Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amazon's Digital Library and why this is the worst idea of the century.

There are a few things I want to discuss today.  First is the rumblings in the news about Amazon's Digital Library.  Basically if you don't know, its a book version of Netflix.  You pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee and you have unlimited access to the library on your Kindle (no print books).  It appears that this offering will become part of Amazon's existing Amazon Prime.  I have posted my opinion of it on the KDP forums already, but I want to talk briefly about it here as well.

This is a huge step backwards for indie authors, traditionally published authors, the Big 6 and Amazon in my opinion.  Amazon has taken the sledge hammer to the traditional publishing world by allowing anyone to publish their work through KDP.  Barnes and Noble followed and so did Apple.  As much as the Big 6 try to convince us it isn't so; digital publishing is the norm and paper is the exception.  Amazon and authors are making big bucks this way.  Even the Big 6 are making bank as they transfer back list and out of print titles to the e-format.

The greatest advantage this gives authors is that an eBook is forever.  In traditional print, assuming you even got the chance to publish a book, you had 30-60 days to sell and you either made it, or your books were returned or burned to make room for next months new books.  If the guy in New York passes on doing a piece about your book because there was a similar one last month, you failed and so did your career.  Here comes Amazon and  eBooks.  Now your book has a shelf to sell from until it takes off.  Visit Kindle Boards and other forums and you will see.  There are a lot of good books out there that took six months, a year, two years before they found their stride and started selling in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands.  Numbers that make people drool and the best part is everyone wins.  The readers win because the book costs $2.99 instead of $27.99.  The author wins because they get paid $2 instead of $1 and Amazon sits back with arms open arms as the savior of the writing world raking in 30-65% of every sale without having to do a thing other than host a website.  Amazon didn't write the book, they didn't edit it, buy a cover, isbn number, market, promote or anything.

Now, Amazon wants to offer books as a rental subscription?  Screetch!  What!  Its like 7:00pm and your stopping the party?  The Kindle only came out in 2007.  Give it a decade for christ sake.  I pray that the Big 6 say no to this and I fear if they don't.  Why?  Because rental just doesn't work.  Look at libraries.  They run on donations and government funds.  Video rental stores have all gone belly up.  This leaves Netflix and Red Box.  Only reason Red Box works is there is no overhead, no store, no employees to pay, it's a frigging vending machine!  Even Netflix tried to push everything to streaming, and recently they lost the Starz library and raised all their prices.  Why?  Because $9 a month can't pay anyone for new content.  Rental is where things go to die, there is no life left, no money to be made.  The end.

I worked for Dell for 8 years and I saw them do some really stupid things to make something look good when it was a bad idea to begin with.  There is an Amazon exec who is in charge of Amazon Prime and this is nothing more than a way to boost Prime's numbers so he can look good and make his assigned metric and try and boost sales when they launch their iPad rival.  This will cost everyone money.  You, me, Amazon and the Big 6.  If you want to rent a book.  Support your local library and go there.  Your tax dollars already pay for this.


  1. I heard a rumour about this a while back, and hoped it was just that, a rumour. Seems not. I have a bad feeling about this.

  2. I'm willing to give it a shot. You never know. It may fail spectacularly, but then again, it could be the start of something new. I miss running down the street to Blockbuster video once in a while, but I relish the ability to sit on my couch and stream a video from Netflix instead. Libraries are good, but I'm tired of a new release having 50 holds on the first 3 copies if they even have the book stocked. Either way, time will tell, plus I suspect for the time being it will be more of a pet project for Amazon since many consumers don't have Amazon Prime.

  3. I so agree with you. As an author, I like the system where readers actually, you know, pay for my books and I make money. Call me crazy!

  4. I don't know, it may even be BETTER for everyone if advertisers and sponsors subsidize the book costs. That seems to be where Amazon is headed.

    And, ultimately, the indie era was never built to last. It was a Golden Blip in publishing history. Yet everyone now acts like it is an entitlement.

  5. @Scott- Indie and vanity publishing has always been around. Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin? The costs have gone from expensive to almost nothing. The biggest change is we now have global market reach with the internet, that was unattainable until a few years ago and is NEVER going away. I don't see this as a "blip" on the publishing radar.

    As far as entitlement goes, Amazon is already cracking down on PLR and people who publish the same book several times under different names and takes a healthy chunk of the sales. 30-65% to be exact and the tax man gets his cut as well. It will only get harder to compete as we go forward. Standards will go up and there will be more and more of us publishing.

    I don't understand the subsidize comment and how it would be better for me as an author. Amazon has no costs involved with eBooks. They didn't write it, edit it, create the cover, or market it. I even have to pay a delivery cost every time someone downloads it. I am missing something here to make the connection of Amazon advertisers and sponsors and how it benefits me.