Crap! I really don’t want to write this blog post. I’m not a fighter, but when someone screws with my livelihood, I get angry. Really angry. And anger can make me do things that are outside my comfort zone.
You see, Amazon has removed all Macmillan books from its website because it is having a dispute with Macmillan over e-book pricing. They didn’t just remove e-books, they removed print books too. Macmillan is my publisher.
The mistake Amazon–Jeff Bezos–is making is abusing his power. I never worried that Amazon was so powerful, until now.
SOME KEY POINTS
E-book sales are currently a tiny sliver of the market. This fight is about the future. Perhaps that’s why Amazon pulled all the print books. If they pulled all the e-books, everyone would just shrug.
Funny how this happened right after Apple gave publishers better terms than Amazon for e-books. I hear that Apple is only taking a 30% cut on e-books (just like it does on apps), and Amazon is balking at matching those terms. Amazon currently gets ~70% of e-book sales. Macmillan said Amazon could match Apple’s deal, or have e-books for the same 50% of list price wholesale price they give other booksellers and have e-books delayed seven months. Instead of continuing to negotiate, Amazon said f-you and your little authors too.
I hope Macmillan stands its ground and other publishers join them even if it means I lose book sales . . . because I hate bullies.
This isn’t about “Amazon protecting e-book customers from high prices,” as I’ve heard some readers say. Instead, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Amazon uses low e-book pricing as a way to sell Kindles. “Sure, our e-reader is expensive, but look at how cheap the books are.” My understanding is that the many people who buy Kindles buy them to get hardbacks that would normally cost $25 or so for $9.99 as e-books. (I don’t know if this is actually true; it’s just something I heard, but it seems to make sense. I’m sure a lot of Kindle owners just love gadgets. That’s why I considered buying one. Glad I didn’t.)
Amazon is acting like Walmart. Some people love Walmart for their low prices; those people will love Amazon for their low prices. Some people see the harm dominant companies like this can do and call it predatory pricing. How you feel about it probably says a lot about which political and economic philosophies you hold dear.
Frankly, I didn’t think much about it either way until my books got pulled in a dispute over which I have no control. I confess that sometimes I shop at Walmart, but sometimes I shop at more expensive local companies too because I want them to continue to exist. It all depends on how I feel about my own finances that week and whether I feel as if I can afford to be community-minded or I just need to save a buck.
Nevertheless, regardless of your philosophical bent, it seems naive to think that Amazon is doing this to protect anyone’s interests but their own.
As an author, about the only thing I can think of to do in response is to remove all the Amazon links from my site (as if they care). You can’t buy my books through them anymore anyway.
The book links now go to Powell’s, a friendly independent bookstore in Oregon. I encourage you to give them or your local bookstore a try.
Some other excellent blog posts about the kerfuffle:
These people do a better job than I could of addressing the e-book market in general and comments such as “e-books shouldn’t cost so much” and “publishers are just greedy.”
- Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider’s guide to the fight — Charlie’s Diary
- Why my books are no longer for sale via Amazon –Tobias Buckell
- It’s All About Timing — John Scalzi on why Amazon pulled the books on a weekend
- A Quick Note On eBook Pricing and Amazon Hijinx — John Scalzi’s bigger take on the whole Amazon-Macmillan thing
- Official Macmillan statement
- How Amazon currently gets pricing that is better than physical bookstores — Sabrina Sumsion
Disclaimer: this post could have typos and grammar errors. I’m a lousy proofreader to begin with, and my skills deteriorate when I’m angry.
[Update: The comments at BoingBoing have some great information from people who appear to be insiders about e-book pricing and past Amazon pricing disputes with publishers.]
[Update: 4:42 Amazon says they will “capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms.” I’m a bit relieved, but will remember who threw authors under the bus in the blink of an eye, to go heavy on the clichés.]