So there’s a whole to-do going on in my workworld right now – not that many of you will care, because c’mon, how many people really even read now days anyway, right? (You’ll excuse me if I’m bitter).
Anyhoo – so, here are the basics. Amazon sells e-books for their e-reader, the Kindle. K, that’s cool. Their Kindle is closed format. Still, good for them, their company, their rules. Unfortunately, because they are the biggest book seller, this puts them in a position of habitualizing people who read electronically. They are creating the norms for e-publishing, and it seems that this doesn’t really matter to them. It’s more about Mr. Bezos’ control and bank account than it is about literature they’re selling. Which is very un-book-like. Rarely has publishing been about the profit, the reason that there are 8 billion books published a year is because hopefully one of them will take off and make us enough money that we can publish the other 7 billion blahblahblah and 99 without making a profit because we love them and they deserve to be out there… even if only a few people will ever really even read them. Sorry, /rambling.
So, this past week, Macmillan (a publishing house that includes Tor, FSG, :01 to name a few) went to Amazon to be like hey what’s up, let’s work on this pricing strategy you guys have. Right now, Amazon prices e-books at 9.99, often times selling them at a loss. This doesn’t matter to Amazon because while they are taking a loss, they’re also gaining customers who will read on their kindle as well as buy other things from Amazon. This matters to book publishing because if you price every book (regardless of cost of production) at 9.99, what does that mean for the future when e-books make up more than 3% of our market? So, Macmillan goes to Amazon with a new suggestion like hey, let’s maybe think about:
“Publishers would like to be able to set eBooks at a higher price, say $15, then degrade the price over time to a much lower price. How much? CEO of Macmillan says “Our plan is to price the digital edition of most adult trade books in a price range from $14.99 to $5.99.”
Not every book costs the same to make, why pretend they all cost the same to read.
Ah, but any way – this is not about the pricing. This is about Amazon’s response…
WHICH WAS TO TAKE EVERY MACMILLAN BOOK OFF THEIR WEBSITE AND ONLY MAKE THEM AVAILABLE THROUGH THIRD PARTY VENDORS.
What in the absolutely stupendously ridiculous flying fuck, Amazon?!
For a pretty great explanation as to why this is bad on a point by point front, check out this guy.
Now, I’ve been bitching about Amazon forevz and evz. But this is a big bully move, like seriously. Think about going into an indie book store, there’s a personality there – an understanding that this literature is important to people.
Yes, Amazon is hurting (“giant conglomerate evil”) Macmillan by doing this, but it is also hurting the writers and the editors and all the people who put a ton of work into a book to be made. Amazon wants to be considered a book seller by the customer and a book publisher by the publisher. They consider e-books “licenses.” This is, of course, ridiculous. Amazon’s made their point very clear with this move, monopoly is most important to this company. Monopoly of the publisher’s business as well as the customer’s business. And no fucking publisher is going to tell them what to do. Tobias Bell sums up the author issue pretty well in his crazy long post about this shiz:
“I’m not trying to exhort anyone to do anything, but to explain the situation I’m in, and to educate. I’m seeing a lot of people state things with certainty (points I try to knock down above) who have no involvement in the trade. A lot of readers are going to take this out on authors, and I wanted to basically show my homework to explain things that people may not be aware of. People toss out prices of what eBooks ’should be’ who’ve never even stopped to understand how the math of something like this works. They demand things they’d never demand of a jacket salesman, just because they think economics and supply and demand and volume don’t apply to eBooks. They do. Seriously. I’ve thought about these things a lot. Mostly because I have a novel series that has not been renewed, and I keep running the numbers to see if I could write it as an eBook, and when I run these numbers, I come up looking at making a few thousand dollars for half a year’s worth of work based on how eBook sell now. Yes, there are a few J.A. Konrath’s selling well on Amazon, but as I’ve linked, other authors aren’t automagically selling thousands of eBooks there. Most who follow these footsteps sell hundreds. Not everyone becomes JK Rowling.”
Apple’s outlook is a little better – though they have their hangups as well. (Can’t put your iBook on your iPhone?! Lame.)
It’s really more scary than anything. Sigh. I can’t rant about it anymore.
What’s troubling is that people don’t seem to care… even readers. You keep buying your kindles and your books off amazon, despite their big brotherness. What the hell, man.
This really is an opportunity for Indies and for Indie enthusiasts.
Buy stuff from independents. Do it! Indiebound will help you locate indie book stores and even specific books you want IN YOUR AREA. Or just go to Barnes & Noble. At least they remember that they’re in the business of books and not just in the business of business.
There are a lot of words in this post and not a lot of pictures. I was totally going to shop a Devil Bezos and put him in here, but meh. Not worth it. Instead, I’ll put in a video about what book publishing used to be like in 1947:
And a photo because I’ve habitualized you people in expecting such things from me:
If you are interesting in what’s going on, follow DigitalBookWorld on twitter, they’re recapping the situation nicely.