I’ve just found out that ‘MICKA’ is now available on Kindle.
A year since it was published, and I only know how well it’s doing from checking my Amazon uk sales rankings – and from this news, which surely represents a leap of faith from Picador. As a way of getting the book read by more people in more places around the world, this is brilliant, and I can’t help feeling excited.
But – and this is part of a bigger but – the fact that Kindle books now outsell ‘real’ ones is not something I am comfortable with. I don’t even own a Kindle myself. I love the feel, smell and look of books in rows and rows on bookshelves all over my house. I couldn’t happily read a bedtime story to a child from a Kindle. Children need to handle and sniff books!
The other issue, which I have deep conflicts over, is Amazon itself. I use it nearly every day. I buy at least fifty books a year online. I live in a remote area where bookshops are at least an hour away by car. And I love the speed of delivery and the vast choice.
But I feel guilty. Recently, that fine author and ethical man Carlo Gébler reminded me about the Net Book Agreement, a contract that gave publishers and booksellers an agreed minimum retail price for books. So, when a publisher signed an author, they knew, and the retailer knew, exactly what return they would get on each copy sold. With the abolition of the NBA, the field was open for supermarkets and online sellers to go ‘three for two’ and cut the RRP to a fraction of its original.
Yes, years of work goes into writing a book. Publishers work as editors to make it even better. Shouldn’t the price reflect this? I feel bad saying this, but although part of me mourns the passing of that chivalric age of NBA, I NEVER EXPECTED to make a living as a novelist. I write from an obsession and a passion to write, and when something I write is published, all I want [and maybe this is ignoble] is for as many people to read it as possible, and for it to be available to everyone – not just those who can afford to pay. As a student, I couldn’t afford to buy all the books I wanted. It is a wonderful thing to be able to buy a book you really want for under a tenner.
And, since Amazon, I buy many more books.
Who’s right? Is this the slippery slope?