(Image courtesy of alienratt.)
I’m going to put this out there right away: Amazon’s Kindle is one of the most important innovations in publishing history.
I’ll give you a moment to recover from that hyperbole.
Many authors and writers are sceptical of Amazon, and its KDP program. Often, the argument is that there are far too many ‘bad books’ out there, and by opening the gates and letting a flood of wannabe writers storm through, quality control becomes irrelevant. After all, with no judge of quality, how to we distinguish a good book from a bad book?
Another argument is that the death of physicality is something to mourn. The days of flicking pages against your nose to get a waft of a fresh new book are passing. Soon, the spaces where our magazines and CDs once sat will be empty, nothing but dust taking up the void.
I want to dispel both notions in one post, whilst arguing for the Kindle and Amazon’s KDP program.
Ready? Let’s do this.
1. Bad books always have, and always will, exist
The argument that KDP ‘undermines’ the work of the published author by clogging up the store with a load of second-rate indie first-drafts is one I’m uncomfortable with. After all, haven’t bad books always existed?
Without naming names, I started reading an absolutely awful book the other day. It told me how the protagonist felt. It was packed to the core with writing faux-pas, and the characterisation was poor. To my surprise, the book had been picked up by a major publisher, and appeared to be selling okay. I put it down, and moved onto another one that took my fancy.
The truth is, I didn’t really care whether either of the books were self-published or not. I cared whether the story was engaging, and the writing was to a suitable quality. The idea that we’d be more likely to purchase a bad traditionally published book than a good indie book is absurd, so why not the same quality treatment for self-published works in general?
Just because there are more books out there doesn’t necessarily mean quality is dipping. I like to think that the self-publishing revolution makes the reader the judge of quality, rather than some publishing house looking for unrealistic profits.
And, with more bad books come more good books. So why not focus on the positives for a change? This article from Rachel Thompson does a good job of doing exactly that.
2. Physical books won’t die, and if they do, is it a big deal?
(Image courtesy of Mr. T in DC.)
Stop the press: the rise of the Kindle does not mean the death of paperback books. PoD publishers like LuLu.com and CreateSpace offer quick, simple ways for authors to turn their digital books into physical ones.
However, if physical books were to ‘die’ – which I absolutely do not think they will – then is it really such a big loss? The only real benefits of the print book over the digital copy is 1.) gratifying those materialist impulses deep within us all, and 2.) showing off how literary we are by displaying our wonderful library of books. Is that Tolstoy, I see? How wonderful! Now, pass me a beer.
Sure, I will be print-publishing my debut novel, What We Saw, mainly because I am just a raving materialist loon who can’t wait to give my own book a good ol’ sniff. But I’m not sure if I’ll create print books forever. Perhaps one or two for vanity, and obviously to sell to those without an eReader. A few years down the line though… I’m not so sure.
3. Amazon actually care about authors
In defence of KDP, I actually like Amazon. Sure, they have some scary looking terms and conditions, but don’t all publishers?
For me, the 70% royalties for books priced above $2.99 does it. Admittedly, this might not stay like this forever, as competition increases, but it shows that Amazon give a damn about authors and actually care about the fact that our breed have been underpaid for years.
It’s great for the readers too. Whilst I am against the 99p culture at present, it means that authors can provide their books at reasonable prices, thus reaching a wider potential audience.
I realise I am going on a little bit now. I’ve outlined my thoughts on self-publishing in the past (http://ryancaseybooks.com/why-ive-made-the-decision-to-independently-publish-what-we-saw-part-2/) so do feel free to have a gander.
Although, I still think that the digital revolution is still in its early stages. Everything could change in a matter of moments. The rise of ‘free’ culture is sure to have a knock-on effect on the book industry, so I guess we’ll see the results of that in years to come.
We live in exciting times. Let’s embrace the amazing tools at our disposal, because I truly do not believe there has ever been a better time to be a writer.
Ryan Casey is a 20-year old author from England. He is set to launch his debut childhood mystery novel, What We Saw, in Autumn 2012. He offers writing advice, social media guidance, and documents his writing journey over at http://ryancaseybooks.com
From K.C. Mead:
Thank you for the terrific guest post, Ryan! You raise interesting points in debate with my former post, Why I Still Don’t Own a Kindle.