The War Against Amazon: a Reader’s Perspective

There has been so much in the news lately about several major publishers going to war with Amazon over their contract renewal negotiations. It’s sad because authors – and readers – are getting caught in the middle. Two Hachette authors that I like had the misfortune to have new ebooks come out during the time period when Amazon removed Hachette’s pre-order buttons. Although the details of the new contracts have not been released, it seems like four of the majors have gone back to the Agency Model or something very similar. The infamous “This price was set by the publisher” has reappeared all over Amazon, and there have been huge jumps in the price of ebooks. For instance, I purchased Raintree, an anthology by Beverly Barton, Linda Howard, and Linda Winstead Jones, for $4.75 on April 15th. The next day, it jumped to $10.99. “This price was set by the publisher.”

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Unfortunately, I think these price hikes will really hurt authors. I think a lot of readers are not willing to pay so much for ebooks, especially when publishers save on printing, manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping costs. According to Hachette’s CEO, Michael Pietsch, “We recoup these costs from sales of all the versions of the book that we publish—hardcover, paperback, large print, audio, and ebook.  While ebooks do not have the $2-$3 costs of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping that print books have, their selling price carries a share of all our investments in the book.” As a reader, I don’t think I should pay for shipping on a book that has no shipping costs. I’m quirky that way.

The main reason I side with Amazon in this “war”, though, is because I have no choice. DRM makes it so. I have purchased over 7,000 ebooks in the five years since I bought my first Kindle. Yes, some of those were free. But still, those are my books. I haven’t read the majority of them yet, and they all have DRM (I assume). That means that if I do change ereaders, I lose all these books, which I simply can’t afford to do. Unless I learn how to strip DRM from them, which I know nothing about except what I’ve read in other blogs. I have no desire to learn this or to spend the time stripping DRM from over 7,000 ebooks. And I shouldn’t have to.

DRM is another reason that many readers are not willing to pay as much for an ebook as for a paper book. You cannot lend many of them (and those you can, can only be loaned once). You cannot sell them at a garage sale or donate them to a library when you’re done with them. Plus, DRM creates another PITA for Kindle owners. I have purchased many Kindles, and I’ve had to return a few that were defective, which Amazon replaced. Every single time I get a new Kindle, I have to re-download all my books ONE. BOOK. AT A TIME. Because of DRM. I can’t just drag all my books from my old Kindle into a folder on my computer and then copy them all onto my new Kindle. It doesn’t matter that both are registered to the same Amazon account. It’s not allowed. I’ve come to dread getting new Kindles because of the time involved in this. And in order to share ebooks and apps with my husband, we had to use the same account, so it looked like I owned all the Kindles and Fires. Amazon has finally changed this through their new “family sharing”, but it’s really too late for us. For years, we’ve seen all of each other’s purchases and had to deal with sharing each other’s collections. Of course, I’ve had some fun with this. I’ve sent every single free ebook that might embarrass him to his Kindle Fire’s carousel. Hehehe.

I have to ask the authors out there (since I am not one), how does the Agency Model affect your royalties? I know the first time it kicked in might have been too early in the growth of ebooks to tell, but what about when the lawsuit settlement did away with this model a couple of years ago? Did you see an increase or a decrease in royalties? Or did they stay about the same? It will be interesting to see what happens with your Amazon royalties over the next few months. Please keep me posted. I’m very curious.

When the Agency model first kicked in in 2010, I remember the outrage expressed in some of my Yahoo reading groups. I don’t fully understand the math behind the Agency Model, but here is a link to J.A. Konrath’s blog from 2012, which explains why he thinks the Agency Model hurts authors and publishing companies. Since he’s an author, and I’m not, I’ll defer to him on this.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/04/agency-model-sucks.html

It’s all about control of ebook pricing. As a reader, it feels like discrimination because it is only targeted at ebooks, not paperbacks or hardcovers. During the first Agency Model go-round, there were actually some ebooks that were priced HIGHER than paperbacks and one or two I wanted that cost MORE than the hardcover version of the same book. This happened because Amazon was allowed to charge whatever they wanted for the paperback and hardcover, but the publishers had control of the ebook prices. A box store near my house gives 25% off all paperbacks, selling them for $5.99. Walmart also heavily discount paperbacks, but ebooks were not allowed to be discounted or put on sale or clearance by the retailers since they had no control over those prices. It made me wonder at the time if the plan was too squelch ebook, and thus ereader, sales. Remember, this started back in the early days of ereaders in 2010. At the time, Kindles cost more than they do now. I think Amazon discounted ebooks as an incentive to buy a Kindle, which is where they probably made their money. After ebook prices shot up, they started dropping the price of their devices.

As far as purchasing ebooks directly from publishers, Amazon has actually made that a little easier because you can now send these ebooks to Amazon to archive in your library as personal documents and to wirelessly download to your Kindles. But wait! That’s only if it’s in the correct format (Mobi is safest right now as PRC no longer works). I was able to do this with an ebook I purchased directly from Carina Press. Because the epub I bought was DRM-free, I was able to use Calibre to convert it to Mobi. However, if the ebook has DRM, you cannot do this. And if the book’s in the wrong format (like epub), you can’t read it on your Kindle at all. I purchased quite a few PRC ebooks directly from publishers back in the days when Kindle used PRC. Changing software and technology can make non-Amazon-purchased ebooks obsolete, and you can lose the ability to open them or read them on your Kindle. Here is a screenshot of the email I just got from Amazon when I tried to convert and archive an old PRC ebook I bought from a publisher years ago. The DRM keeps me from converting it in Calibre. This email shows which formats Amazon will convert for you and provides a link for more information.

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Some publishers are providing apps so you can read their ebooks on your Kindle Fire or use Adobe Editions. That is not the same as reading on a Kindle Paperwhite or Voyager. I bought my first Kindle for the e-ink technology, something the Fire does not have. It was a time when I was reading so much fan fiction online on my computer that my eyes started bothering me and my laptop gave out. So I purchased a Kindle TO SAVE MY EYES, and it got me re-addicted to books. Why would I then choose to purchase ebooks that I can only read on a computer or other LCD screen (like a tablet, Fire, or iPhone)?

And I love so many features on my Kindle that I’ll never go back to paper books again. I LOVE how handy and easy the dictionary is to use. Plus, you have instant access to Wikipedia and language translations. I use the highlighting all the time. I also adjust the font size since my eyes are worse in the mornings. I love being able to simply enlarge the print instead of using reading glasses. Then I can change the font back later in the day. I also love that the new screens have a light you can adjust, so I can read in bed without waking my husband. Finally, who can resist being able to carry hundreds of books in your purse without adding much weight to it? I simply can’t go back to tree books.

It seems like some of the big publishers are more willing this go-round to put some of their ebooks on sale, particularly Simon and Schuster and Macmillan. Not that many ebooks are being discounted so far, though. I was heartbroken to see the huge leaps in some of HarperCollins’ (and thus, Harlequin’s) prices. I’m not sure why, but after the court settlement, Amazon seemed to discount HarperCollins ebooks the most. Because of that, I purchased them heavily during the past two years, and so I am now addicted to many HC authors. I didn’t start reading romance until 2011 when I was already boycotting the major publishers because of the Agency Model. So these authors were all new to me in 2012, and I would never have discovered them if not for the low prices. It’s too early to tell whether HarperCollins will be offering any sales on their ebooks, but I hope they will.

And Penguin Random House is next.

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Easter Freebies & Killer Deals

This is my first blog post. I hadn’t planned to start a blog but was presented with the opportunity when I registered to vote in DABWAHA. I’m doing this mostly to learn how to set up a blog or website, so please bear with me as I muddle my way through.

For a really happy Easter, Amazon has some major freebies today. Always double-check the price to make sure the deal is still going on before you click on the link to purchase. They are on sale at the time of the writing of this blog but can increase at any time.

Sophie JordanFirst is a HarperCollins Sophie Barnes book, the first in her Debutante Files series.

The last woman on earth he would ever touch . . .

Declan, the Duke of Banbury, has no interest in ushering Rosalie Hughes, his stepsister, into society.Dumped on him with nowhere else to go, he’s determined to rid himself of the headstrong debutante by bestowing on her an obscenely large dowry . . . making her the most sought-after heiress of the Season.

. . . is about to become the only one he wants

But Rosalie isn’t about to go along with Declan’s plans. Surrounded by fortune hunters, how is she supposed to find a man who truly wants her? Taking control of her fate, Rosalie dons a disguise and sneaks into Sodom, a private club host to all manner of illicit activity—and frequented by her infuriatingly handsome stepbrother.

In a shadowed alcove, Declan can’t resist the masked temptress who sets his blood afire . . . any more than Rosalie can deny her longing for a man who will send her into ruin.

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Debutantes-Guide-Ruin-Debutante-ebook/dp/B00GFZW3W2/

Grace Burrowes WorthNext is Grace Burrowes’ new book, Worth Lord of Reckoning, the eleventh Lovely Lords book.

Consummate man of business and rake at large, Worth Kettering, repairs to his country estate to sort out his familial situation, trusting the ever efficient (though as yet unmet) housekeeper, Jacaranda Wyeth, will provide his family a pleasant summer retreat. To his surprise, his household is managed by a quick-witted, violet-eyed beauty who’s his match in many regards.

As Jacaranda and Worth become enamored, the family she’s kept hidden from him, the financial clients Worth feels singularly protective of, and the ragged state of affairs between Worth and his estranged older brother Hessian all conspire to keep Worth and Jacaranda apart. Worth must choose between love and profit, and Jacaranda must decide between loyalty to her family, and the love of a man who values her above all others

http://www.amazon.com/Worth-Lord-Reckoning-Lonely-Lords-ebook/dp/B00K4MM3U4/

Amazon also has the following ebooks on sale:

The RakeMary Jo Putney’s classic, The Rake (formerly The Rake and the Reformer), has made several top 100 romances of all time lists.

The RITA winning, all-time classic romance of devastation and redemption.  The story was first published as a Signet Super Regency under the title The Rake and the Reformer.  With minor revisions, it was published as a Signet historical romance in 1998.  This is that historical romance version.

The Rake

Known as “the despair of the Davenports,” Reginald Davenport lived a reckless, rakish life while waiting for his hated uncle to die and leave Reggie an earldom.  Then the rightful heir claims the title and property and offers Reggie one last chance: Strickland, the estate where he was born and the site of his greatest joys and sorrows. Reggie returns to Strickland, resolving to build a healthier, more honorable life—if he can.

The Reformer

Young Alys Weston fled her home in despair, vowing never to trust another man.  Over the years, she’s built a good life with a foster family and a position as steward of Strickland.  She uses her skills to help her people, and her initials to convince the elderly earl who owned the state that she’s male.

Then the new owner appears in all his dangerous masculinity and threatens everything Alys holds dear.  Good resolutions crumble when two passionate, complicated people are drawn together despite their best judgment.  Can love lead to redemption and trust?   Or is it too late?

Angel RogueThe fourth in Mary Jo Putney’s Fallen Angels series has just dropped to $0.99. The first, Fallen Angels, is only $2.99, while most of the others in the series are on sale for $3.99 right now. Putney has been getting the rights back to her previously-published novels and self-publishing them as ebooks.

RWA RITA Finalist for Best Regency Romance * New York Times Bestselling Author * Book #4 in the Fallen Angels Series

***FLASH SALE – 99 CENTS***

The Rogue…
A master spy with the face of a fallen angel and a darkly heroic past, Lord Robert Andreville returns to his ancestral home in Yorkshire after a dozen harrowing years spying against Napoleon. But nothing soothes his ravaged spirit until a determined young beauty sweeps into his life.
…and the Runaway
Half Mohawk and all American, Maxima Collins is a wary stranger in a strange land, but she will let nothing halt her journey to London to learn the truth about her father’s sudden death–not even a self-appointed guardian who is all lazy charm and dangerous skill.
Together they travel across England, evading pursuers and circling each other in a dance of desire, where truth is elusive and only passion is sure. Then dark secrets shatter their idyll–and only love has the power to heal the past.
Bollywood AffairThe much-raved-about A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev is a steal right now at $2.51.

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

Now that Macmillan has a new contract with Amazon, it’s not as easy to find their ebooks for less than $7.99. The following are some that they currently have on sale.
Almost a ScandalElizabeth Essex’s Almost a Scandal, the book I’m reading right now, recently went up from $3.99 to $4.99 but is still a deal where Macmillan is concerned.

Bold, brazen, and beautiful, the Reckless Brides refuse to play by society’s rules of courtship. But–come hell or high water–they always get their man…

For generations, the Kents have served proudly with the British Royal Navy. So when her younger brother refuses to report for duty, Sally Kent slips into a uniform and takes his place–at least until he comes to his senses. Boldly climbing aboard the Audacious, Sally is as able-bodied as any sailor there. But one man is making her feel tantalizingly aware of the full-bodied woman beneath her navy blues…

Dedicated to his ship, sworn to his duty–and distractingly gorgeous–Lieutenant David Colyear sees through Sally’s charade, and he’s furious. But he must admit she’s the best midshipman on board–and a woman who tempts him like no other. With his own secrets to hide and his career at stake, Col agrees to keep her on. But can the passion they hide survive the perils of a battle at sea? Soon, their love and devotion will be put to the test…

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008DCV4AM/

Scandal to RememberThe fifth in the same series is still on sale for $3.99.

The rules of courtship are swept out to sea when a shipwreck offers a Reckless Bride a true taste of paradise…

CAN A WHIRLWIND ROMANCE

In Elizabeth Essex’s A Scandal to Remember, for too long, Miss Jane Burke’s father has taken advantage of her painstaking research. Heading to the South Seas to make her own name as a scientist despite the crew’s insistence that a woman aboard is bad luck, she isn’t prepared to be championed by a handsome ship’s officer who rouses longings inside her as wild as any storm…

LEAD TO A PROPER PROPOSAL?

For Lieutenant Charles Dance, a post on His Majesty’s survey ship Tenacious is just one more dutiful rung on the ladder of his career. Even a headstrong bluestocking on board is less troubling than the ship’s drunken captain–and the ferocious gales that drive the ship off course. Stranded on a remote island, passion blazes between them as hot as the sun, but it’s Jane’s love that Charles wants forever…

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IHCNPCS/

Jennifer Crusie TemptationSophie Dempsey wants to help her sister film a video and then get out of Temptation, Ohio. Mayor Phin Tucker wants to play pool with the police chief and keep things peaceful. But when Sophie and Phin meet, they both get more than they want. Gossip, blackmail, adultery, murder, vehicular abuse of a corpse, and slightly perverse but excellent sex: all hell breaks loose in Temptation as Sophie and Phin fall deeper and deeper in trouble… and in love.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00403MNZS/

Fantasy LoverThe first in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s popular Dark Hunter series is on sale for $3.99 right now.

Dear Reader,

Being trapped in a bedroom with a woman is a grand thing. Being trapped in hundreds of bedrooms over two thousand years isn’t. And being cursed into a book as a love-slave for eternity can ruin even a Spartan warrior’s day.

As a love-slave, I know everything about women. How to touch them, how to savor them, and most of all, how to pleasure them. But when I was summoned to fulfill Grace Alexander’s sexual fantasies, I found the first woman in history who saw me as a man with a tormented past. She alone bothered to take me out of the bedroom and onto the world. She taught me to love again.

But I was not born to love. I was cursed to walk eternity alone. As a general, I had long ago accepted my sentence. Yet now I have found Grace–the one thing my wounded heart cannot survive without. Sure, love can heal all wounds, but can it break a two-thousand-year-old curse?

Julian of Macedon

http://www.amazon.com/Fantasy-Lover-Dark-Hunter-Novels-Book-ebook/dp/B001OO4H14/

Thanks for reading. I welcome any comments or tips to make this better. I hope to add buttons for the links later, but I wanted to get his post up before the sale prices changed.