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Montlake Romance by Amazon???

May 6, 2011

So Amazon is truly charging into the publishing business. Yesterday I read about their launch of Montlake Romance with Connie Brockway’s, THE OTHER GUY’S BRIDE–which is a historical, although the title does sound contemporary.

A month or so back, Connie came out on AAR Blog to announce she was going ‘rogue’ because she’d chosen to self-publish. With her announcement yesterday, she’s modified her statement to going ‘roguish’.  Yes, that did make me chuckle. But as an ereader who did not purchase a Kindle for the simple reason that I didn’t want to be tied to a proprietary format and forced to purchase all my ebooks from Amazon, the terms of Amazon’s contracts with author for their publishing lines gave me the worst sinking feeling in my stomach. As an author, that sinking feeling was only exacerbated.  What I’m seeing in Amazon’s venture into publishing is an attempt to further strengthen their Kindle brand as opposed to selling books using as many distribution points as feasibly possible.  This is very disappointing to me both as an author and as a reader.

To me, when I sign with a publisher, their goal should be to get my book out to a wide an audience as possible. This means that I would expect that they have my book available in as many formats as feasibly possible: print, digital (ePub, Kindle, Nook etc), audio. Publishing houses have sales people for this reason, to go out to all the book retailers and ask, convince, cajole, coax them to stock as many titles of that publishing houses books as possible because the more retailers that stock their books means the more visibility their books get.  With Amazon making their books exclusive to Kindle, this is only going to serve to leave some readers out in the cold. What happens to the eReaders who have ereaders from Sony, Borders (Kobo), B&N (Nook) and all the other ereaders that support what is the accepted industry standard format of ePub? Yes, I think most eReaders know they can download the PC or Mac application and read the book on their computer but having plunked down anywhere from $99 – $300 for an ereader, my bet is that’s precisely why they bought an ereader, so they wouldn’t have to do that.  I know I won’t.

Based on the conclusion I drew above about Amazon’s publishing ventures and the way they have structured it, I see a clear conflict of interest with Amazon going into publishing. I know what their intent is–strengthen their Kindle brand, drive more readers to Amazon–but I see that is not in the best interest of authors who publish with them because it will in fact limit distribution of said author(s), and this is never good for an author, and at the end of the day, it’s also not good for the readers. I know for myself, I love to have choices. I don’t ever want to be told I have to buy exclusively from one place. I like to shop around and compare prices.  One of the other reasons I didn’t buy a Kindle was because at that point I had about 100 ebooks and most of them were in Adobe Digital and ePub format. This meant, I wouldn’t be able to read them on the Kindle so what was the point of even getting one.  To me that was like be buying a Blu-ray player and not being able to watch any of my nearly 80 DVDs on the new player.  Thank goodness, most things have some backward compatibility.

My hope for the future is that if Amazon intends to remain in the publishing business, they separate it completely from the retailing part of their business.  I would love to see their books being offered in all the digital formats and their print books being carried my all the major book retailers. I’d also love to see them expanding the accepted formats for Kindle and include, at the very least, ePub books. I think that instead of decreasing sales for them, it will do the opposite. Giving readers the power to choose is a good thing, never a bad thing.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good to be said about Amazon. I do almost all of my Christmas shopping there and I give away a lot of  their gift certificates. They are convenient, efficient and timely; their selection of goods is some of the best I’ve ever seen from a retailer be it brick and mortar or online. But when I shop with them in that capacity, I’m being lured by all the points I just listed. I’m not being told I have to buy from them because I happened to purchase a not inexpensive shopping cart that only holds Amazon merchandise.

UPDATE 5/6/2011 2:47 PM EST

Publisher’s Weekly has just announced that Simon and Schuster, Penguin Group and Hachette Books are banding together to create a site called Bookish , which will on top of many other things, sell front and back list books from ALL publishers with the exception of vanity press aka self-published books. I believe this is a response in direct response to Amazon entering the publishing business, their battles with Amazon over pricing and being so wholly dependent on Amazon for their digital distribution. They plan to launch the site before Labor Day this year.  Here’s the announcement. Let me know what you think.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this as it’s been really plaguing me since I saw the announcement yesterday. Comment and enter to win a $15 Gift Certificate from an online book store of choice.

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  1. I think you summed it up nicely! I tend to agree, re: Amazon’s propriety with their ebooks, which is why I went with Nook instead. I hate being forced to buy from one place alone. I hadn’t heard about Connie Brockway, it’s interesting. I wonder if that’ll change in the near future? They reversed their stance on free lending of library ebooks recently.

  2. I have to agree with you 100% on your POV. I think it is a conflict of interest if it is set up as part of the existing Amazon corporation. They need to remember the anti-trust laws apply to them too.

    That said, I haven’t bought an ereader and probably won’t because I have about 900 print books on the shelves behind me this instant waiting their turn to be read. Conceivably, at my present age, I wouldn’t have to buy any more books now and never run out of reading material. I do have some books on my computer most in Adobe format but I have downloaded the Kindle for PC and the Nook for PC because some short stories and freebies are only available in that format. I don’t really like to read full-length novels on my computer. I do use it to read the quicky books (30-100 pages) but that’s just about my limit.

    Even though ereaders are the future, I think the mandatory purchase of a reader is still too far in the future to do away with the print product entirely. At this point in time, if an author doesn’t publish in print, I probably will not buy their work and the only way I’m likely to read what they wrote is if I win a copy in a contest. I don’t think I’m the only one feeling this way.

  3. I don’t own a Kindle for exactly the same reason, Bev. Unfortunately, since I live in the UK, there are few other options, so I don’t own an ereader at all. That’s why it makes me sad when books aren’t available in a wide range of formats – including print! – because I don’t plan to buy an ereader any time soon. Sure, I can read on my laptop, but it’s difficult to curl up with in bed at night, and I’m sure as hades not going to take it out on the Tube so I can finish reading an engaging scene.

    That’s me as a reader. As a writer, I think you summed up my feelings perfectly. I’d want my books to be accessible to the widest possible audience.

  4. I think you made some good points. I don’t have an e-reader yet and when I do get one I want to read any digital book I purchase on it. Otherwise, what is the point? The best part about Amazon is it’s huge selection. I often check Amazon when it’s time to buy presents because of their amazing selection and great prices. I think all companies involved in publishing have a lot of work to do because I find a lot of it bewildering and I don’t think you save any money when it should definitely cost less for an e-book than a print book.

  5. Well said! I am considering replacing my 3 year old Sony PRS-505 with one of the newer e-readers on the market now. The Kindle is not even being considered. I love Amazon, too, and buy quite a bit of stuff from them every year but I don’t want to HAVE to purchase my ebooks from them. Luckily, my iPhone Kindle app allows me to take advantage of the the regular freebies and occasional good deals — but the iPhone screen is not my preferred reading size!

  6. I have to agree with you too. I haven’t bought an ereader at all and hate that some books are not even in the print form although I understand the reasoning. I too think that the more choices makes everyone happier.

  7. I agree with you. The main reason I have not bought a Kindle is the one format issue. I hope that they will eventually change to being a multiple format seller.

  8. I agree with you 100%. I don’t want to be told where I buy my books from. I do buy from Amazon and I do own a Kindle but my son bought it for me because I was resisting ebook format. I still read a lot of paper books because I love the beautiful covers and the feel of paper in my hands. I think you should have a choice and that Amazon should go with all formats.

  9. I liked the announcement because Amazon is also issuing print books. For those of us who haven’t purchased an e-reader yet, it allows us to read Ms. Brockway’s upcoming books. I also found it interesting that many commenters said that the Nook could be rooted so that it can read Kindle books. This helps in broaden the audience, but the only drawback is that the warranty is voided.

  10. I worked at a bookstore selling one of those “other” ereaders and one of the biggest selling points was the fact that you weren’t tied to Amazon. With the ebook prices on Amazon nearing the same cost as a paperback, I want to be given the opportunity to shop around and find the best deal. I hope more authors share your opinion and try to make their works available to everyone.

  11. I agree, and think it really a shame that she chose to go this route. I suppose authors have to do what seems to make the most sense to them.

  12. I agree with you Bev. I bought my Kobo because I did not want to be tethered to Amazon. I have always had the perception that Amazon will do everything it can to eliminate other distributors and that’s just bad for everyone. With respect to the Montlake books, I hope that any exclusivity deals will be time-limited and that eventually the digital books will be released in Epub. Apparently they will be selling the paper books to other retailers so why not allow other e-tailers to sell the digital books?

  13. This smacks awfully of ‘monopoly.’ It seems Amazon may be trying to eliminate the publishing competition at every level possible. It will be interesting to see how they approach this and how it plays out. Not long ago Walmart tried to get into the banking business. Someone smart in the government (an oxymoron if ever there was one!) saw the danger in this and Walmart was told in no uncertain terms “NO!” To have access not only to how people spend their money, but also how they manage and keep it seemed a bit too much control to give on entity. I fear many people may see Amazon’s venture into publishing the same way. My observations will be honed in on how Amazon treats both its customers AND its authors.

  14. I enjoy print books since that is what I am comfortable with right now. I know that sometime soon it will be necessary to buy a reader and since I do a great deal of sh0pping at Amazon already this will be convenient and accessible. Amazon does what is necessary and expedient for their business and competition is fierce at this time. They have to survive and triumph.

  15. I agree that it is a conflict of interest. I do think it will strengthen the Kindle brand. I own a Kindle and am looking to possible purchase a Nook for my ePub books. I have to say that I love my Kindle and the ease of purchasing books on Amazon. I hadn’t heard the announcement about the Bookish site. I think that is a very interesting development.

  16. I agree with this post– option is everything. Amazon will become vastly more popular if they sell other places, too.

  17. You’re confusing hardware and software. You can read an Amazon ebook on an iPad if you just download the Kindle app. You can read it on your iPhone. You can read it on your computer.
    I’ve got twenty years experience in traditional publishing and two years in indie publishing. Both require a lot of the same traits. The difference is with indie, I’m not reliant on the whims of agents, editors, publishers, sales force, book buyers, etc. I rely on readers. One reason Connie went indie was that she was being told that only certain types of stories sell. I’ve run into that numerous times with publishers. So in a way, traditional publishing has really limited what books get published, not just in terms of quality, but in terms of subject matter.
    Neither way is right or wrong. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s just nice to have options.

  18. I agree that Amazon is forcing people to get their technology in order to read a book/ author that is only published under their house. I personally prefer print books, but I usually shop at bookstores and I would like to be able to find a book/author at multiple book stores rather than have no choice but to buy the book at amazon.

  19. I think it’s a conflict of interest , too. I also agree with Bev that it’s in a writer’s best interest to be able to reach the widest possible audience. Wider choices for the writer mean wider choices for the reader.

  20. I’m like you, Bev. I buy a lot from Amazon because of the prices. I can find a lot of books there that I can’t find anywhere else. I look for a lot of backlists and out of print books there because of all the used book sellers that sell through Amazon. I’ve got the kindle app on my pc because I was able to download a whole bunch of history and classics for free. I’ve been saving up for a kindle because I can’t read them on my pc because of my physical limits. I can’t take sitting that long to read them. I don’t like the idea of Amazon doing the publishing thing and then making it exclusive to kindle. That’s not right. I agree with the conflict of interest. If they can’t make it available in all formats, then they shouldn’t be doing it.

    I have the apps for the kobo and the nook on my pc. Being on disability means I watch for the free, .99 to 1.99 deals. I may not be able to read them for awhile, but at least I have them. I think Amazon will have to make some changes if they hope to get this publishing thing to make a profit. I’ll be keeping an ear open for the Bookish site to open. I’m eager to check it out.

  21. I agree with you, Bev. I haven’t bought an ereader yet either, and definitely would not consider a Kindle since it is limited to Amazon. Books need to be available in other areas instead of just one. Like the idea of the Bookish site.

  22. I ADORE Amazon when it comes to regular shopping, but when it comes to ebooks that’s where we have issues. I don’t like how proprietory they are and that their reader doesn’t support pdf. For that reason alone, I couldn’t have just them as my eReader. And it should be an author’s goal to get their book out to everyone so I’m not sure what Connie’s thinking by alienating a group of readers.

  23. Hmmm. As the Steel Magnolias said, I’d rather walk on my lips than criticize, and I do love Ms. Brockway. But this whole thing scares me. Kind of like the tower of babel, where no one had the same language and everything dissolved into chaos.

  24. I have NOT bought an ereader only bc the price of ebooks are on par with print. Why would i buy a digital copy when I can have a tangible product in my hands. I remember reading that the rise in paperback prices were because of rising costs in printing books but looking at ebook prices we see that ebooks costs the same as print books. Doesn’t make sense to me. If authors were getting a bigger cut then I would be totally behind it. But from what Ive found after doing some research they get the same royalties whether its print or digital.

  25. I agree with you. Amazon has been flexing their muscles for some time. I have a Kindle but I won it and I use it very little because it bothers me that I can only put on their books. I have a lot of PDF. Nook supports it. So I have one of those. I try lately to buy all from BN and very little from Amazon because I feel they are trying to dictate too much.

  26. I agree as well. People who love Connie Brockway but own another e-reader won’t be able to read her future books on their e-reader. I don’t like monopolies in general, but I don’t read too many e-books either, and I’m hoping the publishing industry won’t move away from paper books entirely.

  27. Bookish sounds like it will be a good plan. I had been looking at the Kindle and the Nook as primary choices for an e-reader. When the business about the Kindle being used to track when and what you were reading, I looked a bit closer. I hadn’t seriously compared the two closely. When I realized how many more formats the Nook would accept, it made more sense to get one. I have several books in pdf format on my computer that I would like to move to an e-reader.

    I have questions about the pricing. It makes no sense that an e-copy of a book would cost the same as a paperback version. The production and distribution costs certainly aren’t as much with the e-book. If the author gets more, I am all for that, but I don’t think they are getting that much more, so where is the money going? It is never good to have single source availability for any product. The restrictions on authors that are publishing with Amazon will not help the sale of their books. It is a poorly disguised attempt to sell more Kindles and will reduce the audience an author can sell to.

  28. I think you’ve made a great point. I don’t own a Kindle or any e-reader, but I hope to get one soon and am not sure how this will affect me.

  29. @Joder: I read pdf files on my Kindle with no issues.

    Also there is conversion software to turn epub documents into mobi (for Kindle) documents. I have converted epub books purchased from google into mobi documents for my Kindle. And I’m NOT at all tech-savvy.

  30. I agree with your comments Bev. I bought an reader that reads ePub, HTML and PDF. I did not want to be tied down to one format. Am I upset about Connie’s book coming out in Kindle only — NO — why because she lost me as a reader and NO I won’t be buying the book when it comes out in print.

  31. Bob, believe me, after over 16 years working in IT, I’m not confusing hardware and software. I have an iPad and have apps for all the different ereaders. I know you can read Amazon’s books on other devices but in the case of their publishing endeavor, they will be the sole distributors of the digital books. A Kobo or Nook owner cannot simply purchase that book from Amazon (as they’d have no choice but to buy the digital book there if they wanted the ebook) and read it on their ereader.

    I fully understand the frustrations of working and trying to write for NY publishing companies. I had a contract with them once and my option book was roundly rejected by nearly all publishers. I love the possibilities that self-publishing offers. What I don’t want is another entity that too many self-published authors are largely dependent on to distribute their books, to become even more powerful in this single industry, not only controlling the majority of the digital distribution but also now having a large say in the publishing content delivered. I’m not bashing Ms. Brockway at all for the decision she made to go with them, she has her reasons, which I’m sure work to her benefit, my problem is with that I don’t believe that Amazon is ‘acting’ as I think a publisher should, which is to ensure that their authors have the widest possible distribution. By relegating the digital books solely to Kindle format to be distributed solely by them lets me know that they are putting their short-term profitability and self-interests ahead of their authors. If and when they change their contracts to include other digital formats beyond Kindle, that’s when I’ll be convinced that they intend to be a publisher in the truest sense of the word.

  32. I have a Kindle and really love it so far but you make a lot of great points. If I were an author I would want my book available to as many people as possible in as many formats as possible. I’m sure authors will take that into consideration when choosing to publish with Amazon and if that is something they can deal with then that is on them.

  33. One thing I can stand about the kindle is that you can’t shop around. When I was looking into e-book readers that is what put kindle on the bottom of the list. I ended up going with a nook which I love and can shop around to see if there are different prices for the book I want.

  34. I find it fascinating how many people think that you can buy ONLY from Amazon if you have a Kindle. That’s simply not true. I buy from Fictionwise, All Romance, Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, and others all the time. Any DRM free .mobi file can be read on a Kindle. As for .pdfs, you can convert them yourself using Calibre (very easy) or you can send the pdf file to Amazon and they will convert it for FREE and send it back to you. I understand your argument against Amazon’s publishing venture, but please don’t bash the Kindle for something that isn’t even true.

  35. omg! that didn’t take long for the publishers to band together. You totally called it days ago, Bev, saying that’s what publishers should do. How crazy! Pretty soon authors are going to be forced to sell their books on their own, directly from their sites.

  36. I have a Kindle and love it. I went with the Kindle because I’m overseas A LOT and they were the first to have that wonderful 3G option — I’ve downloaded books in Poland, Hungary, the UK, etc. which makes it the most convenient for me.

    That being said, I kinda hate being tied into the single format — I’m too lazy to strip DRM via Calibre or to troll lots of different sites to purchase ebooks. And it is an evil spiral because the more books I buy or download free the less likely I am to look at other e-readers. ACK!

    Also, I would be extremely leery as an author of publishing through Amazon — unless Montlake is a completely separate business entity from Amazon the bookseller I would not go there. I cannot see how an author would have the kind of options available as with traditional paper publishing or self-publishing.

  37. JenM, I personally KNOW that you can buy books at other sites and I think most ereaders know that. That isn’t the issue I raised with Montlake. The issue is that Amazon will be the ONLY place you can buy the digital book from their authors. And as others have stated above, yes you can go through the process of stripping etc to get other formats to work with your Amazon but that’s more work for readers, most who, unless properly motivated, couldn’t be bothered to take on that task.

  38. I do have a Kindle. But, honestly, I read as many EPub books on my computer that I’ve checked out from my library. And most of the books I read are still paper copies–all of my keepers are paper books. I am for anything that broadens the availability of books to a wider audience. But I am saddened by anything


    I do have a Kindle. But, honestly, I read as many EPub books on my computer that I’ve checked out from my library. And most of the books I read are still paper copies–all of my keepers are paper books. I am for anything that broadens the availability of books to a wider audience. But I am saddened by anything that limits reader access. It’s just wrong. I can’t see where it would help authors, either. Thanks for a thought-provoking column.

  40. I do have a Kindle but I still read more paper books than ebooks and I still am reading ebooks on my laptop.

    I’m not sure where I stand exactly on this Amazon pub issue: sure, it sucks if a book is only available from one source, but since Amazon/Kindle has such a goodly amount of market share, I don’t see the problem since so many people buy from Amazon already.

    At least it’s not the Nook which has its own version of ePub which cannot be read on any other device, or so I’ve heard.

  41. As someone who works for a traditional publishing company, I don’t like the idea of bookstores going into publishing. However I think it’s inevitable. In the end, as long as there are well-written books to buy and authors are compensated well, I’ll be very happy no matter what the publishing model looks like.

  42. i agree with a lot of what you said. It doesn’t seem like a wise idea for any author to limit themselves that way, even if ut is with such a big company and format. I was given a kindle but the only books I buy direct from amazon are the free ones. I refuse to be controlled that much.

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