Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the new year right

I know posts have been light, and I got some news: They're going to get lighter. Christopher and I will not be posting at all next week, due to travels, but we'll be back and better than ever as of Monday, January 11th.

So in this last post of 2009, I wanted to link to another blog that has done a fantastic job of exposing Amazon as a massive hype factory. Mike Cane over at The E-book Test has called out Amazon due to their refusal to provide numbers. How many of these stinkin' Kindles, the supposed top seller over at the mega-retailer, have actually been purchased? Amazon won't say.

In response, Cane has issued a challenge to trade publishers, to reveal sales of Kindle editions. And so far, things ain't lookin' too hot.

One anonymous publishing professional commented:

I work for a trade house, and while I am not going to reveal my identity or that of my employer, I can tell you that our top Kindle sales of any one title are in the range of about 1000 downloads life to date. I am someone who receives the sales numbers for our titles directly from Amazon and I look at them every week; and, I agree that the actual sales numbers are much LOWER than anyone is pretending to have achieved.

Not promising.

Another responded:

I also work at one of the big six trade houses, specifically in the ebooks dept. “200,000 ebooks sold” is laughable, even if it *is* Dan Brown. Our numbers track much closer to the above Anonymous posters’.

Amazon’s lack of transparency in disclosing these numbers is unconscionable, and is making publishers, who are already scared stupid, act even stupider.

Oh, and while I’m here: this silly business of labeling free ebooks as ‘bestsellers’ needs to stop, too.

Strike two. Here's hoping for a third one to knock this crap out of the park.

I should also note that Dennis Johnson, the publisher at Melville House whom I greatly respect, added his two cents:

It’s great that you’re questioning Amazon on yet another in an endless series of dishonest business practices, but why in the world are you laying it on publishers to tell the truth about Amazon, as opposed to simply calling upon Amazon to tell the truth itself? One would think it was even more morally incumbent upon Amazon to do so in the first place, and that it was as well legally incumbent upon it to do so as a publicly traded company. No matter how obvious a thing is in the book business, it seems it’s always the publisher that’s held responsible, and perceived as withholding the truth.

Mike Cane responded:

If publishers knew their “competitor’s” biggest-seller stats, they’d have a way of extrapolating some sort of data from that. Until they share this information, Amazon is using Divide & Conquer on them. Publishers can come to their own rescue.

All in all, a great post and an interesting conversation, which is what all us hapless publishing bloggers are going for.

Happy New Year, readers!

1 comment:

Rob said...

I would be interested to know how many Kindles were bought this season as gifts and then returned by their recipients. My mother, in a moment of extreme generousness, bought a Kindle this Christmas for each of her six children. Two of us sent our Kindles back to Amazon in exchange for what amount to gift certificates.

I wonder how often this happens; if two out of six people in my family (and we're all readers - half of us have English degrees) would rather have real books than computers pretending to be books, then the figures for Kindle returns among people who aren't my blood relatives might be similarly telling.