A lot of buzz going on about Amazon's new Kindle book-reading device. Although the cost is prohibitive for most of us right now (okay, at least for me), I think it has a tremendous potential for the future. Everyone seems to like everytihing about it except the price.

I have two publishers...ten books with one, two books with the other. I'm not sure exactly what is involved in how Amazon selects the books it makes available through Kindle, but I think it behooves every writer to contact their publisher and find out. Both titles under my second publisher are there, but not those from the publisher of the first 10. I've written to ask why.

And once a writer sees his/her books offered by Kindle, it is in his or her self interest and possible great advantage to urge people to take a look at KIndle as a viable alternative to paper books. (I note Kindle makes much of the its "like paper" qualities. Not sure what that means, but definitely shows they are aware of a major reason people haven't been buying hand-held e-book readers.

The cost of books through Kindle is also considerably less than paper bound: my two books are listed at $6.99 and I"ve seen others from better known authors at $9.99.

It's a matter of back scratching: we scratch Kindle's back, they indireclty will scratch ours.

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Actually, not everyone likes the kindle. I don't like the proprietary format it uses, meaning you can't upload your own .pdf files to it, or ebooks you already own. Then I've read complaints about the keyboard and the page change button and the general ugliness of it. But mostly the proprietary nature of the Kindle is what is keeping it down, that and the price. Maybe Kindle 2.0 will catch on, but this version of the Kindle is nothing revolutionary.
Thanks for the heads-up, John. I waan't aware of the points you raised. Seems there is always a fly in the ointment. But any book sold on Kindle is a book that may not have been sold otherwise. But I hope they do get things together and make it affordable.

Dorien
You can upload your own PDF files and ebooks, depending on the format. I've got a Kindle and I've done it without any problem. If it's in HTML or PDF, it's a snap. .rb files are a bit trickier, but can be done. I've uploaded rough drafts of my novels (in .doc format) and proofed them there. I can't edit there, but I can't edit on any e-reader, so that's not just a Kindle problem.

I don't buy paper fiction books anymore, I only use an e-reader. I've got 4 different types of reading devices. I got the Kindle as a gift. I think it's a great device -- and the 'impulse buy factor' can't be beat. I love not having to connect to my computer to download a book and since I don't have WiFi, it's great to use the Kindle's network. I've bought more books since I got the Kindle than I have in the last year.

My books come out in e-format and later in print. I sell about an equal number in e-format and in print. There's a thriving online community of people who love e-books, which I found surprising until I started tapping into that market a while ago. It's a great place to do promo and to sell your work -- and far easier than brick&mortar selling.
If Bookster was going to be here, it already would be. E-books just aren't popular, and anyway, reading on screen hasn't become comfortable yet. People could have bought an e-book before the Kindle hit the market and copied it and shared it. If there was a market for it on the internet, Bookster would already exist. That's how it works with music. Someone buys the disc, copies it, and shares it. So I'm not worried about online book piracy. Also, there hasn't been any solid evidence to prove that internet piracy has substantially hurt the recording industry. The RIAA has admitted that it exaggerated some of its earlier data.

I think copyright law is due for an overhaul too. Life + 70-90 years is too long for a copyright. They should have to be manually renewed after a much shorter period.

And you can mark my words on this one: whatever e-book reader that eventually becomes popular and dominates the market, it will use an open format so that anyone can contribute files to it. This is a major requirement before it will ever become popular. Remember that the internet is populated mostly by people who aren't afraid of technology. The proprietary nature of software is being destroyed already with open source software; this trend will only continue.
A comment you made in another thread I found interesting, about why there was no price competition among publishers. I think the reason is because they're all owned by a few companies, but what I'm getting at here is maybe the smaller presses that are gaining ground can begin to introduce some price competition. Personally, I would like to see hardcovers at 19.95, trade paperbacks at 9.95 and mass-market paperbacks at 4.00 or 5.00.
Unless that will mean more sales (and I have my doubts that price affects sales for new books), the author's percentage will shrink even further. Besides, amazon already offers severely discounted hardcovers (at 15 to 17 dollars).
Yeah, but as everyone likes to point out to me, amazon is only a small portion of the overall market. I can only speak for myself, but I would buy more books if they were cheaper. But for it to work, the price drop would have to be across the board, not just for new releases.
It's a matter of economics. The bigger guys can afford the large print runs to get the lower price per book. The smaller ones have to charge more because they can't do the big print runs. Then you have to factor in distributors and booksellers that take sizable chunks of the cover price as their share. To cover costs, the prices end up pretty high.

The whole system needs revamping. Any system that allows the customer (the distributors and bookstores) to order product at a discount and return unsold units at full price is seriously a problem. Small publishers go under because of this sort of thing. They end up owing the distributors money on unsold books, and the distributors will often hold unsold books in storage until the publisher requests payment on sold books, and then return the unsold books instead of making the payment. This is also why some publishers will hold a certain amount of royalties back against returns.

What other business in the world would run like this?
It's different for different kinds of books, I guess. I know from firsthand experience that textbooks are marked up 300%. I know we're talking about fiction here, though. But I agree the system sucks. But then again, you can return anything to Wal-Mart and get your money back, even a lawn mower you used for one season and then returned it with gas still in it (true story).
Walmart needs the customer's good will and can recoup the loss from the lawnmower's manufacturer. Perhaps that's the reasoning behind the generous buy-back policies of publishers. But consider that publishers don't really need book stores. The mark-ups on books come from the middlemen. Many publishing houses already sell direct via mailorder. I know Penguin does. I suspect that anything short of best sellers will eventually go to mailorder, and only the best sellers will be sold by grocery stores and the big box stores. This, of course, will mean that publishers will have to spend more on national advertising for their other books. Or perhaps there will be no other books.
I think the whole mess stems from the Great Depression. Bookstores couldn't afford to buy books that they then might not be able to sell, so publishers started offering to send them the books and let them pay once the books sold. Once the depression was over, the system was firmly entrenched and remained in place. Considering how much publishers need distributors to get their books out to the bookstores, I imagine distributors have tweaked things to their greatest benefit. They're not going to want to let go of that advantage. Some other system needs to come along that works fairly for all parties involved before things will change.
I think there is a trend among smaller houses, like my publisher, Zumaya, to avoid many of the very real pitfalls mentioned above by going to a no-inventory system. The biggest drawback here is the old POD bugaboo which assumes poor quality and conjures up images of somebody sitting there cranking out one book at a time as orders come in. That may have been somewhat true years ago, but with today's digital printing capabilities, the end result can be and is of as good a quality as large-print-run houses. And the matter of "no returns" can be avoided by the simple common sense option of the bookstore not ordering more books than it thinks it can sell. Two copies, three copies is no problem, and reorder takes only a matter of days. Plus the book in effect never goes out of print or winds up on the "remainders" table.

Old ideas, prejudices, and habits die hard, but they do, eventually, die. Digital printing is, especially for smaller houses and I would strongly suspect, eventurally for the entire industry, the "wave of the future."

Dorien

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