Saturday, February 28, 2009

The road to Amazon.com is land-mined

Puffs of steam are coming out of my ears: I'm going to have a RANT today, so -- bear with me.

Good gods, they make it hard. I'm within eight seconds of saying, "stuff Kindle." And this, after I've blown off two days formatting documents to suit them.

What goes on --? Amazon.com just slammed the door in Keegan's face, is what's wrong.

In order to sell my books to Kindle readers -- and bear in mind, Amazon is out there, hyper-marketing their platform in order to command an ever-growing market share! -- I have to have the following:

American TIN number for tax purposes (done: got one).
American bank account access (done: no problem).
American mailing address (how the hell do they expect me to have this?)
American phone number (ditto).

To all intents and purposes, Amazon Kindle is open ONLY to American writers and authors ... at the same time as the American marketplace is 90% of everything, and Amazon is actively at war with all other ebook platforms, to command the lion's share of the market.

Does this sound kosher to you? Point one: non-American writers are being shut out of the market -- at the same time as Amazon.com makes a ton of money dumping cheap goods on the rest of the world (books for 10c, for instance!) ... and Point two: American readers are soon going to have vastly limited access to foreign works --

Foreign works which, for example, express the global point of view, the cosmopolitan concept of humanity, in which the thoughts, dreams and dreads of people living in -- oh, Paris, Rome, London, Tokyo, Beijing, the centers where culture was born many centuries before America was even dreamed of! -- are reckoned, in the wider scheme of the cosmos, to be just as important as those of people who are curiously gifted enough to live between the borders of Canada and Mexico.

Moreover, there is one additional thing that carbonizes my noodles:

The simple statement: "Non-Americans need not apply" is not posted until you get five layers deep into the publication process.

There is no easily accessible FAQ. There is a labyrinthine forum with all the welcoming characteristics of an asylum, filled with abusive inmates who seem to believe one has nothing better to do with one's time than to read "threads" which have run 11 months, and are now forty yards long -- filled with poison-pen retorts for non-Americans, blatantly WRONG answers, hapless misinformation, helpful responses to questions that were NOT ASKED, and --!!

The situation regarding Keegan on your Kindle right now is this: I'm going to try negotiating with family in the States, to use an acceptable address and phone number. If for any reason the other half of the family has a problem with this, you won't be reading Keegan on you Kindle. Before that happens, Amazon.com will have to come out of this self-imposed shell of isolation, drop the parochial behavior, join the global community (which it has ambitions to dominate) and play nice.

Till then, my Kindle ambitions are snookered. Which, as I said above, burns my noodles ... because Kindle is already a millions-strong marketplace. When people change over to Kindle they cease to buy paperbacks --

Meaning, there is a millions-strong sector of the reading community that's a dead zone for any writer or publisher who does not have a physical foothold, complete with phone number, between the borders of Mexico and Canada.

Now, Amazon has made squeaking noises about trying to get Kindle to work in Europe and Australia, but so far they haven't even been able to swing a reliable deal with wireless providers in the UK. Down here in Aus and NZ? Forget it. The infrastructure doesn't exist. Not going to happen.

Here's the bottom line: If Amazon wins the marketing battle (as it intends to), if Kindle becomes The Platform of the future ... if enormous numbers of readers change over and don't want paperbacks any longer ... and if only American writers and publishers are allowed to sell on Kindle ...

There's going to be a whole lot of professional writers, globally (myself being one of them) who will just jack it in and get a proper job. Literature itself will suffer, because the only people publishing on the massive platform will be a small nucleus of real professional writers who are just geographically lucky ... plus about fifty million semi-literate wannabe authors, none of whom would know good grammar if they tripped over it in the street, who are not just allowed to publish -- they're invited. They're exhorted. They're marketed alongside the giants of literature, as if they belong there; and why?

The privilege of geography. No matter that Amazon's marketplace is global and vast amounts of its profits are raked in from overseas customers.

You bet, I'm PO'd. Wasting my time (or, having my time wasted for me) tends to do that to me.

Now I have to take on the challenge of Smashwords. Go back and reformat all the documents over again. But at least Smashwords is playing nice -- I can put my books there. If you were asking me, Amazon could learn a thing or two from Smashwords.

Mark Coker's new company at the very least lives in the right century, with both feet planted firmly in the global community. Meanwhile, whoever designed and built the apology for the architecture supporting Kindle appears to live in some parochial cyber territory, temporally and psychologically analogous to the 1950s.

Message to Amazon.com: get real people. There's a world out here, and if you want to dump cheap goods into it for your own profit, you have to wake up to the fact the conduit must run both ways. Or are you actually trying to shut out the global voice, lock in the all-American point of view, raise a generation of Kindle-users who couldn't find Belgium on a map? This might result in a generation of more American Americans, but I ask you, does this kind of intellectual isolationism have any place in the twenty first century?

Okay: I'm done ranting for now.

Yeah, yeah ... I posted the next segment of Legends before I threw away the rest of my time. Find out what happens when Soran wakes up...

And people, email the Legends URL to your friends, please!!! At this point, according to Statcounter, I have loads of people coming in to collect only Chapter Ten, folks who have never touched down on Legends before -- which says clearly, the files are being emailed, not the URL. Remember, to make this work we need people on the page, taking advantage of the advertising: sending the files to your mate won't help! Thanks for your help here.

And, uh, I imagine I'll be in a better mood tomorrow! Meanwhile, the ebooks are available at PayLoads, and will be appearing at Smashwords when I've had the chance to thrash through the conversion process.

Ciao for,
ML

5 comments:

Mark Coker said...

Hey Mel,

Looking forward to welcoming you to Smashwords! We want to help the world's writers reach a worldwide audience.

Mark

Mark Coker said...

Oh, and don't fret the formatting. Our Style Guide makes it easy, and if you have trouble just email us at the link at the top of every page.

Mel Keegan said...

Hi Mark --

You're dead right. I just took a look at your Style Guide, and it's going to be a lot more simple than I'd assumed. I thought I was due a long, rough job, but -- not so.

I want to thank you wholeheartedly for the idea, work and committment you've invested in Smashwords -- as I said in the above post, Amazon could learn a thing or two. They need to get out here into the global community and see where writers are, and what we do.

I'm lucky -- I have family in Australia, the UK and several parts of the USA ... I can probably pull of the Kindle thing; what gets me steamed is, very few overseas writers will be able to "beat the system."

Which is where the strength of Smashwords starts to become apparent: your system is global, and as likely to connect a writer in Winnipeg with a reader in Mumbai (and vice versa) as just joining the dots between Eugene and Portland. For which --

Bravo!

Cheers,
Mel

GDad said...

Sucks about amazon. I hope they wise up soon.

Mel Keegan said...

GDad --

So do I! It's not so much compatibility with Kindle that bothers me (you can always use the Mobipocket format, which will play on the Amazon gadget), but the Kindle STORE is such a powerful selling tool. I've heard that just having titles there virtually doubles your sales like magic ... I still have this dream of giving up the day job and writing full time...

Well, maybe Amazon will wise up after all. Here's hoping.

Post a Comment