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Author Topic: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back  (Read 4753 times)

wraith808

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Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« on: February 28, 2012, 02:21:35 PM »
The thing as an indie publisher, you don't have a lot of leverage in negotiations, as shown in the recent Amazon dispute with the Independent Publishers Group.

Quote
Amazon.com removed more than 4,000 e-books from its site this week after it tried and failed to get them more cheaply, a muscle-flexing move that is likely to have significant repercussions for the digital book market.

But the Science Fiction Writer's Association didn't take that lying down.  SFWA is now redirecting Amazon links.

Quote
While Amazon has the right to decide with what company it does business, its removal of many of our authors’ books from its ordering system will have an economic impact on them. Our authors depend on people buying their books and a significant percentage of them have books distributed through IPG.  Therefore, SFWA is redirecting Amazon.com links from the organization’s website  to other booksellers because we would prefer to send traffic to stores where the books can actually be purchased.

Since online retailers are at the mercy of traffic (which is one of the reasons online advertising is so messed up), this could be a valid way to hit back at companies that engage in such practices.  Imagine something on the scale of the SOPA blackouts that affected Amazon.  They pay (a pittance to be sure) for those links, because they need/want that traffic.  But how do you get such solidarity in place?  Especially when we're talking short term vs. long term gains, i.e. associate revenue vs. the management of an industry?

IainB

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2012, 06:53:56 PM »
Wow. Interesting. This is such a surprise. (NOT)
What an amazing, change-inducing thing to happen.
Actually, what I do find surprising is that Amazon management would act in such a manner as to realise the potential to shoot themselves in the foot with such consummate skill like this.
Probably a regrettable action and one which is effectively a wide-band broadcast communication to the entire market - right up and down the value-chain - "We can make a victim of you if we want."
It announces to the prospective consumer and publisher alike what sort of business ethics they can expect to get embroiled in if they deal with Amazon - Caveat emptor; There Be Dragons.

Looks like Amazon management may have just demonstrated an inability to adapt their own business model to the flexible and dynamically changing nature of the value chain in the market that they have de facto been largely responsible for developing from its infancy right up to this point. Maybe the management are prone to serial execution errors - this looks to be almost certainly an error in any event.

It creates opportunity:
  • (a) It's a potential fork in the road, and the market has apparently already taken the opportunity and branched off - viz: the SFWA is redirecting Amazon.com links to indiebound.org, Powell’s, and Barnes and Noble. An eminently pragmatic approach. Market forks tend to take on a separate existence and don't necessarily join back up at a later stage. This market is theoretically close to being "perfect" in economic terms, relatively sophisticated, watchful, and has a long collective memory - so will probably ensure a continuing separate existence to the fork. No pardons for mistakes like this.
  • (b) It's a signal that it is an opportune time for Amazon's competitors (or maybe even a new player) to come into the market to pick up the business that Amazon has just apparently sacrificed for short-term gain and demonstration of an imaginary monopolistic control. Imaginary because it doesn't have that degree of control if the market doesn't allow it.

Be a part of the change. Vote with your feet and your wallets. Boycott. Buy elsewhere.

Oops.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2012, 07:12:59 PM by IainB, Reason: Minor correction. »

40hz

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2012, 07:03:24 PM »
+1. Boycott.  8)

Oh wait! I can't. I never bought an ebook reader because I knew this would eventually happen.  :-[

wraith808

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2012, 08:02:06 PM »
Looks like Amazon management may have just demonstrated an inability to adapt their own business model to the flexible and dynamically changing nature of the value chain in the market that they have de facto been largely responsible for developing from its infancy right up to this point. Maybe the management are prone to serial execution errors - this looks to be almost certainly an error in any event.

I think they thought they had learned from the consummate masters of this... Apple.  But in comparison, Apple was a lot more deft, and only went after corporate interests, so they looked to be on the side of the angels in comparison.

They're in a critical time to be sure... they have a very short window in which to backpedal and do the requisite mea culpas to reverse in part the effects of their maneuverings.  But do they see that?  Especially with the fact that a lot of their revenue doesn't come from books and there's no solidarity behind this movement?

Carol Haynes

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2012, 08:21:22 PM »
What is not clear is if Amazon dropped IPG does that mean all the customers who have bought IPG product have had it removed from their Kindle accounts? Amazon did this before.

Stoic Joker

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2012, 08:46:28 PM »
+1. Boycott.  8)

Oh wait! I can't. I never bought an ebook reader because I knew this would eventually happen.  :-[

+1

40hz

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2012, 09:07:23 PM »
What is not clear is if Amazon dropped IPG does that mean all the customers who have bought IPG product have had it removed from their Kindle accounts? Amazon did this before.

fawkes.jpgAmazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back

Oooooo! That's right. They did do that didn't they? (McMillan titles wasn't it?)

Thanks for reminding us Carol. That's something that "should (n)ever be forgot." :Thmbsup:

steeladept

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2012, 10:06:22 PM »
Oooooo! That's right. They did do that didn't they? (McMillan titles wasn't it?)

Thanks for reminding us Carol. That's something that "should (n)ever be forgot." :Thmbsup:

I am surprised you did forget.  Getting old aren't you. :P
Seriously though, this is the main reason I never did buy an E-Reader.  The concept is great and it is a no-brainer if there were some enforcements for consumer rights instead of focusing exclusively on the distributor rights (and by extension and to a lesser extend content producer rights).

First there was the hardware, with limited/no titles; at least none compelling enough to get people to buy in droves.  Then Amazon started producing titles for their hardware upon release.  That opened up the market, but with it's site fixed firmly in their own pocketbook, it was limited as well.  Then others finally saw the potential and the method and followed suit. 

Next is what I am waiting for - consolidation, standardization, and then real choice.  Haven't seen that yet though.

40hz

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2012, 10:17:58 PM »
Oooooo! That's right. They did do that didn't they? (McMillan titles wasn't it?)

Thanks for reminding us Carol. That's something that "should (n)ever be forgot." :Thmbsup:

I am surprised you did forget.  Getting old aren't you. :P


'fraid so. ;D

IainB

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2012, 10:25:21 PM »
+1. Boycott.  8)
Oh wait! I can't. I never bought an ebook reader because I knew this would eventually happen.  :-[
+1 from me for this.

Next is what I am waiting for - consolidation, standardization, and then real choice.  Haven't seen that yet though.
+1 from me for this.

Yes, same here, but it's been a bit of a long wait so far.
Bugger. Just as I manage to calm my innate skepticism/caution and am about to take the plunge, something like this seems to happen to demonstrate that there are indeed still sharks in the water.
I almost bought a Nook Colour the other week too.     :(

mwb1100

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #10 on: February 29, 2012, 12:21:22 AM »
What is not clear is if Amazon dropped IPG does that mean all the customers who have bought IPG product have had it removed from their Kindle accounts? Amazon did this before.

My recollection is that they did not do this when they had the dispute with MacMillan.  They just stopped selling the books, but left any already purchased on user's devices.

However, they did remove copies of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from user's devices - the reasoning being that Amazon (or the publisher) didn't have the right to sell them in the first place. For all I know, they may have had a legal obligation to do that.

IainB

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2012, 10:22:53 PM »
What is not clear is if Amazon dropped IPG does that mean all the customers who have bought IPG product have had it removed from their Kindle accounts? Amazon did this before.
My recollection is that they did not do this when they had the dispute with MacMillan.  They just stopped selling the books, but left any already purchased on user's devices.
However, they did remove copies of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from user's devices - the reasoning being that Amazon (or the publisher) didn't have the right to sell them in the first place. For all I know, they may have had a legal obligation to do that.
I couldn't recall exactly what happened or the order it happened in, but I do recall being seriously annoyed over it at the time. So, I googled to get the facts:
Quote
"Why did Amazon remove copies of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindle?"

Summary:
Spoiler
The close of this July 2009 incident was probably by Amazon issuing a statement:
Quote
"When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances."

What apparently happened:
Amazon caused the automatic deletion of only certain copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from customers' Kindles - copies that had been sold for US$0.99 by a supplier called Mobile Reference, which sells ebook versions of books that are in the Public Domain, for the price of about US$1.

The US has copyright laws peculiar to itself, and Mobile Reference apparently did not have the right to sell Orwell's novels in the US - but it did elsewhere - because 1984 and Animal Farm were/are still under copyright protection in the United States.
So Amazon had effectively enabled the sale under US breach of copyright.

Thus, when Amazon was notified that copyrighted material was being sold on the Amazon store in breach of copyright, they (presumably) acted to stop the sale and rectify the situation. They just didn't seem to tell anyone very clearly that that was what they were doing though.
The removal was enabled due to the Kindle being configured to automatically sync up with the user's Bookshelf via the electronic book reader's WhisperNet wireless service. When Amazon removed the unauthorized books from customers' accounts, they were also removed from their Kindles.

Subsequently, Amazon sent a rather too cryptic e-mail to customers:
Quote
"We recently discovered a problem with a Kindle book that you have purchased. We have processed a refund to the payment method used to acquire this book. The next time the wireless is activated on your device, the problematic item will be removed. If you are not in a wireless coverage area, please connect your device to a computer using your USB cable and delete the file from the documents folder."

There are apparently multiple copies of 1984 still for sale on the Kindle, except that they are not sold for US$0.99 from any company that has no rights to sell them. Other ebooks published by Mobile Reference that do fall under public domain in US law are also still for sale.

Amazon apparently has had to perform widespread recalls from the Kindle on at least two other occasions in the past, and the company apparently sent out the exact same notification:
  • 1. Ayn Rand's books were put up on the Kindle Store without consent from the Ayn Rand Institute and had to be pulled down.
  • 2. Unauthorized copies of Stephenie Meyer's popular Twilight series had to be removed as well.

Reportedly, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was offered for sale at one time, for a few hours on one day, though electronic versions of the books had not been authorized.

Amazon's actions above were not completely justifiable. The two ebooks may have been "illegal" copies, but they were purchased by the customers in good faith. In the real world, if you purchase stolen goods, you don't get to keep those goods, but you would normally be properly informed of the situation. That is arguably where Amazon messed up.

Instead of being forthright about the incident and telling customers that it had sold unauthorized ebooks (and had done so in the past), Amazon merely told customers that there had been "a problem" and in Cavalier fashion deleted the offending books.
Removing such titles from a customer's Bookshelf and deleting them from the Kindle may be Amazon's standard policy, but the inadequate communication about what actually happened led to a public and media backlash that seems to have echoed around the "crowd-source memory" of the Internet since the event in 2009.
Amazon's approach to rectification was pretty abysmal - e.g., they could instead have offered customers a legitimate replacement copy of 1984 or Animal Farm and absorbed the difference in cost, because it was Amazon's mistake in the first place.

This case and the others before it highlighted a major problem with Amazon's Kindle Store. The retailer shouldn't have been selling copyrighted material in the first place, and will almost certainly by now have taken a serious - albeit belated - review of its acceptance policies to avoid similar occurrences in the future. By comparison, Apple appeared to have already had stringent reviews of the legitimacy all applications submitted to its iPhone App Store.

Some customers might justifiably feel concerned that Amazon could take legitimate books off their Kindle overnight because a publisher changed its mind, or even "burn down" their library. That is unlikely, as presumably Amazon has by now put policies into place on the Kindle Store so it won't need to recall unauthorized ebooks in the future (as above):
Quote
"We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances."

One apparent implication of this that I had not understood before doing this bit of research is that, because of copyright restrictions in the US that do not apply in non-US territories, US consumers are prevented from purchasing material cheaply (or at all) that is otherwise in the Public Domain and available in external territories.
Is that true?
« Last Edit: March 02, 2012, 10:55:00 PM by IainB »

Carol Haynes

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2012, 05:50:27 AM »
PResumably if it is not in the public domain in the US then you can't sell it as though it was - which seems fair enough.

Sooner or later someone will have to sort out the broken copyright laws - we live in a global marketplace now and one set of agreed rules should apply. It would be good to have a new set of rules drawn up - preferably without US media interests being the dominant force!

40hz

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2012, 07:59:55 AM »
PResumably if it is not in the public domain in the US then you can't sell it as though it was - which seems fair enough.

Sooner or later someone will have to sort out the broken copyright laws - we live in a global marketplace now and one set of agreed rules should apply. It would be good to have a new set of rules drawn up - preferably without US media interests being the dominant force!

We do need a rational, fair, and unified international copyright law. Desperately.

But I think we'll see cheap and abundant fusion energy deployed globally, war abolished, and hunger and disease completely eliminated before we see a copyright law like that.


IainB

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2012, 03:36:56 PM »
I recall that on old Penguin books (a book publisher that I used to read a lot of books from) it would say on the cover somewhere "Not for sale in the United States of America", OWTTE. I didn't bother to find out why it said that, but I guess it was/is related to the same copyright legislation peculiar to the US.
What is the effect of it though?
Presumably you can buy any book title you want in the US, but just not those from certain publishers?
Except maybe those banned books - e.g., "The Catcher in the Rye". (Which I don't think is banned anymore.)

40hz

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2012, 10:11:14 PM »
What is the effect of it though?
Presumably you can buy any book title you want in the US, but just not those from certain publishers?

In Penguin's case IIRC they had a separate company which handled US distribution and registered their copyrights for the US. That was to make it easier (i.e. U.S. incorporated subsidiary in a US court) to handle legalities. I don't think it ever had anything to do with banning or regulating what got read here. It as just a "business thing." Much like the region settings for DVDs. Who knows? Maybe they got better legal protections doing it that way since international business wasn't as commonplace back then as it is now.

iphigenie

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2012, 06:39:28 AM »
That's a good thing if it brings more publishers and authors to put their books in more channels than Amazon.

I don't/won't have a Kindle (or an iphone etc.) because of the central control of what is/can be put on my device (and DRM) so it can be pretty limiting at times because so many things are on amazon/kindle and nowhere else. Hopefully publishers will realise it is not safe for them to be at the mercy of just one retailer... and I'll have more choice

Not that I manage to read all that find within my limits anyway... but hey...

TaoPhoenix

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2012, 06:12:43 AM »
PResumably if it is not in the public domain in the US then you can't sell it as though it was - which seems fair enough.

Sooner or later someone will have to sort out the broken copyright laws - we live in a global marketplace now and one set of agreed rules should apply. It would be good to have a new set of rules drawn up - preferably without US media interests being the dominant force!

We do need a rational, fair, and unified international copyright law. Desperately.

But I think we'll see cheap and abundant fusion energy deployed globally, war abolished, and hunger and disease completely eliminated before we see a copyright law like that.



I'm starting to dread we'll see cheap gasoline abolished, the Copyright War deployed globally, and food and medical care completely eliminated!  :o

Carol Haynes

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2012, 11:06:11 AM »
I'm starting to dread we'll see cheap gasoline abolished

Already happened in Europe!! I am currently paying £1.44 (UKP) per litre (that is $2.29US a liter or $8.67US per US gallon, £6.55 (UKP) per UK gallon).

Parts of Europe are even more expensive.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2012, 12:46:19 PM by Carol Haynes »

IainB

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Re: Amazon pulls thousands of e-books... and the SFWA strikes back
« Reply #19 on: March 13, 2012, 04:44:15 AM »
Odd that Penguin are doing this:
Penguin Pointlessly Annoys Readers With USB-Only eBooks

I can't see the point of it.