I haz Kindle!
Several weeks ago I became a 21st century reader by purchasing a Kindle. My reasons for doing so were threefold. OK, I had four reasons, if you count the $200 burning a hole in my PayPal account (although, first thing I learned about Kindles is that they cannot be purchased from Amazon with PayPal dollars).
But back to those other three reasons –
- I needed to read all the titles being released by Dark Continents Publishing prior to the release date of 28 April 2011, and I knew that doing so on my laptop was going to be a special, subtle kind of torture. And I could foresee countless hours more of agony when DC opens to unsolicited submissions.
- I wanted to be able to support my many writer friends by purchasing their books, but was finding it prohibitively expensive to do so in paperback (not to mention prohibitively space-sucking on my bookshelf).
- As a partner in a publishing company dedicated to providing our customers with choices in their preferred format and to reducing our environmental impact where possible, I felt I needed to gain an understanding of this new-fangled e-book gadgetry.
So far, so shiny. E-book converts tend to fall into two camps – the enthusiastic convert who still has retains a love for treebooks, and the fanatic who vows never to read a paperback again and who converts their entire book collection into digital format. I’m of the former persuasion, although I can be heard to claim at least once a day “I love my Kindle”. Reason number one has been thoroughly satisfied; I’ve read three DC titles on my Kindle so far, with six more to go, and the experience has been enjoyable, just as reading should be.
I started off with a vague idea that I would say yes to every Facebook plea to “Buy my book!” but soon found that even with a Kindle, this was impractical. I get several such requests every day. I takes more spare time and money than I have just to order and pay for them all, let alone read them all. As a soon-to-be book publisher as well as a writer and consumer, it concerns me. When it’s my turn to say “Buy my book!”, how am I going to make myself heard above the roar of internet promotion and commerce? Why should someone choose my book, or any other book in the DC stable for that matter, over another?
So I thought I’d conduct a little experiment in karma, paying it forward, tit-for-tat, whatever you want to call it. I announced on Facebook that for one week, I would buy any e-book that any of my Facebook friends asked me to, so long as I didn’t already have it in paperback, with a budget for the week of $50. In return, I suggested (strongly) that said friends return the favour when “Ghosts Can Bleed” launches next month. In order to participate, I asked that writers post their requests for purchase directly into the message thread.
Those of you who are less naïve than me (which is just about everybody) probably know what happened next.
Nothing. All those “Buy My Book!” requests still streaming into the News Feed daily, but not one of them posted in my message thread as requested.
What the hell, I thought, I’ll forge on with the Great E-Book Experiment anyway. I just had to modify the parameters. Perhaps I was approaching it in the wrong spirit by expecting reciprocation. And I was curious – how far will fifty bucks go on e-books, anyway?
Pretty damned far, it turned out. I didn’t even get close to spending my budget. In one week I legally downloaded eleven e-books and spent a total of $23.15. That’s an average $2.10 per book. Had I bought those in paperbacks, the bill would have been closer to $220. A few of those books were free. More spine-chilling conclusions ensued as I realized that there are talented writers out there begging people to download their work for nothing. And one of those e-books, an Australian short story anthology, was on sale for $4.99, discounted from an eye-popping $14.99. OK, maybe there is at least one person out there more naïve than me, although as a writer I admired the editor’s faith.
I could go on, and on, and on about the pricing of e-books. As a publisher, I want to charge as much as the market will allow. As a reader and consumer, I want to pay as little as I can get away with. And as a writer, I’m torn – on the one hand, I know how much work goes into crafting a well-written manuscript, and would love to see writers adequately compensated for their talent and efforts. But on the other, given the choice between being paid well and having a large audience, I might be persuaded to choose the latter.
So do I have a point in all this? Ummm…maybe. Buy my book. But before you buy my book, buy a Kindle (or the e-book reader of your choice). Then you’ll be able to buy not just my book, but a whole heap more. Then everybody will be happy.
Except, perhaps, for Borders and Angus & Robertson.