Rupes Weighs In

by wjw on February 4, 2010

So far I’ve been watching the Macmillan-Amazon feud with a degree of disinterest— other than my wide-eyed jaw-dropping awe at Amazon’s bad, irrational behavior, and my compassion for my fellow authors who are being screwed, I have no books with Macmillan, so I didn’t really have a dog in the fight.

But now Rupert Murdoch has weighed in, suggesting to Amazon that it is, in fact, time to renegotiate his deal on ebooks. And since Murdoch (or “Rupes,” as we-who-are-his-slaves fondly refer to him) owns HarperCollins, which has several of my books in print— I am no longer a dispassionate observer. If Amazon decides to de-friend Harper in the same way it de-friended Macmillan, my lovely Praxis books will shift in category from “mid-list science fiction” to “hostage.”

For what Rupes and Macmillan are asking Amazon to do is change their entire business model. Amazon’s long-standing policy was to exchange profits for market share— they would sell books at a loss, in hopes that it would drive competitors out of business. Their plan involved nothing less than crushing every independent bookstore in North America, then taking over their market share. (Which is the same plan as that used by Barnes & Noble and Borders, by the way.)

Macmillan asked itself the question, “Is it in our interests to see independent bookstores wiped out and Amazon to have such a huge market share?”, and came to the obvious conclusion. A year’s negotiation proved fruitless, and the war was on.

Amazon’s position re the Kindle has always been based on a kind of bluff: they acted as if they had a monopoly on e-readers, and they negotiated from this stance, but of course it wasn’t true. There were the Sony Reader and others. But when the iPad appeared, that shattered the illusion. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this feud went public the same week the iPad was released.

But anyway, I now have a dog in the fight— well not a dog really, but a weeny, sickly little puppy trying to snarl with its cute little milk teeth. And the puppy is tied to a stake on the middle of a colosseum in which giant fighting robots are running around firing rockets, machine-gun bullets, and tactical nuclear weapons at each other. And just sort of hoping for the best, because that’s all it can do.

p-dub February 5, 2010 at 1:49 am

I never have been a big fan of being told what I can and cannot purchase; the Amazon Kindle, and Apple's IPad, -phone, and -pod all enjoy that particular heavy-handedness with the consumer. As a result, I'll never buy one of those gadgets.

I'll continue to buy your books for the Sony Reader, Mr. Williams and I'll be self-righteously and damned happy about it.

Yes, I know it doesn't help you in the Amazon wars, but it certainly makes *me* feel smug.

dubjay February 6, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Ya know, I don't actually care =what= format you buy my books in! I'm just glad that you do!

Charlie Stross February 6, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Welcome to the club …

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