Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Digital Media Wars - The Saga Continues

By Martha Reed

Amazon has done it again and in the interest of public service I’m going to post the topic in an effort to raise awareness of the on-going situation.

Last Saturday, the Buy Buttons on Amazon for all of MacMillan’s books including Kindle editions were removed. Going forward MacMillan editions can only be bought through third-party sellers. This Amazon change came in response to MacMillan’s efforts to reset ebook pricing above the wholesale price of $9.99 and move it to a higher agency selling model ($14.99 and $12.99) for ebooks published simultaneously with new hardcover releases.

Kindle users were appalled when MacMillan book selections they had already downloaded to their Wish Lists plus MacMillan sample chapters vanished off their Kindles without prior notice.

Eric Simonoff, co-head of William Morris Endeavor books said: “The current model of Amazon selling Kindle editions as a loss-leader is fair for publishers and authors in the short-term but as we have told Amazon we don’t believe it is sustainable in the long term. Something had to give to prevent the ongoing devaluation of e-books. MacMillan is the first to draw the line in the sand but we expect not the last.”

“Devaluation of ebooks” may translate into simply meaning that the publishing houses want a bigger slice of the digital media pie and cynical me can’t help but wonder how the timing of this Amazon event played out against Apple’s iPad digital reader Kindle-competitor product launch last Wednesday.

Either way, the move by Amazon doesn’t surprise me; they’ve done it before. A few years’ back they used this same strong-arm tactic on independent POD publishers by trying to insist that POD publishers only use Amazon’s specific print media source BookSurge or Amazon would no longer host the publisher’s product line on the Amazon web site. So today we see that same Amazon business strategy shaped to fit the new digital media topic.

Yes, I know the publishing world is in flux. I know the publishing houses are scrambling to develop new business models. What I don't see is any proactive discussion of how this impacts long-term larger readership issues like product quality, the development and attraction of a younger marketplace, changing cultural demographics or even concern over author rights. This discussion is still very much one-sided and I’m not convinced that’s a good place to be.

Addendum: Talk about flux! I've been following this story and yes, MacMillan will be selling their books through iStore (Apple's digital venue) and Amazon caved in to pressure yesterday; going forward publishing houses will be setting digital pricing. More to come, I'm sure!


Wilfred Bereswill said...

"Holy Sam Walton, Batman!"

It's similar to the tactic used by Walmart/Sam's Club. It's their way or the highway. Add to that the war over formats, Kindle vs Sony EReader vs iPad. If I'm reading a short story, I don't care about format, if I'm reading a novel, some trees must die. Give me a good old-fashion book.

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Wilfred. I'm really old-fashioned. I love the smell of print. There's nothing like a fresh book. Digital won't be able to offer that!

Joyce Tremel said...

What has surprised me the most about this situation are the people commenting on blogs supporting Amazon. They make Macmillan out to be the villain, when they gave Amazon a choice. Amazon could still have kept the same deal they had (wait seven months to offer the book on Kindle). Instead they had a hissy fit. There was absolutely no good reason for Amazon to do what they did, especially in regard to the physical books.

Another thing is that very few blogs even mentioned how it affects authors. Once again, writers are caught in the middle.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Just visited The Kill Zone Blog and Katheryn Lilley mentioned that Amazon has a free Kindle download for Windows.

I will try downloading it tonight on my Asus Netbook computer and then download a Kindle book to see what it's like.

I wonder if Amazon has a Mac compatible Kindle software download?