After the Bell Tolls for Thee—What Happens After You Die? (Dear Author)
I’ll start this post off with a disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I strongly advise you to consult a lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts so that when you do shuffle off your mortal coil (in the way, way future) your descendents think of you fondly.
The Best Thing for Books is More Power to Amazon (Yahoo Finance)
Amazon used to set the prices people paid for ebooks, but, thanks to an illegal price fixing conspiracy, they lost most of that power to publishers. Almost everyone — probably even the big publishers — would be better off if they got it back.
3 Areas Where Amazon Web Services Might be Vulnerable (if the Competition Can Exploit Them) (GigaOM)
Foundry Group Managing Partner and TechStars Co-founder Brad Feld came on the Structure Show this week to talk about why Amazon Web Services might be feeling the pinch from competitors, and how it and other cloud providers should approach their business models.
Please Stop Working so Hard to Overcharge for eBooks (The Passive Voice)
PG says it would be interesting if KDP sent out a similar message to Amazon’s ebook customers as well.
“Tell these shadowy members of the 1% that readers don’t want them to increase ebook prices. Don’t let them take your ebooks away.”
Editor’s Note: As a bonus link, I (Juli) was interviewed by Kindle Chronicles this week and discussed DRM, Amazon/Hachette, piracy and other things. Plus, as always on his podcast, Len Edgerly discusses other news and issues of the day.
Kindle Daily Deals: The Dark Hunter series (and others)
That Yahoo article is a bit odd in its claims that even the big publishers would benefit if Amazon set prices. Amazon isn’t setting prices now, and several of them are setting record ebook profits. They’re clearly learning how to price ebooks, and they’re not interested in hearing Amazon give them yet another smarmy lecture on the topic, particularly one that seems intended to make Amazon look good in the press.
Given the power, Amazon will set prices to benefit Amazon not customers, not publishers, and certainly not the authors Amazon cheats with its half-market-rate royalties. Whatever that Yahoo writer may claim, its algorithms serve it and no one else.
I’ve seen that as a writer. I’ve got the best version of an 1892 classic, Across Asian on a Bicycle, on the market. It has an attractive cover, has been re-typeset, and adds additional material including two additional chapters by the authors from other sources. That’s why it is listed in the very #1 spot in Google out of over 1.6 million results. Biking sites recommend my edition as the best. That gives it a great ranking.
If you check now, you’ll probably find that Amazon’s advanced search does list it for sale. That wasn’t always true. In fact, there was a time when my edition did not show up on any page of the Amazon search results. The reason was all too obvious. Amazon made little on my paperback, discounted to around $11. It made buckets of money on a crude replica version that sold, in paperback no less, for $23. So instead of listing my less-expensive but better edition, it filled the search results with a long string of other editions over the past 120 years, editions that were out-of-print and not even available.
Keep in mind who was getting ill-treated by Amazon. Readers did not benefit. They were being cheated by only seeing a poor-quality, over-priced edition in search results. And as both the book’s publisher and editor, I was getting cheated out of income since my book wasn’t being displayed. Even Amazon, for all its arrogance of how it could manipulate was foolishly losing sales. Some customers would decide that Amazon’s only edition was too expensive and find my edition for much less at B&N.
And I might add that, despite all the barriers Amazon was throwing up, as best I could tell from the rankings, about 80% of the sales were of my edition. I can only credit that to links from biking websites and being #1 in a Google search. Amazon certainly wasn’t helping customers or me with its deceptive little computer games. Why listen to what it says about ebook pricing?
There are two kinds of people in the world: 1. People who judge people and organizations by their deeds and 2. People who judge people and organizations by their words.
I belong to the former and rarely get taken. Those in the latter group seem caught in a vicious circle. Getting cheated, they become embittered, and get taken yet again, and so forth in an endless cycle that they never seem to escape.
Listen to them, and you’ll hear all sorts of strange conspiracies theories, including this from the Passive Voice article referenced above: “Tell these shadowy members of the 1% that readers don’t want them to increase ebook prices. Don’t let them take your ebooks away.”
Yeah, like the “1%” CEO of Hachette was going to sneak into their apartment at night, get on their computer, and delete all their ebooks. And yes, there are people around like that.
Last year, I had an interesting experience. My acid reflux meant I needed to have an endoscopy. It came with a condition and a warning. The condition was that I absolutely had to have someone else to drive me home. The warning was that it wasn’t because the drug they used to put me under left me groggy. It was because it left many people with absolutely no sales resistance. I was warned not to shop afterward, lest I buy something I’d loathe the next day.
When my sister asked me about that experience, I told her I wasn’t in any danger. I have so much sales resistance to foolish moves, even a drug wouldn’t overcome it.
Not so many Amazon fans. The online store is a virtual anthill of people with zero sales resistance. Taken badly with one purchase, they still come back for more. Treated dreadfully with the removal of Buy buttons and preorders, they still loyally return. Not being able to buy Hachette books in any reasonable time frame won’t change their view of Amazon. Not being able to get a Disney DVD won’t either.
It’s pointless to worry about them, but we need to take care that the options the rest of us have aren’t impacted by those so clueless they think the wealthiest 1% of the country have nothing better to do than “take [their] ebooks away.”
Sadly, we often have to live in cities, states and a country where the election results get determined by how those 1% take away my ebooks conspiracists vote. In comparison to that, this Amazon/Hachette dispute matters little.
Michael Shartzkin, who has forgotten more about the history of publishing than I will ever know, had an excellent article on Amazon’s attempt to use the mass-market paperback analogy:
Note especially this remark near the end:
One other aspect of this whole discussion which is mystifying (or revealing) is Amazon’s success getting indie authors to cheer them on as they pound the publishers to lower prices. (The new Amazon statement is made in a letter sent to KDP authors.) This is absolutely indisputably against the interests of the self-published authors themselves, who are much better off if the branded books have higher prices and leave the lower price tiers to them. That seemed obvious to me years ago. Yet, Amazon still successfully invokes the indie author militia to support them as they fight higher prices for the indies’ competition!
Price tiers… now why couldn’t I have thought of that. Independent authors, free of costly overhead and expensive Fifth Avenue addresses, can do as well with $4.99 novels as the big houses can do with $14.99 ones. Why would they ever want the giants, with their big-name authors, to invade their turf? Here is what Shatzkin said back in 2011 about ebook pricing:
Notice especially this: “This suggestion actually makes the point that self-publishers who scream ‘big publishers are stupid and they should cut their prices like us’ should be very careful what they wish for.”
Here is a NY Times blog posting on that Amazon emailing:
Note his remark that contrary to Amazon, Orwell argued that cheap books was a bad idea for the book trade:
But Orwell then went on to undermine Amazon’s argument much more effectively than Hachette ever has. “It is of course a great mistake to imagine that cheap books are good for the book trade,” he wrote. “Actually it is just the other way about … The cheaper books become, the less money is spent on books.”
Instead of buying two expensive books, he says, the consumer will buy two cheap books and then use the rest of his money to go to the movies. “This is an advantage from the reader’s point of view and doesn’t hurt trade as a whole, but for the publisher, the compositor, the author and the bookseller, it is a disaster,” Orwell wrote.
It’s not hard to detect a note of panic in Amazon’s behavior. Things are not going as they planned, and yet they redouble their efforts and expand to take on Disney. They should lighten up and quit trying to control so much.
@Juli: Great interview. Thanks for the link.
@MrsMac, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.