Ah, Amazon…

With all the current kerfuffle about Amazon’s removal of Macmillan books from their virtual sales "floor" (they aren’t refusing to list the books offered by their associates, only to list Macmillian in their own sales space which is their right,) I’m amused as all hell that I pulled Amazon links off my site last year. I’ve had some strong philosophical and business objections to how Amazon’s business model has been trending with respect to my industry for quite a while. I don’t want to support a business whose practices abuse my industry and cut seriously into my ability to make a living. I’m not demanding or expecting them to change–their model is what they choose, and it’s not up to me to dictate to them how they ought to run their business–but I don’t have to support it when it I find that model unreasonable and unfair to me. This is why there are no Amazon links on any of my websites and haven’t been for some time.

There are also no links to other retailers either, since I don’t want to be in the position of being blackmailed with "but you have so-and-so" by every retail chain and marketing dude in the business. The exception is those specific, local retailers who offer the service of selling and shipping signed books to my fans. These are retailers with whom I have a mutually agreeable relationship and I support and link to them because they support me.

And that’s the key, here: "mutual".

For a long time, the relationship between publishers and super-retailers like Amazon and WalMart have been controlled by the retailer. The supposition seems to be that the publishers need the retailers more than the retailers need the books. But that isn’t true. If you’re a bookseller, you need books (duh). It’s reasonable to negotiate for the best deal you can get and to choose your inventory selectively. It’s unreasonable to throw a hissy fit when you don’t get a deal that is unreasonably one-sided in your favor. It’s also unreasonable to engineer monopoly control of online retailing and distribution of books in all divisions by insisting that, if you want to be listed at all, POD books be printed only by your printer, that e-books be formatted only for your reader, that audio books be sold only through your vendor and expect suppliers to swallow that meekly under bludgeon of "we’re the biggest/only game in town." These are all things that Amazon has attempted with greater or lesser degrees of success in the past five years. And that is why I don’t support Amazon–they are making a grab at monopoly (or near monopoly) of online distribution of all content forms.

No matter how you feel about Amazon in general, the Kindle, the iPad, e-books, the book industry, or any of the rest of it, it is wise to consider what you are supporting when you give any company your money. Or your links.

I am not published by any subdivision of Macmillan and their current issue is not a personal one for me, but it is a highly-visible indicator of the corporate model that Amazon has chosen to embrace to which I do have strong personal objections. I don’t like monopolies. I don’t like abusive DRMs or "licensing" property. I don’t like backdoor thefts. I don’t like exclusive channels. So, I don’t like Amazon’s practices. So, there won’t be any Amazon links on any of my sites unless and until they change their tune on all these issues. And not just a little; a lot.

If you want to know more about this issue, I strongly suggest taking a look at John Scalzi’s post on the topic. As usual, Scalzi has rounded up the pertinent facts and links and made it pretty easy to understand.


About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
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8 Responses to Ah, Amazon…

  1. Marc says:

    You talk about eBooks formatted specifically for your reader here briefly, and I hear your point loud and clear. I am very curious, though, what your take is on eBooks in general. In an all-things-being-equal sort of way (e.g. an open format that allows any reader to read it).

    I’ve heard a lot of talk on both sides of it, including things like the money it will save publishers because their excess inventory would otherwise be pulped and that some publishers want to hold off sending eBook editions until they’re printing softcovers.

    Personally I’ve got an eBook reader and I love it as a consumer, but I’m curious about the author’s viewpoint.

  2. I don’t enjoy reading on either a computer-style sceen of any size or on e-paper, so I’m not the best person to ask on that point.

    I love the idea of e-books. I love the compact portability and the (potential) low cost with decent profitability. Distribution is certainly fast and easy with e-books of any format (assuming there is no complicating issue with DRMs, site issues, database failures, blah, blah, blah….)

    What I don’t like is the ease of piracy, the current business structures and laws that make the format problematic for publishers, distributors, and retailers, and the ungodly format battles. I don’t like the idea of a buyer having no actual product or property, but only a “license” that can be revoked at any time. I don’t like proprietary formats that lock out customers or force them into bad compromises.

    I don’t think e-books will totally replace pulp books. Or at least not for LOOOOONG time. But while I love the concept, I hate the current execution and battles. So… I guess I’m on the fence.

  3. Tyf says:

    Personally i’m not a fan of e-reading. I love to cuddle up in my reading chair with a book. I want to feel the texture of the pages between my fingers. I want to be able to jot down a note or two in the margin.

    I spend nearly every waking/working moment at a monitor of some sort. Reading a real book is nearly a vacation.

    The day that everything goes e-book will be a day i cry.

  4. I dislike ebooks intensely. I like to curl up with a good book and feel the pages as I turn them. I like to admire my collection and display it on my shelves. And I am not impressed that because they want to throw a hissy fit over keeping their ebook pricepoint to mantain their monopoly with their stupid Kindle that I am not, and will never be, interested in, the selection of print books, which I do want, suffers. So thanks to their actions, I will no longer purchase anything from Amazon. I’m not interested in purchasing from a retailer who is willing to limit my selection to control their monopoly.

  5. Steve Job’s groovy iTablet will soon grow after the over-hype time during it’s launch. The lack of keyboard and Job’s potential to fix defections will definitly to make the iPad a monster in for the forseeable future.

  6. hagelrat says:

    I love my sony pocket, it’s great compared to the laptop but with very rare exceptions (things that are only available in eformat and heavily discounted) I don’t buy books for it, I just use it so that I can accept electronic copies for review.
    I think amazon are a morally bankrupt organisation and if I can get what I want in a reasonable timescale elsewhere I will pay a little more to do so. Sadly Amazon are still the best source for things that my bookstores don’t stock, especially since Waterstones tend to say up to four weeks. I do not link to any sellers however I may highlight small independent presses of sellers I want to tell people about.

  7. MD says:

    Interesting post and incidentally I feel always very guilty about being a faithful Amazon customer when I read scenes with your lovely Phoebe and her wonderful bookshop. That close relationship between “customer” and bookshop is something no online shop can ever hope to copy. And still I buy there more often than not. Because the next “acceptable” bookstore in terms of variety and service is 30km away:(

  8. Barbara says:

    I’m not sure “ease of piracy” is quite accurate; it’ “ease of sharing an unlimited number of copies.” What libraries or what bookmooch does is piracy, if letting someone read a copy they didn’t pay for is how you define sharing. The problem with digital is that one purchase can be shared more quickly and repeatedly than one print purchase can.

    I suspect eventually readers will either have a price point they can live with or every day will become “talk like a pirate” day.

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