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    Who’s The Bully Here?

    So you guys may not have heard the latest publishing kerfuffle, which was reported here: Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement

    Cory Doctorow commented pretty extensively on what this means, here: Amazon and Macmillan go to war: readers and writers are the civilian casualties

    John Scalzi comments, here:
    A Quick Note On eBook Pricing and Amazon Hijinx

    Writers and readers discuss this over at Making Light: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/012148.html#012148

    And author Jay Lake gives a very personal perspective on what this is doing to Macmillan authors, here: Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.

    Over my first cup of caffeine, I’ve been thinking about this. And here’s what I think:

    Amazon is messing around with authors and consumers. And that’s not cool.

    Sure, I get that Amazon and Macmillan — one of the publishers who signed onto Apple’s iBook, which allows publishers to set their own prices — are negotiating ebook prices. They’re allowed to do that. Macmillan, the content provider, is allowed to tell Amazon what price it should set Macmillan ebooks. Amazon, the hardware provider, is allowed to tell Macmillan “no way.” They can do this. They can fight it out. This is business. Got it.

    But by Amazon removing all Macmillan books (that is, not allowing the titles to be purchased via Amazon) — not just the ebooks but print versions as well — Amazon is acting like a schoolyard bully.

    Now, I don’t like that Macmillan is demanding that Amazon raise its ebook prices. I think it’s ridiculous for an ebook to cost the same as a print-version trade paperback. But you know what? I bet consumers would come to that **same** conclusion and either (A) buy their ebook editions elsewhere or, if they can’t do that, (B) they would buy the print edition, or even (C) take it out of the library. And if none of those options worked and consumers chose (D) not buying the ebook at all, Macmillan would lower the price to something more reasonable.

    But there’s no excuse for Amazon to remove all Macmillan books, print and electronic editions. That’s messing around with authors and readers. This impacts the livelihoods of many of my author friends. And this shows readers that Amazon is not concerned about the consumer.

    Save the bullying tactics for the boardroom. Huge BOO to Amazon.

    30 Responses to “Who’s The Bully Here?”

    1. […] Jackie Kessler « 2010 Reboot […]


    2. Hi Jackie 🙂
      An excellent post (as always).
      I posted a link to it from my blog.
      Thank you for sharing!
      All the best,
      RKCharron

      by RKCharron on January 30th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    3. I know that I rely on Amazon to sell my novels, but they seem to do something like this every stinking year. I agree that consumers should bear the decision as to whether a book is too expensive or not and both MacMillan and Amazon look pretty damned greedy if you ask me.

      by Sean Cummings on January 30th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    4. Holy crap I totally thought I was on Jackie Barbosa’s blog until two seconds ago. Dude I need to wake up more. Anyway,I see it more like this: Amazon says: “Okay these are the rules if you want to be published in our Kindle store for the Kindle device.”

      Macmillan is all like “Well I’m a big NY publisher. I’m important and rules don’t apply to me, Amazon will cave.”

      Amazon says, “No really, those are the rules, dude.”

      Macmillan whines and cajoles and pushes and argues for a whole year.

      Amazon says “that’s it. buh bye. My house, my rules.” and pulls them off.

      Everyone sees Amazon as the bully. But it’s Amazon’s house. The only thing that this proves is that Amazon really is VERY important in the publishing game and those who dismiss online sales as not that big of a deal shouldn’t be that torn up about this. People have been protesting too much because this makes it clear just how important Amazon is.

      Any bookstore (including Amazon) can refuse to stock books by any publisher. And Macmillan was on a fool’s journey anyway because they wanted to set ebook prices for $15. That’s like me wanting to sell candy bars for $10. People just won’t pay that for E.

      I get that authors want to blame Amazon because to not blame Amazon means you have to really rethink how smart NY publishers are being right now and if it’s a titanic you want to be on. They will ultimately fail if they continue this, because I truly believe E will become the primary delivery method for books within 10 years. If even I’m coming close to converting when I’m a “you can rip my paper books from my cold dead hands” kind of person, then it’s a big sign of things to come.

      Just my 92 cents.

      by Zoe Winters on January 30th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    5. Actually by not selling the print books, Zoe, I think Amazon is screwing around with their customers. Is it bad for the authors? Well, yeah, I think it sucks.

      But jerking the consumers around is worse-this shouldn’t have to involve them and Amazon is dragging them into it.

      by Shiloh Walker on January 30th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    6. A corollary thought to the $15 pricing. Right now, at 9.99 from the big houses, more often than not, we get the equivalent of a “stripped book”. We get, essentially an ARC – no cover. A manuscript, not always formatted well. From the so-called Big Houses. Wolf Hall was formatted so badly I called and returned it twice. 7/10 times there is no cover only title page. The houses, like Harlequin, and a good number of genre-based imprint “get” ebooks; so for $7-$10 the reader gets the whole “book experience”. This is my biggest gripe w/ MacMillan/Penguin et al: they want us to pay premium, but they are giving us value for money. They don’t respect the ebook reader.

      by sisbay13 on January 30th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    7. Oops: last line should read Are Not giving value for money!

      by sisbay13 on January 30th, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    8. Shiloh, yes but customers can just vote with their wallets. It’s not like Amazon is the only game in town. They can buy from barnesandnoble.com or books a million, or another place online, or they can buy third party on amazon, or they can get in the car and go to the bookstore. There really is nothing stopping them from buying. Does it slightly inconvenience their life? Possibly, but if it upsets them they have the right to stop doing business with Amazon.

      But I still believe Amazon had the right to do what they did with Macmillan. If I owned a store and one of the people whose products I stocked was giving me a bunch of hell, I’d stop stocking them too, and not just the product line we were arguing about. That’s all Amazon did. Maybe some see it as a “power play” or “unfair to readers” or whatever, but it is what it is. Any bookstore has the right to stock or not stock books from any publisher.

      Macmillan thought they could manipulate Amazon into changing the rules they’d set for Kindle. They found out differently. While this may seem bad on the surface, from a business point of view, if I was Amazon, I’d do the same thing. It sends a message and it will cut down on the annoyance of them having to deal with every big publisher’s whining and fighting against ebooks. I’m guessing others that were pushing may pipe down a little now and everybody can get down to the business of selling books.

      And Amazon was right on this,IMO. No one is buying an ebook for $15. That hurts everyone. Also when companies like Macmillan are allowed to set their ebook prices at $15, THAT hurts the reader, because that’s basically the NY pub trying to manipulate people into buying the print version, something they feel they have more control and power over. What they don’t understand is: people who prefer ebooks are going to KEEP buying ebooks, but they aren’t going to pay $15, they’ll just read other authors published by publishers who bought a clue.

      by Zoe Winters on January 30th, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    9. sisbay, cause they know they don’t have much leverage in the ebook world. They are trying to make the digital version as unattractive as possible: poor formatting, no cover, high cost. The idea is that readers will stick to the print version. And that’s just silly.

      by Zoe Winters on January 30th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    10. Hell, I’d pay $15 for some ebooks-and if people choose not to, well, they vote with their wallets.

      I get that you’re all about Amazon, Zoe, and that’s cool.

      But Amazon does stuff like this every year or so. Last year it was erotic romance that had their ‘buy now’ button disappear.

      I don’t write for MacMillan. I just like readers having easy access to the books they want, and right now? Not only are the Kindle users out of luck, so are the print readers.

      by Shiloh Walker on January 30th, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    11. Shiloh,

      I’m not necessarily “all about Amazon” though they are a major distribution channel for me as an indie. I just feel like if people don’t like what Amazon is doing they can vote with their wallets. It’s just like when people complain about Walmart but keep shopping there. These companies have the power they have because people gave it to them, and nothing will change unless those same people make a different choice.

      Though I think what Amazon did with the erotic romance last year was stupid. I don’t automatically take Amazon’s side. I think they’ve done stupid and unfair things too. However, in this case, I believe they were right. Like it or hate it, Kindle is their proprietary device and they can call the shots for it.

      by Zoe Winters on January 30th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    12. No readers are really “out of luck” for print they can buy third party, or from another online retailer or brick and mortar bookstore.

      For Kindle users, if the book exists in PDF format they can buy that, then have it converted to their kindle for like a dime. And Kindle may convert other formats, not sure. Though if all those formats don’t exist, that’s the publisher’s fault, not Amazon’s. These publishers are purposefully choosing to be as e-book retarded as possible to try to manipulate readers away from digital. The record industry did the same thing.

      by Zoe Winters on January 30th, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    13. i agree with your post. I have a kindle & very rarely buy any of my kindle books from Amazon unless they are really cheap or free. I love Ellora’s Cave and they cost more on amazon than EC website. even with 15 cents I pay to convert it, it’s still cheaper than buying it from amazon.

      by habrewer on January 30th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    14. From #8 Crux of matter, quoting Zoe: What they don’t understand is: people who prefer ebooks are going to KEEP buying ebooks, but they aren’t going to pay $15, they’ll just read other authors published by publishers who bought a clue.

      Can’t be repeated often enough. Other authors, other publishers.

      Have no art on my walls, only bookcases: no more room. Have 56 pages in my DX. Am buying books, just not print.

      by sisbay13 on January 30th, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    15. I vote with my wallet. I buy mass market paperbacks, not eBooks, despite having a Kindle, iPhone, probably iPad down the road, etc.

      I do not want to pay for media that prevents me from using it how I want. I buy MP3s from Amazon and Apple, because I can burn them to CDs if I want to loan my music to someone else.

      I buy mass market paperbacks because (a) I greatly prefer them to larger-format books (hardcovers, even large-format paperbacks), and (b) I can distribute them as _I_ please. I can loan them to friends. I can donate them to libraries when I’m done reading them. Until I can loan out an eBook (Once at a time is fine, just not ONCE EVER like B&N permits with Nook), it’s not going to be my purchasing method of choice.

      by Alan Danziger on January 30th, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    16. […] was going to link a bunch of other articles available on the subject, but author Jackie Kessler already has a good list of links on her blog, along with a good breakdown of the situation. Dear […]

      by Amazon’s Latest Fiasco – I Quit « on January 30th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    17. Alan, I think Nook is developing a loaning thing. I agree with loaning one at a time, and not being able to loan it except from the device and only once until you get it back. I’m on the fence about DRM but since Mp3’s are still being bought if the price is right, you’re probably right about that.

      by Zoe Winters on January 30th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    18. I have hated Amazon since long before the Kindle.

      Bezos is a Gordon Gekko who has dreams of topping Walmart, and that is his sole design. Anybody in his path, he intends to take out. He has said this.

      He is clearly a bully–unlike, say, Steve Jobs who has focused Apple for decades on new ideas and cutting edge, and competed w/MS on a playing field that’s been anything but level.

      Bezos just wants to rule the world. Stories I’ve heard about working for Amazon are not pretty, especially at the lower levels.

      The ebook market desperately needs to get out from under Amazon. From a consumer standpoint too–Amz wants domination and that means eventually they will control pricing. If you think they will be doing consumers any favor at that point, forget it.

      I applaud anybody who thumbs their nose at Bezos for whatever their reason. I’ve taken down my Amazon links from my book pages. I never really wanted to put them up there, but I figured it was a courtesy to readers.

      Now, Bezos has shown clearly that courtesy is no part of his equation.

      by Laura Kinsale on January 30th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    19. Just noticed Smartbitches has 50% off ebooks offer at allromance and omnilit. I’ll replace my Amazon links with those!

      http://www.sb-tb.com/

      by Laura Kinsale on January 30th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    20. […] Jackie Kessler has a roundup of author perspectives. […]


    21. […] RT @JackieKessler: My take on the Amazon/Macmillan fight: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2010/01/30/whos-the-bully-here/ […]

      by What I’m tweeting about « Trivial Pursuits on January 30th, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    22. :roll: Not sure which side I am on here. You made good points, I agree with both. Hate the bully publishers as well. In this economy why raise the prices, particularly for e-books, which DUH-is takes nothing to be published vs. regular books. As a reader and supporter of Kindle, I will put pressure on them, as it should be my choice if I want to pay more for the book or not as the consumer, they are sounding a lot like the APPLE mentality which I really hate! Thanks for making me think.

      by Raelene on January 30th, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    23. Zoe – there may well be a beef between Amazon and Macmillan concerning the prices of ebooks. But yanking ALL Macmillan books? On a weekend so that nobody can get to the bottom of this before Monday morning?

      WHo do you think this is hurting?

      While the two big bullies square off it’s the authors who are getting trampled underfoot. I am not published by Macmillan but plenty of my friends and colleagues are and they do not deserve their books being mucked about with while Amazon asserts itself as the only game in town or Macmillan digs in over how many dollars an ebook needs to cost. That’s something that’s between the two of THEM. The authors (particularly authors of actual, yanno, BOOKS as opposed to ebooks (you ARE aware that Amazon yanked ALL Macmillan books,not just their ebooks?…) should be the ones to pay the price for this.

      by Alma Alexander on January 31st, 2010 at 2:18 am

    24. This power play is precisely why I haven’t bought a Kindle. After last year’s fiascoes (deleting w/ no warning books people had purchased and removing sales rankings of books they deemed inappropriate), I didn’t want to get locked into The World According to Amazon with no way to get out.

      Now I have a third reason not to buy one. Their competitors are looking better and better.

      by Laurie on January 31st, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    25. Alma, I agree the authors are getting hurt, but when you sign on with a publisher then that publisher’s business issues sometimes become your issues. I’m not trying to be heartless but that’s part of the price of traditional publishing. Trad publishing also has some great things going for it, but there are also drawbacks that an author has to weigh before signing on the dotted line.

      And Amazon IMO isn’t asserting itself as the only game in town, they merely got tired of a large publisher thinking that the Amazon policies didn’t apply to them. Now they, and the other big pubs know that they do. If MacMillan isn’t happy with Amazon they need to start their own ebook store to sell their authors and keep all profits. Cut out the middle man and encourage readers to buy directly from them, and give them a bonus for doing so as well as DRM-free content that can be read over many platforms including Kindle.

      But Macmillan won’t do that, because they, like many other large NY pubs are completely resisting E, and THAT hurts authors in the long run far more than this surface power play of Amazon’s.

      And yes, I’m aware they took off all their books. If I owned a bookstore and one of the publishers whose books I stocked couldn’t respect my store policies I’d cut them off too. Amazon is ruthless. Sometimes they are wrong but in this instance, I would have done the same thing had I been Amazon.

      by Zoe Winters on January 31st, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    26. Also… if Macmillan and other large publishers are upset enough, they can ALL pull ALL their books out of Amazon distribution. How powerful would Amazon remain in light of other large online bookstores and distribution points if ALL books pubbed by NY were gone from Amazon? Amazon isn’t the only one who can play this game. If the large publishers want to win they have to be able to fight dirty. And if they don’t want to win then they need to stop baiting Amazon. Apparently conditions have not become crappy enough for them all to pull out of Amazon. They are making themselves serfs by staying in their competition’s backyard and feeding their bottom line.

      I think if every NY pub pulled all their books off Amazon and dealt only with other sales channels online, then Amazon would ultimately crumble because there are too many readers who buy from all these publishers. Look at the readers already miffed who want to shop elsewhere?

      by Zoe Winters on January 31st, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    27. Zoe, what about Amazon also removing all Macmillan titles from its customers’ wish lists and removing all previously downloaded Macmillan content, all without warning or consent?

      by Jackie on January 31st, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    28. Oh I think that’s Sh***y, Jackie. Absolutely. Now that may have happened automatically when they removed the buy buttons. Who knows? Or maybe they’re just evil (I made a comment about this on your newer topic regarding this drama.)

      I don’t agree with “everything” Amazon does, but it seems to me folks like Macmillan should not WANT their books back in Amazon. If they’re smart, they will get together with other large publishers and pull out, giving their online business to other companies and thereby helping to strengthen the companies who are doing things they don’t like.

      People complain about Amazon all day but still shop there, why? Because somehow it’s better and more convenient for them. I’m guessing it would be less convenient if most books they want weren’t sold new by the publisher on Amazon.

      It’s like people who complain about Walmart being evil but still shop there.

      For me, Amazon is a good place for me to be. I’m selling well as an indie there. But Amazon arguably is a worse deal for many others. Those others should get together and take action, cause crying won’t fix it.

      by Zoe Winters on January 31st, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    29. Meant to say: “helping to strengthen companies who AREN’T doing things they don’t like.”

      by Zoe Winters on January 31st, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    30. […] I’ve previously referred you to folks like John Scalzi and Tobias Buckell and Jay Lake. I’ve commented too. What I initially said, when Amazon first pulled the plug one week ago, was: “Now, I don’t […]

      by Jackie Kessler - Insert Witty Title Here on February 5th, 2010 at 10:22 am

     

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