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[publishing] Three more comments on Amazon and Google Books

I am about to spend most of the day offline moving furniture. (Or more to the point, having it moved for me.) Y’all have fun in comments on the Amazon post [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Lots going on in my Facebook page on this topic as well.

There are three thoughts I want to leave with before I drop off a while. First, as several people have pointed out, it’s possible Macmillan pulled the print titles rather than Amazon. I find this unlikely for a number of reasons, but I’m prepared to be wrong. All the available information to date indicates Amazon did this. Such a move would be consistent with several prior Amazon incidents (including the Friday night timing). And simple logic suggests that Amazon is far more likely to stop selling a disputed product than Macmillan is to stop selling their own product. If I’m wrong, I’ll speak to it as fully as I spoke to the issue this morning already.

Second, a problem I’ve noted several times in discussing the Google Books Settlement is that for most people, including virtually all readers who are not themselves authors, GBS is an overwhelming benefit. Indexed searches of virtually all print material, access to orphan copyrights, one-off sales of out of print titles. It’s pretty hard to argue with the basic goals. To someone who doesn’t understand (or need to understand) copyright law and the economics of making one’s living from publishing, it’s very easy to perceive copyright holders as being short-sighted and greedy. Basically, from a generic reader’s point of view, we’re arguing over sixty dollar licensing fees and holding up the progress of one of the most important print literature projects since Gutenberg.

Third, this same problem is already occurring in the Amazon fail. To a reader who is not themselves an author (and specifically a trade press author, where this dispute is occurring), what Amazon is doing is defending low priced e-books, and availability. The business nuances of control of the e-book channel, licensing rights, platform and so forth are invisible. There’s already a lot of reader resentment over existing e-book pricing. For Macmillan to be holding out for higher prices on Apple’s iBooks platform is patently ridiculous in their eyes. Again, an author like me protesting their print books being pulled in this dispute (and please read my original post carefully if you think I’m nattering about wanting higher e-book prices) looks short-sighted and greedy.

These are fights that we as authors didn’t pick, can’t control, and have PR implications that we lost before we ever open our mouths. That saddens me.

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