Monday, February 01, 2010

Amazon does Crazy Again, Macmillan Fights Back

We are not real journalists here at SotB, which most of you know. We don't go out investigating stories, doing interviews, issuing reports... we have full-time jobs that justify our reading industry pubs, but don't necessarily justify our writing at length about hot topics du jour. But then something huge happens and I feel the need to at least put it out there for you, reader, in case you are stuck in some kind of cave and only have access to this item in your Google Reader. When you can get your browser to go to BookNinja, we're here to give you what we can.

With that in mind, I feel obligated to mention the rapid weekend firestorm that occurred in the last few days, when Amazon and Macmillan went at each other's throats, claws and fangs out. Shelf Awareness, as ever, does a fine job summing up the whole thing, so follow the link to read up on how it all went down.

I was particularly disturbed by this news, which I had not heard elsewhere:
The Macmillan ban went beyond Amazon's website: reportedly without notice to Kindle owners, Amazon went into the devices and removed Macmillan titles from wish lists and removed sample chapters of Macmillan titles. This move was reminiscent of the retailer's quiet pulling last year of some e-titles whose copyrights were in question (Shelf Awareness, July 19, 2009).
Yikes. That's f'ed up, y'all.

Another one of my favorite blogs, MobyLives, posted Macmillan CEO John Sargent's letter to authors and agents, re: Amazon, in full. More recently, this blog, too, offered an update to the madness.

So rather than report on this news at length, I'll provide those links and promise that someday soon, Christopher and I will have more thoughtful comments about Amazon's monopolistic evil. For now, I'll only say that this comment from Amazon's most recent press release truly disturbed me:
We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.
The fatcats at Amazon, as usual, are missing the point. Self-published authors and indie presses that go into the book market just looking to push more product? Really? They ain't selling mops, they're selling books, written by people in a way, some of us hope, that is imaginative, innovative, new, edgy, honest, powerful... But Amazon winks at those authorpreneurs out there, if you will, and says, "Here's your chance to beat publishers like Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Metropolitan, St. Martin's, and more! Just sell your stuff cheaper and everyone will forget the names Jamaica Kincaid, Czeslaw Milosz, Flannery O'Connor, and Philip Gourevitch. HA! Just markdown your products and you'll leave those pathetic editors and their 'big name,' 'talented' authors in the dust!"

Apparently, #amazonfail is not just a 2009 thing...

PS / Addendum
I just have to post a link to this wonderful piece by Kit Eaton over at Fast Company, which opens beautifully:
There's one clear conclusion falling out of the ridiculous Amazon versus Macmillan books debacle that played out this weekend: Amazon really doesn't care about you, in fact it kinda hates you--pretty much whoever you are.
Here here! Be sure to click over to get a smart take on a dismal moment in bookselling.

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