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Kindle a Passion
July/August 2013

I have been persuaded into a revolutionary act. I have published an ebook. When Kindle and co first came out I was certain that I would never write for, or read on, any device that was not a book. But the twin forces of the free market and Melanie Phillips (via her new e-publishing venture emBooks) persuaded me to have a go. The result — Islamophilia, £4.99 — is available on all good ebook sites (including Amazon). Luddite friends ask if I can print copies out for them myself. The answer is "no".

Despite starting off a sceptic it is now clear to me that the advantages of ebooks depend very much on the subject. Today there are many matters which barely make it onto the published page, and even then never into the remaining bookshops. Islamophilia is not about Islam or Muslims but about those public figures — from prime ministers and presidents to pop stars and writers — who made themselves utterly ridiculous during the last decade by fawning over one particular religion. Partly from stupidity, but mostly from fear. 

It is a short and — I hope — amusing book. But I have no doubt it would have scared any conventional publisher to death. What is more, even if a conventional publisher had been persuaded to publish, the book itself would never have found its way past the cultural gatekeepers of the remaining book-chains.

At the time of writing this column, Islamophilia is the bestselling book on Islam in the UK, US and Canada and the best-selling political humour ebook in the US. Bloggers, tweeters and others are alerting each other to it and buying it at the click of a button. What would the fate of its printed sibling have been? I can see it now — a couple of months after publication, a solitary copy finding its way to the back of the "Mind, Body and Spirit" section of a regional branch of Waterstones.

The non-virtual book may remain my ideal as a reader and writer. But the failings of the publishing industry have widened of late and now inevitably look like being filled by such new forms of popular guerrilla publishing.

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