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Amazon & the Death of Privacy

I read an article today that starting 7/1/15, Amazon will only pay the authors who have selected to self-publish through their Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP) program for pages actually read.

As both a reader and a writer, this is NOT OKAY.

First of all, Amazon, when I buy a book from you that should be the very last time Amazon has anything to do with my reading habits. I don’t care that you know what I’m reading. I bought it from you, so of course you going to know what I read. The fact that you are apparently keeping track of how much of a book I have or haven’t yet read is so invasive that I feel a bit unclean right now. It’s creepy. It takes the notion of privacy and makes a mockery of it.

Amazon: It is none of your god damn business whether or not I finish a book. Period. Full Stop.

I bought it. I’ll read it at the pace I choose. That may be a chapter a month or the whole thing in a single sitting. Or I may never finish it. Maybe I have a reading disability and it takes me a very, very long time to read a book. Maybe it sucks. Maybe it wasn’t what I expected, but is still well written. Perhaps I bought it to support a friend but don’t have time to actually read it for six months. Or maybe I just forgot I bought it entirely. That can happen when you buy a lot of books and they aren’t physically present to remind you that they exist. As a reader, I understand that my money is spent. I bought the book and, whether or not it gets read, the money is gone.

Amazon: It is not your god damn business to NOT PAY THE WRITERS for their hard work just because I don’t finish reading their book.

As a reader, I am both horrified and flabbergasted that you would take it upon yourself to do this. I may never buy another book from you, ebook or otherwise, because of this. There are other options, you know. Barnes & Noble. Smashwords.com. Kobo.com. More that I probably can’t think of right off the top of my head. Maybe this is the push that I, and many others, need to get back to the brick and mortar shops to buy actual, physical books.

And, as Rachel Lynn Brody pointed out on Facebook, what will you do with the money taken back from the writer? Are you going to refund the buyer? I don’t find that information anywhere, which is both wrong of you and yet not at all unexpected, behemoth that you are.

Also, is there a time limit? Is it if I don’t read a book in a year that you’ll take back the money from the writer? Six months? Three weeks? Just how much time will you give me to read a book that I bought?

Switching hats now to the writer side of me…

AMAZON: ARE YOU INSANE?

This is coming from someone who wrote her first novel at fourteen and has dreamed of being on the best seller lists ever since. I’m not someone who expresses her displeasure to one of the very publishers who might propel me to those best seller lists. Yelling at a publisher is shooting myself in the foot. And yet here we are. What you’re doing is so egregious that I have to speak.

You say you’re doing this to be fair. That some writers cheat and write 100 pages of content and sell them at full novel prices. Or they use huge fonts to expand even less content to make it longer. Well so what? Who said life was fair? People will buy that one story and never buy anything from them ever again because the writer was a dick. It takes very little to lose a reader and a lot to build a loyal following. Trust me. I know.

AMAZON: It is not your job to decide who’s a sucky or dickish writer when people buy but don’t finish reading a book. Your job is to publish and sell the books.

And just to show that I’m not talking out the side of my neck, here are the facts taken directly from the email update that I never read because yes, I did choose to use KDP Select for one of my books:

For simplicity, assume the fund is $10M and that 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:

•       The author of a 100 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

•       The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

•       The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed 100 times but only read half way through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

We will similarly change the way we pay KDP Select All-Star bonuses which will be awarded to authors and titles based on total KU and KOLL pages read.

The direct link to their website for this announcement is on this Amazon page.

Amazon, this very long blog post is to say that you have lost me as a book consumer and I am seriously reconsidering you as a publisher. I will immediately remove the novel I placed in your Select program and will not be choosing it in the future for any book unless this policy changes. And maybe you’re going to kick me out of your store for this post (if you ever see it), but I’m pissed enough not to care right now.

Shame on you, Amazon. Just. Shame on you.

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About Nancy M. Griffis

Author and screenwriter who loves scifi/action/adventure/urban fantasy genres. I have two published novels, Mind Games and Eternal Investigations, as well as a short story published for charity called "Home Fires Burning." All are available through amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Amazon & the Death of Privacy

  1. This is only for the Kindle Unlimited option, which meant that if a reader borrowed your book through KU/KOLL (not purchased!) the author would be paid after the reader finished 10% of the book. So if you are borrowing books through Amazon they are already tracking your reading on those books. Authors don’t get paid until the borrower reaches that point, regardless of whether they read further. Now instead of 10% of the book it will be a designated # of pages. I actually made a good number of “sales” through KU but now my book is no longer in KDP Select because I wanted to try out making it available on all platforms. Not to defend Amazon, but just to clarify that the new policy isn’t for books actually sold outright, as far as I understand. I’m more angry at their policy of allowing people to return ebooks, so someone can buy an ebook, read it, and then return and get their money back and as an author you lose that sale. It’s like someone going to a bookstore, buying a book, and then returning it a week later after they’ve read it. I will be curious to see how the changes play out, though.

    Posted by Cindy Young-Turner | June 24, 2015, 11:19 am

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