Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just say no to the 1%

By now many of you may have heard about Amazon's new power play. With their new "KDP Select" option, they have created a sizable fund to entice e-book authors away from organizations like Smashwords and give Amazon exclusive rights to their books. In other words, you would have to remove your book from Smashwords, Diesel, the Apple iBookstore, and every place else that sells and distributes e-books except Amazon. Cool, huh? Oh, wait. No, it's not..

I went on the Amazon site--to my own dashboard, in fact--and it was daunting. The first thing I saw was a large banner introducing KDP Select and showing a huge amount of cash in their "fund." They have even created a new column at the end of each of my titles asking me to Enroll in the program. I won't, and neither should you.

This is a bit more than just a shot across the bow of Nook and Apple. Although Apple's iPad allows the use of an app that enables the reader to purchase books in the Kindle format, books purchased from the iBookstore are in ePub. Ditto Nook and Kobo and other major e-bookstores. The Amazon Kindle machines read only books formatted in the Kindle (.mobi) format. If more authors decide to become Amazon-exclusive, fewer books will be available to those customers who own reading devices that use only ePub formatting, such as Kobo and Nook. So not only will Amazon realize more sales from books, but from e-book reading devices as well.

Amazon's first step is to get independent authors, such as you and me, to sign up with them for a 90-day trial period. But this trial period will be renewed automatically unless you can determine how to opt out. We can guess what comes next.
1.  Amazon will control more and more not only of the e-book publishing industry, but the even more lucrative e-book reading device industry.
2.  Amazon will require anyone publishing e-books on their KDP program to enroll in KDP Select, which will then become permanent.
3.  Amazon will begin charging authors and publishers a fee for allowing them to have exclusive publishing and distribution rights on our e-books.
4.  The royalty that Amazon gives to its authors will decrease over time.

This is speculation, of course, but I have seen Amazon move in this direction with its traditionally published books. They make more demands, have higher fees, and take more of a cut of profits than any other book distributor. Seriously, why would anyone or any organization want such exclusive control? How much money do they need? Is it just a game to them? If so, it will only work if we play. Let's continue to be proud of our independent status and support the companies that support us, such as Smashwords. It is just another example of saying "No!" to the 1 percent.

Afternote: A recent blog article by Smashwords founder Mark Coker, goes into detail about Amazon's new "KDP Select" option. Mark's post, which can be found here, attempts to make sense of what Amazon is trying to do.