Bait & Switch
A few more Amazon entries to keep you infotained.
The first link was brought to my attention by Jo Eberhardt (thanks, Jo) of “The Happy Logophile“.
This article tells the story of a failure in Amazon’s Auto-pricing for e-books. It repriced one author’s book to “free” – inciting a huge spike in downloads, each with $0 in royalties. The whole sordid tale is here. But the kicker: although Amazon eventually owned up to the mistake, they refuse to refund the author in question for the lost royalties.
Here’s the full scoop from the author himself, with a copy of the correspondance he received from Amazon. The relevant, draconian, and frightening statement from that correspondance:
As per our KDP Terms and Conditions, we retain discretion over the retail price of a Kindle book.
A lot of digital self-publishing authors like to talk about the freedom and control they have as digitally self-published authors. But the fact is, at the end of the day, digital self-publishers are as beholden to Amazon as any traditionally-published author ever was to traditional publishers. You think you have the power over things like pricing. But, ultimately, that authority is only temporarily delegated to you: Amazon retains that power.
On this issue, for instance, traditionally-published authors hold a significant advantage: first, they are able to negotiate their contracts (whereas those publishing via the Kindle platform have no such ability: Amazon doesn’t negotiate; you take the terms or you leave it). Second, traditionally-published authors get paid royalties based on the cover price, regardless of the actual final selling price. If a retailer decides to offer a book for free, as part of a promotion and as a result moves thousands of copies, the traditionally-published author still gets paid.
The second link is another perspective on free e-books at Amazon, and concerns the underlying economics of how Amazon generates profits from giving away free content.
Basically, it appears to boil down to two things. First, Amazon is in the process of creating what is, in effect, a Netflix of books: wherein Amazon provides instant access to digital delivery of the content for a recurring service fee. This, in itself, isn’t objectionable to me – as long as the producers of that content are fairly compensated for the use of that content. But there’s something else going on as well: a second side to this. Amazon’s regular “service” is their “Amazon Prime” membership. But the real draw to Amazon Prime isn’t the content library: it’s the free shipping for purchases of goods on Amazon.com. There real model is that content is secondary to the sale and delivery of real products.
It’s an interesting paradigm… but honestly I haven’t processed yet what that means – either in terms of the result of adopting this sort of paradigm for authors (and other content creators), nor in terms of its long-term impact on the industry itself. It doesn’t strike me immediately as either good or bad… it all depends on implementation. Given the previous story, however… I’m just not sure I trust Amazon on that implementation thing.
Anyway, there you go. enjoy the infotainment.