This post, by Cally Phillips, originally appeared on the Edinburgh e-book Festival 2012 blog. Note that because it is aimed at a U.K. audience, some of the particulars given here with respect to Amazon KDP, Smashwords and Kobo may differ slightly in the U.S. Always be sure check the terms and conditions that apply to your region of the world on the site you’re considering before you commit to anything.
There are two sides to the technology (apart from the conversion/formatting which we’ve already looked into) and that is the distribution platform and the hardware.
What follows is a personal opinion based on personal experience. I can guarantee that by this time next year (next month?) the opinion will be out of date but take it while it’s live and see what you think.
If we first look at the distribution platforms available for the ‘indie’ writer as publisher. That’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Kobo Writing Life or Smashwords.
KDP vs KWL vs Smashwords. Are we comparing like with like?
So, for the uninitiated these are three direct distribution paths for the independent epublisher (eyes glazed over yet!) Okay, let me try and turn this into a slightly more amusing/user friendly experience. We’re talking virtually but I do recognise you are REAL people. Not human resources.
Just think Coke, Pepsi and Irn Bru – or no, let’s call it Moray Cup (because that’s a small local beverage company round my way who need a plug – and – like Smashwords, I’ve never tried it – I don’t drink fizzy pop any more.)
Actually, the drinks analogy is quite apposite (at least personally). Many many years ago (before I was health conscious enough to eschew fizzy drinks on grounds of sugar/carcinogenic product content) I embarked upon an embargo of the mighty Coca Cola organisation. (I’m not sure I adversely affected their profits substantially over the years but I know why I did it!) About the same time I stopped eating anything but Fairtrade chocolate. Knowing mainstream chocolate was (or could be) produced with child slave labour sort of soured the taste for me. Yes it limited my choices but it made me able to eat without gagging – and sleep at night.
Well, in those days, I did still drink fizzy drinks so I drank Pepsi (or Irn Bru for a hangover like all true Scots) as my sweet brown liquid of choice. (Now of course I don’t drink ANY fizzy pop and precious little alcohol so no need for the restorative powers of Irn Bru – hence why I haven’t tried said Moray Cup – my personal path to spiritual enlightenment has told me that fizzy drinks are NOT part of my ‘way.’ )
And I do like to find a simple analogy where possible, so accepting that we are dealing in the land of simile and metaphor not DIRECT COMPARISON, I shall continue. When I think about epublishing distribution platforms (as believe me I have to do more than I’d ever like to) I try to equate my feelings to them to my feelings regarding the fizzy drinks industry. Find your own points of comparison if you prefer. This is nothing personal about fizzy drinks!
Amazon Kindle is the market leader. That won’t surprise anyone in the UK at least. I believe it may be different/more sophisticated in US but I’m afraid I don’t know that much about the US except that they are far ahead of us in the epublishing ‘journey’ so I’m sure there’s a lot we can learn from them. I shall concentrate on our domestic situation for now though. We are at entry level. And for us Amazon UK is the place where most of our ebook transactions take place (like it or not. I don’t.) I spent 6 months trying to find other ways. It was a fruitless task. I was googling ‘distributor’ and they call themselves ‘content aggregator’s’ for one thing! Eventually I found one, had 6 months of hell with them and realised if I was to sell any ebooks I’d have to find a way to work with Amazon.
What’s good about Amazon? Well, primarily VISIBILITY. If your ebook isn’t visible it might as well not exist (in buying terms) Of course its value is far beyond price but when you’re trying to sell you need to be a) on the bookshelf b) at the front of the bookshelf and c) it helps if you are shouting loudly, waving flags and wearing tassles and generally being as larey as possible in front of all the ‘competition.’ (I do have a problem with competitiveness in this context. More on that later perhaps)