Amazon and S&S Agree Terms. Who’s The Bad Guy Again?

Simon & Schuster has agreed a multi-year deal with Amazon covering both e-books and print books. Business Insider reported that negotiations only took three weeks and were concluded two months before the original contract expired. I’m confused, does this mean the end of literary culture or not? Someone needs to run up to Douglas Preston’s quaint writer shack to find out. (If you get lost, it’s at the back of his 400-acre estate). It also begs a question: what exactly is Hachette holding out for? As everyone knows at this point, Hachette’s contract with Amazon expired in March and the two parties have been unable to agree a deal since. The narrative being pushed by the media was that Amazon’s desired terms Read More…

Self-Publishers Aren't Killing The Industry, They're Saving It Publishing

In light of current events, I thought it would be good to re-run Ed Robertson’s excellent guest post from November 2012 where he highlighted interesting parallels between historical paperback pricing (pre-industry consolidation) and self-published e-books. It’s unlikely I’ll have time this weekend to respond to emails, or tweets, or jump in the comments, as I’ll be busy editing, but this should give you something to chew on. I’m sending the 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital to the editor tomorrow, and I’ll be blogging about that Monday or Tuesday. Oh, and the Spanish translation of Digital has just been released. You can grab it for free today only. More at the bottom of Ed’s post: Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Read More…

Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Saving It Publishing

In light of current events, I thought it would be good to re-run Ed Robertson’s excellent guest post from November 2012 where he highlighted interesting parallels between historical paperback pricing (pre-industry consolidation) and self-published e-books. It’s unlikely I’ll have time this weekend to respond to emails, or tweets, or jump in the comments, as I’ll be busy editing, but this should give you something to chew on. I’m sending the 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital to the editor tomorrow, and I’ll be blogging about that Monday or Tuesday. Oh, and the Spanish translation of Digital has just been released. You can grab it for free today only. More at the bottom of Ed’s post: Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Read More…

Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon

A group of bestselling traditionally published authors – including James Patterson, Scott Turow, and Douglas Preston – engaged in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy on Thursday with an open letter calling on Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette. The letter is incredibly disingenuous. It claims not to take sides, but only calls on Amazon to take action to end the dispute. It also makes a series of ridiculous claims, notably that Amazon has been “boycotting Hachette authors.” Where do I start? The Phantom Boycott First of all, refusing to take pre-orders on Hachette titles is not a “boycott.” Pre-orders are a facility extended to certain publishers – not all publishers. Many small presses don’t have a pre-order facility. Most Read More…

Who’s Afraid of Very Cheap Books? Publishing

A common meme in publishing is that cheap books are destroying the world or literature, and that low prices are undermining the viability of publishing or writers’ ability to make a living. I’ve long thought this position is nonsense – a narrative which plays on misplaced fears of change and a confusion of price and value, which is also based on flawed assumptions and analog, zero-sum thinking. And, if anything, the opposite is true. Why So Cheap? Self-publishers are fond of 99c pricing for a number of reasons. It’s the lowest price you can set at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo without making your book free, and it has an obvious impulse buy appeal to readers. This price point is particularly popular Read More…

Who's Afraid of Very Cheap Books? Publishing

A common meme in publishing is that cheap books are destroying the world or literature, and that low prices are undermining the viability of publishing or writers’ ability to make a living. I’ve long thought this position is nonsense – a narrative which plays on misplaced fears of change and a confusion of price and value, which is also based on flawed assumptions and analog, zero-sum thinking. And, if anything, the opposite is true. Why So Cheap? Self-publishers are fond of 99c pricing for a number of reasons. It’s the lowest price you can set at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo without making your book free, and it has an obvious impulse buy appeal to readers. This price point is particularly popular Read More…

Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin

The internet is seething over Amazon’s reported hardball tactics in negotiations with Hachette. Newspapers and blogs are filled with heated opinion pieces, decrying Amazon’s domination of the book business. Actual facts are thinner on the ground, however, and if history is any guide, we haven’t heard the full story. Here’s how it started. In a historical quirk of the trade, publishers and booksellers negotiate co-op deals at the same time as the general agreement to carry titles. (For those who don’t know, co-op is the industry term for preferred in-store placement, such as face-out instead of spine-out, position on end-caps, front tables, window displays, and so on.) At publishers’ insistence, the same practice has continued in the online and e-book world, namely Read More…

Astroturfing: The Source of Zombie Memes in Publishing?

Why are there so many zombie memes in publishing? Why is there so much groupthink? It might be because the industry isn’t particularly diverse. Or it could be that book-lovers are nostalgic types who are automatically wary of change. But I suspect it’s astroturfing by the publishing establishment, a practice admitted to last month by YS Chi, chairman of Elsevier and president of the International Publishers Association, in paragraph six of this article. For the click-lazy, here’s the money quote (emphasis mine): “We gathered all the communications people together to discuss the issues and create an action plan. We have a multi-faceted audience to address, and in the next 12 months you will see key messages delivered, compelling stories of our Read More…

The Authors Guild Doesn't Serve Writers Bewares Publishing

It’s official: the Authors Guild has lost the plot. In their (seemingly endless) quest to smear Amazon, they don’t care who they wheel out as an injured party. Spoiler alert: it’s PublishAmerica. Yep, you read that right. But before we get to that, how did we get into this mess? At the beginning of March, The President of the Authors Guild – Scott Turow – called for the Department of Justice to drop their unfinished investigation into e-book price-fixing. That call, of course, went unheeded, the investigation continued, and a suit was filed. A settlement was agreed with three of the Price Fix Six (with the rest electing to go to trial), but that settlement had yet to be approved by the court. Read More…

An Open Letter to the DOJ from Someone Who Actually Cares About Writers (and Readers) Publishing

The leading literary agents’ organization – the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) – penned an open letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) opposing the terms of the settlement reached with three of the publishers named in the Agency price-fixing suit. I won’t go into the details of how wrongheaded that letter was. It has already been systematically taken apart by Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, and Dean Wesley Smith. Also worth reading are Joe Konrath’s subsequent dismantling of another open letter to the DOJ written by Simon Lipskar (a board member of the AAR), as well as the comments made by Passive Guy on the same topic. If you have any doubt whose side (most) agents and the AAR are Read More…

Don’t Be Fooled: Big Publishing Hates Competition

The reaction to the filing of the DoJ’s antitrust suit was laughable, if somewhat predictable. Among other things, the DoJ has been accused of working for Amazon – helping them to “destroy the publishing industry.” If you want to sample the mindset I’m referring to, simply visit the comments of any article on the matter in the trade press – such as this or this (although this vocal group are strangely absent from articles such as this one describing publishers’ (alleged!) attempts to cover up their actions by deleting emails). I’m not sure when “the publishing industry” become exclusively synonymous with the largest publishers. I’m not sure when their narrow interests became everyone’s interests, because what’s good for Penguin isn’t Read More…

Don't Be Fooled: Big Publishing Hates Competition

The reaction to the filing of the DoJ’s antitrust suit was laughable, if somewhat predictable. Among other things, the DoJ has been accused of working for Amazon – helping them to “destroy the publishing industry.” If you want to sample the mindset I’m referring to, simply visit the comments of any article on the matter in the trade press – such as this or this (although this vocal group are strangely absent from articles such as this one describing publishers’ (alleged!) attempts to cover up their actions by deleting emails). I’m not sure when “the publishing industry” become exclusively synonymous with the largest publishers. I’m not sure when their narrow interests became everyone’s interests, because what’s good for Penguin isn’t Read More…

How The Agency Model Led To An Antitrust Suit

As reported yesterday, the Department of Justice has filed its antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the largest publishers (Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster). A settlement has been agreed with HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster; Macmillan claimed the terms were too onerous, and Penguin appears to have refused to contemplate settling. The agreed settlement must still be approved by the court, but among the conditions are the end of Agency (despite the attempted spin by PW in the above-linked article) and the return of pricing control to the retailers (such as Amazon). In addition, the settling parties will be monitored by the DoJ, who must be copied on any communications surrounding this or any related Read More…

The Anti-Amazon Campaign Jumps The Shark

The anti-Amazon stories seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment. Salon posted an article on Sunday written by Alexander Zaitchik called Amazon’s $1 million secret which contained the sensational allegation that Amazon donates $1 million to various literary and non-profit groups. A more complete list of beneficiaries is here, but it includes the Brooklyn Book Festival and PEN; journals like The Los Angeles Review of Books, One Story, and Poets & Writers; 826 Seattle (a tutoring program aimed at kids) and Girls Write Now (a mentoring program for girls); as well as various other associations such as Lambda Literary (supports LGBT literature), Words Without Borders (international literature), and Voice of Witness (human rights). Wait. Hold on one Read More…

Scott Turow: Wrong About Everything

On Thursday it was reported that the U.S. Justice Department was preparing to sue five of the largest publishers, and Apple, for (allegedly) colluding to fix e-book prices. Despite the shock expressed in some quarters, this is hardly a bolt from the blue. It’s almost a year since the European Union raided the offices of several publishers in France, Italy, and Germany, kicking off their own Europe-wide anti-trust investigation – later folding into that probe a similar move by the Competition Authority in the UK to examine the Agency Agreement. It was also widely reported late last year that a U.S. Justice Department investigation, along similar lines, had commenced. On top of that, it’s over six months since the law Read More…