Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys.

The title of today’s blog post comes from the inimitable Chuck Wendig, who has had it up to here with the whole Amazon-Hachette thing. The last straw was a long, rambling, barely coherent email sent to Amazon KDP authors (myself included, even though I took The Compleat Winter out of the program a couple months ago) asking for independent authors’ support of Amazon in their struggle against Hachette.

As I said, I got the email. I mostly skimmed it. In fact, Gmail treated it as spam. I had to double-check it.

Here’s the deal. First off, Amazon is not the only place on Teh Intrawebs to buy books. Not even close. It’s just the biggest and the most user friendly. I say this as I’m about to use an Amazon gift card to order John Scalzi’s latest, Lock In. But I can go to Barnes & Noble either online or wait until my scifi writers group meets next weekend. Or Indiepub. Or Powell’s. Or hey, lookie here. There’s a Books-a-Million ten minutes from my office and a Joseph-Beth’s nearby where I frequently have met John Scalzi in person.So the idea that Amazon is cutting Hachette out of the loop is complete and utter bullshit.

Some say that I should boycott Amazon to support Hachette authors. First off, see above. If you haven’t figured that one out yet, please stop trying to prove your intellectual cred. You clearly have none. Second, you would be asking me, as an independent writer, to cut off my nose despite my face. I’m fond of my nose. My wife is fond of my nose. My nose stays. You’re just not that important, and anyway, see above. If I really want that Hachette book, I’ll get my hands on it. Amazon is not that omnipotent.

But…

Amazon is not all. It is not omnipotent. It’s just freaking huge. No need to bow and worship it. So when the email came through, my attitude was “Really? You’re going to tell someone what price they can sell their product?” Even Walmart has to face the possibility that a supplier will simply tell them “Screw you.” They frequently do. It even happens to Starbucks, a much more responsible big company (healthcare for part-timers, fair trade coffee, college tuition for employees). So why does Amazon feel they are a victim if Walmart and Starbucks (and I suspect a dozen other huge ass retailers) just shrug this off? They want a monopoly? Hello, Mr. Bezos. I’d like to direct your attention to the half-dozen or so biographies of President Benjamin Harrison listed on your fine web site. Ben signed a law that says you can’t do that. Go ask BP North America (formerly Standard Oil). Go ask IBM. Go ask AT&T. Ask Microsoft. And yes, two of those companies got their corporate asses kicked by Republicans, one of them Ronald Reagan. So, no, Adam Smith did not say you could bogart the market artificially.

But why hammer on indie writers? We don’t care. We have no horse in this race. If Hachette never sells another book on Amazon… Well, goodie. More room for me. If Hachette boycotts Amazon, hey, guess what? Walmart sells books. Apple sells ebooks. And guess who wins if this scenario happens? Independent bookstores, who would love a new way to compete. It’s likely they will eventually own the print book market in the near future, particularly if Barnes & Noble fails to emerge from their current downward spiral.

So as a reader, this really does nothing for me. Amazon is not the only place I get my books. As a writer… Well, if the agent I’m courting gets me a deal with Hachette, well…  Eons ago, I signed at a handful of Barnes & Noble stores. I can always link to them and go to their stores. No biggie.

Here’s the real deal: Amazon is TimeWarner. Or Comcast. Or Dish. Or DirecTV. They’re a conduit into my house for literary crack. Hachette is Disney. Or NBCUniversal. Or CBS. Or whoever owns your local TV station. This is the battle between who supplies your TV and who supplies your favorite programming to them. At the end of the day, both sides are evil simply for allowing this to happen.

Only it’s hard to bypass your cable/satellite/fiber op provider. I can buy books just about anywhere.

Here’s an original thought. Try not screwing over your authors or your customers, because really, we don’t give a damn about you. We just don’t. Capitalism functions on buyers coming to the market to obtain goods. Amazon, Hachette, you’re in the market’s way, you filthy communists you.

Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

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One thought on “Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys.

  1. ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: tom.benghauser@alumni.princeton.edu
    Date: Sat, Aug 9, 2014 at 12:11 PM
    Subject: Michael Pietsch: Is Hachette Heading For a Premature Extinction?
    To: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

    Dear Mr. Pietsch

    As a result of your position on ebook pricing, more and more authors are, like me, being forced to publish their books directly – only to find that the editing, marketing, and other so-called services you frequently cite in defense of your high prices and miserly author royalties aren’t worth very much at all.

    I have self-edited and self-published my current work – a memoir – and am now in the process of self marketing it. It’s all been a lot of fun and I won’t be at all surprised when I end up counting a whole lot more royalty dollars than I’d have ever earned going through the tired old-boy system you so epitomize.

    I’d encourage you to come to your senses on the issue of ebook pricing but I understand that one of the defining characteristics of a dinosaur is its pea-sized brain.

    Yours sincerely,
    Tom Benghauser

    Although I’m confident you won’t be amused, here’s how The Thinking Man’s Animal House (Part 1.26 of III) opens:

    Try as I might, I can’t seem to recall my mother breast feeding me.

    It’s pretty obvious she didn’t, though, since what other explanation could there possibly be for why I’m a 69 year old Princeton and Penn Law grad with a body mass index of 45.2, not a single friend within 900 miles, $28.72 until my next social security check arrives, and penile attention deficit disorder?

    http://thethinkingmansanimalhouse.com/PU.html

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