Monday, February 01, 2010

Amazon Entertains Me All Weekend Long

I spent my cold, chilly, allergy-eye weekend following the latest Amazon debacle. Here are my notes and observations, culled from a thread on Goodreads.

If you haven't heard, Amazon recently pulled all titles, both eBook and print, published by Macmillian over a dispute about how eBooks should be priced. I've read a good bit of commentary. This has a serious affect on all authors who publish through Macmillion (which owns Tor books, if you are an SF/Fantasy fan). Here's one of those authors giving what I think is a pretty fair explanation of the situation.

Here's another

And even more responses

And a story from Publisher's Weekly.

There's a lot more out there.

I'm a reader, a writer, and a consumer of books. This affects me. What does this mean to me? Is Amazon using its considerable weight to muscle into the publishing business? Is it standing up for consumers? Is it standing up for its own interests at the expense of everything else?

My personal take is this feels a LOT like last year's "Amazonfail" when hundreds of gay/lesbian themed books were suddenly 'deranked', which made them difficult to find in searches. Amazon made a non-apology statement and said it was all an accident. They then started reranking the affected books in response to outrage from the public and the authors who sales were hurt by the deranking.

I'm no longer comfortable with Amazon's size and ability to control what I read. I try not to use them (although I am an Audible customer, which was bought by Amazon) and search for my books through other sources.


OOO there is more news. I'm trying to find an original link, but here's what I've found second hand.

Found via Twitter- an announcement from Amazon:

Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the "big six" publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it's reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don't believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.

I'm still looking for the actual source, but I'm just...just...

MONOPOLY? A publisher has a MONOPOLY over what it publishes? You'd think someone at Amazon would have a dictionary to look that word up. It's not even hard to spell.

I've read some rather hilarious interpretations of this letter from assorted sources.

Tobias Buckell is cracking me up with his response to their response.


Just read someone coming to Amazon's defense.

I think he's missing the point. I do not agree with him even as I do agree the lower costs of manufacture and distribution should make difference in ebook vs print book prices, but when comparing a $25 top list hardback to a $14.99 top list e book, the lower price IS THERE.

Where I see the problem is that books have long come in different formats with different pricing -- trades vs. hardbacks, racked sized books, the "paper" hardback (like Quality Paperback Books puts out, which are the size and have the cover of a hardback), the very cheap paperbacks with glued spines, tiny print and crappy paper. Different "styles" have always had different prices. That hasn't gone away.

Also, MacMillion doesn't require anyone to buy a $300 device to read their $9.99 books...


Check Scott Westerfeld's blog.


Yet more, with lots of links inside.

Lots of ideas floating amid the rhetoric and hyperbole. I imagine there is more screaming to come as these two businesses (Amazon and publishers) wrestle to make their profits the way THEY think they should. I don't buy for one minute that either of them is really acting as a consumer advocate -- that goes against the tenets of capitalism, to want to sell something at a price lower than the cost of making the item/providing the service.

One of the thoughts that keeps popping up I think showed in Buckell's post -- part of the argument that isn't so obvious is the TIME element (that "windowing" term Westerfeld used) and the idea that some books are PREMIUM books -- that is, considered "better" or in higher demand than others, therefore able to command a higher price at first release. It's pretty much standard operating procedure that if something is New and Shiny, and you want it first, you will pay top dollar for it. You aren't so much paying for the item as for the opportunity to have it first. People who don't want to spend that money wait. They spend time rather than money.

Ahh well, I continue to watch this unfold.


And yet more

Mr. Scalzi has a LOT to say on the topic, as it happens, and it's worth roaming his latest entries (hell, it's worth roaming ALL his entries).


This just keeps getting more interesting.

A round up of other opinions

for a legal point of view. I thought this was particularly interesting, even if a bit difficult for a layperson to grasp without flashcards and Cliff's Notes.

And how it's all a tangle and a mess.

And Writer Beware! also shares thoughts and links.

1 comment:

Becs said...

I used to work with the guy who's running the Kindle business. Trust me, it's all about the bucks. Amazon is the Wal-Mart of the book world. Sad but true, which is why I find myself increasingly happy with Barnes and Noble. Besides, Amazon doesn't bring me a mocha with raspberry, whipped.