I’m a little disappointed to see only writers and publishing industry folks talking about Amazon’s dispute with Macmillan. Short version: Amazon has a dispute with Macmillan Books over one small aspect of their business (ebooks) so they pulled all their paper books from sale. They are throwing their weight around in a maneuver straight out of the WalMart Monopolist’s Handbook.
I know the previous #amazonfail furor was over social justice, and this is “just business”. A lot of readers also have a personal pocketbook-pug in the ebook-pricing dogfight. But publishing is the business of selling ideas, and that makes it everyone’s business. I’m by no means saying everyone needs to delete their Amazon account as a few authors have done. To be honest, I’m not doing so. I haven’t bought a book from Amazon in a long time because of their strong-arm tactics toward publishing companies (they did something almost identical to a UK company) and print-on-demand sellers. I intend to continue that policy.
All I’m hoping is that some folks outside the publishing industry — readers, consumers who are affected by this — read about this and think about it. Books are the lifeblood of our civilization, the strongest thread connecting past and future. I’m not gnashing my teeth with anger over this dispute, and I’m not asking you to do so: I’m just saying that, given Amazon’s powerful place in the bookselling industry, this is an important conversation, and one everyone who reads and loves books, paper or digital, should pay attention to.
Here’s some reading:
- Just the facts Friday, from the New York Times.
- Macmillan’s statement yesterday.
- Cory Doctorow’s BoingBoing post.
- Tobias Buckell on this situation, and e-book pricing in detail (long, quite thorough) (Mirrored on SFWA’s blog).
- Live feed on the #amazonfail twitter topic. Tweeters who’ve been voluble include the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and Tor author Jay Lake.
If you decide to do something, here are some ideas:
- Buy a Macmillan book (Tor, Forge, St. Martin’s, Picador, Farrar Straus & Giroux, et c.) from another retailer, like Powell’s, this weekend.
- Commit to buying all your books from another retailer.
- When you link books from your blog or website, link to another retailer (I use Powell’s: their Partner Program is nice.
- Write an email to Amazon, telling them if you disagree with their actions. If you’re taking any business elsewhere, you can tell them this way.
- Blog about this, delicious links about it, whatever comes naturally.
- If you’re on Twitter, retweet messages and links about this.
- If you’re on Facebook, post links or update your Facebook status so your friends hear about this.
- If you belong to Flickr, take a photo of any number of Macmillan books and contribute it to my new group, “Amazon won’t sell these books”. I love taking photos of books (weird, I know) and I hope this will cause some conversation.
Thanks for reading!
Update, 3:18pm, 1/31/2010: Amazon has announced they will acquiesce to Macmillan, in a post on their Kindle fora. The tone of the announcement, I feel, is very misleading. It paints Amazon as the victim of Macmillan’s strong-arm tactics, even while it admits Amazon pulled the books. Choice language: “…Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.” They don’t mention that Macmillan wanted to charge as little as $5.99 later in the book’s life cycle.
So now that I’ve read their spin, I have a correction to make to this post: I wasn’t angry. Now I am.
Amazon hasn’t said when they will restore the books, and I would still love to see your Macmillan books added to the Flickr group “Amazon won’t sell these books”.