Could Amazon Exclusivity Be Good For The Future Of eBooks?

Image - iStockphoto: Gajus
Image – iStockphoto: Gajus

‘The Absolute Best Experience  For Readers’

Here’s an argument we don’t hear frequently for the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select programs.

I’m ensuring the best possible reader experience with ebooks.

Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

This is the soon-to-be-seafaring author Hugh Howey, who says that there’s something more important than the doubling of his overall income since Amazon instituted per-page payouts for its Kindle Select programs on July 1.

The bigger factor, he writes, is that cooperating with the Kindle Select requirement of exclusivity means supporting the “superior medium” for readers.

This is not the format- or device-agnostic stance we’ve come to expect in industry conversations in recent years. Howey minces no words: He wants you e-reading.

I want greater and greater ebook adoption. I want more and more readers to move to ebooks. It is the artistic medium, the environmental medium, the democratic medium, the literary medium, and the indie medium.

And, having created the viability of the e-reader in 2007 with the Kindle — and in parlaying the effectiveness of the Kindle construct as a commercial content sales-and-delivery system — Amazon now is offering consumers the best way to read, Howey says, through its ubiquitous apps and devices.

The best way to increase the adoption of this superior medium is to ensure that readers have a great experience. The Amazon storefront and their Kindle devices are the absolute best experience for readers.

The vogue these days, of course, is to swear allegiance to print. For the most part, it’s not fashionable to concede that one might actually prefer a digital book to a print doorstop. Generally, one claims to be e-reading only because one is “on the go all the time” or “traveling with no way to carry all those books” or “reading on my phone, where am I going to put a book, man?”

The ebook is “the artistic medium, the environmental medium, the democratic medium, the literary medium, and the indie medium.”
Hugh Howey

Unfazed, Howey argues that alternatives to the “superior” e-reading experiences Amazon is offering don’t encourage the ebook adoption he wants to see:

What is the collapse of Nook doing for the adoption of ebooks? Barnes and Noble goes back and forth on whether or not they’re going to support their own device. That causes those who bought a Nook to become wary of committing to buying more digital books. And what about Apple’s refusal to make iTunes a web-based store rather than an application? This makes sharing links and buying ebooks more difficult across devices. And let’s not even start on B&N’s storefront. Or Google’s hubris when it comes to dealing with authors.

He then positions standing outside of Amazon exclusivity in order to sell on multiple platforms as a mistake — a way to support what he sees as inferiority in the e-reading system. If you place your work on the platforms he’s mentioning, he says, you’re engaging in “indiscriminate partnerships” that, in the end, mean readers getting sup-par digital reading.

Indiscriminate business partnership does not move the industry forward, and making my ebooks available at places that don’t provide the best reader experience does not help my career. When I saw that KU was going to help me reach more readers —and more than make up lost income from all other outlets combined — I was swayed. But it was when I blogged about unlimited access to ebooks with readers, and heard what kind of experience those readers were having with KU, that I saw why it was important for me to only make my works available at top-notch retailers.

This is a flight to quality that could become a significant byproduct of Amazon’s change to per-page payouts. While most of us have been focused on the question of whether authors would be paid better or worse in the new scheme (and Howey was, too, I think), the surprise he’s pointing out is in a revelation of the Kindle ecosystem as that “superior medium.”

And Then: Armageddon Didn’t Happen

Wondrous tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth greeted the news of per-page payouts from Amazon on its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) lending product: the Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription program and the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL).

In June, lots of indie authors who depend on the enabling platforms of Amazon’s self-publishing programs were alarmed (okay, stark-staring) at the news that Amazon would stop paying a flat rate for a borrow in KU and KOLL. It would, instead, institute a per-page payout, with pages read calculated using a Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count.

Image - iStockphoto: Lee Torrens
Image – iStockphoto: Lee Torrens

In our article of 16th June, Amazon’s New KDP Select Per-Page Payments: Everybody Has To Swim for It Now, we outlined the adjustments.

The #indie drums were so noisy because many writers had learned to upload very short “books” or to split up longer works to create artificial series. When 10 percent of any work was read, it would pay as a “book,” at a full share of the KDP Select Global Fund — the same amount that that a much longer book would pay.

Folks whose specialty seems to have become writing 15-page erotica — do you know the phrase “one-hander”? — might no longer be paid as much as the authors of a 100,000-page novels would get.

As it turns out, the change to per-page payouts seems to have been a good one for most of those willing to talk about it. That’s not to say there’s universal rejoicing. You can find some sharp disagreement in blog comments if you look around. The wider trend, though, seems cautiously optimistic.

Read more

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: Could Amazon Exclusivity Be Good For The Future Of eBooks?

Originally published by Thought Catalog at




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