From Melville House:
Amazon rolled out a new ebook bundling program on Tuesday, one which will, in true Amazon fashion, burn down the orchard to help them reach a few more apples.
Amazon’s MatchBook is designed to institutionalize ebook bundling, a retail tactic that, though a fan favorite, almost always undervalues ebooks in price and, more importantly, in perceived value.
. . . .
It is a measure of our comfort with ubiquitous surveillance that the idea of a single company having, potentially, a record of every single book we’ve bought since 1995 does not seem to have given anyone pause in online discussion of MatchBook.
Grandinetti estimates that Matchbook will have ten thousand books included in the program when it begins in October. The majority of those will be from Amazon’s library of self-published books, many of them already priced—unilaterally by Amazon—at $2.99 or below. Amazon is automatically enrolling these books in the program and will pay those authors royalties based on the MatchBook price—authors have no say in the matter other than to opt out of the Amazon self -publishing program entirely. But Amazon plays cruel games with self-published author royalties all the time. Indeed, the company’s willingness to use the author as grist is of a piece with their misuse of precarious labor or state infrastructure: it is, we are, all materiel in their quintessential late capitalist drive for expansion. That, also, has not even risen to become a point of contention in online celebrations of MatchBook.
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Amazon may well get other publishers on board, too. Bargain basement ebook sales are better, in some lights, than no ebook sales. Every publisher has been slowly working to lock down the digital rights for their backlist, and it is hard to scoff at the potential for a new revenue stream from books in that fifteen-year-old doldrum. Some will surely sign up, at least for select authors, at least as an experiment.
. . . .
Bundling ebooks entails, at least in the MatchBook model, slashing the price of ebooks. More importantly, however, it means teaching consumers that ebooks are worth very little, that somehow the value that goes into creating a book is seared away if those words are formed of pixels rather than dyed tree fiber.
Link to the rest at Melville House and thanks to Scott for the tip.
PG will note a factual error – Amazon is not automatically enrolling self-published KDP books in MatchBook. As anyone who has read the press release properly could explain, enrollment is the self-pubbed author’s choice. (Expect an unacknowledged correction on the Melville House website after this post appears.)
As far as “Amazon plays cruel games with self-published authors royalties all the time,” since a traditional publisher is the author of this post, this looks like one of the more extreme examples of Amazon Derangement Syndrome that PG has observed to date. One of the common complaints traditionally-published authors bring to PG is that their publishers are playing cruel games with royalties, generally by not paying them.
Finally, publishers continue to fear that Amazon and indie authors are reducing “the perceived value” of books. As clumsy as most publishers are at marketing, it’s hilarious that they believe they can exert control over consumer perceptions of value.
And the idea that Amazon keeps track of what its customers purchase? The folks at Melville House will be surprised to learn that top-quality retailers have done that for decades.
Life as a gate-keeper doesn’t prepare individuals or organizations to compete effectively in a truly free market.