Hold on to your asses, scamps, because shit’s about to get real.
This post has been churning in my brain for a long time.
It’s time to:
Save the Books.
If you are a reader, and ostensibly, if you visit my site, you ARE a reader, then this post will come as no surprise.
Since the advent of Amazon’s Kindle, people have declared that “the book is dead.” While we know this is complete bullshit, we also know that we have seen Borders Books, Waldenbooks, Barnes and Noble, and countless small bookstores close most if not all their brick and mortar stores. This has as much to do with Amazon itself as it does with ebooks, but that’s a story for another day. Today I am bothered by something else entirely.
The Kindle Unlimited Program.
I’ve read why it can be bad for authors, but I am here to tell you it is also bad for readers.
Reading is enjoyment and education. It can be pure escape, and it can be pure torture. It often falls somewhere between escape and enlightenment. We read these really great books, and we are able to engender empathy, shine a light on what divides us, and even learn a lot about history and science while passing the hours between the pages of something so wonderful as a book. There is nothing quite like a well-researched novel, or getting lost in an entirely new world. And Amazon gave us something really great when it gave authors the ability to easily publish their works independent of major publishing houses.
Those publishing houses, which certainly churn out some amazing books every year, also take loads longer to get a book to the shelves, take an enormous chunk out of the profits for the author, edit some stories within an inch of their lives, and lets face it, they’re a boy’s club. Since independent publishing became popular, more women are publishing than ever before. This is wonderful. They’re making and keeping more money. Authors are calling the shots and working with editors they know and trust. They have legions of beta readers. They develop special relationships with bloggers who help promote their work. That’s all wonderful.
But it has also caused a tidal wave of truly terrible books making gobs of money, and overshadowing books that deserve more clicks. Amazon Unlimited is so easy, and so unregulated, that swarms of the worst books imaginable are getting so much publicity.
Everyone can write, but not everyone is an author. It is arguable that if you write a book, you’re an author. But, if you write a book with essentially the same plot as every other book that is highly-ranked on the Kindle Unlimited plan, and you don’t take the time to edit it–at all, and the plot holes are so big it’s like a fucking Stargate to another fuck-all awful dimension where you’re really in love with your stepbrother who shifts into a bear, all while running his multi-billion dollar business, and you’re secretly pregnant with his dragon baby–oh yeah, and you’re a dude–you’re not an author, you’re the handbag counterfeiter equivalent of the people who legitimately toil and exhaust themselves over a story that will delight you. If you are writing that kindle unlimited drivel, you’re the fecking Gilderoy Lockhart of books. I hope you are REALLY GOOD with memory charms because readers don’t forget.
But people are SWALLOWING THIS POISON WHOLE. They’re drinking it down like mead at the King’s table.
That’s not to say there aren’t some amazing authors on KU. There are. However, typically, the first SEVERAL pages of featured books on KU are books that are so swiftly written, and of such low quality, I worry for those who are only reading these creations of crap.
This screenshot was from a lovely book about an artist from a farm, living in the big city, who falls in love with a billionaire tattoo artist. I didn’t make it past this page, so I have no idea if he turned into an armadillo who was also her secret stepbrother’s baby.
Here’s the thing: reading fiction makes you smarter, but what you read is also important. Salon.com pubbed a piece about literary insecurity which discussed the backlash against what many consider to be “elitist fiction.” Those books that challenge you to become smarter–to become a better reader, and in essence, a better person. There is a WEALTH of backlash in modern society pitting those “elitists” against everyone else. Consider one of the major notions raised by the UK Independence Party of “we’re tired of experts!” (I’ll keep my experts, thank you. I really don’t want an orderly giving me open heart surgery.) But I refuse to believe that we wish to move forward as a society that rests on the lowest common denominator of literature. The majority of readers of KU are YOUNG women. Overwhelmingly so. Women like me. Women I believe, if really shown the beauty and intelligence of a well-written novel, how engaging, and how enlightening it is, would choose the good over the crap any day of the week.
But reviews sell. Stars sell. They beam that book straight to the top with an algorithm Amazon has set in coded stone. KU has been hijacked by the community of the braindead megaphone, leaving so many authors to dwindle in relative obscurity. Good authors. Great, even. Authors who care about their books–not just authors assembly line publishing crap for mass consumption.
So what can be done? How do we save the books? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and angry. It’s easy to want to pitch your KU account and throw your kindle at Jeff Bezos. It’s harder to work against it. It feels like raging against the machine. Against the dying of the light.
But it’s actually dead fecking simple if we join together. If we all commit to reviewing 2 books (or more) a month on Amazon, GOOD books. With a GOOD review that will take no more than 15 minutes of your time. (Less if you’re a fast typist.) Those books see a bump in their ranks. They get featured more. They make more money for Jeff Bezos, and therefore are made visible. Please, for the love of the fecking future, do this. Rate a great romance. Laud a lit fic you love. Praise that piece you read about the history of bedsheets for all I care, just RATE THE GOOD ONES. PLEASE. Or else you might develop inappropriate thoughts about your stepfather every time you see the bear fight scene in The Legends of the Fall. And no one wants that. I mean, YOUNG BRAD PITT WAS IN THAT.
I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is your reviews.
SAVE THE BOOKS!! Why Kindle Unlimited is bad for readers, and what we can do. #amreading #books