Hiya. You don’t know me, but I’m a pretty good customer of yours. I buy several thousand dollars of books a year, in almost every genre you sell: fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, classics, mysteries, you name it. I have bought everything from Gladwell to the most obscure author in your backlists and back again. I may well be the only heterosexual male in the entire world who spent more on urban fantasy alone than he does on video games, movies, and newspapers combined. I really love books.
For the last decade or so, I’ve bought many of my books through Amazon. Amazon knows __me. They know what I like, they send me recommendations via email, and on those rare instances when I have a problem with a book they fix it for me within 24 hours. I really like Amazon.
That is a new experience for me in a book vendor. Typically, bookstores are anonymous entities who happen to be in the same airport, mall, or street as I am when the craving strikes. I have absolutely no loyalty to them. (I hear that before my time there were neighborhood book stores where you’d go in to get a recommendation from someone who knew your tastes intimately. I’ve never been in a neighborhood book store.)
Some months ago, I bought a Kindle. Publishers, if you thought I was a good customer before, you should see me now. I don’t even have to find an anonymous dealer to get my fix — I just punch a button and bam, new book. And punch that button I do — about four times as frequently as I did previously. Amazon now sells me over 90% of the books I buy.
Recently, it has come to my attention that some of you are having a bit of a spat with Amazon, centering over release schedules, pricing issues, and, above all, control. This sent me walking over to my book shelf to check whether those of you who are having the spat with Amazon actually publish authors I read. The fact that I didn’t know this off the top of my head, and that this is the first time I’ve thought about individual publishing companies in my entire life, should be a preview of coming attractions for you as regards to which company I am backing in this fight.
Let me be perfectly clear: I have no price sensitivity with regards to books. I read the books I want to read when I want to read them. I have never bought or avoided buying a book based on whether it was hardcover or trade paperback. (Incidentally, since we’re all businessmen here, let’s be honest: you want to extract as much money out of me as possible because I am price insensitive, and staggering hardcover and paperback release dates is just a way to accomplish that. Neither of us really care about the physical format in the slightest.)
It does not matter to me what you charge for the books on my Kindle. However, I’m hearing things about you windowing Kindle releases — i.e. delaying them so that you can protect your hardcover sales. You think my likely behavior is to go to the bookstore where no one knows my name and pay extra so that I can have the hardcover on release day. Words cannot express how mistaken you are.
I will read books on my Kindle. Whether they are your books or the books of your competitors matters to me not one whit.
We’re quite the odd ducks, aren’t we. You don’t know my name either, despite the fact that we’re on surprisingly intimate terms. I spend most of my leisure time rattling around in worlds of your creation.
I understand you feel a bit of connection to the people who liberated you from the slush pile, sign your royalty checks, and respond to your emails. You know their names, after all.
I want to read your books as fast as you can write them, on my Kindle. If you support me in this, I will stick with you like the plucky heroine to the aloof and semi-abusive vampire lord who turned her. (P.S. urban fantasy authors: stake his worthless carcass. Signed, beta males everywhere.)
If, on the other hand, you should support your publishers’ interests over my desire to pay you money, mark me on this: I will buy books from authors willing to sell them to me. I might get a little depressed over not being able to read my favorites, but if you haven’t noticed, I read a lot faster than you can possibly write and that makes me promiscuous by nature. Any regret I feel over losing you will be quickly assuaged by epic heroism, vile betrayal, true love, and other themes of investing advice books.
Dear Book Stores:
Good luck with that coffee thing.
Keep being awesome.
(A man of no particular importance, who bought more books in 2009 than 20 average American households.)