The Robots are Coming

A casual discussion about the automation of work and the decreasing relevance of humans to productivity.

Writing Gigs; Payment By The Page

August 07, 2015

Inside an article about Amazon’s business practices, there’s an interesting note about how the “gig economy” is coming to book writing:

Amazon announced that it would be instituting a new payment system for authors who use its Kindle Select publishing platform (in other words, authors for whom Amazon functions as both publisher and distributor), according to which authors will be paid each time readers turn the page of a book.

As Peter Wayner notes, “instead of paying the most ambitious, long-winded authors for each page written, Amazon will pay them for each page read.” An analysis of the details by Hern concluded that “an author will have to write a 220-page book — and have every page read by every person downloading it — to make the same $1.30 they currently get from a book being downloaded.” Casey Lucas estimates that author royalties could decline by between 60 and 80 percent.

For authors, the minimum billable unit (MBU) used to be the entire book, Amazon is using software to drive that down to the page. The entire book used to be the gig, Now a book is 200 smaller gigs, bound into one.