Self Publishing Is Not Spelt K.I.N.D.L.E.

Self Publishing Is Not Only About KindleKindle isn’t the only ebook reading device

With the clear dominance of Amazon and Kindle in the ebook market, and particularly in its almost ever presence in social media mentions, there is a natural assumption that this is a worldwide phenomenon and that ergo, ebooks and self-publishing must equal Kindle. However, in my judgement, this is just simply not true.

The popularity of the Kindle as a reading device is predominantly in the United States. Where I live in Europe, and I have heard the same from my UK friends, the Kindle is a rarely seen device. Amongst my own friends and family, both in Switzerland and Australia, not a single person I know owns a Kindle. While waiting in airports in Europe, I have hardly ever seen anyone reading with a Kindle.

On the occasions I have shown my Kindle to my French speaking friends, they usually have the same reaction. Total disinterest. Their reasons are quite logical though. Firstly, there is still a preference for books in Europe so ebooks are struggling for acceptance. Secondly though is that they think the Kindle, in any of its forms, looks and feels cheap and it really doesn’t do much.

But, if I started writing this piece all over again and talked about the Apple iPad, it is a totally different story. All of my friends and family have an iPad. All of my French speaking friends too, and they occasionally read ebooks with it. I see almost one person in ten using an iPad while I wait at the airport. The rest have an iPhone or Android. I see people on trains reading on iPads and iPhones – and, perhaps ebooks in French and German as well as English.

So because of this, I know why self-publishing is not simply Kindle publishing. Sure, it’s one important publishing platform, but one that’s basically limited to a US centric readership. The rest of the world is equipped and ready to read, (and buy) but not with a Kindle.

Smart self-publishers know this and are publishing on a number of platforms and online retailers already. The next stage of growth in ebook sales will come from markets other than the US, and it will not be driven by dedicated e-reading devices, but by fully functional tablets and smartphones that also serve as a multi-platform ebook reader and allow ebook buying choice.

With a tablet, you can buy the same ebook from a range of retailers, and perhaps even DRM-free, so you can use a purchased ebook on almost any device and safely back up and store your library. You can even lend it to a friend.

But are there enough readers outside the US who read in English?

As a result of a marketing experiment I have been working on using BitTorrent, the following graphic shows the geographical location of over 20,000 downloads of one of my free ebooks over the last few weeks. The ebook was in .epub and .mobi format so it could be used on almost any e-reading device from smartphones to laptops. What this proves to me is that there are a lot of readers of English ebooks out there and that there is a market developing rapidly.


Readers are all potential buyers, and there are millions upon millions of them outside the US. As a self-published author though, are your ebooks available for them, or are you only a Kindle author?

22 thoughts on “Self Publishing Is Not Spelt K.I.N.D.L.E.”

  1. You are only partially right as you are underestimating the Kindle’s strength in Europe, or, at least, in the UK region of Europe. And with other platforms making it impossible for self-published authors to use them and also use Amazon, there will be less authors publishing elsewhere. Amazon allows a self-published author to publish with them and still publish with others and market whichever one they choose to market. Apple is putting limits on that. From the experience of friends of mine who self-publish, the money, at the moment, whether it comes from US buyers or not, is still with Amazon publishing.

    My Kindle is a 3G. It’s light-weight, easy to bring with me everywhere, and I limit my book downloads to when I am home and can use my home wi-fi connection, so I don’t get any extra charges.

  2. Serban V.C. Enache

    Mr. Haines, just because the circles of people which orbit around you don’t use or never seen a Kindle, that doesn’t mean that people outside the US don’t use or that they don’t enjoy reading with it. And there are other ereader devices out there, besides the Kindle. Ereaders offer a net superior experience of reading ebooks. No one who values their eyes will read books on a tablet. A tablet serves many purposes, but offers a net inferior experience, compared to ereaders. Also, the battery life of ereaders is longer than that of tablets. The Kindle ereader is a good device, Amazaon’s business practices, in my opinion, are not. I like to see organic competition in the market place, not monopoly striding companies.
    I have no respect for those authors who publish their works via exclusive platforms with exclusive policies and audiences, out of mere laziness and the prospects of making a quick buck and quick popularity. If you care about your stories, you’ll give the opportunity for everyone to access and read them. You’ll not be an exclusive actor. You’ll respect the reader, who’s an individual, not a group. The individual is unique, the group is not. Domestic or foreign reader, makes no difference – they’re ALL readers. I’ll end this post with the same question you, sir, have posted. Are you just a Kindle author? If so, then congratulations, you’re not working for yourself, you’re working for Amazon.

  3. The argument that the e-reader experience is in some way superior to that of reading on a tablet is tired and mystifying. Sometimes I think people make that claim because they’ve been told over and over to do so. The truth is likely more one of preference. The idea that reading on a tablet screen is bad for your eyes is and always has been odd, since we’ve been reading on similar screens for 35 years and the general population has not experienced any spike in blindness. I own both a Kindle and an iPad. I do just about all my reading on the iPad, the Kindle long-since relegated to a glorified recipe card holder. It has WAY superior battery life, the Kindle, but the background screen has too little contrast, making it hard for my eyes to separate print and paper. My eyes tire from reading on it after only several minutes. The iPad, however, is much more crisp (and I don’t have a retina display) and I can easily adjust the brightness for whatever reading condition I have. Weird, people like to say that the Kindle more closely matches the experience of reading a paper book. I think that claim best belongs to a tablet, excepting the fact that you can read a tablet in the dark without a book light.
    As for the idea that Amazon exclusive authors are lazy and work for Amazon, well, the latter may be true, but the former is not. Those artists are merely going where the numbers are. And why should anyone care? You can read Kindle books on any tablet you like, using their app.

    1. I do have an iPad with retina display Stephan, and since getting it my Kindle hasn’t been used. Not only because of the extra sharp display, which is a godsend for my old eyes, but also because of the choice I have now. I read books in iBooks, Kobo and Kindle app, and they all offer near perfect reading for my eyes. The fact of being able to buy ebooks in almost any format and read on one device suits me as I do hunt around.

      I just bought an iPad mini for work purposes, and although the screen is not retina, it’s still absolutely fine for my old eyes.

  4. Mm, had you said that a year ago, I would have agreed for Cyprus. However, more and more expats are telling me they have downloaded my novels to their Kindles.

    Family and friends in UK are not, they are purchasing paperbacks, one has Kobo, and the others download to their ipads or phones. Those in Germany are very quiet, so suspect they have not purchased and do not read. Lol!

    I sell more ebooks via Kindle than Smashwords, who have the options for many ereader versions.

    I am a Kindle owner, and download at home. I also purchase paperbacks but download more ebooks via Amazon (purchase not freebies). So this part of Europe is finding its feet with Kindle a little more.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Serban V.C. Enache

    @Stephan Loy
    I wasn’t saying that reading from screen causes blindness or that’s unhealthy. I said that it’s tiresome on the eyes and that it brings a head ache after a while. Reading on an E Ink tech screen isn’t tedious. Besides, who can seriously devote their hours to reading, when you’ve got on your twitter, your chat, youtube, your email, search engine, facebook, and whatever. I don’t know your daily social context, and I live in a country that’s far behind in ereading. In the subway I see people playing games or surfing the web on their iphones and tablets. Those that I see, who read, read physical books.
    As for Amazon only authors, who refuse to publish via other aggregators are simply lazy. Because such a thing implies to monetary cost. It gives you net benefits. People around the world can find you and your works in more places. Claiming that “well hey, they’re going where the money is” is a plain comment of derision. There’s no worthwhile argument for having your books exclusive to one store. No one can quantify the power of exposure through other outlets/stores, if you don’t make your books available to as many retailers as you can. Author exclusivity makes no sense. You’re just sabotaging yourself. An author should make his books available to all retailers, to Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc.

  6. Keith Gapinski

    Would you be willing to share the breakdown of .mobi vs. .epub downloads of your books? If it’s greatly .mobi, I’d wonder if many of those people were reading on a Kindle. Also, as someone mentioned above, all of the non-Kindle devices you mentioned can run the Kindle software, so I wonder how many people are using the Kindle store on those devices as opposed to Google Play or iBooks. Any insight?

    1. The file I offered Keith included both file types, so unfortunately I can’t give you a split. I’d love that information as well, but it wasn’t the objective of my trial.

  7. This may add a little to the debate.

    ‘Danger, Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook: Things are looking pretty grim for your product category. After a meteoric rise, sales of e-readers seem to be spiraling downward, thanks to iPads, Kindle Fires, Surfaces and Galaxy Tabs. Tablets are absolutely killing demand, says an IHS iSuppli Consumer Electronics Special Report.

    By the end of 2012, just 14.9 million e-readers are estimated to be sold. That’s a whopping 36 percent decrease from 2011′s 23.2 million units shipped. And next year, the market is on track to drop further still, by another 27 percent (or 10.9 million units).

    The flameout is happening for one simple reason: E-readers simply can’t compete with tablets that not only offer the same e-books, but also feature boatloads of apps for games, news feeds, communications, social networks, video streaming and much, much more.’

    The full article is here:

    I used information from this source and others in preparing my post.

  8. Serban V.C. Enache

    @Derek Haines
    iSuppli are the only ones who came up with this sensationalist conclusion. Tablets address a different market than that of Ereaders. Thus, the increase in sales of the former has nothing to do with “killing off” dedicated erdears. A lot of people have ereaders. As a consumer of books and writer, I’m not feeling threatened by tablet sales. We’ll hear the real figures at the end of the fiscal year. Personally, I call BS on iSuppli’s apocalyptic outlook.

    1. iSuppli are the only reliable source Serban, as Amazon famously never reveal their own sales figures, for anything. When the Kindle Fire was clearly missing the market, Amazon were still bragging of sensational sales, but didn’t back their claims by hard numbers. We now know it was only Amazon hype.

  9. I agree Michel that Amazon Kindle and KDP is a great starting point for new authors. However, it is a 2,000 lb gorilla as well, and after my experience with their KDP Select program, I’ll only be making KDP a part of my publishing activities. Amazon’s insistence of exclusivity in publishing will not work in the longer term, and only by making ebooks available to all buyers on all platforms will authors be truly successful.

  10. Stella Deleuze

    In London you can’t see the faces for the Kindles. Every time I step on the Tube or bus, I see people with Kindles. More than iPad, I must say. Many people I know have one, including friends. According to my friend in Germany, it’s getting more popular in Germany, too. Where do you live, in a seclusive village on top of the mountain? ;-)

    I’ve re-enrolled all my books with Amazon. I had them all on Smashwords, but didn’t sell any. Not a single one. So I decided to enroll them again, and rather have a few borrows than zilch. I don’t like being exclusive, but what use is it to have books everywhere if they don’t sell? And the distribution channels on Smashwords are not that special anymore. Download the Kindle App and you can buy your favourite author’s book from Amazon.

    I love my Kindle and I very, very rarely buy paperbacks anymore, only if I have to, and I would find it a shame if e-readers disappear. I don’t know if tablets can offer the same good reading experience e-ink has. I get dizzy when I stare at my laptop screen too long. So for me it would be e-ink all the way.

    1. Serban V.C. Enache

      @Stella Deleuze
      So because you didn’t sell, you pulled them off from Smashwords and the other retailers to go exclusive with Amazon? That makes no sense. Did you put any real efforts to market the book, to promote the book? Did you mail the book to reviewers? Did you put any links in writer’s clubs forums/forums on your genre? Did you try a promotional on GoodReads? Is you cover attractive? Did you write, at least, a short story and priced it for FREE in order to attract a following? Did you have beta readers feedback before you published the book? Because, frankly, if you’ve not managed to sell 1 book, that means you don’t any friends willing to invest a few bucks into what you’ve wrote.
      An indie writer isn’t done, after he’s/she’s finished the book. He/she has to be proactive until a snowball effect is created. I like it how first time writers, especially those who are really obscure on the web, like to blame the aggregators for not being able to sell. Just like parents with their children. If the child grows up to be a bum, parents will blame anyone else but themselves. They’ll say it was the child’s entourage, the bad teachers at school, violent tv programs, the internet, government, foreigners et all. But when the child grows up to achieve something in his life, that’s when the parents get hold of the megaspeaker to say how they thought the child right, how they’re upbringing accounted for how the child is now, and all he’s realized.

      1. Stella Deleuze

        I just love it when people think I’m a bit thick and inexperienced. Out of curiosity: what makes you think I’m a first time writer?

        1. Serban V.C. Enache

          If you’re not a first time writer (if you’ve published more than 1 title), and you’ve achieved 0 downloads through Smashwords and the other retailers, then I wouldn’t go out telling people about it. I don’t want to come out as snide, but the fact that you’re blaming retailers because you can’t sell your books, shows that you did not put in the work required for marketing and promotion. I can understand you going via KDP select in hopes of selling more, or rather, to sell. But the benefits of that exclusivity program won’t last. If you would have priced your first book for free, you would have had downloads. But again, I don’t know your particular context. But you should accept the blame, or at least part of it, for not selling any book via Smashwords and its retail partners.

  11. Stella Deleuze

    It’s pointless to ‘discuss’ with someone who seemingly can’t read.
    Show me where I said I never sold any books. I said I didn’t sell any books on Smashwords and the connected retailers. My books are selling and are borrowed through Amazon. I also never blamed Smashwords; I merely stated a fact, and my decision I made based on that fact.
    The good thing about being Indie means the decision is up to me. No reader has ever complained that they can’t obtain my books. You can disagree with that as much as you like, but in the end of the day it’s still my decision.
    And, just something else: not every book being published is destined to sell, for nobody knows what the public wants. To assume an author didn’t make an effort is just as wrong as promoting to fellow authors. Sometimes, it’s only a very simple reason: the book’s just not loved. Nothing wrong with that either.

  12. Serban V.C. Enache

    ^^ Where did I state that you never sold a book overall? I was referring strictly to Smashwords and its retail partners. Yes. Most ebooks don’t sell well. Point of the matter is that not every reader buys from Amazon. By pulling away your books from the other stores, you’re simply not there. You’re not exposed. It’s like going into different bars, in hope of scoring with someone. Just because you didn’t hook up in some bars, that’s no reason to not frequent those bars anymore. Especially since it costs you nothing to be present in more outlets at the same time. If you want to be exclusive to one store, that’s your choice. Just don’t blame your lack of success on the other aggregators.

  13. Stella Deleuze

    Once again: I had my books on Smashwords and they didn’t sell. I had more borrows last month than sales on SW since March 2011. And as I said, being exclusive doesn’t mean readers can’t buy my books. They just have to download the Kindle App and are good to go.

    My decision was based on zero sales vs. money from the borrows. And it seems it was a good decision. Smashwords is not very user friendly. I had sent out coupons to reviewers who didn’t know what to do with it. That was the only reason I stayed with SW, but since I ended up sending the mobi or PDF of my books anyway, I just didn’t see any point anymore.
    Not sure why you’re still hung up on my blaming Smashwords. I don’t. After almost 2 years, I think I can make a fair judgement on the success and which platform is right for me. I wish I had sales through SW, but I don’t. So I go where I get the money and readers. Simple, really.

  14. Hanako Stephens

    I thank you cause this is going to be really interesting figuring a good platform to publish with :)

  15. There are a lot of platform where you can publish your ebook. B&N to name one, and there are a lot of ebook reader devices nowadays and more coming. But I still believe that Amazon and kindle is known and most sought by ebook readers.

  16. Joleene Naylor

    Great article. I sell almost as many books via Barnes and Noble as I do Amazon. At one time I sold more. I even sell one now and then on Google play lol! As for iBooks I get a lot of free downloads (I offer short stories free) but not many paid. However I have friends who do very well. It’s all a matter of where you gain traction and I think exclusivity is a mistake.

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