Monday, 5 March 2012

News: Amazon, E-Book Censors And Seth Godin's Bad Apple

Why Jim Hanas and Others Cried "No More Amazon!"
In the midst of the Amazon vs IPG saga, author Jim Hanas has removed the Amazon "Buy" button from his web site for his short story collection, Why They Cried. The book was one of the titles distributed by IPG and yanked from Amazon's catalogue due to pricing issues between the two companies.

No big deal, right? Wrong, as Hanas explains, " my case — since my book has no print edition — it is much worse. My book page has vanished entirely. Reviews, summary, everything."

Hanas is only one of a slowly growing list of those who are dropping Bezos's online shopping behemoth. Oklahoma-based children's books publisher Education Development Corp decided to "stop selling to distributors that sell through Amazon in an effort to cut all ties to the Seattle-based company." EDC CEO Randall White went so far as to call Amazon a "predator" that "doesn't sell anything."

E-book social networking site Copia picked up the ball Amazon dropped by running sales on some of the titles pulled off the Kindle Store.

...But wait, is the "predator" changing its stripes? Or is that merely a diversionary tactic?

The New e-Gatekeepers
Apple, meanwhile, has allegedly refused to list Seth Godin's book in its online store because of the URLs to Amazon in the book's reference section, prompting the author to ask, who decides what gets sold in bookstores?

"First, because the web, like your mind, works best when it's open," states Godin. "Second, because once bookstores start to censor the books they carry ... then the door is open for any interest group to work hard to block books with which they disagree. Where does the line get drawn?" Where indeed.

Though e-books and self-publishing may have freed writers from the tyranny of the traditional publishing model, Apple's decision to not list Godin's book looks purely business-driven. Are these new gatekeepers, partly responsible for this new freedom, now retreating into the bastions of old to hold their positions in a borderless, more fluid publishing landscape?

Online transactions company Paypal has also begun blocking payments for an online publisher for material deemed obscene. "I've always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind," said Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, one of what I think are the affected publishers.

Maybe, but when you start fantasising about rape, incest and the like and put it out in public, don't you...

Oh, right.

...Well, when a work of fiction is entirely about gratuitously graphic depictions of those kinds of things, maaaaybe someone should step in with some guidelines and put the foot down. But I agree with Coker's opinion that it's not Paypal's job: "When you sign up to a financial system you should not be required to look to it to provide you with moral correction."

How much of this has to do with the creeping influence of the far right in the US?

Dawn of the Niche Press
How can small publishers can get a leg up on the big ones? Hint: go niche, like small press Allium in Chicago that's reportedly filling a gap by producing fiction set in that city.

Small presses can also take big risks, which can pay off big. British publisher Hesperus Press, for instance, has acquired the UK rights to a Swedish bestseller with sales figures nearly as long as the title. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is a "laugh-out-loud funny, page-turning" novel that was turned down by some publishers (not named in the Guardian report). The MD of Hesperus thinks it might have been the "poor" quality of the original translation.

Niche-playing may lead to bigger things. Literary journal McSweeney's, for instance, is now an indie publishing house. it time for French-style niche publishing in India?

Google Slashes eBookstore Affiliates
Google as announced cuts its e-book affiliate programme. It appears that the number of referrals are too low, and Google is now limiting the number of affiliates to entities that are most likely to bring in the most hits.

Under this programme, affiliates: retailers, bloggers, publishers and other web site owners get between 6 and 10 per cent of a book's selling price, depending on the number of sales referred to Google's eBookstore. This rate is said to be higher than the Amazon counterpart.


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