I have decided to pull Red Soil Through Our Fingers from Amazon’s e-bookshelves and refrain from allowing Amazon to distribute any of my future indie-published books for the time being.
Before I go any further, a word to Kindle users: You can still read my books! Buy from Smashwords, and you will be able to download the book in .mobi format. You will need to move the .mobi file to your Kindle (via USB), or you can read it via the Kindle Reader mobile or desktop apps.
My reasoning for taking this action is multi-fold. Most of my reasons break down into two categories:
- Amazon is using it’s giant ebook market share (almost two-thirds of all ebook sales) to force independent publishers (and indirectly the entire book industry) into a captive supplier relationship via Kindle Unlimited. Mark Coker has written a good op-ed on this phenomenon in the Huffington Post. Beyond the moral argument against supporting such a system, given that Red Soil Through Our Fingers is actually about farmers on Mars trying to escape a captive supplier relationship with the fictional RBX corporation, it would be pretty ironic for me to continue to make money off of selling the book through a similar system.
- Amazon, again via Kindle Unlimited, is implicitly teaching readers that books should be free. For a Amazon Prime subscriber with access to the Kindle Unlimited library, why would they even consider purchasing a book anywhere else? They have hundreds of thousands of books accessible effectively for free. Further, Amazon sidelines books that are not in Kindle Select; meaning even if an author priced their book for free (an obviously unsustainable price for an independent author), they would have a hard time even getting seen in a marketplace of millions without Amazon’s explicit help.
Now, I have no problem with the idea that books should be free to the general public… as long as the creators are compensated fairly by someone. In Kindle Select, authors are not compensated for each user reading a book as a “book purchase.” Rather, they receive a portion of a fixed pool in proportion to the total number of Kindle Edition Normalized Pages read by readers. Amazon has complete control over the size of the pool of money, and compensation is in the hundredths of a cent per page.
Most authors who derive their primary income from writing cannot make the choice I am making — to forgo 65% of one’s income on a principle is hard stand to expect anyone to take. I, on the other hand, have a day job and write on the side. While this also means that pulling my books from Amazon is unlikely to make even a speck of a dent in Amazon’s bottom line, hopefully a) as one small action it may inspire others to do the same, and b) I avoid the unfortunate irony of relying on an economic monster in order to rail against economic monsters.
If you are thinking about buying an e-reader, consider a Kobo reader, which doesn’t try to lock you or authors into being captive consumers and suppliers, respectively.
If you already own a Kindle, I don’t blame you personally… it’s a great product that was probably purchased at a great price, and gives to access to a huge library of books. However, I would exhort Kindle users to please take the extra step of checking whether their favorite books are available outside of Kindle Select or the Kindle Lending Library, and paying the few bucks to actually purchase a copy through a distributor that doesn’t screw over indie authors.