Home » Amazon, Big Publishing » The Authors Guild’s Mary Rasenberger on Why Amazon Deserves Antitrust Scrutiny

The Authors Guild’s Mary Rasenberger on Why Amazon Deserves Antitrust Scrutiny

31 July 2015

From The American Booksellers Association:

Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, talks about the organization’s support for the Authors United letter and why Amazon’s unprecedented dominance of the book retail market is harmful to authors, booksellers, and the reading public.

. . . .

BTW: Why did the Authors Guild support last week’s Authors United appeal to the Department of Justice and what has been your role in the Authors United letter?

Mary Rasenberger: We at the Authors Guild have been working closely with Doug Preston for the greater part of the past year on both the longer policy memo and the shorter letter that he is asking authors and others to sign. We sent a separate letter to the Department of Justice on this topic last summer and met with them as well. We wholeheartedly believe that Amazon deserves antitrust scrutiny. While Amazon has done a lot that has benefitted the book industry — it created an e-commerce platform that made buying books online very easy and fast; created the first really good e-reader, which dramatically increased access to e-books; and made it very easy for authors to self-publish — in recent years it has ruthlessly used, indeed abused, its unprecedented dominance of the book retail market in ways that harm the book industry as a whole, including authors and the reading public.

The fact is Amazon now virtually controls an important marketplace of information. That is not good for bookstores or for authors, and it is not good for democracy. We now have a single, corporate entity that exerts a dangerous amount of control over the channels of free expression that sustain our democracy. A corporation has never before in American history been allowed to monopolize an information or communications channel. The courts and the government never let that happen before, precisely because democracy relies on the free flow of expression and that requires a broad, diverse array of information sources. When the Associated Press, Turner Broadcasting, or Barnes & Noble threatened to dominate a single marketplace of information, the courts or a government agency intervened. It’s important to see the big picture here, because this situation can easily be trivialized. We’re not just talking about the price of an e-book. We’re talking about interference with the marketplace of information and ideas, which is the engine of any democracy.

. . . .

I want to be clear on one thing, even after everything I just said: We’re not anti-Amazon. We don’t oppose everything the company does.

. . . .

BTW: According to some news reports, self-published authors who once thought of Amazon as their ally are now feeling victimized. Why is that?

MR: As we’ve seen time and time again, at the end of the day, Amazon is only interested in one thing — its own welfare and obscene growth. That became clear to a lot of the self-published authors who used to be on Team Amazon right when Amazon began pulling the rug out from under them on their royalty payments. When Amazon rolled out its subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, last year, it automatically enrolled most of the self-published authors who published with the KDP Select program in the subscription service, where readers got unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of books for $9.99 a month. So, all of a sudden, a lot of these indie authors’ royalty checks just plummeted. And there were some misgivings in the indie community; many of these writers thought they had a partner in Amazon.

Worse, though, Amazon treats its indie authors as second-class citizens. Traditionally published books in Kindle Unlimited were paid for as if sold every time a reader read beyond a certain portion. Indie authors, on the other hand, are paid pro rata out of a pool, which pits indie authors against each other in a competition for readers: One author’s gain is another’s loss. And how does Amazon calculate the amount of money that goes into the pool? No one knows but Amazon. There is a complete lack of transparency in how it determines what the pool is and, so, what any author’s royalties are. They expect authors to just trust them? It is shocking when you think about it. Imagine if a publisher said, “Don’t worry, we’ll pay you something out of our profits; just trust us.” Not exactly a model for professional authors to rely on.

. . . .

Our biggest problem with Amazon vis-à-vis indie authors is that they do not treat their authors as professionals. They provide a take it or leave it contract. Yes, we have lots of problems with the standard contracts of traditional publishers — but at least they allow authors to individually negotiate terms. The KDP authors don’t even have that luxury — they are forced to accept Amazon’s terms and its unknowable royalties, or go somewhere else. Whoops, the problem is that Amazon has so dominated the market there is nowhere else to go if you want any reasonably sized potential audience.

Link to the rest at The American Booksellers Association

Amazon, Big Publishing

145 Comments to “The Authors Guild’s Mary Rasenberger on Why Amazon Deserves Antitrust Scrutiny”

  1. “We wholeheartedly believe that Amazon deserves antitrust scrutiny.”

    Translation–We wholeheartedly believe that Amazon deserves to be punished.

  2. First I rubbed my eyes, then I sort of pulled on my hair, then I thought of things that wouldn’t pass TPV filter and now I’m trying to make a meaningful comment.

    I’m not able to…..

  3. Oh, enough. I cannot believe anyone takes this seriously. And, as it’s been remarked so often here, let the authors put their money there–remove their titles from Amazon if it’s paining that bad.

    No? Thought not.

    • Try reading to the end.

      • Did. And too bad. If they don’t like it, let them take their books to some other vendor and leave Amazon. What? No other 800# gorilla? Well, then build one. Nobody is stopping them.

        • Yeah, if publishers took their books from Amazon they would create a huge rival just by having them on B&N’s website. The short term hit would give them what they seem to want. But they basically want the government to eat the cost (paid by tax payers in the lawsuits and legislation).

          • There’s a ton of truth to this.

            To be accurate, pubs are themselves constrained by antitrust. They can’t really openly show up at a smoke-filled room and do this. But if they wanted to destroy Amazon, they could. That would be playing a long game, something corporate executives don’t do.

            • As I recall, they made that threat and Amazon called their bluff. They could try again and actually do it, but their stockholders would scream at the loss in sales.

              You keep forgetting that books/ebooks are a very ‘small’ percent of what all Amazon sells, so Amazon could just sit back and see what happens — not so much your corporate executives who would be axed for losing all the profit Amazon brings in for them.

              • And increasingly small.
                AWS alone is about the size of the five BPHs combined and three times as profitable.

                More, the BPHs would have to stagger their withdrawals, which means the first to walk away will get toasted and the last will make out like a bandit and be tempted to stay in.

                Plus, Indie, Inc is already bigger than the randy penguin. They’ll happily soak up a good chunk of those sales.

                • Hachette tried to see what games they could play with Amazon while out of contract, and after watching it for a while some of the others decided to sign new contracts before their old ones had died.

                  That kind of forced the issue of who was in the driver’s seat at that point, and it hasn’t gotten any better for the big publishers since.

                  As I said before, all the big publishers can do is rattle their sabers (or have their trained pets do it for them), to actually draw steel would be the end of them …

  4. Skimmed it. Not even sure of it’s worthy of discussion, let alone a time consuming fisk. Started to hear Charlie Browns teachers voice in my head as I read a third of the way through.

    But it does make their “tough talk” to publishers that much more comical as they once again establish, very clearly, whose side they’re on.

  5. They keep saying that Amazon is harming authors, but they never really say how. I suspect what they really mean is that Amazon is harming our masters’ ability to control the marketplace by letting the riffraff publishing whatever they please.

    • That’s it right there, Amazon removes ‘control’ of book access from the publishers.

    • “They keep saying that Amazon is harming authors, but they never really say how.”

      Really? Never?

      Dogmatic belief is an amazing thing.

      • What– the “take it or leave it contract” that pays better and has better terms than any legacy publisher”? or the diminishing adavances? (Oh wait, advances are controlled by legacy publishers and they have been diminishing them long before KDP.)

  6. There is not enough tea to make me awake enough to want to be bothered with this. :moves along:

    • Wait a minute. What kind of tea are we talking about? Hot? Iced? Will it be a high tea with little finger sandwiches and quiches and tarts? Do I have to engage with the idiots or listen to their blather? Or can I just ignore them and sip my tea and read my Kindle?

  7. “Whoops, the problem is that Amazon has so dominated the market there is nowhere else to go if you want any reasonably sized potential audience.”

    So it’s Amazon’s fault no other competitor has stepped up to really compete with them? Ok.

    • As opposed to the pre-KDP book publishing world where there was a completely level, fair, open and barrier free book market where any writer could reach potentially millions of readers in multiple countries.

      Yeah, we should get back to that right away.

  8. So, SO much wrong in that interview.

    The fact is Amazon now virtually controls an important marketplace of information. That is not good for bookstores or for authors, and it is not good for democracy. We now have a single, corporate entity that exerts a dangerous amount of control over the channels of free expression that sustain our democracy. A corporation has never before in American history been allowed to monopolize an information or communications channel. The courts and the government never let that happen before, precisely because democracy relies on the free flow of expression and that requires a broad, diverse array of information sources. … We’re not just talking about the price of an e-book. We’re talking about interference with the marketplace of information and ideas, which is the engine of any democracy.

    The stupid… it burns…

    Is she seriously comparing Amazon with the news media? Because if she gets her news from Amazon, that would totally explain the stupidity of her argument.

    • The reason why the sentence you bolded is wrong is that Amazon simply does not occupy the position she imagines it does. Apple’s market share is rising. If Kobo buys Nook, that platform could be revitalized. Amazon’s position is domineering, but nowhere near as secure as either its enemies or its pom-pom-waving cheerleaders believe. In today’s economy, leaders fall overnight.

      However, if B&N were to fold and Apple’s attention wandered elsewhere, and Amazon did come to exert monopolistic hegemony over publishing–why yes, of course that’s a problem. Despite what certain self-published authors seemed to believe, the world of publishing does not consist entirely of were-shifter porn that middle-aged women stroke themselves to while their husbands are asleep. There are also serious books in the world. They include the core of our entire cultural legacy of thought, from history and political analysis to science and technology. Real learning and real analysis happen in books, not one-page blog posts.

      If you don’t understand why that would be a problem–read a book.

      • Bartholomew Thockmorton

        “…were-shifter porn that middle-aged women stroke themselves to while their husbands are asleep.”

        Heavens to Betsy!! Say it ain’t so!

      • If you don’t understand why that would be a problem–read a book.

        Stop being condescending. You are not cute, and it does not show your comments off in a good light.

        Other than illegal porn, Amazon has not and does not exert control over what books are sold on it’s site. If it can be sold, it’s sold. Accusing them of doing something that they don’t do and have never done, or accusing them of PERHAPS sometime in the future, maybe, POSSIBLY, doing that thing – banishing books hither and yon – is a “when will you stop beating your wife” sort of cheap shot.

        • Thank you.

        • Let me see just what perverted garbage Amazon has…

          Oh yes. Just about every Pulitzer Prize winner (fiction and non-fiction) for the last several years.

          The Harvard Great Classics series.

          For old-fashioned readers, stuff by those hacks W. Shakespeare and C. Dickens, along with others.

          If it sells, it’s there – so long as the publisher is willing to have it there.

          In fact, it’s there even if it doesn’t actually sell – since it only costs Amazon about a dollar a decade to keep it in stock.

          I would suggest something for you to do, Steve – but I’m not quite as crude in my language.

        • In the argument from ignorance, you are certainly well-armed.

          Amazon has indeed censored books in the past. In public, they loudly proclaim free speech, such as in defending their publication of a guide to pedophilia, for example. Their actions have not always followed their words. Amazon did, in fact, remove thousands of gay and lesbian titles from their search rankings, restoring them only after a major public kerfuffle. Before the PR blow-up, however, they defended their actions in emails. Meaning, the change was not the accidental result of a loose software screw. It was intentional, if ill-considered.

          I am not interested in looking cute to you. Ick.

          • “I am not interested in looking cute to you. Ick.”

            We know. And we do love how anti-Amazon you are, it gives some of us a good laugh at how far you go with it — only to be easily shot down when things aren’t quite what you say they are.

            Like the discussion of creating an actual ‘Guide for Authors’, the publishers and their minions will try to infest it and try to overrun it for their own purposes. I for one thank you for coming out and showing us your true colors …

          • I find it quite telling when people scream about free speech, pointing at Amazon and its algorithms, but where were they when the Paypal happened? Where were they were Kobo happened?

            They were quiet and probably rubbing their hands in glee. So I guess is okay when retailers delete self-published books from store, but it’s not okay when certain retailers has filters for their algorithms – the hypocrisy of it so in a plain view.

            So, Steve where was your outrage then?

            Where was your outrage when self-publishers started to notice and document that they were constantly pushed down behind 125 place in B&N store not matter how much they sold? Where were you then? And why doesn’t anybody of trade-publishers pundit mention that in their interviews?

            I have to say, I didn’t hear a blip from AU, not about Kobo, not about Paypal, not about B&N situation, which says it all about how they care for self-publishers.

      • So your complaint appears to be that werewolf smut authors will no longer be forced to accept low royalties so publishers can subsidize writers of ‘serious’ books that hardly anyone actually wants to read?

      • If, if, if. Come back if the if turns to when.

      • You overestimate the impact of books in general, much less published non-trade books, in today’s society. Notice I didn’t say the importance. The IMPACT is minimal. If Amazon were to stop the publishing of all books tomorrow, the free-flow of ideas would still happen.

        Its called the internet. Its been around for a while.

        Its not POSSIBLE for Amazon to even DO what the Authors Guild and Authors United are suggesting Amazon would have the power to do. Now, Google? Yeah, they may someday have the power to control and mitigate the transmission of ideas. Books, for anything other than pleasure reading, are completely overrated in today’s culture and media landscape.

      • “If you don’t understand why that would be a problem–read a book.”

        Which book in particular are you recommending? A Shore Thing by Snooki? Or Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James?

      • Steve, you might actually be interesting to discuss this with if you didn’t keep insulting the other commenters here. And I note that you don’t have a link under your name. Are you afraid to be known?

        • Standard coward/troll.

          The thing is his entire premise is wrong.

          Steve we know everything you are saying, we get it, the thing is we also know that Amazon is giving a better deal than we’ll get elsewhere. If Apple or Random House gets their s*** together we’ll go there.

      • Steve, for a guy who doesn’t much value single-page articles on blogs, you sure seem to spend a lot of your time on them.

      • If you don’t understand why that would be a problem–read a book.

        Why would it be a problem? Is it a problem now? If so, exactly what observations support the conclusion it is a problem?

        Amazon has indeed censored books in the past.

        If a bookstore does not carry a book, has it censored the book?

        How about libraries? If libraries do not carry those gay and lesbian books, have they censored them?

        If Random House does not publish a submitted book, has it censored the book?

  9. *gets out popcorn*

    *waits for Konrath’s fisk of teh stoopid*

  10. “We’re talking about interference with the marketplace of information and ideas, which is the engine of any democracy.”

    Amazon has stripped away the ‘control’ publishers once had over which books the public would see, allowing ideas that no publisher would allow to flourish.

    And Amazon offers so many many books and ebooks that readers can’t even find my drivel — so I’m not getting the royalties I should!

    There were a couple people here that got upset when we laughed at the quiet little blog AG did to ‘help’ authors. Well guys/gals/others, things like this show upper AG members are just the little yapping lapdogs of their publisher masters.

  11. The stupid is strong in this one.

    And another thing, is it just me, or are they trying to present themselves not only as spokesmen of all trade-published authors, but self-publishers as well?
    I guess that could be just their way of trying to get self-publishers to lobby with them against Amazon, like they tried when Hachette was negotiating with Amazon.

    • “…trying to present themselves not only as spokesmen of all trade-published authors, but self-publishers as well?”

      That is of course exactly what they are trying to do.

      And this is why it is vitally important to take the time to fisk and debunk, point by point, every one of these letters, as exhausting and time-consuming as it is. If we don’t do that, eventually theirs will be the only voice being heard. That would be bad.

      • I agree with this and all the three below comments.

        I guess we will just have to tell them to shove it and that we can speak for ourselves quite well on our own, thank you very much. I’m sure that Hugh and Joe will be more than willing to tell them that via their blogs.

    • Yeah, my anger over their flagrant dishonesty in pursuit of self interest is more-or-less spent, but I am able to summon a little outrage over the portion of this that claims to speak for me. Please, please, don’t do me any favors. I’m a pretty smart cookie, and I can handle myself. And even if I couldn’t, your ham-fisted involvement in my business is the last thing I would ever want.

    • I’m with all of you. I can’t believe they are trying to act as if the have our best interests in mind.

    • Yes, I was wondering if I’d imagined that they were actually trying to say that they were looking out for indies/self-publishers. And all by using the logic that “once” Amazon allowed indies to make money, by paying out once a certain percentage was read, but “NOW” that KU pays out for pages read is bad bad bad!

      We don’t know that! And besides, they don’t speak for me, they never have, and they never will.

      And besides which, if there is a completely lack of transparency at Amazon, what on earth is going on in Trad Pub? A completely black out till the end of time?

  12. It’s important to see the big picture here, because this situation can easily be trivialized. We’re not just talking about the price of an e-book. We’re talking about interference with the marketplace of information and ideas, which is the engine of any democracy.

    She should run for president of the United States.

  13. I have to give them some props. They brought up us indies and tried to make it sound like Amazon is out to ruin us as well as BHP. Is this their “Think of the children” plea? Think of the self pubbed authors!

    I can’t say more without being overly snarky.

    • Yes, their masters (trad pubs) need these self-pub children brought into their fold — or rather under their heel where the self-pub types can be better controlled (and trad-pub can make some money on them! 😉 )

      • I would bet that for big 5 the only right way for authors to self-publish is for them to self-publish through the lovely Author Solutions and their imprints.

    • She seems to forget that indies can simply put their books on Amazon and not participate in KU if they’re unhappy with it.

  14. “We at the Authors Guild have been working closely with Doug Preston for the greater part of the past year…”

    That quote explains everything to me.

  15. I’ve posted a response, if you’re interested.

  16. This juxtaposition caught my eye right away…

    a) “I want to be clear on one thing, even after everything I just said: We’re not anti-Amazon.”

    b)“As we’ve seen time and time again, at the end of the day, Amazon is only interested in one thing — its own welfare and obscene growth.” (emphasis added)

    Either you’re objective, or you’re not. Saying you’re objective and then then using nasty-words belies your previously stated position.

  17. Our biggest problem with Amazon vis-à-vis indie authors is that they do not treat their authors as professionals. They provide a take it or leave it contract. Yes, we have lots of problems with the standard contracts of traditional publishers — but at least they allow authors to individually negotiate terms. The KDP authors don’t even have that luxury — they are forced to accept Amazon’s terms and its unknowable royalties, or go somewhere else. Whoops, the problem is that Amazon has so dominated the market there is nowhere else to go if you want any reasonably sized potential audience.

    Bolding mine to emphasize the stupid. Never mind that Amazon offers terms FOUR TIMES BETTER than a standard trad pub contract. If she thinks an individual author is going to negotiate terms with a publisher anywhere in the same ball park as that, Mr. Preston has some competition for Ignoramus of the Year this time around.

    • Snap.

      Out of interest, what part of Amazon’s royalties are ‘unknowable’? My understanding was KDP royalties are 35%/70%.

      The only possibly ‘unknowable’ is the exact lending fee per page, which does vary. But that’s not technically a royalty (or is it?).

      • Felix J. Torres

        Neither KU nor KDP payouts are royalties.
        .
        Royalties are something you get for licensing your IP and Amazon doesn’t license anything through KDP.
        Amazon *charges* a portion of ebook revenue for services rendered and forwards the rest to the publisher.

        Pretty much the way they handle Marketplace transactions for other products.

        • Yep, exactly.

          Publishing and music like the term royalty, but it really doesn’t technically apply to what we do. Indie authors are vendors. We supply a product for sale and the retailers take a commission percentage for each sale, plus some delivery costs in some cases. That’s it. Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords — none of them are our “publishers”. They are retailers we distribute to.

          The subscription services like Scribd and KU are a different beast. Revenue sharing might be the closest term, but that’s not even accurate.

    • The KDP authors don’t even have that luxury — they are forced to accept Amazon’s terms and its unknowable royalties, or go somewhere else.

      This is an example of the AG intentionally misleading authors.

      In KDP, payments per unit sale are a fixed percentage of list price.

      In KU, payment per page read in month-1 is made public in the middle of month-2.

  18. Bias evident from beginning – question: “According to some news reports, self-published authors who once thought of Amazon as their ally are now feeling victimized. ”

    The implication is that ALL self-publishers are now feeling victimized – sometimes I get the feeling these people KNOW the truth, and get together to see how close they can skate to it while not falling over the edge (sorry for mixed metaphors).

    I think they count on self-publishers being as hard to herd as cats – and having something more important to do than propaganda.

    • She also makes the very common error of saying that if indies don’t agree to KU they have no access to Amazon’s customers. When of course we still have access to the customers, just not to some of Amazon’s own publicity offers and borrowing program. Extremely annoying.

  19. Jonathan Mattson

    I liked the portion where she complained about how little authors make now since the whole ebook thing took off. Notice how we weren’t talking about how much publishers are making since that time period, just how much the publishers decide the authors should get out of their cut.

    Amazing math isn’t it, if only the publishers would keep 99% of the revenue and let the authors get 1%, they could really complain about how authors are being soooooo mistreated by Amazon.

  20. “Amazon treats its indie authors as second-class citizens.”
    I’m an Indie Author and I don’t feel like a second class citizen. Do you? As a matter of fact I feel like first class.
    Maybe she was referring to the Trad-Authors being treated like second class by the Trad-Publishers and Author Guild? Let the truth be known.

    • I guess she wasn’t letting facts get in the way of her beliefs.

    • Nope. I do not feel like a second-class citizen working with Amazon as my distributor. I actually feel privileged that I have access to all their customers without doing much other than my writing.

  21. The AG seems totally enthralled by the misconception that Amazon *publishes* Indie titles, hence their continual and willful mis-characterization of KDP payouts as *royalties*.

    They aren’t. KDP payouts are simply accumulated sales revenue minus Amazon distribution charges and are equivalent to what Amazon pays out to traditional publishers, which then gets distributed to all vested parties according to the publishers’ contractual terms.

    Comparing indie publisher payouts to tradpub royalties is not oranges to oranges.
    (And totally unfair to traditional publishers. 😉 )

    For indies, Amazon is a distributor/retailer, not a frakking publisher! Which is why they don’t need to negotiate royalties with agents. They offer a 90-day fixed-priced service, not a life + 70 (one-sided) partnership. How hard is that to grasp?

    All this campaign is doing is highlight just how deep Indies are cutting into the tradpub share of the market.

  22. Has anyone on the AU/AG side ever indicated what a remedy would or should look like if the DoJ were to agree with them? That’s not snark or sarcasm; it’s an honest question. What’s the end game supposed to be?

    • Amazon gets nuked, civilization returns to the 1980’s when the Manhattan Syndicate ruled publishing.

      • That’s my take, too, Felix. I think that it’s most likely, to paraphrase PG from another post, “I’m scared, and I want someone to make this better for me.”

    • I’m going to guess either they haven’t thought that far, expect someone else to do it for them, or believe the DOJ won’t do anything and are just blowing a lot of hot air.

    • Has anyone on the AU/AG side ever indicated what a remedy would or should look like if the DoJ were to agree with them?

      It’s difficult since Amazon is not exhibiting the classic behavior of a monopolist.

      The classic monopolist reduces production and increases price to the point on the demand curve where he maximizes profit. So, society pays more for less.

      That’s not what Amazon does. They do the opposite. They increase production and decrease prices. Hardly a problem for consumers.

      It is a problem for some producers. So what? Let them fall. Each time one of them leaves the market, another takes his place, and nobody notices.

  23. With “friends” and “champions” like this, what author needs enemies?

    She replaces the previous executive director of the Authors Guild, Paul Aiken, … a position which several trad pub oriented sites describe as “running” the place. “New boss same as the old boss.”

    Have they yet come forward with info as to their salaries/billings/expenses, sources of funding other than membership fees from authors, etc.?

    From the Guild’s staff directory page…
    “The Guild employs a full-time staff of 16 at its New York City headquarters.”

  24. “Two weeks ago, the book industry saw an unprecedented joint action: U.S. booksellers, authors, and literary agents called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the business practices of Amazon.com.”

    Unprecedented? Dang! Wiping coffee spray off the monitor and keyboard now.

    And the snickerlicious attempted spin in the entire article is making me really dizzy.

  25. More of the same idiocy from AG/AU, but this Steve guy sure seems fun.

    • It’s DBD redux.
      If it’s who I think, he works for the NYT.

      • Let’s give him credit. He at least sticks around to respond a bit.

        • Yep, as opposed to Drive-by Deb and Chopper Pilot Greg. He stays to patronize, I’ll give him credit for that.

          • So we add Slugger Steve to our friends list? Unlike Drive By and Chopper Pilot, he does take a beating and keeps on slogging away at it. 😉

          • Patricia Sierra

            I’ve totally missed Chopper Pilot’s posts. I feel left-out.

          • Yup. He sticks around so is definitely more fun than DBD. I have a soft spot for DBD though, I prefer her 1 paragraph dump and runs.

            Do people like Steve think we don’t see the dangers and pitfalls in Amazon?

            We see ’em Steve! But we also know it’s a better deal than anywhere else.

      • I think that Steve’s and DBD’s comments do add value to comment section, because when you (a collective you) take time to rebuke their statement or explain what they seem to be missing, you are giving the rest of us (especially the ones who are new to publishing business) a clearer picture and maybe even answer some of the questions that they might have had, but they were too afraid to ask or too shy to come out of the lurking mode.

        And besides, it would be boring if we agreed all the time, which I think most of the regulars do. I often find myself nodding when reading the comments and lately I often find myself writing a comment, just to delete it a moment later, because somebody had already wrote what I wanted to say and usually they had done it much better than I did.

        • Or I write a comment and post it just to find out someone else posted something silmilar seconds before me.

    • Steve is adork-able! Do we need a PV mascot?

  26. At the DOJ door:

    Knock. Knock.

    Who’s there?

    AU.

    AU who?

    A… U, we need our Zon boo boo kissed. And that’s not all we want kissed!

  27. Looks like she is trying to leave the impression she speaks for independent authors.

  28. If Amazon is Evil, then certainly these people think Google is Satan Himself, right? Because manipulating search results are FAR more likely to undermin democracy then controlling the book trade. Especially considering that 24% of Americans did not read one. Single. Book. Last. Year.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-decline-of-the-american-book-lover/283222/

    But they all used Google to find out information they needed to know.

  29. Bringing up concerns with how KU pays authors is a good thing. It’s a serious concern for a lot of authors. And Mary Rasenberger did bring up some good points. But then she starts confusing KDP with KDP Select with terms like “unknowable royalties.” Technically, we’re not earning royalties, we’re being paid as the publisher. But let’s say she means “payment for books sold”. In that case, I know exactly what my royalties are. They’re based on the price of the book.

    I don’t know what my payout for borrows will be. That’s a separate issue, as those are NOT sales. If I don’t like that and want to opt out, I can. And I can continue to sell books on Amazon.

    As for not being able to negotiate contracts, I would guess a lot of individual sellers of other items on Amazon can’t negotiate either. And I’m pretty sure that’s the case with sellers on Ebay and Etsy and the like. We’re not licensing our publishing rights, we’re signing a contract with a distributor.

    • Who pays an agent to negotiate for them with an airline? Or a moving company? Or UPS? A gardener?

      Service providers set their prices.
      If you don’t like them, you go elsewhere.

      What I hear in these screeds is a mishmash of combined whines from publishers, agents, and retailers wrapped in high-minded strawman irrelevancies. But nothing meaningful to informed authors.

  30. I read the article. It sounds convincing. However, the main point appears to be based in an alternate dimension. In this dimension, indie authors don’t have to join KU. It’s optional. We’re free (to do what we want, any old time).

    KU can’t do anything to your royalties unless you ask it to. And if you do ask it to, and you don’t like it, you can leave it.

    There’s no blood-in and blood-out rule for Kindle Unlimited. I was in it once, and I left it by clicking a radio button. I survived the experience. In fact, I liked the new experience so much that I nip a book back in there every so often to see what it’ll do.

    I can’t comment on royalties in KU, but I was there for the Select experience of 2012, where Amazon gave me tens of thousands of downloads in a day. The Amazon algorithm giveth, and sometimes it taketh away, but it’s pretty consistent about never forcing itself upon people/authors.

    I’m not in an author guild. But if I was, I’d expect them to know how Amazon works. It’s the biggest bookseller, so it’s worth understanding how it works if you plan to represent authors…

  31. I can rewrite this entire article. It will be much shorter and infinitely more accurate.

    “Why Amazon Deserves Antitrust Scrutiny

    It doesn’t.”

  32. “The fact is Amazon now virtually controls an important marketplace of information. That is not good for bookstores or for authors, and it is not good for democracy. We now have a single, corporate entity that exerts a dangerous amount of control over the channels of free expression that sustain our democracy.”

    Y’know, you could say the EXACT same thing about NewsCorp, the people who own Harper Collins. I don’t see her raising any stink about Rupert Murdoch’s iron grip on media. That’s how you know this is all BS.

  33. Wow. Just wow.

    Reminds of the hyperbole amongst the Democratic politicians/School Reform advocates when it comes Common CORE/NCLB/Charter Schools.

  34. When groups like Au and the Ag say they are fighting for me, why does it conjure images of people offering me a glass of water while I’m drowning?

    In their stupidity of course….

  35. Well first, I really can’t believe that ANYONE thinks these letters will be effective in getting the DOJ to start an anti-trust suit.

    The DOJ has already responded to tons of letters like this over the years, with a clear response that Amazon does not meet the definition of a monopoly.

    So, I can only assume the intent of this is to gather together as a group against a common “enemy” and find solidarity, hopefully gathering public opinion along the way.

    That’s not a bad thing, but I think they are looking in the wrong direction.

    This:

    “…in recent years [Amazon] has ruthlessly used, indeed abused, its unprecedented dominance of the book retail market in ways that harm the book industry as a whole, including authors and the reading public.”

    is complete propaganda, of course, but more importantly, it couldn’t be more wrong.

    Amazon has re-invigerated the book market a trillion-fold, and given authors a publishing freedom they have never had before in the history of man-kind.

    Amazon has liberated the writer.

    Amazon has put reading and books on the map, by spear-heading the digital technological revolution, and by making books more accessible than they have ever been in the history of man-kind.

    In sum, Amazon has been an unbelievable boon to books and authors, second to none.

    But ultimately, technological revolution is truly at the heart of all these changes, so the bottom line is that if Amazon hadn’t done it, someone else would have.

    So, banding together and trying to rip down Amazon will have no true impact. This is a technological revolution, and these changes are simply inevitable.

    So, I do think authors banding together to address the rapid changes in the Industry is an awesome thing. I just wish – if people are worried – they would put their energy into building solutions, rather than trying to tear down something that is not going to budge. Work on competition and collaboration and the rise of the author’s dominance.

    Don’t put your hands in front of a tidal wave. Ride it and steer it in the direction you want it to go.

  36. “Yes, we have lots of problems with the standard contracts of traditional publishers…”

    Gee, a major break through.

  37. ‘Steve’ is all that is wrong with this country. Thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us and that Big Govt should lord over us like a king. The filthy liberal universities breed this nonsense.

    He doesn’t write, and he doesn’t sell. Or he’s a lottery winner mouthpiece for Big Pub. Nothing in between. He lashes out because anything that enables independence terrifies his ilk. Pity him, don’t engage him.

    • How about we leave POLITICS out of the discussions of publishing. If you think everyone shares your politics or that you’re going to convince anyone by dragging it into totally unrelated threads, think again!

      • Yup, agreed. Equating one side with “liberal” and the other with “conservative” is lazy and reductive and just plain inaccurate. Such a blinkered worldview must really struggle to take account of something like, say, Rupert Murdoch owning HarperCollins.

  38. ” Indie authors, on the other hand, are paid pro rata out of a pool…”

    Only if the Indy authors, who these authors have spent years spitting on, CHOOSE to be in KU. So she has considerable problem with choice.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.