Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Amazon Kindle is Doing Wrong

I had a conversation today that got me thinking about what Amazon Kindle might be doing wrong.

I think we can all agree that they have done a lot right, in terms of selling ebooks - as their 70-80% of the market share proves. The Kindle is a fantastic e-reader, and as a dedicated device, I wouldn't recommend anything else. They make buying books ridiculously easy with 1-click (i.e. 1-crack). They make publishing books easy, too, for the big six, indie publishers, and self-pubbed authors alike. 

Aside from eliminating the agency pricing model, which is a given -  for me, there are two things that come to mind that would make the experience at Amazon a better one for readers and authors alike.

First would be allowing self-published authors to offer books for free. I understand that there's bandwidth and delivery issues involved as a cost, but they offer it to the Big Six publishers (and others as well - you'll notice Samhain Publishing offers free titles, and they're an indie) why not to self-pubbed authors? Even if we had to pay a fee for doing so, I think we'd all agree the boost in exposure would be worth it.

The second thing would be to give away a free ebook to everyone who buys a print version. As a reader, I know there are certain books I will always buy in print, as long as print exists, because I'm a fan and collect them. Stephen King books, for example, in my case. But I also want to read that book when I'm sitting at my son's wrestling practice or waiting at my daughter's orthodontist appointment, and I don't want to have to carry a huge hardcover with me. (Have you ever lifted one of the tomes SK has written? They're like doorstops!) I want it in ebook form, too. But if I want it...I have to pay for it. Again. And of course, because of the agency model, I may have to pay just as much (or more!) for the ebook version as I do for the hardcover! That just makes me mad.

I think Amazon Kindle is in a unique position to offer this option. Excessica publishes all our print books through Amazon's CreateSpace, and it would be easy, I would think, to link the systems together and give the reader an ebook version when they buy a print version. And it would also marry the idea of print-and-e together. It would send the message that they're not mutually exclusive, and Amazon isn't trying to "kill print books" with ebooks. (Even if they are... shhh!)

I also think they're setting the bar too low setting the price point at $2.99 for a full-length book, but that's something I've talked about before - and I'm gathering data together to see if my theory that pricing full-length books at $3.99 and $4.99 and even $5.99 doesn't hurt (and may even help) sales. That's something that Amazon doesn't really control, aside from the royalty option they've set up. It's the thrifty Kindle readers who seem to think that, after paying $200 for an e-reading device, content should be "nearly free."

I think Amazon Kindle has done a lot for ebooks - but I also think they need to pay attention to the trends and possibilities. The good news is, I think they are, and they will. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw them offering the "free" option to self-pubbed authors and a complimentary copy of ebooks with a print sale as well. After all, they're now offering their popular 70% royalty rate on books sold in the UK.

The good thing about Amazon is they pay attention and listen to authors. Which is more than can be said, it seems, for big publishing.

Selena Kitt


  1. Oh wow I LOVE the e-book with a paper-book idea! Fantastic!

  2. I'm really against the FREE book thing...not the buy one get one but with thousands and thousands of free books I think it will be much more difficult for Indie authors to get read and recognized. People can read a very, very long time on the selection of free books out there. I think it's a very bad situation for us Indies. If you want to give away a free book you can do it on your web site.

  3. The exposure for offering a free book for a period of time is HUGE. Samhain offers a book (usually the first in a series) for free for two weeks, it increases the rankings, and then they set the price back to normal. If you talk to any author who has used this option, or had an publisher do it, their exposure and sales always increase. And don't forget - the "free" and "paid" lists are now separated.

  4. I have a little note in my print books that buyers can email me a copy of their receipt for a free digital copy of the same book (I use coupons at Smashwords for that). When someone orders a print copy directly from me, I automatically send them a free download code with the "thank you for your purchase" email. If Amazon gave us the option of just doing it all through them, it would save me all that hassle.

    I'm the same way - sometimes I want both formats, and it just seems wasteful to pay for both.

    I don't think I really have an opinion on free - I have nothing against giving books away, but because I draft about every other book on my blog for free, I don't really care to give away the finished product. I have no issue with other authors doing so though - not sure why Amazon can't just open this up for everyone.

    I'm a reader who has to really, really want an ebook to pay more than $5 for it (I buy very few print books - I have to really want it), so mine won't ever be priced more than that, and will probably hang out in the $2.99 - $4.99 range for full-length novels. It's more a budgetary thing for me, and I don't want to price my books out of the range of those with less spending money. I'd rather sell more at a lower price than less at the higher point.

  5. So people are ordering print books directly from you, Jamie? We sell ours directly through CreateSpace - I don't want to get into the business of sending out books, kwim? But of course, if I was sending them out myself, it would be easy to offer a free ebook version in the form of a smashwords coupon, it's a great idea.

  6. I have a limited stock at home, just 20 copies or so (14 left, I think) and when they're gone, they're gone. That's just for signed copies, because some readers requested them. I don't want to store/distribute long term, I'll just do small quantities each release for those who want signed copies.

    I have a note right on the copyright page of all print copies for people to visit my web site for details on a free digital copy. So if they buy from Amazon and send me their invoice, I'll email them the coupon code for the free ebook. No one's requested it yet, but it's there, just in case.

  7. I actually see how offering freebies can be a good marketing tool. I got Cry Sanctuary by Moira Rogers for free and ended up buying the other three in that series that were available at the time. Plus, when I see a Moira Rogers book now, the name is familiar. Besides, most freebie books are only offered as free for a short period of time. It's not like there are thousands of free books at any given time (besides the Gutenberg Project books), or at least not that many in the genres I'm interested in.

    I spent almost $400 on my eReader, but I don't expect books to be free. The freebies are nice, but I expect that authors and publishers and everyone involved in getting a book to market probably need to eat, too. And I agree that $2.99 for a full-length book seems too low. At the same time, I don't like $12.99 for an ebook (seems to be the "happy" price for new Penguin ebooks). For me, somewhere in the $6 to $8 range seems fair, but then I don't have inside knowledge about the publishing industry. Maybe there are expenses I don't know about.


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