Publishers: how high can your sales get without these features?

Publishers: how high can your sales get without these features?

A lot is made out of the special features that e-books can give you: text-to-speech, which can read text out loud, making books more accessible for those with print challenges and more convenient for others; X-Ray, which gives you more information about the elements of a book (characters, places, and more); Word Wise, which helps you learn vocabulary; and others.

However, while some e-book advantages are pretty universal, like dictionary look-up and increasable text sizes, the one listed above are not.

In some cases, the publisher makes a choice about whether or not a feature is available; in others, whether it happens (or not) is on Amazon’s side. Some features take an effort to implement, which may be part of it.

As a rule of thumb, indies (independent publishers) are less likely to block or opt out of features than tradpubs (traditional publishers). For one thing, Amazon can (and does) influence indies by requiring certain features to be active in order to get twice the royalty rate (70% versus 35%): tradpub contracts don’t work that way.

Amazon has increasingly become more independent (so the speak) from tradpubs, so I was curious: what is the best selling Kindle book where a feature is not active? My intuition was that a book with TTS being blocked wouldn’t be in the top ten. Now, that doesn’t mean that customers make that specific “A means B” decision…that they won’t buy books where TTS is blocked (although that is my own decision). Amazon’s

Kindle First books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

tend to be at the top of the bestseller list, especially in the first part of the month. Those books will generally have the features Amazon promotes, since they are published by Amazon’s tradpub imprints. They may not say that they are available through

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

but that’s just because they haven’t actually been published yet (that’s part of the attraction of Kindle First). I’m still going to count them as being available through KU…because they will be once they are published (based on past performance).

So, let’s take a look:

Bestselling book over $9.99 (not really a feature, but outside of Amazon’s required price range for the high royalty): #7, James Patterson’s 15th Affair ($14.99)

Bestselling book with TTS blocked: #29, The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

Bestselling book without X-Ray: #7, James Patterson’s 15th Affair

Bestselling book without Word Wise: #2, The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

Bestselling book without Lending: #1, We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman

Bestselling book not in Kindle Unlimited: #7, 15th Affair by James Patterson

I’m surprised a bit by lending (that’s different from KU…it’s the one time only loan to someone not on your account) was not available on an Amazon tradpub. I checked some Kindle First books from previous month (in case it’s just not available until the book is actually published), and they also didn’t have it.

Word Wise not being available on an Amazon tradpub was also a bit of a surprise, since that’s inconsistent.

I was pleased with no booking blocking TTS being higher than 29. As regular readers know, I don’t approve of the decision by some publishers to insert code into an e-book file which blocks text-to-speech access. Oh, that might not be the exact mechanism, but they have to make a conscious decision to block TTS on text (books where the dialog appears in graphics, like a graphic novel or an illustrated children’s book, may not be technically accessible to the TTS being used). I think it disproportionately disadvantages the disabled. It used to be that some of the bestselling books routinely blocked TTS: Random House had a policy at one point of blocking it in all e-books…they dropped that a long time back, which I appreciated. I would say that the TTS battle has largely been won.

There you go! I’m curious: do you ever make a decision on whether or not to buy a book based on the presence/non-presence of a specific feature?

Bonus deal: the sale on some Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) continues, and there is also a Mothers’ Day sale on Fire tablets:

I would expect the Mothers’ Day sales, obviously, to end this week…and for the devices, it could be by Friday or so.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

*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! :) 

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.



4 Responses to “Publishers: how high can your sales get without these features?”

  1. Wendy Frazier Says:

    Thanks for this article. When I discover a Kindle book doesn’t have the X-ray function I’m super disappointed. John Sandford’s newest release Extreme Prey doesn’t have X-ray, and with its myriad of characters, it should. I find myself relying on this feature. The search function (magnifying glass) is a good alternative but not as easy or complete.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Wendy!

      You can see if X-Ray is enabled or not before you buy the book…it’s on the book’s Amazon product page.

      Hm…X-Ray was powered by Wikipedia…and by Shelfari, which Amazon just closed. I wonder if closing that website is affecting newer releases…I may take a look at that.

  2. Wendy Frazier Says:

    Just as a follow up….now I’m in the middle of Baldacci’s newest release The Last Mile. I started it a couple of days ago and could swear that X-ray wasn’t working. I’m reading on my Paperwhite and iPad. This morning X-ray is working on both platforms. Not sure what that means.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Wendy!

      That can certainly happen. There must be a step where they tie the book into the background source…it might require it downloading an accessory file. It might also have to wait until the book in indexed, but that doesn’t usually take long.

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