Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Select Rush, Part 2

Continuing the discussion over the Kindle Select programme, today I thought I'd focus on a few more important issues that have been raised across the web. It seems some authors and readers are decrying the limitations Kindle Select places on consumer choice. As you may remember from my first post, books enrolled in the programme must give Amazon 90-days' exclusivity. As I've also discovered, this exclusivity rolls over for another 90 days if the author or publisher doesn't do anything.

In theory, then, many books could become exclusive to Amazon by default, meaning owners of other ereaders may miss out. Authors and small presses might be seen to prioritise profit over readers by preferring one format over another in this way. Kait Nolan, a writer and reader, is mad about the exclusivity, too, as a Nook user. Pissing off her authors is not something she wants to do.

Smashwords' Mark Coker weighs in with a good argument about Amazon's predatory tactics here. In his eyes, a war had been declared. He likens the tactic to tenant farming and the abuses that arose from that (namely, the Irish potato famine). He also brings up the agency model for ebook pricing, which Smashwords supports, but which might be undermined if Amazon's monopoly were allowed to grow. In a nutshell: the agency model allows authors and presses to set retail prices, not retailers, and therefore there can be no discounts of your book without your say-so. Furthermore, publishers (or self-published authors) also get a 70% cut of the retail price. Which makes sense to me. Control over pricing remains in the hands of creators, rather than retailers and wholesalers.

Epublishabook.com also points out:

Currently, the monthly fund is $500 000 that is to be divided between the 47 000 books included in KDP Select program so far. This means that in the unlikely case where all books have the same number of downloads, whether it is one or 10 thousands, each book would earn $500 000/47 000 = $10.64 for that month through FDP Select program.
Do you really want to limit your income stream just to Amazon for the sake of $10.64 a month? Is it worth pissing off all those readers who own Nooks, Kobos and other ereaders?

Of course, there is more at The Passive Voice (which seems to be frequented by plenty of knowledgeable Kindle self-publishers) here. Individual self-publishers discuss the pros and cons, highlighting such issues as the narrowing of exposure for writers who give Amazon 90-days' exclusivity and the per-rental price paid to authors and publishers. As David Gaughran points out:
The pot is simply too small and the numbers of titles participating will be too large for it to work out at anything other than a *tiny* per download fee.

I have huge objections to the way this is set up. A limited pot is crazy. There should be a minimum per download fee that is fair and equitable. This opacity suits nobody except for Amazon – whose outlay is capped. They are risking little and asking us to risk everything for a limited pot. It’s completely one-sided.
He also says:
I think calling it a “lending library” is doublespeak too. Amazon wants us to make the analogy with a normal library – as authors have no objections to having their books there, and have positive associations with them as they are not considered to cannibalize sales and in fact can increase them through word of mouth etc. The real analogy here is with a DVD rental service. DVD rentals cannibalize DVD sales.
He goes into more detail at his blog here. In particular, he argues that we should consider now how we want to be paid tomorrow. It's not just a quick buck that's at stake here: it's the future of author compensation for ebook subscription models. By signing up to Kindle Select, writers are saying we're only worth a slice of that $500,000 per month, which might see writers paid only a few pennies per rental for the rest of their lives. Is this really something we should be agreeing to so readily and with so little thought? Should we really be rushing like lambs to the kebab shop?

My advice: your book is worth more than that. Don't play by Amazon's rules, don't settle for less, because in the future they might be dictating their terms to you rather than inviting you to participate.

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