When you see the Kindle from both sides - reader and writer - you start to realise that it’s a volatile world that we really don't know at all.
So you're a Kindle enthusiast and you actually want to buy books that you can read on your Kindle. As I've explained before, I'm of the opinion that the Kindle is the all important ebook reader not because it's technically advanced or provides a good reading experience but because it's integrated into a marketing operation, i.e. Amazon, that works. You can buy a book for your Kindle while waiting for a train, a plane or just plain waiting. Anywhere there is a mobile phone signal you can browse the Amazon Kindle bookshop and buy a book. It is downloaded to your Kindle automatically and, as importantly, for free - well delivery is included in the cost. It's all amazing and all so easy but there is a bigger potential problem.
The Kindle throws open the door to self publishing in a way that no other device has. It has always been easy to self epublish. All you have to do is write the great work and then format it in traditional book format - you know chapter headings, page numbers and an index if it's that sort of book. It very quickly looks wonderful and even the most amateur and perhaps unlikely of authors can be impressed by the fact that their words now look like a "proper" book. A simple conversion to a standard ebook format - HTML or PDF say and the job is done. You can advertise your new ebook on your website and offer it for sale by download.
Of course we now could consider the interesting subject of Digital Rights Management or DRM but this is a topic that deserves more space and Kindle's form of DRM in particular is very interesting but let's ignore DRM for the moment because in most cases it's simply irrelevant for a self published book. The reason - you don't need DRM when the few copies you are selling are being bought by friends and relatives who take pity on you or more positively want to encourage you in your delusion. It’s perhaps a shame in some cases where true talent is buried under indifference but true talent is rare and there is a lot to be indifferent about.
Of course the way to get noticed is to get published - by a real publisher. A publisher with a track record for spotting true talent, or even slight talent that might make a small profit for the publisher. The point is that "looking like a book" is amplified by the addition of a known publisher's logo. The reader trusts the publisher not to waste their money on publishing rubbish that the reader wouldn't want to read. Notice that the fact that it costs a lot of money to publish a book is important in this trust - it shows commitment to a decision.
Now consider the effect that Amazon's Kindle store has. Now "proper" publishers and self publishers are going to vie for the reader's attention on a more or less equal footing. As long as the self publisher doesn't make a complete mess of producing something that looks like a proper book then the playing field is almost level. Of course many don't have a clue and so when browsing the Kindle store the reader has a tendency to skip titles that are clearly self-published and hence might be the work of a crackpot. At this stage in the game the only authors who get away with it are authors who have been "properly" published and are hence reasonably well known, or well known enough for the reader to place some trust that they will deliver the goods.
This seems like a simple picture but it isn't stable just yet. The reason is that as the "proper" publishers move to epublishing they lose their credentials - they no longer back the books they publish by putting up large sums of money. When publishing is cheap for all the distinction between "proper" and self publishers starts to dissolve. How then to you get to the status of a "proper" publisher in the future and how do you get to be a "proper" author?
Both are very good questions that, at the moment don't have firm answers. My guess is that in the future what is "proper" and trustworthy will largely be established by a confidence trick of simply appearing to be so. When you see the Kindle from both sides - reader and write - you start to realise that it’s a volatile world that we really don't know at all.
(Kindle International orders are currently being taken via Amazon.com. Simply sign in with your local Amazon account and place the order.)
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