The latest shots have been fired in Amazon’s bid to take over the world, or at least to become the Wal-Mart of the digital set. If you’re not familiar with their latest move, the NYT has covered it quite thoroughly in multiple articles.
This particular tactic doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I was already at Macmillan in 2010 when Amazon pulled buy buttons off all Macmillan’s books. And then there were a series of bad decisions—publishers should have chosen a different method than agency pricing, they should have told Apple that it wasn’t their business to fight Apple’s battles, and the Justice Department should have recognized that the publishers in no way, shape, or form were acting against the best interests of consumers. So, yeah, everyone screwed up. But anyone who didn’t see this coming has been living in a fantasy world.
As a reader, I appreciate my Kindle. But when there was a Borders in my town, I shopped there. Now, the closest bookstore is an hour away. I stop at Posman books in Grand Central when I pass it on a commute, but I really like electronic books. I don’t want Amazon’s handouts to those booksellers. I want individual bookstores to be able to sell me ebooks that are DRM-free that I can use a variety of devices and apps to open. I want to be able to pick my outlet, be it Amazon, an indie, B&N, or from the publisher itself. And wherever I buy a book, it should work for me, without my having to break through the technology with special tools. I was a huge fan of TotalBoox, which I talked about here when they first hit the scene. I still prefer their method of delivery to Amazon’s, but their UI sucks for genre readers and they don’t seem to be interested in changing it. This is the moment where they could REALLY make a difference, but without someone on staff to handle genre categorization, it’s not going to happen. But seriously, if someone wanted to take that job on, I’d be ALL OVER this service. They offer so much that Amazon simply cannot.
But that’s another post. This one is about my own discomfort not only with Amazon’s guerrilla tactics (see what I did there?) but also with people’s seeming surprise. We live in a capitalist society and for years we’ve been ignoring the increasing deregulation of businesses…which has almost always led to problems. Capitalism may be the best thing we’ve come up with, but it isn’t pretty and it isn’t fair. What on earth led people to think it was?
You may or may not believe that people are inherently greedy. That it’s a dog-eat-dog world. But however you feel you feel about people, you need to understand that companies, be they HMOs or Amazon, want only one thing: money. As much and as fast as they can get it. Bezos makes a lot of noise about how much better Amazon is for authors. Really? Macmillan authors didn’t feel that way in 2010. Hachette authors don’t feel that way now. Amazon is designed to benefit AMAZON. If, along the way, it accidentally benefits some other people too, well, that’s fine. But it’s not designed for that purpose. If every other book sales outlet failed tomorrow, and Amazon were the only place where you could sell your self-published work, do you believe you’d still get the same kind of terms from them? Because I don’t. Not for a second.
Think about it. Especially before you make your next purchase…of anything.