Many authors have had their feathers ruffled this week due to Amazon announcing their new payment system for self-published Kindle books. Amazon have stated that they are going to pay their authors for every page that gets read of their book, and not for every book that is bought. Obviously this is great for those authors who have a suspense, page-turner of a novel, but what about those novels that we pick up and read the first two chapters before deciding they’re not for us. It’s a worry that I’ll start to feel guilty for putting a book down halfway through, knowing I am stopping the author from being paid for what is probably a great book, but not my cup of tea.
How many boring bits does Moby Dick contain (see why I hate it so much here). I probably read the first two chapters of this book, and couldn’t keep torturing myself with boredom. If Melville had been paid for the two chapters I read, he would have been paid about a tenth of what he should have been. The plot is probably spread over two thirds of the novel, while the rest feel like it is taken from a “History of Whaling” textbook. It’s a classic, granted, but who reads the chapter entitled ‘Cetology’?! And what about non-fiction? People buy a textbook not really wanting to read the whole thing, but to skip to certain important chapters. Think of those poor authors who wrote a one-thousand page “History of Britain”, to find most of their readers are selective and will read one-hundred pages in total.
So why aren’t more people making a big fuss of this? Imagine if Taylor Swift got paid for each second her song was player? Think of the uproar! Or Beethoven’s 9th Symphony? ‘It’s an hour and a half, but I only like the first movement. But that doesn’t matter, he just won’t get paid for the remaining hour of his piece”.
Amazon claims they’re “making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.” Obviously great for J.K.Rowling who is read widely and liked by everyone. But what about those authors no one has heard of who are trying to make their way as an author and getting paid 5p per book because people will only read the first page. It just doesn’t seem fair to me. It also means someone who writes a 900 page book will earn more than someone who writes 100 pages (if the book is finished, of course). Does this mean short stories might be on the way out as well?
The sad thing about this change is authors will start to think “How do Amazon want me to write?” rather than “What do I want to write?” They’ve taken away the freedom a