Buck You, Fezos

It took me three weeks to resolve a straightforward problem with an e-book on the Kindle store last month: There was some confusion at Amazon as to whether or not Camille Mauclair was truly dead, or if he might still be knocking around Paris and entitled to a cut of my profits. It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

Things were sorted out eventually, but during those three weeks the title was removed from Amazon’s catalogue of e-books. That’s three weeks it was hidden from the eyes of potential buyers. All seven of them, probably, mais quand même. The whole business left me wondering if it was wise to cede so much control to a third party, especially to a third party where this kind of bureaucratic torpor walks hand in hand with treachery and deceit.

Then there’s the Kindle payment scale, which is beyond my understanding. Why is it, exactly, that I should only receive a 35% royalty in Brazil, India, Japan, and Mexico but earn 70% everywhere else? I can find no clear answer to the question. My solution was to raise the price of Kindle books in those regions to compensate, but this is obviously unfair to readers in those countries. My production and delivery costs do not vary geographically. It’s a bloody e-book, not timber.

What’s more, I share Cory Doctorow’s dislike of monopolies and rentiers. I believe people should be free to download and read their e-books on whatever platform or device they please.

So, I’ve decided to stop selling e-books on Amazon and make them available on the Obolus Press web site instead. It is now possible to buy and download each title directly as a PDF. If you use a verified PayPal account to make the purchase, the order should be filled immediately by PayHip.

To deter piracy the buyer’s personal information is stamped — unobtrusively — at the top of each page but the files do not contain any Digital Rights Management (DRM) security measures. The PDF is a facsimile of the paper book, complete with the same illustrations, page numbers, and index if there is one. The electronic text can be searched and copied, and readers may print as much as they like for their personal, private use. Visit the catalogue to download the first few pages of any book to see what it looks like.

While I do have some experience coding ePubs, I deliberately chose to sell the books as PDFs because even the luddiest of Luddites can manage to download and open one. Grumpy old men are one of my most important target markets. I’m one myself, so I should know what they like.

Nothing changes as far as paperbacks and hardcovers are concerned, since my distributor will still make Obolus Press titles widely available — even to Bezos’ behemoth.

Henry Bataille, Portrait de Camille Mauclair (c. 1895)
Henry Bataille, Portrait de Camille Mauclair (c. 1895)
He looks quite young here, but I assure you he’s quite dead now.