Friday, July 17, 2015

Douglas Preston's Fail-A-Thon Continues

In his continuing press junket to prove to the world he's a one piston shy of a two-stroke engine, Douglas Preston did a brief interview with the American Booksellers Association. Same old nonsense, but I had some new thoughts. So a fisking I shall go...

Bookselling This Week: Why do you think there is such overwhelming support for the Authors United appeal to the DOJ among booksellers, authors, and author reps?

Joe sez: Way to load the question. The only thing overwhelming is the blind hubris of organizations like the Association of Authors Representatives and the Authors Guild, who have worn out their usefulness to a whole new generation of authors.

You folks deserve the slow, lingering spiral into obsolescence that you've brought upon yourselves.

Douglas Preston: Amazon has used its dominance of the book market in ways that harm the interests of America’s readers, impoverish the book industry, and hurt authors.

Joe sez: Indeed. Amazon is harming readers by offering a huge selection, low prices, and great customer service.

Tell me something, Doug; if an author or publisher chooses not to sell books through Amazon, are they harming the interests of America's readers? Shouldn't it be mandatory that all books are sold on Amazon, no matter the wishes of the author or publisher? Or is it only retailers whose wishes we aren't supposed to respect?

In that case, if a bookstore chooses not to sell certain titles, are the harming the interests of America's readers? Shouldn't we force them to sell everything, even if they don't want to?

If someone painstakingly explained to you, over and over, why 2 + 2 = 4, and you continued to ignore it, would you call that person ignorant, stupid, or a liar?

Everything you say about this issue has been refuted many times over, and yet you keep repeating it.

Hmm. I wonder why.

Remember when you said this about readers, Doug?

Douglas Preston: “The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,” said Douglas Preston, whose novel “Impact” reached as high as No. 4 on The New York Times’s hardcover fiction best-seller list earlier this month. “It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something.”

Joe sez: We know you want ebook prices high. We know that's your agenda. So you keep popping up in the media, spouting bullshit and trying to convince people you're helping them.

But that isn't the truth, Doug.

Preston: By interfering with the sales of books, Amazon deeply alienated many authors whose careers were damaged.

Joe sez: Interfering with the sales of whose books? Can you name a single title where Amazon did that? A single one?

No, you can't.

Enough, Doug. It's embarrassing.

Preston: By free-riding on bookstores, and by selling millions of books below cost to acquire customers for other lines of business, Amazon put hundreds of neighborhood and community bookstores out of business.

Joe sez: The number of indie bookstores has risen 27% in since 2009.

Preston: How can bookstores compete with a company that sells books at a loss, to acquire customers with “good demographics” in order to sell them other stuff, like TVs and diapers?

Joe sez: The number of indie bookstores has risen 27% in since 2009.

Maybe if I keep repeating the statistic, it will sink in.

But the fact is, even if the number of bookstores were shrinking, the blame should be placed on readers, who vote with their dollars. You know, that group who don't want to pay the real price of something, according to your above quote.

Preston: By extracting an ever greater share of the cost of a book from publishers, Amazon has reduced the amount of funds available for publishers to take risks with new authors or controversial ideas, which has silenced many voices.

Joe sez: This isn't true, Doug.

Your publisher, first through illegal collusion, then through prolonged contract negotiation, forced Amazon to accept the agency model. That model earns authors less money over the previous, wholesale model.

Also, your publisher, Hachette, made a deal with Amazon to take 30% of the price it sets on ebooks. That's the deal Hachette wants. Authors get 17.5% of that price. Publishers get 52.5%.

Let's put that in bold:

AUTHOR'S SHARE: 17.5%

AMAZON'S SHARE: 30%

PUBLISHER'S SHARE 52.5%

Who is really reducing the amount of funds to authors, Doug?

Hint: Amazon gives the full 70% of a book sale to self-pubbed authors, and those authors can set their own price. Which means I'm earning more on a $3.99 ebook than you are on a $9.99 ebook.

Unless, of course, you've signed an NDA with Hachette and can't reveal that you're making higher royalties than the underpaid peers you claim to be championing. That's a thing, according to the Authors Guild.

Some bestselling authors have managed to obtain a 50% e-book split, though they’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep these terms secret.

Is that you, Doug? If so, since you're so worried about the funds your publisher has available, perhaps you should give the money back? Aren't your big advances and higher royalties taking money from your publisher, which prevents them from taking risks with new authors, which has silenced many voices?

Can you comment?

Or has your publisher silenced you?

Let's talk about authors being silenced, since you brought it up. Which voices have really been silenced, Doug? How about the 99.9% of authors rejected by your publisher, and other publishers?

See, that's what silencing really means. Preventing books from reaching readers.

Amazon doesn't prevent books from reaching readers. But the Big 6 have done so for decades. Every book they rejected, they killed. It never made it into print. It never got into bookstores. It never found readers.

That's what silencing means.

I gotta be honest here, Doug. I'm really starting to dislike you a little bit.

Preston: It’s important to point out that Authors United is only part of this broad initiative. The Authors Guild is a full partner in this effort (I’m on the board of that organization). The Guild — the staff and council — provided crucial help with legal advice and drafting the letter.

Joe sez: That letter is embarrassingly bad, and everyone involved with it should feel a deep sense of shame. Not only is it letter poorly done, but what you're calling for is abhorrent. Forcing retailers to do what you want to, and then trying to paint yourself as an altruist, is disgusting.

Preston: We worked together on this for almost a year. ABA and its CEO, Oren Teicher, have also been fantastic and effective supporters.

Joe sez: Wow. Now my dislike has turned into pity.

That letter took a year? That's just pathetic. A year? Really? For that piece of shit letter?

How many eyes were on it? How much input did you get? Didn't anyone with an IQ higher than the atomic weight of potassium take a look at it?

I weep for my fellow authors if they are, indeed, this stupid.

You don't need to worry about Amazon staving the "free flow of ideas" or the "marketplace of information", because your collective intellectual well is dry.

Instead of collaborating on nonsense like this, perhaps your time would be better spent taking some sort of adult education class.

I don't want to be rude here. I'm concerned.

BTW: Since Monday’s announcement, what kind of feedback are you receiving?

Preston: We’re getting overwhelmingly positive feedback from authors and booksellers. Out of maybe 700 e-mails I got [on Tuesday], I did get one nasty one, from Amazon champion Hugh Howey, who called me “disgusting” and “sad” and “bonkers.” That relieved me; I was getting worried that the usual critics were staying so quiet.

Joe sez: Oh, Doug. Your critics are still here. My recent posts have over a hundred thousand views. Just Google your name, see what comes up.

And is that the treatment authors can expect if they email you? For you to publicly reveal things said in private?

I won't say it privately, Doug. I'll say it publicly.

You're a disgrace, and a loser, and an idiot. Hugh has reached out to you to help, because you are clearly off the deep end, and you use it as an opportunity to cherry-pick a few words from a personal correspondence and air them to the public?

That was a real dick move, Douglas Preston.

Hey! Internet! Don't email Doug Preston! He'll parse out anything critical you said to him privately and post it to the world, without any context or permission!

#DouglasPrestonDickMove

BTW: How is the landscape of the book business different for readers, publishers, and authors in today’s world, compared to when you first entered the scene?

Preston: There have been huge changes, and many for the better, particularly from new technologies in electronic publishing and retailing. We’re not Luddites against technological change, as some Amazonians would have you believe.

Joe sez: I'm the one who called you luddites. So you DID read my blog, and ignored it.

Coward.

And nice work proving that you aren't luddites by...

Um...

By... uh... saying you aren't.

Brilliant deflection, Einstein. I also recommend the "I'm rubber, you're glue" defense used in Oxford style debates so often.

Preston: But new technologies can become instruments of monopoly and reduced competition if our laws and regulations fail to prevent the concentration of power they make possible. One set of rules can ensure that a new technology promotes competition and diversity in the marketplace.

Joe sez: Please, enlighten us with your business strategy. Tell us of these rules that ensure tech promotes competition and diversity. Invent something and then freely share it with others.

Preston: A different set of rules can allow a single firm to wield that same new technology in ways that amass profit, control and power in itself. This is what is happening with Amazon.

Joe sez: Amazon, the firm that invented the online shopping experience people flock to, and the ereader people prefer, through entirely legal means.

Hey! Here's a fun idea! I'm going to publish all of your novels under my own name! Why should you be rewarded by the fruits of your labors? We need a set of rules to ensure that intellectual property promotes competition and diversity in the marketplace.

Maybe I'll write the Assistant Attorney General and tell him about your monopoly on your own IP.

I'm kidding, of course. I'd never sign my name to your books. I like my readers, and my fans have taste.

BTW: How do you respond to critics who say that Amazon is simply a successful model of free-market economics, of ongoing business evolution, at work?

Preston: Amazon is indeed a successful company, convenient for consumers, and it presents a friendly face to the public. It’s hard for people of good will to see past that to the real issue: There isn’t a single instance in American history where a vast concentration of power in a single corporation has been good for the American consumer.

Joe sez: And yet, Amazon has been voted #1 in consumer satisfaction for nine years in a row.

I see what you did there, Doug. I can do it, too.

Other than earth, there isn't a single planet in the universe where we've discovered life. Ergo, there can be no possibility of life, ever.

Of course, any thinking person can recognize this as a fallacy. Funny that I referenced Green Eggs and Ham the last time I fisked you, because your "It's never been done so it must be bad" mentality is about that remedial.

Preston: Never in American history has a private corporation achieved monopoly control over a vital marketplace of information — not in telegraph, radio, newspapers, television, or (most recently) the Internet. This is deeply troubling, even if the corporation in question were benign.

Joe sez: Amazon isn't a monopoly, no matter how many times you say it is. Amazon doesn't have control over the marketplace of information, no matter how many time you say it.

Repeating a lie over and over doesn't make it a truth.

BTW: In what ways does Amazon fit the role of a monopoly or a monopsony? What are some examples of how its actions have affected the free flow of information?

Preston: Amazon’s share of the book market is about what Standard Oil’s was in the petroleum distribution market before it was broken into 34 companies. It is a monopoly by any standard.

Joe sez: How long ago was Standard Oil broken up? Over a hundred years ago. Don't you have any more recent examples?

No? Maybe because US anti-trust law has evolved in the last century?

Funny you should mention oil, though. Because until Amazon came along, the Big 6 have acted like a cartel, owning an oligopoly over book distribution.

I think that's the next step. You want to whine to the DOJ about Amazon? I'll get a few friends together and write two letters. In the first letter, I'll explain why your letter is full of shit. In the second, I'll focus their attention on your publisher, Hachette, and the other major publishers, and their unconscionable treatment of authors for the last fifty years.

And it won't take us a year.

Preston: To pressure publishers over the past 11 years, Amazon has abused that immense market power. It has blocked and curtailed the sale of millions of books by thousands of authors. As the New York Times documented, Amazon appears to have engaged in content control, selling some books but not others based on the author’s prominence or the book’s political leanings.

Joe sez: The NYT has shown no such thing.

Preston: Amazon, by retaliating against those who oppose it, has generated a level of fear among authors that I have never seen in all my 40 years in publishing.

Joe sez: They discounted your book as one of their Prime Day sales and sold a whole lot of them. You must be quaking in fear, you poor thing.

Preston: Taken together, this has affected the free, vigorous, and unfettered flow of information in the book market.

Joe sez: The ABA website doesn't allow public comments about your stupid interview. Isn't that affecting the free, vigorous, and unfettered flow of information in the book market?

Or are they allowed to do what they want to do, even if it sucks and squelches public discourse, because of, you know, that Constitution thingy?

BTW: Do you think the United States’ new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, will change how the Department of Justice looks at Amazon and its business model in the book industry?

Preston: Yes, I do. I have a lot of admiration for her and I believe she will take a fresh look at some of these issues that were neglected by her predecessor.

Joe sez: The DOJ investigated Amazon before. They found no wrongdoing. But maybe if a bunch of entitled crybabies whine loud enough, they'll investigate again.

Good luck with that.

49 comments:

Jill James said...

I hate this whole mindset of if it's big it is bad. Amazon has worked hard to be what customers want, now everyone is trying to pull them down. I hope AU and their like, fail.

Joe Konrath said...

They're all going to fail, Jill.

That's why they're all so frightened. They know it.

James Scott Bell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Konrath said...

Diapers was a knock at Amazon's acquisition of Diapers.com.

From what I recall (and I could be wrong) Amazon undercut Diapers.com on almost every single brand. Then Bezos bought out Diapers.com--for half a billion dollars.

If that's how Amazon treats competition, I want to compete. Badly.

David L. Shutter said...

Wow. Hugh is probably the nicest guy in publishing. Just...wow.

Tom Maddox said...

Never bought a Preston book. Never will.
To combat his public attack on Hugh though I think I will go buy another one of his books.

Anonymous said...

The first time I went to watch federal court proceedings, it was an anti-trust case involving ready-made pretzels. That's right, pretzels. The company accused of having a monopoly hired a large firm and they filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Watching oral arguments for the 12(b)(6) motion was enlightening.

The judge first asked the plaintiff's attorney to explain how there was a market for ready-made pretzels that was distinct from muffins, donuts, bread, and other baked goods. He couldn't do it. He just kept saying that there was a discrete market. Unconvinced, the judge moved on anyways.

The judge then asked how the defendant was keeping his client from competing. The plaintiff's attorney came back with, "They're locking us out of malls. We can't get retail space to sell pretzels in malls in this state." The judge then asked how this prevented them from competing. His client could run a pretzel cart. He could have a food truck. He could rent out a small building and sell pretzels and other baked goods there. The plaintiff's attorney was adamant, they didn't want to do those things. They only wanted to sell pretzels and only in malls. Guess who won the 12(b)(6) motion? It wasn't the people whining that they wanted things to go back to the way they were.

Honestly, if they consulted attorneys for their last letter then those attorneys must be the biggest "yes men" practicing law.

David L. Shutter said...

BTW, Joe, interested to know if you're serious about your own letters to the DOJ? Should make for an interesting blog read.

shugyosha said...

I suppose Mr. Preston is not aware of the school of thought that says that if you workshop a manusc... sorry, a letter for a whole year, the result is likely to be less than engaging.

Never in the story of humankind was so much uttered by so few to so many. Churchill, _On Stupids_

Take care.

Nirmala said...

Maybe it is time for another online petition also?

liebjabberings said...

Shall we write to the DOJ separately or collectively - this stuff is dangerous, if anyone there has ADS.

And going after Hugh is just low. Of course, Hugh is real competition.

Too bad Amazon doesn't sue Preston for slander and libel - they are too focused on doing business and serving customers.

I admire Amazon for not going on the attack against detractors, but long for them to take on a couple of these clown attacks - the same way people lose patience on the internet with trolls, and cut them off from the community they are trolling.

I understand why they don't cut Preston's books off, and the books from the big publishers keeping the garbage flowing - some AMAZON customers might want those books - but it gets galling to read the same lies over and over.

Thanks for the fiskings - I doubt I would have the stomach for it, but it should be done.

Alicia

Hugh Howey said...

Why did Doug leave out the part where I called him a "Fucking idiot?"

Did I accidentally delete that part?

I spent a lot of time sticking up for him during the Hachette debacle. Especially to Joe, who told me early on that Douglas was a money-grubbing moron. I didn't believe Joe. I stuck up for Doug. I like Doug.

Then something happened. I think the fame of being pro-colluders got to his head. Or Hachette upped his royalties. Or Jim Patterson invited him into the Big Boy's club. But the dude is over the deep end.

This isn't new for him. Doug went nuts over the Amanda Knox story as well. Became an extremist, attacking people and being attacked. Really fell through the rabbit hole. He talks about this in his Kindle Single about the trial and its aftermath. You can really see how he gets entrenched and can't keep his cool or think straight. Same with the Walmart mentality comment.

I've given him the benefit of the doubt. Lord knows I've put my foot in my mouth. I tend to assume the best about people, even with evidence to the contrary. I know what it's like to be judged according to a person's worst moments, or comments taken out of context. But to see the stupidity coming out of this man, and the amount of zeal he has for tearing down a company that he claims is harming literature by selling a shitload of it, or is bad for authors by paying them more (and selling a shitload of books) ... I guess I have given up on poor Doug.

Peter Spenser said...

@ Hugh Howey

I admire your loyalty. So sad that it was so misplaced.

Alan Tucker said...

Delusional is the only explanation I can come up with. I emailed him last year when the Authors Untied (yes, I'm taking artistic license with the spelling) and was surprised to receive a response from him. He continued to spout the same BS arguments through a couple of exchanges and we finally agreed to disagree.

Maybe he's going with the "any publicity is good publicity" premise. I certainly can't explain the ignorance and downright stupidity of his arguments any other way at this point.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I think Loretta Lynch, despite her Harvard degrees, may not have automatic sympathy/deference towards networks of old white men. Just a feeling...

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks for chiming in, Hugh. Doug went over the line.

See, all authors have a public side. It is careful, cultivated, deliberate.

But we also talk among ourselves. A lot of conversation goes on in person, and via email. That's private stuff. It's peers talking shop, without the public present. It's real. It's personal. It's one on one.

Lots of authors do this. Even the famous ones. We have email trains and private listservs and we let it all hang out.

I'd be pretty angry if something I said personally to an author, for his ears only, was dragged into the public debate. Especially with no context. No listing the back-and-forth of multiple correspondences. No framework of our previous relationship apparent.

You just don't ever violate a confidence like that. It's just shitty. Disagreeing about publishing in public is one thing. Violating private trust--out of context--just shows what kind of lousy human being you are.

I can deal with "Douglas Preston the Amazon Slayer" on public ground, and call him out for his nonsense, and it isn't personal. It's par for the course. Say something online, prepare to defend it. That's the ideal of the Internet.

But posting emails? When did that become okay?

That's a whole new level of asshole-ism.

Go publicly suck at the legacy teat all you want, Doug. But don't pull that shit.

Jennifer Oberth said...

Even reading your posts from earlier this week, I was thinking how all of Preston's complaints fit the publishing industry pre-eBook. I mean, you could probably reread that whole letter and replace "The Big 6" with "Amazon" and suddenly the letter looks a whole lot smarter.

"We believe that the Big 6 has gathered unprecedented market power over the world of books, which many experts have asserted make it both a monopoly in its role as a seller of books to the public and a monopsony in its role as a buyer of books from publishers. We believe the Big 6 has been misusing that power in many ways, and we seek the benefit of your office to address this situation."

"But we believe it is supported by fact. In this letter, we detail many of the Big 6's practices that we consider monopolistic, predatory, intimidating, exclusionary, and threatening to the free flow of ideas. Never before in American history has one corporation achieved monopoly control of an informational marketplace—not in telegraph, newspapers, radio, television...."

The Big 6 decided who they would publish and who they would not - and because they were the only game in town, whoever they did not publish, did not get published.

Today, if the Big 5 pass on my book, I can publish with Smashwords and Amazon and so on and so forth.

Ten years ago, if the Big 6 didn't publish me, I wasn't published. Period.

How can that same company (I'm pretending the Big 6 is one company because, with collusion, they were) that completely controlled the marketplace, completely controlled everything, accuse another company of completely controlling everything when now, NOBODY in the book industry completely controls everything.

It's kind of like, if a bully had a treehouse and decided who came in and who didn't - and charged a steep, steep price for those he let in - and then a bunch of other companies built really cool treehouses and the bully lost his power. But instead of the bully hanging his head in shame, or trying to build an even cooler treehouse to lure people back, he whines and complains and picks on the guy with the biggest treehouse. And then accuses him of doing all the things that the bully had done for a hundred years.

In what world does any of that make sense?

I guess they don't see it because they don't want to. And I guess a bully is so used to bullying that they keep doing it, even when they lose their audience.

"No one's paying attention to me!"

It reminds me of ‘the Simpsons’ episode where they figured out if they stopped looking at advertisements they died - and the advertisements caught on and tried to make them look.

But, I think we're only looking because these people are getting more and more ridiculous.

That's not a good thing.

Once again, fantastic job, Joe. I hope you don't think what you're doing is a thankless job. So many of us are filled with appreciation at your huge, massive efforts!

William Ockham said...

I have become bored with the Big Publishing lobby and their grandstanding for the gullible press. I am glad that Joe is willing to engage with this nonsense, but it is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. If these bozos had a case, they would do what companies are supposed to do, file a private complaint with the DoJ or FTC. I think there is something a lot more interesting going on at Amazon.

Has anyone stopped to consider what Amazon is doing with their 30% of the Big 5 ebook revenue? They used to get by on a lot less. I have a theory. I started thinking about this when Amazon announced the number of pages read for KU in June. My model of reader behavior would suggest that the number of actual subscribers is much lower than people think. That is, I think Amazon is pumping millions of dollars into the KU pot every month, over and above subscription revenue. And I think that money is, in effect, coming from consumers who buy Big 5 ebooks. Warning: My model is very crude and it could well be wrong, but it is better than the a lot of the commonly accepted industry statistical models.

If I am right, it means that all the other ebook subscription services are doomed, but KU will last because it has a built in cushion. As long as the Big 5 need to tamp down on ebook demand by keeping prices high (and that means for as long as they stay in business), KU will be viable.

Joshua Simcox said...

I get that Preston will never view Amazon through the same lens as the rest of us, and I understand that Joe will continue to attack him for it--each and every summer, apparently. Maybe Preston Bashing has become an annual event. I don't care for that idea, but as they say: "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

But are we really going to add to the steaming, wet buckets of shit that have already been dumped on Doug's head because he called out another author for making derogatory comments in an email? Am I missing something here? Did Hugh say those things or not? Isn't the notion of owning your words something that's been preached here time and again? Am I really supposed to believe that Joe wouldn't do the same thing if a well-known author called him names in a hateful email? He'd immediately light the dude up in a new edition of "Newbie's Guide to Publishing"...but somehow it's the most heinous, despicable thing imaginable when Douglas Preston does it?

I think the "fisking" came from a good place at first, or at least an understandable one. But then the criticisms turned from Preston's views to things like the size of his property in Maine, as if somehow the fact that Preston had made substantial money from his writing and chose to spend a portion of it on a nice home for his family was reprehensible. (I'm sure guys like Joe and Barry Eisler live in shoeboxes.) At the point where the attacks became personal, the "fisking" lost all value other than the momentary satisfaction of firing shots at a perceived enemy.

And, sadly, here we are again a whole year later, beating that same tired drum. Doug will likely never be a fan of Amazon and their business practices, but that's no more a crime now than it was a year ago. It's not as if no other successful legacy authors don't share Doug's opinions and make similar statements against Amazon--many of them do. (The great Jeffery Deaver leveled a number of criticisms at Amazon recently, but somehow managed to escape Joe's wrath.) Maybe Doug gets the worst of it because he's the most vocal. I don't know.

But I do know that it used to be fun here. And helpful. And encouraging.

Now it's so hateful and ugly, and posts like this one remind me of why I needed a break from hanging out here.

I don't know who's right or wrong here. All I know is that the situation has become too toxic for me to give a shit anymore.

shugyosha said...

Context. We NEEd context.

I call my FRIENDS anything from 'jerk' to 'bitch' or worse (Latin language are versatile). Both men and women.

Take that out of context and I'm a verbal abuser. Put it in context and you won't even notice half the time, then laugh the other half.

That's the least I'd expect. I'm not sure about the legalities of several other straws under US law.

Take care

antares said...

Never in American history has a private corporation achieved monopoly control over a vital marketplace of information — not in telegraph, radio, newspapers, television, or (most recently) the Internet.

False. AT&T exercised a government sanctioned monopoly on telephone traffic until 1984. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T_Corporation#Monopoly

Preston is 59, so he is old enough to remember this. It did not fit his narrative, so he omitted it.

I shout it from the mountain top: Douglas Preston is a liar.

Jm Cornwell said...

With the legacy publishing business on the skids, that means more opportunities for authors to publish their own books either through smaller agencies or through self-publishing. There are lots of places to go and the royalties are so much better.

Why does this seem like "You've Got Mail" with big bad Joe Fox running all the small independent bookstores owners out of business? The only difference is that Meg Ryan was far more erudite in her comments, with the help of her journalist boyfriend, and she still went out of business to go into publishing. Seems like a win-win situation to me, but that was about 20 years ago when people were smarter and the AG did what they did best -- sit on their hands for that DIY thrill. Oh well, no sense casting pearls before swine.

christo1 said...

Joshua Simcox - The problem is that people like Douglas Preston are snakes. He and his like will never stop trying to destroy Amazon and the free market and the marketplace of ideas.

I'm ambivalent about Amazon. It's an efficient store that allows all businesses, major and independent, the ability to sell to a truly global market. In the 1990s, what would have taken ten years for an indie press, writer, artist, or business owner now takes months or weeks. Even minutes. And they disrupted the near-monopoly of a single-minded entity of corporations. I think Amazon is great in what it did, but there could be some competitors.

The frightening thing about Preston is that they use complete dishonesty to achieve their mendacious goals. I don't think they are stupid. I believe that Preston and the BPs want complete market domination. Their appeal to the government helps achieve this - they want fascism or socialism. They want the government to step in and control the culture, of course, with special exceptions for them. That's their goal.

Preston's hypocrisy is clear here too - he says Amazon is driven only by profit!!! And that's evil! Except - he's arguing that he and his signatories are concerned for their profits? Except that books are art and should be expensive, inferring only the select few (the Royals?) should be able to afford them?

Joe, you call them Luddites. I'd say they're even one step worse - they're Luddites with a cause. If it were the 15th century, they'd be appealing to any prince or king to make moveable type and mass bookbinding illegal, and heretical, in order to keep their market dominance on illustrated manuscripts. Books, and writers, you see are anointed by God and any plebs who dare stand in the way should be destroyed.

Also, a large number of books sold on Amazon are used, and apparently that's one of the inferred goals of AU - to stop the selling of used books. This was also a goal in shutting out the indie bookstores: if you buy a used book, then the BPs don't get as much money.

I'm not trying to concern troll here. But this is really worse than we think. Joe brought up that they want to bring back SOPA too. The intent of this was nothing more than for the RIAA/MPAA (which each tried to make trading tapes/cds, selling used tapes/cds, recording songss, etc.) illegal. SOPA was the internet version of that. Plus, SOPA took away the power of the accused - businesses and websites would be shut down before trials. Before!

The constant misdirections and redefinitions, the desire to edge out independent markets, the desire to stop undesirable writers, the urge to destroy leads me to believe that Preston and the BP are now appealing to the government to control the book industry. All writers have a stake in this, not just indies. Every writer who signed that letter is in danger because they want to hand over control of literature to some bureaucrats rather than the readers. They are mendacious, conniving, greedy, and have an insatiable lust for power.

They must be combatted at every turn.

Joe Konrath said...

I get that Preston will never view Amazon through the same lens as the rest of us

I know you like Preston's books, Joshua. But the problem isn't the lens he's viewing Amazon through. If he wants to blog about how much he hates Amazon, he can go right ahead, and I wouldn't care.

But he's using his money and clout to get a lot of media attention in an effort to wage a private war against a company that has helped hundreds of thousands of authors, and to rally forces to prompt our government to break Amazon up.

Force must be met with equal force. I do not have the ear of the NYT or Salon. But I do have a blog that many authors read, and the more provocative I am, the more traffic I get. That's the Internet for you.

Am I really supposed to believe that Joe wouldn't do the same thing if a well-known author called him names in a hateful email?

I'm smiling, Joshua. Of course I wouldn't do that. And of course I've had many, MANY opportunities to do that. My readers would probably be surprised by who has emailed me in the past. Bestsellers. Publishing execs.

First of all, I'd never blogged something someone said in an email unless I had permission. I can't think of any time I've done so. I may have published an email anonymously, but I can't see the harm in that because there is no accountability there.

Second, if I did begin blogging private correspondence, I'd lose all trust and credibility with my peers. No one would ever tell me anything in confidence. I can, and do, keep secrets.

Third, Hugh's words were taken out of context in order to mislead ABA's readers. That just plain sucks, Joshua. I'd be mighty pissed if someone did that to me.

But then the criticisms turned from Preston's views to things like the size of his property in Maine, as if somehow the fact that Preston had made substantial money from his writing and chose to spend a portion of it on a nice home for his family was reprehensible.

Joshua, you know how propaganda works, right? Have you seen the pics of Preston, standing in front of his writing shack? What is that meant to convey? "Hardworking Writer of the People". Poor guy writes in a shack in the woods, like Thoreau and Emerson. An article last year cleverly equated him with the Dali Lama.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/08/david-streitfeld-embarassment-to-new.html

This is how Barry diffused that:

Hah. We’re just teasing Preston, who tries to paint himself as an aw, shucks regular guy but who “summers in this coastal hamlet… set on 300 acres that have been owned by the Preston family for much of the last 100 years.” All of which sounds about as blue collar as it gets! Why would anyone suggest this guy is of and for only the one percent of authors?

My blog post began with satire. Satire, as you know, using comic hyberbole to shed light on topics. Like that NYT "news" piece that all but fellated Doug. We diffused it.

Joe Konrath said...

Doug will likely never be a fan of Amazon and their business practices, but that's no more a crime now than it was a year ago.

You don't seem to understand where I'm coming from. I would actively fight for Doug's opinion of Amazon's business practices. I believe in freedom of speech. For example, I'm 100% for gay marriage, but I would never say that critics of gay marriage need to be silenced. Freedom of Speech means the freedom to have opinions, even unpopular ones, even ignorant ones.

Doug isn't using his considerable platform to share his opinions. He's using it as a call to action. He's trying, very hard, to get his way of thinking accepted by the masses, and the government.

That's not sharing a viewpoint. It's waging a war. You don't have to stop liking his writing, or him. But the guy wants Amazon broken up into a dozen smaller companies, so his publisher can better compete. That would harm a lot of authors.

My fisks have been fair, and civil. I could go a lot further than I have, and be a lot meaner. If you don't agree with them, that's your choice, and more power to you. I respect your opinion, and I thank you for sharing it.

I don't know who's right or wrong here.

I'm right. Preston is wrong. He hasn't made a single defensible point. Not one.

All I know is that the situation has become too toxic for me to give a shit anymore.

There is way too much toxicity in the world. I agree. If Salon, the ABA, the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, et al gave Preston's opposition equal inches in their periodicals, I wouldn't need to blog. If the mainstream media covered both sides, my fisks wouldn't be necessary.

Unfortunately, the media's one-sided, biased agenda coincide's with Authors United. So they continue to spread lies.

What's better? Toxic truth, or polite lies to the general public?

I'll take truth, even if it isn't candy coated.

christo1 said...

Joe - Would you be interested in writing a letter/petition to the US gov to compete with Preston's?

There'd be writers and businesses (who can sign anonymously, of course) in the hundreds of thousands rather than just a few petulant millionaires and academics.

Shoot, a few indies could get together and draft some letters and we could share them.

Note: I'm a newb who wants to publish, start a press and magazine, all independent of the BPs. The AU appeal to government control of the book world threatens all of our livelihoods and passions.

Like you said, we need to fight fire with fire. Preston's goal is to destroy while we all want to create.

Thank you for the great site and the opportunities to post here.

Joe Konrath said...

The constant misdirections and redefinitions, the desire to edge out independent markets, the desire to stop undesirable writers, the urge to destroy leads me to believe that Preston and the BP are now appealing to the government to control the book industry

The funny thing is, if the government does get involved, regulation works both ways. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Preston's whining on behalf of the Big 5 could easily come back to bite him in the ass when a billion dollar class action suit, brought by every author who ever signed an unconscionable publishing contract, gets validated by the DOJ's discovery process.

Authors United thinks it can convince the government to wield power the way Authors United wants it to. But if regulation comes to the publishing industry, it will encompass more than Amazon. Do they really think Amazon, broken into a dozen smaller companies, would cease to be effective? Contrast that with Random Penguins, which would be dissappear if broken up.

christo1 said...

I think that's the case too. They'd be bitten back just as badly. Their short-sighted jealousy, rage, and greed remain dangerous in that they only seek destruction.

On the other hand, with billions of dollars outside of books going through Amazon, I don't think the DOJ would want to deal with the hundreds of lawsuits coming from every other corporation on the planet. I'm optimistic in that regard. Plus, the DOJ already ruled that Amazon's competitors committed their own antitrust violations. I don't know - these guys strike me as some cartoonish Ayn Rand villains.

Also, isn't it funny how none of these authors' groups that hate Amazon ever work on, or even promote, an alternative market? Just back to the scene in 2000s, when there were two bookstores and six major publishers.

Joe Konrath said...

Also, isn't it funny how none of these authors' groups that hate Amazon ever work on, or even promote, an alternative market?

What's even more hypocritical is that they denounce Amazon as hurting society, yet they allow Amazon to keep selling their books.

Hey, Preston! Write a letter to Hachette demanding they remove your titles from Amazon until Amazon reforms its wicked ways. Civil disobedience, man. If I hated a company, I wouldn't be associated with that company in any way. Put your money where your mouth is if you really believe in change.

T. M. Bilderback said...

I think that's the next step. You want to whine to the DOJ about Amazon? I'll get a few friends together and write two letters. In the first letter, I'll explain why your letter is full of shit. In the second, I'll focus their attention on your publisher, Hachette, and the other major publishers, and their unconscionable treatment of authors for the last fifty years.

And it won't take us a year.


Joe, if you write it, I'll sign it right alongside you, and laugh while I do it. ;)

T. M. Bilderback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
christo1 said...

Joe - True. They don't want to lose THEIR money, just other people should lose money. The more I read and think about these guys I think they're just greedy, mendacious c*nts. Or whiny brats who break the toys they don't want to use and cry to mommy to punish someone else. They're ridiculous.

Joe Konrath said...

The more I read and think about these guys

It's a tough call.

One one hand, this could be carefully orchestrated. Some of those AU authors are bright. Cloaking the real agenda--greed--in altruism and trying to influence public opinion in the media is something that has worked well in the past for many causes.

But they just suck so bad at it that I wonder if this really is just Stockholm Syndrome, and they really think Amazon is harmful to authors because it is harmful to their publishers.

So I can't decide if they're clever and evil, or stupid and whipped.

If I wanted to get rid of Amazon, I wouldn't do it in such a ham-fisted, easy-to-refute way. They really suck at this. And Preston is one of the worst figureheads in the history of publishing.

Turow was smart. Preston is not.

christo1 said...

Haha, yeah - it could be the rush of early morning caffeine inducing some of that :)

And they are really bad at it. Mostly, I think many of them really don't understand business all that much. An underlying theme seems to be zero-sum game thinking, which isn't how a market economy works at all. Amazon exists, therefore, brick-and-mortar stores don't.

Some of it's reputation too. A lot of artsy writers on there get the stamp of approval from a higher-up, and that's what they want. Maybe it's the punk rocker in me, but I say the readers (listeners, viewers, what have you) are the real approval one needs...

Or maybe this shows that all writers should really take a business class or two?

Anonymous said...

During the Hachette times (do we have a cute name for THAT era?) Joe and others were blogging about what was really going. Yet, the AU people had the larger media outlets printing their side of the story and that's the only story many people saw.

I had folks tell me that Amazon was the baddy bad bad bad guy 'cause they read all about it on FB and that makes it true.

I'm so grateful that Joe consistently blogs about this. I wonder what can be done to get the story out in a larger way so that the general public is more likely to see it????

shugyosha said...

"Maybe it's the punk rocker in me, but I say the readers (listeners, viewers, what have you) are the real approval one needs..."

It says a lot about publishing that PUNK has better salesmanship than they do.

Take care

Joe Konrath said...

I wonder what can be done to get the story out in a larger way so that the general public is more likely to see it????

The more the general public voices its disapproval of Authors United, the likelier the media is to pick up on that and start presenting the opposing viewpoint.

In theory, anyway.

christo1 said...

Shugyosha - Haha, perhaps it does!

And it's punk as DIY basically. Who needs the establishment when they wouldn't accept you anyway, you know?

Anonymous said...

Joe, can you put together a Facebook-sharing friendly summary of your perspective on this? I know that I don't have enough of a grasp of the overall picture and your way with words to pull it off myself. I would like to do my part in sharing the "rest of the story."

David L. Shutter said...

"-the likelier the media is to pick up on that and start presenting the opposing viewpoint."

Independent news sites and the occasional op-ed piece by unbiased journalists with the common sense to see the BS agenda for what it is? Sure. Mainstream news coverage of the opposing view by news outlets who are owned by the same conglomerates that own the publishers, and who are also seeing TV competition from original Zon content? I wouldn't hold my breath for anything substantial.

Thankfully, writer's can come to this blog and others like it.

Anonymous said...

Writers know about this blog....the general, book buying, public???? Those are the folks that are only hearing one side of this story.

Joe Konrath said...

Yep. This blog is known to some writers, but the public doesn't seek out information about the publishing industry. Why would they? As a corollary, here's a NYT article about coal miners:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/18/business/energy-environment/coal-miners-struggle-to-survive-in-an-industry-battered-by-layoffs-and-bankruptcy.html?_r=0

You don't even have to click on the link to see "struggle to survive" and "industry battered by layoffs and bankruptcy."

Without even reading the article, I get the impression that it sucks to be a coal miner.

Is that correct? I dunno. Could be. Could be just as nonsensical as the tripe the NYT is publishing about Amazon. But I don't care enough to dig any deeper into this issue, because it has nothing to do with me. So I walk away with the impression that coal miners are struggling.

Media influences opinions.

David L. Shutter said...

"....the general, book buying, public????"

It's annoying that Preston/SU/Patterson can get their unfettered platforms through anti-Zon parrots like Streitfeld and outlets like Salon, NYT, etc, but I keep thinking back to Colbert's attempted smear campaign. Everyone laughed at his jokes and photo-shopped images of evil lord Bezos and then went right back to buying shit on Prime.

The DOJ case was probably the biggest publishing news story, I dunno, ever, and outside of the NYT and pub news sites the only thing I saw in the mainstream were occasional blurbs about Apple being involved in a case about...something to do with books. Whenever Salon, Huffpo or the Guardian runs one of their anti-Zon/indie/e-book hit pieces the comments are littered with ridicule of their bias and luddism.

Preston needs to be argued against but I wouldn't worry too much about average consumers taking up torches and pick-forks against Amazon. Not over this kind of argument anyway. It's still fun to watch Preston make an ass of himself though.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty surprised at the level of Amazon hate I saw on FB when the misleading articles about KU 2.0 were circulating. These are average consumers getting a negative impression about AZ due to inaccurate reporting.

This Preston coverage has the potential to have the same effect. That's the part I would like to see balanced out if possible.

Alan Spade said...

What we have to remember is that Amazon and the other ebooks platforms (but for the most part, Amazon), has awakened a force that was, for the most part, dormant: the manuscripts that were in the publishers' slush piles are now published as ebooks on Amazon.

Maybe the big publishers are so entitled that they think these slush piles "belonged" to them. Maybe they think Amazon has stolen them these manuscripts, and that's one of the reasons they hate Amazon so much.

Maybe authors like Doug Preston feel threatened by this new competition (I don't think he's right to fear this competition, but it's irrational).

Maybe Doug thinks that most independant authors "are owned" by Amazon once they opt-in for Kindle Unlimited.

But even KU has its limits: if authors are not satisfied by it, there are free to opt out, after three months. Amazon will never be able to completely control this huge dormant force it has helped so much to awaken.

Fear is a double edged sword. It's so much rooted in guys like Preston, that even when he thinks he uses it to manipulate people, it makes him saying things so silly that he is losing credibility among authors without even needing to be fisked. Of course, someone has to do it for the sake of most people who don't have a clue about the publishing business. And also, because what he said about Hugh was so wrong and inappropriate.

David L. Shutter said...

I listed Guardian as a Zon-hater that ran hit pieces earlier. While they ran their share of those during the early days of indie/e-book pub paranoia they've actually had fair and unbiased coverage lately. Maybe some of their staffers have been self publishing?

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/jul/17/book-world-fear-amazon-publishers-authors

It's good to see this from someone other than an indie pub blogger.

christo1 said...

David - Was glad to see an oddly pro-Amazon article on the Guardian site. And The Guardian of all places! The derp is pretty strong in the comments though.

Still, The Guardian deigned to allow a pleb to write for them. Progress!

Meb Bryant said...

Joe,
The atomic weight of potassium is 39.0983 amu. (I looked it up.)

David J Antocci said...

I'm just a lowly Mr. Mom that writes novels at my kitchen table after the rest of the house falls asleep, so I probably just don't have the capacity to understand the legal side of things like Doug does... but I'm confused about how Amazon is a monopoly? I sold my books exclusively through Amazon for a couple years. Then I decided I'd like to sell them through Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and a bunch of others... so I did. How did a little indie author like myself overcome the powerhouse of the Amazon monopoly?