Choosing to Self-Publish

I mentioned last week that have I chosen to self-publish rather than pursue traditional publishing, and that I would talk about why later. Well, this is the why.

I have certainly been aware of self-publishing for a long time, perhaps as long as a decade. Back then the options were hiring out your own printer, doing chapbooks, or perhaps using a service like XLibris. Lulu came along a little later, but even then, self-publishing was a struggle that did not appeal to me. Unless you had a way of getting your name and book in front of readers, self-publishing seemed like a way to either print your book nicely for Aunt June or fill your garage with books you’d never sell. There were rare exceptions, of course, but I saw no reason to think I would be one of them.

No, traditional publishing with its gatekeepers and bookstores seemed to be the way to go, and I was starting to pursue it in 2009 and early 2010. I had a completed novel and ideas for more. I was a regular at various SF/F conventions, and I was starting to check out the writer conferences. I had met a number of editors and agents – mostly casually but one at a pitch session – and they definitely filled my head with the way it was done. Find an agent, let them sell it to one of the big six New York publishers, and be glad your agent was getting you such a great deal.

Then in the spring of 2010, an agent asked me the question she asks all new writers she meets. “Why do you want to be published?” That’s a very different question than why I want to write. I write because it’s the only way to get these stories out of my head. It’s half creation, half exorcism. But that’s not about publishing.

So why did I want to publish? When she asked it, I did not have a particularly good answer. I could not even articulate it at the time, but my real answer was, “because it’s the next logical step.” Frankly, that did not seem good enough for me. It’s a frightening amount of work, and “just because” was not enough of a reason.

So I did some slow-motion navel-gazing for about a year. Why did I want it? Was it for the approval of the gatekeepers? Was it for the money? Was it just to see my name on a bookshelf? By the fall of 2011, I had found reasons that were good enough for me to pursue publishing, but I’d also realized some fears about getting into publishing.

Let’s start with my reasons for getting published – note: this is to get published at all, not necessarily with the big six vs. self-publishing:

1. I wanted to tell stories to readers, not just write them to get them out of my head. I have read a lot of books that I’ve loved, and I realized that I wanted to experience that transaction from the other side, to create something for someone else to read and love. Posting stories for free on the web does not seem practical to me, mostly because I hate reading on the screen. (See my earlier essay on switching to e-books and my love of light-reflective media.) So getting my stories out in print seemed to be the only way to go.

2. I want to make money at it. Yeah, I know. It’s art, and art is supposed to be pure and all that stuff, but I have bills to pay. I can do other work – work that usually pays a lot better than writing – but it would be a most excellent thing to get that money for writing instead. Mind you, this wasn’t an easy thing for me to accept, because I was pretty worried that transforming writing from a hobby into a profession would taint it. It would lose the ecstatic joy and turn into a soul-sucking grind. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, as long as I can write the stories I want to write.

3. I want to do the marketing. I know that sounds pretty strange, especially if you knew me back in my early software days, but this is a very different business. I see the authors hanging out on blogs, going to cons, talking about their books… and it looks FUN to me. Maybe that will turn out to be a grind after all, but from the outside it looks like a blast.

But like I said, I also had some fears:

1. Publishing takes forever, except when it goes too fast. While I’m patient enough to know that building a career in writing takes a long time and several books, I was not too keen on having the pace between books set by someone else. While I might not complain about a fast schedule, I knew I would have hated a slow schedule. “Ah, yes, we’ll publish your trilogy over five years. So, run along and we’ll talk after.” I worried I wouldn’t have enough control over when my stories got out to the readers. I don’t know what I would have considered “enough” control, but that’s what I worried about.

2. I worried about getting pigeon-holed into a specific genre. I heard tales from authors who wanted to branch out and write mystery instead of horror or fantasy instead of sci-fi, but they ran into roadblocks. “No, your readers don’t want that. Just give us another slasher novel.” I guess it’s the equivalent of actors being typecast as the funny guy or the villain. I figured that the easiest way around that was to branch out early, alternating between at least two genres, but I feared that no publishing company would be interested in that. In the past, authors did this via pen names, but since most readers buy their next book based on it being an author they know, why would you waste the value you’d built up in your original name?

3. I worried that I would get two books into a trilogy or maybe four books into a five-book series and have it be abandoned by the publisher. With all the shuffling that’s happened in the last few years in New York, that has happened to several authors I know. It doesn’t seem to matter that the previous books earned out their advances or that the fans are asking the author for the next book. A decision was made without the author’s input, and now the publisher doesn’t want any more. I don’t question a publisher’s right to make that decision, but it leaves both the author and the fans in the lurch. I didn’t want that to happen to me.

By the time I’d finished my introspection, it was 2011, and I had another draft working its way through the edit queue. Also, the talk of the e-book revolution was getting ever louder, and much of it was centered on self-publishing. Just to assure myself that my original plan to pursue traditional publishing was the correct path, I started reading up on the current state of self-publishing. Within a few weeks, I wasn’t so sure my original plan still held up, especially in light of the hopes and fears I had finally nailed down.

I set myself a task of making a decision by the end of 2011, and when it was all said and done, I had opted to pursue self-publishing, at least for the 2012-2013 timeframe. I’ll spare you a summary of all the arguments I read for and against, but I will tell you the few that really nailed it down for me.

1. Traditional publishers have lost their lock on the distribution channels, and that means it’s actually possible now to reach the readers. With the death of Borders, a larger and larger percentage of print books are being sold by Amazon. With the increasingly rapid adoption of e-readers, e-books have a much larger audience. Those two put together means that a self-published book going to Amazon and various e-readers can now reach half to two-thirds of the potential buyers. Ten years ago, a potential buyer would have had to hunt you down through back channels to buy your book. In short, I could actually do this now.

2. Prolific authors sell more books. Saying it like that makes it sound like a simple truism, but there’s data to back it up. I read some recent studies on how people choose their next book purchases, and the top three reasons were: it’s the next book in a series, it’s a new book by a favorite author, and a friend recommended it. Not only does a new book have a good chance with existing readers, but it’s one more chance for a reader to recommend you to a friend. So for me, that means get a book out, and then get the next book, and the next, and so on. That’s good advice for any publishing path, but I knew if I went the traditional path, it wouldn’t matter how many books I wrote, because they wouldn’t publish more than one every year or two.

3. I didn’t like the royalty structure of traditional publishing. There has been a lot written about the 70% vs. 17.5% rates of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing for e-books, and I confess that is a lot of what bugs me, but I’m also not too happy about the rates in paper books either. Yes, the publisher takes a risk with every book, paying money up front for editing, cover design, copy editing, promotion, printing, and so on, and they have the right to recoup that investment. But it strikes me that if I believe in my work, I should be willing to make that fixed cost investment myself and hope to collect it back myself.

4. This was the clincher. I don’t feel that right now I can trust the big publishing companies. I look at some of the clauses coming out in publishing contracts these days, and I think writers are getting screwed. In particular, the non-compete clauses are a nightmare – see what happened to Kiana Davenport.  I don’t think I would ever sign a contract with a clause like that, and as a new writer, I have zero confidence I would be able to negotiate that clause away. It would seem to be a deal-breaker for both sides, and that makes it a non-starter.

So the bottom line is that I fear traditional publishing won’t let me write the books I want to write at the pace I want to write them. Even if I try to work both traditional and self publishing, they’ll shut me down. In the end, that leaves me with really only one choice: to self-publish. And what do you know? Suddenly that option isn’t looking so bad after all.

Do I expect to be the next Amanda Hocking or John Locke? Maybe a Joseph Konrath? No, I don’t. For starters, they all have the letter K in their names, and I don’t. I’m sure there are other reasons as well, but I’m not going to dwell on them today. What I do expect is to be able to get my books in front of readers, and I hope that enough of them will be sufficiently entertained to think about another one.

Would I ever consider traditional publishing? Yes, but only when I have the clout to say no to contract terms I don’t like. They might very well laugh me out of the building, but then I’m just back to where I am now, doing it on my own.

Now, I have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks and months, but it looks like it’ll be fun.

Green Eggs and E-ham

Until recently, I was a very conservative, anti-e-book redneck who proudly said that you could have my paperback when you took it from my cold, dead fingers. Now… er, not so much.

I was never a Luddite. Well, not much of one. I got my first computer when I was ten. That’s not saying much these days, but mind you, that was 1977. I grew up as a calculator-watch-wearing nerd, taking down my BBS only to write science fiction. Sufficed to say, I embraced digital technology from an early age.

But the idea of reading fiction digitally never appealed to me. My first option was to read it on the computer screen, and that was a non-starter. I did not yet understand the differences between light-emitting vs. light-reflecting displays, but I did know that looking at a screen for two long caused fatigue, eye-strain, and general crankiness. Why would I ever trade my printed books for that? Heck, even when I needed to read my own stuff, I always printed it first, and that was back in the days of the 2-minutes-per-page dot matrix printer. But still, print was the way to go.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one to reject long-form reading on the computer. Journalists and bloggers found that a different style of writing was required to hold people’s attention on the screen. Prosaic prose was out. Bold punches were in, along with

  • bonus
  • bullet
  • points!!!

Blech! Is that what fiction would have to become to be read on screen?

Next came reading on the smart phone. My wife did this some, but I never understood how she could stand it. The screen was tiny. The font was small and crappy. She had to turn the page every nine seconds. Plus, about the only books available for it were out of the Gutenberg project. On the other hand, she read Dumas’s Three Musketeers that way, so it was not entirely without value.

Then came e-Ink and the Kindle. Now, I’d been aware of electronic ink for a while. I saw it years before in a technology demonstration from someone at Xerox Parc labs, and it struck me as another great idea that Xerox would likely never successfully turn into a product. It was from that demonstration that I became aware of the difference between light-emissive displays (CRT’s or LCD flatscreens) and light-reflective displays, like, well… paper. Light-emissive displays cause eye strain much more rapidly than paper. I suppose it’s because we’re fundamentally staring at a light bulb, making out the tiny markings on its surface. Looking at paper is like looking at everything else in the world, and our eyes are much happier with that.

But still, even with e-Ink, I was not eager to run to the Kindle and e-books. For starters, I felt the technology was not mature enough. It wasn’t the display. It was the format of the books themselves. There were too many, frequently one per reader, and who knew which readers or formats would be around for more than a year or two? “I’m glad you enjoyed my book, but I’m afraid you bought it on BetaMAX and will no longer be able to read it.”

I heard some early adopters say that we shouldn’t bother with standard formats – they’re impossible anyway. Really? Anyone ever heard of JPEG images for the web? Yes, there are also GIF’s and PNGs, but my point is that every browser can display all three. It’s not like you need to format the images on your web page for Internet Explorer vs. Firefox. Perhaps a better analogy is the HTML wars between Netscape and Microsoft, and yet you can still read pretty much any page on any browser. E-books had a long way to go.

The other thing that bugged me was questions over the IP handling. I could buy a paper book, read it, and then let my wife read it. We would do that a lot, pushing books from one in-pile to the other’s. But as I understood it, it would be impossible to “loan” your e-book to another person’s e-reader, even if you are living in the same house. Plus, there were a few early gaffes where Amazon pulled e-book content, allowing a book you were actively reading to simply disappear from your Kindle. Big Brother anyone?  Ummm, no. I like the permanence and flexibility of physical paper, thank you very much.

So with all that going against e-books, you can see why I planned to be clinging to my paperbacks, even with my cold dead fingers.

So how on earth did I ever convert?

Over the summer, I ran into increasingly reliable statistics that sales of e-books were rising rapidly, likely to eclipse sales of paper books sometime in 2011 to 2013. That alone did not convince me e-books were ok. I happen to believe that yes, a billion Chinamen can be wrong. However, as an aspiring author who pays attention to the publishing world, I could not help but see how much e-books were causing a stir in the book-related business circles. I figured that if these were become such a big deal, I should at least see what they were like to better understand what was happening.

So, I bought one, convinced it would be a terrible experience, and that I would just have that much more vitriol and disdain for the e-book e-vangelizers.

Well… damn. This isn’t so bad after all.

In fact, parts of it are pretty nice.

Specifically, I really enjoy being able to adjust the font-size. My impending blindness, er, I mean my age-induced presbyopia means that I can’t read the small print anymore. Even with reading glasses, it is growing difficult. And it seems to me that as books get longer, the print is getting even smaller. So, instead of squinting to read some nine or ten point font in a paperback, I’m reading along in my Kindle at a nice twelve or fourteen point font.

Furthermore, I find the Kindle easier to hold than paperbacks, and that’s saying a lot because one of the main selling points of the old mass-market paperbook was that it was easy to hold one-handed. (No, not like that you dirty-minded monkey. Sheesh!) But the problem was I had to keep shifting it around page by page. I had to keep at least some of my fingers on top of the pages to hold it open, but I needed to constantly shift them around to not obscure that little bit of text at the top, bottom or side of the page. (In addition to shrinking text, I’m convinced page margins have been getting smaller over the years as well.) The Kindle can be held with most of the hand behind it and only one fingertip, likely the thumb, hanging onto an edge to enhance the grip as well as be poised near the page turn button.

Also on holding paperbacks, I would need to shift how the book was angled from one page to the next, particularly in bed where the only light was from a bedside lamp. The best angle for reading the left-side page was bad for reading the right-side page, and vice-versa. I can position the kindle in one spot, and just keep going.

For that matter, I don’t even need to hold the Kindle at all. I can set it flat on a counter or prop it in my lap. This has led me to start reading the Kindle in places I never would have attempted to read a book, e.g. while cooking or even eating.

But the bottom line is that I’m reading faster and more often on the Kindle than I was in paper. The larger font has certainly helped my words per minute reading speed, but it has also reduced my eye strain from reading the smaller fonts, and that means I’m reading longer before deciding it’s time to turn out the light and go to sleep. And the ease of holding it means I’m reading in places and situations where I never would have bothered to even bring a book before. That means more hours spent reading rather than looking around for things to distract my brain from its pervasive boredom.

For example, I recently read a longish book on my Kindle. In paperback form, it’s 448 pages. I read it in about a week. Historically, that’s really fast for me. Normally a book that length would have taken me at least two weeks to read, probably more because this one dragged A LOT. Contrast that with the paperback I’m reading now. It’s the same page length, but it’s an author and series I really like, and I’m eager to find out what happens. After about a week, I’m on page 80.

448 pages per week vs. 80 pages per week. So, how many books to I want to read next year?

Yes, it’s not a scientific experiment, but it’s enough for me to start looking at my in-pile of physical books and think about repurchasing some of them as e-books just so that I can finally get around to reading them.

Now, this whole can’t-loan-it-to-my-wife things still bugs me, but I believe that you can loan some books that way. And if traditional publishers ever start pricing e-books rationally (that’s a whole’nother post), maybe I won’t feel so bad at not being able to loan out my $5 e-book, because after all, I chose not to pay $9 for the physical book.

The format wars seem to be dwindling, with most manufacturers settling on the e-pub format and most others offering a Kindle-format reader on their non-Kindle devices. I’ve even heard rumors that “the next generation” of Kindles will support the e-pub format. Maybe – I’ll believe it when I see it. Still, we’ve moved away from the one format per reader chaos of 2009.

So, if you’re clutching your paperback as tightly as I was in July, let me suggest that you make the relatively small investment in an e-ink reader like the Kindle and at least see what it’s all about. You may find after a while that you too are finding certain advantages.

Then you can join me in the chorus: I do so love green eggs and ham. Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-am.

The Cresting Wave of Crap?

I was reading a post by Chuck Wendig where he identified a number of problems facing self-publishers. One such problem is that as a self-publisher, you’re tainted by the poor quality of all the other self-published books out there, and there are some true stinkers. No gatekeepers means no quality control.

As part of this, he talks a little about the pervasive attitude among self-published authors where they have finally won their freedom, felling The Man with their mighty Kindles. No one is going to tell them that their story isn’t good enough for the masses. Gatekeepers be damned.

This attitude is great for writers. “Who cares? Poop out a book!”

This attitude sucks for readers. “I just bought this book. And I think it’s made of poop.”

Well, yeah. There are a lot of poop books out there, a diarrhea-spewn river of Kindle crap, floating through the… ok, I’m just going to back away from the rest of that sentence. You’re welcome. Sufficed to say, there are a lot of really bad self-published books out there these days, and it shows no signs of letting up.

Or does it?

To further plumb the depths of this messy metaphor, is this truly an endless turd or are we merely experiencing the explosive climax of a long-endured case of constipation? *

For decades, traditional publishing held the all the keys to the marketplace. They had the printers. They had the distribution. They had the know-how. (They also had the story editors, the copy editors, the art directors, the marketing folks and so on, but what crap-crusted self-publisher cares about those things?) There was no way for the average Joe to publish a book.

Well, actually, there was a way: get really good at the craft, write several good novels, and patiently offer them up to the various publishers. For most people, this was asking too much, especially when it was clear that The Man was going to keep them down, forever mired in the slush pile. (At least slush is better than crap, no?)

But now the Gatekeepers are irrelevant. E-publishing has torn down the walls. There’s nothing to stop any would-be best-selling author from pooping out his book and putting it on the market. And after decades of wanting to do just that, a lot of folks are.

But I’ll bet that the vast majority of them stop after one book. They may sell more copies than the previous sad self-publishing tales, i.e. five copies sold, including two to Mom, but by both numbers and quality, most of this surge of self-published books will be commercial failures.

Yes, the shelf-life of an e-book is theoretically forever, but the truth of it is that readers like to buy more of what they know they like. That means the next book in the series or another book by their favorite author. But if these newest authors had only the one book in them, then there is no next book in the series. There is no latest release. There is no backlist of twenty-three novels, all ready to be devoured by your newest fan. There’s just the one book, its bits getting dusty on some distant drive array.

And so they will write their one stinker, feel rightfully proud about having finally done it, and then see very few sales. They’ll hang on and spam twitter for a few months, maybe a year, but eventually the reality will settle in. The disappointment will sting, but they’ll get over it. Before long, they’ll move on to other distractions. I hear script-writing is all the rage now. And you know, I have that camera, and video-editing software is really cheap now. And we could shoot it at the old mill…

Now, maybe this sounds overly harsh. As it is, I am undistinguished with only a few short story credits to my name. I can’t claim to be the greatest thing since the Holy Ghost writer. But I am a reader, and I’ve looked at some of what’s out there in the Kindle direct store, and much of it is indeed utter crap. Finding worthwhile stuff there is a lot of word-of-mouth and skimming the free samples, but it’s a hard slug – hard enough to me to feel sympathy for all those slush-pile readers of old. So harsh or not, it seems to be the reality.

But like I said, I think it’s going to pass. I don’t know if we’ve hit the crest of the wave yet, so it may get worse before it gets better. And I know there will always be a steady trickle of this kind of crap as each new generation offers up its own would-be best-selling self-published authors. I only hope that when we do get to the other side of this wave, the eventual trickle is a lot smaller than the river we currently find ourselves in.

(*Ok, I promise to limit myself to one scatological missive per year. Or month? Week? Hell, what do I know? I’m making it up as I go.)

Amazon as the enemy?

It’s been interesting (and terrifying) to watch some of the recent changes in publishing, but one of the ones I’ve been most intrigued by has been the demonization of Amazon. Today I’m sharing two different tales where different sections of the book industry are lashing out not just at Amazon, but with people who choose to do business with Amazon.

The first tale is from Kiana Davenport, a Hawaiian author, who has been writing short stories for years and recently signed with a Big 6 New York publisher to publish her first novel. Around the same time, she also decided she should start getting some of her backlist stories out on the e-book market, so she decided to self-publish them on Amazon’s Kindle platform. Her New York publisher was not amused:

“To coin the Fanboys, they went ballistic. The editor shouted at me repeatedly on the phone. I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of ‘blatantly betraying them with Amazon,’ their biggest and most intimidating competitor. I was not trustworthy. I was sleeping with the enemy.

Most of the stories in both collections had each been published several times before…. And, over several years both collections had been submitted to each of the Big 6 publishers in NY. I still have their rejection letters, including one from the house I was now under contract with. So you might say these stories were, in a sense, recycled, sitting in my files rejected. Yet, as published collections, this Big 6 publisher suddenly found them threatening.”

In short, because she was publishing some completely different work (different genre) on her own, the Big 6 publisher is apparently cancelling her contract, demanding the return on advance, and holding the rights to her novel hostage in the mean time. You can go read it for yourself, but it definitely seems that they are most upset not because she chose to self-publish these collections, but because she dared to go through Amazon to do it.

Recently, I have seen a number of traditionally published authors talk about the advantages to straddling the fence between traditional New York publishers and self-publishing through e-books and small press service companies like Lightning Press or CreateSpace. Rather than handing over the e-book rights to your backlist, they have recommended working through it on your own or hiring out the tasks. That way you keep more control as well as a larger share of the royalties.

However, actions like those of Kiara’s publisher make it clear that traditional publishers do not want this at all, and when they have the power to prevent it, they are. Not just because they want to do the publishing work themselves, but in cases like Kiara’s, because they do not want you to have any success without them. This more than anything else is making me question whether I want to pursue a traditional publishing path.

The second tale comes from Joe Konrath who has earned the ire of bookstores for signing with Amazon’s new publishing imprint Thomas & Mercer to publish the eighth book in his Jack Daniels series. Some booksellers are making noise about boycotting books from this line, but that’s not all:

“I’ve also heard that certain booksellers want to return any books of mine they have in stock as a punitive measure.

So signing a deal with Amazon makes me the enemy of bookstores?

Me, who has signed at over 1200 bookstores? Who has thanked over 1500 booksellers by name in the acknowledgements of my novels? Who has named five major characters in my series after booksellers?

Now I’m the bad guy, for wanting to continue my series and make a living?

You may know that my publisher, Hyperion, dropped my Jack Daniels series after six books, even though they continue to sell well as backlist titles. The only way I could get print books in the series into the hands of fans was to sign with another publisher.

Thomas & Mercer stepped up to the plate to give my fans what they want: more Jack Daniels books.”

Now, certainly I know that many booksellers have an axe to grind with Amazon as a retailer, an axe already honed by every Mom & Pop grocer who saw a Walmart move into town. But to hate them as a publisher? To the point of sending back their authors’ books to some completely unrelated publisher?

Personally, I gave up on brick and mortar bookstores a while back. I know that’s incredibly un-PC in the book-loving world, but it’s just what happened. I wrote an essay on it last year (which I might repost here) where I explained why, but the bottom line is that my Amazon experience became better than my bookstore experience. It’s not necessarily that bookstores did anything wrong, just that Amazon did it better.

I can understand being angry when a new competitor comes and starts shaking up your business. You’ve got a comfortable apple-cart, and someone just moved in and knocked it over. It sucks, but to react by taking it out on the people who choose to do business with that new competitor? Not only is that bad business, it’s petty.

Yes, Virginia, There Is an Apocalypse

Well, maybe not quite an apocalypse, but at the very least an industry-shaking revolution.

I’m talking about the big shakeup that e-books are causing in the publishing business. I’ve been hearing about this for a couple of years. Notably, Mike Mennenga and Michael Stackpole have been going on about this on their podcast for quite some time. Other voices have chimed in from elsewhere in the blogo/podo-spheres as well. This is hardly news.

Well, except it is. At least to me.

Until recently, I have been sticking with the attitude of “you’ll get my paperback when you pry it from my cold dead fingers!” I hate reading on screens for any length of time, and I like the feel of a book in my hand. Why would anyone switch to an e-reader?

Furthermore, the various voices I heard screaming about the advent of the e-book were also screaming about the impending doom of the existing publishing industry. “They’re dinosaurs,” they would say, “and very soon, they’ll be extinct dinosaurs.” I don’t give much credit to doomsayers because 90% of the time, they’re wrong, and even when they’re right, they’ve overstated the scale of the doom 90% of the time.

Plus, I found that these various doomsayers did a spectacularly bad job of explaining why or how the doom was going to arrive. They deflected any criticism mostly by saying that anyone who did not see the obvious was just too stupid to survive the upcoming changes. This smacked of the weak cry of an indefensible dogma, so if anything, it solidified my belief in the opposite.

But now I’m starting to change my mind. What did it? Frankly, it was finally reading someone talking about it who did not sound like a Kool-aid guzzling doom-monkey.

So, here are five articles by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a well-known writer, publisher, and editor with about thirty years experience in this industry.

The first is an alarming piece (sans doom-monkeyshine) called Writing Like It’s 1999.

The rest are a four-part series telling established writers how to Survive the Transition.
Part 1: Some analysis and why you should not panic
Part 2: Watch out for the biggest rights-grab in history
Part 3: Why maybe you can’t trust your agent anymore
Part 4: Planning for the future

These are long, but I think they’re worth the read. It’s the most insightful writing on the publishing industry and e-books I’ve seen since the Kindle hit the market.