I Was Warned

I WAS WARNED

A lot of writers have expressed concern about Amazon’s effective monopoly, and I’ve been trying not to think about it, because I use Amazon so much and it would be extremely uncomfortable to walk away from it. Not only is it the platform for my indie books; I’ve been using KU as a source of quick light reading now that it’s physically difficult for me to walk up and down library stacks carrying a load of books; similar limitations have caused me to turn more and more to Amazon for everyday shopping. So… I’ve been coasting along, hoping that I could stay under their radar, trying to ignore the increase in obnoxious virtue-signalling.

I’m not sure I can do that any more. Since, oh, about the third day of the George Floyd riots, every time I open the Kindle app on my iPad, I get a row of “anti-racist” books shoved into my face.

I’ve never objected to Amazon’s attempt to figure out what I might like to read based on what I’ve bought recently, except to wish they were a little better at it. Our interests seemed aligned. I want more books to read; they want to sell me more books. If only they could figure out that an addiction to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series doesn’t translate to, “I want any old military SF.” Sigh. Oh well…

But this display, which I did not ask for and certainly do not welcome, is hardly a good-faith attempt to show me books I might be interested in. Dear Amazon, I am not going to buy Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lousy book. I would not read it even if it were free. I would not read it even if you automatically loaded it into my library, and Dear God, can something like that be far away? Stop pushing these books at me. The display doesn’t make me think, “Oh, how virtuous and public-minded this vendor is.” Rather the reverse.

Maybe it’s time to cut the cord. There are other sources for books. There are other online shopping options. There are even other places to publish ebooks… but I don’t know that I have the energy to go after the few alternate platforms that I know of. Maybe it’s a message from Life that it’s time to quit writing; maybe I will just forget about shepherding the sequel to Salt Magic through the Amazon publication process. Or maybe that’s just depression and fatigue talking. I don’t know.

Obviously Amazon isn’t going to even notice my departure… if I depart, which I haven’t quite made up my mind to do yet. But they’ve succeeded in making me feel a little bit dirty every time I open the Kindle app. And I suspect that this is just the beginning. I’m such an obscure writer that they may never get around to censoring my books for political incorrectness… but how long until they have “correctness” apparatchiks scanning and canceling, say, Larry Correia’s books? Where do we draw the line? And is there any, any way to draw it that will get Leviathan’s attention?

59 comments

  1. I don’t have anything good to say about the possibility of Amazon censoring books, but I do have a suggestion for finding reading materal elsewhere – Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org). There is lots of older stuff that’s just as good reading as modern, and it’s all free.

    1. Oh yes, and since I actually like 19th century novels they’ve been a great resource. They’re also good for obscure travel writings. But since I’m writing for 21st century readers I need to read modern stuff too.

      1. I look forward to your new releases. I hope that you keep writing. I’d probably follow you to other platforms too, but I would need to know that you were moving. Other authors too, but I appreciate that you are putting new books out regularly. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see lots of new books coming from the author of Disappearing Act. 🙂

  2. You too – having all these anti-white pro-woke books thrust at you, unwanted? I’ve noticed it, and am silently burning over it.
    I’d hate to wall Kindle as a source for my ebooks, but there’s always Draft2Digital, and I can always go back to Smashwords.

  3. I’ve been spared that thus far, but my purchases and wishlist are so higgildy-piggildy that the ‘Zon’s computers gave up on me years ago. “Alan Hovahness, and Journey? And Christopher Lee doing hard rock? And a book on medieval trade economics, the new Margaret Ball novel, and a book on German volcanoes? I quit!”

  4. Please, Margaret, don’t give up. I know the temptation all too well, and yes: it is compounded and strengthened by Amazon’s recent wokeness behavior. But for all that, Amazon is useful to us. Our task lies in exploiting Amazon without allowing its negative features to weigh upon us.

    Perhaps the first step is to reject Amazon exclusivity. D2D and Smashwords both “ship” to an array of alternate outlets. When my current period of Amazon exclusivity expires, I intend to use one or the other to “go wide.” Alternate arrangements, eschewing the use of any retailer, are also possible. A consortium of “Writers In The Right” that sells directly to the reader, without a middleman, shouldn’t be too hard to set up. I’ll be giving this much more thought in the immediate future.

    1. If you change that to Writers Of Anything Other Than Hard-Left Woke(tm) Grey Goo, I’m on board. I like a -big- tent, because my enthusiasms wander all over the place. Lots of them don’t fit in the “Right!” camp.

      But -none- of them fit in the Woke(tm) camp, so screw those guys.

      1. I’m afraid there’s a serious problem with the “big tent” concept. Robert Conquest pinned it long ago:

        “Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.”

        Moreover, the sociodynamics of the “big tent” demonstrate that Gresham’s Law applies to people and group memberships just as strictly as to currency.

        1. Given the way the Lefties are subverting comic books and knitting magazines to their ends, I don’t disagree.

          But there is a problem with the formulation because exchanging a Right Wing checklist for a Left Wing checklist is not an improvement. Its one side or the other of the same shit sandwich.

          I’m not a Righty or a Lefty, both are parties of centralization and control. I’m in the Get Off My Lawn Party. (GOMLP) I write whatever my characters are doing this week, and if they are wandering far, far away from the checklist that is just too freaking bad.

          Somebody else who just joined me in the GOMLP, J.K. Rowling. She just released a very comprehensive “Get Off My Lawn You Assholes!” post on her website. J.K. has been supportive of a lot of Lefty things over the years, and I think she was quite hurt by all the hate she’s been getting about the TERF thing. But she’s no longer the depressed single mom scribbling about Hogwarts in a crappy pub. TL/DR, she told them to get the f- off her lawn.

          But she’s not a “Righty”. See? That’s a problem. Virtue spirals go both ways. The Nineteenth Century is filled with cautionary examples of the Right Wing virtue spiral.

          Therefore, IMHO, we’re getting nowhere by simply reacting to Lefty provocations, just the same as back in the 1960s. time to change it up.

          Personally, I find the Left to be simply uncool. Everything they’re doing, they’re the Pat Boone model of how to do it. So if they’re Pat Boone, I’m interested in being Elvis Presley. Or maybe Devo. Something so original and off the wall that all the kids are like “COOL! I want that!”

          So there you are. “We are DEVO! Dee Ee Vee O!”

          1. Get Off My Lawn Publishing. Now there’s a name I can get behind!

            When I finally toss The Epic to the four winds, I’ll probably get some smack over the lack of wokeness, but that’s just too damn bad. I chronicle these folks, I don’t tell them what to think. (And right now they’re all clumped up in the back of my head, in that way mesc do when they think humans are crazy. Except this time I see a few hands on weapons…)

        2. Francis, I tried to answer a question you posted on your blog via the email address you have listed, but it bounced as “undeliverable.”

          1. Hm. Undeliverable? That’s a new problem. I’ll look into it. Meanwhile, try this one:

            1) My last name
            2) The inevitable “at” sign
            3) Optonline, my ISP and mail server
            4) The equally inevitable “dot”
            5) And, of course, the “net” particle

            I get emails to that address without any known problems.

            1. I see the problem, at least if it were me… years ago I blocked the entire optonline.net domain because the volume of spam purporting to come from there exceeded all other mail (including spam) combined. If I, relatively spam-tolerant, would do that, I’d bet there’s some blackhole node between thee and thee that’d done the same.

              And you’re only the second legit use of the domain I’ve ever seen.

              1. Forgot to mention, there should be info in the bounce message, or perhaps the header, that you can use to pinpoint the bottleneck.

              2. — And you’re only the second legit use of the [optonline.net] domain I’ve ever seen. —

                Really? Virtually the whole of Long Island uses it. I understand that Optimum is currently extending its reach into continental New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as well. If the company is becoming a spam-re-propagator, I’d better let someone over there know about it. They’re very proud of their anti-spam technology, but apparently someone has got the better of it!

    2. Hmm. Well, thinking of myself as exploiting Amazon rather than as a poorly paid serf of theirs does make me feel better about continuing to use them…

      1. Yeah, I’ve been gritting my teeth and going “It’s a business relationship. I don’t have to like them, I just have to watch my contract language like a hawk and continue to make money off them.”

        That said, with this new release, I’m going to check my KU numbers, and seriously contemplate going wide. If they keep this behavior up, they’re going to become easy prey for a competitor. And when that competitor rises, Amazon will find this is a business relationship, not a friendship, and I’m out to make money, not make them like me.

        1. Absolutely. The first guy who gives me a better deal than Amazon, I’m on that guy’s platform immediately.

          Particularly if the platform isn’t pushing the destruction of my culture all day every day. That would be a big plus for me.

  5. I just stopped buying from Amazon until the BLM banner stopped being the first thing to show up on the rotating ad banner on their home page. I still get the “white fragility” dystopian fiction links on the app if I make the mistake of letting that load (my screenshot is pretty much identical to yours), but they haven’t infected my actual recommendations on the web site.

    -j

    1. I got “White Fragility” (yeah, that being our unprecedented tolerance for everyone else’s crap, which ultimately is going to kill us) in my suggestions, but I also got “The Know Your Bill of Rights Book” …. I must be a different species of prickly customer. 😀

    2. Heh. I haven’t been buying off Amazon for other reasons, mostly due to budget, and trying to limit all purchases until a potential cash flow crunch is no long an issue, but I like the idea of claiming that’s the reason. Might even add that on as a secondary check on spending. Heh!

  6. I try to buy directly from the publisher as much as I can these day. I pulled off Kindle ages ago out of a preference for physical books.

    I agree that companies are going to far with virtue-signalling. Here in Georgia they are even telling the Georgia State Congress what sort of legislation to pass before session end! It’s incredibly insulting.

    https://www.passhatecrimesga.com/supporters

    It raises a lot of questions:
    Do companies suddenly have the right to vote?
    If you’re the CEO of a company, does your vote have greater weight?
    If you’re the CEO of a company, and you set a company position, do your employees have to follow suit?

    Of course, I feel strongly the answer to all of those are NO.

  7. “…how long until they have “correctness” apparatchiks scanning and canceling, say, Larry Correia’s books?”

    I’m sure there are plenty of little beavering Amazon apparatchiks agitating to cancel all sorts of things. The same jackwagon doofuses (doofi?) that infest Google, Farcebook, Twitter, and Apple are also working at Amazon. It would not amaze to hear that they had been fiddling with the Recommendations bar, putting perceived Right Wingers at a subtle disadvantage.

    But. I would hazard that because Amazon has very complete knowledge of what sells and what does not, Jeff Bezos and the upper management know exactly how much it will cost them to cancel Larry Correia and all similar Right Wing authors. Currently that cost is probably very much higher than the profit to be had from boosting Hard Left imbeciles like Teh Nahisi Coats, who can’t even write a decent comic book. (Cancelled after selling 8,000 copies a month, despite the book being a mandatory buy for distributors. Spider Man, 100,000++ copies a month.)

    Bezos does not appear to be the type of guy to kiss off a profit over short-term virtue signaling. Amazon will virtue signal the cheap way, by featuring the Politically Correct crap in their banner bar for a couple of weeks, then go back to the capitalist method afterward.

    Also to be considered are the noises coming from Trump that he’s about to regulate Google, Apple, Twitter and Farcebook. Amazon does not want to be included in that, because one of the things keeping Amazon going is the Very Special Deal they have with the US Post Office. Below-cost shipping is hard to beat. If they had to bear the actual cost of postal shipping like everybody else their monopoly would be over.

    However on the gripping hand, long term, any distribution monopoly is bad for us lowly content producers. When you’ve got mobs burning down businesses and the cops standing there letting them do it, having your sole distribution be one company who is a political enemy, that’s not a path to success.

    1. Yeah, but Bezos has a giiiiiirlfriend. Or trophy wife, or whatever she is and I don’t remember.

      Middle-aged CEOs having midlife crises are very susceptible to playing woker-than-thou, if the giiiiiirlfriend is woke.

      1. I recall that Jeff ditched the wife and it cost him -bigly-, so I wonder if the giiiilfriend is going to be getting much play in the “telling Jeff what to do” arena.

        In the next breath, most men are definitely run by the Lady Of The House (and please, let’s not pretend otherwise, Lefties) so your argument does have merit. ~:D

      2. Jeff’s ex-wife, MacKenzie, is an author….her novel ‘The Testing of Luther Albright’ was pretty good, IMO…I wonder if she’s considered starting her *own* publishing company? Of course, she’s a leftist, too, but at least not a *Hollywood* leftist.

    2. After watching Hollywood and traditional publishers self-destructing in the name of wokeness, I don’t feel very secure in trusting enlightened self-interest to prevent Amazon going the same way.

      1. It begins to seem that the only path to self-preservation lies in eschewing the corporate retailers as completely as we have the corporate publishers, doesn’t it? And in reflecting on that seeming inevitability, I begin to wonder exactly what I’m talking about. A publishing cooperative, perhaps? Do Righties have any business doing communes?

        I’m going to look into what it would take to set up our own retail outlet. Vox Day did so; why couldn’t we?

        1. Leaving communes aside, the difference between a co-op and a corporation is very subtle – basically the makeup of the owners/shareholders (pig vs chicken).
          The biggest problem is growth. It’s relatively easy to START something like that. It’s harder to get it to grow enough to be successful (however one defines that). It’s much, much harder to keep it going over a long period of time without losing sight of the original goal – most especially (and somewhat paradoxically) if that goal has been achieved.

  8. I see nearly every company has now gone ‘woke’. I buy my eBooks from various places, not just Amazon, but they’re all driving further left. Luckily I don’t have a Kindle (thought about it, but have been putting it off for various reasons, not least of which my two NSTs are still working perfectly well), but have noticed their banner on the site when I go looking to buy stuff. It’s annoying. Of course, I could easily walk away ever buying another book and still have more than enough to read in my lifetime. And maybe I should do just that, my bank account would surely thank me.

  9. I recently bought several books (paper!) on the history of black gun ownership in the United States.

    I’m guessing that none of those are in Amazon’s suggested list?

    1. Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, and Coleman Hughes are other Black voices that are speaking out against this insanity with nuance and reason. Their books, articles and podcasts/youtube videos are worth pursuing.

      I’ve been debating whether to download all of my digital books to my kindle device now and back up everything to my PC, etc. I used to think there was very little chance of being cut off from my books in the Amazon cloud, but now I think it is a real possibility. I shudder to think what they’re doing with people’s reader data.

      1. I think that anyone who claims to care who doesn’t seek out and give true consideration to the arguments made by these men is being profoundly dishonest.

        I think it was McWhorter, perhaps (I’ve got a book mark somewhere) but a video I watched last night where the speaker compared systemic racism and similar to religions on the basis of there being questions you’re not supposed to ask and if you ask them and get a dissatisfying answer you’re supposed to just politely let it go.

        But definitely thoughtful, insists that racism is a real and continuing problem, but then asks, discusses, and allows those questions you’re not supposed to ask or care about not having answered.

        My question about white privilege or systemic racism has always always been…and then what?

        And that’s one of those questions you’re not allowed to ask and are accused of racism for even asking them. And then what? After the white chicks get done with their contrite religious displays and all of their friends say how wonderful they are for doing it…then what? And the charges of systemic racism…then what? Which is apparently the dismantling of everything that has been built to make life something other than brutish and short. Nothing about making those systems work for all people. And asking what is supposed to replace the underpinnings of civilization is, again, one of those questions you’re not supposed to ask, because asking reveals a lack of faith.

  10. Don’t know whether it’s my habits, or just that I only have a Fire 7 with a small screen – but I just barely see the top of the “Best sellers” section on mine.

    I expect garbage to be the major part of that. (Although just now, scrolling down past the “White Fragility” piece of trash, the previously banned book by Berenson is in that list.)

    In “Politics & Social Sciences” right under that, I have the annotated Federalist Papers, the modern English Federalist Papers (also in my “Top Picks”), “Rights of Man,” “The Know Your Bill of Rights Book,” “How to Read the Constitution and Declaration of Independence,” and Glenn Reynolds latest book.

    Now, in the past, I have seen a lot of the garbage show up elsewhere than in the “Best sellers” – but only after doing a recon mission in enemy territory. They do seem to follow me back from there.

    1. “I expect garbage to be the major part of that.”

      Right? Just like the Goodreads suggestions. If it wasn’t the usual trash I’d be stunned and wonder what happened.

      The people they have doing marketing are -idiots-.

  11. Unfortunately, Amazon is like every other outlet out there right now. They are all pushing the agenda. Some because they are afraid of the blowback if they don’t, some because they want to show how woke they are. The way I look at it, I still make most of my money through Amazon. They are still the easiest and most responsive when I have an issue with one of my books. I am also not above letting them know that their attempts to be politically correct aren’t appreciated and are insulting–not that they care. Shrug. But, until someone comes up with a viable alternative, I’m sticking with Amazon. I’ve had too many issues with some of the other storefronts to mess with them again.

    1. Well
      Amazon has a LOT of warehouses here in Richmond
      you know, one of the cities with a brief rioting problem
      ijs.

      1. And they had one of their major “notAmazon” distribution centers (contractor, mostly if not all Amazon goods) out in CA burned down last week. I suspect that they’re watching very closely.

        1. yes, and we literally have three? four? of those… depends which size you are talking about…

    2. On one side, you have a group of psychos who will go after you personally. And on the other, just folks who may or may not just stop giving you money.
      Which side is safest to pander to?

  12. Libby, the free library app is chock full of BLM crapola. I see it each time I do a search.
    Right now I am only able to read old school pulp and Tony Hillerman Navajo mysteries during the ‘Rona.
    I have just been running audiobooks nonstop via Libby since around November and it’s pretty much the Vorkosagian Saga……….am addicted to the narrator’s voice and for me the stories don’t lose their luster.
    It’s a minor compulsion and I can quit any time I want.
    Thank you Lois for Miles and Cordelia.

  13. Between them deciding I can’t download songs I bought to my phone any longer, and pushing ideology over items I’m interested in on the kindle phone app, I’m not at all pleased with the company. But don’t let that stop you from publishing your next one!

    1.) You’ll be giving people something good to read, instead of the idealougue trash being pushed. What do people want during stressful times? Fiction, not sermons. And you write excellent fiction! Where the good people win, the bad people don’t, and things get better!

    2.) It’s a business relationship. Exploit the heck out of them before their inevitable fall.

    Don’t let the bastards get you down!

    1. Yes, Margaret, don’t give up because I want the Salt Magic sequel! It’s one e-book I will buy ASAP 🙂

    2. Thanks for the pep talk!

      I guess we’re still stuck with Amazon for now but oh, how I long to see a competitor!

      1. Yup, it’s gets frustrating when the possible competitors don’t seem willing or able to compete…

    3. Yeah, but Dot, if we publish and Amazon is burring us in their algorithms that are made to push this trash, is it worth it? Because that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Like I can publish again, but my book won’t get any traction and nobody will see me since whatever Amazon did to algorithms last year killed my sales, and they’ve only gotten worse.

  14. Weird, I haven’t seen anything like that– although mine is bits and pieces of a book I already had that I’m re-reading, I’ll go check what it has on the Android phone app suggestion thing.

    Has the “Antiracism books to read” by “Amazon Editors’ Picks” and a kid’s version of the same.

    Looks like another “please don’t target us” offering from an idiot company, although at least they didn’t put the @#$@# things into the suggestions based off of what I’ve read.
    Best explanation I can think of, they’re trying to avoid the “everybody gets suggested my little pony” thing that Netflix ran into several years back, where the algorithms got broken by people with radically different tastes all watching at least an episode of My Little Pony.

    It’s further down, but at least the “suggested for you” is roughly the same as it was a few weeks ago.
    (still almost entirely horribly wrong, but it’s there)

  15. I got the BLM category thingie on the Amazon homepage, but nothing in particular suggested on the Fire app.

    Amazon Music is widely regarded as being somewhat broken, at the moment. The workaround on the Fire is that you delete one album, and then are able to re-download as much as you like. Don’t know if it works on phone apps.

    The downside is that they no longer want people to be able to listen to their own (non-Amazon-bought) ripped music on Amazon Music… but it doesn’t seem to affect things like podcasts, even though people don’t want to listen to podcasts via Amazon Music.

  16. I’m figuring out where to email them to tell them to stop showing that bullshit to me. I don’t want to see it on my Amazon page. I am not interested. And I’m just annoyed. Maybe if enough of us do that, they’ll stop showing these automatically to everyone.

    I also am tempted to start putting bad ratings on all of these, just to be vindictive, because I’m sure all the good reviews are just virtue signaling, BUT, then I look and go, I don’t know that these books suck for sure and don’t deserve high ratings, and it’s not the author’s fault Amazon is being annoying by virtue signaling. I hate it when people give me bad ratings because they happen to have picked up my book and then slam it for having sex in it, or because I’m not virtue signaling, so I wouldn’t want to do that to a fellow author.

  17. I don’t think I’ve read _everything_ you have written, but it must be close. Please do not use this frustration as an excuse to stop writing. I understand both the frustration (I think a lot of people are going not-so-quietly crazy, right now) and the “is it worth it?” doubts (which is why I’m not published). Looking at it from the outside, I would be thrilled to be in your position – at least authorily (is too a word). <insert cliche about things passing, lights, tunnels, being happy, etc…>

    There are dragon sequels to be written, too, at least I hope so! And we still need the backstory of the turtle-head-robot-snake (sorry, name escapes me – and talk about sentences one never expected to write; almost phantom-esque).

    My Amazon page looks fairly normal. There is a Black Lives Matter block, but it is just one of many and it _is_ topical. I’m far more upset by the emails from Uber and GoFundMe than a passive banner from Amazon.

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