It’s never been easier for author’s to get their work out. With the rise of e-books and Amazon’s Kindle, publication is only a few clicks away! Amazon is even targeting authors, establishing contracts for direct publishing that cut out editors and agents. They’re offering Neilson Book Scan Sales data for free, something most publishing houses only include with royalty statements. Amazon does this, because they love you.
Except that they don’t.
Amazon is a retailer first, and cares less about your writing career than the publishers and agents who currently ignore you. They care about sales. Signing authors to contracts is simply a way for Amazon to cut out the publishing industry that’s keeping them from higher profits. The Kindle is, and always will be, about chaining the customer to a retail ecosystem Amazon controls – just as iPhones and iPads are chained to iTunes. This gives Amazon far too much power in my mind, and makes possible one-click censorship generated in a board room when somebody’s e-published book about abortion or religion or politics or some other touchy subject draws bad press Amazon doesn’t want. That hasn’t happened yet, but the absence of an event doesn’t define reality. Nobody’s stolen my supply of prized bacon-flavored ice-cream, but I’m still keeping my doors locked. When profit and art clash, art loses, and Amazon has already shown their willingness to yank content when it suits them.
Also worth considering is the signal-to-noise ratio. Self-publishing an e-book is so mind-numbingly easy my cat can do it. Far too much crap gets dumped on Amazon as it is, and while it’s up to the author to generate interest, drawing attention to your brilliant (and grammatically correct) book becomes no easier than shouting for attention at a rock concert. The unwashed masses prefer the ease of bestseller lists which no e-book has yet to achieve. I’m sure there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but there’s just as much anecdotal evidence that bacon-flavored ice-cream is the best thing in the world, and I still can’t get my wife to try it.
Don’t get me wrong, you can have my Kindle when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. With the upcoming Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire, Amazon has hit a great price point for user adoption, and the more Kindle’s they sell the bigger the audience for published work. I’m a big fan of e-publishing and the future for writers is full of possibilities. I’m just not quite convinced we need to let Amazon run the show.