Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Big Media in Support of Amazon

Just a week after the New York Times called for more balanced coverage of Amazon’s book business, the call seems to have been taken up by those across the media. One piece from Slate hits some great points on why Amazon is actually a force for good. The piece begins by making light of predictions about what Amazon will do with its market dominance at some point down the road. On what Amazon decides to do with its vast earnings, you have this:

Instead of rigging the retail business in its favor by fattening its margins and exploiting its dominant position in a handful of niches, it is so cutthroat that it sometimes appears to be cutting its own throat, as evidenced by the fact that the company loses a boatload of money.

 

Bezos is, for whatever reason, less interested in goosing Amazon’s stock price than in building new fulfillment centers, investing in new technologies, and doing all kinds of other things that involve more actual engineering than financial engineering.

I love that last bit (emphasis mine).

More from Slate:

But what about the incentive to engage in the kind of complex coordination that creates enormous value, that raises productivity and delivers lowers prices, that can’t actually be patented? When we decide that Amazon is just a little too innovative and a little too tough, what is the message we’re sending to the next entrepreneur who is debating whether to take on the thorniest challenges?

 

… having the government step in and squash Amazon before it actually uses its (supposed) pricing power to screw consumers will likely yield less innovative entrepreneurship. The only people who will win in this scenario are the mostly wealthy people who own shares in lazily managed companies. Hurray.

And:

In sector after sector—banking, broadband, and utilities come to mind—large incumbent firms have found new ways to protect themselves from competition, whether through coziness with regulators of sweetheart subsidy deals with politicians on the make to a pathetic lack of imagination among entrepreneurs who refuse to take on the toughest challenges. The sectors that Amazon takes on are the big exception. Instead of damning Amazon, we need to be asking why we don’t have more companies like it.

Completely agree. And I did so before I made a living as a writer. The first time I partnered with Amazon was as the assistant manager at an independent bookstore. Purchasing cheap, used, out-of-print books and new hardbacks at the same discount as I could get from a publisher (but in two days rather than two weeks) improved our bottom line. And Amazon put Waldenbooks out of business in our town and made B&N reconsider opening a location there. Amazon may be partly responsible for the surge independent bookstores are seeing, both in number and in revenue.

Slate’s not the only media outlet defending Amazon.

Here’s Vox pointing out that Amazon isn’t a Monopoly.

Here’s an op-ed at The Boston Globe in defense of Jeff Bezos.

Here’s the Washington Post making a lot of sense.

Even the New York Times got in on the fair coverage with this op-ed, which read more like reportage.

Fascinating. Maybe we really are all starting to come together on this.

24 replies to “Big Media in Support of Amazon”

It’s funny and sad when Amazon gets bashed. Bezos is a risk taker to the max. He’s invested in the long term, and engineering methods to get the right books, in front of the right readers.

I could care less the prices of ebooks are going down. I’m writing for an ideal reader, that happens to be part of a large demographic that might really enjoy the book.

What happens when I hit publish, and Kindle Unlimited gets the data that vindicates promoting the book to (x) amount of my ideal readers?

For those fighting to craft their books for that ideal reader, who have patience to play the long game, these are REALLY exciting times to be self publishing in Kindle Unlimited!

And, there’s Jane Friedman’s Scratch Magazine interview with Richard Nash, the most sane, to the point stuff I’ve read about the Amazon / Hachette thing:

IF you’re a paid subscriber (like $20 a year, 4 issues), here is the interview:

http://scratchmag.net/article/54387b01c873d9175d14a318/he_comes_from_the_future:_an_interview_with_richard_nash

Not “big” media, but again, Mr. Nash cuts the fluff and gets right to the point. He also talks about other things, but he fires a big, red laser at publishers for trying to “take on Amazon on pricing of books.”

This is where micropayments for blogs would be great. I want a 1-click option to spend $1 to read articles I’m interested in. The writer gets 50% and the outlet gets 50%.

“large incumbent firms have found new ways to protect themselves from competition, whether through coziness with regulators of sweetheart subsidy deals with politicians on the make”

Oh man, this is SO life here in ‘Straya. And the morons went and voted in the dirtiest grubbiest bunch they could find.

Good on Amazon, though. I’ve only dealt with them as a customer so far, and they’ve consistently been the best.

The term ‘monopoly’ fascinates me, when people throw it around like it is a bad thing. Amazon sells 50% of paper books, how does that qualify as a monopoly? The sell most ebooks, mostly because they were smart enough to make their own ereader, can we blame them for having most of the market? Do we blame Apple for having most of the digital music market because they did the same thing Amazon did, create a device for their product?
A monopoly is my electric company, I have no choice but to use them, and i watch as they spend millions a year advertising themselves, why? Why advertise when 100% of your customers MUST use you? That is a monopoly.
I have no problem if Amazon became a monopoly, because if they did and then raised prices, another company would step in and take their business. Amazon is not, and never will be, a monopoly.
It is good people are waking up and seeing Amazon is not the bad guy here, they fight for the consumer, and it is about time companies did that.

The ironic thing is that the groups that scream the loudest about how Amazon might abuse their power are probably only thinking that because that is what they would do given that kind of power. And in the case of the Big 5, that is indeed what they did with their power. Given that, they can’t imagine that maybe Amazon might just have different intentions. Instead of selling out in the short term and gouging customers only to lose loyalty and brand power, Amazon is taking the long approach and gaining as much market ground as they can. A lower margin spread out over billions of products and billions of buyers is still going to be more than a higher margin spread over a handful of products. Why would they gouge? They stand to be and remain very profitable for a long time to come.

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the Hatchette authors who jumped on the attack Amazon bandwagon, accusing Amazon of some kind of nebulous “censorship.” Ironically, her latest work, The Daughters of Odren, looks like it didn’t qualify for publication by Hatchette standards, so it was released this week as a Kindle Single on Amazon.

A persistent absurdity in the articles against Amazon is that its new publishing model is destroying the system of paying advances on royalties: “the great bulwark against dilettantism.” This is such spectacular nonsense! Average debut authors get what, $5-10,000 advances? This is barely enough to live humbly in a small village in rural Mexico for a year; nowhere near support for those imaginary years of development of quality fiction. Back when I was still pursuing the traditional route, I was told to expect to spend my little advance on publicity. Write the novel on spec and be paid a pittance; keep doing that until you sell enough to support yourself from your actual royalties; THEN get an advance big enough to live on. The advance system needs to be challenged, if not abolished. It’s really just another way of fooling authors and obfuscating their earnings.

That is a catch 22. Like… You need a permit to drive a cab, you can’t get a permit unless you drive a cab, lol. Publishers tell you to do all the work, make a good living, and then they will pay you enough to live on, lol. Thanks to Amazon now, when you get to the point of making a living, you don’t need their advance.

Regarding the Slate article. They have a business relationship with Amazon and Slate is owned by Graham holdings — formerly part of the Washington Post — now owned by some guy named Bezos.

People should know this.

And what difference does this make? Amazon has a “business relationship” with hundreds of thousands of people/retailers. Would that make all of their opinions moot? I should think not.

You might check out the first episode of Bojack Horseman on Netflix. I was only half interested, but it had some funny people doing the voices. The show is hit and miss, but the pilot had me rolling with a subplot about the publisher putting out Bojack’s autobiography (he’s a former TV star). The publisher is a penguin, naturally, and his company is crumbling as he continues to make bad decisions like publishing Bojack’s book and spending waaaay too much money on a failed YA series. Next time I hit the elliptical machine, I may watch another episode just for the publishing jokes.

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