I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Amazon lately, on blogs and listserves and discussion boards. People say that Amazon is a “bully” trying to take over the publishing world. Some companies are fighting back. For example, Barnes & Noble won’t stock books published by Amazon, now that Amazon is opening a publishing arm.
(By the way, Barnes & Noble has its own imprint, Sterling Publishing, though it’s up for sale. Amazon sells Sterling Publishing’s books as well as Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-readers.)
I understand the anger against Amazon, but refusing to stock products people want seems like shooting yourself in the foot. This doesn’t punish Amazon. In fact, it benefits Amazon. If a customer wants a book, and it’s only available through Amazon, are they likely to buy something else through Barnes & Noble, or order what they want through Amazon?
The policy, instead, punishes authors. So you have Amazon bribing you with a better- than-average contract on one hand, and Barnes & Noble threatening you on the other hand. Both are using pressure. Most authors will go where they can make the most money, which for most of Amazon.
The policy also punishes customers. What business thinks it’s logical to refuse to give customers what they want, in order to punish their supplier? And how does this support Barnes & Noble’s commitment to providing their customers with “any book, anywhere, anytime”?
Amazon might not be playing nice, but neither is anybody else. And I’m not alone in my feelings.
Jane at Dear Author said in a post, Dear Publishers: What Have You Done for Me Lately?, “Publishers have called on readers to be okay with their high priced ebooks, forego discounts, struggle with DRM [piracy protection], limit sharing, turned their backs on libraries, reject the money of our reading brethren outside of North America, but they want our help in shunning Amazon? What have you done for me lately?”
Mystery author L.J. Sellers has publicly expressed appreciation for Amazon, which has allowed her to finally make a living as a self-published writer, after years of holding down a regular job while publishing as a mid-list author. In a post on the Crime Fiction Collective blog, “Can We Stop Calling Amazon a Bully?“, she says, “Amazon functions much like other companies, only more successfully than its competitors. Some people would argue that its tactics are not fair, but what does that mean? Does the word fair apply in business? Again, we’re not dealing with children. The concept of one for me and one for you is not how capitalism works.”
But Amazon is putting other book sellers out of business! What should we do?
From a capitalist viewpoint, maybe nothing. I don’t recall people getting worked up when Netflix started putting video stores out of business. The world is changing, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On the other hand, diversity is good. We don’t want just one source for our books, or it gives that source too much power. And bookstores aren’t quite like other stores for many people. So if you want to keep your local bookstore in business, shop there. Some even have online ordering for e-books. B&N online sometimes has better prices than Amazon. They list my romantic suspense, Whispers in the Dark, for $8.99 in paperback, while Amazon has Whispers in the Darkfor $9.99. (I have to note the irony that a few years ago Barnes & Noble and Borders were seen as the bad guys for putting independent bookstores out of business. But please, make your own decisions about whom to support.)
And here’s another interesting link in the bookseller wars, from Dear Author. “Paid Content reports that Amazon will be offering non Kindle versions of digital content in an effort to persuade Barnes & Noble to relent and carry its Amazon published print titles in stores.” Jane later comments, “I’m sure B&N will come up with another excuse to ban Amazon published books” and brings up an interesting point. Will Amazon start carrying electronic formats for other devices, such as the Nook, along with their Kindle e-books? How will that affect the market?
Next week, I’ll talk a little about how publishers are reacting to Amazon.