View Full Version : Amazon, The DOJ, Publishers, and Readers: A Timeline

01-26-2016, 12:48 AM
(This is a post by AW Admin, Lisa Spangenberg, linking a timeline about Amazon and its development and history in relation to writers, readers, and publishers, which I think is a valuable reference for us, so with her permission, I am making this a Stickie. Original is posted in her blog, floccinaucical.com)

"I've been tracking this for years; I'm behind in updating my timeline but:

Amazon, The DOJ, Publishers, and Readers: A Timeline (http://floccinaucical.com/amazon-the-doj-publishers-and-readers-a-timeline/)

And in the nature of disclosure, I'm a current Apple stockholder and sometime consultant, and registered developer. And I (really, truly) helped invent the ebook working at Voyager, consulting for publishers and the Open Ebook Consortium which gave us the epub file format.

I want books and writers to thrive. I want printed books and digital books to flourish. I value trade publishing, scholarly publishing, independent publishers (i.e. not Big 5 but, like W. W. Norton, on their own) and self-publishing.

Amazon seeks to control all of them. "

01-27-2016, 12:20 AM

(Thank you for all the hard work putting this together!)

The linked Charlie Stross article on Amazon's aim to become both a monopoly and a monopsony is also well worth reading.

01-27-2016, 12:46 AM
As a self-publisher, I'm going to add --

A lot of self-publishers lionize Amazon simply (it seems to me) because they're the majority-income retail platform for most of us. I don't find this cause for celebration; I find it cause for worry. Probably over 95 percent of my sales come from Amazon, and I'm not under the illusion that they care one whit about my income. Eggs, basket, and Amazon is not my friend, but there's not much I can do about their position in the wider marketplace.

The two things I can do, I do: offer my books DRM free and offer them wide on all platforms. And it's freakin' painful when it comes to my income. Amazon's Kindle Select program (which demands exclusivity) is widely assumed to offer distinct visibility advantages on their platform, as well as offering pricing advantages and borrow income. I've been advised over and over again to experiment with it and I won't, even though when I look at other people's data, it feels like personal financial self-destruction not to try Amazon exclusivity. I'd be giving up minuscule sales on other platforms for a bump in the place where the vast majority of my sales are (and it's not like I'm big enough to have any effect on Amazon's gobbling of the marketplace by myself, so it's not like me not doing it is having any real impact). I've had this conversation privately with self-publishers who are far more successful than I am and are potentially losing a lot more by not going exclusive, but who feel the same way I do, though it feels like shooting ourselves in the foot to look at our income and then make that call.

And because of that, I can't fault any SPers who do go Amazon-exclusive. It's a Nash equilibrium with (often) real financial consequences for deviation. Gah. Of course, SPers are only a very, very small piece of everything, but I do see the way Amazon has continually squeezed us toward them as a microcosm of what they're doing everywhere. If EVERYONE'S going for the Nash equilibrium, only Amazon wins, it seems.

I'm convinced that what really needs to happen to save the ebook market is for other corporate behemoths whose market is far wider than books to make better inroads. I don't think a place like Barnes and Noble, as a book-only store, will ever in the future have the wide strength it needs to compete with Amazon on ebooks. But Google or Apple might if they put some more heft into their ebook divisions. I admit I don't feel like I quite grasp the impact of the DOJ decisions (as outlined in Lisa's excellent timeline) here, though -- consider this paragraph layperson speculation open to contradiction by more knowledgeable heads. :-/

AW Admin
01-27-2016, 01:47 AM
The thing about the DOJ decision is that it didn't do anything to help consumers or publishers or writers; but it sure as hell helped Amazon.

Everyone is returning to the "agency model."

And Amazon is still perfectly willing to say "we won't carry any of your print books if you don't give us obscene deals on the ebooks."