The (Kindle) Afterlife

When we think about “indie” writing, we tend to think first about the Kindle and e-book platforms. That’s understandable. Most indie authors publish Kindles or similar e-books.

Seeing that tweet, I thought I do notice errors regardless of the author. However, a typo or two in a novel does not matter much to me. Books, like everything else, are going to have imperfections. (I’m sure mine are not always “perfect.”)

And there are certainly errors in “highly-priced,” traditionally published, e-books too…

[Screenshot of Amazon.com.]

…such as that Stephen King novel in its e-book form.

[Screenshot of Amazon.com.]

And look at that pricing too. Pay that amount for that Kindle e-book that is apparently full of errors? Major publishing companies have in recent years taken to demanding the likes of “$6.99” and up for a Kindle e-book (regardless of how imperfect that e-book happens to be), prices that had long previously been the price of a paperback.

Such higher e-book pricing has allowed indie authors to carve out a niche and get e-book traction with “adventurous” readers who are looking for good value for their money (and perhaps even to get to know before most others an author who might someday become “big”). Readers are more likely (I know I am) to take a chance on an inexpensive indie Kindle book – and even if it has some errors, unlike a traditionally published one they have not spent a small fortune on the e-book. While I will cough up some more for a deeply researched history or a similar e-book, I am NOT happy about paying (in fact, I probably will NOT pay) more than about $3.99 for a Kindle version of a novel – regardless of its author. Indeed I am finding now that I am much less willing to part with money to read an author who scarcely needs my money – particularly not when it comes to an “overpriced” Kindle version.

Vox in December 2019 had an excellent look at the U.S. lawsuit against the “Big Six” publishers for a “conspiracy” in e-book pricing. It is worth a read. It appears matters during the 2010s also did not shake out quite as publishers expected following the invention of the Kindle in 2007, notes Andrew Albanese of Publishers Weekly:

…the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. “They’re glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print,” he says. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. “Older readers are glued to their e-readers,” says Albanese. “They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.”

Any millennials or Gen Z reading this who care to comment about that assertion? Based on it, I wish I could appreciably drop the prices of my paperbacks! LOL!

Notice too the price of that King paperback above. For about $3 more, a purchaser will at least OWN an actual book; and that latter – the word “OWN” – is also not unimportant in the scheme of things, particularly, one would suppose, for “boomers.” As Kindle book buyers we tend not to think about this unsettling question: “What happens to all of my Kindle books after I die?” Well, in 2012, the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) explained:

Kindle content can’t be resold or left to an heir — it cannot even be given away or donated. Under the terms of the agreement, Kindle content can not be transferred to another person in any way.

Nothing seems to have changed, according to the E-book-reader blog, January 2020:

Technically, there is no official way to give your ebook collection to another person when you die.

It’s the same for all ebook stores, not just Amazon.

The problem is when you buy an ebook, you’re only purchasing a license to read the book, not the actual book. This is noted in the fine print of the terms and conditions at Amazon and other ebook stores.

So I do not OWN a single e-book. Neither do you. We have essentially RENTED them and after we are dead all of the wealth we “invested” in them in having clicked “purchase” over and over… simply vanishes.

[Photo by me, Catskills, New York, September 9, 2019.]

So if you want to OWN a book, buy the paper version.

I have sensed this too in music purchases: we “download” songs to devices, etc. Yet what do we POSSESS? Not even a 33 1/3 record or a compact disc.

I have long not liked the feeling we are similarly being “maneuvered” into paying for a novel, but we end up not actually POSSESSING it in exchange for our money. An e-book is merely “a user license” for us to read it. Thus it is not perpetual ownership of it as a “good” that we may bequeath to family, or a library, or some charity, and we had all it appears better start to remember that.

[Amazon’s Kindle. Photo by me, 2019.]

Thus e-books do not have any “long term” value. They are basically “ephemeral” pixels which disappear when we die. Therefore I refuse to spend anywhere near the same amount of money for an essentially lifetime-“rented” e-book that I would pay for a paperback/hardcover THAT I WILL OWN.

Because doing so is stupid.

Gee, suddenly typos or other errors – be they in indie or in traditional e-books – now seem of trifling importance when measured up against ETERNITY, don’t they?

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Speaking of eternity. LOL! I had too many ideas bouncing around in my head. My plans to write nothing before “June” simply collapsed. On Friday, I wrote on here that I have started – albeit chaotically – outlining my next novel.

I have been brainstorming since – typing out this and that. It is all a mess. But that’s how it always starts.

[HMS Java (l) in battle with USS Constitution, War of 1812. Painting by Montague Dawson (1895-1973). Photo by me, outside my office, 2019.]

When ideas hit you, you just have to go with them and get them down: The US foreign trade embargo; smugglers; the USS Constitution frigate; the “War of 1812” (US); the “War of 1812” (Russia); Napoleon; Spanish guerrillas… and more… and lots more from those people you read about in the first and the second novels.

Oh, and as for “Katrin” and “Alexandra”? Who are they? Ooh, you may find out in a year or two. 😉

* * *

Lastly, also on the issue of an “afterlife”:

Happy Presidents’ Day (in the US).

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂