Amazon / Hachette: What You Aren't Being Told By Best-Selling Authors about the Online Retailer's Dispute with a Major Book Publisher


This Oct. 17th, 2014 CBS report leaves the impression that Hachette authors are being "strangled" and can't sell their books. 

That's misleading. 

They can. 

Walmart, Barnes & Noble and many other outlets are selling Hachette books. 

Yes, one big online retailer, Amazon, has reached an impasse with Hachette: 

Amazon has refused to sell Hachette ebooks for $14.99 or $19.99 - the price points that Hachette wants. 

But why should a famous author like Doug Preston - explaining in an annoyingly patronizing way that ebooks aren't toasters - win this one? 

If Amazon doesn't want to carry Hachette books at Hachette's price point - shouldn't that be their right? 

In fact, Doug Preston's assertion that ebooks aren't toasters kinda supports Amazon's argument: 

Ebooks can be profitably sold in large numbers at $9.99 precisely because - unlike physical items like toasters or Old World books - there are "no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs” etc. 

In my view, Stephen King, Doug Preston, John Grisham et al are on the wrong side of the First Amendment, antitrust law and the history of commerce and technology. 

I understand why they want higher prices for their ebooks... but forcing Amazon to sell their ebooks for more than Amazon wants? 

Consider how, in Congressional debate back on April 8th, 1890, Senator George Hoar, an author of the Sherman Antitrust Act, made an argument that suggests why an even-more-dominant-that-it-already-is Amazon (a monopsony?) insisting on a $9.99 price point for all ebooks probably would not be considered a monopoly: "[A person] who merely by superior skill and the whole business because nobody could do it as well as he could was not a monopolist… [but was if] it involved something like the use of means which made it impossible for other persons to engage in fair competition." 

In other words, as long as there are other outlets for Mr. Preston's books, his complaints about Amazon's treatment of Hachette authors don't amount to a violation of law or, in my view, a compelling argument that free expression or the rights of authors to be fairly compensated for their work have been infringed.

Hero's Journey Homework for Pitching and Development Class Due Oct. 23rd, 2014

For our next class:

1) Pick a product

2) Identify a representative member of the target audience for that product

3) Write a short Hero's Journey story about that member of that audience

The goal of this assignment is to write a short spreadable message that stars a member of your product's target audience - using the template of the Hero's Journey.

The story you write (an outline will be fine - but please use the approved heading format and type your written work) should be like a logline, in that it needs a clearly identified character with a strong desire and an obstacle to achieving their goal.

In your story, the central character should follow the pattern of the Hero's Journey - a story about a character who travels out of their Ordinary World after a Call to Adventure and achieves great deeds - confronting an obstacle (often by traveling into the "Inmost Cave") to achieve a goal and Return with a Boon.  

Ideally, the character's goal should be something shared by other members of that character's cohort.

For example, if your target audience is older men seeking to lose weight, perhaps your story will be about an older man trying to be attractive or to still be relevant and youthful - like the Uncle Drew video we watched in class:

Or if your target audience is young male yuppies trying to do the right environmental thing, perhaps your protagonist goes to Central America to save the rain forest as in the "Follow The Frog" video we watched:

The idea of this assignment is simply to get familiar with another tool that is used in Hollywood - the Hero's Journey template - by using it to help in designing a story about a hero overcoming some obstacle and returning with a boon.

To help you with this assignment, here is a link to a slideshare about the Hero's Journey

And, to add a note of caution, here's a link to a takedown of the overuse of the Hero's Journey in Hollywood.

So You Two Dig Up Dinosaurs?

Jeff Goldblum's laugh from Jurassic Park was undeniably epic.

The video above is by MrTabarnaco2 built around an audio remix by Mikey Disorio (aka FlipShot). 

The sheet music below represents a transcription of the original (unremixed version from the film) by Evan Kent

Netflix Stock Crashes: Competition From HBO and Missed New Subscriber Goals Erase $7 Billion in Value in After-Hours Trading

On October 15th, 2014 Netflix stock took a pounding - losing around 25% of the company's value in after-hours trading.

When we look back, we may some day fondly remember that it was Netflix that convinced millions of us that our home movie behaviors could change (to rent by mail and then to streaming). But if the recent Netflix-Adam Sandler deal suggests the quality of future Netflix exclusives - the competitive advantage that Netflix has enjoyed (from being the first and only) may be coming to an end. For a couple of years now I've been asking whether competitors with deep pockets - like HBO (and Google and Amazon, where the revenue model is advertising and retail sales, not just subscriptions) - might start offering better viewing choices online. With HBO announcing they will be offering studio films and HBO exclusives online (for a reasonable online-only subscription price?), and other quality content in the pipeline from Amazon (free with my Amazon Prime account - that also gives me free shipping for everyday purchases), will it still make sense to pay over $100 a year for a Netflix subscription?

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.