(Warning: trigger alert)
As I mentioned in Part 1, publishers, be they major or minor, don’t have deep pockets.
The cost of printing books has risen quite a bit over the past 40 years, as has the cost of distribution. Often, we don’t stop to think that, for a book of a certain length, we currently pay only a little more per book relative to what we paid 30 years ago. Right now, we still feel we are getting a good deal on a book, probably unaware that our salaries and wages have risen only a little bit more relative to many years ago. But we don’t pay the real price of a book.
A distributor like Amazon keeps prices low for the consumer but at a great cost to the publisher and an even greater one to the author. Once upon a time, a book that sold poorly in the shop for $20-25 ended up in the remainder bin for a steal at $5. At least then, the author saw a pittance off of remainder-bin sales. Amazon does the same, but with worse results: This time, the author gets nothing.It’s the same sad story for e-publications. A well-known author’s work will generally be cheaper in electronic format, be it e-pub for e-readers or PDFs for tablets or PCs. For some reason, Amazon employs the same financial model for e-books as it does for print books. For print books, one can understand having to pay for storage in a warehouse since Amazon demands a 10,000 copy print run from the publisher. But for e-books, this makes no sense. E-books don’t have the same storage issues as print books.
Even if a self-publishing author goes on-line only through Amazon, certain lines in a contract with this company do not prohibit it from placing unwanted ads within an author’s work or even demanding changes to the overall text, in effect rendering Amazon a de facto publisher and not simply a distributor of books. This should be a concern for any author, publisher, or smart reader out there.
For those with e-readers like Kobo or PocketBook, PDF files are easily read, providing the layout is done according to their specifications, which is fine. One advantage of reading a PDF version of a book is that one reads the pages, cover to cover, in the order which one would find in a print book, right down to the fine print (if that’s your sort of thing). The freedom to choose to publish electronically via PDF or e-pub formats disappears when the author is forced into publishing only in KDF format for the Amazon Kindle e-reader. It’s for this reason that my publications, whether chapbooks or novels, will not be available for Kindle e-readers.
Finally, Amazon is a virtual monopoly where distribution is concerned. It controls almost 70% of distribution worldwide. It’s convenient for one-stop shoppers of books, be they electronic or in print, but it carries a stiff price for content producers. Why? Simply put, the Amazon model is slowly becoming the industry standard, meaning that others will have to follow suit and adapt, or worse, go one worse than Amazon. This cannot bode well for authors or publishers.