Amazon 給 Kindle Direct Publishing 作者的公開信

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八月九日,我收到了來自 Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing的一封信件,裡頭說明Amazon堅持要降低電子書售價的原因,並且希望KDP作者能夠協助向Hachette請願,請他們願意接受電子書低價化的做法,並且不要以作者作為籌碼。

雖然這封信與台灣在地出版市場沒有太大的關係,但不妨作為參考。

要是你覺得不夠,或者不瞭解脈絡,John Siracusa在2009年寫的《電子書的過去與未來》這篇文章也值得一讀。

親愛的KDP作者,

於第二次世界大戰期間,一項根本性的革新動搖了書籍出版的基礎。那就是平裝書。當時,一張電影票只要10或20美分,但一本書卻要2.5美元。但新的平裝書,只要25美分 — — 足足便宜了十倍。讀者喜歡平裝書,第一年就賣出了好幾百萬本。

書能變得如此便宜,且能讓更多人能買得起並閱讀,你應該會覺得文學界在那時應該鼓舞慶幸平裝書的發明,是吧?實際上沒有。反過來,他們茆起勁地空轉。他們認為這些低價的平裝書將會摧毀出版文化,對產業帶來傷害(但不提他們自己的銀行賬戶)。許多書店拒絕進貨,所以早期的平裝書出版商只能用上非常規的發行手段 — — 例如送到書報攤與雜貨店去賣。名作家喬治・歐威爾公開對平裝書表示意見:「要是出版商還有些常識,就應該集合起來抵制它們。」是的,歐威爾就是暗指私下勾結。

好吧⋯⋯歷史不會重演,但有著他自己的節奏。

讓我們回到現在,開始輪到電子書遭受文學界的抵制了。Amazon與Hachette — — 一家美國的出版巨頭,隸屬於有著百億美金資本的媒體集團 — — 正站在產業的中流、抵制著電子書。我們希望降低電子書的價格。但Hachette不想。許多電子書以介於美金14.99元到19.99元間的售價販賣。 對於電子書而言,這價格不合理地高。一本電子書不需要印刷、也不會印太多、更不需要預測銷量、也不會被退書,也不會因為缺貨而造成損失,不需倉儲成本、沒有運輸成本,更不會有二級市場 — — 電子書不能以二手書的方式再次賣出。電子書可以、也應該更為便宜。

這也許反映的歐威爾數十年前的老暗示,Hachette與其對手們非法勾結提高電子書售價的作為,已經被逮著了。到目前為止,他們已經付出了1.66億美元的罰金與賠償金。與對手聯合抬價不僅違法,同時還是對Hachette讀者的極端不尊重。

在產業巨頭的眼裡,降低電子書售價就等同於「書的貶值」,而且會傷害「文藝界」。他們錯了。就像是平裝書便宜上個十倍都沒有摧毀書籍文化一樣,電子書也不會。反過來說,平裝書最終振興了出版產業,並且使其更為強大。這也會發生在電子書上頭。

產業中的重言反覆經常把市場框架畫得太小。他們認為書只能與書競爭。但實際上,書現在要與遊戲、電視、電影、Facebook、部落格、免費新聞網站以及更多的對手競爭。如果我們希望能健康的閱讀文化,我們應該更努力地確保書能夠真正地具備與其他媒體對抗的實力,讓書更便宜,也是其中需要努力的重點。

此外,電子書的價格非常有彈性。這代表,當價格降低,消費者會買得更多。我們已經透過許多作品一再地確認過電子書的價格彈性。當一本定價為14.99美元的電子書降價到9.99美元時,將會多賣出1.74倍。舉個範例,假設一本定價14.99美元的電子書賣出十萬本,那麼當這本書降價為9.99美元時,將會賣出十七萬四千本。 定價14.99美元時,銷售額是149萬9千美元。而定價為9.99美元時,銷售額是173萬8千美元。這裡需要注意的重點是,降低售價對於所有人來說都是件好事:消費者少付33%,而作者獲得的版稅將會增加16%,讀者更增加了74%。這顯然地會把餅做大。

但當一件事以相同的做法做了很長的一段時間,抵制改變就像是反射性的本能一般,維持現狀的巨大利益難以動搖。歐威爾抵制平裝書時沒提過這狀況 — — 但他顯然錯了。

作者在這議題上也不團結,儘管你覺得有些人會。作家協會最近寫了一篇名為「Amazon與Hachette的爭執,正在分化作者」(這篇文章後面的回應更值得一讀)。另一群矛頭指向Hachette的作者發起名為「停止降價、工資正常化」的連署,獲得了7600人支持。還有更多的文章與討論獲得作者與讀者的讚賞,支持我們降低價格並且建立健康閱讀文化的努力。David Gaughran最近所做的一篇採訪也值得一讀。

我們發現作者希望遠離這些大公司間的紛爭。有些人建議我們「談談罷了」。我們試過了。Hachette花了三個月的時間抵制,只有在我們採取行動降低他們的書於我們店裡的銷售時,才開始勉勉強強地開始理解我們的想法。從那時起Amazon提出了三個不同的提案給Hachette,讓作者不要夾在中間。首先我們提出,我們(Amazon與Hachette)共同承擔爭議期間作者的版稅。 然後我們建議,作者應該在這段爭議其中,應該獲得他們作品100%的收益。最後我們建議,如果Amazon與Hachetter的部分營收能夠捐到慈善組織,我們就能回到正常的商業運作,但是Hachette以及他們的母公司Lagardere一再立即地拒絕了這些提案,儘管電子書收益僅佔他們整體收益的1%,他們可以簡單地決定這麼做。他們相信把他們的作者夾在中間可以獲得相當的好處。

我們絕對不會停止對電子書價格合理化的作為。我們知道讓書變得更為實惠,對於書籍文化來說有益。我們需要你的支持。你可以寄信給Hachette,並且寄副本給我們。

Hachette的CEO, Michael Pietsch: [email protected]

副本請寄到:[email protected]

信中請包括以下幾點:

我們已經注意到你們的非法勾結。請不要再把力氣花在提高電子書的售價上。它們可以、也應該賣得更便宜的。
降低電子書售價對閱讀文化有益而無傷,就像平裝書一樣。
請停止以你的作者作為談判籌碼,並且接受Amazon的提案,讓他們不要夾在中間。
如果你自己也是作者:請提醒請他們作者在這件事上並不團結。
謝謝你的協助。

Amazon圖書團隊。

 

英文版如下:

 

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if 「publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.」 Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will 「devalue books」 and hurt 「Arts and Letters.」 They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: 「Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors」 (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled 「Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,」 garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we 「just talk.」 We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: [email protected]

Copy us at: [email protected]

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

【此文章刊載於POT.HK;標題:Amazon 給 Kindle Direct Publishing 作者的公開信