Amazon’s Digital Text Platform is an online tool (find it at with which anyone with a Social Security number, a bank account and a book in file format—the tool converts HTML files, unencrypted .mobi eBooks, Microsoft Word documents, .txt files and Adobe PDF to Kindle files in seconds—can quickly create a Kindle book, which will be available for purchase in Amazon’s Kindle Store in about 12 hours.

The process is startlingly easy: it involves clicking through half a dozen screens in which you enter data about the book, input your bank account number and upload your file, then push the “publish” button. Your book doesn’t even need an ISBN (that’s right, you can even publish your grocery list as a book, assuming you’re the kind of person who types the grocery list). Anyone with an account, meaning anyone who has ever shopped at Amazon, is already signed up with DTP; just enter your Amazon login at the link above.

I tried it while writing this story, though I stopped short of finally publishing my book because I would have had to charge $.99 for it—that’s Amazon’s minimum price—and that seemed somehow dishonest. Indeed, the whole process took me a matter of minutes. Right now, on my “shelf” within my DTP account, the book below is ready to be published. All I have to do is enter my bank account number so Amazon can deposit the riches this book will earn me (Amazon pays publishers 35% of the suggested retail price set by the publisher):

Title: An Amazing Kindle Book

Author: CT

Publisher: CT Digital Book X-Press

Entire Text of Book: You too can write and publish your own Kindle Book in less than 10 minutes. You can even include tyfos—I mean typos. Hurry—your audience awaits!

So what are people doing with this tool? Well, there are, no doubt, many self-published novels, memoirs and books of all kinds. Enterprising companies and individuals have also been compiling public domain speeches by the current presidential candidates and selling them as inexpensive Kindle books. A company called Formax Publishing, for instance, is offering a 99-cent edition of Recent Speeches of Governor Sarah Palin. The Web site published Barack Obama Acceptance Speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention — Full Text.

There are other ways of getting books into the Kindle store that more established houses are likely to employ. Publishers can use Mobipocket’s eBookbase digital book repository, which will put books in the Kindle store as well as on and Mobipocket’s distribution network. Companies that work with Amazon through its Vendor Central program, a portal for companies with an established relationship with Amazon, can upload e-books through that system.

The Kindle store is a democratic forum. Aside from the usual restrictions on pornographic content, Amazon does not vet what comes into the store. According to Andrew Herdener, Amazon’s spokesperson for its digital programs, “We let Kindle owners make the choice on what they want to buy.”

As of 9/30/2008
1 Brisingrby Christopher Paolini, Knopf Books for Young Readers
2 The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Lifeby Alice Shroeder, Bantam
3 The Shackby William P. Young, Windblown Media
4 The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalismby Andrew Bacevich, Metropolitan Books
5 Twilight (The Twilight Saga Book 1)by Stephenie Meyer, Little, Brown Young Readers

Politics, YA Heat Kindle
Amazon’s Kindle bestsellers list (at the time last week when this piece was written, since the Kindle list is updated hourly) is exactly the same as its counterpart of print editions: Brisingr is in the top spot on both, and the Christian fiction thriller The Shack as well as Twilight appear in both top fives. Whether or not readers embrace the digital revolution, they want the same books. It’s also worth noting that the Kindle bestsellers include two books for young readers (Brisingr and Twilight)—are the kids hogging the family Kindle? Do mom and dad really not know how to use it, they way they couldn’t program the family VCR a decade (or more) ago?

Books by figures recently in the news have also gained some traction in the Kindle store: Oblivion, the last book of fiction by the late David Foster Wallace, is now #7 in the short story category, and #1,267 in the overall store. The Audacity of Hope by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is #74, and Kaylene Johnson’s book on Republican v-p candidate Sarah Palin, Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside-Down, is also pretty high up on the list, at #286.