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Publishing on the Kindle - Amazon DTP (part 1)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

I blogged previously about the Kindle and e-readers in general. The blogosphere and the twitterverse are still awash with people debating whether these devices will ever replace the papery books we all love. I, for one, suspect they will, although by the time they do, I'm sure the technology will have evolved considerably. We may well even end up with an e-reader that bears a very close resemblence to a paperback. I think the technologies will converge. Because, after all, the paper book is just a technological artefact : a way of delivering the words of a story to a reader. It isn't the story itself; we're just all so used to thinking in these terms as the book is so ubiquitous.

Future e-readers will, I imagine, be able to transform themselves into any one of thousands or millions of books they hold in their memory and/or which they can download. When we get to that point, the book vs. e-reader debate will have gone away. But that's for the slightly SF future. Clearly, we're a long way from that right now. I mean, the Kindle at the moment is so drab. Set it aside all those delicious, colourful book covers in the bookshop and it just looks embarassingly dull. And, while I may be proved wrong, the super new Apple iPad looks to me just too clunkily big and expensive to replace the book right now.

Still, devices like the Kindle are a start. And they aren't going to go away. As has been well documented, Amazon sold more electronic "books" via the Kindle last Christmas than it did paperbacks. The implications for all writers are enormous. Publishing houses, I'm sure, are putting vast effort into coming to terms with this brave new world. But I'm intrigued to see if I can publish something to the Kindle myself, right here, right now.

It turns out, as of January 15th, I can. In fact, anyone can. Prior to this date, only US citizens could upload content to the Amazon Digital Text Platform (DTP) and so publish to the Kindle. There were third parties in the USA who would publish for you for a percentage, but otherwise the rest of the world was excluded. That's all changed now and anyone can use the service (although currently only in English, French and German.) And there are, according to some estimates, 1.5 million Kindles out there.

Now, I don't see this as a way of bypassing the traditional find-an-agent-then-find-a-publisher route that most writers adopt for their novels. That's certainly the approach I'm going to continue to take. But I'm also intrigued to know how well publishing to the Kindle works. Partly it's the techie in me, partly the writer. So here's my plan. I have a number of short stories and novelettes that have been published in the past via a more traditional route - by magazines with proper submission and editorial policies. Some of these stories haven't seen the light of day for a while and I still own the copyright to them. So, I'm going to see how easy and effective it is to republish them via DTP on to the Kindle.

Stay tuned! In part 2, coming soon, I'll let you know how the process goes ...


  1. Ooooh!

    GOOD LUCK!!! Go for it, why not?!

    I was actually thinking (I do so on occassions!) as I bundled my about to be read hard back limited edition book-in-a-box of Terry Pratchett's "unseen academicals" in my handbag that a really slim line ipad version of this would be really, really handy...

    Then again I found it strangely comforting to cuddle the said hard back book close to me as I was standing cheek by jowl on a very crowded train with nowt a sliver of personal space betwixt me and the Mr Tourist with a rucksack...


    Take care!


  2. Hi Old Kitty,

    Ooh, I've actually just about finished my hard back copy of Unseen Academicals. I might even review it soon. But, yes, an iPad version. The book is going to be smaller, lighter and less pinchable I should think ...

  3. I'll be following this with interest!

    It would be interesting to know as well how easy/difficult it is to meet Amazon's formatting requirements. Sometimes ebooks are set out really strangely - I'm not quite sure whether this is the fault of whoever uploaded the content, the retailer or the device itself (I haven't used e-readers extensively).

  4. Kate,

    Well, I'll let you know. It does look like I'll need to do some monkeying around with the HTML Amazon has generated for me at this stage ...

  5. I'll certainly follow this experiment, Simon. Good luck with it!

    It's interesting that you feel the iPad is too big a clunky. That's been my reaction to seeing it. I like the look of it, but I see it as a new type of lap-top, not as an e-reader.

    It's not just printed paper that might be at risk. Recent illustration graduates are already swooning over the possibility of using iPads as sketchbooks. Now that's an idea that REALLY bothers me.

  6. Thomas,

    Yes, I see what you mean. Presumably sketching onto paper is preferable than onto a screen? I'm afraid I don't have an artistic bone on my body. Or, at least, if I do, it isn't in my hand anywhere!

  7. Good for you, Simon. I'm another who will follow this with interest because it is something that has popped into my head.

    Publishing is evolving; we have to as well.

  8. Donna,

    Absolutely, I do agree. I'll let you know soon how it goes ...


I'd love to know what you think.