One of the rituals I used to enjoy was going to Amazon’s Kindle Monthly sales on the first of every month to see if I could snag something I’d like to have in my e-book collection — either something I have been meaning to read, or something that I loved reading in hard copy and plan to reread again. I tend to go e-book these days for portability, minimalism in space and, frankly because I like being able to increase the font size to whatever is easiest for my aging eyes to read. So, I haunt Amazon and Google Books for sales because — have I mentioned this? — I am a cheap bastard at times.
That’s not to say that books aren’t typically worth the asking price (although I do think the pricing has started to get out of hand for some titles, especially considering that e-books don’t have any manufacturing or shipping costs associated with production), but I’d be more interested in paying full price if the actual authors got the bulk of the money instead of the middlemen.
Anyway, it used to be a fun little ritual each month to see if I could bargain hunt some e-books.
It isn’t any more.
For the past year, the list of books on sale is an exercise in futility to explore. Almost all of the titles on sale these days are self-published urban fantasy/horror romances, sometimes from the same twenty rotating authors who are selling perpetually “on sale” e-books. You know the kind. “Printed price: $12.99; buy for $2.99; YOU SAVE $10”. On non-sale days, you only save $6, or whatever.
I would have thought that urban fantasy-romance and urban horror-romance would have tapered off by now and be replaced by something else, but it still persists. That’s in spite of the rise of steampunk-romance, magician-romance and tattoos-or-piercings-as-magic-conduit-romance “novels” of less than 125 pages (notice a theme yet?). I might not look on these with such derision if I haven’t read a few to see what the hoopla is all about. Most could actually use the editors from the big publishing houses to, at the bare minimum, clean up the grammatical stuff and trim out the chaff. I read one book at the request of the author. I usually try to find something positive to say about someone’s writing, no matter how much I dislike the actual content — especially when asked to provide comments. I struggled. The best I could say is that I didn’t care for it, but there was potential in the concept (a minor whopper, it was a trope-filled hot mess), and that mileage may vary. Most of these [X]-romance writers are only slightly better, in my opinion. You can find free fan-fiction that is better quality literature in most cases.
Plus — I really hate “dark romance”. I mean, I really, really hate “dark romance”. Especially when it tries to emulate 50 shades of mediocrity (“WITH VAMPIRES!™”).
I checked out the list today and my shoulders slumped. It threatened to be interesting for about 8 titles out of 173 fantasy/scifi novels, but they were only third-rate titles by Silverberg and P. Anderson, and a compilation with Gaiman as a contributor. The bulk of the rest? Something-dark-romance. And these are cross-tagged with literature, fiction, romance, horror, so you find them in most of the sales lists. They are unavoidable. And the authors or Amazon put the titles on sale every other month, so you see the same titles and authors over and over and over…
I might stop looking at this rate.