SFWA is redirecting Amazon.com links

In recent days, Amazon.com decided to remove more than 4000 e-books from its website after a pricing dispute with IPG.  The Independent Publishing Group is one of the largest independent distributors in the United States.

While Amazon has the right to decide with what company it does business, its removal of many of our authors’ books from its ordering system will have an economic impact on them. Our authors depend on people buying their books and a significant percentage of them have books distributed through IPG.  Therefore, SFWA is redirecting Amazon.com links from the organization’s website  to other booksellers because we would prefer to send traffic to stores where the books can actually be purchased.

To that end, our volunteers are in the process of redirecting book links to indiebound.orgPowell’s, and Barnes and Noble.

Many authors will be hit hard by this, so we encourage you to seek out new places to find their books.

It is worth noting, that if a book is only available on Amazon, we are leaving the link in place. Our goal is to make sure that it is possible to order our members’ fiction. Hurting authors to make a point about a publishing model is not a good practice, for anyone.

For further reading:

 

36 Responses

  1. John N. Seattle, WA

    Figure it out guys! I dont care what you THINK you are entitled to…if you don’t settle this dispute, you are just driving people to pirate your books, hurting the authors much more than, you know, actually NEGOTIATING a fair deal! Why do the publishers insist on charging the same OR MORE for an ebook than a printed copy, when the costs of distribution are FAR lower? This overly inflated price does nothing for the authors…it just keeps the middlemen fat and happy! Get with the program or face the same fate as the music and movie industries! Give us the content we want to BUY or risk having your entire business disrupted, not because people are “stealing”, but because your business model is obsolete!

  2. Nathan

    “Many authors will be hit hard by this, so we encourage you to seek out new places to find their books.”

    Many authors will be hit hard by what?

  3. Amy Thomson

    Last Christmas, when Amazon did their stupid trick of offering a discount if you scanned the price of an item in a store and then bought it online from them, I ordered all my books from Seattle’s University Bookstore: http://www.bookstore.washington.edu/

    Duane Wilkins, who is their F&SF buyer, has been an amazingly supportive of local writers, and also of the SF field in general. Now would be a great time to reward that support with your patronage of this fine bookstore!

  4. Customer

    I am sure Amazon is really upset about this. I for one never click on links at other sites to direct me where to buy my stuff. I will still gladly buy at Amazon thank you.

  5. Bob Mayer

    No one forced those authors to sign with IPG. In fact, the very term seems an oxymoron– if an author wants to be independent then suck it up and be indie. The authors signed with IPG, not Amazon. So the onus is on IPG, not Amazon, to solve this problem.

  6. Roger christie

    I find it interesting, the large number of people who actually think that Amazon is some kindly giant with nothing but its customers best interests at heart. Rather than the, you know, raging frankenstein WallMart wannabe that plans to obliterate all competition.

    Interesting. Me, I’ll stick with the other side thanks.

  7. rx

    John, I’d like you to know that as an employee of a middleman, I am not fat and happy. I love my job, I love my company and I love what we do for authors and publishers who do not have the marketing power that we have. Do you think you can just write a book, pay to have it printed and then find a market for it? We connect authors and publishers to vendors and audiences. You don’t even understand the value of a strong distributor.

  8. Sam M-B

    1. It is hard to negotiate with a bully (Amazon) who just walks away with their toys if they can’t get their way. For those supporting Amazon on this for some bizarre reason, would you also support them refusing to let an individual author sell their own book on their own terms? Or would “you have to set your price to $X or we won’t sell it” be OK? Amazon is supposed to be a marketplace, not a price fixer.

    2. Apparently people still don’t understand that they are paying for the text, not the electrons.

    3. If you want $8 books, wait for the mass market paperback release like everybody else who doesn’t want to pay $15+ for new releases.

    4. Comparing $35 hardcover to $15 ebook (A Dance with Dragons) the discount is quite obvious. How much more do you demand?

  9. Rik Meucci

    This is a part of the reason why I don’t use a hardware Kindle… The app on my phone is adequate, as is the epub reader I use. This means, of course, that I’m not tied to a single supplier. They have to actually compete for my business.
    If Amazon won’t be sensible about dealing with authors’ representatives, then I can (and will) buy elsewhere, with very little inconvenience to me.

  10. William Armstrong

    @John N Seattle. This has nothing to do with pirating, as the books are still available. This has to do with preventing anyone company from controlling the marketplace, WHICH IS A BAD THING FOR YOU! Competition breeds lower prices, not monopolies.
    Your argument is not actually pertinent to this article.
    @Bob Mayer. IPG is not an actual publisher, per say, but rather a large group of authors pooling their resources to compete with non independent publishers. As a side effect, they also try to protect those interests with Amazon, since it is an ebook/paper (through Create Space, Lulu) publisher.
    The authors signed with IPG to protect themselves from issues that independents have, such as Amazon’s tendency to change the price of ebooks for a different price than the author wishes the product sold. Interestingly, Amazon does not do this with the physical goods that they sell for others.

  11. Matt L

    @Same M-B –

    1) I believe in the ideal of cheap e-books. Do I necessarily agree with Amazon’s negotiating tactics? No. Their motives may be simple greed, but I still think that the general point in argument–that digital goods should be sharply discounted from retail prices.

    2) No, I’m not paying for text. No, I’m not paying for electrons. Yes, I’m paying for a story. I get that. But removing the physical medium (including shipping and the physical cost of the goods) should be savings that are passed on to the consumer.

    3)New release should NOT be over 20 dollars in the first place. If you want to argue that hardcovers are more expensive to produce, fine. But the digital version is NOT more expensive to produce. It is by far the CHEAPEST version to produce and the price should reflect that. Furthermore, it is the least appealing copy in terms of collecting and has 0 resell value. Again, the price should reflect these factors.

    4)Dance may have a suggested price of 35$, but most stores sell it for much less. Twenty-one dollars on ‘evil’ Amazon. I believe the economics of the book industry don’t actually support a book at 35$. As for the discount I want…I think digital prices should fall more in line with mass market paperback books. Between 8-9 dollars seems fair. I might accept your 15$ price for a brand new book (I did, by the way, buy a digital copy of Dance at that price), but the price should drop down to under ten after a few months.

  12. Nathan

    @Mary Robinette Kowal — That’s what I figured, but the pronoun comes after two paragraphs of talking about the SFWA’s actions so it was unclear.

  13. Andrew Hackard

    Why do the publishers insist on charging the same OR MORE for an ebook than a printed copy, when the costs of distribution are FAR lower?

    Because the costs of distribution are a small fraction of the total cost of printing a book, and because the convenience to the end user of being able to read the book immediately rather than waiting days for shipment is a valid service for which to charge.

  14. Andrew Hackard

    (Crap, screwed up my HTML. My apologies to John N. for not properly citing his text.)

    (Also, I said “total cost of printing a book” and I intended “total cost of creating a book.” My stupid 20th-century mindset.)

  15. Slartibartfarst

    Wow. Interesting. This is such a surprise. (NOT)
    What an amazing, change-inducing thing to happen.
    Actually, what I do find surprising is that Amazon management would act in such a manner as to realise the potential to shoot themselves in the foot with such consummate skill like this.

    Probably a regrettable action and one which is effectively a wide-band broadcast communication to the entire market – right up and down the value-chain – “We can make a victim of you if we want.”
    It announces to the prospective consumer and publisher alike what sort of business ethics they can expect to get embroiled in if they deal with Amazon – Caveat emptor; There Be Dragons.

    Looks like Amazon management may have just demonstrated an inability to adapt their own business model to the flexible and dynamically changing nature of the value chain in the market that they have de facto been largely responsible for developing from its infancy right up to this point. Maybe the management are prone to serial execution errors – this looks to be almost certainly an error in any event.

    It creates opportunity:
    (a) It’s a potential fork in the road, and the market has apparently already taken the opportunity and branched off – viz: the SFWA is redirecting Amazon.com links to indiebound.org, Powell’s, and Barnes and Noble. An eminently pragmatic approach. Market forks tend to take on a separate existence and don’t necessarily join back up at a later stage. This market is theoretically close to being “perfect” in economic terms, relatively sophisticated, watchful, and has a long collective memory – so will probably ensure a continuing separate existence to the fork. No pardons for mistakes like this.

    (b) It’s a signal that it is an opportune time for Amazon’s competitors (or maybe even a new player) to come into the market to pick up the business that Amazon has just apparently sacrificed for short-term gain and demonstration of an imaginary monopolistic control. Imaginary because it doesn’t have that degree of control if the market doesn’t allow it.

    Be a part of the change. Vote with your feet and your wallets. Boycott. Buy elsewhere.

    Oops.

  16. Jacob Weisman

    As one of the publishers involved with the Amazon/IPG dispute, Tachyon Publications, I’d like to thank SFWA for taking a stand on this issue. I’d also like to clear up some misunderstandings about this situation.

    IPG is a distributor. IPG represents their publishers, including Tachyon, to various accounts like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore. They present titles to those accounts and increase the likelihood that those books, particularly print books, will be sold in these venues. Without distribution, it is virtually impossible to have an author’s book sold anywhere but online.

    A publisher, like Tachyon, assumes the financial risks of publishing for authors, including advances, production, publicity, etc. In return, authors earn royalties for their work. Authors sign contracts with their publishers, and publishers sign contracts with their distributors. Authors have not made a decision to choose IPG, their publishers have. They cannot pull their books from IPG anymore than Tachyon can pull our books from IPG. (Nor do we want to.)

    IPG has not pulled their books from Amazon. Their contract with Amazon expired and Amazon removed the titles when IPG wouldn’t accept new terms that included a deeper discount. This is very much akin to a lockout, where management bars the doors of a factory, rather than a strike.

    Finally, this situation has nothing to do with the pricing of e-books. Unlike their earlier dispute with McMillen, Amazon is asking for a larger share of revenue from each e-book sold (and for each print book sold). If anything this is much more likely to drive the price of e-books up, not down.

  17. Sam M-B

    @Matt L: Good points. I will note that ebooks are still very new: there are no Kindle ebooks older than 4.5 years (Kindle was released November 2007!) and ebooks of older titles are still bearing the cost of reformatting, funded by the prices early adopters are paying. (And they are — plenty of people joined you in buying Martin’s or King’s latest at $15. Side note: I know plenty of people who paid $35 in their local independent bookstore for A Dance with Dragons, open at midnight on release day.)

    As books age, their ebook prices do come down – look at A Game of Thrones or Ender’s Game. But the reason you can’t have $7.99 ebooks competing with the $35 hardcover is the same reason the publisher isn’t putting out the $7.99 mmpb on hardcover release day, too. Eager readers pay the premiums that make big books happen, and the price comes down when those early adopters are tapped out.

    On Amazon: again, they are supposed to be a marketplace, not a price fixer. Why shouldn’t an author, a publisher, or a group of these not be able to offer their works under the terms they’d like? What does it cost Amazon to just list and sell the books? They’re dictating what and how authors can sell and what and how readers can buy, all the while in complete dictatorial control of the Kindle platform. Nobody else can sell directly to Kindle owners; Kindle owners can buy directly from nowhere else other than Amazon.

  18. Sam M-B

    And while an argument might certainly be made that a $5 Kindle ADwD would have tripled the Kindle sales, this comes with two caveats:

    1. How many fewer hardcovers would have sold?
    2. How many fewer copies of other books from the same author or publisher would have sold?

    These price experiments don’t happen in a vacuum. If a billion books are sold a year, halving the average price probably doesn’t result in 2 billion books being sold. There just aren’t that many reader hours, particularly with more free books already available than anyone can read in a lifetime.

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  20. Steven Saus

    To SFWA – Thank you.

    @John N – Please don’t lump all “publishers” with the same brush. And if you’re able to buy from the author’s website, then do so. If you don’t know how to sideload onto your eReader, find out how. And you should probably know that retailers often discount, which might just be why you see eBooks for more than print versions.

    @Customer – I’m sorry to see that you don’t mind small and independent authors and publishers being bullied.

    @Bob Mayer – IPG is a test case. It only gets worse from here unless we stand up now.

    @Matt L – I’m currently charging $5 for a digital version of a 400 page print book that goes for $17. The way things work out, the net profits are the same for my authors (I publish anthologies). You should also know that AMZ charges *us* for the electrons in terms of a “delivery fee”. Which is cute, since the new KF8 format (for the Fire) has nearly double the file size.

    @Jacob Weisman – Well said.

  21. Sam X

    While not publishing anything through IPG, I wholly support the decision to divert business from Amazon. This maneuver by them is cartel-like behavior, and another indicator that when it comes down to it, they’ll choose earning dollars over the principle of supporting independent publishers. It is within their rights to do this, of course, and it is within our rights to protest.

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  24. Todd

    This may also encourage more authors to go indie….Without expensive middlemen, they can charge a competitive price for e-books and *still* make money.

    They call the Big Six “legacy publishers” for a reason.

  25. Stacey G

    I own a Kindle, and love it. B&N’s version of the books won’t work for me. Unless the other sites sell a version that will work on my Kindle, I won’t be buying them (I will not read on my phone or PC). I may go the library for the hard copies if I get desperate enough, but with so many other books available for my Kindle on Amazon I don’t think I’ll have trouble finding something else to read.

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  28. Alex

    “They” don’t call the Big Six “legacy publishers,” J.A. Konrath does. It’s a phrase he coined to help peddle his particular brand of snake oil.

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  31. ChickPea

    While it’s not as convenient as one-click buying, you can load content to a Kindle via your PC. If any producer wants to sidestep Amazon, as long as you produce your book in a .mobi version, it will be possible to read it on a Kindle (and, for that matter, if there’s a DRM-free .epub or .prc version, you can use Calibre to make a .mobi version).

    So – the best solution all round is an open format. Tying distribution to a different proprietary format risks losing those who have (like me) invested in a Kindle.

  32. Trevin Matlock

    Re. Bob Mayer at #6.

    A note about IPG. Authors do not sign with IPG, their publisher does. IPG provides warehouseing, shipping, billing and sales reps for publishers that do not want to go to the expense of starting their own national sales, shipping, billing and etc. departments. So far as SFWA is concerned IPG provides these services for Tachyon, Elder Signs, Nonstop, Golden Gryphon, Medallion and others. (These just off the top of my head, I know there are others.)

    An author has his book accepted for publication with Publisher X and gets paid from Publisher X. Publisher X (for example)has contracted with IPG to provide AT LEAST shipping, billing, warehousing and sales reps. Marketing and other services are also available.

    I am not going to weigh in on the broader story here, just wanted to set this part of the record straight.

    I am one of the sales reps for IPG.

    Regards,
    Trevin Matlock

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