Mark Coker, Smashwords CEO, Ebook Predictions for 2013

Mark CokerI’ve been a huge fan of Mark Coker since the early days of e-publishing (2009)–even asked for his autograph at the SF Writer’s Conference. But this isn’t about my fandom–it’s about Mark’s 2013 predictions for ebooks and the business in general. These are just the bullet points (the actual blog post is longer than some Indie books I’ve read), but you can read the entire article here –

Remember, these are Mark’s predictions, not mine. ( I tend to agree except about #13 because I’ve decided B&N is going down since they sell so few of my books.)

1.  In the US, ebooks sales will reach 45% of US trade book market

2.  Follow the eyeballs:  2013 will be the first year unit volume of ebooks exceeds print

3.  The current glut of books will become even more pronounced

4.  It’ll get tougher to sell books

5.  Publishers, in search of Black Swans, will lose authors to self-publishing platforms

6.  Overall ebook prices will decline, though author brands will retain pricing power

7.  Passive discoverability trumps other book marketing methods

8.  Tablets will become the new paper as E-Ink becomes niche product

9.  Global will be the biggest story of 2013 for indie authors

10.  Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo will redouble global expansion efforts

11.  Apple iBookstore will be the breakout story of 2013 ebook retailing

12.  Amazon’s global ebook market share will decline

13.  Barnes & Noble will rise again like a Phoenix

14.  In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales

15.  Pearson/Penguin/Random House/Simon & Schuster will either cut bait on Author Solutions or ride this anchor to the bottom of the sea

16.  The Big 6 will become the Big 4 as bean counters take over the farm

17.  Stigma of Big 6 (or Big 4 or Big 3) publishers will increase as prior stigma of self-publishing evaporates

18.  EPUB 3 will disappoint

19.  Ebook subscription offerings will face uphill slog

20.  Indie authors poised to capture a growing percentage of library ebook market

21.  Indie ebooks will start driving more film & television projects

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Smashwords Adds Distribution Channels

page foundryIt’s great that Smashwords keeps adding new partners to help Indie authors sell ebooks. Recently it was the addition of Baker-Taylor, the massive distribution center for books and entertainment from Charlotte, NC, in business for nearly 200 years. This alliance will help dramatically with major bookstores and libraries, two areas where Indie authors would like to see more infiltration.

In the past few weeks, Smashwords has added Page Foundry, a company specializing in digital merchandise and delivery. This will help enormously for sales to Android mobile devices like tablets and smart phones, devices that already have a Page Foundry or similar ebook app built in via the manufacturer, a website or application (Asus, Wireless Operation, Versent and Inkterra).

What this will mean to a Smashwords author is the presence of additional sales channels in her/his dashboard and hopefully more money and more readers.

Read the details from Mark Coker in this blog post:

Smashwords Adds Page Foundry as New Mobile Distribution Partner for Android Devices

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Page Foundry, a developer of mobile ebook store apps for Android tablets and smart phones…(keep reading)

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Wow, PayPal Reverses Censorship Policy

Incredible how fast things can change these days. Just got this email from Mark Coker of Smashwords informing us that PayPal has reversed its policy on censoring ebooks that have subject matter deemed to be inappropriate:

March 13, 2012
Smashwords author/publisher update:  PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It’s been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction. 

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.  You stood up and made your voice known.  Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.  

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention. 

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies. 

This is a big, bold move by PayPal.  It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction.  It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction. 

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.  Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?   Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing.  In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit.  Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish.  Merit is decided by your readers.  Just as it should be.


Mark Coker


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Smashwords Update on PayPal Censorship

Mark Coker of Smashwords recently published this follow-up on the PayPal censorship situation:

March 8, 2012 – PayPal today made what I believe is their first public written statement regarding the censorship saga, here:  I read it four or five times. My overall sense is that PayPal is doing their best to responsibly and carefully re-evaluate PayPal content policies that have been in place for many years – content policies that probably could not have anticipated the rise of self-publishing, the rise of indie ebooks (the rise of Smashwords and its authors and publishers!), or the incredible explosion of content availability, diversity and choice enabled by the indie ebook revolution. Prior to this indie ebook revolution, books not selected for publication and distribution by publishers had limited commercial outlet. Long story made short, I’m cautiously encouraged by PayPal’s statements. We’re not yet where we want to be (we want no censorship of legal fiction), but I sense we’re a lot closer now than if we had simply packed up our marbles, flipped ’em the bird and quit PayPal for an alternative as many encouraged us to do. I think their statements today give them the flexibility to do the right thing. They say they understand many people believe PayPal is moralizing and restricting free speech (this is a reasonable conclusion for reasonable people to reach based on PayPal’s actions up until two weeks ago), and they seek to assure everyone that is not the case (now the onus is on PayPal to show you, rather than tell you). Possibly, I’m reading too much between the lines of their carefully worded post. Time will tell. In the meantime, please continue doing your part to move this campaign forward. Tweet, Facebook, blog. Call your credit card company, or the bank issuing your credit card, and tell them you want them out of the business of censoring legal fiction. If you haven’t done so already, also be sure to add your name to the EFF petition. The blog post by PayPal today has a comments section, but it doesn’t appear to accept comments.

In a nutshell, PayPal commented further on the rape, incest, bestiality censorship issue by saying; “PayPal does allow its service to be used for the sale of erotic books… …but we draw the line at certain adult content that is extreme or potentially illegal.” Not many people have an issue with taking a stand against publishing/promoting books that are illegal (ala the recent Amazon vs child-molestation-How-To-guide). Where the real problem exists is with the definition of subject matter that is “extreme.” PayPal goes on to say that one of their chief concerns with extreme subjects in books, “is that this category of eBooks often includes images.”

Okay PayPal, most of us get where you’re coming from but censorship is a slippery slope. Who decides where to draw the lines, and how do you expect to read every new book to see if anything bad exists within it. Take for example the most read book of all time, The Bible, which certainly would not pass the litmus test for PayPal’s verdict on incest.

What about Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Even though both Roger and Jessica Rabbit are cartoon characters, Jessica is a human married to an animal, so that would definitely be bestiality at some level. The example is something of a joke, but you can see how easy it is to argue what defines an extreme case of bestiality. Similarly, what about famous mythology such as Leda and the Swan or Romulus and Remus suckling from a she-wolf? What if an author wrote a sexual psychology book containing all true events that included a scene with an child innocently rubbing a dog’s belly and the dog experienced an erection, which became the child’s first discovery of a sexual nature? Is that something one could or could not print in PayPal’s brave new world?

Many authors including Mark Coker and me are on the record as saying we don’t necessarily enjoy or condone any of these subjects that PayPal is concerned with, but we do recognize censorship is a slippery slope–a decision not to be moved into as lightly as they have.

This also concerns me because I love using PayPal as both a buyer and a seller. They are my online banker of choice, so I truly hope they can work out a solution here that is in everyone’s best interest.

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Smashwords Updates March 2012

smashwords your ebook your wayJust got this email from Mark Coker of Smashwords, which has very important info for Indie authors;
This email is going to all 30,000+ Smashwords authors, publishers and literary agents.
1.  Smashwords signs distribution agreement with Baker & Taylor; distribution to public libraries and the Blio e-reading app
2.  Read an Ebook Week kicks off Sunday.  Enroll now!
3.  PayPal censorship update, and how you can help


We announced a distribution agreement today with Baker & Taylor, one of the world’s largest distributors of print books and ebooks, and a major supplier to libraries. The agreement has two parts: 1. Smashwords books gain distribution to the Blio e-reading app which comes pre-installed on millions of personal computers, laptops and tablets manufactured by companies such as Dell, HP and Toshiba. They also operate their own retail site at 2. Smashwords books gain distribution to public libraries that subscribe to Baker & Taylor’s Access360 service, which they launched last year.  Over a dozen public libraries use it, and many more libraries are preparing to roll it out.

We will commence shipments next week, so if you don’t want this distribution, you can click to your Channel Manager at to opt out.  I don’t recommend opting out (neither does Jason Matthews)Although these are both likely to be small channels to start, they have good growth potential in the months and
years ahead, and will bring incremental sales.  Royalty rates are 60% list for Blio books, and 45% list for library sales. Baker & Taylor will not discount the books. More at the Smashwords blog:


Read an Ebook Week starts Sunday, so please click to the home page to enroll your books now.  Here’s a direct link: We’re going to give it heavier than usual promotion this year with an email blast to all registered Smashwords members (a very BIG number), so please enroll now. The sale starts Sunday and ends at the 11:50pm Saturday evening, pacific time.


In case you haven’t heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and gave us a surprise ultimatum:  Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account. We engaged them in discussions and on Monday they gave us a temporary reprieve as we continue to work in good faith to find a suitable solution.
PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations (likely Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, though they didn’t mention them by name).

Last Friday, I sent the following email to our erotica authors and publishers: Then on Monday, I issued an update, and announced we would delay enforcement of PayPal’s guidelines so we and PayPal could continue our discussions:

PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction.  Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction. We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don’t want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It’s legal. 

There’s no easy solution. Legally, PayPal and the credit card companies probably have the right to decide how their services are used. Unfortunately, since they’re the moneyrunners, they control the oxygen that feeds digital commerce. Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment processor. That’s not a good long term solution, because if credit card companies are behind this, they’ll eventually force crackdowns elsewhere.  PayPal works well for us.
In addition to running all credit card processing at the store, PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the U.S.  My conversations with PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion that the road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable. 

Independent advocacy groups are considering taking on the PayPal censorship case. I’m supporting the development of this loose-knit coalition of like-minded groups who believe that censorship of legal fiction should not be allowed. We will grow the coalition. Each group will have its own voice and tactics  I’m working with them because we share a common cause to protect books from censorship.  Earlier today I had conversations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). I briefed them on the Smashwords/PayPal situation, explained the adverse affect this crackdown will have on some of our authors and customers, and shared my intention to continue working with PayPal in a positive manner to move the discussion forward.

The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago:
Today, ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release:

I will not be on the streets with torch in hand calling for PayPal’s head, but I will encourage interested parties to get involved and speak their piece.  This is where you come in…

Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing without the (fading) protective patina of a “traditional publisher” to lend them legitimacy. We indies only have each other. Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they’re also the primary consumers of erotica. They’re also the primary consumers of mainstream romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I think this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality? The insanity needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor of legal fiction should have to answer.)
All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial services companies censoring books.  Authors should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want. These corporations need to hear from you. Pick up the phone and call them. Email them. Start petitions. Sign petitions. Blog your opposition to censorship. Encourage your readers to do the same. Pass the word among your social networks. Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story. Contact your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can hear a local author’s perspective on this story of international significance. If you have connections to mainstream media, encourage them to pick up on the story. Encourage them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question, “PayPal says they’re trying to enforce the policies of credit card companies. Why are you censoring legal fiction?”
Below are links to the companies waiting to hear from you. Click the link and you’ll find their phone numbers, executive names and postal mailing addresses. Be polite, respectful and professional, and encourage your friends and followers to do the same. Let them know you want them out of the business of censoring legal fiction. Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission to sell your ebooks without censorship or discrimination. Let them know that PayPal’s policies are out of step with the major online ebook retailers who already accept your books as they are. Address your calls, emails (if you can find the email) and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives. Post open letters to them on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters. Force the credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship. And yes, express your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well. Don’t scream at them. Ask them to work on your behalf to protect you and your readers from censorship. Tell them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.
American Express:
Ebay (owns PayPal):

Starting Sunday, if our email systems can handle it, we will send out an email to several hundred thousand registered Smashwords members who are opted in to receive occasional Smashwords service updates. The email will combine Read an Ebook Week with the censorship call to action. Let’s start a little fire, shall we?
Thank you for your continuing support of Smashwords. With your help, we can move mountains.
Best wishes,

Mark Coker
Founder Smashwords

Click here for the home page of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free.
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