Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Buy Button

** This blog is interrupted for a Special Bulletin * *

My favorite classes at Arizona State University was the social policy classes. What I liked best, I suppose, was that they were classes where those with strong analytical abilities did well. That would be me.

Often a policy is developed for the immediate 'problem' - quite shortsightedly. Policy is often different for different classes (ethnic, economic, educated, gender and so on). And when not obviously discriminating in development, they can be applied in a discriminating manor.

Since Mr. Bezos launched Amazon.com in 1995, it became a large part of my life. We lived 50 miles from the nearest bookstore, used or otherwise. Largely Amazon has been 'good' to me as a shopping customer. Though in 15 years, their website has become quite cluttered and at times almost too 'helpful' in suggesting books.

As a writer, I'm not sure that Amazon is such a 'good' friend. I pay a fee to have my books on there. Books that 'everyone' said should be there and they would buy, if there. Turns out that is not the case - sales are pathetic (doesn't even cover the fee).

Amazon strong arms a whopping 55% per book which one would think would leave 45%, but that doesn't consider that the price of the book printing and shipping comes out of that 45% and has, so far, cost me more than I made. Imagine what a loss it would be if I hadn't raised the price of my books so I could put them on Amazon - like everyone told me to do.

I'm not sure how anyone could miss the recent situation brewing at Amazon. I've spent the last week thinking about my position on Amazon pulling the buy buttons off of MacMillian's books. That is a bully thing to do, but this isn't the first time Amazon has done it to other, smaller publishers. Probably won't be the last time. And I can't quite forget when the Amazon Rankings went missing on gay and lesbian books. Who's next?

What does this mean to the readers? I guess they go to another online provider or wait. What does the publisher do? Google "MacMillian and buy button" for that whole story. What does Amazon do? Same answer as the previous one.

When I wear my "Writer's Hat" and think about it from that prospective, it first brings to mind that our work is only a pawn. It is not valued in financial terms - readers don't want to pay list price. Publishers and agents don't stand behind their authors like they once did. Everyone and their cousin has a business that makes money on the fact that we write, that is except most writers.

And we are the most pathetic of all. We don't have the guts to strike like the screen writers did. We know if we don't produce, there are a million and one novices who will cross the picket line.

If you have a book on Amazon, there is a new website from the Authors Guild where you can track the absence of your book's buy button - WhoMovedMyBuyButton.com. There is an old site that I used in the past that tracks your book's amazon ranking - titleZ.com.

Now it is [probably] only a matter of time before my buy buttons disappear. Will anyone notice?

Who Moved My Buy Button: http://www.whomovedmybuybutton.com/aboutus.php
Amazon Ranking tracking: http://titlez.com/

On the flip side, Random House sides with Amazon: http://trueslant.com/rogertheriault/2010/02/08/random-house-sides-with-amazon-e-book-readers-on-pricing/


  1. Okay I'm dim. I don't understand why Amazon pull the To Buy button. What advantage is it to them?

    (By the by I never buy from Amazon because books from England to France are a much better deal with Play.com - no postage)

  2. Amazon said, yes we want your ebooks - but we set the price between these [low] parameters. Historically, setting the list price is the publisher's job. The publisher set the price higher. Amazon pulled the buy buttons on all the books, not just those in dispute.

    The reason to care, if you own paper books, is that books are shipped to Amazon on consignment. The publisher is paid when the books are purchased. Therefore, the goods sat (tying up any chance of return on the money). We aren't talking about a handful of books here. It is a fair chunk of change.

    It is our fault that Amazon can bully us, and do so at every turn. It is childish that they settle things with the universal buy button when someone wants to negotiate a different term, or actually the real terms that exist everywhere else in the industry.

  3. A similar thing happened when Amazon bought a POD press. Other POD presses were told, your books must be printed by our printer, not LSI or not you. Even some of the biggest POD companies caved to Amazon's demand.

    I care about who prints my books because I want to ensure the quality is at a certain level. For example, my books are printed on white paper with black ink. Why? Because that is easier for me to read, not tan paper with gray ink.

    I'm not saying Amazon is bad, I'm saying that as a publisher, some of their demands are unreasonable and out of line.