Why “OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems” is not in Amazon’s Kindle store

I expect folks to ask this, so here’s a pre-emptive blog post.

You can get OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems for Kindle direct from me at Tilted Windmill Press or at Gumroad. You can get a Kindle-friendly ebook from any number of other retailers, but while they’re all supposed to be DRM-free I can’t advise on prying the file out of another vendor’s ecosystem. The one place you cannot buy OMF for Kindle is Amazon’s Kindle bookstore.

TLDR: Amazon pays roughly 70% of retail price for books priced up to $9.99, and 35% for books $10 and over. Amazon is the only retailer that does this. Other retailers, I make somewhere around 65%-70% no matter the retail price. Everything follows from that math, but if you want the details read on.

According to economists, prices have gone up about 30% since I started releasing the Mastery books. According to my wallet, not so much. In 2012 I could get a cheap lunch for my wife and I for $10. I paid $18 last weekend. But let’s go with the official numbers. Just as “dime novels” now cost $10, I must raise prices. While book pricing is hotly debated, $11.99 is a reasonable price for a short tech book like OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems.

If I charge $9.99 for this ebook, I make about $7.

If I charge $11.99 for the ebook, I make about $8.40 everywhere but Amazon. At Amazon, I make $4.20. For me to make that $8.40 at Amazon, I must price the book at $23.99. I’m fond of the book, but it ain’t worth that! And if I did, giving Amazon a $15.59 slice of every sale for no reason sticks in my craw.

Charge $23.99 at Amazon and $11.99 elsewhere? Amazon’s program has a Most Favored Nation clause. They can price match any other major vendor.

Will Amazon change their business because of this? No. Authors are plentiful and of low value. I am not worth Amazon’s time.

Amazon’s business model is based on squeezing prices down, and they play a long game. I don’t expect them to ever raise that $9.99 limit. A novel might sell tens or hundreds of thousands of copies. If I’m lucky, a book like OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems might sell four thousand. The few extra bucks I’ll make by raising prices are important. That’s also why I’ve focused so hard on disintermediation through my Patronizers, sponsorships, and lately Kickstarter.

I have been expecting this for years now. I do not expect to publish future Mastery books on Amazon’s Kindle store, unless by some chance I write another very short one.

12 Replies to “Why “OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems” is not in Amazon’s Kindle store”

  1. Could you adopt the differentiation model from the consumer electronics to counter the price matching?
    You’d have two quite similar books on sale, but not exactly the same title. One on kindle, one on the other channels?

  2. @T: Likewise, your stated cause for suspicion here makes me suspicious of any information you might give.

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