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[From the Archive] The Amazon Kerfuffle

Posted by reudaly on December 16, 2011 in Archive, Writing |

This was my post in early 2010 about one of the first Amazon ebook pricing kerfuffles. In the past month, they’ve had *3* different kerfuffles pop up. Amazon is a major player in publishing. I do not like their current tactics to strong arm the industry and devalue content. If anyone wishes to defend Amazon’s practices – because I know there are those who think Amazon can be a writer’s best partner and friend = I really want to hear your opinion on the issues now being presented.

I’m serious. I want thoughtful, critical appraisals. No flaming. No criticism of any opinion. FROM ANYONE.

It started here, though in January 2010.
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I’m sure by now everyone who reads this website has heard about the massive industry kerfuffle over the weekend between Macmillan and Amazon. If you have managed to miss it, can I come live under your rock? I think I’d like it there.

Nutshell: Amazon has been selling first-run e-books for $9.99 as a “loss-leader” (which means they lose money on every sale of that e-book in hopes you’ll buy more stuff – like a Kindle). Macmillan wants, according to John Sargent, to set an “agency” pricing system that has variable pricing starting around $14.99 and coming down to about $5.99 or less over time – like with print books. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Only time will tell. When Macmillan didn’t accept Amazon’s terms, they pull the “buy” buttons off every single Macmillian title (including subsidiaries – print and ebook).

There are a lot of people vehement about both sides of this argument. As a working writer, though not with any of the Big Six, I tend to side with Macmillan — as do most of the professional, working writers I know. Why? Because Amazon is making it harder for working writers to make a living by demanding their pricing, which messes with people’s economic livelihoods. I don’t like that. It’s one of the reasons I don’t shop Walmart if I can help it.

Am I agreeing with pricing structures? Yes. Am I agreeing with the numbers? Not sure. Before a few weeks ago I may have been on Amazon’s side, but not now. Not that I’ve put out an independent project and know how much time, effort, and skill goes into the production side of the book. Should ebooks be the same price as print books? No, but even Macmillian isn’t saying they should be.
Should Amazon be playing the bully when Apple just announced the iPad? No. Competition isn’t Amazon’s friend at this juncture. Amazon also painting Macmillan and their author’s as greedy SOBs trying to cheat customers out of their hard-earned money isn’t the way to go either. This is a childish, unprofessional, and unethical argument. Amazon has employees to pay and families to feed, but guess what? So do publishers and authors, and authors are the ones getting the short end of the stick.

Authors are, once more, being asked why they should be paid a living and fair wage for their writing (rarely is it called work – except by those who write). We should be happy to have adoring fans who are entitled to have us write what they want on their schedule and without charging for our time, effort, and skill. Well, a pox on that. Most authors I know have at least two full time jobs – being working, professional authors and whatever else they have to do to keep a roof over their heads. Why? Because companies like Amazon and Walmart have cut prices so far that publishers have to have a way to stay in business – how do they do that? By layoffs and paying authors less but still expecting the same amount of work out of fewer people. That’s not sustainable.

Is this going to be fixed anytime soon? I hope so. I’m watching as eagerly as everyone else to see how this plays out. Right now it’s a big pissing match with authors and readers getting shafted in the process. It’s a war, and we’re the expendable infantry. It’s not pretty, but it’s true.

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