Saturday, November 12, 2011

Publishing Hullabaloos: Week Ending 11/11

Amazon owns the bulk of ire this week from publishers, agents, and authors -- some of it merited, some not.

Following up on my post earlier this week: Publisher's Weekly takes a look at the Amazon Lending Library scandal.
"Amazon was able to include publishers’ titles without their consent because the e-tailer is treating the borrowing process as a sale—each time a Prime user borrows a book, Amazon pays the publisher as if the book was bought." -- for PW
As long as Amazon continues to sell books for which they have retail rights and they report each download as a unit of sale to the publisher, the cage rattling serves only to let Amazon know the publishing industry is watching their every move. Such chest-pounding by agents and authors does have value, particularly as the industry "norms" are being redefined. Don't expect it to stop subscription sales strategies any more than it will stop ads in ebooks from coming. The dicey bit comes if publishers negotiate unique retailer deals for subscription services in which one download no longer equals a unit of sale. 

What should be an issue? Amazon's technology "glitch" that cost a self-published author revenue for more than six thousand downloads of his book. As more and more literary agencies get into the business of digital publishing and distribution, gaffs like this aren't going to be limited to "unprotected" self-pubbers.

The fine print of the flub to which authors need to pay attention is that the author's "free first chapter" marketing on other sites triggered Amazon's anti-compete software. Yes, it's the classic human vs machine, small business vs behemoth industry leader story. However, Amazon isn't the only retailer using technology to track business on their sites and their competitors' sites. Even if Amazon recodes their software bug to check for the download's file size, it doesn't mean other sites will. It also doesn't mean Amazon will improve their consumer conflict resolution protocols to address problems in their digital publishing division.

If self-pubbers want to take on the big boys of retail to demand improvements, they're going to have to organize themselves into a business association; otherwise, they remain dependent on big publishing to force changes. End of day it's all a matter of numbers. The bigger numbers -- be they people or dollars -- the more say.

Details of Amazon's actual screw up here:  "Amazon sells 6,111 copies of an ebook for free by mistake and won't compensate author." -- Matthew Humphries for

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