Douglas Preston is a New York Times bestselling author. While he is probably best known for his thrillers written with frequent collaborator Lincoln Child (including Relic, which is not yet available as a Kindle edition), I first became familiar with him for his non-fiction book on the Smithsonian, Dinosaurs in the Attic (which has also not yet been Kindleized). However, Preston is well-represented in the Kindle store, with more than ten books:
I recently contacted him, to see if he would like to make a statement to the readers of I Love My Kindle. E-books are changing publishing, in a way as rapid as the genetic manipulation about which Preston has written. Authors, publishers, retailers, and, yes, readers are all talking about the changes this new medium will bring to the way books are created, distributed, and how we read them. Since people truly love books, emotions can run high about them. Looking at comments on public forums, people will swear to “never do this” or “never do that” because of a decision someone has made with which they disagree.
It’s a good thing that people care this much about the topic, in my opinion. While I wish that everyone would always express themselves in a respectful manner, the depth of passion speaks to how important books still are in today’s world, and in the future of our culture.
Mr. Preston’s most recent book, Impact, has been the subject of postings in the Kindle community. Published in hardcover by Forge on January 5 of this year, the Kindle edition is scheduled for a May 4th release.
I appreciate the author taking the time and making the effort to respond to my e-mail, and giving me permission to share it with you. I think you will find his comments thoughtful, insightful, and heartfelt. Outside of that assessment and this brief introduction, I will let his words stand for themselves in this post. I may comment on it later, and you are certainly welcome to comment on this post as well.
Please feel free to use my email in your blog. To answer your questions, I have always deferred to my publisher when it comes to decisions involving business, pricing, and marketing. I am a writer, not a businessman. I could second guess their decisions and raise a stink about something and probably get my way, but I have always shied away from playing the difficult and demanding author. That’s not my way.
My publisher, my agent, and all the book sellers I have spoken to say the $9.99 ebook will destroy the publishing industry as we know it, since it doesn’t cover the creative content of a book. So I do agree with my publisher’s decision to delay the ebook release.
I have been discussing this issue almost constantly since the ebook release, with my agent, publisher, with Lincoln Child, and others. I wish I could see a clear answer but the bottom line is this: the $9.99 Amazon ebook price, if introduced at the same time as the hardcover, will essentially end the local independent bookstore the same way Wal-Mart ended local businesses. It may bankrupt my publisher. It will make it almost impossible for beginning writers to get published, no matter how good their work is. It will end the careers of many midlist authors. So I would ask these outraged Kindle owners if they are willing to trade all this for their “right” to have a cheap edition of a best-selling book on the day of publication.
As for the public comments, they can be sorted into two categories: the angry shouters (a minority to be sure) and more thoughtful Kindle owners (the vast majority) who naturally would like to be able to acquire the ebook on the day of publication and wonder why the ebook release has been delayed.
I would never bypass my publisher to publish an ebook with Amazon directly, and I’ll explain why. First of all, my contract would not allow it. But even if it did, I would not consider this. Yes, I would certainly make more money. But what about all the work my publisher has put into the book? What about all the support I’ve received these many long years from my publisher, who sent me on tour when I was an unknown author, who advanced me money when I had none to give me time to write, who labored over the manuscript and helped me make it right, who edited it and designed a beautiful cover for it? Would it be fair for me to then take this book, which is as much a product of their good work as my own, and contract with Amazon to publish the ebook, bypassing them and stealing all their value-added efforts for myself? Amazon seems to think that a book just appears, fully formed and ready to read. Not so. Every writer needs an editor and publisher.
Clearly, the future of the ebook is very promising for the manufacturer of the ebook device and the retail seller of the ebook edition. It seems to me that denying consumers what they want (which is a cheap edition on the day of publication) may be a losing strategy. What is the answer? To ask the American consumer to pay the real value for something, as opposed to the cheap Wal-Mart discount value? Frankly, I don’t have an answer, except to say that the sense of entitlement of the American consumer is something that, in my opinion, is damaging our country. From the price of energy to fast food to cheap Chinese goods to home mortgages and on down, it seems that many Americans have come to feel they have God-given “rights” about getting what they want, when they want it, at a price so cheap it doesn’t actually cover the real cost. From an economic point of view, this attitude contributes to our vast trade deficits, our dependency on China and Saudi Arabia, our oversized contribution to global warming, and the decline of our family farms and our industrial sector. I believe this is a serious problem, of which the demand for the cheap ebook is only a small, but telling, symptom.
When told that I would be publishing the above statement in the next couple of days, Mr. Preston added this comment:
I will look forward to it. There are a few other points I’d like to make. First, I have no publicist as some are speculating on the threads. If I sound rude, it’s because I’ve been rude, and if I sound reasonable, it’s also because I’ve been reasonable. I would never allow a publicist to go out there and pretend to be me. I like interacting with readers directly and honestly. And if I’ve responded rudely, for which I am sorry, you can be sure I was responding to an an even ruder email or comment. I’m a mild person and my mother tells me I’m quite nice, actually…
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog