I read with increasing fury the news of Amazon’s new royalty payment for authors who self-publish books for the Kindle. The Telegraph reported this new plan this morning. Rather than paying a royalty when the book is purchased like a traditionally published book, self published authors are now going to paid by the number of pages of the book the customer actually reads. This is a frightening way to value books and a very scary way to observe readers’ habits. So, if someone downloads a book but only reads 10 pages, then the author gets that percentage of his or her royalty.
I am having a very hard time wrapping my head around this. Let’s start with the tracking what and how people are reading. That Amazon knows just how far into a book people read is creepy. What’s even creepier is they are using this information against authors. Let’s face it, not every book gets finished, but that doesn’t mean the author should be paid less. I can see the devious minds at Amazon, who allow just about anything to be self-published and available for Kindle download, trying to figure out a way around someone getting their friends and family to buy their book when they have little intention of actually reading it. To penalize authors for working within this system seems wrong.
The larger issue for me is the keeping tabs on when people stop reading a book. I have left books unfinished for months and then gone back to finish them. Does Amazon have a time limit for how long a book remains unread? Do they allow for an illness, new job, or addition to the family before someone finishes a book? This is a flawed system. Can you imagine what would happen if all royalties got paid this way? Someone buys a physical book, but only reads half of it, then does the author get half the royalty? And if this strategy is seen all the way through to its logical end, shouldn’t authors whose books are read repeatedly get more in royalties?
I was not a fan of reading on a device before I heard about this, now I’m even less of a fan. Yes, e-readers are convenient, but reading is a private pleasure that should not be tracked. And if someone buys a book, the author should be paid for it, plain and simple.