Saturday, August 09, 2014

In Which Amazon Begs Us To Boycott It

Important Kindle request, says the subject line. Whatever could Kindle be urgently in need of, we wondered.

Dear KDP Author, Amazon begins the missive that we found in the inbox this morning.

And straight off, it's a history lesson. We're publishers of historical fiction here at Newcastlewest Books, so the first line caught our eye. Granted, Amazon was referring to the Second World War and we grew up calling it The Emergency, but it's a one-size-fits-all sort of letter so we'll forgive the slip.

Paperback books revolutionized the book industry, Amazon tells us, right after the end of the big war. To be more factually correct, Amazon, you could have pointed out that the recently deceased Oscar Dystel was instrumental in fomenting that rebellion, but that might be too much history for the average KDP author and if they ever figured out that Jane Dystel, his daughter, is a literary agent trafficking in traditional publishing, it could spoil the narrative arc.

So paperback books made books cheap to buy and now we have digital books that also make books cheap to buy. And that evil publishing industry just tried to stop it. Tried to keep the common folk from gaining access to literature. Greedy bastards.

If you, the KDP author, didn't get the class warfare implication, Amazon continues in the next paragraph of this letter, attacking Hachette Books Group as part of that evil publishing empire and by the way it's a segment of a $10 billion congolomerate.

Didn't Jeff Bezos who owns Amazon just buy the Washington Post? Doesn't that make him rich? Or are we not supposed to compare apples to apples and conclude that Jeff Bezos is a greedy bastard as well? Sorry. It's the Jesuit education coming out. But then again, the average KDP author probably wasn't schooled by Ignatians so maybe we're asking questions that Amazon doesn't expect to be asked.

Reading on, we start to wonder if one of President Obama's speechwriters put this letter together. It's filled with straw men and suggestions of consensus that don't exist if you do the research, but there again, the average KDP author doesn't follow the industry and can't judge the veracity of the statements contained in the letter from Amazon. They aren't business people either, and they may take Amazon's pricing argument at face value, without considering the costs of publishing that have to be recouped in the sale price of a book.

So when Amazon states: "We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture.", they won't know that what Amazon wants is not lower prices for the readers but lower prices for them so they can make a bigger profit.

Anyone who uses the Smashwords platform for digital publishing knows that Amazon takes a bigger piece of the digital pie from the author who worked so hard to produce the book. The Amazon-Hachette dispute has nothing to do with readers getting a better deal. The better deal falls to Amazon, which is spending so much on competing against the likes of Apple in electronic devices that its stockholders are getting more than a little concerned.

It isn't the reader's champion Amazon doing battle with greedy bastard Hachette. That's what Amazon's letter to Dear KDP Author wants you to think, but it's all smoke and mirrors meant to obscure what Amazon is really after.

So in closing, Amazon asks the KDP Author to e-mail Hachette's CEO. Join the Amazon army for lower prices! You have nothing to lose but your chains, readers of the world!

If you have been following the dispute, you'd know that 900 disgruntled authors are calling on their readers to e-mail Jeff Bezos and tell him to stop censoring their books by making them unavailable via Amazon. This letter is Amazon's reaction, offered with a fervent hope that they can garner enough outrage among the unknowing to develop a marketing strategy that can say X hundreds of authors are against what Hachette is doing so there take that we've got the umbrage on our side as well.

We're not the brightest bulbs in the marquee, but neither are we stupid. Amazon's letter is playing its KDP authors for fools, and that is a tactic that we find highly insulting.

So write to Hachette's CEO. The e-mail is provided in the letter from Amazon. Voice your support for Hachette's stand against Amazon's attempt to control the book market by manipulating book sales. It is the authors who are getting hurt. The authors who work so hard for so little money to provide you with your entertainment and knowledge. The authors who will make even less so that Amazon, and Jeff Bezos, can make even more.

1 comment:

RowenaBCherry said...

It would be really helpful if Amazon would tell us what exactly it is asking of Hachette.

Why would we give Amazon a blank check (or cheque) without knowing what exactly we are supporting, apart from such Amazonian behavior as punishing authors simply because of the icon on the cover of their books?