Sunday, May 25, 2014

Turow & Patterson: A Plateful of Fail with Extra Helpings of Stupid

Yestserday I fisked Lilith Saintcrow because of her wrongheaded stance regarding the negotiation between her publisher, Hachette, and Amazon.

Today it came to my attention that two heavyweights have shared their thoughts on this matter, bestsellers Scott Turow and James Patterson.

They didn't sway me with their implacable logic and iron-clad arguments. They won't sway you, either.

Because what they said is some of the stupidest shit they've ever said. And that's saying something.

This is from Patterson's Facebook page. Patterson is in italics, I'm in bold.

Read four of the most important paragraphs I'll ever write.

Because nothing is more important than kissing your publisher's ass while demonizing Amazon--the same Amazon that is making you many times richer. 

If you ever write about something really important (like pretty much anything else), you've trivialized it with that stupid opening.

The press doesn’t seem to consider this newsworthy, but there is a war going on between Amazon and book publishers. This war involves money of course, and though I have an opinion, I’m not here to comment on what might be a fair and reasonable settlement.

You mean the press didn't run this screed for you? What a shame. 

Also, you say you're not here to comment on what's fair and reasonable, yet at the end of your nonsense you call for laws to change things. I'm pretty sure that tidbit, and this entire post, is you commenting on what you believe is fair and reasonable, and I'm also pretty sure you're sharing your opinion.

There are other significant issues people might want to consider. Currently, Amazon is making it difficult to order many books from Little, Brown and Grand Central, which affects readers of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, me, and hundreds of others whose living depends on book sales. What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers. It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.

I'd bet none of the names you mentioned depend on book sales to make a living. Unless you've all done really poorly with your investments.

Tip: When you want to engender sympathy in a reader, they probably aren't going to cry over what's happening to a small group of famous multimillionaires. Big bad Amazon took away your preorder buttons? What's going to happen to you as a result? You'll have to fire the servants at one of your vacation homes?

As for the hundreds of authors you didn't name who are really being hurt by this situation, they should hire a lawyer and get out of their contracts, like I did with Hachette. Then they won't get caught in business power struggles, and they'll actually have some control over their sales.

And as for being in the best interest of Amazon customers, I can make an educated guess. Who wants ebook prices higher, Hachette or Amazon? In this negotiation, if Hachette gets its way, will Amazon be forced to raise ebook prices to make up for Hachette's new terms? How does the customer benefit if ebook prices are raised?

More important—much more important—is the evolution/revolution that’s occurring now in publishing. Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are going out of business, libraries are suffering enormous budget cuts, and every publisher—and the people who work at these publishing houses—is feeling a great deal of pain and stress. Ultimately, inevitably, the quality of American literature will suffer.

Because there can be no quality literature without publishers and book chains.

Hmm. I thought writers were the ones who did the writing. And I think they can reach readers without publishers and book store chains. Perhaps through companies like... what's the name of that big online bookstore? The one that made ebooks popular? I think it's named after a river...

If the world of books is going to change to ebooks, so be it. But I think it’s essential that someone steps up and takes responsibility for the future of American literature and the part it plays in our culture. Right now, bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the cross fire of an economic war. If this is the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed—by law, if necessary—immediately, if not sooner.

For God's sake, someone think of the culture!

Jim, I probably don't need to lecture you about how capitalism works, or how business negotiations work, so I am forced to assume that you're sticking to an emotional appeal rather than actually trying to make sense, because you're aware that your argument sucks the farts out of roadkill.

Maybe you should stop suggesting the government get involved, because the last time they did, they brought suit against your publisher and four others for collusion. Are you sure you want the DOJ to poke into Hachette's business again? I bet Hachette doesn't.

I also bet it is difficult to get anything done "sooner than immediately". But here's an idea: you get together with the other rich authors you mentioned and start your own online bookstore. Then you can do whatever you want with it. Sell paper books at high prices. Refuse to sell ebooks. Bend over for every publisher with unreasonable demands. And best of all, you can make sure you only carry quality, gatekeeper-vetted American literature steeped in culture.

And since you're obviously concerned about the hundreds of authors whose living depends on book sales, you could also send them a few grand each, to tide them over until Hachette stops dicking around and agrees to Amazon's terms. 

Or maybe Hachette could show some balls, stop whining publicly, and actually pull all of their titles from Amazon. In fact, maybe the CEOs of all Big 5 publishers should meet in secret and discuss a strategy to deal with Amazon. It's bound to work.

Speaking of whining publicly, here's a wonderful tidbit from Passive Voice:

In a comment about one of the Amazon/Hachette posts, Elka wondered how Hachette would react if an author who was negotiating a publishing contract with Hachette went on the internet to complain about Hachette’s negotiating style and contract terms.

I can guess how they'd react. They'd dump the author immediately.

I'd be seriously amused if Amazon did that to Hachette. It would suck for a lot of authors, but maybe it would finally prompt them to hire lawyers.

But Patterson hasn't been hogging all the stupid for himself. Then was this nugget from Scott Turow, quoted in the Washington Post.

“This one goes along with the pulling of the buy buttons as the most daunting exercise of brute market power." 

As I've stated ad nauseum, Amazon removed the buy buttons because Macmillan was trying to strongarm Amazon into raising ebook prices.

Amazon can sell whatever the hell it wants to sell. It isn't a monopsony, and even if it was, during its entire existence its main goal has been to satisfy customers with low prices and good service.

I'll opine that the most daunting exercise of brute market power is the lockstep, non-negotiable 25% ebook royalty rates most major publishers force upon their authors, among many other unconscionable clauses.

Turow, a lawyer who has written 11 books, including legal thrillers such as “Presumed Innocent,” said that Amazon recently raised the price of his most recent book, “Identical,” a move that he said would depress sales. 

You mean you're upset because Amazon raised the price of your book to your publisher's list price?

Really?

Did you really say that?

Really?

Pick your favorite response:

a) Don't they have irony on your planet, Scott?
b) As a lawyer who has to argue for a living, how could you say something this stupid and ruin your own case?
c) Welcome to the midlist world of no discounting, where 99% of published authors live, and so do all independent bookstores. 

“What kind of entity in a competitive market would willfully drive customers into the arms of its competitors unless it believes it doesn’t really have any competitors?” Turow said. 

What kind of entity in a competitive market would willfully offer authors shitty contract terms unless it believes it doesn't really have any competitors?

Answer: Your publisher, and all other major publishers, who had a cartel that controlled paper distribution, so most authors were forced to accept shitty terms or not get published. 

And now the publishers are unhappy that someone else is using their power to dictate terms? Boo fucking hoo.

BTW, last I checked it isn't illegal to drive customers to a competitor. Competitors actually like that kind of thing.

And I can't resist quoting Scott from two years ago:

"The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition."

So two years ago you were upset because you felt (wrongly, in your defense of the Big 5 collusion suit) that Amazon was killing real competition, and now you're upset because Amazon is fostering competition by driving customers away.

Yes, Scott. The irony bites hard.

But back to the fisking...

“Can you imagine Best Buy refusing to deliver for a period of weeks what’s available from its competitors? But Amazon behaves as though they’re the only game in town. And increasingly they are. It’s a head-scratcher why anyone with regulatory authority would tolerate it. If this is not an example of untoward power, I don’t know what is.”

Can you imagine the government stepping in a mediating every legal, private business transaction? Because that's what you and Jim are begging for. Do you really think that will make the world a better place? Do you really think that's what the Big 5 want?

I don't know the details of the Hachette/Amazon negotiation (only Amazon and Hachette know those details), but I bet Hachette wouldn't like the DOJ, or some congressional committee, or anyone for that matter, telling them how to do business. Because if someone with regulatory authority took a look at the unconscionable contracts that publishers have been sticking authors with for the last fifty years, I bet they'd order some recompense.

But I'll answer your question. If Best Buy refused to deliver for a period of weeks, I'd just order what I wanted from Amazon.

Joe sez: This situation seems to really be burning up the Internets. Sending a shout out to Passive Voice again, they call it Amazon Derangement Syndrome

The major publishers, and many authors, really seem to hate Amazon. 

Why is this?

Because publishers used to be the only game in town. They abused that power, offering one-sided contracts to authors who had nowhere else to go. Authors, me included, were brainwashed into doing whatever our corporate masters asked, and we accepted whatever pittance they offered and were grateful for it because we believed we had no choice.

Amazon offered a choice. Not just for writers, but for consumers who wanted larger selections and didn't want to pay luxury prices for books. (Publishers didn't just control who got published, they also controlled the prices of their titles. What other industry prints a price on its product?)

So the big bully that is legacy publishing is angry that it can't be a big bully anymore, because of Amazon. 

And, like all bullies, legacy publishing is a coward at heart, because it won't stand up to Amazon by pulling all of its titles. 

So instead, publishers whine about Amazon because they don't have the guts to do anything else and collusion didn't work. Fat cat authors like Patterson and Turow call for government intervention using pathetic emotional appeals, because they don't want to lose their cushy places in the status quo. Brainwashed authors like Lilith Saintcrow suffer from Stockholm Syndrome and refuse to believe their publishers are the abusers.

And Amazon? Amazon keeps quiet while slowly but surely conquering the world. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, where that anti-Amazon piece just ran.

That's what true power is. Not whining in public. Not worrying what people think of you. Just changing the world by innovating, lowering prices on goods, offering unmatched service, and only flexing muscles when being bullied.

The day may come where Amazon does, indeed, become the bad guy.

But that day isn't today.

97 comments:

Sabrina Chase said...

(Surveys smoking crater through lorgnette) A splendid example of KonRath, and very satisfying. Something tells me there will be even more targets of a like nature heaving up over the horizon. (Pulls up lawn chair and bowl of popcorn...)

J. R. Tomlin said...

I suppose it is rude to laugh at the irony of Patterson whining about saving literature. Sure, that's what he's been doing for his whole career. *choke laugh cough*

m.r.storie said...

My ex-reporter ears pricked up last week, when news of this dispute started leaking out. It's snowballing now. I hate to use an over-used word like 'conspiracy' (but heck, let's use it). I still know an orchestrated news campaign when I see one.
Take a look at the New York Times piece published Friday that focuses on warehouse conditions at Amazon and then (bizarrely) ties that into this current dispute (which has bugger-all to do with it).
It is a shitty piece of yellow journalism that did not so much as say "Amazon was not available for comment."
Made me wonder if the reporter had a manuscript out at one of the Big Five.
However, because the Amazon-abuses-warehouse-employees theme was cleverly pushed at separate U.S. media outlets with different stories over the same few days and because Amazon's detractors have now bumped Amazon's Nuremburg crimes up to that of being responsible for the "death of literature", I'd have to say that it's my opinion that a concerted push is on to take out Amazon. There's a full-fledged war going on, in other words.
It's also my considered opinion that it's too little, too late.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

As an indie author who earns 70% on every sale, I'll just keep making money while Amazon Derangement Syndrome runs its course. "The irony bites hard." Awesome.

P.S. My political thriller is free this weekend, for a fast-paced, sexy romp, check out RUNNING: http://www.amazon.com/RUNNING-Patrice-Fitzgerald-ebook/dp/B005AJA43O

Barry Eisler said...

Patterson says, “Every publisher—and the people who work at these publishing houses—is feeling a great deal of pain and stress.”

Is the pain and stress caused by the record profits publishers are making from ebooks? Profits derived by publishers keeping 75% of the proceeds for themselves, as opposed to 60% for paperbacks and 40% for hardbacks? From the Wall Street Journal:

"Bedi Singh, chief financial officer of News Corp, which owns HarperCollins Publishers and The Wall Street Journal, earlier this month told analysts that margins are around 75% for e-books, about 60% on paperbacks, and about 40% on hardcovers."

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303749904579580052135901452?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303749904579580052135901452.html

You have to be extremely motivated to believe in the myth of those culture-curating, author-nurturing legacy publishers “feeling a great deal of pain and stress” to be blind to information about their record profits, or how those profits are derived — by squeezing authors even harder on digital books.

And Turow: “What kind of entity in a competitive market would willfully drive customers into the arms of its competitors unless it believes it doesn’t really have any competitors?"

Well, quite a few indie bookstores won’t stock my Amazon-published books. B&N won’t stock my Amazon-published books. According to Turow, this means these stores have no competitors. Who knew?

Possibly the most egregious part of Turow’s screed is his notion that "Amazon behaves as though they’re the only game in town.” You’ve already pointed this out, but I have to amplify it: how would anyone with his head even minimally not up his own ass account for an industry that pays its authors only twice a year, that now pays authors an average of 12.5% of ebooks revenues, an industry that routinely insists on draconian rights lockups and non-competition clauses? Could any remotely dispassionate person look at results like those and conclude other than the industry in question has always been behaving "as though they’re the only game in town”?

Turow goes on to say, "If this is not an example of untoward power, I don’t know what is.” As Orwell said: "To see what’s right in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle.” But people like Turow are struggling to *not* see.

I will never stop being amazed at how otherwise presumably intelligent people — in this case, a demonstrably shrewd former marketing expert and a Harvard-trained attorney — are in such a hurry to satisfy the longings of their glands that they can’t slow down to test a principle they find attractive against a few obvious fact patterns to check the principle for soundness.

I call this inability to reason “situational stupidity.” It’s when an otherwise intelligent person feels so strongly that his emotions obstruct his ability to access his reason, rendering him functionally indistinguishable from a person who is natively stupid. On the assumption (and it is only an assumption) that Patterson and Turow aren’t willful propagandists who are knowingly misleading people, I don’t know how to explain their behavior other than as textbook situational stupidity.

Stephen T. Harper said...

Barry, in “Situational Stupidity,” you’ve reduced to two words a concept I’ve been struggling to explain in overlong paragraphs.

Thank you. You’ve just freed me from a huge time-suck.

SM Barrett said...

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -U. Sinclair

w.adam mandelbaum said...

Did Patterson really write this or was it ghosted? As to two things you will never see in the same place...Patterson and literature.He is the Q.E.D. that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public.After reading BEACH HOUSE I prayed for blindness and the government making braille illegal.

Joe Konrath said...

Did Patterson really write this or was it ghosted?

I snorted at that.

NJMANGA said...

Amazon is not a bad employer, I read that amazon offers its employees 5000 dollars to quit, amazon views this approach that they rather have an employee quit than be unsatisfied at work. I heard no one has yet taken the 5000 dollar offer to quit. These authors defending hachette and bitch so much about amazon being too big, how about them being too big, I was once shopping and actually bumped into james patterson and I asked for his autograph and he told me I dont sign in public only at scheduled events and told me to leave him alone

Hollis Shiloh said...

Boo fucking hoo.

I'm not gonna lie. It's gonna be tough not to steal that line, Joe.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

It's the sense of entitlement that kills me. "I only sign at scheduled events, please leave me alone." ?! Really?

And what the hell makes them think their books should be priced ridiculously high? They're not looking out for their readers. That's for damn sure.

Nicole Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole Simon said...

Build better competition and people will flock to you. Nobody is forcing us to buy at amazon.

Whoops - could it be that we as customers decide that we rather have great fulfillment and services than bad websites with bad UIs? Pricer never was the only relevant part.

Only once or twice in my life was i tempted to buy from a publishers page (and only because in Germany with bookprice binding, the costs where better for a combo of ebook and book at O'Reilly WITH additional features).

Everything else? No thank you.

A. J. Abbiati said...

Tracy Sharpe said "It's the sense of entitlement that kills me."

Right...that and the utter "assHoliness" of Saintcrow has left me in need of a good mouthwash.

Regardless of the argument at hand, it's hard to rationally consider someone's point of view if you can't get past their abrasiveness or total unlikeability. To this day I can't watch Braveheart...which bums me out to no end.

Alan Spade said...

Joe, I think you shouldn't bold your fisking of Patterson and Turow. Your words are strong enough. You didn't bold your fisking of Lilith Saintcrow, and it was ok. Just my 2 cents.

I don't think Patterson is stupid. Like Joe, I think he is trying to manipulate people, playing with emotions. But it can be a two-edged sword.

For Turow... well, his case is really embarassing... for him.

I was surprised, though, that Hugh Howey "liked" Patterson's statement on Facebook. I just hope it was for calling attention and sparking off debate, rather than approving what he said, and not seeing the manipulation behind his words.

Alan Spade said...

We also have to remember Hugh Howey himself suffered from a war between a publisher (Simon & Schuster) and a retailer (Barnes & Noble), which makes him more sensitive to this case.

James said...

I don't understand why Patterson keeps referring to the "New American" way.

This whole Amazon / Hachette thing looks like business as usual to me.

The only difference is all this crap used to go on behind the scenes. Distributors giving Publishers a hard time, Publishers giving stores a hard time, Publishers giving their printer a hard time and vice versa.

That's biz in the publishing world. And every single decision affected the authors sales for better or worse.

Why the hell is Amazon the bad guy here? It's literally doing the same shit every other business entity does. It's trying to get a better deal for itself -- and it's succeeding at doing so.

What America is James Patterson living in that this hasn't ALWAYS been the case?

Anonymous said...

Whole thing is all kinds of silly. If I were Bezos, I really would cut Hachette loose now.

Hachette needs Amazon, but the reverse is certainly not true. I feel marginally sorry for authors tied to Hachette via contract, but not a whole lot, as they chose to sign. Nobody made them do it. In the past, if a brick and mortar bookstore choose not to carry Hachette books, nobody screamed we needed new laws to force them to do it. It's totally up to Amazon what they choose to sell.

Iain Rob Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Ezell said...

"Situational Stupidity." Brilliant, Barry.

It seems national politicians also have recently used this as a very effective tool to garner votes and build blind loyalties.

How interesting Upton Sinclair's quote appears in these comments and so aptly fits the national political scene as well with all the newly added millions receiving gov't checks, food stamp's explosive growth, welfare, etc. How will they vote?

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -U. Sinclair

How do we cure situational stupidity? Like a disease, maybe it will diminish or terminate those infected. Informed decisions by each of us regarding what's best publishing path for us and our family for the right reasons is best medicine.

Patrice Fitzgerald - I've downloaded RUNNING. Thanks for the notice. Female president? Hmmm.

Jeramy Goble said...

Check out this Techcrunch article on this, Joe: http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/24/amazon-keeps-fighting-big-publishers-but-authors-pay-the-price/?ncid=fb&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=fb

Anonymous said...

While we should be thankful Amazon offered writers a self publishing option, we shouldn't make excuses over their horrid working conditions at their warehouses.

Amazon should work to treat their workers at their warehouses like the valued employees that they are.

Anonymous said...

James (I need a co-author) Patterson
defending literature is like Madoff defending Wall Street.

Ty Johnston said...

I'm sorry, but James Paterson's concern about the future of quality literature is like Hannibal Lecter being worried about euthanasia.

Terrence OBrien said...

“Every publisher—and the people who work at these publishing houses—is feeling a great deal of pain and stress.”

So what? Who cares?

Michael Ardenne said...

I love how Amazon is changing the landscape for writers, but I have to wonder if the attitude will change if they become the only game in town?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

A-fucking-men.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I love how Amazon is changing the landscape for writers, but I have to wonder if the attitude will change if they become the only game in town?

For ebooks they pretty much are the only game in town. They haven't changed yet.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

While we should be thankful Amazon offered writers a self publishing option, we shouldn't make excuses over their horrid working conditions at their warehouses.

I'm not aware of these horrid working conditions, but I'm sure the stories are out there. I've worked in many warehouses in my time. I can't say it was a pleasant experience no matter which company I worked for.

Athena Grayson said...

I can't entirely paint Amazon as the hero here, though. After all, in addition to being the retailer, they are also a direct competitor to Hachette with their Mountlake publishing house. And we all got uncomfortably reminded of how big a stick Amazon swings when it cut ACX royalties abruptly a few months ago.

However, it's not like Amazon isn't playing the same game Wal-Mart played first and played harder. Any retailer big enough to lean on a supplier hard enough to potentially put them out of business is a retailer with an uncomfortable amount of power. The savvy indie will make sure his or her works are available in multiple venues, and make sure his or her readers are aware of this.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like a lot of shills for amazon making excuses for this company. Hachette leans a little hard and they become a monster to be hunted down. Amazon bludgeones another company to bankruptcy and it's just misunderstood. And Joe? Your one side war with turow and Patterson ( read: trying to SEO your name with theirs) is starting to just look sad.

Joe Konrath said...

Sounds to me like a lot of shills for amazon making excuses for this company.

Like I made excuses when Amazon removed Macmillan's buy buttons, everyone freaked out, and it turned out Amazon was trying to keep ebook prices low, and I was right?

I'm betting this situation is very similar. Circumstantial evidence looks good. Barry and I will blog soon.

trying to SEO your name with theirs.

You nailed it in one. I'm trying to get my name to pop up when fans Google Patterson and Turow, so those fans will hate me for bashing their favorite authors.

It's all part of my dastardly plan to get readers angry at me and lose sales.

I'll stop fisking Turow and Patterson when they stop spouting nonsense. And it isn't just nonsense, it's wrong and harmful and deliberate.

Anonymous said...

fisk, a term coined by anony, quite some time back, meaning argue point by point.

But the older word fisk can be useful too as though two sides of same coin...lol : Fisk

Fisk \Fisk\, v. i. [Cf. Sw. fjeska to bustle about.]
To run about; to frisk; to whisk. [Obs.]

He fisks abroad, and stirreth up erroneous opinions.
--Latimer.

Anonymous said...

“More important—much more important—is the evolution/revolution that’s occurring now in publishing. Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are going out of business, libraries are suffering enormous budget cuts, and every publisher—and the people who work at these publishing houses—is feeling a great deal of pain and stress. Ultimately, inevitably, the quality of American literature will suffer.”

It seems to me that Mr Patterson is making an argument without a frame of reference. A frame of reference about the economic status quo before these changes started surfacing. The changes in the publishing industry are caused by an economic struggle in the face of technological changes. Simply stated: Traditional publishers are feeling "pain and stress" because they refuse to relinquish their economic power to other players in the publishing business. The technological changes have made storytelling and book publishing much much easier and far more accessible to the common man. Before self-publishing started, entering the publishing market as a new player was next to impossible. For writers it was extremely difficult to get their book published. It took today’s famous writers like JK Rowling and Brandon Sanderson years and years to crack into that market. Let’s reflect on why was that? The barriers to entry were controlled directly by a very small group of big publishers. Those barriers were artificial, not natural. There has traditionally been a very strong oligopoly in the publishing world. It would be against fundamental economic principles to even think that the oligopoly was not exploitative.

Today new writers are realizing that those barriers to entry, those huge, insurmountable mountains erected by the traditional publishers, have turned to dust and have gone with the wind. Writers no longer need to burn stacks of rejection letters from traditional publishers that kill the motivation to write in the first place. They can self-publish through various platforms of which Amazon is a pioneer and a natural leader. Self-publishing has become a natural path to take for writers who can think as entrepreneurs.

Consequently, the past few years have seen countless new writers/publishers in the market and that is exactly what has been causing “pain and stress” to the traditional publishers. Their market power is being eroded. They should feel the pain of it. Self-publishing has had a beautiful democratizing effect on the world of publishing. Nobody should deny that. We have only to thank the pioneer of this technology for that.

Given this frame of reference, it is a surprise to no one that traditional publishers seek war with the pioneer of self-publishing business.

Alan Spade said...

I entirely agree with anonymous 3:01. In France, Hachette has ruthlessly crushed the competition. Even if Amazon becomes a monopoly, it is doubtful Jeff Bezos and his successors will exploit authors like Hachette exploits them today and have exploited them.

Pirates show us there is always a solution to companies which seek a perfect control over electronic goods.

Of course, we don't have to forget these are two great predators fighting at each other. We have to remember even great causes, like freeing authors from the domination of an arrogant and abusive entity like Hachette, has to be made with minimal casualties, with persuasion rather than the use of force.

And for Hachette bestsellers, if they despise so much Amazon, why not try to convince their publisher to build an alternative? A website good enough to compete with Amazon? Why not pour their money on this new website? When you don't like your house, build yourself a new one!

Andy Jennsen said...

Is anyone else mildly amused by James Patterson giving all of us plebs permission to read ebooks? "So be it" he says. God it must suck when the uneducated masses refuse to stand in a line like they are told.

Aimless Writer said...

I never liked the publishing biz. I always wanted to write.
The thought of someone sitting in a NY office judging my work and basing their opinion of my work off current trends, their other clients, or the fact that they didn't get laid last night and are just in a foul mood, always ticked me off. I sent my work in halfheartedly. Yeah, it would have been nice if they picked me, but really...I just wanted to write.
Amazon has set us free. The Publishing Kings are dying and the peasants are rising up and creating their own futures. Long live Amazon!

Eric C. Welch said...

If Patterson were really serious about improving "the future of American literature and the part it plays in our culture," he would stop writing.

B. Rehder said...

Thank you. Barry, too.

Mirtika said...

Joe sez: You mean you're upset because Amazon raised the price of your book to your publisher's list price?


This is me dying laughing.

Kevin Riley said...

You had me at "...sucks the farts out of roadkill".

John Ellsworth said...


As for the hundreds of authors you didn't name who are really being hurt by this situation, they should hire a lawyer and get out of their contracts, like I did with Hachette. Then they won't get caught in business power struggles, and they'll actually have some control over their sales.

As a recovering lawyer I can only say that perhaps the legacy authors should be looking at Bad Faith claims against their publishers who are, in law, actually agents who have agreed by contract to use their best efforts to sell the authors' works. Yes, an author can have two agents: the traditional one to whom he or she pays 15% for this and that, and the publisher, to whom the author pays 70% to peddle his or her books. There's an implied promise of good faith and fair dealing running publisher to author and IT's THAT contract breach that is really causing the authors' pain when their agent--their publisher--deals with Amazon to effect their own self-interest of greater profits for themselves rather than dealing with Amazon to effect greater profits for their writers. It's a psychic pain these legacy authors are feeling and it's a legal pain and it's time they recognized it as such and, as Joe says, hire a lawyer, threaten bad faith, and get the heck out of those loser contracts.

jurassicpork said...

I don't know what you've been smoking lately, Konrath, but your anti-government, pro-corporate jeremiad veers dangerously close to right wingnut territory.

You seem to forget back in 1996, back when we actually recognized and enforced antitrust laws, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) stepped in and stopped what would've been the most ruinous merger in US publishing history. That was when Borders, Ingram's and Bertelsmann AG tried to merge and corner a good chunk of publishing, sales and distribution marke4ts. The FTC stepped in and put the kibosh on the whole deal.

Now, if you know anything at all about the publishing business or business in the abstract, you'll know that mergers mean three things: Fewer titles, hence fewer publishing opportunities for authors and selling opportunities for literary agents (for whom I have less than zero sympathy and no love lost but that's another story), hence fewer buying choices for the reader and people inevitably will get laid off. This is precisely what we're seeing with the Random/Penguin merger from last fall.

In your ignorant defense of Amazon and distaste for the government stepping in and doing its job through its regulatory agencies, you seem to sneer at wealthy authors such as Turow and Patterson and big publishers in general.

Sure, publishers are corporate scum and obviously they'd set up one-sided, self-dealing contracts that let them keep 90-93% of the profits while we made a pittance. But Amazon is not the answer as you seem to think they are and you're either distorting or turning a blind eye to their palpable evil and actual intentions.

Because, as with the merger between three corporate giants that the FTC put a stop to, Amazon all by itself is trying to dominate the publishing, sales and distribution of our nation's books and that of other countries. Amazon is essentially a monopoly and, like any corporation, they crush or buy out competition. They use their bully pulpit to dictate ruinous terms for both publishers and authors and act like petty, spoiled children when they don't get those deep discounts. Then they cut off their noses to spite everyone's faces by removing the sales buttons, delaying shipments or dropping entire catalogs all together.

And, for some inexplicable reason, Konrath, you seem to be perfectly OK with that. Why don't you just trot out the old shopworn phrase, "the invisible hand of the free market", while you're at it?

And then, to discredit any criticism, you and the rest of the Stockholmed trowel out the old Charles Krauthammer "Bush Derangement Syndrome" and apply it to Amazon.

Let's get one thing straight: Amazon is a corporation, one of the largest on the planet and they will ruin anyone and I mean ANYONE, who so much as slightly threatens to affect their bottom line by so much as a ha' penny. They fuck over their customers, their authors, publishers and their own employees (who are overwhelmingly temps working in brutal, subhuman conditions). They have this Wal-Mart plantation-style business model set up whereby the only people who really make out are the top executives and shareholders and anything good that results in authors and publishers dealing with Amazon is strictly incidental, an afterthought.

Publishing houses are still run by self-dealing executive scum who couldn't care less if they're selling books or rolls of toilet paper. But now they're on the run because 20 years ago, they never saw a corporation like Amazon on the horizon, a corporation that's teaching them a real lesson in the meaning of true greed and evil. We've just traded one bad guy for another and, as usual, the readers and authors are caught in the middle of these corporate wars.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Only worse.

Burton said...

@jurassicpork,

Dude, you do realize that not everything in life needs to be seen through the prism of your myopic "Left vs. Right" ideology, right? I'm pretty sure Joe is as Left as you are--the vast majority or writers are, I've found--but our entire existence doesn't begin and end with Michael Moore films and a fanatical hatred of all things Right.

The hatred of all things corporate that your ilk suffers from like some disease never ceases to amaze me. You wouldn't have most of those gadgets that you vomit your anti-corporate spiel with if not for corporations trying to make a buck. You think Steve Jobs created the iPhone or iPad or whatever tablet/smartphone you no doubt own (more than one brand, I bet) because he thought it would be a "rad" idea? Or that computer you're typing on? Or the Internet connection that allows you to download Michael Moore's latest groovy flicks in less than 30 minutes?

Grow up. Life isn't about parroting what your college professors taught you 5 days a week. You're an adult now. Start acting like one and think for yourself.

Barbara Morgenroth said...

From the Urban Dictionary
Fisk
The term refers to Robert Fisk, a journalist who wrote some rather foolish anti-war stuff, and who in particular wrote a story in which he (1) recounted how he was beaten by some anti-American Afghan refugees, and (2) thought they were morally right for doing so. Hence many pro-war blogs -- most famously, InstaPundit -- often use the term "Fisking" figuratively to mean a thorough and forceful verbal beating of an anti-war, possibly anti-American, commentator who has richly earned this figurative beating through his words. Good Fisking tends to be (or at least aim to be) quite logical, and often quotes the other article in detail, interspersing criticisms with the original article's text.

Burton said...

The funny thing here? 99.99999% of Amazon's customers won't care or notice anything resulting from this "war." When people take on Amazon, they foolishly believe they are more valuable to Amazon than Amazon is to them. It's the same foolish belief that has people crusading against Walmart, while Walmart continues to grow and grow and grow.

Why? THEY GIVE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT, and no amount of New York Times articles will stop that. The customer is king. You give the customer what they want--good items at affordable prices at their convenience--and they'll speak with their dollar no matter what the NYT or James Patterson says.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who are so pissed off at Amazon even has an Amazon account or buy anything from them. I'm reminded of all those people who look down on places like Walmart, always making snide remarks about people who shop there ... until they shop there one day (probably out of necessity) and realize, "Holy shit!" and keep coming back. I'm not saying Walmart has the best items or does everything great, but they sure as hell do a lot of things really well for a good price. Just like Amazon.

Hairhead said...

jurassicpork: yes, you have some points, but there are several of your statements which are simply counterfactual. Here's a few:

You said: In your ignorant defense of Amazon and distaste for the government stepping in and doing its job through its regulatory agencies, you seem to sneer at wealthy authors such as Turow and Patterson and big publishers in general.

I say: Konrath had NO distate for the government last year when the DOJ stopped the collusion of the Big 5/6 from putting an agency model on everyone.

Konrath does indeed sneer at wealthy authors WHO SAY STUPID CRAP. And he sneers at big publishers in general when they generally screw over their authors.

Konrath has also criticized Amazon numerous times.

You said: Sure, publishers are corporate scum and obviously they'd set up one-sided, self-dealing contracts that let them keep 90-93% of the profits while we made a pittance. But Amazon is not the answer . .

I say: Tell that to the thousands of writers who are now making money that they didn't before under the legacy regime.

You said: And then, to discredit any criticism, you and the rest of the Stockholmed trowel out the old Charles Krauthammer "Bush Derangement Syndrome" and apply it to Amazon.

I say: Konrath does use the Stockholm Syndrome a lot -- you can criticize him for overusing the metaphor; but Konrath builds most of his criticism on facts.

You said: They fuck over their customers, their authors, publishers and their own employees (who are overwhelmingly temps working in brutal, subhuman conditions).

I say: Most customers seem overwhelmingly happy with Amazon, as do most authors using their publishing/distribution service. Yes, they treat their employees badly, and gov't needs to step in to enforce good working conditions.

You said: We've just traded one bad guy for another and, as usual, the readers and authors are caught in the middle of these corporate wars.

I say: Again, almost all indie authors are happy with Amazon, and legacy authors, even though they are getting screwed by their publishers on ebook royalties, are getting paid.

You say: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Only worse.

I say: You've made a case for Amazon being a greedy corp, like most corps, but you haven't made the case for authors being fucked over worse than by the legacy industry.

Bill Peschel said...

Anthea is right about this:

"I can't entirely paint Amazon as the hero here, though. After all, in addition to being the retailer, they are also a direct competitor to Hachette with their Mountlake publishing house. And we all got uncomfortably reminded of how big a stick Amazon swings when it cut ACX royalties abruptly a few months ago."

As my father-in-law, a retired police officer, says: "Inside every police force is a potential Gestapo."

The same with companies. Publishing houses have behaved like they were the only game in town. Now, they aren't, and even while they're still making profits, they're whining because they're feeling the pressure from Amazon (just like they felt the pressure from Barnes & Noble. Remember them? They could kill a book by not ordering it. Or demand a cover change. And they negotiated the price of putting books on the tables and end caps.

I don't recall Patterson or Turow ever objecting to that.

So, yeah, Amazon behaved badly cutting ACX royalties. But they've not entered monopoly-behavior territory yet.

Kathy C said...

Uh, Jurassicpork? I'm a writer who publishes on Amazon and a customer who buys stuff on Amazon, and I have yet to be treated with anything other than excellent customer service, much less "fucked over".

Amazon's influence will result in few titles and fewer publishing opportunities? This just flies in the face of reality. For the first time in DECADES, I can find books I actually want to read... at a price I'm willing to pay. Not just the latest overpriced reatread.

As to anyone acting like "petty, spoiled children," it seems to me that's the publishers and their mouthpieces. Amazon has followed a more professional code of conduct, declining to comment on ongoing negotiations. BTW, Amazon, as a retailer, can choose to sell(or not sell) whatever goods it chooses.

And I'm getting really tired of people screaming "inhumane working conditions" for warehouse workers. I've worked in industry for many years, and guess what? Shop floor environments aren't like sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office. I wish people would realized how naive, if not elitist, these rants make them sound. Those of us who do actual physical labor for a living don't want condescending pity. Just a good paycheck and respect for doing what a lot of people don't want to do.

Walter Knight said...

Patterson is right about one thing, it's not just economic, it's also cultural. The Big Five liberal New York publishing establishment used to control what you were allowed to read, and now they don't. The socialist gatekeepers have fallen.

Now they want the government to intervene. Of course they do. That's the Left's answer to most pesky freedom problems.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't know what you've been smoking lately, Konrath,

Nothing. Unfortunately. :P

but your anti-government, pro-corporate jeremiad veers dangerously close to right wingnut territory.

Then fisk me and explain exactly what I said and exactly why it is right wingnut.

When you say shit like this without backing it up, it's just hot air.

The FTC stepped in and put the kibosh on the whole deal.

Sort of like when the govt stepped in and prevented movie studios form owning movie theaters.

Moves like this prevent price gouging.

When, in Amazon's history, has it done anything other than try to keep prices low?

And who plead guilty to collusion in an attempt to control ebook prices and keep them high?

In your ignorant defense of Amazon and distaste for the government stepping in and doing its job through its regulatory agencies

Fail. My defense of Amazon isn't ignorant. It's backed-up. Unlike your statement here.

And I'm all for regulatory agencies. I supported the DoJ decision against the Big 5, because what they did was illegal.

Amazon is not a monopoloy or monosopy. And private business negotiations are no place for the govt to step in when there is nothing illegal happening.

Show me otherwise.

But Amazon is not the answer as you seem to think they are and you're either distorting or turning a blind eye to their palpable evil and actual intentions.

And the award for baseless hyperbole goes to... Jurassic Pork! Hurray!

Show me palpable evil. It should be easy, since it is so palpable.

And please, Kreskin, share with us your ability to read Amazon's mind and reveal their actual intentions.

Because, as with the merger between three corporate giants that the FTC put a stop to, Amazon all by itself is trying to dominate the publishing, sales and distribution of our nation's books and that of other countries.

A merger is not the same thing as a company that has competition. And, according to capitalism, one of the things all companies try to do is beat competition and dominate. Duh.

Perhaps you'd like to invest your savings in the stock of a company that actively encourages competition and helps its competitors prosper? Perhaps all companies need to stop trying to gain market share and instead be happy with whatever they have?

You can't be that stupid.

Joe Konrath said...

They fuck over their customers, their authors, publishers and their own employees (who are overwhelmingly temps working in brutal, subhuman conditions).

And the award for unsupported blanket statement of opinions masked as facts goes to... Jurassic Pork! You're on a roll!

Last I checked, Amazon had greater customer satisfaction numbers than, well, everyone else.

Show me how they've fucked over authors. Every single author has done better because of the invention of the Kindle, and self-pub and A-pub authors are doing great (go read the new Author Earnings report).

Amazon is hurting publishers? By helping them earn RECORD PROFITS for the last few years?

Employees? You know Amazon offers employees $5000 to quit, right?

I read about the latest lawsuit. Seven employees (out of how many Amazon employees?) are suing because they only have 18 minutes to eat lunch. That's a legitimate gripe, but a far cry from "subhuman conditions."

I worked in two factories when I was younger. Two of the worst jobs I ever had. This isn't a blog about the quality of life for blue collar workers. It's about publishing.

We've just traded one bad guy for another and, as usual, the readers and authors are caught in the middle of these corporate wars.

Except for the fact that there's a lot of bemoaning Amazon is evil, but nothing but hot air and speculation to back it up.

I was screwed by legacy publishing, in uncountable ways. Amazon has yet to screw me, and has yet to show me it will.

When they do, I'll be the first to bitch about it. But I'm not going to live my life worrying that, at any moment, a meteor will hit earth and annihilate all life.

Which is why the award for grandiose, baseless paranoia goes to... Jurassic Pork!

Congrats on the trifecta.

Joe Konrath said...

Konrath does use the Stockholm Syndrome a lot -- you can criticize him for overusing the metaphor; but Konrath builds most of his criticism on facts.

Indeed, Hairhead, you are correct.

When Lili said:

Not only that, but she(my editor) advocates for me tirelessly in editorial and marketing meetings. She fights for my books, she fights to bring my books to you. She is everything an editor should be, and it’s largely because of her faith in me that I can write full-time and pay my mortgage.

How is that not Stockholm Syndrome. She truly believes that her editors faith and efforts within the publishing house (which should be doing everything it can to promote Lili's books without an editor having to tireless fight for them) are largely the reason she can pay her mortgage.

WTF? Really?

Lili, who writes the books, strongly feels that without her editor, and Hachette, she couldn't support herself.

Via Wikipedia, Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with them.

Isn't that EXACTLY what Lili is doing with the above paragraph, and her entire blog post?

I have no contract with Amazon KDP. I'm not at Amazon's mercy, like Lili is at Hachette's mercy. And I'm not publicly bitching because two corporations are in business negotiations and flexing muscles that hurt my sales.

Amazon changed their erotica policy, making it much harder to find on their website. So did B&N. I think this is a bad thing, and I've said so. But guess what? Amazon and B&N and PayPal (they also had an anti-porn rally) are allowed to do whatever they want to. The government can't, and should never be able to, force a company to sell or not sell what it wants to sell or not sell.

I may not like it, but that's the way it is.

Josef Black said...

This is like a domestic violence case. The publisher is the violent husband, the author is the wife, Amazon is the counsellor. Joe is the concerned neighbour.

The wife: 'He doesn't mean it, he can't help it, I can't leave him, he's good to me when he isn't beating me up.'
The Counsellor: 'You know you'd be better off if you left him. We can help you, we can offer you a nice safe house, financial independence and freedom from being bullied and beaten.'
Wife: 'It sounds wonderful, but how would I manage on my own? I mean he does everything for me!'
Counsellor: 'We can help you with that, we have all these great programs and communities where you can learn to stand on your own feet'
Wife 'i'll think about it'
wife goes home. husband comes home in a bad mood.
Wife 'I'm leaving you, I'm going my own way. I want my freedom.'
Husband snorts and laughs.
Husband 'Ha, you wouldn't last five minutes without me. You can't manage on your own. You need me. I do everything for you, you should be grateful. Who else would want you? look at you. You are stupid and ugly. Now shut up and make my dinner bitch.'
Wife cries, returns to the kitchen. Husband phones his mistress. Patti Son.
Husband: 'Hello darling, yes it's so good to hear your voice too, I'll be round later. I've bought you a new Jaguar. and a Mink. and a penthouse on the upper west side. Yes, you are my angel. I would do anything for you...'

Sometime later, husband emerges from his house. Neighbour Joe emerges.
Husband 'What you looking at dumbass.'
Joe produces a Saiga shotgun and shoots the husband in the face. Wife runs out.
Wife 'Oh my god! Why have you killed him! What am i going to do without him.'
Joe: ' I don't know? be happy. Get a job. Have a independent life? Earn more money? Not be a slave.'
Wife 'I can't do that! Maybe he is not dead!, wait he isn't dead yet. His face is all fucked up but I think he will survive.'
Husband moans. 'Get me a bloody ambulance you useless bitch!'
Joe shrugs his shoulders and returns to his house as the wife sits trying to patch her wifebeating husbands face together.

Tasha Turner said...

@Alan Spade check out http://www.bookish.com - this was an attempt by a few of the big 6 at an alternative to Amazon. In my opinion it failed. Many people have never heard of it, it's rollout was delayed, I find it clunky, some of the interviews of authors are nice, the prices aren't better than anywhere else, I've not found any reason to shop there. I do get newsletters and stop by occasionally just to see if they've done anything to make it a real retail competitor to Amazon or any of the other major book retailers.

Alan Spade said...

Yes Tasha, I knew about bookish. Yes, the big 6 have tried and failed. But have they tried with all their heart?

You know why they can't compete, using websites like Bookish? Because Bookish was made only for legacy authors.

If they truly want to compete with Amazon, they have to attract self-publishers, by offering better terms than KDP. They have to build their own ebook device.

People like jurassicpork tend to portray Amazon as an unstoppable monopoly. I don't believe that to be true. On the technology field, you can always improve what has been done.

On the service field, Amazon is very very strong, but you can at least try to replicate their quality of service, and offer better terms to authors. That's what Smashwords tries to do. Of course, Mark Coker doesn't have the money of big publishers, but we can just wonder what he could have done with more money.

Of course, publishers hate technology, so, as Passive Guy once said, it is more likely for a start-up to compete with Amazon one day, than for big publishing. I'm well aware of that.

The reality is there: legacy publishing don't want to compete to offer better terms to authors. They try to find other ways, they are avoiding the heart of the matter, and they are losing.

jurassicpork said...

Konrath, I don't know who you are and I suspect most of the reading public would say the same. Perhaps you delude yourself into thinking that the big dogs like Patterson and Turow would actually give a rat's mass what you think. Of course, your failure as an "author" is the fault of "legacy publishing", as you keep referring to it with wearisome frequency.

But in your deadcatting and mudslinging in my general direction, you had yet to prove one of my facts wrong while you're splitting hairs and cherrypicking your own so-called facts.

The very most basic facts about Amazon still go either denied or glossed over by you. The fact is, they DO hurt authors by delaying shipment of their books (I'm speaking specifically of Hachette), by making their books unavailable when publishers can't or won't come to terms with them. I really shouldn't have to beat this dead horse because I refuse to help you advance your lies or keep your blinders on.

The screamingly obvious fact is that Amazon has done more than its fair share to destroy brick and mortar stores, which are like anathema to an online retailer. They can give deep discounts (which have shrunk to virtually nothing with Grand Central's books) to readers, making them more attractive than a brick and mortar store, therefore helping to put the employees of those stores of work when they shut down (as with the thousands who lost their jobs when Amazon directly and indirectly shut down their 2200 locations).

In other words, they're acting exactly like Wal-Mart and we all know how well Wal-Mart's served the United States.

Maybe you think Amazon's the answer to all our problems as readers and writers and you're entitled to that opinion until you start spewing ignorant bullshit such as the original post. Amazon, for multitudinous reasons, is simply one of the most evil corporations on an earth full of them.

Now, you split hairs and say, "Oh, this isn't a blue collar blog" and blithely dismiss their brutal treatment of the temp workers in their "fulfillment centers." But if you're going to defend a soulless corporation such as Amazon, you don't get to cherry pick what's fair game or not. It's all of a piece. They want to dominate the publishing, sales and distribution of books just as Bertelsmann AG, Ingram's and Borders, Inc. tried to do almost 20 years ago.

And they will viciously knee cap anyone who gets in their way. They're a corporation. That's what they do. That's ALL they do.

jurassicpork said...

Btw, publishing was a multibillion dollar business long before Amazon came on the scene in 1996. They forced the technology and the market to change, they altered the publishing landscape forever and you think it's hunky dorey what they're doing because publishing continues to make money.

But their ultimate goal, if Kindle and the abysmal CreateSpace is any indication, is to completely phase out traditional publishers, smaller corporate entities whom they loathe and who would be doing much better than they are now if Amazon never existed. But the plain fact is, ebooks are now on a an even par with printed books (Just as, until recently, music CDs were 50/50 with digital music sales) but publishers aren't getting as big a slice of the pie as you seem to think because self-pubbed and indie-pubbed Kindle accounts for well over a million of those titles.

And Amazon has no problem and is quite happy to knee cap authors then point an accusing finger at their publishers and say, "There's your bad guy! Blame them!"

I've stated my case and no doubt you'll sneer and write some series of ignorant ad hominems against me as a result simply because someone who knows what he's talking about disagreed with you. Frankly, so-called writers like you who suck up to publishers, literary agents or Amazon because you're just smart enough to know what side your bread is thinly buttered on, make me psychically ill. I will waste no more time on you but when and if the day comes when Amazon has a problem with you, as it does authors of erotica and anyone they perceive as running afoul of their corporately-generated, self-dealing TOS and your titles start disappearing from peoples' Kindles (It's a network, after all, and no one ever buys a Kindle title. Their TOS says you only lease it), don't come crying to me, pal. Like the Jewish trustees working at the concentration camps, the fascists running Amazon will little note nor long remember your lockstep, blind allegiance to them.

I'm done here.

Steve Peterson said...

"what's the name of that big online bookstore? The one that made ebooks popular? I think it's named after a river..."

Denial?

John DuMond said...

"Like the Jewish trustees working at the concentration camps, the fascists running Amazon will little note nor long remember your lockstep, blind allegiance to them."

I've been patiently awaiting Mr. Godwin's appearance. After jurassicpork's "Wal-Mart plantation-style business model" comment, I knew it was inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Jurassic Pork,

http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Crawford/e/B008MMC2P4/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

I thought I smelled a personal axe to grind in the Amazon attacks.

From: http://kindleindawind.blogspot.com/

My favorite bit - Jurassic Pork talking about himself

"Yet trying to find a literary agent nowadays is like looking for a unicorn in a slaughterhouse. This is why I’m approaching you with this. You’re an attorney by trade who only dabbles in literary representation on the side when opportunity meets opportunism. I’ve had my fill of getting form rejection letters from flunkies of agents whom I’d directly written and getting rude silences even when providing quality material and obeying submission guidelines to the letter. Perhaps you haven’t been around writers and publishers so long that you’ve been jaded as all other agents have. For my part, I’m tired of the disrespect to my talent, time and efforts. There is absolutely no reason why a writer of my talent shouldn’t be put between covers, especially when one considers 90% of published books lose money. Mergers such as the one between Random and Penguin are making it even harder for agents to sell properties, readers to get a varied menu of offerings and authors to find placements. This is why self-publishing is taking off like a Roman candle."

So, Amazon was okay until you gave the self publishing route a shot? Then they were the devil?

Jill James said...

I know I can always come here and find out what is happening in Authorland and be kept up-to-date. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Amazon's treatment of authors is a different topic from their treatment of employees.

The $5000 gimmick was brought in to deal with complaints from employees who are working zero hours contracts and under conditions that you are I would probably not care to share.

In the UK they are under enormous pressure not only because of the working conditions in the warehouses but because despite over £3 billion per annum earnings in the UK they pay only around £3.2 million in corporate taxes, cleverly (so far) using tax avoidance schemes to avoid contributing to public finances.

It is possible that the ability to pay virtually no tax and treat employees badly are related.

You can read more about it here:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/01/week-amazon-insider-feature-treatment-employees-work

Anonymous said...

If Amazon pays no tax we shouldn't be surprised it can sell products cheaply.

Edward M. Grant said...

The $5000 gimmick was brought in to deal with complaints from employees who are working zero hours contracts and under conditions that you are I would probably not care to share.

I had a job like that, which is why I got a degree and a job where I didn't have to spend hours a day shovelling oily hydraulics parts from one bin to another. I'd have taken an Amazon warehouse job over that in an instant if one had been on offer.

I can only assume you've never had a real blue-collar job, if you think Amazon is bad.

If Amazon pays no tax we shouldn't be surprised it can sell products cheaply.

I'm assuming this is the same 'Anonymous' as you're both whining about taxes.

Amazon pays little corporation tax because it makes little profit. Rather like the Guardian, which I believe hasn't made a profit in years? Should the Guardian be paying more taxes, if it's been making a loss?

Amazon employees people, who pay income tax and national insurance (aka stealth income tax). It pays employers' national insurance. It pays companies to deliver its parcels, who pay their employees, who pay income tax and NI, and who pay road tax and fuel tax for the vans which deliver parcels. It collects VAT on VAT-able items, and forwards that to the appropriate government.

So it seems pretty clear that governments make more money on the average Amazon order than Amazon does. And you expect them to pay even more?

Besides which, why should cost-conscious customers who buy from Amazon for low prices have to pay more money for the things they buy, just so David Cameron can waste it?

Hairhead said...

I'm sorry, I just HAVE to fisk ol' jurassicpork . .

JP: Konrath, I don't know who you are . . .

HH: Actually, you've published on Kindle and you've been visiting, reading, and posting on this site. You know exactly who Konrath is.

STRIKE #1.

JP: I suspect most of the reading public would say the same.

HH: What with Konrath's distribution and sales of millions of his ebooks (free and non-free), plus years of success in the paper-book world (I saw one of his books on a bookstore shelf just last week) your "suspicion" is pretty well wrong.

STRIKE #2

JP: Perhaps you delude yourself into thinking that the big dogs like Patterson and Turow would actually give a rat's mass what you think.

HH: Joe has said many times he doesn't care what Patterson et al. think about HIM; Joe does care that legacy and unpublished authors will take what Patterson et al. say as correct and true when it is not; and he wants to set the matter straight on the public record.

STRIKE # 3

JP: Of course, your failure as an "author" is the fault of "legacy publishing", as you keep referring to it with wearisome frequency.

HH: Evidence: Books of his that were rejected by legacy publishing are now making him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Books of his that were successfully published and sold, but were dropped, are now making hundreds of thousands of dollars. The facts show that "legacy" publishing were COMPLETELY INCORRECT ABOUT THE SALES POTENTIAL OF JOE'S BOOKS; IF THEY HAD ACCEPTED AND/OR CONTINUED TO PUBLISH HIS BOOKS AND PAY HIM PROMPTLY HE PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE GONE SP. (Sorry for the caps, but sometimes facts have to be yelled.)

JP, you may have a different definition of "wearisome", but I don't find it wearisome in the least to hear of Joe's continued success.

STRIKE # 4

JP: But in your deadcatting and mudslinging in my general direction, you had yet to prove one of my facts wrong while you're splitting hairs and cherrypicking your own so-called facts.

HH: He called you out for being incorrect. So did I. Your initial post and your subsequent replies contained many intemperate insults; you set the tone and you have kept it. Many of the facts you promote are wrong, provably so.

STRIKE #5

JP: The very most basic facts about Amazon still go either denied or glossed over by you. The fact is, they DO hurt authors by delaying shipment of their books (I'm speaking specifically of Hachette), by making their books unavailable when publishers can't or won't come to terms with them.

HH: You know who does EXACTLY THE SAME THING? Wal-Mart, Costco, and B&N. They are retail stores, owned independently of the publishers, and they have neither a legal NOR a moral obligation to sell items, except at terms which are acceptable to them.

The harm to the authors comes from the PUBLISHERS, who refuse to support their content-creators by paying them ON TIME, or by sacrificing some of their obscene profits. and by not working to get their author’s books out on the market.

STRIKE #6

JP: I really shouldn't have to beat this dead horse because I refuse to help you advance your lies or keep your blinders on.

HH: You haven't shown a lie of Joe's at all. You have criticized Amazon rightfully for various nasty practices; Joe hasn't lied about any of that. Joe has admitted some new facts you gave him – all more than you have acknowledged.

STRIKE #7

To be continued . . .

Hairhead said...

Continuing the fisk . . .

JP: The screamingly obvious fact is that Amazon has done more than its fair share to destroy brick and mortar stores, which are like anathema to an online retailer.

HH: Yes, the same way that auto manufacturers drove the buggy-whip makers out of business. The miniaturization of IC on tiny chips, the advances in screen and battery technology, and the plethora of programmers out there, plus the creation of DARPANET by the government (ie.) all had and have a role in the disappearance of bookstores. The distribution model has changed, permanently, and there is nothing nefarious about it, simply technological progress PLUS (I might add) the public's desire for such a book-delivery service. It is NOT the obligation of any business to keep their competitors in business.

STRIKE #8

JP: They can give deep discounts (which have shrunk to virtually nothing with Grand Central's books) to readers, making them more attractive than a brick and mortar store, therefore helping to put the employees of those stores of work when they shut down (as with the thousands who lost their jobs when Amazon directly and indirectly shut down their 2200 locations).

HH: How many printers, typesetters, newspaper writers, classified-ads clerks, truckers, and deliveryboys have been put out of work by craigslist? Even more than Amazon has put out of work. Do we need more workers? Sure! Making solar panels, and all of the other alternative-energy programs that we ought to have, plus repairing all the bridges that are falling down, plus sewers and highways. But that's government policy, not retail.

STRIKE #9

JP: Maybe you think Amazon's the answer to all our problems as readers and writers and you're entitled to that opinion until you start spewing ignorant bullshit such as the original post.

HH: Joe has merely posted his opinion, supported by facts and numbers, about the pros (and cons) of publishing through Amazon. He has given many examples, and allowed posts by writers who have refused to leave legacy publishing. Joe is demonstrably NOT ignorant -- he knows whereof he speaks, and backs it up with facts, including his own publishing numbers.


STRIKE #10

JP: Now, you split hairs and say, "Oh, this isn't a blue collar blog" and blithely dismiss their brutal treatment of the temp workers in their "fulfillment centers."

HH: Joe doesn't dismiss it. He admits the problems. But its JOE'S BLOG and he gets to write about WHAT HE WANTS TO WRITE ABOUT. If you want to talk about this issue, go to any of the other innumerable political/economic blogs and post to your heart's content.

STRIKE #11

JP: But if you're going to defend a soulless corporation such as Amazon . . . .

HH: Joe describes the benefits of their commercial practices as they relate to self-published authors. He doesn't defend, or even address, their other practices; AND he is critical of Amazon on a number of issues.

STRIKE #12

JP: . . . you don't get to cherry pick what's fair game or not.

HH: As a matter of fact, Joe does. It's his blog. He can write what he wants. As can you. Note that Joe has not banned, deleted, or disemvowelled you.

STRIKE #13

JP: It's all of a piece. They want to dominate the publishing, sales and distribution of books just as Bertelsmann AG, Ingram's and Borders, Inc. tried to do almost 20 years ago.

HH: That's true; and as the DOJ showed last year in their prosecution of the Big 5/6, the regulators are up the task of reining in such behaviour. So I feel pretty good.

STRIKE #14

That’s 4 2/3 innings. I think that’s enough.

So, JP, go back under your bridge and gnaw your bones.

lauralisscott.com said...

As a web developer (as well as author), I think Nicole Simon made a huge point: One reason Amazon wins is that it's easy to shop there.

Their prices are not always the lowest. Often their Amazon Prime prices are quite higher, more than making up for the "free" shipping.

Their selection is good, but I find that many things I get there are not stocked by Amazon but sold by smaller shops who are expanding their reach by selling through Amazon. And I'm quite sure none of them are selling through Amazon exclusively (except for some indie publishers). So via Amazon I'm still shopping indie much of the time.

But that's not why Amazon wins. The real reason is customer experience.

Let's face it, Amazon has been around for how long? And still nobody has built a shopping experience to match Amazon's. From error forgiveness to affordances to clarity to perpetual shopping carts to remembering your cards and shipping addresses, people shop at Amazon because it's easy. Why go through some pain in the ass shopping experience at Aardvark Acme Amalgamated when they make you shop within 20 minutes or oh no, sorry, your session expired, and oh sorry, our arcane merchant service doesn't like your credit card, and yeah, sorry, you didn't answer the CAPTCHA correctly, start all over!?

I have no idea what's happening between Amazon and Hatchette behind closed doors. Probably a lot of posturing. Is or isn't Hatchette the first of the guilty 5 mandated to serially (as opposed to collectively) negotiate with Amazon? When every concession is precedent setting, I can imagine the lawyers are using all of their biggest hammers and sharpest knives.

I've been reading an awful lot of articles declaring Amazon evil etc., and some vice versa, but where are the facts? Where are the document leaks from the negotiations? Where are the informed insider opinions? All I see are a couple of multi-billion-dollar corporations duking it out. Maybe we wait to see what happens rather than speculate on the moral superiority of one corporation over the other?

Anonymous said...

This is getting ridiculous guys. I can't believe people are making excuses for Amazon warehouse worker conditions. Amazon needs to get their act together on their warehouses, simply put.

Just because Amazon freed writers with self publishing doesn't mean they can do no wrong.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe produces a Saiga shotgun

That's a seriously nice shotgun.

Joe Konrath said...

Konrath, I don't know who you are and I suspect most of the reading public would say the same.

You're right, but maybe a few of the two million people who have bought my books perhaps remember one or two of them. And you are...?

Perhaps you delude yourself into thinking that the big dogs like Patterson and Turow would actually give a rat's mass what you think.

You really think I posted this to get the attention of Turow and Patterson?

I can only shake my head and sigh at that. You apparently have no idea what I've been doing on this blog for the past 9 years.

Of course, your failure as an "author" is the fault of "legacy publishing", as you keep referring to it with wearisome frequency.

Yes. My failure. My failure was so extreme my books had multiple printings and I had to hire lawyers to get my rights back. My failure was so absolute I earned out on all of my titles.

Let's talk about your failure, in getting the facts straight?

On second thought, why bother with the facts when you can try (ineffectively) for a cheap insult?

you had yet to prove one of my facts wrong

I proved pretty much everything you wrote wrong, and my insults were funnier.

The fact is, they DO hurt authors by delaying shipment of their books

I must have missed where you proved it was Amazon delaying shipping. Or how Amazon is responsible for the negotiating tactics of Hachette.

Wait. You didn't.

But keep digging. The hole you're making for yourself can still get bigger.

Amazon has done more than its fair share to destroy brick and mortar stores

They sure have. It's called "competing" and it is part of something called "capitalism" and a "free market economy".It's like how B&N destroyed its fair share of brick and mortar stores. It's also like how Michael Jordon prevented lots of NBA players from getting Championship rings.

until you start spewing ignorant bullshit such as the original post

Fisk it. Take my post, and line by line on your blog show the world how it is ignorant bullshit. Try using facts and logic to back it up. I'm looking forward to it.

"Oh, this isn't a blue collar blog"

Um, it's not. Overall it's a blog about publishing, and specifically it's what's going on between Amazon and Hachette. Seven employees suing Amazon for 18 minute lunch breaks isn't what we're currently discussing, as deplorable as you may find it to be. Stay on topic.

And they will viciously knee cap anyone who gets in their way.

Show me the precedent, with links. Back up your statement. Give me you huge list of all the companies Amazon has viciously kneecapped.

When you say shit like that, no one is going to accept it as fact unless you have some proof.

And after you get the proof, show me a large company that hasn't competed. Show me one without lawsuits and takeovers and controversy. Show me one that doesn't try to increase profits and grab more market share.

What don't you understand about capitalism, exactly? Do you think owning a business means pleasing the world and encouraging competition?

If what Amazon is doing is so heinous, show me where the DoJ stepped in, like it did with Hachette.

Joe Konrath said...

They forced the technology and the market to change, they altered the publishing landscape forever

Okay, you just said that publishing altered the publishing industry forever.

Did hamburgers also alter the hamburger industry?

Show me how publishing has been forward thinking on something. Anything. What have they innovated? Where have they improved things other than their own profits?

But their ultimate goal, if Kindle and the abysmal CreateSpace is any indication,

I've made $100k on Createspace. How is it abysmal?

is to completely phase out traditional publishers, smaller corporate entities whom they loathe and who would be doing much better than they are now if Amazon never existed.

I won't keep explaining to you how to properly debate, because I'm getting bored.

Show me who Amazon has phased out. Shoe me how they loathe smaller corporate entities. And please, PLEASE, explain how the Big 5's largest retail account, which is not only the biggest paper retailer but the biggest ebook retailer because they invented the biggest platform, the retailer that is largely responsible for publishers' record profits these past four years, is not helping them greatly.

Amazon has no problem and is quite happy to knee cap authors then point an accusing finger at their publishers and say, "There's your bad guy! Blame them!"

Can you cite where Amazon said this?

I can cite the DoJ, which showed this.

and write some series of ignorant ad hominems against me as a result

Not at all. My ad hominems aren't ignorant. They are very well informed. Your argument sucks, you don't debate well, and you haven't proven anything. But you did win three awards! Hurray!

Like the Jewish trustees working at the concentration camps, the fascists running Amazon

Only three posts to Godwin's Law! We have a record! That's a fourth award for you! Maybe you can build a shelf for them. Get an adult to help you.

I'm done here.

I'll miss you. I'm serious about that. This was fun.

Joe Konrath said...

Denial?

I have seen more than one person drown themselves in denial.

Joe Konrath said...

like looking for a unicorn in a slaughterhouse

I really love that line. And it seems to be original. Kudos, Robert, it's good.

Anonymous said...

Come on Joe, I'm a fan but it's been way more than 18 people who sued that complained about their warehouse conditions.

http://www.salon.com/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/

"On July 25, with temperatures in the depot reaching 110 degrees, a security guard reported to OSHA that Amazon was refusing to open garage doors to help air circulate and that he had seen two pregnant women taken to a nursing station. Calls to the local ambulance service became so frequent that for five hot days in June and July, ambulances and paramedics were stationed all day at the depot."

Anonymous said...

Correction: 'way more than the 7 people who sued over 18 minute lunch breaks'

Joe Konrath said...

It is possible that the ability to pay virtually no tax and treat employees badly are related.

This debate isn't about Amazon's so-called bad behavior, except in relation to the topic at hand.

That said, if I could avoid extra taxes, I would. Wouldn't everyone? Isn't that what accountants are for? How does that make someone evil?

And as for employees being treated poorly, my first job was Burger King. I'd rather spend a week in a warehouse than two hours cleaning out the grease trap with a ladel.

I worked as a day laborer, laying bricks. I worked in two factories. I did telemarketing. That may have been the worst of all.

No, I wasn't ever on an assembly line in a Chinese prison camp, or I didn't work in a coal mine when I was six years old. But I worked too many double shift Mother's Days waiting tables at Red Lobster, and I fully understand how much customers suck and how much bosses suck and how much employment in general sucks.

Now I can't comment on how Amazon treats warehouse employees. I'm not privy to it. Neither are you, unless you work there. I don't know how many people work there, and what percentage hate it and are being exploited. I do know that I've hated many jobs, and I feel I've been exploited, and that my wife (who worked with me) probably could have sued for how she was treated at a job, but we let the incident go and moved on.

I'm not condoning what Amazon does or condemning them. But blue collar isn't pleasant.

So let's get over that and get back to the Hachette dispute.

Anonymous said...

Like to make just one more comment on the warehouses. I don't understand why Amazon can't pay for air conditioning. I'm not saying their employees have to be treated like kings and queens but air conditioning especially in a place like Arizona is not an unreasonable demand.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm sorry, I just HAVE to fisk ol' jurassicpork

As is my style, I reply to comments one at a time. But I see you've said a lot of the same things I said. :)

Books of his that were rejected by legacy publishing are now making him hundreds of thousands of dollars

Shit. I forgot this point. Good catch.

The distribution model has changed, permanently, and there is nothing nefarious about it, simply technological progress

Another point I missed. Kudos.

How many printers, typesetters, newspaper writers, classified-ads clerks, truckers, and deliveryboys have been put out of work by craigslist?

+3 that I missed so far. Now you need to say something I don't agree with so I can debate you. Jurassic Pork isn't testing my limits. :)

Note that Joe has not banned, deleted, or disemvowelled you.

Ban? I like him. I wish I had more dissent.

But I admit it is also fun to watch you debate this issue. Maybe I should just STFU and pull up a chair...

So, JP, go back under your bridge and gnaw your bones.

Heh. Troll joke.

JP, I don't want you do go under you bridge. I want you to reply to me (or to Hairhead).

I want disagreement. I want dissent. I want people to dislike what I say, and be passionate in their responses.

The point of this blog is discourse. People mixing it up and adding to the discussion. I have't agreed with you, Robert, but you're welcome here. Hairhead had a better rebuttal than I did, and I was able to hone my argument from his/her response.

It's all good. As long as we can keep the insults to gentle ball busting, and we can keep adding to the discussion, I'm all for keeping it going.

Joe Konrath said...

Come on Joe, I'm a fan but it's been way more than 18 people who sued that complained about their warehouse conditions

I'm referring specifically to the recent one.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/07/amazon-warehouse-workers-lunch-breaks_n_5283329.html

I realize there have been others. And Bezos did install air conditioning. He just didn't announce it to the media.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/business/expecting-the-unexpected-from-jeff-bezos.html

Again, I'm not defending Amazon, but how many people do they employ vs. how many complain about being treated poorly?

Let me put it another way, even though I'll be accused of bias.

In many factories, they have a "X Days Without An Accident" sign.

Whenever there is a giant construction contract (a skycraper, a stadium, a bridge) the risk assessors figure into the budget the estimated number of people who will die.

The USA has lost 18 astronauts.

Sports stars and Olympians die on the field.

My point? Doing anything worthwhile, there will be mistakes and accidents. And, unfortunately, casualties. My brother in law almost lost his arm in a factory accident. He got compensated a pittance. But if it happened at Amazon, I'd bet it would be worldwide frontpage news.

Again, not defending. But the only people who really know how badly Amazon treats its employees are Amazon employees.

P. S. Power said...

I have a simple question, and I don't mean this in a demeaning or derogatory way toward anyone.

Does discussing this action by Amazon help anyone? Anyone at all?

Granted, it helps Joe. (Hello blog traffic!)

Does it help Hatchet? Peterson? Turow?

Does it secretly aid Amazon?

My take on this is that no one is going to benefit from this public "war". Which isn't one at all.

Amazon is using legal, but immoral, pressure tactics on Hatchet. (Yes, we should all play fair, all the time. We should. Very few do, in the modern world. No one in this case is.)

The point then is, who gains from this? Who Benefits from the public airing of these issues?

If no one does, then I would submit that those involved would be best off holding their own peace. Paterson won't lose from a few delayed books, but he might end up damaging his reputation as a finder of ghost writers. Would you trust someone that whined openly with no hope of affect to choose your books author?

Hatchet is in the same boat and Amazon tends to hold to it's silence, having learned that what you don't say seldom really hurts you in the long run.

Ad for Turow...

Eh, this shows my ignorance, but other than reading about him here I can honestly say that I've never heard of him. He might be a best selling author, but if I've missed him, he probably doesn't want to be standing around crying about how hard the world is, if he wants new readers.

So, if any of these people ever read this, here's my lesson for you: Stay positive. Be seen and heard only to say powerful, or at least kind, things.

On any other topic, keep your mouth closed.*

That's a lesson from the Internet for sure.


*Not that I always follow that advice, but I'm slowly learning, and have a bit of time only being half as famous as either of these gentlemen. (Because, you know, I bet the Turow has never heard of me either, which makes us equals there.)



Joe Konrath said...

The point then is, who gains from this?

Amazon gets negative press, which Hachette hopes will make them more amenable to negotiation if people en masse begin to protest Amazon's behavior.

Since Amazon rarely defends itself in the media or public eye, they likely won't comment.

Is it helpful? In the long run, no. Anti-Amazon sentiment didn't stop the DoJ for ruling against Apple and the Big 5. Nor has it seemed to hurt Amazon's bottom line.

Stefon Mears said...

What I think is saddest about all this is the missed opportunity by Amazon's competition.

Powell's and Barnes and Noble could put on a Hachette sale - "help the authors by ordering and pre-ordering here and get a special discount." Or even "We have the titles Amazon can't get you." Something along those lines.

I would love to see more robust competition for Amazon, but their competitors seem to be asleep at the switch.

Marc Cabot said...

"What other industry prints a price on its products?"

I have a friend who collects knives. One of the jewels of his collection is a very, very poor-quality Swiss-Army sort of knife which a roommate from the Former Soviet Union gave him not long after the fall of the Wall.

The scales (the "handle" part, the part that's red plastic on a Swiss Army knife) are made of some kind of casting metal. Clumsily included in the mold, and therefore indelibly part of the knife, is the price.

That's what kind of industry puts its prices right on the product.

Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

The point then is, who gains from this?

Actually, I think we authors gain from this. It's putting the facts out there for those in the industry, especially those under contract with the Big5. In discourse like this we get to face some of the hard truths in the business.

Hachette blusters but you don't see them pulling their titles from Amazon because they'd lose a huge portion of their profit margin. Their contract authors would also start a mass exodus. The way Amazon does business is hugely beneficial to the houses. The reality is, if Amazon were forced out of the industry it would be far more detrimental to authors and consumers than if all 5 big houses went under. Amazon, and other POD/indie publishing options are opening up the market and indie authors put a much bigger chunk of profits into their own pockets.

Conversations like this help new writers learn that traditional publishing is no longer the calling card of great writing, instead it is becoming more and more the shackles holding contract authors back from creative and innovative freedom. It also encourages contract authors to really evaluate the deal they have. Look at it honestly and ask yourself, is my publisher providing me with a service that can't be beat? That's what commercial industry is all about after all. For the majority of authors who do the math as business people the old publishing model just isn't relevant to today's market.

Regardless of the squabbles between big business, the conversation is worth having because the authors benefit in the long term. Just like any other consumer, we'll vote with out feet. As an indie I love Amazon's terms because they don't monopolise my rights. Even publishing through them I am free to publish elsewhere. I vote for never having all my eggs in one basket and to making my product available to as many customers as possible by distributing widely.

Anonymous said...

I'm relieved to know they've finally put air conditioning in their warehouses. They should have installed it the first time.

I'd like to say that I'm a fan of Amazon and have been a customer for I don't really know how many years. I'm not afraid to criticize them when it's warranted though.

Libbie Hawker said...

I squawked out loud over whatshisname bitching because Amazon is selling his books for the MSRP. Are you kidding me, dude?

SELLING THE BOOK FOR ITS MARKED PRICE

OH THE HUMANITY!

SOMEBODY CALL THE GOVERNMENT! BULLYING!!

Anonymous said...


Joe said: "I'm not condoning what Amazon does or condemning them. But blue collar isn't pleasant.

So let's get over that and get back to the Hachette dispute."

Yes but it's just possible that companies that don't treat their employees well have a bad streak running through them.

And sure we all like to pay the minimum tax but Amazon try to pay relatively no tax.

Society doesn't work without tax. And it makes you wonder what kind of corporation is happy to evade paying it on such a huge scale.

All in all it's likely that Amazon's bad behavior will be reflected in other business dealings.

Whether this is the case with publishers, it's difficult to say. We're talking about one bad industry facing off with another.

At the moment book buyers rejoice at low prices. But it won't be the first time people have rejoiced only to find the carpet pulled from under them.

To blindly overlook Amazon's failings and cheer it on just because you like its enemies less, lacks foresight.

I remember you being on the wrong side of an ethical argument once before and trying to convince readers that wrong was right.

Personally, I wouldn't pledge allegiance to any corporation.







Eric C. Welch said...

I don't mean to defend Amazon, but to be clear state laws require you to pay sales tax on things you buy. In-store, that tax is collected for you. Out-of-state corporations are not required to collect that tax. They don't actually pay it; you do, or are supposed to, but nobody does, so states want to require them to collect and pass that tax along. It doesn't affect how much tax Amazon pays at all one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

"Society doesn't work without tax. And it makes you wonder what kind of corporation is happy to evade paying it on such a huge scale."

All of them.

:-)

Tom Simon said...

Anon @5:56:

‘And sure we all like to pay the minimum tax but Amazon try to pay relatively no tax.’

Amazon makes ‘relatively’ no profit. The company’s net profit margin is less than 1% of turnover. In fiscal 2013, the company had sales of $74.5 billion and a pretax income of just $506 million. Of that income, it paid $161 million in corporate income taxes – an effective tax rate of about 32 percent. Are you paying 32 percent of your income in income tax?

And it makes you wonder what kind of corporation is happy to evade paying it on such a huge scale.

A business corporation. You see, under U.S. law, incorporated businesses have a legally binding duty to their shareholders, one part of which is the duty to earn as much money as they can (within the limits of the law and of the kind of business they are doing). If a corporation is shown to be deliberately refusing to earn money for its shareholders, the shareholders can actually sue the board of directors for damages.

(The U.S. is not the only country with such laws, by the way; every country that allows private-sector businesses has something similar in its legal system. However, the U.S. is the relevant case, because that is where Amazon is incorporated.)

So, yes, Amazon pays as little tax as it legally can, for the same reason that a driver in the U.S. keeps to the right-hand side of the road: it is against the law not to.

Now, what were you complaining about again?

Personally, I wouldn't pledge allegiance to any corporation.

I’m sorry to hear that you are so unpatriotic. You see, in legal terms, governments are also corporations; they just aren’t business corporations. Therefore, they are not required to try to make a profit; they are subject to different laws than businesses, and sometimes they even obey those laws. (*Gasp!*)

Governments are incorporated basically for the same reason as businesses: so they can enter into contracts (and be sued for breaking them) in their own name. If you have a beef with Uncle Sam, you can sue the United States (as a corporate body) and not have to send a bailiff round to the White House to sue the President personally; and when Mr. Obama leaves office and somebody else takes over, the new President won’t be able to say, ‘Neener neener neener, I didn’t sign those contracts with you and I don’t have to live up to them.’ The same is true in every country, except for a few very primitive places where the King still treats the entire nation as his personal property (and therefore cannot be sued at all).

So if you are a citizen of any country other than one of those primitive monarchies (or an even more primitive anarchy, such as Somalia), then either:

(a) you actually have pledged your allegiance to a corporation, or
(b) you have no allegiance to your own country.

It would behove you to know at least one of these things before offering your opinion about them all. Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses.

Cherie Marks said...

I can't speak for all warehouse conditions, but I've been to one on four separate occasions and every time I'm amazed at the amenities they offer they're employees on a daily basis. It was nice inside the huge employee lounge.

Joe Konrath said...

To blindly overlook Amazon's failings and cheer it on just because you like its enemies less, lacks foresight.

I don't blindly overlook Amazon's failings. I call them on it when it relates to publishing (this blog is about publishing.)

And I've never been on the wrong side of an ethical argument. I've been on a side you didn't agree with, but that doesn't make me wrong.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

It's hard to feel sorry for someone like Patterson, who has had others write books under his name for many years for a wage, while he rakes in big bucks.

Christopher Mercier said...

Greetings! Aren't we giving Patterson a little too much credit here? I think the man is evil, pure and simple.

He wants the government (guys with guns) to shut down the largest marketplace in the US (if not globally) because...his competition has an avenue for publishing? That's it?

Patterson is a fascist thug and should be considered enemy #1 to writers everywhere. He and Turow (enemy #2) are arguing for government control of book publishing - which is antithetical to everything that writers and artists (indie or not) stand for.

Thanks again Joe for all the posts, news, and fisking of these weasels.

Dustin Dye said...

If this is Scott Turow's best argument, he must've been a terrible lawyer. I'd hate to think of all the innocent people who went to prison or guilty people who were let off because of him.