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Friday, November 23, 2007

Kindle: A Publisher’s Experience

I caught the Kindle fever and decided to make a novel, Ophelia's Gold, available via Kindle. I'm excited about Kindle because what makes Amazon's Kindle reader unique is that you don't have to go to a special kiosk or go online to download the e-content. The Kindle reader comes with a wireless connection that's good just for downloading books in the Kindle-compatible format from Amazon. The cost of downloading via Amazon's Whispernet is included in the cost of the book.

This was done through the publisher’s Amazon Advantage account. The process is, in actuality, quite easy to do. All you have to do is to fill out forms and upload the pdf, as well as cover graphics. You also have to provide banking and taxpayer identification information. Since the publisher of the book already had a bookseller account through Amazon Advantage, it was a smooth process, nothing was too surprising to me. I assumed that the publisher had access to the Kindle digital program because they had been accepted as an Advantage affiliate as a publisher.

I quickly found that is not necessarily the case. In fact, anyone who has an amazon account can upload a pdf, convert it, and sell a book through amazon. There are various disclaimer checkboxes to click through, but I have to wonder what is stopping someone from, say, bundling up public domain material, converting it to a pdf, and then selling it through Kindle (once converted to the Kindle format)?

According to the news reports I read, books will cost $9.99. That, as well as other information I found on Kindle, turned out to be not really the case. In point of fact, you, the publisher, can set your own price. I noticed that many books are being offered for between $5.00 and $7.00. The price for the Kindle-compatible download of my book, Ophelia's Gold, is very low – at $1.95, almost giveaway. My reasoning? An introductory special. I can always raise the price later. The book is a novel, and seems to be ideal for Kindle, which has an easy-to-read screen and adjustable print size. Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device

Keep in mind that most of the books that are available are trade books. What that means in operational terms is that Kindle is not going to be very effective as a portable device used in elearning. Certainly one can read books that are available in Kindle format. However, people expect elearning e-texts to have expanded functionality and interactivity. So, they expect a multimedia experience in the instructional materials and activities. They also expect to be able to interact with people (fellow students and instructors).

To be honest, I just don’t see an individual being willing to drag around a bag of devices everywhere they go, which would include cellphone, mp3 player, pda, Kindle reader, and laptop. In my opinion, the future user will want a laptop and a smartphone, which will be something like an enhanced iPhone that will allow one to capture, download, and share text, video, audio, and images.

In the case of my book, it’s currently available through in paper format, as well as digitally via Google Books. An audio version is available through Learning Portal. To have it available for Kindle users seemed quite interesting, especially since, at the current time, there are only 80,000 titles available in Kindle format. Now, if Amazon does not make more Kindle readers available soon, I would say that the size of the market will be pretty limited. As a publisher, that is a serious disincentive. If only 5,000 people have Kindle reading devices, even if every single person bought a copy of my book, which is, I have to admit, staggeringly unlikely, that’s only 5,000 unit sales.

On the other hand, if readers do respond, the publisher, Texture Press, is thinking about making collections of short prose -- a new anthology of contemporary Slovenian prose, From the Heart of Europe, available.

In their review of Kindle, suggested that for Kindle to succeed, both the price of the reader and the price of the content will need to go down in price. It looks like that is already happening, at least on the content front. As for the reader itself, it’s sold out. I wanted to order one, even though at $399, it’s pricey and doesn’t do the one thing I really want an ebook reader to be able to do, which is to read pdfs I’ve downloaded or generated.

As soon as the Kindle readers are available, I will definitely order one. However, I’m not really looking forward to the work-arounds offered via mobi-ebooks, etc. that will be required to be able to convert an e-book to Kindle-compatible formats. If I could send a wish list to amazon, I’d say that for Kindle to generate some real magic, they need to incorporate email, include audio. The other stuff can come later.

I’m hoping that Kindle is a hit. It will be interesting to see how it, and the products, evolve.

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