Easy to say, harder to actually act on. Publishers’ room for manoeuvre is limited by numerous factors and they are far from unaware of the dangers posed by Amazon and other would be monopolists:
As some authors have pointed out, even if you take advantage of Amazon’s self-publishing options to avoid having to get a traditional publishing deal, you’ve really just exchanged one corporate overlord for another. For most writers, the ideal would be an industry with multiple players — but unfortunately, their own publishers have helped make that even less of a possibility. And Amazon is the major beneficiary.
via How publishers gave Amazon a stick to beat them with — Tech News and Analysis.
6 thoughts on “Go Read This | How publishers gave Amazon a stick to beat them with — Tech News and Analysis”
I think this article makes a very interesting point about DRM, and how publishers insistence on it has made the walls around Amazon’s garden even higher.
However, I think it’s a mistake to assume that the position of the Author’s Guild on piracy is representative of all or most writers. I think the positions of the Author’s Guild are representative of the views of Scott Turow, their president.
I’ve read lots of articles he has written at this stage, and I think it’s fair to say that he has always been skeptical of the self-publishing, the digital revolution, e-books, and is indeed actively concerned about preserving the status quo – which, in fairness, probably treats bestsellers like Mr. Turow quite well. Everything Mr. Turow writes drips with fear of digital piracy and how it will eventually, in his view, impoverish writers.
I don’t think that’s representative of most writers. My rough estimate would be maybe half of trade published writers think that way, and half are welcoming e-books, the options afforded by self-publishing, and don’t buy into the publishers’ panic about piracy.
Needless to say, very few self-publishers would subscribe to Mr. Turow’s views. As a side note, I find it interesting that the writers/publishers who have the least protections on their work (e.g. no DRM) are the ones who fear piracy the least.
I also find the conclusion in the final paragraph quite ridiculous (which is the one you have quoted above), namely, that by self-publishing I have exchanged one corporate overlord for another. I arrange for editors, cover designers, artists, and ISBNs. I set my price and change it at will. And most imporantly, I decide what I publish and when I publish it. Amazon has no input on or influence over those decisions. Whereas if I had a publisher, they would MAKE all those decisions and I may well have zero input.
Publishers need to go back to being publishers rather than consumer product merchants at the mercy of monopolists. Having said that, the ‘Big Six’ seem to have become a cartel of monopolists themselves. Just set up your own website and webshop, if people want your ‘product’ they will buy it, if not they won’t. OK so a new work out via web publishing isn’t quite the same as a wine and canapes launch but at least there is a potentially universal market place. The same with review media especially now that bookshops and some authors are geared towards commodification of the ‘product’ and probably exclude printed media from their ‘product offering’.
The ‘independent’ author doesn’t even need the Ebook platform, PDF does the job and readers don’t need another gizmo. Besides, the author has ‘control’ as far as availability is concerned. As for piracy, DRM has proved to be ineffective – hackable – and limits the readership to whoever signs up and buy the various gizmoes.
I think millions and millions of readers in America and the UK have already decided that they DO need another gizmo.
Why? Multiple reasons. PDFs can’t be read properly on most portable devices. The text doesn’t wrap and flow when zoomed in, so they can’t be read properly on anything with a screen smaller than the largest iPad.
E-readers are popular because they are cheap, portable, have long battery life, are easy on the eyes (no backlit screen), plus they give the reader access to very, very cheap books.
Independent authors are following the readers. They want to purchase e-books, not PDFs, for all the reasons above and many more. I’ll give you one, for example. Readers with poor eyesight have long been stuck with the limited selection and increased cost (and weight) of large print books. With an e-reader, they can zoom the text as much as they like and the text will all wrap and flow and resize automatically. One of the interesting things about the boom in e-readers and e-books in the US is that the switchover to digital has been led by older readers.
At the moment, well over a third of all fiction sales in the US are e-books. That proportion is growing at staggering rates all the time (and the UK is less than 12 months behind).
Anything can be hacked into and in the digital age authors and musicians will depend on the generosity of the consumer. The digital generation does seem to have a sense of entitlement, if music down loads are anything to go by, with little regard for the artists. This is a generation who never saved up their pocket money to buy vinyl and even CDs are nearly a thing of the past. So there is no material object to be exchanged. That will happen with books as well. The difference is that musicians can do live gigs to support themselves with their art…What is our alternative???
I decided on the artist I wanted to work on my book cover an she did a fantastic, surprising and wonderful job. I decided on the paper I wanted to print on and the finish I wanted for the outer wrapper. I decided on the editor I would use to edit the book. I decided on the editions I’d publish, the formats I’d support and I set my own timing for launch and promotion.
Amazon didn’t tell me what to do once through all of this. That’s perhaps the difference between the overlord I’ve accepted as PART of my publishing strategy compared to the publisher who would have kept me out of all this.
Publishers adhering to old fashioned notions such as territorial rights in the face of e-books – now that’s doing even more damage to them. Bezos must be chuckling constantly…
Mr Ingram’s article is another welcome statement from the blogosphere that explodes the DRM ’emperor has no clothes’ myth. I and many others have opined on this all over the web for a long time, only to provoke masses of reactionary vitriol from the publishers, and those authors that have been brain washed with fear by their own publishers.
The removal of DRM from music via Apple etc. exploded the music market and made billions for the music industry, despite their whinging denials. The publishing industry has steadfastly refused to learn from history and is getting what it deserves.
I diverge from Mr Ingram’s post in that I find it extremely tedious to read these nonsensical ‘bogeyman’ attacks on Amazon for being so successful. Amazon didn’t prevent competitors from entering the market ! The publishing Big 6 cartel could have done so with their own eBook portal ! Anyone else could have done so ! but they were too timid and backward to do so.
Amazon’s success is in giving the public what they want, when they want it and at a better price. It is nothing but hubris to attack them for that, and David’s last paragraph above, dealing with Mr Ingram’s silly claims about self publishers and Amazon, is right on the money.
The big establishment publishers primarily, but also many others, have determinedly kept their eyes and ears closed to the history of the music industry. They have fought tooth and nail against the progress of the eBook, while obsessing instead on their out dated, lazy, bloated and inefficient cash-cow paper book industry. Years of warnings from those with a modicum of vision was ignored and now they are reaping what they sewed. Those authors who abandoned all independent thinking, happy to ensconce themselves in their precious writing study while leaving the management of their career to their publishers are also reaping what they sewed.
Happily there is a growing community of mature writers and enlightened publishers who have embraced the medium and are either self publishing or delivering DRM free and more flexible titles. Good luck to them.
I still believe that independent publishers need to get together and form a comprehensive cooperative marketing effort to counterbalance the dominance of Amazon, not only in the size of their online site, but in the minds of buyers of Kindles, iPads, iPhones and other devices. I have never yet met a non-techie eBook reader with an eReader who has ever heard of alternatives to Amazon or iBooks. I hope for their own sakes that they pull their fingers out soon. It is not good enough to blame Amazon for succeeding. They themselves must take control of their futures and grab their opportunity !