I’ve been excessively ill as of late, so I haven’t really gotten to do as much as I would have liked. This is a bit unfortunate, but there’s not much I could do about it. I’ve mostly been huddled up in a sweatshirt and pajama pants, feeling achy and cold. Not too fun. I’m working on carrying on now, though. I don’t usually get sick too often, and not for multiple days when I do, so it kind of bothers me, but I know to take it easy or I’ll just keep staying sick.
Anyways! Besides sickness, a lot of things are happening in the e-book world, of which I figured I’d chime in and talk about. The bigger one as of now is Oyster Books and their Oyster reading app, which will be available for the iPhone supposedly sometime by the end of the month. I don’t know their exact begin date, so it could be more like the beginning of October, I guess, but it’ll be here soon.
For those who don’t know, Oyster is going to be a buffet-style e-book subscription service where you can read as many books as you like for only $9.95 a month. It’s similar to Amazon Prime in some ways, and not really in others. Mostly the borrowing. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you get to borrow one book a month that’s in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL for short). Most of the books in the KOLL are from indie authors or Amazon imprints from what I know, though I believe a few are from traditional publishers.
Now, random side trip here, but the KOLL is good and bad in some ways. First, you can only borrow one book, and it costs like… $80 a year or so (or $40 if you can get the student discount, which is a great deal). If you consider anywhere from $1 to $5 being a good price for most e-books (that’s what I consider a good price, at least), then you’re looking at anywhere from $12 to $60 worth of free books over the course of your subscription. This sounds weird at first, because you’re paying $80, but… you also get a ton of free streaming video through Amazon’s video thing (I totally forget what it’s called, I don’t use it), and you also get free 2-day shipping on a ton of Amazon products (I love this!). If 2 days isn’t fast enough, you can upgrade it to 1 day for $3.99.
So Amazon Prime isn’t just for book borrowing. Also, the only way you can borrow books is if you own a Kindle device. I have Amazon Prime, but I don’t own a Kindle, so that’s kind of sad, but I order a lot of stuff because I’m weird, and the free 2-day shipping is great, even if the UPS and Fed Ex delivery men probably don’t like me by now (I order a lot of small and dumb things).
This isn’t about Amazon Prime, it’s about Oyster and their e-book subscription thing, but I thought you should know what the only other real competitor is as of now (that I know of) and what they offer. Amazon Prime gives you less books in your subscription, but you get more other things, which is neat.
Oyster is just books, and you get as many books as you want. You aren’t going to get the same books as what’s on Amazon, though. You aren’t going to get those, because for the most part, for a book to be in the KOLL, the author has to agree to an exclusivity clause stating that they can’t make their book available in digital format anywhere except Amazon for 90 days (after which they can lose their KOLL “membership” or renew it for another 90 days). So Oyster just won’t have the same books as Amazon does ever, or at least not at the same time. That’s not a positive or negative, it’s just how it is.
Now… Oyster also offers you unlimited books for only $9.95, but… as an author, I have issues with this. Or, rephrasing that, I might have issues with this. Amazon Prime pays authors for borrowed books, and they pay at a really competitive rate. If you borrow one of my books for free (I have a couple that you can if you want), I get pretty much the same amount as if you’d bought the book. So you get it for free (for awhile, at least. You have to “give it back” eventually, but you can read it for free), and I get paid the same. That’s pretty neat, huh? I think so!
Oyster won’t announce their payment to authors yet, which is kind of a huge red flag. Smashwords, my potential distributor for them, also won’t be announcing the payment structure until 3 days before Oyster goes live. I write because I love to write, but one of the only ways I can continue to do this and provide quality material is if I’m paid for it, you know? I would seriously like nothing more than to live in some Bohemian society where everyone can do the things they like, and no one has to pay for anything, and we can all be creative and do whatever, but… my landlord prefers that I pay him my rent and the electric company doesn’t like it if I don’t pay them for the electricity they send me, and so on and so forth.
So I try to price my books as cheaply as possible, and sometimes I even give them away for free, but this is my career, so I can’t do that Bohemian lifestyle romanticized thing, you know?
I don’t know if that’s what Oyster wants me to do. I couldn’t tell you what they want me to do, because they won’t even tell me. They would like my books, and a lot of other people’s books, but they won’t tell us what they’ll give us in return for having our books available to their subscribers, which is kind of scary. It’s like going for a job interview, and the hiring manager says he definitely wants to hire you, but he won’t tell you what he’s going to pay you for working. Do you do it anyways, and then hope for the best? Or do you decline and go somewhere else?
It’s not exactly that, but it kind of is, too.
It’s not my favorite situation to be in, to be completely honest. I would love to offer you all my books on a subscription service basis. I know some of you could probably read a ton of them and get a great deal from it. I would be happy to do this if Oyster is offering competitive payments to authors, but I’m not sure if this is the case. If they were, why are they hiding it now? There’s really no reason to, from what I can tell. Or, there’s no reason to hide something unless you have something to hide, and… in this case I don’t want that something hidden from me.
Because of this, I don’t think Oyster is going to be very good. I know this is premature and I know a lot of people might be excited for it (because, honestly? It sounds really exciting), but I just wanted to go at it from another point of view as a “content provider.”
I love when people read my books. I give books away quite a lot, and I offer sales on books, too. I have paperbacks that are discounted, e-books that are discounted, permanently at $0.99, or some are even free. I have freebies I give away to you all if you’re a newsletter subscriber, too.
The thing there is that -I- and giving them away, and thus I’m not making anything from it, and that’s my choice. I do it because I like to, and I know that not everyone can afford to buy everything they like all the time, so I try to make it a little easier for you to buy the things you want if one of those things is something I have. I like doing that.
I don’t like giving someone something and then them turning around and selling it for a profit without providing me with anything, and I’m afraid that’s essentially what Oyster is going to become. It’s extremely unlikely they can stick with the same terms as Amazon has, and with an all-you-can-read subscription service, it’s unlikely they can do even half that. (To be completely honest, I’d go for half that, personally, at least for some things) So… for all I know right now (which is nothing, because they won’t tell me, or you, or anyone, really), they want me to provide them with free content so that they can charge for it and make a profit off of it.
I don’t like that and I don’t agree with that. It’s not a really nice thing to do, first off, and second it’s somewhat manipulative and rude (which are not nice things, so it’s like triply not nice, I suppose). It may turn out that they’re NOT doing this, in which case I’ll admit that I was wrong, but they literally just won’t tell anyone, so…
If you want some great deals, and free content, and all of that, I’d personally suggest you just sign up for my newsletter. My newsletter is 100% free, and if you like my sales and what I have to offer, I can basically guarantee you that you’ll get around ~$12+ worth of savings -at least-. And then my freebies (that you can download whenever, and keep forever), would add more savings to that. And I’m planning some holiday sales, and other sales… you’re looking at a pretty good deal. Free or drastically discounted e-books for… free. No subscription necessary, really (or, well, my newsletter is kind of a subscription, but it’s a fun one, and different than other stuff).
Also, honestly? I know not everyone likes buying e-books at Amazon, but Amazon Prime is a great deal. You can even get a free 30-day trial, which is kind of amazing. (Oyster doesn’t have any trial, from what I know, though they haven’t fully released yet, so I don’t know the full details)
This was way longer than I expected, but I just wanted to inform you all of Oyster and why I might not be participating (and why other authors you enjoy might not, either). You’ll still be able to find most of my books at the same places you always have, though. I currently have two shorter titles enrolled for the KOLL, so if you’re an Amazon (Prime) type of person you can buy (borrow them for free) there, plus I will be offering them for free on a rolling 90 day schedule (5 days at a time) whenever I can.
Random side note to that, but I’m actually hoping to eventually have enough of those so that I can have one story free on Amazon for 5 days at a time on a permanent basis (so one is free for 5 days, then another is free for 5 days, and then another… and so on and so forth), to provide you all with an even better deal. Anyone can read Amazon books with their Kindle app, PC reader, or on the Kindle Cloud servers on your computer, so even if you prefer to shop at B&N most times, you can grab them on the free days and check them out if you want.
Besides Oyster, would you like an e-book subscription service? I think it could be neat in theory, to be honest. I love my Netflix account. I also watch shows on Hulu a lot, but I don’t pay for Hulu+(or Plus, whatever they call it) so I get ads (like commercials), but I don’t mind them. I used to pay for Pandora for music, but they got rid of the monthly limit and added ads instead, so I just do that now. I know not everyone likes ads, but I don’t mind them if I get the content for free. I actually kind of like it. Hulu pays its content providers a pretty good amount per ad (I believe they split the profits 50:50, but don’t quote me on that), and it’s a really fair deal, so by watching the ads I honestly feel like I’m really helping the producers of the show (and then I get to watch the show for free, too!). Kind of a win/win/win there (Hulu wins, too, because they put the shows up, you know?).
I think I might like something like that, if it was possible. Like… if you could read e-books for free, but they had ads in them? And the author got paid for those ads? I envision it somewhat like watching TV and seeing commercials. I mean, I might skip the commercials, but sometimes I don’t mind commercials. Sometimes I really like commercials if they’re interesting, too. Is that weird? I don’t know.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!