The future of publishing

While the dispute between Hatchette and appears on the surface a fight between titans, in reality every publisher and author, big and small, has a stake. Frankly, it's hard to be overly optimistic about the effects.

Using Twitter, Michael Tamblyn, the head of Kobo, neatly laid out what's going on and what the future holds. The Twitter feed is here.

Here are the Tweets (glommed from Publisher's Lunch):

1. Indie authors take note: Amazon is, among other things, a machine designed to optimize product prices in order to gain share and sales.

2. AMZN, like every retailer that reaches a certain size, turns to its suppliers to grow profitability by demanding more favourable terms.

3. The Hachette-Amazon fight is an especially public manifestation of that Big Retail process. Nothing new there (Walmart, Target, B&N et al)

4. Some vocal traditionally published authors (but not all) support Hachette and criticize Amazon and…

5. Some vocal independent authors (but not all) support Amazon and criticize Hachette...

6. Defense of Amazon by indie authors makes sense on one level. For them, AMZN is the well-spring, where the self-pub revolution started.

7. But it seems like self-published authors believe they are protected somehow - that what is happening to Hachette won't happen to them.

8. Some indie authors even muse that the best possible strategy is exclusivity with Amazon, leaving readers on other platforms behind.

9. In the long run, I don't think that Amazon makes a big distinction between a publisher and an indy author - they are both suppliers.

10. Hachette and the rest of the big 5 sit at the top of a list of suppliers to be "improved" from Amazon's perspective.

11. Hachette is first because one negotiation with a big publisher makes a lot of bestselling books more profitable. That's efficient.

12. I don't think anyone believes that AMZN will stop with Hachette. With a successful conclusion, all pubs will go through the same thing.

13. They will move down the list. Midsized or smaller publishers come next. (Assuming this all isn't being pursued quietly in parallel.)

14. From Amazon's perspective, how is an independent author any different than a publisher? Still a supplier, to be made more profitable.

15. The indie author's situation is most tenuous of all. If >80% of sales come from AMZN, *no leverage when it's your turn to be "optimized"

16. An indie author, like any publisher, can take her books away if in conflict with AMZN. But it hurts the author *way more than Amazon.

17. A reasonable author response to the AMZN threat wdb: "they won't need to do that to us. Our prices are already where they need to be."

18. (Indy authors on Amazon are penalized if their books are too expensive, so that's largely true.)

19. But that assumes that the AMZN battle is about price. It's not. It's about profit. And _any_ supplier can be made more profitable.

20. If indie authors are 20% of AMZN's total sales, then it's hard to imagine that indie authors aren't on that list to be improved.

21. But if the AMZN battle extends to indie authors, authors will have less leverage. Especially if they are exclusive.

22. The mechanisms for the AMZN squeeze are in place, agreements allow it. Self-pub inclusion in Select, Unlimited, KOLL are early examples.

23. Amazon can and will, as a business, do what it needs to do to _all_ suppliers in time to improve profitability and grow share.

24. Selling other publishers and authors, AMZN can survive without Hachette, but uncomfortably and less profitably.

25. With a diverse base of retailers, Hachette can survive without AMZN, also uncomfortably and less profitably.

26. Both parties having other options is why this dispute wasn't over in a week or a month.

27. The litmus test for an indie author: could your income survive a conflict with Amazon? If not, it's worth thinking about how you could.

28. To paraphrase: "First they came for the big New York publishers, but I wasn't published by a big New York Publisher…"

29. Then they came for the mid-sized publishers, but I wasn't published by a mid-sized publisher...

30. Then they came for the academic presses...

31. Then they came for the literary presses...

32. Then they came for me."
Coming soon . . .

... to a Kindle near you.

Hog Born is a novella - or a very, very long short story - centering on Michael "Skull" Knowlington, the leader of Devil Squadron. a lot of of readers have wondered what he did before the First Gulf War and how he came to command the squadron; Hog Born will give some of those details.

It should be available in a few days.
The case against Amazon

From the New Republic:

In its pursuit of bigness, Amazon has left a trail of destructioncompetitors undercut, suppliers squeezedsome of it necessary, and some of it highly worrisome. And in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette, it has entered a phase of heightened aggression unseen even when it tried to crush Zappos by offering a $5 rebate on all its shoes or when it gave employees phony business cards to avoid paying sales taxes in various states.

Article. Probably the best summary of what's at stake, though its suggestions seem unlikely, at least for now.
Chase bank:
Our fault, no; your fault maybe

JP Morgan Chase got hacked big time recently, though by whom and for what purpose remains a mystery - at least publicly. (One of the many stories here.)

I haven't gotten my official notice about the incursion and the reassurances not to panic yet. No doubt it's in the mail.

What was in the mail was a statement with this notice from Chase:

Effective November 16, 2014, we will be updating your agreement. The updated agreement will explain that if you allow anyone to use your bank card, or if you don't exercise ordinary care (examples of not exercising ordinary care: if you keep your PIN with your card, or select your birthday as your PIN) you will be responsible for all authorized and unauthorized transaction . . . 

Translation - if your account gets accessed by a thief, we'll decide whether you were doing a good job protecting it before we decide whether we're liable or not. We promise we'll be reasonable about deciding whether you were reasonable . . .

Would it be reasonable to suggest it's time to update 40-year-old security methods with more secure cards and ATM machines? Nah . . .

According to that Bloomberg link above, by the way, it was an employee password that let the thiefs in. Hopefully it wasn't his or her birthday.

Incidentally, the Federal Trade Commission says personal liability for ATM theft is limited, as long as you quickly report the theft. Here's the link. The banksters haven't changed all the rules yet.


Been spending some time with these old birds lately. Details to follow . . .
Turkey fights its own people . . .

. . .  rather than doing anything about ISIS:

Turkish authorities moved Wednesday to stop the spread of violent protests across the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country, fueled by the refusal of the Ankara government to intervene to protect Kurds in neighboring Syria against an Islamic State onslaught.

WSJ story here.

Question: Why even pretend you're part of NATO?

Robot gunboats

This is from the AP, via Fox:

Self-guided unmanned patrol boats that can leave warships they're protecting and swarm and attack potential threats on the water could join the Navy's fleet within a year, defense officials say, adding the new technology could one day help stop attacks like the deadly 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.

Robot boats will eventually do a lot more than that. But for now, that's still a lot. Story.