We’ve reported previously on the mysterious doings related to Kindle Format 8 on this blog. Brief recap: in October, Amazon announced this new format, which promises a wonderful reading experience for illustrated books and the like.

The press releases continue to flow forth from Amazon and major publishers describing newly released illustrated books and trumpeting KF8, hinting at new features especially for graphic novels, and talking about how great it is to read graphic novels and comics on the Kindle Fire (like this one, announcing that hundreds of DC Comics titles are now available this way). We’d love to get a hold of the spec! We’re ready to start adapting our books so that Kindle owners can buy them.

The only problem: Amazon and the big publishers are keeping the spec under wraps so small publishers can’t create books for it, so all you, as a reader, can get in the way of comics and graphic novels are the blockbusters and titles from mainstream publishers. Don’t get us wrong: we admire Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and others deemed “significant” enough to merit access to the new technology. But we hope you also like Superman, Batman, Kangaroo Boy, and Martian Warbler Alternate Universe Mash Up Crossover #320 (with three cover variations), because that’s all you’ll get besides.

You see, independent creators of illustrated works aren’t even being allowed to see Amazon’s new format to determine whether it’ll be possible for them to adapt their titles. We don’t even get a full features list (nor do you!).

Amazon’s reps, meanwhile, tasked with dealing with irate publishers and readers alike, have resorted to lying outright and claiming that the format doesn’t even exist yet¬†despite the obvious promotions around mainstream titles created using the new toolkit.

Amazon has long been considered a pioneer of commerce in the digital age. They started out by offering books, then other products, at a considerable savings, delivered conveniently by mail. They shaped important parts of the all-digital economy, setting standards for digital distribution. They created a means for independent publishers and authors to make their work available to anyone who wanted them, on inexpensive, easy-to-use devices that consumers actually like.

So color us perplexed that they came up with (or agreed? capitulated? caved in?) to back room deals that favor panicky “traditional” publishers who fear the slightest competition or they’ll yank their valuable content, meanwhile narrowing the market in a way that harms readers’ choices. Remember when you couldn’t get certain books except at the whim of your local book store (chain or otherwise)? Feels like those days again.

Amazon will eventually release the spec, but not until the big companies have had a chance to have some (already, in digital terms, extended) period of exclusivity during which they’re the only game in town on the new devices.

What a shame. We love you, Amazon, but what are you doing? Do you really think someone won’t buy V for Vendetta if they also have the option to buy our books? One step forward, two steps back.

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