Response to Amazon and Hatchette

Amazon sent me a note this morning, asking me to write Hatchette and voice my opinion on this matter.

I decided to take them up on that, as I had an opinion during the MacMillan spat as well. here is what I sent:

OK, you two, this is getting ridiculous.

You both realize the entire world is watching as you play this game? Not with bated breath, as you may imagine, but more with long sighs and “oh great, NOW what?”

Well, maybe not the whole world. But as someone in the literary scene, each time something like this happens, it makes the rounds. It is more akin to watching your neighbors fight than anything else. (we’d like you to quiet down so we can get back to work)

Here is what you need to know:

Amazon:

Give Hatchette the same deals, the same percentages and costs you give me, Apokrupha press, who has 8 books. Let them price their stuff anyway they want. They are the ones making this stuff, they can make those choices on price. Treat all publishers, big and small, the same. It is for the author to decide if they are happy with their deal with Hatchette, and act accordingly. Your dealings are between Amazon and the publisher. Treat all of us equal.

Hatchette:

I will never, ever, pay $10 for an ebook. Ebooks must be cheaper than the mass market. Period. It is a digital file that you are crippling with DRM, making its value about that of a cereal box. Now, this is important so listen, if you price your book at $15, I won’t just buy the mass market–I will forget the book all together and buy a different book. The price of the ebook should be YOUR choice, but never forget that purchasing it will always be MY choice.

Both of you:

Your public temper tantrums are getting worse, between this email, the public ad the other day, and it isn’t making anyone like you two more. Quite the opposite, it is seeding doubt in the minds of writers, readers, and more importantly, CUSTOMERS about both of you.

And both of you need to realize that there are options, different places to buy online, different publishers selling ebooks. If you push us, the readers, enough, we will go elsewhere.

Fix this. Restore our confidence that both Amazon and Hatchette are companies that we, writers, want to work with and that we, the customers, want to buy from.

 

32 thoughts on “Response to Amazon and Hatchette”

  1. I sent a thank you for Kindles and indie author platform letter to Jeff Bezos and asked hm never to please take advantage of authors with crap royalties and bad contracts the way Hachette et all Traddies do.

    I will tell Hachette to stop gouging readers when all they want to do is subsidize hardcovers and print books that will likely continue to decrease in demand as the digital generation grows up. Price Print books and Hardcovers in a way that reflects THEIR true costs and price ebooks in a way that reflects their costs, not make ebook readers pay for print readers’ preferences.

    And I hope Hachette caves with kneepads on.

    1. Maybe you could also send a note to Bezos and ask him if they want to demand the price of ebooks be under a certain level, they should also unlock the books and the DRM surrounding them.

  2. Actually, couldn’t Hachette just upload their ebooks in the KDP program and take 35% of whatever is over 9.99 and tke 70% of anything between 2.99 and 9.99. They should just do that. One by one, upload to KDP.

  3. Oh, you said this eloquently. Good for you. I do wish they’d sort it out. Ultimately, Amazon should either agree to let them cut their own throats by over charging, or boot them out. Either way, Hachette need to realise that change has come and the old ways are over, or drown in their own greed.

    Shah. X

  4. Absolutely perfect. Neither side is making a good show of themselves, and should just stop it right now. That includes everybody who signed that ad.

  5. Nice. I too am getting sick of the childish back and forth. The only place I would quibble is I don’t think the publishers should have price control. I don’t really through KDP. Sure I can set my own price but Amazon incentives the band I can price it in through their percentage structure. I kinda suspect Amazon may be trying to do that exact thing here, they can price higher if they want but they’ll get a lower cut and Amazon will still be able to discount if they feel like it. I’m opposed to suppliers having ultimate say in retail prices because, for the most part, they don’t know what they’re doing or at least not nearly as well as the retailer does, and it opens the door for suppliers to price in ways counter to the retailer’s intetest. It’s the same argument against writers doing all the production work themselves. A professional job requires professional help and most self publishers have more direct experience with retail pricing choices at the reader level than many of these publishers do. They’re basically vanity retailing. And not even doing it to get the best return. They’re basically asking Amazon to give up revenue so they can go make more somewhere else. I suspect if Hachette could produce a solid argument based on data where those higher ebook prices don’t lead to less revenue for both them and Amazon, there’d be a deal to he had. I just don’t think such an argument exists or that they feel the need to even make one. Amazon can make that argument for lower prices within their store. They have something like 30% of the print market too. I doubt they’d throw that to the wolves unless they were certain to get equivalent or greater returns on what they are pushing for.

    1. Amazon can have lower prices…it’s called wholesale/retail. They can have razor thin margins if they like.

      Again, I’m not going to defend publishers, because I’ve had some bad experiences, but a publisher often takes a very large risk on authors and like in the music industry, it is the major hits that pay for the bombs. They have to pay an advance (which gave me the money I needed to do my last book), they pay for all the expenses of illustration, proofreading, editing, and other production costs. Then there is the PR and media time invested into a book. All said, even an ebook could cost $20-50k before it even goes on sale.

      Newer in-demand books and authors help pay for the authors whose books aren’t successful. I don’t begrudge them for trying to eek out a little extra on new releases. Don’t want to pay it, wait until it gets discounted.

      But should Amazon be allowed to just say…all ebooks are worth this amount or less? Do we want retailers telling everyone what their work is worth? Because then the number game gets much harder.

      My point is I’m trying to avoid the commoditization of work that I think we should value higher than a piece of cheap plastic you can buy at Wal Mart. We’ve seen what going cheap gets us…some people do really well, while the overall industry goes down the toilet.

      1. I would argue that’s it’s already largely been commoditized, and that happened a long time ago when most books were priced according to the format rather than content. If I go to the store to get a toilet seat cover, for instance, and I can choose to buy a blue one or a pink one. Both are $15. My personal taste dictates which one I buy. If I go to a bookstore and I’m choosing between the new Stephen King or the new James Patterson. Both of them cost $20. My personal taste will dictate which one I buy because the price of the product line is virtually identical across the board. Books just have a far more diverse product line, and various tiers of pricing attached to various product lines but largely, the entirety of each line is priced near identically. If you send five people to B&N to buy 10 new release hardcovers each, they’ll all bring totally different piles of books to the register but they’ll all be paying essentially the same total price as one another within a few dollars. To any of those individuals, those books aren’t interchangable, but to an outside observer, they certainly are.

        1. Who says books aren’t commodities? Are we making idols of books now? “Oh, the sacred book which must be highly valued and highly priced because thus sayeth the Gods of the Words.” Oh, please.

          I have far less in my retirement savings because since I could get to a bookstore on my own I’ve been buying books, be it by allowance from mom and dad or my earnings or, after I became sick and homebound for a long time, my hubby’s earnings. The more he made, the more books I bought. I value books HUGELY. I would not want to live life without reading or stories.

          But guess what? More stories and poems and plays and biographies and technical and scientific works have been published than I could read in a lifetime. Millions and millions. So, do we need MORE? 🙂 Yes, we WANT more and to some extend NEED more, but if we spent time reading just the classics, we’d run out of time to read the new offerings.

          Reading for fun is not necessary for life. I need food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine. I WANT to read books. I could survive without reading them (bleakly), as humans did for oh, let us count the millenia… Humans told each other holy songs and great stories before books were invented. Humans will tell stories and sing songs if the great apocalypse incinerates every book and byte.

          And we’ll still tell new tales and write new songs. We don’t need publishers to create.

          The sad thing is some people think they are essential. Nope. Only creators and consumers of the content are necessary. All else is middleman.

          1. “Who says books aren’t commodities? Are we making idols of books now? “Oh, the sacred book which must be highly valued and highly priced because thus sayeth the Gods of the Words.” Oh, please.”

            Seriously? Oscar Wilde, Kafka, collected works of Thomas Paine, Twain, Neruda, Bierce…and on and on…

            I kinda do hold their work in very high regard because it not only helped shape me as a person, but it helped alter humanity. Do we want future authors of that caliber? Do we want to support a sustainable industry where people can make a living writing? Sure, not everyone will, but don’t we want to reward quality, especially in a world where it appears reading will likely decrease as it competes with other forms of media?

            At your magic price for a bunch of electrons of $6 or less, for an author to make a living, they have to sell (directly), somewhere around 10,000 copies of a book, without any advance. Is the next Twain who authors the next Huck Finn not worth $11? Can you not wait until it is on sale 6 months later? Must everything of quality in our world be reduced to a formula of everything is worth $6-$8? How far are we then from saying that amount is too much and Amazon says we think ebooks should be $3?

            Again, I’m not defending publishers, but I’m asking you to simply think about who you are throwing in with…which sounds like Amazon. They have done amazing things, I love Amazon for much of what they’ve done and I’m even a Prime member. That said, the driving down of prices further and further helps no one in the long run. It certainly isn’t helping Amazon as they aren’t profitable…what it does help is get people who only buy on price to get further and further engrained in their system. They can talk all day long about how they are doing what’s best for you…but at the end of the day they are only doing what’s best for Amazon.

          2. What did you do in your capacity to complain or advocate for writers to be paid more? Did you have a say?

            And how do you turn back time? Really? This genie done left the bottle.

            We need to figure out how to do right by authors and readers in the new age. Digital books are not going away and most folks don’t want to pay more than 10 bucks for them. (Me, I don’t want to pay more than 5 or 6, 7 tops.)

            Most people who are buying books are not making a lot of money. Most authors don’t make a lot of money. Never have. Some of my favorite writers of the 50s, 60s, and 70s eked by or died in poverty, fabulous stylists and storytellers with trad pub deals. NO guarantees. In college, I studied with some award-wnning writers. All needed their teaching work to pay the bills. Skill at the craft guarantees nothing.

            Advances have gone down as publishers report profits going up, I hear. Nice. Thanks publishers. Midlisters get dumped. So, where do they go? To self-publish. At least there’s that option. It didn’t exist for the writers I loved in times before. As far back as I can remember, most writers could expect to struggle, and the very few made it rich. How has that changed?

            What has changed is that now those who were shut out are no longer, and they are happy to price lower and hope readers find them and consider them deals. And, looks like that is happening. And every day, someone is making money they were not making before. Before: zero. Now: even if it’s 5 bucks, it’s more than zero. IF it’s 100 amonth, more than zero. And if they are smart, savvy, and have luck, they may make 50K or more a year doing what they love.

            Before: rejections papering the walls.
            Now: an even playing field in terms of getting the work on the cybershelves. It may be genius or dinosaur porn, but the public decides who to support, as it always has. Just with more choices.

            I can’t think but that much, THAT much, is a really demcratic, egalitarian, really good thing. And all new things have downsides, including life-saving drugs.

            This has downsides.

            But if all the traditional publishing houses crashed and burned, my life would not be impacted. I would still have more reading material out there in the ether and on my shelves than the couple decades (maybe) of life I have left to live. The world is glutted with good (and bad) books. The competition is (and has been) fierce.

            The golden age is now for some. And the golden age has passed for others.

            Are you suffering a dearth of good reading? I’m not. So, tell me, what is the problem?

            There are writers. There are readers. There are books. I don’t see the issue. Some writers will flourish in the new environment and most won’t. I assume that’s how it always has been. (Yep. I read Grub Street in college And yeah, I know the starving artist stereotype.)

            I am more afraid of ageism and terrorism and national debt than the fate of publishers. As long as writers write, I will be able to read. And even if writers all stopped writing, there are oceans of stories out there already created.

            I don’t see why I need to support traditional publishing. My favorite writers will still publish without them. Maybe I could get some of those next books in their series FASTER, like before I die.

  6. I spent a year putting my last book together. It was a remarkable amount of work and I slaved over every detail (paper weight, illustrations, etc) to make it just right and give the reader the best experience. And in fact I chose to not do a hardcover copy because I wanted it to be a fun easy read you could throw in your bag.

    This was just before the days of ebooks and the publisher priced the book at $20 because of course they said Amazon would immediately cut that price to compete against the brick and mortar stores (which they did). The publisher was selling that book on thin margins to Amazon to begin with so there wasn’t a lot of room for royalties left over. The paperback currently sells for $15.

    The book is available for digital download on Amazon for $11.30 (no idea why that price). There is no paper, no shipping costs, no physical costs whatsoever…so one can ask…is it worth $10? I believe it is. I think publishers should be able to set any price they want and so should authors. If the book doesn’t sell then the market has spoken and changes can be made. However, once you discount something you give yourself not a lot of room to go down form there.

    I sold out my first printing in two weeks and after all these years, I’m almost to a Grande Latte in royalties. If I had had the options to self-publish today I might do many things differently, but shouldn’t these be my choices?

    These capitalist titans are always talking about letting the free market decide…well…okay let’s do that and see what happens. Amazon didn’t put my book out, they didn’t pay the advance, they didn’t edit it or spend a year working on it…so I don’t see beyond them dictating their margins, why they should have any say in how anyone wants to price their work.

    1. There is a very simple reason why Amazon gets a say: They sell oodles of books to their huge customer base, and any publisher whose books are on there sell MORE. If Hachette could not sell on Amazon, the losses would be huge.

      Any retailer that is effective at moving product has the right to dictate terms. And any publisher who does not like the terms can find or create another venue for sales. And for now, who is selling more ebooks for Hachette? And we already know ebooks are more profitable than even hardcovers for publishing houses.

      When someone sells loads for you, they deserve to have muscle in the negotiation. And if the store is theirs, they can decide at what price they wish to buy and sell.

      I won’t pay more than 8 bucks for an ebook unless it’s one of 2 fave authors. I wait until prices go down or I can get a hardcover or print cheaper than the ebook. I can wait…I have 1500+ books i my TBR piles.

      1. “There is a very simple reason why Amazon gets a say: They sell oodles of books to their huge customer base, and any publisher whose books are on there sell MORE.”

        The point is that Amazon can choose to sell the book at any price they like, but the wholesale price of that book shouldn’t entirely be something that Amazon gets to dictate. This is exactly the behavior that Wal Mart pulled on manufacturers.They would dictate the wholesale prices they were willing to pay and the manufacturer could take it or leave it. How well has that worked out? Cheap products, cheap labor, no one values anything because everything we buy is junk. Do we want literature to simply become the discounted market of ideas and the work that goes into creating them?

        We’ve commoditized this work and continue to devalue it. We’ve seen it happen to the music industry, it happened to journalism and other online writing. As an author and a tech exec who has been through all of this in the past 20 years, I’ve seen this happen again and again. We don’t have news sites, we have aggregators…because we’re not willing to pay a price for anything.

        I don’t love everything about the old system for sure, but I will say at least my publisher took a risk on me, paid me an advance, paid for the proofreading, illustrating, editing, and manufacturing…all without knowing if a single book would sell.

        If Amazon doesn’t want to pay the wholesale price they don’t ‘have to. However in this case, you’ve got one more massive retailer flexing their muscle, not for the benefit of customers, but the benefit of locking more people into their system.

        1. No, they absolutely can dictate their buying price. The seller may refuse to sell it at that price, but Amazon certainly can set the parameters for how much they will pay, how much they will discount, and what price they will set. And Hachette can take their books and go home if they do not like it.

          The judge thought the collusion was very clear and very real. So, no matter what Amazon pushes or doesn’t, a judge decided collusion occurred. Unless you are suggesting that Amazon bought the judge…

          I’m a consumer. I like low prices. Most indie writers I know are delighted that publishers have high prices. They want 14.99 ebooks from the trads, even if it means they make less (according to Amazon’s data). Why? It makes the lower priced indie books MORE appealing to the budget buyers, and most folks don’t make what the elite bestselling writers make. We have to budget for our reads.

          So, the only reason indies would side with Amazon is to help fellow writers. Because, really, it’s disadvantageous for indies to have lower prices on trad-pub books.

          Me, I wish the Trad Five increased prices. $50 hardcovers and $25 dollar paperbacks and ebooks. Yeah, baby, watch the money roll into indie pockets then.

          I still side with Amazon on this one as a consumer, as a reader. I want lower prices. My money these days goes to discovering new writers with ebooks under 6 bucks. For 11 bucks, I expect to be much more pleased than usual. Much, much, much more. Because I consider that unreasonable. Just how I considered 16 buck cds unreasonable. And guess what? I don’t have to buy cds anymore at that price. I can buy 5 and 7 dollar mp3 albums and singles at 99 cents. And I do.

          Which way is the evolution of books going? To more expensive and print? To less expensive and digital?

          Publishes need to move with the times.

          1. I agree…Amazon can dictate what they will pay…and I also agree the publisher can take their books and go home which is what is going on.

            “I still side with Amazon on this one as a consumer, as a reader. I want lower prices.”

            For me it is a distinction between low prices and fair prices. It use to be that if you couldn’t afford the premium of the hardcover price, you waited for the softcover or went to the library. When I didn’t have a lot of money in those days, I carefully selected the books I was willing to buy at a premium, and waited for the rest. It didn’t bother me. Supply and demand. No different than Apple selling a premium iPhone at launch and discounting another model later. This is now industry works. Do you want cheap or do you want quality? Because the price you are prepared to spend often reflects the final outcome of the product.

            You seem to want everything for the same low price. I don’t see why a publisher or even an author has to discount their work down to basement level prices simply because Amazon demands it. This battle is going to set a precedent for the future.

            “My money these days goes to discovering new writers with ebooks under 6 bucks. For 11 bucks, I expect to be much more pleased than usual. Much, much, much more. Because I consider that unreasonable.”

            Which is of course your choice. You basically make my point. You expect something you pay more for to be better and I agree. If something is priced at a premium, it should be better and that is what we should be aspiring to. If you buy a purse for $1,000 you expect the quality and craftsmanship to be better than a $100 purse…right?

            “Just how I considered 16 buck cds unreasonable. And guess what? I don’t have to buy cds anymore at that price. I can buy 5 and 7 dollar mp3 albums and singles at 99 cents. And I do.”

            And how’s the music industry doing these days?

            “Publishes need to move with the times.”

            My grandfather…who was a very wise man who when I was younger I never listened to…said something to me once when we were talking that has since resonated with me for almost 30 years. He said…when I was a kid if you wanted a radio, the family saved up for that radio for a year. We valued it, we cherished it. The problem with your generation today is you want everything now and you want to pay nothing for it.”

        2. Also, your publisher did not take a risk on you. They decided you would add to their bottom line, gave you an advance they probably never expected you to earn out, and they kept the lion’s share of earnings. Even when YOU don’t earn out, they do.

          You offered a product they thought would make money. They were not doing you a favor. They were making a business decision. And you are an artist with a product worthy of pay for your work. Your advance was payment for buying your work, period. You earned it and you deserved it. It wasn’t a blessing and grace from a deity. It was a sale.

          1. I greatly disagree on this. I had a very well respected literary agent (who took me on because I was recommended by a well known author) and she took my book to every major NY publisher and none of them wanted the book. I had to go to a smaller publisher with no experience in the type of publication I was putting together. In fact it was the first book of its kind. They had never spent the money they spent on assembling my book on any book before.

            Now I’m not saying they didn’t see opportunity, but they also took a risk. Every single book you publish is a risk…with a hope of a reward. That’s how the system works. That’s how all business works, nothing is a guarantee. You invest in hope of success…that’s the entire tech industry and venture capital.

            I never said it was charity. However to simply state that publishers don’t take on any risk is ridiculous.

            “5. Even if a book has earned back its design, printing, warehousing, distribution, marketing, sales, permissions, editorial, and fixed overhead costs–it still probably hasn’t covered the writer’s development costs to write it.”

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2014/05/28/what-is-the-percentage-of-books-published-on-which-publishers-actually-lose-money/

            True also for ebooks.

            ———-

            Let’s do the numbers of my last book as if it were purely a digital publication and I self published. After selling out the first printing, paying the illustrator, proofreader, editors, and other expenses I’d still have regardless of it being an ebook, I’d have cleared about $20k-$25k at a $10 price tag.

            If I had to sell that book for $8, I would have had to sell an additional 1,200+ copies to make that same amount. At your “sweet spot” price point, I’d have to sell an additional 3,400 books.

            I put a year into crafting the book…and if I had to sell an additional 3,400 books just to make that same amount of money, I wouldn’t find it worth it, which is why I don’t do books anymore and why I gave up writing (after 13 years) altogether. Wasn’t worth my time.

    2. They own the store. That and 100 years of shifting anti trust law that made supplier control of retail prices on again/off again illegal. Plenty of precedent for this stuff in action, and more than one instance where the results got so widespread and so bad the general public actually demanded legislation to ban it again. Just happens to be legal right now because of a court decision in 2007. And even that almost immediately spurred the collusion by these publishers and Apple. It’s vertical price fixing at its root.

  7. In the interest of full disclosure, I received this reply from Hachette today:

    Thank you for writing to me in response to Amazon’s email. I appreciate that you care enough about books to take the time to write. We usually don’t comment publicly while negotiating, but I’ve received a lot of requests for Hachette’s response to the issues raised by Amazon, and want to reply with a few facts.

    * Hachette sets prices for our books entirely on our own, not in collusion with anyone.
    * We set our ebook prices far below corresponding print book prices, reflecting savings in manufacturing and shipping.
    * More than 80% of the ebooks we publish are priced at $9.99 or lower.
    * Those few priced higher—most at $11.99 and $12.99—are less than half the price of their print versions.
    * Those higher priced ebooks will have lower prices soon, when the paperback version is published.
    * The invention of mass-market paperbacks was great for all because it was not intended to replace hardbacks but to create a new format available later, at a lower price.

    As a publisher, we work to bring a variety of great books to readers, in a variety of formats and prices. We know by experience that there is not one appropriate price for all ebooks, and that all ebooks do not belong in the same $9.99 box. Unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books, often for years, before we see any revenue. We invest in advances against royalties, editing, design, production, marketing, warehousing, shipping, piracy protection, and more. We recoup these costs from sales of all the versions of the book that we publish—hardcover, paperback, large print, audio, and ebook. While ebooks do not have the $2-$3 costs of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping that print books have, their selling price carries a share of all our investments in the book.

    This dispute started because Amazon is seeking a lot more profit and even more market share, at the expense of authors, bricks and mortar bookstores, and ourselves. Both Hachette and Amazon are big businesses and neither should claim a monopoly on enlightenment, but we do believe in a book industry where talent is respected and choice continues to be offered to the reading public.

    Once again, we call on Amazon to withdraw the sanctions against Hachette’s authors that they have unilaterally imposed, and restore their books to normal levels of availability. We are negotiating in good faith. These punitive actions are not necessary, nor what we would expect from a trusted business partner.

    Thank you again and best wishes,

    Michael Pietsch

    CEO, Hachette Book Group

    1. Hachette wrote:
      Hachette sets prices for our books entirely on our own, not in collusion with anyone.

      Maybe NOW. But the DOJ said otherwise not too long ago. If I were the DOJ, I’d keep a very close eye and attentive ear to the various negotiations going on with Amazon and the Big 5. Oh, yes, I would.

      1. “Publishers wanted Apple to grab market share and give them better margins. Instead of paying $9.99 for new releases, books were priced at $12.99 or $14.99. In addition to raising prices, Apple forced publishers to put the same price tag on the Kindle Store, the iBookstore and every other ebook store.”

        And Re: Apple/DOJ

        “Amazon talked with the Government repeatedly throughout the investigation, even hosting a two-day meeting at its Seattle headquarters. In all, the Government met with at least fourteen Amazon employees — yet not once under oath.”

        Amazon pushed hard for this case against agency pricing and Apple, which of course allowed Amazon to just step right in and now throw their weight around to get what they want. The real winner wasn’t consumers…it was Amazon.

        These companies are all great about standing up for free markets and letting the markets decide…until they don’t like how the terms are for them…then it’s this whole bs about doing this for the customer.

        Look, if you don’t want to buy an e-book at $10 don’t. It will either come down in price or it won’t and publishers will have to then figure out what they want to do then. Otherwise Amazon is saying, “This is all your work is worth.”

        Keep in mind, dropping the prices on music did not massively increase music sales, although many albums are now under $10. In addition to that we’re now seeing an all-you-can-eat marketplace with music…and now books are entering this…as Amazon is playing with subscription based books…which is great for readers, but how well will that work out for authors?

        1. I know a few authors making more sales after KU. This may be a curiosity bump with folks trying the new toy out, but each borrow equals some money for any book read 10+% Will it be great or will it be a bust? Time will tell.

          But you cannot stop innovation. The tide will sweep away anyone trying to hang on to old systems and old technologies. The smart ones start innovating right alongside and right away.

          The Big 5 (or 6 a while ago) had millions and billions they could have pooled and invested in a better system than Amazon’s to give readers what they wanted. They didn’t do it–too busy protecting the old system than developing the newer one.

          Well, they should still try. I love start-ups and innovators. Trad pubs need to get on the innovation ride and stop trying to keep the 20th century. That is gone.

          1. My last comment and then I have to get to work. But thanks…enjoyed the spirited discussion.

            “But you cannot stop innovation. The tide will sweep away anyone trying to hang on to old systems and old technologies. The smart ones start innovating right alongside and right away.”

            Pricing is not necessarily innovation. Before the advent of the Internet, Wal Mart was “innovating” our reliance on cheap products from China for years. Has that helped us or hurt us? Both right? Shouldn’t we learn from that?

            I’ve been working on the cutting edge of technology for over 20 years. I’ve written countless articles on it, and have appeared in many publications. The shift in “innovation” you are seeing is basically trading one oppressive system for another oppressive system. The strings are just simply harder to see. Amazon, in essence, is no different than Wal Mart. Lowest cost, highest volume…and we want you only shopping with us.

            “The Big 5 (or 6 a while ago) had millions and billions they could have pooled and invested in a better system than Amazon’s to give readers what they wanted. They didn’t do it–too busy protecting the old system than developing the newer one.”

            There is some truth to this. However, what you also don’t want is a bunch of publishers who also have the only system in place to sell you books. If they had succeeded in what you describe, you’d simply be complaining about their stranglehold on the publishing industry and you’d be paying $20-$25 for an ebook. A balance must be struck.

            “Well, they should still try. I love start-ups and innovators. Trad pubs need to get on the innovation ride and stop trying to keep the 20th century. That is gone.”

            I also love startups. I joined my first one around 1993/94. Been working with them ever since. Profit and loss is not simply a 20th Century concept. I firmly believe in innovation. I also believe that tech companies and those within them firmly believe that they should be paid exceedingly well for their creations. Those creations overwhelmingly rely on the creations of others. Without music, a Pandora or Spotify cannot exist. Without books, you cannot have a future ebook industry. Why is the value of the gatekeepers, be they tech companies or publishers, of less value than the products they sell?

            I want to see great minds create great art. However, the harder it is for them to earn a living, the fewer great works we’ll have. Do you think Amazon, getting their way with Hatchette, will ultimately be better or worse for authors? Let’s say all the publishing houses (which in a way kinda operate as a collective bargaining) went out of business next year and every author could just be an indie. Do you think Amazon would treat them any differently than Hatchette? Sure for now they want to attract more and more to their direct model, so great terms. But those terms can change at any time…and let’s see an author go up against a company like Amazon.

          2. I don’t know what Amazon’s eventual plans are. You don’t either, unless you’re in their inner circle and have the blueprints. I simply don’t like quite a lot of what trad pubs have done and are doing. Cannot take their side, even as I buy lots of their books.I will always support writers in some way or other, but I won’t always support the systems. Amazon looks better to me in this fight. Next one, they might look like the enemy. But what I will pay won’t change. I will no longer pay more than a certain amount for most books, and only a lot for specific books. If other readers are like me, a bibliophile that used to happily plunk down trade paperback and hardcover prices, but will NOT do that anymore, that can’t bode well. If folks now see less than 10 bucks as reasonable for digital books, then publishers insisting otherwise doesn’t mean the public goes along with it.

            I won’t. I’d rather reread the 3000 books I already own. 🙂

            And again, most folks wouldn’t have a major author recommend to a major agent. You had a certain privilege there. If you had not had that–not the major author mentor, not the major agent advocate, you’d have had to self-publish or take rejection and put your work away, no? To me, that just make my point. Trad publishing is limiting, not liberating. The next Neruda and Twain and Kafka may not know someone who knows someone. Their book may be too weird and unmarketable. But it may be the next genius work that will change souls and hearts.

            Now that genius can self-pub and reach more folks with lower prices. I can’t help but love that.

            Thanks, and be well.

          3. http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-amazon-e-book-numbers-20140731-story.html

            “Additionally, the cost of production isn’t the same thing as the retail price. As author John Scalzi writes, “many people decide to opine that the cost of eBooks should reflect the cost of production in some way… if you’ve ever paid more than twenty cents for a soda at a fast food restaurant, or have ever bought bottled water at a store, then I feel perfectly justified in considering your cost of production position vis a vis publishing as entirely hypocritical. Please stop making the cost of production argument for books and apparently nothing else in your daily consumer life.”

            “The main cost behind a book is not its printing or its shipping — it’s the creation of the work, from inception to publication. Most important, this means, as Harlan Ellison famously (and profanely) said, pay the writer. In addition to the author, there is the author’s agent, as most authors who make it to publishers have one; there is the editor who works on the book, an assistant editor, a proofreader, a copy editor, a fact-checker; a cover designer; a layout person; a marketing department; a dedicated publicist. Whether a book is printed or digital, all those people are still involved in bringing the book to market.”

        2. I happen to use and love Netflix and music streaming. I discovered new music, bought cds and mp3s from artists I’d have never discovered with the old radio system controlled by the big music corporations. Now, I can buy obscure artists–directly, from Amazon. I can buy my beloved Japanese and Korean bands because there is an internet and digital music. To me, the consumer, this is progress. And to some indie artists who would NEVER be on the radio or pushed big by record companies, they can reach their audience DIRECTLY.

          Whoever can do this best wins.

          But instead of someone telling me what to hear, I decide what to hear.

          With books, instead of a few publishers telling me what to read, I get to decide what to read or what to write. And, btw, I have bought books (digital, pdfs) directly from authors. Isn’t the internet grand? I don’t even need a cover. I’m fine with a file for my laptop. And I buy my hair care from Etsy from a gal who whips up all natural, hypoallergenic goodies for curly hair. And I buy my art directly from the artists.

          I don’t need gatekeepers, thanks.

          1. You realize you are the exception to the rule right? I’ve worked in the tech industry for over 20 years in over 10 disruptive technologies. I also wrote about tech for over 13 years for a number of well respected publications including O’Reilly and ZDnet. I now work in tech/music and I’ve seen what’s going on in the music industry happen to writing already.

            When I started writing (magazines and online) I was paid the same rate regardless. In fact I was paid well enough I took a break from doing startups and wrote full-time during the first tech bust. I went back into startups but eventually wanted to do some writing again. What I discovered was that now I was paid a small stipend and then a bonus based on traffic/clicks. Since it wasn’t my full-time gig, that eventually wasn’t worth my time.

            Later, I ran certain parts of a billion dollar media company with both TV and online destinations. I wasn’t writing but I was part of the editorial and I found now writers were being paid a flat rate of $25 (regardless of post length) and required to do about 4 posts per day, plus were paid a bonus for whoever got the most traffic. I honestly don’t know how they supported themselves. Don’t tell me the quality didn’t suffer.

            It is very easy and flippant to say that publishers or music labels have to just get with the times and evolve…adapt. The answer isn’t as simple as that and when you are inside as long as I have and seen all the changes before and the changes coming, you see that we are about to reap what we have sewn.

            Tell me…do you think that journalism has gotten better or worse in the past 10 years?

            You talk about gatekeepers as if that means something. Do you not realize you are simply trading one gatekeeper for another? Streaming music, Netflix, Amazon, etc…all gatekeepers, and these companies are continuing to consolidate their power all at the top. Do you think that your support of indie artists will be better when even all the smaller startups they use to get to you are all acquired by larger companies?

            I’m pro tech…I still work in tech, but from my vantage, I don’t simply see great new playgrounds to play in…I see a lot of fences.

  8. Eloquent. BUT this is like any public fight among giants. We just need to keep from being stepped on.

    And, it’s “bated” breath. Unless you’re eating worms.

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