Monday Musings: Amazon v. Hachette v. Authors v. Everyone

By now, I think most have heard about the pricing war being waged by Amazon and the publishing house, Hachette. The short version of the now ridiculously drawn out battle is that Amazon wants to be able to cap the price on e-books sold through Amazon regardless of what the publisher or author may want. Hachette does not want Amazon to tell them how to price their books. 

Everyone in the writing world seems to have an opinion on this clash of the titans. As a reader, would I like to have e-books priced low? Sure, I would. I would also like my food prices lower, and clothing, and cars, and just about everything else, too. As an author, with a book for sale through KDP, Amazon’s Kindle publishing arm, I’m not sure how I feel about Amazon saying “You can charge up to this much for your book, and no more. Ever. (Well, unless we decide to change the terms at some point in the future, which we might, and then you have to deal with those.)”  

Of course, both sides are spinning the conflict to put themselves in the right, and the other guy in the wrong. Amazon claims that e-books should be cheap because there is less overhead. In some areas, yes; in others; no. Editing, artwork, proofing, it all costs money, and for some, that can add up. And all of that comes out of the “profit” the book earns, no matter who publishes it. Amazon also claims that lowering the cost of a book means more sales and more profit, and if a book is too pricey, then readers will buy something else. It sounds good, in theory, and probably works for some titles. But-

Readers are not solely driven by price. Have you ever bought a book by your favorite author on the release date, at the hardcover price, even though you know the cheaper paperback will be out in a matter of months? Of course you have. So have I. We’ve also looked at an e-book we really want to read, thought “Geez, that seems a lot for an e-book,” but clicked the Buy button anyway. John Scalzi talks about the pricing issues quite well here: Amazon’s Latest Volley 

He also refers to the email Amazon sent out to all of its KDP authors. I got it, and I have to say, I agree with most of the opinions being voiced. Cheap tactic, not very professional, and trying to get us (those selling books on Amazon) to do exactly what Amazon is accusing Hachette of doing: putting the authors in the middle of the fight. You can read it here: Readers United 

On the other side, is this New York Times article, which is tilted in the other direction. Both are biased, and certainly don’t give the whole story.

Another comment on that Amazon letter, this time from Chuck Wendig: In Which Amazon Calls You To Defend the Realm 

For the record, I’m not selling a ton on Amazon. I’m probably ranked about 90 bajillion there. I’m not 100% happy with some of the things Amazon does. I have not personally dealt with traditional publishing, but I know enough people and read enough that I am aware that things are not always kittens and unicorns in that world, either. I have no stake in the fight, and, really, no author does. This is a fight between two large (or in Amazon’s case, behemoth) companies over money. Because that is the real issue here. Neither one of the two is doing any of this out of the pure, golden goodness of their heart. They are doing it because they feel the other way will hurt their business. That is the bottom line: business. 

So, c’mon, Amazon, call it like it is. You, too, Hachette. Stop the NYT ads. Stop the emails, and the sponsored posts, and all the other crap. Trust me, I am not emailing anyone on the behalf of Amazon or Hachette. It’s disrespectful, and a low tactic to ask me to. It’s time to stop the name-calling and other bullshit, and work this thing out. Meanwhile, I’m going to go write another chapter or two. 

2 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Amazon v. Hachette v. Authors v. Everyone

  1. Exactly. But it sounds so good when A says: But, really, that is just far to much to charge for this. It doesn’t cost that much to make!” And B counters with: “Look at big, bad A! They want to cut prices so much, all our poor producers are going to starve!” I call shenanigans on both arguments. It’s irrelevant. If you really think B is charging too much, the answer is not for another big company to come in with a price gun and relabel. The answer is for the buyer to just stop purchasing.

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  2. When people start telling you that ebooks should be cheap because low or no overhead, ask them whether they’ve ever bought a piece of jewelry. Or a car. Or a house. Or a loaf of bread. Do they know what the seller’s overhead on that item was?

    Jewelry, frex, is customarily sold for FIVE TIMES what the seller paid for it. Even if all he does is pick it up, turn around, and sell it to the guy behind him. The markup is five times the wholesale price. And why do you suppose the car salesman can come down (and down, and down) on the price if you insist on it? Because, you got it, there’s room in the initial markup.

    Overhead is a factor the seller must be concerned with, but it’s really none of the buyer’s business. And it has no more to do with what an ebook should cost than it has with what a loaf of bread should cost.

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