February 24, 2012

Amazon ebook withdrawal: an author’s perspective


Jim Hanas

Jim Hanas, a writer and sometime bookseller, has given an author’s perspective of Amazon’s decision to remove the buy buttons from IPG-distributed ebooks:

I’ve never been an anti-Amazon radical. I usually remain quiet when people discuss the great lengths they go to not buy from Amazon. Amazon offered more convenience, and I remembered being a bookseller when Barnes & Noble was the enemy. Meanwhile, the indie bookstore I worked for in ’90s is still there and Borders — Borders! — is gone. Plus ça change, in other words. Things will work themselves out. I supported all sellers of my books equally, from Amazon to WORD in Brooklyn.

But now what? I don’t want to make any heated edicts or promises I can’t keep, but Amazon seems bent on forcing me to reconsider my agnosticism. I note all this, despite the fact that it exposes me as less than ideaologically pure, because I want to warn Amazon how they are alienating content producers — even friendly ones — bit by bit.

And it’s not that I think Amazon won’t win. I think they probably will, and writers like myself (who really only want their work available to the greatest number of readers) will have some very tough choices to make. I admit I might not be tough enough to make them. How many books can you write in a lifetime? And to sit out a decade or more of sales, waiting for the Amazon era to pass? That’s going to be a high price to pay in a business model that is already, well, difficult.

I won’t figure that out today, I know, but I also won’t be hitting “Buy” on my Kindle anytime soon.

Publishers who oppose Amazon’s tyranny are frequently accused of serving their own, rather than readers’ or writers’, interests — get the books out to as many readers as possible as cheaply as possible, they say. Hanas eloquently exposes the shortsightedness of that view, and it’s sobering and heartbreaking that it took such a personal blow to change his mind. This is a real ‘First they came’ situation for the book industry — and that includes readers — and this is the time to speak out. Hanas announced today that he’s putting his money where his mouth is:

I blame Amazon, even though — as I mentioned yesterday — I have not been an Amazon-hater in the past. So what am I going to do about? What can I do? Well, since Amazon is failing to support me, I am going to withdraw support from Amazon and give it to people who have supported me. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

I’ve removed the Amazon button from whytheycried.com. The book is still available via WORD bookstore in Greenpoint, direct from the publisher, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, and Sony. I recommend these options in roughly that order, based on how much they’ve supported the book — the last four being more or less equal.

Next I blew my entire Amazon gift card balance on — and this is the delicious part — a Kobo Touch eReader. That’s right. Amazon doesn’t handle these directly, of course, but you can spend gift card balances with Amazon merchants, which is how I was able to buy the Kobo. It should arrive in a week and then, as a reader at least, I’ll be Amazon-free.

He also says he’ll be giving much of his freed-up ebook business to the wonderful WORD bookshop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We couldn’t imagine worthier winners.


Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.