Friends and Corporations
We have entered a new and very bizarre phase of the Amazon / Hachette negotiations. Now that Amazon has come out and stated its ideal terms, which turn out to be entirely reasonable, the tactics from those who hate Amazon, no matter what they do, have gone from misguided to just plain crazy.
Amazon says it is fighting for reasonable ebook pricing. This matches a long history of actions from Amazon. Their focus on ebooks at $9.99 or below is why publishers had to break the law and collude with one another in order to artificially raise prices on readers. So we have an established pattern of behavior here of Amazon fighting for reasonable ebook pricing and publishers working together to screw readers.
Now that Amazon’s book team has come out and flatly stated their intentions, the response from some has been to assume that Amazon is lying. The response from others has been to say that Amazon is a corporation. And the mantra repeated to anyone who appreciates Amazon as a business partner is that “Amazon is not your friend.”
So, no one has anything to say about the actual arguments and positions from either side? Is that what I’m hearing? To equivocate between Amazon and Hachette by saying both are corporations is absolutely absurd. Monsanto and Whole Foods are both corporations. So they’re the same, right? No need to look any further?
I’d rather dig deeper than that, if nobody minds.
* Amazon allows anyone to publish. Hachette doesn’t even allow unagented submissions, meaning they require you to pay 15% of your earnings to a third party just to talk to them, no matter how well you can represent yourself.
* Amazon pays roughly six times the royalty rate that Hachette pays.
* For their imprint authors, Amazon pays double the rate that Hachette pays. In fact, they pay more in most cases than even the pie-in-the-sky 30/35/35 suggestion made to Hachette.
*Amazon allows me to retain ownership of my work, which means I can leave if conditions become unfavorable. Hachette is making it more difficult to reclaim the rights to one’s work.
* Hachette is fighting for and has broken the law to secure higher prices. Amazon wants ebooks to be affordable.
If Amazon isn’t my friend, this must mean that Hachette is my mortal enemy. Because these two corporations aren’t anything alike. Amazon is a frugal company that puts its earnings back into future investments for its own growth, knowing that the failure to do so will see a foreign competitor like Alibaba march in to the US and dominate.
Hachette is a wasteful company situated in Midtown Manhattan that sends its profits overseas.
And there are authors who want to trot out the “both are corporations” line. How about: “Both have an ‘A’ in their names?” Does that also work?
Amazon doesn’t have to be my friend for me to love them. I love chocolate ice cream, and chocolate ice cream doesn’t even know I exist. But you might say that enough chocolate ice cream shoved down my throat can kill me! Or what if in some future I become allergic to chocolate, and then it makes me sick every time I eat it! If that sounds crazy to you, you’ll understand how crazy a bunch of people I otherwise respect sound to me right now.
Yes, Amazon might turn on us in the future. But Hachette turned on me already. Until they offer direct submissions and pay 50% of net and get rid of term of copyright licensing, they are the enemy. Until they give up their asinine pricing philosophies, their insistence on hardback fiction for debuting authors, their love of DRM, and their non-compete clauses, they are the enemy.
I don’t want them to be the enemy, mind you. I want them to change, which will improve conditions for authors, prices and selection for readers, and help books compete with other forms of entertainment. If I didn’t care about these things, I would write books, make a lot of money, and watch them go under. I don’t want that. No one should.
What I think has happened is that it has become very clear that Amazon is fighting the good fight and Hachette is on the wrong side. And for those who hate Amazon no matter what they do, they are left attacking the company’s supporters with ad hominem diatribes. They are left equivocating between all corporations without looking at behavior, a history of law-breaking, or stated intent. They are left countering anything positive with “that entity is not your friend.”
You know how you can tell that these people are disingenuous? When was the last time a publisher did something great, and the response from one of their authors was, “But you have to understand that my publisher is not my friend.” I’ve never seen such a statement. And it makes just as little sense when it is directed toward Amazon.
Here is a company not just saying they are for higher wages for authors and lower prices for readers, but one that is backing up those claims with action. I stand 100% behind them. If the last tactic the traditional crowd has in its arsenal is to paint those of us who know a good thing when we see it as shills, fanboys, or the irrationally infatuated, then they must not have anything left.
When the haters are left accusing us of love, the end must be near.