Sunday, January 31, 2010

And so it begins

Okay Amazon. I know everyone's excited (or not) about the iPad (and unnecessarily so, or do I need to explain for the thousandth time that this isn't an eReader?), but acting like a little annoying kid is only going to make your parents angry. Your parents in this case are probably folks who like buying books from you and don't give a hoot (yet) about eBooks. You guys do realize that you're screwing over your customers, right?

If you're wondering what Amazon's latest drama is, check this out: Amazon has decided to stop selling books by a publisher that went with Apple. And I don't mean they stopped selling Kindle editions, I mean they stopped selling books. Want to laugh especially hard? They haven't stopped selling the Kindle editions (for Wolf Hall, at least). So you know what, Amazon? Now I'm angry because you're screwing me over.

The story is as follows. Publishers don't like Amazon's $9.99 eBook policy. Neither do I, but that's because $10 for less than 1Mb of information is absolute stupidity and incredibly expensive. More on that another time. Point is, publishers think Amazon's prices are unfair, claiming that the downward trend is ruining publishing, blah blah, no money for us, blah, you're paying for content not for format, blah diblah blah. Publishers have jumped at the idea of the "magical" iPad because they think that Apple will fix everything. This is because Apple has consented to sell higher priced eBooks, meaning more money gets back to the publishers. Publishers hope that the saying that "consumers will do what Apple tells them to" will stand here too (and yes, I did just make that up).

Clearly, Amazon is worried. Otherwise, would they really remove titles to "express disappointment" (or disagreement)? Amazon has convinced consumers that it's all right to pay incredible sums of money for eBooks, publishers think even that's not enough, and consumers are taking it lying down (again, more on this later). Now Amazon is acting like they're the victims of some strange nefarious scheme (if someone understands this comment as something else, please let me know and explain it to me - I'm honestly completely baffled), saying that $14 is too expensive for an eBook (which is absolutely true), saying "Oh, well I have to sell it like this because that's what makes me money but not money the way I'd like it but hey I'm getting more money out of it are you confused yet?".

There are other sides to the story as well. Read this account from an author whose book was temporarily removed too - it looks at this whole issue from a different angle that may, given time, make me more sympathetic towards publishers. Regardless, this whole affair is turning out to be exhausting. One conclusion is that Apple's iPad isn't the eReader to solve our problems, but rather is apparently going to cause a furor or two just because of pettiness. These fights will do no one good - Amazon, because of the bad publicity, and the publishers, because of the decrease in sales and old-fashioned mindset - most of all hurting consumers. In the meantime, I'll happily read free literature on my Sony and go shop at the Book Depository*.

*And complete a book blogger survey. Only a few days left!


  1. Great commentary. Support your local bookstore and library!

    Also I'm reserving judgment on the iPad until it's had at least 2 years of play in the real world. But I think both Apple and Amazon are problematic in the way they approach electronic media, trying to keep everything closed and under their control.

  2. I heard about this over the weekend. Amazon is going too far and they will find people stop buying books from them because of it. I agree with Shannon's comment that the way both Amazon and Apple are approaching electronic media is problematic. They do not have the best interests of readers in mind, only the bottom line so you know we readers are going to get worked over because of it. If they aren't careful readers will abandon e-books and stick to bookstores and libraries.

  3. How bizarre! I hadn't heard of this yet. What a mess. I have an international kindle so I already can't get half the titles which are available in the US - already a bummer. It's true, however, that if vendors like Amazon cannot figure out the e-book thing and quickly, it will be problem. Mainly for readers. Double bummer.

  4. I hadn't heard Amazon's response in this latest installment of the ebook wars. Sadly, I think they are making a m-isguided attempt at passive resistance to Apple's obvious maneuver to seize control of the e-book market (by the way, I completely agree with you the iPad is not an e-reader. I've been referring to it as a small laptop or a really big iPhone). Remember the old days when Apple was still the good guy rather than part of the corporate machine?

    I was initially really excited with my Amazon Kindle - and on the whole I have to admit I still am pleased with the convenience of it. But these increasingly aggressive attempts by different companies (Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble) to seize control over digital content and information is becoming more and more disturbing. I think that allowing the owners of the distribution platform to dictate and control the content is dangerous. And, ironically, a scenario George Orwell would probably have a field day with.

  5. Fascinating stuff - thanks for bringing it to the attention of your readers. I am only interested in buying paper editions, but realise that my days as a voracious purchaser of books will be numbered should these skirmishes go the wrong way - I fear that all this can only be bad news for readers of literature - I just can't imagine how anyone could read a substantial novel on an e-reader


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