Smashwords and Flipkart are ending their distribution agreement first announced in August, 2013.
The unfortunate news effectively hands the market for indie ebooks in India to Amazon.
A few weeks ago, I notified Flipkart that Smashwords was placing its distribution agreement with Flipkart under review.
I provided Flipkart a deadline by which Flipkart was asked to repair certain problems related to the listing and removal of Smashwords titles, and to provide Smashwords an acceptable plan to prevent such issues from recurring in the future.
I informed Flipkart that if these requirements were not met that Smashwords would request the immediate removal of all Smashwords titles. The deadline was missed and an acceptable plan was not presented.
This morning Smashwords received word from Flipkart that after careful consideration, Flipkart determined their systems are not yet capable of supporting the dynamic nature of the Smashwords catalog. As a result they will begin winding down the relationship with Smashwords and remove our titles.
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Our primary concern was Flipkart’s delays associated with the removal of Smashwords titles that had been unpublished. Most of these titles were removed because the Smashwords author or publisher made the decision to enroll their book in KDP Select, an ebook self publishing option offered by Amazon that requires authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon.
Once authors enroll a title in KDP Select, Amazon requires the author to immediately remove the book from all competing retailers otherwise the book is removed from the KDP Select program and the author is warned that repeated offenses could lead to the termination of their entire KDP account.
As you might imagine, these fire-and-brimstone emails from Amazon are unnerving to authors.
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Many indies don’t understand the long term implications of KDP Select. The million or so books enrolled in KDP Select are almost entirely provided by the indie author community. Amazon coerces authors to enroll their books my making KDP Select books more discoverable and more desireable to Kindle customers, while making non-exclusive books less visible and less desirable. The message is quite simple: If you want to sell more books at the world’s largest ebook retailer, you must be exclusive.
I don’t blame indies for their difficult decision. I met with one indie author a few weeks ago at a conference who told me words to the effect of, “I hate the exclusivity of KDP Select, yet I’m in it because I have a mortgage to pay. Books in KDP Select sell better than non-exclusive books.”
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I believe KDP Select is toxic to the future of indie publishing because it forces authors to abandon competing retailers and become more dependent upon Amazon. When competing retailers lose access to this important inventory of indie titles, they can’t compete.
Amazon wields its dominant market share like a club to bludgeon authors who don’t fall into compliance with Amazon’s exclusivity or pricing requirements, even when the lack of compliance is not the author’s fault. No other ebook retailer practices such draconian punishment of authors.
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To be clear, the termination of our agreement with Flipkart is not Amazon’s fault. However, Amazon was a catalyst because the harm they’re causing our shared authors made it impossible for us to give Flipkart the runway they needed to improve their systems.
Although Flipkart is a small ebook retailer and the financial impact on Smashwords authors will be negligible, I’m more concerned by what this signals for the future of ebook retailing around the world.
Link to the rest at Smashwords