A different modest proposal
Now while I’m aware that Johnathan Swift’s proposal comes under the heading of ‘It’s for the children’ and therefore naturally a good idea, I had an entirely different idea in mind, and one which would probably bring about similar outraged shrieks… but it might actually work if anyone took it seriously.
You see Amazon is evul. Not quite as evil as the evil league of evil, but working on it. I am sure the story Jeff Bezos rubs his forehead every morning to feel if the nubs of the horns are yet protruding is a nasty slander put about by the same jackasses who think (well, parrot, thinking requires functional brain cells) that we’re fascists (I know, I know. Logic is patriarchal oppression). Reality is there are large flocks (No: wrong collective noun. what about ‘a shriek of parrots’?) of Amazon Derangement Syndromers out there. I think the sheer volume does lend a degree of exaggeration to their numbers, but hey, there are at least 900 (they signed the Amazon are condemning poor James Patterson to a slow death by starvation open letter), plus of course all the staff at traditional publishing houses, and some camp-followers. Anyway, we have a couple of thousand people, not all of whom are idiots, who believe that at all costs Amazon must be opposed and brought to heel or Traditional publishing, and possibly all the gains of the last 1000 years will be for naught, trampled underfoot, and literature will go to the dogs.
But, besides the possibility that we’ll be reduced to eating small children by Amazon, they feel that, well, a monopoly would be a bad thing.
And for once I actually agree with them. Now I know, and you know, that Amazon only approaches a near monopoly on sales where traditional publishing, distributors and their friends Barnes and Noble and Books-a-million and many other fine bookstores have either refused to carry the book, refused to reprint, refused to restock when copies are sold. In other words Amazon only has a near monopoly on books by Independents, or unfortunates like moi published by Baen (thank you, Barnes and Noble for your ‘support’ with Dragon’s Ring, Rats, Bats and Vats (“Rats, Bats and Vats Series” Book 1)
– and your ongoing help with a re-order system which sees so many of my books still selling away… only from Amazon.) Otherwise it has maybe 60% of the market. That’s still a lot. But unlike the behavior of our dear little friends in traditional publishing, who had a near total de facto monopoly and monopsony (as an oligopoly/oligopsony they worked as a de facto cartel, raising prices together, setting indistinguishable purchasing terms, and dictating roughly the same material be bought. They swapped staff frequently, and swapped information on a scale not occurring elsewhere in business – and the DoJ did them up for collusion for it. Most of the bought off, but Apple didn’t, was found guilty — thereby, as you can’t collude on your own, as near to a guilty verdict as you’ll get), Amazon have paid authors well (70% royalties as opposed to about 17.5%), with transparent accounting and timely payments every month with a two month delay – instead of 8-18 months publishers managed.
Now, as the gates of the internet are harder to hold (there being billions) than the gates to a handful of retail book-chains that the traditional publishers maintained their monopolistic control over, I for one think that if Amazon gets too greedy, competition will come and eat them. In the meanwhile they’ll have to very greedy indeed to make terms as bad as those we got from Traditional publishing. Still, competition is a good thing for readers and for Authors. Middlemen, (especially with too much control) are at best necessary evil, and at worst, will destroy the entire business. So I gather that the existing (but being disintermediated) middlemen (traditional publishers), plan to start their own e-book at least store.
I know. I know. The size 60 left boot store (that’s all that they have on the shelf). Shopping a la Soviet Union command economy. Given that they’ll be actually facing competition and they don’t have the infrastructure to do physical books, or to do anything very well, even if you are a one legged wanting size 60 left boots, they won’t supply, and won’t be in business long. They won’t offer the range of goods or the delivery or the service Amazon do. They certainly won’t stock Indies, which are very popular. They certainly won’t offer the research and algorithms to match ‘you might also like’ that Amazon offer. It’s not something they have any skills to do, the desire to learn (they’ve had 50 years of opportunity, and real need in the last 10). It’s worth pointing out that Amazon is the internet ‘anchor tenant’ to retail. It draws a vast number of people, simply because it is the place to get anything, and the prices are good. 7% of what it sells is books. If you fondly imagine Harper Collins being able to that, I would strongly advise you to find another supplier, and to find professional help.
But there is a modest proposal possibility to find just that – a rival retail anchor tenant, which has great search algorithms, does a good job of ‘you might also like’ for me, and the prices are competitive. That’s eBay.
When you stop laughing, try thinking it through. You can already buy p-books on eBay. It would not be a large stretch to see electronic media sold there – downloaded through the supplier. It’s got a good payment system in place, and it is in direct competition to Amazon. They could even put limited quantity eArcs up for auction.
Curiously enough I did a quick fee calculation, and publishers – if they didn’t cut a special deal (possible for volume) would end up losing the same 30% more or less that they do to Amazon. And yes, there would undoubtedly be those upstart indies. Independent sellers are eBay’s bread-and-butter. They’re not going to lose them for the small value that tradpub would add. But if I was old Pietsch and his chums I’d waste less time trying to snowjob readers and writers, and go and chat to eBay. But then they’re not literwerwe, and probably would lower the tone of literatchure, with chainsaw parts and rifle scopes as also boughts… (okay, maybe that’s just me)
Various people have sounded off about the Hugos – My only real comment is ‘Pyrrhus’. Look, the point being made by Larry Correia about the Hugos was the award was not for the best SF/Fantasy of the year, but for the most popular among a small left to far-left bunch of the WorldCon attendees. What he did was to make make this proposition (now established as fact) known very widely and publicly. As the reading population, logic states, is a reflection of the demographics of the total population, and maybe 10-15% of that group could count as left wing. Stretch to 25% who will put up with it… still leaves 75% who are unrepresented, for whom the Hugo Award was at best meaningless or actively signaled a book they would not want to read. Now, obviously, even if you personally are further left than Pol Pot or Kim il from-too-much-caviar or Stalin, as an author signalling that 75% do not want to read your book is not a win. By Larry making this bias obvious, by having to recruit nominations, despite being a very very popular author… The previous Hugo winners, the current nominees, the normal greying crew of voters, the WorldCon organizers and the Hugo organizers were caught in a trap. The only way to win (to establish that this was NOT true, there was no left wing bias) was to LOSE. To have a right wing, (or several of them) author (or editor) win (no matter how good the various proponents were. It was like an international road-race which somehow only Germans won… once this was publicized, even if the best runner was German – if he won, your race’s credibility was in the toilet, now and always) That would re-establish the credibility of the award as essentially picking ‘best’ rather than left wing flavor of the month lose and 75% of your sales. It was kind of a lose or lose badly equation for the left wing of sf/fantasy, lose and have a Damian in tears surrounded by exploding heads, or ‘win’ and lose badly by destroying your credibility. The best option would have been to divide and rule and get behind say Toni Weisskopf and Brad Torgersen. But that would take brains.
Well: The sweep of the board by the usual suspects, the ‘anything but’ votes… they were certainly victorious against the Romans – which was exactly what was predicted -and the worst possible outcome for the shriek, and the authors concerned, and the award itself.
Heh. As we used to say ‘lelik is niks, maar fokkin stupid!’