On Demand

As a Purveyor of Fine Publications, I have to be constantly aware of how the public is consuming media. It’s not a surprise, I think, to those who visit the Mad Genius Club to hear that consumption of entertainment is in the throes of another sea-change, and has been for a while. You will still, however, run across those who wonder who moved their cheese, or who think that consuming media in one way is the best way and no other way is valid. Friends, we cannot think like that. We have to remain nimble, and ahead of the curve, or at the very least just behind it. We cannot afford to remain at the flat bottom shaking our fists at the wave telling it to stay off our lawn. Not only is the general public not interested in our lawn, they have moved past lawns into xeriscaping and polyculture and are wondering why we’re still insisting on that boring old monoculture of grass. Grass doesn’t do anything, except dry up and get brown when it stops raining every August.

I published a blog post yesterday – and how long have blogs been around? I mean gosh, I remember publishing the school newspaper on the stinky printer in the principal’s office and if a paper jam happened we were flat out of luck. And it wasn’t that long ago fanzines were mimeographed, and now they’re on efanzine and delivered  conveniently to your email (I highly recommend Uncle Timmy’s The Revenge of Hump Day, by the way). But I digress. I published a thing, about books and how cranky I was about certain trends (speaking as a reader) and a lively discussion was sparked in the comments and on social media. Time was, you’d have to go to a con to have that many geeky voices chatting on one subject in that time frame.

One of the facets of the conversation was about Kindle Unlimited. I know we’re all familiar with it here, and have discussed the pros and cons as both authors and readers, but I still find that I have to explain it when I bring it up on social media, and there are a lot of misconceptions out there surrounding it. One seems to be that if a person reads in KU, the author isn’t compensated – we are. We might not get as much as we would were the reader to buy the books, but frankly I understand limits to book spending money, and I’m happy to get a little money than none at all. I suppose if the reader really wanted to support an author for their work (or for, say, their nonfiction outside of paid-work) they can look at the author’s website for a tip button like I have on mine in the upper right corner. Ahem. Or they can read and return the book on KU and then buy it outright. We get paid twice!

Kindle Unlimited, I explained yesterday, is like Netflix, for books. It is, in short, part of the new trend in media consumption. On Demand.

Consumers demand what they want to watch, read, or play right now. They don’t want to wait, they don’t want to sort through what’s on the shelf of the bookstore or video shoppe, and settle for second choices (or third, or fourth, or…). They don’t want to check and see if it’s in the budget. And they aren’t too concerned about re-consumption, if you think about it. Netflix offers the ability to binge-watch a TV show (check out Father Brown if you love crime and humor), a series of movies(Captain America is the best superhero), or discover stuff you didn’t know was out there (Australian crime shows are a lot of fun). As Netflix became more and more popular Hulu came on the scene. You can now purchase passes to most TV channels on-demand. The days of having to subscribe to a $200 a month cable package are gone, folks. And it’s the same way for books. You could buy all the titles you wanted individually, or you can get a reading pass subscription to something like KU (I haven’t tried the others out there, like Scribd) and binge-read to your heart’s content.

I think that’s the way of the future. I watch my kids, and I see them reading. A lot. Not always what I’m coaxing them to read, but they read massive amounts of fanfiction. My Junior Mad Scientist showed me her open tabs on her laptop the other day, and um, yeah. She’s my kid. I didn’t know you could have that many open tabs without crashing the browser. I strongly suspect that as she gets older and her tastes more sophisticated, she will move (as I did, around her age) to a different reading format that isn’t so… unreliable. However, I don’t think that she’ll move on to bookstores and libraries, at least not as I knew them as a teen and young woman. I suspect her world will look a lot more like on-demand access to books, movies, and games. She already has a Steam account, for videogames, as does her brother. I have the admin rights to both, so I can give them games (and see how much they are playing). She has access to my Kindle Library and I can buy her books… like Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones (I got a dual SQUEE! over this one. My girls had seen the movie and didn’t know there was a book).

I appreciate and understand the love for paper books. Heck, last week I was posting glamour shots of some of my dead tree collection here on this very blog, and I’m likely to do so again. (Pulps, anyone? LOL) The reality is that paper is dead, and in more ways than just one. E-ink readers, which I remember reading about a mere 15 years ago as being novelties presented at some Japanese tech convention, are not only common, but relatively cheap. Tablets that can do more than my first computer are so ubiquitous I’ve given one to my 11 yo son, repeatedly. I read on the computer, on my tablet, on my phone… and rarely, in paper. I know I’m not an outlier in this.

So I put all my novels and most of my short works in KU. For the moment, that restricts me to Amazon, but frankly my sales outside Amazon were not sufficient to offset the ‘reads’ I’m paid for through KU. It appears that my monthly royalties are about a 50/50 split between purchases and KU reads. It’s been well worth the move to having my work in KU. And as a reader, it’s great to have access to on-demand books.




      1. *grin* The hardcover copy I ordered of David Eddings’ The Sapphire Rose arrived yesterday. My son’s gonna get the Elenium and Tamuli to read. Going to start searching for The Belgariad and Malloreon next.

        Dreamed a strangely vivid dream where I was a high school girl -blonde, American- in a small town somewhere with lots of farm and trees – I almost want to say South Carolina. I was leaving school with my arms full of textbooks I needed for homework over the weekend, my mind on getting home, having a sandwich and shower before heading out for my part time job at the local florist- and as I was crossing a bridge I get snatched and dragged into a white van.

        Jolted awake at that point and was breathing hard because I woke at the point of screaming. O.o

  1. KU, ebooks, dead tree editions. If an author is good enough they can get the trifecta of being paid. 🙂
    I loved the concept of ebooks when I ran across them years ago (hello Baen free library and ebooks). I originally was reading them on a palm pilot purchased for that express purpose. First Kindle was purchased back in 2011 when the prices had come down. Not saying I don’t do dead tree’s anymore. I found the convenience of carrying umpteen number of books without breaking my back to be liberating.

  2. a $60 Kindle Fire tablet is actually an order of magnitude faster than the computers that the VFX for Babylon 5 were done on. I’d actually wager they are almost an order of magnitude faster than the ones we used on the last season of Voyager.

  3. I’ve gotten as far as glumly acknowledging that it’s time for a new learning experience–audio books. Haven’t taken the first step yet, but I really do need to.

        1. That was my problem when I tried to listen to one a few years back. But I do listen to podcasts and enjoy them, so I’m wondering if it was the book/narrator. And I get a lot of requests for my work in audio.

            1. I bet it does. Long-haul drivers are a huge audio-book market.

              Kinda OT, but when Dr. Karl Haas (“Adventures in Good Music”) died, his NPR eulogy mentioned that some of his most devoted fans were truckers. In fact, his first call-in was from a truck drover, as was the last one one his last program. *bittersweet smile* I loved that radio show. For a sample: http://www.electricka.com/etaf/etafhomepages/features/feature_list/biographies/karl_haas/karl_haas_home.htm

              1. Consider an ordinary 30-minute commute. That’s an hour a day you could be listening to an audiobook. Add in side trips, standing in line in stores, and other places where you can’t whip out a printed book or a tablet, and you’re going through an average-length audiobook every week.

                If you’re someone like me who can listen to audiobooks while working, you go through a lot of audiobooks.

                Yes, I’m not real thrilled with being read to either; the data rate of audio is sooo sloooww compared to reading. But it beats the heck out of standing around in a clinically zomboid state…

        1. That’s what gives me pause. I know what Rada’s accent sounds like inside my head, but for an actor to try to duplicate it? And Azdhag, since they rely so much on inflection and posture? Erk!

          1. Yeah, alien accents. Eek! I can at least say “New England accent” “Texan” “Average American” “British” “Arab influenced English” and so forth.

  4. I started really enjoying e-books when I picked up a used HP Palm Top computer. Small enough to fit in a coat pocket and light enough to read in bed.

    These days I have my Kindle 6″ for outside, a Fire Tablet to download media (Amazon Prime Video) for off line use, and an assortment of tablets.

    Two or three screens active with a video, book, and social media going is fun.

    I’m good with KU as long as my author friends are, and buy when I can too.

  5. I must sadly admit I have 100% stopped buying books and magazines. The car magazines I used to buy have been reformatted to appeal to people with the attention span of a squirrel. They feature $300,000 cars and how-to articles I’ve seen a billion times already.

    Because I don’t do the e-book thing, I go to the bookstore and come home empty handed most of the time. I want to read, but I don’t want to read one more book re-hashing the same goddamn Culture War tropes and themes that have been getting done over and over and over since they were “New And Fresh!” in the 1970’s.

    I pick up a book, I look at the blurb: “Our Hero is a dithering knob with no moral character whatsoever. He must face the greatest challenge in his life, defeating Evil Conservative Corporation as they attempt to do Bad Thing and turn the Human Race to Something Unpleasant. But first he must un-jam his stapler!”


    “Aliens decide humans are cockroaches and step in the save the Earth. Our Hero agrees and helps them with the extermination to Save The Planet!!!”


    “Our Hero is a bold transwhatsit struggling to get by in the ghetto, where she is a slave to drugs and Evil Corporation. Observe her struggle along hopelessly and finally die, along with all her friends.”

    Rinse, repeat, by 100 times. I go home, and sigh, and watch Face-Off.

    Has anyone read the blurb for the latest Charles Stross effort? It’s a Laundry book. He’s all over the Interwebz apologizing that it doesn’t go after Conservatives and religion -enough-, because it was written pre-Brexit and pre-Trump. Next time he’ll REALLY tell us how he feels.

    I used to like the Laundry. But now, its just stupid yelling. And yelling at me, the reader. The last one was a long Atheist rant against everything in life.

    There are a couple things I’m looking forward to. MHI of course, in hard cover. Anything else LC releases. But seriously, ONE GUY? I have to wait for one guy to hurry up and keep me entertained?

    I do if I want to buy it at the ONLY bookstore in Canada, apparently. LC is pretty much the only name making it on the stock lists. Dave Freer? Nope. Sarah Hoyt? Rarely. Cedar Sanderson who?


    I like to shop for paper books. I like the nice big store. I like the coffee. I have money, even. Enough for books. Nope. They do not want me for a customer. The bookstore and the publishers between them have filtered things sufficiently that I’m off the customer list.

    I’m off a three-to-four book a week habit here. Casualty of the Culture War.

    You guys decided me. I’m buying a Kindle and doing it that way. Maybe my characters will have fun with the other characters up there in the back of my mind.

    1. You won’t regret it. The indy market has a hell of a lot more to offer then the big box publisher fronts. Prices are much better too.

    2. Phantom, if you get into the Cat series, I apologize in advance that _Clawing Back from Chaos_ is not available at Amazon.ca because of the “Islamophobia Law.” If you decide you want to read it, let me know and we can work something out.

        1. I can’t risk selling the Kindle version in Canada, UK, Australia, or the EU because parts of it might violate their various hate-speech rules. The print version is not supposed to be available, but I’m still hammering that out with Createspace. If I get a complaint, I may have to pull the print version from all markets unless I can find some way to limit distribution.

          Right now I can’t afford to be sued, either financially or job-wise. 😦

      1. Just checked and the paperback version is available at $17.99 . No kindle version though.

    3. I find that Charles Stross’s series are good science fiction up until he lets his political or religious prejudices influence the plot. With the Laundry he did that in the fourth book, where the villain is a malicious caricature of an American televangelist. I haven’t read any of the books after that, but going by secondhand reports the latest entry is Grey Goo.

  6. We might not get as much as we would were the reader to buy the books …

    Haha, I do! Seriously, Colony is long enough (epics for the win) that even though the ebook costs $7.99, a KU read nets me about $2 more.

    Another one of my books breaks even with the KU payout, another currently makes almost double, though that’s a cheap one, so it’s easy …

    The funny thing is a lot of my readers buy the books rather than read them on KU because they want me to earn the most money.

    But a reader is a reader. I’m happy either way.

    Also, I know this doesn’t work for everyone. Writing large books is an anathema for a lot of writers, I know. But for those of us that produce epics, KU is wonderful.

    1. I don’t know that writing large books is anethema, but I do love that we can now write to the story, rather than an artificially imposed word count, which could either limit one, or force a book to be fluffed out badly.

      1. A lot of indie authors advise to avoid large books, or to split anything over two-hundred or three-hundred pages into two or more works to “maximize value.” I’ve been told numerous times online by other authors that ‘no one buys large books, especially from indie authors,’ or even just more pragmatic and profit oriented advice of ‘it’s better to sell three 150 page books at $3 apiece than one 450 page book for $6.’

        Now, to be perfectly fair, that doesn’t at all invalidate what you pointed out about either dragging a work out or compressing it too far. This is a valid point, and plenty of indie books have been padded by trying to split one longer book into several smaller, more profitable works.

        But I have been told numerous times that ‘large books don’t sell,’ ‘large books aren’t profitable,’ etc etc in my journey from starting out to having a number of books under my belt. Plenty have heard of the length of “Colony,” for example, and scoffed at me, deriding the selling of a 1750-page Epic and declaring that it should have been numerous smaller works.

        My point being it’s a common harp I hear played, but I think it’s shortsighted.

        Again, not invalidating “A story needs to be the length it needs to be.” I write epics, so naturally these vast worlds with political interplay, planet-spanning plots, etc, etc, all take a lot of pages. I’ve written and released shorts too (and my first title was a novella).

        But I have been given a lot of “advice” from other authors to never market a long book. Epics then, in my experience, are not as prevalent or advised in the writing market.

        1. I’m not sure how page count translates to word count. I would, indeed, advise someone whose work was well over 250K words and headed for, say 500K words, to break it into volumes and publish those separately. But that’s more a nod to reader endurance! Also, with a really huge file, your transmission costs go up and eat into sales profit. But if the book wants to be 300K words, there’s no reason for it not to be *unless you want to put it in print, where it will be awkward to hold.

          1. Haha, yeah, once you pass around 250,000 words a hardcover stops being a book and starts becoming a tome. And at around 350,000, it moves from tome to “probable murder weapon.”

            Of course, wordcount and pagecount don’t perfectly correlate. Fonts, text sizes, etc, all play a part. Plus formatting (chapter breaks add up with a long book). I’ve already used the rough estimate of 33,000 words being roughly equivalent to 100 pages, but I’ve found KU is more generous (which is awesome). While Colony is only around 360,000 words, which would be about 1200 pages by my reckoning, KU lists it as 1750. Which is cool; I make more cash! On a side note: most readers on KU finish it all in under a week, many in three days. The sequel is on its way.

            Transmission costs I don’t worry about as much. I think the cost for Colony is about a dime. Even when the book depreciates to “Hero” status and is half the price it is now, ten cents or so isn’t much. For books with lots of images, it’s a very valid fear, but text is small and tiny size-wise.

              1. I think some people just look at the price without checking the page count. So they really will happily buy three $2.99 ebooks, and pass by the same thing in a single ebook for $7.99. “Never heard of the guy. Proud of himself, isn’t he? I would never pay that much for an ebook.”

                1. Boy, am I glad I don’t have to rely on consumers that are that detached from being interested in books. Anyone who’s skimming through books going “No, yes, no, no, yes, no” without a second glance isn’t going to be anyone who gets much out of most books anyway.

                  Thankfully they’re a rare breed. Most people would rather buy a good read than toss money aimlessly. For all the talk I’ve heard about “No one sells ebooks over $3.99” I’ve yet to actually meet anyone who’s that stringent. The closest I’ve found are poor college students … and then they’d rather save for the one they want than risk tossing $3 at a book that’s never set a baseline other than “Look how cheap my stuff is!”

                  Quality over quantity is a reputation all of its own.

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