Media Bias and Amazon

There is so much crap being spouted in this anti-Amazon media push that you need a nose-peg and waders to get through it all. Let’s take a look at what happened this week.

This post is from 28 June 2014. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links but the comments remain open.

Hook, Line & Sinker

Statements from either side in the Amazon-Hachette dispute have been thin on the ground. Both companies are said to have signed NDAs – restricting formal comments while negotiations are ongoing – but Hachette has been leaking to reporters, and marshaling authors and industry figures in its defense, leading to an extremely one-sided depiction of events in the media.

Which is fine, it’s a pretty standard negotiation tactic, and a clever one if media conglomerates like Bertelsmann (part-owner of Penguin Random House), CBS (owner of Simon & Schuster), and NewsCorp (owner of HarperCollins and Harlequin) are rooting for your team.

What concerns me is that media outlets – even those not in the same corporate family as those publishers with a vested interest in the outcome – are taking the Hachette leaks as the complete and unvarnished truth.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Amazon is demanding payment for pre-orders and other facilities and services it previously provided to Hachette for free. This story was leaked by “someone involved on the Hachette side of the negotiations, who is under orders not to discuss them and asked not to be named.”

Then this Guardian story – New Amazon terms amount to ‘assisted suicide’ for book industry, experts claim – got a lot of traction on Thursday. It was primarily based on a piece in The Bookseller on Wednesday (the editor of which is the “expert(s)” in the Guardian headline). That article was wholly based on leaks from publishers, none of which were treated to any skepticism or critical analysis.

Does anyone see the problem here?

Reporters are supposed to aim for some kind of objectivity (or be open about their subjectivity), but that’s not happening here at all. The only attempt at balance has been to ask Amazon for comment. Naturally, Amazon has refused as it’s currently restricted from commenting because of those NDAs.

This leaves a reporter with two choices: run the unbalanced piece as is, or attempt some critical analysis on their own. I’m not a reporter, but I can think of any number of scenarios where Amazon could be asking for an increased percentage of e-book sales, or wants to start charging for pre-orders, which doesn’t mean that the world is ending and Jeff Bezos eats babies.

Here are two plausible scenarios.

I haven’t seen any such critical analysis of these Hachette leaks because most of the media coverage of this dispute seems to start with the premise that Amazon is Evil and then works from there. I have no problem with Amazon being subjected to scrutiny. It should be subjected to scrutiny! What I have an issue with is large publishers not being subjected to any scrutiny whatsoever, even for the most abhorrent behavior.

This lack of scrutiny seems to have created an underlying assumption in media reports that publishers are trying to do the right thing, and Amazon is an amoral (or immoral) corporation which will happily burn down the book business if it means it can sell razor-blades more efficiently.

Pro Amazon?

Amazon is such a hot-button issue that even when you write a piece asking for patience before jumping to conclusions, that’s painted as a “pro-Amazon” post – which says a lot about the people making such designations. For whatever reason, their views on Amazon are so one-sided that they are incapable of seeing any nuance.

For the record, I’m neither pro-Amazon or anti-Amazon. I have a reasonably positive disposition towards them as a customer and as a supplier because its actions have tended to be pro-reader (e.g. reducing prices) and pro-author (e.g. paying 70%, creating a more level playing field than other retailers).

But I also know that Amazon is a business and a (very) large corporation and will ultimately only look out for itself – like all corporations do, which is their fiduciary duty to their shareholders. I have had no problem criticizing Amazon in the past when I felt it deserved it (e.g. the dumb, regressive Whispernet Surcharge or the worrying precedent of non-fixed payments in KDP Select).

So I don’t blindly “trust” Amazon (whatever that means). I adopt the appropriate level of skepticism to all companies in the fetid swamp that is publishing and, increasingly, to news reports on the business too.

Amazon and Tax

It’s amazing what can happen when you start to question the anti-Amazon talking points in the media (which I suspect is the result of the astroturfing that publishers admitted to engaging to in January).

Let’s take the issue of Amazon and tax, for example, which is a recurring story in the media. I actually have some sympathy with Amazon’s critics on this issue. But it’s far more complex than it has been presented by journalists who have consistently reported this in an inaccurate and unhelpful way.

I’m going to focus on corporation tax specifically because I think that’s the real issue here and the one that newspapers, politicians, and the public seem to focus on.

It’s common for reports to state that Amazon generated X in revenue and only paid Y in tax. This is not how corporation tax works. Corporation tax is levied on profits. Amazon doesn’t make that much profit because it reinvests most of its money in aggressive expansion.

Doing so isn’t a tax dodge. Indeed, given the current economic climate, we should be encouraging companies like Amazon who reinvest in expansion, as opposed to companies like Apple who are sitting on a giant pile of cash and not doing very much with it (except not bringing it home where it might be properly taxed).

That misunderstanding of corporation tax aside, Amazon stands accused of using various corporate structures to minimize its tax bill further – and that’s what I want to look at in detail, because there is a case to answer here.

I have no problem with anyone organizing a boycott against Amazon on these grounds. But to be consistent, you would also have to boycott Google, IBM, Pfizer, Microsoft, General Electric, Facebook, Apple, Starbucks, Yahoo, Oracle, Johnson & Johnson, Adobe, and U2.

The corporate structures in question take various forms, but the most popular are the Double Irish and the Dutch Sandwich (usually used in conjunction with each other). This tax reduction approach was pioneered by Apple in the 1980s and quickly became popular among tech companies before spreading into other industries.

The recently announced EU investigation into Irish corporate tax affairs is starting with Apple (plus Starbucks & Fiat), but it would be a huge surprise if it stopped there because the above list of companies is just the tip of the iceberg.

A truly consistent and non-hypocritical boycott would include avoiding virtually all tech companies and most large, international companies who all use a variety of “creative” ways to reduce their effective tax rate to near-zero.

I’m not saying we should do nothing. I think large companies should pay their fair share. But I think tackling this issue requires coordinated inter-governmental action to truly stamp out this practice – otherwise it’s going to keep moving from one jurisdiction to another.

On a personal level, I’m embarrassed by my own government for (a) being a prime mover in this whole system, (b) lying about it, and (c) hiring expensive lawyers to fight the investigation after they were caught (when the country is completely broke and the healthcare system is falling apart).

I get that people want to do something about this issue, but I respectfully submit that targeting Amazon or any of the companies above is pointless. They aren’t breaking any laws. These are legal loopholes, often specifically created for the companies by the governments in question to attract foreign investment. (Note: the EU investigation is to see whether certain countries broke EU rules with regard to state aid, not whether any of the companies have broken the law.)

I would also respectfully suggest that if you genuinely want to do something about this, write to your local politician and explain how this system works because many of them simply don’t know. The complexity of the structures, and the inaccuracy of the reporting, allows the respective governments to be extremely disingenuous with their statements. Point your local politician to the articles linked to above.

In other words, if you want to do something about, then actually do something about it. But it’s a pretty dumb reason to bash Amazon or organize boycotts targeting Amazon exclusively.

And while we’re on the topic, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if large publishers used the same tactics to reduce their own tax bills, especially given that Harlequin used similar corporate structures to reduce e-book royalty rates it paid certain writers on older contracts from 50% to 3-4%.

The difference between Harlequin’s behavior and Amazon’s (and the other companies named above) is that Harlequin may have actually broken the law with this sleight of hand. It’s currently the subject of a class action suit by the affected writers. Indeed, I should note that the Plaintiffs claim that Harlequin’s Swiss subsidiary was “created for tax purposes.”

The exposure in this suit – which was reinstated in May – is said to be a key reason why Harlequin’s former owner, Torstar, suddenly sold the company to HarperCollins.

Penguin Random House has its own class action to deal with of course, and one of its parent companies, Pearson – which owns 49% of PRH – has had its own tax troubles in the past which led them to paying $7.7m in a settlement with the New York Attorney General in December last year.

None of that got much play in the news media – which also gave the respective publishers a pass (including Hachette) for illegally colluding to fix the price of e-books. I guess it doesn’t fit the “Publisher Good, Amazon Bad” narrative.

Writers should be a little more careful before jumping on the bandwagon.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

115 Replies to “Media Bias and Amazon”

  1. While this is an interesting discussion of “money” issues around self-publishing and traditionally published authors, just let me say as a self-published author of over a dozen novels, I made my novels available to have readers. You know, those people who like a good novel? I price my work at .99 so I’m hardly getting rich at Amazon; usually KDP select borrowing pays more for loaning my ebooks. Frankly, I don’t need the money but I do love having readers. I had several books published via the traditional route, and was not impressed. So I feel indebted to Amazon for the great program they have developed for self-published authors. What I sense by all the lawsuits is that traditional publishers just can’t admit they aren’t the ONLY game in town when it comes to authors. So be it, they will have to adjust.

    1. Cara what lawsuits are you referring to? There is no lawsuit between Amazon and Hachette, at least not yet. The Big 5 publishers have never been the only game in town. There are probably another 1000 publishers that are smaller with some being good sized as well like us at Kensington. There was also Harlequin, Workman, Source Books and many others. Then you had pretty good sized romance digital publishers like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain and others.

  2. I believe the original question was regarding media bias and their lack of ‘transparency’ involving Big Publishing? Simple, there are no longer journalists, only columnists. With opinions shaping everything they write, these folks are literally in bed with Big Pub. Seriously, in bed – as in being married to authors/editors/agents/etc. They are used car salesmen, nothing more.

  3. I greatly appreciate your interesting and well-researched blog. What do you think about the wages Amazon pays to its workers? That is the main reason I feel uncomfortable buying from them at the moment. Your point about taxes being an issue for so many big companies is pertinent. Amazon is convenient, but until they pay their workers a fair wage I will continue to avoid them. I’d love to be able to do the same for any unethical company, but can only react to what I hear about. I try to avoid big businesses and support small local ones instead, but I doubt it’s possible do so entirely while living a semi-normal life.

    1. I’m glad you brought this up, but let’s get into specifics. In the UK, Amazon pay around 20% above the average for comparable jobs. I know that here in the Czech Republic, when they started hiring last April for a new warehouse, the pay was well above average too. I don’t really understand the campaign to raise Amazon wages when they pay more than the average for comparable jobs. If you want to start a campaign that all warehouse workers should get more pay, or that the minimum wage in the UK should increase (especially in London, where it’s so so expensive), I’d happily sign up. But targeting Amazon specifically on the issue of warehouse worker pay is a little odd (IMO). But I’m happy hear your further thoughts and debate the issue further.

      1. Yeah that campaign might be well intentioned but is totally wrong-headed in my view. As I said, they pay significantly higher than the average. And these guys aren’t comparing apples with apples. If you compare the cost of living where the Amazon distro centres are located to the wages, it’s infinitely more favorable than, say, entry-level publishing jobs in London (let alone the interns), and definitely more favorable than other warehouse work. They also pay lots more than something like Watersones, if you want to make that comparison.

        So, yeah.

  4. The bias was really bad last night, on CNBC’s “Amazon Rising” tv documentary. They made Amazon look like a bully, and they interviewed poor James Patterson, who lost so much money from Amazon. And Hachette said the same… I wonder how bad their sales would be WITHOUT Amazon?

    1. James Patterson is getting a lot of headlines (and free advertising) from his campaign to donate money to indie bookstores. But he might be doing them a greater service if he actually acted on his principles and insisted that his next book isn’t sold on Amazon and is exclusively sold in indie bookstores. Over to you JP!

  5. Quote: “… but Hachette has been leaking to reporters, and marshaling authors and industry figures in its defense, leading to an extremely one-sided depiction of events in the media.”

    That’s hardly surprising. Hachette’s side is the more sympathetic one. The absence of leaks from Amazon merely hints at just how indefensible their actions are. Amazon’s not pushing for contract terms that benefit the public. They’re pushing for terms that benefit themselves and represent a loss for author and publishers, whatever their size, for other ebook retailers, and for the public at large. That’s why Amazon is being so tight-lipped. It has things to hide.

    Keep in mind that Amazon’s ultimate goal is to so dominate the ebook market that it can dictate terms not just to Hachette but to all authors and publishers. And if it wins, authors can kiss that 70% royalty slice goodbye. Amazon recently told German officials that it thinks the author/publisher cut of an ebook’s selling price should be in the 50-60% range. That’s already up to a 20% reduction. I suspect Amazon real goal is to cut the author/publisher slice down to the 35% royalty rate they already pay outside the $2.99-9.99 price range.

    If you’re an author, can you afford to see your book income drop by 50-100%? If not, then you need to take Hachette’s side in this dispute. What Amazon can do to them is what it can do to you and more.

    1. “That’s why Amazon is being so tight-lipped. It has things to hide.”

      Or maybe it is respecting the terms of the NDAs? Or maybe Amazon doesn’t own a string of newspapers, TV channels, and radio stations like Bertelsmann, NewsCorp, and CBS?

      All this fear about Amazon cutting rates in the future is completely unfounded. Just last night I got an email from KDP which said they are increasing royalty rates for qualifying sales to customers in Ireland and Gibraltar to 70%. This follows an increase in Australia and New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Monaco, Belgium, Andorra, Spain, Italy, San Marino, and Canada in the last few years.

      Royalty rates are trending up, not down. Which shoots holes your whole theory. Sorry!

      1. What were the rates before and what are they now? Were they not giving you 70% royalties in those other countries before? I’m not familiar at all with KDP foreign royalty rates. But again, I would say for almost all authors, these secondary markets have minuscule sales. Generally the biggest countries are UK, Australia, New Zealand…with India, Brazil and Germany growing. But Gibraltar and others aren’t going to pay for your dinner tonight probably.

  6. While I understand your frustration, I don’t think you’re addressing the anti-Amazon narrative at all.

    The individual contract terms and corporate leaks may be rallying points, but they’re just details. Yes, reporters prefer the details that support their view of the story. Sad but true. The point is, the anti-Amazon faction have a compelling story, and they get supporting detail for their story awfully frequently.

    The anti-Amazon faction’s story is this: Amazon is driving all competitors out of business with a combination of innovation and predatory pricing. It’s already got an iron grip on the market, and it’s only doing more and more to increase its control. Yes, these are rational, legitimate moves for a corporation to make; yes, Amazon’s success is largely attributable to absolute excellence in technology and in customer service. But these points do not detract from the final conclusion: that Amazon is in such control of the book market that they will be able to dictate whatever terms they please. It may not be today and it may not be tomorrow, but sooner or later, Amazon will be squeezing everyone dry – trad publishers, trad authors, and indies alike. In the meantime, we’ve got a tragedy of the commons – it’s in everybody’s long-term best interest for Amazon not to remain uncontested, but in the short-term, going with Amazon is the path to profit and success.

    It’s a narrative that can certainly be argued against. Certainly trad publishers and retailers can have very similar charges leveled against them. Certainly Amazon has revolutionized bookselling and publishing in ways that are amazingly beneficial to readers and authors, and certainly the stubbornness of trad publishers is to blame for how lopsided the market has grown. All that being said – yes, this still expresses my big fear about Amazon: that they’ll only be amazing and author-friendly and customer-friendly up until the point they no longer need to be.

    Now, the Hatchette leaks support that narrative to a T – and seem to be a watershed point in Amazon’s “tough squeeze” tactics. Where previous terms may have been seen as mutually beneficial, if only publishers were bold enough to move forward, the leaked terms do seem downright harmful to publishers – handing print-on-demand over to Amazon, or the Most-Favored-Nation clause that would make it even harder for trad publishers to foster any kind of competition against Amazon. Yes, these terms should be taken with a grain of salt; yes, we only have an anonymous Hatchette-based leak as a source; yes, even if they *are* terms being negotiated over, that doesn’t mean they’ll actually be accepted.

    But that isn’t really the point. People concerned about Amazon don’t really care if Amazon puts on the squeeze today, or if they wait until tomorrow. I don’t know *what* terms are actually being negotiated, but either it’s *something* big enough to keep Hatchette balking for months on end, or else Hatchette is *really* committed to sabotaging negotiations in order to fuel the media blitz. The second seems like a conspiracy theory, and the first has enough supporting detail to make it seem plausible. So, yes. You get a lot of media coverage that hews to the anti-Amazon narrative. And a lot of the reason for that is that (a) the media sucks, and (b) the anti-Amazon narrative has a lot more reportable detail than the “Hey, maybe Amazon *won’t* abuse its control over the market!” camp.

    Expecting reporters to wait until they have all the facts is not how media works, certainly not nowadays. Reporters find out what they can, and work with that. Reporters are opinionated, and that colors their writing to a tremendous extent. But also, saying “Wait, don’t venture any opinions on ((X)) until you know everything about ((X))” is not a reasonable expectation (most particularly when it’s unlikely that Amazon will be providing more details any time soon).

    Disagree with the anti-Amazon bias? Great; so do I. You’ve written several terrific articles explaining that. But that bias is still riding on fear, and that fear is hardly unfounded. In this essay, all you’re saying is, “Wow, a lot of people still have that anti-Amazon bias I disagree with.” Yes, yes they do. And you’ve said nothing here about why they shouldn’t. “Wait and see” is little comfort here.

    1. I may not have addressed the details of the anti-Amazon narrative specifically in this post because it was about Media Bias not the details of whatever they are pushing this week. If you go back through my posts, I have covered the topics in exhaustive detail on numerous occasions over the last couple of years.

      Anyway a few points…

      1. Amazon is not driving anyone out of business with “predatory pricing.” As the e-book price-fixing trial conclusively showed, Amazon never made a loss on e-books as a whole. It might discount certain titles, some of them aggresively, but overall it made a profit on e-books. Also, since the settlement with the price-fixing publishers, Amazon is constrained by the court from making such a loss on each publisher’s list as a whole. So “predatory pricing” isn’t even possible, even though Amazon has never shown a desire to do so.

      2. I totally agree that it’s infinitely more desirable to have several retailers with significant shares of the market. I don’t think anyone argues otherwise. What I disagree with is that this should be achieved through some sort of governmental intervention, or anything else artificial like price-fixing. No-one should have a diving right to, say, 20% of the market just because we prefer Amazon to have competition. In fact, I think that will achieve the opposite of what everyone wants – less competition, rather than more.

      3. If Amazon suddenly slashes royalty rates, they will be doing (a) the opposite of what made them so successful and (b) creating an opportunity for someone else. Bezo’s supposed motto is “your margin is my opportunity” so why would he create a fat margin/opporunity for a competitor? It goes against everything Amazon has done so far.

      4. Amazon has actually increased royalty rates in at least 16 different countries in the last three years, so they are trending up, not down.

      1. Point 3 reminded me of Drew Sandholm’s flight of fancy over at CNBC
        He claims Amazon is eventually going to push ebook prices down to zero. I think Mark would suddenly find himself very busy if that ever happened. Not to mention the guys at Google. I can just imagine the scene in their boardroom.
        ‘ Were gonna take a break from ruining Youtube for a few months and see if we can’t dominate the ebook market by offering 80 percent royalties. ‘
        There’s always another gorilla, lurking in the closet…

    2. David I would say that predatory pricing has definitely occurred. It doesn’t have to be on every book but if it’s done on major bestsellers how is another store expected to compete that doesn’t have the deep pockets of Amazon? How can an independent store, which I’d expect you to want to support, possible compete if Amazon or any other retailer is selling a book at cost or below cost? I remember when Amazon was selling one of our major author’s hardcovers for $1.99 and the DLP was probably closer to $12.00….so they were losing money on every book sold; substantial money because probably 30,000 copies were sold in those few days.

      1. Steven: “I remember when Amazon was selling one of our major author’s hardcovers for $1.99 and the DLP was probably closer to $12.00….so they were losing money on every book sold; ”

        And yet you were making a bundle as presumably was your author since you were collecting the full wholesale price. ALL stores engage in loss-leaders to get people interested in other items or to promote a particular author that results in higher sales down the road at higher prices. This notion that Amazon intends to suicidally cut all prices has no evidence backing it up and can only be described as wishful thinking on the part of publishers since it would lead to their demise.

        No one is forcing Hachette to sell through Amazon and I wish they would just shut up and sell their books elsewhere. They have a multitude of options. If the Big 5 really want to support physical bookstores, put their money where their mouths are and just not sell through Amazon. Problem is that selling through bookstores means they are really selling their wares on commission given the return system, a mechanism that has to be one of the most inefficient ever created. I bet your return rate from Amazon is negligible, unlike returns from physical bookstores. No wonder they can sell cheaper.

      2. ecwo, Amazon is a very efficient seller because they don’t order many copies of a title. They then fill in their demand by ordering from book jobbers or even sometimes by resorted to print on demand. This is their choice.
        Yes the publisher would be making a bundle in the above scenario but that doesn’t make it right for the retailer to do. They’re able to do this on most of the bestsellers, sell them very near cost or at a loss even, because they have an enormous bank account. An indie store can’t do this. Apparently you don’t want indie bookstores to succeed which is kind of surprising to me.
        Hachette hasn’t said anything publicly so I don’t know why you’re saying they should shut up. There have been presumable leaks on both sides but nothing factual. Actually independent bookstores have very high sell thru rates as well. It’s other big accounts that aren’t as efficient.

  7. I think the publishing industry changed before Amazon. There are far fewer small independent presses now. The opportunities for new authors within traditional publishing has decreased. I am grateful for Amazon’s platform for providing authors a vehicle to publish their work themselves.

    1. Well, yes it did. The wave of consolidation that shaped the industry today started back in the 1990s when the Big 6 came into existence after gobbling up a number of competitors. Many of the negative trends we see today can be traced back to then: fewer independently operated imprints/houses for authors to sell their work to, worsening contract terms, toothless reversion clauses, decreasing advances, falling digital royalty rates, decreased marketing, less risk being taken in general, decisions made by sales and marketing teams instead of editors, etc. etc.

    2. If Amazon wants to raise author royalties to 75% that’s great for self published authors. I can’t criticize that. 70% is great too. Obviously this is the case because no traditional or ebook publisher that I know of is offering anywhere near these rates.

    1. Hi Mark – Can’t we flip this though? If the pessimists are right and Amazon is going to slash royalty rates in the future, then doesn’t this create a big fat margin-shaped opportunity for an Amazon competitor? I should also note that Amazon has only ever increased royalties. First in America, and then in 16 countries worldwide over the last three years (two new ones last night: Gibraltar and Ireland).

      1. David, what about them cutting the royalty rate on audio rights? And just our of curiosity, how many copies are you selling in Gibraltar? I know how many copies as a company we sell in most of these foreign countries and it’s very small other than the UK, Australia and a few others.

      2. I don’t get separate figures for Gibraltar but I’d imagine it’s negligible. Ireland however is a big market for me. I don’t know about the average self-publisher, but I sell well in Ireland (I’m from there).

        Ireland is a little behind of the UK in terms of switching to digital (I’d guess it’s roughly at the level of Germany). Population of the Republic of Ireland is around 4.5m but we buy more books per capita than the US so it really is a decent-sized market. Amazon doubling the royalty rates for that market is genuinely good news for me personally. I don’t know if the average self-publisher will notice the difference – maybe I sell more there because I’m Irish – but I will.

        Audio is a totally different market and I don’t think you can read anything good or bad into the book side based on whatever happens there. FWIW, I criticized that royalty cut.

        Here’s a thought experiment for you Steven. What would your reaction be if Amazon raised self-publishers’ royalty rates to 75%? I’m guessing you would have something negative to say about that.

  8. David, it is great to have a champion of critical thinking (and someone willing to do serious research) following these issues. Thanks for another well-reasoned and informative post

  9. Thank goodness you take a rational, level headed approach to these issues. I have to say, I was gravely disappointed to see some of favorite writers jumping on the bandwagon in support of Hachette – that was a pity. However, I am grateful that you have taken the time to write this article and share it with the rest of us; it is balanced, and that is what is needed here.

  10. It’s nice of Steven Zacharius to rebut every comment on this thread. Especially since he does it at random, haphazardly strewing them throughout the thread.

  11. I do believe that eventually, in the near future, we will be seeing changes to the royalty system for indie publishing with Amazon. The question for authors will be how life-changing will those changes be? And by “life-changing” I mean the author’s writing life. Will authors be forced to charge more for eBooks? Will authors even wish to continue writing if the investment brings back so little? If the cuts are not beneficial, I would consider no longer writing or publishing. Not worth it. Too many books and competition in an increasingly shrinking reader pool. Work harder to get noticed and sell one book in order to get less back for all the work? It takes me a year or longer to write a book. Take away the pennies I already get from indie publishing and I’m outta here.

  12. “Writers should be a little more careful before jumping on the bandwagon.”

    I would amend that writers should actually think, before jumping on the bandwagon.

    Thanks for the great post!

  13. “…you would also have to boycott Google, IBM, Pfizer, Microsoft, General Electric, Facebook, Apple, Starbucks, Yahoo, Oracle, Johnson & Johnson, Adobe, and U2.”

    A good list, amigo, but I’m afraid you missed the biggest fish of all: IKEA.

    “In total, these two [IKEA-owned] groups suffered tax bills of a mere €19m in 2004 on their combined profits of €553m. Clearly, the Kamprad family pays the same meticulous attention to tax avoidance as IKEA does to low prices in its stores.”

  14. By the way, in answer to your first comment about journalism….there is a third choice. They could just cover the facts as they are occurring now and wait for the outcome before trying to second guess which side is doing what and which side is the bad guy versus the good guy.

      1. For example there was no reply available to Evans grandmother being able to comment better than I do.

      2. Yeah, WordPress tends to cut of the reply button at a certain level. If it didn’t, the comments would keep shifting to the right and run right off the page.
        I’m afraid you might be in for a tough time in this thread, Steven. You didn’t make many fans in the indie community with your stated desire for an indie ghetto at Amazon.
        I understand the business reasons behind that desire, so I don’t feel any animosity toward you, but I still believe we should all have to compete on a level playing field.

      3. I have no problem competing on a level playing field. I’ve said many times that I support indie publishing. There will be many writers who come to us from indie publishing.

    1. Well, yes. I’d prefer if they stuck to the facts and kept the opining to the opinion pages, but those barriers fell down in journalism a long time ago. My issue with the coverage as it stands is that a lot of the speculation is completely one-sided. I’ve laid out a couple of plausible scenarios that don’t mean Amazon is trying to burn down the book business, and I don’t see any of those teased out in the media.

  15. I love unbiased comments like “close to the terrible rates publishers pay”. I guess we’re doing the old 25% of net receipts is terrible, even though there may have been an enormous advance paid up front. This is a tiring discussion to go over and over, yet again.
    Let me add that Amazon wouldn’t have to lose money on agency. No one is forcing them to discount the price of books. They are doing it so that they can gain marketshare. You don’t think they’d rather charge the higher rate?

      1. For those authors with track records that support increasing advances they absolutely increase. In most cases on subsequent contracts advances do increase.

    1. You appear to have a publisher’s perspective on the correct percentage for ebook royalties.

      But another publisher, Martin Shepard of Permanent Press, is either more knowledgable than you are, or more honest. He writes that his house splits ebook revenue with writers on a 50-50 basis, because ebooks have “virtually no production costs.”


      And of course, the percent of royalty has NOTHING to do with the amount of an advance. An advance is a function of expected sales; royalties — as a percent — are only made if the book actually sells. Conflating the two is either disingenuous on your part, or another example of ignorance.

      Don’t bullshit us. We know more than you think we do, and we possibly even know more than you do.

      1. Yes I do have a publisher’s perspective since I am one. I can assure you that I don’t bullshit, I’m honest and I do know what I’m talking about. I’ve been around book publishing my entire life and I am CEO of the last remaining large privately owned mass market publishing company in the country. This will be my last reply to you since you have no idea how to have a constructive conversation. I’m not putting down indie publishing at all but you continue to just trash everything I’m telling you from my perspective. I’m sure there are some people who enjoy you doing that but I would like to think that most readers would rather see an open dialog between a publisher and writers. ebook royalty rates in publishing ended up at a standard of 25% of net receipts. They didn’t start that way…they were all over the place. There’s still a wide range available. You mentioned Permanent Press but I don’t know if you were talking about a digital only book or a book that received an advance. We too offer higher advances for our digital only lines. Royalty rates may change in the future; time will tell. There are more things to consider other than what a book costs to manufacture. The manufacturing costs has zero bearing on the royalty rate. We have to look at all of our costs including overhead and determine how the company is going to make money on the book. You then back your way into a royalty rate that works.

      2. After rereading your post, I have to acknowledge the possibility that your reading comprehension is not great.

        To clarify once again, I was talking about a fair split on digital revenue for authors and publishers, meaning ebook royalty rates. I was not talking about the advance, which is a non-issue in this context. As I said, by conflating the two, I think you are either being disingenuous or ignorant.

        I mentioned a publisher who offers a 50-50 split on ebook ROYALTIES because he thinks that is most fair for both sides.

        And yet in your would-be rebuttal to that, you wrote “We too offer higher ADVANCES for our digital only lines.”

        Would you like to try that again?

    2. Well, it’s 25% of net, which is 17.5% of the cover price. Either way it’s a lot less than 70% and Amazon would have to do a hell of a lot of cutting to get near trad rates – which is what my point was. Whether you or I think 17.5% is terrible or not is beside the point.

  16. In terms of B&N not discounting the books that has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with them losing money in their Nook business, which was just split from the rest of the company, and trying to sell the books at a price where they can make a profit. They can’t afford to pay the publisher 12.00 and sell it for 6.00. They don’t have the deep pockets of some of the other retailers.

    1. It’s very easy to believe they *are* colluding to fix prices today, because we know for a fact that they colluded to fix prices in the past. Furthermore, we know how intimately they communicate about prices and how they can work together. After all, we have the emails they sent to each other.

      For example, on Thursday, March 4, 2010, Penguin CEO David Shanks wrote to Steve Riggio, CEO of B&N, to ask for a mean-spirited favor concerning the pricing of his competitor’s books [“be equally brutal”], noting that “you know that we are working with your guys to come up with a formula where all of our accounts will be able to have the same prices [i.e., “fix prices”] on our ebooks.”

      Steve Riggio of B&N replied: “You are vitally important to us. I will call you Monday.”


      The legal evidence is that big publishers and B&N send each other emails at all hours of the day and night regarding pricing concerns, breathlessly assuring themselves of each other’s importance like high school sweethearts. [“Penguin is looking out for B&N’s welfare,” Shanks notes in the email, asking for the same from B&N in return.] And yet despite that legal evidence, you’re telling us that nothing like that is even possibly going on now, and that B&N is merely acting in its own self-interest.

      No offense, Steven, but I think you’re bullshitting us again.

  17. Another great contribution, David. I linked this in a discussion on LinkedIn.

    Amazon, like all large corporations, does whatever it can to reduce its corporate tax obligation, and I cannot attest to what games it plays, but reinvestment and expansion do not work as tax dodges. With some exceptions (such as accelerated depreciation and incentives for certain kinds of investments, like solar), corporate reinvestment comes strictly out of after-tax profits, so Amazon’s expansion strategies do not reduce their taxes.

    –Larry Constantine (pen name, Lior Samson)

  18. I learned long ago that reporters are no better, no more objective than the rest of us. They typically begin their research on a story with an anticipated perspective and look for evidence to support that perspective rather than to write a truly objective piece. I have been involved in far too many things behind the scenes that made it into the newspaper — and seen how horribly wrong reporters get the basic facts — to have much faith in their ability to actually do what they are supposed to do — report.

  19. I hate to burst your bubble, David, but if American journalism was ever devoted to the truth and objective reporting, then it was for a short period of time and then they all had a few drinks and got over it quickly. What we have today are a bunch of lazy, gossip-mongers with an idealist agenda to bring “enlightment” to the unwashed masses and to slay the dragon du jour to win kudos from their friends and attention (in the form of fame and fortune) from the elites. American journalism is an embarrassment. If it had any sense of shame at all, they’d all be slinking out of the light with their tails tucked.

    Not one article in this whole brouhaha that I’ve seen mentions what was happening in the book industry pre-Amazon. I think I’ve seen exactly one that describes what the publishers did to their own distribution channels that enabled chains like B&N and Borders to dominate the retail markets. I never see articles about how the publishers game the best seller systems or bully independent book stores or abuse authors. I haven’t seen any opinion pieces about what might happen to the industry should Hachette (and the Big5) get their way with Amazon (it would get ugly fast and I sure hope the likes of Turow and Patterson have a back up plan). Trashing Amazon is a game, the prize being praise and attention from publishing elites. The agenda? Personally, I think it’s no more than nasty snobbery. The unwashed masses with their romance novels and insistence on low prices–how dare those ingrates object to their betters telling them what to read and how much to pay for the privilege. And oh my god, Amazon even lets those semi-literate apes write reviews!

    Keep plugging away, David. You’re ten times better the investigative journalist than any knucklehead who writes for the NYT.

      1. I don’t know what Jaye is referring to either, but maybe it’s some of the stuff that went on in the 1990s when B&N was the top dog/big threat and publishers did all sorts of things to smooth their path to the top (and stomp some indies on the way). One thing that springs to mind is that court case where some of the majors were found to have illegal sweetheart deals with B&N. The ABA sued (and won, if I remember right).

    1. “It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell.” Wilbur F. Storey on founding the Chicago Times in 1861.

      The days of the great muckraking journalists might be behind us, but there are plenty of fine reporters out there – and some of them are even occasionally allowed to write good stories!

      I think there are interesting parallels between journalism and publishing, and what happened to both after successive waves of corporatization and consolidation. But, in general, yeah. The lack of perspective is astounding.

      I suppose if they can’t even recall a dispute between Simon & Schuster and B&N a year ago – when books were actually not stocked on masse, rather than shipments being delayed – then there is little hope of them remembering what things were like further back.

      1. Let’s point out that I’m not a journalist and that that story was covered all over the place. It’s old news already. What does that have to do with bullying independent stores? I’m probably in the top 1% of users of Amazon, so although there may be things I don’t like; they are an amazing retailer and have forced all publishers to become more efficient. I just wish there were more competition rather than having one account being 65% of the ebook market. Alibaba is coming…maybe they’re going to want to play. And never count out Google or WalMart. WalMart is the biggest retailer. I don’t think selling books below cost helps our industry at all. It devalues an author’s content. We’re still getting paid the same no matter what they sell the book for because it’s based on the list price, but it really does devalue the author’s work….to as someone else said….the price of a candy bar…and that’s a shame.

      2. My initial comment was a reply to Jaye above.

        As to your point here, I *totally* agree that a market with several healthy competitors is preferable to one dominant entity. I disagree about the remedy (which seems to be either price-fixing, preventing Amazon from discounting, or some kind of governmental intervention). I think any of those “solutions” would actually create a kind of faux-competition, and in real terms a reduction in competition. In fact, that’s why the DOJ stated it went after this collusion – because it *reduced* competition.

        And let’s be realistic. Amazon is big but Apple is sitting on a historically huge pile of cash and can pretty much do whatever it wants. If Google wants to get serious about e-books, it could be a major competitor tomorrow. AliBaba too, and several other entities out there (Microsoft, Walmart, etc.). But Amazon shouldn’t be hamstrung just because Google isn’t really feeling like competing at the moment.

  20. David, followed your “non-fixed payments” link and found your article from 2011, with some pretty nice observations about where things would be going :

    “Amazon arouses strong feelings (in either direction). But whatever your feelings are, you need to realize that subscription models of some sort are going to play a big part in the immediate future.”

    Really shows how strongly, and consistently, you have stayed on course observing changes and trends. Now is no exception, thank you much 🙂

    1. Well, I did get Select pretty wrong at the start – in terms of how it would work for authors. I might yet be right on the bad precedent the pool-payment system sets, but (thankfully) the main subscription services don’t appear to be heading that way… so far. I’d imagine those lucrative payment terms aren’t very sustainable, so let’s see how they tighten it up, and what form it takes (and whether they really will be that popular with readers).

      1. Popular with readers they do seem to be. Sustainable? Always the question. It made me think actually 🙂 that all the current squabbles and debate is exactly about that, sustainability: whether surviving as a business, or sustaining a level the business has, as is sometimes said of people, “become accustomed to.” 🙂

        Either way, again thank you much for such a sustained consistent opp for discussion!

    2. Subscription models are an interesting test at the moment. We are working with a few of the different companies. But some publishers aren’t using them at all yet and they’re waiting to see how it all pans out. Again, it comes down to devaluing content. The subscription models are all based on a gym membership concept….have a small charge applied to your credit card each month and hopefully don’t use the service. They would lose a fortune if people started reading more than two books per month and I think they’re going to learn this, particularly in certain genres like romance and mysteries.

      1. I object to the idea that the value of content is proportional to price. That’s crap and assume we readers are complete dolts. Value comes from content and is totally unrelated to price. I’ve read some very expensive books that were nonsense and some others much cheaper that were very good. There’s a lot of assuming going on that we readers are just stupid sheep. You all may have a surprise coming.

      2. Thanks for the reply Steven. I’m not anywhere near an expert on how/why subscriptions might/will work for books. I have read some interviews with the CEOs of Scribd & Oyster, and they seem to be “very” aware of the gym membership idea, and how many and which types of readers and number of books will be sustainable. And frankly, with books like mine, you can read way more than 2 per month & they’d still make a profit 🙂

        Re devaluing content, I just haven’t had that sense, as a writer or a reader. Maybe esp more so as a reader. One of the big draws for me and my wife, for an ebook subscription service, is the same we have with Netflix: the ability to delve into unknown or mildly recommended content, because it appeals to us, try it, and see it’s worth pursuing. If we don’t like the film or book, we simply go on to try something else. We haven’t felt any devaluing or loss of capacity to enjoy quality work that appeals to either one of us.

        Ultimately, of course, time will tell. Meanwhile, I have my wriitng work in all available outlets, and am glad for any more that show up worth trying 🙂 Best wishes.

  21. If you assume that the rest of the Big 5 know what Hachette’s negotiating strategy is, the leaks serve to tip Amazon’s hand in the upcoming negogiations with the other two members of the Big 5 (S&S and HC, IIRC) who will be negotiating with Amazon as soon as the Hachette deal is done. The real fly in the ointment is Apple’s refusal to settle the case with the DoJ. As long Amazon knows that Apple will be forced to discount (which is the net effect of the current judgment), Amazon will never agree to no-discount agency.

    The Big 5 are already close to the line of collusion again and it wouldn’t take much for the DoJ to re-open the case. Leaking the details of Amazon’s positions is a risky strategy. One disgruntled (or just honest) Hachette employee could put all the Big 5 in jeopardy.

      1. Concern trolling, I don’t think so. There has already been evidence that Amazon is going to change rates to indie authors and that wasn’t my point really. They have cut the rate dramatically on audio sales, haven’t they? My point was that if Hachette is giving up more, it means less for publishers as well as authors. If you want to twist that around to indie bashing that’s your choice, but that wasn’t my point.

      2. Amazon may decrease royalty rates at some point in the future. That’s unknowable right now. What I do know is that they just increased royalty rates to 70% from 35% for sales to customers in Gibraltar and Ireland – KDP sent out an email last night. That makes 16 or 17 countries now where they have made similar increases in the last three years. Well, 20, but Japan, Brazil, and India require exclusivity on that title to get the higher rate so I’m not counting those. (I’d love to hear theories from anyone on that latter issue – why those countries?)

      3. “There has already been evidence that Amazon is going to change rates to indie authors”

        Steven, if there’s any evidence of this, please link to it. Otherwise, it’s simply FUD.

      4. Yeah, that’s definitely not evidence. Audiobooks have nothing to do with ebooks; that’s why I sell my ebook rights separately from my audio rights, right?

        This is nothing but speculation on your part, pure FUD. Go try to pass your FUD elsewhere.

    1. Why would you assume that anybody else knows what Hachette’s negotiating strategy is? As the article pointed out, I’m sure NDA’s were signed during the negotiations. Reporters and authors are all speculating as to what the negotiation is over. Furthermore, where indies are commenting that this isn’t such a big deal against the big 5, it couldn’t be further than the truth. If Amazon were to get a bigger discount, it comes out of the author’s pocket since the authors are paid on net receipts. Less to go around to everybody. And you can assume that if they’re changing the terms on their biggest accounts then it’s going to trickle down to indie authors well.

      1. This is a classic example of concern trolling. You don’t care what happens to indie authors. You have openly fantasized about indie authors getting segregated into a ghetto:

        From that piece:

        In a perfect world (okay, in my perfect world) there would be a separate section on Amazon or B& for self-published e-books, maybe even separate websites.

        You opened that article with this:

        There was a time–and not all that long ago–when self-publishing was considered nothing short of blasphemy. So-called “vanity houses” would, for a price, produce your book. The costs varied, depending on the length, whether the work had photos or illustrations; a book of poetry or a novel would run about $5,000–$7,500.

        If you were genuinely concerned about indie authors, you would have noted in that HuffPo piece that vanity houses still exist – except now they are owned by the large publishers. Penguin Random House own the largest vanity press in the world – Author Solutions – which provides white-label vanity press services for a whole host of other publishers, like Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Harlequin.

        But I’ve never seen you mention any of that.

        Back to your point. If Amazon truly is seeking a bigger percentage, I’d imagine that’s because Amazon-Hachette are switching from Agency to Wholesale. Unlike Agency, Amazon has to swallow all discounting under a Wholesale agreement, so it’s perfectly natural that they wouldn’t want Agency-like percentages. Why would they agree to a deal that was even more lucrative for Hachette than Agency, when Agency was forced on them through collusion?

        That doesn’t make any sense.

        As to what happens to indie authors in the future, I’ll worry about that *if* it happens. There has been no indication to date that Amazon intends to do so. But it may well decide to switch us to a Wholesale model too.

        Indie authors are split (the ones I’ve spoken to, at least) about whether that would be positive or negative, but it’s not necessarily negative if we have a situation where we are pricing at, say, $4.99, Amazon discounts to $2.99, and eats the discount while we do more volume at that lower price.

        Certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world. Now, if they kept our current agreements and just cut royalty rates massively, obviously that would be a huge negative. But they would have to cut hugely to get even close to the terrible rates publishers pay.

      2. I believe that the rest of the Big 5 know Hachette’s negotiating strategy because the Big 5 sent a joint letter to Judge Cote saying that they all (independently) intended to attempt to sign no-discount agency agreements with all of their ebook retail outlets. The CEO of Hachette recently confirmed that this was Hachette’s position in the Amazon negotiation. If that is the case, I would expect that B&N has already agreed to the terms that Hachette wants (B&N has publicly states that they liked the Apple deal). I checked B&N’s ebook prices for Hachette titles that could not be pre-ordered from Amazon and, lo and behold, the prices matched the old agency agreement perfectly (i.e. they met the price bands based on the print price).

        If I, random pseudonymous internet troll, can figure this out, surely the bigwigs at the other Big 5 publishers can. Six months ago, they all said they were going to do this. Last week, Hachette told the press it was doing it. And there is independently verifiable public data that supports the idea that Hachette is doing it. I suppose they could have changed their minds, Nourry could be lying, and the B&N pricing is an unfortunate coincident. But I doubt it.

      3. If you want to drag up posts that are now 7 months old, that’s fine too. I’ve been very supportive of indie publishing. I keep saying there’s no reason for the constant bashing between two sides….there is room for both to co-exist. We also publish many many authors that are hybrid. My old blog that you brought up was really about the media attention given to a select group of successful indie authors, like yourself. The point I was making that there are tens of thousands of other indie authors that don’t sell 10 copies a year but you don’t hear about that side of the business.

        I really don’t care about vanity publishing at all. If I was interested in buying Author’s House or iUniverse, we would have long before the Penguin deal was done. We looked, but I was interested. It wasn’t an area that I wanted to be involved with.

        I’m thrilled that indie authors are booming. I’m also thrilled that many of them come to us when they reach a point, if they do, that they’d like to be with a traditional publishing house.

      4. David – I think the problem people are having is one of definitions when it comes to their concerns with Amazon’s *potential* to in the future change Indie royalties and that is this word: royalty.

        While Amazon uses that word, it does not apply. They don’t own rights or bargain shelf space or use their power to push an indie to the top of the NYT. They are simply the retailer who pays me my wholesale percentage of 70% of net minus delivery. (35% of net if it is cheap by unit and they eat the delivery costs).

        This is straight up wholesale. And unlike TVs and Barbie Dolls, indie books require no warehouses, boxes, warehouse workers, complex unit tracking/delivery/resupply workers. Instead…for a very small portion of a single penny…Amazon can keep my book on a server and then charge me when anyone buys it.

        Unlike the thin margins Amazon has everywhere else, this is a profit maker for them if I had to guess. If I could get a peek at their numbers (oh, how we all wish), I’m very likely to find that they start going into the black each day by the start of the workday when it comes to indies. I further think that the pure profit Amazon gets from us helps subsidize losses on their big discounted loss leaders.

        Just my opinion.

      5. Hi Ann, there are loads of people pushing back on the use of the word “royalty” in relation to self-pub percentages at the moment – like a chorus of people with the same opinion and I haven’t been able to find the source. Has someone written a particularly convincing blog post? I’d like to read it. Anyway…

        While you may have a point in a very narrow sense, I think it’s a touch pedantic to be honest and I think using a technically more accurate term would actually be less helpful than using the word “royalty” in this context. I had this discussion on The Digital Reader blog the other day, and this is what I said there:

        If we’re going to go down that road, we should stop referring to them as “sales” too, but “I leased 8,000 copies of my book” doesn’t really have the same ring, does it?

        Authors use the term “royalties” because it serves as a useful comparison point to a traditional deal. In both cases, it’s the authors’ cut of the transaction.

        The Oxford English Dictionary defines “royalties” as “A sum paid to a patentee for the use of a patent or to an author or composer for each copy of a book sold or for each public performance of a work.”

        So self-publishers use of the term is fine. Just like it was fine when publishing appropriated it from the world of mining.

        Meaning and usage changes over the years. That’s one of the strengths of the English language. What’s the big deal?

        P.S. I should note that American tax authorities classify the payments self-publishers receive as “royalties” also so…

      6. P.P.S. Any snark in the above is unintended! I actually do know where your coming from, but I think trying to change the use of the term is (a) like trying to hold back the tide and (b) mightn’t result in what your shooting for (greater understanding)

    2. I think the next move for the DOJ might be looking at monopoly positions in the publishing rather than agency versus non-agency. You have publishing dominated with probably 95% of the books published by 5 companies, with several of them being foreign owned conglomerates as well as there being only a handful or retailers left of any size in this business. That’s not a good thing for authors, publishers or consumers. It’s less places to buy books, especially print books…it’s less places for authors who want to be traditionally published to sell their rights and eventually less competition leads to higher prices in the end.

      1. The DoJ has never been interested in agency vs. wholesale. The issue has always been the Big 5 cartel using agency to raise the retail prices of their ebooks. The Big 5 are doing it again and I expect them to get busted again. I agree that Amazon needs more competition in the book retail space. I just don’t know where it will come from. I do not think any of the suspects you name below are likely to mount a serious challenge.

        There are some things you believe that are not true. Amazon never sold very many titles below cost. The idea that selling some titles below cost devalues an author’s work is just nonsense. Believing that is costing you money. The Big 5 is feeding you (and other publishers) a load of, uh, propaganda that helps them and hurts you. Non-discountable agency pricing will put you out of business. It hides the market pricing signals smaller publishers need to respond to changing conditions and will allow the Big 5 to dominate a shrinking industry.

      2. First of all our books have always been on wholesale pricing. Amazon and others discount more than a few books. Most of the major bestsellers are sold very close to cost if not below it. We published one NYT bestselling hardcover that retailed for 21.00 in eBook, thus costing them 10.50 and they were selling it for 1.99. Most revenue comes from bestsellers.

    3. Yeah, that’s definitely not evidence. Audiobooks have nothing to do with ebooks; that’s why I sell my ebook rights separately from my audio rights, right?

      This is nothing but speculation on your part, pure FUD. Go try to pass your FUD elsewhere.

      1. I would have to say that I think the big 5 were probably more interesting in seeing their content not being devalued than raising the price. All of the publishers were still being paid based on the list price of the book so the discounting didn’t hurt their bottom line at all. They didn’t want to see the price of ebooks dropping to below cost because it would also make it harder to sell physical books. Amazon is interested in selling ebooks primarily and capturing marketshare. I can’t blame them for this….and they’re doing a good job at it. But the publishers had nothing to gain by seeing the price of ebooks going down to 9.99 when the hardcover was 26.00….it made it impossible to sell hardcovers and it has decimated the hardcover business. The bottom line is that if the publishers have less revenue coming in from all formats of the book, because the ebook price is lower; the profitability of the book is going to drop and there will then be either less money for publishers, authors or a combination of both.

      2. Those stats are from almost a year ago. The hardcover business has declined substantially. There are always irregularities in the market that can boost sales because of a couple of big titles.

      3. But even if they are almost a year old, they show something. Do you have any sources you wish to share to show a decline in the sales of hardcovers?

      4. “Those stats are from almost a year ago.”

        According to the article, those statistics are for the first eight months of 2013, including sales through August 31, 2013.

        Your response was posted on June 29, 2014.

        I know you said you’re not bullshitting us, but it might have been more correct to write “Those stats are from LESS THAN TEN MONTHS AGO.”

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