McStudge’s guide to capitalism

Reposted from a comment on The Passive Voice, in response to a discussion on Amazon, and why consumers hate and fear it so. (This remark may possibly have been made with the tongue somewhere in the vicinity of the cheek.)

Well, that’s capitalism for you.

You see, my poppets, under the capitalist system, the Wicked Capitalist (who always wears a top hat and a waxed moustache, like Snidely Whiplash; that is how you recognize him) gets his money by forcibly abducting Sweet Cathy Consumer and tying her to the railroad tracks in front of an onrushing locomotive: on which, for reasons not yet fully understood, is mounted a furiously whirling buzz saw. Nobody ever buys anything voluntarily, you see; it is all done by force and fraud. And of course Snidely twirls his moustache whilst he is doing it. That bit is Very Important.

All genuinely cultured and caring persons, including (it goes without saying) Great Authors and the Great Publishers who graciously permit them to live on leftover dog kibble, and occasionally on even richer and more Lucullan repasts than this, believe that there is a far more enlightened system, under which Sweet Cathy Consumer gives all her money to a Wise and Benevolent Bureaucracy, which then spends it for her on the Things That Really Matter (such as dog kibble for the right kind of Great Authors, and Mercedes-Benzes for the bureaucrats). Of course, if Sweet Cathy is insufficiently public-spirited (as, for some perverse reason, she almost always is), the Wise and Benevolent Bureaucrats will themselves have to resort to the locomotive and buzz saw to get her money out of her. But this is totally different from when a Wicked Capitalist does it, because, you see, it is All For Her Own Good and the Good of Society. Also the Benevolent Bureaucrats are clean-shaven, so they do not twirl their moustaches.

Just remember, nobody ever bought anything voluntarily from Evil Amazon. Then, my poppets, you will be properly educated so as to swallow the rest of the stories we require you to believe.

   H. Smiggy McStudge

Heather Lovatt asks about selling books through Amazon

In a comment on a previous post, Heather Lovatt asks some good and searching questions about what happens when an independent author sells books through Amazon’s KDP program. I shall try to answer as best I can, but bear in mind, I am neither a lawyer nor an expert at online commerce.

To simplify matters, I am breaking things down fisking-style and answering bit by bit. But this is by no means a fisking; I thought I would throw my horrible nature to the winds and try being friendly for a change. Here goes:

I am looking into the idea of publishing on Amazon. I’ve hit a lot of walls on this.

Dear Heather,

I hear you. I hit a lot of walls myself in the same process. I hope I can be of some help. [Read more…]

Leaving money on the table

Bill Peschel, a commenter on The Passive Voice, suggests that Amazon is bound to stop offering independent authors 70 percent of the retail price on well-priced ebooks, and cut the wholesale price to 60 or 50 percent of retail, or even less. He asks:

‘Why would Amazon leave money on the table if they know that authors will accept less?’

I reply:

I’ll tell you exactly why Amazon would leave money on the table:

When the table it’s on belongs to the consumer.

Amazon isn’t in business to sell books. (Or electronics, music, movies, patio furniture, knickknacks, teddy bears, buggy whips, or anything else they have an SKU for.) Amazon is in business to lower prices. The company’s entire business model is about increasing efficiency, lowering overhead, and using that to cut prices so that consumers will shop there instead of the competition. This is a company that is perfectly content (and so are its stockholders) with a net profit margin of less than 1%. Leaving money on the table is what Amazon does.

[Read more…]