Rick Moody on Kindle: Know Thy Enemy, and Thy Friend

Novelist Rick Moody published a kind of screed yesterday in Impose Magazine on his most notable gift from Christmas 2009: a Kindle. In true Moody style, it’s a single roaring paragraph, half condemnation, half reluctant falling-in-love. Along the way, Moody makes a couple of good points, and makes them from an author’s perspective, something we’re not getting much of in terms of eBooks.

He makes a clarifying observation on pricing: “Why is the Kindle my enemy, you ask? Because I mostly write books, and when the list price of my book is $27.95, I make 15% of list price if it sells more than 15,000 copies. But if my book sells for $9.99, or some such, which is, more or less, a Kindle price, then I make quite a bit less and get a lower royalty rate. Ergo, for someone who is trying to make a living at this stuff, suddenly I am giving my shit away, and getting less for it besides.”

Did we mention he swears a lot? If you don’t like that sort of thing, shut your eyes.

Later, Moody takes a bite out of the Kindle store: “I tried to prove to myself that the Kindle Store would never have available anything that I would conceivably want to read, because I don’t give a shit about mysteries or thrillers or The Rapture. This part was too easy. No William Gaddis at the Kindle Store, excepting the posthumous ones (which are thin). No Grace Paley! No Stanley Elkin! No Thomas Bernhard!”

Then he begins to come around:

I found an impressive loophole in all the profit motive and advanced capitalism of the Kindlesphere. The Kindle Store included all the stuff from the Guttenberg Project…The thing that always put me off was that I didn’t want to read Richardson or Fielding on a screen. Who would? But trying to read them on the Kindle is another thing altogether.

Finally, Moody concludes that the Kindle is a kind of threatening friend, or a generous enemy, a thing to keep around: “I am actually reading more (and I already read a lot) because of the Kindle, and that can’t be all bad. (That is, I am reading on the Kindle in addition to reading the old-fashioned kind of book.)”