A mixed bag of topics


Its been a busy weekend, what with family staying and others visiting.  Its been the finest Easter on record as fas as weather is concerned and we’ve all been at the beach, where friends kindly lent us their beach-hut.

The house was awash with Easter Eggs, and now we have two grandchildren (see below) there were even more than usual.   The early morning light gave some opportunities for getting the tripod out and taking some flower portraits with the camera.  The one to the left of here got in a “best shot of the day” category on a photo-sharing website and then later on the one below also got the same award.

The Kindle – a literary game-changer

Every evidence suggests that the Kindle is having a massive impact on reading habits.  If you look at the Kindle best sellers, not one of the top ten costs more than £1.50.  Quite a game-changer.  But who wants to pay more for a book when after you’ve read it all you have is a random sequence of bits and bytes which you can’t even send on to anyone else?

Amazon have certainly understood its potential, with their Spring Spectacular containing a huge range of books under £1.50.  I’m no apologist for Amazon, but it was easy to spend a fiver or so  here and come away with two or three Booker shortlists from last year and the year before and a couple of reference books for later use.

Even Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White is available for £1.47 – quite a bargain in view of its recent successful serialisation on BBC television. I bought a couple more Scandiavian crime novels including the excellent Shadow by Karin Alvtegen.

One to note is Richard Zimler’s The Warsaw Anagrams which was only published a couple of months ago and can now be purchased for £1.21.  I reviewed it here.

Its getting very difficult to see how publishers like Penguin are going to be able to carry on with their ebook pricing model when there are bargains like these to be had.  Just one example, The Picture of Dorian Gray is available in Penguin Classics for £4.99 while you can get any number of free versions, or even “the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde for £0.70. Sometimes Penguin Classics have a translation which they want to defend but with an English language book the pricing is just barmy.

Sisters - the end of a busy day

E-book niches

Its great to see companies like Blackbirde Books being formed to exploit the market in cheap e-books.  Let’s face it, there are many good authors who are turned away from publishers simply because their books don’t fit the latest trends in book publishing.

I reviewed one of Blackbirde’s books last week, The Valley of Heaven and Hell – Cycling  in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette, and was pleased to hear from author Susie Kelly that there had been a surge in sales after my review and it had climbed up the Amazon Travel and Holiday section list.  Again pricing must surely be a factor in her sales figures.  Who’s going to quibble about spending £1.39 on a download if the subject is interesting to you and it comes with a couple of good reviews.

As far as I understand it, with cheap e-books self-promotion is the name of the game, and you need to get your book going “viral”.  With ultra-low prices this can really work astonishingly well and authors need to use every means such as the Kindle forums (which are always an interesting browse).

14 thoughts on “A mixed bag of topics

  1. Tom – your posts are always a delight, intersting book choices and other arty, life talk as well. The photos are stunning.

    I’m the proud owner now of a kindle and was very tempted by the Spring Extravaganza as well. I ended up buying The Paris Wife by Paula McLain as my first kindle read but have the Karen Alvtegen in mind..


    • Tracey – thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy your Kindle – its pretty good isn’t it. I recomment the Alvtegen book (isn’t it hard to spell that name!).


  2. It’s not a bad deal. Thanks for flagging it.

    I have to admit, I do want to see robust competition for the Kindle. Fond as I am of mine if it becomes the only game in town we can kiss goodbye to these kinds of prices. It’s competition that drives Amazon to reductions like that after all.

    I suspect literary fiction will be less price sensitive. Most hard core literary titles only shift a few thousand units tops. Dropping the price even by a large amount I doubt will significantly change that. There just aren’t the readers out there. The mass market though could see serious price falls.

    As ever it’ll be the mid list authors who take a kicking. It’s all good for readers right now, whether it will stay good for us I think remains open to question. Maybe. Maybe not.

    Lovely photo of the sisters by the way. Incredibly sweet.


    • Max – thanks for visiting. I wonder if Amazon are providing that list in order to show those publishers who abide by the dreaded “agency agreement” that the way to big sales is to cut prices. I agree that one show in town would be a bad deal for everyone but what interests me most if the opportunity for niche publishers to get their product to market quickly and cheaply. Amazon take 30% at the moment, which is quite a good deal for many smaller outfits.


  3. Nice to meet the junior members of your dynasty, it seems your Easter went well here at lantern cottage we had an Easter egg hunt (complete with cryptic clues) which my daughter loved & I loved organising. As to the kindle, pricing cheap yes, but a lot of what I read is not available (still want one sometime) so It’s range needs increasing into less mainstream areas before it becomes the go to device for all things literate.
    Ps. The snowdrops, are they from your garden?, my gardens looking very floral with irises, Lilly of the valley, Lungwort etc, lovely pic of the sisters.


    • Parrish – Oops, the flowers are of course lily of the valley, not snowdrops. I’ve altered the caption now. Glad you had a good Easter – we also had an egg hunt in the garden but two year old Iris didn’t quite understand what she had to do until she realised that chocolate was involved.


  4. Tom: I have to observe that Amazon and Kindle have become a “literary game changer” in a very destructive way that is harmful to readers and perhaps an indication that they will leverage their influence even further in the future. Prior to this year, we readers in North America could purchase UK titles not published here yet from the Book Depository with free shipping. Now, when Amazon signs a book up for Kindle they include a clause that prohibits the BD from offering those volumes to North Americans — we have to buy the Kindle version. This kind of restriction of trade is despicable. Amazon is playing hardball — if Kindle is so wonderful it hardly requires this kind of denial of competition.

    I will never, ever buy a Kindle — this is the kind of big business abuse that has to be stopped. I don’t fault those who have bought the device, but they should be aware that they have inadvertently become part of a practice that I find disgusting. Tilting the playing field towards Kindle by denying access to the printed alternative is hardly a reader-friendly act.


  5. That is a repulsive practice.

    Amazon’s plan is obvious. They hope to gain an effective monopoly, at which point we could reasonably expect prices to rise.

    I think they’ll fail, but it’s far from certain and I think they will manage a substantial market share.

    As a company I don’t think Amazon cares at all about readers. They’re a shop – like Tescos or Wal-Mart. Books are one product among many that they sell. Their interest is in leveraging their platform as aggressively as possible, but they’re indifferent to whether it benefits readers or not.


  6. Hi Tom, it’s a Blogger thing,can disable captcha but it’s there as an anti spam thing & as Spammers seem to have recently located me, it’s needed, as for not remembering you it appears it’s just something it doesn’t do.
    thanks for highlighting the issue.


  7. What gorgeous little girls!

    Tom, did you know an Amazon Kindle account can have five, or it may be six now, devices registered to it, meaning that each device can access the account and download ebooks to it? So family/friends with Kindles, or the Kindle app on an iPad, iPod or computer can borrow the books. Only one person can read them at any one time, but it does mean that Kindle books are indeed loanable. :)


  8. Hello Tom

    Thanks for this post. What a lovely picture! They look so peaceful.

    About the kindle : I’m a great user of the “convert” function, when you send a pdf file for conversion. That way I can have French classics for free as long as I can find the pdf file online.
    Nobody has kindles here, except an American friend. A French device is on sale but there aren’t as many titles as on Amazon. I heard it’s not a big success.
    What Kevin describes is despicable and reminds me of DVD zones.


    • Bookaroundthecorner – thanks for visiting. I would like to recommend the website instapaper.com which lets you save website and download them in kindle format. You can also send emails to it and read them on the Kindle. I’m going to post about it shortly.


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