Sunday, January 31, 2010

Amazon Fail

I don't usually post about these types of issues on my blog, but this one has been really bothering me today, and I felt compelled to post about it.

You know, I used to be a pretty loyal Amazon customer. Before I ever had this blog, back when I was a preteen, Amazon was a brand new shiny thing. How exciting - instead of waiting for the local bookstore to get my special order in stock, I can order it online, and have it delivered right to my house! And if not for Amazon, I might not ever have become a blogger, because when I was a preteen, Amazon's customer review feature was what first got me started reviewing the books I read and loved. I don't buy as much from them these days, but I still continued to be a customer from time to time. But if they continue their stance of today, no longer will I purchase anything from them. Because in their drive to keep their e-book monopoly, they have taken away from me the option to purchase from them the print books I, as a customer, wish to purchase.

If you follow authors on Twitter or Blogger, you likely have heard something of this. But the basics is, Macmillan, one of the major NY publishing houses, had their contract with Amazon for e-books up for expiration soon. Amazon has the e-book market monopoly right now with the Kindle, and they want to keep that monopoly, and keep selling expensive Kindles, by keeping the prices of popular e-books set at $9.99. Macmillan did not want to continue to allow this with their titles. You can read Macmillan's letter here about their stance on this issue: Macmillan wanted to follow a pricing plan ranging from $5.99-$14.99, with the higher prices reserved exclusively for new releases of hardcover books. Ebook readers - and I will not admit, I am not one of you, with the exception of free or cheap short stories by favorite authors released exclusively online (I can't stand to read anything longer in digital format), I am a 100% print books only reader - I realize you want the lower prices... I know, it can suck to pay more sometimes. But realize, you ARE getting the costs saved by not printing the books passed on to you. That ebook you paid $15 for, you would have to pay $18-$25 for a print copy.

Since becoming a book blogger, I have learned so much more about the publishing industry than I knew before. And by producing an e-book version instead of a printed edition, the publisher is really only saving a few dollars in printing costs - no more than that. And the e-book costs a few dollars less, and I just don't see how this is unfair. If the only price readers are willing to pay for an e-book is a price that will lead to an unsustainable business model, realize that it will hurt you in the end. If publishers can't make profits, they will not be able to publish as many new books by your favorite authors. When you pay $20 for a print book or $15 for an e-book, you aren't paying mainly for the cost of printing the book or the cost of formatting the file for the appropriate e-book reader device. You are paying the author, for his or her time and labor in writing that book. You are paying the editors. You are paying the people who design the cover and interior of the book. You are paying the publicists who market that book so that you, the reader, know about it. The trips to trade, educational, and library conventions to promote the book. The mailing of ARCs to reviewers and bloggers and librarians. All of that, much more than printing or formatting the final copy you read, is what made the book what it is. And when publishers can't make those costs back in selling you a copy of their book, everyone who loves books suffers, because they won't be able to publish as many books for us to read and enjoy.

And to those who say that the publishers want to cling to a dying business model - think about this. Even if someday far into the future (and hopefully not in my lifetime) all books are e-books, that doesn't mean they will just *poof* into digital existence. They will still need to be written, edited, and promoted by people who need to make a living. Whose time and labor is worth something. And if you want to cut those people out, if you want to drive these businesses away because they are "greedy" and "only care about their profits," you are going to (no offense to unpublished writers) end up with a lot of unedited, self-published books, and not much else. And how many Kindles will sell then? I'm guessing, not a whole lot. So before you call traditional publishers irrelevant in a changing and increasingly technological world - think about that.


Jessica said...

I agree 100% with you. I refuse to buy or acquire an eReader in any way.

I don't personally want to support the transition from the physical book to the digital one. I love my bookshelves, and I spend 9 hours a day in front of a computer at work and then more hours at home writing.

I am not going to start reading digital books, either on the computer or on an eReader, for ANY reason. The only exception being the occasional pdf. review copy from an author who can't send me a physical copy.

Amazon is not my main source for buying books and never has been, but MacMillan publishes a number of my favorite authors.

I am a loyal literary fan before I am a loyal online bookstore customer, so Amazon will definitely be a last resort for book buying after this ridiculous decision.

Donna (Bites) said...

Amazon doesn't have a monopoly on eBooks. There's also Nook, Sony eReader and now iPad. The issue really is with pricing and chopping up commissions. eReaders are still a very new format and no one on the back end really has any idea how to price or chop up commission so they're all fumbling around right now. With the release of iPad, it's made Amazon jump up again because they have yet more competition. Yes, they broke ground with the eReader but they're not alone in the pot anymore.

And now they're not alone when working on contracts with publishers. No one really knows what they're doing here so it's all trial and error until they find something that all parties can agree on.

Unknown said...

Holy crap, Tabbifli, why not beat up on someone who posts their opinion.

First of all, Tabbifli, what brick and mortar store would do something like this? none, what rational employee would go through all the bookshelves to pull books by one publisher and all their imprints?

What we have here is a major conglomerate having a temper tantrum because they didn't like how one other conglomerate wants to do business. Amazon, this is NOT how you do business!

First of all, the Kindle is proprietary, meaning you can only buy the books from Amazon. Not B&N, Not Borders, not Books-a-million.

Um, does anti-trust laws mean nothing? Did anyone see what happened to Microsoft a bunch of years ago? Amazon is heading down that same path.

and T, you are, as always, welcome to overreact.

Stephanie said...

This is an excellent post -- thoughtful, beautifully written, and very well argued. I find these kinds of business practices disturbing, too. Incidentally, I have no interest in e-books.

in which a girl reads said...

Great post, I agree with you. It's a shame Amazon has cut Macmillan off, it does seem pretty drastic. And I really, really don't like ebooks at all.

This is why I'm going to buy from The Book Depository when I can. Lol :D

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