Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Love My E-Reader. I Love Indie Bookstores. Can This Work?

I own a Kindle. At first, during the infatuation phase, I figured I was going to become Joe New School, leave printed books behind forever and buy everything on my new device.

Then, I thought: What about the handful of indie bookstores I love and purport to regularly support? True, they're probably doomed in the long run as e-books grab radically more market share in book publishing with each passing year, but I'm damned if I'm going to watch these good folks watch their dreams dissolve on my watch.

After much deliberating, here's what I've decided to do with my book-buying money:

— My Kindle will be used to purchase exclusive and specially discounted e-books. One of the great pleasures of exploring the e-book publishing world has been finding self-published e-gems in the cyber-bargain bins (from free to 99 cents to $2.99) of the Kindle Store or in Smashwords. I write mystery stories, and there are some good thriller, suspense and traditional mystery tales there, many of which have gone through story editing, copy editing and proofreading that appears to be as stringent as that endured by Big Six fare. Not only do I get entertaining stories (well, sometimes; sometimes they suck), but I learn a lot about what works and what doesn't, and I don't blow my paychecks in the process.

— I will buy and order new and still-in-print older, traditionally published fare through my favorite local indie bookstores. I will suck it up and pay full price, even when it's more than double the Kindle price, and absorb the loss on principle. Part of it is pure altruism; part of it is that I want these folks in my corner when my time to roll out my first novel arrives. Part of it is that I still love printed books. And part of it is that I just plain like these folks.

— I will order the out-of-print books I want, used and usually cheap, on

— I won't spend any more money in Borders, Barnes & Noble or any other corporate chain store. It's not that I have anything against them; it's that just that I don't have anything for them. Particularly any more money, after I spend it elsewhere first.

So, that's the balance I've stumbled upon.

Has anybody else scuffled with this?

Jim Thomsen is a news editor at the Kitsap Sun in Bremerton, Wash. He also is a partner in Proof Positive, a manuscript-editing and media-services business, and maintains
Reading Kitsap, a blog about the local literary scene. In addition, he is an aspiring mystery author and member of the Mystery Writers Of America. He can be reached at desolationisland ... or found, almost 24/7, on Facebook.

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  1. I don't live near ANY bookstores. I usually order print books on line (I belong to The Mystery Guild so I can find "reasonable" prices on my favorite mystery authors. I'm finding that I'm replacing my mass market paperback purchases with digital books. Or I use the library to try new authors, or 'not sure I'll like it' books.

    I write for print and digital publishers and also have some of my own back list books up at Kindle and Smashwords. I just got the new NOOKcolor, and that opens another venue for me.

    (BTW, my backlisted book, When Danger Calls is one of those $2.99 offerings you mentioned liking!)

    I can also recommend a new site, Backlist Ebooks that has an affiliate store through Amazon where you can find lots more 're-issued' books at reasonable prices.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. Probably because I'm as old as I am (70), I still LOVE the printed book. But times have definitely changed, and like you I have to be frugal with my income. I'm with everything you say here. I do hate to see the independent bookstores fold, and so I'll support them, too, as best as I can. I've "adapted" to reading on my Nook. Don't like it as well as the printed page, but... Also, I have bought many good books recently on Smashwords that I've downloaded to my computer and then printed out, and I've bought the $2.99 books that have sounded intriguing for my Nook--and have downloaded many free classics! Technology is, in my view, definitely a mixed blessing!!!

  3. @Ann: I agree. Tech is a mixed blessing, but I must admit I love it.
    We have a good indy bookstore here, and I vocally support them, but (alas) don't buy books. I've always been a Public Library user, and posted about this at my blog. I'm usually reading a DTB and at least one eBook during the same time frame.
    Libraries are suffering, too, although I get to mine at least once or twice a month. Winter weather particularly makes it nice to have an eReader. No long trek to town (I live rural) in the snow and low temps.
    I'll continue to support my Indy, and that's where I special order books (not a frequent occurrence).
    @ Terry: Thanks for the site recommendation.

  4. My house is cluttered with books. As much as I love reading, I'm not fond of the musty book smell and I hate dusting them.

    My mother has a Sony e-reader because she can't read normal print. It is simple for us to download and enlarge the print so she can see it.

    We have a local Indie bookstore. They have new and used books. I still have a few authors that I buy DTB.

    However, the bulk of my reading is fellow Indie writers, most of whom are not on paper.

    Also, since I'm an Indie writer myself, I found my nook is the easiest way to proofread my own work. Those typos leap out at you!

    Indie bookstores deserve to be nurtured. But I can't see paying for a hardback that I'm only going to read once.

    I've been reading that the 'big book' chains are closing the small markets. Guess Indie bookstores are going to make a comeback.

  5. I, too, have a Kindle and have been doing a lot of reading on it. Like others have mentioned, I like the availability of inexpensive books. I've also encountered the "sometimes they suck" problem, but don't feel so bad if I only paid a dollar or two or three for the book. It's much worse when a $10 dollar book sucks. LOL

    I will always have a foot in each camp, however, and if I lived near an Indie book store I would support it. When I do signing events, I do try to find an Indie in towns I travel to.

  6. I like your approach, Jim. Since I'm getting a Kindle for Christmas, I have been thinking about this. I like the prices on many of the Kindle books I want to read, and I like reducing the clutter in my house. But I'll still buy real books from real bookstores. I can't help myself.

  7. Hey Pat, I also have a Kindle on my Christmas list, and was very detailed when telling Santa exactly how to spend his $189. Because of this I was thinking about all the issues Jim raises just today, and I'm thrilled for the way this post has given me a head start on my decision-making. Like Kae, I too want to support our libraries. I also like to support all the causes my used book buying habit has contributed to. How to do it all???


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