Do You Even Want My Money?

An open letter to the publishing industry.

Dear Publishing Industry:

Do you even want my money? I mean, really, do you? I have it, it’s right here for you. Well, not right here per se but my credit card is good for it. And I’ll give it to you too. All I want in exchange is a book. We’ve been doing this for years you and I– I give you money, you give me books– and it’s been great. I thought this was a mutually beneficial relationship. We both had something the other wanted. I guess all that has changed now, huh?

Admittedly, we’ve both been going through some changes. You’ve been experimenting in the digital market and while I wasn’t looking, paperbacks suddenly shot up in price ($25 for a paperback?! That’s almost the price of a hardcover!) Things got a little cold between us for a time. At first I resisted going digital; after all, what could replace the look and feel and smell and sound of a physical book? But then, more and more of the books I wanted to read were ridiculously priced or just unavailable in physical form. I knew that if I wanted to still keep a relationship with you, I needed to make a change too.

I just bought a Kindle. Well, my girlfriend bought me a Kindle, and though I was reluctant at first, it is a pretty convenient way to keep a few books on hand for casual reading. I thought this could fix things between us. I thought we could just carry on like we had been– I gave you the money, the books appeared in my Kindle. I was happy; I thought you were too.

I was so wrong. I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed that you had Amazon break the news to me. I thought there was more trust between us than that, and I’m sure Amazon doesn’t like taking all the blame for your decisions. Oh, the email was polite enough, don’t worry, but it very clearly relayed your message: stop purchasing American ebook titles– or else.

I was shocked! What had changed? What had I done?

It’s the Canadian thing, isn’t it?

As I understand it, unless I am purchasing ebooks with an American credit card and an American home address, I am banned from buying any books from the American Amazon catalog. This would be a non-issue if the Canadian (or any of the other jilted countries’) catalogs contained the same books as the American catalog. This, however, is not the case.

So I ask again, publishing industry: Do you even want my money? Because it really seems like you don’t.

Now, I understand that the issue is complicated and that the times are changing faster than publication rights and taxation laws can keep up (Dear Author wrote an excellent article on the subject), but the solution isn’t to dig in your heels and block out most of the English speaking world. It only encourages piracy of your product when you ignore potential consumers who are waving money at you.

... and give me a book.

… and give me a book.

I know I’m not in a position to be making demands. I’m just one little customer over here. I’m not part of the industry, not yet anyway, but as both a reader and an aspiring writer, I think books are important. They spread ideas, inspire, entertain and educate and should be allowed to do so free of geographic restrictions. Of course I’m all for authors making the most out of the books they create, but surely there’s a way to negotiate rights and distribute books (and ebooks) to all the people who want and are willing to pay for them. Humanity has gone from getting around on foot to jetting around the globe in a matter of hours, but not by pretending that no one had any interests beyond their own front lawn.

I’ve gotten the message, publishing industry: you need your space. I’ll respect that, and I’ll be here whenever you finally come to your senses and remember all the good times we had. Until then, I suppose my Kindle will make an attractive (if expensive) coaster on my coffee table.

Sincerely,

A Disappointed Reader

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