Amazon ebook controvery persists: update

Lynne Kiesling

A quick update on the Amazon ebook controversy that continues to roil since my earlier posts on resale price maintenance and on price discrimination. This Technology Review article covers much of the same territory that I did in those posts, with some links to additional author sources, and Simon Owens at Bloggasm has some interviews with Tor Publishing authors on the impact this situation will have on their incomes and their abilities to continue writing. Tor author John Scalzi has an extremely funny satirical screenplay post on the situation (see if you catch the joke in the name of one character!). Kenneth Anderson at Volokh Conspiracy asks several of the same questions I did, and the discussion in the comments is particularly insightful. One of the commenters raised the question of whether Amazon’s market power is sufficient to constitute a monopoly, and that they could therefore be prosecuted under antitrust law for removing Macmillan’s books from their offerings (the consensus seems to be no, correctly). If you are following this story, I encourage you to check them out.

Speaking of Amazon’s market power … from the Technology Review article:

On Sunday, Amazon agreed to accept Macmillan’s new pricing model and said it would once again make the publisher’s titles available through its site.

However, I just checked Amazon’s listing for Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (which is my test book for this story), and it still only lists availability for third-party sellers; there is still no listing for a direct purchase from Amazon, or for a Kindle ebook version of the book. It seems that John Scalzi is engaging in the same research as I am, finding that his Tor titles are listed similarly to Wolf Hall. He’s also landed in the same place as I have in terms of how I will spend my money from here on out:

Q: Do you hate Amazon?

A: My Amazon Prime account suggests that I really don’t. But, you know, look. What this is about to me, and what it’s always been about for me, is the fact that Amazon is punishing authors — a lot of them — for something that fundamentally doesn’t have anything to do with them, that being top-level trade negotiations between two corporate entities. Amazon can choose to do whatever it likes under the law, but admitting “Amazon has a right to do this” doesn’t mean I can’t say “and it’s being dicks to a lot of innocent writers” as well. Both statements are true. As for me, it’s pretty simple: When Amazon reinstates the “buy” buttons to all the Macmillan titles it’s stripped them from, I’ll consider buying something from it again. Until then, I’m taking my personal business elsewhere. I’m not suggesting others have to follow my example. But this is where I’m at.

Yep, me too. I’ve got hundreds of dollars worth of books and other merchandise in my Amazon wish list and shopping cart, and I plan on shopping for them elsewhere for as long as Amazon refuses to have direct links to the Macmillan books. I have been planning on buying several new hardcover books (such as The Enlightened Economy and The Invention of Enterprise), and now I’m going to do so elsewhere, as you can tell from the links that I’ve chosen. In fact, I also canceled my American Airlines MasterCard last November and got an Amazon Visa card instead, which is also now going to lie fallow in my wallet unless absolutely necessary.

I’ll be shopping for books at the online and “meatspace” locations of Barnes and Noble and Powell’s, and I’ll continue buying books from Abe Books. I’ll also shop elsewhere for housewares and electronics, high-priced products that I used to buy with great alacrity through Amazon.

Oh, and by the way, if you want an ebook version of Wolf Hall, Abe Books has one from Bargain Electronic Books in pdf format for $9.49.

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2 thoughts on “Amazon ebook controvery persists: update

  1. I’d rather read a hard copy than a PDF: it’s not even a comparison. But I’ll continue to order from Amazon. I note that when I go to Tor and Macmillan I can: 1. not find any .mobi/prc books, or 2. Find e-books priced above the physical hard covers. I’m waiting to see what Macmillan does. When they continue the pricing they have shown in the past, I will continue a boycott of their new books (unless I am overcome by desire, in which case I will buy the hardcover. There are vanishingly few books I feel that way about.)The world evolves, time for authors who have a market to evolve with it, and perhaps drag their screaming publishers behind them. New authors should look for exciting houses and editors, like those at Baen.

  2. How does one buy “with great alacrity”? It seems alacrity is a response:
    Main Entry: alac·ri·ty
    Pronunciation: \ə-ˈla-krə-tē\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Latin alacritas, from alacr-, alacer lively, eager
    Date: 15th century
    : promptness in response : cheerful readiness
    — alac·ri·tous \-krə-təs\ adjective

    Maybe amazon sends you invitations to purchase. Myself I do not receive those emails from amazon.

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