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Amazon Pulls Book Publisher's Listings; Ebook Wars Underway? 297

Posted by Soulskill
from the grab-some-popcorn dept.
As of last night, Amazon stopped listing all books from Macmillan Publishers, referring searches to other sellers instead. According to the New York Times, this is because Macmillan is one of the companies that now has an agreement to sell ebooks through Apple's new iBooks store, and asked Amazon to raise the price of their ebooks from $9.99 to $15. An industry source told the Times that the de-listing is Amazon's way of "expressing its strong disagreement" with the idea of a price hike. Gizmodo suggests this is the first volley in an Apple-Amazon ebook war. Quoting: "It feels like a repeat of the same s*** Universal Music, and later, NBC Universal pulled with iTunes, trying to counter the leverage Apple had because of iTunes' insane marketshare. Same situation here, really: Content provider wants more money/control over their content, fights with the overwhelmingly dominant, embedded service that's selling the content. Last time, everybody compromised and walked away mostly happy: Universal and NBC got more flexible pricing, iTunes got DRM-free music and more TV shows for its catalog to sell. ... The difference in this fight is that Macmillan is one of the publishers signed to deliver books for Apple's iBooks store. They have somewhere to run. And credibly. That wasn't really the case with record labels, who tried to fuel alternatives to dilute iTunes power, and failed."
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Amazon Pulls Book Publisher's Listings; Ebook Wars Underway?

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  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:15AM (#30962346)

    No comment on the technical legality of Amazon's de-listing, but it's certainly an abuse of power by conventional standards. What we might call "strong-arming." And yes, refusing to sell merchandise can be strong-arming when you're by far the dominant seller.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:33AM (#30962486)

    No comment on the technical legality of Amazon's de-listing, but it's certainly an abuse of power by conventional standards.

    No. Amazon sells eBooks for less than $10. MacMillan doesn't like that idea, and wants $15. Amazon is under no obligation to sell MacMillan's books if MacMillan won't agree to Amazon's terms.

    I don't even like the idea of a $10 eBook, much less a $15 one, so I guess I won't be buying any MacMillan eBooks either....

  • by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:34AM (#30962488)
    The thing about the kindle though is that you can still purchase or acquire ebooks outside of their store, so while it's a pain for consumers I don't think there's anything legally wrong with it.
  • by cob666 (656740) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:37AM (#30962508) Homepage
    I agree with the parent here regarding the actual viability of the iPad as a ebook reader. I read books on my tablet PC when I first got it and after a book or two I found myself not reading as much. I got my self a Sony eReader a few years ago and I couldn't be happier with my decision.

    The backlit screen is not comfortable to read on and I would be surprised if the iPad is ever considered to be a true eReader.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:37AM (#30962512)
    and no doubt sales will drop while this shenannigans plays out. Although the executives and staff will still collect their pay the authors will not get the royalties they may have been expecting, now that a large (very large?) percentage of the book-buying public no longer have easy access to their wares.

    Hopefully this will cause more than a few authors to reflect on who they want to be in charge of their livelihoods: a bunch of suits playing politics with the authors prospects, or some other distributor (or collective) who has their wellbeing foremost.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:43AM (#30962544)
    I wouldn't be surprised if iPad e-books cost even more than on Kindle, since they're higher resolution and in color. What difference does that make to publishing costs, you ask? Virtually none! But whether from tape to CD, or VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray, publishers always use any bump in functionality to increase the price as well.

    But is it more functional? Personally, I think the backlit LCD screen is the achilles heel of the iPad as a e-book reader. Being readable outdoors, and consuming no power at all unless turning pages, is what virtually defines the usefulness of an ebook. But I look at how color screens ruined the mp3 player market by pushing out B&W LCD screens that were sunlight visible and had great battery life, with color screens that were in no way superior for an mp3 player, and I fear the same for e-paper.

    CNN is running an iPad vs Kindle [cnn.com] fluff piece thought experiment this morning and give virtually no weight to the utility of e-paper vs. the pizzazz of color, and unfortunately I expect the same from most consumers.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mejogid (1575619) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:45AM (#30962556)
    1. I've had the exact opposite experience - reading long journal articles and the like on a kindle is a far nicer experience than trying to do the same off my laptop. Given its glossy screen, I can't imagine the iPad will cope too well either if you sit with a 200W light behind you. I still prefer books given the choice, but spending a significant amount of time in front of an LCD sucks in my experience. 2. That's fair enough - it's more of a fundamental problem with e-ink, although I'm sure Amazon could do something with the software (a single button to zoom straight in). 3. This seems to be very similar to 2 - the fact is it's a very specialised device that does one thing well (IMO) and a few value-added things significantly less well. Your reference book point - when I'm looking for something specific I find the search function sufficient but I guess that's a personal thing. 4. This is more a case of publishers not wanting to sabotage their existing business model I'd have thought - hopefully things will equalise over time. Unless publishers lower prices to undermine Amazon I can't see this changing. Hopefully competition will eventually benefit all parties involved in this respect. Really, I think the Kindle will remain the superior straight reading device - it's a vast improvement over a standard LCD in my experience and in that of friends who've tried ebook readers. That said, Apple's bling-factor and the devices other features could be enough to relegate the Kindle to a niche. We'll see...
  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:45AM (#30962558)
    Wait for it ... the publishers may be thinking they can get away with a premium for a book on iTunes. It's not beyond the realm of possibility. It doesn't seem to me that Amazon is the entity that people should be upset with here, but I haven't been awake long.
  • by n0dna (939092) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:58AM (#30962664)

    Until all of this crap blows over and the industry pulls its collective head out of its collective ass I'll continue to do it the way I have for years now...

    Buy the dead tree version so the author gets paid and then download the ebook from a torrent site.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Saturday January 30, 2010 @12:00PM (#30962684) Homepage

    Example of a recent actual purchase: Food Rules [amazon.com]. $5 paper, $5 kindle.

    I'd consider that a particularly good example of getting far less value in the kindle version, because that is exactly the kind of book that I would want to give to a friend when I'm done with it.

  • by Lil'wombat (233322) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @12:12PM (#30962770)

    I wonder how far Amazon will take this? Since the retail book industry is essentially consignment sales, does Amazon have the option to return all Macmillian books in inventory as unsold? What about pre-orders for unreleased books? Now Macmillian is owned by Simon and Schuster which is a division of CBS.

    Will Amazon expand their conflict to all Simon and Schuster Titles?

    Maybe stop selling CBS and Viacom products as well. (DVD and CD's)?

    This could get real interesting, real fast. FYI: Amazon stock closed at $125 friday, CBS at $12.93

  • by metamatic (202216) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @12:32PM (#30962936) Homepage Journal

    My book club picked a book from Tor, which seems to be a Macmillan subdivision. I had sent the preview to my Kindle, and went to buy it yesterday. It was no longer available, so after thinking "WTF?" for a while, I bought a used paperback copy instead.

    Way to go, Macmillan!

    Since Amazon say 60% of their book sales are Kindle, I imagine Macmillan are going to be hurting.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @12:41PM (#30963016)

    .... Screen contrast. The Kindle's contrast ratio is worse than newspaper printing or the cheapest paperback. You can read it in direct sunlight, sure, but can you read it indoors without a 200W light bulb directly behind you? I get eyestrain with it after just 15 minutes, but I can read a good LCD for hours. ...

    I'm the opposite - I can read my Sony Reader for hours beside a 60W lightbulb but an LCD screen gives me eyestrain within an hour.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blue Stone (582566) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @12:42PM (#30963030) Homepage Journal

    I want them to give away a free digital copy of a book with the physical book. This seems to make sense to me - the e-book is essentially about convenience and portability (ability to carry a lot of your collection around in one small-ish device).

    I don't know that it work as a business model, though: you buy the physical hard copy. You get a DRMed-up-the-wazoo ebook copy along with it. You put the physical book on the shelf and read the ebook on your device of choice. Or you sell the physical copy, while you read the ebook that you can't transfer because it's locked-down (ostensibly).

      People who don't want the ebook buy new and discard the ebook or buy from second-hand book-sellers: people who only wanted the ebook - this will be a smaller section of people buying the book new, because many people will want the physical copy as well as the electronic copy - used for convenience. People who want an ebook must buy the physical hard copy, new - since second hand books won't come with them.

    Crappy idea? Unworkable?

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @12:59PM (#30963220)

    1. Screen contrast. The Kindle's contrast ratio is worse than newspaper printing or the cheapest paperback. You can read it in direct sunlight, sure, but can you read it indoors without a 200W light bulb directly behind you? I get eyestrain with it after just 15 minutes, but I can read a good LCD for hours.

    speak for you yourself.

    Kindle's screen is a huge improvement over an lcd. I say this because I have migraines triggered by bright light and a kindle screen is was easy on my eyes than LCD.
     

  • by uassholes (1179143) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @01:02PM (#30963242)

    What's wrong with real books?

    Used bookstores are great. Can you re-sell your used "eBook"? Can you buy used "eBooks".

    This consumer toy horseshit is a way to funnel money from you to them.

    Content will be more tightly controlled and the whole thing only means higher prices to read anything.

    People are stupid if they fall for this bullshit.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tirk (655692) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @01:06PM (#30963276) Homepage
    I for one prefer my Kindle (ver 1 for that matter) over an LCD screen any day, but not for the eyestrain reason. I can read my kindle by the firelight of my fireplace, or a candle, and not have any issues with eye strain at all. While I can read my LCD in a completely dark room, or by any indoor light, it does eventually give me eyestrain, but it's really not very much. For me the big difference is in power. I can read my kindle for two weeks and not have to plug it in. Even my best LCD laptop only goes about 5 hours. On a 10 hour plane flight I'd either have to bring extra batteries, or only read for half the flight. And on camping trips, forget it, but with the Kindle I can be on a week long camping trip and still know I'll have something to read.

    In the end, I think each has it's place, just as people debate which is better, a PC or Mac, each has strengths and each has weaknesses. The Kindle, Nook. iPad issues will be the same, and in the end, it comes down to what do you want out of it, and what are the most important features to you. That will be all the difference in making one better then the other.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlackCreek (1004083) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @01:23PM (#30963468)

    the only reason for them delisting the books that remains is that Amazon is trying strongarm people that try to sell thru the iBook store.

    No, Amazon is trying to strong arm people trying to price hike in their store.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @01:24PM (#30963486)

    I also own a kindle, and I can say he's right on all 4 counts. I also feel his pain about shutting out a publisher, even an expensive one, because the Kindle store is no where near complete. It's incredibly frustrating to find 2/3s of a series in kindle format, then the final book only in hard copy because it was a different publisher.

    Personally though, I don't think the ipad bookstore will take off. The Ipad itself will have a limited market, and the market of people who want to read books with the thing will be even smaller. Kindle's advantage is that they designed it to address the shortcomings of other electronic devices and provide a more focused reading experience. The ipad lacks not only e-ink, but also the slim silhouette, off-screen page-turning buttons, and free wireless book browsing/delivery.

    Frankly, I think there are better things to do with your ipad than read books, and those things will sell units while the itunes bookstore gets little attention. I'll pay more attention if Apple moves away from text-dump ebooks, and instead starts creating exciting multimedia documents with imbedded audio, video, diagram galleries, freehand annotations, etc. $15 dollar .txt files just isn't going to do it.

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @01:47PM (#30963738) Homepage

    I am essentially a professional reader, and I go through 1,000-2,000 pages a week easily, if not more.

    I've also been a gadgeteer since the same time as many of us greyhairs on /. I can remember when the Newton was the coolest new tech thing on the block and I was busy reading books on it. In the meantime, I've gone through desktops, tablet PCs, laptops, netbooks, smartphones, and Palm devices galore.

    Laptops suck for reading in volume. They discipline your body; you must adopt a specific narrow range of postures and locations in order to use a laptop, which is heavy, hot, and fragile. Not good by page 800 when you're still trying to plough on. Not to mention eyestrain and headaches from the backlight.

    I can get through a couple hundred pages on my iPhone, tiny as it is, but suffer many of the same problems in the end.

    Kindle has been a revelation. I have nearly switched to Kindle entirely for my secondary research, and it's clearly a reading device. Light, endless battery, no eyestrain, nonfragile (no hinges, worries about pressure on the LCD, popping keys off when they catch on your zipper, etc.), no heat generation, legible in anything other than pitch darkness.

    I'm tempted by the iPad, but it certainly would NOT be a Kindle-killer for me until/unless high-refresh color e-ink emerges.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Saturday January 30, 2010 @02:04PM (#30963938) Homepage
    I'm skeptical. Itunes, eMusic, the CD burner, or other self-publishing routes haven't killed the music majors. As for books, people can have professionally printed books made on demand in runs as short as a single book for cheap, e.g., http://lulu.com/ [lulu.com] . A 200 page paperback with a print run of ONE book costs $5.50 according their book cost calculator -- that's a pretty low barrier to entry for a self-publisher. Still, companies like Lulu aren't a real threat to the big publishers because people like that someone out there is filtering their options just as is true with music.

    Note -- it is true that there will be some small percentage of people who will be dedicated to the small publisher but if you are about to say how much you love small bands (I personally do too) or self-publishers, realize that you and I are outliers in the market. We're not bringing down the majors.
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @02:10PM (#30963974)

    Barnes and Noble, especially if Amazon's tactics include delisting print publishers that sign deals with Apple for ebooks.

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Corporate Drone (316880) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @02:14PM (#30964028)

    Absolutely -- when Apple introduced the iPad, reporters pressed Jobs on pricing: he just kept repeating that the prices on eBooks would be the same as on Amazon. Now we see what that means: Apple is allowing the publishers to raise their prices, vis-a-vis Amazon, so the publishers are now walking across the street and saying, "I want $15, not $10, and if you don't like it, I'm pulling out of your marketplace".

    This is just a pre-emptive strike by Amazon -- it'd be far more damaging if the headline read "Apple eBook vendor drops Amazon"...

  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @04:11PM (#30965022) Homepage
    My guess is that MacMillan made a deal with Apple to sell it cheaper on the ipad. Amazon doesn't want the image of being the pricey alternative and would rather drop them than keep that image.

    This is similar to Walmart and Best Buy that have guarantees for the lowest price. If you bring an add from another store with a cheaper price, they'll honor that ad. But if you check, you'll see they never sell the exact same model computer (and probably most other high end products). They cut a deal with HP or Toshiba or whoever to make a slightly different model specifically for them. Maybe the RAM or HD size is slightly different. Walmart won't sell the models found at Best Buy and vice versa. They don't want to enter into potential price wars yet they want to keep their image of "We'll beat any price in town!" I suspect a similar thing is going on with Amazon. You can sell $15 books on Amazon...but you can't go to the competitor and sell it for $10 while upping our price to $15.
  • Re:Kindle v. iPad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @04:36PM (#30965214)

    You might be the worst /. poster I've seen in a while.

    If $9.99 is too expensive isn't $15 even more expensive? That's an increase of 150%.

    Obvious AND trivial math error. It's a 50% increase.

    The Gizmoto article says this though: "Update: It's known Amazon loses money offering some bestsellers at $9.99".

    Links are for chumps.

    Now I don't know how many tymes I've heard, er read, it but a number of people have said low cost e-books drive sales for printed books. If so then the question that should be asked is if the increase in sales of printed books offsets the loss from e-books.

    Pointlessly pointing out the pointlessly obvious.

    Wait, who am I kidding? You must be CowboyNeal's second account.

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