Thursday, May 29, 2014

I have a Dog in this Hunt

The battle between Hachette and Amazon over their new contract is about one thing and one thing only – money. And then there’s the power thing and Hachette being the first in line to renew their contract thus setting the precedent for the other big publishers to follow. So maybe it’s more than money but not much more. Oh and it’s also about fear. Just read the numerous articles found in the national papers and foreign press (who think we Americans are all troglodytes anyway), spouting off about mind control, agendas, and censorship as if the NY Times is such a paragon of broad mindedness (good summery here by Jeremy Greenfield at the Atlantic).

The last person at the table (and we were never asked to attend) is the author and the consumer. Just remember that everything in between the pen of the writer and the eye of the reader is parasitic. All the editing, design, production, distribution, sales, and marketing feeds off the words of the author. Here’s where I puff up and say, “Without us you guys would be nothing!” And of course their answer is, “Without us you would still be writing cheesy books and selling them from the back of your van at writers fairs” So in reality the relationship is less parasitic and more symbiotic. Sadly we need each other.

But so does the farmer who needs everything from food distribution to the local grocer. It’s where a fifty-dollar bushel of grain results in five hundred dollars worth of value and food. As I said, symbiotic.

The last five years have seen a shattering of old publishing models and the invention of new publishing prototypes. It will take years to sort them out and most will fail. In many ways Amazon is a new era dinosaur, they still buy and distribute products to the consumer just like Safeway and Costco and Macy’s and Bloomingdales. They just deliver the goods while we stay safe in our castles. Massive million square foot distribution centers are sprouting up all over the country (and world), hoping to squeeze every dollar out of every mile your book or toaster costs to get it to you.

If Amazon could deliver a coffeemaker to you through the Internet it would. But for now it’s media content that moves over the wires and fibers: books, audiobooks, music, and movies. Whole industries have had to retrench or die and it’s not just books; music is now consumed differently than just five years ago thanks to Apple, the iPod, and the Internet. Netflix now consumes more of the bytes flying about the Internet than any other user except for some Chinese and Iranian hackers.

I just finished a week long jaunt through the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. I listened to complete Bruce Springsteen concerts he did in Houston and Australia just a few weeks ago, non-stop (as any Bruce concert is) and with great fidelity over SiriusXM. It was a miracle if you think about it. Hours and hours of brand new content while I plowed along I-80 and backcountry roads. This would be unheard of just five years ago. Content was immediate, coverage was seamless, and quality was excellent (and not to mention the other 120 some odd other channels that offered the same).

Streaming books (audio) will be next; subscription electronic book services are growing from Scribed and Oyster (I remain reserved about their models for now). But at the same time Sony just pulled out of the ebook business and pushed their subscribers to Kobo (who promptly pulled out of the U.S., whatever that means). Who will be left standing remains to be seen.

I have my books at Amazon and all the other current ebook outlets, but my print books are through Amazon’s CreateSpace. While not a big dog I do have a dog in this hunt. Over the next five years a lot of what will happen that will have a direct impact on many of us self-publishers. That’s also why I’m going to expand into Ingram-Spark and their similar model as Amazon-CreateSpace. It’s a good idea to be in as many hunts as possible.

It is still the Wild West out there and to extend the metaphor it’s like Amazon stopping a stagecoach full of bankers demanding, “Your money or your life.” The bankers look back at Amazon and pull out their guns and respond, “Your money or your life.”

More Later . . . . . . . .

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