Why It’s Crazy for Authors to Keep Their Books Off the Kindle
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the details of the Kindle publishing system. But if you are an author and your book is not available for the Kindle or the other existing and emerging e-book platforms, you are in effect telling your readers that their convenience is of no import to you; that you would rather your book not be read at all than that you should have to suffer at the greedy hands of the e-retailers.
You’re also foregoing real earnings for the sake of—what, exactly? Perhaps you are waiting for someone else to build a convenient, scalable, affordable system for getting e-books to hundreds of thousands of readers, and then offer you a larger cut of the proceeds. Who’s going to do that—Google? Microsoft? Hearst? Rupert Murdoch? I don’t think so.
It’s important to keep up the pressure on Amazon to make the Kindle as open as possible. But I think it’s also important to be realistic about the economic implications of the larger digital revolution that the Kindle embodies. There is no reason for a digital book to cost as much as a print book. (Even the $9.99 level is unsustainably high, in my opinion.) And as Chris Anderson and others have been pointing out for years now, the old pricing and distribution models are breaking down across the world of consumer goods and services; novelists, journalists, musicians, and other creators can’t expect to be compensated in the same old ways they’re accustomed to. The way forward is not to withdraw your work from circulation. It’s to figure out what people want and need, and then decide how you can uniquely meet that need.
P.S. Closely related to the Kindle question is the debate over the proposed legal settlement between Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers over the Google Book Search project, and in particular, whether authors should participate in the settlement or withdraw while they still can. Amazon, Microsoft, the Internet Archive, and other organizations have come out against the settlement, which I’ve also criticized in the past. I will revisit that subject in a future column.