British author Ewan Morrison has been very busy speaking out about the ebook market recently, and in a new article for The Guardian he argues that the social media marketing world is going to implode, taking a significant chunk of the ebook industry with it. Morrison’s central point is that the ebook ‘tech bubble’ (his words) is tied to the myth that social media marketing is effective. He believes that the latter is not, in reality, driving sales to any great extent, and that when the world wakes up to this fact, many ebook authors will lose their only real marketing platform. This implosion, he predicts, will occur in the next 18 months.
This isn’t the first time Morrison has questioned the stability and vitality of the self-publishing and ebook worlds. Back in January, he predicted that 2012 might be the year that the bubble bursts, while just a few days ago he decried the self-publishing industry’s ‘race to the bottom’ and the effect that this is having on the perceived value of ebooks.
Is he right? My personal view is that while he might be correct when he says that social media isn’t the sales driver that many believe it to be, he’s wrong that this means the ebook bubble will burst. First, there’s the very real possibility that the social media world will change and that new opportunities will open up. Second, there’s the fact that even if some authors give up, that doesn’t mean a ‘bubble’ is bursting. The ebook industry is (in my opinion) more likely to settle as a fairly normal market rather than bouncing between the extremes of boom and bust.
Third, while he might be right about social media not directly driving sales, I think he’s underestimating the value of building a successful ‘platform’. Not everyone can build a platform, of course, because if they could then it wouldn’t be so effective. But for those who can, I think social media could still be an important tool. And like any tool, it needs to be used in the right way. Authors have been building platforms for many, many years. To say that it’s an ineffective approach now, just because many more people are trying to do it, seems a little illogical.