Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

How much cheaper are Kindle books than hardbacks?

December 8, 2013

How much cheaper are Kindle books than hardbacks?

When Kindles first came out (more than six years ago now), there was talk about how the fact that they were so expensive (initially, just about $400), that it could create a barrier to reading. The logic went something like this: poor people couldn’t afford the device; books might be eventually produced only for the Kindle; so poor people would not be able to read the same books that rich people could.

Of course, that’s largely always been true.

Books used to really be just for the elite. They were rare and valuable items, in many cases. In the 19th Century, England saw the arrival of the “penny dreadfuls”, and the USA later had “dime novels”, but those were both typically genre fiction…not “good books”. You could read a Western, or about the mysterious “Spring-Heeled Jack”, but you weren’t getting Shakespeare and Ovid that way.

While what we now consider to be classics were often serialized (and those available more cheaply), it really wasn’t until the arrival of mass market paperbacks in the 1930s (first in Germany, then the UK, then the USA) that “regular folks” were able to get the same books that the rich people were reading.

That’s simplified, of course, but a lot of it had to do with the rise of literacy among the poorer classes.

No question, a $400 investment in 2007 was a lot.

E-books were typically cheaper than the hardback equivalents…markedly so, in many cases.

Even under the Agency Model, which raised e-book prices, they still tended to be cheaper than the hardback equivalents. Still, owning an e-book reader was perhaps out of the reach of many.

Well, a lot has happened.

For one thing, you don’t need an EBR (E-Book Reader) to read e-books. You do need a computer (or a SmartPhone, or other things).

For another, they are available through public libraries (although not fully at this point).

Key is that the price of EBRs has dropped…and that the Agency Model pricing structure was broken up through the action of the US Department of Justice, again allowing deep discounting of e-book titles by Amazon and others.

Those aren’t just cheaper prices on independently published books (which may also have created a downward price pressure across the board): the bestselling books are much cheaper as e-books than they are as hardbacks.

Here are the current New York Times fiction bestseller hardbacks, along with their prices and the Kindle store prices:

Title Hardback E-book Difference
Cross My Heart $14.50 $7.50 -$7.00
Sycamore Row $14.87 $6.49 -$8.38
Takedown 20 $14.00 $6.49 -$7.51
The First Phone Call From Heaven $12.50 $8.49 -$4.01
King and Maxwell $15.55 $8.99 -$6.56
Doctor Sleep $15.00 $7.99 -$7.01
The Goldfinch $15.41 $7.50 -$7.91
The Longest Ride $13.87 $6.49 -$7.38
The Supreme Macaroni Company $15.59 $8.00 -$7.59
Dust $16.68 $7.49 -$9.19
The Valley of Amazement $17.99 $8.99 -$9.00
Inferno $15.38 $6.49 -$8.89
The All-Girls Filling Station Last Reunion $15.00 $6.49 -$8.51
White Fire $15.55 $6.49 -$9.06
Mirage $17.37 $7.79 -$9.58
And the Mountains Echoed $16.58 $7.50 -$9.08
We are Water $17.61 $8.99 -$8.62
The Luminaries $16.20 $8.59 -$7.61
Winners $14.38 $8.39 -$5.99
Total $294.03 $145.15 -$148.88

I have not included one of the titles, which is not available as an e-book…or, at the moment, as a hardback (out of stock).

On average, you could save $7.84 buying the e-book over the hardback.

If you planned to buy all of the books in this group, and you bought e-books instead of hardbacks, you would have enough left over to buy two Kindles! The least expensive one, the one I call the Mindle, is $69…buy two, and you’d still have about $10 left over.

You could, of course, buy a more expensive model with that almost $150 savings money…even a tablet. You could also use the money for more books…a lot more books.

That’s quite a change!

You can also get some of the world’s great literature for free for your Kindle…a wonderful part of the e-book paradigm shift.

What about mass market paperbacks (which may be a more direct comparison)?

Not surprisingly, you don’t save as much money…but you still save money:

Title MMP E-book Difference
A Dance with Dragons $5.99 $2.99 -$3.00
Notorious Nineteen $5.66 $5.38 -$0.28
Ender’s Game $4.39 $3.99 -$0.40
The Racketeer $6.69 $4.99 -$1.70
Poseidon’s Arrow $8.99 $7.99 -$1.00
Hunting Eve $7.19 $4.78 -$2.41
Sinister $5.03 $4.00 -$1.03
A Game of Thrones $8.22 $4.99 -$3.23
Touch & Go $8.99 $7.99 -$1.00
No Good Duke Goes Unpunished $4.78 $5.03 $0.25
Angels at the Table $6.29 $5.98 -$0.31
Twilight $7.19 $4.79 -$2.40
Star Trek: The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice $5.03 $4.78 -$0.25
The Forgotten $7.33 $5.99 -$1.34
Speaker for the Dead $7.19 $5.99 -$1.20
A Big Sky Christmas $6.75 $5.24 -$1.51
The Black Box $6.82 $6.48 -$0.34
Best Kept Secret $8.99 $8.54 -$0.45
$121.52 $99.92 -$21.60

Hmm…two of the books aren’t available as e-books…I find that surprising.

Again, I’m just look at the New York Times bestsellers, here. There are many inexpensive books which are only available as e-books…and as I mentioned above, many free ones as well.

No question in my mind: e-books are making books much more affordable than they used to be…even taking into account the costs of access.

We have to remember that accessing paperbooks also wasn’t free. What if you had to get downtown to get to a bookstore…or a library? There are a lot of kids especially who have internet access at school, and not at home.

We even see this in a big way in third world countries. I’ve written several times about

WorldReader.org

which gets Kindles to kids in difficult locations. Can you imagine trying to get ten copies of Harry Potter into the middle of the jungle? With satellite internet (which they can help set up…and you might be surprised how many people in a village can maintain something like that…and solar or other nonconnected power sources), remote areas can download e-books much more easily.

Even if it was a question of periodically delivering Kindles loaded with a thousand books, that would be much more cost effective than transporting paperbooks.

Yes: e-books contribute to the democratization of literature, rather than being a barrier to it.

What do you think? Do e-books make books more affordable for more people? Do you worry that the digital divide may grow deeper and more significant if books move much more to one side of it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) NOte: you can select WorldReader.org as the non-profit you support, if you want.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Tolerance of Imperfection, or, the zipper-suit non-exclusion

November 8, 2013

Tolerance of Imperfection, or, the zipper-suit non-exclusion

I wrote yesterday about a Miracast adapter that lets me watch whatever is on my  Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers‘ screen on my TV.

I mentioned that, with some streaming video, there was perhaps a half second lag between the audio and the video, and that I found that “tolerable”.

One of my readers, Marvin, suggested that people accepting that level of performance contribute to lower quality devices in the market.

That was a fascinating concept to me, and as all of the best comments on this blog do, it got me doing some self-examination.

I am a tolerant person. :)

I tolerate different opinions and customs in others, but I also tolerate imperfection in content and devices.

I can sum up my reasoning on that with a phrase that is used in the medical field (which is where I work in my “day job”, training people and optimizing workflows): “The benefits outweigh the risks.” ;)

I’ve seen people say that they won’t read any books with typos in them (or a typo a page, or “too many typos”, or wherever they set the bar*). Well, I have to say, I wouldn’t have gotten to read some of my very favorite books if that was my standard.

When I used to write some movie reviews back in high school, I judged movies on two things: what they were trying to do, and how well they did it. A movie could set low production quality expectations and deliver really well on story, and I would feel it was more enjoyable for me than a movie that was exquisitely produced, but was just going for a middle of the road concept.

Part of this, I’m sure, is being a geek.

It’s different now, but it used to be that science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies couldn’t get much of a budget. They were perceived as being attractive primarily on their concepts: they could play in a drive-in, and the production quality didn’t have to be good. The point was to go see a “monster movie”, not to marvel at accurate or convincing art design.

Geeks like me don’t reject a movie because we can “see the zipper” on the monster suit.

I’ve really enjoyed a lot of “zipper-suit movies”: my life is richer because I have seen them.

For decades, if we had rejected movies because the effect was imperfect, we would have seen no movies.

Now, obviously, you can say that the performance of a device is different from budget limitations in a movie, but I think there is a parallel.

Suppose someone said, “I hate the flash when you go to the next screen on a Kindle. I’m not using one until they get rid of it”. Certainly, for the first several years of the technology, they would not have had a Kindle…and all the advantages that can bring you.

I have seen people say they are angrily sending back their Kindle Fire HDX’s, because of some blue/purple tinging you can sometimes see around the edges.

I’m not saying that’s wrong to do. People have different levels of tolerance, and different things irritate them (as anybody who has ever been in a relationship knows). ;)

Part of this may also be me being a generally optimistic, positive person. I’ve had people in software classes I used to teach get quite upset because of a failure of, say, Excel to do something they thought it should do. I’ve said before, “If you are waiting for the perfect car, you’ll still be riding a horse.” I tend to find enjoyment in what’s around me, happening now. Does everything always go perfectly at work? Nope. However, I do wake up saying, “Oh boy, I get to go to work today.” ;) My Significant Other pointed out to me that I’ve always thought that wherever I worked was the best company in that industry. On reflection, that seems statistically unlikely… ;)

Another issue is how much you tend to do more than one thing at once, and how much you tend to focus on one thing. Both modalities have their advantages and disadvantages.

I tend to want to have several things going on at once. I think that’s why I can be a very good proofreader of other people’s work. I can read the book, and enjoy it, at the same time that I am paying attention to errors or inconsistencies. Stopping to highlight something doesn’t make me lose the mood or flow of the scene.

I know that’s not true for everybody.

Getting back to Marvin’s original (presumably rhetorical) question about how I can say that a half-second delay is “tolerable”, it’s because it is tolerable for me.

It would take a stronger person than me to find the two-minute delay tolerable…

I always try to write my impressions of something in a way that you can decide whether you would like it or not. I try to give you the information.

Part of that information is how I feel about it. I probably have readers who have been reading me pretty much every day for several years now. They have their own ideas about who I am and what I tend to enjoy more. They can use that baseline to help them determine how they would react to something.

That’s how I’ve always looked at reviews of books, movies, TV shows, and others.

I pay attention to who the reviewers are (I always read bylines, and you’ve probably noticed that I tend to credit the writers when I link to other articles…although they aren’t always listed). There are reviewers where I know that, if that person didn’t like, I probably will. ;)

Does my willingness to accept flaws contribute to there being more flawed products? Perhaps. My own intuition is that there needs to be an interest demonstrated before the investment will be made to reach perfection. What company would spend a lot of money to develop a perfect Miracast adapter before they even know what the market is for that product? If some people will buy a product (a book, a gadget) with flaws, even if others won’t, it suggests that a similar unflawed product might have broad appeal. We got Star Wars in 1977 partially because people were willing to watch Flash Gordon in 1936, despite the wobbly flights in it. Would we have had Gravity if people didn’t watch Captain Video? Would we have the Kindle Paperwhite now if Amazon had wanted to wait until they had a perfectly functioning device?

The bottom line on this, I guess, is that I tend to be inclusive of my options rather than exclusive. I’m okay with imperfection.

I suspect that people like me are in the minority on this. I think we early adopters, as I wrote in We are not guinea pigs, tend to be more tolerant of imperfection, and pave the way for better products to come.

What do you think? Should I refuse to use a Miracast adapter until there is no lag? Would that accelerate development of the technology, or slow it down? Do you have set exclusions (“I won’t watch anything in black or white”, or “I won’t read anything without an index”)? Do you think this is hypocritical on my part, since I won’t knowingly buy books with text-to-speech access blocked? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post. Thanks again to Marvin for inspiring this post!

* There is a famous story about Winston Churchill (there are many of those), which I am going to paraphrase here. Supposedly, Churchill said to someone at a party, “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?” “Yes.” “Would you sleep with me for two dollars?” “Of course not! What kind of person do you think I am?” “We have already established that: now, we are just haggling over price.” ;)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

Amazon saves brick-and-mortars? AmazonSource

November 6, 2013

Amazon saves brick-and-mortars? AmazonSource

Bookstores selling Amazon selling.

That’s basically what’s happening with a new, innovative…even mind-boggling program from Amazon announced in this

press release

Here is the key concept:  your local bookstore can sign up for a program with Amazon. They then sell Kindles in the store, and the store gets ten percent of the purchase price of the Kindle store books you buy on it for the next two years.

It’s an extraordinary idea, and certainly, some bookstores may jump on it.

After all, it may feel like they are going to get ten percent of e-book sales for two years without doing anything…free money, right?

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and a big fan of Amazon…but like the Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, entering the magical world of a genius may not always have positive results. ;)

At the site for the program

https://source.amazon.com/

Amazon calls it “completely worry-free”.  They say:

“If you decide that e-readers and tablets aren’t the right fit for your store, we’ll buy back any tablet, e-reader or accessory that was on your first order, no questions asked.”

This is short-term thinking for the store. If you can get into it with no risk on the hardware, and you simply sit back while the money rolls in from e-book purchases, why not do it?

I’m not telling people not to do it.

It certainly could be a benefit.

It also feels a bit to me like Amazon may have just started a two-year death clock on the independent bookstore, though.

When you sell one of your customers a Kindle, you may be selling them on the idea that they don’t need to come into your store any more.

You get some money from their Kindle store purchases for two years. When those two years are up, you don’t…and will your customer then stop buying e-books from Amazon? Seems unlikely.

For this to work for stores, people have to continue to buy both e-books from Amazon and p-books (paperbooks) from the stores. Yes, many people buy both. One of the questions is going to be whether or not the customers will continue to buy their p-books from your store, when you’ve sold them a Kindle Fire HDX 7″ that lets them buy the same p-book online from Amazon.

I would think that p-book discounts may start showing up in our Special Offers when this deal gets rolling (maybe early next year).

There are a lot of subtleties and complexities to this, and when books are written about Amazon fifty years from now, this may be seen as one of their most brilliant moves.

  • It’s great PR (Public Relations): “Amazon saves Mom & Pop bookstores”
  • Customers feel like they are “donating” to their local stores
  • Every bookstore that joins becomes a salesperson for Amazon
  • Every bookstore that doesn’t join loses a competitive advantage with their customers
  • People who buy Kindle Fires, in particular, will buy other profitable items, partially because they may become Amazon Prime members. That may make sense in terms of what it will cost Amazon. Buy $200 a year in e-books from Amazon, it only costs them $20 (plus administrative costs). Will they earn more than that $20 on your other purchases (“diapers and windshield wipers”)?
  • Veteran booksellers are incentivized to get people to buy Kindle books. Those booksellers may then start writing reviews and blogs, and become Amazon Associates, and make much more of a transition to online (and specifically Amazon)

Amazon has a cost for this for about two years: how many of those bookstores will still be around in two years doing what they are doing now?

If Amazon launches real digital storefronts for bookstores (perhaps something like I wrote about here: Hey, Amazon, buy this: BookAnd), I think many of them may go that way.

It gets even more interesting.

There are actually two programs as part of this announcement. One is for bookstores, and includes the e-book component. The other is for other stores, and gives them a deeper hardware discount, but no e-book cut.

That part about non-bookstores is fascinating. This certainly may mean that your local convenience store, hardware store, grocery store, and so on, start carrying Kindles.

They also risk opening their doors to the wolf, but in a very different way. Depending on weekly (perhaps daily) content sales is different from “Somebody kicked in my door and I need a replacement right now”.

Here is something else: it isn’t available in every US state, just these:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Why is that?

I suspect it has to do with how friendly the state is to Amazon, especially tax-wise. I know California and Amazon (after a messy situation) worked out a deal and are now effectively partnering (Amazon now has fulfillment centers there). I also understand that Maine and Amazon are in dispute right now…and Maine isn’t on the approved list.

Another thing: Amazon is not requiring exclusivity. A store can continue to sell Kobo devices, for example. There may be legal strategy behind that, but there will also be the idea for people that they support the bookstore if they buy the Kindle (in a different way than the other devices). Additionally, space is at a premium in stores (you are always fighting the rent), so will people really allot space to several different brands of devices? You know who used to do that? Borders…and they aren’t around any more.

Do I think this is an evil move by Amazon? Not at all. If I was managing a bookstore still, I’d probably do it.

It feels more like…Amazon is giving stores two years to get their things together as the world of bookselling transitions. Some people may see that as an eviction notice, but maybe it is more like a reverse mortgage: “We’ll pay you now for ownership later.”

I should be clear: I don’t think this wipes out independent bookstores, because many of them don’t need to make a profit. They are there because people love to be in a bookstore, both from the selling and buying sides. They love the community feel and the expertise of the sellers. They like being in the company of other booklovers and, yes, thousands of books all around you. Those stores, and that experience, will be around for a long time.

However, strictly in terms of business, I think the clock is now ticking…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

September 23, 2013

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

We are now into Banned Books Week. According to the

Official Site

“Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.”

Since 1982, the group (which includes the American Library Association) has listed the most “challenged” books.

It’s often a surprising list. What do you think the most challenged book was in 2012? 50 Shades of Grey? Nope, that’s number four.

The most challenged book?

Captain Underpants.

A kids’ book.

More accurately, a series of kids’ books, published by Scholastic, with a 4.7 out of 5 star rating (for the first one) at Amazon.

What reasons are cited?

“Offensive language, unsuited for age group”

This is a series which is widely said to encourage children to read…it may be the book that gets a child to become a lifelong reader.

Now, some of you are probably getting upset at this point, and I understand that. My natural inclination is always to lean towards literary freedom.

However, whenever I recognize a “natural inclination” in myself, I want to challenge it.

I want to look at it, and see if it makes sense.

Maybe it does…and maybe it doesn’t.

I thought I’d start with this simple question (both for me and for you): should any books be banned?

First, we need to define what we mean by “banned”, and that’s a huge issue here.

They call it “Banned Books Week”, but they report on “challenged books”.

Those are two entirely different things.

I define “banned” as something that the government does. It uses its governmental power (including the law) to prohibit people from reading a particular book.

“Challenging”, as used here, is most often done by private individuals. They request that a school/public library/bookstore not have a certain book.

For me, people have the right to challenge books. That is, in and of itself, a matter of free speech. I’m going to very often disagree with their reasons…but that’s exactly when the issue of free speech comes into play.

I analyzed the reasons given for challenging the ten books on the list:

BannedBooks2013

  • Sexually Explicit: 7 (cited in seven of the cases)
  • Offensive Language: 6
  • Unsuited for Age Group: 6
  • Homosexuality: 2
  • Religious Viewpoint: 2
  • Violence: 2
  • Racism: 1
  • Suicide: 1

Certainly, if this was the government banning these books, I think we would all expect “religious viewpoint” to be invalid grounds.

What about the others? In what circumstances?

Let’s look at the issue of public schools (which are government entities…private schools are not).

If you are against banning all books, would that include sexually explicit books for  grade school kids? Should a ten-year old be able to check 50 Shades of Grey out of the school library?

If they shouldn’t be able to do that, what about a fifteen-year old?

How about a thirty-year old…from the public library?

What if a parent or other legal guardian gives 50 Shades of Grey to a ten-year old to read…in their own home? Should the government do something about that?

I’ve been using 50SoG as an example, because I think that many Americans have similar ideas about pornography…even if they can’t agree on what specifically is pornography.

How about some other topics?

What about a book full of hate speech? One that advocated violence against a group of people…repeatedly and unrepentantly?

How about one that shows how to make tools of violence…step by step to make chemical weapons, or build a bomb?

Suppose a book gives false medical advice…which, if followed, will result in death. Should that be banned?

Then there is defamation, which is the more generally used international term for  intentionally  damaging false information. Somebody publishes a book saying terrible things about you…which aren’t true. Does the government have the right to stop people from reading that book?

One more: what if a book infringes on the rights of another person under copyright? If we go to the world of the movies, we could look at 1922’s Nosferatu as an example. It was an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula, and a court ordered all copies to be destroyed. The movie did survive, and is now considered a great piece of early film-making. Was destruction the proper course?

As you can tell, this is more complex than it might appear at first.

Before I ask you some questions, I want to bring one of my own issues into this, and one on which I’ve been challenged.

I think blocking text-to-speech access in an e-book disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I do believe it is legal.

I don’t intentionally link to books where the publisher has taken this action.

For quite a while, I didn’t even mention the titles.

Is that censorship?

For me, it’s important that it isn’t government censorship. If you don’t want to have certain books for sale in your store, or have them in your home, that feels very different to me from the government banning things. If a magazine won’t review books that take a particular viewpoint, I see that as their right.

I made the choice in this post to list Captain Underpants by name, even though the publisher blocks text-to-speech access (and this is not a picture book where the text would be indecipherable images to the software that reads the book out loud). I didn’t link to it, though, because I don’t want to benefit from people buying it.

It’s not my choice to support that, but I don’t think less of you if you do buy the book…I like Dav Pilkey. I guess I could have linked to the paperbook…I’ll have to consider the consequences of that in the future.

Now, some polls:

While the polls are a good way to express your opinion, I always like hearing more. I think I’ve done enough in this post to stimulate conversation, so I’ll just say that you can feel free to express your opinion to me and my readers by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

The many kinds of Kindleers

September 13, 2013

The many kinds of Kindleers

We were one.

That didn’t last, though.

Starting in November of 2007, and continuing until February of 2009, there was pretty much one kind of Kindleer. That’s how long it was from the release of the first Kindle until the release of the Kindle 2…when the fragmentation began.

Oh, I remember the demands to keep the two forums on Amazon separate. The Kindle 2 was a very different device, introducing text-to-speech to the line, for one. However, it was also seen as a step backward in two big regards: no user-replaceable battery, and no SD card slot.

The two camps faced off: those rugged pioneers who insisted that having a Kindle without an SD card was like going into the rain forest without a machete, and those who thought the Kindle 1 was as boxy as a 1950s RCA TV set.

In some households, they got along with each other. After all, they probably shared 80% of their functionality.

However, March 4th introduced a brand new faction: the Kindleless Kindleer. That’s when Kindle for the iPhone was released.

“Eww!” said the E-Inkers, “You are going to read on a tiny backlit screen? It hurts my eyes just to think about it.”

“Dude,” said the iKindleers. “iPhone.”

The big Kindle DX entered the scene in May, with a promise of great textbook integration. The DX lovers weren’t many, but they were (and are) enthusiastic.

On October 22, the Kindle for PC app was released.

E-Inkers: “Reading on a computer? You’re kidding me!”

iKindleers: “Dude. iPhone.”

PCers: “I can get forty bestsellers for what you paid for that tiny status gadget with its data plan or that doorstop…which one of loves books more?”

At least, the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 folks had bonded over their love of an unlit screen…until the Kindle 2 started to getting things the Kindle 1 didn’t.

Native pdf support.

Landscape.

International models.

And then, the mighty wedge…on August 3, 2010, the Kindle 2 got active content. Two games, Shuffled Row and Every Word…and the Kindle 1ers said that was the end of the literate exclusivity of the Kindle…the Kindle 2ers were evicted from the “Garden of Readin'” by the temptation of the app(le), and the Kindle 1ers were done with them.

On July 28th of 2010, Amazon had introduced the Kindle 3…and, well, everybody was okay with that. ;) Pretty much…let’s say it was mostly seen as an improvement over the Kindle 2.

On April 11, 2011, another huge split was dropped, deus ex marketing, on the community…ad-supported Kindles! “Ads on my Kindle? No way!” “Um…you don’t watch network TV? It’s kind of the same thing…and the ads aren’t in the books. Cheaper Kindles…what’s wrong with that?”

September 28, 2011, brought the next horror/wonder…a touchscreen Kindle.

A Kindle without keys? That was the best/worst thing so far!

That’s also when they introduced the “Mindle”…the first Kindle without sound. No audiobooks, no music, no text-to-speech.

The keyboardless kindle and “I have no mouth and I must scream” models weren’t the most head-spinning things that day, though.

Fire.

Kindle Fire.

A backlit tablet that did video…and yet, called itself a Kindle.

That was the biggest rift ever…and one that still hasn’t healed.

Some of the E Inkers felt betrayed.

It was as if your e-mail provider sent you their annual report on paper, or your compostable tableware arrived in a non-biodegradable bag.

They wouldn’t sit with those tablet toters at lunch, that’s for darn tootin’!

I think, though, we’ll most people will eventually accept that we are really all bound together by one thing: our love of reading.

Whether it’s backlit, frontlit, candlelight, or a flashlight under the covers, we are  all connecting with other human beings through the amazing power of literature. You can read it with your eyes, hear it with your ears, or feel it with your fingers…a book is a book is a book.

While it may be true that, as Edmund Wilson said, “No two persons ever read the same book,” that doesn’t mean that we don’t all read them…and does it really matter so much how we do it?

Books aren’t upset about how you read them…they welcome every reader. That’s how I feel about it, too. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Kindle MatchBook: Amazon has the power

September 5, 2013

Kindle MatchBook: Amazon has the power

Amazon recently announced an upcoming program called Kindle MatchBook. Customers will be able to get an e-book copy of a p-book (paperbook) they previously purchased from Amazon (back to 1995) for a reduced price…sometimes for free.

When I wrote about it, I looked to anticipate some complaints that people would have.

I underestimated one…I should know better than to think I’ve plumbed the depths of people’s ability to complain on the internet. ;)

I said people would say this:

“Why isn’t XYZ book part of the program?”

[My response]: It’s going to take a while to get this going…there are agreements to make, and features (like X-Ray, which gives you information about the book) to add.

Well, I read right away in the Kindle forums that people thought this wouldn’t include books from the Big 5 (Big 6 at the time of a lot of these purchases, before the recent merger of Penguin and Random House) USA trade publishers.

After all, those publishers commonly don’t enable lending for their books, and they are the ones that sometimes (but diminishingly, I think) block text-to-speech access.

Let’s start out with the fact that we already know Big 5 books will be part of the deal.

Amazon shows some titles on the Kindle MatchBook page linked above.

They include several books from HarperCollins, one of the Big 5.

So, the basic premise of the complaint is invalid…but hey, that’s never stopped anybody from complaining before. :)

I, however, also jumped to a mistaken conclusion…which I will correct now.

When I wrote about “agreements being made”, I was picturing Amazon getting publishers to choose to put their books into this program.

You know what? Amazon doesn’t need their permission.

This is a rare case where Amazon really does have the power. Typically, when Amazon goes up against the publishers, they lose…text-to-speech, the Agency Model (the latter needed the Department of Justice to intervene).

That’s not going to happen here.

There are no additional uses covered under copyright being proposed here.

It’s just a sale.

With the end of the Agency Model (and maybe Amazon waited to announce this until they had new agreements with Penguin and Random House), Amazon can discount all of the Big 5’s books.

That’s all this is: discounts.

Let’s say that a given e-book normally has a digital list price of $9.99, and Amazon normally sells it for $7.99. Amazon probably paid the traditional publisher something like $5 in that case (it might be $7, but let’s go with the traditional 50%).

Amazon could choose to sell that book to somebody for $2.99, and take a $2.01 loss on that sale.

Would they do that?

Sure, if they thought it would inspire other sales. That’s part of what the publishers were so mad about when Amazon made many New York Times bestsellers $9.99. Amazon was often losing money on each sale, even though the publisher got the same amount for the book as if Amazon had sold it for full price.

Amazon was  driving  down consumer price perceptions about what a book is worth. The publishers thought customers might start thinking $25 for a hardback was too high if you could buy an e-book for $9.99…and that low price was possible if Amazon was willing to lose money on that sale.

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I can tell you that you have to think in terms of populations of sales, not individual transactions. We could lose money on a TV Guide sale, if it meant we made money on other books the customer bought at the same time.

Consumers often, reasonably, only think of it as one sale at a time…what am I, as the customer, paying?

Amazon could do the same thing here. They could offer every single book in Kindle MatchBook right now, no deals needed.

However, Amazon doesn’t want to lose money…despite what some investors may think. ;)

Ideally, they can make these Kindle MatchBook offerings and still make money on them…in addition to cementing customer relations like few programs before.

How could they do that?

If the publishers take less money for Kindle MatchBook sales.

Basically, the publisher would agree that the price of the e-book is less if the customer bought the p-book from Amazon, and their wholesale payment would be based on that.

Amazon doesn’t need that price-lowering to do this, but it’s better for the e-tailer if they get it.

So, my guess is that what is happening is that Amazon will not put traditional publishers’ books into the program unless the publishers agree to lower payments.

It’s Amazon’s choice whether a book is available for Kindle MatchBook, not the publishers.

HarperCollins tends to be pretty consumer forward in their policies (leaving out the weird thing they did with e-books for public libraries). They didn’t block text-to-speech access, for example. I’m not surprised they would have agreed to this earlier than some others who tend to be more drag-foot about these kinds of innovations.

Why can’t the publishers simply do this themselves, and maybe charge $3.99 instead of $2.99?

Simple…they don’t know which customers bought their books in paper.

When you buy a book from a retailer (online or in a brick-and-mortar), the publisher isn’t told that you, as an individual, bought it.

They don’t know who you are…but Amazon does.

Nobody would want to just offer this discount to everybody, regardless of whether or not they bought the p-book. That’s just lowering the price across the board, and not using a special discount to influence future shopping behavior (which is what makes discounting work).

Amazon has the data needed to make this program work. Amazon can discount the books without the publishers’ permission…they could even discount an e-book that is from a different publisher than the p-book (say, an Open Road e-book of a p-book published by Random House). However, they would rather have the publisher give them a better wholesale price when they do it.

My guess is that publishers generally want to be in this program. I think customers will make buying decisions on whether or not they get this…I also think it will draw people away from Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Those two would have a tough time matching it, especially if they lost money. Remember, Amazon can make money on “diapers and windshield wipers” (as like to say) when you are their customer. B&N and Kobo just aren’t diversified enough in their offerings to use that strategy.

Yes, it’s possible that bundling costs publishers some money in the future. Will customers buy p-books as gifts, and that way get the e-books for themselves as a reduced price? Sure, that’s possible.

However, if it shifts that people don’t want to buy the books at all unless they get this bundle, being in the bundling business is almost necessary.

Looking at the future, I wouldn’t want to be the only Big 5 publisher not in this deal…authors might not want to go with me if I wasn’t part of it, customers might opt against my books even if they don’t know one publisher from another.

Well played, Amazon!  Leveraging your data to give you an advantage…and for once, having the power over the publishers.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

I’d love to recommend your books, but…

August 26, 2013

I’d love to recommend your books, but…

This is an open letter to two people and a universe.

I think you’ve all done wonderful things, and I’ve gotten great enjoyment from you.

It’s more than that, though: I think you all have made the world a better place.

That’s why I’d love to recommend all of your books to my readers. It’s not just that I think I do have some small influence on sales. It’s because I want to support you and what you do…and what better way to do that than to help others have the great experiences I’ve had?

However…

There is a situation with some of your books. I’m guessing you aren’t even aware of it, or at least, haven’t considered the impact it has.

It has to do with something called text-to-speech.

Text-to-speech is software which can read your books out loud.

It’s not a performance: it’s another way to access the material, like making the text size bigger.

That is a huge convenience for those who have print disabilities or challenges.

Certainly, there may be specialized versions of your books available for those who can certify a print disability. Those books may even be free to them.

It’s not the same, though, as buying them in the Kindle store, the same way most people do.

Buying them in the Kindle store means that those who need that functionality can get it the same day everyone else. They can enjoy the books on an easily portable piece of equipment. Importantly, they can share the book with family members who don’t have the same challenges and are on the same account.

They want to be able to pay your publisher for accessible versions of your books.

How much does it cost to add text-to-speech to your books?

Nothing.

Nothing to you, nothing to your publisher.

Amazon has licensed the necessary software for the devices (the current generation of Kindle Fires, the Kindle DX, and older Kindles models with audio capabilities going back to the Kindle 2).

The retailer has paid for the software for their devices, because they know it helps sales. In addition to those who need to use it, there are those who simply find it convenient. I typically listen to text-to-speech for hours a week in the car. It means that I go through books that much faster, and driving is no longer “wasted non-reading time”. :) Believe me, I’d much rather listen to your book than to music or talk radio.

That’s not why I don’t buy or recommend books with text-to-speech access blocked, though. It’s because I feel it disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, even though I’m sure that’s not your or your publisher’s intent.

Oh, and when I say the access has been blocked, that’s what happens. A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to the device: it doesn’t have to be prepared in any special way. It can be used to read aloud  a child’s school paper, or a friend’s document about a vacation.

The publisher has to insert code into the e-book file to block the access, which I believe they have the legal right to do (as long as at least one accessible version of the book is available…even if  someone has to certify a print disability to get it).

I think that, increasingly, blocking text-to-speech access is becoming rarer. Many of the bestselling books are accessible. Yours could be, too. If you (or your agent) want more information on the issue, you can read my free summary of the situation, or ask me privately by commenting on this post and telling me it is private (I will not then publish your comment).

I do believe it is a personal decision, and I completely understand when my readers choose to buy your books and others with the access blocked. I would love, though, to both read and promote them, but it is my policy not to promote books (even from people I admire) when that feature has been rendered unavailable.

Let me address you each individually.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen, I record your show so I can watch every one. I am a vegetarian, and a lover of animals. I admire how you use your well-deserved celebrity to help those in need. Your support of the differently-abled is clear, when you share  your joy of dance with people in wheelchairs, who you have arranged to have front row seats in your audience: an area that could easily have been filled many times over with other people who want to see you perform.

I’m happy that I can in good conscience recommend My Point…And I Do Have One, which is text-to-speech accessible. I’d like to be able to that with your other books, too.

Loren Coleman

Loren, I think you know how much I appreciate the generosity you show your readers. I recently wrote honest tribute to you in honor of your birthday.

You have so many accessible titles in the Kindle store:

I’d recommend the Tom Slick book to anyone…and I’d like to be comfortable recommending the May Kindle store release as well.

Star Trek

As a universe, Star Trek has embraced people of all different types, including those with vision challenges. Geordi La Forge, of course, had assistive technology, but it goes back further than that.  Even in the original series, a blind character is a main character in one episode, and shown as uniquely capable (truly, a case of being differently abled).

It disappoints me every time I see a Star Trek book on sale or coming out in the future, and it has text-to-speech access blocked. A universe that has such an optimistic view of the future should strive to embrace the Vulcan concept of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations)…introduced in the same episode I mentioned above.

I will continue to support all of you where text-to-speech access is not an issue.  I thank you for what you have done, and what you will do…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Why did Apple go to trial?

June 5, 2013

Why did Apple go to trial?

Look, going to trial is never easy. It takes a lot of money, and a lot of time. You never have a guaranteed outcome.

Going to trial against the Department of Justice? That’s even harder.

That’s why a lot of people settle, when given the choice. In the current Department of Justice action about the Agency Model for pricing e-books, all five publisher defendants chose not to go to trial…they settled instead.

The publishers have money. They spent so much money fighting before they settled that it affected their financials when they did quarterly reports. They had expertise.

They settled.

Apple?

They made the choice not to settle, and to go to trial.

Why?

Well, there are a few possibilities.

1. They thought they’d win

If you look at the

Opening Statement from the DoJ

it seems obvious that there was a coordinated effort to take actions which would result in higher e-book prices.

Apple has said that those comments highlighted by the DoJ are just small snippets out of many, many e-mails and taken out of context.

Taken out of context would be if somebody said, “You know, it’s not like we are trying to fix the prices…” and quoted it just as “We are trying to fix the prices.” You generally see the entire communication in that slide deck, at least in the case of e-mails, so you know what the context is.

You also can’t defend it by saying that the vast majority of e-mails don’t show a conspiracy. That would be like a bank robber saying, “Gee, Your Honor, I walked by that bank on 364 days last year and didn’t rob it, so I must be innocent.” ;) They only have to show you saying something illegal one time…it doesn’t matter how many times you said legal things.

The issue here is conspiracy…so they don’t even have to prove that what you did worked. If two people agree to commit an illegal act, that’s a conspiracy…even if they don’t succeed in committing it.

However…

Apple may win. The facts are not the same as the law, as pointed out in this

Fortune article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

I was once on a jury. When we first voted, it was eleven to one in favor of the State. The one person pointed out, correctly, that while we all pretty much knew the State was right, they hadn’t proven it, as was their legal obligation. We ended up with a unanimous verdict…the way the one “dissenting” vote had originally gone (it’s okay for me to talk about this at this point).

Even if it is obvious that what the DoJ alleges is true, that doesn’t mean that the judge will rule that way. The obligation is on the DoJ to prove it.

Will people be upset if Apple wins? Yes, I think that would be true for people who are following the case (a small percentage of the population, but not as small a percentage of serious readers), but it probably wouldn’t surprise a lot of lawyers. It’s hard to win an anti-trust case like this.

Apple could certainly be hurt by winning. There are a lot of things that could come out in this trial that could hurt their reputation…arguably, their most valuable asset. Oh, their rep certainly gets attacked in other ways…but if the public perceived it as Apple having been willing to hurt consumers to hurt Amazon (one interpretation), that’s bad.

2. They thought they’d lose…but it would be worth it

Just as Apple could lose by winning, they could win by losing. Suppose that, during the trial, bad things come out about Amazon. Apple could have figured that they could lose in a way that makes it look like Amazon and the Federal Government are working together, and are out to get Apple…a company that makes consumer-friendly products and “thinks different” (as an aside, I squirm every time I see that…shouldn’t that be, “Think differently?” Okay, okay, I can come up with interpretations where their construction works “What color should the wall be? Think blue” but it still bugs me). ;)

Losing, especially since nobody is going to jail and this trial won’t result in pay-outs as I understand it (a suit by the States Attorneys General could), won’t be that big a hit if they can manipulate the PR (Public Relations) so they come out shining like…an apple. :)

3. It’s the principle of the thing

While some people think Apple is fighting because the company believes it hasn’t done anything wrong, that doesn’t seem that likely to me. After all, they settled over basically the same thing with the European Union. The settlement would likely have included that they didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing, just change their practices.

4. It’s ego

Apple can generally outlast and outpay most adversaries…and they think they can outwit them (to paraphrase Survivor). They may have actually thought that the DoJ would back off. They may also just not want to be seen publicly to have “given in”. That’s a definite perceptual risk with a settlement.  It might be that they would rather fight and risk defeat than look like they were pushed into changing their position. There’s a lot of legal stuff going on with Apple, and that’s likely to always be the case. They might not want other people to think they’ll fold when pushed…make it clear that it is going to take a lot of resources, and they are going to hold their heads high through the whole thing.

Those seem to me to be the main possible motivations.

We’ve started to see the witnesses, including David Shanks, Chief Executive of Penguin (USA). The trial will likely go on for at least a couple of weeks. After it’s over, Apple can start assessing it’s strategy. If they lose, they could appeal…so a final answer might be some time away.

At this point, with all the publishers settled, Kindle owners have already gotten the results they needed (although the wheels are still grinding on Agency Model pricing going away altogether). The outcome of the trial may affect Apple more than it does us…

What do you think? Do you have another reason Apple didn’t settle? Do you think they’ll win? Do you care? You can let me and my readers know by commenting on this post…although I’m also going to add a couple of polls here.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Is Amazon readying a new RSK?

May 19, 2013

Is Amazon readying a new RSK?

Brian Hartman, a reader and commenter of mine, and others, have expressed concern that the Kindle Keyboard (formerly colloquially called a “Kindle 3″) is no longer featured in the Kindle “family stripe” at Amazon.

At first, it was still available new from Amazon after that: now, it isn’t (you can find used ones). I have a place where I can search for ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers), and I’m not even finding it there. That suggests to me that this is just a fluky supply problem.

One could make the assumption that they are just going to discontinue it, but there is a particular reason why this one fills a niche that the other RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire) don’t.

Text-to-speech on an RSK.

Text-to-speech is software that reads the book’s words out loud to you. I typically use it for hours a week in the car. More importantly, it’s valuable to those with print disabilities, and print challenges which do not rise to the legal definition of a disability.

Yes, the Kindle Fire has TTS (and I do think the software is superior to what is on the Kindle Keyboard). You might think, then, that since the visual part doesn’t matter to those with print disabilities, the backlighting shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s not the case.

First, certainly, some of those with print issues still can see enough that they use the screen sometimes.

Second, the RSKs weigh considerably less (the Kindle Keyboard is 8.7 oz…the lightest Kindle Fire is 13.9 oz (yes, you’ll probably feel the difference), the battery charge lasts much longer, and the RSKs are cheaper.

Neither the Kindle Paperwhite, nor the “Mindle” (which is what I call the least expensive Kindle) have sound…so they can’t do TTS.

As of right now, you can’t buy an RSK with TTS new from Amazon.

I wasn’t particularly concerned at first, because I thought it was probably just a temporary shortage of devices. Now, I’m more convinced that the Kindle Keyboard will not come back into regular stock.

That would get me upset…I think TTS RSKs are a huge convenience for the disabled.

My guess, though, is that Amazon may release something else (and may announce it before too long). It could be a Paperwhite with sound. If they did that, they might drop the price of the current Paperwhite, and then release the new one at the same price as the old one.

That is my sincere hope.

In my

The Year Ahead: 2013

prediction post, I didn’t think we’d get any real anything groundbreaking in Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader) hardware, and a Paperwhite with sound would be an improvement, but no groundbreaking.

If we go, oh, a week with no announcement, I’ll contact Amazon.

I want to point out that I’ve seen people now routinely referring to September as a time for Amazon hardware announcements. While that did happen last year (September 6) and in 2011 (September 28), that hasn’t always been the pattern:

  • Kindle 1: announced November 19, 2007
  • Kindle 2: February 9, 2009
  • Kindle DX: May 6, 2009
  • Kindle 3: July 28, 2010
  • Mindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire 1st Generation: September 28, 2011
  • Paperwhite, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire 2nd Gen: September 6, 2012

So, while they have been “clumping” several things together in September for the last couple of years, I could see them doing a new Paperwhite during the summer. That especially seems true to me if they start a new line (like an Amazon phone) in September…they might not want to dilute that  announcement.

I’ll keep my eye on it. Thanks again, Brian, for getting me thinking about this.

Bonus deal: one of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is Dead Witch Walking, the first book in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. I reviewed it close to three years ago, and did recommend it. It’s $1.99 today: do check the price before you click that Buy button.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Does Amazon need DRM?

May 7, 2013

Does Amazon need DRM?

Why do people buy e-books at Amazon? Will they continue to do so in the future?

Let’s take the latter question first: I think they will, and I’m going to explain why. That should also answer the first question (although I’m going to ask you why you buy them also).

What got me thinking about this was a nice

iReaderReview article

I saw it in my morning Flipboard read, although I have some correspondence with the author of that blog. Some of us Kindle bloggers do correspond some, but we don’t send each other a heads-up on every article we write. :) We probably all read each other pretty much, but reasonably assume that we’ll look at the blogs.

The article explains about gatekeepers, and breaks it all down with bullet points and speculation.

I’ve written about the idea of flattening the market, of consumer buying directly from creators, notable in this article:

A Tale of Two Middles

However…

I think Amazon has an appeal to people that will survive the removal of apparent competitive advantages. This is a key short excerpt from switch11’s post linked above:

“It’s all a House of Cards. The New Gatekeepers lording over Authors and Readers and Publishers. Pretending they are indispensable. Using everyone’s fears to exploit them and gain power.

What’s going to happen if DRM is eliminated and Authors, Readers and Publishers (especially Publishers) realize that Amazon and B&N are 100% redundant and replaceable by hot air.”

In the status quo, people obviously buy e-books from Amazon.

The status quo isn’t going to continue, though.

There is a chance that equal collection legislation will pass, and internet companies will collect sales tax at the point of sale the same way that brick and mortar stores do. That wouldn’t affect me on e-books (California doesn’t currently charge sales tax on e-books sold electronically…they are treated like contracts, not like objects). Some other states apparently do, since I see a lot of people commenting on sales tax on their e-book purchases.

That’s a change.

Another potential change, addressed by the article that sparked this, is the possible end of DRM (Digital Rights Management). Basically, that is electronic code inserted into content by the publisher to control the use of the content.

As I wrote about yesterday, Tor (part of Macmillan) has been DRM-free through Amazon for over a year, and they aren’t reporting adverse effects from it.

DRM is part of what keys your file to your device, meaning that you can’t just copy your e-book file from one Kindle to another and read it. It also limits your ability to copy and convert the file…you can’t simply take your Kindle e-book file and turn it into a file which can be read by a NOOK.

The article (which I recommend) suggests that if DRM was gone, people would have no reason to buy e-books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I just don’t think that’s the case.

Equal access doesn’t mean equal trust.

Equal access doesn’t mean equal convenience.

Equal access doesn’t mean equal service.

I want to get my content from Amazon because I trust them, because I can centralize everything in one place, and because of their service.

Let’s say that five different publishers start making their books available broadly from their own sites.

Even if the prices are equivalent, I don’t want to have to go to five individual sites to get those books…and I don’t want to have to go back to them to retrieve them (if they’ll even archive them for me for free, like Amazon does).

We use the term “one-stop shopping” to describe all sorts of things…it’s a shorthand for convenience, for not having to go several places to do several things.

That’s one of the big appeals of Amazon.

My life is my life…it’s not a whole bunch of separate transactions. I might want to know if I bought a household product at the same time I bought a food or an e-book. I want to be able to look at my purchases for a month sometimes…not just my e-book purchases, but all of them.

I can’t do all that from Amazon right now…but I can do a lot of it.

There are times I want to browse for something…I want to see all of the e-books on one subject. If I was at publisher A’s site, I wouldn’t see publisher B’s books. The publishers are trying to address that with Bookish.com. Bookish, though, isn’t going to show me independently publisher books. It’s also not likely to show me critical reviews of books by other readers, like Amazon does.

Hey, I might also want to browse for movies, games, t-shirts, and toys related to that topic…not as likely from a publishers’ site.

So, centralization is key. It’s like the internet: can you imagine logging into separate networks for each of the sites you visit?

Trust is another issue.

The “middle-less market” imagines that I’ll see a tweet from somebody with a link in it for a book. I’ll click on that link, and end up directly on the author’s website. I would then presumably give my credit card (or Paypal, or Bitcoin) information to this person that I have maybe never heard of before. I’m going to trust them with my information.

I’m also going to trust them to send me a good quality copy of the e-book. I’m going to trust them to deal with any problems I might have.

Look, if there is something I find unacceptable about an e-book I buy from Amazon (whatever it is…I don’t have to give a reason), I can “return” it myself within seven days of purchase for a refund. I can do that just by going to

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

and click or tap

Actions…

Is every author going to have that reassurance and convenience for me?

It’s like when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and an independent would come in ask me to put a book on the shelf “on consignment”. I wouldn’t pay them unless the book sold.

One of my first questions to them would be, “If I wanted a thousand copies of this tomorrow, could you get it to me?” A traditional publisher typically could (or nearly that quickly). That indie didn’t have those resources. In a physical store, shelf space costs you money, because you are paying rent on it. It’s advertising space…I couldn’t have something sitting there that couldn’t result in more sales if I needed it.

What was our arrangement if the book was shoplifted (surprisingly  common in bookstores)? What if I wanted to get rid of the book? How would I return it to them? How did I know the book wasn’t defective, and if it was, how would that get remedied for my customer?

As a manager, I had to go with the people who could best service the store.

As a customer, it’s similar.

One more major point: Amazon not only stores all those books for  me (and my annotations, if I want): I can share them easily with other people on my account. Amazon knows me. If somebody has a device registered to my account, they are fine with it being downloaded to that device (as long as it is compatible, and we don’t go over the simultaneous device limit the publisher has set).

How is an author with a website selling maybe one book going to know that someone else is on my account? Are they going to let me have unlimited devices on my account, the way Amazon does? Will I even have an account, or will it be one purchase and “see ya”?

Does DRM help Amazon lock in a customer base? Sure. If it was gone, would that mean people would stop shopping at Amazon? I don’t think so. You can already get DRM free books at Amazon (Amazon gives that option to publishers using their Kindle Direct Publishing, and there are those Tor books), and people still buy them from Amazon.

So, let me ask you…

While I think “middle-less” will certainly grow, I also think Amazon will still hold their “end” up in the future. ;)

What do you think? Do you feel trapped into buying from Amazon, or are you doing it entirely by choice and preference? If you could buy your e-books from a thousand different sources, would that be better or worse? Can you envision some other system besides either retail or “island suppliers” (everyone is independent) that would work as well as what we have now? Maybe some central rating and payment site for indies…and why wouldn’t that be Amazon? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,301 other followers

%d bloggers like this: