Is Kindle A Failure?

Lee Child, bestselling author, has spoken out against Amazon as the company continues its contract negotiations with Hachette Book Group. In the above video he comments that Kindle hasn’t changed the world and that there is no difference to the reader when it comes to a $10 physical book and an $8 Kindle book.

Now, let me just say that Mr. Child is a richer and more read author than I am, but coming from a reader’s standpoint, I have my response to his statements.

I was one of the first people to purchase a Kindle 2 back in roughly 2009. I actually didn’t get it from Amazon, but rather from a friend who didn’t want the device any more because she had received a new tablet for Christmas. So, I was ecstatic to have a digital reader since I didn’t have a tablet and I was enthusiastic about digital books.

Kindle 2

What was revolutionary for me when I experienced reading on the Kindle was the flexibility that the device offered. I could customize the size and spacing of the text which was fantastic for a boy who was used to squinting at tiny text in those massive fantasy tomes by Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson. And speaking of massive tomes, I could fit entire 800 page books on my device without worrying about which one I should carry on my commute to class. I had all my books at my disposal, and that peace of mind was wonderful. I am notorious for flitting between three or four books at a time, and the Kindle allowed me to do just that.

When it came to pricing, books were very affordable for me on Kindle. For a literature class one semester, the professor dropped the bomb that we would need to run out and purchase a copy of a particular novel to read that week. My classmates groaned at the thought of running to Borders to buy one more book, but I was able to pull the book up on my Kindle in a minute and had it downloading immediately – and at a wonderful discount. Needless to say, all those classmates were jealous.

This was before the advent of all the Kindle reading apps on phones and iPads – before even the iPad existed.

I also loved the fact that I could download all the classics for free because they were all in the public domain, and furthermore, their editions on Kindle were beautiful. They still are to this day.

Yes, there is a difference between the Kindle edition and the print editions of books. Just yesterday I was at Bullmoose Books and Music picking up a special order of Dragonball that I had to have in physical print and I found myself also browsing the shelves as I can’t help myself when there are books for sale. I saw a paperback copy of Tales From Jabba’s Palace edited by Kevin J. Anderson, and I just had to have it. I looked at the Kindle edition on my device beforehand to compare prices, and the paperback edition was discounted at the store so that it was actually cheaper than the Kindle version. I chose the physical edition because I like paperbacks (particularly new paperbacks that aren’t falling apart) and I liked the feel of the paper and the scent of the book. I also went with the cheapest option – the physical book at Bullmoose. Those were my reasons.

If the physical book was too expensive, I would have chosen the Kindle edition. If the Kindle version was $2.99, it would have been more tempting. However, it was $7.99, which just wasn’t worth it in my opinion.

Would I have purchased the Kindle edition if the book was out of print? Absolutely. If not, I would have found it at the library. But, I wanted to own the volume, so that was that.

The Kindle is not a failure. The Kindle has changed the world. Without the Kindle, I wouldn’t be published the way I am and I wouldn’t have the readers that I have. I also wouldn’t have access to many of the books that I now love, most notably Edward M. Knight’s Vengeance Chronicles. Would he have been picked up by a publisher? Perhaps. But how long of a wait would I have had between books one and two? He managed to publish them within three months or so of each other. He also was able to price them affordably for me where I felt like I was getting a bargain.

 Writers who claim that Kindle and eBooks don’t matter in the grand scheme of things are lying. eBooks are the future, and for many, they are the present. The Kindle has allowed many creative talents to get their writing out into the world, and for that, I am with them.

6 thoughts on “Is Kindle A Failure?

  1. Good piece! I’d be really interested in what sort of data (if any) that Mr. Child is basing his claim on that the Kindle hasn’t worked out as well as Amazon anticipated and that eBooks “are so 2012.” I agree wholeheartedly with you that eBooks are the future. They’re a terrific innovation.

    And speaking from my own shopping trends, I do see a difference between $8 and $10 books and, rightfully or wrongly, I have become more of a bargain hunter. I’ve passed up plenty of eBooks that are $10 or more. I can wait for them to hit a Kindle Daily Deal, or for the publisher to run a promotional sale to hype up an author for a new release, or to drop the price when the paperback releases. I’m a fan of Lee Child’s books, but I’ll be holding off on buying his new release until it’s a more affordable price.

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    1. Thanks Michael. I’m definitely a bargain hunter most of the time. I am a big fan of the Kindle Daily Deal and other various promotions, and a lot of the time I am glad to buy Kindle books when a promotion is happening because most times the author has set up the promotion to gain visibility. It’s a win-win for the reader and the author in that case. It’s just crazy to think of a hardcover book as a high-brow novelty item when just a few years ago it was all I would purchase because they were only a few dollars different in price from other formats. Can’t justify spending $25-$35 on each hardcover volume though, or even $15.99 for Kindle, no matter the author!

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      1. Yeah, I’ve become the same way. Used to buy hardcovers exclusively, but have since gone completely digital. I’m even buying more TV and movies digitally nowadays instead of getting the physical media (with some exceptions).

        But it’s a bit odd isn’t it? Why were we OK with buying hardcovers for $16 to $30 bucks, but not eBooks of the exact same content for the kindle? And yet I’m OK with paying for a movie on iTunes for a cost relatively similar to the price tag a blu-ray would carry. I haven’t quite figured out why, at least in my case, there’s some kind of self-justification that digital books should be cheaper just because. I’m all for cheap eBooks because they’re cheap books! I can buy more of them and keep on feeding my reader. Still, we seem to have this notion that just because it’s digital it should be cheap or borderline free. So that’s something I struggle with. There’s an odd bit of disassociation that I haven’t quite been able to wrap my head around, and I’ve got plenty of conflicting thoughts on the matter. Ah well…

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      2. I think the justification of cheaper digital goods (in this case books) for me goes back to when iTunes first showed up. Back then there was no such thing as the cloud or even the ability to download multiple copies of an item you purchased. Whenever I bought an episode of LOST, iTunes would warn me that it was up to me to back up a physical copy of my file onto a DVD or external hard drive because once I downloaded the item, that was it. There was no second chance to download it if it accidentally got deleted. For a good two or three years I went through this process, and more than a few times I ended up losing the items I bought because a disc became faulty or the file got deleted or couldn’t move between my old computer and my new one.

        So, I suppose in my case, I’m always worried that an apocalypse will happen and my digital items will all disappear. As opposed to a physical book that can only be destroyed by a fire or other catastrophe, digital items can simply disappear with a keystroke. It’s kind of a silly fear in a way, since losing a purchase no matter the cost is still losing a purchase. I guess in my mind losing a book that I paid $3.99 for is easier than losing one that I paid $19.99 for. I doubt that all our clouds will disappear any time soon, though, so in that way it’s unjustified.

        I think another reason the reading public believes that eBooks should be cheaper than physical books is that they don’t cost as much to produce. There are plenty of arguments that eBooks do have overhead costs – and I agree – but, once a digital item is on the web, be it a book or a television show, it is finished. There is no continual shipping of items to a shelf in BestBuy or Books-a-Million. It just stays there and either sells or it doesn’t. Whether or not it sells has zero impact on its availability. Traditional supply and demand rules don’t apply to digital items, so there is no predicting when a price will fluctuate. A publisher can price the book at whatever they want. Whether or not I will purchase the book depends on my perceived notion of how much the book is worth. For the most part, I read for leisure, so I’m pretty choosey with what I purchase.

        I’m happy to see that the prices of indie books are going up more in favor of $2.99 and higher because that means the author will get a larger royalty. In the case of authors under a contract with a publisher, the price of the book usually doesn’t affect the amount of their royalty, so that’s where the publishing houses get scrutinized. But, as with everything, prices will inevitably rise. It’s just interesting to think about because it’s such a hot topic in the publishing world right now.

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    1. The positives are definitely cheaper costs to produce a book and then cheaper costs for readers. If anyone’s looking to get their stories out to an audience, I’d say Amazon is a great option. Their ability to offer paperbacks through Createspace is also awesome. I’ve loved their quality so far.

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