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Bleating Against Amazon

27 February 2012

From author Sarah A. Hoyt:

So, what has got me off my cherubic and positively laid-back posture lately?  Well, this morning when I innocently opened face book, to see if a friend had answered on our latest message exchange, I found that people all over are posting against Amazon.

Now, this is of course nothing new.  For the last several months we’ve been hearing the rumblings of this, as people whine, complain and moan about everything in Amazon, from the fact that they point out big publishers DO set those outrageous e-book prices, to the fact that they’ll lower your prices if they find you’re selling cheaper elsewhere.  Oh, yeah, also if you are a small press and refuse to give them the authority to do that, they won’t do business with you.

This is more of the same, with a sustained, high pitch whine (yes, this is reference to dog whistle, why?) that “someone” do something to stop Amazon having this dreadful power to… control the way they wish to run their own business?

To every one – particularly the geniuses calling themselves “progressive writers and poets” – echoing this load of nonsense: are you crazy or stupid?

. . . .

I’m not going to deny that Amazon is an 800 lb gorilla or that Amazon is a corporation.  Of course that last, for most of you, is enough to consider them eeeeeevil.  That is because most of you are either college students or are living like college students in your parents’ basement, from stolen cheetos.

. . . .

So far Amazon is keeping “with it” in the sense that the decisions it has made have benefited its business, which, btw, is the goal of any commercial enterprise, corporation or not.  In the process and probably not deliberately – but as a result of the fact that New York Publishing has been determined to stay on course to suicide – they have made it possible for people to self publish and to circumvent the gatekeepers which were NOT ONLY picking winners and losers but also effectively dissuading people from reading as a form of entertainment (Look up how print runs have fallen since the seventies.  No, it’s not TV.  News flash:  There was TV in the seventies too.)

. . . .

IF you think it’s already making mistakes and that its decisions no longer benefit you, then for the love of Mike and all the little angels, start your own competitor.  Exploit what you see as weaknesses on Amazon and go for it.  Trust me, starting a business on the web requires remarkably little investment.  If the lot of you who are posting this nonsense can’t each of you chip in five dollars and get the five thousand or so to start your own model, you don’t have the courage of your convictions.

And don’t come bleating at me that Amazon is too big and you can’t compete with it.  When Amazon started out, big chain bookstores were at the apex of their power and people laughed at Amazon.  “Who wants to buy books online?” they said.  And “Why do they allow everyone to do reviews without credentials?” they said.

Link to the rest at According to Hoyt and thanks to Keith for the tip.


Amazon, Pricing

28 Comments to “Bleating Against Amazon”

  1. And since the nutcases Sarah has mentioned can’t actually touch Amazon, they’re now going after Smashwords. *sigh*

  2. “Of course that last, for most of you, is enough to consider them eeeeeevil. That is because most of you are either college students or are living like college students in your parents’ basement, from stolen cheetos.”

    After I stopped laughing I realized how odd it is that some college students are now against Amazon. When I graduated from college just over a decade ago using Amazon to buy books, esp textbooks, was considered cutting edge, cool, and techie. Now it’s eeeeeevil. Sounds like students are de-evolving.

    • They’re just responding to the training they’ve received. We’ve spent a whole lot of time in this country teaching that profit is bad, corporations are evil, and the only salvation is Dear Leader in Government who will magically make our lives prosperous and free of trouble. Also free of liberty, thought, and joy. But hey, who needs that?

      • “profit is bad, corporations are evil, and the only salvation is Dear Leader in Government who will magically make our lives prosperous and free of trouble”

        Who, exactly, pays for Dear Leader in Government? The eeevvvilll corporations and the minions who work for them.

        Some of those eeevvviill corporations even publish books.

    • And, of course, it is much more virtuous to pay the prices the campus bookstore charges for everything.

      If we could link campus bookstore pricing with Big Publishing and Big Corporations, we might have a chance to bring students into the real world. I’ve never known anyone who didn’t feel ripped off by the campus bookstore.

      • I actually felt ripped off by the professors, not the bookstore. If I hadn’t needed the money, I wouldn’t have sold that math book back; I’d have shredded it and glued the remains to the author’s door!

  3. So you’re good with them setting the price of your book for you.

  4. Most of the people bleating about Amazon seem to be warning me that Amazon is NOT MY FRIEND. Well, yes, thanks, I know that. Neither is Apple, Google, Facebook, Penguin, Barnes & Noble, or even the local indie bookseller. Those are all businesses, and while I may be a customer of a business, I am not a friend of a business, and I don’t expect a business to be my friend. I expect a business to give me something of value in exchange for my money. I get to decide what the value is to me, and how much money I want to exchange for it, and if a business stops providing value to me, I stop giving them money.

    • You’re exactly right, Sherri. I’m a fan of Amazon not for who it is but for what it is doing right now.

      If Amazon keeps on doing things I like, I’ll continue to be a fan. If it stops doing those things or some other organization competing with Amazon starts doing more things I like, I’ll become a fan of that new organization.

      Publishing is not the 7th Grade Treehouse Club where everybody is best friends forever. It’s a business for authors and readers and publishers and agents and booksellers.

      Anyone who tries to make it more than that will be disappointed or ripped-off or otherwise mistreated at some time.

  5. “Publishing is not the 7th Grade Treehouse Club where everybody is best friends forever.”

    That’s a statement for the ages. About the only company out of all those mentioned that I’d consider a friend is Smashwords. And that’s solely because of Mark Coker. But, yes, Smashwords has joined the Evil Empire because it “knuckled under to Paypal.” I’d rather Mark knuckle under and survive than be driven out of business. He’s been fighting the good fight for indie writers and I have faith that he’ll continue to do so.

    • Oh, PayPal. Gah, there’s a virtual monopoly I wish had some competition…

      • AMEN!!

      • Um… I’m a web developer. Every single major financial institution has a payment gateway that Smashwords could use. If they had properly abstracted their payment gateway from the rest of their code, switching payment gateways would have been the work of five or six hours.

        Paypal is a service business… Just like Amazon, they have the right to run their business by whatever set of values they see fit.

        • By “payment gateway,” you mean a way to take credit cards? From what I understand, the fees required for accepting credit cards can be onerous; the service PayPal provides is cheaper than credit cards, and all the security of the card numbers is provided on PayPal’s end.

          You’re also missing the other half of the issue — Smashwords pays the authors via PayPal. (Or check, but the threshold is higher before they write a check.) I don’t know what it costs to set up a direct deposit, like Amazon has, but I bet it’s more work than just getting the PayPal account email.

          • You are right of course, PayPal offers the best, most convenient service. But this in no way obligates them (or parent company eBay) to take everyone’s business. They have a right to make value-based decisions about whom they will do business with just like anyone else.

            In truth, PayPal fees are far more expensive per transaction than most other payment gateways. PayPal doesn’t charge up front fees, however, so for smaller amounts, they end up being cheaper.

            It would cost the author nothing for Smashwords to direct deposit into the author’s account. This is how createspace works. Smashwords elected to go the easier, more convienient route. Createspace set up it’s own accounting department (this was before Amazon bought them) and cut checks. Depending on the amount of business you do, either way can be the cheaper option for the company.

            • Did I say anything about PayPal being morally obligated to take people’s business? (Much as I’d like to…) I just said that it’s a virtual monopoly for the service it provides and I wish that it had competition. I’ve also heard that PayPal has truly awful customer service, which is another sign of a virtual monopoly that needs to have the sharp, pointy sticks of competition applied.

              And how much does it cost the vendor to deposit directly into the author’s account? I am under the impression this costs… something. Programming time, if naught else.

            • Sorry, ABeth, my comment was more broadly targeted than just your post. I did made the assumption that your desire for competition was based on Paypal’s choice to not provide service to people who write the kind of material paypal finds offensive. Mea Culpa. I guess my point it that while paypal is the most convenient service, there are already other alternatives. PayPal does have competition… they just have a clearly superior product.

              Paypal does have awful customer service… because it is eBay’s customer service. It is outsourced to India.

              To answer your other question, yes, it will cost the vendor more up front to do it the way Amazon and CreateSpace do it, but not because of a direct deposit fee. Neither my church nor my business pays money to have checks directly deposited into an employee’s bank account. We do have to pay an accountant, however. Smashwords basically farms this part of it’s business off to Paypal, and pays the fees. In the long run it will cost less money to not use Paypal, assuming you do enough business (I would imagine that Smashwords does more than enough business, but I could be wrong). Paypal is extremely attractive to small start ups, because of the low cost of entry. Larger businesses that already handle payroll, taxes, bookkeeping, etc will find it much cheaper to use a service other than paypal, whose upfront fees are greater, but whose merchant fees are significantly cheaper.

              That being said, you can still set your system up in such a way as to abstract the payment gateway from your code. What Mark Coker said in his response amounted to “We have to do what PayPal says because they are integrated into our code in such a way that we can’t use someone else.” I read this and just thought that was extremely near-sighted. I would expect a major overhaul of their code base to abstract this portion of their code from the rest, so in the future, they can switch service providers, should something like this happen again.

  6. I like how she points out it’s publishers’ fault that Americans have read less and less over the years. I mean, I grew up in a house full of books. My parents read all the time. I got my first library card when I was four. I used to beg to be taken to the library. There weren’t many bookstores in my large city, especially for kids, so schools had things like a mail-order book service where kids could order their own books. My father built book shelves in my bedroom for me.

    Then things started to look up as Walden Books put its first store in town, and then later there were the big chains Borders and Barnes and Noble. I didn’t know anything about business and crushing indie book stores — as I said I didn’t live in a town with a lot of book stores like New York or Philadelphia. Miami was a tourist town, not a town of people who wanted to read, was the stereotype.

    But we still depended on publishers for our reading material. Having to wait while they took their sweet time getting out the next book in a serial. Having to wait for the paperback release because you couldn’t afford the hardcover even at a discount. And then you started to have trouble finding things worth reading. Suddenly all the science fiction shelves seemed to be stocked with the same story by different authors, and it was always one you didn’t want to read (and I noticed that a whole lot of scifi and fantasy had gotten all rapey all of a sudden — every story seemed to feature at least one rape or attempted rape). The romance crap was EVERYWHERE and it was, guess what, more and more rapey. And there were a lot of cookbooks. And a lot of celeb ghostwritten garbage. And a lot of Time/Life coffee table books.

    So you find yourself more and more going home without anything to read, and end up re-reading an old favorite instead. And sales of books go down, and concerned “Americans don’t read any more” articles start to appear in magazines and newspapers.

  7. I cordially invite all of you to the church this Saturday at 3:00 p.m. where I will be marrying this post (’cause that’s how much I love it). Brilliant stuff. My favorite part: “The establishment which could sell crap if it pushed it enough, and which is now losing that ability. You want to take us back to the bad old days. And you call yourself progressive. And the irony hasn’t KILLED you yet.”

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