Newsflash: Amazon is a Business

They are not anyone’s friend.  They are not soft and cuddly.  They are a business.  (That doesn’t make them bad, by the way, it just makes them a business.)

Why am I mentioning this today?  Because today the arbitrarily-set-by-Amazon-as-they-see-fit borrow rate for books in KDP Select was announced for October.  And, shock of all shocks, the amount was less than last month.  Again.

It’s quite the topic of conversation on one of the boards I lurk.  And I could jump into the thread there and debate this ad naseum with the folks there, but I don’t see the point in wasting that kind of energy when I can post about it here.

Was I surprised by the drop in the borrow rate?  No.  Not at all.

Why?  Because it’s what I’d do if I were running their business.  And I’d keep dropping it.  So, I won’t be the least bit surprised if it drops again next month and the month after and the month after.

They’re not going to drop it all at once, because yikes!  The sky would fall, the world would end.  But slowly?  Sure.  Let authors see those increasing borrows and get hooked in to staying.  Let new authors enter the market and go exclusive for three months.

And slowly, slowly let the payout drop.  (That whole bonus added at the end of the month?  C’mon.  Really?  Like they can’t project potential borrows going into the month and have to almost double the amount of the pool because they were surprised.  No.  It’s expectation setting.)

So, yeah, not a surprise to me.  Now, the reason I decided to post at all was a comment someone made over there about how the low borrow rate was because of the scammers.  Like Amazon decided to pay everyone less because of some folks who’ve managed to put up some fake crap and take advantage of KU.


I have a compliance and controls background.  I’ve spent most of the last decade dealing with large corporations and helping them comply with their regulations. What I learned from that was this: It’s always a business decision.

How much a company spends and where it spends that money is a business decision.

If Amazon wanted to get rid of the scammers abusing the KU borrows, they could do it.  Easily.  Hire some minimum wage workers to open each new KU-enrolled book and see if it’s scammy.  How hard is that?  Not at all.

(It’s quite possible they’re busting those books left and right and in seven weeks’ time when the payout happens those guys won’t receive a penny for those books.)

Don’t want to hire folks?  Write a program that scans for repeat words or phrases or blank pages or whatever it is.

If Amazon wanted to, they could stop the scammers rather than ding all the indies on their payouts.

Amazon could pay authors more for borrows, but it’s not worth it to them to do so.

They are a business.  And their business is far more than supporting the indie publishing movement.

See, this is the thing about self-publishing that I don’t think all self-pubbers get:  Each indie is running a business.

Amazon is just one business that can sell the product they offer.  As are any number of other platforms.

Amazon is not their business partner.  Amazon is not their financial backer.  Amazon has no vested interest in the success of their business.  In the success of indie publishers as a whole?  Yeah, maybe.  (As long as indie publishers bring them more than they cost them.)

In one indie in particular?  Nope.  Not at all.

What Amazon knows is that so many people are jumping into indie publishing that it doesn’t matter if they lose a few authors now.  Ten will replace them tomorrow.  And those ten will take what they’re given.  And when they jump ship, another ten will replace them.

The indies that survive the next five years are the ones that treat their writing as a business enterprise and realize that Amazon is a business, not their friend.  (And not their foe.  Just a business acting in its own best interests.)

(And why, as I wrote this did I keep thinking Wal-Mart over and over and over again?)


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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