The Realities I

I’ve gotten a lot of questions on the subject of when  Reswyt is going to be available in [hardback/paperback]. Sorry. It’s not going to be. Not now, and, if I continue to have anything to say about it, not ever. The next two books in the series won’t be, either.

And I’ll tell you at least four reasons why.

First, raw economics. A publish-to-order system, like CreateSpace, offers me the following economics for 380-page Reswyt: if I’d like to see any compensation from the book – and I mean any – I’d have to charge $15.99 for it. At which price point I would see a total of $0.49/copy, while Amazon cheerfully pockets $15.50. Trade paperbacks do not sell for $15.99, as you know, and there’s a reason for that; publishers print huge volumes of the book and hope to sell them all. If they don’t, they get remaindered – sold cheap. But even if I felt great about bulk printing (and I don’t – see point to follow), and had gone with a traditional publisher, Reswyt would still have been $5.99 or $7.99, and I still would have seen fifty cents a copy – or less. Either way, you pay more and I receive less for the work.  A Kindle-only book enables me to sell Reswyt very inexpensively and still see a fair proportion of the proceeds.

Second, environmental impact. A typical production run of a book might be 5,000 to 10,000 copies. Now, there’s no particularly ghoulish math in the number of trees it would require to make 10,000 books; depending on whose figures you care to accept, it might only take 10 trees to make 10,000 books. Yes, I see you in the corner, shouting even ten trees is ten trees too many. Duly noted; thanks. I would, in fact, rather have a zero-deforestation impact. But the trees are only the beginning of the problem;  it’s the production that’s the real environmental nightmare. It requires 324 liters of water to produce just 1 kilogram of paper; in fact, paper-making is the single most water-intensive process, per kilogram of finished product, of any industry. The paper-making industry is also the third-largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world, and the third-largest industrial buyer of elemental chlorine. Cutting down trees is bad, but on a ratio basis, not particularly abhorrent. It’s what happens once the trees enter a paper mill that I find abhorrent. If no better solution existed, I would have found a way to share Reswyt on paper – grudgingly. But that better solution does exist. Why wouldn’t I push readers toward it?

Third, it’s the future of indie work.  TuneCore revolutionized the music industry in 2005 by making worldwide music distribution – to  iTunes, Amazon, Zune Marketplace, Rhapsody, et al  – easy, cost-effective, and ubiquitously available, fostering an unprecedented explosion in the diversity and volume of new music available to the public. A quick scan of my iTunes and Spotify accounts tells me that the majority of new groups I enjoy are selling through TuneCore via their own labels. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the TuneCore of the independent author; it’s the shortest, most cost-efficient route for authors to put new work in front of an audience. And I want to encourage that. I’m not one of the indie authors issuing long, ranting screeds on the subject of the death/evil/greed of the publishing industry. The industry is not going anywhere soon, it’s got its place in this world, and I respect – at some level – the function it performs. As long as bored sales execs keep flying around the country, or wasps need killing, you’ll see volume paperbacks printed and stocked. But you’re not going to see a ton of independent author content come through the traditional publishing houses, and increasingly, you’re going to see more new authors go this route.

Fourth, e-readers have reached a magical price point. You can have an ad-sponsored current-gen Kindle for $79. Your last oil change probably cost more; your last hair appointment almost certainly did. If you’re any kind of serious reader at all, you’re going to spend far more than $79 on books during the course of a year, and – as mentioned above – virtually every Kindle book you’ll buy will cost less than its paper counterpart. Columnists have even begun to ponder whether a Kindle can pay for itself (short answer, yes, but only if your book consumption level remains the same). Add in the fact that you can also add Kindle reading apps to your smartphone, your tablet, and your PC, and your library becomes an ‘everywhere’ phenomenon. Now consider that your copy of a book never gets wet, never gets dogeared, can be lent out to other Kindle owners, can be read on multiple devices simultaneously, that virtually every ‘classic’ book is available for free on the Kindle, and that library lending is now active, and the case for owning one becomes pretty plain. In other words, I’d be publishing on paper for a dwindling minority of reading enthusiasts.

So no – you’re not going to see it twirling about the wire racks of the airport bookstore. And I’m OK with that.

Hope you are, too.

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