The Kindle isn't the most beautiful device out there – it's not "beautiful", the keyboard takes away some elegance, but I'm absolutely smitten with mine. I like to read, a lot, and being able to instantly beam books to my house is just fantastic.
Kindles and other devices like them are also changing the world of publishing, going from the known world of physical books that can't be easily copied to another information good like movies or songs with something of an uncertain future.
Yet they're also opening up many possibilities: thanks to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program, it just got very easy to publish books to a platform that a lot of people regularly search for good things to read. Once upon a time, "vanity publishing" was something done by those who simply wanted to see their names in print, but couldn't actually find a publisher, and thus carried some stigma.
Now, though, why not publish something you've always wanted to? Granted, without an editor, and publisher to promote your work, you probably won't become rich or famous, but many people write for the enjoyment of doing so. And who knows… there are already several cases of people publishing directly to the Kindle and making a decent income at it.
Indeed, I have several things I'm thinking of writing about that clicked when I found the Kindle publishing program. Maybe now it's time to dust off some ideas I've had and start working on them a little bit at a time.
Then, of course, my geeky side took over and I started wondering how the mechanics of it actually work.
Messily, it turns out: the preferred format for Kindle authoring is variant of HTML that's not at all what we're used to in these days of ever more potent CSS. The good side of it is that books mostly come out looking the same on the Kindle, and the end user can control how they want to visualize them. The bad side of the system utilized is that there are a lot of tips and tricks and little things to know about the whole process that can be annoying even for someone who knows HTML pretty well. For someone who just wants to write stuff and not worry about it, and who perhaps is not very familiar with HTML, the whole thing can be a huge mess and very frustrating.
Which of course looks like an interesting challenge. I set out to work on LiberWriter.com several weeks ago, and it should be ready within the next week or two. In short, it's a system that lets you concentrate on writing and, as much as possible, tries to get out of your way in order to let you concentrate on your content. It is also targeted very specifically at the Kindle (for the time being at least), so as to really focus on making things work on that platform. For instance, it can automatically generate a table of contents, a noted pain point in writing for the Kindle. I have a number of other ideas up my sleeve too, that I'm excited to work on.
I'm also definitely abandoning the "let's release it for free, for fun, and see if I can find a way to make money later" model of many past projects, and treating it like a business. I think the price I have in mind is very competitive, if you look at, for instance, conversion services that take word and spit out Kindle-specific HTML.
Anyway, have a look at the site and sign up if you're interested: as soon as it's ready, I'll email and let you know. There'll be a somewhat limited trial version so that you can play around with it and see if you like it before buying the full version.