Saturday, August 09, 2014

Authors and readers weigh in

Everyone who reads has heard about the Amazon-Hachette debate, at least those in the USA and probably most in the Western world. Authors have been "taking sides" for one or the other since the news broke about what was happening.

I'm on the side of the reader. I am a reader. I love books. I want to be able to afford books and to read them on my ereader. That, I suppose, puts me on Amazon's side of the dispute, because they're fighting for low ebook prices. Not 99c books, of course -- that would be ridiculous. But $9.99 is not ridiculously low for an ebook that has an extremely low cost to produce.

A few years ago, a writer friend, David Gaughran, put out a book called Let's Get Digital. I'm one of the many authors he reached out to for a paragraph or two on how the ebook industry has affected me as a writer. David has become, along with Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, and The Passive Guy, a vocal defender of indie publishing and ebooks. David has recently reposted a guest post by Ed Robertson about how Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Saving It. Highly recommended reading.

As is this message from the Amazon Kindle team that I received in my inbox this morning.

For anyone confused about the issues, I highly recommend those two links. Or this one, written by one of Hachette's own authors, Michael Sullivan. Or this one from Yahoo Finance. To get both sides of the story, read this letter by author Douglas Preston and a few hundred of his peers.

I wrote to Mr. Preston about the issue and received this reply:

Dear Karen,
As is often the case with the Internet, not everything you read there is true. We’ve never called for higher prices. We’re not against Amazon or its indie publishing model—which I personally think is one of the best things Amazon has done. Those are misrepresentations of our position being floated about on the Internet. 
We aren’t taking sides in this dispute at all. If you read the letter, you will see that we are simply asking Amazon to resolve its differences with Hachette without hurting authors, blocking the sale of books, slowing delivery, and otherwise inconveniencing their own customers. Amazon has enormous negotiating tools at its disposal. It doesn’t need to drag innocent authors into their dispute with Hachette.
I hope that clears up our views on the matter.

All best,
I suspect that the authors who've signed the Authors United letter do not have a clear understanding of all the issues.

Hachette's contract with Amazon expired in February or March. Amazon extended it by a month to give Hachette time to review the new contract, but a new contract has not been signed. Amazon has made several offers, in fact, and Hachette keeps stonewalling. If there's no contract between them to allow Amazon to offer things like pre-orders and ebook discounts or stocking a certain number of print books in advance of orders, then what's a bookseller to do?

I had to sign an agreement with Amazon for it to sell my books. Why shouldn't Hachette? If the terms are not to their liking, they are free to choose not to sell at Amazon. They are also free to negotiate for terms they can live with, but they haven't. Amazon isn't responsible for those decisions on Hachette's part.

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