Beth D. writes:
Wolfgang, this has nothing to do with self published "indie" writers. JB is attacking published authors (and thinking he's hurting Amazon) whose books are released by Amazon Publishing, not people who upload their unpublished manuscripts onto the internet. Big difference.
I don't believe anything I've written has been an attack on an author. I could've ignored Author X's request for a signing and tossed the ARC as another bookseller says he has done. I thought the guy was owed an explanation. I'm not rejecting him - I'm rejecting enriching a corporation that is destroying my industry. (And, please note that I took pains to not include his identity. This isn't about him or his writing but it is about his publisher.)
And for the record, we're peppered with requests from authors daily who say they have a book published and expect a signing. If the book doesn't meet certain financial requirements (available from a major wholesaler at a reasonable discount and is returnable), we turn them down because the economics do not work for us. Many people seem to feel that running a bookshop is all fun and games - it isn't. It is a brutal world of dollars and cents/sense.
There is also a feeling afoot these days that just because someone can become a published author that they should become a published author. That's not true. And it isn't true that everyone who has a printed book is automatically owed a signing. There are all kinds of factors that go into us agreeing to holding a signing but the major one is does it make economic sense for us to do so. If it doesn't, we can't.
What is this total denial I am seeing with indie bookstores? The technology is here. It isn't just Amazon. It is Smashwords, B&N, etc. Ereaders are selling like hotcakes. Editors and agents are no longer the gatekeepers. Readers are the gatekeepers. And when they can spend less money for more books..duh! That's a no brainer. This is all about economics. I understand your argument and yes, it sucks for you. You live in a a bad time for indie bookstores. A very bad time. The publishing world has turned upside down but the only way for you to survive is to embrace and support novelists and invite them into your store for signings. Otherwise, you're dead. Harsh but true. You can thrive if you invite indie authors to your store and carry their books but you won't. You think you're fighting a war but you aren't. This is just the future, man. That's all. Go with it or die. And that stupid reference to Its a Wonderful Life was just that. Stupid.
As founding member and president of the "JB is Stupid" club, I say welcome. It is a large and healthy membership. No dues, secret handshakes or meetings. We're vocal but casual.
As for the economics of selling e-books, let me note that we've investigated the Google/Indiecommerce e-book system and will be rolling out a new website on July 1st to enable our loyal customers to buy their e-books from us. We won't be selling Kindle versions as that is proprietary and I personally do not understand how flexible the files are for Nook vs. Kindle and if one can be read by the other (I don't care either, as I personally have no interest in reading from one.)
We've been investigating it all for months and have talked to a number of other independents and the concensus is that if they sell 10 e-books a month it was a good month. The vast majority of sales of e-books are going to the huge corporations. While it is grand that Google and the American Booksellers Association have worked out this way for us independents to sell e-books, a dirty little secret of it is that anyone wishing to do so has to set up a Google account to buy from us. Once they do, they do not have to go back through us to buy more e-books. So, conceivably, this is a way for Google to build up a client base to compete head-to-head with Amazon in a way that does not need our inclusion. We'll all just have to see how that turns out.
But if you would like to know more about the raw economics of selling e-books, our bookkeeper and bookkseller Fran crunched the numbers in a blog post on Feb 3rd, and the math is education. I urge you to take the time to go through it. Having the capacity to sell e-books will not be the saviour many expect it to be.
And the reference to It's a Wonderful Life was meant to be a way to give people who are not working in bookselling a frame of reference. It is also an apt comparrison, but I understand that you did not appreciate it. In this debate, it is important to keep all of the factors in play - the economics, the scales and the emotions.
Shelfaware had an interesting thing today about the who and how and why of Amazon's recommendations:
How do you become a top 1,000 Amazon reviewer? A new study by Cornell professor Trevor Pinch suggests that the website's elite reviewers "do not always make independent decisions about which books and other products they write about.... the reviewers in many cases acknowledge that in order to maintain their high rankings and continue to receive free products (one of the perks of being a top reviewer), they have to make surprisingly calculated decisions about what to review and what to say about those products," paidContent.org reported.
Pinch noted that a fundamental problem is the expectation on the part of Amazon's customers that reviewers are just ordinary shoppers. "The issue of the 'customers' not really being customers needs to be addressed," said Pinch, who found that 85% percent of respondents had received free products from publishers, agents, authors and others. The "way to keep those freebies flowing is to pump out glowing book reviews," paidContent.org wrote, adding that 88% of respondents reported that most or all of the reviews they wrote were positive.
If the independents go away, then so do their recommendations, websites, blogs, newsletters and insights. That, the 'customer reviews' on Amazon may be your main source of imformation. Is that what you want?
One of our local sales reps (thanks, Cindy!) sent us this link to a essay in the Seattlepi.com by Trevor Griffey explaining in depth the Top 10 Reasons to Avoid Amazon.com due to their actions as a corporate citizen.
I understand that I may not be changing any minds with these posts. But I do hope that they're causing people to think about the issues involved. If you understand the elements involved, the threats and dangers and benefits and outcomes and you consciously chose to spend your money with a massive conglomerate or a small independent, fine. But if you haven't been aware of the issues that we're trying to raise, you need to be.