Friday, October 24, 2014

An Amazon rant

A couple days ago, my attention was drawn to this lovely rant about Amazon's power-grubbing business practices.  I still don't like Amazon; my list of reasons why has only grown over the years.  I still try to avoid shopping there as much as possible, and you'll never catch me owning a Kindle.  I'm not even sure I want to publish there when I self-publish my books, although many self-published authors report the majority of their business comes from Amazon, so I probably will... reluctantly.

My reasons for disliking Amazon are many, and most of them come down to the same thing this rant mentions: that they abuse their power in the marketplace.  They've bullied the big publishing houses more than once, and -- more unforgivably, in my opinion, because these are folks without the resources to stand up to them -- they also have a history of bullying the little guys.

Specifically, they started requiring a few years ago, when they first started their POD business, that all indie authors and many small presses use their printing services if they wanted to continue selling their books on Amazon.  And from what I heard, their POD services were not nearly the same quality as the ones those authors and small presses were being forced to give up.

And then of course there was the time they canceled all of their Colorado affiliates' accounts because Colorado's new tax laws were going to require that they inform their Colorado customers that they might still owe sales tax on their purchases.  I've gotten notices like that from other online retailers since Amazon did that, by the way.  It was no big deal and it didn't cost the companies anything to send me an automated form email with that information in addition to my sales receipt.  Totally ridiculous, passive aggressive move on Amazon's part, and all it did was to hurt their affiliates.

Anyway, the final reason why I don't like Amazon is because of the way they are so controlling (notice a pattern here?) about their ebooks.  Their Kindle uses a proprietary format which pretty much locks you into continuing to use Amazon, since you'll lose your library if you switch to an epub-based e-reader.  And the longer you continue to use Kindle and buy ebooks from them, the bigger your investment becomes, and the less likely you are to leave.

I for one only buy ebooks that I can back up and sideload onto other devices, such as my Android tablet.  (This has recently changed my allegiance to Barnes & Noble, by the way, as they have removed the download option from their website.  There are a few workarounds, but who knows how long that will last, so with the exception of free ebooks, I have mostly switched to Kobo Books for new purchases.)

The problem I see with Amazon's bullying tactics is that ultimately, in every scenario, it'll be the authors who suffer.  If Amazon succeeds in bullying the big publishers into giving them more of a cut, that just whittles down the authors' royalties even more.  And in indie publishing, of course, authors are even more vulnerable.

Amazon certainly has their uses, so I don't necessarily expect everyone to stop using them completely just because I say so.  But if I convince even one person to shop from Amazon even a little less, that would make me happy.

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