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Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
This time it's MY publisher...

I might wake up tomorrow morning with my own books missing from Amazon, if their tactics remain the same for this second prong of the attack.

Heeeeere we go....

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Why do you read?...

book and glasses
Tangentially related to the whole Amazonfail fiasco - jaylake is depressed.

Here's why:

Finally, some things I've learned about authors from reading what ebook-buying consumers from the pro-Amazon side of this dispute are saying.

1. Authors are greedy

2. Authors are rich

3. Authors hate ebook readers

4. Authors control pricing

5. Authors control what their publishers do

6. Authors should be punished for what their publisher does

7. Authors are taking orders from their publishers' PR departments

8. Authors should self-publish, because they'll make lots more money that way

9. Authors don't know what they're talking about

10. Authors aren't necessary

11. Authors are bullying Amazon

This depresses me immensely, and reinforces what I said before about us authors looking greedy and short-sighted to consumers for whom we are the main public face of publishing.


I don't blame him. I saw the same comments. I am equally saddened by them.

Here's the thing that is glowing at me in dire neon day-glo orange from all the things I've seen said in comment threads across the Internet this weekend: "If I can't have the e-books I want (by the authors whom I enjoy) CHEAP and INSTANT, then I'll just go look for other CHEAP and INSTANT e-books (by implication, the author doesn't matter)"

It links with Jay's point #10.

I'm a writer. I've always been a writer. This is my passion, and my burden, and my gift, and my joy, and my sorrow, and my frustration, and my dream. I like to think that, if I write well, if I tell a story in a memorable fashion, if I spin wonder and enchantment into a tale to hand to others to enjoy... I deserve, at least by those who liked my offering, just a smidge of loyalty to my own voice and my own stories as distinct from anybody else's.

This is how I *READ*, wearing that other hat. I have writers whose books I'll simply take off the shelf and take to a cash register if I see a new one that I haven't read. Ursula Le Guin. Guy Gavriel Kay. Sharon Penman. China Mieville. And others. I also am willing to look at a book by a writer whose name I don't recognise and, if the title and the idea of the work catch my eye, take a chance on the new voice. If I can't afford to buy the hardcover first editions when they come out, I wait until the new books by the writers I love hit the paperback racks and I'll acquire them then.

What I do not do, what it would never occur to me to do, is to simply pick up a new book by an author whose work I've loved and admired in the past and look FIRST at the price sticker - and then decide that the price is too high, and that hey, it doesn't matter, if I can't have the new Guy Gavriel Kay I'll just buy books by some generic fantasy hack instead. It's an equivalent of saying that if I can't have Tolkien then it's just FINE to read some bland generic fantasy which looks like was cooked up in a blender - a touch of Elves, a pinch of Orcs, equal parts Dark Prophecy and Lost Heir To Enchanted Kingdom Returning, a stick of Ent, and half a spell of Gandalf - and it doesn't matter in the least that the two are utterly different on every level or that the latter could not possibly nourish the spirit of imagination and the sense of wonder in me that the former has done.

How is it possible that anybody who calls themselves a "Reader" is capable of making this sort of culling decision?

I have heard many people swear passionately that they "will NOT pay $15 for an e-book". That's fair. Neither will I. (That's because I don't DO e-books, of course, which is a different matter entirely - but okay.) The point is that the authors of these books - be they hardcover, paperback or e-book - have zero, zilch, nada, influence on how much their work is eventually sold for. I would hope that readers would find the work of certain writers, whose work they like and are willing to support, valuable enough to get a few compromises hammered out in the industry so that those writers can actually... you know... continue writing. And eat at the same time, and possibly have a roof over their heads while they do so. Trust me, we aren't getting rich on any of this unless we sell 8 million copies in 24 hours - but there is only one Harry Potter. Would you have paid $15 for a chance to get an e-book of THAT, at midnight, the same time as the hardcovers came out? A bunch of people would have else they would not have been standing in round-the-city-block queues at midnight on the day of release to get their mitts on the first books to be released into circulation.

I'm a writer. I WANT you to read me. Honest, I do. That's what the stories are for.

I give some of those stories away, in certain circumstances. I cannot afford to give ALL of them away - because not only is the production of an e-book far from free (others have addressed the price structure better than me (go look at Tobias Buckell's blog or his article on the SFWA website) but an e-book, like ANY book, begins in one place. An author's heart. An author's mind. An author's imagination.

Without those, NONE of this would be an issue.

Readers... we write for YOU. If your only criteria for reading is how much you are paying per word, then you are treating our books as sacks of potatoes or a bag of coal. They are not. They are individual and unique, like the individual and unique persons who dreamed them up. We aren't interchangeable. If you have found a writer you love, don't toss that writer aside in a fit of pique because his or her publisher has set a price on their books with which you do not happen to agree. I appreciate that the economy is in the toilet and there are other things that want your dollar, and that you might have to think twice about tossing your hard-earned money at a book - of ANY kind - dead-tree or electronic edition. But please - ask yourself, why do you read. And if the answer to that is ANYTHING other than the price on the sticker, then stay the course. If you want a book, wait for a cheaper edition, if you have to. But don't just throw a writer's heart and soul into the dumpster because a couple more dollars are more than you think you want to pay.

I read because I love the word. I read the writers I love because I love the way they use the word. If I have to forego an expensive latte a day in order to afford a book I love, then that is what I will do (and for those of you who know me and my relationship to coffee you will KNOW how much this means).

Why do you read?

And how much are you willing to offer in order for the authors who sit and dream stories for you over there in the shadows to continue to provide you with those tales?

Yes. I know. The readers owes any individual author precisely nothing - a story stands and falls by itself, out there in the big wide world. But if you've ever loved a story, don't reject the act of its creation by refusing to pay an extra dollar or three for it. You give more than that for a tip when you grab breakfast in a cafe.

Don't hate the writers. We are not the enemy. We are not greedy - if we were, most of us wouldn't have to be working two jobs and/or have married money in order to keep doing what we love. We don't "have it in" for e-books. We're mortal souls with one foot in faerie, and we're trying to make it out there, any way we know how. If you won't help... at least don't heap the brushwood of blame on our thresholds and stand out there waving torches. We are doing what we can. Meet us half way.

Amazon responds

coffee LOLcat from icanhascheeseburger
From Amazon's own site:

The Amazon Kindle Team says:
Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the "big six" publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it's reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don't believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.



So, they didn't wait until Monday. So it wasn't a "mistake" this time - it really was a genuine and complete hissy fit on Amazon's part.

But holy cow what a feeble response this is to the whole mess.

Let's deconstruct just a little bit:



Macmillan, one of the "big six" publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

Yes. Read that again. For E-BOOK BESTSELLERS AND MOST HARDCOVER RELEASES. As in, premium time-sensitive product. I seem to recall Macmillan's own letter talking about a sliding scale, where the price of the self-same e-books eventually drifts down to WELL below Amazon's price ceiling. Gets complicated, this - but possibly it's the possibility that it might leak out that Amazon insists on charging $9.99 for e-books which have been around for a while and which Macmillan has now priced at $5.99 that's worrying Amazon far more than the overwhelming need to protect their customers against paying "more" for an ebook initially. And that "regardless of our viewpoint" - what does that mean, exactly? Take it into negotiation. Negotiate your little hearts out. Sic your lawyers at each other if you need to. But sitting in the corner weeping and knuckling your eyes with your fists like your average kindergartner who is throwing a fit of the sulks is not the adult thing to do here. The Supreme Court has recently ruled that corporations are people. God help us if they're ALL petulant five-year-olds.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles.

Read "We have something to discuss concerning a brand-new business model (ebooks haven't been around THAT long) so we'll just yank ALL your titles (be they fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, whatever) in whichever format you could possibly put them out in, to make our point." Classy, Amazon. Really.

We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.

Oh can you count the passive aggressive ways? Can you see Pauline in Peril standing over there with hand theatrically on brow - "We will HAVE to CAPITULATE..." - "Prices NEEDLESSLY high for E-BOOKS" - "but we will WANT TO SELL THEM TO YOU", even at "those" prices...- and - Amazon - you're pulling the monopoly card? Like, SERIOUSLY? I have to tell you, you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means. If actually being the publisher of any given book means you have a "monopoly" over your own titles... I think I have a headache just trying to parse out what Amazon thinks they mean by this.

Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it's reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book.

Yes, sweetie. They will. That's the POINT.


We don't believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan.

...or what - you'll yank their catalogues, too?...

And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

...BLINK.

Amazon. Honey. Do you really want to set yourself up as a clearing house for the hundreds of thousands of self-published authors whose books MAY or MAY NOT be remotely good enough to read never mind being an "alternative" for people vetted, published and edited by publishing house who have had experience in the process and have a certain knowledge of, and a vested interest in, the level of how much a given book sucketh...? And are you setting your cap at independent presses and self-published authors because... um... they will be easier to keep under Amazon's thumb than the big conglomerates...?

No. Really. *REALLY*.

It always WAS about control. This little love note is all about how much they are suffering, all for the love of books and their readers, but there isn't a line in there that doesn't scream wounded ego and loss of control. They can do what they like - it's their company - but I have seen a BUNCH of people declare publicly that they're pulling their dollar and their buying power from Amazon, over this. And NOTHING in this letter is calculated to bring ANY of those people back.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

And writing is a business for me. I never expected it to be easy, either. I just never expected it to be as hard as it's turning out to be when the big players are so concerned who gets a bigger slice of the pie that they don't even worry about the little people who BAKED it. Come what may - Amazon's tactics or Macmillan's - there are people out there talking seriously about "pruning their reading lists" because of issues with e-books which the writers hitherto on those reading lists have had nothing to do with whatsoever. So the ultimate outcome...? Let the big boys fight it out. In the meantime, cull the authors.

Thank you for being a customer.

I like the convenience of Amazon. I like the fact that I can go to my computer and get the things I want to read. But seriously - it's a BOOKSTORE, and when a bookstore ceases to sell the kind of stuff I want to read or attempts to "protect" me from "predatory practices" while all the time perpetuating predatory practices all by its little self - well, that trumps convenience.

Keep the Kindle, thanks. There's got to be another way.

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The new Amazon mess

some days...
Yesterday's news - Amazon pulls all Macmillan books off its site.

All. Macmillan. Books.

I don't know that much more than that right now, and I'm waiting to see what plays out - so are others, like

But jaylake is mad,; John Scalzi weighs in, and so does Marie Brennan, and so does Cat Valente, and so does Jim Hines, and no doubt others whom I have missed. Tor books are affected by this and TOr publishes any number of people I call colleagues and friends.

For now I'll follow the cautious route taken by a number of all these writers, and wait for more info - but a couple of points need to be made now:

1) This isn't the first time Amazon tried to pull a fast one just in time for the weekend, when media is slow(er) and it can get away with more of murder than it might have done mid-week when everybody's antennae are up. Remember the mysterious vanishing of the GLBT books a little while back - blamed on a mysterious "database malfunction" when the working week started a couple of days later? All I can say is, if Amazon tries to pull a "database malfunction" excuse again, all I have to say to that is, you guys are RAKING in money, use it to hire more staff to babysit your databases through their fragile weekends. This is becoming a pattern, and a disturbing one.

2) When two giant bullies square off in the schoolyard, it's the little people underfoot who are collateral damage. Amazon's reason for existence - its ORIGINAL reason for existence, anyway, before it started selling razorblades and TV antennae and movies and groceries and vacuum cleaners - is to *SELL BOOKS*. Macmillan's is to publish said books. The price charged for those books is something that, if there is a problem, the publisher and the retailer should settle between themselves, out of the public eye. And WITHOUT slamming every single author who ever had the misfortune to be published by one of Macmillan's subsidiaries. We the authors have done nothing to warrant being punished by our books being yanked out of circulation while the bean counters at the publisher and the distributor hammer out a deal that gets THEM the biggest slice of the pie. Folks, let me just point out a small truth which you may have overlooked. WITHOUT YOUR WRITERS YOU WOULD NOT BE IN THIS BUSINESS AT ALL.

3) This is what happens when too much power is concentrated in too few hands. Amazon is close to becoming the equivalent of "Google" in the sense that these days "I googled something" means that you searched for it online and "I bought it on Amazon" is becoming a sort of a euphemism for "I bought it online". Amazon is a great hulking behemoth looming over everything else in sight - but apparently that doesn't mean that it's anything more than a petulant if larger-than-average baby who is prone to throwing tantrums and tossing its toys out of the pram if anyone doesn't do precisely what it wishes. And as far as publishing conglomerates are concerned, it's instructive to note just how MANY imprints are affected when "Macmillan" is taken off the table.

I'm waiting until Monday to see how it all falls out. But right now... it doesn't look good. Doesn't look good at all. Particularly since this doesn't seem to be an isolated occurrence. We've seen this sort of thing before.

I kind of knew already that I would never own a Kindle (not if the books that I "bought" and paid for, loaded on it, could be yanked without warning, as Amazon had proved that it can and WILL do, in a previous kerfuffle. But am I to understand that I am no longer to trust Amazon as a retailer at ALL? A retailer of anything? Because if it can simply close up shop like this - well there are people I know published by the Macmillan group who have their titles coming out in only a handful of weeks whose books were on PRE-ORDER on Amazon - how does this fiasco affect THEIR sales?

Why are they, the authors, being asked to pay the price if Amazon's bluff is being called by the publishers? Why is this attitude of "Well if *I* can't have a monopoly then nobody can have the books at all" being even tolerated?

I'm sure that more writers will weigh in. This... this is too big. Some of us may not be with Macmillan, or may not be with Macmillan right now, but once they come for those of us who are can the rest of us ever rest easy again?

Isn't this publishing boondoggle hard enough to start with, without the threat of a retailer simply pulling your books out of their stock if they have a squabble with your publisher...?

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