Monday, February 1, 2010

My take on the Amazon/Macmillan fracas

Enough folks have asked me questions on this topic that I figured I should chime in publicly. If you haven't heard about it, the very short form is that MacMillan wanted to change its pricing for its Kindle books, Amazon didn't like what Macmillan wanted, and so Amazon removed all MacMillan books from its virtual shelves. This action meant, among other things, that you could no longer buy my friend Dave's Tor books on Amazon. Put differently, it screwed a lot of writers out of potential sales.

My overall take is simple: What a dick move by Amazon. Amazon goes long for the fail. Etc.

For a fun and in-depth analysis, let me first refer you to this entry on John Scalzi's blog. I agree with his points, so I won't bother repeating them here.

I do also have two other key observations.

First, I don't need Amazon to protect me on pricing. If I don't like what Macmillan wants to charge for its ebooks, I don't have to buy them. That simple notion--buyers can decide for themselves--works for products of all sorts.

Of course, Amazon isn't really out to save me money. Amazon wants to sell Kindles and to control the ebook market. Well, Amazon, this approach isn't going to help you sell Kindles, and no one company will completely control ebooks. Get over yourself.

Also, what happened to transparency? Amazon is famously an Internet pioneer. Has it forgotten how much power there is in simply showing what's going on? Had they been more willing to be open, they would have come off far better.

After the book-removal mess and the stupid yanking of 1984, this third strike should signal the need for a new PR team and a new attitude at Amazon. I hope they heed the notice.


Todd said...

Well the ones who control the hardware will control the books.

Believe me, they want publishers to go away and frankly, what leverage will a publisher have if they no longer "publish" in terms of books?

What I would like is an author to themselves and charge what they want.

Mark said...

That day may come, but for now, a publisher provides a lot of valuable functions.

Todd said...

Oh I agree, but publishers get paid on physically printing books and pushing them through their established marketing channels.

But we've seen this before with Apple and iTunes - their goal was one price, one marketing tag (99 cents - what a bargain!).

30 years ago, none of us had computers. In 30 years, I doubt publishers and the music industry will be very recognizable to what it is today. I bet in 10 years B&N and Border's will be just a memory.

Mark said...

You may be right about the physical bookstores, but right now, they sell a majority of the books, so I hope they don't go away too soon!


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