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Amazon vs. Disney: FIGHT!

Amazon is already not looking good on the Internet this weekend, thanks to trying to corral KDP authors into their slapfight with Hachette. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

Dara discovered that Amazon is apparently ALSO in a dispute with Disney right now. So if you were looking to preorder copies of Muppets Most Wanted or Maleficent or Captain America: The Winter Soldier on disc from Amazon and found that you can’t, this would be why.

And I gotta say–seriously? I mean, picking a fight with a book publisher is one thing, but going up against the Mouse? And by extension, all the Disney and Marvel fans who want to order their movies? Captain America’s fandom, who have Winter Soldier about to drop on Blu-ray and DVD and who have the money to slurp up hundreds of thousands of copies? You want to piss all these customers off, Amazon?

Amazon even pulled this stunt with Warner earlier this year, too, according to the link above. And when you take all these examples together, and add in Amazon’s dispute with Macmillan a few years back as well, they start making quite the trend. If they keep it up, it’ll become a trend of making themselves unreliable to their customers.

‘Cause see my previous commentary on the Hachette post I put up yesterday. At the end of the day, if a customer comes to Amazon looking for Winter Soldier and sees that they can’t get it, if they REALLY want the movie right then, they’re going to go elsewhere to buy it. Target. Or Best Buy. Or Walmart. Or hell, even the video section of the nearest grocery store.

At the end of the day, all the customer knows is that they want to buy a thing. And if Amazon can’t provide that thing on a reliable, regular basis, eventually they’re going to start taking their business elsewhere.

Best comment I’ve seen on this was in the thread on userinfojames_nicoll‘s post about it, to wit:

Reports from Amazon distribution warehouses show massive Rodent Infestation chewing through stock.

Because YEAH. Pass the popcorn.

ETA: The NY Times has picked up the story!

Whedonesque has also noticed, which brought to my attention that yes, this impacts orders for the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., too.

Which of course leads to the obligatory second best comment I have now spotted, this time on Facebook: “Hail Hydra!”

ETA #2: The Mary Sue has the story now. And another NY Times article goes into both of the Amazon news items from over the weekend here.


Sorry, Amazon, I’m not getting in on your slapfight

As y’all know, I’ve elected to self-publish Faerie Blood via as many channels available to me, in the name of not limiting myself to a single channel. Even though the vast majority of my sales are on Amazon, as I’ve posted about before.

Tonight, I’ve just received a mass email that Amazon’s apparently sent out to all the KDP authors, asking us to email Hachette on their behalf in their ongoing dispute. (KDP, for those of you who don’t know, is Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s the system for authors to self-pub their stuff to the Kindle.) And I’m pulling my jaw back up off the floor as I’m trying to figure out what exactly Amazon thinks this is going to accomplish.

The first big thing that boggles me about this is this money quote:

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies.

Yes. YES WE DO. So why am I getting email about this?

Because seriously, aside from any question of where I stand on this particular dispute (about which I have already posted), exactly how many fucks is Hachette supposed to give about what the self-published crowd has to say on this matter? We’re not making them any money, after all. We’re not their authors.

Amazon appears to be assuming that KDP authors are naturally going to side with them on this, too, if they’re actually going to the trouble to email us. That is not a good assumption to make. Because y’all know what Tolkien has to say about going to the elves for counsel, right?

Moreover, I can’t help but flash to the episode of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, that we just watched tonight, “Old Wounds”. There’s a scene towards the end of that, wherein Lin Beifong has it out with her sister Su over old family history–and the fight is brought to an abrupt halt when Su’s daughter Opal whips out her airbending, and chastises the two older women. “You’re sisters! Why do you want to hurt each other?”

Airbender Opal is Not Interested in Your Grudgematch

Airbender Opal is Not Interested in Your Grudgematch

‘Cause okay yeah fine I’m with Amazon on this part:

We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Speaking with my reader hat on, yes. I think $14.99 is stupidly high for an ebook, and I’m very reluctant to put down that kind of money for one, even for my top favorite authors, even though I have disposal income and a real big yen for ebooks. $12.99 is the very top of the price range I’m willing to semi-regularly consider. And given that there are hundreds of other ebooks I also want to read that I can get for $7.99, I’m a lot more inclined to wait until the ebook price drops before I buy it.

But speaking with my writer hat on:

I’m really not cool with turning off buy buttons on authors’ books when you’re in a dispute with their publisher. I’m really not cool with passive-aggressive messaging to the basic effect of “we can’t get this book for you right now, maybe we MIGHT get it in another 2-3 weeks”. And I’m really not cool with trying to distract people looking for Hachette titles–“we can’t get you this title so how about this one over here?” No. No. And NO. If I’m a customer coming to a site looking for a particular ebook, and you’re going to waffle at me about how it’s not available right now and you MIGHT be able to get it for me in a few weeks, y’know what I’m going to do?

Go buy it from Kobo or Barnes and Noble. And if I want it in print, I’m going to Third Place.

My interests lie in supporting the author. Amazon talks a real good talk about how lower ebook prices mean more sales, but when they’re going out of their way to make it hard for customers to buy Hachette ebooks, it’s the authors who’re losing the sales. It’s the authors who are taking it in the teeth. A lower ebook price isn’t worth much if people can’t buy your book.

ETA: Ah, here comes the author commentary.

Scalzi is not impressed with this maneuver on Amazon’s part and reminds us all that Amazon is acting in its own best interests, not those of authors or readers.

Chuck Wendig is likewise severely unimpressed, and calls this maneuver on Amazon’s part tacky.

ETA #2: Housemate Paul, when I mentioned to him that Amazon had pulled this stunt and how I was boggling about it, told me that he knew pretty much only that Amazon and Hachette were having a dispute, full stop. I explained that the fight was about ebook prices and that while I agree with Amazon on how prices for ebooks are often too high, I don’t like Amazon’s tactics against Hachette authors in this. Paul drew the parallel here of a grocery store trying to force a dog food company to lower prices on its dog food, and yeah, I can see that. Meanwhile, the customer comes in looking for dog food, and the store is all “well we can’t sell you this dog food, and we can’t get this brand of dog food for another three weeks, how about a nice sack of charcoal briquettes instead?”

And the customer, who has no idea whatsoever why the store is fighting it out with the dog food company, goes to the dog food aisle and does not see the dog food she came in there for in the first place. “Crap,” the customer thinks, “now I’m going to have to drive to another store.”

Because at the end of the day, all she wants is to feed her dog.

ETA #3: Oh look! Hachette responds to Amazon’s efforts!

ETA #4: I just had this link brought to my attention–some interesting analysis of where exactly Amazon and Hachette are coming from in this ongoing spat between them. Refreshingly neutral in tone. Check it out.

ETA #5: One more link with some analysis, over here. Starts with calling Amazon out for erroneously invoking Orwell in the mail that went to KDP authors.


Monday news roundup: Memes, Amazon vs. Hachette, and Jay Lake

I’m not quite convinced that participation in a meme still counts if you get tagged twice for the same thing–but that said, I’ve been re-tagged on the Writing Process one, specifically by M.M. Justus, who put up her post on the meme right over here.

And in case you missed it, my post on the meme went up in April, and you can find it here.


I’m continuing to see a lot of sound and fury bouncing around re: the Amazon-Hachette dispute. B&N is apparently taking advantage of this by doing a Buy 2, Get One Free deal on affected books. So just in case something from a Hachette author is on your personal buy list, you might check this out.

Meanwhile, I was pointed at this post on the matter, in which the author is quite well and firmly on Amazon’s side. I was asked for my thoughts, and can sum them up pretty much thusly: I feel that particular writer has some cogent points re: the good things Amazon’s doing for authors. But on the other hand, I’m still not cool about the strongarm tactics they’ve been using against Hachette. My overall point remains that at the end of the day, when entities as big as Amazon and Hachette go at it, the people who are ultimately hurt by this are still authors–who can’t sell their stuff via Amazon–and readers, who can’t buy the books they may want to get.

And as a general reminder, if you want to read ebooks, Amazon is not your only option. There’s B&N. There’s Kobo. There’s the iBookstore, if you’re an Apple user. There’s Google Play, if you’re Android-inclined. There are device-agnostic places like Smashwords, and there are all sorts of publishers and imprints who sell directly on their own sites–like, of course, Carina. But I also heartily recommend the good folks at Angry Robot, Book View Cafe, and of course savvy longer-term, ebook-reading SF/F fans will be aware that Baen was a pioneer in the DRM-free ebook arena. Likewise, many authors are publishing their own backlists (e.g., Doranna Durgin, highly regarded in these parts). And many small presses may well be selling their own ebooks as well.

Long story short, a judicious ebook-buyer doesn’t have to be constrained to any one device. Do a bit of research and you may well find something awesome you want to read, available in a way that will let you get more money into the hands of the author.


Last but not least, for those who may have missed the news yesterday, Jay Lake finally succumbed to his fight with cancer. The SF/F community will be grieving for him for a while, I think. I’m continuing to see people posting about him all over the Internet, which just goes to show that his impact on the greater SF/F community was deep indeed. I particularly appreciated commentary I’ve seen from people who’ve also been fighting cancer, and who found him to be an inspiration–and also, just from readers who are grateful that his works remain as his legacy. If a writer has to go, I think leaving behind a lot of fans who’ll miss you and treasure your books is a decent way to do it.

My own brief post about this is here, and I reiterate my condolences to all who knew Mr. Lake, whether as a loved one, a friend, or an author.


Amazon vs. Hachette: FIGHT, or, yet more Amazonfail

I’ve seen this come across my radar a couple times this week, so before I put up today’s final Boosting the Signal post, I’d like to talk a bit about the huge brouhaha I’ve heard about going on between Amazon and Hachette. Agent Kristin Nelson talks about it here, and she links off in turn to this post on the New York Times. Author Lilith Saintcrow talks about it here.

In short, Amazon’s been throwing its weight around again because a publisher wouldn’t play ball the way Amazon wants it to. And the people who get stomped on when kaiju of this size start rampaging through a city? Readers, because they can’t get books they want, and authors, because their sales take it right in the teeth.

Here’s the thing–Amazon has a massive share of the ebook market. Ebook authors, especially people as smallfry as myself, who’re indie or digitally published or maybe both, can’t not deal with Amazon. And I do have to admit, Amazon’s won this market share in some ways because everything I’ve heard about the various flavors of Kindle is that they’re awesome. Also, fair play to Amazon, they also have excellent customer service; their customer service people have been great every time I’ve dealt with them.

But at the big-picture level, the level at which the kaiju start stomping, that’s when I start going NOW HOLD ON A MINUTE.

It’s bullshit like this on Amazon’s part that’s specifically why I’ve made a point of not buying ebooks from Amazon, despite the fact that I do like me some shiny gadgets, and despite the fact that I’m sure Amazon would deliver me a super-convenient, super-nifty tech experience if I felt like buying a Kindle. I make one exception to this, and that’s if there’s a particular author I wish to support with my money, and his or her book is only available electronically via Amazon. Otherwise, I’ll be looking at buying them in print–and if I buy them in print, I’ll get the book directly from the author if I can.

The vast majority of my ebook purchases are done either via Barnes and Noble (even though B&N has been said to be tottering for months now, and I have massive issues with their customer service, and especially their poor Mac support), or via Kobo (to support their partnership with indie bookstores, especially because I like giving Third Place Books some of my money, too). When I can, I’ll buy directly from publishers like Angry Robot, or right off of Carina’s site if we’re talking my fellow Carina authors. If we’re talking indie authors, I’ll see if the book’s been deployed to Smashwords.

And this kind of thing is specifically also why I elect to put my self-published work out on other venues besides Amazon, as well, even though I’m aware that I’m very possibly robbing myself of sales. I want to be in a position where I can encourage potential readers to support other sites too.

I’m not going to go so far as to say indie authors shouldn’t publish their stuff to Amazon–because that’d be sales suicide. I’m not even going to say that authors shouldn’t exclusively publish with Amazon, because it’s a very legitimate question as to whether it’s worth an author’s time to go exclusive or not. I can make that call with impunity because I have a well-paying day job. Other indie authors don’t have that particular luxury.

But with my reader hat on, I can definitely vote with my wallet. Even though it means managing my ebooks might take a bit more work. I’m willing to make that effort. And if you want to make that extra effort too, think about buying your ebooks from other sites–especially directly from publishers, if you have that opportunity, because that’ll have the added bonus of making sure more money ultimately gets into the hands of your favorite authors.

Other things you can do, as a reader: if you’re aware that your favorite author has books on sale on sites besides Amazon, spread the word. Link to them. Talk them the HELL up on Facebook or Twitter, especially if they’re indie authors, because I guarantee you they’ll need every bit of exposure they can get. (C.f., why I’m doing the Boosting the Signal posts.) And if you’re cranky about Amazon’s tactics, tell them. Lay it out in no uncertain terms that you’re not going to give them your money, and why. And while you’re doing that, tell the Internet, too.

‘Cause yeah, one person can’t take a kaiju down. But if enough of us act and make the Internet fall on its head, it can stun even the biggest of kaiju. And then we can all get back to the important business of reading and writing our books.

ETA: Kristin Nelson put up another post here. More links to come if I find them.

ETA #2: Author Alex Conall posts on the matter on Dreamwidth here.

ETA #3: Tobias Buckell is decidedly unamused and has pulled the Amazon buy links for his works off his site in protest.

Harry Connolly also speaks out. (Note: I’ve supported Mr. Connolly in recent Kickstarter work, in the name of supporting indie writing.)

And Fred Hicks has spoken out on Twitter:

ETA #4: C.E. Murphy would like you to pre-order her next book from anywhere but Amazon, if you think Amazon’s recent behavior is unacceptable.

ETA #5: Rachel Caine is also protesting Amazon’s behavior:


Amazon vs. Macmillan: FIGHT!

I spent most of this weekend at the filk convention Conflikt, and that was great fun, but even as a bunch of geeky music was going on I kept an eye on the kerfuffle that exploded between Amazon and Macmillan. The issue at hand appears to be the pricing of ebooks, and as an ebook author, this is of course Relevant to My Interests.

The issue as I understand it is that Amazon and Macmillan are having a huge dispute about how much ebooks ought to cost. Macmillan is aiming for a variable pricing structure from $14.99 down to as low as $5.99, whereas Amazon is standing adamant about $9.99 as a price point. (Side note: since a lot of the ebooks I buy tend to run lower than even $9.99, even when purchased on Amazon, the nuances of the ebook pricing structure are still a mystery to me. But I digress.) They couldn’t reach an agreement, and so Amazon up and pulled all Macmillan titles out of its database, not only the ebooks, but the print titles as well.

To wit, whoa.

Amazon has since capitulated but as of this morning, Macmillan authors are still reporting that new copies of their works are still not available for purchase on Amazon. And the agents I’m seeing chime in on the matter are pretty sure this isn’t over yet by a long shot. I’m still thinking hard about what I want to do about this, if anything. I’ve seen a lot of people asserting that this has been the last straw for them, and that they will cease doing any further business with Amazon; I’ve seen several authors now go and pull all links to Amazon’s pages for their works off their sites.

It’s just one great big mess, and I’m hoping it’ll settle itself out soon. ‘Cause again, Relevant to My Interests. Drollerie is tiny enough that I can’t exactly tell people not to buy Faerie Blood or Defiance on Amazon, if that’s where they want to buy it–especially given that neither of these titles have shown up on Barnes and Noble’s site yet, and Fictionwise doesn’t have Defiance, either. But man, it’s making me inclined more and more just to point folks directly at Drollerie’s own store. Where we don’t have any DRM anyway!

Link roundup, for those of you who want to see more on the matter:

Again, whoa. This is me over here in the corner, munching popcorn and waiting to see how this all plays out.