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Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

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January 30th, 2010

some days...

The new Amazon mess

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...?
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Just because the world needed it today -



...this song hasn't left me all day, for some reason.

Just sharing.

There's still love and joy and family and laughter.

Nothing's gonna change my world.
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