Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ebook selling business: Has the bottom fallen out?

As I wait to have my baby - any day now, I'm thinking of ways to make a few additional dollars to help pay for diapers, baby clothes and all of the other baby items that it takes to start a new family - not to mention the cost of college education. After spending several hours of free time (probably the last free time that I will have for the next 18 years), I've decided the following businesses have little if no potential now.

1. Ebook store. There are plenty of websites out there that sell the same ebooks. The market is flooded with bad ebooks that give the industry a bad name. Most of them seem to be written by people who have a 4th grade education. They are full of typos and incomplete thoughts. Over the past few years, I was lured by the promises of wealth and free reselling rights for purchasing these ebooks, and found that after spending $50 to $100, I've only made $10 or $15 on my investment. 

2. Write and publish my own book. This is a time intensive process. In addition to research, writing, editing, and finding markets for the book, there are the hard costs of printing and promoting the book. I self-published an ebook and marketed it through for use on the Kindle ebook reader. After spending $40 for my ISBN and hundreds of hours writing the book, I've only made back around $50 - over 2 years. 

3. Writing for magazines. This isn't a bad deal, but it is still hit and miss on the income stream. The best deal that I've gotten was back in 1997 when I wrote a two sentence suggestion to Better Homes and Gardens (25 words) and was paid $2 per word. With the current economic crisis, many publishers are going out of business, but before they do, they eliminate any extra costs, including freelancers. This is happening throughout Santa Barbara.

4. Photography for magazines/newspapers. I have won awards with my photography, so this isn't too bad a deal. However, the trick is to keep updating the camera equipment. When I started promoting digital photography, a 2MP camera was the standard. Now, most publishers will not accept less than a 12MP photo.  The new equipment can be very expensive. I stay away from stock photography sites, because nowadays, there is so much competition that publishers can by cover photos for under $10. Compare this to the good old days when that same cover photo could go for $2,000.

After all of this searching, there seems to be only 2 areas of low investment and high profitability that I've found to be tried and true that are almost turnkey businesses: Ebay and selling handmade jewelry in the local Santa Barbara high-end boutiques. I hope this helps my readers save some money as you start looking for additional income streams in these challenging economic times. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

Switching to a Mac

In late April, I switched from being a lifelong PC user to being a Mac user so that I could be more efficient for my day job. Mac computers are very easy to use, and in many ways they are far superior to any Windows based system. 

1. The start up menu pops up within 15 seconds. This is a lifesaver when I'm on a deadline.
2. Most of the software that comes with a Mac is software that I actually need. New Macs come with a program called I Life which offers photo software, basic text software, video software, and Itunes. The only program that the computer came with that I don't use is Garage Band. I suppose I would use it if I was a music composer, but at this point, it is just wasted space.
3. For under $100, I was able to purchase IWork - a program that is very similar to Microsoft Office. It includes a spreadsheet program, a more sophisticated word processing program, and a presentation program. I can create a document using these programs and then export it to a PDF, Word, or Excel document.
4. No more worries about computer viruses! No more updates to my antivirus software, because hackers just don't bother creating viruses for Macs. 

My favorite new addition to the computer is the video camera and built in microphone. With this, I am able to talk with my family who are thousands of miles away. I'm going to have a baby any day now, and hope to bring the mac to the hospital with me so that I can do a Skype video call and introduce my new baby to all of my friends and family. More on Skype in a later post.

The main drawback about the Mac vs. the PC is that all of the money that I've spent over the years on Windows based software is now in the trash can. I invested in hundreds of ebooks that I can't open unless I purchase an add on like Windows Vista for the Mac. Also, the Microsoft Office suite that I purchased a couple of years ago will not work, so if I ever want to use a true MS Office app, I'm out of luck. Probably the most annoying thing about the Mac is that the touchpad does not offer two mouse buttons, and the computer doesn't include a mouse. I've invested in a new mouse this week, to bring the functionality back.

Macs are more expensive than PCs. Nowadays, you can get a decent PC for under $500, but to get a decent Mac, plan on spending $2,000. Normally, I would not suggest investing such a large amount of money on a computer, but after my experiences with Mac, I'll never go back to a PC for work. I know people who have had Macs for 10 years, and they say that their computers are just as fast today as they were when they purchased them. I have never heard the same praise for PCs.

What is your experience with Macs vs. PCs?