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Authors' Amazon Awareness 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the big-fish-in-a-shrinking-pond dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes "Many book lovers were surprised this week when Amazon.com removed books from the publisher Macmillan from the shelves (later restored), including such popular imprints as St. Martin's, Henry Holt, and the science fiction publisher Tor. But readers shouldn't have been surprised, according to the Author's Guild. The Author's Guild lists a history of earlier instances where Amazon stopped listing a publisher's books in order to pressure them to accept terms, dating back to early in 2008, when Amazon removed the 'buy' buttons for works from the British publisher Bloomsbury, representing such authors as William Boyd, Khaled Hosseini, and J.K. Rowling. In response, the Author's Guild has set up a service called Who Moved My Buy Button to alert authors when their books are removed from Amazon's lists." Amazon's actions have generated ill-will on the parts of many authors, who — being authors — are only too happy to explain their viewpoints at length. Two such examples are Tobias Buckell's breakdown of why Amazon isn't the righteous defender of low-prices they claim to be and Charlie Stross's round-up of the situation.
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Authors' Amazon Awareness

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  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:10AM (#31045564)

    Amazon is one party in a two party negotiation. If they don't like the terms of the negotiation, they don't have to accept them. Are they supposed to sell books no matter what the terms are? This is a lot of hot air about nothing. It's simple, really. If authors don't like their publisher, if publishers don't like Amazon - they can go elsewhere.

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:37AM (#31045754)

      Putting aside the fact that Amazon is the 800lb gorilla in bookselling business who currently controls 80-90% of eBook market, the problem has arisen due to Amazon's insistence that authors should submit to restrictive contractual terms in order to be allowed into the Kindle store -- i.e. making the book exclusive to Amazon, negotiating a special low price, and worst yet, making Amazon the publisher.

      Prior to the iPad's announcement Amazon's terms for ebooks were 70/30. That's 70% going to Amazon. It's nothing short of a robbery.

      I'm sorry to say this, but it is a very sleazy company.

      • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:52AM (#31045852)

        ...Prior to the iPad's announcement Amazon's terms for ebooks were 70/30. That's 70% going to Amazon. It's nothing short of a robbery.

        I'm sorry to say this, but it is a very sleazy company.

        That's the one good thing about competition. It tends to force change on monopolistic pricing and "sleazy" agreements. Of course, in the case of Apple(iTunes) and Amazon(Kindle), we're talking about two 800-pound Gorillas going at it. Should be a good fight.

        • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

          by poena.dare (306891)

          Apple will probably win in the long run because, on the whole, they make their products enjoyable to use. It used to be enjoyable to shop at Amazon, but convenience was eclipsed by unwanted force-feeding. Still, I am enjoying the fight. As soon as Google gets seriously involved I imagine it will become the next big spectator sport.

          Everyone: take a drink every time someone uses the word "monopoly" in this thread.

        • Why have publishers? They take most of the money, and for most authors, do very, very little. It would be better for authors to hire editors and layout artists themselves, and sell online from their own web sites.
      • by transporter_ii (986545) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:13PM (#31045952) Homepage

        Do some research. There are authors out there that made way less than 30% of sales, while the publisher took a big chunk. I was just reading a published author that has had over eight books published. On some of them, he got .50 cents per book. On others, he got a flat rate and no royalty fees at all.

        If an author dumped their publisher, went with Amazon, and happened to sell a lot of books, 30% wouldn't be a bad deal, in my opinion.

        See the above statement. Who do you think are stirring the pot here? Authors or Publishers?

        Yes, there is very much an RIAA type of situation here, where the publisher often does promotion and advertising, but a big name could write a book and go straight to Amazon with it.

        Now they could get their own servers, marketing team, etc, and go it on their own. How much time and money do you think all of that will cost?

        Amazon isn't spotless in the situation, DRM and all, but a lot of publishers treat their authors like the RIAA treats its artists.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Hurricane78 (562437)

          I”m sorry?? Amazon’s work in selling these e-books is next to nothing.
          I can have a online e-book shop set-up by tomorrow. And a author upload service on the next day. Then all that’s left, is moving money back and forth! You must be kidding!

          There are authors out there that made way less than 30% of sales, while the publisher took a big chunk. I was just reading a published author that has had over eight books published. On some of them, he got .50 cents per book. On others, he got a flat rate and no royalty fees at all.

          Have you ever heard of ad populum [wikipedia.org]?
          It’s faulty logic. Something worse does not make something bad OK. Just like if your limit for badness is <=1, and it’s at 0.7, then telling you that it could be 0.3 or 0.0, does not make 0.7 > 1.0!
          Let

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by mobby_6kl (668092)

            Im sorry?? Amazons work in selling these e-books is next to nothing.
            I can have a online e-book shop set-up by tomorrow. And a author upload service on the next day. Then all thats left, is moving money back and forth! You must be kidding!

            Why don't use then? You'd make a killing and save the poor Author's guild at the same time!

          • by jythie (914043)
            Ahm, how is 'gives the authors a significantly better deal then the industry standard' a bad thing? I also think it is quite a stretch to call that an ad populum fallacy. It merely points out that attacking amazon for taking 70% in favor of regular publishers which will take upwards of 90% is rather silly. And I highly doubt you could have a fully functional book selling site set up in 2 days that comes even close to the functionality (both front end and back end) of a place like amazon, or have the same
          • by Patch86 (1465427) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:15PM (#31048306)

            I”m sorry?? Amazon’s work in selling these e-books is next to nothing.
            I can have a online e-book shop set-up by tomorrow. And a author upload service on the next day. Then all that’s left, is moving money back and forth! You must be kidding!

            That's up there with "Rock Stars don't do anything difficult- I could do that if I wanted to!". Why don't you then? Undercut the big players, offer lots to the authors? Make your millions?

            I'll tell you why- if you set up an e-book website, it'd flop. There's more to being a mega-retailer than just writing a web-page and setting up a money transfer. Advertising, promoting, negotiating with publishers and authors, maintaining partnerships... the website itself is no more significant than the shop-front is for a jewelery shop- it's everything else that makes the shop, not the bricks and mortar.

            Plenty of people do try and fail- only the ones who are good at all that other stuff survive. Amazon have, Apple have, lots haven't. It's their talents in all these other niggling little areas that enables to act like the juggernaut-bullies that they are.

          • I"m sorry?? Amazon's work in selling these e-books is next to nothing. I can have a online e-book shop set-up by tomorrow. And a author upload service on the next day.

            Yes but you'll have a hell of a job making that the 8th most visited site in the US like Amazon is. People should know by now, having an online store has nothing to do with the software, and everything to do with marketing. 30% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          You obvoiusly know little to nothing about the relationship between authoring a book and publishing a book.

          Book's most often require editing, fact checking, layout, artwork - even hiring a set of on the cheap professionals this will cost thousands.

          You also seem to not grasp the simple fact that E-books are not yet a signifigant part of the bookspace - read the nuimbers and you'll notice that it's about 1% of the book market.

          Going to Amazon with a e-book and having no physical book is dropping the vast majo

          • This writer seems to disagree with you http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2009/10/kindle-numbers-traditional-publishing.html [blogspot.com]

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:51AM (#31045840) Homepage

      Amazon is one party in a two party negotiation. If they don't like the terms of the negotiation, they don't have to accept them...

      You're missing the point. Amazon didn't merely say "we don't like your terms, so we won't sell your e-books." What they did was say "We don't like your terms on one item, e-books, so unless you accept our terms on that we won't sell anything else of yours, either, no hardcover or paperback, sales, not just electronic."

      They were trying to use their market dominance in one area to allow them to dictate prices in another area. And not for the first time.

      This why monopoly is bad.

      • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MaJeStu (1046062) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @01:03PM (#31046308) Homepage
        Except that Amazon has nothing even near a monopoly on books, whether electronic, paper, or audio. There are many other online vendors that would jump at the chance to have a major product line Amazon doesn't.

        Regardless, Amazon is absolutely right to negotiate with the price-gouging publishers any way they see fit, using any leverage they can. The publishers are trying to use their exclusive rights to the books; why shouldn't Amazon use their exclusive rights to their store? They are not harming the market, or keeping anything from being sold.
        • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @03:28PM (#31047298) Homepage

          Except that Amazon has nothing even near a monopoly on books, whether electronic, paper, or audio.

          Except this is clearly not true. Think about it. After Amazon says "we don't like your price on e-books and so we won't sell them," what is their motiviation to not to sell Macmillan paper books; an unrelated product? What do they gain from this?

          Up until they disagreed with e-book pricing, they had no problem with Macmillan products, so it's clearly not a case of them not liking their prices on paper books. So what exactly do they gain by what appears, on the surface, to be an economically unjustified decision? If the market were indeed completely fungible, as you suggest, this would only reduce their sales volume. It would put no pressure on Macmillan, since their customers would just buy from somebody else.

          The only reason that they would attempt to muscle Macmillan into accepting their pricing terms on e-books by refusing to sell paper books would be if they do have some degree of monopoly power (or, at least, they think that they have power). You say "negotiate using any leverage they can," but there simply isn't any leverage there unless they are market dominant.

          Here's a rule of thumb you might consider: When a company uses market dominance to set pricing terms, it pretty much never is a good thing for the consumer. Even if it looks good on the surface.

    • Re:So what? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by conureman (748753) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:20PM (#31046010)

      From TFA:
      "I don't like to do business with people who, apparently as far as I can tell, think sucker punching you when they disagree, even if they have the right to do it, is the way to go about this."
      I found it affirms my opinion of the situation. YMMV. As in many of these type of debates, your opinion is balanced against a very small subset of idealists who will let moral issues influence their business dealings.
      That's what.

  • Kill the DRM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by millennial (830897) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:11AM (#31045568) Journal

    This is another reason I loathe DRM. Amazon is apparently the sole distributor of the authorized electronic version of these books. They apparently have unquestionable control over whether or not they'll even be available for purchase, and they can revoke ownership of the books remotely without people even noticing (viz the 1984 kerfuffle).

    When I buy something, I want to own it. I don't want to license it at the whim of a service that dictates what I can do with it. That's just ridiculous.

    • Re:Kill the DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:20AM (#31045640)

      There's an idea: enforce the calling of things by their proper name. i.e. making it illegal to use a "BUY NOW" button in these cases and force them to use a "LICENSE NOW" button instead. False advertising and all that jazz?

      • by skine (1524819)

        Buying a license is still buying something.

        • The user is interested in the book, not the licence and in fact is probably ignorant to the fact they're actually licensing it, so "buy now" is aimed at the book so for completely honest marketing it should be "licence now" or a long winded "buy a licence for this book now".
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        Well, I’m all for it. But first we would find someone with the power and money to actually push that trough courts and parliament.
        How would we do that?

      • Re:Kill the DRM (Score:4, Interesting)

        by noidentity (188756) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @02:07PM (#31046772)
        I think a "RENT THIS BOOK INDEFINITELY" would be clearer. People aren't familiar with licensing copyrighted works. "Rent" is a term they understand well, and would respond appropriately to, as in "What, I'm paying $14.99 for something I don't even own, can't sell, and might lose access to if your company changes management?"
        • by samkass (174571)

          The problem is that "rent" often implies ongoing payments. "License" doesn't, and people are used to it from driver's licenses, hunting, fishing, etc.

          "Buy License" would be most descriptive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RulerOf (975607)

      When I buy something, I want to own it. I don't want to license it at the whim of a service that dictates what I can do with it. That's just ridiculous.

      Generally speaking, I agree with you, but I'd say there's a notable exception. If I could choose to buy (and own) product A for $X, or I could choose to license product A for $X-Y, licensing might be a viable alternative in certain situations. Kind of like renting a DVD movie or console game, only with more straightforward (I suppose) DRM. DRM that, of course, by being a licensee rather than an owner, I'd be explicitly agreeing to be "managed" by.

      Similar to the difference between buying Windows licenses

  • Not that I've read TFA, but isn't this what free market economics is supposed to prevent? When a single entity can have that kind of power, isn't it a monopoly?

    ...If Amazon can dictate terms to book publishers in this fashion, do you think that Apple could pull a similar stunt with RIAA members?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SetupWeasel (54062)

      Uh, true free market economies will have monopolies. Anti-trust laws make the market less free. Something to think about when someone gets a bug up their ass about a politician being "Socialist."

      • by RulerOf (975607)

        Anti-trust laws make the market less free.

        Aye you've got a point, wasn't trying to be too pedantic, but I suppose I really meant "the incarnation of the free market as it currently exists in the USA." Which means we've got oligopolies instead, but I'm just saying that if Amazon can swing it's weight that effectively, isn't there a problem then that business regulators should be looking into?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Capitalism is not the same as Free Market. Regardless of that though, most anything taken to the extreme is a really bad idea and causes more problems than it solves. What you do is look at the extreme end of an idea and then back up until the problems it creates have disappeared or are balancing against a worse alternative if you kept backing up.
    • by Draek (916851)

      ...If Amazon can dictate terms to book publishers in this fashion, do you think that Apple could pull a similar stunt with RIAA members?

      If the RIAA members weren't previously colluded in the organization we call the RIAA, yeah. As it stands, it comes down to who's the biggest monopoly (or oligopoly, in the RIAA's case), and the music industry is far bigger than the online music distribution industry so Apple's fucked.

    • by Bluesman (104513)

      In a true free market, Amazon, the organization that the government gives special privileges to by calling it a Corporation, would not exist.

      So, the current situation doesn't resemble a conceptual free market. And historically the instances of one entity being able to control large portions of an economy without resorting to some sort of coercion (via laws or organized crime) are few.

      Anti-trust laws are intended to prevent monopolies.

      Here, however, nobody is preventing the publishing and sale of a book. A

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bangzilla (534214)
      Not that I've read TFA, but isn't this what free market economics is supposed to prevent? When a single entity can have that kind of power, isn't it a monopoly?

      Holding a dominant position or a monopoly in a market is not illegal in itself, a monopoly is said to be coercive when the monopoly firm actively prohibits competitors from entering the field. In this case authors have many choices regarding publication: traditional publishers, self-publication; Publishers have choice over to whom they sell their
    • Re:Free Market? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:09PM (#31045922)

      ...If Amazon can dictate terms to book publishers in this fashion...

      Actually the whole premise of the article is a fraud anyways, since amazon already caved to McMillan [themoneytimes.com], which will now set the price of e-books on amazon.com, and already sharply raised amazon's previous pricing. So tell me, who is dictating terms here?

      • by raddan (519638) *
        The premise of the article is not a fraud-- just that, in this particular battle, Macmillan won. Macmillan has private owners (in Germany) who decided that this fight was worth having, right now, because, as they saw it, the future of electronic publishing depended on it. If that meant that the company was going to suffer for awhile, that was OK, because caving in to Amazon meant their business model and price structuring would have to change very dramatically.

        If Macmillan had been a public company, th
    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:22PM (#31046012)

      Not that I've read TFA, but isn't this what free market economics is supposed to prevent?

      Yes.

      Which it is.

      Unless you've been under a rock, Apple is doing a book store. And Barnes & Nobel is too, along with the nook reader... Why do you think Amazon *had* to capitulate?

      free market economics works just fine but it doesn't fix things instantly. Over the long run though things will be fixed and arrive at a natural state. Regulation always serves to create an artificial plateau of being that you'd never find otherwise...

      • by wrook (134116)

        What confuses me is this: isn't having a distributor dictate the price of an item to a retailer called "price-fixing"? Isn't is illegal in the US? If I understand correctly, Macmillan and many authors are upset that Amazon want to sell at a reduced retail price while still paying the *same* wholesale price. Shouldn't that be allowed in a free market economy (as long as they aren't selling below cost in order to force out smaller players)?

        So why did Amazon have to capitulate? Clearly they have to buy the

        • What confuses me is this: isn't having a distributor dictate the price of an item to a retailer called "price-fixing"?

          You are confused about the term "price fixing". That refers to a number of companies all agreeing to a fixed price, so customers in a market have no choice but to pay that price for some particular good.

          But here's the thing. While one company might decide to "fix" prices at $15, there is nothing in the model that lets companies set pricing to stop another company from saying "Hey, why not

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      There's a difference between being a monopoly and just being an influential player. There's no law against using your influence, if you're a company of any size- except if you're in a monopoly position.

      The fact that Amazon isn't a monopoly should be thoroughly highlighted by the fact that Macmillan beat them on this one- Amazon caved because their competitors were offering better terms. If they were a monopoly, that wouldn't have happened.

  • by wheelema (46997) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:14AM (#31045594)

    And to think that I helped Mary Ann North become rich paying $.75 per paperback. Of all the parties beating their breasts in outrage over this issue the only ones I have any sympathy for are the authors and the readers.

  • by Ekuryua (940558) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:36AM (#31045748) Homepage
    I checked the prices of ebooks, and as far as I am concerned, I am finding those prices outrageous.
    I do respect the right of authors to make some money, but when an ebook is twice as expensive as a cheap paperback version, there's something highly wrong.
    All of that makes me think they actually are trying to kill the ebook market, where "they" means publishers. Amazon of course is not clean either, and they obviously have been taking advantage of their public policy to look like saviors, that they are not.

    tldr: ebooks are way too expensive. Anything above 3-4$ for an old book or 4-8$ for a novelty is just plain insane. It's not like they require a lot of infrastructure. Oh and of course the author should still get most of the money in that grand scheme. But I doubt it's the case.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They still have to PRODUCE the original book that becomes an ebook.

      This requires:

      an editor, proofreader, any cover art, conversion to ebook format and some quality checks, oh, and an author to spend near a year working on the book.

      Hence, they want new books to cost more. It's called "return on investment." The publishers also want older ebooks that have made the costs back tobe LESS than Amazon's mandated 9.99.

      Publishers deserve to make some money, too, because they do a great favor for us all: They redu

      • by Roogna (9643)

        You know I keep seeing all this about about production costs, such as editors. I don't buy it honestly. The last few "new release" books I bought to read had horrible editing and I can't imagine they were proofread either. The quality of what's considered top notch writing has tanked considerably over the years, and the editing process for most fiction publishers at least doesn't seem to catch even the most glaring errors. No, I think the old publishers are just afraid that they're going to get cut out.

      • The publishers can sell back books for less than $9.99 already; nothing needed to change to allow that. It's the upper end that they're taking issue with.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zippthorne (748122)

        an editor, proofreader, any cover art, conversion to ebook format and some quality checks, oh, and an author to spend near a year working on the book.

        Wow. Isaac Asimov must have been born in like the seventeenth century!

    • Do you have any idea how much work goes into producing a book? If you want a book that was just published recently you should be willing to pay the price. If you're not then vote with your wallet and wait for the paperback or for the copyright to expire (yes we need to fix that, I know.)

      Sadly authors don't get the lion's share of the money, but they get a LOT more for the first runs (hardback, ebook, etc.) than the residuals from cheaper paperbacks once the book gets older.

      • by Z34107 (925136)

        Do you have any idea how much work goes into producing a book?

        I Am Not An Author, so no, I have no first-hand experience with how much work goes into a book.

        However, I assume that compensation for that work is (and has always been) built into the price of the paperback versions. If none of the people who did all that work were compensated for it, that would mean no paperback versions.

        I also assume that paperbacks cost more to produce than e-book versions, which don't require smushing a force with blades

        • by winwar (114053)

          "Paperback: Work to produce original content + cost to physically print.

          E-book: (Same) Work to produce original content.

          I'd assume the E-book would still be much cheaper."

          Your assumptions are incorrect. It costs money to create an e-book just as it does to print a paperback. You have all of the same costs of a paperback (as you noted) plus the conversion to the various e-book formats which then have to go through various editing stages to be certain nothing was altered.

          More importantly, there is essential

          • by Z34107 (925136)

            I'd think conversion to e-book formats would be trivial considering that the publisher has the source text. I'd hope that formatting it to fit a screen would cost less than shipping and producing literally tons of paper.

            Even if e-books cost more to produce, as you say, there is no market for them. If I were Kindle-selling Amazon, I'd want to jump-start that market with lower prices rather than let it remain a niche market.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by nahdude812 (88157) *

              And besides, devices like the kindle do not lend themselves to very specific layouts by the publisher; they allow you to change font sizes, and the text reflows automatically. Like HTML the publisher doesn't spend lots of time pouring over kerning and leading, making sure that white space rivers don't appear and that text flows meaningfully around any illustrations. You just don't have that much control in an e-book.

              There is no way production costs on an e-book are higher than any printed form. Printed f

    • Keep in mind that what was being argued about was *not* the price of *old* ebooks. What was being argued about was how much Amazon would charge for ebooks on the day the hard cover was first released.

    • by Alaren (682568) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @01:24PM (#31046450)

      I do respect the right of authors to make some money, but when an ebook is twice as expensive as a cheap paperback version, there's something highly wrong.

      My wife is a nationally published, best-selling young adult author (see sig). I do all our bookkeeping. And right now I live on my wife's income, so the ability of authors to make money on their books is a subject very near and dear to my heart. While YA is a different market than general fiction, it is similar enough to make some general statements. One of those statements is that the right of authors to make money barely enters into this debate, no matter how badly these authors want to talk about it (and generate press from it). Here's why.

      At present, typical royalty rates for hardcover books are anywhere from 5% to 15%, depending on total sales, escalation clauses, and so forth. Some publishers have experimented with higher rates (even as high as 50%) in exchange for lower advances, but these are still a minority. So you can figure a typical $20 hardcover makes an author $2. Keep in mind that for most nationally published authors, the royalty is on cover price in all but a few very carefully worded exceptions that do not usually apply. In other words, Amazon's discount will not usually eat into the author's cut. Whether it eats into the publisher's cut or Amazon's cut, and to what extent, is beyond my ken.

      Paperback rates are lower--say, 5% to 10%. A $10 paperback (for nice round numbers) typically makes an author $1. Same caveats apply.

      Publishing houses are still all over the map on eBook sales. I don't have a lot of information on this one, but my understanding is that 25% would be a great (but reachable) eBook royalty, while I've never heard anything less than 10%. I have heard higher numbers--like 30% and 50%--mostly in conjunction with experimental publishing models, as with the hardcovers.

      So on a $9.99 eBook, a typical author is making $1 to $2.50. Which is pretty much exactly the range they get on dead-tree publishing.

      I have seen a lot of authors really freaking out about this MacMillan stuff, and honestly the issue is complex enough from a market standpoint that I don't think anyone involved is really "blameworthy." Amazon wants to sell eBooks, and cheap books sell better than expensive ones (big shocker, right?). MacMillan wants greater say in its ability to price its own wares. Personally I think eBooks are generally less desirable, and therefore worth less, than physical copies, for various reasons every /. reader can probably recite.

      Really the only authors who have suffered at all are MacMillan authors whose stuff got delisted, and even then--people forget that Amazon only controls about half on the online book sale market, which is in turn only about 30% of the retail book industry. Although it has a head start in the eBook realm, even as an eBook retailer Amazon already has serious competition ramping up. They don't even remotely resemble a monopoly.

      So while this is an interesting and important debate for the publishing industry, my assessment is that it impacts authors a lot less than authors like to think. Which is about on par with any part of the business side of publishing. My experience is that the "artists" in the publishing industry are much better treated than those in (say) the music industry, but the fact remains that publishing is a business, and some of the "artistes" in the group get very angry when something reminds them of that.

      • Alright, you seem about as close to an expert as anyone around here.

        What would be a reasonable price for a non-DRM eBook?
        And if it's bought directly from the author instead of through a publisher?
        Why not use eBooks as a marketing ploy along the lines of hardcovers? I.e. include one for download with the hard-cover version.

        • by Alaren (682568)

          Well, I appreciate the confidence. I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I think you ask some good questions that are worth unpacking a bit.

          The value of a non-DRM eBook is an interesting question because (from my perspective, at least) a DRM-free eBook is worth more than a device-locked eBook, for sure. Books don't last forever, but they can last "effectively" forever in the sense that a well cared-for hardcover can last longer than a lifetime. The average lifetime of a DRM'd book appears to be a coupl

      • by GryMor (88799)

        Are the rates you quoted % of list price, % of wholesale price or % of retail price?

        If a retailer, after paying the normal wholesale price for one of your wife's books, drops the retail price to the wholesale price, does this increase your cash flow from increased units or decrease it from some wacky royalties of retail price clause?

        From my perspective, what Macmillan is up to feels like some of the dirty tricks Holywood pulls to cut down on the amount of royalties they need to pay after the fact. I really

        • by Alaren (682568)

          Keep in mind that for most nationally published authors, the royalty is on cover price in all but a few very carefully worded exceptions that do not usually apply. In other words, Amazon's discount will not usually eat into the author's cut. Whether it eats into the publisher's cut or Amazon's cut, and to what extent, is beyond my ken.

          There are usually exceptions for deep-discounters, book clubs, and other venues where a lower royalty is paid but you are virtually guaranteed a huge number of sales. There ar

      • Keep in mind that for most nationally published authors, the royalty is on cover price in all but a few very carefully worded exceptions that do not usually apply.

        That may be true for the YA market. For technology books, and AFAIK non-fiction in general, royalty rates in contracts are on net (after reseller discounts), rather than on gross. That certainly was the case for the two I signed, and I did a fair amount of research to determine that this was, indeed, the norm. Reseller discounts can run as high as

        • by Alaren (682568)

          Thanks for chiming in--while I know a lot of fiction authors in and out of YA, I have zero experience with nonfiction publishing except for having heard it is a very different animal. Obviously these different numbers would affect the analysis dramatically for that segment of the market.

          If you don't mind my asking, do you feel that people are more or less (or equally) likely to purchase nonfiction in eBook format? I personally have a hard time imagining my law or philosophy textbooks in eBook format...

      • by curunir (98273) *

        Amazon wants to sell eBooks, and cheap books sell better than expensive ones (big shocker, right?).

        I know that's the end goal, but I don't think that's the motivation behind their current fight with the publishers.

        Having read one of the linked author's statements, I think he's being very short-sighted. He talks about how his books sell an order of magnitude less in eBook form than they do in print. But that's because the market is still small...only a small percentage of readers have eBook readers. As people have pointed out in previous Kindle discussions, the initial outlay of money is substantial and

  • by reddburn (1109121) <redburn1NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:43AM (#31045788)
    Great idea: go to a BOOKSTORE and buy a copy. Even better? Get one at a locally owned shop. Book-buying is better in person: browsing shelves, reading through a few pages, checking out your favorite section, then finding that rare gem that you'd have never seen on Amazon anyway.
    • by homer_s (799572) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:44PM (#31046178)
      Great idea: go to a BOOKSTORE and buy a copy. Even better? Get one at a locally owned shop. Book-buying is better in person: browsing shelves, reading through a few pages, checking out your favorite section, then finding that rare gem that you'd have never seen on Amazon anyway.

      Why? I value my time and I like to spend it doing other things. Amazon makes it incredibly easy for me to purchase the books I want, new or used. In fact, I have a few books that I could not have found if not for amazon.com.

      I see amazon, like any other store, as my agent who aggregates the buying power of consumers to negotiate a price from manufacturers/publishers. I applaud whatever they do to get prices down for me. Authors' rights? That's for them to defend, not me.
      • GP is talking about people who don't want to buy from Amazon for some reason or other. The point being, rather than bitch about Amazon, if you are inclined to do so, just go elsewhere.

        BTW, most bookstores would be happy to special order any book you please. Moreover, rather than limit yourself to your "agent's" evidently skewed and limited selection, you could search the entire internet for titles and have your local shop obtain it for you.

        Heck, even your local library will often special order books and

    • by Fizzol (598030)
      Have to disagree. Amazon carries far more titles than all my local and chain stores put together. Also, I'm perfectly happy with browsing through books at the computer, downloading samples and making my choices that way. It's quick, convenient, relatively cheap and doesn't kill trees.
    • by Roogna (9643)

      See, I used to think this. And while it's true, there's also a flip side to physical books.

      Here's a story for you from my own life. My family were avid book collectors. Around about the time I was 18 we easily had two thousand books in the house if not more, collected over my life, and the life of my Mom, and Grandmother. The problem was, around about then we sold my grandmothers house so she could have some more money in her retirement to live on. The place we moved was smaller and we simply no longer

    • I'd be more than happy to do this if books didn't cost at least twice as much as Amazon sell them for.
  • Not to shadow Amazons draconian pressure tactics, but if I want a product bad enough, I will find another reseller, maybe even a B&M. A "who moved my buy button" service? Are you kidding me? I wasn't aware that there was but one bookstore left in the world.

    When retailers and e-tailers realize that people do not take kindly to being screwed with when the want it and want it NOW, AND the fact that I can and will spend the extra 87 cents to buy it from someone else to avoid bullshit, perhaps they'll sto

  • by bruce_the_loon (856617) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:12PM (#31045940) Homepage

    Saw this debate start earlier this week on Schlock Mercenary's site http://www.schlockmercenary.com/blog/index.php/2010/02/04/dear-mister-bezos-are-you-still-all-mad-and-stuff/ [schlockmercenary.com]. Seems like the author found the discussion heading away from the self-righteous line he wanted and killed it.

    Don't think he realized how many of his readers are consumers who want the best price for something.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by schlesinm (934723)
      While Amazon handled their end badly, I still pull for them in the battle. Macmillan is basically trying to kill e-books with the price point they are forcing on the market. Amazon at least realizes that it makes no sense to have an e-book go for the same price as a physical book (if we could only get them to remove the DRM now).
      • While Amazon handled their end badly, I still pull for them in the battle. Macmillan is basically trying to kill e-books with the price point they are forcing on the market.

        And isn't that Macmillan's choice? If consumers want e-books, and Macmillan tries to kill them, people won't buy Macmillan's books. Authors and readers will seek out books from other publishers, if the e-book market grows. It's their choice as a publisher about how to run their own business, even if you (or Amazon) doesn't like it.

        Amazon at least realizes that it makes no sense to have an e-book go for the same price as a physical book (if we could only get them to remove the DRM now).

        What Amazon thinks makes "no sense" may not be what the publisher thinks makes "no sense" or what you think makes "no sense." All of these parties get to choose their strategi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Forgive the AC login, but I need to remain behind it as I work for Barnes & Noble. Also, Disclaimer: I work for Barnes & Noble.

    With any ebook reader that you can attach to a computer, you have control over the ebook you've purchased. With a certain oddly named ereader in particular, you can move the ebook to your computer. Yes, it does still have DRM, which is regrettable, but you have control over the file. The Kindle is a licensed device where you view licensed content, and their Terms and Agreeme

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:37PM (#31046116) Homepage

    When the President of the Authors Guild went on a rant about how text to speech was infringing on authors "audio rights".
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/opinion/25blount.html?_r=1 [nytimes.com]
    I won't go into the arguments, but suffice it to say I sure as hell don't just automatically trust whatever the authors guild is trying to push. Even if you think he's right, was this issue SO important he had to write a very public article about it in the NYT?

    On the other hand, Amazon isn't the must trustworthy company in the world either. The incident with 1984 on the Kindle comes to mind. This incident only makes it crystal clear that the Kindle is essentially like renting books, not owning them. It's just kind of amazing that the entire e-book world is rife with anti-consumer paranoia.

    The entire e-book industry is doomed to failure unless they're significantly cheaper than the paper version. How many people really want to buy a book on technology platform for only a little less? We all know these are essentially throw-away devices. In 2 years there will be some Great New "gotta have it" book reader platform that'll make anything right now obsolete. In 5 years Kindles will be essentially worthless and people will turn their noses up at them like it's a Palm Pilot. Meanwhile the paper book holds essentially the same value as it did 100 years ago. So which medium should I buy? If I don't need a new version of a recent book, I can get a used copy on Amazon for next to nothing, or deeply discounted. The e-book I can't re-sell, easily loan to a friend, etc. Inferior technologies can only compete on price.

    Don't get me wrong, I love technology. I just consider "paper books" to be technology (a competing technology of course). Newer doesn't mean better, and it's difficult for electronics to compete with paper when the content is completely static.

    • How many people really want to buy a book on technology platform for only a little less? We all know these are essentially throw-away devices.

      For me, this is the crux of the issue. I've read the linked blogs (and a few others - interesting reads) and the author's points are clear and pretty well spot on - except that they are largely thinking of e-books as dead tree replacements. To an author, they decry DRM but mostly on the grounds that it impedes sales.

      But DRM changes the entire picture. If someth

  • Am I wrong or doesn't the "Available New and Used from $nn from these..." Marketplace Sellers listing still work when Amazon themselves won't stock the book?

    There's still a very competitive new and used book marketplace,.

    I know. Not for ebooks.

  • "cheap" $9.99 books? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @02:12PM (#31046818) Homepage Journal

    Stross writes:

    They lied by falsely positioning themselves as the defenders of cheap $9.99 ebooks

    I'm so confused. Here I am with a paperback that says $7.99 on its back. An ebook costs a fraction of that to manufacture and the paperback's price also includes all the amortized costs (like paying the author!) in its price, so how the fuck is $9.99 "cheap"?

    • $9.99 compared to the $29.99 hardcover. In theory, the ebook price will drop to match the paperback's when the book is out in MMPB.

      In practice, Macmillan and others won't bother.

  • My wife is an indie author and has been following this debate. She found a really good description of what is going on here [wordpress.com]. A basic conflict between Amazon's business model vs the book publisher's legacy business model.
  • For what it's worth, it's generated ill-will on the part of e-book consumers, too, many of whom feel this whole thing is yet another instance of the continued cluelessness over e-books that they've had to endure for the past ten years, and who feel that authors and publishers are deliberately ignoring them or misrepresenting their positions.

    A couple of examples:

    "Maybe we should be hurting the authors" [teleread.org] by Ficbot
    "The Amazon/Macmillan blow-up: An e-book lover's appeal for understanding" [teleread.org] by me

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