Posted on 2014-Aug-12
Rallying the Troops
If you are signed up on Kindle Direct Publishing, you probably received a 1,000-word mass email on Saturday, August 9, urging indie authors to take up arms concerning the ongoing Hachette-Amazon dispute. The issues between the two major multinationals are complicated and rather boring. If you would like to know what is going on with these corporate wars you can peruse Teleread or The Digital Reader, both who cover industry news in excellent detail. What is strange is that Amazon would solicit KDP authors, who have absolutely no dog in this fight whatsoever as explained by this hilarious series of animated gifs. At the end of the email, Amazon calls on indie authors to send nasty emails to the CEO of Hachette like he was coordinating the tactics of ISIL. This goes to show, once again, that Amazon has sort of a feudalistic mentality towards the content creation community instead of treating them like business partners.
What Amazon Got Wrong
Aside from badly misquoting George Orwell, Amazon had a couple of whoppers in the email that deserve attention. One that was noted by many astute authors and readers was the return policy:
With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market.
The no returns remark is simply not true, because per Amazon’s policy a reader can return an eBook for a full refund within seven days of purchase.
Amazon also made a note about the price of eBooks:
E-books can and should be less expensive.
Most people would probably agree with this, but Amazon makes it sound like they know the best price to set for all eBooks. Like most goods and services, prices are best determined by the market rather than what one company says. One of the biggest benefits of indie publishing on Amazon KDP is that authors can set their own price, which has allowed tremendous flexibility for authors to find the best price for different genres. Often authors will set their eBooks price based on reader behavior, which is basic commerce in action and the sign of any good small business that is in tune with its customers.
Possible Trouble Ahead
Amazon recently released a widget called KDP Pricing Support that uses whiz bang statistical analysis to “optimize” the price of your book. It is currently in beta but some big name indie authors have been getting solicitations to try it out from their KDP reps. Authors know their readers best and readers know what price they want, so it remains to be seen how graphs are going to be much assistance. Additionally, Amazon recently changed the policy that prevents pricing a MOBI >3MB at $0.99, which is real kick in the pants to big box set promotions that have been a successful indie innovation for 2014.
If they wanted to, Amazon could dictate the price of all eBooks for both publishers and authors. Kindle Unlimited sort of does this by setting a fixed price for the subscription. Price setting would be terrible for indies, especially new authors, since they couldn’t use a price advantage against their more-established counterparts. I fear that a senior manager at Amazon could make one policy change that could deeply harm the indie community and destroy the business relationship that indie authors have enjoyed with Amazon since KDP was launched in 2007. As an author, I’m not worried about the Amazon-Hachette dispute, but I am most certainly concerned about Amazon’s lack of tact in dealing with independent publishers who make them a substantial sum of money.
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