May 14, 2010

Amazon, wtf were you thinking?

Blog, seeing as I have had a continuingly nightmarish week, I am happy to hand over the reigns today and let you have a turn at running the show. So feel free to vent about whatever is on your mind.

Thanks, Diana--I appreciate your handing over the blog to my non-corporeal control. Because I do want to vent about something, and that’s the fact that we now have pretty reliable proof that you were right all along about the peeps at Amazon being crazy. Referencing what they did about ebooks. I may be merely an extension of your psyche and therefore imaginary (with a masculine vibe, of course), but I agree with you it was nuts.

Here’s the deal, readers. Most of you probably remember the launch of the Kindle, Amazon’s proprietary ereader. You may even have been in on the commentary about how unattractive the device was (“bad 80s design” was more or less the consensus). I don’t so much care about that, not being exactly a looker myself. (Like most non-corporeal being, I don’t look like anything.)

What I don’t like is the stuff about which you may not be aware. Which is that Amazon was determined to take over the whole world of ebooks. First--and it was like a year and a half before the Kindle was released--they stopped selling the hundreds of thousands of pdf and lit format ebooks they had offered readers for years. Just took them all off the site. Then they made the Kindle so it would only read one format of ebook: the Kindle format. Authors had to get their books in Kindle format if they wanted them offered to readers. And if readers wanted to read them, they had to shell out $400 for a Kindle device.

At the time this struck us (well, it struck Diana, seeing as I was not yet even an imaginary entity at that time) as just un-American. Sure, in the course of free enterprise, companies strive for market share. But when they strive for monopolies, that crosses a line. Without competition, there’s no innovation. And also, no disincentive to high prices like that $400 tag on the Kindle.

Meanwhile, it really sucked in another way. Diana’s ebooks, particularly her first collection of erotic romance stories, Soulful Sex, were really selling well. That book was far and away her bestseller, and in fact was in the top ten ebook romances for over 18 months. Then one day: gone. Just so Amazon could try take over the market.

And the thing was, Amazon was making money from all those hundreds of thousands of ebooks. They took a huge loss when they abolished them all. Not only un-American, but pretty dumb business-wise.

So, Diana’s books are out for Kindle now as well, and they have been selling okay but certainly not like back in the good old days. Anyone can read a pdf or lit ebook via free software, on their computer or smart phone or certain ereaders. Only people willing to shell out the big bucks for a Kindle can read a Kindle book.

A couple years later, being last fall, Barnes & Noble launched their own ebook program. But B&N’s approach has been carried out in pretty much just the fashion Diana and I would have done it. They have a nice looking device called the Nook, priced at $259 (which, by the way, is the current price of the Kindle--wow, competition works like I said!).  But meanwhile, the software to read Nook books is free and works on other devices like PCs, Macs and smartphones. Do you know what this means? Anyone can buy and read Nook books!

And I’m here today to tell you a very interesting fact: A few months after the launch of Diana’s Nook books, they are already selling at the same rate as they did in their heyday on pre-Kindle Amazon. Imagine that. All those sales could have stayed with Amazon over the years, but they’ve lost them to Barnes & Noble.

And even more interesting: Diana’s print book sales have also shifted over in B&N’s favor! That’s really amazing.

Personally, I feel quite vindicated, and I’m guessing Diana does too. A little greed is a good thing, as it motivates good results like quality products, dedicated customer service, reasonable pricing, etc. But too much greed backfires in the end and really gets you bad press.

Like this press.

Sure, we still shop at Amazon. It so often has the best prices around, and no use biting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Still, product and prices being equal, we are going to shop elsewhere.

And on a more positive note, major kudos (SALUTE! “Major Kudos!”) to Barnes & Noble for doing ebooks right. And if you want to try out a good Nook book and you enjoy spicy romance, right now you can get Diana’s bestseller Soulful Sex for only $1.68 here. Sweet.

This is Blog, signing off from the soapbox! Diana will be back for ya, next entry.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea! That is a total WTF on Amazon's part.