I was going to stay out of this fight. I really was. But two statements are so wrong that I just couldn’t.
Okay, context first. Remember Authors United, the group which last year talked about sending a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation of Amazon? You remember. The one that talked about it but never actually did it? Yeah, they finally got around to it.
They joined with the American Bookseller’s Association, who sent their own letter, and supposedly the Author’s Guild is going to send their own letter.
I don’t recommend actually reading the letters, at least not without popcorn. Both are filled with misinformation and slanted rhetoric. Readers of The Passive Voice will be tearing it to shreds in the next few hours. Go read their thorough fisking instead.
And then read Nate’s article at The Digital Reader. He asks a good question. Why now?
Me? I just wanted to tackle two statements, one from the Authors United letter and one from the ABA letter.
From Authors United:
We are not experts in antitrust law, and this letter is not a legal brief. But we are authors with a deep, collective experience in this field, and we agree with the authorities in economics and law who have asserted that Amazon’s dominant position makes it a monopoly as a seller of books and a monopsony as a buyer of books.
Others with more legal knowledge than I can tackle their assertion that Amazon is both a monopoly and a monopsony. I just wanted to point of the utter ludicrousness of the statement that “we are not experts, but we’re going to tell you what to do” part. Seriously, folks? You are writers. You are crafters of words. Your job is to keep us enthralled, entertained and persuade us to read you to the end. And you start with “we are not experts?” If I weren’t editor of this site and sort of obligated to read you to the end, I would have quit right there. Epic fail at persuasive writing. Let me rework that for you. How about this instead:
Others with more legal expertise than we have made the case that Amazon’s dominant position makes it a monopoly as a seller of books and a monopsony as a buyer of books. We will let their words stand for themselves. However, we are authors, and we are passionate about the future of our industry and the well being of both our fellow authors and readers of our books…
Or something like that. It’s still mostly crap, but at least it’s crap with heart. Or as much heart as I can put into an opinion I think is crap.
Okay, off that soapbox. Now on to the ABA letter, where they trotted out this tired old canard:
Unlike other e-readers, Kindle e-readers and the Kindle app are configured to allow readers to only read books sold by Amazon and using its proprietary format.
I call BS on this with this screen shot from Baen Books:
Check out the arrows, ABA folks. This book is not sold by Amazon, and it’s perfectly possible to purchase and read it on a Kindle.
Look, I’m not always happy with Amazon and their business decisions, but when I’m not happy with someone, I try to be reasonable and not make crap up or regurgitate the same crap that other pissed off people spew. (Yeah, I think I totally mixed metaphors there, but I’m really tired of this.)
When my son was small, we used to tell him that it would be faster to just do his chores than spend hours and hours procrastinating and coming up with reasons to not do what he was going to have to do in the end. The traditional publishing industry needs the same message. Just figure out ways to change your business model to be as successful as you’d like. Stop wasting time spreading misinformation, complaining and hoping the government will bail you out of your bad business decisions.
Unless something truly ground shaking comes of this, I intend this to be my only post on this silly subject.