Montlake Romance by Amazon??? 42

So Amazon is truly charging into the publishing business. Yesterday I read about their launch of Montlake Romance with Connie Brockway’s, THE OTHER GUY’S BRIDE–which is a historical, although the title does sound contemporary.

A month or so back, Connie came out on AAR Blog to announce she was going ‘rogue’ because she’d chosen to self-publish. With her announcement yesterday, she’s modified her statement to going ‘roguish’.  Yes, that did make me chuckle. But as an ereader who did not purchase a Kindle for the simple reason that I didn’t want to be tied to a proprietary format and forced to purchase all my ebooks from Amazon, the terms of Amazon’s contracts with author for their publishing lines gave me the worst sinking feeling in my stomach. As an author, that sinking feeling was only exacerbated.  What I’m seeing in Amazon’s venture into publishing is an attempt to further strengthen their Kindle brand as opposed to selling books using as many distribution points as feasibly possible.  This is very disappointing to me both as an author and as a reader.

To me, when I sign with a publisher, their goal should be to get my book out to a wide an audience as possible. This means that I would expect that they have my book available in as many formats as feasibly possible: print, digital (ePub, Kindle, Nook etc), audio. Publishing houses have sales people for this reason, to go out to all the book retailers and ask, convince, cajole, coax them to stock as many titles of that publishing houses books as possible because the more retailers that stock their books means the more visibility their books get.  With Amazon making their books exclusive to Kindle, this is only going to serve to leave some readers out in the cold. What happens to the eReaders who have ereaders from Sony, Borders (Kobo), B&N (Nook) and all the other ereaders that support what is the accepted industry standard format of ePub? Yes, I think most eReaders know they can download the PC or Mac application and read the book on their computer but having plunked down anywhere from $99 – $300 for an ereader, my bet is that’s precisely why they bought an ereader, so they wouldn’t have to do that.  I know I won’t.

Based on the conclusion I drew above about Amazon’s publishing ventures and the way they have structured it, I see a clear conflict of interest with Amazon going into publishing. I know what their intent is–strengthen their Kindle brand, drive more readers to Amazon–but I see that is not in the best interest of authors who publish with them because it will in fact limit distribution of said author(s), and this is never good for an author, and at the end of the day, it’s also not good for the readers. I know for myself, I love to have choices. I don’t ever want to be told I have to buy exclusively from one place. I like to shop around and compare prices.  One of the other reasons I didn’t buy a Kindle was because at that point I had about 100 ebooks and most of them were in Adobe Digital and ePub format. This meant, I wouldn’t be able to read them on the Kindle so what was the point of even getting one.  To me that was like be buying a Blu-ray player and not being able to watch any of my nearly 80 DVDs on the new player.  Thank goodness, most things have some backward compatibility.

My hope for the future is that if Amazon intends to remain in the publishing business, they separate it completely from the retailing part of their business.  I would love to see their books being offered in all the digital formats and their print books being carried my all the major book retailers. I’d also love to see them expanding the accepted formats for Kindle and include, at the very least, ePub books. I think that instead of decreasing sales for them, it will do the opposite. Giving readers the power to choose is a good thing, never a bad thing.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good to be said about Amazon. I do almost all of my Christmas shopping there and I give away a lot of  their gift certificates. They are convenient, efficient and timely; their selection of goods is some of the best I’ve ever seen from a retailer be it brick and mortar or online. But when I shop with them in that capacity, I’m being lured by all the points I just listed. I’m not being told I have to buy from them because I happened to purchase a not inexpensive shopping cart that only holds Amazon merchandise.

UPDATE 5/6/2011 2:47 PM EST

Publisher’s Weekly has just announced that Simon and Schuster, Penguin Group and Hachette Books are banding together to create a site called Bookish , which will on top of many other things, sell front and back list books from ALL publishers with the exception of vanity press aka self-published books. I believe this is a response in direct response to Amazon entering the publishing business, their battles with Amazon over pricing and being so wholly dependent on Amazon for their digital distribution. They plan to launch the site before Labor Day this year.  Here’s the announcement. Let me know what you think.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this as it’s been really plaguing me since I saw the announcement yesterday. Comment and enter to win a $15 Gift Certificate from an online book store of choice.