Four million may seem like a good number, but to me it’s actually not that impressive. After all, we are talking Amazon here folks.
One reason this number seems low to me is because John Tayman,the CEO of Byliner (a publisher that specializes in e-shorts), told me the publisher expects to sell 1 million e-shorts all by itself in 2012. Those are pretty good numbers for a publisher, and they are probably more than a quarter of what Amazon sold this year (remember: Amazon’s number is since the beginning of 2011, which means the company is selling, on average, 2 million per year, even though I would estimate 3 million were sold this year).
OK, I may be making too much of this. Byliner, which is the leading player in e-shorts, seems to be making a business of this market, even as more competition is on the horizon as news organizations and others start their own imprints. Still, Tayman and Byliner have an early lead, in part because of their focus on attracting premium talent (Michael Lewis and John Krakauer are probably the two leading American narrative nonfiction writers).
And while it may have an early lead, that doesn’t mean the company is sitting still. It just launched an e-book subscription service, one that I’ve been watching closely. I am curious to see if there’s enough of an addressable market that will pay for a shorts subscription business. My feeling is . . . maybe.
But I wonder whether such a narrowly focused service can scoop up enough readers to make it a substantial business that could rival single title sales. Tayman has said early indicators are good, and the company’s site seems to have elevated the subscription business as one of the primary ways consumers can access books.
We’ll see. If Byliner can make its subscription ebook service work, it would be a win for the company and a sign that ebook monetization doesn’t have to rely so heavily on single title sell-through.