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Amazon and More Fail
illyria
catvalente
So Amazon has apparently pulled all Macmillan titles from its store--that includes Tor, but also a whole lot of other presses, too. The speculation is that this is over a price dispute wherein Macmillan wanted the option to raise their ebook prices and Amazon wants to set the prices.

Now, I think ebook prices are already too high, but that's actually not the point here--Amazon should not be able to dictate what a publisher charges for their books, nor should they throw a fit and start strong-arming like this if publishers don't cave. There is far too much market concentration for behavior like this--Amazon is such a massive force.

But it's the writers who get screwed in this, just like in the Google Books issue. My books are unaffected--right now. And I expect this will be resolved by the time that I move fully into the arms of that very company. Both Tor and Feiwel & Friends are owned by Macmillan, and they are publishing several books of mine next year. But it's not about one author or company.

If Amazon can get away with it once, they will only keep doing it to other companies whenever they aren't getting what they want. They have a long history of this kind of nonsense. If it were Random House, if it were indie presses, if it were anyone, it would still be flabbergasting that such a move could be considered. Amazon cannot control ebooks to the extent they seek to--it is a bad, bad idea.

There's no comfortable underdog here. Both Amazon and Macmillan are huge companies, and if all the rumors are borne out, it's all about money and what's right be damned. On both sides. But Macmillan should be able to charge whatever they want for their books, since that's their right as a supplier. If Amazon wants to marry their 9.99 price point, they should take the hit for it. These are robber-baron tactics--and don't even think this has nothing to do with the iPad and Macmillan's deal with them. We are headed into a world where publishers have exclusive deals with e-reader platforms, and it sucks.

Cory Doctorow has a lot of good things to say here. The DRM issue is horrible, and it's why I don't and won't own a Kindle. (My Sony eReader has no DRM and reads all files.) If Amazon cared about readers, they wouldn't be trying to dunk Macmillan's head in the toilet, they'd be doing exactly what Doctorow suggests.

The lesson, I suppose, is go out, walk into a bookstore, and buy a hard copy book that cant' be erased from your drive, that you can lend and use as you please. Because if the big kids have their way, they'll send the ebook the way of the CD, gouging us for prices and holding the technology back for the last dollars they can make from it.

But hey, I'm sure it's an "accident." Just like the last time.

I'll add this to the list of reasons to avoid doing business with Amazon.

i read a few blogs on this. does no one remember when apple did the exact same thing and refused to change prices on mp3s downloaded from itunes?

another point relating to boycotting amazon. i'm not going to make any decisions out of hand, but if it's proven that both companies are being asshats, if i boycott amazon should i not boycott macmillan and their subsidies?

Edited at 2010-01-30 05:13 pm (UTC)

That's up to you, of course. I don't think Macmillan is on the wrong side here, trying to be able to play with what the market will bear.

Folks can also get your books in eBook format at DriveThruFantasy.com.

Options are a good thing.

And in a lot of other places. Wouldn't it be awesome if authors ever saw any of that, instead of being forced to bundle e-rights with everything else?

I was able to call up Cherie Priest's Boneshaker and David Weber's Off Armageddon Reef, both published by TOR, on Amazon without any problem.

Nevermind - I see what they did.

(Deleted comment)
Well, I recently bought three of your books on Kindle for PC (the first things of yours I will have read when I get round to them). So I am guilty of dealing with Amazon, though I recently took out an account with another smaller online dealer. I'll see what they're like - I'm not sure if they do e-books.

I do my early books myself on ebook through my own site--I'll actually be dropping the prices shortly--and I don't mind at all if you buy them on Kindle. I want you to read them, that's all! I just wish that I had more contract options, and right now, I don't.

Clarification on Twitter comment

So here's the long explanation of my response to your Twitter message:

How much I'd be willing to spend on an ebook depends.

I have personal experience with ebooks, both in being published through them (not much, I'll admit) and in running a very, very small internet publishing company that specialized in ebooks.

For a small company, just starting off, in which I know the employees are doing all the work for little to no compensation but in which I also know it literally costs nothing or next to it to produce an ebook, I would be willing to pay somewhere between $3 - $6 for an ebook. Perhaps edge it up to $8 or $9 if the book is incredibly long, but that's pushing it, and I'd have to be incredibly interested in reading the book.

For a larger company that produces print and ebooks, I would stick to the $3 - $6 range, and definitely wait for a print version if I want to shell out any more than that. If I'm going to pay the price of a print book, then I'll wait and purchase the print edition. Sorry, but it's true.

For a super mega company that produces mostly print books and is trying to move into the new millennium, they'd honestly be lucky to get any ebook sales from me, and I certainly would never, ever pay the same price for an ebook copy of a book from this company as a print book.

This thought process comes from a claim I saw on another thread in a community. Someone linked to a couple of articles, the first one in which there was the claim that it actually costs almost as much to produce an ebook as it does a print book, and I call bullshit. For larger companies whose employees actually earn paychecks (or if the company hires the rare freelancer), I don't believe they will pay anyone to perform a task or service on an electronic edition of a book if the exact same service was already performed on the print edition (such as editing or copyediting). The only service I could see needing to be performed again would be formatting, assuming a difference between formatting for print and formatting for electronic.

Why should a text be edited again if all that's happening is releasing it in an electronic edition? Even if the print and electronic editions are being released simultaneously, there are certain services that can also be performed simultaneously considering we're talking about the same manuscript.

When we're talking about production costs for ebooks that have already been released in print, we're not talking at all about anything that has to physically be done to the manuscript. We're talking about labor costs only, and much of that labor would have already been performed with absolutely no reason to pay someone to do it again. It would be a waste of money. In the same of simultaneous release in print and electronic, much of that labor would still only have to be performed once, and at the point where the production process between print and electronic diverges, there's very little (if anything) left on the electronic side that would generate cost. Certainly not enough cost to justify charging the same price. I can't imagine what cost could be generated that would justify it. If someone knows different, absolutely point it out to me and if I'm wrong I'm wrong.

Yeah, this is another reason why I won't own a Kindle. Imagine buying a book and then having the bookseller walk into your house or break in and say, "We'll be taking this back" and then doing so. It'd be like paying for the book and giving said bookseller the key to your home as well.

You make a good point it's hard to root for any one side. I'll go back to writing or playing Half-Life 2.

Actually on the subject of if anyone here is right, Macmillan or Amazon... well... yes, Macmillan has a right to decide what they will or won't charge for the books they produced, and Amazon is being a jerk on the issue.

But, like I've argued in a different situation about a different company, just because Macmillan can do something, doesn't mean they should do it that way. Others have said basically the same thing. Back down, Amazon, let Macmillan price their ebooks however they want. When most people refuse to pay that much for an electronic file download, they'll realize their mistake on their own.

I own a Kindle, and I think that Amazon doing this is just shooting themselves in the foot. I can say, from personal experience, that it's terribly frustrating to hear about a great new book only to find out that - once again - it's not available on Kindle. Now, that doesn't mean I won't happily purchase the physical book (I most certainly will!) but it does make me become slightly more disenchanted with the Kindle and the catalog available.

Does Amazon realize that by forcing bully tactics that they're also screwing over people who would buy those books, and therefore making them look to other e-reader options? Amazon seems to be trying to compete with newer readers by offering native PDF support now and I'm wondering if they will continue to looseen the reigns on the Kindle when 2010 promises to flood the market with e-readers of all kinds. If they don't do something, they may have a very nice product that is entirely obsolete.

And to answer your price question, I don't mind paying $10 or so for an ebook, but I prefer that a portion of it goes to the author. Most of the books I buy on Kindle are in the $7-10 range, as they would be in paperback form, and I'm ok with that. I'm getting them instantly, after all, while sitting on my arse in a cafe.

Ebooks are that much! Wow, I guess then print will be around a bit longer than I thought. Honestly I couldn't see paying more than 3 bucks for a digital book.

One more reason to shop at The Book Depository instead.

Honestly I think that readers will just download books like they do movies and cd's. Which sort of sucks for ...writers. Once the Kindle and eReaders really catch on I also think people are going to buy less print books. I hope not, but that is what I see.

Yeah, and it's damn unfortunate. I mean, hopefully, as with indie musicians, we can still make a living, but I'm getting a bit pessimistic.

I still haven't got over my anger with Amazon when they destroyed CD Now and I will avoid doing business with them.

I haven't checked, but is powells.com selling ebooks? I try to get all my print books from them, as they seem to have much more of a soul than amazon.com.

Regarding Amazon and DRM www.niemanlab.org/.../amazon-quietly-lets-publishers-remove-drm-from-kindle-ebooks/

The only vote that any retailer understands is the one you make with your wallet. Can you still buy Macmillan books anywhere else online? Then do it. Amazon will understand that.

I think the model will eventually be that we buy eBooks directly from the publisher, and Amazon won't be involved at all. Heck, it may be that we buy them directly from the *author*, and that scares the bejesus out of both Macmillan and Amazon. eCommerce is cutting out all of the middlemen - and Amazon is the ultimate Middle Man.

Heck, it may be that we buy them directly from the *author*, and that scares the bejesus out of both Macmillan and Amazon. eCommerce is cutting out all of the middlemen - and Amazon is the ultimate Middle Man.

It scares me as a reader. Without publishers paying advances, who's going to pay writers enough to keep them going, get them editing and marketing and suchlike that publishers provide as well as paying authors?

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