I’m a little surprised that a respectable news outlet like Business Insider puts up with screeds the likes of which Henry Blodget spewed all over Silicon Alley the other day. It’s shocking to me that not only is the post chock full of whiny, entitled, angry foot stomping, but also wrong information. I know blog posts aren’t fact checked or anything, but hasn’t someone come along from higher up in the editorial chain to even question the bullshit he just dumped all over a supposed business site?
First, the cost to make an eBook — whether you’re just publishing an eBook or one alongside print books — is not “pretty much zero”. It’s just not. Second, if Macmillan, or any other major publisher collapses, someone else is not just going to pick up and publish the books they can’t and someone else isn’t going to just hire all the people that would put out of work. And that someone else is definitely not going to be Amazon. Because, despite the Digital Publishing Platform and Amazon Shorts, Amazon is not a publisher in the way Macmillan is a publisher.
Amazon as publishing entity is about on the same level as iUniverse, Lulu, and anyone with a blog and a decent shopping cart system. I could start selling eBooks tomorrow and those eBooks may even be written by someone who is not me. That doesn’t make me a publisher.
But then that is part of the problem with Henry’s post — he doesn’t understand, at all, what it is publishers do, what Amazon does, and how all of these issues affect writers and consumers. Yes, an consumers. Henry says “we” don’t want to pay $15 for an eBook. Fine. Then “we” won’t. Consumers will spend what they spend any way they choose to spend it. If Macmillan or anyone else wants to price their books high then find out down the line that it means fewer sales, how does that hurt Henry or the rest of us?
Oh right, because then Henry can’t get what he wants when he wants it at the price he wants it. And for some reason he can’t just not buy an eBook, he wants to insist that eBooks sell at the price he’s willing to pay for it. Fine, I insist that the Kindle cost only $9.99 so that I don’t have to spend so much on it. What’s that you say? Amazon has to cover the cost of manufacturing and designing and maintaining and updating the Kindle? I don’t fucking care, do you understand? I want what I want when I want it at the price I demand.
Also, I want a pony.
Look, the idea that books, even electronic versions of books, are easy and free and don’t cost anything and amount to just a bunch of bits is, #1: stupid and: #2 dangerous. The idea that you can toss aside the fact that someone worked very hard to write that book (in most cases) and some other people took the time to edit, proofread, copyedit, design, market and promote that book is in essence saying that none of those people matter. If you really think that, you probably: #1: don’t read very many books, #2: have never met a writer or anyone involved in book publishing, #3: place a poor value on art and entertainment, #4: should be shoved off the nearest cliff.
Just try reading only self-published books for a year or two and then come tell me how all those people aren’t necessary. You will likely find a well-written, awesome book, maybe even two. Only if you read more than 100, though. Have fun reading 100 really shitty books, I’ll be over here laughing at you.
Finally, Henry, don’t even try to pretend like what Amazon is doing is good for writers. Just don’t. Because you’re wrong. You act like by giving publishers less money Amazon is somehow giving authors more. How exactly do you think this whole money flow works, son? If Amazon sells a book for $5 and they take 50%, that means $2.50 goes to the publisher. The publisher THEN pays the writer out of that $2.50. The publisher is going to get a larger chunk of that money than they give the writer, but in the end everyone but Amazon gets less.
You can’t paint the publisher as an evil entity who should get less money without saying that the writer will get less money, too, because that is what will happen. So stop trying to pretend like you’re on our side.
The side you’re on is the entitled asshole side, and that’s not a side most people would want to publicly associate with. You’re not even on the consumer’s side, because consumers have a wide array of choices, and one of those choices is not to buy things. People who bought Kindles already narrowed their choices to just Amazon, which is fine, but don’t then whine and cry when you can’t get cheap books for your expensive eReader. If you somehow feel it’s not fair that you paid so much money for the thing and yet still have to pay money for the books, I have two words for you: Google Books. And I have two more: Project Gutenberg.
Those aren’t good enough for you? Tough. Can’t get that new Stephen King release for just $10? Neither can those who buy it in hardback. Ever think that maybe your major problem is not that someone wants to sell an eBook for the outrageous price of $15 but rather that you are completely unaware of how minor a thing the price of a luxury item is when compared to the damage entitled people like you do to those who actually worked hard to create that item? Never given that any thought, huh?
Why am I not surprised?
(P. S. Will someone please stop folks who are supposedly “insiders” in Silicon Valley from acting as if the eBook reading landscape is Kindle and iPad only? I mean, really, how ignorant can one be?)