A Publishers Weekly article today focused on how indie authors need to learn about "positioning." The piece says it's "imperative that indie authors do their research and spend time learning how to think like an industry insider, or hire outside people who have industry experience to maximize their chances for success."  Traditional publishing, says the story, is delighted with the surge of new voices (**cough, cough**) but indies can only fit in by acting like industry insiders. Oh, and indies should also throw money at the poor, downtrodden insiders who've been trampled by the indie revolt.

According to PW,  to properly position their work, indies should "angle" their work to readers, using genre, subgenre, the title, subtitle, the blurb and keywords. Indies must position their titles to ensure their "commercial viability in an overcrowded market." The article also recommends the following:

Positioning decisions can also downplay a certain theme by highlighting another that’s more saleable. For instance, addiction sells better than sexual abuse, so a memoir that has both might be highlight the addiction—in its title, subtitle, descriptive copy, and blurbs—and underplay or not even mention the abuse narrative, even though it’s there.

Funny, I've always believed that if I write the book I want to write, and give it a title, cover, subtitle, blurb and keywords that honestly describe the work, then readers will angle themselves in my direction, if my work is their "cuppa."  And it may not be because different strokes stoke different folks.  Nothing's wrong with that a'tall.  But if you're not naturally inclined towards the oddities of a duck lady who writes love over-the top for m/w and m/m, then I'd prefer you didn't spend your hard earned money for my work.  I gather that traditional publishing feels differently, and if they can angle their high-priced stuff into your wallet, they'd like to do it.

Traditional publishing still considers the sale the thing and the only thing.  Most indies, including this one, want their work to be read and appreciated, and sharing that experience with readers is more important than the bottom line.  That, I think, more than anything accounts for the indie revolution. We respect our readers too much to lure them into reading something they'd never choose to buy.

I haven't gambled in quite a while because too often the "new economy" doesn't cover all the basics, let alone the luxuries.  But back in the day, when the dollars flowed, Mr. Duck and I would take an occasional trip to a casino.  I stuck to the slots but Mr. Duck liked the tables.  Blackjack was one of his favorites.  Blackjack players hate to see a newbie sit down at the table.  Why?  Because a newbie doesn't know or follow the traditional rules about when to hit or stay or when to double down. The unpredictable play throws off the table and takes dollars from the experienced folks.

Indies are the newbies at the publishing table.  We haven't been following the rules so the traditional insiders can't predict our play.  Our daring honesty and respect for readers is taking a lot of dollars out of the formerly well-lined insider pockets. Now, traditional publishing pros are trying to "counsel" indies to learn the rules. What rules?  The ones set by traditional publishers to benefit traditional publishing, of course.

Sorry publishing pros, but I'm not interested in "positioning" readers because, unlike you, I think they're much more savvy than sheep who can be herded.  I'll keep angling with honesty and hoping readers enjoy my work. It all boils down to the difference in goals - publishing pros are in it for the money and indies are in it for love of the written word.  Maybe that's the biggest reason more and more readers opt to go indie.  Readers can spot a fraud at less than a hundred words. You might angle them once, but next time, they'll go indie.

And a crazy duck lady will welcome them with honesty and respect. Those are the values that create repeat business, whether we're talking about publishing, an insurance agency,  a car dealership, a restaurant, a big chain store or the corner market.

I was never published by Samhain Publishing, but was saddened by news of its decision to close.   Samhain published romance and one of the things I love about romance is it usually sells even when nothing else does.  My recent experience has already made me question that, so I searched the news stories to learn what the publisher said about the brand's decision to cease operations.  Their reason confirmed my experience with the current state of e-publishing, which is this:  Amazon is the only game in town.

Yes, I realize other vendors do business nominally, including Apple.  That fact led me to leave the Kindle Select program when my books aged out - around February 9th.  I left them for sale on Amazon, of course, but also distributed through Draft2Digital.  Sales have been abysmal within the exact definition of that word - "extremely or hopelessly bad."  That's bad for my finances, especially at a time when hubby and I are "all in" and trying to save up to purchase an RV type camping trailer for hubby's home away from home.  It will save him 5 hours of driving a day, which is an insane commute to work.  My leaving Select to increase sales has hurt our effort, and we can't take the hit for much longer.

I was already wavering on whether to stay with wide distribution or go back to Select, when I read about the death of Samhain.  The owner of the brand, Christina Brashear, wrote a letter explaining the decision.  It blames steadily declining sales and specifically notes the following:

We’ve tried to renegotiate terms with Amazon in order to buy better placement within their site and perhaps regain some of the lost traction from the early days but have been met with silence. Other retail sites are trying, but the sales have never risen to the level of Amazon and are declining as well.

Amazon has been busy building its Kindle Unlimited service, and, I expect, would lack the financial stake to motivate it to highlight the Samhain books.  But, basically what we have here is a publisher  saying that so much of its sales base was through Amazon that even a boost from other retailers couldn't sustain its business.  Why? Because the other retailers are struggling with sales too.

Authors need to stay wide to keep the market healthy, but the market can't stay healthy if customers only shop from one site.  If every single citizen of Town America buys groceries at Shop All,  soon, the grocery stores who are not Shop All will go out of business.  Then Shop All becomes the only game in town.  If Amazon is not at that point already, it's very, very close.

I'll likely leave my books wide for a few more days, and if sales do not improve, I'll take them out of wide distribution and enroll them in Select and go back to being exclusive to Amazon.  If customers don't vote otherwise with their dollars, then Amazon will own the entire market.  And Amazon is a great site.  I shop there a lot.  Heck, I'm a Prime member.  But the market does best when it stays varied, because that allows customers to control the market.  When there is only a single vendor, then that vendor controls the customers.

In the recent publishing war, it appears that Amazon is the one tin soldier who survives the battle and rides away.


I have been re-reading a great romance series, Elizabeth Lowell's "Only" books. I just finished Reno's story and am about to start my favorite book in that series, Whip's story -- "Only Love." (Who doesn't enjoy reading about a yondering man finding that home is a person rather than a place?) If you haven't read the series, you really, really should. I'm not in any way being critical of Ms. Lowell when I say -- the end of the book I just read annoyed the heck out of me.  Why?  Because "the end" of the book wasn't the end, not at all.

Three chapters of a completely unrelated and much newer book were crammed in after "the end."  That doesn't bother me in a paper book, but it bothers the quackers out of me in an e-book.  I can close a paper book, but I like to flip to the end of an e-book.  I could go to the digital controls and do it, but I like to flip until I get to 100%.  Is that insane of me?  Okay, we won't debate the generally tenuous state of my mental health.  Even if it IS insane of me, I still find it annoying.

It reminds me of the end caps at the supermarket where they place all the stuff they're trying to force you to buy.  Even if a product I like is there, I won't buy it.  If I'm shopping for cereal and a brand I like is on the end cap, I'll stroll down there and buy another one.  Pushing products on people sometimes has the opposite result.  It can drive buyers away.

If you're going to put a promo at the end of an e-book, it should be for a related book. Wal-mart doesn't put clothes or shoes at the end of the canned vegetable aisle, but publishers think they know better.  They don't.  They really don't.  I love Ms. Lowell's "Only" series, but I'm not a fan of the one being pushed at the end of the e-book I just read.  Now, I'll make a point not to read it.

If publishers want to promote an entirely different book at the end of an e-book, then have the author write a note to her readers explaining why she thinks readers of this book would enjoy the other series.  At the end of the note, the author should put a link to her webpage where readers can find out more about the other series and click buy links.  That promotes the other work without annoying readers.

When a reader reaches "the end," she believes that she has experienced the "happily ever after" and her journey is over. At the end of a trip, no one wants to take a long detour.  A brief note from the author thanking the reader her for her time and suggesting another book could be forgiven. Cramming a three chapter end cap after "the end" is an imposition that goes a step too far.  After "the end" e-books should allow readers the time and space to reflect on the journey just taken. If they've enjoyed the trip the readers are likely to seek out the author's other work.

"The end" of an e-book should be the end of an e-book.

Hi to all demented duck-loving QA, MAG & OO fans!  I have emerged from the corner of oblivion where I've been lurking lately.  I'd taken everything off of everywhere to join Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program.  Participation requires that books be exclusive to Amazon.  Why would I do that, you ask?

It's all about the Benjamins.  Sales had slowed everywhere, so I stowed my principals and hid under the wings of Mother Amazon.  It was quiet and comfy... too quiet.  There were no highs or lows, just getting paid about 1/4 of a penny for every page read.  A pittance, you say?  Yes, it was.

I've now come out of hiding, and all of my titles as Mary Anne Graham or Olivia Outlaw are or are about to be available everywhere, save for a bundle or two.  I'll get all of those up, eventually, but for now, all the single titles are out there, boldly going where no KU Select book can go.... For how long, you ask?

For as long as you buy them.  So, faithful Quackers... please, go to Apple, B&N, KOBO, or your favorite e-tailer, and pick up my books.  I'll ride the wave of freedom for as long as the budget allows. If you want me and other writers to keep our work widely available, you need to support our work.  Amazon won't conquer the literary universe if you help writers earn enough to keep their writing as free as their thoughts!!

Once upon a time, the Royals ruled the Publishing Kingdom.  They employed Agents to deal directly with the Creator Minions who produced the books that built the castle, for the Minions were heathen beasts, unworthy of the Royals consideration.  The trained Agents brought the Royals only that which the Royals deemed worthy - manuscripts that met traditional guidelines of acceptability.  Stability was vital to the Kingdom.

The Royals dwelt in their Castle and grew rich from the hard-earned coins of Captive Citizens who could buy only the books printed by the Royals.  The Citizen Readers did not protest their captivity, for they lived in ignorance of their state.  The choices they had were all they knew, and they knew nothing of the multitude of rejected work that could have enlarged their world, showing them the world outside the Kingdom walls.  And then came The Change.

Portable tablets appeared, bringing them communication and entertainment of their choosing, consumable when and where and how they chose. And enterprising groups of Citizens formed businesses and went amongst the rejected Creator Citizens, urging them to publish their work without Royal approval and distribute it to the Citizen Readers through the businesses giving the tablets all the choices the Citizens were coming to expect and adore.

At first the Royals scoffed.  The Creator Citizens work was not screened and pruned by the Agents.  Work that violated every traditional rule was soon released in frantic freedom.  But it meant nothing, the Royals knew, for the Citizens wanted only that which came from the Royals.  And for a time, that remained true.  But the enterprising Business and Creator Citizens produced their independent work without the burden of paying for the Castle, so they priced it within the means of the Reader Citizens.

Soon, the Royals had to release their books for the tablets, because the Reader Citizens demanded that their libraries be as portable as their music and their videos. For a time, the Business Citizens only allowed the Royals to publish on the tablets if the Royals priced their work within the means of the Reader Citizens.  This threw open the gates of the world to the Reader Citizens, but the dangerous winds of equality began to blow, shaking and finally shattering the Castle walls.

And the Royals saw that this was not good.  Along with their Castle, they were losing dominion over the Kingdom. Order must be restored. The Creator Citizens must be brought back to heel, trained again to beg for the scraps tossed to them from the Castle.  And the Reader Citizens must be dragged back inside the Kingdom gates, allowed to think and experience only that approved by the Royals. But how could a freed populace be enslaved again?

The Royals must begin by battling the Tablet rebels.  Business Citizens that supplied books to the rebels were issued a new edict - allow the Royals to price their work as they chose or lose the right to publish all Royal-approved work.  This edict terrified the Business Citizens, for amongst the Reader Citizens were many addicted to the work of Royally-approved Creators and if they lost access to their work then they risked losing the coins of the addicted Citizen Readers.  The trembling Business Citizens bowed to the Royals and accepted the edict.

All across the Tablets, the prices of Royally-approved work rose and rose and rose. The Royals knew that soon, the Reader Citizens would realize they were paying more for the convenience of having books on their Tablets than they'd paid for buying the books in traditional form.  Surely they would then return to buying traditional books, and the revolution would die.

Today, the Publishing Kingdom stands at the point of decision.  Are the Royals right? Will Reader Citizens pick up their chains and shackle themselves, returning to the slavery  of selecting from only the few books they are allowed to consider?

The Royals scheme to re-build their Castle could be destroyed by Business Citizens named Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Apple, if those Business Citizens were brave enough and bold enough to refuse to carry Royal work priced above a reasonable value.  The Royals believe that Businesses are too cowed to refuse to carry their work and that Readers do not value their freedom or their independence.

What do I believe?  I believe that there is enough AMAZING independent work to feed the appetite of every reader.  I also believe that if the revolution continues, the still-enslaved Royal authors will break their chains, and release their work independently.

I believe that free thought and free expression are important enough and powerful enough to overcome any scheme the Royals may concoct.

Do you KU?

If you do, whether as a reader or a writer, then I bet you've heard of the best thing since dark roast coffee - KENP.  It stands for Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count and it's the way Amazon now measures page reads by Kindle Unlimited Subscribers. Beginning July 1st, writers with books enrolled in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program will not be paid per borrow, they'll be paid per page read, meaning, per page as pages are counted by Amazon. It's created a whole new obsession for writers.

Beginning in the wee hours of July 1st, KU authors were huddled over their keyboards with their screen locked on the Amazon KDP reports page, clicking one key, just one key.  Y'all know what that was, right?  Refresh... refresh... refresh.

Yes, my creditors and I are most interested in seeing those page reads rack up.  We don't know what the Zon will pay per page. It will be a rolling target like the old pay per borrow system.  But what we do know is that our payout will be based on pages read. So, like I said, the goons... err, bill collectors... and I have a very vested interest in seeing those KENP numbers rise.  But I've got a secret that I keep from the goons. I'm gonna share it with you, but you've got to promise not to tell them, okay?

I'm really most excited by the new KENP system because now I can see that readers are READING my books.  It's why I write, after all.  I can tell my stories to myself in my head where I see them play out on my inner movie screen.  And after I get to the happy ending of one tale, I can begin to tell myself another. I think we all do that, to some extent, don't we?  Perhaps not, and it's uniquely a "writer's thing." I wouldn't know for sure, having only ever lived in my head. But I choose to believe that many people create stories for their own inner consumption.  What makes a writer is that some of the inner tale tellers aren't satisfied unless they share their stories with other people.

I'm one of those people driven by a rather terrifying need to share my stories. And it is terrifying.  Although the wee, small sane part of me knows that not everyone shares my devotion to over-the-top love stories that are bigger than life, the bad reviews (all writers get them) used to hurt a lot.  The only way to survive the process, for me, has been to stop reading reviews altogether. Oh, I'm not perfect, so once in a while I'll take a quick, quick glance at the top two or three reviews on my "Mary Anne Graham" and "Olivia Outlaw" author central pages at Amazon, but by and large, I've learned not to do that.

KENP gives me the carrot without the stick. I can check and see the pages read adding up and feel a bright, shiny, inner glow.  And I can do it without dreading the people too sane to enjoy a crazy duck lady's stories.  It's all the good with none of the bad and there are very, very few things in life like that.  The only problem with KENP is that it's addictive - surely getting that wild rush from seeing that readers are reading my stories beats any drug ever manufactured legally or illegally. So yes, I admit it --  I'm Kookoo for KENP.

As addictions go, it's not a bad one to have.  This one makes me some money and gives me some happiness.  There's only one thing that would make KENP even better and that's seeing the numbers rise higher, and higher and higher.  It would let me know that more and more and more people are reading my work.

If you're a Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscriber - and really, everyone should be - then here's your new mission --- READ.  Yes, read more.  Read a lot.  Read every page ever written by Mary Anne Graham and Olivia Outlaw.  And once you have, then you Tweet and Facebook and blog about how everyone else should do the same.

It's time for KU subscribers to realize what VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE they are and to understand that they need to cease doing all the things limiting their reading.  I mean, if you're a Big Enough VIP to be a KU Subscriber then you have more important things to do than go to work, go to school, study, cook meals, clean your house or do laundry.

If you're a KU Subscriber then you're a READER and readers should be READING.  Just print off a copy of this blog post and give it to your boss, your spouse, your kids, your boyfriend or girlfriend or your professor.  They'll understand that you're a reader who has found his or her destiny.

And I only have one thing left to say to you.  Why are you still here?  Go - read, read... and then, read some more.

This week, Scribd announced that it is slashing content available to subscribers by cutting an "undisclosed" number of romance and erotica novels. One of Scribd's publishing partners, Smashwords, announced that 80-90% of its romance and erotica novels will but cut.  Smashwords CEO, Mark Coker, noted that the longer, higher priced works in the genres are most likely to feel the ax.  The problem with the books, apparently, is that romance and erotica readers are too prolific.

Wait - aren't ebook subscription services supposed to be an "all you can read" platform? Most of the romance fans likely joined Scribd so that they could read prolifically.   Changing the available content is a change to the terms that is unfair to Scribd's customers. It is a business betrayal where Scribd may discover that loyalty is better for the bottom line than their number crunchers accounted for.

In making this change, whether they realized it or not, Scribd was inviting their customers to stop doing business.  And I expect that customers will take Scribd up on its invitation to exit.

In the coming days, the same song should be playing in the heads of Scribd and Amazon execs, though only the latter will find it so catchy they end up humming it.

The song?  Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to Amazon we go.....

This week, at last, at long - long last, Amazon announced a change in the pay structure to authors with work enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.  The change won't just reward writers, it will also reward readers who will now have access to longer books and bundles that writers previously kept out of the program. We'll have to see how it works out because the devil is always in the details, but it looks like Amazon's about face will benefit everyone who plays fair.

Beginning July 1st, KU authors will be paid per page read rather than per borrow. Pay per borrow is the current system.  It resulted in scammers getting rich and working authors being penalized.  Because there was no minimum length for books, the scammers would throw together and upload very short and poorly written pamphlets full of a hodgepodge of useless information culled from the internet.  The pamphlets often feature provocative titles, prompting readers to pick them up and open them.  Because they are so short, when opened to or past the title page, the reader has read 10% and the writer --- err, scammer - gets paid.

The KU payment "pot" is a set fund, and money was paid per borrow.  That meant that the money going to line the scammers pockets wasn't going to authors who took a lot of time and a lot of effort to produce a product that would genuinely entertain or inform readers. It cheated hard working writers, but it also cheated readers who plunked down their hard-earned cash for Kindle Unlimited membership.

How are KU users cheated by the current system -- and how will they benefit from the new one?  They're cheated because writers keep their longer books and bundles out of KU currently and they'll benefit because beginning July 1st, many more of those longer works will be available.  Still, the change isn't universally popular with writers because many of them adapted their work, or structured it, to benefit from the current system.  And now, the authors who built up a huge volume of short stories and very short work will have to change their strategy again.

Personally, I'm ECSTATIC about the change. I try to write books that will hook readers and keep them reading from beginning to end.  I hope that the new system will prove that I'm meeting that goal.  And, I'll be putting into KU the bundles that have been kept out up till now - The Forever Series Bundle, The Dangerous Relations Bundle and The Sultan's Toy Bundle. Mr. Duck has even been hard at work on our newest one - The Carnal Collateral Bundle.  It's up and available for purchase now at Amazon.  On July 1st, the devilishly delightful series will join the other bundles in being available to KU readers.  We hadn't even created the bundle before because we'd never have put it into KU under the current pay structure.

Thank you, Amazon.  I've given you a hard time about the unfairness of the pay per borrow system.  So I want to take a minute to express my appreciation for your considering the problems and making the change.  I do not share the fear and paranoia running rampant in parts of the writing community.  I'm anxious for the new system.  It'll let me know if I'm doing my job right as a writer and, if I am, it will reward me accordingly.

To me, the new system sounds like a HEA - Amazon style.

I was in Kindle Unlimited (KU), for one stint - 90 days, the required term. I really enjoyed the program and the features.  More importantly, Amazon's customers enjoyed my participation -- my eBooks were downloaded a lot.  I left after that single stint for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a guaranteed payment (at least, a guaranteed minimum payment) scaled to the price of participating books. However, Amazon's demand for exclusivity was my most compelling reason for departing the program. It's the largest reason that most authors leave KU.

Amazon requires that in exchange for enrolling an eBook in Kindle Unlimited, that an author grant Amazon the exclusive right to sell that eBook.  That means that readers who use Nooks, iPads, or any other device, could not buy my books.  It meant that the price of participating in KU is telling a whole group of my readers that they are not important, that they don't matter.  I just couldn't do that after my sole stint in the program.  It hurt me to do that because ALL my readers matter.

Making my books exclusive to Amazon would also mean that all my eggs are in the Zon's basket.  It means that at the roulette wheel of life, I've bet all my hopes and dreams on the Zon's number.  I didn't spread them out among several numbers to give myself a cushion; I bet them all on a single number.  That's as poor a strategy in life as it is at the casino.  Yes, it will pay more if that single number hits, but it will cost me everything if any other number hits. The Zon's basket is large and from the outside looking in, it appears sturdy and stable, but I have no inside info.  Amazon could fold tomorrow - or it could cancel its KU program tomorrow.  That would leave me trying to convince readers that I tossed aside like yesterday's leftovers that they are still the main course.  My readers would never buy that - they're an eclectic, imaginative, smart bunch.  They're a tolerant group, but they won't tolerate disloyalty.

Although a few, select "big time" indie writers were offered participation in the program without exclusivity,  some of those have now left the fold, despite still offering their books elsewhere.  They felt that KU was cannibalizing sales on Amazon, prompting potential buyers to "borrow" instead. And borrows are not paid as sales, they are paid much less - an unknown rate set monthly by Amazon lately averaging $1.38 to $1.40 as compared to $2.05 for a sale on a $2.99 eBook.  The "big time" indies lost too much money.  The money and the lack of guaranteed pay out rates also explains traditional publishers staying away from the program.  Amazon surely doesn't require exclusivity from them but the trads had enough business savvy to know that borrows would reduce sales. So, there are issues other than exclusivity, but for the average indie author, exclusivity ranks at the top.

Not only does making something exclusive to one store hurt the author, it also hurts the customers. The market not only functions best when it's competitive,  it also grows more when it's competitive and innovation flourishes as competition does.  Exclusivity is a big scary concept to indie authors.  It makes us slaves on the Amazon plantation, totally dependent on "Master" Amazon. Given a choice between keeping our freedom and signing on for Amazon servitude, many of us are too damned independent, too damned AMERICAN to take whatever Amazon doles out. Perhaps Amazon should take a closer look at what's happened to America in the era of Big Government and reconsider.  Amazon should remove the exclusivity requirement from KU and it should adopt a guaranteed minimum pay scale based on factors including the price of the work, the length of the work, and the sales price for similar books.  All those factors are required because too many game the system - it's a lesson they've learned in the Big Government era.

If Amazon would make both changes, then KU customers would have a much, much - (Did I say much?) - larger and ever-growing variety of books to borrow.  The two policies hurt customers most of all because their selection is limited, severely, by the pay-scale-to-authors and exclusivity issues. If Amazon removed both issues, and made the recommended changes, publishers would likely enroll some items like backlist books, especially of mid-list authors, occasionally high ranking first-in-a-series books of top authors (at least for a limited period) when the top authors had new series books coming out. If Amazon removed only the exclusivity requirement, even keeping the present uncertain and unfair pay scale in place, many indie authors, myself included, would enroll at least some books -- and that would be enough to provide a sizable increase in books available to customers for borrow.

In the long run, Mr. Bezos' refusal to make the necessary changes to fix the KU program will have the opposite effect from the one intended -- it will not only drive away KU customers, it will anger them and make them less likely to buy anything from Amazon.  While Amazon doesn't worry so much about how exclusivity negatively impacts authors, it does, should, and must worry about how it negatively impacts consumers.  Those promised "all you want to read" value by KU who have to hit the buy button to get the books they actually want will, more and more, feel they're spending money for nothing.

Right now KU is like one of those bargain shops.  A customer walks in to buy a nice black dress.  She sees one for $9.99. But wait - there, just beside it, is a bin full of huge sealed bags.  There's a sign over it that says - "Buy a whole bag of dresses for $9.99." The value scale seems obvious.  Why spend $9.99 for one dress when you could get 10 or 15 for the same price?  But when the customer buys the bag, gets home and opens it, she finds that none of the dresses is black or they're all the wrong style. How will the customer feel about that store now?  She'll feel like the KU subscriber promised all the books she wants to read for $9.99 a month who discovers that none of the books she wants to read are in the program.  That customer will feel angry, misled, cheated and lied to - and that will be her feeling every time she sees that store's sign, so she'll go to another one.  How easy is it is, after all, to go elsewhere in the virtual world.

Sometimes Karma works. The Karma of Amazon turning a crop of indie authors into indentured servants will filter down to the customers.  More and more authors will flee the exclusivity noose because writers are, by nature, the most free-spirited and independent people on the planet. That means that Amazon won't be able to deliver on its promise to customers, because that promise depends on motivating writers to continually put more work into the program. Amazon's failure to deliver on its content promise will then begin to drive customers away from Amazon entirely.

Karma's a bitch and that's why Mr. Bezos should change KU.

A Christian couple with good motives and the best intentions in the world wrote an app to "clean" dirty words in ebooks by replacing them with "clean" alternatives.  They named it "Clean Reader" and they made it available for free for iOS and Android devices.  They created a book catalog for the device from work supplied by @Inktera and Smashwords.  It sounds like a feel-good kind of story, right?  Wrong. The clean device did a dirty deed - it rewrote authors' words without obtaining permission from the authors.

The app had three settings that downloaders could select from to decide how "clean" they wanted their books.  Depending on the setting,the app picked out words and changed them.  The "Daily Mail" article by Jenny Stanton  gives an example of how this process worked with passages from some well known books:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Before: ‘I don’t want to f*** you at all. My heart’s as cold as cold potatoes just now.’

After: ‘I don’t want to [freak] you at all. My heart’s as cold as cold potatoes just now.’

Before: ‘It was not woman’s fault, nor even love’s fault, nor the fault of sex.’

After: ‘It was not woman’s fault, nor even love’s fault, nor the fault of [love].’

Before: ‘She threaded two pink campions in the bush of red-gold hair above his penis.

’After: ‘She threaded two pink campions in the bush of red-gold hair above his [groin].’

The first problem with the app is that it changed the words of authors without their permission. That is always, always, always wrong. The second problem is more basic - who decides what is clean and what is dirty and who picks what words get substituted for the dirty ones?  It's like walking into a neighbor's house - you might walk in and think "This place is filthy. Jane is a lazy bitch."  I might walk into the same house and think, "I wonder how Jane keeps this place so clean and still keeps her daily word count so high." Dirt is in the eye of the beholder.

A reader is always free to skip a passage he or she finds offensive or to imagine a different word in the place of one that bothers her. It might be that the reader is mortally offended by any reference to sex or the human body.  It might be that the reader was once hit by a black car and can't bear to read about black cars.  Perhaps the reader was bitten by a dog and prefers the pets in her stories to be cats.  We are all the product of our own experience.  Mr. Duck is a computer programmer, so he'd be one of the people making those decisions about which words to replace.  Mr. Duck has a wicked sense of humor, a sharp intellect and is married to an insane duck lady. His choices for those words would likely NOT be the ones made by the great bulk of humanity.  Lord knows, my choices would likely not be made by even the smallest sliver of humanity.  The choice of what to read and what to replace and what to skip - those are decisions by the reader who always has the option to close a book he finds offensive.

Authors outraged by Clean Reader's mutilation of their work took to blogs and Twitter,  and created such a backlash that their book suppliers pulled out and "Clean Reader" folded.   The couple claims they intend to rework the app and will release it again.  I hope they don't because no matter what they do, the couple can not create an app to replace each individual reader's sensibilities.  Books are as individual as art.  A painting or statue that could make me marvel for hours might make you sniff and move along in an instant.  But we both have the right to look at the same painting and stare or sniff.

I suspect that devoted readers would never download an app designed to keep them from reading a book the way it was written. People who love words will be just as upset as authors at the notion that some programmer's judgment should ever be allowed to re-write a book.  "Clean Reader" is a digital bonfire and it is every bit as dangerous as the vigilantes who remove physical books from a library's shelves and feed them to the flames.

If programs like this one are allowed to exist,  museums must change their rules, and allow offended patrons to bring in spray paint and chisels.  So the world would lose a few Titian's, Cezanne's and Ruben's and Michelangelo's David might lose something even more personal - but the offended would be appeased.  That's what matters, right?  Of course not.

Yet, that is exactly what programs/apps like "Clean Reader" are - they're chisels and spray paint inside your phone, iPad or digital device.  They've done their work before your eyes arrive and have removed any risk that you might be moved by a love story with a sex scene or that curse words in the right place might make you share a character's anger.  What hands do you trust to hold the paint and chisels?

Buy or don't buy.  Read or skip. But never put the spray paint and chisels into the hands of someone who hasn't lived your life or walked in your shoes.