Sunday, October 26, 2014

Is Amazon a Threat to our First Amendment Rights? (@Suzdemello @MFRW_ORG #ellorascave #notchilled)

Please welcome Suz deMello, a fellow Ellora's Cave author, as a guest author today. Her opinions are her own, but I confess to having similar feelings of ambivalence concerning Amazon these days. Their prices on non-book items are not always the lowest, but I find myself buying from them just for the so-called "free" shipping. And yet…is it possible to boycott a company like Amazon? Especially if you're an author?

What do you think? We'd love to hear your opinions?

by Guest Author Suz deMello

Amazon is known for its ruthless business practices—it doesn’t merely squeeze competition, it strangles it until it dies.

Amazon currently sells 40% of all new books sold in the USA. Their percentage of the market in ebooks is even larger—perhaps 66% according to the above-cited Salon.com article.

Amazon is not only a book seller, but a publisher, and it favors its own imprints and minimizes the ability for readers to find its competitors. The most famous case on point is that of Hachette. Check this URL for Stephen Colbert’s clips on the issue: http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/search?keywords=Hachette

And the below is quoted from a letter sent by a group of authors to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and its BOD:

About six months ago...Amazon began sanctioning Hachette authors' books. These sanctions included refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors' pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books.

These sanctions have driven down Hachette authors' sales at Amazon.com by at least 50 percent and in some cases as much as 90 percent. These sales drops are occurring across the board: in hardcovers, paperbacks, and e-books. (http://www.authorsunited.net/)

Well-known is Amazon’s dislike of sexy covers, adult-oriented books and erotica; it seems to especially target purveyors of steamy books. Though Amazon touts its independent publishing program as a boon for writers, many indie published authors, especially in erotic romance, complain that Amazon’s search engine has made it difficult if not impossible for readers to find their books. The Kindle Unlimited program has cut further into their book revenues. Ellora’s Cave, one of the most prominent publishers of steamy and erotic romance on the web, has downsized radically, citing a massive drop in Amazon sales of its books as the reason.

The loyalty of many customers to Amazon is misplaced. For example, Amazon often does not feature the best online price for a book or other item. A couple of cases in point:

On 30 Sept, the price of one of my shorties, Highland Vampire, on Amazon was $2.51. The price at Harlequin’s site was $2.39. 

Being the daughter of Brits, I’m a tea drinker and lately have been into using loose teas (they really do make a better cuppa). Initially I had been purchasing from Amazon—isn’t that the place we’ve all become accustomed to checking first? Then I went to the Twinings Tea site and found that I’d been grotesquely overpaying.  My fave Darjeeling at Amazon costs $8.24 and it’s an “add-on item,” which is some sort of irritating practice at Amazon—I couldn’t get the tea without buying other stuff, and I couldn’t find a work-around for that bit of Amazonian weirdness.

The same tea is almost half the price--$4.49—at Twinings.

Like many, I have come to rely on Amazon for so much! I listen to music on my Amazon music player on both laptop and cellphone, and download music from Amazon as well. I’m an Amazon affiliate. I also buy books for my Kindle Paperwhite, which I love, from Amazon.

But maybe it’s time to cut the cord. Why should I fund an entity that seeks to exploit me, maybe even put me out of business?

I’ll probably take down my Amazon affiliate ads—that won’t hurt, as they’ve never earned me a penny. I’ve changed my email signature line, which used to direct folks to my Amazon author pages, to instead include my website and blog. Other changes will be harder.

I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I also have books placed with two other publishers that have disappointed me in myriad ways—see these links:

http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com/  and scroll down to #9 at

So I want to go indie. But Createspace and KDP are fabulous platforms for self-publishing. How ethical is it, given my concerns, to use those platforms?

And beyond my personal worries, there’s the greater problem. Amazon sells a huge number of books, films, music and other creative and factual works.

Should one entity control so much of what goes into our minds and thoughts?

About the Author

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.


Tina Donahue said...

Amazon is really getting blasted on a lot of the web news sites - a monopoly in any field (think Microsoft, the TBTF banks, etc) is horrible for the consumer.

We need our antitrust laws enforced.

jean hart stewart said...

Amazon has really screwed me with their boycott of erotic books. My last series was mild erotica and I got no publicity. Have left Ellora's Cave because of it. Although my heart was never really into writing erotica, it was kinda fun!

Suz said...

Thank you for hosting me, especially because I offered an opinion on what I know is a controversial topic.

Fiona McGier said...

My books are usually listed at better prices at either CoffeeTime Romance or AllRomancesEBooks. When I blog I send readers to the place with the best price. Actually the very best price is usually the publisher's own site, but some readers don't like to have to register to buy books, and since mine are erotic, they have to there.

Like has been said, any time there's a monopoly, the consumer gets screwed. My sons shop Amazon a lot for their "free" shipping and the convenience. Me, rarely.

Suz said...

It's not exactly a monopoly, but it's certainly starting to smell funny, if you know what I mean. The market share is dominating, that's for sure.

Kelli Scott said...

I've thankfully never jumped on the Amazon bandwagon. Sure I have an author page (two actually), and my publishers have my books there, but I bought a Sony e-reader years ago because I didn't want to be tied down to Amazon with a Kindle. I don't shop there. I've decided to list Smashwords, B&N, and sometimes All Romance eBook buy links ahead of Amazon on my promo. Is that enough? I'm not sure. After all the disappointment with various publishers in my erotic and nonerotic writing, I'm considering self-publishing. I don't want to make it difficult for consumers to buy my stories, but I'm toying with bypassing Amazon all together. Are principles and sending a message more important than the bottom line? Again, I'm not sure.

Suz said...

Kelli, I am pretty much where you are. Going indie due to pub after pub either dishonest or incompetent.

gpangel said...

Wal-Mart is worse, but no one complains about that. Hardcover books retail for around 30 dollars at B&N, but Wal-Mart refuses to sell them at that price. Many hardcover books sell for around 17.99 or less at Wal-Mart. Amazon has the same right to set a price point on products that Wal-Mart does. Besides, it is Not a monopoly. There is B&N, Apple, Kobo,and countless online independent booksellers. So, I sleep peacefully at night while I enjoy my kindle, Amazon prime books, movies, music, apps, games, and thousands of products shipped right to my door with free two day shipping.

Suz said...

Actually, @gpangel, people do complain about Wal-Mart for many reasons, and I do't shop there because I loathe their business practices.

gpangel said...

I'm speaking specifically about Wal-Mart's policy on books only. My point is about the Hatchette dispute. But, lets take Wal-Mart out of the equation. Target also is allowed to set their own price point. They do, by selling paperbacks at 20% off he suggested retail price. No one is drawing up petitions over that. That is the point I was trying to make. All of these stores, including Amazon are owned by a person or company. If they want to sell Frito Lay chips for a penny they can do so, it's their store. Amazon is no different just because it is an online store.

Suz said...

The point I am trying to make is that with an enormous market share, using predatory practices to increase that market share, and by hiding books that it doesn't like (erotica among others) Amazon threatens our freedom of thought.

Tina Donahue said...

It's also acting like a monopoly when it does that. As we all know, more people go to Amazon than they do to B&N, bookstores or publisher sites. Amazon is too big, getting bigger and is threatening distribution of products. Anyone who thinks that's not happening hasn't been following the news stories about them. Amazon is not your friend. They suck people in and then they put the screws to them. Their predatory practices are all over the internet. They're no better than Walmart, maybe worse. When they get bigger and they're the only game in town - and trust me, that's the goal - you'll see how wonderful they are.