Amazon's Kindle Self-Publishing

Well, I just finished my first self-publishing exercise with Amazon's Kindle Self-Publishing platform, and...gods, they need to invest in their process!

Given the cut they take, you would think a few dollars spent making the process less clumsy would be worthwhile, but maybe not. Still, as a very technically capable person, I have to wonder how such a clumsy processing model ever got approved by such a large company. This is a company with worldwide presence and billions (and sad monopolistic tendencies), and their publishing process looks a lot like what you would expect from an outfit with a cash reserve of seventeen dollars and a pizza fetish. Granted, the Smashwords process is not perfect either, but by comparison the Amazon process is just painful. The layout is awkward, the process stop-points are unclear, and at least on every browser I tried you actually can't see the text regions you need to type into until they are selected -- and sometimes even not then -- meaning even when you know you need to type in them, finding them is wickedly difficult.

What really irked me though wasn't even so much the mechanics of the process (please, Amazon, drop the mobi format and just get with the standard epub one!), but the in-your-face way they express their monopolistic flair.

Perhaps the most egregious example is that unless you are willing to halve your potential royalty, you can't opt out of the lending program. Now, I have no issue myself with folks lending my books, because I know that no amount of hand-wringing will stop the eager pirates of the world; and I have no illusions that I will ever make enough money writing to have it cut into my bottom line. (I also think I write well enough that those who enjoy the work will probably pay if they can, because they might want more.) But by Amazon enforcing lending, or poverty, they effectively take either half the meagre income of the authors, or they basically give away a free copy with every copy sold. Yes, I know their arguments and that the limited lending period is 14 days, but seriously, folks...who needs 14 days to read a book that is worth reading? And if you arrange a second copy issued for every one sold, you effectively halved the royalty anyhow. So why offer 70% when you have no intention of paying it? But more to the point, opt-in would be ethical...opt-out never is. Only monopolists practice reverse incentive schemes.

Of course, I might eat these words if someone buys the book in record numbers, but I doubt that and I suspect it will be a while before I dip into the Kindle world again, because on top of all else the process is not friendly. Even the most basic parts of it require more technical effort that most real authors I have known can muster. It then becomes an exclusive process, whereby the published are the technically adept rather than the purely creative. That is not a trend to foster, because its exclusivity harms broader culture. And though the central rot setting into our age is probably irreversible, it still is not helpful to have corporations enhancing the decline by creating pockets of exclusivity where none need exist.

What finally irked me was also their "quality standards." I probably met them easily, because I write stories and formatting is basic, and I do understand their desire to have high quality presentation...but what hypocrisy! Their own interface to let author's upload is so horribly clumsy that you wonder if it was written by grade school interns! If you want to impose "quality standards" and not look idiotic, you need to impose them on yourself first. Seriously, Amazon, review the look, feel and functionality of the platform. Then your quality standards might not smack of parochial ignorance.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.