Salon publishes a ridiculous takedown of Hugh Howey


#1

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#2

That was a week ago. More recently, the same author posted to Salon a brief email debate with other Amazon defender Joe Konrath. Which is one more appearance on Salon than Konrath would have gotten to make otherwise, so I guess that’s something.


#3

So, how is Amazon trying to dictate price to a wholesaler any better?

Amazon may do many wonderful things. But it is fast becoming a monopsony, which is at least as bad as being a monopoly, and likely worse.


#4

Amazon is pricing things in their store to sell. They are still selling Hachette’s books at Hachette’s prices. Hachette’s books don’t get displayed the way Hachette wants because the pricing is off in Amazon’s universe.

Tough shit for Hachette.


#6

I don’t have a firm position on Amazon v. Hachette but I’m not convinced that it’s “nothing more than Hachette trying to dictate price to a shop owner”. Very little to do with Amazon is “nothing more than” anything and I don’t suppose it’s safe to characterize them as just a “shop owner”.


#7

You are obviously unclear on what a monopsony is, and thus why Amazon’s behavior with Hachette has unacceptable social consequences. I suggest you do some research.


#8

Amazon vs Hachette appears to boil down to a nasty custody battle between 2 unfit parents. Both claim to have the best interests of Authors & customers (the “kids”) at heart, but they’re really just in it for the additional welfare money they’ll get.

In general, Amazon has been more consumer friendly, I’m not sure they’re in it for the authors, or that the consumer friendliness will continue once they complete their stranglehold on the market.

The flipside is, as Cory’s written about extensively, the publishers handed Amazon the rope that’s being used to hang them.

I love books, I don’t want to go into a dark age of illiteracy, and I dream of opening a bookshop some day. However, currently, it appears that (most) publishers are idiots who failed to see the music & movies memo, and Amazon will settle for nothing less than total 100% domination over retail.

Full disclosure: I’m just an idiot on the internet, but I think experimentation is going to be the key to success here if a publisher wants to survive. 5 years ago, I bought a book which as a perk of pre-ordering included a free digital copy. Some authors are giving digital copies of their works for free online (notably Mr. Doctorow, but sometimes others, from surprising segments of the population, the Christian book industry appears to be all over this).


#9

The old book publisher business model is dying. Adapt or die.


#10

It’s getting common in religious circles to be able to obtain seminal texts online in electronic editions - and it isn’t just the christians, even real religions like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster distribute their sacred writings that way (not to mention BOB, of course!). Just sayin’…


#11

I just had a really good discussion/argument with a friend over this in Internet chat. His position is that Amazon’s huge market share in online book and e-book sales and ability to dictate terms to suppliers is troubling regardless of whether they earned it or not, because it could be used to stifle innovation down the road. Whether it meets the dictionary definition of monopoly or monopsony is beside the point, and so is whether or not the Big Five deserve what they’re getting; he’s concerned about what Amazon could do to small publishers and others in the future. But he also admits that there may not be a good solution, because government intervention might just make an even bigger mess.

I can see where he’s coming from with the concern, but I believe that if Amazon ever actually does cross that line, someone will push back and the courts will sort it out. It’s already happened at least once, when Amazon tried to force all small publishers to use its own POD service. BookLocker (a company that the Big Five could probably buy just from the change they find between cushions in their boardrooms) sued; Amazon saw which way the wind was blowing and backed down and settled.

Meanwhile, I’m going to savor the schadenfreude of watching the Big Five publishers get what’s coming to them. I’m still ticked off at them for not dropping the prices on e-books to match print editions after the print edition had gone to paperback in the '90s and '00s.


#12

Amazon would prefer t if all their authors were self-published, like Howey.

Self-publishing through Amazon allows Amazon to take a larger cut, and to be the sole lifeline to the author – without Amazon they perish.

I wouldn’t like a work where Amazon wins this battle, and I don’t think @jlw would either. Publishers can do great things (even though many of them are still stuck in the past). They edit, they improve, they market, and they provide a diverse ecosystem of different sizes, styles and strategies.

Howey is defending dirty tactics by the largest buyer. Others are opposing these tactics because they are a foreshadowing of what will happen more and more as Amazon grows bigger.


#13

It’s getting harder and harder to tell Amazon from Wal*mart…


#14

Not really, WalMart has physical stores and a blue and yellow logo.


#15

Can’t park an RV over night at Amazon for free, either.


#16

This New Yorker article provides a good history of Amazon’s troubling interactions with publishers, in particular Amazon’s demands for increasingly high “co-op fees,” which in essence force publishers to discount their books by as much as sixty percent, cutting deeply into their slim profit margins. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this conflict, which the New Yorker considers worthy of a long, thoughtful article, as “silly.”


#17

The real problem is that art in money terms is priceless/effectively worthless, and all these publishers are fighting over a constructed idea of money for art.

Yeah, it sucks that authors will get paid less and less, but I can’t see any way around it without having arbitrary gatekeepers say X is good, Y is bad.

Both Amazon and Hachette are trying to squeeze blood out of a virtual stone. We have to reevaluate what art means culturally to solve this. Probably not solvable with any current economic system though…


#18

“Salon is representing Hachette as the defenders of art and freedom”

Y’know, that characterization of an article that mentions Hachette twice and only in passing is…mostly lying.

A writer at Salon said negative things about Hugh Howey. I get that he’s your friend. (FWIW, the one time I met him, I thought he was a good guy.) But if you want to defend him, then defend him. Don’t mischaracterize attacks on him as praise for Hachette.


#19

Reading though all the above threads made me think…

Am I the only one who was not impressed by the “Wool” stories? I get all the economic implications, Amazon vs. Hachette, vs. Howey. Just didn’t find the writing very good.


#20

This was my exact thought. To call the Wal Mart of the book world a mere “shop owner” is an incredibly insulting oversimplification. What next: fast food workers trying to unionize are just a bunch of sharks destroying mom and pop restaurants?

At any rate, since I am some random guy on the internet and this one detail rubs me the wrong way, damned if I am not team Hatchet heart and soul now. (and if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go read what the hell this whole damned thing is all about and filter it through my now-impenetrable confirmation bias)


#21

I’m actually surprised that Bezos is only the 20th (or 18th according to this list) richest American – the way he gets talked about you’d think he’d be higher. Take a look at the list – among the people you’d expect (Waltons, the Koch brothers) there are some very wealthy people who you’ve probably never heard of.