the book scene is currently a mess

My mother recently made a visit to our hometown. She had been away going-on ten years now and wanted to make the trip before she was too old to keep traveling. I asked her to visit some of my favorite bookstores for me, privately owned venues I used to frequent when I was a kid. She did, and what she found was . . . discouraging.

Having been situated in the desert equivalent of the boondocks for eight years, I wasn’t aware that physical books were dying as a medium. I know to say they are dying is a bit of an exaggeration. There are still many people who read physical books (I am one) and who buy them. But privately owned book stores are suffering as a result of the ebook craze and powerhouses like Amazon, who aggressively seek to crush all competition with programs like Kindle Select.

When my mother went to my favorite bookstores, she called and told me there were hardly any books on the shelves. One store only had ONE shelf of books.

This is . . . bad. It’s bad because it means people are no longer interested in reading physical books. You’d think as someone who sells ebooks that I’d be happy, but no. And know you why? Because most people who read ebooks expect them to be free or dirt cheap. The ebook craze is effectively destroying the way we distribute literature and at the same time, making life harder for published authors.

I recently wrote a post about giving up on free promotions and Kindle Select because I was basically giving my hard work away for free. What I didn’t realize at the time was that people today expect ebooks to be free. Most people don’t even want to pay three bucks for them. Since I started publishing on Kindle five months ago, I’ve made a steady amount of sells, but most of those sells came from book bloggers who I nudged toward my book and said, “Think you might want to read this?”

The reality is, people want books for free, be they physical books or ebooks.

What I find interesting is that the actual library never put a hamper on the success of published authors. There was no sudden wave of entitlement after the first libraries were built. People kept buying books. Authors (a few) didn’t wind up in the poorhouse.

So why is Kindle’s Lending Library such a pain in the ass? Because it’s purposely built with the intention of crushing other avenues of purchase. Amazon has become such a powerhouse, most people don’t even realize there are hundreds of other places to buy ebooks, other places I plan to use as soon as my KDP run is over.

I do miss that quaint little bookstore I used to go to when I was a teenager. It was owned and run by a little old woman and I loved going there because:

  1. She never profiled me. I wasn’t followed around the store like I was going to steal. She treated me like a fucking customer and not a thief.
  2. She never spoke to me unless it was to help me find a book. She didn’t try to make small talk. She didn’t gush and ooo and awww over a teenage minority who loved to read, as if I was some kind of exotic anomaly that I really wasn’t. She was very helpful and always pointed me toward books that were cheaper, so that I could buy an entire set in one bundle instead of spending more on separate books.
  3. Her books were reasonable prices.
  4. She allowed you to return books or trade.
  5. Her store had fucking everything. Everything fiction you’ve ever heard of, it was in that little store.
  6. She never judged you based on what you liked to read. Ever buy a book and have the cashier sneer at you? This one didn’t.

Yeah. I miss that store. The woman who ran it was really old. I doubt she’d still be alive almost twenty years later, so I will have to content myself with never being able to go back.

I wish I could tell her how grateful I am that she gave me a safe haven — both through her store and through her books — when my life was and always has been one fucked-up hell of isolation and oppression.