I was organizing a list of some kind yesterday (I forget if it was the Amazon wishlist or the ereaderIQ list that started all this) and suddenly I found myself saying "oh I give up, I'm just getting them in paper." Partly because I was waiting for the ebook price on one to go down, which it hasn't. And partly because my effort to track some of them down at libraries didn't go very well - the problem is that because some of the books are on such a specific topic, even a city with multiple college libraries might not have them. So rather than spending the gas money (or the time), I opted for the paper.
Also it is seriously hot outside. Vacation time on the surface of the sun. Ugh. I do not do well in heat. So, online purchasing time while sheltering inside. Summer is definitely the proper time to hibernate.
Anyway, the three are:
Ladies in Waiting: From the Tudors To the Present Day by Anne Somerset
Publish date 2005, no ebook option
Discovery method: it was listed in the bibliography of Ladies of the Grand Tour, or was it Mad Madge? I've read and love both but have been lazy and not written the reviews because I have sooo many pages of notes and quotes to pick through.
(I do however note that Somerset's recent book has an ebook option, which is a good thing if I like her work.)
Publish date 2009, ebook price has been $9.99 for years now and a used hardcover book was cheaper, even with postage added in.
Wikipedia page: Mary Bowes
Discovery method: I'm pretty sure it was Bettie's review, and then I read the wikipedia account and really wanted to read more. (Also, is that a long title or what?!)
Amphibious Thing: The Life of Lord Hervey by Lucy Moore
Publish date 2000, no ebook
Wikipedia page: John Hervey
Discovery method: read about him in current read The Courtiers by Lucy Worsley and wanted to read more. Actually I wanted to read his memoirs, but those seem annoyingly hard to find - especially annoying when so many other memoirs from his time are available for free online. (This may have something to do with his bisexuality, but that's a guess.) Anyway, I have another book of Lucy Moore's - The Thieves Opera - which I liked (but haven't finished), so this one seemed a good purchase. Plus the fact that there aren't many other biographies of Hervey out there.
And now something I rarely do - a pre-order:
Publish date: August 7, 2014, I'm getting the ebook version.
Discovery method: I followed all of Davis' reporting in the Guardian during the whole hacking hooha and am hoping for a good "this is how we researched the story" type of journalism-saga. I've partly read another of Davis' books, Flat Earth News, but I only made it about a fourth of the way in and then set aside. (And then it went into the Packed Into Storage pile.) It was somewhat interesting (no citations though, which bugged me), but in a media-scholarly way and not a fun-and-fascinating way. So we'll see what Davis does with book.
What does all this have to do with the whole publishers (specifically Hachette) vs Amazon?
[Short version, because I drone on a bit and you may have other reading to get on with: Because I still buy Amazon ebooks and own a kindle I do have that bias - and I have this weakness for ebooks priced under $5. Doesn't mean I completely love/trust Amazon - in fact I'm more often critical of them. But I also don't think I know enough about publishers' motivations either, so I don't really have a side on Amazon vs Hachette.]
Because of my buying habits I don't think I'll ever be the model consumer that publishers or authors want - at least not until I bought an ereader. Before I bought an ereader I purchased most of my books at used book stores. In that scenario publishers/writers never make any money off me. But when the used book price is beating the new paper (and/or the ebook prices!) by a vast amount - especially when that book was published 5+ years ago - at that point I draw the line. I'm perfectly willing to wait years to get a low enough price (so authors get a share) - but if prices don't go down at that point I feel I've given them a shot, and I can turn to the used option without guilt. And yes, I really do wait years for some books. Seriously. I always have - because hardbacks are more expensive than paperbacks, and paperbacks once could take ages to come out.
I'd actually never have purchased an ereader at the prices the hardware was originally selling for. It wasn't until Amazon's kindle had been out for over a year, and at amazingly low prices, that I felt it was a good risk. (I'm never an early adopter - I always read reviews and blogs and ponder for months.) With an ereader I had a way to purchase the book which would give some of the money to the authors. I didn't have to worry about books filing my shelves - but I also didn't have books that I could resell to the used bookstore. What kept me buying anyway was Amazon's repeated sale prices, and because I could track specific books I was actually purchasing what I wanted on sale. As opposed to just buying whatever was on sale and hoping it was good. This actually meant I'd end up buying more, since the books were ones I'd wanted for some time.
[On ereaderIQ I'm currently tracking 1300 books and 96 authors - but some of them I've been tracking at least 3 yrs and the prices haven't changed. It's constantly something I find strange - that Amazon doesn't have a service like this and that ereaderIQ is responsible for so many of my purchases.]
So, about Hachette versus Amazon. The weird thing has been reading - outside booklikes, mostly in blog posts and editorials written by authors - suggesting that readers somehow need to take a stand against Amazon in this. Which seems odd, because authors and publishers aren't what I think of as consumer/reader advocates. In fact, in this fight I don't see anyone representing my needs or wants as a reader - it's not really about the consumer when two companies negotiate like this.
Author John Scalzi at his blog Whatever has an interesting take since he works with multiple publishers:
"...Publishing is a business. As a writer, you are enaging in business with others, sometimes including large corporations. It’s not a team sport. It’s not an arena where there are “sides.” There’s no “either/or” choice one has to make, either with the businesses one works with or how one publishes one’s work. Anyone who simplifies it down to that sort of construct either doesn’t understand the business or is actively disingenuous, and isn’t doing you any favors regardless. The “side” you should be on is your own (and, if you choose, that of other authors)."
So where does this put me as far as the Hachette vs Amazon thing? I distrust both of them equally! I probably have more concerns about Amazon, but I think that has more to do with its size than any of the other publishers having superior ethics. But I also have no idea how anything they're deciding now will relate to me the consumer.
Here's what I'm doing:
1) Following the story in various news and blogs. So far it's all been about press releases and educated guesses from those in the business about what's really going on - in other words, we don't have all the facts. But it's not one of those situations where you quickly learn the facts - two companies are negotiating. Normally you never hear about it at all and none of the players are allowed to talk about it. That this is partly being fought as a PR battle makes me extra skeptical about the situation.
[Dear Author has great links to various media in their Publishing News posts, updated daily on busy news weeks.]
2) I'm starting to look at my own data to decipher which publishers are involved in Amazon sales - and specifically who I'm purchasing from. (Though not knowing exactly who sets the prices or agrees to join in on the sales - publisher or author or?) I've made up a spreadsheet which I'm slowly filling with my ebook purchases over the past year, just to try and get a measure of which publishing companies are actually taking part. (If I get really serious about it I'll fish through my ereaderIQ list and see which books have sat there without ever going on sale that I'd happily have purchased - just not at $12 or higher.)
I got the idea of doing this from someone's blog (which I now forget, sorry!) where they pointed out that people knew their favorite authors - they usually don't have favorite publishing houses or remember which one their favorite author belongs to. At which point I realized that I had no clue which publishers I regularly bought from - even after getting refunds from at least two after the price fixing hooha.
Anyway, know that I am nodding my head as I read many posts about "again, Amazon is doing something crappy" - I appreciate people calling that stuff out, and I do think it should continue. The only reason I'm not chiming in is well, yeah, I still shop there, and I don't want to seem hypocritical. And in the particular matter of Hachette vs Amazon - I don't feel like I know the particulars so I can't tell if there's really someone being taken advantage of or if this is business as usual and two corporations just trying to appear better for PR reasons.
In the meantime I'm going to keep reading the news and trying to figure out what's going on. My thought is that at least they haven't messed things up more than the music industry did during/after the introduction of mp3s. Though I suppose there's always time?