Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wherein I Rant and Think Conspiratorially...

Est word count 1000
Est time to read 4 min

Late last week I read a little blurb somewhere online that Amazon has come up with a way to resell ebooks… 

Let me repeat that: Amazon has come up with a way to RE-sell ebooks.

Translation: Amazon has figured out how to NOT compensate you for selling the book you wrote.

We all have been to second hand bookstores: You go in, find a nice looking book for a couple of bucks and whoosh – you’re at home reading that Stephen King novel and only paid $2 for it.* Not as awesome as rummage sale finds, but pretty good.

So Amazon want to be an e-rummage seller.

As a consumer it might be great. I don’t read ebooks from the big six, er, five, because the pricing is ridiculously high, in my opinion. I understand that I don’t actually own the e-version of the book I’m reading, I just pay for a license to read it, and I expect to receive a discount for that very reason.

But I don’t. I end up paying the same, or more sometimes, for an ebook that I don’t really own, that looks like crap on my bookshelf, and that I may not have access to if someone decides that this book is inappropriate, or that my account is suspended, or whatever.

It’s really crappy.

But as a consumer, I think, hey, if I pay $8 for an ebook, and can resell it for $4 –then I really just paid half the asking price, really, for it. It’s like a movie rental from blockbuster - before they were ran out of business, a business they could have probably salvaged if people weren’t secretly fuming over their tendency to treat consumers like money trees that needed to be plucked before eating. So when they fell, the masses celebrated with glee (A warning, I would think, to greedy people that are so openly greedy).

So yeah, I’d be thrilled to do that. Because that makes the pricing for an ebook feel more right to me. Because $3 - $5 feels like something I’d be comfortable with paying.

Except of course, that I tend to buy actual books whenever possible, reserving the e-versions for only those that I have a harder time getting elsewise. But still, it might make me pause and reconsider.**

Then I think of the author/publisher and realize that they just got cut out of the loop. I think of the possibility that I’d be selling 30 copies a month of a story but it’s actually been purchased 60 times… I only got credit for 30 because the other ones were “second hand.”

Then if that resold copy gets sold again, and again, over the course of a few years, 100% of my sales might be coming through ‘resold’ ebooks.

A book that’s been through a thousand transactions only got me two buck in royalties.

I got a bad feeling about this.

What is the book industry’s response? Apparently, they are floating around the idea of making browsing in a bookshop an experience that you have to pay for. That’s right, you PAY to browse! My god, I can see people just flocking to bookstores for that privilege right now.

I’d drop a dollar into a slot on the wall at B&N before the doors will open to let me in.

It’s like they want to force me to go to Amazon.  Of course, the reason that happens is because every business worth its own salt has the end goal of prying every penny you have ever had and putting it into their grubby little paws. I’m sure a single stick of gum would be $1000 dollars if Wrigley’s could get away with it. They would really like to just get your banking info and draft your account directly every time you chew.

You know what, they’d really like your employer to pay your wages to them directly, and they’d just give you the difference, minus transaction fees for all the hard work they’ve been doing on your behalf.

And then they’d decide that $1000 per stick of gum is actually $10,000… and it’s retroactive from the beginning of your life. So you owe them a lot of money.

Then people would complain of course, so they’d bribe a congressman to craft a bill that makes this a law. Then they’d name that bill the ‘Kittens are cute and Democracy is awesome’ bill and pass it through at 3 a.m. on a Sunday when only 2 people are there to vote on it.

Then people would complain again, and they would be on the TV news as people who hate kittens and want to destroy democracy.

… what was I talking about again, I forgot.

·         Oh yes, so Amazon, as the 800 pound gorilla, wants to start selling the ebook you spent all that time and effort on, and might only have a small audience for, and not compensate you for it.

·         Your publisher, if you’ve been fortunate enough to get one, thinks it’s a really smart idea to charge people for the privilege of even looking in the general direction of a book.

·         Wrigley’s, the gum makers, want to draft our bank accounts each time we chew gum… wait, I forget now, I might have made that one up.

I know change can always be scary, and the Amazon change certainly is. But when I sit back and think of who benefits from this, depending on the pricing they offer for resell, it might only be them. 

*Not at my second hand bookstore. A $7.99 mass market paper back, used, typically sells for about cover price. I’m not real sure how that works out, but they seem to be making a ton of money off of it, that place has more books than any chain bookstore I’ve ever been to. But I think my larger point still stands.

**And I don’t have too much and issue paying $ 8 - $20 for a physical copy of a book. It actually becomes my thing after that. I can throw it in the fire, sell it to that used bookstore down the street, use it as toilet paper, whatever. It’s a sliding scale on how much more I’ll go than that. One author, of whom I am a huge fan, has been selling hardcover copies of his self pubbed books from his personal website at $50 a pop. I just can’t go there. But I have paid $30+ for a self-pubbed book from an author that I love on more than one occasion.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So, someone returns and eBook, which is a credit against the publisher or author, and then sells it again as used and keeps the profit? Or is this only for books that the consumer kept long enough to pay for?
Kittens aren't so cute in either case.

Brinda said...

Although I am a serious book browser in the B & N or Books-A-Million, I wouldn't pay to browse. I LOVE browsing. Nevertheless, even a cover charge of a $.25 seems to violate.

I can't imagine that Amazon could pull off reselling ebooks. That is insane.

Trisha F said...

This is the first I've heard of the 're-selling' idea. But I already think it stinks!

M.J. Fifield said...

I would not pay to browse. I love browsing in book stores, but I would not pay to do it.

And I can't even start to wrap my head around the reselling of ebooks thing, but I don't like it. Sounds like orc mischief to me.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

It seems like Amazon could easily keep track of who buys the used ebook so they could give me a taste of it as the author, sort of like their KDP loaning program.

That paying to browse thing is so stupid. It's unbelievable anyone thinks that's a real solution. My suggestion was to just start serving booze and having mostly-naked women dancing or something. That would get men in there at least.

Andrew Leon said...

I think the re-selling thing is probably aimed at the big publishers since many of their e-books cost more than the physical books. It would be good for Amazon to have a way to entice consumers to pay $12-15 for that Dresden e-book rather than order the hardback for $7 (something I recently did). However, I think they have not stopped to think about how it will impact their self-published authors. Of course, they could make it something you opt into like KDP Select.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

I really don't care. I'm not making a living now as an author. If Amazon wants to cut into the 20 bucks I make or something like that, it just shows me that I'm thankful for the real job I have which is gonna buy me a house.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I think this reselling is going to blow up in their faces. Publishers will take them to court before they allow their e-books to be resold.

Cindy said...

Maybe 99% of authors will just stop writing because they won't see a purpose anymore. You can only do so much for free.

Jo said...

Amazon already sells second hand books, I guess ebooks just carries this into the electronic world. But it does seem unfair to an author.

Briane P said...

A: I am willing to sell you ANY BOOK I OWN, self-pubbed or not, for $30, each. I had no idea the market was out there.

B: I had to be all Corporate Joe (because he is an entirely different person) but

"the reason that happens is because every business worth its own salt has the end goal of prying every penny you have ever had and putting it into their grubby little paws"

YES. That is, in fact, the end goal of every business, which is a good thing because otherwise my staff would go home hungry and Mr F and Mr Bunches would not be able to go to the store to buy the Imaginext Tiger Plane and instead come home with the Imaginext Buzz Lightyear Headquarters.

The toy store can separate every penny I own from me because I separate every penny I can from my opponents (I sue for fees), and you as an author want to do that, too -- I'm sure if everyone in the world called up right now (let's say on a party line) and said "Hey, Rusty, FYI if you release that sequel to "Dead God" we are all willing to pay you EVERY SINGLE PENNY WE COLLECTIVELY HAVE," you wouldn't turn that down.

Or would you? Careful what you say: The free market is listening.

I don't mind businesses wanting to make money, especially if they offer me something that's equal in value in return. I get a little iffy when I have to pay $7 for a McDonald's value meal number 2, but that's only because I can remember when it was three bucks.

As for the Amazon thing, it's actually more beneficial than you'd think. Copyright law lets copyright holders only protect the first sale; if I buy PT Dilloway's brilliant superhero novel "Time Enough For Love" in paperback -- as I can now do with the first volume in that series -- the law says I can do whatever I want with it after that.

Ebooks don't have the same rights, in part because copying would be so much easier. That's why when you buy a CD you can have me and everyone in the world burn a copy for free, but if you download the CD off Itunes you only get about 7 copies; it's built into the code.

What Amazon is trying to do -- I've read the abstract of patent, here


Is get a system that would let me buy PT Dilloway's superawesome superhero novel "Time Enough For Love," which is available for just $0.99 right now thru PTDilloway.com

(Just saying.)

And resell that book to someone else, for my own profit -- which I can already do with a hard copy.

Which serves authors purposes.

Except it peels money out of your hands and into Amazons, so what you're really saying is that YOU want to get all the money, not Amazon, or perhaps you should share it?

Anyway, I'm not alarmed by this at all. I think it's genius. In fact, I can think of several reasons why publishers and authors should be glad to do this, especially if they get a cut of the profits but even if they don't:

Briane P said...

part two....

1. It lets publishers raise prices and make more money up front; if you can resell a book for 30% of the value, publishers could raise prices by 30% upfront and let YOU take the risk of resale, not them. VOILA, you are paying more for books and have been unwittingly enlisted in helping market the publishers' goods because you want to get that back. (Like how Coke used to get people to bring their bottles back.)

2. It gives authors more exposure. In my books, and in every book I see almost, there are ads for other books and links to buy those books, and if you know your book is going to be resold, you'll redouble your efforts to make sure that future holders of the ebook have an easy time getting to your other books.

3. It gets your books into the hands of price-sensitive customers without cutting your profits upfront. Rather than discount a book, as a certain PT Dilloway recently did, marking his book... never mind, you know it by now .. rather than that, charge full price. People who don't think your book is worth $9.99 might buy it used from someone else for $4.99, especially if that someone else is someone who read it and is marketing it for you.

4. Did I mention "Marketing it for you?" If you buy "Time Enough" and want to resell it and get some money back, presumably you will be telling people "HEY, THIS BOOK IS REALLY GOOD SO GIVE ME $1.99 FOR IT" in which case you have paid PT $2.99 for the privilege of going to work as his salesman in the future in order to get 1/2 your money back.

The only way I could be more for this is if authors got a cut. And presumably Amazon might give you a way to do that but if publishers were smart they would jump on this bandwagon right now and have people sign up for the right of reselling their books.

Imagine: Barnes & Noble lets you sign up to resell their books if you want -- "Any book you buy, you can resell, just register and give us a 5% cut of what you resell."

By signing up, you list yourself as someone B&N should market to -- then you are incentivized to buy more books from B&N because THOSE are the ones you can resell, and then you resell them, and hence market B&N books for them, AND they get a piece of that secondary market that they previously only hoped for. (Ever see the used book section at a B&N superstore? It's because they want a piece of that secondary market.)

This makes sooooooo much sense that I am 100% certain it will not happen in my lifetime.

Briane P said...

I swore today would be a productive day.

Then I read your blog.

Now I just want to go set up a system where I can resell people's ebooks.

Briane P said...

OH and also if that B&N thing went through it would make authors want to get published through B&N, or at least get their ebooks on the Nook if they got the same resale-cut-of-profits rights.

And B&N could do a bundle package: buy a book in the store, get the ebook for free (the way DVDs give you a digital copy for free) and get the right to resell your ebook if you want.



Briane P said...

OH and also if that B&N thing went through it would make authors want to get published through B&N, or at least get their ebooks on the Nook if they got the same resale-cut-of-profits rights.

And B&N could do a bundle package: buy a book in the store, get the ebook for free (the way DVDs give you a digital copy for free) and get the right to resell your ebook if you want.



Cherie Reich said...

I can't see paying to browse.

As for reselling used e-books, I just don't know what to think. I don't have a problem with selling used books or people reading books from their library. Heck, I know I've found tons of new authors that way and go on to buy their books. *shrugs* Of course, I don't think people should perpetually should be able to re-sell an ebook. Perhaps it can only be re-sold once or something.

M Pax said...

Paying to browse is a really stupid idea.

How are they going to get the resale to work with their draconian DRM or whatever it's called?

I think the whole idea is silly and I don't want to make less money because of it. Although, I guess they keep making money while I only make it once.