Does Amazon exploit authors?
For self-published authors, Amazon has the annoying habit of giving a little with one hand, and then very soon after, taking away an awful lot more with the other. In the very early days of Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon gave self-published authors a wonderful new platform to expose and sell their work. Yet soon, after this initial period of ‘absolute bliss‘, when authors made some money, and Amazon filled up their coffers with mountains of ebook content to drive Kindle device sales, Amazon decided to demand exclusivity in return for access to their new ebook marketing tools.
These KDP Select marketing tools, however, turned out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing, as all of them involved lowering the price of ebooks. Five day periods of giving ebooks away for free and countdown deals that lowered the price of ebooks over a period of a week were never designed to increase author earnings. They were designed to sell Kindle devices. Yet, so many self-published authors signed away their rights to sell their ebooks elsewhere, and worse, cheered Amazon for such a wonderful initiative.
Then came Kindle Unlimited, a new subscription service that of course is only available to authors who are exclusively published with Amazon. As the New York Times reports here, Amazon Offers All-You-Can-Eat Books. Authors Turn Up Noses, highlights how Amazon have changed the rules once again, and this time, definitely to the detriment of authors who have signed up for Amazon exclusivity.
There is only one conclusion that I can come to, after witnessing Amazon gradually lower the value of ebooks over the last five years. It is that self-published authors are merely Amazon’s loss-leading search content providers, who have been exploited by Amazon as a means to support not only profitable Kindle device sales but also as an entry point to Amazon as a whole, thus delivering steady customer traffic and sales to Amazon.
Does Amazon exploit authors? Yes.
This, of course, was always the plan.