Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cheap Domestic Irony

Yesterday, I wanted to buy a particular CD online, so I dipped into a price comparison site, then decided to pay very slightly more so as not to give my money to Amazon. Later in the day, I found myself explaining why to Angela, who hadn't seen the relevant news stories. She then pointed out that I'd found myself deliberately shopping at Tesco in defense of the rights of producers and as a protest against multinational capitalist exploitation.

Amazon really have bought themselves a PR problem, haven't they?


Raven's Path said...

Mr. Masters,
First let me say I love your writings and your blog. I wanted to comment on your discussion of Amazon.

Upfront I do own a Kindle, but I do not believe all ebooks should be $9.99 or have a problem with windowed release. The article you linked to does have flaw in it. Not all Kindle editions are $9.99. Most are but not all. And I am not counting the reference books in that category. You mention that Amazon created a PR nightmare. Yes they did. But so did Macmillan.

I'm not sure how Amazon is exploiting the publishers since they were getting a set price based on list price, not the sale price. A price they had agreed to when the let Amazon sell the ebook edition. I understand the point of selling cheaper versions at a later date, and as I said I can agree with that. My problem with their side is that they have changed the rules of the game in mid-game. And of as right now it seems to be only for Amazon, not any of the other ebook sellers.

If you want to talk about capitalist exploitation I would look at Apple. In the presentation of the iPad Steve Jobs said that the iBooks would be priced between $12 and $14 dollars and asked about the price difference between those prices and Kindle prices is comment was that the prices would be the same. And two days later Macmillan gives Amazon their ultimatum That smacks of foreknowledge and collusion.

Amazon made a mistake pulling the Macmillan books, but Macmillan has come across as not caring about the customer and being just as greedy as Amazon.

Thank you for your time and your wonderful works.

Phil Masters said...

Really, it was the statement from Amazon (okay, from some Amazon employee, but hardly disowned in any haste) that called Macmillan "monopolists" because they, um, are the only people who publish Macmillan books, that decided me where my sympathies lie. A bit of straightforward profit-seeking I don't really mind, but ignorant-or-stupid abuse of the language in order to throw a cheap boo-word at the opposition like verbal monkey poop just makes me angry.

As a writer-of-sorts, I don't have any instinctive feeling that consumers are entitled to the absolute cheapest prices they can possibly get for anything. And as a consumer, I prefer to think that the cheap prices I do get represent a reasonably stable state, rather than being some wannabe-monopolist's mechanism for destroying all competition prior to charging whatever they like - which is the smell I get off Amazon these days. They also seem to be pulling the geek equivalent of that slimy "our managing director is a devout church-goer" PR line, dazzling the geeks with their Web-based high-tech modernity so that no one notices what they're really up to. But messing things up for the people who wanted to buy Macmillan products from them rather gave the game away.

Raven's Path said...

I agree completely with your comments on pulling the Macmillan books. The consumers can decide what they are willing to pay and it should be left up to them in regards to this matter. I also agree with your sentiment about consumer's not having an entitlement to the absolute cheapest price possible. People have the right to make a decent profit on whatever they do.

Amazon did say that Macmillan has a monopoly on those works. It was petty of them to say that and to take the non ebooks off the market. Just as it was petty of Macmillan to take an add out that said you could buy their books everywhere but Amazon.

My original point was and still is that both sides handled this situation badly. I will still buy from Amazon and I will still buy Macmillan books. I want to support the people who both create the works I enjoy and those that distribute them to me. Overall I think the people that will suffer from this are both the authors and the readers.

RogerBW said...

Macmillan has come out of this looking good mostly by having the sense to say nothing.

It's still trying to implement, in effect, a new version of the Net Book Agreement, and most wholesale businesses manage quite well while allowing retailers to set their own prices in their own shops. Whether you think that publishing deserves to be Special in this regard is another matter...

Amazon is a cheap target for outrage in the blogosphere (particularly from TNH at Making Light, who is hardly unbiased), but, well, ObBenGoldacre: "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that". Neither company has behaved "well"; to my mind at least neither is deserving of a boycott.