Kindles and Little Bookstores

I don’t understand much about the book business.  But I do know what makes a person want to go and be somewhere.  I read a good blog post at The Devil’s Accountant about the troubles small bookstores have with the existing book business and the emerging business of ebook publishing.  Small bookstores have to purchase books at wholesale for too much money and can’t make enough profit when they sell at retail.  That’s true.  But most movie theaters can’t make much money selling tickets either.  They sell candy and sodas at big markups to make good money.  In fact, there’s no such thing as the ‘movie business.’  There’s only a candy selling business that uses movies to bring you up to the candy counter.

An important point I’d also like to make about independent and small bookstores is that most of them really suck.  Seriously.  Most small bookstores are just a modest room full of books on poorly built shelves.  Dead boring.  Nothing puts me to sleep faster than a crappy independent bookstore.  Good riddance to them.  Most independent bookstores can’t hold a candle to any Barnes & Noble or a Borders.  Don’t open a bookstore if all you want to do is sell books.  You’re an idiot if you do.  And I won’t give you my money.  I’ll give it to Amazon.  They are not boring.  They are smart and interesting.  I enjoy watching them slaughter dull little bookshop owners every single day.  It’s a fascinating and wonderful bloodbath.  These booksellers are being eaten by lions and their screams are rare amusement.

Continue reading

Reading On a Kindle Is a Pleasure

After two years of reading reviews, watching products come out and compete, listening to people gripe about DRM and ebook pricing, I jumped directly into the fray and opted for the Kindle from Amazon. I am completely and utterly smitten with the thing.  It feels like a magic book.  No – more like a printing press.  It’s got ink inside and the computer arranges the ink on the screen and it feels a little bit like you’re printing each page as you look at it.  It’s wonderful.  I don’t think I’ve ever read so much in a two-day stretch before.  I’ve subscribed to the New York Times and Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.  I’ve purchased a single Amazon ebook for $9.99 and I’ve downloaded some free books from Project Gutenberg.  It all works beautifully and makes for the single best addition to my library since I acquired a two-hundred-year-old copy of Don Quixote.

Continue reading

Amazon and Macmillan Raise eBook Prices

There’s been a huge battle of the ebooks going on between and publisher Macmillan.  Last week, Macmillan, in response to rotten Apple’s announcement of $14 and $15 ebooks on its new iPad, insisted that Amazon give Macmillan the right to choose its own higher ebook pricing for the Kindle ereader device.  Amazon got peevish about the deal and simply de-listed all of Macmillan’s books.  I thought that was a nice nasty smack in the kisser for a doomed publisher at the time.  I was feeling so good about Amazon and its Kindle and so snitty about Apple’s iPad that I was within 60 minutes of plunking my digital money down on a brand new shiny Kindle.  But wait!  Amazon caved!  They rolled over and gave Macmillan what it wanted.

So now, dear reader, your Kindle ebooks from Macmillan will cost more.  Frankly, I was always kind of miffed by the whole $9.99 price tag on Kindle ebooks.  Too high.  Ebooks are invisible.  You can’t stack them and put boards across to make a coffee table.  Ebooks don’t have nice covers or fancy paper that you can bend and spill coffee on.  I don’t know about anyone else reading this blog out there, but when I walk into a book store I’m just a customer.  I don’t frankly give a damn about how the publisher is doing or how Amazon is getting along, or care a whit for Steve Jobs’ health, or the status of your average mid-list author and how he or she’s going to pay their mortgage.  I don’t give one syllable of a damn. Continue reading

Publishers Doomed by Predatory Book Pricing? So what?

John Grisham on NBC’s Today Show discusses his new book, writing novels versus short stories, and so-called predatory book pricing by large retailers like Walmart, Target and  I like Grisham in this interview.  He’s a good interview and he seems sharp.  He talks about how it’s much more difficult to fix a problem in the middle of writing a novel than to do so with a short story.  So he advises writers to ‘not have a problem.’  The trick is to thoroughly outline your entire novel before you even start to write it so that you know every single thing that happens along the way.  Pretty sound advice in most cases.  Not all.  Some of the greatest novels in the world were written by writers who had absolutely no idea where the novel was going from page one.  It depends on what kind of book you’re writing.  I think his advice is perfectly good for most books that are intended for sale in a grocery store.  Certainly.  But writers should never listen to famous writers.  They’re full of crap.  You write what makes you sweat and drink lots of coffee late into the night and bang your fingers on your keyboard until they hurt.  Or not.  Whatever.  I hate outlines.  Especially in word processors.  Awful things.  They destroy good minds and belong mostly in PowerPoint presentations for corporate managers.  I’m not sure what the hell Grisham is talking about quite frankly.  But then again, I’m not selling thrillers in the grocery store either.

But what mainly interests me in this interview is the discussion about ‘predatory pricing’ by the giant retailers.  Apparently, if you listen to publishers, this spells doom for publishing and book selling as we know it.  When asked what he thinks about his latest book being available for nine dollars at Target, Grisham says:

It’s shortsighted. Short term, they know what they are doing, I think. But if a book is worth $10 then suddenly the whole industry is going to change. You are going to lose publishers and book stores, and though I’ll probably be alright, aspiring authors are going to find it difficult to get published.

Yeah? So what.  So we lose publishers and book stores.  Who cares?  The key in Grisham’s statement is where he says, ‘…and though I’ll probably be alright.’ He means writers will be alright.  The big scary fact of the matter is that we simply don’t give a tiny damn whether or not a publisher prints a book or an author does.  Publishers read, accept, edit, design, print and promote books.  At least they used to.  I don’t care what anyone tells you, but we do not need the editors.  Writers can do that.  You write the book and you edit it and you’re done with it.  Readers are getting used to reading writers without editors.  That’s why blogs are so popular.  No editors.  If you have an editor poking around in a blog, trust me, it’s not a blog.  It’s a corporate front-end.  A writer can also design and print a book.  And sell it.  Writers are publishers.  No reader cares about Penguin.  They care about the guy holding the gun.  The guy holding the gun is put there by the writer.  Writers will make guys, guns and gals forever.  It’s what they do and it’s what readers want.

I don’t care if the guy with the gun says, ‘I’ve been looking for you for a long time, Mr. Peabody.  Smile, because it’s the last thing you’ll ever do.’  Or if he says, ‘I’ve been looking for you.  Smile.  It’s your last.’

The writer can pick.  The editor can go watch Kitchen Nightmares.

There is absolutely no excuse for a writer to work hard on a story, hammering it into existence from nothing, polishing it and making it exactly what he or she wants it to be… and then sit around to wait for some agent or publisher to get back via the U.S. mail so that said writer can be allowed to move on and send out yet another plea for acceptance.  This is old technology.  Twentieth century.  It’s gone.  In this century a writer writes and edits and publishes and sells.  His book can sell in Target for nine dollars or three dollars.  Magnificent.  Literature available to people who don’t make lots of money.  What a novel idea!  If you’re griping about Target selling books for nine dollars, you must not be buying books.  Go watch His Girl Friday and pretend that typewriters still make newspapers.

And you know something else?  The guy with the gun doesn’t care.  He’ll always be there.  He’s not going anywhere.  All the publishers and book stores could burn and all the editors could go to their early graves, and you know what?  The guy with the gun is still gonna getcha.  He’s going to find you wherever you go.  He’s alive.

Amazon Shows Us Why DRM Must Go

1984Last week, unwittingly dealt an enormous body blow to the concept of Digital Rights Management (DRM) by remotely deleting legally purchased copies of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from all Kindle ebook devices.  The excellent TeleRead site devoted to all things e-book and e-reader has a very well-considered post about the dangers of DRM and how we must protect ourselves against a world where customers don’t really end up owning digital copies of things they buy online.

When Amazon can connect to your Kindle device and blow away the book you bought, it means that you never really owned it at all.  You’re a renter.  Get used to it.  Almost any online service you can think of that sells you a book or a piece of music can come into your device and zap your stuff.  They consider it their right to do so.  We need laws that make our digital purchases our very own property and forbid anyone from modifying or deleting them for any reason.

The TeleRead article draws the connection between the ability of a company like Amazon to zap books and government censorship.  Since the technology can zap books, it will zap books because governments will consider it an effective means of censorship.

Amazon Deletes Purchased Copies of ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ From Kindles

KindleWe have totally had enough of at Candlelight Stories and have completely removed them from advertising space on this site and permanently severed our ‘associate’ relationship with the company.  The reason is simple.  Over the weekend, Amazon went into customers’ Kindle ebook devices and deleted purchased copies of George Orwell’s classic novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.  Apparently, the U.S. owner of the novels’ copyrights either decided to change its mind about offering an ebook of the novels or complained about illegal electronic copies on Amazon.  So Amazon removed them from the site and then reached out into Kindle devices that are legally owned and whose owners had legally purchased Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm from Amazon’s own site and completely removed all traces of the novels from those devises.  I call it an eBurn.

What this means is that when you buy a Kindle ebook device you don’t actually own the device or anything on it.  Amazon does.  They can simply reach into your device and destroy any file they want to at any time, without your knowledge or permission.  I call that vandalism.  I think any company behaving that way should face a class action lawsuit and be investigated for violations of law.  I will not allow Candlelight Stories to engage in any further business with such a company and cannot recommend that anyone purchase a Kindle or any electronic file from whatsoever.  What Amazon did was basically like this:  imagine you go to buy a book for $14.95 at a Barnes & Nobel store.  Then Barnes & Nobel decides for whatever reason that they actually didn’t really want to sell you that book.  So they send an employee into your home while you’re out to remove the book from your bookshelf and leave $14.95 under your pillow.  That’s exactly what Amazon thinks it can do to you.  Appalling.  George Orwell must at this moment be laughing in his grave.  And the joke’s on Amazon.

Amazon has gotten into the habit recently of engaging in digital censorship and then apologizing once they get wind of a public outcry.  They then try to spin their bad behavior as a technical glitch that won’t happen again.  They have replied to this latest debacle by saying that it happens ‘rarely’ and that it will not happen again.  We do not believe them.  What this episode proves beyond any shadow of doubt is that the company can press a button and blow away any book you may have purchased.  Refunding the purchases simply does not make up for this grotesque behavior.  So, when you buy a Kindle, you really don’t own anything.  You are simply renting a little portable Amazon cash register that Amazon retains full rights to.  Companies like Amazon are building distribution systems that make censorship as easy as the press of a button.  How far are we willing to go in allowing just a few companies to control the distribution of most of our literature and reference material.  If that handful of companies decides it doesn’t like the politics of a certain kind of literature, it can blow it away completely by pressing a button or entering a simple code.  Book burnings have never been able to eradicate ideas so efficiently.  We now have something new: the eBurn.  No company that cared in the slightest for literature or for books would ever behave this way for any reason.  I am disgusted and horrified by Amazon.  I actually bought a television through Amazon.  Now I’m wondering if they can get inside it and delete my favorite TV shows.  My digital camera.  Can they blow away my vacation photos?

We have an excellent open-source web browser called Firefox, we now desperately need an open-source ebook device that allows us to purchase from any bookseller in any format available.  Hey, Mozilla, are you listening?

Oh, and by the way, here’s a technology writer to stay away from.  He actually says he thinks it’s a good idea for Amazon to sneak into Kindles and destroy books: Read his dimwitted comments on nothing other than

But here’s a writer who understands the problem.

Here’s a New York Times article about the eBurn.