Amazon, Still Failing

Another round of links for you lot.  Amazon’s stated that they’ll “capitulate” to Macmillan’s desires, but as of this writing, Macmillan books are still unavailable on Amazon except through third parties.

John Scalzi outlines All the Many Ways Amazon So Very Failed the Weekend.  He also puts out a call to support the authors, who in the end are the ones getting hurt by the Amazon/Macmillan standoff.

Jay Lake brings up some very salient ponts in his open letter to Kindle and eBook activists, including this one that’s been bothering me since Amazon’s snide little forum post:

So far as supposed corporate lying goes, note that Amazon was quick to inform you of the high side of the Macmillan proposal, but not of the part of the proposal that benefits you. That’s lying by omission, and it certainly fanned the rage of the Kindle community quite effectively. That’s a piece if corporate spin which has kept you from seeing the long term advantages to Kindle owners of what’s been proposed.

I caught that in the Amazon post as well, and it made me fume.  Amazon cited the highest price point that Macmillan wants to use, and conveniently left out the part where the low end of the range is $5.99, and that the books that start out at $15.99 will eventually drop down in price.  Just like print books do as they go from hardcover to trade paperback to mass market.

Here’s where Jay Lake starts fighting with Tobias Buckell for my internet heart:

Third, much of the anger I see is from people who assume that ebook prices are a rip-off because an ebook obviously costs much less than a print book. This is not true on the plain face of the facts. The actual physical costs of a print book — paper, printing, binding, packaging, warehousing, etc. — are less than 10% of the cover price, even in small volumes, and drop to less than a dollar per book for large volume titles such as bestsellers. The money that goes into a book is dominated by acquisition costs, editorial costs, production costs, layout and design, art, marketing and business overhead. Ebooks must bear all those same costs as print books.


If you don’t understand why it costs a lot of money to make a story into a book, go learn about it. You’ll be surprised at how many people work very hard to put that story in your hands, whatever your preferred format. And every one of those people has to eat, pay rent, and get through life, just like you do. That means they need to be paid, and that means the book costs money, regardless of the publishing format.

I love you, Jay Lake.  (Yes, I’m one of those people working hard to put stories in readers’ hands, even though most readers will never even know my position exists or understand why it’s important.)

Early Word points out that, despite their professed love for the $9.99 price point, there are plenty of Kindle books out there that are much more expensive:

Amazon has worked to give customers the perception that Kindle e-books cost $9.99, but if you are not buying bestsellers, Kindle prices can be quite a bit higher than that. Of the nine titles with full reviews in the current NYT BR, only one is available in a $9.99 Kindle edition; three are not available at all (these do not include any Macmillan titles; curiously, the one Macmillan title reviewed, from Palgrave Macmillan, is available for the Kindle. Guess Amazon doesn’t realize they’re part of Macmillan) and the rest were just $1.13 to $2.83 less than the hardcover price. In one case, the hardcover through a third-party retailer was cheaper than the Kindle version.

Now, they further point out that consumers prefer the lower prices:

none of the titles in the 100 top-selling Kindle titles was above $9.99 when we checked yesterday; the majority of the top “sellers,” 55 titles, were free; 25 titles range in price from $.01 to $9.60 and just 20 titles were at the magic $9.99 price.

And as many of the authors weighing in have said, that’s fine, too.  But they want their publishers to have the chance to give higher prices a try, not have it dictated to them by a retailer.  If no one will buy the eBooks at $15.99, guess what?  Publishers will lower the prices.

And here’s something that makes me boggle at Amazon’s tantrum, via Marion Maneker: under Macmillan’s plan, Amazon will make more money than under the current system.

I know far less than I should about how and why stocks rise and fall (despite my grandfather’s valiant attempts to teach me when I was in high school), but Amazon’s stock price took a hit on Monday.  Because of the announcement of the iPad?  Or because of their treatment of Macmillan and its authors?

Today, the Authors Guild responded, backing Macmillan and calling this “the right battle at the right time:”

If Macmillan does indeed prevail, the economics of authorship in the digital age are likely to improve considerably. We may go through some rough stretches to get there, however.

I’m still hoping very much that some of the remaining big six will respond and stand with Macmillan.

Have I linked to Jackie Kessler’s line-by-line of the Amazon response?  If not, here ’tis.

You know who still hasn’t said a word?  Jeff Bezos.  The only Amazon response so far is from “the Kindle team” on their forums.  I don’t even know what to make of that tactic.  I suppose he could be going for “this is beneath me,” but I’m going to trust a company a lot more if their CEO stands up and defends its actions somewhere visible (it’s called a press release, Jeff, use it), rather than farming the job out to nameless minions who post it on a message board.

So, here’s the deal: I’m putting my money where my mouth is, and answering Scalzi’s call for support.  Just purchased from Porter Square Books, all published by Tor:

John Scalzi, Old Man’s War
Jay Lake, Green
Tobias Buckell, Crystal Rain
Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension
Elizabeth Bear, All the Windwracked Stars

Now, I’d like to share the love a bit, and am trying to figure out how.  Here’s what I’ve got: from now until next Friday, February 12th, for the first three people to comment and show me that they’ve purchased a book from a Macmillan author, I will match that purchase, up to $25, with another book of your choice from a Macmillan author.  So, if you buy a $7.99 paperback, I’ll match it with another book for $7.99.  You get to pick which one, obviously.

A couple of questions I’ll answer pre-emptively.

–Proof-of-purchase = a picture/scan of your receipt, or if you buy it online, a screenshot of the purchase (go ahead and fuzz out identifying information, though.)  I will also accept action shots of you buying the book in a bookstore.  Bonus points if it’s an indie bookstore.  (Though, if you get the hapless sales clerk in the shot and plan on uploading the picture to flickr or something, make sure you get the bookseller’s permission to do so, please!)

–The books you buy, or the ones I match, don’t have to be Macmillan books, as long as the author you choose has at least one book out from Macmillan.  For example, Elizabeth Bear has books from both Tor and Bantam Spectra.  You might already own all of her Tor titles.  Therefore, her Bantam Spectra books do count for this, since, as I said, this is in support of the authors.

–This should go without saying, but should Amazon decide to magically relist Macmillan’s books between now and the 12th, Amazon purchases do not count.  If you send me a picture of you opening your box full o’Amazon stuff, I will come through the internets and smite you.

Anything else I can clarify?  Let me know!

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One Response to Amazon, Still Failing

  1. Byrd says:

    Hehe, if I had the money, I would definately take you up on your offer. I do particularly enjoy that last part of your post.

    “If you send me a picture of you opening your box full o’Amazon stuff, I will come through the internets and smite you.”


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