Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Amazon Seriously Needs to Go Fuck Itself, Posthaste

     To those of you who've been paying attention, you know that Hachette, the nation's fourth biggest publisher, is engaged in a battle of wills with Amazon.com over the pricing of ebooks. In fact, I'd written about it last month (not that anyone gave a shit because I'm supposed to be completely ignored as a political pundit, not as a publishing pundit, which I am.).
     Well, the reason why I'm again writing about this two giant tug-o-war with authors and readers in the middle is because of Amazon's newest brilliant proposal: Let's let all Hachette authors keep 100% of the revenue of their ebooks (after we get to cut the price to the bone). Hachette, typically, said No and they were correct in doing so. Here's why:
     Amazon is cynically trying to win over the very authors they've been victimizing since at least last January when their ongoing pissing match with Hachette resulted in missing early ordering buttons and artificially delayed shipping times. This includes JK Rowling and Stephen Colbert, who raked Amazon over the coals on his show for hindering sales of his book.
     Missed by a maddeningly huge segment of the book world is the, one would think, obvious fact they're using the same tactic used time and again by the Republican Party in their so-called good faith "negotiations" with the White House. Throw in a poison pill you know the other guy won't go for and then scream bloody murder about how the other side isn't acting in good faith. Typically, Amazon reacted immediately to Hachette rejecting their latest hare-brained scheme by pissing and moaning, "We call baloney." They also said (hold your hats, folks, because this took some major league douchebaggery), "Hachette is part of a $10 billion global conglomerate," it said. "It wouldn't be 'suicide.' They can afford it."
     Of course, what the corporate sons and daughters of Jeff Bezos elected to delete from the record is the fact that, according to Amazon's NASDAQ filings from last year, they pulled down $74.5 billion last year in total revenue. Considering all their business is done online and they cheap out their own temp workers in their fulfillment centers sweat shops, meaning far lower overhead expenses than a meat world corporation like Hachette, that means a much higher rate of pure profit. Part of that ever-widening profit margin has been skinned off the backs of authors while crowing about how great they are for readers.
     But their pure profit margin notwithstanding, what Amazon also chooses to ignore is the very fact that Hachette ebooks would account for only a small fraction of their bottom line. Amazon controls literally half the book market and 60% of Hachette's book sales. Not that they ever expected Hachette to go along with such an insane scheme of handing 100% of ebook revenue to authors but even if Hachette called their bluff, it certainly wouldn't hurt the larger corporation's bottom line because #1 they can withstand the hit much better than can Hachette and, #2 unlike Hachette, which is a publisher, Amazon's diversified to the point where if you look hard enough you can buy remains of Jimmy Hoffa's skeleton.
     Plus, if Hachette authors get to keep 100% of their revenues, then it'll only take about two nanoseconds before authors of other major publishers will want the same sweet deal. A 100% royalty rate may sound attractive to overrated success stories like Hugh Howey but in the real world it makes for a horrible business model and it's designed purely to pull, pardon the pun, the wool over the eyes of people like Howey.
     But at bottom of this so-called "offer" is Amazon's nakedly pathetic attempt to elicit sympathy for itself by pretending to partner with authors (not the indies, however. No one give a shit how we feel about anything... yet) and penny-pinching consumers while pre-emptively positioning Hachette as the bad guy for saying no this week.
     If Amazon depresses ebook revenue to the point where it's no longer viable for Hachette to continue that format, it's going to hurt authors and, eventually, readers. Without the advance ordering buttons, which largely if not entirely determine the success of unpublished books that'll be another way Amazon will hurt readers and authors alike. And they won't care. Like the planet-consuming megavillain Galactus, they'll just move on to another publisher to victimize and use their enormous market share as leverage.
     And mark my words: They don't wish to use their nuclear option just yet on account of all the bad publicity it's gotten them in the recent past. That nuclear option is, of course, simply deep sixing the publisher's entire catalog altogether. They're loath to use that option since it will finally wake up a lot of people who aren't already clued in as to what a huge, arrogant bully they are. But it's on the table, hidden under a napkin and always will be.
     Again, for clarity's sake: Amazon is a corporation and quite an evil one, at that, in a planet full of such evil corporate entities. As I said in my last post on the subject, profit isn't enough: The ultimate goal is global domination and they're already halfway there. In less than 20 years, they've victimized and alienated their own customers, publishers, authors both traditional and independent, they victimize their own employees (although, technically,. they're low-paid, overworked temps).
     Once more, with feeling: Amazon is not your friend whether you're a customer, a publisher or an author. And corporations as big as Amazon never do anything that would seriously hurt their bottom line out of the goodness of their "hearts", for want of a better word. This is just a PR stunt, shadow boxing between two corporate entities where one just happens to be five times the size of the other.
     I don't have any great love for publishers that still skeeve me and other talented indies. But the Hachette Book Group isn't trying to corner the global market. They're just trying to make a buck, which is the right of every corporation.
     For Amazon, all the money in the world just isn't enough and they will step on the face of anyone who gets in their way and that includes you, Constant Reader.

3 Comments:

At July 10, 2014 at 2:23 AM, Blogger MJ said...

I would not wish Amazon to go fuck itself, because it might accidentally get pleasure from that, and they don't deserve that.
Working for an amazon warehouse through a temp agency is frustrating; impossible numbers are set up, and you get told that anyone can do it - "I made my numbers from my first week" says the 'trainer'. You just see end percentages, not what your numbers really are. I think they fudge the numbers as well, as standing in front of one location full of a popular item, dropping pick after pick into your bin, should make your numbers great, but mine dropped the week that started. Word on the floor is that if you don't make your numbers then you are considered 'fired for cause' and therefore ineligible for unemployment, then they cheat you on those numbers.
They have big fans in the summer, but you bring your own water. No open doors EVER, someone might sneak a picture or something out.
The FC in Fernley isn't the worst, and the wages they offer are a big draw in Nevada's depressed economy, especially if workers can get in with the in crowd and hired direct instead of getting dumped before any benefits have to be paid.
Sorry for the rant, but things are tough enough without Corps taking advantage like this. 800 pound gorillas should be held to some standards, after all.

 
At July 12, 2014 at 4:14 PM, Anonymous CC said...

Anyone who loves to buy books and visits New York should check out Strand Books. It's a New York institution with competitive prices. If it matters to you, its workforce is unionized.

 
At July 14, 2014 at 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to lead the class action suit against Amazon. I have paid for a Prime membership and now the "free two-day shipping" is gone. When we pay for a membership to reap a certain benefit and they remove that benefit, we deserve compensation.

 

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