For the most part since becoming a published author, I have had to accept that I'm really not a reader any more. In my public persona I can't talk the same way about books as I used to when I was "only a reader".
But I am a reader and I buy books and when I read Jane's post at Dear Author last weekend "Dear Publishers: What have you done for me lately" that post was speaking for me as a reader.
When I bought my Sony reader a few years ago it didn't take long for me to fall in love with it. I loved the instant gratification of being able to buy a book in the middle of the night when I had insomnia. Being an avid reader, I calculated that it wouldn't take long to recoup the cost of the device because ebooks were so much cheaper than tree books. At first I bought most of my books from the Sony Bookstore and I loved how easy it was to just click and automatically have the book in my library. Then I started running into problems. Some of the books I wanted to buy were not available to me because I live in Canada. These were often new releases by favourite authors, books I was excited and anxious to read. I got annoyed. I complained to Sony. They apologized and said they were working on it. Then things changed again and I could buy some of these books. But they were often priced over $10. Sometimes $13 or $14.
In Canada, print books are priced much higher than the US price - so I am used to paying more for books. Even when the US and Canadian dollar are equal in value, there is still a "Canadian" price on the book that is several dollars higher. In the past I shelled out $18 for a trade paperback by a favourite author without flinching. I am fortunate that I have disposable income to spend on my "hobby" which is reading.
But spending $14 on an ebook just didn't sit right with me.
I don't have a Kindle so I can't shop at Amazon, although I do have the Kindle app on my PC and have bought a few things and downloaded some free books.
Then I discovered Kobo.
A Canadian (at that time) company with fewer restrictions on the books available to me! They sell epub format and it works on my Sony. And often the prices were cheaper than at the Sony store! I was in heaven! So long Sony, I'm doing all my shopping at the Kobo store. I now also read on my BlackBerry Playbook, which has the Kobo store app preloaded on it and makes it super easy to buy books; but I can also read epub and PDF formats on the Playbook so I can buy elsewhere as well.
But once again, something changed. Once again, the books I want to buy are priced too high.
Last week Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books Tweeted a couple of coupon codes for Kobo - 35% and 40% off. Well, I was all over that. I could have my expensive "wish list" with 40% off! But no - when I tried to purchase the book and use the code, I was told due to publisher restrictions I could not use the code. So sadly I did not buy the books. That makes me sad for my fellow authors, who lost a sale because of restrictions their publisher put on their books. It doesn't make sense!
I'm a good customer for the publishing industry. Admittedly I don't read as much as I used to now that much of my time is taken up with virtually my second full time job of writing; but I'm still a very avid reader, one with disposable income to spend on books. Why make it so hard for me to do that? It doesn't make sense!
When I can't buy the books I want to buy, I still want to read. I go elsewhere. In the past I would go to the library. I would frequently check the "Express" book shelf, where new releases are loaned out for seven days, no holds, no renewals. I would also put a hold on new releases by favourite authors, especially if the book was only available in hard cover, and wait months until my turn came up. I didn't often shop at used bookstores, mainly because I'm such an avid reader that used books by my favourite authors are almost always ones I've already read.
Now when I can't buy books I want, where do I go? While I can access some digital books through my library, the selection is limited. So I buy directly from publishers' websites like Samhain and Ellora's Cave. I'm finding new authors to love while the big NY pubs who put restrictions on what I can buy or who charge too much are losing my business.
Jane said: "Here are some recommendations to win over readers. Eliminate DRM. Sell direct to Kindle owners using a mobi format. Remove agency pricing. Allow the return of readership rewards programs, loyalty programs, discounts as print readers are allowed. Wholeheartedly embrace the idea of lending and sharing of digital books. Allow discovery of books via libraries. Eliminate geographical restrictions. Encourage the concept of ownership to increase value of the digital books to the readers."
The suggestion for publishers unhappy with Amazon's terms of service to start selling directly to the consumer - YES! I know this would work because this is what I've been doing, forced to do so by publishers' restrictions and high pricing. Let me borrow more digital books from the library. Let me exchange digital books with friends.
I really hope that publishers are paying attention to those suggestions. These are things that would win me, one of your best customers, back, and frankly…you need me.