I've said this before and I have hesitated writing about because I haven't had proof. Proof surfaced today in the form of Amazon's new test of a service called "Kindle Unlimited." Amazon has made no secret that it is after content. In an online environment, content is where the money is at.Read More
UPDATE: I found Joe Konrath's Huffington Post article Amazon Removes Reviews that explains the issue and how it evolved. Unfortunately, even in light of Joe's rather magnanimous opinion of Amazon, my opinion remains largely unchanged, so I am going to leave my original post as is:
I haven't seen the official statement yet, but from comments on Twitter and Facebook, it seems that Amazon is going to be deleting authors' reviews of books. The news is creating righteous indignation across Twitter.
Frankly, I have no empathy for Amazon, who brought this down on themselves by "ranking" authors according to the number of reviews and ratings that an author garners. Nor do I think authors have any right to run around screaming about unfairness.
This is what happens when authors game the system in a company the size of Amazon. Amazon doesn't have time to address whether each review is legitimate or not, that would mean hiring people, and people cost money. Instead, it is easier to create an algorithm that "weeds" out author reviews based on whether a name is associated with a published work.
Don't tell me that authors don't game the system. I've seen Goodreads groups that encourage indie authors to go around and five-star and comment on one another's novels with "reviews." There are blogs devoted to how to garner "reviews" and "market" your work. Traditionally published authors and indie authors had created sock-puppet accounts to promote their own works. Neither side can claim the moral high-ground here.
Reviews on Amazon have become a joke.
So quit running around screaming about how terrible and horrible Amazon is acting right now. Authors have brought this down on themselves by acting like asses.
Authors spend all their time trying to figure out how to promote their novels. It would really be nice if they spent as much, if not more, time on studying how to write a better novel.
So suck it up and move on, people.
I have wanted to write this post for a while but simply have not had the time. Either at cons or online, I've heard a lot of authors say the following: "Amazon is for authors."*
Amazon is a business. They are trying to do to publishing what they tried to do to independent bookstores and eliminate the competition. Period.
I am so sorry to be the one to break this to you, but Amazon (and in all fairness: Apple, Google, etc.) doesn't give a monkey's ass about authors.
Likewise, Amazon is not the Great Satan. They are a company operating on the business model to perform at a loss until they have amassed enough content to require a subscription service. For authors publishing through Amazon: it's all right to be used as long as you're using Amazon back and do not allow Amazon to take unfair advantage of authors or their works.
You must also realize that Amazon's business model is unsustainable on a long-term basis. Amazon can offer cheap ebooks because: 1) Amazon doesn't have to pay taxes like other companies; and 2) Amazon is intentionally undercutting everyone else the same way Wal-Mart undercut the competition to rise to the top.
Now if you want to see the Wal-Martization of books, keep going on the current track, because here is how a little company called Westlaw rose to the top in much the same way:
Back in the eighties and nineties, Westlaw digitalized case law and court opinions. They created a searchable database, and unlike Amazon, they charged a lot of money for it, probably nowhere near the amount that it took to run the system and have qualified attorneys online to answer questions, but they stayed with it even when others said it would never work. Then Thompson West started buying the competition (kind of like Amazon is doing now). The DOJ blocked a couple of purchases to prevent Westlaw from acquiring a monopoly and to maintain some market competition; however, Westlaw remains the leader and the most expensive of the lot.
Ring in Amazon (and just for the record, the Google Book Project worked the same way). Same business model, different content. Amazon isn't worried about offering $0.99 ebooks, because once they've demolished the competition, they can clean up their database and jack the prices as high as they want.
Authors will be forced to deal with Amazon and if authors don't like Amazon's terms, then Amazon will treat authors like they are currently treating the publishers--Amazon's way or the highway.
In terms of people who think ebooks should be cheaper because of lower overhead ... I want you to think about a few things:
- A well-written ebook is going to have all of the costs of print book in terms of editing, good cover art, which includes licenses to replicate images, and formatting.
- Ebooks aren't just floating around out there on the ether. Ebooks are on servers (factor in costs in terms of equipment, electricity, cooling expenses--those servers generate a lot of heat, and personnel to run that equipment, including benefits for any full-time personnel).
- Marketing costs
- Royalties to the author
Now you take that $0.99 and divide the pennies between the recipients as outlined above.
Finally, and this is really all I have to say on the subject, if you, like me, have a problem spending $13.00 or more for a LICENSE, which is what you are purchasing when you purchase an ebook, then buy the hard copy. That is what I do.
Now if you want to discuss, discuss, but I've said all I have to say.
*John Scalzi did an excellent write-up on this topic at his blog and you can read it here.