There are many fabulous benefits and upsides to the invention, proliferation, and consumption of e-books and e-readers. However, I have not been able to bring myself to so much as buy a Kindle as a gift for someone else because I simply cannot convince myself to support Amazon’s e-book and e-reader. (That being said, most of my loved ones already own a Kindle :p.)
As a consumer in a capitalist country, I understand that there are always going to be winners, losers, and change but I simply cannot get behind the surge of (often unedited) materials that are now flooding the market for rock-bottom prices — forcing out many of the already rare jobs in professional writing and editing. After all, why hire an editor to improve a piece of literature when you can publish it as-is and “sell” a few hundred copies for free within a relatively short period of time? I’m not saying that I’m against those authors in the world who write only and only for the sake of having their writing read by someone, but what about the others who also dream of making a living off of it? Have we already forgotten the legacies of authors like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury who wrote not only because they loved writing but also because they needed the extra income? What will we say to these authors now who need the extra income that might come from landing a short story in a literary journal but now can’t manage to get a word in edgewise due to this freebie publishing giant?
I may be over-dramatizing things here, but I do not believe I am.
After all, consider section 5 of the Kindle Direct Publishing Terms & Conditions:
“5 Your Commitment. Your commitment to these terms and conditions is important, and the benefits we provide to you as part of this option are conditioned on your following through on your commitments. If you un-publish your Digital Book, we will remove it from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but you must continue to comply with these commitments, including exclusivity, through the remainder of the Digital Book’s then-current 90-day period of participation in KDP Select. If you don’t comply with these KDP Select terms and conditions, we will not owe you Royalties for that Digital Book earned through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program, and we may offset any of those Royalties that were previously paid against future Royalties, or require you to remit them to us. We may also withhold your Royalty payments on all your Digital Books for a period of up to 90 days while we investigate. This doesn’t limit other remedies we have, such as prohibiting your future participation in KDP Select or KDP generally.” (emphasis added)
I understand that Amazon wants to protect what’s its, but how do I protect what’s mine under this almost coercive anti-competition model? How do I know I’m reaching the best readership possible? How can my e-book possibly stand-out amid this overflow of KDP books? After all, part of a publisher and agent’s job is to help the author market their book, make the book the best it can be and then as noticeable as it can be. I’m not a marketer — I’m an author! Do I have time between my jobs, graduate school, and writing schedule to also work as my own marketer?
All this being said, I do know that there are people out there making money off of their KDP books and that there are many great indie KDP books out there as well. However, as someone who grew up loving her hard copies, seeing them on the shelf, writing notes in the margins, tearing out pages to send to loved ones, buying copies to give as gifts, coming to know which publishers had my back and my tastes as a reader in mind, coming to know which publishers were into fighting the good fight (tip o’ the hat to you, City Lights), I just cannot convince myself that an e-reader is worth my time or money. I love reading and I love books. And if I’m going to work for three years to write a book, I want to be able to hold the work in my hands the same way all craftsmen get to at the end of the journey…and create flip-book cartoons in the corners.