Get LISNews via email! Enter Your Email Address:
Commentary by publishing industry consultant Mike Shatzkin
Now I swear all this is true. As everybody knows, a very serious food fight broke out between Amazon and Macmillan late Friday night. All weekend Michael Cader led the way in ferreting out additional useful information and I spent most of today (Sunday) trying to write an analytical blogpost. I got it just about finished in the early afternoon, and the bottom line to what I’d written was “Amazon will not be able to sustain this.”
I decided to hold the post until after going to see Crazy Heart this afternoon and, when I came home, Amazon had already folded. But I had written a post that provided a lot of useful information, even if events had stolen my punchline.
So I’m giving it the once-over to edit it for the reality that Amazon has already announced that they will not continue to boycott Macmillan books.
On Friday, Amazon.com shocked the publishing world when it pulled both the digital and physical books of Macmillan, the large international publisher, after Macmillan said it planned to begin setting higher prices for its e-books. Until now, Amazon has been setting e-book prices itself, and has established $9.99 as the common price for new releases and best-sellers.
But in a message to its customers posted to its Web site on Sunday afternoon, Amazon said that while it strongly disagreed with Macmillan’s stance, it would concede to the publisher. The New York Times reports.
“We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles,” Amazon said. “We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.”
Sounds like Amazon wished Macmillan didn't have a monopoly over their own titles. Perhaps Amazon wants to write, edit, publish, print, design, bind, price, market, distribute, sell and ship its own books in addition to formulating its own proprietary reading technology and software?
On the bestsellers page on Amazon you can now select a previous date and see what the bestselling books were at that time. It can be interesting to see what books are popular during historical events in the last decade and a half. For example:
Week before Sept 11, 2001
Week after Sept. 11, 2001
What impatient folk we are. While publishers are delaying the release of a book's Kindle edition to give the hardcover edition a chance to sell, Kindle readers (kindlers?) despair over the wait.
Case in point: the much buzzed about new book "Game Change," which spills secrets about the 2008 presidential election. The book has been deluged with one-star, negative reviews from apparent Kindle fans who are protesting publisher HarperCollins' decision to delay the Kindle version to Feb. 23. Those one-star reviews have contributed to a ho-hum average customer review rating of a 2.5 stars (out of 5). Customer reviews are an important factor for book sales on Amazon, and it will be interesting to see if the Kindle protests spread.
Here's one example of a customer's review of "Game Change": "This is time-sensitive material. No one is going to care in 6 weeks when it is released for the kindle. People want it now. The publisher is shooting themselves in the foot. They'd have made more money overall by offering the kindle version now."
Amazon.com today announced that Kindle has become the most gifted item in Amazon's history. On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books. The Kindle Store now includes over 390,000 books and the largest selection of the most popular books people want to read, including New York TimesBestsellersand New Releases.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon.com "is quietly expanding its private-label business in a bid to diversify away from its online bookstore roots and become more like a general retailer. . .
The latest sign: The Seattle-based e-commerce giant--known for high-tech innovations like one-click checkout and the Kindle e-reader--last month received a U.S. design patent for a wooden chopping block. The $24.99 Pinzon bamboo cutting board is being sold as part of a line of Amazon's own kitchen products on its website."
Amazon's expected objection to the Google Books Settlement landed in court yesterday and suggests the deal is "arguably unlawful."
"[I]t constitutes price fixing by horizontal competitors—namely, the Rightsholders, who are agreeing collectively on a mechanism for setting the highest possible prices to be charged for their works," argues the 49-page document, which was filed four days ahead of the September 4 deadline for written comments.
Amazon is part of the Microsoft-Yahoo-Internet Archive coalition, which is collaborating on preparing objections to the settlement. The coalition, called the Open Book Alliance, will be filing its own objection this week, while some individual parties, like Amazon, are also filing their own briefs. MediaBistro reports.
According to the French publishing group Hachette: Hardback books could be killed off if Amazon’s e-books and Google’s digital library force publishers to slash prices, warns Arnaud Nourry, Hachette's chief executive.
Mr Nourry said unilateral pricing by Google, Amazon and other e-book retailers such as Barnes & Noble could destroy publishers’ profits (not to mention what is happening to bookstores).
He said publishers were “very hostile” to Amazon’s pricing strategy – over which the online retailer failed to consult publishers – to charge $9.99 for all its e-books in the US. He also pointed to plans by Google to put millions of out-of-copyright books online for public use.
“On the one hand, you have millions of books for free where there is no longer an author to pay and, on the other hand, there are very recent books, bestsellers at $9.99, which means that all the rest will have to be sold at between zero and $9.99,” Mr Nourry said.
Mr Nourry’s comments come as analysts predict a growth spurt for the still-niche electronic reader market, with wireless devices from Sony, Plastic Logic and others due to compete with the Kindle.
Financial Times reports.
Publishers Weekly reports on the recently purchased Crocodile Pie and other Chicago area bookstores closing.
Had enough of independent bookstores and other indie businesses closing? Want to save the remaining few? Tired of Amazon.com calling all the shots?
Check out these websites and do your part.
and if you're on facebook...become a fan: