A wake up call for lazy book authors.

Amazon is switching to a “pay-per-page” royalties model for self-published Kindle authors, a move likely to be welcomed by all readers with attention deficit disorder.

From July 1 the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read, the company has said. It will affect self-published authors on the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

In a blog post the cloudy firm said: “We’re making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it,” it said.

However, those authors who prefer to take a more “slow-burn” approach in their books aren’t likely to get rich any time soon.

In fact, not everyone is happy with the move, with some taking to Twitter to moan about it.

Authors will continue to be paid through Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Amazon said it would continue to pay authors from a KDP Select Global Fund each month.

How much snappier would Ulysses have been, for example, had James Joyce been on a pay-per-page deal? And who reads all the way through Moby Dick or The Golden Bowl? No one, that’s who. Herman Melville and Henry James just had no incentive to trim the fictional flab.

Who really reads Ulysses?

Now, happily, such literary incontinence is over. And while Melville or James have escaped the new reality by dint of being dead, others are not so lucky. For you, Thomas Piketty – author of 696 page-long, bestselling but surely universally unread Capital in the Twenty-First Century – justified penury awaits. There is a certain irony about that. You write a book about the dysfunctions of capitalism, and then along comes the most brutal market mechanism imaginable to ensure that you don’t get paid. Ha! Take that, pinko.

Thomas Piketty and his bestseller. Anyone finished it?

Not that it’s only the prolix who are finally having to face the facts. Think of Stephen Hawking, irresponsibly composing books such as A Brief History of Time without a thought for the reader. Now, A Brief History of Time really is brief. But as we all found out when we rushed to buy a copy, it’s hardly a page-turner. Or at least, not beyond page nine.

Thank goodness this has come to an end. There we were, distractedly buying books because we liked the look of them, or thought we might read them at some time in the future. There we were, paying the full price, regardless of whether we planned to, or ended up, reading the whole book. What idiots!

Hawking. He will never make a writer. Turns out he has a second job as a theoretical physicist.

I thought I was satisfied with this system, imagining somehow that it was an expression of what I wanted to do, even the kind of person I wanted to be (or at least pretend to be). In this I was obviously not alone, for time and again, smash hit books stormed the bestseller lists, despite the fact that the first thing we did when we got home was put those books on a table and never look at them again.

I now realise that I – we – have been utterly exploited by these author types, who are clearly just in the writing game for the cash. None of us ever needed to pay for the privilege of owning an entire book when it was likely that we might want to skip a bit, just flash the cover around to impress our friends, or simply turn to the last page to find out who the killer is.

What a con! What needless expense. Thank you Amazon, for stepping in, as the world’s biggest online retailer, and at a stroke reconstituting the indulgent financial model that has allowed writers to get away with these baggy books that are structured as a whole – you know, with the descriptive bits and the establishment of character and the like.

Beethoven. Bangs on a bit, doesn’t he? Can I just pay for the first movement?

What we readers have been lacking all this time are books with the fun-filled, life-affirming qualities of the crack-pipe: fiction filled with endless hooks and twists that drive a boundless craving for more. Meanwhile, the stuff that you have to work at, put down, plan to get back to later but never do – that stuff like Ulysses, Moby Dick and The Golden Bowl – that’s out.

Now, if only we could apply the same model to music. I mean, I know that no one has to buy whole albums any more, but we do still have to buy entire tracks. Outrageous. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for example. I like the Dah-dah-dah-DAAAH bit at the beginning. But you have to admit it flounders a bit after that. So next time it’s on at the Festival Hall, I’d like a ticket. But only for the first minute please. Shall we say 35p?

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