The Emerging Marketplace for Eshorts

10 Reasons why eshorts provide insights into both the challenges and opportunities for the book publishing industry

Summary: The eshorts marketplace is still in its infancy, but set for growth. I’m particularly interested in this area of the book publishing scene because I feel eshorts provide insights into some of the challenges and opportunities for the publishing industry with regard to digital products. Digital products being not only a growth area, but the very future of the book publishing business.

1. It’s a new segment of the publishing marketplace — a new area of business, if you will. I’d say the closest thing to an eshort in traditional publishing in terms of a product would be a novella. But those were and are more like novelty items — there was never a section of a bookstore devoted to novellas. With eshorts, there is a clear merchandising area for eshorts specifically — Amazon has the Kindle Singles program (the most prominent eshort program out there, which not only established the product, but defined its word count range — between 5K and 30K words); Apple iBookstore has Quick Reads; BN has Nook Snaps.

2. An eshort seems like a very natural product for the digital marketplace — it’s not really “innovative.” There is no special technology. It just makes sense from a digital reading experience.

3. The barriers to entry are very low, so we are seeing all kinds of publishing start-ups, news media, magazine and digital-only publications, organizations and writers entering the space. Book publishers are just a small part of what is going on in the eshort marketplace. And in many ways, their royalty rates and focus on book length works diminishes their ability to be long-term competitive in this space.

4. There are a few start-ups focused on eshorts, but I don’t think they are necessary and will not make it long term. Eshorts will simply be a potential revenue generating offerings from all manner of operations that publish content. It will also become much more common for authors to publish eshorts on their own by working directly with the major digital retailer.

5. Since eshorts are lower-priced and take less investment and resources to actually bring to the marketplace, putting DRM on the products will be less of a concern. This will free the product from ecosystems, making it easier to sell in more places and easier for consumers to get on the devices of their choice.

6. Speed to marketplace — It takes publishers a year or more to get a book into the marketplace. A digital-only eshort can enter the marketplace extremely quickly. Case in point.

7. Authors can be creative with eshort length works to expand the universes of their books/characters. They can also find ways to engage their readers in between books, which at the most, will come into the market once a year. But no matter what, a successful eshort is one that can stand on it’s own — it should not be a teaser. It should not end with a cliffhanger that requires that the reader get forthcoming full-length work.

8. Sets a price bottom for digital product in the overall book space. If an eshort is $1.99, then products longer than eshorts will by default be priced higher.

9. Shows opportunity beyond the publishing house, and not only that, exposes weaknesses in the argument that authors need a traditional publishing house. With eshorts, they don’t.

10. One major issue with regard to this space is that the merchandising reach of the online retailers is a key to success for an eshort, giving already powerful retailers like Amazon — currently the best merchandiser of the eshort product — a lot of control over this space. This is a concern — and something to consider when you are exploring the viability of a project — will it be able to succeed if Amazon does not promote it via their eshort merchandising program? The answer is usually no.

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