Earlier this week, Jeff Bezos was quoted as saying that what books “are really competing with is Candy Crush.” Really? Nothing against Candy Crush, which is obviously addictive and fun, but I have to say that as a reader and as a publisher, I just don’t see it this way. Maybe there are people who are genuinely conflicted between spending their next hour playing Candy Crush or reading a book, but that doesn’t describe me and it doesn’t describe the people I think I’m publishing books for. I publish the kinds of mysteries I love to read, books featuring strong, intelligent, committed and passionate protagonists, real people who are devoted to their friends, families and communities, and who are unable to stop searching for truth and justice. Candy Crush is fine for what it is, but I suggest that there’s no way it’s competition for the kinds of books I’m talking about here. Bezos thinks that because a book costs more than Candy Crush, that price differential creates “friction,” dissuading consumers from choosing a book over Candy Crush. From a supplier standpoint, all I can say is that if Wall Street were subsidizing my every breath to the tune of billions of dollars, I could offer lower prices too. It wouldn’t even take billions in my case; my publishing program would happily lower prices for a mere couple hundred thousand.
More importantly, from a reader’s perspective, I would agree with Bezos that there is friction between readers and books. I just disagree about the nature of that friction. Price has nothing to do with it. Ok, maybe not nothing — who doesn’t want to pay less? — but the real issue when you’re searching for that next book to read isn’t necessarily how much the book costs but whether it’s a book you’re going to enjoy. Of course readers are on a budget, but let’s also remember that readers share books, borrow from their local libraries, etc. They find ways to read the books they want to read, once they know they want them.
So friction isn’t about price. If overcoming friction is about helping readers identify books they’ll enjoy, then touting low prices isn’t the answer. Posts on Facebook, Twitter or other forums that read — in their entirety — “TITLE TITLE on sale today for 99 cents on Amazon” are not the answer. We read books because they’re good, not because they’re cheap.
My publishing program, Crum Creek Press/The Mystery Company, is a big part of my answer to the issue of helping mystery readers find books they’ll cherish. We publish reference books that offer enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate essays about mysteries from a wide range of voices and perspectives. Our two Organizing Crime volumes help you manage your reading and identify the books you’ll want next. And I also publish novels that I’m excited to share with you. John Billheimer, P.M. Carlson, Terence Faherty, Kate Flora and the others that I publish all write the kind of mysteries I describe above, books that I love and that you’ll love too.
Run over to www.crumcreekpress.com/catalog/ and take a look at what we have to offer. Use this coupon code — GOODBOOKS — and we’ll take 10% off your order, now through Christmas. (Mixed message? Me?) It’s not the kind of discount that a heavily subsidized guy like Bezos can offer. All I’m trying to do here is give you a reason to click on that link and take a look at our line today.
Unlike Bezos, I’m confident that you have no doubt about whether you want Candy Crush or another good book. That’s what Crum Creek Press offers — good books plus references that help you find even more good books.