With the demise of Borders, the battle of eBooks is one that is primarily fought between Barnes and Nobles and Amazon. I won’t discount Kobo, Sony or Apple, but in my mind they are three minor players in this particular battle. For my own part, I have a Kindle. I’ve had one for roughly three years now and I love it. If I were stranded on a desert island with only one piece of tech (and a solar charger) I would choose my Kindle without a seconds hesitation. Out of all the little gizmo’s I have, it is without a doubt my favorite one. It even beats out the iPad, upon which I am writing this right now.
Chances are though, that if I had a Nook, it would be my favorite device. Really, the eReader itself is just the platform that allows me to enjoy well over 300 books on a device that weighs less than a paperback. I know, I know. Some people will go on and on and on about how you just can’t read without the feel of the paper turning or blah blah blah. Sure, your physical book doesn’t need to be recharged either…but that’s not really much of a concern anymore. I plug the sucker in once a month and I’m good to go, despite how bloody much I can read when I really get into something.
Whether you like it or not, whether you have a Nook, or a Kindle or a Kobo or just use your cheap Android tablet or even your phone, eBooks are here to stay. Here me now, believe me later if you must, but eBooks are to Books, as mp3s were to CD’s (as CD’s were to tapes). And this is the point: There will always be a place for physical books, but the eBook will be the future, and just like with the music industry dragging its feet when digital music came about, the established publishing industry is having to be dragged into the future kicking and screaming.
Right now, Amazon is using some pretty shady tactics to dictate its own terms to the publishing industry. Take the recent fracas between Amazon and Hatchet. It’s really hard to brand Amazon as anything but the heavy of the piece. Yeah, they might be trying to get a better deal for authors, but they’re also trying to get a better deal for themselves, and that’s probably the most important thing for them. With every move it makes, Amazon is trying to corner more and more of the eBook market, and largely, its kicking ass.
The major publishers, the Big 6, (or is it 5 now?) don’t like this. And I can understand why they wouldn’t. Amazon is doing all sorts of crazy shit, like making an all you can read eBook service that tastes a lot like Netflix for books. Let’s all remember what exactly Netflix did to Blockbusters for a minute. Anyone been to a Blockbuster lately, except for the going out of business sales? They’re offering royalties that make a LOT of authors (myself included) wonder why they’d want to go with a traditional publisher. Not only that, but they’re doing their level best to make sure that those same authors keep their books with Amazon as exclusively as possible. They’ve offered eBooks for a nominal price if you’ve bought the physical book with them any time in the past. You can RENT school books from them. They just introduced a book crowdsourcing service for indie authors that give some pretty good incentives for non-established authors.
You see that big list of stuff Amazon is doing up above? Every one of those things is something that the Big 6 should have done. The problems they are having with Amazon being too big and powerful now? It’s entirely their fault. Is Amazon right in throwing its weight around? Eh… I don’t know. Will we regret it if they get an effective monopoly over the new publishing world? Most likely. Still, if the Big 6 don’t like how Amazon is using its power now, they have only themselves to blame.
Seriously guys. This was your game to lose and, let’s face it, you’re losing. You even had a ready-made ally in your corner in Barnes and Nobles. Their entire business was built on selling books… and now its half selling books, half selling other stuff and coffee. Not only that but there’s TONS of indie bookstores you could have worked with. A year after Amazon started doing its “buy a physical book and get the eBook for a little more” thing, I still can’t go to a Barnes and Nobles, buy the book and also get an eBook sent to me, even if I owned a Nook. That’s just plain stupid.
I’ll admit, several publishers are coming around, getting wise about how winds in publishing are going to blow. Tor and Baen are getting pretty good in the new digital world, as I would expect from people who publish genre fiction. It used to be you couldn’t even buy Baen eBooks on the Kindle, BUT you could buy them from their own site, and all their books were priced damn good, were free of DRM and came in multiple formats. They didn’t NEED to work through Amazon because they went and made their own system. If a publisher their size did it, there is absolutely no reason why the Big 6 couldn’t have. If readers knew where to get their authors for cheaper, Amazon would lose a lot of its gas. Or at least, it would have.
Instead, the big publishing houses got scared of piracy. They slapped DRM on their books and raised prices because…reasons. I would love a reason from Penguin why the Dresden Files eBooks actually used to cost MORE than the paperbacks. No no… I’ll wait. I am a Dresden Files FANATIC and I would have snapped them up without hesitation, even though I already own most of the paperbacks, and some hardcovers. But when you tell me that I have to pay $2 MORE for the eBook than I paid getting the paperback, there’s something wrong with your brain. Its mistakes like that and many others that put you in your current position, and Amazon in their’s.
I had brief hopes that the book publishing industry wouldn’t have to learn the same lessons that the music publishing industry had to learn. Unfortunately, it seems that change is scary no matter what your business in. But hey, maybe its not too late. Like I said, its still your game to lose Big 6. If you want to beat Amazon at its own game you’re going to have to start changing your mindset. If you embrace the digital change, start treating your authors better, and start courting the indie, there’s no reason you can’t take some of your own back. Not that you will… but I live in eternal hope that someone will listen to my advice. Now, if anyone of you is interested in an increasingly epic fantasy about an evil empire cast in the role of the good guys, I will instantly rewrite this to cast you as the hero of the piece. Let me know. I will completely be your bitch for a good publishing deal. Just sayin’. Think about it. Call me. Please?
Alright. Yeah. I’m coming on a little too strong. How about we give it a couple days and see how we’re both feeling then?