Lately I’ve been thinking about e-singles a lot. I was an early enthusiast of the format so I’m always nosing around, but now that so many Canadian organizations have launched e-single initiatives, I’m wondering how we will start measuring results.
E-singles, which sit at the intersection of books and long form journalism, offer publishers and authors new opportunities to retain an audience and earn revenue. But no matter how interesting the concept, we’re going to want to get a sense of whether there’s much of a market for it.
The obvious problem is that we don’t yet have consolidated e-book sales tracking for the Canadian market. But even if I had a partial sample, it would be incredibly difficult to isolate e-singles from the rest of the e-book market. This is because we can’t identify them as e-singles in the metadata.
What are our current options?
- Price point: I know that some people will suggest price is an indicator, but it isn’t. Most e-singles are priced low but if you filter for price, you would also get books with promotional pricing and self-published books, which are often priced very low.
- Page count: Initially it sounds like print page count is a good indicator, but not everyone includes a print length to e-shorts, especially if their shorts aren’t available in print. And if they do, could we actually settle on an exact cut off of length where something stops being a single and is defined as a traditional length book?
- Imprint: This won’t work either because not everyone has a dedicated imprint for their e-singles.
And that’s about all we have right now and it’s not enough. We need a marker in ONIX that identifies a product as an e-single, full length book or other product.
- Market knowledge. We all want to measure the size of the e-single market. We want to know our market shares in that market, spot growth opportunities and set reasonable expectations.
- Merchandising. Retailers will want a way to automatically identify which files they’re receiving are shorts, at least for merchandising purposes. And publishers will want their e-singles listed appropriately with minimal follow up. If it happens automatically it saves everyone time.
- Discoverability. Customers who like the format will want the ability to search specifically for e-singles, and many companies hope that those customers will be able to do this anywhere e-singles are available and not just on the Kindle site.
Makes sense, no?
If you wan to know more about e-singles, check out the video of Laura Hazard Owen’s talk at Tech Forum 2012 below. If you’ve got another solution for this problem or have some insider info to share, let’s hear it. Please leave a comment below.