A spate of digital-only self-publishing houses have closed in the past year (Off-the Bookshelf.com is the most recent casualty I’m aware of). Anyone reading Publishers Marketplace saw that Scribd is substantially reducing its Romance titles. The firm cited the voracious appetites of those who read the genre essentially overworking it. The criteria for keeping a title, with many coming from Smashwords and Draft2Digital, is word volume (I’m dead serious) and price, not wanting to list anything above $3.99. It’s been estimated (and I don’t know how) that Smashwords will see its list cut by as much as 90 percent.
What really matters is that all writers will be facing digital “issues” at one time or another, so I strongly suggest paying close attention to what’s going on in the industry, as the ramifications will affect print as well. And what’s happening impacts the seasoned writer no different from the person who’s providing a first book for free. Regardless of who or what’s being offered, “free” is only good for so long, and “unlimited” runs along the same fault line. When the 80/20 rule becomes 70/30, the entire mechanism crashes, and the shifts in usage formulas are causing the recent upheaval–and I believe with more to come.