Monday, August 11, 2014

Amazon vs. Hachette Thoughts

This past weekend, I received an email from Amazon regarding the battle going on between them and Hachette. If you're unfamiliar with the debate, a quick Internet search on the matter will get you up to speed.

Amazon requested in the email that the authors they sent it to send an email to the CEO of Hachette, Michael Pietsch, stating very specific things within it.

Let's me clear. I'm me. And I'm not going to have Amazon telling me what to write. However, I do have an opinion when it comes to e-book pricing. So I decided to send the email to Hachette, not as a puppet of Amazon, but rather voicing my thoughts. Below is the email I sent to Mr. Peitsch and Amazon.

Dear Mr. Pietsch,

I'm not going to lie and say I know all the ins and outs of the battle going on now between Amazon and Hachette regarding e-books, their pricing, and the debate of Amazon not selling Hachette books because of it. I've read news reports and editorials on the matter but am smart enough to know that their are two sides to every story. I don't take sides with either Amazon or Hachette on this matter, despite being a self-published author who uses KDP to make a meager income.

You are no doubt aware that Amazon has contacted their KDP authors with the request to email you and to even consider including several points that fit their side of the story and their agenda. I'm sending this email, not to say I support what they are doing, but to simply give you my point of view when it comes to e-book pricing and authors.

I'm not one to want a publisher to speak for me and include me in a battle. It's why I self-publish. And I write for a hobby, not a living. I like being in control of everything I write from start to finish without someone hanging over my head and determining changes to my fiction that should be made to appeal to a more mass appeal audience. Or any other request that might kill the voice of my stories.

I understand the dilemma that publishers have today. How can they maintain the print publishing part of their business, which is so lucrative, and also sell e-books without one killing the other? The simple solution is to price the e-books comparable to the printed edition. This way, if someone wants the e-book, more profit is made per sale for the consumer's "convenience" factor. But also, some might just buy the print edition because it's the same cost and they get a physical copy. This is poor business adaptation.

Let me illustrate. As I said, writing is a hobby for me. My job that pays the bills is working within the printing industry, and I've done so for close to 20 years. Things have drastically changed in the industry due to high speed copiers and the Internet. Some customers can do printing themselves at a low cost or opt to not have it done at all and stick the newsletters, brochures, or other items up on their website.

At the company I work for, we have managed to stay in business by adapting. How so? By looking at the industry and figuring out what items still need the printed sheet. Letterheads, flyers, and brochures may not be needed but other items might, like large format signs and banners. We've adapted our offers to the consumer to make printing more relevant in more ways than I've listed here.

Of course, a book publisher has less versatility. But true to the human spirit, it doesn't mean they can't be creative or even know when to let things go and take their course. Lower prices are always more beneficial to the consumer and sometimes can lead to more profit because of increased volume in sales.

When a company plans ahead one, five, or 10 years what they want from their business, where the world will be at that moment, and how they can take advantage of those predictions, they thrive. It's why companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google stand where they do. But print publishers have been shortsighted in their focus. They want to maintain the old standards while adopting the new. Imagine if a horse dealer from the first half of the 20th century that tries to maintain that part of their business while also selling an automobile they made. Eventually, part of their business would become all but irrelevant. And which part do you think that would be? Imagine if they continued to stubbornly hold onto that portion of their business using strategies to keep both afloat. What if they told dealerships that sold their vehicles they must also sell their horses and at prices for both that they require? Would those dealerships agree to sell their products? The answer is obvious.

That is what I have to say on this matter. It's not exactly what Amazon wanted, but again, that's because they don't control me. I'm my own person with specific views. And even though I believe some of what they are doing is ridiculous, I know that they will continue to sell my e-books. And yes, I price my e-books much lower than my print edition books.

Lower e-books costs are beneficial for the consumer. They can be beneficial for your business. But that's only if you're willing to find a way to make it beneficial as opposed to punishing those who buy books from you.

And let's be honest, most people care very little about where their books come from. With the amount of books out their for people to choose, one publisher not being available won't hurt them. In fact, maybe there's a chance that a lack of publisher's books will cause the reader out there to find one of mine.

If that happens, I thank you greatly!

Thank you for taking the time to read this email.

Regards,
Desmond Shepherd