Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

Psst! I'll give you print books for that Kindle.

Having post-holiday Kindle regret? Microcosm Publishing, of Portland, OR, will trade $189 worth of paper books for your used Kindle. (Via.) Says the publisher’s website:

Beginning RIGHT NOW you can bring in your Christmas Kindle to the Microcosm store in Portland (636 SE 11th) and trade it in for its worth in new or used books and zines! That’s right! Why let fad technology kill print when you can take a stand and fill up your shelves in the process. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell your parents.) And make sure to bring a friend to help you carry all your loot; most of the store’s books are priced in the $2-$6 range so a $139-$189 trade-in (note: going retail for the Kindle at Amazon’s site) you might be carrying your books out in a fleet of wheelbarrows!

Microcosm describes itself as “a not-for-profit, collectively-run publisher and distributor of zines and related work [that] strives to add credibility to zine writers and their ethics, teach self empowerment, show hidden history, and nurture people’s creative side.” Their catalog, mostly nonfiction and how-to, includes such diverse titles as Edible Secrets: A Food Tour of Classified U.S. History, in which “[authors] Michael Hoerger and Mia Partlow collect, contextualize and graphically narrate declassified government documents with food as a theme”; repair manual Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance; Sneakier Uses for Everyday Things, which teaches you “How to Turn a Calculator into a Metal Detector” and “Turn Dishwashng Liquid into a Copy Machine”; home medical guide When There Is No Doctor: Preventive and Emergency Home Healthcare in Challenging Times; and cookbookViva Vegan!.

To me, Microcosm’s books-for-Kindle offer isn’t even their most radical idea. The company also offers a sliding price scale for its books, explaining:

Part of Microcosm’s mission statement is to empower people through the information and resources we provide. One obvious way that people are disenfranchised is by a lack of money. Some people exist on a small budget to focus on activities that they deem vital—like radical activism. Others are caught up in institutional poverty and have no choice in the matter. As a way of catering to these circumstances, we’ve always offered our titles at the lowest prices possible. And over the last fifteen years we’ve had many of our own financial hardships. Many people have suggested that since our prices are so low, raising our prices would be an obvious way to solve our problem. So we’ve come to a compromise—the sliding scale pricing structure. You determine what you can afford to pay for the items that we publish. As a result, we are able to pay royalties to our authors, offer lower prices to those who cannot afford as much as they’d like, and continue to serve our mission statement of making new materials available at the lowest prices possible.

This “pay what you want” price structure reminds me of Radiohead’s strategy of releasing their seventh album online and asking downloaders to pay whatever they wished. This might be the first time this kind of freeware model has been tried in the publishing world! And it’s a strategy in keeping with Microcosm’s apparent slightly revolutionary stance.

What do you think? Would you trade your Kindle for $189 worth of paper books?

Literary Partners