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A dark day for the future of books - Mark Coker


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#1 Rick Spilman

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:39 AM

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, wrote the following in CNN. The entire argument strikes me as very odd.

A dark day for the future of books

Unfortunately, the self-inflicted wounds of large publishers have already begun to render their businesses less relevant to the future of publishing. Authors are beginning to turn their backs on traditional publishers in favor of self-publishing. Authors are now hiring their own editors, cover designers and marketing consultants. By assuming responsibility for the roles once played by publishers, authors are earning up to 70% of the list price as their e-book royalty versus the 17.5% paid by traditional publishers. They're publishing low-cost e-books that are hitting all the bestseller lists. The all-important access to distribution -- once exclusively controlled by publishers -- is now available to all self-publishing authors.


And this is the bad news? Am I missing something? Is the founder of Smashwords really arguing that the move toward self-publishing is unfortunate?

I understand the argument that if the big publishers become less competitive and Amazon achieves a de-facto monopoly they could be free to raise e-book pricing. There are several problems with this argument, but what strikes me as odd is that Coker doesn't even attempt to make it.

#2 Darke

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:28 PM

I think what he means is that it's unfortunate what's happening to Big Publishing, and perhaps how they did this to themselves, but I don't think any of the Big Six are going away any time soon. And who says Amazon will acquire a monopoly? Smashwords puts out ebooks as well, AND in more venues. If anything, Amazon is becoming Big Publishing. You can only purchase Amazon Imprint books through Amazon stores and not all countries around the world have Kindles, PLUS, in some countries, it's more expensive to purchase an Amazon ebook there, than it is in the States.

I'm not sure what the price difference is for a Smashwords book in other countries.

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#3 Rick Spilman

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:32 PM

I think what he means is that it's unfortunate what's happening to Big Publishing, and perhaps how they did this to themselves, but I don't think any of the Big Six are going away any time soon. And who says Amazon will acquire a monopoly? Smashwords puts out ebooks as well, AND in more venues. If anything, Amazon is becoming Big Publishing. You can only purchase Amazon Imprint books through Amazon stores and not all countries around the world have Kindles, PLUS, in some countries, it's more expensive to purchase an Amazon ebook there, than it is in the States.

I'm not sure what the price difference is for a Smashwords book in other countries.


The general refrain from the traditionalists out there is that Amazon will achieve monopolistic power if the agency pricing model doesn't survive. I think it is a foolish argument but it is common. A few examples, here, here, here and here.

I am aware, of course, that Smashwords publishes ebooks, which is why I find this rant to be so odd. Coker is defending the agency pricing model, but doing it extremely badly. If he has an argument, he hasn't presented it coherently.

#4 Robin Breyer

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:37 PM

I tend to agree with him on this, especially this paragraph:

If the Justice Department prevails with its antitrust lawsuit, the decision might have unintended negative consequences for those who write, publish, sell and enjoy e-books. The government's intention to protect consumers could end up backfiring on consumers by harming retailers, authors and publishers.


He has a good reason for defending the agency pricing model, that is what Smashwords uses. Amazon's predatory methods are not only a danger to the big publishers, but to the small retailers and the small publishers, like Smashwords. Amazon has made some questionable decisions in recent years. Decisions that remind me of the way Microsoft used to work. It is great the Amazon is an industry leader, but if they are allowed to reach a place where they do not just nudge the industry but dictate terms and force their pricing model on everyone, then not only do the publishers and their competitors lose, but the consumer as well.

Apple got in trouble for such a draconian move when iTunes set the price of music tracks at $0.99 and a full album for $9.99. It seems clear to me that when they went to add ebooks to the iTunes store that they came up with a pricing model that would eliminate them having to decide what to price an ebook at. The publishing industry apparently saw this as a way to stem Amazon and each publisher has adopted the contract that started with Apple seeking to be fair to the industry.

Now I do buy from, and have my books available for sale from, Amazon, but that does not mean I like their business practices. Neither does that mean I support the publishing industry having ebook prices so high. I think they should have the ebook priced at 75% of the current paper edition's price. I think some have started doing that because competition is so fierce, thanks to independent writers through Smashwords and KDP. I think if the DoJ had just stayed out of this that prices would equalize on their own. But this whole thing came about in response to Amazon trying to do with ebooks, what Apple did with music tracks and, oddly enough, it was Apple who came up with a solution. I've even heard it was Steve Jobs himself, but I haven't seen any proof of that. I think the publishers that agreed to settle have made a big mistake and the DoJ is behaving in a heavy handed and pro Amazon way.

If you can't tell, I feel strongly about this issue. That can tend to affect how I write about it, but my computer crashed 3 times trying to post this so this is my 3rd draft commenting on this.

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#5 Dark82

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:31 PM

Interesting thread! Glad that we are talking about this and staying aware. Thanks for the article from Mark Coker.
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#6 Rick Spilman

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 07:46 AM

I am struck by the bizarre and overlapping ironies of this case.

Consider, a company with the first initial A, introduces new electronic media and hardware that stands an established industry on its head. The company plays hardball with the established industry players, cuts prices and introduces a wholly new distribution system. The new media reduces costs to consumers and is convenient but has a terrible impact on brick and mortar media outlets.

If the year is 2007, the company whose name begins with A is Amazon, as it introduces the Kindle. If the year is 2001, the company is Apple with their iPod and iTunes. The difference is only that this time around Apple has sided with the entrenched corporate interests against the consumer.

The current anti-trust lawsuit is often described as an attack on the agency pricing model, where the content provider sets the price and the retailer takes a commission. In fact, the largest user of the agency pricing model in publishing is Amazon. Kindle Direct Publishing allows writers to set their own pricing and Amazon takes a fixed percentage. The issue in the lawsuit is not agency pricing but illegal collusion and price fixing by multinational media giants. Coker's half-hearted defense of agency pricing is beside the point unless Smashword attempts to fix prices, which there is no indication that they desire or would even be able to do so.

The concern that Amazon will be able to exert monopoly powers is indeed valid. Ironically, this would not be such a concern if Amazon's rivals had done a better job competing on selling ebooks. Apple's iBook store got off to a very slow start and B&N has had its issues, as well. The Apple and B&N ebook stores are still not as easy to use or as fully functional as Amazon's. Google's ebooks, which were supposed to save indie bookstores, crashed and burned due to poor design and lack of bookstore interest. Even so, Amazon's share of the ebook market has fallen from over 90% to around 50%, with Apple and Barnes and Noble each having close to 25% each. Amazon's ability to exert monopoly control is shrinking, not growing. The outcome of this lawsuit will not change that trend.

What we are watching is a battle of corporate giants. As writers, it is easy to feel like a mouse, easily trampled, by the behemoths. The press has often portrayed the publishers as underdogs facing down the giant Amazon. In fact, the combined market capitalization of the publishers in this case significantly exceeds Amazon's. Apple, with a market cap of $600 billion, is the largest corporation in the world.

What makes this case difficult is that I find no one to root for. Amazon, who made the world of self publishing possible, often acts like a thug. Their predatory tactics are not to be admired. The big traditional publishers, on the other hand, are subsidiaries of multinational giants. (Do you want to entrust your writing career to the Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, or example?) The Big 6 seem to be wholly out of touch and have done all they can to oppose change. If they do not change, and soon, they deserve to become extinct.

#7 Robin Breyer

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:37 AM

Rick, there are a couple of points you make that I disagree with or have received information that conflicts with what you are saying. Though you are quite right about the irony.

One difference between what Apple did a few years ago with music and what Amazon does is that Apple was one of many companies with a digital music player and it was the first one to link to a store to purchase your music. They play nice with the industry today, offering mp3 and Apple's own formats, with easy conversion between. I have not known Apple to resort to the predatory practices to compete with other music players or music stores. Apple has actually helped the music industry by providing a legal alternative to heavily pirated music. Amazon started out as an internet bookstore. They have expanded to everything, including used books. They were not the first ebookstore. And just when the ebook side of publishing was creating a standard ebook format (epub), Amazon chose to go with their own, develped from the Mobi Pocket format. They did introduce a good ebook reader in the Kindle, but the industry already had many dedicated ebook readers and apps for mobile devices and desktop. Amazon engages in practices that are anti-competitive. The deliberately set their prices low to corner the market. The reason why Amazon's share of the market has dwindled is because of the Agency pricing and the prohibition on them reducing prices below what their competitors can afford to do. That and Apple has touted their 3 devies (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) as good ebook readers and Barnes & Nobel has pushed to create a better product in their Nook to compete with the Kindle.

The real question behind the lawsuit is if the various publishing companies colluded to adopt the agency pricing model. Apple didn't force it on them as far as I know. To my knowledge Apple presented them with an agency pricing contract to arrange to sell books through iTunes. This time around, rather than force the industry to adopt its pricing, they asked the industry to dictate the price (which they do on print books and have for decades through the wholesale/cover price model). Apple handed them an example of a good pricing model, which answered an industry need, and they all adopted it and got their retailers to agree to it. The retailers did not have to agree to it, but they did. Even Amazon. Collusion would exist if the publishers all talked about this directly and agreed to force all the retailers to adopt the agency pricing model. If they took Apple's contract applied it to other retailers independently, then there is no collusion. Also, we don't know the precise timeline. Every industry has its rumor mill. Publisher don't have to communicate directly to find out that another publisher is starting to use a specific contract. They could always hear about it from a retailer, or author, or who knows who. The DoJ has based their case on the assumption that the publishers and Apple talked things over and shared private information when it is just as likely, if not more so, that the book industry rumor mill spread the pertinent information. If Penguin presents Amazon with a new contract, how long will it take before everyone knows about it? In this case, all that would have to be leaked is two words, "agency model", and everyone would know. One publisher has specifically stated on the record that he made the decision to migrate to the agency pricing model alone while exercising and described it as one of the most lonely decisions he had ever made. That does not sound like collusion. As for price fixing, well, that would go back a long way. Paper books have always been priced relatively the same. All agency pricing has done is to carry over the print prices to ebooks. But that is what the publishers were doing on their own websites to begin with. All this has done is prevent Amazon from taking a loss on almost ever ebook to build a market and force their pricing model on the industry.

While Apple and Amazon have done some similar things with pricing, Apple was a pioneer in selling digital music tracks (creating the price point for them) while Amazon came on an industry that had been around a while and tried to change the price from one already established.

One thing that I always look at is the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. Following the letter of the law often leads to injustice while following the spirit of the law tends to be harder but more just. The DoJ is not following the spirit of the law in this case and even under the letter of the law, their case has not been proven. That is for the court. When all the facts come out, I predict that the DoJ will not have started with a correct assumption as to how this has played out.

These are, of course, just my opinions, based on what I have read.

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#8 LucidDreamer

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:58 AM

Interesting. As a librarian I am always concerned about the mega-whatevers because as they take control the diversity of publications diminishes. There is also the difficulty of the personal-use model vs the public-use model. Current technology (Kindles, iPads, e-books of all kinds, licensed databases, etc.) is focused on NON-sharing. Libraries cannot allow just anyone access to a licensed product (pricing being based on patron base or FTE) but we can share legally purchased books with almost anyone -- and do, via interlibrary loan as well as patron borrowing. You can't effectively share materials on a Kindle or the like. Nor can libraries really use them effectively. Checking out 100+ titles on a Kindle when someone really can only read a few in the 4 week check-out period makes no sense. And since e-book readers and iPads and high-end phones are meant to be personalized to the individual who owns them, using them as a generic device is also inefficient. I am no Luddite but in some cases books just work better. The scariest scenario I can think of in terms of publishing is when and if anything is available in just one of two formats. Especially if those formats are controlled from "afar", as in material served electronically from a vendor -- or stored in vendor "clouds" and what have you. If the vendor decides to delete something it's gone, if the vendor goes out of business it's also gone. If it is no longer profitable for the vendor to provide a service -- guess what, it's gone. If there's some EMP burst... Everything's gone. I guess I wish we didn't always feel that we had to replace one thing with another. If we have a wide variety of material available in a wide variety of formats we can preserve and present books and other materials better to a wider range of people (including those who cannot afford new technology) than if we allow the mega-whatevers to dictate all the terms. Sorry for the soapbox, but as I watch a few corporations gobble up all the little guys (especially in publishing) it really does make we wonder about how much other information, viewpoints, art, literature etc. is being lost.

#9 Robin Breyer

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:15 AM

Lucid Dreamer, you bring up some of the very things that have flashed through my mind. I worry about companies that grow too large to have any competition. Fortunately our publishing industry does not have that problem. There are 6 big traditional publishes, but there are many more small publishers. Plus the self-e-publishing revolution is providing a lot of competition. Unfortunately one of those is through Amazon.

But you are incorrect that the ereaders are not designed for sharing. I do not know the legal ramifications, but if your library had a Nook and Barnes & Nobel account, you can loan most ebooks to other B&N account holders with a nook. It is for a limited time, there would only be one copy, and the lendee cannot renew it. A proper library ebook lending program is very doable.

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#10 Robin Breyer

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:22 AM

And Rick, I was going to comment on what you said about Amazon using the agency model, but I was interrupted. I don't think that Amazon does with their Kindle self-publishing cannot be called the agency model. While the writer sets their own price, Amazon lists a number of conditions where they will modify that price. They also do not distribute to any other retailers. The hallmark of the agency model is a fixed price for distribution to retailers. Amazon does not allow a fixed price and they do not distribute so I would not call what they do to be the agency pricing model.

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#11 Rick Spilman

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:29 AM

One difference between what Apple did a few years ago with music and what Amazon does is that Apple was one of many companies with a digital music player and it was the first one to link to a store to purchase your music. They play nice with the industry today, offering mp3 and Apple's own formats, with easy conversion between. I have not known Apple to resort to the predatory practices to compete with other music players or music stores.


Here is just one example:

Jobs Playing Hardball With Music Industry Executives

Negotiations between Apple and the four major record companies, with which the deals for the iTunes Music Store all expire within the next two months, have been going on for some time. The labels have been making it very loud and clear for some time now that they want variable pricing, while Jobs is well known for calling them greedy and sticking with the fixed pricing, and it seems that Jobs is winning the fights.


Apple is also fighting other class action law suits which claim that their iTunes store is monopolistic. Apple controls 65 to 72% of music distribution.

iTunes Monopoly? Apple's Jobs Ordered by Judge to Answer Anti-Competition Charges

Apple can be as aggressive and tough as Amazon. I won't buy from iTunes because I want to control my downloads, something that Apple won't allow.

The real question behind the lawsuit is if the various publishing companies colluded to adopt the agency pricing model. Apple didn't force it on them as far as I know. To my knowledge Apple presented them with an agency pricing contract to arrange to sell books through iTunes.


It would have been much better for Apple is Steve Jobs had not bragged about the collusion in his authorized biography.

‘Steve Jobs’ Bio Gives Justice Dept. Ammo for E-book Lawsuit

#12 Rick Spilman

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:38 AM

And Rick, I was going to comment on what you said about Amazon using the agency model, but I was interrupted. I don't think that Amazon does with their Kindle self-publishing cannot be called the agency model. While the writer sets their own price, Amazon lists a number of conditions where they will modify that price. They also do not distribute to any other retailers. The hallmark of the agency model is a fixed price for distribution to retailers. Amazon does not allow a fixed price and they do not distribute so I would not call what they do to be the agency pricing model.


A distinction without a difference. The two models in question are the traditional wholesale/retail model where a content provider sets a wholesale price to the retailer and the retailer is free to set the retail price, independent of the 'MSRP' (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) and the agency model, where the content provider sets the price and the retailer takes a commission. That is exactly how Kindle Direct Publishing works. Other terms and conditions notwithstanding, which would exist in any agency agreement, the Amazon KPD is by definition an agency model..

#13 Robin Breyer

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:58 PM

Here is just one example:

Jobs Playing Hardball With Music Industry Executives

Yup, but the difference was Apple pioneered the digital music store and the Industry Execs were trying to change it.

Apple is also fighting other class action law suits which claim that their iTunes store is monopolistic. Apple controls 65 to 72% of music distribution.

iTunes Monopoly? Apple's Jobs Ordered by Judge to Answer Anti-Competition Charges

Apple can be as aggressive and tough as Amazon. I won't buy from iTunes because I want to control my downloads, something that Apple won't allow.

This case was about Apple changing the software on the iPod that rendered a 3rd party software inoperable. They continue to do this with the iPhone app store, but they are not alone in this practice. And I'm not sure what you mean by having a problem controlling your downloads. My wife buys tracks from iTunes and I have no problem backing them up and restoring them. Most even allow me to convert them to mp3 for use on my phone, if I wanted to.


It would have been much better for Apple is Steve Jobs had not bragged about the collusion in his authorized biography.

‘Steve Jobs’ Bio Gives Justice Dept. Ammo for E-book Lawsuit

Those quotes are not clear evidence that there was any collusion between Apple and the Publishers or among the publishers. By one interpretation it might be, but it can be take other ways that are not criminal in any way. A quote in a book is not sworn testimony and is a poor thing to base a case on.

I can tell you whose side I am on in all this. It isn't Apple, or the Publishers (and obviously not Amazon). I'm on the side of the brick and mortar stores, from the giant Barnes & Nobel down to the local mom & pop bookstore. Amazon's pricing has been under cutting the entire publishing market and it has lowered the expectation of readers on just what the price should be. I don't agree that it should be full cover price of the print edition, but it should be something writers and publishers have some control over. Apple's pricing of music was not just off the cuff. The $0.99 track price and $9.99 album price is comparable to your typical pop album available on cassette tape 15 years ago, or the big chain retailers price of CD's at about the time Apple adopted the price. In the process, Apple revived the sale of the single and started meeting the demand of the public. You can easily get those same music tracks from Amazon for the same price per track. But where Apple pioneered legal music downloads, Amazon came into an ebook market already in existence (or so I remember the timeline). I bought my first ebook in 2003 in the mobi pocket format. At that point, Tor had the ebook priced at about 75% of the trade paperback version, so I could save $4 to read the one story I wanted out of that anthology. So as far as I am concerned, the publishers and Amazon have the pricing wrong and it should be a compromise somewhere in the middle. From the latest reports I've seen, the market has been forcing publishers to lower their ebook price, but not to the level Amazon was insisting on. The market is already doing what the DoJ set out to do. If the publishers are force to abandon the agency model, Amazon wins, and wins in more ways than just the price war.

Anyway, I always like having these discussions with you. You have a habit of cutting through my opinion with facts and help me better understand the situation and refine my opinion. Thanks, Rick.

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#14 J. Lea Lopez

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 03:26 PM

Amazon's pricing has been under cutting the entire publishing market and it has lowered the expectation of readers on just what the price should be.


A million times, THIS.

This is one of my biggest concerns with Amazon. It's frustrating to see Amazon reviews saying good things about some books, but then saying "would've been better if it were cheaper." And this is on books that are already only three or four dollars.

I read people who say ebooks should be dirt cheap because there's no cost. Seriously, there are people who think it costs NOTHING to produce an ebook. Aside from how cheap it may or may not be to produce an ebook, they don't even give a thought to the fact that the writer would still like to get paid for months or even years of work it took to write the book in the first place, not to mention the years of honing their skills before being published at all.

I think agency pricing can be a good thing. Price fixing is obviously a bad thing. Ebooks priced as much or even higher than paperbacks are obviously a bad thing. Eliminating the agency pricing model isn't necessarily, in my opinion, the solution. I'm still trudging through the mountain of info on the subject, so my opinion is open to change, of course, but I haven't seen any major indicators yet that agency pricing is any more responsible for expensive ebooks than the simple fact that some publishers are just greedy and stupid lol. Or that they're grasping at straws to stay afloat in a difficult market.

As someone who will be self publishing this year, I'm also trying to stay on top of these developments. I hate that Amazon can arbitrarily discount my book and that if they drop me below the 2.99 required for 70% royalties, it's too bad so sad for me. I'll have to suck it up and take my 35% with a smile.

I also see people comparing the publishing industry to other retail industries, grocery stores etc. Sure, a retailer can use a product as a loss leader to get people in the doors and buying the more expensive items, which is basically what Amazon does with books. But if the retailer's pricing strategy doesn't draw as many customers as they'd hoped, it's the retailer who eats the loss, not the supplier. There are some instances where retailers can charge back to vendors for certain reasons, but I'm pretty sure in most cases once the vendor sells to the retailer, that's it. Any subsequent loss or profit is taken by the retailer. I wouldn't mind such an arrangement in the publishing industry, or with Amazon and self publishers. I want to be able to set a fair price for my book, and not worry that Amazon can undercut me for no good reason. I don't think that's unreasonable.

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#15 Rick Spilman

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:05 PM

A million times, THIS.

This is one of my biggest concerns with Amazon. It's frustrating to see Amazon reviews saying good things about some books, but then saying "would've been better if it were cheaper." And this is on books that are already only three or four dollars.

I read people who say ebooks should be dirt cheap because there's no cost. Seriously, there are people who think it costs NOTHING to produce an ebook. Aside from how cheap it may or may not be to produce an ebook, they don't even give a thought to the fact that the writer would still like to get paid for months or even years of work it took to write the book in the first place, not to mention the years of honing their skills before being published at all.


I find this to be very confusing. What does it matter what the unit price is? If lower prices sell more books and the payment received by the author is larger, what is the problem? If anything the trend seems to be away from the lowest possible price. $2.99 seems to be the new $0.99 and $4.99 seems to be the new $2.99.

What is really stupid is an ebook priced at $14.99 when Amazon and B&N are discounting the hardcover at $12.50.

As someone who will be self publishing this year, I'm also trying to stay on top of these developments. I hate that Amazon can arbitrarily discount my book and that if they drop me below the 2.99 required for 70% royalties, it's too bad so sad for me. I'll have to suck it up and take my 35% with a smile.



Do you know or know of anyone to whom this has happened? I don't. My understanding of the Amazon pricing language is that it allows it to match any lower price, so if you price the book lower on Smashwords or Kobo, they can match it. Overall, it appears that writers publishing with KDP have far greater control over their pricing and royalty rates than those who accept traditional contracts with either big or small publishers.

I also see people comparing the publishing industry to other retail industries, grocery stores etc. Sure, a retailer can use a product as a loss leader to get people in the doors and buying the more expensive items, which is basically what Amazon does with books. But if the retailer's pricing strategy doesn't draw as many customers as they'd hoped, it's the retailer who eats the loss, not the supplier. There are some instances where retailers can charge back to vendors for certain reasons, but I'm pretty sure in most cases once the vendor sells to the retailer, that's it. Any subsequent loss or profit is taken by the retailer. I wouldn't mind such an arrangement in the publishing industry, or with Amazon and self publishers. I want to be able to set a fair price for my book, and not worry that Amazon can undercut me for no good reason. I don't think that's unreasonable.


I hear and read the supporters of traditional publishers say things like, "You can't sell books like cans of soup." I find myself thinking that the publishing world just might be a better place if publishers demonstrated some of the creativity and market savvy used by the soup sellers.

#16 Robin Breyer

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:29 PM

Rick, there are many sides to this issue. There is the customer, wanting both quality and a good price. There is the writer, wanting a good royalty and sales. There are the publishers, both the big 6 and the indies. There are the self publishing businesses such as Smashwords. Most of the indie bookstores don't have a way to sell ebooks (at least not yet), so most retailers of ebooks are the big names, Barnes & Nobel, Sony, Apple, Diesel, Kobo, and Amazon. But then you have Amazon who is spanning multiple roles in this. They are retailers, publisher, self-publishing venue, and a huge power in the market. Being so big they have occasionally made mistakes with the whole price matching scheme and have discounted some books they shouldn't have. We have had several conversations about that here on AQC. There is a lot going on right now as the market for the printed words changes from the old model of printed books sold wholesale, to a new paradigm that accommodates ebooks, self-publishing, and all the in-betweens. I don't think we all can agree, mainly because we have different perspectives, concerns and interests.

I personally think that we need to be looking at the buyer and the writer and streamlining the process of going from creation to recreation that keeps the money flowing without too much being lost in the middle. I think the big publishers, in fact all the more traditional publishers, are using ebooks to shore up the losses and increased expenses form print books (as they sell fewer, the cost per copy to print will go up). One of the things that this whole topic has ignored, is that as virtually every other item has gone up in price in the last 10 years, books have remained about where they were. I would argue that the price of paper books probably should increase in price and ebooks should decrease. That would encourage people to buy ebooks (more profit all around for less expenditure) and make more people happy, except those who insist on sticking with paper books (and I tend to be one of those, I even like to read my own stories on paper with my red pen in hand). I just think that Amazon is more of a problem then the big 6 publishers which is why I am so against this DoJ suit. I think books, in general, probably should be 30, 20, 10, for paper (HC, TP, MMP respectively) with the ebooks priced at 15, 10, 5 (to coincide with the corresponding paper copy). But that is just my idea.

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#17 Rick Spilman

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:52 PM

I personally think that we need to be looking at the buyer and the writer and streamlining the process of going from creation to recreation that keeps the money flowing without too much being lost in the middle. I think the big publishers, in fact all the more traditional publishers, are using ebooks to shore up the losses and increased expenses form print books (as they sell fewer, the cost per copy to print will go up). One of the things that this whole topic has ignored, is that as virtually every other item has gone up in price in the last 10 years, books have remained about where they were. I would argue that the price of paper books probably should increase in price and ebooks should decrease. That would encourage people to buy ebooks (more profit all around for less expenditure) and make more people happy, except those who insist on sticking with paper books (and I tend to be one of those, I even like to read my own stories on paper with my red pen in hand). I just think that Amazon is more of a problem then the big 6 publishers which is why I am so against this DoJ suit. I think books, in general, probably should be 30, 20, 10, for paper (HC, TP, MMP respectively) with the ebooks priced at 15, 10, 5 (to coincide with the corresponding paper copy). But that is just my idea.


Actually the price of print books has kept up with inflation and in real terms has stayed about constant. The cost of publishing has also stayed relatively flat during the period with savings from new technologies offsetting the modest levels of inflation..

How Much More Do Books Cost Today?

Well, at first glance there’s that big bump in 1971, which could be a publishing trend, or it could be that the two books on the top of the lists in December happened to be particularly expensive. But if you ignore 1971, then you can make a pretty strong argument that the adjusted price of a hardcover book has held constant, neither inflating or deflated, and that this price equals roughly thirty 2011 dollars. This is about a consistent price as we’ve seen so far.


The problem with hard cover books in particular is that they are like CDs - expensive and inconvenient. The fact is that the big publishers were willing to collude to fix e-books prices in order to defend a product that is less desirable to their customers. That speaks volumes.

#18 Robin Breyer

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:01 AM

Again, I think the real question is whether this was collusion or whether all the publishers saw the same problem and chose the same way to combat it, but did so independently. That seems like a wild idea, but I do know that all the publishers were not happy with Amazon's ebook pricing. If they communicated, then it is collusion. But if they made their decisions independently, then it isn't, just a big coincidence.

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#19 Cammy May

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 08:58 PM

Coker is a true American hero. I would marry him in a hot second. But I'd rather vote for him for President, which in a better world would be possible.

I read his stuff and have noticed that it's generally more complex than it looks, with several levels. One thing he's doing there is positioning himself not as an enemy of print publishers, but a statesman concerned with the overall business of getting people books.
(In view of his handling of the PayPal censorship issue, I don't see that a far-fetched stance at all)

At another level, he's kind of nudging publishers to shape up.
(Fat chance)

And then there's this... it's a great advertisement for skipping the whole publisher process and doing it yourself.
(Using SmashWords, for instance)
So far everything has turned about as I expected.




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