The Kindle Experiment

Kindle IconWith two book updates published, and possibly two more in the near future, I seem to have a lot of book projects lately. I started wondering about the Kindle. Am I choosing the right format for my books? That’s why I started the Kindle Experiment. The aim of this experiment was to test the Kindle as a viable alternative to Apple’s iBookstore or iTunes App Store. I’ve learned a lot about the differences of the two platforms. I think I’ve gathered enough data to make a solid conclusion. I’ve chosen a clear winner.

Realization #1 – Kindle publishing is easier!

I remember when I first started book publishing with Android and the iPhone. It was as if I had to lift a huge weight with my mind. Eclipse and Xcode are incredibly complex applications. They’re overkill for a simple book. Yet, that’s what I had to use to get my book online. Later, Apple started supporting the epub format for iBooks. It’s similar to Kindle, but surprisingly more involved. I struggled with finding the right software for the job. (Uploading the epub to Apple was not very fun.)

It was a different story with Amazon. A fairly decent web-based converter can create .mobi files from HTML or Microsoft Word documents. I took a slightly more complicated route for creating a .mobi file for Revisions. I used the KindleGen (Amazon’s command prompt software) to create a .mobi file from an HTML document. Prepping the document was really easy. There were only a few special tricks that I needed to know.

Here’s the code to make a Kindle page break… <mbp:pagebreak />

Specifying the cover was a little tricky. A 600×800 image is needed. But again, only a basic understanding of HTML was needed to set it up.

Realization #2 – Kindle publishing is quicker!

Apple’s review process wastes a lot of time. It took almost a month to get my first iBook approved. It takes about a week to get an app approved. Amazon also has a walled garden for their Kindle, but it’s a lot easier to get in. In 24 hours, my book was online.

Realization #3 – Kindle publishing is cheaper to start!

To get Revisions on the iBookstore, I needed to buy a $125 ISBN. To get Revisions on the App Store, I needed to pay a $99 developer fee — which needs to be renewed annually. It’s free to publish books on the Kindle, but Amazon has a strange pricing structure. If you want to charge more than $9.99 or less than $2.99, Amazon will take a much larger percentage. They also charge a fee for the download size of the book. That means textbooks are not really suited for this market. It also means that if I sold the same amount of copies with Apple, I’d make more money.

Realization #4 – No sales!

There was a big difference when I published my book on iOS and Android. Right away, I could see sales. But with Amazon, it seemed like my book didn’t exist. That’s consistent with empirical data. When I’m on the Staten Island Ferry or on a NYC train, I don’t see too many Kindles. It’s actually a rare occurrence. That’s why I cut the experiment short. It was a fun learning experience, but it’s not really a good option for my books.

Winner: Apple