Publishing Vs. Amazon: A Play in Five Acts
Amazon: Hey Publishing, we just invented a new thing that we think you’ll like. You know how after you make a book you have to pay a buttload of money to get it all printed and shipped and stuff? We figured out a way that you could not have to pay all that money and still sell lots of books.
Publishing: OMG NO WHAT IS THIS WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO DESTROY PUBLISHING
Customers: Hey! These ebooks are pretty cool! I can carry a bunch with me all the time and it sucks less when I have to move!
Publishing: NO THEY ARE NOT COOL, PAPER BOOKS FOREVER, WE KNOW YOU JUST WANT TO STEAL OUR CONTENT OFF OF THE INTERNETS. CAN WE TRIPLE THE DRMs PLEASE
Amazon: Hey Publishing, we want to buy a buttload of books from you and we aren’t even going to return a bunch of unsold books like other bookstores do, and in return do you think you could give us a good deal since you’re going to make a lot of money? And also because like, every other industry that we work with works with us at a wholesale discount since we spend so much money with them and all.
Publishing: OMG NO WE DO NOT WANT TO SELL YOU A BUTTLOAD OF BOOKS WE HATE YOU. WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO DESTROY PUBLISHING
Amazon: Hey just FYI we are also going to publish some books by people because we think it looks like a neat business to get into. Competition is awesome right? I mean, it’s mostly celebrities and authors that are doing all the work themselves anyway.
Publishing: YOU ARE MURDERING US TO DEATH STAHP. NOBODY SHOULD BUY BOOKS PUBLISHED BY AMAZON BECAUSE ONLY WE ARE ALLOWED TO PUBLISH.
Bookstores: We hate Amazon too because nobody else should be allowed to sell books, especially if customers like going to them better. We will not sell Amazon’s books even if customers want to read them.
Publishing: YEAH WE HATE YOU AMAZON
Bookstores: Do you still love us, Publishing? We promise that we will only sell paper books and not any from Amazon.
Publishing: YEAH YOU ARE MY BOO.
Amazon: Hey Publishing, since it only costs you like a fraction of a percent actually to produce ebooks vs printing books, why do they cost so much?
Publishing: SHUT UP
Apple (aside to Publishing): Hey, I know how you guys can make more money off of ebooks.
Publishing: You have our attention.
Apple and Publishing whisper quietly between themselves.
Publishing: OK SO FROM NOW ON EVERYONE HAS TO SELL AT THE PRICE WE DECIDED AND YOU ONLY MAKE 30%
Amazon: What? But . . . I mean, we’re a retailer, not a consignment shop? And your prices are higher than paperbacks–isn’t that kind of silly for a medium that costs significantly less to produce? Why not price them less so you can sell at a higher volume, since you have no limit on the units you can sell?
Publishing: NO WE ALL DECIDED ALREADY
Apple blows a raspberry at Amazon, then sells them a bunch of iPads and iPhones.
DOJ: Uhh, you guys can’t actually do that.
Publishing: BUT THEY ARE DESTROYING PUBLISHING BY MAKING IT UNFAIR COMPETITION SO WE HAD TO DO UNFAIR COMPETITION
DOJ: How is Amazon promoting unfair competition?
Publishing: …. SOMETHING SOMETHING DISCOUNTING. PREDATORY PRICING. ETC.
DOJ: You guys know that’s only a thing when their competitors don’t have the resources to keep up, right? Apple, Target, and Walmart are larger companies than Amazon and they all sell books, some also at significant discounts. It’s unlikely that Amazon will be able to put these businesses out of the book business. Also, did you know that antitrust laws are mostly meant to protect the consumer, rather than producers?
DOJ: Yeah, discounting is actually really good for consumers because they save money. It only becomes an issue when businesses have the ability to put their competitors out of business, thus eliminating competition. And it’s almost impossible to prove a predatory pricing case because being able to give your customers a better price isn’t bad for customers.
Publishing: THIS IS BULLSHIT. AMAZON IS ILLEGAL AND IMMORAL AND WE HATE THEM
DOJ: Hate them all you want, but you guys are the ones actually engaging in anti-competitive practices by colluding to keep ebooks at the same price across the board, thereby forestalling all attempts at competitive pricing–among retailers OR major publishers. This doesn’t just hurt Amazon, it ultimately hurts your customers, which is the party we’re actually trying to protect here.
Publishing: FINE, OKAY. BUT THIS IS GOING TO DESTROY PUBLISHING.
Amazon: Hey, can we renegotiate our contracts? We spend a lot of money buying your books so, we were wondering if you could give us a better price.
Publishing: OMG NO NEVER.
Amazon: FINE. If you’re going to be this way, we’ll just start telling people to buy other stuff. We are totally sick of this bullshit.
Publishing: OMG WE ARE SO OPPRESSED, DOWN WITH AMAZON FOREVER, THEY ARE DESTROYING PUBLISHING. WE COULD BE MAKING EVEN MORE BILLIONS IF IT WEREN’T FOR AMAZON DESTROYING US.
Customers: WTF is going on you guys?
Publishing: AMAZON IS TRYING TO DEVOUR OUR SOULS AND STEAL MONEY FROM OUR GRANDCHILDREN’S COLLEGE FUNDS AND ALSO I THINK I SAW THEM KICK A PUPPY
Customers: OMG NO!
Person in the audience: Hey guys, if you hate Amazon so much why don’t you just stop selling books there?
Publishing: …….. CAN WE DO THAT?
Amazon: Of course you can. This is business. Seriously. It’s not personal.
Publishing: BUT NOT SELLING AT AMAZON MIGHT DESTROY PUBLISHING. Srsly, people seem to like shopping at Amazon, we have no idea why. We’ve already told them so many times where they should shop and how much they should pay but customers won’t listen.
Amazon: I am guessing you don’t want to hear my new idea about print on demand books?
Publishing: OMG NO
Most People: (reading the paper) I wonder what this kerfuffle is about Amazon. I could probably stand to do some shopping, tho, for real.
The World: (keeps turning)