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Kindle: Seth Godin Gets It. Roy Blount Jr and Others Don’t

Posted by Bob Warfield on February 25, 2009

Two great Kindle articles awaited me in my feed reader this morning.  First up was a Techmeme with a NY Times post by Roy Bount Jr called, “The Kindle Swindle?”

Roy is up in arms over Kindle’s ability to read the text of a book aloud:

Every title is an e-book and an audio book rolled into one. And whereas e-books have yet to win mainstream enthusiasm, audio books are a billion-dollar market, and growing. Audio rights are not generally packaged with e-book rights. They are more valuable than e-book rights. Income from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers, afloat.

The essence of his concern is more sharply focused by this line:

People who want to keep on doing creative things for a living must be duly vigilant about any new means of transmitting their work.

Oh boy.  Amazon is stealing these guys blind with the Kindle Swindle.  You can practically read the Kindle envy dripping from Blount’s words.  As is typical of Content Creators and Providers, they don’t think anyone should be allowed to make a dime more than is absolutely necessary off the sweat of their typewriters, cameras, or whatever.  

Just a few little problems with Blount’s logic.  First, he needs to speak to his publishers that signed up the books for Kindle.  Take them back off again.  It only accounts for 10% of Amazon’s book sales, so no big loss, right?  Oops, 10% is quite a bit.  I wonder how much of what Blount wants to eliminate from the Kindle experience might be a factor in that 10%?  That brings me to my next point.  Blount assumes he’s being robbed because every single person who buys a Kindle will listen to every single book on audio and every single one of those people would have purchased the audio book version and so he has lost a gillion dollars in audio books sales. 

Come on Roy, didn’t you see how the record industry completely flubbed this over the years?  Are you kidding me?  Embrace the new medium for what it can do for you, don’t fight it for what you think it is taking away.  It can do a lot more than it will ever take away, besides which, resistance is futile anyway.  I’m not even going to get into the arguments about how the audio helps people with disabilities and so on.  People buy Kindle for the Kindle Experience.  That includes the audio. 

Don’t take the Kindle royalty gleefully and then demand more on top.  It ain’t gonna happen.  Read the many postings on the web about how content is not the value it once was and be glad you have yet another way to monetize yours.  Realize that the web has shifted the balance of power away from Content Creators and Providers and towards the Attention Economy.  Figure out how to use the new media to gain more attention.

This brings me to Seth Godin.  Seth gets the Kindle.  He is not demanding more royalties because you can hear his books read aloud.  Seth is suggesting more ways the new medium can be even better leveraged.  I love his suggestions because he is showing how to harness the new medium to do things that are hard to do with wood pulp to make your content more viral.  Here are just a few of the ideas he mentions in his blog post:

1. Give publishers the ability to insert passalong credit with a book so the buyer has the right to pass along a limited number of copies to other people who also have Kindles.

2. Let me spread books to other Kindle owners via Facebook (or other Social Networks).

3. What happens when Malcolm Gladwell sends a note to all his readers recommending a new book?  (This would those endorsements on the book jacket come alive!)

4. Anytime I send someone a book (see #1) or recommend a book, let me (with the other person’s consent) see the comments they write in the margins of the book as they read it.

Brilliant as usual, Seth! 

Isn’t it interesting how everything Seth wants to do is to give more?  More free copies?  More access?  It’s all positive energy flowing into a book.  Meanwhile everything Blount wants to do is negative.  Take away access to audio.  Take more royalties.

You can make the pie a lot bigger for everyone, or you can fight over the scraps.  One of these two understands how to make a market for their books.  The other is a great writer who happens to have a market they have no idea how they got.

I’m pretty clear which one of these guys is doing something I like a lot as a reader.  How about you?

P.S.  Seth is also the guy that understands which is more important:  trackbacks or comments.  He only does trackbacks at a time when many large blogs are minimizing or eliminating trackbacks.  It’s for the same reason he has the strategies he does for the Kindle.  You’re nuts if you don’t make trackbacks prominent on your blog.  Just ask Seth.

Related Articles

Larry Dignan says he can hardly stand to listen to Kindle’s robotic voice for very long.  Hey, maybe it’ll actually sell more audio books by making it more obvious why a more pleasurable human reader is worth paying for.  BTW, great job on Trackbacks, Larry and ZDNet!

Like Larry, Silicon Valley Insider talks about the reasons to prefer hearing a human “act out the book.”  I confess, this was my first reaction to Blount’s criticism too.  I like audio books, and the right actor can really add depth.  Sorry, didn’t see a Trackback.   

Crunchgear, of the Techcrunch empire, also sides against Blount.  There is the feeling Blount and his Guild buddies are positively Luddite in their outlook.  Techcrunch still does Trackbacks, but they are so hard to find, and harder in the latest version of their layout.  Look for it in the fine print next to the comment box at the very bottom.

RWWeb says, “Sadly, instead of lauding Amazon for bringing the book into a new era (or at least trying to do so), the Authors Guild has decided to focus its efforts on arguing about what is essentially a non-issue.”  How true!  PS RWWeb gets it right on Trackbacks.

Score one for the boneheaded Author’s Guild:  Kindle will make text to speech optional at the publisher’s discretion.  If you’re displeased, you can vote with your pocketbook by not buying titles that lack the feature.  From the comments, people are obviously very unimpressed with Amazon’s move, calling it “spineless.”

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2 Responses to “Kindle: Seth Godin Gets It. Roy Blount Jr and Others Don’t”

  1. [...] SmoothSpan: You can make the pie a lot bigger for everyone, or you can fight over the scraps. [...]

  2. I’m willing to bet cash money that Roy Blount Jr. has never listened to the Kindle monotone its way through a chapter from one of his favorite authors.

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