Why I Still Don’t Own a Kindle

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.

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3 thoughts on “Why I Still Don’t Own a Kindle”

  1. Whilst I agree with a lot of what you say here, I think the problem is even bigger than we think.

    I do own a Kindle and so does my husband. My tiny space at home is full of books and can take no more, so the idea of having a new ‘library’ which will store 3,000+ books at my bedside is too attractive to dismiss. It doesn’t stop me buying proper books, or borrowing from the library, but I am amassing quite a digital library too.

    I even have a book which has for some months been ‘kindle-ready’, but I have not been able to bring myself to actually publish it there. Partly because some of the stuff on the site is so abominably awful it makes me want to wince, partly because I have always believed that if it is good enough, then a ‘real’ publisher will eventually take my work.

    But you may have read (or like to read – http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/07/how-does-your-publisher-make-money/) that Pearson Publications, owners of Penguin, have recently bought Author Solutions, a well established self publishing company.
    The line between publisher and self publisher is going to be so very blurred soon that authors will not know what they are doing.

    But it is not only being blurred by Amazon, whose self confessed aim is to be the world’s only publisher.

    When publishers take on celebrities who cannot string two words together satisfactorily, in order to sell any sort of drivel, rather than take a risk on an unknown from the slush pile, when the marketing man decrees figures are more important than the content of a book, when large publishing houses are reduced from hundreds to just four or five, then I am afraid that Amazon can do more or less as it likes.

    This has not been market driven. I believe this is a disease of the publishers’ own making.

  2. I want it all – my novel on Kindle AND in hard copy. The two are not mutually exclusive. As I traveled on planes in July I was amazed by all the devices humans now carry around for their personal amusement and a bit saddened that tablets, iPhones, Kindles and the like have replaced the neighborly chit-chat with the person in the seat next to you sharing an armrest. I’ll be going the traditional route of submitting my manuscript to publishers and if that doesn’t bear fruit I have few qualms about self-publishing – although I will definitely make sure my novel is perfectly edited and laid out. Since I learned to borrow library books on my Kindle, I’ve fallen in love with it all over again!

    1. Thanks for writing, Cyndi! You raise good points. I am curious though, are you also going to be seeking or do you already have a literary agent? I am very interested about the different levels of self- and traditional publishing that people are now pursuing.

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