Why It’s Crazy for Authors to Keep Their Books Off the Kindle

In June, I wrote a column about the problem of “On Demand Disorder“—my name for the narrowing of vision that can occur when people get addicted to the instant experiences available over the Internet and other digital media. If you only listen to the music you can find on iTunes or Pandora or Last.fm, if you only watch movies from Netflix, if you only buy books listed at Amazon, or if you only go to restaurants included on Yelp or UrbanSpoon or OpenTable, I argued, you’re probably suffering from ODD—and missing out on a lot of great non-digital culture.

So it was a little hypocritical of me to get into a snit one weekend in July, when I discovered that a new book I wanted to read, Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, was not available for download on my Amazon Kindle 2 e-book device. In frustration, I banged out the following Twitter post:

It’s come to this: I want to read Ellen Ruppel Shell’s ‘Cheap,’ but there is no Kindle edition. Wait 3-5 days? Buy at store? Fail.

More or less instantly, one of my Twitter followers, Siva Vaidhyanathan, called me on it. Vaidhyanathan is a cultural historian and media scholar at the University of Virginia who has written two books about copyright, and is working on another called The Googlization of Everything: How One Company Is Disrupting Commerce, Culture, and Community…And Why We Should Worry. He replied:

@sivavaid to @wroush: wow. That’s sure disrespectful to people who spend years writing books and oppose DRM. I hope impatience is working for you.

Over the course of the next few hours, Vaidhyanathan and I engaged in the following Twitter conversation:

@wroush to @sivavaid: No disrespect intended to authors. When books are print-only, it impedes the flow of ideas. How does that help anyone?

@sivavaid to @wroush: yet somehow we got monotheism, reformation, scientific revolution — all without Kindle! Amazing!

@sivavaid to @wroush: besides, only rich old people have Kindles.

@wroush to @sivavaid: It’s bad business. Publishers who bypass Kindle are turning away sales & opting not to engage with their most valuable readers. … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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