My small publishing house, Granite Peak Publications, was established with the thought of providing readers with a really thorough and accurate guide to my beloved Yellowstone Park. It was fortunate that Yellowstone Treasures was accepted from the start by the country’s second largest independent book distributor, Independent Publishers Group (now Small Press United, a subsidiary of IPG). When they suggested that I put out e-book versions and generously offered to convert my guidebook into three of those at no cost to me, I jumped at the chance.
Of course, I was upset to learn earlier this week that Amazon.com had unilaterally and with no advance notice cut off all Kindle sales of Yellowstone Treasures. IPG’s president explains it this way: “I am greatly disappointed to report that as our distributor’s electronic book agreement with Amazon came up for renewal, Amazon used it as an opportunity to renegotiate all of their terms for both print and e-books to be substantially more favorable to them. These new terms, if accepted, would have greatly decreased the amount of income both publishers and authors would have received for the sale of all of their books going forward, including print editions.” This action affects well over 4000 titles distributed by IPG and SPU. As of today I have not learned whether other e-book distributors have been treated equally unfairly by Amazon. However, this seems to me to be an illustration of the old adage “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Here are a few words about Amazon’s point of view—although their spokespersons refuse to comment to reporters. Amazon’s fourth quarter 2011 results (reports Time Business & Money) missed Wall Street’s expectations, and the current quarter could see Amazon lose money. Their operating expenses “increased 38%, cutting into the company’s profit,” and their stock “has drooped nearly 20% over the last three months”—these figures from a February first Time Business article. I ask, does this warrant such heavy-handed actions affecting publishers, authors, and readers?
Since early 2010 over 650 e-book copies of Yellowstone Treasures have become readable on Nooks, iPads, Kindles, and other electronic reading devices. I’m sure this is a convenient way for many people to carry the best-selling guidebook to Yellowstone.
A fellow small publisher, Bryce Milligan, commenting on the Digital Reader website wrote: “There was a time not so long ago when ‘competition’ was a healthy thing, not a synonym for ‘murder.’ Amazon could have been a bright and shining star, lighting the way to increased literacy and improved access to alternative literatures. Alas, it looks more likely to be a large and deadly asteroid. We, the literary dinosaurs, are watching to see if this is a near miss or the beginning of extinction.”
If you are thinking of buying Yellowstone Treasures for your own device, please keep in mind that you can find it at your local independent bookshop, www.indiebound.org, www.BarnesandNoble.com, Apple’s iTunes, Google Books, www.ebookstore.sony.com, and elsewhere. Also if you have a Kindle Fire, with just a few steps you can download almost any e-reader app and purchase EPUB and PDF editions that can be read in full color on the Kindle Fire.
[2012 post. Update, Sept.6, 2013: I was disappointed that the original Kindle version, based on our third edition, had no maps, which are so dependent on color. Now, the Kindle Fire version of the fourth edition has everything, and I’m really happy with it!]