Indies and Es

I promised yesterday that I would post today on the question of Independent Booksellers and their relationship with eBooks, and here we are.

Yes, Indies sell eBooks, more and more Indies all the time.  They (and I, frankly) have too long been frustrated by watching their customers browse the shelves, stand reading a book for a minute, put it back on the shelf, and pick up their phone to type away.

And that customer ain’t typing notes for their own novel, you can bet your bottom dollar on that.  No, they’re sending their order to a retailer that doesn’t have the bother and overhead of running a store with actual shelves.

But now, there are actual bricks-and-mortar (or in California, two-bys-and-stucco) stores that can deliver your eBook into your device, quick and easy and at the same price as the big boys.

For example, my own county’s venerable and vibrant Bookshop Santa Cruz.  Take a look at their home page, here. You will see, directly below the “buy books” search in the sidebar, a “Search Google eBooks” box.  If you type in Pirate King, you’ll see my novel, at the same price Amazon sells it for.  My other local, Capitola BookCafe (whose site is here), has a box that searches books and eBooks together.  Pirate King takes you to the hardback that is sitting on the store’s shelves, under which is a note, Other Editions of this Title.  Et voilà, the eBook, same price.

(Although as with the question of e-versus paper-royalties, it’s not simple.  Some publishers don’t follow what’s called the “agency model,” which means Amazon’s versions of their eBooks may be cheaper than Google’s. But let’s not get complicated here.)

Now, the booksellers don’t earn as much for an eBook as they do for an actual physical book. On the other hand, they aren’t bleeding ongoing transfusions into the veins of online marketers.

But there’s one catch.  And that is, Amazon doesn’t always play well with others (see “agency model” above) and eBooks are one of those places.  If you have a Kindle reader, you pretty much have to buy the books that go onto it in the proprietary Kindle format.  Other readers are okay with the Kindle app; Kindle isn’t okay with the apps from Sony or iPad or Nook.

Which doesn’t mean you should toss the Kindle your Mom gave you for Christmas, although for the next one you buy, you might consider one of the android versions.

For those of you who have one of those other devices, Indie Bound has a list of shops that you can support by buying your eBooks through them, here.

If you are a bookseller, or if you know and love a bookseller, you might mention to them two helpful additions to the machinery of getting customers in the habit of buying eBooks from stores instead of Brazilian Rivers:

1. Put up a few notices, at the cash register and on the shelves, to let the customer know that it can be done.

2. To make it even easier for the customer, set up a QR code leading directly to the store’s ordering page and add it to those notes.  Customers can just scan the code and key in their order.  This is what a QR code looks like—point your smart phone at this one and you end up at my own home page—and they’re as simple to set up as it is simple to download a QR reader app to a smart phone:

So, that is today’s public service announcement: Support your local Indie, buy an eBook from them today.

Of course, if you want an actual print book, maybe with the author’s signature, they can probably help you with that, too.


  1. Laraine on February 14, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Thanks, Laurie. I’ve always veered away from Kindle at the last minute, even with the new ‘fire’ edition, but now I will clearly remember why–not a great fan of Amazon. I reserve buying on Amazon for cheap used editions of hard-to-find, out-of-print non-fiction titles related to my work or research, but for all else, I much prefer to buy in person at the store, when I have the funds to do any such buying.

  2. Chris on February 15, 2012 at 3:12 am

    All of this makes for fascinating reading – I have held out and held out buying an e-reader, even though friends keep trying to force me down that road…. I will probably give in this summer, as the thought of packing three-weeks’ worth of holiday paperbacks just doesn’t work any more! Sigh….


  3. N on February 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Yes, Amazon certainly makes it EASIER for kindle users to read only kindle format books on their kindles, but there are various applications available that can convert most types of text and ebook files into the .mobi format which is also compatible with kindle.

    I started using a free application called calibre to convert an assortment of PDF coursework to .mobi for easier kindle reading (the kindle PDF reader doesn’t allow you to adjust the text size) and the converted files seem to behave just as the official kindle books do. I’ve since tried it on some other, non kindle ebooks and it’s mostly worked well, apart from a few instances of strange formatting and one bizarre case in which all double l’s were reduced to single l’s throughout the book.

    All the conversions and occasional mishaps that seem to go along with it likely isn’t for everyone, for those with kindles who want to buy their ebooks from a local bookstore they love and trust, it CAN be done!

  4. Ken on February 17, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Are you a real book lover? Would you rather curl up with a true page-turner than an electronic upsell device? Skip the Kindles and Nooks and show your pride with an “I Prefer My Books Unplugged” t-shirt or bumper sticker. Available now at http://​

  5. Anna on February 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I hear the critique of Kindle and I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I wanted an e-book reader because it’s just not possible to travel with the number of books I require to keep me entertained on a trip from home. I’d be paying extra baggage fees constantly. I still prefer the paper versions of books. My Kindle was a savior when my family spent a month in Chicago when my daughter needed medical care at a hospital there. I could borrow books from my local library on it so easily.

    What I would like to know is if Nook isn’t also somewhat proprietary for Barnes & Noble? I got the impression that they were from research I did before getting my Kindle, but I could have missed something.

    • Laurie King on February 19, 2012 at 7:50 am

      As I understand it (owning neither, you understand) a Nook owner can buy a Kindle-formatted book, but a Kindle owner can’t buy a book formatted for anything but Kindle. The Kindle Fire may be somewhat more flexible. But as I say, when it comes to personal experience, I’m going by what others have said. Your mileage may vary.

  6. Molly Wolf on February 29, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Fascinating. I shall find out tomorrow whether Canadian indies can offer e-books; if not, perhaps I can get my ebooks from a New England indie. What catalogue of e-books can an indie sell?

    And when are we going to be able to subscribe to an uber-e-library?

    Molly Wolf
    applied theologian

  7. Molly Wolf on February 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Further to yesterday’s: my local Canajun indie has never heard of indie-sold e-books, and my agent/publisher says that the whole e-book publishing side of things is as chaotic and underdeveloped as the average teenaged prefrontal cortex.

    Molly Wolf
    applied theologian

    • Laurie King on March 11, 2012 at 6:56 am

      Agreed. Which is why even the Poisoned Pen, one of the biggest crime Indies out there, is only beginning to set up e-book sales. But they’re coming.

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