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Why I love the Kindle – by someone who hates the Kindle


I love books. Their size and weight and feel. The cover, the blurb on the back, the notes in the margins. The dog-eared corners and coffee rings. And I enjoy the words inside them as well.

The only thing that the new-fangled Kindle has going for it are the words. Just one thing. But, as I have often said, if you do one thing very well, better than anybody else, then you will succeed.

I love book shops. The quirky little independent ones that play funky music and smell of paper and coffee. They can’t compete with the big, shiny bookstore chains that try to disguise themselves as quirky little independent ones but give themselves away by their massed ranks of celebrity books. But I still like these big book shops.
However, even these huge chains can’t compete with online bookstores, by which I mean Amazon’s range, price and convenience. If you liked that book, you’ll like this one. Read reviews, read a sample, buy it cheap. Like Amazon or loathe it, but you can’t fail to be impressed by it.

I am writing today as an author, not as a purchaser and reader. And as an author I am a complete convert to the Kindle and the omnipotence of Amazon, particularly as an author who has recently returned to self-publishing.

At a rough guess I would say that there is one copy of one of my books in about 30% of big book shops in Britain. It’s rarely in any independent shops. It certainly isn’t in American, Australian or any other country’s book shops. The shops where my book is found do not display it in the window or in a juicy position by the till. It will be tucked away, out of sight to anyone not specifically seeking it out, on a shelf in some far corner of the shop. In short, it is a laughable situation for somebody trying to make a career as a writer.

I have anticipated the coming prominence of eBooks for a while now. But it took over two years of polite requests and irritating pestering before my traditional publisher was able to produce a Kindle version of Moods of Future Joys. In contrast, I sat down at my computer at 11pm one evening and, by 3am I had turned self-published There Are Other Rivers into a Kindle book. It was so easy.
There Are Other Rivers is now for sale worldwide, to anyone with a Kindle (or a Kindle app on their phone, iPad or tablet). It has its own page on Amazon, exactly the same as books from superstar authors. It is a level playing field. Everything now depends on me: on how good the book I wrote is and how many people I can encourage to read it, blog about it and review it. If the book receives four and five star reviews on Amazon it will sell better and better. If it receives one and two star reviews it will fail – and rightly so. I have never sought more than a fair and equal start line to begin from.

If people like one of my books it is easy click through to read the free sample chapters for my other books available on Kindle. People who have never read my books can read the sample and decide if they want to read any more. It’s not a huge decision to take: There Are Other Rivers costs just £2.18 on Kindle, making it a less onerous purchase than a cup of coffee, magazine or pint of beer. And if that isn’t enough, it comes with a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee if you don’t like it.

Finally, as I explained recently, I did everything on this book by myself. I know that there will be errors and inconsistencies that slipped my notice. This is less of a disaster on a Kindle book than with a traditional print run of several thousand: it takes only minutes to upload a corrected version of the text. My book can evolve and improve over time, in response to readers’ feedback and reviews on Amazon.
I definitely intend to continue producing proper paper books, whether as words, pictures or my new “mappazine” experiment. But the Kindle is here to stay. There is no point in me ignoring the elephant in the room (or, as they say in Finland, the hippo on the couch).

What do you think? Are you a Kindle lover or a proud luddite? Do you know much more than me about business, marketing or interpreting data and are currently wincing at my naivety? Please do have your say in the comments section.
And, if you have read There Are Other Rivers, please, please do leave a review on Amazon. I would really appreciate it.

Read Comments

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  1. I’m a recent Kindle convert and I love it. Absolutely love it. No more fretting about the next time I’ll come across a decent book exchange and the panniers sure are a lot lighter. If you travel by bicycle, do yourself a favor and fork out the $109 for an e-reader.

  2. I love the Kindle. It’s convenient when travelling (light and easy to buy more content), and opens up a huge range of books that I couldn’t get over the counter in Australia. I’m enjoying a lot of adventure books from small and self-publishers like yourself which would have to be ordered and shipped from overseas otherwise.

    I think you undersell yourself at $2.99 USD for the new book, but I bought your first two on paper so I knew I’d enjoy it. Perhaps it’s necessary to keep the price down to new readers to take a gamble?

    I miss being able to lend books to friends though. I just loaned Moods and Thunder to a friend, which I won’t be able to do with Rivers. And you can’t get autographed Kindle books yet of course!


    • Hi Hamish,
      Although the book is only $2.99 (£2.18) I get 70% of that – £1.52…
      Compare that to my traditionally published Boy Who Biked The World for which I get just 4% of £5.99 – 23p

      • 4%! Tough way to make a living.

        FYI Jill Homer ( is self-publishing her books (about some races she has done) and they list for $4.99 on Amazon for Kindle.

        I forgot to mention how convenient I find the samples. I have dozens downloaded based on recommendations on your blog and others I read.

  3. I’m not a Kindle owner, but that doesn’t stop me admiring what Amazon has done—it’s democratised publishing—and for that, its to be commended. Amazon has also made sure that authors, especially authors without a juggernaut of a publisher backing them, get a fair share of the revenue.

    The only down side is that Amazon seems to push a low margin, high volume business model, which can still be economically tough for burgeoning authors without a mass following. That said, 70% of not very much is still 17.5 times more than 4% of not very much.

  4. “The only thing that the new-fangled Kindle has going for it are the words. ”

    Surely the photo of all the books that went with you once (the one with War & Peace in it) Think of the ease of swapping all of that and carrying more books to read in. Got to be something said for that.

    I like CDs, I like having the physical booklet and so I still buy my music on CD but if I’m travelling an ipod wins hands down. A kindle is a ipod for your books

  5. I love the kindle! I am a painfully slow reader so now between my kindle and my iPhone app I can read anytime I have a few minutes to spare.

  6. Crystal Davis Posted

    Mmm. I am a solid book lover. I love the feel, smell and look of books as much as the words like all bookworms, especially the super well-loved ones! However, eBooks have a massive plus – environmental consience. Since realising that books are in fact made of PAPER, they have become my guilty pleasure rather than an innocent passtime! So for this reason, I am finding myself more swayed by the idea of eBooks. I may soon be another convert! The idea of carrying a whole library with me wherever I go is pretty exciting too.
    P.S. I think you choosing to self publish is brilliant.

    • Don’t forget the shipping of books too (especially overseas), which might be more of a problem than the paper.

  7. Sat on my boat in Cherbourg, (various trickles of rain seeping through the 40 year old deck) and frantically summoning up the effort and inspiration to finally write a book, (by the New Year!) on my 25 years of travel, I came across the possibility of self publishing a ‘single kindle’. Now this takes the pressure of a little bit! Single Kindles are books/pieces of writing that you can publish that are longer than a magazine article yet shorter than a book. Perfect, so for those would be writers who might need a hand up to start with, there you go, start with a single kindle. And as you say Alistair, the uploading bit is really so very simple.

  8. I don’t own a kindle yet. I am not an early adopter and would prefer to buy it for £30 in a few years than for £90 today. Also, it seems to me that for books I actually want to buy the average book price in the shop is about £7 vs £5 on a kindle. I think that is a (relative) rip off since the majority of that £7 is in middle men, distribution, printing, transport etc. More books should be about £2 like yours, but many often aren’t. That £7 book the author is walking off with 30-70p, is the same author pocketing £3-4 for a kindle book? They are just trying to drive high margins and profits from well off early adopters while they can as far as I can see and while there is relatively more monopoly. I want to see atuhors getting £s not pence per book but I think it’s gone a bit far. It should fall. I am waiting for that. The other problem you have got is libraries. My local library is awesome and it includes things like good quality histories and travel stories on a par with Al’s books for quality for nothing. Authors get a pittance, a bad deal with libraries but it’s great for me the consumer.

  9. Then you’ve got the second hand book market where you can actually buy a proper book for £2. Not trying to be negative here, I did buy one of your books once and I thought it was very good and I do buy new books now and then.

    Anyway, I have another separate comment about “evolve and improve”. For sure I agree with you on correcting say a basic typo but personally I would like the idea of no more than basic spelling errors being changed to preserve the book as it was published. Take ages to check it and get it right first time is what I aim for. In the revised version, if each pages starts with the same para rather than whole chunks of text moving around that would be good.

    I wouldn’t like to be emailing a friend and saying look on page 46 paragraph 3 and he says what are you on about because it has been moved to page 47. Can’t think of a compelling argument for this so maybe it’s just a personal preference but I like the constancy of a published work. Take Star Wars for example, that film should go down in history as the landmark that hit cinemas in the 70s not the more modern version that Lucas keeps meddling with. People are getting annoyed and it’s much to do with the fact that what someone fondly remembers is being changed as it is about whether the change itself is intrinsically positive or negative.

  10. Michael Rpdx Posted

    As an American who would have never found your books without your self publishing and Kindle availability on my phone, I think it’s great. It’s wonderful to have access to the works of niche writers. It’s even better to have that access available for less than the cost of a pint.

    I also have boxes and boxes of physical books in storage doing no one any good. Their existence has devolved into mute reminders of how much I’ve spent in book stores and what I’ve been interested in over the decades.

    It would be good if Amazon made reviews from other countries available. (My review isn’t visible on the site, none of the ones there are visible in the US.)

  11. I loooove my Kindle. I barely leave home without it, and have the Kindle app on my phone and laptop. For me it has really revolutionized the way I read since I usually alternate between a few books at a time, it’s all right there at my fingertips. And now that they can synch up with libraries it’s even better.

  12. It’s strange, the thing most people have against the Kindle is it’s greatest strength. It is a souless lump of grey plastic that does one thing well in a very boring way. The thing has to disappear when you read, like a book does, to become just words. But doesn’t have a nice flashy cover to take away from the fact that the rest of it is usually uniform whitish pages with black words.

    I live a short plane journey from the nearest half-decent English bookstore. Unsurprisingly I think it is a work of genius, but also (thankfully) the dullest piece of technology this side of a toaster.

    • Michael Rpdx Posted

      I live a short ways from a world class book store, Powells City of Book, and it is an easy walk to three of my city’s library branches. The kindle is still a great thing.

      • Powell’s is one of the best shops I have ever visited. Exhausting!

        • Michael Rpdx Posted

          What Al describes as exhausting is a full city block stacked three stories high with books. They provide maps to the color coded rooms so you can find something specific.

          That’s just the main store. There are currently five other locations including one that specializes in books for cooks and gardeners.

          They even have three outlets (that I know of) at the Portland airport – and each of them sells used books so you can grab a cheap paper read for your flight.

  13. I have an iPad and my wife has a Kindle. Both are great for reading throwaway books but some books belong on a shelf because you know that they will always give pleasure.
    I’ve just bought a first book from an author in the US. I could have got it as a Kindle download but I know his writings from Crazyguyonabike and reckoned it would be a keeper. The cost of postage was as much as the book again but it proved to be worthwhile.
    Electronic publishing lacks soul which makes it ideal for novels, IMO.

    • Michael Rpdx Posted

      What? How can the most naked art lack soul?

      Words are words. That isn’t changed by their being from light reflected off pulp or emitted by silicon.

      • Couldn’t disagree; words are words but that doesn’t make them art, naked or clothed, IMO.
        Poetry makes words into art and I find that ok in electronic format.
        Ymmv, buy as you will. There is room for all.

  14. Joe Atkins Posted

    Really interesting article – although I don’t think I could bring myself to lose my lovely book collection to a kindle, I do partake in the occasional audiobook session. What are the margins for you as an author to produce audiobooks?

    p.s. I will always read your books in paper format…. I’m just genuinely intrigued.

  15. Interesting article. I have been have a similar dilemma recently about whether to get an ereader. I also love wee book shops, but have ended up with so many books (I like to keep my books, as I something read them again or like to flick through) in my flat moving has become very difficult. This Christmas I’m going to get a Kobo reader (either as a present ot bought afterwards). I reasoned this was happy medium. It was also the advantages from an ereader, but I can but ebooks from companies that have highstreet UK shops such as WHSmiths and Waterstones.

    My question to Al is do you plan to release you book into other ebook stores? The Amazon is pretty well lock down to the kindle, stores like Kobo or Google Bookstore will let people with any ereader (be that kobo, sony, iriver, nook etc) to access your book.

  16. Besides all the rest involving ease of use,weight and number of books you can have at once, if you travel, it’s incredible because if you find yourself somewhere and suddenly want to read something about the area you are in, then book exchange and buying is not an option. Eg. Im in Jordan now and just read a history ofthe Arabs…gives you the ability to learn continuously and enhances your discovery and experience of wherever you are.

  17. chris welton Posted

    I agree with the comment about loving the physical as well as the virtual.

    If I buy a CD, the first thing I do is copy to iTunes (rightly or wrongly!) which means I have both physical and virtual music.

    When Amazon (et al) start offering this too I’ll be a happy guy. Paying twice to duplicate or once and force your choice of format?


    • Michael Rpdx Posted

      If I buy a CD, the first thing I do is copy to iTunes (rightly or wrongly!) which means I have both physical and virtual music.

      Well gee, that’s not bad. I do something similar. “When I borrow a CD from the library ….”

  18. Harry Guinness Posted

    I’ve had a kindle for almost a year now. It’s been absolutely fantastic, I’ve read and bought more books this year than I have ever before. It’s at it’s most perfect for fiction but almost every other book works perfectly too.

    The unsung advantage of the kindle to me, is what it will do to the physical books that are still published. I for one (and I’m assuming quite a lot of the other commenters) flat out love everything about books. As more and more people convert to the kindle, physical books are going to become a luxury product which in my mind is perfect as the people selling them will have to up their game. I have no problem spending 4 or 5 times the price of the kindle version if I’m getting a solid hard back with full colour photos, illustrations, beautiful paper, type setting and just generally sky high production values. If I’ve a choice between a badly bound paperback and the ebook version it’s a forgone conclusion; if I however I’m offered something that is genuinely worth owning and keeping and treasuring (I have a 21 year old copy of David Attenborough’s The Living Planet that is utterly irreplaceable; it’s still in pristine condition due mainly to how well made it is!). If as I suspect the kindle causes more authors to produce books like that then that works for me!



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