Saturday, May 15, 2010

Free Book Secrets

Amazon has announced that sometime in the near future, free e-books, be they public domain, promotional, or what have you, will no longer be included in their Kindle bestseller list.  Interesting.  Will the free stuff appear on their own list?

The rationale appears to be that excluding these books will give someone a more accurate picture of something.  I can't help wonder if this is obfuscation; if you really wanted to give an accurate picture of what people are downloading to their Kindles, I think you'd keep things as they are, or perhaps add a counter showing how many downloads/purchases are made for each title.

In other words, once this happens, the number one Kindle "bestseller" will likely not be the book that is most downloaded.  Perhaps this will make things more clear to someone but I'd rather see what people are downloading.  With two thirds of the top 100 list traditionally being free books, this is going to be a drastic change.  There's no doubt in my mind that when people see a book on the top of whatever list they're more likely to investigate what it is.  In other words, this move may help sales but I think it does so behind a bit of a veil.

I'm still waiting for the Kindle ad that says, "Pay your two fifty, read for free the rest of your life!"  Now that's a sales pitch.  We'll never hear it, but I've got to believe there are people out there doing it.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

M & M's

Lord help me, I can't stop.  I have to do just one more, and one more and...

Right now you can order a first edition hardcover version of Scott Turow's sequel to Presumed Innocent, called simply Innocent.  The book will cost you $15.11.

Or, you could order the Kindle version, for the strange price of $14.99.

Not only can you save yourself twelve cents, but you won't have to deal with a pesky book laying around when you're through reading it.

Twelve cents.

I know Amazon is long-chaining the hardcover version, but still, this is why e-books scare me.  There's no reason to think they aren't here to stay, and that's fine.  But there shouldn't be any reason that print books disappear, either.  Are we seeing the creation of a purposeful marketing strategy that dovetails with the "this is the future, it may suck, but print is dead because electronic gadgets are always better than anything"?

No good can come of this, whatever this is.

What's my point, you say?  What is the problem?  I'm not sure, other than to say that books are generally too expensive and worthwhile books are too few.  Is there really an industry-wide trend to steer readers away from print to e-books by depending on the power of the technophile?  And is that really bad?

I don't have an answer.  I think it's bad because it feels bad, and I like books.  I think the iPad will sink in the marketplace (no, really--a cool toy that's too big, has no keyboard, no stand, with a glossy backlit screen, all for eight hundred bucks (if I want to connect to the internet away from home)) but there seem to be a lot of people announcing it will kill the Kindle.

Apparently the number of books printed last year was down, but revenues were up.  This seems an obvious manifestation of higher prices, but possibly the significant number is the nearly 23 billion dollar size of the market.  If we can sell books, e-books, Kindles, Sony Readers, Nooks, book displaying apps for our smart phones, even in-between devices like an iPad, is reading really a dying activity?  Really?

Something is definitely off here and like politics and the New York Yankees, a million people can have a million opinions on what may be going on.  I guess I'm not convinced publishers are giving readers, real readers, what they want.  The answer may not be the mass market paperback, but one never knows.