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Oh Amazon

When Amazon first said that the Kindle was going to work with Overdrive back in April, I was excited. As a former library staffer, I thought this could only be a win for library users and libraries in general. Good for libraries how, you say? Circulation statistics help libraries get funding, whether those circs are from print books or e-books. More circs = better library statistics = better chance for grants. So, hurrah Amazon for helping libraries out!

But wait. As of last week, Penguin just pulled all their new books from Overdrive. Why? Apparently the new Kindle/Overdrive platform has increased concerns about security for their digital files. Apparently if you want to borrow a book for your Kindle, your library directs you to Amazon's site, rather than to the Overdrive program (and Adobe Digital Editions), which is how I've always used Overdrive. (This is conjecture on my part, based on news coverage.) According to a recent article in PW, libraries may end up on the losing end of this disagreement, since now only one of the Big Six publishers (Random House) is fully on board with library lending. And they're taking a look at their policy, so who knows, what that will mean for the future?

I hate to sound like I'm always coming down on Amazon. As a resource, I love Amazon. I use them heavily for publication dates and information, and I shop there for all sorts of non-book items. I rent digital-streaming movies from Amazon. I buy music there. I really want Amazon to be the kind of company that I want to shop at. And I don't think that the traditional publishers are automatically in the right. But it seems like there are just too many hijinks where Amazon is concerned to automatically assume that Amazon is the good guy.

Especially, it seems, for independent publishers in international circles. I forget where this link came from (possibly also the PW newsletter), but Mark from The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing breaks down what your book actually costs on Amazon if you're selling it abroad. If you've priced it for free -- or at 99 cents -- that's not what folks in Europe are going to end up paying (and remember, they've got the exchange rate in their favor).

Some day I want to open up the PW newsletter and find some really awesome, feel-good, heart-warming Amazon related news. But I'm not holding my breath.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 30th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
Amazon is trying to get a monopoly, which I'm always sceptical of. They've shown time and time again that they're not playing nice - from pulling books from the Kindle without warning, suppressing LGBT books in their rankings, to blocking sales associated with publishers they were in dispute with. And now they're trying even harder to lock people into the Kindle hardware by offering a lending programme that is on contractually very dodgy grounds and impossible to police.

So that's the completely unemotional picture. Whether you like Amazon or not, you have to acknowledge these things (as well as the reports of working conditions, the price wars etc.) Personally, I don't shop at Amazon, but I would not tell an author not to use them, simply _because_ they hold such a big chunk of the market :-(
Nov. 30th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm glad you summed that up so succinctly. I always feel like I can't put it all out there without sounding like there's some bias on my part -- but you're right, those are just the facts.

Do I think the big publishing houses could handle things better in some situations, too? I do. But the word "dodgy" really does sum up a lot of Amazon's business practices to me. And I agree they're a necessary part of the market for authors who are self-publishing, even with all the hijinks, exactly because of their marketshare.
Andrew Zimmerman Jones
Nov. 30th, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
Overdrive usage
I've checked out some Kindle books through the library. I don't read them on a Kindle, but on my Kindle for iPad app. I'm not really sure how security could be a concern, given how it's set up. Here's how I've had it work:

On the Overdrive website, there's the option to select some ebooks in the format of either a Kindle ebook or in Adobe Digital Edition. When my hold for the Kindle ebook is ready, I go to the Overdrive website and check it out. There is then a link to Amazon.com. On this page, I select which device I want the ebook delivered to, click Deliver, and the book shows up on my device. When the time is up, the file is removed from the Kindle app. From what I can tell, the file is just as secure as it would be for a regular Kindle ebook, and I personally prefer the delivery being handled through the Amazon website instead of having to hassle with downloading and then transferring. It's way more convenient and, from what I can tell, perfectly secure.

I can't really compare this to Adobe Digital Editions, because I've frankly never figured out how to get Adobe Digital Editions onto my iPad, so I've never actually used it.

However, I will point out one security note: When you check out a Kindle ebook, then any highlights and notes made in the book are retained on the kindle.amazon.com website, even after the checkout period is over and you can no longer access the book itself. This makes it very useful for research purposes, in my opinion ... perhaps more useful than the publishers would like.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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