5 Comments

  1. Hi Will,

    This means you’ve lost me as a reader.

    Not because I’m angry at you or disagree with your decision or anything like that, but because I already own two Nooks, and do the vast majority of my reading on a Nook, and Amazon won’t let me get your content onto my eReader.

    *That* is why Amazon scares me, personally. Because reading should be platform agnostic. Like you, I want stories, and I want stories to be read. I *don’t* want stories to be read … as long as it’s on Amazon’s hardware, or in Amazon’s software, or in some other Amazon-approved manner.

    And this isn’t really about Amazon, either. It’s about *any* corporation owning our knowledge and our stories. It’s about having to ask someone else for permission to read. The files I have on my Nook are in a widely supported format, and the DRM is fairly trivial to remove. The same isn’t true of Amazon. If B&N folds tomorrow, I can move those files over to a Kindle, or a Kobo, or whatever. The same isn’t true of Amazon.

    Right now, if I want a Will Entrekin or a Joe Konrath or one of the several hundreds of children’s novels that Amazon bought the rights to, I have to have a Kindle. As more and more people sign exclusive agreements, competing eReaders aren’t going to be usable anymore, because the stories I want are going to be hidden in a walled garden. Amazon already owns something like 70% of the digital book market … and they’re doing everything in their power to own the other 30%. And this terrifies me.

    As an author, Amazon treats me better than any other company. If someone was going to buy my stories, it would be better for *me* if they did it through Amazon. But it might not be better for them. And I am worried about what will happen a few years down the line, when B&N isn’t around to compete any more and Apple has moved on to the next shiny thing … is Amazon still going to treat me as well as they do today? Or will they start treating me like they’re already treating traditional publishers? Will they slowly start to squeeze more and more out of me, just because there’s nowhere else to go?

    Maybe this won’t happen. But human nature says it will. Monopolies aren’t good for anyone except the monopolist.

  2. Hi, Thomas. Thanks for the thoughts there, and I’m sorry it means you will no longer be reading my work. Yeah, I know it will mean some people won’t be able to read my work (though, you can if you root your Nook. Or on a phone. Or on the computer, if you wrote your comment from one). Which is why your “Right now, if I want a Will Entrekin or a Joe Konrath or one of the several hundreds of children’s novels that Amazon bought the rights to, I have to have a Kindle” is not totally correct. Certainly, the Kindle is probably the most optimal device to read it on, but now . . . I mean, if you’re reading my site, you’re online, which means you can easily enough use the Kindle Cloud Reader, which is pretty remarkable.

    I get that fear. It’s interesting you mention “If Amazon folds tomorrow,” because that’s what I most worry about on the Nook–that Barnes & Noble will fold tomorrow. It’s already failed to attract a buyer–for a bookstore, is that like when a writer fails to find a publisher for his or her manuscript? Kobo, too, considering its largest shareholder is a bookstore. Sony . . . well, Sony’s probably going to flail at electronics for years to come.

    I agree monopolies aren’t good. But for me, I see Barnes & Noble as basically a monopoly (pretty much the only large-scale book chain anymore. Books-a-Who? !ndigo what now?). I also think the cartel owned and operated by corporate publishers is arguably more detrimental. Doesn’t News Corp own a lot of authors’ knowledge and stories? Same with any other.

    How much of the digital media market does Apple own?

  3. Hi Will,

    A lot of your points are very true. In my first comment, I tried to simplify things a bit, and speak from the point of view of an “average” user. I’m a computer guy, and I have plugins for Calibre that will strip DRM from B&N or Amazon and convert them into pretty much whatever format I want. But the average user doesn’t have that knowledge or that option. Meets Girl has been on my TBR pile for a while, and if I’m honest with myself, your being Amazon-only isn’t likely to kill my curiosity about that story. But for a lot of people who already own Nooks, and want to read on their Nook … it’s a different story.

    I actually said “if B&N folds”, not Amazon, and you’re right … B&N is in trouble. But here’s my worry: let’s say B&N is killed off, and Amazon is the only game in town. Essentially everyone has to publish through them, and everyone has to buy from them. What could go wrong?

    Well, they could decide that the margin on eBooks isn’t high enough, and start cutting royalty rates. Now, instead of 70%, authors are seeing a more traditional 30%, or 15%, or whatever Amazon decides to allow us to keep. It’s not like we can go anywhere else, right? Sure, we could sell directly from our web sites… enjoy the 100% royalties on those few dozen sales. And no, we’re not going to let you get those unapproved books on our hardware; why would we do that?

    Or maybe Amazon decides to become more politically active. We’ve already seen remove copies of *1984* from users’ Kindles, and mark Gay & Lesbian literature as “Adult Only.” Maybe that was a mistake, or maybe it was a fluke of their algorithm, or maybe it was Focus on the Family gaming Amazon’s complaint process, but the fact remains: if Amazon doesn’t like your content, they can make it unavailable, or even take it away from you. Let’s say Jeff Bezos finds Jesus. Suddenly, Gay & Lesbian literature disappears from Amazon’s virtual shelves. Memoirs from Occupy Wall Street are mysteriously deleted from user’s Kindles. Pro-Democrat books are oddly buried in the search results.

    That’s a bit far-fetched, but only a bit. If Amazon is the only game in town, Amazon will, to an unacceptable extent, control our cultural conversation.

    Or maybe Amazon just decides that it doesn’t want to be in the book business any more. Maybe in a decade or so, after Jeff Bezos retires, Amazon makes a series of huge missteps and gets split up, cannibalized by a dozen other companies, and none of them want to deal with this “Kindle” thing. A couple of years ago Wal Mart decided to exit the digital music business and shut down their DRM servers … nuking their customers’ music collection in the process. What assurance do we have that the same thing won’t happen with Amazon? What if they decide to shut down Kindle Cloud Reader, and stop manufacturing Kindles, and stop verifying DRM? These stories that we love and want read will, for all intents and purposes, simply vanish.

    I agree that Amazon is the best thing happening in publishing right now, as an author and as a reader. On both fronts, they treat me very well. They single-handedly made both self-publishing and digital publishing mainstream ideas, and I don’t want to overlook or trivialize their contribution. And I don’t hold a lot of love for traditional publishers, either. You’re right … they do own far too much of our collective culture. But I don’t think we should let that fact blind us to what Amazon *could* become. Because as much fun as it is to watch Amazon flex its muscle against the Big Six … I’m painfully aware that it could just as easily start flexing its muscle against me, too.

    A proprietary format, with proprietary DRM, and these exclusive deals, are the tools Amazon is using to become the only publishing entity worth talking about. I understand that it’s a good deal for you, or at least a worthwhile experiment. I just hope we don’t look back at this moment and regret what we created.

  4. I get all that, Thomas. But as you point out, you’re talking about a lot of things that could happen, maybe, down the line. Possibly. It’s all “a bit far-fetched,” as you point out. There are several “maybes” you mentioned.

    I do hope you get to Meets Girl ultimately. You might well be one of a couple of people who picked it up for Nook–which is one of the reasons I’ve personally decided to go with Amazon for now.

    You agree that Amazon is the best thing happening in publishing right now. And I’m willing to hitch with them for the next 90 days.

    It’s only 90 days of exclusivity, after all. The free promotion made possible by doing so has already prompted hundreds of downloads–which I hope will introduce my work to new readers. That’s my main goal, after all.

    I’m not sure why what corporate publishers and retail bookstores are should make us wary of what Amazon could become; after all, Barnes & Noble and the Big 6 already are those things, and while there is a possibility Amazon might become all the things you fear, there must be a possibility it will become an honest, viable, empowering company as well.

    Of course, one could make the argument it’s already more honest, viable, and empowering than the big 6 or B&N, too.

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