you got kindle in my peanut butter

This is unexpected: It appears that Kindle is going to be a platform after all.

Amazon said that it was working on making the titles for its popular e-book reader, the Kindle, available on a variety of mobile phones. The company, which is expected to unveil a new version of the Kindle next week, did not say when Kindle titles would be available on mobile phones.

“We are excited to make Kindle books available on a range of mobile phones,” said Drew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon. “We are working on that now.”

This is great news for e-books. The potential of the Kindle lies not in their device (which imho is still missing the mark), but Amazon’s ability to rally publishers behind a unified standard for distribution, and their leverage to force reasonable prices.

(sorry, I’ll try to make this the last e-book post for a while)

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February 6th, 2009 by Eric Jacobsen

4 Responses to “you got kindle in my peanut butter”

  1. August says:

    I’m a little concerned by Amazon’s “leverage to force reasonable prices”. Amazon’s discounted prices aren’t “reasonable”; they are, in fact, achieved by forcing publishers with already razor thin profit margins to grant substantial bulk-purchase discounts* that often go beyond the standard 40-48%, sometimes even higher than 60%. It has been said (though publishers won’t give out specific numbers) that Amazon & Co. often gets their books from some (often small) publishers so close to cost that the publishers effectively earn nothing from their sales, with authors earning even less. However: publishers can’t survive at all anymore without Amazon and the big boxes. In a way it’s much like Wal-Mart; you either accept that discount will eat up the bulk of your profits, or you go out of business entirely. Publishers have tried to mitigate this damage to their bottom line by passing expenses on to authors. Promotion budgets have dropped essentially to zero (although as anyone familiar with the controversies and lawsuits from the ’80s will know, usually only “blockbuster” books get promotional budgets anyway, and promotional clauses have largely been removed from standard industry contracts to keep publishers from another round of litigation). Authors now pay for their own book tours, as well as the promotional copies of their books they take with them (unless they’re actually doing an event in-store, where it’s presumed the book store will supply the copies to be sold). Non-fiction authors now also pay the bulk of their research costs and licensing fees for art, extensive quotation not covered by fair use, and so on. One author (her name escapes me at the moment) recently claimed that researching her book and paying for licensing cost her about $250,000 over the course of a year or two. How does that relate to an author’s income from sales? Let’s say a mid-list author sells about 10,000 copies (that’s a very liberal estimate, seeing as how most print runs are closer to about 7,500 copies, and rarely sell out for mid-listers), and assuming, between both hardcover and softcover, an average price per book of about $17 (low, perhaps, since most sales will be paperback anyway). Given an industry average for royalties of about 15%, how much will the author take home? About $25,000 over the two or three years it will take to sell out all 10,000 of those copies. That’s not counting the fact that an author doesn’t see a dime of royalties until his or her book has earned out its advance. The average advance for a book in 1950 was $5,000. In 1980 it was $5,000, and it’s somewhere around there still today. A book isn’t said to have earned its advance when it sells $5,000 worth of copies; it’s when the author’s 15% cut of the sales is enough to cover the $5,000. Only then does an author start to get royalty cheques. So knock that $25,000 income down to $20,000. And then realize that most books never sell enough to earn back their advances. Your favourite non-bestselling author will spend an average of 2 years writing their book, and probably earn about $5,000 from it over the course of its life. The publisher will probably take a loss on the book as well (since publishing is much like the film industry, in the sense that the blockbusters are used to subsidize the rest of their catalogue). Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble then come along and force publishers to give them significant discounts so that they can offer their “reasonable prices”. Cheap doesn’t mean reasonable; it only means cheap.

    Of course for smaller markets like here in Canada, you can cut those sales figures and print runs dramatically. The number of books needed for a “mid-lister” here can be as little as 500, a best-seller only a couple thousand. Figures recently reported that the average writer here makes about $20,000 a year, most of that from grants, and almost all of the rest from speaking appearances and work on the side (writing reviews, etc).

    I’m not talking about the big success stories here, which are probably one in 10 or 20 thousand, but mid-list authors and books. Big authors will usually earn big money in both advances and royalties, and publishers will spend scads of money promoting them, so deep discounting isn’t an issue. Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling will not be hurting for cash anytime soon. There’s problems on that end too, of course. Publishers tend to go overboard, especially in the New York scene, with expensive business lunches and the like. But then, bear in mind that unless they are at the very top of their profession, chances are pretty good that editors and assistant editors make far less than the people working in the marketing and graphic design departments. Those lunches have long been the biggest “perk” in an otherwise underpaid profession. The numbers I see being tossed around on graphic design forums would make most of the editors I know (and I do know a few) wet themselves with envy.

    * Barnes & Noble and other large retailers have done much the same thing in recent years, their imminent collapse owing more to overly rapid expansion and having insufficient resources to maintain that expansion in a rather finite market.

  2. Casey Lindsey says:

    I just gotta say I love my kindle and the cheap books.

    My taste is a bit rough but I enjoyed “The Misogynist” by Emily Downs.

    It can be a bit vulgar at times. Be warned. But it’s cheap.

    She is the bestselling author of “Lisa Loves Girls”

    2 books for under 2 bucks. THe kindle will own publishing.

  3. Bentley says:

    Nothing fails like success.

  4. Robert Ahmed says:

    i love both peanut butter and cheeze as the filling of my morning sandwhich.:.”

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