So, let me take a break from ticking off…

…speech code hypocrites to note that there’s a looming lawsuit against Apple and various members of the publishing industry over the price of e-books.  This recent op-ed by Authors’ Guild president Scott Turow argues that the current system is somehow better for the consumer, despite the fact that people are paying above market value for electronic versions of most books*  and Amazon.com is currently the epicenter of a self-publishing boom.

It’s a very poignant op-ed, written by a leader of an important segment of the buggy whip book industry.  But let me tell you this: thanks to the Kindle – and a dedicated, handheld electronic text reader is something that people have been trying to get for decades – I probably read more books, and try out more authors, and generally get the impression that it’s now easier for me to write and get paid for a book, should I ever have the time and energy to do it.  Simply put: whether you like it or not – and the publishing industry will not – taking a couple of bucks off the price of a hardcover and making it the price for an e-book will not fly.  They can either accept that, or they can keep pretending that it’s 1895.

Guess which one will be more expensive in the long run?

Moe Lane

*Not all: some companies out there are experimenting with systems that offer books at significant discounts in electronic form, or providing advanced reader copies of to be published books, or bundling entire series, or anything else that might transfer funds from the buyer to the seller.

PS: Amazon.com Associate for Maryland.  So I have a slight financial incentive to keeping Amazon around.

I have a suggestion for e-book vendors.

Start thinking about pricing your books so that they’re competitive with the paperback versions, not the hardcovers.  Give you an example: I’m trying my best to get back to The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.  The hardcover goes for eighteen bucks and the paperback nine and a half… and the Kindle version is eleven.  I’m discovering that I’m more likely to finish nonfiction books on my Kindle than otherwise – don’t ask me why – but pegging the price as a discount on the hardcover is maybe affecting my cheapskate instincts.  Which is why the darn book is on of the piles scattered about the house.

Obviously, a new book is a new book; but if you’re bringing out softcover reprints, maybe linking the new Kindle price to that will help with sales? – Or not.  This thought just occurred to me.

Moe Lane

PS: Downloaded and read Confessions of a D-List Supervillain this morning.  Overall: well worth the three bucks.  Started strong, good character development of the hero/protagonist, action and plot maintained up until the last ‘chapters,’ which unfortunately did come across as slightly rushed (the book was originally a novella, and it still slightly shows).  The book probably could have used another two chapters or so of development, but It Did Not Suck.  Of course, I admit to having a certain weakness for books that have chapter headings like “Like I Need Another Reason to Invade Branson, Missouri” and get away with it…

The Amazon Kindle is startlingly easy to replace.

Yes, it was that kind of weekend – but the Kindle people were actually pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing: “Holding down the button didn’t work, huh?  OK, we’ll mail you a new one: figure you’ll get it Wednesday.  Send us the old one within thirty days of you getting the new one and it’s all good.”

I figured that I was going to have to give them an argument… but then, I and the rest of the e-reader demographic are kind of a cash cow to these people, aren’t we? – Not that I mind being actually treated as a cash cow, which is a bit of a refreshing change when it comes to e-commerce.

Blatantly stealing this from Instapundit…

…because (like, I suspect, Glenn Reynolds) I consider this to be the perfect intersection between the normally competing impulses of desire for public service, and sheer greed: Kindle Textbooks.  Buy ’em for the Kindle, or rent ’em; the former has its points as a later reference, but the latter is often a lot cheaper.  And you don’t actually need a Kindle; there are, as they say, apps for that.

Incidentally, if you don’t have kids about to go to college then you should go look up textbook prices on Amazon generally: it’ll give you an idea of just how bad things have gotten when it comes to niche printing.  When you go through the medical section in particular… damn.  For that kind of money, I could hire a scribe to copy out and illuminate some of those books – the prices are comparable, and the end result would be prettier, too.

The trouble with Kindles.

Or any other e-book reader, really.  It’s not the fault of the Kindle itself, but rather how some publishers are handling it.

Goes like this: I read recently an article about James M Cain that made me say, Hmm.  I’ve never actually read him, and this guy thinks that a couple of his books are downright amazing.  True, it’s the Atlantic saying that, but Hollywood made movies out of said books that are supposed to be really good, back when Hollywood wasn’t filtering everything for ideological bias.

So I decided to go look up The Postman Always Rings Twice on Kindle… and it’s ten bucks.  Well.  That’s… pretty expensive for the format, really.  What are my alternatives?  Well, see for yourselves:

So.  Ten bucks is too much for the text of a commonly-available-in-libraries book, even if it is instant access.  And almost six bucks ($1.63 for the cheapest paperback option, plus $3.99 for shipping) is too much for a takes-up-physical-space version of the same book sent to me three or four days from now, considering that I’m a little sensitized to costs after seeing the too-high Kindle price.  If the Kindle book had been five bucks, or even six, I’d have bought it already and be reading it right now instead of writing this post.  Instead, I’ve decided that it’s easier just to wait until the next time I’m at the library.
Continue reading The trouble with Kindles.

My quick review of the Kindle.

Glenn Reynolds mentioned that the latest Kindle is selling like gangbusters.  Having gotten one as a Christmas present, I thought that I’d give it a bit of a review.

I’ve got the one without 3G web access, so I can’t really speak about that; but it’s a darn convenient book reader.  This Kindle is easier to read than I thought that it was going to be, holds a battery charge for a long time, doesn’t have problems with sunlight that I’ve noticed, and is easy to carry around.  So far, I’ve been using it to pick up various collections of pulp and Golden Age SF/fantasy books on the cheap: mostly books that I’ve read before, but either don’t have anymore, or don’t quite know where they are at the moment.  It’s easier to read while doing something else than a regular book is; no pages to randomly turn on their own.  Also: as a bathroom reader it’s pretty much ideal.

Lastly, speaking as someone who is left-handed I very much appreciate that they set up the page-turning buttons the way that they did (top button on either side: backward; bottom button on either side: forward).  That went a long way towards making the thing intuitive for me.

Bottom line?  If you’ve got the cash for one this is a pretty sweet gadget; I imagine that I’m going to wish that I had the unlimited Internet access, so you should probably fork over extra for that.  I expect that this will become a standard travel accessory for me.

I Haz a Kindle.

[Forty-five minutes of swearing, struggling, three suppressed attempts to throw the damn thing through the window, and one general network failure later]

I haz a Kindle that works.

‘Course, I don’t have anything to put on it yet, but that’s Step 2.  Even with the slow erosion of Amazon.com revenues on the site, I can probably get a book out of it every month.  A couple, if I stick with some of the more obscure and low-priced ones.