“Lately, two recent trends are taking place in e-book publishing. First, several articles in the past few months indicate that e-book returns have grown among readers. Some readers are abusing Amazon’s generous Kindle book return policy in order to get their money back after purchasing a book.
“While it’s important for Amazon and other online retailers to have a mechanism in place to allow readers to return books — due to publishing errors or technical problems — the idea of reading a book then returning it is a big problem. It hampers self-published author sales and minimizes the purpose of a return policy.”
E-Book Returns and the Problem With the Subscription Model : Kevin Eagan, 2 December 2013, Critical Margins
“Have you ever returned a Kindle ebook? That option might soon be going away, thanks to a petition over at Change.org.
“The petition calls on Amazon to change their customer-friendly Kindle ebook return policy. Even though this petition is only 4 days old it has over 2 thousand signatures from authors and publishers, all of whom want Amazon to now block some types of returns.
“The petitioners don’t see the return policy as reassurance to readers that we can return a poorly written or poorly formatted ebook. Instead they view it as a loophole that is being gamed by serial returnees.
“There is some truth to this idea, but would it surprise you to know that Amazon is a step ahead of serial returnees?”
There’s No Need to Change Amazon’s Kindle eBook Return Policy : Nate Hoffelder, 3 April 2013, The Digital Reader
Amazon’s Kindle Publishing programs are not (despite the name) publishing platforms — ebooks are a format, not a publishing platform — blogging software running on a domain you own is a publishing platform, a working knowledge of CSS, HTML, and FTP along with a text editor is a publishing platform. In fact, ebooks are just web pages (right down to the CSS, XHTML, and XML.)
Amazon makes things easier to publish (hey, just like Wordpress) and goes to great lengths to hide the fact that text delivered over an internet connection isn’t a html document, but the real secret sauce is money.
It’s not that Amazon makes it easier to publish: they make it much easier to get paid. …well, until you don’t get paid, at any rate (see the foofaraw over ebook returns, cited above).
Authors using KDP are trading control for convenience. (In a way, authors have always made this devil’s bargain with publishers, but in the past there seemed to be more work done on the publisher side to justify giving up control) (you know, plus money) — Amazon makes money off the transaction, and doesn’t know or care which books are “transacted”, so long as there are plenty of transactions in aggregate. Amazon has the system all set up: manuscripts in one end, downloads out the other, and the rest is accounting. No quality control, no editorial voice, no plagiarism filters, just the bookkeeping.
And yes I know it’s stupid to publish an ebook and ignore Amazon: Amazon is a big damn user base, and right now a lot of ebook affectionados exclusively buy from Amazon (because they’re lazy, perhaps, or more likely because they don’t know better, don’t care, and no one else is offering anything compelling that might persuade them to switch).
Amazon makes payment easy: taking payments from readers, making payments to authors. But processing credit card transactions is a far cry from running a publishing business and the real ‘digital disruption’ in publishing is not Amazon. Digital Disruption in Publishing is Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Buzzfeed and Huffpo. Napster and Limewire. Torrents, Tor, Pirate Bays and Pirate Parties.
Here’s the conclusion to a piece I wrote 4 months ago:
What we have here is a stalemate: On the one side, we have ebooks. Apparently everyone, even my Mom [true fact], is buying ebooks — and I, the Lone (old-school, physical bookshop) Bookseller Left on the Internet… I’m just a plaintive, fading voice in the e-wilderness, unable to see the e-forest for the e-trees.
I’ve been assured that the digital revolution has already taken place and we’re just taking a decade or two to sort through digital winners and losers, and well: nothing I’ve said or can say will shake your convictions.
“To me, it seems like the revolution already occurred back in 1993 and you all missed it. Every argument made for ebooks is also an argument that could be made about web pages: text served up via html and http actually has numerous advantages over .mobi, epub, and pdf (the current ‘e book’ formats available to us).”
The digital revolution already happened. I’m defending one payment structure: distribution and sales of books through bookstores. Ebook partisans are merely defending a different payment structure, Amazon et al. and the “electronic book” — but both models are susceptible to digital disruption.
“Modern” publishing (I’m going to pick 1836) had a good run, 1836-2007 — 172 years. Over the course of that run, corporations lived and died, business models rose and fell, new and cheaper book formats were born, and at the tail-end of that era: the internet came to prominence. We are now 5 years into the “new” publishing model…
Or, we are 5 years into a dead cat bounce. Are “Kindle ebooks” the future, or merely that last gasp of 200 years of publishing business?
I think the current environment has much more in common with the post-Gutenberg early era of newspapers (1605-1700): we are still figuring out what the platform can be used for, what we want to use it for, and how we can use internet publishing to make money. (I’ll remind you again here: Dickens’ first book was serialized in an 1836 magazine.) Straight, non-DRM web distribution is still the disrupting factor that has yet to be felt in Amazon’s KDP biodome, and however enamored one is of Amazon’s ebook payment structure — the payments have nothing to do with books or publishing.
Project Gutenberg predates the Kindle by 37 years, the Internet Archive hosts 4.4 Million ebooks, and facilitates 15 Million downloads each month [hattip] — so, yeah. Amazon’s e- efforts almost seem like a sideline in comparison.
The book is dead. Long live the book.
And before you come at me as obviously wrong [I am, as always, obviously wrong], ask yourself: “Am I about to defend books, digital distribution, or merely the new payment models that have been laid over the old publishing model?”
and with that parting shot: I open the floor for discussion.
[…some new emphasis added by me, but since I also wrote the original do I really need to make a note?]