Amazon v. Hachette: Everyone Is Wrong But Me

Submitted by C B Wright on

Update 5:12 PM (CST): Global edit, Hatchette->Hachette. Because apparently I thought the publisher was actually named after an axe.

Updated 5:18 PM (CST), 11 August: Someone popular linked to this and site traffic is crazy. Load times are slow. Apologies. Also, see the addendum at the end.

I hoped I’d be able to stay out of this whole Hachette/Amazon mess. It should be easy: I’m not a recognized authority on publishing, after all, and my soapbox isn’t really pointed in that direction. But as it happens, no one in this argument is saying what I want them to say, so I’m going to have to say it myself, and leaving comments on other people’s blogs just isn’t going to cut it for me.

The Short Version

This is a horrible fight. No matter who wins we’re probably screwed. Hachette isn’t the hero, and Amazon isn’t the hero either.

The Long Version

Looking at this fight all by itself, without any context at all, Amazon probably deserves to win--and honestly, I think it probably will win whether it deserves to or not. There’s no legitimate reason an ebook should cost the same as a paperback. “Well we really want to” is not a legitimate reason. “Because we can get away with it” is only legitimate from a business perspective if you can actually get away with it, and the current fight between Amazon and Hachette suggests that they can’t.

As reader of books I want ebooks to be cheaper than paperbacks because a) they’re obviously cheaper to make and b) when I “buy” an ebook I have fewer rights to do what I want with it than I do when I buy a paperback, so please don’t try to pretend it’s the same thing. If the first sale doctrine doesn’t apply to an ebook purchase, or doesn’t apply as completely, then it better be cheaper. So strictly within the boundaries of the current argument between a publisher that wants to charge stupid prices for their product and a retailer that wants to sell a product at less-stupid prices, regardless of their actual motives, as someone who buys ebooks I gotta hand Amazon the win.

That said: an Amazon win is probably not in anyone’s long-term interests.

Here is the secret to understanding my take on Amazon: they’re not part of the publishing industry, although the things they do certainly affect it. They’re not a service and retail company, though that is the way they make all their money. At its core, Amazon is and always has been part of the computer industry, and if you view them from that perspective their business practices should scare the shit out of you.

More below the cut.

Let the Record Show

Submitted by C B Wright on

Last night on Twitter I found myself in a state of what might best be termed "in high dudgeon."1 The dudgeon relates to a particular theory concerning writers and their priorities, and the dudgeon was high enough that I felt it appropriate to declaim, in 140 character snippets, the following:

(more after the more-thingy)

  • 1. a feeling of intense indignation (now used only in the phrase `in high dudgeon') - WordNetWeb

How Science Fiction and Fantasy Helped Me Conquer My Inner Demons By Being A Total Horse's Ass

Submitted by C B Wright on

Update 16 February 2014: This is, sadly, still relevant.

Note: This was originally posted on my Google Plus account here. I'm re-posting it to my website because it's relevant, and also because so there. Slightly edited.

My name is Christopher Brennan Wright. I’m a writer. More specifically, and this is important, at the moment I am an unsuccessful writer. I’m trying to struggle on, and get noticed, and “gain traction” just like every other writer in my position. There are no guarantees.

When you deal with something like that, it’s important that you don't dwell on trivialities, but I think the truth is that everyone does. There are goals and achievements you want that have nothing to do with actually succeeding, and they can haunt you more than the real goals can. I could wake up tomorrow and discover that I sold a hundred eBooks overnight and I’d still find a way to get discouraged. If you're reading this, and you have a level of success where a hundred sales in a night is no big deal, keep in mind that I'm an unsuccessful writer—a hundred books in 24 hours would be a pretty big win for me, and I wouldn’t be able to take the good news at face value. I’d be finding a way to undermine it somehow. I’m my own worst enemy. That’s just the way it is.

One of the ways I undermined myself was by feeling like an impostor.

Obligatory Rant about Fandom, Cosplaying, and People Who Ought to Know Better

Submitted by C B Wright on

This is a profanity-laden rant. Some day my daughter will stumble across this and be horribly embarassed. Future prospective employers will read this and inform me that the position has already been filled. My parents, who do visit this site, will sigh and tell themselves that they raised a good boy... mostly. You have been warned.

I should be writing for NaNoWriMo right now. I have, at this moment, at least a one-thousand-six-hundred-sixty-seven word deficit, and it’ll probably grow larger than that, because right now, this very minute, I really can’t concentrate on the story I ought to be telling. I would dearly love to, but right now, this very minute, the Internet actually got to me. Well, a group of people on the Internet actually got to me. Not because they are The Most Evil And Detestable People On The Planet, but because They Ought To Fucking Know Better And They Obviously Don’t.