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Monday News: Hachette V. Amazon plus a dash of plagiarism

So how is Amazon making the ebook business not worth pursuing? They are doing it by discounting so aggressively that the value of the book business for ebook retailers is so miniscule that it doesn’t even raise the eyebrows of the major tech companies. While the book business is big, why even bother with it if the profit margins are so small as to not even move the needle? Your time is better spent focusing on video games with in-app purchases, among many other things. –Jake Kerr via Medium

But Orwell then went on to undermine Amazon’s argument much more effectively than Hachette ever has. “It is of course a great mistake to imagine that cheap books are good for the book trade,” he wrote. “Actually it is just the other way about … The cheaper books become, the less money is spent on books.”

Instead of buying two expensive books, he says, the consumer will buy two cheap books and then use the rest of his money to go to the movies. “This is an advantage from the reader’s point of view and doesn’t hurt trade as a whole, but for the publisher, the compositor, the author and the bookseller, it is a disaster,” Orwell wrote. –New York Times

Pietsch insists that Hachette is “negotiating in good faith”, a point that Amazon has disputed in the past (in the leaked letter), and then he goes on to make the bogus historical claim that paperbacks were originally “not intended to replace hardbacks but to create a new format available later, at a lower price”. That’s not at all true, but to be fair Amazon also played fast and loose with the early history of the paperback book. –The Digital Reader

I will start by saying that nothing we do or say is 100% original. Even some exact combination of some of the words I write here have probably been written somewhere, by someone, in the vastness of history and time. –Shey Stahl

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. Ros
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 04:15:56

    The thing I’m struggling with re. Hachette/Amazon is why they think public opinion matters so much in the negotiation. They’re wasting so much time and effort trying to win people round to either side of the argument, which they both seem to be trying to categorise as ‘Is Amazon good or bad?’ Which is a weird question and mostly irrelevant to their contract negotiations, as far as I can see. I just still can’t see why anyone who isn’t a Hachette author, or an Amazon or Lagardere shareholder thinks this matters to them at all.

  2. Ros
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 04:17:55

    Also, I can’t download the Shey Stahl document. Don’t know if it’s just my computer, but it can’t recognise the file type and doesn’t know what program to use.

  3. wikkidsexycool
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 06:41:55

    Shey Stahl is just , . . there are no words.
    “I will start by saying that nothing we do or say is 100% original. Even some exact combination of some of the words I write here have probably been written somewhere, by someone, in the vastness of history and time. –Shey Stahl”

    Yeah, I just threw up a little in my mouth when I read that.
    Her “new” book premise has plot points that are so similar to the one I posted last year for the Wattpad contest, (as well as on my blog) that when I release it, I’m gonna have to put up a disclaimer of some sort in order to cover myself.

    This is the problem with someone who’s been caught red handed at plagiarism, especially someone who’d trolled the internet to copy and paste. I’m all for giving people a second chance, and it’s my understanding that a premise or storyline can’t be copyrighted, but i’d prefer not to be connected to Stahl in any way, shape or form.

  4. Robin/Janet
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 07:02:52

    @Ros: I can’t find any kind of post to accompany the uploaded document, but you should be able to find it to either view or download (it’s a PDF) if you Google “shey stahl dear readers back in September.” Or if that doesn’t work, Jane tweeted the link a few months ago, as well:

  5. Lostshadows
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 08:51:02

    Given the rest of today’s news, I’m kind of amused that my tablet decided the kindle app was the best place to open the Shey Stahl document.

  6. azteclady
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 08:58:00

    I couldn’t get past the first page–of eight!–of excuses, justifications and shifting of blame.

  7. Ros
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 09:08:46

    @Robin/Janet: Got it, thanks.

  8. Elizabeth McCoy
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 09:19:48

    @Ros: Amazon has always had a tendency to respond to great public outcry, un-bricking Kindles, restoring books to the shelves, etc. (Though in the “Space Marine” incident, it probably didn’t hurt that EFF lawyers went “ahem” at them.) They want customers to have a warm, fuzzy, trusting feeling about them, and when authors (some with large online followings) start complaining that their sales are impacted…

    Well, they start doing things like letting J.K. Rowling’s next book be pre-ordered after all, or other appeals to the authors. (I’m not positive of the timeline of the various appeals, though; seeing how they correlate to author-with-large-following complaints might be worth poking at?) Basically, they don’t want people to get in the habit of shopping anywhere else for anything, or of mass-influence authors actually getting people to shop somewhere else.

    Or so I speculate. But this premise means it’s very logical for Hachette to take things public (to shame Amazon, who cannot stand public shame) and/or logical for Amazon to take their “no, we’re good” PR spin public to counter the author-complaints.

    What’s not logical is asking to be copied on complaints (not to mention outing someone’s business email to the spam-bots while only exposing a throwaway email address of their own), which gives me Orwellian shivers of “Big Brother Wants To Know If You Are Doing What We Say.” I’m just waiting to hear if someone gets delisted over Not Emailing. All that Orwell reference in the letter, I guess. >_>

  9. AlexaB
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 10:50:55

    Re: Amazon/Hachette, I’d just point out that:

    1) Amazon’s bizarre screed seemed motivated more by a desire to counter the “Authors United” ad that appeared in the Sunday New York Times than anything else.

    2) From what I can tell (and I could be wrong), Amazon’s email appeared to mostly go out to KDP authors. I didn’t get one as an Amazon consumer, even though I’m enrolled in Prime and spend $$$ on books every month. The email I did see had the subject heading of “An Important Kindle Request” and was addressed to “Dear KDP Author.” Because self-published authors have such a stake in the Hachette negotiations?!? Amazon views self-published authors as unpaid foot soldiers who will jump to their commands?! I still don’t get that logic.

    3) IMO, Hachette had no choice but to respond; Amazon maneuvered them into it by asking people to spam the CEO’s inbox. It’s bad corporate manners not to have some sort of acknowledgement email when letters of complaint are sent.

  10. Sunita
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 11:37:44

    @AlexaB: I have seen a number of reports of non-KDP authors receiving the email. I didn’t get it either, but I have my Amazon account set to no mail (other than receipts). The non-authors who received the letter, and the authors whose non-author emails received the letter, also got the “Dear KDP author” salutation. So it sounds as if it was a mess-up all around. It doesn’t obviously benefit KDP authors to have trad publishing books at lower prices, at least it wouldn’t seem to, and most readers aren’t interested in getting in a Goliath v. Goliath fight. So it’s hard to understand who the target audience for this letter drive was supposed to be.

  11. Sirius
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 13:52:19

    I did not get the email either, but wasn’t Amazon keeping quiet about the negotiations for months till Hatchette took it public in the first place? It sounds like this email was a stupid move on Amazon’s part, but they did not start going to the public I think?

  12. Cynthia Sax
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 14:14:26

    I really don’t understand plagiarism, not in fiction. Yes, we all borrow a little bit from each other (I have a list of alternative words for thrust that I’ve borrowed from reading other erotic romance writers’ works) but to borrow chunks of scenes? Wouldn’t that be obvious?

    Every writer’s voice is so different. The rhythms and words we use are unique. Wouldn’t stealing another writer’s scene and sticking it in our stories be like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole?

    My writing is distinctly mine (i.e. it is quirky as h*ll). I worry more about plagiarizing myself than plagiarizing other writers.

  13. wikkidsexycool
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 16:21:21

    @Cynthia Sax:

    You’d think it would be easy to spot, but as I’ve now had to research plagiarism, there was an author by the name of Cassie Edwards who got away with copying and pasting reference materials in many of her romance books for quite a while. Reading some of the examples of her copy and paste jobs, she’d go from a Native American speaking in stilted dialect, to a human encyclopedia.

    I think there’s some old posts on here about Edwards, because when I Googled her name Dear Author came up.

    Then there was “Amazing Broken?” ” Beautifully Broken?” I can’t recall which title, but it had copy and pasted sections from Tamara Webber’s book and another author’s very popular NA adult. I was made aware of it on this site, and I think when confronted the author stated he/she used a ghost writer who must’ve conned him/her.

    Again, I think the thread is still on Dear Author. In short, Cassie Edwards old books (as well as others who’ve had to take some books down from Amazon) are still selling, and new readers may be none the wiser.

  14. Shelagh Watkins
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 17:19:33

    “This is an advantage from the reader’s point of view and doesn’t hurt trade as a whole, but for the publisher, the compositor, the author and the bookseller, it is a disaster,”

    Was Orwell right? Was it the death of the paperback? Did readers take advantage of the cheap softbacks with disastrous consequences for publishing and booksellers?

  15. Carolyn
    Aug 11, 2014 @ 22:42:29

    She may or may not be a plagiarist, I have no way of knowing. But plagiarist or not, threatening her daughter and making so many nasty, nasty remarks is NOT okay.

    Nobody liked/s the Goodread bullies for doing the same thing that’s being done to this woman. And frankly, that quote seems designed to incite.

  16. Helen
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 07:10:13

    I agree that sending threats over plagiarism is way over the line, but you do have ways of knowing that she is a plagiarist.

    It’s very well documented. There’s a lot of proof out there.

  17. Ros
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 07:15:43

    @Helen: That’s a link to the evidence that Cassie Edwards is a plagiarist, not Shey Stahl. I’m pretty sure there is also well-documented evidence re. Stahl somewhere, though.

  18. Cynthia Sax
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 07:21:10

    @Carolyn: Unfortunately, writers get these types of threats ALL the time. I receive at least one death threat via email every week (as my stories reach more readers, I receive more of these threats). There are some unwell people in the world and they tend to gravitate toward known personalities.

    It is one of the reasons I believe EVERY writer/blogger/reviewer should use a pen name.

  19. Jennifer
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 15:00:59

    @Sunita. The first I heard any rumblings about the Amazon/Hachette feud was when Amazon started delaying shipments on Hachette titles and their recommendation feature was showing books from other publishers at a lower price. So, I do think Amazon fired the first shot and made it public. When people started asking questions, that is when Hachette came out about the negotiations.

  20. Jennifer
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 15:08:52

  21. MrsJoseph
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 15:19:32

    @Carolyn: “Goodreads Bullies”? Well, that’s a term I only see from STGRB cyber terrorists. Who are these bullies, pray tell?

    But I do agree – one should never send another death threats.

    But “quote designed to incite?” I don’t agree – but I do know it’s illegal to plagiarize.

  22. azteclady
    Aug 12, 2014 @ 22:40:18

    @Carolyn: Your comment is the first thing I hear about threats and the like, though I’m not surprised–and I’m pretty sure that the people who first brought up the plagiarism have suffered as much. Remember the treatment SBCandy and SBSarah got at the hands of all those Cassie Edwards’ fans, and the old guard of the “if you don’t have something nice to say” and “it’s between the plagiarist and her victims, not for public consumption” arguments? I do. And we have seen the same phenomenon happen time and again, each time a plagiarist who’s manage to build even a minimal fan base is exposed for his/her thievery.

    I am absolutely not advocating treating anyone the way the STGRB’s sorry excuses for humanity wanted reviewers to be treated. I do not think this woman should be doxxed, and wonder at the moral compass of anyone threatening her daughter (the sins of the fathers/mothers? really, in 2014?). But the quote is something this woman wrote–if it’s designed to incite, then Ms Stahl knows how to shoot herself in the foot.

  23. Viridian
    Aug 13, 2014 @ 18:35:05

    Am I the only one here who thinks the “threats” she’s complaining about are bullshit?

    She’s a caught liar and a confirmed plagiarist. Now, in an essay about how she’s really the victim, she claims she’s been stalked, her daughter victimized, her e-mail inbox full of death threats.

    I’ve read the comment section on goodreads. It’s completely tame, just people complaining about how shameful plagiarism is and expressing sympathy for the authors Stahl stole from. I haven’t seen anything cruel on facebook, either. Seriously. I’m sure she’s received some impolite e-mails, but I seriously doubt it’s the firestorm she claims.

    I called someone out for plagiarism on an online forum, once. A fanfiction author stole an essay on depression and used it in a post as if it were her own. I wasn’t even mean about it. I just pointed it out, gave evidence, and told her it was shameful that she would so blatantly steal such a personal, heartfelt essay.

    Know what she did? She claimed she was being bullied, being harassed, being threatened. She claimed she had received private messages with rape threats, messages telling her to kill herself. Meanwhile, everyone on the forum was being polite and neutral, even expressing sympathy for her. No one even cared that much.

    So when Shey Stahl says people keep e-mailing her death threats… no, I don’t believe her. And I’m not giving her an ounce of sympathy.

    Maybe I’m just jaded, but she’s clearly just pandering for sympathy.

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