jueves, 18 de septiembre de 2014

Against the Kindle experience?

With all its success as an e-store (for me, overwhelmingly a hardcopy e-store, but I'm likely a minority, these days), I still profoundly dislike the... er... Kindle experience.[*]

How much? Something like this:

  • Smashwords: 300 books. About one block purchase/15 days this last year. Knew the place thanks to a friend who published there, and that was my very first purchase with them. Bad design, annoying copyright disclaimer, annoying interface on many levels... And yet...
  • OmniLit/AllRomance: 40 books, in two years almost to the day. Annoying file options, limited choice, adequate design.
  • Baen: 250. Through several years and, at least, two server software migrations. Can't tell for how long I've been there (at the very least since '08, when I changed my email account). My business with them has been a tad crippled since their price and opportunities decissions a couple of years ago (and their communication, which was well below their par). They design their web the way they design their books. Time-travelling, functional 80s. Well, 90s: it's html, after all.
  • Subscriptions: 100 aprox, to this and that, here and there.
  • Fictionwise: 2. A Bujold-Vorkosigan novella and a Vachss novel. I had to download the second one from a pirate site after several hours against DRM.
  • Amazon: 2. One of them, I got the epub file from the writer after checking my transaction. The other one is pretty much lost, a technical book (Hennesy/Patterson's "Quantitative") that's suffered about the same fate as Vachss, downloaded from a university's FTP site. Oh, piracy! Oh, woe! Oh, toe!
  • Writer's sites and small enterprise/coop publishers: unknown. Things by Barnes, Konrath, Stackpole, Howey, Rusch, and many others.

Why don't I use amazon?

Have you tried to use it on Linux? With emulation? Or with your library manager of choice? Or to back your files up? Is it doable? Sure. As it looks now, the best way to buy from amazon, for me, is to follow the Vachss' system above. And that doesn't include the unpredictability of their final price. I've had anything from 0% to over-20% (well over, not Spain's current 21% VAT for ebooks) surcharge. And anything means things below 1%, odd non-VAT percentages, etc. From the US shop, in dollars, the same afternoon. Amazon's customer support keeps hiding its head in the ground when I try to contact them and posting a formula answer.

Then comes Hugh Howey and posts this. Well, according to his own parameters, I'd think, Amazon ebook sales are unsatisfactory. Also, his post annoys me on three other levels: one is that my value as a customer is nil (it happens when you don't buy half a store by yourself; doesn't mean I have to enjoy being reminded), the other is that Amazon just managed to know about the performance of other selling sites (on one hand, they can do what Howey and Data Guy do themselves and compare their data with, say, Kobo; on the other, the answer of writers to their trial offer is an important dataset with several linked data they already knew). And the last is that it's not binary, people!

You don't have to go all-in or all-out. You can, for example, publish your first in a series universally, then the rest only at amazon. Or do 90-15-90 day Select-Wide-Select cycles. Or think in other terms besides amazon vs. Kobo/B&N/Apple. Use Amazon as an advertisement platform, people! "We're already doing that"? Hm... is there a link to your site in your amazon profile? Do you even actually sell through your site or a closer affiliate than Amazon? Because KDP only takes 30%... but that's still something that can be beaten.

I don't pretend to wave a hand and make everything right. I've seen Disney's Fantasia. But I'm starting to get the feeling that with all the ruckus of legacy vs. amazon and self-pub, writers are starting to forget... readers. And grays.

Take care.

[*] Three faults of Amazon-US, from my POV as a non-US resident. Customer support is rote, when it is. Packaging has gone down the drain these last 3 years or so (to the point I no longer ship Am-US books here --I must have several pictures of a 10-item order package litterally hanging together by a single thread; they didn't answer-- and I try to manage through Amazon-Overseas, usually UK... with its substitute quirks). And Ebooks. Yes, I know that's supposed to be their forte. I also have the feeling they used to be much better in responsiveness and packaging, but I didn't keep hard data back then; I know when I complained about books and packaging, they reshipped them for free. From the US.

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