Will the Kindle Set Publishing Ablaze?
by Charles D. Hayes
I’ve long been frustrated that the hardware capability for a dynamic e-book reader has existed for more than a decade, but a good business plan has been lacking. So when I heard the visionary business planner Jeff Bezos describe Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, I ordered one immediately.
Discussions about the Kindle abound, but so far the vast majority of the reviews miss the point of its significance. What makes it different from all other e-book readers is that it’s not just a book; it’s a store. The Kindle is Amazon in your hand. The Kindle is content, inventory, promotion, distribution, delivery, and backup storage all rolled into one. You’ve only to imagine all the big players in the publishing business with their own stores in an e-book reader to see the dynamics of publishing changed forever.
For me, the arrival of Amazon’s Kindle has already changed the publishing landscape completely. I’ve been writing about self-education for more than 20 years. I’ve written seven nonfiction books and one novel. My nonfiction books have been well reviewed and have won awards and national attention on National Public Radio. My fiction, despite favorable reviews and some very enthusiastic feedback from readers who continue to ask if there will be a movie, has been a financial disappointment. So much so that 50,000 words into a sequel I stopped writing, because fiction seemed a futile enterprise for a small press.
Now, all of a sudden, not only the production costs but also the distribution costs for publishing fiction are negligible. And while the market is not yet large, I believe the Kindle will ignite its growth.
Converting for Kindle
Because I am so enthusiastic about the Kindle, I asked Amazon how independent presses might have their books converted to Kindle versions. A spokesperson said that Amazon will automatically convert books already in the Book Search Program, with permission from the publisher, if they are selling well enough. Otherwise, publishers can submit books by following the instructions at dtp.amazon.com/mn/signin.
I also asked if Amazon had considered the possibility of publishers offering Kindle exclusives and if they might offer special incentives for the practice. After a couple of days they said, “Yes, we have considered Kindle exclusives but have nothing further to share at this time.”
Since some of us have older print-on-paper books in print with no digitized versions, I asked Amazon for a list of vendors that could offer conversion services. To see if your books qualify for conversion to Kindle, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For conversion services, here is the list Amazon provided:
Aptara Inc. (aptaracorp.com). Conversion, editorial, and graphic production services. Aptara concentrates on the scientific, technical, and medical markets and on medium to larger publishers with 20 to thousands of books to convert. Contact: email@example.com, 703/352-0001.
ICC Macmillan (iccorp.com). A full range of electronic publishing services including large-scale content generation and conversion.
IGS (itglobalsolution.com). A full range of conversion services from any file format and from print-on-paper books. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 515/865-4591.
Impelsys (impelsys.com). Services for content conversion of large volumes, including converting hardcopy print to an electronic format. Contact: David Saracco.
Innodata Isogen, Inc. (innodata-isogen.com). End-to-end services for publishers and information providers, including digitization, content creation, conversion, and consulting. Contact: Joan Meyer, 201/371-2527.
Kreutzfeldt Electronic Publishing (kreutzfeldt.de). Conversion services for German and English reference content. Contact: Hans Kreutzfeldt.
Leer-e S.L. (leer-e.es). Conversion of digital formats, scanning, translation, and a complete range of publishing services including Mobipocket and POD. Contact: email@example.com.
Publishing Dimensions (pubdimensions.com:8080/site). A suite of conversion services for large companies in the publishing industry, from content conversion to consulting.
Rosetta Solutions (rosettasolutions.com). Automated, manuscript-to-market publishing services.
SilverChair (silverchair.com). Specializes in conversion services for high-value, information-critical products for the health care community.
Smart Site (smartsite.com). A mobile content specialist for publishers who want to convert e-books or e-media into a Mobipocket format.
I don’t believe that digitization spells the death of traditional book publishing. Some niche publishers will no doubt continue to satisfy their customers by doing what they have always done. But in many ways, digitization is going to open up avenues that have the potential to change publishing in ways that we have not yet imagined.
For instance, the fact that the Kindle gives authors and editors the ability to update books and correct errors will undoubtedly make a difference. And Amazon’s practice of offering a free chapter as a test drive for people interested in purchasing a Kindle book could have a transforming effect; it could mean that in the long run, quality will override hype in determining what sells.
I live in Alaska, which is currently outside the wireless service area for the Kindle, so I have to download books to my computer and transfer them to my Kindle via a USB port. But I am still happy with my purchase, because I believe that the Kindle is simply the beginning of an enormous range of possibilities for publishing.
Charles D. Hayes is the founder of Autodidactic Press and the author of The Rapture of Maturity: A Legacy of Lifelong Learning and Portals in a Northern Sky, among other books.