Daily Archives: April 12, 2012

Dear Consumers Who Apparently Think the Current Drama Surrounding eBooks is Like a Football Game

Please stop, seriously. You’re driving me a little bit nuts.

Amazon is not on your side. Neither is Apple, or Barnes & Noble, or Google, or Penguin or Macmillan. These are all corporations, not sports teams, and with the exception of Macmillan, they are publicly owned. They have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to maximize value. You are the means to that, not the end. The side these companies are on is their own side, and the side of their shareholders. This self-interest doesn’t make them evil. It makes them corporations.

Amazon wants you to stay in their electronic ecosystem for buying ebooks (and music, and movies, and apps and games). So does Apple, Barnes & Noble and Google. None of them are interested in sharing you with anyone else, ever. Publishers, alternately, are interested in having as many online retailers as possible, each doing business with them on terms as advantageous to the publishers as possible. All of them will work for their own ends to achieve their goals. Sometimes, their corporate goals will work in your immediate personal interest. Sometimes they will not.

At all times, the public-facing goals of these corporations are only a small number of their total goals. It’s the goals that don’t affect you (or don’t obviously affect you) that will often have the most significant long-term implications.

Each of these companies are interested in making it appear that they are on your side, or at the very least, will wish to validate your choice to be on their side. Please be smarter than that. Recognize that they love you for your money. Recognize that they have entire corporate departments at their disposal to distract you from the fact that they love you for your money. Recognize that they are happy to use your desire for affiliation to help further goals that not only are you not necessarily aware of, but ultimately may not be in your interest. Recognize that things these corporations do that you see as immediate gains can lead to long-term losses, and vice versa.

In other words, ditch the simplistic binary framing. You’re not watching a sporting event, with simple rules and clear-cut goals. It really is more complicated than that, and your understanding of it should reflect that. When you reduce the players and tactics down to a simple “us vs. them” framing, you lose a lot of the reality of the situation. You also look like you’re not actually following what’s really going on.

(Disclosures: I publish with Macmillan and with Penguin and with Amazon. I am sold by Amazon and Apple and Barnes & Noble and Google and Macmillan and Penguin, the latter two of which have retail fulfillment through their company Web sites. I own a Nook, an Android Phone, an iPod and an iPad. All of these disclosures may indicate why I have increasingly little patience for binary framing.)

Reminder: I’m Guest of Honor at Penguicon in Two Weeks

If you’re within three states of Dearborn, Michigan and wondering what you’re going to do with yourself on the weekend of April 27 -29, I have an idea: Why not hang out with me at Penguicon 2012, America’s foremost science fiction and open-source computing convention? I’m the author guest of honor (click here to see all the featured guests), and will be doing my usual schtick of panels, readings, Q&A and hanging out in the hotel bar. Penguicon is one of my favorite science fiction conventions anyway, so getting to be the Guest of Honor this year is just the cherry on top. So come on down. It’s going to be fun.