Why I removed all the Amazon links from my site

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.”

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.]

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18 Responses to Why I removed all the Amazon links from my site

  1. Bon says:

    Well done, Mignon! I’m keeping a very close eye on this whole thing, thanks to you. Hang in there!

  2. BillioneUSA says:

    Interesting. As I was reading this post, I thought about Walmart’s predatory pricing practices and then you went there. I just learned of Walmart’s practices recently and was astounded! I am glad you took a stand. Peace.

  3. I am not a Kindle or e-book of any kind user. I had wanted to be until I found out that you could only use Kindle at Amazon and B&N’s at B&N etc. . And I really do like turning pages and the smell of a book. When I found out the proprietary nature of e-readers and the concern over pricing from publishers. I wondered what stops the publisher from banding together and supporting an independent platform for e-readers? They can license the use of their reader and product. I could use any reader I wanted and shop at whoever was most competitive. Seems like a win for the consumer and the publishing industry. This seems so simple I am sure I am missing a key point.

  4. Karl says:

    Yippee! Cross two books off my Amazon wish list! This ticks me off! Having meant to buy them for a while and having to go to the mall anyway because my last pair of jeans-acceptable-for-work did not survive the laundry, I bought both at Borders. They even had one “Quick and Dirty Tips” left with my favorite, the original cover!

    Can you put a shopping cart on your website, skip the middleman, and sell them direct? My friend who set up my website sells her e-book on Search Engine Optimization directly from her website. Every penny of the selling price goes into her pocket.

  5. Pingback: Understanding the “Great Ebook Price War” « The Word Hoarder

  6. ms bookjunkie says:

    Here’s a link Macmillan (and other) authors might find interesting:

    http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2010/01/30/just-a-reminder/

  7. Pingback: Oakestown » Blog Archive » Adios, Amazon

  8. TheDriverPIcks says:

    Every time big company A gets mad at big company B, little people like us (we have no letter) get shafted. We always end up paying so the fat cats at the top of corporate wonderland get to continue to do business exactly this way.

    But it is important to note that we contributed to this. WE did. WE left mom and pop bookstores in a ditch by the side of the road because WE wanted it fast and cheap (mom and pop be darned!) and now WE want to cry that it’s not fair the big bad corporate wolf is playing with the power WE handed to him.

    Hey I tried. I said no to the big bad corporate wolves of past and present. But a funny thing happened on the way to work. My little honorable corporate sheep got eaten by one of those big bad corporate wolves (kicking and screaming) and I ended up begging for dimes.

    So with my tail between my legs, I went to Walmart…and Amazon. Then as the dollars dried up the most wondrous thing happened. I went back to my LIBRARY and borrowed a book. I went to the library in the rich folks’ town and they let me borrow a book on an iPod!

    Wait, I sure hope the writer got paid for that!

    In the end I don’t care about Amazon or the publisher. I care about the writer. So when the publisher cries foul, I hear nothing. When the writer speaks up, that’s when I say “you had me at Crap!”

  9. Nathan says:

    You certainly are well within your rights to do just as you described, but I’ve read many, many posts on this issue, and I think to lay all blame at the feet of Amazon is way too easy.

    I’ve read that MacMillan has a reputation for playing hard ball, and now they’ve come up against a company that won’t play their game. It is Amazon’s right to run their company as they see fit.

    I also believe that Apple has a reputation for taking no prisoners, so how is this all Amazon’s fault? For anyone to second guess Amazon’s motivation and assume it’s entirely based on greed seems unfair.

    They’re all big boys; I say, let them work it out.

  10. Mignon says:

    Nathan, it’s true that none of the big parties are altruistic (heck, I’m not altruistic), but when Amazon pulled all the books, they hurt authors. They’re like a dictator starving his own people to make the enemy look bad for making his people suffer.

    They are one of the most powerful booksellers and they abused that power.

    They have every right to sell or not sell whatever books they want, but they have certainly lost any trust I might have had in them or good feelings I had toward them.

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  12. Pingback: beyondwords | a blog for professional writers, editors, and designers » Blog Archive » Weekend showdown: Amazon vs. Macmillan

  13. Metsszer says:

    “…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.”

    You are offering an opinion on something that directly affects your field and you don’t really understand the premise? You aren’t versed on the actual pricing structures?

  14. justin locke says:

    well i agree with just about everyone here- this is about the future of ebooks and e readers and who will be the dominant player, and the big companies are trying to be for ebooks what ebay became for online auctions (remember yahoo auctions?? probably not).

    i have yet to do the ebook route. as a self publisher, the whole thing has me spooked. driving down prices is great for consumers until the price gets so low that no one offers decent product any more.

    i tend to think that the big players are not getting it. trying to be the only e-reader in such a huge market is like trying to be betamax in the face of VHS. someday, someone will offer a non-proprietary ereader that will let all sorts of sources sell product on it, they will just take 3% of a massive market, and that will become the dominant machine. i think.

    right now the big players are trying to compete solely on price, and so of course to do that they have to cut costs, and that means paying authors less. looks like a great idea, but it’s a little like eating all the corn and not saving anything to plant next year’s crop.

    also if you can’t make money from a book itself, then books necessarily have to be subsidized. this means books have to earn their keep as sales brochures, status symbols, celebrity spinoffs, and so on.

    it’s time authors get together and realize just how much money is being made on our books and demand a bigger piece of the pie. the screenwriters recently had a strike because they weren’t getting money from previously unknown digital sales of movies etc. in england, libraries pay authors every time their book is checked out. you should get a cut every time your book is resold online. would be simple application of copyright law, if we care to write our congressperson and make it go.

    –jl

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