Ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight? No? But I bet you’ve sent Jeff Bezos your cold hard-earned cash in exchange for a sweet, sweet deal on a book some steamy midsummer’s night when you felt flustered, struck with (literary) passion and lust and you simply could. not. wait…gasp!
Same thing. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, is the Devil.
The Devil, you say? The Devil. He might not have the horns and pitchfork but as an independent publisher and author, I, along with many of my fellow colleagues in the business, have signed a deal with the devil and we’ve been paying for it ever since.
Recently, Amazon has been making headlines in the mainstream news about its public battle and shady practices against Hachette Book Group, a major book publisher. This is a big deal. In fact, the New York Times reported today that Amazon is escalating things in ways reminiscent of mafia strong arming:
“The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling’s new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — is suddenly listed as “unavailable.”
In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared. Anne Rivers Siddons’s new novel, “The Girls of August,” coming in July, no longer has a page for the physical book or even the Kindle edition.”
Again, this is important. Please pay attention. If you care at all about indie authors and books, you will take notice of what is going on here.
We, as consumers, have given Amazon WAY too much power over the years. What they are doing now is totalitarian, not to mention censorship disguised as capitalism. As an independent publisher, I am no stranger to Amazon’s Gestapo tactics.
Recently, Amazon made “Josh Divine’s Ducktown” suddenly go “out of print” just like that. Even though the book is NOT out of print it was listed as such on Amazon’s site with no warning or explanation. I wasn’t even notified about it and the only reason I knew was because the book’s author alerted me. Needless to say, I freaked out.
Over the course of the past few months, Amazon screwed with the availability of Ducktown so much that it’s become a running joke with me and the author that the book is cursed. But the reality is that for whatever reason, Amazon does not like the book and they have exercised their dislike several times.
I pressed my distribution company (Ingram) for answers and got nothing. I asked the Independent Book Publishers Association, of which I am a member, for an explanation, but they were as confused as myself. And I’ll be honest, that’s frustrating. Where is an indie publisher to turn for answers or help if no one has any answers?
The problem was eventually fixed – though it took a few days and probably cost me a sale or two – but I was left with no absolutely answers. This is wrong.
Amazon now has the power to take your book out of the market with the click of a button…and that should scare the shit out of people:
“No company in American history has exerted the control over the American book market — physical, digital and secondhand — that Amazon does.
For several months, Amazon has been quietly discouraging the sales of Hachette’s physical books by the several techniques: cutting the customer’s discount so the book approached list price; taking weeks to ship the book; suggesting prospective customers buy other books instead; and increasing the discount for the Kindle version.”
As a small and independent publisher, I can relate to this, in spades. Since last year, Amazon has screwed with the availability of my books and shipping times without any explanation or relief. Even now, if you click on most of my titles on their site it will tell you that the book is in stock but that “it may take 1-2 days to process.” Huh?
This goes against the business model that I, and most other independent publishers use, which is “print on demand.” And print on demand means just that – on demand! These books are available at the click of a button. There should be NO reason that Amazon would need two days to process an order. If Barnes & Noble doesn’t need two days, why do they? Simple! They are bullying the publishers.
I have inquired to every level of Amazon that I can for answers without any help. I have pressed Ingram and the IBPA for answers without much help. The best suggestion that the IBPA had to offer was to publish my titles (in addition to publishing them already with Ingram) with Amazon’s distribution company (Create Space) in order to hit them from both sides.
According to the IBPA, this has helped other publishers with similar problems. But I should not have to do that! That is exactly what Amazon is trying to accomplish with their Gestapo tactics.
We are powerless right now to exercise any rights against Amazon’s totalitarian and unprecedented reign. We, as authors and publishers, have to do something to change this.
I get asked time and again why I don’t do e-books…this is why! Amazon has the power to censor, delete and erase you from the book market. When someone buys a book from me I want them to own the book forever and to be free to do whatever they wish with the book – lend it out, sell it, write in it, etc. It’s yours and rightfully so but this isn’t the case with Amazon (and others) where digital rights management is concerned.
I would never dream of giving a company that kind of control over my book. My business model might be a relic and I may lose money by not publishing e-books, but I am big believer in print as a last means of the freedom of information.
You should know, I go back and forth with Amazon and it’s a “Devil’s deal” doing business with them. I have, in the past, called it a “necessary evil” but something has gotta give. I used to say, “You don’t see Amazon doing these things to the big publishers!” Well, now you do, and that, my friends, is a BIG deal.
I would put myself out of business by telling people to NOT buy any of my books on their site. Like you, I enjoy their convenience and discount but man, has that convenience cost us something!
Amazon strong arms all us for the “sweetest deal” and they make me compete against myself in the book market! How crazy is that?
At the same time, I do fervently encourage people to buy my books directly from me and from indie book stores! No, really! Buy direct! Patronize your local shops and libraries. Ask for my books in your local stores! Fight back! Yes, you’ll pay a little more but consider the alternative.
Personally, I enjoy shopping at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million for my books. Yes, I know they’re a corporate store but I love being in a physical store and I’ll gladly pay the extra money to keep an alternative to Amazon in business! Because if we don’t we’re in huge trouble, folks! Read that NYT article – there’s scary stuff going on.
I don’t have all the answers but as I said before, as consumers, as authors and as publishers, we need to do something to change this. We have created a monster and Jeff Bezos is the freakin’ Devil.
We absolutely zero power right now and I’m not sure a whole lot of people care. But you will…when the market gets tighter and tighter and more indies go out of business and you’re flooded with whatever Amazon deems worthy of you to read.
I would be in favor of an independent publisher’s union – something, anything to put pressure on Amazon to stop these fascist practices that are quickly killing the “free” book market. They understand one thing and one thing only – money.
Let’s come together and send a strong message to
Satan Bezos and fight for our books, our freedom, Hell, our souls! Books – the tangible and physical kind that you love to smell and feel in your hands – are one of the few mediums left that are free from the control of our reptilian overlords…haha. Let’s keep it that way!
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