Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Amazon Agenda

I have a few disparate thoughts and observations that I'm going to attempt to coalesce into a single theme.

Amazon was recently the subject of world news when the ever intrepid David Streitfeld, the NYT reporter that gave us the wonder of whale math, did a hit piece on Amazon corporate culture that came to the startling and controversial conclusion; Amazon employees work really, really hard.

Streitfeld has a haterection for Amazon, and while he has yet to make a cogent point, this recent piece got big attention, so much so that major media outlets covered it, and there was outrage and pandemonium on social media, culminating in The Fault In Our Stars author John Green calling Amazon the "worst cult ever" and cancelling his Prime subscription, though his grave disapproval didn't extend to actually showing a backbone by demanding that Amazon stop selling his books. I mean, would you want your work associated with the worst cult ever? I wouldn't. But then, I've been cursed with integrity.

Streitfeld, too, has a book available on Amazon, though his dismal 700,000 rank may be part of the reason he dislikes Zon so much.

Last I checked, the five hundred plus signatories of the latest Authors United bullshit letter also all had their titles available on Amazon. That letter recently arrived at the DOJ, and I'd bet it wasn't a coincidence that it was on the heels of Streitfeld's anti-Zon piece. I can imagine their delicious, mutual self-gratification as Preston and Streitfeld exchanged super-important emails about how to best coordinate their Anti-Amazon efforts for maximum impact, and about how Suzie in Algebra is dating Brad now because he dumped Melissa after she gained weight, and OMG doesn't gym class suck this year 4 realz?!?

If you missed my pointed satire, I imagine them as immature, gossiping middle school kids. The loser ones, not the popular ones.

Here we have all of this vocal, public author disapproval of Amazon, yet no one has the guts to actually pull their books. But why would they? Amazon is making these authors a shit ton of money (with the exception of David Steitfeld). It's much easier to whine in public and hope that Amazon stops trying to disintermediate their publishers, who pay them large advances. Some of them so large, in fact, that they'll never earn out.

Which means it really doesn't matter how many books Amazon sells, because these authors won't ever see a dime of that money.

Hmm. Makes a little more sense why they're attacking Amazon, doesn't it? Because Amazon doesn't pay them. Amazon is harming the publishers that do pay them.

It is highly doubtful the DOJ will go after Amazon. Randal J. Morris looks at some legal precedent relevant to Authors United's six claims, and it becomes pretty obvious to anyone, even without any legal training, that the AU foot-stamping will go nowhere.

But the AU, and its incestuous fuck buddy the Authors Guild, keep petulantly stamping their feet anyway.

CBS Moneywatch wrote about this issue, and I was surprised to see it was a more-or-less balanced piece; something unusual since Zon hating in the media is currently en vogue. I normally eschew interviews, but I liked the questions asked. The reporter painted me in a kinder light by choosing my less-insulting quotes, but to drive home the gravitas of my intent here are my complete answers to his inquiry:

The Authors United letter to the DOJ is an embarrassing joke. I take it apart line by line here and point out everything wrong with it here.

I also fisked their longer letter here.

Amazon has allowed more writers to reach more readers than any other company in history. They’ve done this by innovating, giving readers what they want, and working with authors to offer us much better terms than any publisher ever has, in the past, or the present.

The Big 5 are a price-fixing cartel who want to charge readers high prices. That’s why the DOJ went after them and Apple, and that’s why they lost the suit. They had an oligopoly over paper distribution for decades (the only way to reach readers was through bookstores, the only way to get into a bookstore was through those publishing gatekeepers). Because they controlled who got published, they could get away with giving authors take-it-or-leave-it unconscionable contract terms

Amazon has broken that oligopoly by allowing readers to reach readers via ebooks. 

Because of this, the Big 5 can no longer control book pricing—and independent author can undercut them—and as a result the Big 5 are losing marketshare to Amazon and to indies. 

That’s why they’re pissed. This isn’t altruism on Authors United’s part. It’s greed. It’s wanting to return to the old ways, where top authors got seven figure advances. Great for that 1%, not great for the 99% that Big Publishing ignored, harmed, and/or took advantage of.

Because Authors United is a bunch of entitled rich and famous authors (who should be celebrating the luck they’ve had in life rather than whining like babies about Amazon), they’ve been wooing their media contacts to wage a public opinion war against Amazon by painting Zon as a bully.

There isn’t ONE SINGLE point Authors United makes that is truthful when it comes to their criticism of Amazon or their so-called defense of authors. All of their points are easily refuted. But the average reader doesn’t try to refute their nonsense. They see “Amazon is bad” and take it at face value. Because no journalists dig any deeper, “Amazon is bad” becomes the public sentiment.

Except it isn’t. Readers still love Amazon. Amazon has been voted #1 by customers for 9 consecutive years

More than 500 authors signed that nonsense DOJ letter, and every one of them should be ashamed. I’m happy to call them out for it: If you really can’t abide by Amazon’s nefarious practices any longer, put your money where your mouth is and DEMAND THAT AMAZON STOP SELLING YOUR BOOKS.

Hypocrisy much, Doug Preston?

I’m happy to send more blogs posts your way to show that Amazon goes out of its way to be fair to authors. The problem is that it takes exponentially longer to refute bullshit than it does to spout it, so you’d need a strong background in the DOJ lawsuit and the Hachette situation before you can fully understand how Amazon was being squeezed by publishers, not the other way around (which is how the media erroneously portrayed it).

Authors United are a bunch of greedy whiners who don’t want the status quo to keep shrinking; and it is shrinking, for the good of all readers and the vast majority of writers. So they beat their chests and flail about, trying to spin media, hoping public opinion will make big bad Amazon stop disintermediating the publishers who have made them rich.

It won’t work. Authors United knows this. Their argument doesn’t hold up to US antitrust law, logic, or majority opinion. But they are seeing their livelihoods slip away because their corporate masters don’t control the book world anymore, so they’re throwing a public tantrum.

All of those so-called “Author Organizations” need to be publicly chastised for their continued disservice to the authors they purport to represent. 

I’ve negotiated many times with Amazon, for contracts with their various Amazon publishing wings. I’ve always gotten much better terms than I had with any of my trad publishing deals. Not only more money in my pocket, but more control over my work.

To my knowledge, Amazon hasn’t used its alleged monopsony power to shut out any suppliers. In the Hachette instance, Amazon offered to compensate Hachette authors on three different occasions, to keep them from being collateral damage during the contract negotiations. Hachette dragged their feet for many months before negotiating, and their contract with Amazon had expired. amazon was under no obligation to sell ANY Hachette titles, but it did anyway. In the previous case of Amazon removing Macmillan’s buy buttons, this was in response to Macmillan colluding with Apple and four other major publishers to illegally force the Agency model upon Amazon. And again, Amazon compensated authors afterward.

I’m sure Amazon is a fierce negotiator. But under the Agency model, Amazon earns 30% of the ebook price. Authors earn 17.5%. Publishers earn 52.5%. Why should publishers earn more than the author who wrote it, or the retailer who sells more copies than anyone else?
With this new Kindle Unlimited compensation model, Amazon is rewarding good writers. My KU income doubled under their new terms.

I’m pretty tied into the indie community, and the thousands of writers I’ve encountered are smart, and aware. Sometimes they draw incorrect conclusions, or feel persecuted, but the difference between dealing with Amazon and dealing with the Big 5 is like the difference between and honest, open, friendly relationship, and being beaten up by a group of muggers.

There is no wrong way to do business with Amazon. Authors can opt out of Kindle Select after 90 days, or opt out of Amazon completely. Authors keep their rights.

The authors who are getting screwed are the ones with publishers. Publishers charge $12.99 for an ebook on Amazon. They do this in hopes readers will instead by the paper version—remember that publishers have a paper oligopoly they want to protect.

Readers don’t like paying $12.99 for a non-tangible ebook. So a lot of midlist authors don’t sell well. When they do sell, they only earn $2.27 on that sale. I earn $2.74 on the sale of a $3.99 ebook on Amazon, and I keep my rights.

The publishing industry wanted to slow the public adoption of ebooks. The Big 5 were fine with loss leads as long as it was for paper books. But once Amazon began to discount ebooks, with lured people to digital media, the Big 5 were willing to lose money to slow that transition down.

So that was my full response, and the CBS report quoted my less inflammatory bits. He also quoted some nonsense from the increasingly moronic Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild.

"We have one company that is virtually controlling the terms of publishing in many, many ways. They have the power to force publishers to accept their terms."

Okay, stop. This is the Authors Guild, remember? The ones who are paid dues by AUTHORS to look out for AUTHORS. Not PUBLISHERS.

Let's change two words to show what the Authors Guild should really be concerned about.

"We have one cartel that is virtually controlling the terms of publishing in many, many ways. They have the power to force writers to accept their terms."

Amazon allows any author to publish on their platform, and earn up to 70% royalties while still keeping their rights. The Big 5 pay shitty royalties, keep rights forever, and are exclusionary.

Yeah, that's the kind of guild I want representing me. 

Rasenberger goes on to spout more bullshit:

Rasenberger says that while "everyone loves low prices," the result is to eventually devalue books. "You're causing long-term harm that will be very difficult to recover from," she said. "Publishers have less money so they have less money (for) authors, they buy fewer books, and they offer lower advances." 

Ok, for the zillionth time, low prices DO NOT DEVALUE BOOKS--see Zombie Publishing Meme #2. And again with the Authors Guild playing mouthpiece for publisher concerns. 

Guess what, Mary? If publishers buy fewer books, authors can still make money BY SELF-PUBLISHING ON AMAZON. Need an advance? Try Kickstarter or Indiegogo. But stop perpetuating the bullshit that the Big 5 are the only way for authors to get paid and reach readers.

Other nonsense in the piece:

Eleanor Fox, a professor of law at the New York University School of Law and an expert in trade regulation. "What it did to Hachette a year ago was really outrageous, withholding books for sale. It was to me definitely an abuse because it was using its power to get a better price on its contract by holding off the market books that people wanted to read.

This is a meme that won't die: Amazon didn't withhold any books for sale. Not one. 

But, I suppose, if you keep repeating the same lie over and over again, people start to believe it. That's a cornerstone of propaganda. And that's what Authors United, the Authors Guild, and the NYT are doing; engaging in propaganda.

But to what end? Why are all of these folks, and me, going on and on about Amazon? What is the agenda of all interested parties?

The NYT Amazon-bashes for traffic. Anti-Amazon stories are incredibly popular.

Authors United and the Authors Guild are doing it to try to harm Amazon's image in the public eye, so Amazon is more favorable to their corporate master; the Big 5.

I'm doing it to help newbie authors, who might inadvertently believe all of the anti-Amazon nonsense because that's what the media keeps parroting, and in doing so miss out on an opportunity to find readers and make a few bucks.

Amazon keeps doing what it has always done; work hard to be the most customer-centric company on the planet.

Even though the public seemingly loves all the current Amazon hatefest, they vote with their dollars, and spend those dollars on Amazon.com.

And the authors I'm trying to inform are either paying attention to my harsh fisks, or more likely they're ignoring all the drama and using Amazon to their advantage. Self-pub ebooks now outsell Big 5 ebooks, much to the chagrin of the former status quo. And even old school legacy authors seem to be taking notice. As Barry Eisler just observed:

Did you know Authors United signatories have gone from 1081 to 575 in under a year?

So much for the propaganda. Heads up Authors United: When you can't even convince your own constituents to sign your nonsense, your cause is doomed.


gniz said...

You know what?

This is a damn fine post and I agree with you on just about all of it.

Despite my previous whining about Amazon, I have to acknowledge that they really are great at what they do--and that all in all, I'm making more money now than I was 2 years ago, or even 1 year ago.

My earnings continue to increase, so even though there are some looming pitfalls and concerns I have about the state of the industry and Amazon's somewhat weakening ebook competition, I can't deny your overall message, Joe.

At times I believe you tend to overstate Amazon's "trustworthiness" but that is because you're usually making a comparison to big NY publishing, in which case you are almost always correct. The big NY houses are not good for authors and likely never will be, on balance.

Right now, it's still an amazing time to be an indie and I truly can't complain, even if at times I can't help myself. And discussing these issues here on your blog has helped me to dial back my paranoia just a bit and enjoy the ride.

So thanks for continuing to fight the good fight.

gniz said...

And when I say "Amazon's somewhat weakening ebook competition," I am referring to Nook, iBooks, Google and Kobo.

Unknown said...

I'm afraid you have a logical disconnect here, Joe. You started by referring to the article in the New York Times by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, which was all about what people endure who are EMPLOYED by Amazon -- that is to say, on their payroll, with a form W-2 filled out, and all that stuff.

You then segued to many previously-made points refuting the criticism of Amazon about how the company treats its customers and its suppliers -- NOT its employees.

These two subjects have nothing to do with each other. Amazon could be the greatest company in the world to its customers, and still mistreat its employees. (In fact, that's quite common in the business world.) All the criticism of Amazon claiming that it is a monopoly and/or monopsony or that it's screwing over publishers or authors (and confusing those last two categories) could be utter horse manure, and WORKING for the company could still be like working in a sweatshop.

In fact, from what I can tell, that's precisely the case. Amazon is fantastic to its customers, quite reasonable for the most part (aside from KDP Select, which is an abomination) to authors, and no worse to the big publishers than they deserve -- but it's not a good company to work for.

Authors, of course, don't work for Amazon. We're not on the company's payroll. How it treats us has nothing to do with how it treats its employees, because we're not them.

You might want to look into this a bit closer. That won't compromise your stance in favor of indie publishing or against the Big 5 and the hypocrisy of outfits like Authors United, which is not, after all, United Amazon Workers.

JA Konrath said...

These two subjects have nothing to do with each other.

So you're saying that Streitfeld, who has written anti-Amazon NYT articles that focus on authors, articles that NYT's public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized, and the current NYT article by Streitfeld, which is anti-Amazon with a focus on white collar employees, which NYT's public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized, aren't two parts of a single agenda?

Publicly smearing Amazon results in page views. If Amazon's public opinion drops, and there is enough outcry over its methods, it will make it easier for Authors United to get what they really want; greater cuts for publishers, so those publishers can keep giving authors giant advances that will never earn out.

Douglas Preston doesn't care how many books he sells on Amazon--he's never going to earn out his large advance. But if Amazon keeps squeezing his publisher, his publisher won't be able to give Doug those large advances anymore. So Doug is anti-Amazon. And he's aligned with NYT stenographer Streitfeld in a propaganda smear campaign. While their motives are different their goals are the same; keep pumping out anti-Amazon nonsense.

When big authors like John Green feel the need to voice their disapproval about Amazon to their 4 million Twitter followers, it's important to know what the real agenda is here; people benefiting from portraying Amazon in a bad light. But it isn't working out too well.

Chris Meadows said...

And here's another thought. The Authors Guild, Authors United, the American Booksellers Association…none of these people need the DoJ to do their dirty work for them. If they wanted to put their money where their mouths were, they'd file a suit themselves.

I mean, back in the '90s, the ABA took on Barnes & Noble and Borders when they was at the height of their You've Got Mail independent-bookstore-stomping, and a number of the major publishers besides. You want more proof the publishers are corrupt? The ABA earned it in court, determining that they were giving the chain stores secret discounts, and smacked them down hard for it.

Why isn't anybody doing that now? Well, apart from that one time those bookstores attempted to sue Amazon for anti-trust and got laughed out of court?

The only possible reason is they've got a weak case, and they absolutely know it. (The judge tossing out those bookstores' case is a pretty good clue.) So they bluster and bluster, but not one of them is willing to put their money where their mouth is.

So they hope maybe the DoJ will do something instead if they make enough noise, and they won't have to toss their legal fees down a rathole. Yeah, fat chance.

Chris Meadows said...

ugh. They were at the height. That's what comes when you add Borders to the sentence and forget to change all the singulars to plural. :P

Joshua Simcox said...

Attacking John Green is roughly the equivalent of slashing your teenage daughter's cool, bespectacled, young English teacher's tires and then leaving a nasty note on his windshield. It's impossible to do without looking like a bully, and aside from the same half-dozen or so folks who routinely comment here, it won't win much sympathy for your cause.

As for why the authors staunchly opposing Amazon haven't yet demanded that Amazon stop selling their books, well, I'm sure they would if they had a viable alternative. These authors are smart enough to realize that Amazon is currently the only game in town, but that doesn't mean they have to support the deplorable working conditions to which Amazon allegedly subjects its employees or what these authors interpret--right or wrong--as questionable business practices.

Look, I'm right there with the masses each week packed inside my local Wal-Mart, dodging throngs of drunk, dipshit college kids for a gallon of milk and a case of the special food my restricted-diet rescue cat requires, as I'm generally too broke to shop for these things at the upscale supermarket across the street frequented by the gated-community demographic of my town. But that doesn't mean a little piece of my soul doesn't evaporate every time I swipe my debit card there, as Wal-Mart's horrific treatment of its workers is legendary in the retail industry. Sometimes the convenient, cost-effective option isn't the most ethical option--though I'm personally making no judgements about Amazon because I haven't yet been employed there or witnessed first-hand the working conditions in an Amazon warehouse.

So, until the day when Amazon has some viable competition in the book selling business, these authors will remain grudgingly content to sell their wares there--after all, the days when readers were willing to burn costly gasoline driving to that one lonely Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million housed in a strip mall in a shitty part of town seems to have long passed.

- Joshua

Wayne McDonald said...

Amazon had competition, and most of that made stupid mistakes like websites where the search engine is so bad an author can't even find their books on it(B&N).

They would have more competition if some of the bigger publishers put their money where their mouth is and only sold to Amazon's competitors. If you could only get King and Patterson's books from other sites for example. Or even if they windowed it so Amazon didn't get it directly for a few months. There would still be 3rd party sellers on Amazon but the margin presumably is lower on that.

Alan Tucker said...

Here's some anecdotal evidence that trees may one day be safe from the grubby hands of Big Publishing. And, by extension, authors will be free of the chains placed upon them, gilded as some may be.


Dale T. Phillips said...

Well, here's my take on what the fight is about- The New Cinderellas- A Modern Fairy Tale of Writing and Publishing: http://daletphillips.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-new-cinderellas-modern-fairy-tale.html

Rob Gregory Browne said...

"Look, I'm right there with the masses each week packed inside my local Wal-Mart, dodging throngs of drunk, dipshit college kids for a gallon of milk and a case of the special food my restricted-diet rescue cat requires, as I'm generally too broke to shop for these things at the upscale supermarket across the street frequented by the gated-community demographic of my town."

I stopped shopping at Walmart awhile ago. Wasn't hard. Had to spend a little more money, maybe. But it was fine. Then I got Amazon Prime and unlike Green, I intend to keep it.

Is Walmart still around?

Unknown said...

"So you're saying that Streitfeld, who has written anti-Amazon NYT articles that focus on authors, articles that NYT's public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized, and the current NYT article by Streitfeld, which is anti-Amazon with a focus on white collar employees, which NYT's public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized, aren't two parts of a single agenda?"

Couldn't tell you, but it's not really relevant. Whatever Sreitfeld believes about the relationship between Amazon and the Big 5, that's not what he was writing about, and repeating what you've said in the past about that doesn't answer him here.

Avoid the temptation to defend Amazon under all circumstances whatsoever. Corporations are never to be trusted, except to pursue their own self-interest. Sometimes that's to our advantage, as when their self-interest is served by providing good service to customers. Sometimes it's not, as when it's served by screwing over their employees.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. It's nice when a new player in the game, like Amazon, creates circumstances that help us out against the Big 5. But that doesn't make Amazon "the good guys." It's just an accident of self-interest that works to the little guys' advantage in one particular area.

Amazon is not above criticism. Sometimes criticism of the company isn't justified. Sometimes it is. In this particular case, it is.

Kate Danley said...

For those who are forming hard opinions on this topic, there was a follow up article in Forbes which featured the letter Jeff wrote to his employees in regards to the NY Times article and I feel it deserves a read:


There was also an article posted by an employee that I feel also deserves a read:


The ACLU has written an open letter to Amazon employees stating that if these issues are real, to come to them. And if the issues are real, I sincerely hope they will be addressed. But I've been inside the Amazon offices and the atmosphere I observed was positive, functional, energetic, and caring. Everyone knows everyone. They work hard not to hire jerks. I was even impressed that they were all allowed to bring their dogs to work. I don't know about you, but I'VE worked in worse places than the one described in the article. Sounded like a functioning business to me... So, as far as the NY Times article, as Nick in the article above so astutely put it:

Step 1: Have bias
Step 2: Find ex-employees with anecdotal stories that fit in with your bias
Step 3: Gather old stories and criticism while glossing over changes made to improve on that, and completely ignore that it's still significantly better than industry practice
Step 4: Take half-truths and spin spin spin!!
Step 5: Publish article

Broken Yogi said...

I think Joe's point is that Streitfield is a biased journalist with an ax to grind, and this shows in all his articles on Amazon. It means one should read anything he writes with more than a few grains of salt. Not that Amazon couldn't be a lousy employer for its executives, but one should want to read reports from someone else before coming to that conclusion.

JA Konrath said...

Yogi is correct. Streifeld reeks of unsupported bias.

Amazon isn't above reproach. I don't like their review policy, and have blogged about it several times. I don't like exclusivity for KDP Select. I didn't like them removing 1984 from Kindles.

I have also been to Amazon offices. I saw no crying. I did see lots of laughter, lots of dedication, and lots of smart, hardworking people who seemed to liike it there.

Anonymous said...

I don't think not liking book reviews is really relevant when talking about Amazon's working conditions. There is a lot of disquiet over them and it goes back a few years to an undercover documentary made in the UK.


The more publicity the working conditions get the more they will improve. And maybe one day Amazon will even pay taxes like the rest of us.

Tom Maddox said...

@Brian Rush

"Couldn't tell you, but it's not really relevant. Whatever Sreitfeld believes about the relationship between Amazon and the Big 5, that's not what he was writing about,"

Streifeld is essentially the boy who cried wolf. He has so often written about Amazon's apparent evil intentions and unforgivable behavior, and so often been shown to be biased and incorrect that it is really hard to cut him any slack at all.

If the Boy Who Cried Wolf suddenly became the Boy Who Cried Coyote do we start believing him simply because he changed his cry?

Jerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry said...

Joe, this is your best rant yet. I've book marked this one for ammunition when confronted by the brainwashed masses.

Alan Spade said...

"Avoid the temptation to defend Amazon under all circumstances whatsoever. Corporations are never to be trusted, except to pursue their own self-interest. Sometimes that's to our advantage, as when their self-interest is served by providing good service to customers. Sometimes it's not, as when it's served by screwing over their employees.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. It's nice when a new player in the game, like Amazon, creates circumstances that help us out against the Big 5. But that doesn't make Amazon "the good guys." It's just an accident of self-interest that works to the little guys' advantage in one particular area."

I think Brian Rush nailed it.

I once talked to a company works doctor who worked with employees of Amazon. She told me that Amazon physically damaged them.

It's great that Jeff Bezos wants to fire the people who don't show empathy or are not kind to people below them in the hierarchy.

But it's the rythm of work which is terrible in their warehouses.

Of course, it's the same in many many jobs. I get that it's unfair that the journalists focus only on Amazon, and not, for example, on the publishers employing trainees without paying them in order to read manuscripts.

If those articles result in employees of Amazon being treated more fairly, even if the aim was to destabilize Amazon and even if journalists like Streitfeld couldn't care less about Amazon's employees, it will be blessing for disguise, un mal pour un bien.

If self-published authors would like to balance the unfairness of the medias, the only way would be to investigate the shady practices of the Big Five, like Authors United (and David Gaughran does a fine job of doing just that).

I want to believe Passive Guy when he says: "PG suggests that if you conducted an anonymous survey about job satisfaction among all current employees of Amazon, the New York Times and the Big Five, Amazon would win by a mile."

I would just like to get the proofs.

But Amazon is a big boy. It's highly popular among customers. It doesn't need us defending it. Authors need to be defended, though.

Alan Spade said...

I meant Author Solutions, which was bought by Penguin-Random, not Authors United.

JA Konrath said...

I don't think not liking book reviews is really relevant

Neither do I. But if you follow my blog, you know I'm critical about Amazon's policy of removing reviews.


Jacklyn Cornwell said...

Every time I see the AU and AG whining about Amazon and their ebook pricing policies and publishing I go back to the whole issue of political correctness and environmentally conscious mentality that permeates the ranks of both. Most of these authors have come out publicly for protecting the environment and yet they say nothing about the damage to the environment done by publishing in the form of billions of trees cut down for the pulp to make the very books they are trying to protect and keep from the endangered resources list. Ebooks are forever, as you have said numerous times, and ebooks are not a drain on the natural resources of this planet as pulp books are. Why does no one see that portion of the agenda? Pulp books, hard cover and paperback, are created with their destruction since books are no longer made with rags/fabric. Pulp books require that readers buy replacements in about 5-10 years even when they keep their precious paper books in plastic in acid free environments. The pages yellow and become brittle and are damaged the more they are read. Not so with ebooks.

Why can't people look beyond the surface issues and see what is going on? These politically correct authors are contributing, nay demanding, planned obsolence and the waste of natural resources (trees) to make their pulp books, most of which end up in landfills in the millions. Like so many clashes of ideologies, this isn't about Amazon or even about books, but about privilege: those who have it and don't want to lose it. And it isn't the authors they claim to protect. Authors are the farthest thing from their minds, unless it's the authors in the mirror every morning when they brush their teeth.

Alan Spade said...

I heard that for your e-reading device to be an ecologic purchase, you had to read at least 50 ebooks on it. So, you may want to refrain from buying the latest e-reader (I own mine, a Kindle Paperwhite, since 2012, and it works perfectly).

AnonymousWriter said...


I want your thoughts on this....



Walter Knight said...

Some journalists know the truth because they've tried to get books published, too. That's when reality hits that Amazon gives everyone author a chance to display their work, and the Big Five New York publishers don't like new authors.

Keith said...

Slightly off topic, but since Amazon is being discussed -- does anyone have any opinions concerning Kindle Scout, Amazon's new reader-powered publishing program?

Edmund de Wight said...

Streitfeld has a 700,000 rank? Yay, I have a higher rank. I feel so self important now. :)
I really can't comprehend why supposed author groups are so worried about publishers, the publishers really aren't worried about them. But I guess when your IP is in servitude to your publisher for your life plus 70 years you do start worrying about pleasing your lord and master.
I may never be James Patterson but at least I control my destiny. If I ever feel Amazon is abusing me, I'm on to something better but I've yet to see a move on their part that actually hurts the authors selling there. They seem to be more focused on helping customers and this only hurts middlemen who add almost nothing to the writer>reader equation.

Kathryn Meyer Griffith said...

I'm 100% behind you Joe. I published with traditional publishers for 30 years and never made a living, or even close, to it. They controlled what my book looked like, its cover, where it sold and when, and how much I made from it (a whopping 4-18% over the years and very small advances). I worked my butt off and still had to hold down a full time job. 5 years ago I foolishly locked in 14 of my older books with a small publisher...it was right before I discovered self-publishing (thanks to your blog). The publisher won't release them until the very last day of their infernal contracts though they claim to sell very few books a year and I have begged to be let out of them (only 16 months to go!). Self-publishing saved my writing career. I now have 9 books self-published and am finally making good money, while my 14 books with that publisher made me a whole $600 last year. I will be frank, I don't like KU and haven't been in it for a while, but I have/had the choice to be in or out. The choice. I value that immensely.
70% royalties and complete control over my work has been a godsend. When those contracts are over I will NEVER go back to publishers. I'd rather stop writing completely and become a nun. I'm so grateful to Amazon, Nook, iTunes and all the others that I can now make a living. I was sick of dog food.

Anonymous said...

I hope that Amazon is changing their warehouse work environment for the better. As someone who worked in a warehouse in the 70's, I can tell you that the work environment in a warehouse was much, much worse back then than any expose I've seen about Amazon. I then went to college and worked in both aerospace and then in other large corporations as a software system architect. I must say I may never have become an entrepreneur if I moved from one of those jobs to working in the kind of white collar environment that Amazon provides. I would have felt absolutely spoiled rotten. Aerospace was horrible, other large corporations were just vile. Fortunately for me, there were no jobs with environments like that when I left to start my own company. Bring your dog to work? Absolutely. Had two pit bulls in there the other day, both napping in the sun by the front door, and a 10 pound maltese trying to hump one of them.

As a voracious reader, I am very happy when more of the money I spend on a "book" goes directly to an independent author ( I wish music publishing was opening up for independents the way book publishing is). I refuse to purchase ebooks that are over $7.99 because the Big 5 are ripping off the authors and the readers. Unfortunately that means I won't buy new ebooks from some of my favorite authors. Sometimes it can take a while for them to go down to a reasonable price. I think it took a year for the last Dresden Files. Also, one of the main reasons I originally bought my Kindles is precisely because I am concerned with the paper waste. I don't buy printed books anymore unless they're used.

I am a bit of a techie nut. I bought the first kindle the November after it came out and then another one 3 months later for my daughter. I have purchased and read over 600 ebooks since that November. And about 100 used books from the local used bookstore. I don't use my kindle anymore because it doesn't work very well, but I will purchase a new one before I travel out of the country again. In the meantime, I read on my smartphone or my laptop.

And I thank each and everyone of the authors, independent or otherwise, that I spend eleven til one a.m. with almost every night. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

AnonymousWriter said...

To sashagirl....and others.....

Why are you so terrible at making it easy to find your work/books?

Constantly i see comments on here by authors - who must be trying to sell their work - i click on their name and get taken to a profile or links to other websites where it's still an absolute mystery to what their full author name is and what books they have written.

It just seems like madness and is so infuriating when you see that someone mentions they are a writer and you want to get an idea of their work.


Alan Tucker said...

@ Anonymous from 3:32 AM

On behalf of Indie authors everywhere, I'll say a hearty, "Thank you!" right back to you. People like you are the reason we can do what we do and I, for one, am eternally grateful for every reader.

Here's to you and your nightly adventures!

Mark Edward Hall said...

@ sashagirl. I hear you and I sympathize. I got locked into a three book deal with the same small press publisher as you. What a nightmare. After five years I finally got the rights back to one of those books (The Haunting of Sam Cabot).

As an independent I've sold more of those books in a year than I did with the publisher in five years. Another title reverts to me in three days and I'm very much looking forward to it.

In the past two years I've written a best selling series (the Blue Light Series)and I will never ever go back to the days of no control over my own destiny. Good luck to you in the future, Kathryn.

@ Anonymous at 4:32 AM. I sense your frustration. I too have had to jump through hoops to find out more about some of the author/posters on this blog. I'm not sure Joe allows self-promotion on his blog. In case you want to check out my Amazon book page, here's the link. No jumping through hoops.


Joe, if this is not acceptable please delete.

JA Konrath said...

I'm not sure Joe allows self-promotion on his blog.

I don't mind it as long as you contribute to the conversation, which you are doing.

Kathryn Meyer Griffith said...

To Anonymous Writer....
my name is Kathryn Meyer Griffith. I set up the Sasha Girl account many years ago when I first got into eBooks and thought I had to be invisible (thus I used my cat's name. Grin), but now I see I need to update it to my actual name. Thanks.
I've been writing over forty-four years and have published twenty-three novels since 1984. Like Joe, I was a legacy author for most of those years. I'm basically a horror writer but I write murder mysteries as well. Also my 9 self-published novels were accepted into Joe and August's ebooksareforever for the libraries. I can't wait until they fully launch later this year! I am so grateful to Joe for leading me to self-publishing in 2012 I could kiss him!
Hi Mark!

Alan Spade said...

@Rikard: you gave me an idea. On my Google + profile, I've added links directly to my books on Amazon.com and on Barnes & Noble.

It's still a little difficult to get there: you have to click on my name here, then on the bio tab on G+, and then scroll all the way down.

But it's better than nothing, I guess.

Terrence OBrien said...

Couldn't tell you, but it's not really relevant. Whatever Sreitfeld believes about the relationship between Amazon and the Big 5, that's not what he was writing about, and repeating what you've said in the past about that doesn't answer him here.

That is one option. Why should we choose it? Another option is to consider the entirety of his work on Amazon, and place this piece in the context of that work.

T. M. Hunter said...

@Mark Edward Hall:

Posting a link to a search function on Amazon makes me physically twitch uncontrollably...maybe bookmark (and paste) your Author Page on Amazon for a quicker link?


Also, there are ways to make the link clickable with some HTML code, but I won't bore folks with that here.

Mark Edward Hall said...

Thanks, T.M. Hunter. Appreciate the tip. Hope the twitching didn't get too out of control.

Tracey said...

As a four-year employee of Amazon, the NYT was quite startling. I don't work for the company portrayed in the article. I know someone who has gone through something similar to those in the article--they didn't work at Amazon though. They worked for the 'other Seattle' company. That same person is now at Amazon and couldn't be happier. What a shocker for such a horrible company. Anyway, thanks for this article and while I do agree with others that one thing doesn't directly relate to the other (the NYT article -vs- the publishing/legal aspects), it would not surprise if they were connected at some level. The article wasn't written with honest intentions, IMO, it was written to crucify--for what reason, only the authors know.

AnonymousWriter said...

why does everyone write horror?

AnonymousWriter said...

why does everyone write horror?

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Anonymous said...

Authors don't get to choose where their books are sold from my experience and you couldn't object or pull a book from a market. I've been a minor non fiction author and contributor. Trouble is that once you sign a contract, or in my case just submit work, when it is published with your permission not only do you get a tiny amount, and I often got paid around $30 for some of it, you often get no rights whatsoever to dictate where your books are going to be sold and I discovered, how often and when it can be reprinted and republished. This is the case for a lot of non fiction authors, especially in pattern jnstructions where you might get a flat fee of about $1500 for writing an entire book AND designing and making around 30 plus garments to be included in the book with instructions with no payment for months of labour. Mainstream book publishers treat it as a hobby or a bit of fun for you, or they tell you it is essential to attract more business (if you wanted to work on another book for a year on a pittance).
I once took a stand and refused to accept the poor deal offered due to unrealistic deadlines and a years work being expected in 7 weeks and withdrew my submitted ideas without signing any contract and was utterly shocked to find 'my' book on Amazon 2 yrs later, with my name as author and my ideas included but not my projects nor my text. Legally all I could do was get the name on the publication changed to another author and there was no copyright or intellectual property in my ideas included. And when I wanted to go further and found out the publisher had a major distributor with almost a monopoly in print distribution my lawyer said there would be little compensation offered even if I did win, and then the payback would be that no major publisher would ever want to work with me if I appear to be of a litigious nature.

What I have learned from my 10 yr experience of dealing with mainstream publishers is if authors wanted to pull their books from Amazon they are powerless to do so. The only option for making any kind of protest, is to stop writing for the mainstream pubs, but then take on all the business side of the book yourself and sell your own product. Even then, if you didn't agree with the way 'zon operated, you would find it quite hard to find such a huge platform.

Anonymous said...

"But then, I've been cursed with integrity." It's a horrible curse, but you gotta live with it. And I'm glad we noobs found a trustworthy source of self-publishing info.