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Wednesday, February 3, 2010


As of today, my books and Uzee’s Trespassing are still not on . Neither are the other Macmillan authors.

I am asking anyone who cares about authors to boycott Amazon. There are some people (see the previous post) who think this misses the point, and maybe it does, but fuck it, Amazon is boycotting me.

Meanwhile, here's an open letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.

Dear Mr. Bezos,

You don’t know who I am, so allow me to tell you: I’m a writer whose books you are currently refusing to sell. This will not significantly harm my publisher, St Martin’s; nor will it benefit you in any meaningful way. The only consequence of note is that I will lose a few sales. As best I can understand, you are doing this out of a drive to acquire a monopoly on e-books.

Mr. Bezos, forget the monopoly. is a powerful force on the internet, and a reasonably profitable business as well. You should be satisfied with this. Take your earnings, count your money and be happy. If you get bored, you can count your money again. You have a great deal more than most people could dream of.

My publisher, Macmillan, has every right to determine a fair price for their product. That is what manufacturers do. If Amazon wishes to devalue the product—in this case, a book—by selling it below its market price, then Macmillan has the right to withhold the product from you and from anyone else who does this. They will make it available to other retailers, such as Apple, to sell at a fair price. Some time down the road, when the price drops, Amazon will then sell it for whatever you want.

Are you with me so far?

There are plenty of examples of this model already. Movies are released in theatres months before the DVDs are on sale. A DVD might cost $20 new, which is the price of just two movie tickets. If a family wants to see a movie, why would they spend $40 at the theatre when they can buy the DVD for half that? They will not (unless they’re willing to pay the extra cash to get out of the house and see the big screen). So, DVDs are held back for a few months so that the product—the movie—is not undervalued.

Do you need another example? Paperback books, which are cheaper than hardcovers, typically come out a year or so after the hardcover is released. Same idea. Let people pay more for something they get right away; otherwise, they can wait a while and pay less. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Consumers get to choose what they want. Fair, right?

Now let’s talk about you, Jeff. You want to sell your ridiculously overpriced and overhyped Kindle reader, but nobody will pay $300-$500 for a box they don’t need. So what do you do? You drop the prices on e-books—all of them, new, old, just-released, whatever—to $9.99 or less. You are actually losing money on every e-book you sell, but that’s okay, because you are giving people a reason to buy that electric box. This has the effect of cutting in to book sales, which hurts authors who rely on sales to get a few bucks back for their effort as opposed to the nickels and dimes they get for an e-book royalty. But you don’t care about that, because you’re after the monopoly. Over time, fewer writers will be able to be writers, because they won’t get paid, so they’ll have to work second and third jobs (many of us already are) but you don’t care about that, because you’re after the monopoly.

Macmillan took the step of saying, “Well, okay then. If you refuse to respect our pricing ladder, we won’t do business with you. We’ll release our books to places like Apple, who will sell our books for a fair price, and then, once prices drop to what what you want, we will make them available to you, too.” This is a step which, I stress, has many precedents in the arts and commerce today. See the above examples.

Your repsonse was to stop selling my books, and Uzee’s book, and many other people’s books.

You know what, Jeff? That’s stupid. That’s fucking idiotic.

Punishing authors will not make you more money, and it won’t get you that monopoly. It simply alienates the people you rely upon to make you your living. Your tidy fortune exists, Jeff, because of people like me, who create the things that you sell. Without people like me, and Uzee, and Hilary Mantel and the Rolling Stones and Black and Decker and every other artist and manufacturer whose products you retail, you would have nothing.

So here’s an idea: respect that.

I realize that talking to a peddlar about respect is like talking to the government about efficiency. But it’s the only thing I can think of that might get through. And also this: until my books are back on sale on Amazon, along with all the other Macmillan authors’ books, I will be boycotting Amazon. Uzee will too. Will anyone join me? I can only hope. Maybe it’s a forlorn hope, but maybe not. Maybe people will return some of their business to their local bookstores, which are run, often, by people who actually read and care about books.

Oh, and another thing? Yesterday I read that Amazon’s stock prizes dropped 5% since the argument with Macmillan. One might even call it “market forces.”


Dave Maine

1 comment:

TNBBC Super Mod said...

My hat is off to you, David! Bravo!