How Amazon Is Slowly Destroying My Reading Habit
Once upon a long time ago, you could pick up pretty much ANY published book and be able to read it – as long as you enjoyed the subject.
Not any more!
Today, after submitting my short story to The Hindu Lit For Life contest, I ordered 7 shorts on Amazon.IN.
Each took barely 10 minutes to read.
But 4 of them were total crap. And while another 2 weren’t terrible, the writing was quite poor… and only a strong storyline held them together.
Coz Amazon is slowly ERODING the reading habit.
It started a decade ago.
KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) launched in 2007 with a worthy ideal. Everyone could be an author.
Nice. Democratic. Even-minded.
NOT everyone IS an author.
Or even meant to be.
There are 3 kinds of writing.
- GREAT writing is as precious as it is rare. It hardly needs “marketing”. It sells/spreads itself. Viral-ity is inbuilt, as delighted readers share it with others.
- GOOD to AVERAGE writing is more common. With GREAT marketing, it stands a chance of being noticed. But it rarely sustains, as these writers realize the real importance of “repeat sales”.
- POOR writing is, sadly, not uncommon. Even with GREAT marketing, it would fail… in a non-Amazon marketplace.
Enter the wonder called Kindle Direct Publishing.
With the lure of awakening the author within each of us.
“Inside YOU is a book. Write it!”
In the older, less ‘democratic’ (even overtly biased) selection battle of our yesteryear, each manuscript went through a tough vetting process.
It had to “win” through to even be considered worthy of publishing.
And then, it got quality-checked by a horde of specialists… until what made it into print or distribution was a polished gem.
One that sparkled and shone!
Contrast that against the junk that’s on the Kindle e-store or other digital distribution channels these days.
Ego-driven. Barely spell-checked. Horribly formatted. Badly presented.
Often powered by a mediocre story line. Or a non-existent one.
Reading these self-published pieces is torture!
So, how does such writing survive – even thrive – in a competitive ecosystem?
One word: AMAZON.
Earlier, average to good writers had to aggregate their own audiences. That was an expensive exercise. Sans repeat buyers, those costs weren’t reimbursed. So they failed.
Market competition drove out ‘not so good’ writers… even when they were decent ‘marketers’.
But then, the behemoth book-seller – that proudly spouted the slogan, “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” – happened.
Who went to an online bookstore?
And Amazon started aggregating these audiences… to provide to ANY writer.
That’s where the problem begins.
Just like you could have junk in the front display of a Walmart store and still sell a ton of it, you could feature writing of any quality or standard to Amazon’s traffic and make sales.
It needed only one final ingredient to seal the deal…
Because, you see, if a reader paid top dollar for a poorly created book, she’d scream in protest… but for a few measly bucks, who cares, right?
So book prices went from $19.95 for a paperback and $39.95 for hard covers all the way down to $2.99 for Kindle ebooks.
That’s the sound of indie competition going down along with it.
But we don’t have expensive overheads or printing costs, said Amazon.
It’s also because they didn’t have quality-control costs!
To keep my own marketing channel (outside of Amazon.com) for books alive, I should be able to generate enough profit from sales to finance promotional efforts that grow and retain my audience.
But when a reader can get an ebook for $2.99 from Amazon.com, why would they buy it from me at $19.99 or higher?
Sounds perfectly reasonable.
Except, I’m now getting paid a sixth of what my work once deserved. And am forced to compete against poor writing for the same digital ‘shelf space’.
Something’s got to ‘give’.
And that’s time/effort spent on enhancing the quality of my writing.
I mean, why spend hours and hours to make a book or short story shine when it may just as easily be outsold by a “rough draft” that’s priced lower or has more (fake?) reviews?
Ultimately, this is counter-productive.
Viewed from a reader’s perspective, you get poorly written books.
Books that, slowly, steadily, erode your love for reading.
Even if I paid only 99 cents for a new ebook, I wouldn’t invest an hour (or ten, or 50) reading it… when the experience is painful.
In fact, I might just skip the entire exercise – and do something else with my money and time.
Listen, I love to read.
But I love to read only because it’s fun.
In an Amazonized digital publishing world, that’s changing.
Because in the mindless thrust to make publishing available to every “writer”, and to offer more choices to all readers, it is ignoring quality-management in finished work, and…
That’s how Amazon is destroying the reading habit.
Once that’s gone, it can be impossible to win back.