Privacy AND payment issues raised in response to ebook retailer data mining
I feel it is only fair to say upfront that, in my personal capacity, I have to this point been an Amazon supporter. They’re wonderful for customers, which is the sphere in which all my interaction with them has been to date. However, I have to ask if they have finally come up with a plan intended to antagonise traditional publishers, indie authors and readers alike?
Their latest scheme is a pay-as-you-read plan as reported in papers such as The New Zealand Herald and the UK Telegraph. If a reader doesn’t read a book in full, the author will only be paid a percentage of their royalties. So Amazon keeps all the subscription money but gets to give a smaller percentage back in royalties to the author/s.
Amazon is implementing the system on 1 July, initially only with authors who self-publish their books via the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program that makes books available to borrow from the Kindle Library and to Amazon Prime customers. Amazon’s ‘logic’ is that this is a ‘fair’ way to reward authors who write lengthy books but have previously picked up the same royalties as someone who writes a 100-page novella. Length is not the primary factor in determining whether a book is popular or well written. In fact, it is a very poor determinant of either popularity or quality. Besides that difference in length should be reflected in the book’s price and then authors will be rewarded accordingly.
Of course, all books in the Kindle Unlimited program are priced the same ($0), so why should certain authors who have chosen to give Kindle Unlimited a go be penalised? Books that are more popular will be ‘borrowed’ more often and their authors will (or should) be rewarded accordingly. An author whose book is borrowed from a library – presumably the model for Kindle Unlimited – does not receive payment based on the length of their book or on how many pages the borrower read. The pay-as-you-read concept borders on farcical. Why not just pay authors on their reader review rating? No rating, no royalty. Then you really could ensure that all authors starve in garrets.
I have to ask the question: has this come about because the Kindle Unlimited borrowing program has not worked as Amazon anticipated, especially from a company income perspective? Or is it simply that Amazon wish to promote the business models of their rivals? Smashwords, for example, could benefit if self-publishing indie authors moved their business across to them. You can download a mobi (Kindle) file from Smashwords to your reader. It’s not quite as convenient as buying direct from Amazon because books bought from Smashwords don’t seem to sync to all devices, but hey, I can live with that. It’s a bit indulgent to carry my library on more than one device anyway.
One of my pleasures as a reader is to know that when I buy a book the author I am supporting earns income. Sometimes (erm, okay, let’s make that ‘quite often’ … okay, ‘very often’) I buy books that I know are going to go to the very bottom of my TBR pile because I want to read them in the future, or I want to support a promising new author or a friend, or because I am looking for something different I may or may not like, or just … because.
I intensely dislike the thought that Amazon may use my buying patterns to penalise authors, especially when one of the reasons I am a big ebook and Amazon supporter is the price factor. eBooks are much cheaper than paperbacks. I’ll take a chance on a new author and stack my virtual bookshop with appealing reads because we’re talking a price range that averages $0.99 to $6.99. I can easily get anywhere from two to seven ebooks for the price of one paperback and spread the love. But my love is intended for the author. I don’t want Amazon or any other retailer gorging on it.
And, on a creepy note, I am starting to feel stalked. Both Amazon and Kobo have openly admitted to accessing reader data on how many pages of a book on average are read; how long it takes between purchase and reading etc etc. If they are doing it, presumably other eretailers are too. My request to ebook eretailers is to kindly stick to your business, selling, in your shop and stay out of my living room and my bedroom. I didn’t invite you in. I didn’t respond to a survey. If my local bookseller came and peered through my window every day to check on my reading habits, I would have them arrested. I’m wondering why you don’t suffer the same fate? I certainly don’t buy the ‘anonymous’ line. It doesn’t work for the Peeping Tom spying on a woman he doesn’t know, and it shouldn’t work for Big Business either.
What are your thoughts as a reader, author or publisher? It would be particularly interesting to hear back from authors who use the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program.