January 30th, 2010

a-links

[links] Link salad awakens to Amazon's latest idiocy

Publishing

Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement — Including my titles. Scalzi has a very good take here, as usual. And, um, no. I have pulled all Amazon purchase links from my author Web site, and will no longer link to them on my blog. I"m done buying from them as well. I will also never buy a Kindle now. Between the 1984 fiasco and this...? Amazon has proven they cannot be trusted by the consumer, ever. Let alone the author.

Scrivener's Error with a roundup on the evil that is the Google Books Settlement

Science and Culture

The case of the brown star that’s really red or possibly blueBad Astronomy on brown dwarfs. Which figure prominently in Sunspin, my as-yet-unwritten space opera trilogy. (Though you can read short stories from the continuity now...)

Melt Season in the Arctic Getting Longer — Damn those pesky liberally biased facts! Rush Limbaugh to Ice Station Zebra, stat!

Department of "The past is another country..."… and they speak a different language there. Wow, have things changed.

Religion

daveraines on his religion and me — I am touched by this. Thank you.

Is The First Amendment for Monotheists Only? — Wow. Just wow. Crazy stuff, no matter what your personal religious convictions are. (Thanks to sheelangig.)

Politics

I am funny (sort of) about politics [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

Obama does question time — My favorite bit: GOP staffers admitting that cameras "were a mistake." Here's a thought experiment for you, regardless of your politics: Imagine President Bush appearing before the Democratic caucus to take open, unscripted questions. Imagine a future President Palin doing so.

The American Conservative on the derailing of the GOPThe party’s leaders have no clue, its pundits are reveling in the luxury of opposition, and its rank-and-file has been whipped into such a state of agitation over their own impotence that they cannot see that they are led by people who will ignore and abuse them the moment they are no longer needed to win elections. Color me impressed. A conservative commentator who's willing to look at reality instead of the "true facts." (Nicked from Whatever, which you already read anyway. Right?)

Roeder: No regrets after shooting doctorUnder questioning from Foulston, Roeder acknowledged that he "somewhat" admired those who previously had committed violence against abortion providers. He said his anti-abortion beliefs "go hand in hand" with his religious beliefs. He said he became born again in 1992 after watching an episode of "The 700 Club." Thank you, Pat Robertson. And Operation Rescue, who provided the killer with information about the victim's security arrangements. Christianist terrorism, pure a simple, with co-conspirators. If Roeder had been Islamic, we'd be bombing brown people somewhere.

Tony Blair admits Saddam threat was overstated[He] told the Iraq Inquiry that by any objective analysis the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programme had not increased after 9/11. Wait, could that mean that President Bush and the GOP led us into a trillion dollar war on false pretenses? Clearly Tony Blair and the British parliament are objectively pro-terrorist. I'm so glad I have the Republican Party and FOX News to help me keep my personal facts straight from all that annoying reality.

?otD: What do you think of Amazon's move with Macmillan?



1/30/2009
Body movement: 30 minutes on stationary bike
Hours slept: 7.5
This morning's weigh-in: 225.6
Currently reading: [between books]

jay-headset

[personal|cancer] The day that was

Not much to say about yesterday, except it was a bit too much. Everything happened in a row. Day Jobbery was more intense than usual, so by the time the workday was over, I was too out of gas to work on Endurance as planned. Early, light dinner with Mom and Dad last night, then an early bed time. Other than the usual ongoing fatigue and lower GI nonsense, chemo side effects were minimal, which makes sense as yesterday was the 'off' Friday and the beginning of my non-infusion week.

Met almost none of my productivity goals this week outside of the mandatories — sleep, heal, time with the_child and Day Jobbery. calendula_witch quite correctly pointed out to me yesterday (again) that my expectations of myself on infusion week need to be even looser than on the off week. At any rate, I will write tomorrow, and mikigarrison is coming to visit for a few days, which will be nice. Also made some nice long-term plans with shelly_rae for when she resumes her reign of terror as Two-Wheeled Road Mistress this coming summer.

Today is the Big Move. A collection of kindly friends and strangers will be arriving at Nuevo Rancho Lake later this morning. I'll be buying a lot of pizza and staying out of the way as much as possible. My absolute lack of preparation for this room swap within my house is embarassing, but that's the whole point of asking for the help. I can't do that stuff without burning every spoon I own and going deep into deficit.

It's probably just as well this is Big Move day. Otherwise I'd spend all my time ranting on Twitter about the Amazon-Macmillan fiasco. Wait, that's what I've been doing. Never mind. Carry on. As you were.

writing-bookshelf

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

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.

writing-bookshelf

[publishing] Three more comments on Amazon and Google Books

I am about to spend most of the day offline moving furniture. (Or more to the point, having it moved for me.) Y'all have fun in comments on the Amazon post [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Lots going on in my Facebook page on this topic as well.

There are three thoughts I want to leave with before I drop off a while. First, as several people have pointed out, it's possible Macmillan pulled the print titles rather than Amazon. I find this unlikely for a number of reasons, but I'm prepared to be wrong. All the available information to date indicates Amazon did this. Such a move would be consistent with several prior Amazon incidents (including the Friday night timing). And simple logic suggests that Amazon is far more likely to stop selling a disputed product than Macmillan is to stop selling their own product. If I'm wrong, I'll speak to it as fully as I spoke to the issue this morning already.

Second, a problem I've noted several times in discussing the Google Books Settlement is that for most people, including virtually all readers who are not themselves authors, GBS is an overwhelming benefit. Indexed searches of virtually all print material, access to orphan copyrights, one-off sales of out of print titles. It's pretty hard to argue with the basic goals. To someone who doesn't understand (or need to understand) copyright law and the economics of making one's living from publishing, it's very easy to perceive copyright holders as being short-sighted and greedy. Basically, from a generic reader's point of view, we're arguing over sixty dollar licensing fees and holding up the progress of one of the most important print literature projects since Gutenberg.

Third, this same problem is already occurring in the Amazon fail. To a reader who is not themselves an author (and specifically a trade press author, where this dispute is occurring), what Amazon is doing is defending low priced e-books, and availability. The business nuances of control of the e-book channel, licensing rights, platform and so forth are invisible. There's already a lot of reader resentment over existing e-book pricing. For Macmillan to be holding out for higher prices on Apple's iBooks platform is patently ridiculous in their eyes. Again, an author like me protesting their print books being pulled in this dispute (and please read my original post carefully if you think I'm nattering about wanting higher e-book prices) looks short-sighted and greedy.

These are fights that we as authors didn't pick, can't control, and have PR implications that we lost before we ever open our mouths. That saddens me.