The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

Amazon Is Losing Money on Each $9.99 Ebook

Kindle-pencil Publishers Weekly confirms something I've long suspected:

Currently, publishers make as much money on Kindle editions as print editions, since Amazon, the largest e-book retailer, pays the same discount for e-book editions as it does for print—off the same list price, whether bound book or e-book. (An Amazon spokesperson would not comment on the discount issue, but a number of publishers confirmed that Amazon pays the standard discount—which is, with some fluctuation among houses, about 50% off list price—for Kindle editions.)

Amazon, which sets the price for everything it sells, is, as many people interviewed point out, losing money on a majority of Kindle editions. Although the price point for Kindle editions varies, the dominant one for hardcover bestsellers is $9.99, a price one publisher called “a killer.” (The e-tailer is pricing some of its Kindle bestsellers even more aggressively, with titles like Stephenie Meyer's New Moon, currently #4 on the Kindle bestseller list, at $6.04.) At $9.99 Amazon is selling its Kindle editions at, generally, a 60% discount; Amazon sells its print bestsellers at, on average, a 45% discount. The reigning price point in the Sony e-book store, with variations, is $11.99.

This is obviously a move to build up market share for the Kindle, something I suppose Amazon is in a position to do since it is one of the few book retailers to actually be in the black at this time. This also means that $9.99 ebooks are untenable over the long run, unless publishers choose to give Amazon a steeper discount in the future.

As Publishers Weekly notes, if this tactic works then eventually Amazon won't have to rely on publishers to give the discounts it wants–it will be in a dominant enough position to demand whatever pricing it prefers. So, in other words: hope that competitors manage to capture a sizable portion of the market.

For more info, readers should see my interview with Ted Striphas, where we touch on Amazon's already dominant market position and what that might mean.

Incidentally, I finally saw my first real-life Kindle on public transit earlier this week. I also saw five people with non-electronic books, myself included.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. eBook Prices: Can They Fall Further? Continuing the ebook pricing conversation, Rich Mintz (from Obama’s online campaign) has this to say: As a heavy consumer of books (and a former independent...
  2. Amazon Can “Wipe Out” Publishers Binky Urban, the agent responsible for a few people you might have heard of (Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Bret Easton Ellis, etc) is profiled at...
  3. eBook Market Expanding The New York Times reports that Amazon’s Kindle is currently out of stock, letting some of the other players in the field move in. The...
  4. Amazon Boycott of Ebooks Over $10 As I've been reading Ted Striphas's The Late Age of Print, I've been seeing books and ebooks in very new ways. That is, I'm beginning...
  5. Publishers Making Dumb ebook Mistakes In this post, Chad mocks ebook distributor ScrollMotion and publishers Hachette and Random House for their mania about ebook piracy and their eagerness to price...

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4 comments to Amazon Is Losing Money on Each $9.99 Ebook

  • blueberrybacon

    You saw 5 people carrying one book each, but the Kindle person was carrying a library. I have 22 title and 6 periodical. each of my newspaper subscriptions have about 16 issues to them.
    So, you wanna to try to carry the paper version of that on the subway?

  • I’m still waiting for someone to explain why an average reader wants to carry a library around with them.

  • Several years ago, I was on the subway with a copy of a mostly-read New Yorker, rifling through the dregs with the intent of disposing of the publication en route, when the train got stuck, as sometimes happens. I sat for four hours, reading and rereading and pretending to further re-read some bullshit poem, doing whatever it took to avoid eye contact or invasive ads. Ever since, I’m known to carry around at least a full day’s worth of reading material whenever I go further than around the block. And I know, this translates to A Book and A Magazine (or Two), but these days I do keep a backup dozen books on my iphone, just in case.
    Of course, when you inquire about “an average reader,” you probably intentionally left out “who also happens to be a crazy woman.” But maybe not?

  • eBooks wont probably change the quantity or the quality of “average reader” personal library. However, it is a huge step for the writers. They can now bypass publishers and get a decent return on their work. Scribd gives 80% return. And our ebook online shop (sunbookr.com) 90%.
    Thousands of writers make their living on lulu.com. Things that could not be possible by the classical canal.

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