How technology changes traditional books

In the Internet age, human knowledge was digitized for cyberspace.

Thu Huyen, 25, pulled out her Kindle device, typed in the book title, and read the long novel The Fountainhead on the screen.

Like Huyen, many young people consider reading books on electronic devices to be an indispensable part of modern society, where keeping a thick book in public is inconvenient and unusual.

Lots of things that can be read on smartphones, tablets or e-book devices, from novels to love stories to picture books. Audio books are also available.

The e-book industry has been booming since the appearance of Amazon Kindle. However, for many reasons, the US e-book market share has so far stagnated, accounting for just $ 1.94 billion of total sales of $ 25.93 billion in 2019, according to a report by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) .

Monopoly of e-book dealers

According to a report by Author Earnings, Amazon holds a dominant market share in the US and the world’s largest countries consuming copyrighted e-books.

When Amazon Kindle came out and priced e-books much cheaper than paper books, publishers banded together to fight this monopoly. As a result, Amazon was forced to put in place a policy that didn’t make the price of the e-book version much cheaper than the hardcover version.

In some cases, copyright e-books are even more expensive than printed books, as readers can buy used books at prices well below cover prices.

Today, competition between big tech groups in the book publishing market through their own content distribution platforms has not resulted in e-book prices falling. The reason for this is that Amazon can take up to 65% commission while Apple and Google charge no less than 30%.

All publishers or individual authors are forced to accept this share of sales, because there is no free lunch. The first Kindle e-book device launched in 2007 for $ 399, but today the latest version starts at just $ 89.

However, Amazon makes profits from advertising revenue on the device and commissions from online book sales. The giant holds the largest share of the e-book market thanks to a huge bookstore with more than 6 million book titles, from stories, comics, magazines to children’s stories.

There are no statistics on Kindle users, but Amazon says it has sold an average of 10 million Kindles devices per year since 2007. This e-commerce giant is aiming for a market share of over 60% in e-books. If you summarize the market shares of classic book sales, Amazon even holds up to 80% of the market share and thus creates a kind of monopoly on the book sales market.

E-book bottleneck

How technology has changed traditional books-2

Many Vietnamese publishers have had to discontinue e-books due to piracy.

Not to mention piracy, eBooks have always been dependent on Amazon. Publishers and book authors are forced to choose between a 35 percent or a 70 percent share of copyright.

That said, if they choose 70% of sales, the book price will be between $ 2.99 and $ 9.99, 20% cheaper than the printed edition if it’s available on Amazon. If an e-book falls outside of this rule, the publisher or author only receives 35% of the turnover.

If you don’t choose Amazon, the publisher or author can choose Google, Apple or a distributor with a good market share like Kobo (Canada), Nook (USA).

If publishers or authors ignore Amazon, they won’t have enough income to invest in books. Amazon’s competitors who don’t have a large bookstore can’t attract the same number of readers.

Trends of the time

In Vietnam, the e-book culture has not yet established itself as most readers are still reading pirated e-books. Finding pirated e-books in Vietnam, including Vietnamese and English editions, is not difficult.

Because of this, Tiki closed the Miki app after many years with losses. Meanwhile, another application, Waka, is still struggling to survive. Recently, the startup Voiz FM was founded with the aim of entering the audiobook market, which is expected to generate sales of $ 20 million by 2024.

The model used by Waka and Voiz FM is a monthly subscription, but the number of book titles is limited to over 13,000 e-books and 2,000 audiobooks, respectively.

With the monthly subscription model, these apps can temporarily solve the problem. But another problem arises: accounts that are illegally shared by many readers.

Another direction that Vietnamese publishers have considered is a self-distribution platform for eBooks. But it takes a long time to get a license to print and digitize books, while it only takes a few minutes to create and distribute illegal e-versions of a book title.

Despite these difficulties, e-books are inevitable as thick dictionaries have now been replaced by fast translation tools on computers and smartphones.

It’s time for Vietnamese publishers to digitize their printed books and diversify content with images, sounds, virtual reality (AR / VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) to keep up with the e-book revolution as they move into Vietnam is booming.

Phuong Nguyen

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