Why not just throw the book at them?

I love the book. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the compactness of it, the shape, the size. I love the feel of paper. The sound it makes when I turn a page. I love the beauty of print on paper, the patterns, the shapes, the fonts. I am astonished by the versatility and practicality of The Book. It is so simple. It is so fit for its purpose. It may give me mere content, but no e-reader will ever give me that sort of added pleasure.

—Susan Hill

(Hat tip to The Passive Voice)

I respond:

I love the book. I love the weight of it in my hand, the heft of it. I especially love the hardcover book, the stiffness of the boards under the cloth. The satisfying thwack! it makes when I knock a book fetishist on the noggin with it. You can’t hit fools upside the head with an ebook.

Leaving money on the table

Bill Peschel, a commenter on The Passive Voice, suggests that Amazon is bound to stop offering independent authors 70 percent of the retail price on well-priced ebooks, and cut the wholesale price to 60 or 50 percent of retail, or even less. He asks:

‘Why would Amazon leave money on the table if they know that authors will accept less?’

I reply:

I’ll tell you exactly why Amazon would leave money on the table:

When the table it’s on belongs to the consumer.

Amazon isn’t in business to sell books. (Or electronics, music, movies, patio furniture, knickknacks, teddy bears, buggy whips, or anything else they have an SKU for.) Amazon is in business to lower prices. The company’s entire business model is about increasing efficiency, lowering overhead, and using that to cut prices so that consumers will shop there instead of the competition. This is a company that is perfectly content (and so are its stockholders) with a net profit margin of less than 1%. Leaving money on the table is what Amazon does.

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Upcoming posts, and an appeal for formatting help

In the past week, I have bought (or, more accurately, received — some of them were paid for weeks ago) nine books, all of which I want to write about in these pages. These are Language of the Night, by Ursula K. LeGuin; The Discarded Image, An Experiment in Criticism, and That Hideous Strength, by C. S. Lewis; and the five volumes of the Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. The Prydain books are replacements for copies that went missing in a house-move several years ago; the others I have not owned before, though I had previously read That Hideous Strength and several of the essays collected in Language of the Night. I have now read or re-read all of the books except the LeGuin, which only arrived this afternoon.

The other night I began a piece on An Experiment in Criticism, but it has grown much larger than I intended, and is desperately ill-focused, so I shall have to go back and prune it severely. That will probably be the first piece to appear.


In other news, Writing Down the Dragon is being held up, because I have developed a desperate fear of formatting errors. I still have never been able to figure out why The End of Earth and Sky displays on certain readers without any paragraph indents; the HTML is immaculate as far as I can tell. Wendy S. Delmater has suggested that I send out a cry for help. I can’t afford any of the reputable ebook formatting services.

So I am asking some of you, my 3.6 Loyal Readers*, to look over the rough ebook conversion and tell me before publication if it contains any visible formatting glitches. I will need to test the MOBI file on an e-ink Kindle, a Kindle Fire, and in the different Kindle apps for Android phones and tablets, iOS, PC, and Mac; some of these I can do myself, but I simply haven’t got access to all the different devices. If you are willing to test my formatting, please leave a comment to let me know. I regret that I can’t offer any payment for your trouble except a free copy of the ebook, but I shall certainly do that much.

Thanks in advance to all.


*Possibly even more than 3.6, in these latter days. Strange are the ways of Providence. I thank you all.


I’m in night mode right now, which is probably a good thing, since the Calgary Stampede has started up, and the drunken revelry down the hill from me doesn’t even begin to quiet down until 3 a.m. Fortunately I like working at night, and I’ve got a fair amount done this weekend: a CreateSpace template, an ebook template, and a lot of boning up on the art and science of book design. I give the details of my process here, in case anyone is interested.

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