In response to some arm twisting by Amazon, the Independent Publishers Group has decided to take a stand and pull all of their titles from the Kindle Store. While the Kindle is a great device and the Kindle platform is possibly the best on the market for the consumer right now, this is a move that both makes sense and needed to happen. The only question now is whether or not either side will be willing to explore the options presented by the situation rather than simply holding their ground and waiting to see who blinks first.
Basically, the problem is over pricing. The Big 6 Publishers have enough clout to force Amazon to accept the Agency Model price scheme with all of their titles. I’ve gone into why this is not a good thing plenty of times before and will do so again in the future, so it isn’t really worth indulging in today. Smaller publishers, including the IPG, sell their content to Amazon wholesale. This means smaller profits on each individual sale and it allows Amazon to exercise more control over the prices offered to readers. This is also not necessarily a good thing, as in this case when Amazon is using their position as the main supplier of eBooks in the world to force their suppliers to offer more favorable terms than they can afford.
So we have Amazon wanting to lower prices on Kindle Editions and the IPG wanting to maintain their profits at a level roughly similar to what is made off of print books (based on statements taken from the IPG’s main site). What we really need is not for one side to win over the other so much as a more adaptive model to emerge. It makes sense for new releases of Kindle books to be priced similarly to their printed counterparts. There should always be a premium on new media like that, although the savings inherent in using the eBook format should still be reflected in the price for readers. When it comes to older titles, though, something else needs to be done. Unlike physical reprinting, there is no ongoing cost of production. Aside from the author royalties, they are pretty much pure profit for publishers and distributors. Perhaps a tiered system would make more sense?
Regardless of any proposals for revamping the system, this is probably going to end messily somehow. While the loss of a mere 5,000 eBooks won’t make a huge dent in the Kindle’s selection, the press surrounding the drama taking place won’t help Amazon any. They are as likely to be persuaded to offer somewhat better terms just for the PR boost as to ignore the problem entirely. On the other hand, the IPG is going to be hurting fairly quickly from the lack of Amazon as a channel. They can’t last forever. Where this goes will be based on the support they receive and the pressure that can be brought to bear on Amazon. If you get the chance, lend your support in some way. They’re going to need it, and Amazon is going to need an overhaul of some sort sooner or later to keep quality content coming in for their Kindle customers.
I haven’t had a chance to write down any interesting book recommendations for Kindle fans in a while now, but I figure that since I have a decent list piling up it might be time to share. It’s been an enjoyable couple months of reading and I’ve got several more modern fantasy offerings that I hope you will enjoy. I did. They aren’t the cheapest books I could find, but they are definitely worth the asking price.
Kraken – China Miéville
This is really one of the best books I’ve read all year, even if it isn’t necessarily the best thing ever written by the author. It is a decently complex fantasy mystery set in a London strangely reminiscent of that in Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It’s a world of cults, secrecy, underworld politics, and strange powers. On top of that, there is a magically missing giant squid which seems to be at the heart of a plot that could end the world forever.
I’m honestly a little confused about the mixed reception that Kraken has gotten so far. It is averaging 3 Stars overall in the Kindle Store, but deserves more. It worked in most ways, but some people may find it a bit off-putting from what I’m told. While it might not be for everybody, if you think you would enjoy a complex story that forces you to understand the protagonist’s state of mind during unexpected culture shock then I’d say give it a go.
The Kindle Edition is $11.99
Something From the Nightside – Simon Green
This is the first in a fairly substantial series by Green. It’s a quick, fun read that I can’t describe much better than Pulp Detective Fiction meets Moorcock’s Multiverse. The main character is a professional detective with no actual detecting skill besides a “gift” that lets him find anything magically. The fact that it manages to be a fun read is proof of the concept that it can be more interesting to watch a mystery being solved than to understand the process by which it is solved.
In a lot of ways, this reads like the author’s personal homage to all the things he loves in literature. You’ll catch references, both overt and subtle, to the existence of things taken from dozens of different major genre works you might have read. After something as dense and complex as Kraken, it makes a great fun diversion.
The Kindle Edition is $7.99
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
This is sort of a harsh take on Harry Potter with a bunch of CS Lewis thrown in for good measure. Basically, Magic is real and people learn to use it at secret schools where only the best of the best can get in and learn to manipulate the world to their liking.
Unlike many books with similar concepts, this isn’t an uplifting story of wish fulfillment and overcoming adversity. The characters are undeniably human and manage to overcome the sort of “nerdy teenager gains superpowers” cliche that you might expect at first. I found it to be a genuinely interesting, and occasionally troubling, look at what it really means to be offered everything you ever thought you wanted. The outline of the story is familiar, but the execution is beyond excellent.
The Kindle Edition is $12.99
So, as I recall it was last summer when Kindle books began beating out purchases of Hardcovers on the Amazon site. This was a big deal because it illustrated for people that eBooks were pretty clearly here to stay in a way that previous announcements of numbers (not that Amazon was the company making any involving numbers) and vague statements about the future of the industry couldn’t do. Now, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has issued a release announcing that in addition to achieving their first ever $10 Billion quarter, Kindle books are now outselling paperbacks by a fair amount.
Specifically, there are 115 Kindle Editions going out for every 100 paperbacks. There’s really no way to significantly top that as a milestone, that I can think of. From here on out, it’s all going to be iterations of the same. “Twice as many as paperbacks” and that sort of thing. A similar bit of info was put into the press release to tell us that over the same period as that being measures for that comparison with paperbacks, Kindle books outsold hardcovers by a factor of three. So, yeah. Big year.
Now, Amazon has a reputation for only giving us rather fuzzy numbers when it comes to anything having to do with the Kindle. We know that Kindle device sales numbers for the most recent generation are in the millions, but no more than that other than that they’re a bigger seller than the ever popular Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Nice to have some sort of reference point, of course, but hardly anything you can do specific analysis with.
Overall, good news, but it’s hard to say how good. We know that Kindle sales, and therefore almost certainly Kindle book sales, are up. The apps that they release for practically every possible platform with a screen, portable or otherwise, are ever more available and easy to use. This is good news for Kindle Edition sales as well. The only thing that we’re vague on right now is how good. No word if part of it involves a decline in paperback sales, or if half the sales for the year were immediately post-Christmas. There’s simply no way to determine if there was something huge making this possible. Was it, however unlikely, the announcement of Kindle for Windows Mobile 7 that put sales over the edge? The world may never know…
Regardless, some other points of fun information were included as well. There are now over 810,000 Kindle Editions for sale through the Kindle Store(and that excludes all free books, since that would bring it up into the millions). Of those books, over 670,000 are available for under $10. While I would love to have solid numbers on the Under $5 range, that’s still encouraging. Wider acceptance means better selection and hopefully more opportunities for readers. Maybe next year, Amazon won’t have any reason to point out that their sales number comparison didn’t exclude books with no Kindle Edition counterpart because that will be so rare as to not be an issue. Ok, yeah, that one’s probably a good way off yet, but it’ll be nice when we do see it.
One of the more interesting types of literature for many people is, in my experience, the biography. Fortunately the Kindle library has plenty of ways to accommodate this interest. While my taste tends more toward literary figures and such, one of the most popular areas to look at in today’s politically charged social environment is to look back through the historical political biography. There’s also obviously always a bit of an urge to understand what drove the people who inspire us. Here’s a few that I hope you might find interesting.
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Edmund Morris
Theodore Roosevelt is a figure of fairly mythic proportions in American History. He was a larger than life figure, practically a legend in his own lifetime, who struggled with problems that we can recognize today with no great amount of difficulty. He worked to combat corporate greed, terrorism, and environmental irresponsibility while making huge progress toward human rights reform and economic expansion. He’s also the guy we have to think for the national park system, if I remember correctly.
I’ll cop to not having read through this one all the way yet, though I did pick up a copy based on great reviews and a good reputation. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about Teddy Roosevelt, this seems a good bet. I’d say it’s well worth it. It’s insane that anybody actually managed to live a life like his.
The Kindle Edition is $9.90
Last Words – George Carlin & Tony Hendra
This is the autobiography(or sort-a-biography) of George Carlin. I’m going to make the assumption that you know who that is, because it would make me sad if you didn’t. I can’t even begin to say how much of an influence Carlin was on me, and I know I’m not alone in that, so it’s really amazing to get some insight into what made him the man he was. This isn’t a humor book like his other writings, though there are laughs to be had, but I simply can’t recommend it enough.
It’s rare that anybody can be such a public figure, with so many admitted faults, and still have such amazing personal integrity. He made it through family trouble, drug addiction, and a number of other problems without descending into the hypocrisy he loathed. Maybe you wouldn’t like it if you weren’t a fan, I’m not sure, but it is at least worth a look.
The Kindle Edition is $9.99
The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Vol 1 – Mark Twain
Everybody knows who Mark Twain was. The funny thing is that he knew they would for a long time to come well before he died. This is the first volume of three, the next of which won’t be released for another 25 years. It’s a fun read, if a little bit self-serving at times. This is one place where the Kindle edition really stands out for making a heavily annotated edition easier to read. All the footnotes, author’s notes, original dictation transcription, etc are hyperlinked to the relevant section of the main text. Normally, Kindle books make flipping back and forth to reference things a pain, but this time it’s done right. If you’ve ever been curious about the author we all grew up reading and hearing about, this book provides a lot of answers.
The Kindle Edition is $9.79
Continuing in my efforts to bring out some good popular fiction ideas in time for that last minute Kindle gift giving, I’ve made it through another batch of surprisingly good books I’d never heard of before. In what I can only assume is a completely bizarre connection to the holiday season that I was previously unaware of, I was urged by enthusiastic readers to highlight the following recommendations! It’s clearly still one of the hottest trends in popular fiction, so today I present you with a Vampire-themed gift collection:
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith
This is the second work by the author of the popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. As with that one, it’s impressive how well he managed to mix the new supernatural additions with the period-specific information and tone. I was impressed to the point of grabbing myself a dead-tree copy too.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what it would be like if one of our favorite presidents was actually an axe-wielding defender of humanity with motives for gaining the presidency beyond simple politics(and really, who doesn’t wonder that from time to time?), then this one will fit quite well. It’s subtly done, shows a great deal of historical research, and doesn’t go over the top in the slightest. Strongly recommended.
The Kindle Edition is $9.99
Night Pleasures – Sherrilyn Kenyon
This is an early installment, if not the first, in Kenyon’s popular supernatural romance series. The underlying conceit is that vampires are real, originating in a conflict among the greek deities, and that some of the greatest (and most handsome) heroes in history have been recruited to be the super-powered immortal protectors of humanity against them.
Once these heroes agree, their jobs are their lives until such time as they manage to find true love. Seems like a great deal at the time, I’m sure, but after a few hundred years it gets old, setting the stage for all sorts of action, romance, and drama.
The Kindle Edition is $7.99
Dracula – Bram Stoker
I questioned adding this one to the list at first. Not because it isn’t a great idea, but because it is free and therefore un-giftable in the usual sense. That said, I think it’s worth pointing out as something worth grabbing, especially when buying for a kid who finds the usual “classics” to be more than a little but boring or unapproachable.
Let’s face it, this is where it all started as far as the Vampire craze. Everybody has heard of it, but how many people have gone further than seeing the movies? It’s a good read, even today, and will provide an interesting counterpoint to the popular conception of everybody’s favorite form of undead monster.
The Kindle Edition is FREE
Hopefully this opens up some ideas for you in time to do some good! Kindle lovers definitely provide some great opportunities for last minute buying that don’t involve driving all over town. I know it’s made my life easier, and with luck I’m not the only one. Remember, the person you’re buying for doesn’t have to be a Kindle owner since the apps are everywhere these days! As always, if you have any recommendations you want to share, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!
Once again, we have some last minute gift suggestions for the Kindle lover in your life. We’ve got some old favorite, some new ones I’d never heard of before, and a good time all around. Here you go, and I hope you find them both useful and enjoyable!
The Autobiography of Santa Claus – Jeff Guinn
This is a somewhat interesting holiday read bringing some history, some myth, and some imagination together to make an account of Santa’s “life” so far. There are some criticisms that I can see the validity of when it comes to the exclusively Christian bent on the whole Santa thing, but to get really upset you’d have to be taking it seriously. Taking fictional autobiographies seriously is bad, right?
Anyway, doing my best to avoid giving away the story, readers can expect reindeer, an impressive array of historic figures, lots of magic, some information about the usefulness of chimneys, and much more. If you like a fairly light read, perhaps with the kids, I’d say you can’t really go too far wrong here. The history seemed just a little bit spotty, personally, but it’s loads of fun.
The Kindle Edition is $10.99
World of Warcraft: The Shattering – Christie Golden
Normally, I’m not a fan of novelizations of games and movies. They just tend to feel…half-baked somehow. This one comes across as a little bit of a surprise, though. I won’t claim that it’s among the best books I’ve ever read, as a book, but it was impressively thorough and well written.
Now, what makes this really stand out is the World of Warcraft association. This is the most popular video game…well, ever, I suppose? Chances are good that you, like me, know at least a few people who play at least as a guilty pleasure from time to time, if not regularly! I’m told that the storylines in this add impressive depth to the new and amazingly popular expansion pack to the big game that really make it worth the investment.
The Kindle Edition is $12.99
Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris
This one actually got multiple hits on my recommendation request, so I jumped on it and read it right away. I think that it might be an acquired taste? Seriously, though, it’s a vampire romance book. If that combination of words works for you, this is the book you want. Same goes for if you or somebody you know is a fan of HBO’s True Blood series, since it is based rather closely on these books in the first place. I’ll admit, it would never have occurred to me to name a vampire Bill, so it’s got that going for it!
It’s the story of a down to earth, but somewhat unusual, woman living in a version of the United States that has just started legally recognizing vampires as citizens, and her adventures. It’s also the start to a fairly long and popular series that I’m told only gets better as you keep going. Definitely seems like a good one for the romance lover you’re buying for.
The Kindle Edition is $6.99
That’s what I’ve got so far! Keep ‘em coming and I’ll try to keep up. Hopefully, this will give some ideas to help make the most of the shipping-free gifting option that the Kindle makes possible.
This week we have seen a new standard set for eSook sales, specifically those for Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, which we recently mentioned in a review of the Kindle Editions, has now sold over One Million copies for the Kindle alone. This comes just weeks after James Patterson’s amazing announcement that he had hit over a million eBooks in general between all formats. All three of Larsson’s books are among the Top 10 Bestselling Kindle Editions of all time, according to Amazon, have places on the New York Times and international Bestsellers Lists, and have met with rave reviews seemingly everywhere they have been encountered.
This only serves to emphasize for us how the shifts in the way the publishing industry operates are going to effect us as time moves on. First we have Kindle book sales overtaking hardcovers, now we have authors managing to sell in the millions of copies range. It is becoming increasingly clear that while print is far from dead, there is little chance for the traditional model to reassert itself. As time goes on and more authors find themselves members of this exclusive group, we can only hope that the achievement will continued to be noted, both for these authors and for the eBook industry in general. It can’t be seen as anything but truly impressive.