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 Â£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.