Ok, I’m furious about this: Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement. (For more intelligent publishing-focused commentary than I can put together right now, John Scalzi has a very good take here. As usual, the dirty rat.)
Over what appears to be a dispute regarding e-book pricing, Amazon has pulled all Macmillan titles in all formats from their US web site. This includes Tor books, and includes my own Green as well as the Mainspring series. Yes, third party sales are available, they haven’t de-listed the titles completely, but this is still quite significant.
To be clear, I don’t believe for a moment Amazon has any moral or legal obligation to sell my work, Macmillan’s titles, or anything else in particular. As a private actor, they can do whatever they want with regard to stocking and vending inventory through their system. I certainly can’t buy all the same products at the Safeway and the Albertson’s which are equidistant from my house. This causes me no outrage, only occasional mild annoyance.
But as a brand they have a trust relationship with their customers. And books lie at the core of their brand, regardless of their diversification into selling damned near everything these past years. The recent 1984 fiasco was a very good example of How Not to Manage Your Consumer Facing Brand.
This Macmillan issue isn’t going to bother consumers much. The 1984 problem was that they withdrew content for which people had already paid. Regardless of the underlying issue (and there was a serious underlying issue, Amazon just handled it very badly), that’s pretty much unacceptable. I believe we call it “theft” when you and I do it.
Declining to sell someone a book isn’t theft. It’s commerce. There are bookstores all over the world, both bricks-and-mortar and online, that won’t sell you my books. I am not outraged by this. But having the most prominent book retailer in the world remove my print titles from public sale over a behind-the-scenes business dispute concerning a slightly related product line (Kindle) is arrogant, offensive, and just plain maddening.
It’s not wrong, as much as I’d like to pretend it is. They can do what they want. But it’s stupid and troubling.
In a larger sense, so close on the heels of the 1984 issue, what this does prove is that Amazon will always favor boardroom level business issues over the interests of their consumers. Again, their privilege. It’s a free country, the Supreme Court assures me that Amazon is a corporate person. Bezos’ bozos can party on.
But they’ll have their party without me. I’ve removed all Amazon sales links from my author Web site at jlake.com. I will no longer link to them from my blog when I discuss my titles or other people’s work. I have closed my Amazon account this morning. I will never purchase anything from them again, I will especially never buy a Kindle, and I will use reasonable means (including my substantial blogging and social media presence) to discourage my friends, family and fans from doing any business with Amazon.
Because if they’re going to choose to toss me overboard in a business dispute over which I have no influence, control or participation in, I can choose not to do business with them. Even if Amazon rolls this back this morning, it doesn’t matter to me. They’ve proven they can’t be trusted to maintain even a neutral perspective on my interests as either a consumer or an author. They’ve shattered my brand loyalty. I won’t play Lucy and the football with them.
Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.