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Competing with Candy Crush

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.

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  1. Bezos seems to overlook the fact that reading and game playing use different parts of the brain. The part that is used for gaming is a pleasure center that gives a person a little buzz, a reward for playing, and one can become addicted to that reward. Simple reading doesn’t seem to do that. So the difference really isn’t about price.

    • I agree that the difference is more about whether you are a text-based person who can generate a “vivid, continuous dream” in your mind’s eye as you read (and thus are highly entertained, as well as learning things and having ideas illuminated for you) or a video person who needs external stimulation and who doesn’t really want to explore the inside of anyone’s mind (as happens with a book.) I seem to be addicted to reading, though. It’s not the same sort of “reward,” of that I am convinced.

  2. I find videogames boring. I always have. When “Space Invaders” and “Caterpillar” or whatever it was showed up in all the 7-11s during my early high school years, I couldn’t see the attraction. People kept telling me that because I was a “computer person” I should be way into the games, but they never did a thing for me. You spent a ton of time and energy, but at the end you had nothing to show for it. In contrast, if you read or wrote a book, you had a lot to show for it. Your entire perspective could be different. You might have seen a different slant on things. You might have had an insight into the eternal human condition. It’s much more fulfilling and interesting. I can’t stand videogames and such stuff even today. I think there is an innate preference for text over video that I must have. But of course if Bezos is talking about making real money selling to the mass market, YES, bestsellers do have to compete with the airheaded pursuits, and that’s why they are so insipid and violent, IMHO. Alas, THEY are way in the majority, so I’ll just fade back into the twilight zone.

  3. I read this and thought, What is candy crush? A new donut? But I did catch on. Bezos is pushing to the lowest-common denominator, and in the end that’s the kind of books he’ll be publishing. The rest of us will still be going wherever we have to, to find something worth reading. It may take a while, but he’s the one who will be learning a lesson.