In my humble opinion, the correct simplistic answer is “Hell No!” — Nothing can devalue quality written work, no matter its source or format.
I suppose an argument can be made that the deluge in less-than-stellar written work, made possible through new and instant technology, has, indeed, diluted quality written and structured words — due mainly to the quantity of its existence.
BUT, poor quality work (or even technically well-written but boring work) has always existed, even in traditional publishing.
So, I say its a quantitative and not qualitative proposition — My opinion, of course 🙂
Anyway, here is an interesting take on this issue by Melissa Foster, award-winning author, community builder for the Alliance of Independent Authors and a touchstone in the indie publishing arena:
Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?
Self-published authors have created a devaluing of the written word, and, some of them are scrambling to see how low they can go to get noticed.
Let us list the ways: 99-cent price point for ebooks. Free ebooks via KDP Select program. Unedited work. Kindle giveaways to get attention and bulk up sales. And lastly, nasty reviews from other authors with the sole purpose of driving down customer ratings.
Why are indie authors selling their work so cheap? In short, mismanaged expectations. Many self-published authors hear about the outliers who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they’ll do anything to try and reach that pinnacle. The plain fact is that most of them never will.
The Guardian recently reported that, “Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.” That was backed up by a recent poll of authors who have 2 or less 99-cent ebooks on the market that revealed that 75% of authors are selling less than 100 ebooks per month at that rate, with 46% selling less than 10 ebooks per month.
Yes, there are 99-cent anomalies. A recent headline on GalleyCat reported that, “99-Cent Sale Sweeps Self-published Bestseller List”. Yes, Stephanie Bond did achieve bestseller status with three of her titles, all listed for 99 cents but what most indie authors fail to realize is that Stephanie was previously traditionally published and has a following in place. As a new author, that’s very difficult to match.