Amazon to start paying authors by number of pages read

It seems that the world's largest e-book seller-sometimes-publisher might be turning the market on its head. Word has gotten out that Amazon will be changing the rules of the game when it come to books in its Kindle Select library that are self-published and distributed through its Kindle Direct Publishing program. In short, mostly indies. Instead of a fixed amount per book sold, the new program will pay authors by the number of pages that a reader actually reads, a change that will have two-edged effects in this industry.

In the current setup of the program, Amazon allocates a certain amount each month to be divided up among the authors. Each share is measured by the number of borrows or downloads a book gets. It almost sounds like a fair and straightforward system until you realize that it doesn't actually take into account the length of a book, which, presumably, takes a lot more work to write. I thicker tome that took almost a year to weave could easily be outranked by shorter material that had more spice in it.

Authors of the former type complained, but it seems that they're getting more than they bargained for. Amazon won't be paying authors by pages written. Instead, they will be paid by actual pages read. A gripping, cliffhanging, literal page turner will definitely sell well compared to a book that drags its feet, no matter how thin or thick it is. Digitally speaking, of course. Naturally, Amazon believes in this move that will better reward authors and readers as well.

Again, it once again looks fair at a glance, but it could potentially open a can of worms, too. For one, it could encourage new behavior in writers and give birth to a generation of content that is filled with nothing but tricks and hooks to keep you turning that page. Not to mention the various ways the new system could be gamed, from littering the book with illustrations to artificially introducing cliffhangers at each turn. Of course, it could also make writers become more acutely, if not painfully, aware of their masterpieces than ever before.

This change will undoubtedly unsettle some authors, some of whom might be forced to seek a publisher instead, be they traditional or digital, in search for better compensation. The new system doesn't mention how much publishers are paid for books inside Kindle Select, an information the public has never been privy to. For all we know, they could have already been paid by pages read. Suffice it to say, if Amazon pushes through with this plan next month, it could be a huge game changer, for better or for worse.

SOURCE: The Atlantic