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The Authors Guild – Providing Blogging Opportunities for the Clueless, Breathless and Hopeless

17 February 2012

Passive Guy tried hard to stay away from this post.

But he couldn’t.

The Authors Guild, the organization whose goal is watching out for the welfare of authors everywhere, wants to tell you the truth about Amazon. You may think you know the truth, but you don’t and they do.

The Authors Guild blog entry includes no information about the author or authors, but PG was able to discern their qualifications:

1. Clueless

2. Breathless

3. Hopelessly in love with agents and publishers everywhere

Useful innovation should of course be rewarded, but we’ve long had laws in place (limits on the duration and scope of patent protections, antitrust laws, stricter regulation of industries considered natural monopolies) that aim to prevent innovators and others from capturing a market or an industry. There’s good reason for this: those who capture a market tend to be a bit rough on other participants in the market. They also tend to stop innovating.

Wikipedia’s antitrust article is so useful, but long, so long you never can get all the way through it.

And thank goodness publishers are never even one bit rough. Wouldn’t even think of it.

Amazon’s first Kindle, released in November 2007, was certainly innovative, but its key breakthrough wasn’t any particular piece of technology. Sony had already commercialized e-ink display screens for handheld e-books in September 2006.  (E Ink, a Cambridge company co-founded by MIT Media Lab professor Joseph Jacobson developed the displays used by both companies.) Amazon’s leap was to marry e-ink displays to another existing technology, wireless connectivity, to bring e-book shopping and downloading right to the handheld device.

Amazon’s innovation, in other words, was to untether the Sony device and put a virtual store inside it. This is no small achievement.

Isn’t it nice to have someone explain what Wikipedia says about e-readers and point out what Amazon should be rewarded for?

It’s the store, nitwits, not the ereader! 

Sony was and is much bigger than Amazon and Sony knows more than Amazon about building electronic hardware and it had a big head start with ereaders. But Sony didn’t understand about selling online and neither did Barnes & Noble when it was much, much bigger than Amazon.

Amazon was selling gobs and gobs of books and CD’s (remember those?) and lots of other things long before it had a Kindle. Amazon has worked very hard to build the most sophisticated and effective retailing website on the planet. The Kindle is just a way to sell more books and the Fire is just a way to sell more books and video.

You would think that even English majors at the Authors Guild would have heard the ancient marketing story about razors and razor blades. Amazon does everything but give Kindles away so it can sell more books.

But getting people to buy more books – that could be bad. Right?

In Amazon’s perfect world, Sony and Samsung would build all the ereaders and connect them to Amazon. Only because it’s not a perfect world does Amazon spend so much money building Kindles.

Amazon’s reward for developing the wireless e-reader should have been that it would become a significant vendor of e-books and earn a profit commensurate with the value it added to the publishing ecosystem. Whether it would then continue to be a significant e-book vendor should have depended on whether it continued to innovate and provide good service to its customers. Amazon’s reward should not have included being able to combine its wireless e-reader, deep pockets, and an existing dominant position in a related, but separate, market — the online market for physical books — to prevent other vendors from entering the e-book market. Amazon’s reward as an innovator, in other words, shouldn’t be getting to wall itself off from competition.

What helpful people they have at the Authors Guild, telling us what each of our rewards should and should not be! How have we managed to survive without their guidance?

“Wall itself off from competition.”

What are we to make of this? Do the web browsers of Authors Guild bloggers not work right? When they type in Newegg, do they end up at Amazon? When they try to go to the Nook store, does the Kindle Store pop up on their screen? When they search for Wal-Mart . . . oh wait, they would never type that because Wal-Mart is an evil company, that’s why they don’t have any in Manhattan.

Having spent time with some companies doing e-commerce, PG will assure you that Jeff Bezos and a lot of other people at Amazon wake up in a cold sweat worrying about competition. With a physical store located in Ohio, you can be confident your customers won’t be lured away to Nevada. On the web, Nevada is a mouse click away.

Amazon lives in the most intensely competitive environment to be found anywhere in the universe. It grew up in that environment and the moment Amazon gets careless or sloppy, somebody will spring up somewhere on the web to eat Amazon’s lunch.

By all appearances, this is precisely what Amazon was trying to pull off two years ago, when it removed the buy buttons from nearly every Macmillan book. Amazon removed the buy buttons for both e-books and, stunningly, print books, even though its disagreement with Macmillan was confined to the sales terms for e-books. Amazon had about 90% of the market for e-books at the time, but that market was then quite small: Macmillan could handle Amazon’s e-book blackout indefinitely. Amazon’s 75% of the online print book market, on the other hand, provided real leverage on Macmillan, and Amazon chose to use that leverage. By using its print book dominance to dictate terms in the nascent e-book market, Amazon crossed a clear, anticompetitive line.

But it was even worse than that. Amazon had deployed its buy-button removal weapon before, but never so publicly, never on such a massive scale, and never (to our knowledge) as a means of shielding its ability to use a separate anticompetitive tactic: its practice of routinely selling e-books at a loss. Such practices, commonly known as predatory pricing, are a means of using superior capital resources not to innovate nor to provide better service, but to weaken or eliminate competition.

In Amazon’s hands, predatory pricing can be a particularly potent weapon. Surely no retailer in American history has had anything approaching Amazon’s database of deep, detailed, real-time market knowledge. This database eliminates the guesswork from marketing, as Amazon can run countless pricing experiments and immediately analyze the results. With this information, predatory prices can become smart bombs that are precisely targeted to maximize the sales of the latest Kindle to the most desirable categories of consumers, for example, or to maximize the losses of an incipient competitor.

How does Amazon non-publicly remove a buy button? Doesn’t anyone who goes to the product page notice that the buy button is not there? Maybe this is more evidence of special Authors Guild web browsers.

There’s just the slightest little omission in the narrative here. Amazon stopped selling Macmillan’s books because Macmillan, along with four of the five other members of the Big Six were colluding with Apple to fix prices for books.

Unlike “predatory pricing,” price-fixing is a sure ’nuff real regularly-enforced antitrust violation. That would be why US and EU antitrust authorities are conducting investigations of the Macmillan et al pricing collusion and Macmillan is a defendant in a bunch of class-action price-fixing lawsuits.

How many “predatory pricing” antitrust investigations involve Amazon? About the same number as the number of predatory pricing class action suits that are pending. You can be certain if Big Publishing thought predatory pricing suits against Amazon had a prayer, they would file them instead of illegally engaging in price-fixing with Apple.

It is difficult to win a predatory pricing antitrust claim because one of the principal purposes of antitrust laws is to protect consumers (“readers” for you folks at The Authors Guild) from improperly high prices yet the underlying purpose of predatory pricing complaints is to increase prices. Predatory pricing claims, even if unlikely to succeed, are often made by inefficient competitors who are trying to protect their higher prices.

So, the breathless folks at The Author’s Guild are formally proposing that readers pay more for books. Why? Well because everybody knows that, particularly during a severe recession, readers should not be allowed to save any money by purchasing books for lower prices.

The interesting counterpoint to this “predatory pricing” meme is that when individual authors (as opposed to big media conglomerates) set prices for their own books on Amazon and the Nook Store and Smashwords, those prices tend to be much lower than Big Publishing charges.

But, of course, Big Publishing knows the proper price for a book because . . . well, because it’s Big Publishing.

Though sales of the Nook were reportedly brisk, Barnes & Noble could never hope to win a war of financial attrition with Amazon. If Amazon could compel publishers to fall in line with its predatory pricing of e-books, it could eliminate a thinly capitalized but potent (because of its physical, brick-and-mortar presence) competitor from the e-book market. It could smother Barnes & Noble’s Nook before it could pose a genuine challenge.

Ah, the ultimate irony. When Leonard Riggio, the chairman and largest shareholder of Barnes & Noble, sat down with Jeff Bezos on two occasions in the early 90’s in an attempt to buy Amazon, that’s the threat Riggio used – Amazon could never survive a war of attrition with Barnes & Noble.

We aren’t Barnes & Noble’s champions, or at least we aren’t their champions by choice. We’d favor a far more diverse and robust retail landscape for books, and we encourage all readers to patronize their local bookstores as they would their farmers’ markets or any other businesses that enrich the quality of life in their towns and neighborhoods. But here’s where we are: Barnes & Noble is book publishing’s sole remaining substantial firewall. Without it, browsing in a bookstore would become a thing of the past for much of the country, and we would largely lose the most important means for new literary voices to be discovered.

Why didn’t you think of farmers markets? That’s why you’re not an Authors Guild blogger. If the whole world would just patronize farmers markets and buy plug-in hybrids and quit paying attention to Amazon, wouldn’t all authors be better off? Maybe we could collect our royalties as bushels of organic spinach.

But the last part is the best – without Big Publishing and Barnes & Noble, “we would largely lose the most important means for new literary voices to be discovered.”

I guess we know how The Authors Guild feels about new literary voices who want to stay in control of their books by self-publishing. And we also know how The Authors Guild feels about new literary voices who write books in genres that don’t have an associated Barnes & Noble buyer. New literary voices will, of course, always write in the same genres and for the same audiences as the old literary voices do.

Where would authors be without The Authors Guild?

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

Amazon, Big Publishing, Passive Guy

127 Comments to “The Authors Guild – Providing Blogging Opportunities for the Clueless, Breathless and Hopeless”

  1. Dear Author’s Guild writers,

    ‘Predatory pricing’ – You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.* Predatory pricing is gouging the consumer by charging high prices. It does NOT mean a retailer deciding to take a loss by selling a product under cost, thus benefiting consumers.

    But, hey, it seems so nice and cozy in those Big Publishing pockets. You guys just stay there with your heads buried in the lint…

    *With a nod to The Princess Bride

    • lol and obviously it doesn’t mean what I think it means, either. (mea culpa) That said, it’s still obvious that the Author’s Guild should be renamed… the Publisher’s Guild perhaps?

      • Zingo, Anthea.

        • As a long time member of the Authors Guild, I haven’t noticed that their attitude toward publishers had become less adversarial. I think that what Big Publishing and the AG have in common is having both feet planted firmly in a past which is gone and is never to return.

          Amazon’s grip on the future of books is a done deal (a big part that future was sealed when Amazon bought Audible). And it is a deal which, so far, looks like a good deal, to me. At least a lot better than the old deal.

          • Well, Amazon and their marketing staff certainly hope that people will keep REPEATING that their grip on the future of books is a done deal. That will help to make it so, and once they have a monopoly they can treat authors exactly the way the Big Six did when they were the sole option.

            Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely; and no power is greater than the power of monopoly in the marketplace.

            • Yes, let’s run right out an worry about a non-existent and highly unlikely monopoly.

            • “Yes, let’s run right out an worry about a non-existent and highly unlikely monopoly.”

              JR – If you pulled your books from Amazon right now, how would that affect your revenue?

            • Livia:

              If I pulled my books from Amazon, I would lose money… but that is true of every other vendor as well.

              Let’s not mix up the difference between the meaning of monopoly and simple opportunity.

              Of course, I’ve heard this one: “Yeah but when they have all the power, watch them take that opportunity away and punish us!”

              The thing to realize is that Amazon does not have the power to do that. They never will have the power, because the power they have now to hurt Big Publishing comes from their ability to please the customer. And their ability to please the customer comes from the fact that everybody offers their products there.

              And what’s more, they know it. They know that all their leverage disappears as soon as they start acting like an old school monopoly — like, for instance, B&N did for so long. That’s right there in their reports to the share holders. They may use leverage in all sorts of ways, but the one thing their business model prevents them from doing is throttling down what gets on the site.

              Because as soon as they do, that provides opportunities for their competitors. Just like B&N’s throttling down on what they would carry created the opportunity for Amazon.

            • “If I pulled my books from Amazon, I would lose money… but that is true of every other vendor as well.”

              Let’s talk numbers. What percentage of your sales come from Amazon?

              “The thing to realize is that Amazon does not have the power to do that. They never will have the power, because the power they have now to hurt Big Publishing comes from their ability to please the customer. ”

              Wait a minute, so you’re saying that the existence of Big Publishing is what keeps Amazon in line? So if Amazon topples Big Publishing…

            • Oh Livia, you missed my point entirely….

              I make sixty percent of income from my novels from Amazon. It’s not insignificant, but neither is B&N or Apple, or, for that matter, Smashwords. I’m not using eJunkie right now, but if I was, they wouldn’t be insignificant either.

              However, it wouldn’t matter if it were 90 percent, because of the point you missed in your second quote:

              OF COURSE, I’m not saying that Big Publishing is keeping Amazon in line. Nobody’s keeping Amazon in line, and nobody ever will — except the same consumers who are abandoning Big Publishing.

              Big Publishing (or more specifically B&N — because it was the distributors doing the monopolistic behavior) did the opposite: they gave Amazon an opportunity. When a big player acts like a monopoly, they always create an opportunity for the next wave.

              Sure Amazon’s business model is ripping the heck out of the old monopolies, but that’s the way of economics. And if/when Amazon acts like an old-school monopoly, they will create opportunities for new innovators, and somebody else can easily eat their lunch. Because the customers don’t have to stay.

              If you’re afraid of Amazon, then diversify. I make 60 percent of my fiction income from them, but only because they make it easy. And my non-fiction income….

              Well, there’s a great example for you of your fears: Up to the middle of last year I was making three times the income I make from Amazon from an SEO article site. That site closed it’s freelance operation, so I lost maybe 50 percent of my writing income right there. Horrors? No, just a sad sigh. It means I have to work and seek out other income streams to make up for it. Maybe some I’ve been neglecting because it’s so much easier at Amazon. (Like print magazines.)

              You’re only dependent on Amazon if you WANT to be dependent on Amazon.

            • Camille — I’m glad I was missing your point, because I quite disagreed with what I had thought you were saying :-)

              I generally agree with what you say concerning monopolies eventually making opportunities for their downfall. We disagree in that I’m more pessimistic than you about the relative ease of transition. For example, Microsoft grew monopolistic and complacent, and is now losing market share to Apple, and finally make much needed improvements to their software. Which is a good thing now, but that doesn’t change the fact that for years (and probably years to come), consumers had to deal with the crapptasticness of Windows. Likewise, science publishers like Elsevier have long abused their monopoly — which has recently created opportunities for alternative movements for open access journals. We see that in the boycotts that have recently started. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that libraries were forced to pay high prices for years and probably will be forced to do so for quite a few years to come. And the same applies for the example you used about the publishing. Yes, it created an opportunity for Amazon. But there were many, many years before that during which riders were the bottom rung of the publishing ladder. So yes, monopolies fall, but I still don’t discount the the fact that they suck while they last.

              That said, the solutions we propose seem to be the same — to diversify and build up your own mailing list — not to put all your eggs in one basket. And I’m always in favor of more baskets.

    • Predatory pricing is defined in commercial law as setting prices unreasonably LOW so that you drive competitors out of business, so that you can then raise prices with no competition. The “predatory” price is the below-market price.

      http://www.ftc.gov/bc/antitrust/predatory_pricing.shtm

  2. [sigh] Every time the Author’s Guild opens its collective mouth, it makes it that much easier for me to decide to continue saving that chunk of money that would be spent on AG dues if I ever decided to join. Thanks, Author’s Guild; my budget appreciates you more and more. :/

    Angie

  3. Excellent article PG.

    Every time the Author’s Guild blogs about something they remind me how out of touch and increasingly irrelevant they are becoming.

    They seem to have a negative disposition towards online bookselling, e-readers, e-books, and self-publishing, the convergence of which (largely thanks to Amazon) is giving more authors than ever before the opportunity to be both read and to make money.

    But I suppose they couldn’t be seen to be supporting anything like that.

  4. Predatory pricing means the old established company with the deep pockets drops its prices way below cost with the express purpose of driving a new upstart company out of business – the old company can withstand the losses and, as soon as the competition is out of the way, it raises its prices to monopoly highs to make up for it. Completely anti-competitive, very illegal (though yes, hard to prove). Doesn’t apply to Amazon vs Big Publishing in any way – if anything, Amazon is the new upstart.

    Love these, and I just love your commentary, PV. I can pracitally see the sarcasm dripping off the words.

    • This is correct — predatory pricing IS low pricing, not high. Monopolistic pricing is high, but that’s supposed to come after the predatory pricing move is done.

      This is how old school business used to work… however that worked because old time business worked based on scarcity and location.

      Amazon is hurting retailers, but as I mentioned above, their power to do this rests in a paradigm which relies on them NOT being harmful to authors. The real irony here is that Publishers could have done very very well by cooperating with Amazon from the start. Amazon’s “predatory pricing” was actually good for publishers — they got their full cash amount for those books before Agency pricing.

      It was the brick and mortar retailers who acted like monopolies and exerted all sorts of negative, and destructive, power on the publishers, which ended up screwing the authors, the customers and the publishers too. But publishers, like good hostages, have become so reliant on the brick and mortar distribution networks that they can’t see that they’ve been the victims of a much worse situation than they imagine with Amazon.

      And the Author’s Guild is just another abuse victim defending their abusers.

  5. Great post!!! As a newly signed Amazon Publishing author, I believe the only ones who will be hurt by this posturing by B&N is authors. Why the Authors’ Guild would come out against Amazon in this astounds me. I made some comments about my take on this current battle earlier this week.

    http://maureenmcgowan.blogspot.com/2012/02/roller-coaster-week.html

  6. What century—and what galaxy—does AG inhabit? It’s been a long, long time since TradPub has been a vibrant, innovative, exciting business. They treated writers badly in all the ways everyone knows & now AG is defending them? Puh-leeeeze.

  7. I’ve yet to see anything from the AG that actually keeps up with the time. Does anyone know if this is purely from their PR/Blog or does this go all the way down the chain?

  8. Wow. I love the last part about not being able to discover new talent without B&N and the Big Publishers. Both of their ways are antiquated, and they are trying to shore up a rapidly sinking ship. I’m a self published author and have done very well on Amazon. Why is that? Because they know how to sell. They link products together that allow us to discover new things. 99% of my sales come from Amazon.

  9. When I saw the Author’s Guild post, I thought about responding. But it seemed like it would be more fun to wait for PG. It was worth it…

  10. If I ever join the Authors Guild, please make sure I’m committed because there’s no way I could ever be in my right mind and make such a decision.

  11. I can’t possibly contribute anything to this piece except to say that I’ve never seen snarkiness more brilliantly and aptly applied. I’ve re-read it multiple times and laugh each time. Well done!

  12. I think my major objection to Amazon is… that no one else is providing meaningful competition as an electronic storefront for ebooks!

    Which does worry me, because I remember when Amazon first put up its ebook contract, and it had abuse potential and offered a much smaller chunk of royalty than other ebook sellers were offering at the time. As far as I know, the contract only evolved to its modern form — and modern royalties — when Apple announced it was going to do the iBookstore, and give 70% royalties.

    So, basically, Amazon is good to authors because it must be competitive.

    This does run the risk that, should Amazon out-compete everything else (please insert a bethrant about everything else ranging from clunky to mildly clueless to BLITHERINGLY STUPID about ebook selling), they may decide that, y’know… 50% royalties are still plenty more than people would make with traditional publishers.

    Personally? I think Amazon would make that decision if they could. I think they’d behave like a Faceless Corporation, and authors would suck it up because it was the biggest fish in the singular pond and 50% was still more than they could make with tradpub. (I suspect they couldn’t go down to 30% again. Probably.)

    The proverb goes, Fire is a good servant, but a poor master; I think that goes for the Kindle Fire as well. ;)

    That said? So long as there’s enough competition, I think Amazon has quite enough enlightened self-interest to continue to be an excellent resource.

    WHICH IS WHY I AM SO FRUSTRATED BY BLITHERINGLY STUPID WHINING WHEN PEOPLE SHOULD BE MAKING THEIR EBOOK STORES BETTER SO THEY CAN, Y’KNOW, COMPETE! Idjits. (And yes, I include Apple here. The iBookstore is better than it was, and it’s slicker than B&N’s online store, but Amazon is still ruling the roost.)

    …better not let any big sticks near me. I’m liable to go chasing Authors Guild PR writers with them. At least farmer’s market tomatoes are yummy things I can’t get at the big grocery store. I get indie stuff at Amazon, not a local bookstore. AG has got their metaphors thoroughly cross-wired.

    **beth goes off to fume in a corner about people who just want to pull Amazon down instead of pull themselves up**

    • “So, basically, Amazon is good to authors because it must be competitive.”

      I agree. Amazon is great right now because they have competitors to keep them honest. It’s still not in authors’ or consumers’ best interest for them to gain so much market share that they become effectively the only game in town. And while I do agree that if Amazon starts abusing their position, eventually some other upstart will come and outcompete them, there would still be a non-trivial time period of suckiness for writers while that transition happens.

      • I understand your concerns, Livia, but it’s very easy for authors to unpublish their books on Amazon if they don’t like the way Amazon treats them.

        Some day, Amazon will almost certainly become complacent and stupid, but I don’t see that day coming very soon.

        • True that it’s easier to unpublish with Amazon than it is with a traditional publisher. But I wouldn’t call it easy. I mean, ask any indie author if their sales and revenue would take a serious hit if Amazon suddenly cut their royalty percentage, or removed them from bestseller lists (has happened already to erotica authors), or shut down their account for perceived violation of KDP exclusivity. Even in today’s market, it would be a devastating blow, and thanks to Amazon’s proprietary ebook format and ecosystem, it’s not exactly a seamless transition to get your kindle fans to follow you to another store. Granted, this uber dominance is also a testament to how good Amazon’s services are, and how good they are at reaching readers. But I personally see no contradiction in both singing Amazon’s praises while maintaining a desire for a good healthy competitive environment.

        • 1: It didn’t used to be easy. The original contract had wording that suggested an author could only unpublish after Amazon changed its terms of service. I’m guilty of not watching their stuff like a hawk… (But hopefully I’d hear from it from, y’know, places like thepassivevoice.com… ;) )

          2: What Livia says. If Amazon achieves such a significant market dominance that it feels willing to cut author royalties or otherwise trim back how nice they are right now… Then unpublishing would mean taking a huge financial hit. Authors would have to decide if they want 70% of some number lots closer to zero, or (number pulled out of hat) 50% of their established market.

          The less competition Amazon gets, the faster we race to a day when Amazon will have real financial incentive to lower the bootheel on their content-providers’ necks. Insert reprise of the all-caps ranting up there! :) I want competition for Amazon not because I want Amazon to go down, but because I want it to continue to be a useful entity for independent authors!

          • “…the faster we race to a day when Amazon will have real financial incentive to lower the bootheel on their content-providers’ necks.”

            Sure, it could happen. But then it already has. I’m not going to be losing much sleep over whether a future Amazon may or may not do something big publishing has already been doing for the 20 years I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

            • Losing sleep? No. Remembering that Amazon is not my friend? I think it behooves authors to remember that Amazon is the consumer’s friend, insomuch as Amazon has friends. Otherwise, I do think that authors will wake up someday and discover that they’re trapped in a paradigm where they “don’t worry their little heads; Amazon knows best.” I think it behooves authors to think years and decades into the future and determine if they are putting all their eggs in the Amazon basket, both emotionally and literally. (Well, insofar as “eggs” = books…)

              But, I repeat: I don’t want Amazon to be torn down so the pathetic webstore efforts on the part of Kobo, B&N, and Apple will be “equal.” I want ebook-sellers on the web to get off their duffs and make real, competing sites that introduce my books to the readers who would adore them — just as well as Amazon can, or preferably better. That competition would benefit readers and authors, long-term.

    • Amazon moved to 70 percent royalties and then everyone followed (fairly begrudgingly). Pretty much every move Amazon has made has elicited these same cries of the “death of literature,” yet we foot soldiers in the trenches see every Amazon move bringing us more and more readers, more and more money, and more and money opportunities. If this is the Evil Empire, sign me up.

      The only people who are afraid are those who have something to lose–an Old World Order. The rest of us are saying, “Let’s rock and see what heppens!”

      • Amazon upped the royalty for authors because of Apple:

        http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10437897-1.html reports: “In what may be a pre-emptive strike against the strong possibility that Apple will reveal a slate-style device on January 27, Amazon has said it will up the royalty for authors and publishers who use the Kindle Digital Text Platform (DTP) to 70 percent of the list price of their e-books. That’s a big jump from its current 35 percent royalty rate and not coincidentally, the same number Apple doles out to developers who sell their apps in Apple’s App Store.”

        Competition = better deals for authors.

  13. I have to agree with R. E. McDermott that it is excellently applied snark and rarely has an organization been more snark-worthy that the elitist AG.

  14. Delicious take-down, PG. The farmers’ markets reference was especially ghastly. Not my kind of people at all (and yet–I’m an author! Go figure.).

  15. Thanks, PG. Barry and I were set to devote this afternoon to tearing apart the Authors Guild, but you did a fine job so now we don’t have to. :)

    Some quickie thoughts:

    1. How dare Amazon try to make a profit. We all know every company should try to encourage competition rather than beat it with better deals and better service for consumers.

    2. Where does the Guild talk about the thousands of authors who are making money on Kindle? Many are Guild members. Many others never even had a chance to join the Guild because the gatekeepers kept them out.

    3. You hit the nail on the head with Macmillan, but it should be stated that the Big 6 shot themselves (and their authors) in the foot by forcing the agency model on Amazon. Prior to Agency, ebooks were wholesaled to Amazon at half the cover price of a hardcover. In other words, a $25 hardcvoer was sold to Amazon as a $12.50 ebook. Every time Amazon sold one for $9.99, they took a loss. By insisting on Agency pricing, the Big 6 forced Amazon to make money, rather than lose money, on each book sold.

    What a way to show Amazon who’s boss, huh?

    And while I was getting 25% of the wholesale of $12.50 via my contract, now I get 17.5% of the price my publishers set. So along with the publishers, all authors are earning a lot less. Fail.

    4. I’m getting tired of the word “monopoly” being used with Amazon. Amazon doesn’t control pricing, and it crushes competition by giving authors and consumers better deals, not by being predatory.

    Right now Simon and Schuster is crowing about profits being up even though sales are down. See how long that lasts, you clueless morons. We’re all not as stupid as the Authors Guild is. Keep offering authors crappy royalties and see how long they stick with you as you boast about the killing you’re making on ebooks because the costs are so much cheaper.

    5. Ultimately, the only people to blame for any perceived injustices are those who shop at Amazon and those who work with Amazon, not Amazon itself. They’re the reasons for all the whining. You want to blame someone? Blame me. I shop at Amazon, and tell authors how they can make money on Amazon.

    Amazon isn’t the threat. I am. And so are the thousands upon thousands doing what I’m doing.

    6. I remember rolling my eyes when new Prez Scott Turow railed about piracy being the biggest evil facing publishing.

    Piracy isn’t the problem. Stupidity is.

  16. [...] There is a superb post from Passive Guy filleting the latest anti-Amazon screed from the Author’s Guild. Really, really worth [...]

  17. I wonder how long it took the intern to transpose this from vellum and get it in the interwebs

  18. If only Amazon would stop dominating the market, somebody of proper breeding and quality could sell ebooks.

    But when Amazon voluntarily stops selling Macmillian books, instead this of being regarded as a golden chance for some plucky non-Amazon company of proper lineage to strut their stuff and sell Macmillian books the way God (and Guild) intended them to be sold, this new development is looked on as … evil also. Mean old Amazon isn’t selling Macmillian. Waaaah! Somebody make them keep selling!

    There is more than just the whiff of Trading Places’ Duke Brothers (“Turn those machines back on!”) in that Writers Guild post; there is the whiff of primogeniture and droit du seigneur as well. Versailles and “apres moi le deluge,” too.

    Little wonder that the Authors Guild seems aligned on one side with the Bix Six and agents, working authors on the other.

    After all, royalty rates and contract clauses are what really matter; it’s whether or not you extend your pinky properly during high tea.

  19. These complaints seem so much less anti-Amazon and so much more anti-free market, with Amazon being used as a poster child for what free markets actually are: good for consumers and bad for business. Oh, no, the established players might get forced out when the market changes around them! Um…where in the business world does your prior existence/participation become a “right” to always be there? Unless you collude with the government, never and nowhere. I have less and less sympathy for these people every time I hear another anti-Amazon rant. They outcompete you? Get the F over it and figure out how to do what they do better than they do it. Customers will follow. Wait, that’s too HARD? That sounds too much like WORK? Oh, silly me, thinking this book publishing stuff was a BUSINESS.

    Also, farmer’s markets are way over-rated if you are a busy woman like I am, and the plea to support local booksellers finds as much sympathy in my cost-benefit analysis as that barnes & noble 20 minutes up the highway vs 2 seconds on Amazon. I mean…wow, I can be inconvenienced as to their (limited) times and (random) locations, forced to make a stop at my bank for the cash I never carry, just so I can pay twice what I would at the local grocery store for local produce? Sign me up–wait, what’s that? My local grocery store tells me on a signboard when I walk in what prodice is from local farms, including WHICH farms? And it’s open 7-10 every single day, and it takes credit cards? And Amazon always has everything I want or at least the contact info of a third party who does, and I don’t have to go out of my way to find or purchase anything? AMAZON WINS.

    Maybe in 30 years when my (as yet unborn) children are out of the house and I’m retired I can indulge in aesthetic business choices like farmer’s markets and physical bookstores. Until then, get a clue, AG. And a life. Posers.

  20. Amazon IS evil. I’ve worked with them. They are horrible to their partners and are not at all what I thought they might be before I worked with them. (I’m not even posting my real name because I honestly think I could pay a price for just posting something that says this.)

    That said, publishers and editors are also at fault. As I have seen the system at work (I am an aspiring writer), I understand more and more why people say publishing is broken. They have not kept up with new technology and you can see the smugness about being gatekeepers at conferences. That might have been fine when lists were big and editors really helped authors, but no longer.

    I think the gap will be filled by start-ups that see what needs to be done. I just hope it happens soon.

    • So that’s why nobody will do business with Amazon, because they’re always horrible to their partners?

      There are a lot of Amazon partners who visit this blog who feel they are being well-treated. If that changes, they’ll be the first to spread the word, but for now, they find Amazon to be a wonderful alternative to traditional publishers.

      • There are many people who claim Amazon is horrible, and has done stuff like banning their seller/customer/publisher accounts.

        When more information comes out, it usually involves those sellers/customers/publishers having done something against the rules, and Amazon caught them at it.

        Just sayin’.

        • A few years ago,I bought a dvd set from a third party vendor. I had it shipped to my son out of state. I mentioned it to him then promptly forgot about it. A month later, I had an email about a credit because the dvd had never been shipped. This was Amazon fixing something I didn’t even know was wrong! My son had forgotten about the dvd set too, so neither of us complained. I wouldn’t doubt that vendor might have been ticked off if Amazon then banned them from being a 3rd party vendor, but whose fault would it have been?

          My story isn’t about books, but it is about Amazon taking care of their customers.I can’t see Amazon pissing off customers by making it difficult for indie authors to publish through them. Customers have already proven that they like the choice. They can buy Big 6 books, indie publishers or indie authors and decide what price they are willing to pay. If Amazon gets rid of all of us by making it difficult, customers will be stuck paying over $12.99 for ebooks and having limited choices.

      • Are independent authors “partners” with Amazon, PG? I’m not sure I’d agree. (And, as an author, Amazon’s best treatment has been benign neglect — you’ve heard me grump about their support staff being clueless about what an issue with my first short story was, such that my spouse was the one who discovered the bug and how to fix it, right?)

        • I’ve had the opposite experience with Amazon’t support staff all the way up to Jon Fine the head of author and publisher relations. They have helped me through a few issues, and were welcoming of suggestions I made to improve elements of the service.

          • Whereas I’ve only had clueless Support staff whenever I’ve made a suggestion or had an issue. Maybe the good support staff take the last names from earlier in the alphabet.

      • I’m not talking about writing partners or authors. I’m talking about business partners–like other companies, and not publishing. They are quite ruthless. You don’t have to believe me, but I’ve seen it in action, and it’s not pretty.

        It completely changed the way I think about them, and I’ve worked with many Fortune 500 companies that make a lot of money.

      • And just fyi, I think it’s great that there are alternatives to “traditional” publishers. I’m just saying that they are no white knight. I think it’s pretty obvious that they are, like every other company, out to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that.

        Publishing has a LOT wrong with it, but there is a genuine love of literature, even if they exclude a lot of writing that I think deserves to be seen. I have not seen that genuine love of literature anywhere at Amazon. So, it’s good to have alternatives, but don’t get too excited, and let’s hope other alternatives also come along. We’ve all seen that it’s important to have new ways of doing things and we shouldn’t be reliant on one company or a handful of companies. The publishing industry is ripe for innovation.

        • “Publishing has a LOT wrong with it, but there is a genuine love of literature, even if they exclude a lot of writing that I think deserves to be seen. I have not seen that genuine love of literature anywhere at Amazon.”

          Please, make it stop. Traditional publishers have no love of literature; they have a love of literature that consumers will buy lots of. Big difference. I couldn’t care less if Amazon loves my work, so long as they continue to make it easy to find and purchase for people who do.

          “The publishing industry is ripe for innovation.” Agreed, and that’s why the Big 6 is doomed.

          It’s amazing that the Big 6 was never moaning about these “predatory” practices when they were the ones using them to crush their competitors. If I had my way, Amazon would always have legitimate competition for ebooks, but I hope they bury traditional publishers.

    • Exactly which partners are Amazon horrible to and horrible in exactly what way?

      A lot of hyperbole there and no facts.

      • Which is why I posted anonymously. I said I feared for my career, although luckily, I am not with the company that works with them anymore. You don’t have to believe me, but I’m not getting specific for a reason.

        • Vague allegations, posted anonymously, are a waste of bandwidth.

        • If you can’t (or won’t) post under your own name, owning your statements and opinions, why should we listen to anything you have to say?

          Your fear of reprimand is understandable; if it’s so great that you fear such enormous negative response, than why bother posting at all?

          • That’s fine. I’m just sharing my opinion. You don’t have to believe them, but I also think there’s no need to be so hostile. I could have just made up another name and posted, but I was honest about my motivation. *shrugs*

            I posted because I wanted to share my experience, which is why others are posting. (BTW, it’s not like I know who Pete Morin and Jenni S-G really are.)

  21. So that whole long speech was about saving Barnes and Noble’s brick and mortar stores? Or was it about a personal grudge against new advances in technology?

    Or is it to ensure another American company gets hobbled so it can’t compete in the world market. Because that’s what this country needs about now.

    Thanks for the informative article. You’re great.

    • The really scary question the Author’s Guild should ask themselves is who says Barnes and Noble want to save their brick and mortar stores? Did it ever occur to them that B&N might find online retailing more profitable. There would be no large lease expense, less employees. Kris Rusch’s article from last week talked about this to some extent.

      I got the feeling that B&N were looking to become more of a front to sell their Nooks.

      I think the AG are hiding behind a smoke screen.

  22. The Author’s Guild post says that:

    “A truly competitive, open market has no indispensable player that can call the shots. The book publishing industry has such a player, and Amazon is poised and by all appearances eager to use its muscle to rip up the remaining physical infrastructure of book retailing and the vital book-browsing ecosystem it supports.”

    Oh pretty sly, anonymous Author’s Guild blogger. A competitive open market shouldn’t have a single shot-caller, sure. But that’s what the big publishers are. If they stop the presses, we lose a huge percentage of books in the market. We are at their mercy for almost all the print books in the country.

    For decades, big pub has been calling the shots, installing prices that prey on consumers, gatekeeping away controversial/innovative work, and ripping off rights and royalties from authors. Big Pub is just upset that Amazon is exposing how broken the traditional publishing business model really is.

  23. Does anybody else feel a little like they just fell down the rabbit hole and ended up in Wonderland? Good grief – I had no feelings one way or the other about the Authors Guild – and now I know I will never, ever join their ranks.

    I’m stunned (completely stunned!) by how pro-legacy publishing this is – as if Amazon is to blame for all the ills in publishing, and not the publishers themselves!!! Shouldn’t this guild be more concerned with protecting the authors from crappy contracts and mistreatment?

    I feel like I should be outdoors directing traffic – pointing these lemmings toward the nearest cliff.

  24. Published writers are intelligent people. But when it comes to business, they are the dumbest lot there is. Published writers are the first ones to men the barricades when it comes to defending the freedom of speech (and writing.) Yet, they are the most vitriolic people to deny that same freedom to the ones who have not been published or admitted to their coveted clan. Competition definitely scares them. Amazon is an example of how free enterprise and competition works, but according to them this shouldn’t be an option when it comes to books. Luckily for the rest of us, the world won’t stand still.

    • Good points, DG.

    • Your statement that published authors are dumb when it comes to business is a bit of a gross exaggeration. The fact that a lot do understand business is what is scaring the Author’s Guild, because it negates the need for them. In the old way of doing things in this business, it was not necessary to use that knowledge, because the authors had little or no say in things. Now they are flexing their business muscles and using them to be more successful.

  25. PG deconstruction of publishing idiocies–no one does it better.

  26. To be fair, predatory pricing DOES mean exactly what the first commenter says it doesn’t – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predatory_pricing

    It’s a basic economic term and certainly before agency pricing, Amazon was guilty of it in a literal sense (legally it’s a far trickier issue, as PG notes).

    That said, Amazon has NOT succeeded due to predatory pricing, they’ve succeeded by focusing on the customer to the exclusion of all else. And the biggest threat they pose to B&N and the Big 6 is the fact that they are working towards more and more disintermediation. Both of these are not only not things to rail against, they are the very epitome of the efficiency a free market is supposed to do.

    As for largely losing the most important means for literary voices to be discovered (is that phrase as pretentious as it sounds or do I just have an inferiority complex?), I see what they mean. The death of big CD/record stores has certainly destroyed the ability for new musical talents to. . .oh wait, it hasn’t, it has provided vast new opportunities for the.

    But I’m sure books will be different.

  27. Amazon has given me an effective platform to sell my books with a reasonable royalty rate. The agents and publishers who passed on my work didn’t. I’ll suffer along with Amazon, thanks.

  28. It’s not Amazon’s responsibility to do business in such a way so as to ensure that they always have competition. It’s their competition’s job to make sure they do business in such a ways so as to remain successful enough to compete with Amazon.

  29. Bridget McKenna advised me that I should post any response I might have to this post here, where its author can read it in person.

    Her wish is my command. Opinion follows.

    I consider this a troll post, sans professional substance or decorum. The author begins the post with a barrage of personal attacks and sarcastic invective, which he sustains throughout. Opponents to his views are preemptively dismissed as ‎”Clueless”, “Breathless”, “Hopelessly in love with agents and publishers everywhere”, “nitwits”, etc..

    The overall point of this post appears to be defamation of the Author’s Guild, and the inference that the guild does not fulfill its mandate, which is to serve the interest of professional authors.

    Personally, I am not a member of the Author’s Guild, but I will say that I was impressed by their victory in The Author’s Guild versus Google lawsuit, and by their role in establishing the Books Rights Registry. I believe I will try and search through your previous posts to see whether you’ve had anything to say about that case, as I am curious as to your stance on the matter, as a person who has set out his own shingle as an advocate for author’s rights.

    I’m not going to add any name-calling of my own to this comment, nor use it as an opportunity to cheer-lead for any particular corporation. I think Amazon is a viable market for books, but I fail to see how it is any author or publisher’s best interest for Amazon to become the only market for books. That is all.

    • You’re entitled to your opinion, Arinn, and I was happy to approve your comment so everyone could consider your views.

      • Ha! You mean old troll, PG!

        I’ve taken lots of flack for my tone, and for my views, and I’ve had lots of defenders break out that wonderful Ghandi quote:

        “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

        We’re now in the fighting stage. And the fighting will continue, with dim-witted defenses of the old guard, and pointed attacks that focus on tone, straw men, quotes out of context, false attributions, and outright lies.

        But no one will discuss the actual meaningful issues being brought up. No one will ever admit the old way didn’t work.

        Instead every new self-pub success will be an anomaly, or the result of an old legacy career, or a case of readers being stupid. And it will continue until the last bankruptcy hearing, which will be sooner than anyone thinks.

        BTW, The Author’s Guild versus Google was a joke. The only authors who care about Google digitizing their work are clueless old fogies who have no idea that the internet was created to freely share digital information. Google was doing all of us a favor, making our work searchable. A lot of my stuff was digitized. I didn’t sue, and I still was able to make $600,000 in 2011.

        Perhaps the Author’s Guild should next sue libraries, or used bookstores, or reviewers who quote large sections of text. Maybe they can go after students who Xerox pages of textbooks. Or my mother, who often buys a paperback then shares it with her circle of friends.

        Information wants to be free. And it will be. Period.

        Anyone trying to stop it is building sandcastles on the shore in an attempt to hold back the tide.

    • Arinn, did you read the original Authors Guild post? Especially the last part? Sometimes blatant snark is an appropriate response to such stunning condescension on the part of an entity that is supposed to represent author’s interests.

    • “I consider this a troll post, sans professional substance or decorum.”

      That is, I believe, a use of the tone argument, and as such isn’t really useful, to say the least.

      “I fail to see how it is any author or publisher’s best interest for Amazon to become the only market for books.”

      Well I do believe everyone here agrees with you. Or at least, that’s how I read all the frustrated comments about how all the Big 6 publishers etc. are doing is moaning and groaning about how no one loves them any more instead of innovating and providing some actual competition to Amazon. Note: “actual competition” does not mean “tries to scare current authors and would-be authors into thinking of traditional publishers (and their teeny royalties) as a bulwark against the alien chaos represented by Amazon.com.” Yelling about how Amazon is going to destroy the publishing world isn’t working any more; it is obvious that the moribund practices of yesteryear that the trad pubs are clinging to are what is holding the industry back.

      Full disclosure: I do not have any fancy degrees or publishing contracts and have nothing to “search” for as regards lawsuits or anything like that. This is all my opinion.

    • Oooh, that’s right, the AG fought a great victory for authors there. Thanks to them, Google was not able to just simply make the contents of books searchable, and probably linked to, oh, I don’t know, something like a Google bookstore so people could actually buy the book once they found one that contained what they wanted. It’s a very good thing indeed that AG was there to stop that kind of thing.

    • It *was* a pretty clueless post, Arinn. It’s hard to review with any degree of serious language an essay written by someone who so clearly has no concept of business, law, or what’s actually going on in the bookselling world.

      As for the Google Books “victory”; let’s not forget that the AG *caved in there* and agreed to a settlement that was so horrible the judge turned it down as unfair. That case is still pending, you know (new shots fired this month, in fact).

    • “A troll post”?

      How can PG troll his own blog?

      “I think Amazon is a viable market for books, but I fail to see how it is any author or publisher’s best interest for Amazon to become the only market for books.”

      I don’t think anyone wants Amazon to be the sole survivor. Competition is good for us as authors. What we would like to see is the other avenues stepping up their game and becoming inventive and competitive. Right now, they sound just like a little kid who whines, “But it’s not faiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrr!”

      For years, agents and publishers have had all the power, and I guess it’s natural for them to resent the shift, but that doesn’t make them right. From what I’ve learned in the last few years, it sounds like a lot of authors were ripped off by both, but I have yet to hear of an author ripping off an agent or a publisher. It wasn’t set up for them to be able to do that, with royalties coming through the agent.

      I know next to nothing about the AG, so take this with a grain of salt, but it seems to me, as an outsider looking in, that perhaps the AG should worry about their own authors getting the shaft from big publishing, before they worry about Amazon.

    • With respect, Arinn, what I said was: “I’m going to leave it up to him to defend himself if she decides to make that claim on his blog,” (“that claim” including, but not being limited to the words “trolling and unprofessional.”)

      And you did come here and say that. But please don’t misrepresent me. I did not presume to advise you, and I don’t appreciate you saying that I did.

    • Is anyone actually championing that Amazon be the only game in town? I’ve read the entire thread, and I haven’t seen that. I have, however, seen many people say that they hope competition for Amazon always exists. The disdain is reserved for the Big 6, which have (with the exception of the last 2-3 years) had a stranglehold on the marketplace. Worse, they’ve ACTED like they’ve had a stranglehold, with horrid royalty rates, advances that haven’t increased since the 70’s, etc.

      This is the first time I’ve come to PG’s place, so I have no dog in this fight. All I see is a guy ridiculing a post that lends itself to nothing but ridicule due to sentiments like Amazon’s existence actually being detrimental to new authors being discovered. That’s beyond laughable.

      Lastly, how can PG personally attack someone, when he has no idea who that person is in the first place? I notice that no one at the AG felt strong enough about that post to attach their name to it. Yet you come here to call PG a troll who lacks substance or decorum; I guess those are somehow not personal attacks. The only thing that I see his post lacks is the pretension that you showed throught your rebuttal.

      • Dan, this whole experience is helping me get in touch with my inner troll. :)

      • Is anyone actually championing that Amazon be the only game in town?

        Yes, I am.

        [Ok, folks this is how trolling is done. See, I am going to make a plausible-sounding argument for an outrageous idea that I don't really believe, but I know will make people so upset that everybody will have to respond. Normally this done by someone who wants divert attention from the original point of the thread. If the person who wrote the AG post had a clue, they would be making this argument to cover for the giant gaping holes in the logic in that post.]

        If Amazon had a monopoly on selling books we would actually be better off than we are now. I am not saying that would be the best of all possible worlds, just better than the current state of the publishing industry. Amazon is so much more efficient at delivering books, digital and physical, than the trad pub world that they could extract monopoly rents [note the slight misuse of a technical term, this can generate a whole subthread of entertaining arguments] and still sell more books at lower prices. Plus, Amazon would have a much bigger incentive to digitize the backlist, so there would also a better variety of books available to the consumer.

        To be able to maintain their monopoly, Amazon would still have to pay authors a reasonable royalty, even if it wasn’t as high as it is today. Most authors will make more money under an Amazon monopoly than they do today because they will sell more copies [this is a great troll point because there is no way to prove or disprove it, so endless arguments are possible]. If they do not, they can always sell on their own sites.

        With a monopoly, Amazon would have an incentive to expand worldwide. This would benefit both authors and readers, not to mention translators. With a single global market all the inherent inefficiencies of today’s international would be wiped out [if anybody comes up with a counter-example, I can always say I wasn't talking about that specific point, so I get the benefit of a sweeping statement without having to actual defend anything in particular].

        [I could go on, but I hope I have made my point. You folks are pikers when it comes to trolling.]

  30. I shop at a local farmer’s market every other Saturday. I also own a Kindle.

    This argument gives me a massive headache. Maybe it’s because I learned under the Austrian school of economics, but the whole idea of an artificially high — or artificially low — price makes zero sense to me. A product is always worth what people are willing to sell it for, at a price that people are willing to pay. It is worth no more. It is worth no less. This is not conjecture; it is law.

    And it’s all a bit pot-calling-the-kettle for me to see those in bed with the Big 6 crying about a monopoly. You know what’s even worse than a monopoly? A cartel. How many of us here ran into the Big 6 cartel for years and years before finding publishing freedom through this monopoly called Amazon? How many of us had doors — 6 doors; even more than 6 doors — slammed in our face, day after day, year after year? There was nowhere you could turn… until there was. I’ll be the first to rail against Amazon when Amazon becomes author-unfriendly. But right now, it is quite author-friendly. And as an author who was never able to make many friends in New York’s inner circle, that feels sort of good to me.

    By the way, PG, I’ve only been reading your blog a couple of months, but I think this is the most I’ve ever seen you comment on an article. I think you commented more on this article than on all the other articles you linked to over the last month combined.

    • You’re probably right, JDM.

    • I’d love to shop at our local farmer’s market every Saturday. But you know what? I work all day Saturday from 6am to 6pm in a town 25 miles away from where I live. So no farmer’s market. Instead, I have to get my groceries at one of the several stores that are open at reasonable hours when I can go shop. That would include Walmart by the way — there are three within my radius of daily travel, all open 24 hours per day.

      It’s much like how things used to be re: book buying, and how they are now. Then (pre-Amazon.com, though you could say pre-internet if you like): I had to wait for the book store to be open. And then I had to hope that what I wanted was available on their shelves. If not, I had to try to order it via the counter help, and then I would have to wait for weeks until it was sent to the store. (Before then, when I lived in a city where there were maybe two very specialized book stores that catered to the antiquarian book collector and there was no such thing as a “big box” book store I’d have to join a book club or try to get it through the library, which didn’t have everything, and if a book was out of print well I was SOL.)

      Now I go online, look through Amazon.com, click “buy”, and if it’s a book I get it mailed to my home in a few days, and if it’s an e-Book I get it immediately. I am not interested in going back to the old days, thanks.

    • Excellent comment.

  31. “we would largely lose the most important means for new literary voices to be discovered.”

    I can see the problem there. Much of the new talent being discovered isn’t eligible for Authors Guild membership.

  32. [...] Yesterday, the Author’s Guild placed an ill-advised blog entry on their site. It’s such an obvious piece of fluff propaganda that it’s being picked apart around the internet. One of the better commentaries was penned by Passive Guy over on his blog. [...]

  33. I think we’ll be OK. Also, I don’t think I need a “guild”.

  34. Actually, when you think about it, I suppose it’s inevitable that an organization with “Guild” in it’s name would have problems with a company making efficient use of the the internet.

  35. Here’s the thing that the “Amazon has no competitors!” argument totally misses:

    Of course Amazon has a competitor: The internet as a whole. The thing old-time monopolies had was a way to limit access to the consumer. Amazon cannot do that. If I can’t find what I want at Amazon, as a customer, I can go other places.

    Amazon may be causing brick and mortar retail businesses to falter, but they are not putting online businesses out of business. They don’t have the leverage to do that. Running an online business is cheap and can be done by hobbyists. And every customer has equal access to the hobby sites as they do to Amazon.

    Amazon sees one other major business as its competitor: Google. And I don’t see Google having a problem staying alive. Amazon is a search company which specializes in products rather than information. And like Google, they don’t work on the monopoly paradigm: they create products/content to enhance a business which is actually more about aggregation. Let others do the production independently, and carry the liabilities for it.

    That’s the way the internet paradigm works. It’s all indie-based. If a big company wants to thrive, they either have to shift over to aggregation and enabling the smaller, independent providers, or they need to become a smaller, independent provider themselves.

    That’s going to be the future not just for publishing and retail. That’s the future period. (And, imho, that’s the real impetus behind things like SOPA — because the one way you can break that paradigm is to throttle the internet itself.)

  36. Hmn. Obviously the Authors Guild has been infiltrated by a member of the Lollipop Guild. That’s the only thing that makes sense. I’m sure things will be back to normal tomorrow.

  37. Haha, PG. Good post! =o)

  38. I cannot believe how out of touch the author`s guild are. Go to your local book store, except few people want hard covers or paperbacks. I want an eBook on my fancy eReader, at half to a quarter of the cost. I`ll just ignore that my local bookstore is Indigo, which more or less has a monopoly in Canada (yeah I`ll beat that dead horse).

    I think the lack of competition sets up indie author`s at a perfect place to set their own book stores and get 100% royalties. It`s kinda scary `cause you have to do all the tax stuff yourself, but I think it`s coming. I wrote this as a challenge on an e-mail list for indies, but no one responded to anything I said. :(

    Everyone got really complacent while they waited for the electronic books thing to sort itself out meanwhile Amazon was taking action by giving authors and readers what they wanted. And that is why the comepetion is dying, their own inability to act.

    • I can understand why the Guild is out of touch. If you think about it most of their published members are traditionally published. Paper is what they know. E-books have been around for a while but very few people thought it would take off like it did. Hell even people who knew money could be made with e-books did not foresee this wild fire.

      Now what I don’t understand is why people see Amazon, e-books and the like as a threat. It’s a way to sell more books, why in the hell wouldn’t you figure out why and then figure out how. Instead of writing blog posts or letters telling everyone We’re Still Relevant. Make yourself relevant again. *headdesk*

  39. Fascinating stuff – including the comments. The Society of Authors, which I’m assuming is the UK equivalent (our Writers Guild tends to deal mainly with scriptwriters of all kinds) seems to be more receptive to eBooks and indie publishing – and has run some very positive pieces of analysis in its magazine. (I’m currently on the committee of the Scottish branch.) They also encourage members to include eBooks on their individual SoA author web pages. On the other hand, some of the various regional organisations set up to promote books over here don’t seem to consider that eBooks are real books at all – they have to be listed under ‘other work’ rather than ‘publications’!

  40. This was great. To be honest, I’ve sort of been one of those people who is suspicious, and cautious, of Amazon’s power, but I’ve lately had to rethink that, and this article kind of solidifies that. Bezos is smart. He knows what he’s doing. He recently said something about his business paradigm and that it takes in a bigger picture than what most people realise, and that may mean that people misunderstand him for a long period of time. I found that interesting. He’s basically ok being thought of as evil if it means he accomplishes his dreams. I know what it’s like to be misunderstood despite my good intentions. And he’s certainly made things possible for me I never would have thought possible. Seems sort of like biting the hand that feeds to disparage him.

  41. The united front of B&N, the American Booksellers Association, and Chapters Indigo are refusing to stock Amazon published books in their stores. In doing so, these strange bedfellows are forgetting who is important in the whole equation. As I said in my blog earlier this week, if a customer wants Crest toothpaste and the drug store tells them they won’t sell it to them because they don’t like Proctor & Gamble, that customer is going to find a store that will sell them Crest. The brick and mortar bookstores are driving customers to Amazon by their actions.

    If the publishers think B&N and the others have their backs, they clearly have very short memories. How many publishers went under thanks to the big-box retailers paying invoices with returns? They would send a shipment of books back to the publisher and then immediately reorder the same books. That killed Stoddard in Canada and with it their subsidiary General Distribution Services. When GDS went under 60 small publishers were among the creditors owed $45-million. Countless authors lost royalties.

    With friends like that, who needs an enema?

    It wasn’t that many years ago that authors were bemoaning the rise of the big-box retailers in defense of the independents. Now many wring their hands at the thought of Borders going under. As authors, our biggest concern should be that our books are selling, not where they are selling. Thanks to Amazon, my books are selling far better today than they were when we only had brick and mortar stores. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t think I have ever sold a book through a farmer’s market. Shelf space is not an issue for Amazon.

    Barnes & Noble and the other big-box stores have done more to hurt the authors than help them. Many of the independents who actually gave a damn about authors who were not part of the Big 6, could not survive. Davis-Kidd, Joseph Beth, Tower, and so many others disappeared. Now that B&N are facing strong competition, they are crying fowl.

    Amazon do not need to get into a war with the brick and mortar stores. By their own behavior, and neglect of what the customer wants, they are going to do more damage to themselves than Amazon ever could.

    In reality, I believe the Author’s Guild is more afraid that Amazon’s pro-author stance is going to render them unnecessary. They are doing a pretty good job of that all by themselves, by forgetting what Amazon does best – selling their member’s books. If they were smart they would let the battle be fought without joining the fray, and support the improved conditions in the marketplace for authors.

    I guess saying that makes me a troll.

    • Welcome to Trollville, Gordon.

    • Good post. The Authors Guild seems to exist now solely to fund itself and its large battery of lawyers. Its myopia in dealing with Google Books is another example of shortsightedness. Instead of working a deal that would have encouraged more digital production of OP books and getting revenue for authors from that deal, they opted for a one-time payment (which eventually was thrown out) which served themselves the best, certainly not the authors.

      • I’ve had that same thought myself. The various author’s associations here in Canada tend to be the same sort of elitists, and don’t like me because I write “too American” or “too commercial.” Apparently, one is not supposed to write to make money. We need an author’s association that is not deeply rooted in the mid-20th Century. I was refused a renewal in one up here because I switched from traditional publishing to independent in 2004.

  42. Good post. I am a member of the Authors Guild since 1990, and my husband was a member since about 1972. I also am delighted to be publishing out of print books, and new books at Amazon. I’m not happy with the Guild’s “attack” on Amazon. I applaud Jeff Bezos and Amazon for giving authors new opportunities and decent royalties that the big Six have refused to do. Not too many years ago, there were maybe 15 big NY publishers–and talk about monopoly–when six seem to control it all. Why have authors decided to self-pubish under Amazon’s Kindle and Createspace? It’s called a wise business decision and freedom. We don’t have to play the game anymore. I personally love it!

  43. Ironically, the real monopoly here is the Authors Guild. I see little competition for them at all. Maybe it’s time to create some.

  44. [...] The not-so-Passive Guy (a lawyer by training) behind The Passive Voice blog rips into the Author’s Guild’s stance. [...]

  45. [...] find those who boycott or hate on Amazon without referring to history or the bigger picture irritating. This is hopping on a bandwagon. Where were those people when traditional publishers [...]

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