Sunday, April 13, 2008

Amazon and ethics

Well, if you are a writer, a publisher or just someone who keeps up with the news in the bookselling world, you know about all the brouhaha that has arisen about Amazon's decision to put the thumbscrews to publishers who use POD (print-on-demand) technology.

To use a well-worn expression, a lot of people are up in arms.  People are shouting, "Monopoly! Restraint of trade!" and marching around Amazon blowing trumpets, waiting for the walls to fall down.  Sad to say, I don't think it's going to happen.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV, although I have played a judge on the stage.  But to me, there is no evidence that Amazon has created a monopoly--after all, there still are other online booksellers such as Barnes and Noble or Powell's.  And as to restraint of trade--well, they don't say you can't sell on Amazon, but rather that you must follow their particular rules in order to have the most-desired selling method.  Even if you don't follow those rules, your books will still appear if carried by third-party sellers.  It all appears to this non-lawyer that what they are doing is perfectly legal.

Moral?  Ethical?  

The problem is, many things that are absolutely, 100% legal are immoral or unethical.  For example, it's legal to arrest a handicapped woman who parks in a handicapped space, with a handicapped sticker on her car... because it's a RESERVED handicapped space.   Or as a security guard in a Target store, you can legally be fired because you quietly and without fuss stop a minor from stealing liquor from the store.

That being said, Amazon has a legal right to run it's business as it sees fit, within reason.  It's the same as with Microsoft (who, we all know, has fought their own battles regarding market share and unfair practices.)  Of course, now I own two Macs instead of two Windows machines, and get along just fine, thanks!

I am not a pundit of the publishing industry.  But to me, there's something inherently wrong in using your muscle to squeeze more money out of companies and individuals, just because you can.  It's not about business--it's about what is right, and what is wrong. 

Just be honest, Mr. Bezos: it's all about the money and the control.  This way, you can either make money twice on a book if it's printed through BookSurge (once for printing and once for selling it), or you can force publishers to kowtow to you and give you a bigger discount than the brick-and-mortar stores will get, so you can undersell them and put more of them out of business. 

My father, a man I greatly respect and admire, said to me once, "I'd rather an honest thief held a gun to my head and took my wallet, than someone steal from me by manipulating the rules.  At least then it's all out in the open."

Like I said, it's probably legal.  The decision on that has yet to be made.  My opinion?  It's unethical, and bad business in the long run.  But what do I know?  

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rain again

The last time I posted, I talked about rain.  I also talked about how we (or rather our goats) were expecting a kid.  Well, it has been raining again, and we also have that kid now!

Sadie was born on February 29, 2008.  (It rained that day here, too.)  Here's a picture of her not long after she was born.

She's growing quickly and is about three times that size now.

It rained last night, too, and stormed pretty heavily.  But that didn't stop people from coming out to see, hear and meet the delightful Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN.  Susan and her husband were guests at the Harris Arts Center in nearby Calhoun, GA.  Susan told us all about her journey to being an author, and how LOOKING FOR SALVATION came to be born. She also gave a brief reading, answered questions and signed copies of her book for her fans. I bought a copy and although I haven't had time to dig too deeply in, I'm charmed by what I've read thus far.


Here is a picture of Susan with Gray Bridges, the Program Coordinator at the Harris Arts Center.  (Gray is the one wearing glasses.)