Amazon: Friend or Foe…


Recently, heated discussions have arisen regarding Amazon and its negotiating practices (or tactics?). People seem polarized believing that Amazon is either the enemy of the publishing world, or conversely, the savior of authors.

After much reading on the subject, I must admit that I can’t wholeheartedly agree with either argument: for once in my life, I can’t seem to pick a side.

Many independent authors have argued that after much struggle attempting to find a publisher to produce and distribute their works, Amazon has been their savior.  With a self-publishing program offering unbelievable royalties and the power to produce what you want, packaged however you would like, Amazon is a beacon to the unpublished author.  It has also begun to publish in its own name, choosing authors and titles to produce and promote (James Franco, anyone?).

On the flip side, according to Forbes, Amazon is the seller of 64% of all ebooks in the US, ebooks themselves making up about 30% of all book sales in the US; that in and of itself, gives Amazon huge power over any publishing company attempting to distribute their titles in an ebook format.

The big five publishers in the US have all been slotted to negotiate with Amazon in regard to the prices of their ebooks on Amazon, and here is where all the trouble starts. Hachette, first on the list, isn’t happy with Amazon’s practices and they aren’t cooperating, so Amazon (in a fit of serious petulance, at least from this humble observer’s view) has stopped selling preorders of all Hachette’s upcoming titles. Of course Amazon attributes this to technical errors and has invited patrons to purchase those titles from other websites (including competitors…seriously.).  This rather obvious ploy, seems more Mafioso than good-business, but it is definitely making Amazon’s point for them.  Hachette is losing out on preorders left and right and Amazon isn’t hurting at all.

Various authors (from John Green to Malcolm Gladwell) have spoken out against Amazon, but their harsh words seem to ricochet off Amazon’s impressive coffers.

So here’s the rub: I love reading, I love supporting authors (yes, all authors), and I also love the convenience ebooks offer me. I am also (not surprisingly), on a budget.  So while I do want authors to succeed, I also want to be able to consume as much of their work as I can.  Thus, I have absolutely taken advantage of an Amazon sale to get my hands on the latest book from one of my favourites.

Ultimately no, I don’t support the guerilla tactics Amazon has used to strong-arm Hachette. But I do appreciate their attempt to make money by selling a product more cheaply than someone else (successful business strategies, anyone?), and I do appreciate them for supplying those products.

So, will I stop shopping with Amazon? Probably not. But am I happy about it? No.

What about you?

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