The Glut is Good

A common refrain in this new age of self-publishing is that there are too many books. The outflow of new material has been likened to all sorts of natural disasters spewing forth and flooding the land. Not only are there too many books, these books are way too cheap! Many of them are even — egads — free. From down here in Florida, one can hear the chant of Glut! Glut! Glut! emanating from the glass canyons of New York City.

Everyone must be referring to Project Gutenberg, right? If you head over to, you’ll find 46,000 free ebooks, ready to download in multiple formats, or readable in your browsers. Check out their top 100 downloads; it includes many of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Half of this list could keep most readers busy for the rest of the year, and no one could hope to read all 46,000 titles in their lifetime. These are free books, arguably many of the best, so no more books need to be written or read, right?

If you followed the logic of the most paranoid and hysterical among the Glut-Chanters, you’d have to reach this conclusion. Bookselling is dead. There are enough fantastic and free books to last us all for the rest of our lives. And yet, book-buying continues to be a $30 billion dollar industry. What gives?

How can people spend $30 billion dollars on books when there are libraries full of books that just sit there, un-checked-out and without waiting lists? How can people spend $30 billion dollars a year on books when I’ve seen piles of free physical books on the streets of New York, abandoned and left for passersby after someone moved out of their apartment? Why are people spending this much money when library overstock sales get rid of hardbacks for a buck and paperbacks cost 50 cents? Literature is being devalued everywhere, and yet it still brings in $30 billion a year? What gives?

What gives is that books aren’t perfectly interchangeable. Or another way to say this is that all books don’t appeal equally to all people. The industry could release ten trillion free ebooks tomorrow, all told from the perspective of ninja zombie llamas, and those ten trillion extra free ebooks would impact book shopping not a whit. Zilch. Nada.

Okay, you’d probably lose two or three sales. But that’s it. Those ebooks would disappear into the ether just like billions of un-surfed websites do. Do all those websites clog up the internet? Make it impossible to browse around and find what you’re looking for? No — they make it more likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for. Because there’s a greater chance that someone has self-published onto the World Wide Web just the information you’re seeking.

Forget the number of books being published every year. Raw numbers of books are meaningless, as are the price of those books. What matters is whether each individual reader can find enough quality reads to make him or her happy at prices they are willing to pay. Which is why Project Gutenberg hasn’t destroyed the publishing industry. There are enough people who want physical books, enough who want new books, enough who want non-fiction, and enough who don’t care about the classics, to keep this $30 billion industry humming right along.

So why all the consternation? Well, seeing things in the most negative light imaginable is just how a lot of humans are wired. But I suspect it’s deeper than that. We are also biologically geared to worry over scarce resources and to use up any commons that we fear others might use before we get a chance. This puling over the glut of books is ape-brain-shit gone wild.

You mostly hear about this glut nonsense from book producers, and they aren’t worried about an infinite number of books, they are worried about the finite number of wallets. They see every one of those ten trillion llama books as taking money out of their pockets, because they think every reader would enjoy their work if there was nothing else to read. They think if they could just limit the number of books, they’d sell more. They’d be richer. So is there any way to shut down the spigot? Any way of shaming people who write too fast, price too cheap, give ebooks away, serialize, participate in subscription services, etc? That’s the goal. To have more wallets spread among fewer people.

The tools you see employed to reach that goal are shame and fear-mongering. Ignore it. It’s all insane. These people miss the point, which is that the glut is good. The glut is golden. There’s never been a better time in history for literature.

Go work in a bookstore for a few years, and you’ll see what I mean. Even with tens of thousands of books in stock, you’ll encounter customer after customer who will walk in, browse for a while, and feel like they’ve already read everything that appeals to them. “When’s the next book from so-and-so coming out?” they’ll ask. “Why doesn’t anyone write such-and-such type of books anymore?”

Every reader’s taste is a microscopic subset of all the books available. I can never find enough good books about technology’s impact on civilization, or enough good books on the psychology of game theory, or enough good books on evolutionary psychology. I wait. I kill time. I read other stuff in the interim. I re-read old books for a second or third time. I play a video game or watch a movie. The lack of the right good books at the right time leads me to do stuff other than reading.

Even the current glut isn’t enough.

That’s just one reason not to fear the glut. The other is that people like to part with their money. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. We don’t just like acquiring things, most of us enjoy the feeling of sacrificing some of our resources for other resources. Things we pay for we often enjoy more than things that are given to us. We treat the things we own differently than we treat the things we rent. We go shopping because it feels good.

Yes, there are also people who steal because that feels good. There are people who download terabytes of music, movies, games, and books because of that same ape-brain impulse to acquire public resources before anyone else does. But those people are not the market. Those people don’t even consume a fraction of what they steal. They are hoarders, and focusing on them and on piracy is as crazy as focusing on Project Gutenberg. You’ve still got a $30 billion dollar industry. Those dollars represent people making the choice to pay for literature. That’s never going to change.

And the glut will never go away. For every high-cost producer out there getting squeezed by falling prices (which includes indies who have run up their living costs and/or operations costs), there are legions of people who have day jobs and enjoy writing in their spare time. There will always be avid readers out there who dream of writing their own stories. They don’t have New York skyscrapers to rent out. They don’t have assistants to pay. They didn’t quit their day jobs last year hoping their breakout sales will continue indefinitely. These are just the next generation of those who possess an active imagination, a dream, and the persistence to finish what they start.

Soon, these new writers will add their stories to that great gorgeous geysering glut. And the readers who have been waiting on another book with werewolves and tentacles and llamas will snatch those stories up. And these new producers—excited just to be a part of the literary tradition—will price however they see fit, do whatever it takes to win over a reader, and that’s flipping awesome. It should be celebrated. If the reader is happy and engaged, and the author is finding an audience, it’s a win.

Of course, the people who had their day in the sun will go crazy. Those just on the cusp of making a real living and desperate for it to come true and looking for anything to blame other than the fickle nature of the markets will rail and beat their chests. The cultural snobs who only want the books they like to exist will self-publish screeds on websites about the evils of self-publishing. The CEOs losing market share will claim they only care about the future of Literature.

These parties will appeal to aesthetics and decry the quality of the glut. They’ll appeal to their elitism and decry the affordability of the glut. They’ll appeal to vanity and decry how some are choosing to add to the glut. They’ll appeal to ego and decry the genres of the glut. They’ll decry the hard work that allows some to write and publish swiftly and cry Glut! Glut! Glut!

And no one should pay them any damn attention. Screw that noise. Bring on the books. The more the merrier and the cheaper the better.


Awesome. After posting this, I get an email from John Joseph Adams letting me know that our post apocalyptic anthology THE END IS NOW has been reduced to 99 cents for a very limited time. An all-star lineup of authors, with each of their stories worth the full admission price, to be had for less than a buck today. How apropos. Grab a copy here. Let’s devalue devour some literature.

62 responses to “The Glut is Good”

  1. I don’t object to a monopoly. Heck, I’m even looking forward to one.

    I just want it to be in MY favor.

    When I finally get myself out there in the marketplace, all other books must go away. Meanwhile it is okay with me if the monopoly remains in your hands.

    You are so funny, Hugh. Always a pleasure to read.


  2. I don’t mind a glut of books, but a glut of low quality books (mostly from indies) frustrates many readers back to reading traditionally published books, if merely to increase the odds that they’ll get a better book experience.

    Even indie authors, who try really hard to give other indies a change, go back to tried and true favorites rather than waste time reading another garbage sample from a book with a lot of 5 star reviews.

    Granted, a traditionally published book can be crappy, but you’ve got better odds. You really have to do your homework, and many readers just want to read, not research before reading.

    1. to give other indies a CHANCE… oops.

    2. Readers can’t tell the difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published book. The price ranges now overlap. Cover art can be just as good if not better. So what are they flocking away from and toward?

      If it’s just the name they recognize, maybe they’ll go back to Lawrence Block. Or Brandon Sanderson. Or Ursula K. LeGuin. Or David Mamet.

      Oops. And then they’d end up buying another self-published book without knowing it.

      Besides, it works both ways. I have a lot of FB friends who say they fled their favorite authors when the books got too formulaic and predictable, tried indie authors, and haven’t looked back. I have had exchanges with hundreds of readers who prefer the quality of indie books over trad-pub books. It’s like the people who prefer indie rock over the top-40 stuff that’s all produced (edited) to sound (read) the same.

      People on one side of this argument can’t imagine that readers on the other side even exist. But they do. In droves.

      1. “Readers can’t tell the difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published book.”

        If they can, you’re doing something wrong.

        1. Smart Debut Author Avatar
          Smart Debut Author

          Judging by the average review scores of the bestselling self-published and traditionally published books, it appears that readers can tell the difference between them.

          They seem to prefer the self-published books to the traditionally published ones.

          That has certainly been my experience as a reader, too.

          1. The Martian was the last Tradpub book I’ve bought in a very long time, save for some King and Banks, and that was only due to phenomenal word of mouth. That’s what it took for me to get over the ludicrously high price it had at the time. Martian was also one of very few Trad titles I’ve seen in recent years that didn’t appear to be a cookie cutter reprint of something I’ve read countless times before. I read Hunger Games. Good. Liked it. Don’t need to read it fifteen more times.

            Another thing: now that Legacy World is chopping prices yes, it will make price appeal and impulse buying less of an advantage for indies than in the past, but do you know what another side effect will be? More readers will see just how badly tradpub handles e-book design and formatting. Which in too many cases with trad books I’ve seen is very, very bad.

            Yes, the average indie may not be as gifted a story teller as a Trad mega-seller but it’s hard to enjoy said masterful story when the formatting is painful to look at. I’ve closed many a trad e-book the last few years because of this and went to an indie book instead.

        2. This. Thank you.

          1. I was actually replying to Robert Gregory Browne. The tiny goblin who lives in my iPad put my reply in the wrong place. :)

        3. Smart Debut Author Avatar
          Smart Debut Author

          D. L. Shutter: The Martian was the last Tradpub book I’ve bought in a very long time … and that was only due to phenomenal word of mouth. That’s what it took for me to get over the ludicrously high price it had at the time. The Martian was also one of very few Trad titles I’ve seen in recent years that didn’t appear to be a cookie cutter reprint of something I’ve read countless times before.

          That’s because The Martian was originally self-published by Andy Weir in 2012.

          Crown Publishing purchased the rights and re-released it in 2014.

    3. I’m both an Indie, and a reader, Roland, and over the last three years I’ve discovered that it’s no harder to find a good Indie author than it is to find a good [and to me] unknown Trad author.

      The difference between the two seems to be that Indie authors are more likely to have an unusual perspective on an old theme. Or sometimes they’re brave enough to trail-blaze a brand new theme. I find that incredibly exciting.

      As for quality, that seems to be slipping right across the board. I was given Robin Hobb’s latest novel for Christmas and I loved it. No surprises there as I’ve loved her writing for years. What was a surprise, however, was the slightly less that perfect quality of the published work this time.

      I read the ebook version, so perhaps it was not as closely edited as the printed one, but there were an awful lot of typos. And without sounding like an egotistical know-it-all, there were passages that were a little awkward.

      If you have never read any of Robin Hobb’s books, my criticisms will make little sense. However if you have read her earlier works you will know that she writes beautifully, with nary a typo of any sort. So this is a new, and not so pleasant departure from the norm.

      Speaking of the norm, I think the two ends of the bell curve are beginning to drift towards the middle. Like Hugh, I think that in time readers really /won’t/ know the difference between a traditionally published novel, and an Indie one. Except by the innovation in that Indie book. :)

    4. Hey Roland. I recently read a trad-published book with over 100 grammatical errors. The quality issue can come from any source. I focus on the authors and let others worry about who is producing their work.

  3. Thank you for posting this. :-) It’s good to be reminded!!

    The fact is there are always people who feel they have no place in “the book world” because libraries and publishers don’t have books that interest them, for one reason or another.

    And now they are starting to have more choices, and that can only be a good thing for the future of reading! A place where every person in the world is literate and can find something they want to read…and can afford (even if that means free). Can you imagine what a wonderful world that would be? :-D

    World Reader seems to be one step in that direction… Cheaper books and a glut of books is another step. Getting young people in every country into reading from an early age is another.

    I hope that will happen. I hope we can make the world a better place for readers…who are thinkers, dreamers, and creators of the future!!

    *waves a flag in reading zeal* ;)

  4. Amen to that, Hugh. Thank you for a wonderful explanation of the current state of things and why we shouldn’t be worried. In Spain, we are a few years behind the US in the growth of digital market and it’s good to know what’s ahead for a newbie writer like me. Greetings from Madrid!

  5. Reading this was like eating after a fast…

    Sometimes it feels overwhelming thinking about how quickly technology evolves. This was a great reminder that there are many people who still pay for value, and hoarders will be hoarders. They’re likely the type that huggers might have to hug :)

    This was a therapeutic, and calming post!

  6. I like book gluts and I cannot lie. You other brothers can’t deny…

    I think that’s what Sir Mixalot meant to say.

  7. Great post that covered all the points needed. The whining, ensuing when there is a new kid on the block that is or possibly could be more popular, is growing louder. But, more ears are closing as eyes see the glittering possibilities of appetites sated.

    I love the endless aisles of possibilities. The new yet somewhat unskilled, that have interesting stories, will grow into the authors of tomorrow that are on the ‘must read’ pile. The ones that have labored and become those writers, including the traditional that have the skill to cross the gap into indie territory, some leaving hallowed halls while some remaining.

    I, unfortunately, have an eidetic memory and cannot go back so seeing the path strewn with endless possibilities fills me with the glee the young has when entering into their favorite toy store.

  8. Smart Debut Author Avatar
    Smart Debut Author

    You mostly hear about this glut nonsense from book producers, and they aren’t worried about an infinite number of books, they are worried about the finite number of wallets… they think if they could just limit the number of books, they’d sell more.

    I think you just described the traditional publishing business model, Hugh. And it was also the underlying reason for the decades-long decline of vibrant literacy and pleasure-reading in America. I think the widespread availability of great self-published content to suit different tastes is finally turning that around.

    1. Agreed. Self-publishing is saving literature from its slide into the Hollywood blockbuster model, where everything is the same, the choices are few, and the prices are too high.

      I keep saying this about indie musicians and indie filmmakers, but that’s where the boundaries are being pushed and the people with open minds and a desire to be moved like to dabble. The same is true of literature. Speaking for myself, I feel blessed to be able to write the sorts of works I feel are missing from the bookshelves. The fact that millions of people have been just as happy to read these works as I’ve been thrilled to write them is what it’s all about. No publisher would have touched WOOL until after they already saw the demand. It was too unlike all the other things that were selling well.

      1. Speaking for myself, I feel blessed to be able to write the sorts of works I feel are missing from the bookshelves.

        ^^^ This. A thousand times this.

      2. ditto alan on your thoughts, thanks hugh!

        “Speaking for myself, I feel blessed to be able to write the sorts of works I feel are missing from the bookshelves.”

  9. At Xist Publishing, we just had our best quarter ever and a big part of that has been in making our children’s ebooks available on subscription services tailored to kids. The more content available, the more kids read. It’s been interesting to watch the data roll in today regarding kids and e-reading. Two studies: Scholastic says that kids ages 6-17 prefer print where the independent data firm Play Collective has results that says kids 2-17 prefer digital. The little ones are growing up in a world of ebooks–a “glut” of material won’t keep them (and their parents) from finding great books and paying well for them, whether it be bundled with print, a digital retail purchase or through a subscription.

  10. Great post. Mediocrity fears competition, but talent welcomes it.

    1. Absolutely. It’s the difference between an abundance or scarcity mentality.

      If traditional publishers were providing everything readers wanted, there would be no indie market. There is obviously a gap in the market.

      Shout out to all the other day-job writers like me!

  11. That’s one of the reasons that I love to read your stuff. I haven’t seen anyone use the word “puling” in decades. Keep it up.

  12. there are legions of people who have day jobs and enjoy writing in their spare time.

    Correct. I suspect this group will account for most of the books in the future. They can handle just about any market conditions.

    But I doubt establishment of this dominant market share will be peaceful. We already see independent authors calling themselves professionals, and trying to distance and distinguish themselves from authors they refer to as hobbyists and amateurs. It’s an attempt at product differentiation, much like we see with publishers hyping their editing and curation. Let the games begin.

  13. Great blog post, Hugh!

    The other thing that is being overlooked is how UNDERSERVED readers have been until the advent of ebooks. Huge numbers of readers had very limited access to titles — such as rural readers (such as myself) who lived nearly two hours from the largest bookstore until Amazon came along spring to mind. Readership was limited by how much paper book cost and hesitancy to buy because of pricing. Used book readers never counted as “book sales” by the publishing industry. Library borrows did not count for much to most publishers.

    Because of cheaper technology and virtually universal internet access in the US, all of those readers now have the ability to buy the books they want. More and more reading-capable devices (smart phones and tablets and yes, new PCs and laptops) are coming online every day.

    Lower ebook prices mean that readers have the financial means to buy more of the books they want. Lower prices mean that readers tend to go on more shopping sprees where they buy several titles instead of settling on just picking one or two “big ticket” purchases.

    So yes, there are a lot of new books, perhaps even a “glut.” But there are many more readers reading many more books who will dive in and find the stories they want to read. And with eteranal online backlist instead of the old bricks and mortar system of “you have 30-60 days to make it or your book disappears from shelves,” writers and readers have a much better chance of connecting.

  14. It seems as if the pundits defending the old models insist on maintaining an abusive relationship with writers by repeating “You’re worthless, you’ll never amount to anything, nobody likes you, you’re nothing without me.”

    It’s up to writers to reject the message and understand their own self-worth. Self-publishing can’t guarantee riches, but if you enjoy writing and sharing your work to the world, there is absolutely no limit to what you can do.

      1. Thanks! The other side of the “too many books” meme is the “too many writers” meme. Both are false:

        1. We can’t say it is false.

          There are too many X for Y.

          Unless we know Y, we can’t say anything about the number of X.

          Long discussions go on about this and nobody knows what Y is.

  15. They think if they could just limit the number of books, they’d sell more.

    Actually, they would.

    They would sell LOTS more of their titles.

    We saw this with TV stations. When there were three stations, the numbers of viewers for each program were magnitudes higher. The numbers dwarf the numbers we see today, and we have millions more folks living in the USA.

    Here are some quick numbers:

    Same goes for music singles and LPs.

    The numbers of books the top bestselling titles sell today is much, much smaller than the peak in the 70’s and 80’s. And it shrinks every year.

    There is a finite demand for books. A finite number of dollars that will be spent. A finite number of person hours of reading.

    The difference is that those finite numbers are being spread across more books and authors. Not a gazillion more. The power curve still applies. Cumulative advantage is still a big factor. And so most of what’s out there is essentially invisible to large audiences. But the finite numbers are being spread across many more books than in the pre-ebook days.

    Losing market share is never fun. Of course they don’t want to lose it.

    1. When there were only three stations, people had to choose between them….or go read a book. Which is how many us learned to love reading.
      The opposite is true, and one of the points Hugh was making. If we limit the number of books, a few publishers might sell more. But a few consumers will turn to other media – TV, Movies, Youtube, you name it. And the pot will be that much smaller for all of us.

      1. The highest rated show in all history was just last year. It was the Superbowl:

        Despite all the other channels, the tons of other programming, the internet, etc., it was the highest rated program of all time. The Superbowl increases every year because it is an event people will turn out for. (With some ups and downs, the Oscars have also steadily been growing.) A really great program will have no problem topping the ratings even from the days when there were only three networks and limited choices. (American Idol briefly crushed everything else.)

        What people forget is that the long tail also has a tall head. You can not only make money with a smaller audience, but as the world gets bigger and media gets bigger, it’s possible for the really super popular stuff to make more money than ever. That’s what is happening in film. Super big box office for the top stuff. Meanwhile, there a millions of little indy films available. Stuff in the middle, particularly if it isn’t that great, gets hurt.

        When there were only three networks, the networks could put on stuff that was pretty bad and still get views. Obviously, the people who produced pretty bad stuff liked that. The networks could also get more views with average stuff.

        This is why the big publishers are mostly concerned. It’s not that they can’t sell their good stuff, they sure can do it a lot easier than anyone else. But it’s harder for them to sell the average and bad stuff. (Some of which is being created only for reasons of nepotism and influence peddling.)

        Very few people would question that there is more good television being created now than ever before. It’s because of competition. And the same is happening with books. There are more good books than ever. And yes, there will be a lot of writers that can make a decent living selling to small audiences. But very soon, we’re going to see some indies really break out and take advantage of the tall head and make a ton of money.

        1. You’re right, there are more folks with TVs in America today, and if they all tune into a program, the numbers skyrocket. But this is the anomaly. During most time slots during the year, the viewers are spread across many more programs because there are so freaking many more to choose from. The average number of viewers per program are dropping.

          The average sales per book are dropping. This doesn’t mean someone can’t break out and sell spectacular numbers–Rowling, Meyers, or some indie author. It simply means that on average, it’s harder to get the big slices of pie that were quite easy when you only had a few choices.

        2. “Very few people would question that there is more good television being created now than ever before. It’s because of competition. And the same is happening with books.” – totally agree!

        3. General economic behaviors are not like scientific hypotheses. With a hypothesis, one can falsify it by citing results that do not conform with the hypothesis.

          The type of economic behaviors under discussion apply to the aggregate market. They don’t apply to each and every individual. The aggregate easily conforms to the behaviors, while individuals can diverge from it.

          So the examples we hear about some author or TV program acting contrary to the behaviors does not mean our observations and predictions of the behavior are wrong. (However, if a sufficient number of individuals did, we would have serious grounds to question the general behavior. For example, Giffen goods.)

          The Superbowl tells us very little about TV consumption during a thee channel era compared to a 100 channel era.

    2. Not sure I agree with the analogy, back in the 50’s when there were three tv stations they might have had a 40% average for a popular show, but that was because there were only three choices. There are dozens, if not hundreds of choices today.
      “We saw this with TV stations. When there were three stations, the numbers of viewers for each program were magnitudes higher.” What does that prove? We could use your example to go back to the first tv, when there was only one channel and every show had 100%, when everyone watched the same thing.
      Mash averaged 24 million viewers, Lost averaged 19 million. The percentage of Mash was much bigger, but not the actual number of viewers.
      The proof that there are many more viewers in total today is Lost… Mash competed with two stations, Lost competed with over a hundred, and DVD rentals, and video games, and the internet…

  16. You’ve got a fire-cracker of an ape-brain, Hugh.

    Again, you offer us an original, thought-provoking and big-picture comment on the latest panicky thoughts about publishing. I guess that illuminating monks warned Gutenberg and Caxton that their newfangled printing presses would produce a glut of books.

    According to Amazon there are 8 million titles in their stores, of which only 1 million are e-books. If my calculations are correct I’d need a bookshelf 110 miles long to accommodate all the print books. Glut or treasure trove?

    I’d never be able to remember where any one book could be found on that boook-shelf. But with the internet and e-readers I can easily search for ‘A Complete Guide to the Workings of the Ape-Shit Brain Gone Wild.’ I’m sure it will be a great read.

  17. As someone who reads 70-80 books per year and has another 100-150 books on my “want to read” list at any given time, my biggest complaint is that the tools for searching the “glut” are not keeping up with the “glut” itself.

    It’s taking more and more effort, and getting harder and harder, to find new authors to get interested in because of the sheer volume of books I have to search through to find the occasional gem worth adding to my list.

    As I mentioned in a comment on another one of Hugh’s post, for example, Amazon’s search tools do not distinguish between novels, short stories, serials, etc., which results in a lot of wasted time.

    1. I add a dozen samples to my Kindle, read the first few pages, and if I’m hooked, I keep reading and buy. if I don’t like it, I delete the sample from my Kindle. Works great.

    2. There are sites for that, like Bookgorilla, where you can chose the kind of books you like and they will let you know whenever anything is free or on sale. It is a great way to find new authors.

  18. I agree with you, though it’s hard to keep from feeling frustrated when you feel you have an unknown book that is much better than most. There could be millions who would love the book, but none of them know it exists. I’m glad you said you love good books about technology’s impact on the world, since it gives me hope you might try mine one day.

  19. Hugh, great post. It really needs to be said.
    My biggest complaint with all the doom and gloom over the glut is that it all comes from writers and publishers, and none of them intend to stop writing. It’s hypocritical when you read an article complaining about the glut of books coming out and then look at the about the author section at the bottom — only to see an ad for their book.

  20. Bring on the glut. I’ve always liked the idea of too much of a good thing. I love the ease of reading a sample on my phone and if I like it, click and it’s mine immediately. Immediate gratification.

    Thanks Hugh for your insight and positive attitude.

  21. Wonderful article. I enjoyed it very much.
    Thank you :)

  22. AltheGreatandPowerful Avatar

    As someone who reads 20-40 books a month, I say, BRING IT! More books is more good! To quote Tom Lehrer, “…more, more, more, I’m still not satisfied!”

  23. The number of books being published doesn’t matter, the same analogy can be said of music. How many thousands of bars in the country have bands? Does that stop you from listening to the radio or buying your favorite bands album? There is also plenty of classic music, does that mean new music should not be made? Is it hard to find a good song? No, because radio stations and other people follow the good music and it works its’ way to the top for us to hear. It will be the same for books, they will be rated and will work their way to the top of the list.

  24. Nothing wrong with glut. Glut has always been around but previously filtered through brick and mortar distribution and retailers, so the end user didn’t see as much of it.

    Bring on the glut I say, but also bring on better recommendation algorithms for navigating and discovering great new work!

  25. Of course Hugh Howey doesn’t think there is a glut of crappy books. Of course he doesn’t care if 5 billion other people publish their lousy books.

    Hugh Howey gets free front page advertising by Amazon day after day after day. For how many years now? I can’t go to a single Amazon book-related page without seeing a nice juicy ad for Wool or Sand or whatever he puts out.

    Shoot. In his shoes, I’d welcome all the glut you can handle. It doesn’t affect him none. I just wish he would keep this in mind when he makes these type of statements.

    1. Smart Debut Author Avatar
      Smart Debut Author

      I can’t go to a single Amazon book-related page without seeing a nice juicy ad for Wool or Sand or whatever he puts out.

      Joe, better check under your bed.

      If you see Hugh Howey under there, too, then go see a doctor.

    2. Joe – I’m not a writer, just an avid reader, and I think you’re SPOT ON in your assessment. I’m wondering how these screeds against publishing coincide with his book sales. Low sales one week? Write a blog post fanning the flames of a non-existent fire. I’ll be curious to see which side of this “war” he seems to think is currently being waged he’ll be on when/if Amazon changes their sales model. We’ve already seen Indie authors declaring shenanigans on the Kindle Unlimited program (some of the same authors who were championing Bezos as their holy redeemer just a few months before.)

      Amazon is in business to make money, and if that means making available an endless supply (read: glut) of poorly-conceived, poorly-written self-published ebooks, then so be it. I spent the better part of 2014 trying to sift through the glut of abysmal novels being “self-published” and promised myself for 2015 I wouldn’t put myself through that again. I don’t have anything to do with the company or the production of the magazine, but now I’m relying on “BookPage” to give me recommendations. Since around 1999, they’ve never steered me wrong or recommended a book that I didn’t think deserved the mention.

      1. poorly-conceived, poorly-written self-published ebooks?
        I assume this is your opinion, because i have heard that of many books… Like Lord of the Flies which was rejected 20 times, Gone with the Wind 38 times, Gertrude Stein submitted poetry for 22 years before one was accepted.
        I can’t wait for your masterpiece to be published, you sound like a person who can’t hammer a nail straight telling someone how they should build their house. Every book on Amazon has a review, maybe you should stop buying books that have bad reviews?

    3. You see him there because he sells, but two years ago you didn’t see Wool there, he had to fight his way through the glut and earned his free advertising. You seem to think Hugh waqs chosen and pushed by Amazon by luck, not sure you know how this stuff works…

  26. I read ALL of Austen’s novels on Project Gutenberg’s website back in the day.

  27. […] people or reporters are usually connected with traditional media or publishing in some way, as the writer Hugh Howey says in an interesting blog on the topic. Yet the publishing industry goes on, and people continue to buy new books, and not just read the […]

  28. […] strong argument in favor of self-publishing included a link to Hugh Howey’s recent post, The Glut Is Good. Howey argues that there is nothing to fear from the presumed over-abundance of cheap e-books […]

  29. deborah eriksen Avatar

    I and several of my friends are life long avid readers. Our book budgets are our entertainment budgets. I find that we are all reading indie books on our handheld devices that we would never pay the price for hardcopy, nor make shelf space for. It has not cut into the hardcopy purchasing, rather it has allowed me to enjoy authors who are, admittedly, in desperate need of both spelling lessons and a good editor, but still tell a good story. Sometimes it it not either or; but rather yes and.

  30. […] hat dazu ein nachdenkliches Stück verfasst, dessen Lektüre ich empfehle. Der unvermeidliche Hugh Howey kommt natürlich mit der Gegenposition. Sein Argument: In den USA setzen Verlage und Buchhandel gut […]

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  32. […] 500% since 2008, and that even excludes the indie books published with no ISBNs!). Some say “the glut is good”, but readers are left adrift on an ocean of new books trying to find the books that […]

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