No, that’s not a mistake on my part. When it comes to print and ebooks, most readers have definite price limits. I often comment of the value of both print and ebooks vs their purchase price. I have also said numerous times that I have decidedly mixed feelings about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited as I feel authors should receive some payment for their work – and I have no idea what, if any, royalty they get from Kindle Unlimited downloads. While a part of me still feels that authors are shortchanged by a behemoth like Amazon, I also had to revise my opinion after reading an editorial in Dear Author.
Dear Author is primarily a romance book blog written by a team of very knowledgeable and educated women. Anyone who knows anything about books knows the largest selling genre – by a WIDE margin – is romance. The buyers are almost exclusively women. Dear Author is a very popular blog with heavy traffic that is widely recognized as one of the ‘movers and shakers’ in the industry. They have branched out some into mystery and espionage and fantasy, but the vast majority of their reviews are romance of all types. But they also offer insights on publishing trends and industry issues. One of their columns this month concerned Amazon Kindle Unlimited and the controversy around it – naturally much of it coming from authors themselves.
Read the column by Jane here.
Jane makes several excellent points – some I hadn’t considered and a few I did. I had a dear friend who was a dedicated and voracious romance reader. I used to joke that when we went into a bookstore she went looking for the steamy bodies in romance and I went looking for the dead ones in mystery. But I read a much wider range of genres than she did as she rarely strayed from romance while I went for fantasy, non-fiction, urban fantasy, action thrillers and we’d cross at romantic suspense. She did get me into some romance, but I could not budge her beyond romantic suspense except with a few ‘crafty cozies’ with knitting and other crafts as the unifying theme. While I had a bigger budget thanks to the fact I held a higher position in the company, we were BOTH price conscious. I was just more willing – and financially able – to buy something if I really wanted it. Now on a more fixed income, I look more closely at value than I did then. And yes, value has driven me to buy and read more ebooks.
While my friend died several years ago, no doubt leaving her sons hundreds of books to clear out, her health kept us from visiting bookstores and used bookstores for years before that. The explosive growth of Amazon put paid to my store shopping, except by accident. While my friend did live long enough to see the beginning of the evolution of ebooks as a major player, we were still mostly reading the books in PDF format, not as NOOK or Kindle – and nearly all were small press ebooks bought online from the publisher. What we were BOTH pleased with was exactly the point Jane made in her editorial, the books were relative bargains. While mass market paperbacks were rapidly climbing in price, there sat the early versions of ebooks at half or less than the cost of print.
In the last 6 years or so, the growth of ebooks has opened places like the Brooklyn Public Library to people who live in California or North Dakota or just down the street from the actual library. For $50 a year, you have a vast library of ebooks at your command. No doubt your local library has a similar plan, but maybe fewer titles. Many local libraries are more willing to buy ebooks patrons request too. And there is the beauty of ebooks. Value and convenience rolled into one. At 2AM the library might be closed, but you can borrow an ebook. Or I can shop Amazon and grab something and start reading it minutes later.
And that brings us back to Kindle Unlimited and the arguments authors use against it. Namely that their work is ‘devalued’ by making it free. Once I read Jane’s editorial, I began rethinking my attitude about Kindle Unlimited (and I am NOT a member of that service) and how it was or was not different from the far most cost effective Brooklyn Public Library, other than you can keep the download? Do libraries and used bookstores ‘devalue’ books? Used bookstores have been around as long as there have been printed books. That doesn’t stop people from buying the umpteenth reprint of Jane Eyre or King Solomon’s Mines or Tarzan. Now the heirs of Agatha Christie might retain rights, but who has rights to Voltaire or Thoreau? So, I must revisit my own thoughts of services like Kindle Unlimited.
As time passes, I find a larger percentage of my reading is now ebook, around 40-50%, well up from the 10% of just a few years ago. I read mostly on my laptop, but I did buy myself a small Kindle Fire as a Christmas gift this year. I was unwilling to pay for an iPad or similar tablet as I wished to use it mostly to read books in bed. In the great ebook debate, I find I am smack in the middle. On one side are two good friends, one in California and my doctor in NJ who read almost exclusively ebooks. On the other side sit people like my brother and sister-in-law who want ONLY print books. All are voracious readers and all like different genres. And there I stand squarely in the middle. My old eyes get tired reading LCD screens, yet my friend in CA loves the fact she can scale the fonts to accommodate her vision, not exactly an option with print. My brother and SIL like the ease of print and dislike dealing with expensive technology that breaks easily and takes time and effort to learn. (Yes, they are rather proud Luddites.) I read on a laptop for a totally different reason – I multitask too much for a tablet. At the moment, I have 5 tabs open in my browser, a word processing program with 3 documents open, and an e-reader program all open at once, and that’s pretty typical. I can’t do that on a tablet.
I did find Jane’s comments both enlightening and balanced. Thinking of Kindle Unlimited as a ‘value based’ option, something that has a strong appeal to any voracious reader, and looking at the arguments against it by authors ………. well, Jane made very valid points. Kudos. I like it when someone presents an argument that makes me reassess my opinions and I was glad to revisit my evaluation of Kindle Unlimited with a different perspective. I might not be a great romance fan, but I am certainly a voracious reader and like everyone, I want value for my money. Kindle Unlimited might not work for me right now, but I am now willing to keep checking to see if that value pendulum swings my way. Thank-you, Jane.