I just finished my second Kindle book and thought some might be interested in the experience of writing for Amazon rather than writing for a more traditional publisher. I have written books for both outlets.
I would suggest that from my perspective the most obvious difference is the prominence of the profit motive. When you write for a company, you must accept the reality that making money is what drives the decisions made. I do not mean this to sound crass because as an author writing for a publishing company you do need the company to stay in business. While obvious, as authors, my wife and I went through the company we wrote for (Houghton-Mifflin) being bought and sold several times. You want the company to have the resources to provide help (e.g., knowledgeable editors, lawyers, layout experts, a sales force). What you give up is control over taking the risks you are willing to take. The energy required to get your way is often more energy than you are willing to expend. You end up cutting content you thought was interesting and relevant because you are told that more pages mean a higher cost. You end up waiting until the edition has been approved to begin frantically writing again unless you want to work for free. You end up accepting that newer books in the same niche will be pushed by sales people because older books are available as used books and the company makes no money on used books – wait your turn.
So, we made the transition to writing for Amazon. We went from selling a book for $140 to selling an improved version for $9. We went from selling a book to selling a combination of a scaled down book and content available at no cost on the Internet. We went from all kinds of assistance to doing everything for ourselves. We went from making a reasonable return on the investment of our time to treating our writing as a hobby. Is the book we now write of the same quality? This depends on what you mean by quality. It is not as pretty because the Kindle format is quite restrictive. There are probably a few spelling and grammatical errors that may cause readers to question the writing skill of the author. Trust me what you read in the $140 version was a reflection of the same writing skill. I just had more help. The ideas are still original and are now less filtered.
I wrote the most recent offering because I wanted to write a resource I did not see as a textbook. Layering has a far narrower focus and is less self-absorbed in an effort to make certain no particular school of academic thought was upset by what I have to say. I pretty much explains how to do a specific thing (attach notes, questions, and other prompts to online content) and explains why I think doing these things benefits learners. You get my take on these issues for $3.
The challenge in writing this type of book for Kindle is that the traditional text-heavy Kindle approach is not suited to the inclusion of imagery. The type of book you read on the beach may be fine as a text-only effort, but a few images are helpful when it comes to explaining how to use technology tools. Kindle has created an “app for that”. They now offer a textbook creator that takes as an input a PDF file (sorry if this gets too geeky). What you get with pdf is the opportunity to fashion the appearance of each page. What you lose is the adaptability the Kindle apps normally provide in scaling the content to fit the app or the text size preferred by the reader. I think the new offering looks great on a computer or a chromebook. I am not certain I could read the pages on my black and white $79 Kindle reader.
So goes my life as a retired, hobby writer.