged things that most of the money to be made from self-publishing goes into its coffers as a matter of course.

If we look at what’s happened in recent years to the music recording industry (Spotify, Apple Music etc.) and to film and television (Netflix, Amazon) it seems reasonable to hypothesize that the future of publishing lies in subscription services for readers. Amazon already has an established subscription service in the form of Kindle Unlimited. The problem with KU (apart from the fact that it’s part of the exploitive Kindle machine) is that it’s based on ebooks. The same is largely true of comparable schemes like Scribd’s and Kobo Plus. We need a subscription scheme based not on ebooks but on web publication.

I was writing about this yesterday and I concluded that we already have such a scheme in Medium’s partner programme. I probably haven’t been paying as much attention to the partner programme as it deserves because I haven’t used it myself and don’t expect to do so in the near future. Numbers are hard to come by but I don’t think there’s much doubt that fiction gets many times fewer readers on Medium than some other kinds of writing. So, I don’t think there’s much prospect of a fiction writer making worthwhile sums from the partner programme. (I hope I’m wrong and I may very well be. I’ll never admit to being a pessimist — I’d rather think of myself as a hopeless optimist — but my ex-wife occasionally called me “Eeyore”.)

In any case, I think that the Medium partner programme is the closest thing we have to the kind of subscription reading model that we need (for all kinds of published writing, including fiction).

Writing about Medium as a publication platform for fiction brought back to mind “Recommended short fiction on Medium”, the email newsletter I sent out between June 2017 and August 2018. While I’ve absolutely no wish to return to the world of the email newsletter, it strikes me that the title might still be put to some use in promoting fiction on the platform. My current thoughts on that subject are here:

I’ve just put together a list of my own fiction on Medium, hoping that the stories will be easier to find if they’re not all mixed up with my posts on various topics. There are several short stories, a novella and a novel and they’re all free to read.