Kindle: The Greatest Publishing Business Model Since Gutenberg
Consider the Cost of Kindle
(1) An automatic, wireless phone call and data transfer from Amazon’s server to my Kindle.
Steps 1 to 20 above are unnecessary. Whether it be an 85-year-old backlist title like “Gatsby” or a current one, the system is hugely profitable for everyone concerned.
For example, I was watching Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” on MSNBC. He was interviewing Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe (a regular guest) about his new account of the 2008 election, “Renegade: The Making of a President.” (Obama’s Secret Service handle during the campaign was Renegade.)
I grabbed my Kindle, “shopped the Kindle store,” and “Renegade” was in my hands before the interview with Wolffe was finished. My cost for this e-book (which has a publisher’s msrp of $27) was $14.30—less than Amazon is charging for the hardcover edition ($15.60 plus shipping).
Other Kindle Benefits
- The battery lasts for hours. Once the type is flecked on the reading surface, no further electricity is used. Only the turning—or changing—of the page requires a tiny shot of juice. A drain on the battery does occur when you turn on the wireless to communicate with the Kindle store, but you learn to make the transaction quickly and turn off the wireless component.
- My old Kindle can contain 200 titles. The new Kindle holds 1,500 titles—enough to take care of a cross-country flight, as one journalist wrote. My friend Gordon Grossman cruises the world six to eight months a year. In the past, he had to lug 60 pounds of books to the ship and store them in his cabin. Now he's a Kindle devotee.
- Instead of lugging a cumbersome hardcover book around, Kindle is a pocket-sized jewel just 5-1/3" x 8" and weighs a mere 10.2 ounce. With the push of two buttons, I can change the font size from tiny to H-U-G-E.
- With 300,000 titles in print (so far), I can have two, three or more books going on my Kindle at once. It remembers my place whenever I switch to a different title.
- No risk for the publisher. In the main lobby of BookExpo were two giant banners touting Dan (“The Da Vinci Code”) Brown’s upcoming novel, “The Lost Symbol.” Doubleday is printing 5 million for September release. Let’s say the thing is a crashing bore—as dense and ponderous as the Tom Hanks film of “The Da Vinci Code.” Under the consignment system, Doubleday must take back all unsold copies. If 4 million of the things come back, Doubleday and the environment will take massive hits. The only guaranteed profits in book publishing come from the e-book (if there is one).
Note to Tina Brown
Before mouthing off on subjects you know nothing about, study the business model. Do the arithmetic first.