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Amazon Is An Evil Sith Lord, and Other Dumb Arguments Against Doing Business With Amazon With Authors United’s debate recitation coming up on Wednesday, this week promises to have an excess of "evil Amazon is evil" whining, and David Lieder is getting a head start on the competition.

Writing over at The Writer’s Workshop, this David Streitfeld wannabe reaches into the depths of his ADS* to argue that authors should not not deal directly with Amazon.

So I want to argue that authors should avoid Amazon Kindle, ACX and Create Space, and explain why I recommend that authors use other distributors, except for allowing your books to trickle back onto the Amazon platform after the fact (from another propagator, such as Smashwords, Ingram-Spark, even Book Baby). I want to explain why I teach authors to boycott Amazon ACX (audiobook production) and to replace Create Space with the much better choice of Ingram-Spark (which has print books available to authors at about half the price of Create Space).

Apparently Lieder is a believer in what I am calling the condom theory, which goes something like this: So long as you wear a condom, you’re not technically having sex with your partner. (Yes, it is a dumb theory, but it’s his theory and his arguments, not mine).

To put it another way, this pint-sized Melville House thinks it is okay to do business with what he sees as evil so long as you have an intermediary in between. In his mind, you’re not dealing with the devil if you use a distributor who deals with the devil on your behalf.

I could explain why Lieder’s arguments are wrong, and point out the factual errors, half-truths, and arrant nonsense in his piece, but I have already lost several brain cells reading that piece and I do not wish to expend any additional brain cells arguing the point.

So let me simply list a few:

  • Discredited Argument: The fact that some Amazon ex-employees say it’s common for employees to break down crying because the pressures and attitudes across the board as a company are oppressive.
  • Factual Error: The biggest defense of Kindle has been authors singing praises about the library program. The authors make money off the library program. So here is yet one more example of an artificial business. Because authors usually are NOT making money from the library. They make money because Amazon artificially funds the library, which is a fake form of propping it up, and if Amazon stops doing this, authors will make nothing.
  • Irrelevant Half-Truth: Because Kindle is terrible with graphics, most Kindle owners have black-and-white devices and nobody expects ePubs on Kindle to be pretty. Contrast that with the high quality screens of most Android tablets, and the Retina display of Apple devices and the fact that our ePubs on Apple can be large file size and beautiful, retaining all the graphic quality.
  • Irrelevant and Misunderstood Detail: Apple is literally the most valuable public company in the world with the highest market cap of any existing company out there. This translates into stability, when you consider their pragmatic approach to nearly everything.

The problem with his main point is that using a distributor rather than KDP will cost authors money and control.  Sometimes authors have to do it (banking reasons, for example) but as a general rule one should avoid giving up control and missing out revenue.

Rather than arguing one should avoid doing business with Amazon at all, this bush league Salon writer wants authors to make a token gesture of defiance while at the same time fails to adequately explain why authors should take a hit on their income but still do business with Amazon.

Now, if Lieder had argued that one should not do business with the evil Amazon, that would be one thing.

Shunning an evil company is a sound ethical position, but it is also a position no one would take seriously in the current indie publishing scene.

So instead Doug Preston’s clone decided to argue for the pansy-assed position that authors should use a distributor, and he used the opportunity to spew all sorts of nonsense in the hopes that you wouldn’t notice the propaganda.

And somehow I got suckered into wasting 700 words ranting about him.


P.S. ADS stands for Amazon Derangement Syndrome, the nickname given to the condition where someone’s hatred of Amazon is warping their judgement Lieder is the perfect example.

image by Håkan Dahlström

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Darryl January 24, 2016 um 8:42 pm

Nate. I’ve just read the article. I thought we had reached rock bottom with the New York Times and Authors United efforts, but this little effort reaches a new low. It is ridden with fundamental misunderstandings, factual errors and opinions which seem to be based on sheer malice and little else. If this article was a self-published book on Amazon it would be comparable to the internet marketing trash books which he described whilst grossly exaggerating their role at the beginning of KDP. I would venture the comment that this "author" has never escaped his background as an "internet marketer".

Mackay Bell January 24, 2016 um 9:46 pm

Even more to the point, the guy, as best as I can tell, hasn’t PUBLISHED anything. Or anything of note.

The only book listed with him as an author on Amazon is a print only wedding music planning guide which is currently unavailable.

Despite him touting Apple and iBooks, he has nothing listed for sale there. What does he know about selling books on iBooks? What does he know about formatting graphics for iPads or Kindles?

His website says that he is releasing a new book series… on Nov. 1, 2015. No links to where it is on sale. It’s not in Amazon or on iBooks.

Those who can’t, teach. Right? Doesn’t seem like he has ANY writing or publishing experience worth sharing.

So who is this guy? His bio lists him as a white hat hacker, journalist and other vague business experience. He has a website promoting a service to help writers. It claims he once had a #1 book on Amazon selling 20,000 downloads a day. What book? The wedding music one?

So, given his complete lack of real publishing or writing experience, why is he attacking Amazon? Why is he recommending going through aggregators when there is no evidence he has done so.

One possibility is he is just taking an outrageous position to get attention. (You wrote 700 words on him.)

Another possibility is he is part of the traditional publishing spin machine which is still trying to work people up against Amazon. That would seem to make the most sense, given that he repeats the classic Amazon Fear-O-Matic talking points:

There is a fantasy out there in the big publishing world that the long term way to destroy self-publishing is to force writers to go through new middle men to get their stuff published. Then the corporations can do what they do best, buy up the middle men. Clearly, in the internet age, it’s going to be impossible to put the self-publishing genie back into the bottle. But if every self-publisher opts (and eventually is forced) to go through a middle player who takes a cut, that’s a great way for corporations to take control of self-publishing and profit from it. Then hopefully they can shift it into a ghetto to marginalize it so they can go back to promoting their own darlings.

So, contrary to his advice, I think it’s extremely important for indy writers, whenever possible to work directly with distributors. That goes for Amazon, and also for Apple.

Anne January 24, 2016 um 9:46 pm

It’s like Streitfeld and Philip Elmer-DeWitt had a baby and baby is trying to out tantrum the parents. I get that you may not like Amazon but citing both incorrect and incoherent arguments are not the way to get credibility with me.

I was really surprised and disappointed to see that the link went to the Writers' Workshop but Harry did try to temper the diatribe to some extent.

Nate Hoffelder January 24, 2016 um 10:02 pm

@ Anne

Harry invited me to post a rebuttal. I’m planning to, but I wanted to rant a little first and get this out of my system.

Anne January 25, 2016 um 1:33 am


I look forward to the rebuttal. I fully understand the need to rant first. I just reread the post and am doing some ranting myself. I hate that he was given any time or space.

Timothy Wilhoit January 25, 2016 um 4:52 am

Cool picture. An impossibly crooked house. How is it done? Turn the camera so that a San Francisco hilly street looks level, then the house is crooked. Excellent illustration of ADS, "the nickname given to the condition where someone’s hatred of Amazon is warping their judgement." Very clever. Streitfield is ever-so-adept at "turning the camera."

Darryl January 25, 2016 um 5:32 am

@Anne. I’m disappointed that this person was given the time of day. Mackay Bell is spot-on. I too took the trouble to Google him and what I came up with is plenty of talk and a real shortage of facts. I posted a comment on Writer’s Workshop asking a few questions of him. I am not holding my breath for a responsive reply.

@Nate. I feel sorry for you having to do a rebuttal of so much garbage. Perhaps you should outsource it by posting to Mobileread. I can think of a few people other than myself who will be so incensed they will not be ablt to help but spend a bit of time on it.

Steve Vernon January 25, 2016 um 5:57 am

I’m still trying to figure out if Amazon is a wussy-assed priss-pot milquetoast Sith Lord like Kylo Ren or is Amazon more along the lines of a bad-assed choke-you-out-in-thin-mid-air Darth Vader?

Damn it, Nate, you have to be more specific!

Nate Hoffelder February 4, 2016 um 10:54 am

Bezos is Vader, I think.

David Haywood Young January 25, 2016 um 2:38 pm

Feel better? Maybe he’ll post a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger sort of response. Those are always fun.

Elizabeth Pappas January 25, 2016 um 3:02 pm

Interesting article but it would have been better if you didn’t get into personal abuse and name calling. Lowers the tone and just makes you appear silly. Good points get lost in the abuse.

S. J. Pajonas January 26, 2016 um 9:54 am

@Mackay Bell, Perhaps he wrote something under a pen name? I don’t know, but with his current credentials, I agree this guy has no credentials for an article like this!

@Nate, Thanks again for ranting and rebuttals of this nonsense!

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