One-Percent Authors Want To End Destructive Conflict, Bring Order to the Galaxy

from the picking-sides dept

Just when I thought Amazon Derangement Syndrome couldn't get any more acute, I woke up to this "letter to our readers" spearheaded by bestselling writer Douglas Preston and signed by 69 authors. One day, historians and psychologists might manage to explain how various authors came to fear and revile a company that has sold more books than anyone in history; that pays authors up to nearly six times the royalties of the New York “Big Five” lockstep rate; that single-handedly created the ebook and self-publishing markets; that offers more choice and better prices to more readers than anyone ever has before; and that consistently ranks as one of the world’s most admired companies. But for now, let's see if we can figure it out ourselves...
A letter to our readers:

Amazon is involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette, which owns Little Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints.
Unmentioned is that Hachette is part of the Lagardère Group, a French conglomerate with sales of something like ten billion dollars a year. Not exactly David to Amazon's Goliath.
These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.
Indeed, Amazon and Hachette are just a retailer and a supplier having trouble coming to terms. Something that couldn’t be more common. Unless, unless...
But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.
This is misleading. Not only has Amazon not "targeted Hachette’s authors," it has offered to compensate them for any damage they suffer by virtue of their publisher's dispute with Amazon. Hachette has refused that offer. Do the authors of this letter not know about Amazon’s offer to help compensate Hachette's authors, and Hachette's refusal? Why don't they mention it?
For the past month, Amazon has been:

--Boycotting Hachette authors, refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette’s authors’ books, claiming they are “unavailable.”
Amazon is not boycotting anyone. All books by all Hachette authors are available in the Amazon store. In the face of this, to claim there’s a “boycott” is either ignorance or propaganda.

Not including a preorder button for a tiny percentage of titles isn’t a boycott. It’s a shot across the bow, and a fairly mild one compared to what an actual boycott of all Hachette titles would look like. As for “unavailable,” if a book isn’t published yet and you can’t preorder it, how else should its status be described?
--Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette’s authors’ books.
The prices of Hachette’s books are set by Hachette. If the authors of this letter think those prices are too high — and apparently, they do — it’s bizarre that they’re blaming Amazon.
--Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette’s authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.
When a retailer and supplier can’t come to terms — something the letter’s writers acknowledge happens “all the time” — what is the retailer supposed to tell its customers?
As writers—some but not all published by Hachette—we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want.
This is a bit rich. My own Amazon-published titles are boycotted by Barnes & Noble and by many indie bookstores. Tens of thousands of Indie-published authors face the same widespread boycott. An actual boycott, as in, outright refusal to stock books written by these authors — not because of price or other contractual terms, but simply because the retailers in question don't like these authors' way of publishing. Yet this is the first I've heard any of the letter's authors express their strong feelings on bookstores preventing or discouraging customers from ordering or receiving the books they want.

What's really weird, when you stop and think about it, is that if customers being able to read the books they want is really an important value for the letter’s authors, you would think they would love Amazon’s business model and find Hachette's suspect. After all, Hachette is a gatekeeper — their whole business model is predicated on excluding from readers probably 99.99% of manuscripts. Amazon’s model is to let all authors publish and to trust readers make up their own minds. If customer choice is the real value in play here, you can’t coherently support Hachette and decry Amazon.

Unless, of course, all that happy talk about customer choice is a canard.
It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.
It wouldn't be right if Amazon were doing it. As explained above, they're not. What I'd like to know is why the letter's authors apparently feel it is right when Barnes & Noble and other booksellers really do single out authors for retaliation? Why are they upset about a fictional Amazon boycott, and sanguine about a real Barnes & Noble one?
Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be “Earth's most customer-centric company.”
I agree that it's an inconvenience for customers when a retailer and supplier can't come to terms. But it happens, and it's not that hard to understand why a retailer might feel compelled to hold the line in one discrete area to prevent its supplier from forcing it to charge higher prices across the board. Think of it as a "lesser of two evils" dynamic a retailer might face with regard to what's best for its customers. Regardless, I'm not sure why the letter's authors reflexively lay blame for the dispute and its consequences at Amazon's feet while reflexively absolving (and refusing even to question) Hachette. And I don't see Amazon doing anything here that I would characterize as "misleading."
All of us supported Amazon from when it was a struggling start-up. We cheered Amazon on. Our books started Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner.
Under the circumstances, that last line sounds like projection.
Nor is it the right way to treat your friends.
I'm not sure what this means. What does friendship have to do with a retailer and supplier negotiating terms? Are they saying that in a contract dispute, you can't allow your friends to become collateral damage? Okay, but why is that message directed at Amazon and not at Hachette?

I know, I know... they really just want to end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy...
Bear in mind that no one outside of Amazon and Hachette even knows for sure the details of their discussions. There's been a lot of informed speculation in the blogosphere, and it seems likely that the essence of the dispute is that Hachette wants to return to "agency" pricing, which enables Hachette to keep the prices of ebooks artificially high, while Amazon wants the flexibility to charge less. But in the face of no knowledge, or of the likelihood that Hachette is trying to force Amazon to charge higher prices, the knee-jerk anti-Amazon response isn't easy to understand.
Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business.
Well, that made me smile. I’m glad no one is taking sides! In fact, reading their letter, I still have no idea which side the letter’s authors favor… :)

But seriously, I have to ask… do these people really not recognize that they're taking sides? Not that I think taking sides is wrong; personally, I think Hachette is a joke and I side with Amazon because I favor lower prices, higher royalties, and more choice. But to write a letter like this and claim you're not taking sides... are they disingenuous? Or are they so psychologically wedded to legacy publishing that they think taking Hachette's side is just being neutral?

For some reason it reminds me of the joke: "If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?"

But anyway... if the value in play here is that a company should "stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business," I'm gobsmacked that these people aren't demanding more from Hachette. Hachette pays its authors 12.5% in digital royalties. It keeps the lion's share of increased ebook profits for itself. It demands life-of-copyright (that is, forever) terms of license. It inhibits its authors' ability to publish other works by insisting on draconian anti-competition clauses. It pays its authors only twice a year. It has innovated precisely nothing, ever, preferring to collude to fix prices with Apple and the other members of the New York "Big Five." That's Hachette's business record... and these authors, who purport to care so much about a company harming the livelihood of authors, have nothing to say about it?

I guess that’s what they mean by "not taking sides."
None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage.
Then why aren’t they telling Hachette to set their books free? End agency pricing! Let retailers discount! Don't collude! Free those books!
(We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)
I always mistrust this kind of assertion in the absence of links or other citations — especially coming from a group that has already made as many misleading claims as this one. But let's assume their claim about overlapping op-eds is true. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal "rarely agree on anything”? This is possibly the most thoughtless (or misleading) claim the letter's authors have made yet. I know it's a bit discursive, but here’s Noam Chomsky on propaganda:

"One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there's a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, then you can have a debate."

Like the Democratic and Republican branches of America's single political party, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have far, far more in common than they do in dispute. Suggesting their concurrence on a topic is meaningful is exactly like suggesting that because majorities of Democrats and of Republicans voted to invade Iraq, the war was a good idea.
We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.
I know I’m repeating myself, but... it's fascinating that these people — who are of course not taking sides! — are calling on Amazon this way and saying nothing at all to Hachette. You'd think Hachette is a wholly pure and innocent child, lacking any autonomy at all in this business dispute.
We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, c.e.o and founder of Amazon, at jeff@amazon.com, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails from this account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.
It’s sad. Imagine the good that might be accomplished if mega-bestselling authors like Child, Patterson, and Turow were even fractionally more inclined to leverage their fame and fortune in calling attention to real injustices in publishing. The pittance the New York "Big Five" (the cartel is right there in the moniker) pay their authors. The industrial-level scamming of newbie writers by Penguin Random House-owned Author Solutions. Harlequin setting up subsidiaries solely to screw writers out of their royalties.

Instead, these one-percenters consistently ignore the tremendous good Amazon has done for all authors, and allow misguided self-interest to distort their perceptions and their arguments. They take full-page ads in the New York Times, they give interviews with an adoring press, they publish letters like this one… all to perpetuate a publishing system that is designed to create a one-percent class of winners and to exclude everyone else.
You want to know something else the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are going to agree on? They're going to offer a ton of coverage to this "letter to readers" because it was signed by a few superstars. And they're going to ignore a competing petition that in the few hours since it went live is already closing in on a thousand signatures, many of them submitted by the mom-n-pop, small-business, indie authors Amazon has enabled to earn a living from their writing for the first time ever. This imbalance is the way establishments work, and the authors of the "letter to our readers" are nothing if not part of the publishing establishment they seek to perpetuate.

It's all right. The establishment has the names. Freedom and choice have the numbers. And the numbers always win in the end.

Oh, and that petition? You can add your name here.

P.S. Some further suggested reading on this topic.

If you love books then you should be rooting for Amazon, not Hachette or the Big Five

Authors Behaving Badly and Authors Who Aren’t

Amazon Finally Defends Itself Against Accusations That It's A Bully Pushing Around Hachette

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business.

    Translation: Cave. Give Hachette everything it wants.

    And they have the gall to act like they're 'not taking sides', the letter might as well have been written out by a member of Hachetee's PR team directly, given how insanely biased it is.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 8:16pm

    We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs.


    Implying that they had any meaningful role in Amazon's success, or that the things mentioned are things that should normally be charged for.

    These guys are a joke, and I hope Hachette pulls its entire catalog from Amazon. Let's see who's complaining about whom then.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 8:48pm

    Amazon is not boycotting anyone. All books by all Hachette authors are available in the Amazon store.


    Dude, it took like two minutes to prove this statement at best wrong, and at worst a lie.

    Their claim:

    "For the past month, Amazon has been:

    --Boycotting Hachette authors, refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette’s authors’ books, claiming they are “unavailable.”"


    Sword Art Online, published in English by Yenpress, a subsidiary of Hachette, has it's second volume due out late August.

    It's Amazon page:

    http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Art-Online-2-Aincrad/dp/0316376817/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&a mp;qid=1404444596&sr=1-1&keywords=sword+art+online+volume+2

    lists it only as "Currently Unavailable", with no option given to pre-order.

    Meanwhile, it's Barnes and Noble page:

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sword-art-online-2-reki-kawahara/1117759583?ean=9780316376815

    ha s it available for pre-order.

    This is exactly what they claimed, that for Hachette authors, Amazon is refusing to take pre-orders, and listing such books as "unavailable".

    Thus your statement that "All books by all Hachette authors are available in the Amazon store" is categorically false.

    Indeed, Amazon's own statement on the matter, in one of the links you provide states:

    "and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future."

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 8:49pm

    Re:

    They'd still blame Amazon, claiming that it was all due to Amazon not being 'more reasonable' that Hatchette pulled their entire stock from it.

    Whether it's due to covering their own skin(doesn't do to blame the boss after all), or just massive blinders that keeps them from seeing Hachette's actions as anything other than perfect, it's pretty clear that to the ones who signed this letter, Amazon is the only guilty party here, with Hatchette being completely innocent.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 8:50pm

    Re:

    Ever consider that that's because they can't guarantee a supply from the supplier before release because of this little spat?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 8:56pm

    Re: Re:

    you are implying that the idiot has any critical thinking ability.

    Of course AJ didn't consider it. He has a hard on for Mike and tries to discredit him in every article.

    And fails miserably every time.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 8:57pm

    Re:

    It isn't really that hard to understand.

    If Amazon is having a dispute with Hatchette that affects their ability to purchase from them, then they don't know if they'd be able to buy and sell Hatchette stock in the future, and as such offering pre-orders would be a huge mistake, as if a deal hasn't been settled between the two by the time the release date rolled around, Amazon would find themselves on the receiving end of a lot of angry customers demanding to know where the items they pre-ordered are.

    Refusing to offer pre-orders under these circumstances is not 'boycotting' anything, it's simply a refusal to shoot themselves in the foot by offering something they don't know they'll be able to deliver.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:00pm

    Re:

    Amazon is currently in contract negotiations with Hachette to provide Hachette books. That means that they don't have the rights to sell the books. You point out that Yenpress is a subsidiary of Hachette thus Amazon still has to pay attention to the Hachette contracts.

    I don't get why this is even an argument. Amazon doesn't have the rights to sell the books. What do you want them to do, violate copyright? Sell things that they can't guarantee they can provide? If Hachette says screw it and walks away from the negotiations table, then all those preorders would go up in smoke.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes, and that's pretty much exactly what Amazon's statement on the matter says. My point is that in their attempt to debunk that particular claim of the letter, they themselves are being quite misleading.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:06pm

    Re: Re:

    That's a fine argument that I have no complaint about.

    However it is not the argument that Mr. Eisler was making, and I was responding to.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:10pm

    Re: Re:

    Really, I point out that the letter made a factual statement about the availability of pre-orders that this article attempts to portray as false, and I get a bunch of people telling me what I already know about the situation?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:19pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm not AJ, just someone whose bullshit detector went off in the first paragraph with statements like:

    "pays authors up to nearly six times the royalties"

    Yeah, and cable monopolies sell internet connectivity at speeds "up to" something decent. That does not mean the vasty majority get that high end.

    "a company that has sold more books than anyone in history"

    Yeah, and? I'd bet Wal-mart has sold more goods than anyone in history at points in time, if not currently. That doesn't make them saints, or mean they give their suppliers fair deals.

    Then upon reading further, just had to call out one of the pieces of BS.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Would you have had a problem had the sentence been "All currently stocked books by all Hachette authors are available in the Amazon store"? Because that's how I read it, all books that they have in stock now are available to buy, with pre-orders and books coming out in the future being a different issue.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, because the bulk of the statement they were responding to was about pre-orders not being in stock and unavailable. Responding to "our preorders are listed as unavailable" with "all your books are available" is misleading. Responding with "all currently stocked books are available" is just ignoring their point.

    The bottom line is that whole section is poorly written and argued.

     

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    Bergman (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:46pm

    Re:

    Can I borrow your time machine? The one you used to buy a book that isn't published yet from B&N?

    Oh, you say you only pre-ordered it? Then it's not really available from there?

    Imagine that...

     

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    Bergman (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:48pm

    I wonder how much Mr Preston was paid by Hachette?

    Obviously, he's a paid shill, because most of his claims, that he states as if they were widely-known facts, can be disproven in a minute or two on Amazon's own website.

    I wonder what the market price on a man's honor is these days?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    the bulk of the statement they were responding to was the boycott of the publisher's books, the only example of which is the 'unavailability' of pre-orders. The response to that was "what boycott? they're all still listed".

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:54pm

    Re: Re:

    Don't be an ass. You know good and well that's neither what they, nor I am talking about when we say it's listed as unavailable.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 9:57pm

    Also, if Mr. Eisler wants to know why authors might be wary of Amazon, and supportive of their publisher, I would recommend he read Charlie Stross's thoughts on the matter from the last time Amazon and it's supplier had a dispute:

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/04/understanding-amazons-strategy.html

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 10:00pm

    Re:

    For that matter, his thoughts and comments on the publishing industry in general would likely be helpful in better informing people as to why some of the people involved may be doing what they're doing:

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/common-misconceptions-about-pu-1.html

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 10:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    No, the letter made a factual statement about Amazon boycotting Hachette authors, which the article portrays as false.

    The wording might be a bit messed up about "availablility" of pre-release books in the article, but the base premise that "a boycott, this ain't" seems to stand pretty solidly.

    Yes, the article could have been worded better and pointed out that Amazon can't in good faith offer pre-orders for books that it may not be able to sell. Does that invalidate the whole thing?

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 10:22pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    And yet you are jumping on Barry Eisler for his wording in the article, when you and I know he's referring to boycott when he says availability.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 10:25pm

    Re: I wonder how much Mr Preston was paid by Hachette?

    First you might wish to ask Mr. Eisler how much Amazon paid him. After all, Mr. Preston's publisher is ultimately owned by Macmillian, not Hachette. Meanwhile Mr. Eisler's current publisher is Amazon. It's much more likely for Amazon to approach Mr. Eisler about writing an Op-Ed, than Hachette is likely to approach Mr. Preston about drafting a letter and getting his fellow authors on board.

    Or we could just not start accusing people of being honorless dogs, assume everyone is arguing their own beliefs in good faith, and not start muddling the issue with ad hominem attacks.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 10:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not until I wrote a response to a bullshit claim, moved onto the next paragraph, then decided to post my response anyways because I still considered the first paragraph false and misleading, and the next one misleading for it's own reasons.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 10:36pm

    Re:

    That argument still boils down to an apparent short-sightedness regarding copyright infringment being the reason why Amazon became a monopsony.

    I agree - I'm not entirely comfortable with the attitude that Amazon have shown, here and to its warhouse operators. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Amazon are automagically 'the bad guy'.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 10:40pm

    Since these authors have given their copyright over to Hachette, they have nothing to complain about. The books they wrote are no longer theirs to do what they want.

     

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    Binko Barnes (profile), Jul 3rd, 2014 @ 11:57pm

    "Since these authors have given their copyright over to Hachette, they have nothing to complain about. The books they wrote are no longer theirs to do what they want."
    That is the crux of the matter. These authors have entered into agreements of indentured servitude with legacy publishers. Now they are scared to death that their master's way of business will lose it's dominance and they might have to compete on both price and quality of work.

     

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    Bergman (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 12:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So I'll now make your own point back to you: don't be an ass.

    If it's not fair to seize on poor wording choices then it's not fair to seize on poor wording choices.

     

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    Bergman (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 12:15am

    Re: Re: I wonder how much Mr Preston was paid by Hachette?

    And yet, the only possibilities here are that he lives in an alternate universe, he gets all his information from Hachette and never ,ooked at anything else...or he's bought and paid for.

     

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  30.  
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    Bergman (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 12:17am

    Re:

    Or worse, that when that outdated business model finally collapses, it will take the copyrights with it, leaving them with nothing.

     

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    Call me Al, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 12:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well if a book isn't out yet then of course it isn't available.

    Isn't Barry's point that books that are already out are available?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 1:13am

    Crooks

    Good old Hachette price fixing and illegal cartel activities didn't work, so here's tactic number two.

     

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  33.  
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    Justin Olbrantz (Quantam), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 1:18am

    Re:

    So much nitpicking about trees. Let me make the forest clear for you.

    Boycotting is the refusal to buy or sell something. So long as the dispute is on, Amazon has no choice in the matter of buying and then selling Hachette books. Without volition it is semantically impossible for Amazon to be boycotting them, and as such the claim is categorically false.

    As for pre-orders, Amazon has chosen not to make claims it does not at this time believe it can honor. In other words, Amazon has chosen to not come very close to lying to its customers; imagine that - a mega-business acting ethically! The distinction between not lying and boycotting is made all the more clear by the fact that Amazon is still selling what stock it has available to it for the "boycotted" authors.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 1:59am

    Re: Re:

    "So long as the dispute is on, Amazon has no choice in the matter of buying and then selling Hachette books. Without volition it is semantically impossible for Amazon to be boycotting them, and as such the claim is categorically false."

    Have you actually read Amazon's statement on the matter? It pretty much contradicts everything you say there. They make it quite clear that they are still currently buying from Hachette, just not as much as they usually do. They are NOT locked out of buying from Hachette as you imply. They're simply choosing to give Hachette less of their business while they negotiate.

    That's not to say things can't degrade to the point where Amazon refuses to buy from Hachette, or Hachette refuses to sell to Amazon, but it does not seem to have reached that point yet.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 3:15am

    Re:

    What do you expect? Hachette does not have to make an authors books available for sale, so they have a big lever with which to manipulate authors.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 6:39am

    I thought Galaxy was a Samsung thing, not an Amazon thing.

     

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  37.  
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    Shaku Arai, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 6:48am

    Re: Are you serious?

    The ability to pre-order is not related at all to availability if a book is still unreleased no amount of pre-orders will make it release any faster. Pre-ordering is nice for locking in some early sales but is basically a promise to do something in the future.

    Consider this: Wouldn't it be irresponsible for Amazon to take pre-orders when they know full well that the dispute with the publisher/supplier of said books will more than likely prevent them from delivering on the pre-orders?

    Supplier holding the books hostage means they will be unavailable indefinitely until the dispute is settled and I suspect people pre-ordering in such a situation would be more than a bit angry when the book releases elsewhere and their pre-orders get delayed indefinitely.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 6:51am

    Re:

    the authors are wholesale supporting their publishers, because said publishers can hold their books hostage. If the publishers decide to stop selling the books there is nothing the authors can do about and their income suddenly drops to zero.

     

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  39.  
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    Anon, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 7:11am

    Tricky...

    As long as Amazon is not making exclusive deals, as long as the prices available to Amazon are the same prices available to any other retailer, they are not doing anything anti-competitive. Hachette is free to open their own web site, to peddle books on the street corners, whatever. If the publishers truly hated what Amazon was doing to them, they could set up an "Anti-Amazon" store. More than half the major publishing houses supporting a website, I'm sure it would have the critical mass to attract buyers. The trouble is, what would it have to offer? The same selection but more expensive books?

    When every store in the world sells the exact same JK Rowling or Stephen King product, there are only a few things you can compete on whether bricks or online - ambience, convenience, selection, delivery time, delivery cost, simplicity of ordering... and oh yes, price.

    Anyone who reads on a Kindle is smart enough to realize that the only technical difference between a manual for a Microsoft program - free to download - or a document they type themselves, versus a retail novel on Kindle - the only difference is price. Considering that same book will soon be selling (or is) for $8.99 as a paperback, nobody's fooling consumers that anything other than monopolistic powers are setting the price at $14.99. The first few thousand will more than cover all the production costs; the rest is pure gravy, and in general, is split between the author and a publishing house that did even less when giant presses and binding equipment, storage, shipping and warehousing are irrelevant.

    In fact, good self-publishing authors using the Kindle store are finding that books (especially re-issues of very old titles) are selling a lot faster when the price is an impulse buy comparable to a Starbucks coffee.

     

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  40.  
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    Applesauce, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 7:16am

    Re: Re:

    This point bears repeating: Authors working for the big five have turned their copyrights over to the Big-5. Technically, the authors may still own their copyrights, but they have lost (sold for a pittance) their right to USE their copyrights. Only the publisher can sell those books. For the life of the author plus 70 years (FOREVER). If the publisher decides NOT to sell an author's book, the author's already modest royalties disappear. If you think revision rights might then kick in, you haven't been paying attention to Big-5's contract terms. Recent contract terms also include a non-compete clause, forbidding the author from writing for anyone else, either.

     

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  41.  
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    Andy Roark, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 8:07am

    Re:

    This letter was written by a member of the Hachette PR team. A lot of authors have decided to trade in on their good names - earned by writing excellent books - to shill for a multi-billion dollar corporation.

    Some percentage of readers they worked very hard to earn they are pissing away by doing their corporate masters bidding. At some point I think they are going to start to worry about that. Or they aren't - and then they are going to be very happy to Amazon gives them a platform to publish on when their publishers drop them due to falling sales numbers.

     

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  42.  
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    Bill moore, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 8:09am

    great perspective but too long.

    This was a three paragraph argument stretched out 5 times that length, which is too bad, because, its an excellent argument. I was on the side of the authors before reader this counter argument.

    Shorten it down, and many of us will link to it. Right now its a TL;DR

     

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  43.  
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    Michelle, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Refusing to accept preorders is not necessarily a boycott, which makes his statement, and yours, false.

     

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  44.  
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    madasahatter (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 9:45am

    Direct vs Indirect Customers/Suppliers

    The complaining authors are direct suppliers to their publisher not Amazon (or any other retailer). They are supporting their direct customer but are losing sight that their direct customer ultimately makes money when their indirect customer (Amazon) sells a book to even more indirect customer - the reader. Amazon, like any well run retailer, is paying attention their direct customer; the consumers. Amazon knows that for everyone to make money someone must ultimately purchase the product; this fact has been ignored by the authors.

    Another point, in most genres, the publisher is not that important to most readers but the author is. People buy books written by JK Rowling, James Patterson, Steven King, etc. not published by HarperCollins, Penguin, Amazon, etc.

     

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  45.  
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    Archillies, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 9:55am

    Re: Hattchett

    Why would they take pre-orders for a book they may not be able to deliver? "Dude" think about it a second... The book is not availible because it it not published yet.

     

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  46.  
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    Archillis, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: I wonder how much Mr Preston was paid by Hachette?

    Hachette is a part of this french mega corporation as stated in the Slachdot story not Macmillian:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagard%C3%A8re_Group#Financial_data

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 10:21am

    My Sweetie's a Librarian

    Wanna guess which publishers get less trade for this kind o' silliness? No matter what publishing houses want to claim, when major library systems start ignoring you it hurts sales.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: I wonder how much Mr Preston was paid by Hachette?

    Which is irrelevant to my point that a cursory search says Douglas Preston's publisher is Forge Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates LLC, a subsidiary of Macmillian. Macmillian being one of Hachette's theoretical competitors.

    In short, he works for Macmillian, not Hachette (who Bergman is claiming that Mr. Preston is shilling for). If Hachette needed a shill, they could just approach one of their own authors like one could argue that Amazon's done with Mr. Eisler.

    Alternatively, one could simply not engage in ad hominem attacks like Bergman has done, and assume both authors are acting of their own volition, and directly address their arguments instead of calling them names.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Their point in that paragraph is to refute the claim that the books are unavailable for pre-order due to Amazon's boycotting pre-orders.

    Saying all currently published books are available is misleading and does not address the point the letter raise.

    Saying "Well of course it's not available if it isn't out yet." is disingenuous. The point is that they're listed as unavailable for pre-order, when they are indeed available for pre-order, and Amazon's simply declining to accept pre-orders at this time.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 11:11am

    Re:

    You took the sentence "All books by all Hachette authors are available in the Amazon store." out of context. He was not saying all book (including the ones that haven't been published yet) are available. Just the ones that Hachette has made available. Didn't you bother to continue reading?

    "As for “unavailable,” if a book isn’t published yet and you can’t preorder it, how else should its status be described?"

    Or if Amazon and a supplier can't negotiate a preorder agreement to ensure that they will be available upon request then they may not be available. The point being made is that there is no boycott.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Then you are merely playing semantics and nit picking at sentences while being unable to take the context into consideration. Either you have a reading comprehension problem whereby you can't read sentences in context or you are just being disingenuous.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Everyone else except this person was able to understand his out of context sentence within the proper context. Either this AC has a reading comprehension problem or he is just being disingenuous.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    " the article could have been worded better"

    You and I understood what was meant by the author in the OP. Apparently everyone else here understood it. So the author seems to have expressed himself just fine. It's only this one AC that couldn't understand a sentence within its given context. He must be special ;)

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re:

    And since people seem to think this is insightful, despite being almost entirely false here's part of Amazon's statement:

    http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/amazon-encourages-affected-shoppers-to-buy-hachette-b ooks-from-competitors-anticipating-long-negotiation/

    We are currently buying less (print) inventory and “safety stock” on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future. Instead, customers can order new titles when their publication date arrives. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Hachette


    Unfortunately, despite much work from both sides, we have been unable to reach mutually-acceptable agreement on terms. Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives.


    I bolded a couple things for emphasis. Amazon themselves says they are currently buying from Hachette, so all of Justin's talk about Amazon having no volition in the matter is false. They can buy as much as they wish, and are simply choosing not to do so under whatever terms hold while they're negotiating further. Likewise, that Amazon says that Hachette has operated in good faith says that Hachette isn't delaying, or withholding shipments. Which means all delays are a result of Amazon being reluctant to buy at terms they consider unfavorable.

    Furthermore I'm fairly certain that pre-orders or lack thereof are fully under Amazon's control as well. To the best of my recollection this dispute has been ongoing for most of the year, and for part of that process pre-orders were still available. That Amazon isn't accepting pre-orders is because there are too many business and negotiating reasons to not accept them, not because they can't place orders with Hachette.

    Whether or not you consider that a boycott is going to depend heavily on what degree you think Amazon is doing it as a negotiating tactic, and to what degree you think Amazon is doing it to shield themselves from risks such as the risk of agreeing to purchase a bunch of books at a given price, when they could purchase the same books at a substantially lower price if they merely wait a few weeks.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "The point is that they're listed as unavailable for pre-order, when they are indeed available for pre-order, and Amazon's simply declining to accept pre-orders at this time."

    Amazon not accepting pre-orders at this time makes them effectively unavailable for pre-order to the customer. So Amazon correctly listed them as unavailable. Did you want Amazon to list them as available when Amazon is not making them available?

    If you mean they maybe available for pre-order elsewhere that would be taking the unavailable statement on Amazon's website out of context. By listing it as unavailable they are obviously referring to their own website.

    If you mean that Amazon is not listing them as available for pre-order until the contract dispute is settled (if they ever settle it) then it's not a case that Amazon is simply declining to accept pre-orders at this time despite their availability. It's a case that Amazon is declining to accept pre-orders at this time because they can't guarantee anything to their customers until the dispute is resolved. The future availability and their terms are still in dispute so Amazon is declining to accept pre-orders because their availability is still uncertain.

    There, I hope that clears up your reading comprehension problems.

     

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  56.  
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    Barry Eisler (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Thanks for all the Thoughts

    Thanks everyone for all the great thoughts.

    3 Anonymous Coward — I understand, and have acknowledged, that some yet-to-be-published Hachette titles don’t have preorder buttons. My point is that to call this a “boycott” of Hachette titles is either ignorant or propagandistic. Unless you want to argue that Amazon is “boycotting” all yet-to-be-published self-published titles, too, because none of these has a preorder button, either.

    Ah, I see a lot of other commenters have addressed this comment, too. If I didn’t word that section of my post as skillfully as I intended to, apologies. But hopefully any shortcomings have now been clarified, by my follow-up above and that of numerous other commenters?

    In response to various “Amazon has no real choice but to remove the pre-order buttons” — on this I don’t agree. Yes, there is a good argument to be made about what a retailer should do about product it doesn’t think it’s going to be able to stock because it can’t come to terms with its supplier. But I also believe removing the preorder buttons is, as I said in my post, a deliberate “shot across the bow.” That said, again as I said in my post, describing this shot across the bow as a “boycott” is either ignorant or propagandistic.

    12 Anonymous Coward — You say, "Yeah, and cable monopolies sell internet connectivity at speeds 'up to' something decent. That does not mean the vasty majority get that high end.”

    The legacy publishing industry currently pays authors a lockstep royalty of 12.5%. For books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon pays all self-published authors 70%. Math has never been my strong suite, but I’m pretty sure that’s a 5.6x delta for the majority of authors. I don’t know much about cable Internet, but my comparison of royalties in publishing is accurate and relevant.

    "I'd bet Wal-mart has sold more goods than anyone in history at points in time, if not currently. That doesn't make them saints, or mean they give their suppliers fair deals.”

    I don’t think anyone is arguing Amazon (or anyone else) is a saint. As for suppliers, indie authors are Amazon suppliers, and those suppliers are, as I've noted, in general receiving almost six times the royalty rate the legacy industry offers in lockstep.

    16 Bergman — You said, "Obviously, [Patterson is] a paid shill…”

    FWIW, I have no evidence that this is so, and I think it’s more likely that like many people, Patterson’s principles are distorted by his profits. He makes nearly $100 million a year from his place in the legacy system, and just as a function of human nature it’s natural that he then concludes the existing order is right and necessary and just.

    Also FWIW, people sometimes accuse me of the same — being a paid Amazon shill, etc. In all cases, I think it’s smart to evaluate possible sources of bias, but generally I think the substance and coherence of someone’s argument is a much more important thing to evaluate than evidence of possible bias.

    Naturally, regardless of Patterson’s motivations, I find his arguments incoherent, and that’s where I tend to focus my arguments.

    19 and 20 Anonymous Coward — I do read Charlie Strauss, including the post you linked to. I think he’s a smart guy but I don’t find his arguments persuasive. As one example: he seems to think DRM and incompatible formats are what keep Kindle owners shopping in the Kindle Store. I think the opposite: DRM and incompatible formats are all that prevent Nook owners from buying their ebooks from Amazon. (Charlie, if you see this and I’ve misunderstood you, please correct me — I don’t want to mischaracterize anyone’s argument).

    In fact, I do understand why authors might be wary of Amazon. What I don’t understand is how authors can be wary about what Amazon might hypothetically do in the future, and sanguine about what legacy publishers are actually doing right now. For more on this:

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/10/guest-post-by-barry-eisler.html

    23 Anonymous Coward — "First you might wish to ask Mr. Eisler how much Amazon paid him…”

    Thanks for bringing up the point I was addressing in my comment to Bergman at #16. Again, I wouldn’t say this sort of thing is irrelevant; just that compared to substance it’s not terribly important.

    FWIW, I have never been approached or urged by Amazon to write anything or otherwise advocate on their behalf. My writing and speaking on the publishing industry is from the heart. That doesn’t make my arguments correct, nor does it mean I’m free from bias. I am published by Amazon and I self-publish through Amazon, and this could be sources of bias (it's also possible that my publishing decisions tend to flow from my biases, rather than my biases from my publishing decisions). Anyway, hopefully we can all focus primarily on the merits of the respective positions in this debate — I think that’s generally the more productive route. I know you’re making the same point, so thanks again.

    41 Andy Roark — "This letter was written by a member of the Hachette PR team.”

    See my comments above. I have no evidence of this and regardless I’m much more interested in the coherence and persuasiveness of the letter itself than I am in its provenance.

    47 Anonymous Coward — "Alternatively, one could simply not engage in ad hominem attacks… and assume both authors are acting of their own volition, and directly address their arguments instead of calling them names.”

    Agreed and thanks.

    53 Anonymous Coward — "Whether or not you consider that a boycott is going to depend heavily on what degree you think Amazon is doing it as a negotiating tactic, and to what degree you think Amazon is doing it to shield themselves from risks such as the risk of agreeing to purchase a bunch of books at a given price, when they could purchase the same books at a substantially lower price if they merely wait a few weeks.”

    I think there are elements of both risk mitigation and negotiating tactic. Regardless, again, calling this tactic a “boycott” — compared to, say, the actual boycott of all Amazon-published and self-published titles by B&N and various indie booksellers — is either ignorant or propagandistic.

    Thanks again everyone for all the great thoughts.

     

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  57.  
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    aerilus, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    the books don't exist. you are arguing that they refuse to sell something that doesn't exist. they are refusing to enter into a contractual obligation to produce a book that will exit in the future. that is quite a few steps removed from refusing to sell something.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 1:10pm

    You know someone's a sycophant when they use the term [fill in the blank] derangement syndrome. This is what Republicans did during the Bush administration ("Bush Derangement Syndrome") and Democrats are doing now ("Obama Derangement Syndrome").

    Do you want to know why Amazon sucks? How about their one-click patent? How about their recent photography against a white background patent? How about their treatment of workers in their warehouses?

     

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  59.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 1:19pm

    Re: My Sweetie's a Librarian

    The dumb, short-sighted ones see libraries as just short of outright theft of 'their' books. After all, just purchasing one copy, and then having hundreds, if not thousands of people read it? Think of all those (potential) lost sales!

    The smart, long-term thinking ones on the other hand see libraries as advertising and a source of future customers. A book/author that no-one knows about is one that's not likely to make any sales after all, and a library allows many people to check out books they otherwise would have passed on, for any number of reasons.

    And if someone's not too great at reading, or is young enough that they haven't really gotten into it yet, a library provides a great source to fix those problems, with books aplenty to check out, with oh-so-many chances to get 'hooked' on a good book, which will likely turn them into an avid reader for life.

     

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    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 1:35pm

    Whose propaganda?

    It seems clear to me that there is some propaganda involved, all right. The author letter makes it pretty clear to me that there was some kind of missive that went from Hachette to all the authors, with the idea of involving the authors in the dispute on Hachette's side.

    I wonder if we can get a look at that missive: I'm betting it is a propaganda masterpiece, given the nature of the response from the authors.

     

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  61.  
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    Barry Eisler (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    57 Anonymous Coward said, "You know someone's a sycophant when they use the term [fill in the blank] derangement syndrome..."

    Logically, sycophancy could be one motivation for the use of the construction. It's also logically possible that a person or group's arguments have become so incoherent and self-contradictory that a form of derangement is a reasonable explanation.

    "Do you want to know why Amazon sucks? How about their one-click patent? How about their recent photography against a white background patent? How about their treatment of workers in their warehouses?"

    Certainly these are topics worth discussing. But they have nothing to do with Preston et al's anti-Amazon, pro-Hachette stance. Certainly they are nowhere mentioned in Preston's letter.

     

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  62.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 4th, 2014 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Whose propaganda?

    That or a simple crack of the whip. 'Toe the line, sign the letter, publicly agree with our stance on this matter, or there might be some 'adjustments' the next time your contract with us is brought up.'

     

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  63.  
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    Amy Eyrie, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 3:50pm

    Great article!

    This split represents something far deeper than a mundane business negotiation.

    It's a fight between an elitist system that has always controlled the market and a new system that is changing the rules and allows artistic freedom.

    The "old guard" are on the wrong side of history.

     

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  64.  
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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 4:13pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Dear Shill,

    As has been explained numerous times, Amazon has no contract for those books that do not yet exist. If the books start to exist, and Amazon does not list them, you would have a point.

    But the rest of the world does not live in the 'rarefied semi-parallel universe which is sort of in the future' that you do.

    Of course Hachette could get off their imperial, mound of gold, higher than thou attitude and give up agency pricing. But then you wouldn't have a soapbox.

    Does that mean less income? Maybe you should start a union for poor deluded souls such as yourself that get paid to toady for whomever pays. (That would give the rest of us enough meta-data to have a really humorous time).

    Not so sincerely,

    The Internetz

     

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  65.  
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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2014 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Direct vs Indirect Customers/Suppliers

    Never looked up a book by publisher in 6 decades of reading, and a lot of time in libraries and B&M bookstores.

    Could the authors complaint be against an ongoing change in distribution systems that they either refuse to recognize out of lazy understanding, or out of fear for their dominant positions in the recent past distribution monopoly? How many years of $100 million per year (see below) does it take to ease ones anxiety?

     

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  66.  
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    saulgoode (profile), Jul 5th, 2014 @ 12:36am

    Re: Thanks for all the Thoughts

    In response to various “Amazon has no real choice but to remove the pre-order buttons” — on this I don’t agree. ... But I also believe removing the preorder buttons is, as I said in my post, a deliberate “shot across the bow.”
    I am not familiar with Amazon bookselling practices but if they were to include a pre-order option, would that not have to specify a set price? If so, how should that price be determined?

     

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  67.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 5th, 2014 @ 1:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ^^^ Cognitive Dissonance in action here

     

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  68.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 5th, 2014 @ 1:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I wonder how much Mr Preston was paid by Hachette?

    If you seriously believe that McMillian are NOT a stakeholder in the Publishing industry that stands to gain from Hachette's stupidity in regards to Amazon you are both a fool and disingenuous.

    Also if you follow the money trail you might be surprised at just who controls McMillian and Hachette. Just a hint

     

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  69.  
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    andypandy, Jul 5th, 2014 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Your problem is that you are trying to say the author of this story has said something or implied something nobody else sees and that means beyond any doubt that you are very wrong in your interpretation of the article, for possibly nefarious reasons.

     

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  70.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2014 @ 6:50am

    Re: Re:

    Exactly. I suspect this was Hachette's plan from the beginning. Allow Amazon users to place a bunch of preorders, then hold the delivery hostage as a negotiating tactic. Since Amazon didn't fall for it they are spinning it as Amazon blocking sales.

     

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  71.  
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    Votre (profile), Jul 5th, 2014 @ 10:08am

    This article's author Barry Eisler has 40 products currently listed on Amazon.

    Draw from that what conclusions you will.

    I don't think there are any truly candid parties on either side of the table in this dispute.

     

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  72.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2014 @ 10:31am

    Re:

    You're a little late with this revelation... At noon on the 4th, Mr Eisler responded to comments wth "I am published by Amazon and I self-publish through Amazon, and this could be sources of bias (it's also possible that my publishing decisions tend to flow from my biases, rather than my biases from my publishing decisions)."

    So hardly a hidden fact...

     

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  73.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2014 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "For the life of the author plus 70 years (FOREVER)."

    It's life + 70 for authors and 95 years for corporations. So if an author signs his 'right' to a corporation which category does it fall under?

     

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  74.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2014 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re:

    But you wrote: "Just when I thought Amazon Derangement Syndrome couldn't get any more acute..."

    In order for Amazon Derangement syndrome to get "more acute," it would have to have existed before this incident. This means you believe this dispute with Hachette is just another in a series of situations in which Amazon has been unfairly criticized. I sure would like to know what those other situations are. The criticisms I mentioned are the only ones I've heard leveled at Amazon in the past and none of them seem unfair. This dispute with Hachette seems more like the exception, the one time in which Amazon might be receiving unfair criticism. My objection is not to your defense of Amazon's negotiating tactics vis-a-vis Hachette, it's to your implication that Amazon is a long-suffering innocent victim whose critics have been consistently deranged.

     

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  75.  
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    barryeisler (profile), Jul 5th, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "This means you believe this dispute with Hachette is just another in a series of situations in which Amazon has been unfairly criticized."

    Well, yes -- in the same sense that I believe Brazil just advanced to the World Cup semi-finals.

    "I sure would like to know what those other situations are."

    A good way to get started would be to Google "Eisler Konrath Turow." Or "Eisler Amazon Guardian." Here's one of my favorite instances of ADS, from author Richard Russo writing in the New York Times in 2011.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/opinion/amazons-jungle-logic.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    "The criticisms I mentioned are the only ones I've heard leveled at Amazon in the past and none of them seem unfair. This dispute with Hachette seems more like the exception, the one time in which Amazon might be receiving unfair criticism. ..."

    The one time Amazon might be receiving unfair criticism? Well, leaving aside the issue of fair/unfair, on which it seems we disagree, to make that claim you'd have to overlook the following, and more...

    The Seattle Times has been anti-Amazon for years. Four months ago The New Yorker devoted its cover to the question of whether Amazon was bad for books (an odd question, considering how many books Amazon sells). Brad Stone wrote an entire anti-Amazon book called "The Everything Store." Scott Turow, Richard Russo, and the "Authors Guild" have been unequivocally anti-Amazon, using the AG blog and the New York Times' op-ed pages to call Amazon "Darth Vader," "a slobbering dog," intent "not just on burying the competition, but on burying the shovel." James Patterson has taken full-page ads in the New York Times and Publishers Weekly demanding that the government do something to intervene against Amazon. Douglas Preston, the guy who spearheaded the anti-Amazon letter I blogged about, has been sounding off about the evils of Amazon's discounting and ebook strategy for years.

    That's just off the top of my head -- there's been a ton more in Bloomberg, Fortune, and many other venues, all of it going on for years. You should be able to find any of these references pretty easily using Google. So if the Hachette criticisms are indeed the only ones you've heard leveled at Amazon, then respectfully you must have started listening only quite recently.

    That said, it doesn't really matter how long Amazon has been accused of being a bully, a monopoly, evil, malignant, intent on controlling everything, Darth Vader, etc., does it? I get that you find such criticisms generally valid, while I, for the reasons set forth in my post, find them generally deranged. An argument about the appropriateness of the "derangement" moniker is pretty peripheral to everything else I addressed in my post, so I'm not sure why you're so focused on it. I get that you don't think the phrase is appropriate and that someone who uses it must be an Amazon sycophant, and I appreciate the feedback.

     

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  76.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 5th, 2014 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Re: Thanks for all the Thoughts

    Sorta.

    The way Amazon pre-orders work is you 'order' the item, but don't actually pay at that time. If the price drops when it comes out, they charge you the lower price, but if it ends up being higher, you pay the lower price it was when you pre-ordered it.

    Pricing pre-orders would seem to be tricky under the current circumstances, as I believe they'd be paying standard pricing, no 'discounts' due to the dispute currently going on, so if it is indeed meant as a 'shot across the bow', I think the idea there would be to make people wait on their purchases(assuming they don't go with another source), in case the price drops later on when an agreement is put together.

    Assuming that's the 'plan', I'd say it's likely to be a fairly effective one. Amazon loses out on some sales on books from this particular publisher while still making sales elsewhere, while Hatchette loses out on a great many sales from Amazon, and doesn't have any 'pre-order'/sales numbers they can show investors/shareholders, which is likely to lead to increased pressure from those groups to settle things with Amazon as quick as possible.

     

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  77.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2014 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    you must have started listening only quite recently.

    We both live in bubbles, just different ones. You closely follow the book publishing industry. I don't. I'm more aware of the patent issues (in large part due to this website) and some of the labor issues surrounding internet companies (in large part due to the P2P Foundation who are more critical than this website about these new bosses that are the same as the old bosses).

    I guess if you're only aware of the book publishing industry's criticisms of Amazon, you might think that all of its critics are deranged since the entertainment industry in general is deranged by its outsized sense of entitlement. Like everyone, the book publishing industry lives in a bubble and only cares about the things that affect itself. It's neither aware of nor cares about Amazon's ridiculous patents, and it also has its own version of IP extremism when it comes to copyright so it's unlikely to point out Amazon's abuse of intellectual "property" (hell, it's unlikely to even think there is such a thing as abuse of intellectual "property.")

    An argument about the appropriateness of the "derangement" moniker is pretty peripheral to everything else I addressed in my post, so I'm not sure why you're so focused on it.

    Because I'm critical of Amazon for reasons other than those mentioned in your article and comments and by using the term Amazon Derangement Syndrome, you imply that critics of Amazon are deranged which would mean I'm deranged. Who likes being called deranged? If you want to get all psychoanalytic about it, it reminds me of the bad old days under Bush when any criticism of the president was met with a diagnosis of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and also of some recent surveillance state apologists diagnosing privacy advocates with Obama Derangement Syndrome. This whole [fill in the blank] Derangement Syndrome thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

     

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  78.  
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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Jul 6th, 2014 @ 2:56pm

    This is mostly about the preorder and non promoting aspects since that can really hurt how well a book does.

     

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  79.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2014 @ 7:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Because I'm critical of Amazon for reasons other than those mentioned in your article and comments and by using the term Amazon Derangement Syndrome, you imply that critics of Amazon are deranged which would mean I'm deranged. Who likes being called deranged?

    I'd argue slightly thin skin here, combined with a case of ad hoc ergo propter hoc. Eisner is positing the existence of a derangement syndrome, he's not saying that all critics of Amazon are deranged.

    Some of Amazon's patents are legitimately stupid, and I would be surprised if their one-click patent and the business tax (sorry, license fee) to work in a world with such a patent is NOT slowing down innovation in online shopping. There's nothing deranged about that (by my own assessment), and I believe Eisner's allegation of deranged critics is substantively pointed at the lack of coherence in their arguments - arguing coherently is all that it takes to avoid the "deranged" label, I think you're fine.

     

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  80.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I guess if you're only aware of the book publishing industry's criticisms of Amazon, you might think that all of its critics are deranged"

    I don't think he's saying that all of Amazon's critics are deranged. Only the ones who are critical of Amazon because of this particular issue.

    I am a huge Amazon critic for the same reasons as you, yet I find myself more sympathetic to Amazon on this subject than to Hachette. It's possible for even the most vile, evil company on the planet (and I don't think Amazon, for all its faults, counts as that) to be right on a specific issue nonetheless.

     

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  81.  
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    boballab, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    Re:

    I see reading comprehension is not your strongest suit and logic is not something you cultivate. What the authoer of this article said is 100% factually true. Every book that Hachette has IN PRESS is available. Your own example even proves what the author said is true, since your example is NOT IN PRESS. You do realize that any book that is in "Pre-Order" is not available because it hasn't been distributed yet? You do realize you can't walk into any store, anywhere in the US and buy a copy of Sword Art Online? If you can't take possession of the book when you order it then it isn't available. Also they can't contractually take Pre-Orders since they don't have a contract to cover it. You do realize that Hachette can decide not to sell their books through Amazon and not sign a contract? If they do that any Hachette book they take as a Pre-order they at minimum have to refund to the maximum fro being sued for fraud since they didn't contractually have the right to take orders?

     

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  82.  
    identicon
    Confused, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 12:11pm

    True statement?

    "The prices of Hachette’s books are set by Hachette. If the authors of this letter think those prices are too high — and apparently, they do — it’s bizarre that they’re blaming Amazon."

    I am under the impression that Amazon pays the wholesale price for books, but then sells them for whatever retail price they want. Many have accused Amazon for "dumping" books in this manner. In fact, didn't Apple get in trouble for actually letting the publishers set their own prices?

     

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  83.  
    identicon
    Darryl Boyd, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 12:20pm

    " to claim there’s a “boycott” is either ignorance or propaganda. "

    Come on, don't sugar coat it. Just call it what it is, a lie.

     

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  84.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Plus, Amazon Derangement Syndrome is a term usually referring to those people who seem to try to find a way to blame everything they don't like on Amazon being evil and out to destroy the world and burn books and bring about the end of culture as we know it, whether Amazon actually had anything to do with the particular situation they are talking about or not. It also usually involves responding to any counter-evidence with hysterical name-calling or deflection.

    Cases of ADS appear to be primarily contained within the old-guard of traditional publishing, authors who's massive success is tied to the old system, and newer authors who refuse to educate themselves. I'm sure there are others, but it appears to mostly be terrified people lashing out at what they don't understand.

     

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  85.  
    identicon
    Iola, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 3:01pm

    Re:

    What "reviews" have Hachette contributed to Amazon? Because reviews by publishers are against Amazon's reviewing guidelines.

    Or do they mean reviews of Hachette books? Written by Amazon's paying customers? Those belong to the customers, not Hachette.

     

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  86.  
    identicon
    Coward Stripper, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 3:54pm

    Re:

    This is the best you have? Removing the pre-order button on books Amazon cannot anticipate being able to ship is a boycott?

    How would you prefer it? That Amazon keeps the pre-order buttons, promises you something in the future, and then tells you in August they can’t deliver because it has no contract with Hachette?

     

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  87.  
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    walter daniels, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 3:58pm

    Re: One percent authors want

    Anonymous on 7/3 @ 20:18 made a specious claim. Amazon, as that _same_ link says, "makes pre-orders available *because they get pre-release shipments.*" (My emphasis.) Since Hachette is holding the orders, how can they *legally* take pre-orders?
    You musdt be either a Hachette PR flack, or a 1%er. In either case, you show an appalling lack of economic and business sense.

     

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  88.  
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    Walter Daniels (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Anonymous coward, now you are unmasked. You must be a PTR flack for Hachette or a subsidiary. Amazon royalties are 30% $0.99 to $2.99, 70% up to $9.00, and 30% over $9.99. CresteSpace allows the *author* to set sales price; Therefore, setting their own royalty rate. This can be as high as *40%,* higher than any Tragic 5 publisher pays. They pay, by their own admission, only _12.5%_ at best. Most authors actually get 2.5% to 5% royalties.

     

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  89.  
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    Walter Daniels (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 4:14pm

    Difficulty with independent booksellers and Createspce, et. al

    I talked to an "independent book seller, over the weekend. Apparently, CS (and maybe the others) set "order numbers" that there is no profit left. So, I propose a solution. As authors, we buy at "no royalty/profit" rates. So, I am going to buy 10-20 of my upcoming book (direct) and ship them to the book seller. Amazon, B&N, etc. can aggregate orders to make money. Indies can't.
    I want my book where people will see it, and maybe buy it. Even if they later order it through Amazon.

     

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  90.  
    identicon
    Remus Shepherd, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 9:20pm

    Knocking me off the fence

    I've been trying to stay neutral in the Amazon/BigPub wars. I still hope to sell to a traditional publisher someday -- yes, even Hachette -- and I often think the indie pub advocates are drinking a delusional kool-aid.

    But I just can't see this latest dispute on equal terms. Amazon has made a reasonable and minor change to their sales policy, and Hachette has completely gone off the rails over it. Their propaganda campaign and the unhinged accusations they are making just gobsmacks me.

    Hachette's public freakout over what should be a backroom discussion between suppliers has done more to push me toward indie publishing than anything else.

     

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  91.  
    identicon
    RD Meyer, Jul 8th, 2014 @ 12:19am

    Re:

    You do realize that pre-orders are not hiding anything, don't you? Pre-orders apply to books not yet published. Go to Amazon and you'll see all currently published titles are, in fact, available. Yes, you can't pre-order b/c there is a distribution and pricing dispute, and the books aren't out yet. To say this qualifies as Amazon blocking Hachette is ludicrous...and spoken like a 1 percenter author.

     

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  92.  
    identicon
    Jeff Bezos, Jul 8th, 2014 @ 3:31am

    A response to the misguided authors

    A letter to our customers:
    Amazon has found itself involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette, which owns Little Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints. These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.
    But in this case, Hachette has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Amazon's customers in an effort to force the retailer to agree to its terms.
    For the past month, Hachette has been:
    --Boycotting the online retail platform, refusing to allow pre-orders on its books, forcing Amazon to state that they are "unavailable".
    --Keeping the prices of many of its authors' books so high that they are unattractive to customers.
    --Slowing the delivery of thousands of its books to Amazon, forcing the retailer to state that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.
    As a retailer - which is only too willing to sell books published by Hachette - we feel strongly that no publisher should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage readers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Hachette to single out a retailer, which does not want to be involved in any dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its former readers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Hachette is forcing Amazon to contradict its written promise to be "Earth's most customer-centric company."
    All of us supported Hachette from when we were kids. We cheered Hachette on. Many of our literary choices have made the publisher richer. We have made Hachette many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the publisher by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blog contributions. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Hachette in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihoods of the authors on whose backs it has built its business. None of us, neither readers, authors, or retailers, benefit when books are held captive. (We're not alone in our plea: both Techcrunch and Techdirt, which rarely report on the same things, have roundly condemned Hachette's corporate behavior.)
    We call on Hachette to resolve its dispute with Amazon without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its readers.
    We respectfully ask you, our loyal customers, to email Tim Hely-Hutchinson, Chief Executive of Hatchette UK, at tim.hely-hutchinson@hatchette.co.uk, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from readers and claims to read all emails from this account. We hope that, retailer and customers together, we will be able to change his mind.

     

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  93.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Jul 8th, 2014 @ 3:35am

    I'll join in a boycott...

    After studying both sides of this issue, I still went out and purchased a book by John Grisham, one of the signatories of the Preston & Child's letter, but it was a second hand one from a charity shop. If the authors want a boycott, they've got one!

     

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  94.  
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    Seegras (profile), Jul 8th, 2014 @ 4:24am

    Net neutrality

    To me, this still sounds like the net neutrality debate: Amazon demands money from publishers in order that their customers get access to them.

     

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  95.  
    identicon
    Morgen Rich, Jul 8th, 2014 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Huh?

    Just to clarify...

    A book that hasn't been published isn't available. You're blaming that on Amazon? When it's available and Hachette has supplied Amazon with its estimated dates for shipping and the quantity it has in stock, Amazon will change the listing from "not available" to "available" as per Hachette's estimates. To say a book is available when you can't assure its delivery to your customer would be a very poor business practice. Customers wouldn't appreciate that. Knowing that its customers may want to pre-order, Amazon has even recommended that customers wanting to do so buy elsewhere.

    A pre-order button isn't an entitlement. It's a perquisite. Would any sane businessperson give a perquisite to someone who's playing hardball in a negotiation? Maybe. I certainly wouldn't.

    Amazon, like any company with an open agreement to do business with another company, has the right to end business relations with Hachette altogether. They haven't done that despite all the propaganda Hachette and now some of its authors have tossed into the media. At this point, I can say Amazon has shown incredible restraint and patience. I'm not sure I would do the same.

     

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  96.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2014 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re:

    Exactly. I suspect this was Hachette's plan from the beginning. Allow Amazon users to place a bunch of preorders, then hold the delivery hostage as a negotiating tactic. Since Amazon didn't fall for it they are spinning it as Amazon blocking sales.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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