Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Amazon Capitulated My Ass

I have a column up at BSC Review regarding Amazon vs. Pan Macmillan--but it was written Sunday morning (Saturday evening to my international readers) so it's outdated a bit. Here are some points I'd like to add:
  • To readers who aren't in the Western hemisphere, they simply don't care. Filipinos probably don't care, since they still buy their books in brick and mortar stores. (Oh, and the newspaper industry is still alive and kicking here.)
  • To "readers" who read the Amazon Kindle Team's response and are siding with them, I can understand your agitation. The only thing you're seeing right now is "$14.99" and not much else. When you calm down and read what's actually being said, let's talk.
  • "Capitulate" my ass. Amazon still ain't selling Pan Macmillan titles.
  • No one's yet mentioned the ruthless efficiency in which Amazon isolated all the Pan Macmillan titles. (Which is to say Big Brother is here, and we discovered this last year with the similar isolation of LGBT titles. That incident may or may not have been a glitch, but it's apparent Amazon has the means--and has been preparing for it for quite some time.) Edit: Although considering how ISBN works, the filtering system might be simpler here.
  • For the record, Pan Macmillan isn't totally innocent in all of this. (You can read Scrivener's Error's and Andrew Wheeler's take on what Pan MacMillan is proposing.) But what's coming across to me is this:
Pan MacMillan: We want to re-negotiate.
Amazon: Oh yeah? Sorry, you don't ask the questions here, we do. *smashes Pan MacMillan's leg* (in the form of yanking out all their titles)
  • It would have been one thing if Pan MacMillan withdrew their titles from Amazon. That would be Pan MacMillan bullying Amazon (and who says they wouldn't have if Amazon didn't pull this stunt). But Amazon's first folly is making their own preemptive strike.
  • Speaking of preemptive strikes, Amazon did this on a weekend, in line with what they've done in the past.
  • Amazon's second folly was pulling out Pan MacMillan's print books. If this was, indeed, limited to eBooks, then why were the print books pulled out as well? Amazon, of course, is in their legal right to do so, but it's also a blatant bullying tactic:
Pan MacMillan: We want to re-negotiate our eBooks.
Amazon: Oh yeah? How about we yank your print books as well?
  • Oh, and remember Amazon's offer to offer 70% royalties to authors who sign up with them? You forgot to read the fine print (see the Edit part).
  • And self-published authors? You might be content with what you're getting now, but Amazon is making sure that what you're getting paid right now stays the same--if not gradually less. No "raises" or re-negotiations for you too. Being self-published means you're a publisher now, so their problems are also your problems.
  • No one wants a boycott. Boycotts hurt everyone. But here we are, either Amazon fans boycotting Pan MacMillan authors (Really? Can you name me all the imprints of Pan MacMillan, much less its authors? The boycott only works because Amazon's not listing them for sale.) and authors boycotting Amazon. Let me tell you, it's only going to get worse in the next few years. Just you wait until the Google Book Settlement gets "resolved". That's probably another readers vs. authors war (or at best, the public is apathetic to the plight of authors). And Apple ain't a benevolent dictator either.
  • This is all happening behind the scenes. We're only seeing the effects. What scares me is what we're not being informed about. Shades of Philip K. Dick's Ubik.
  • Edit: For more 1984 goodness, sample chapters from Pan Macmillan that were downloaded to Kindles also disappeared. So why is there less of an uproar by the public--as this was a legally-offered book--as opposed to 1984, which was illegally offered?


The Erudite Ogre said...

All fine points. There's a lot to think about here, particularly the assorted levels of ruthlessness you've highlighted. But I also like how you've pointed out the relative parochialism of this situation (I've heard that Amazon UK still has Macmillan titles up). Is the significance of this being overplayed in some sense?

Charles said...

No, that's probably due to two factors:

1) Rights don't extend over borders--which is fine for print books but ludicrous when it comes to eBooks, which is automatically international.

2) Different corporate divisions among both companies in two different continents. Macmillan might be testing the waters in North America first (likewise for Amazon) or their management in UK simply might have different policies. Remember Hachete though, and something identical occurred last year in the UK (and North America was mostly unaffected).

The Erudite Ogre said...

Yeah, that makes sense. I had not even heard about the Hachette Affair until this brouhaha erupted. Now I'm reading up on it to see if it can inform this situation.

It also sounds like I need to read up on how E-book rights work too; I know they are negotiated differently, but I did not realize that they were broader than paper rights.

Charles said...

Sorry if I didn't make myself clear. eBooks right still work like print books. But to the consumer, that's ridiculous. Why can I buy an eBook from America, but not if I'm based in Australia? Some sites restrict that kind of access. So the laws also need to change.

Anonymous said...

FYI: www.bookdepository.co.uk offers free shipping worldwide. (Yes, to the Philippines as well.)