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Lakeshore - [publishing] Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-01-30 05:36
Subject: [publishing] Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.
Security: Public
Tags:amazonfail, books, personal, publishing
Ok, I'm furious about this: Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement. (For more intelligent publishing-focused commentary than I can put together right now, John Scalzi has a very good take here. As usual, the dirty rat.)

Over what appears to be a dispute regarding e-book pricing, Amazon has pulled all Macmillan titles in all formats from their US web site. This includes Tor books, and includes my own Green as well as the Mainspring series. Yes, third party sales are available, they haven't de-listed the titles completely, but this is still quite significant.

To be clear, I don't believe for a moment Amazon has any moral or legal obligation to sell my work, Macmillan's titles, or anything else in particular. As a private actor, they can do whatever they want with regard to stocking and vending inventory through their system. I certainly can't buy all the same products at the Safeway and the Albertson's which are equidistant from my house. This causes me no outrage, only occasional mild annoyance.

But as a brand they have a trust relationship with their customers. And books lie at the core of their brand, regardless of their diversification into selling damned near everything these past years. The recent 1984 fiasco was a very good example of How Not to Manage Your Consumer Facing Brand.

This Macmillan issue isn't going to bother consumers much. The 1984 problem was that they withdrew content for which people had already paid. Regardless of the underlying issue (and there was a serious underlying issue, Amazon just handled it very badly), that's pretty much unacceptable. I believe we call it "theft" when you and I do it.

Declining to sell someone a book isn't theft. It's commerce. There are bookstores all over the world, both bricks-and-mortar and online, that won't sell you my books. I am not outraged by this. But having the most prominent book retailer in the world remove my print titles from public sale over a behind-the-scenes business dispute concerning a slightly related product line (Kindle) is arrogant, offensive, and just plain maddening.

It's not wrong, as much as I'd like to pretend it is. They can do what they want. But it's stupid and troubling.

In a larger sense, so close on the heels of the 1984 issue, what this does prove is that Amazon will always favor boardroom level business issues over the interests of their consumers. Again, their privilege. It's a free country, the Supreme Court assures me that Amazon is a corporate person. Bezos' bozos can party on.

But they'll have their party without me. I've removed all Amazon sales links from my author Web site at jlake.com. I will no longer link to them from my blog when I discuss my titles or other people's work. I have closed my Amazon account this morning. I will never purchase anything from them again, I will especially never buy a Kindle, and I will use reasonable means (including my substantial blogging and social media presence) to discourage my friends, family and fans from doing any business with Amazon.

Because if they're going to choose to toss me overboard in a business dispute over which I have no influence, control or participation in, I can choose not to do business with them. Even if Amazon rolls this back this morning, it doesn't matter to me. They've proven they can't be trusted to maintain even a neutral perspective on my interests as either a consumer or an author. They've shattered my brand loyalty. I won't play Lucy and the football with them.

Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.

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Tony Pi
User: wistling
Date: 2010-01-30 14:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As far as I can tell, it hasn't affected Amazon.ca (yet). I wonder if/when the decision might spread north...
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User: sarah_prineas
Date: 2010-01-30 14:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay, have you seen your channel sales? Do you know what percentage is taken by online stores?

(I had no idea it was all formats. Boy, does that ever suck.)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-01-30 14:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Offhand, no. And this probably isn't a big % of my sales by any measure. But it's highly visible, and it's fricking pointless.

Pulling print books in an e-book dispute?
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User: sarah_prineas
Date: 2010-01-30 16:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, exactly. I'm astonished that they pulled print, too. It seems so...vindictive.

My sales are different because children's books don't generally sell as well online, but total online sales are around 3%. But yeah, as you say, it's visible.

IMO all the publishers should be getting together to discuss an industry-wide response to this heavy-handed coercion.
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manmela
User: manmela
Date: 2010-01-30 14:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Why is there no anger towards MacMillan in any of the posts I've read on this subject? If I was a MacMillan author, I'd be nearly as annoyed with them as I would be with Amazon. I'd also be quietly wondering to myself whether I'd sign another publishing deal with them if this was the likely outcome.

Am I missing something here?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-01-30 14:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In a word, because (so far as I know) Macmillan didn't pull my books from sale. The underlying dispute is invisible to me. What is visible to me is Amazon removing my books from sale.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2010-01-30 14:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fair enough. Can you recommend an online retailer to replace Amazon.com? (I prefer to buy books from a local independent, but sometimes that's just not possible.)

Thanks!
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Iron Man.
User: idkmybffironman
Date: 2010-01-30 14:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I know you weren't talking to me, but I know a lot of people who shop at Powell's.
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Kate Mulligan Wolfe
User: corasmama
Date: 2010-01-30 19:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I love Powell's. And it supports Jay's local economy, at least!
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Blue Tyson
User: bluetyson
Date: 2010-01-31 13:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
bookdepository

free shipping :)
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joycemocha
User: joycemocha
Date: 2010-01-30 15:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I did business as a vendor (selling jewelry through their auction format to compete with eBay) with Amazon years ago. I dropped them pretty quickly at that time. Haven't had an Amazon account since--I'd sooner do business with Powell's.
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Lady Jestocost
User: ladyjestocost
Date: 2010-01-30 15:40 (UTC)
Subject: Amazon Account
How did you manage to close yours? I haven't been able to find a link to do that.

Thanks!
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-01-30 15:44 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Amazon Account
You click through to the FAQ and type "Close Account". It gives you instructions, though basically you go through the "Customer Service" link, where that's an option.
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Lady Jestocost
User: ladyjestocost
Date: 2010-01-31 00:43 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Amazon Account
Thank you! Hope your moving went well.
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When life gives you lemmings...
User: danjite
Date: 2010-01-30 16:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I still don't get why anyone would - as a consumer - support the actions of a monopolist in creating a monopoly, regardless the appearance of short term benefit.

Hey public: Reminder: Private monopolies are never in your best interest.

(Amazon is the one place where I think Doctorow is too quiet and complacent.)

Edited at 2010-01-30 04:45 pm (UTC)
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e_bourne
User: e_bourne
Date: 2010-01-30 16:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fwiw, some of the rarer books that I buy, hard to find, impossible to acquire history books, etc. when I go through Powells, it turns out they're buying them through Amazon anyway. Not sure it makes a difference, or matters at all. Just sayin'.
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Kenneth Mark Hoover
User: kmarkhoover
Date: 2010-01-30 18:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"...what this does prove is that Amazon will always favor boardroom level business issues over the interests of their consumers."

Yup.
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adelheid_p
User: adelheid_p
Date: 2010-01-30 20:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah this smacks of Walmart-like business practices. I've always favored buying my SF crack from the dealers rooms of various cons but occasionally, I can't wait and have used Amazon. I may be sending an e-mail to my family members who have liked our Amazon wishlists explaining why I got rid of mine and my account. I'll be looking for a good substitute wishilist website before that. The truth is that Amazon is the king of convenience and e-commerce trust on the web. Even Target's online store is tied in with theirs.
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horace_hamster
User: horace_hamster
Date: 2010-01-30 20:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I stopped buying from them and linking to them after Teh Gay fiasco. I bought "Green" from The Book Depository instead -- free international shipping, great customer service, highly recommended!
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