Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Where Do You Buy Your Books?

December 9th, 2011

I buy almost all my books at Amazon. Odds are good that you do too, and our reasons are probably similar:

1. Been shopping there for years and years
2. Pricing is excellent
3. My account is there
4. Very convenient and easy to use
5. I have a Kindle—purchased books automagically appear on my device with no effort on my part.

I’ll also say that sales at Amazon account for the majority of sales on books I’ve published through my company, Mythic Island Press LLC, and while that doesn’t add up to nearly enough to make a living, without Amazon I would have little hope for future success. Most writers are in the same situation. I wish it weren’t so, because it’s always worrisome when one agency holds most of the power.

If you follow indie publishing, you’ve probably already heard that Amazon has made a new offer to independent publishers. Details are all over the web but in essence, Amazon is asking for the exclusive right to sell an author’s ebooks — meaning the books won’t be available at any other vendor — in exchange for a very uncertain amount of additional money. It’s possible some writers could benefit from this program, but I won’t be one of them. It took a lot of effort to get the rights back on my books and to re-publish them as ebooks, and as print books too. I like being in control of my distribution; I like being able to offer readers alternatives; and I really like the security of not having all my eggs in one basket.

My books are, and will continue to be, available at Amazon—but there are other places to shop for books. Some of the more obvious are Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords. I’m not currently selling at all those places, but lots of writers are. One of the less obvious places to look for books is an author’s own website. I’m not selling ebooks from my website, but more and more authors are, with the result that, less transaction fees, every penny paid goes directly and immediately to the writer, with no portion lost to a middleman, and no time spent waiting for the check to arrive. There is no better way to support a writer’s future work, then by buying direct.

And then there is Book View Café. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve heard me talk about BVC before. Book View Café is an author’s cooperative of over thirty professionals in several different genres working together to publish and promote DRM-free ebooks in both mobi (Kindle) and epub (Nook) formats. Buying a book from BVC is not quite as convenient as buying from Amazon. You have to download the file and then transfer it to your reader. But you’ll receive a reasonably priced and professionally produced book, along with the knowledge that 95% of the purchase price (less transaction fees) will go to the author. I hope you’ll consider that a worthy result!

Below is a list of names you can find at Book View Café. For more details, look here. And please, stop by and browse!

Le Guin

Posted on: Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 1:08 pm
Categories: Publishing.
Tags: ,

9 Responses to “Where Do You Buy Your Books?”

  1. Tord Says:

    I’d prefer to buy directly from the author — they deserve every penny or cent from the sales! Cut out the ticks, fleas and vultures also known as middle hands. All you need is a USB–Kindle (if that’s your reader) cable.

  2. Tess Says:

    I’ve actually re-purchased several of your books from BVC that I had originally bought on Amazon. I prefer to have DRM-free versions where I can to avoid vendor lock-in. Thanks for all the choices!

  3. Linda Says:

    @Tord– Agreed! I think more of us would do it if there was a nice piece of software to easily manage emailing the ebook as soon as it’s purchased.

  4. Linda Says:

    @Tess–Thanks so much! The other GREAT benefit of BVC is that prices are the same for everyone around the world, which is definitely not the case at Amazon.

  5. Glen Says:

    I really wanted to like BVC, and to buy from them. I also want DRM-free books that avoid vendor lock-in (nice phrasing, Tess). However, it’s an iron-clad rejection for me that they do PayPal, and that they don’t do Google Shopping. The latter already has my credit card (along with Amazon). My web searches have only confirmed why I’ll never trust the former.

  6. Linda Says:

    The best solution is for us to grow BVC large enough to justify our own merchant account, or to offer multiple solutions. Let’s hope it happens.

  7. Ted Lemon Says:

    I hate to be negative, because I really think something like BVC is a good idea in principal. But I think you are probably _most_ of your potential sales because the site has such a bad user interface. It’s hard work getting people to your site: when you get them there, you want it to be dead easy for them to buy something, and saving money in a way that creates friction in the sales process is just wasting all the money and/or effort you spent getting them to the site in the first place.

    Generally speaking, when I clicked on something on the site, I didn’t get what I wanted. If I want to see a list of books by a particular author, I have to go to a specific page for that, and it’s not the page I get when I click on that author’s information. I had this experience several times when looking around the site—I’d click on something expecting to see one thing, and the page that I wound up on turned out to be something completely different and, more importantly, useless.

    I eventually decided to buy one of Vonda McIntyre’s books, but when I went to buy it I stumbled over two problems. First, it requires me to use Paypal, which I don’t like on principle. But I was prepared to hold my nose and suffer through it for the sake of the common good.

    The next problem though was that what appeared in my shopping card was a “subscription”. What does this mean? Is the book not complete? Is it being serialized? I suspect it’s just something stupid about how the Paypal interface works, but there’s no information at all on the site that explains what’s going on here.

    If you want to seriously test the theory that you can make more money selling books directly, which I think is a pretty plausible theory, your e-commerce site has to work, and work well. If you do a half-assed site, you’re going to lose so many sales that the sales you do get aren’t going to tell you anything.

    I’d be willing to bet you’re making more money on Amazon, even though they’re taking a bigger cut, because their site flows well and behaves as you would expect.

    You might want to check out for credit card stuff. They are a pain in the neck to get working, but once they _are_ working they work well for the user, which is what you need if you’re going to get any kind of substantial sales. I think they’re also pretty reasonably priced. We use their SIM (Server Integration Method) service, because it allows us to not ever see the customer’s credit card (and hence not have to worry about getting hacked and exposing credit card information if that happens).

    Sorry to be so negative about a site that obviously took a lot of work to create, but I’d really like to see you succeed at this, because there’s just not enough money in the revenue stream of high quality fiction to justify as many middlemen as there are now. I think something like this, only done a lot better, is one of the more plausible ways to address that problem.

  8. Linda Says:

    Ted, your comments are appreciated and I agree with most of them. BVC is on the verge of launching a new ecommerce store, which will address some of the issues you mentioned and make the whole buying process easier. But it remains a work in progress and the issue of credit card processing other than by PayPal is a challenge for the future.

    I appreciate the recommendation of I’ve worked with them on several ecommerce projects in the past, and they were the company I’d recommend to clients. Unfortunately the BVC store, past and future, was designed before I was onboard to add in my two-cents.

    I hope you don’t mind if I share your comments with the other co-op members. Thanks again.

  9. Ted Lemon Says:

    The reason for the detailed comments was so you could use them in whatever way you want to improve the store, so yes, please share them. BTW, one more argument in favor of at the moment (although I don’t know how true it will continue to be) is that the vig is “only” about 2.8% as compared to 4.2% for paypal. This is true of our site, at least—not sure if it would hold true for you.