Monday, May 18, 2009

Amazon: A History of Homophobia?

Pat Holt, in her Holt Uncensored blog, had some interesting things to say about a court case from ten years ago. You may recall that Amazon Bookstore, a feminist bookstore in Minneapolis, sued Amazon.com because of the name confusion. Oddly enough, it seems that the lawyers for Amazon.com thought that repeatedly asking about the sexual orientation of Amazon Bookstore's owners was an appropriate line of questioning in a trademark infringement case.

This reminder combined with another issue to make me even more annoyed with Amazon.com.

Someone e-mailed me complaining about the price of my ebooks. I do give Book I of the trilogy away for free in multiple ebook formats (see this page), but she felt that, at $9.99 each for Books II and III, I was charging too much.

But here's the catch. When I listed my books on Amazon.com's Kindle site, I agreed to their terms. One of their terms is that I can't sell the books anywhere else for less than the retail price I set with Amazon.com. And since Amazon.com takes 65% of the retail price, that means that at $9.99, I receive over a dollar less for an ebook than I receive for a paperback.

I am reluctant to charge more than $9.99 for an ebook, because most ebook readers, especially Kindle readers, expect to pay no more than that. But when I list the ebooks in other formats on other sites, I have to charge the full $9.99 retail price. Most of these ebookstores offer the publisher more generous terms than Amazon does. Many of them even allow the publisher to set the discount amount.

I could lower the price of my ebooks on non-Amazon sites and still make a reasonable profit on the books, but Amazon's terms prevent me from doing so. And if I lower my retail price, I lose too much on the Kindle sales, which are the vast majority of my ebook sales. It's a real double-bind. And it disturbs me that Amazon has so much power to set prices in the marketplace because of the popularity of their ereader device.

Maybe in a few years, when more (and cheaper) ereader devices are available and other ebookstores can compete effectively with Amazon.com, the price of ebooks will come down.

I hope consumers come to realize that Amazon's virtual monopoly is not a good thing for readers or writers.

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