Why The Kindle could be the worst thing that’s happened to new authors.


I know the evidence suggests otherwise, the rapid uptake of Kindles in the UK has been nothing short of a phenomenon.

Downloaded books now sell more than printed books on Amazon & Waterstones.

And my own personal experience has shown that since owning one (From August this year) I have read seven books!  Seven books in two months!!  That’s six more books than I managed to read from Jan to July this year.

I’m reading loads! How on earth can this be a bad thing for people who write books??

But I don’t think there is a problem for big name authors, but I worry for new authors, the writers of break-out novels who spring from nowhere and are suddenly overnight in everyone’s hands.

Because the problem is not in the way I read books – Kindle is hands-down a better format for me and how I live my life.  But in how I find out about what books to read.

On paper there are loads of ways I can find out what to read:

The Sunday Times has a top 10 and a comprehensive weekly review of the great and the good of the literary world.  But can I be honest and say I’m lucky if I manage to read the front page headlines and the Mrs Mills column each week.  Sunday newspapers are like my lettuce – bought with the greatest of intentions and chucked out 7 days later unused.

I subscribe to The Guardian Culture weekly e-mail; but my mailbox is so often over-capacity that it is the first thing to be sacrificed for the ability to check my blackberry.

And even Kindle itself has a Top 10 books list I could choose from.  But driven by volume – what are most people reading.  I don’t want what most people want.  Most people want Jackie Collins or Jeffrey Archer.

They are all missing out on the biggest source of book recommendation I have ever used.

What are people on my tube reading?

It’s true! I occasionally have bouts of individualism; but for years, my shorthand on what to read next came from my fellow commuters.

It’s following the Herd, but a very specific herd.

 I figure that people, who get on the same stop as me and travel the same route as me, can’t be that different from me. Of course I will make my own selective judgments on top of this, what are they wearing, what do they say to their partner on the tube, where they get off etc.  But they all boil down to enabling me to make a very quick judgment on what to read next.

And the kindle cuts off my supply chain of recommendation!  I can’t see what people are reading!

I’ve tried. Peering over people’s shoulders, but it’s not the same.

So I fear for the new author, the one without the big marketing budget behind them, without the paparazzi exciting name.  Because how will they get me to read them?  How will they get the Herd to stampede?



Posted By Jen Smith



  1. Joanna

    People’s reading habits have become more low-brow as a result of exactly this. No one can see what they’re reading so they feel they can give into their Dan Brown craving rather than embarking on War & Peace.So the influence of a visible book jacket works both ways – and has been ‘proved’.Even if you could see what your fellow travellers were reading, you might no longer wish to take this as a recommendation!http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8849168/The-high-brow-readers-with

  2. Martynshaw

    As the kindle gets more integrated with social media recommendations should come from your friends through Facebook and likeminded people through twitter. Add this to easy access to all titles, obscure and bestsellers, i’d argue it’s a great platform for new authors to seed their publications within the right circles. Exciting times, I still prefer old fashioned paperbacks though, they never run out of battery.

  3. iamkeir

    No fear here – I get all my book recommendations from friends – and my recommended reading list grows faster than the speed at which I can read. I also subscribe to the above comments about Facebook & Twitter – recommendations pop up on there very often too. It won’t be long before there is a book curation/social network (probably one already) which will feed reading lists further. The bigger issue still remains – why do we still not speak to our fellow human on the tube – especially as you have expressed you may have much in common with these folk!

  4. Ellie

    My ambition in 2010 was to read 50 books in a year (I only achieved 42 but I was still pretty pleased with myself). I implemented 3 ‘rules:1.I has to search out books that were not my ‘normal’ choice (I’d never before attempted Dickens) 2.I wasn’t allowed to read the same author twice 3.Once started I had to finish the book (this made me quite picky)So when next browsing Amazon perhaps you could have this at the back of your mind?

  5. acupofteawithphd

    You are of course all right I should get out more, get some friends and also (God forbid!) talk to strangers on the tube.However, keeping with the media theory thing; I suppose what book covers did was what Byron Sharpe calls ‘increased physical availability’.Just by being there, being a badge, taking up some space in my life (albeit way more recessive space than you are all suggesting); It had a presence in my life.All I know is that I found Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas and One Day via the Family Fortunes style recommendation of my fellow tube travellers.Also anyone got any suggestions of what I should read next? Currently half way through Wolf Hall……

  6. iamkeir

    “Just by being there, being a badge, taking up some space in my life (albeit way more recessive space than you are all suggesting); It had a presence in my life.”Now this I *do* agree with – we’re tactile creatures moving ever closer to a non-tactile world. That does worry me – or, rather, makes me sad. I have a bookshelf with books that I may never read again simply as gesture of thanks to the authors. A book is one of the greatest gifts to the world.Recommendations? The Day of the Triffids and Tuesdays with Morrie. The latter is the most wonderful, life-affirming book I have ever read.

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