[publishing] Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.

Ok, I’m furious about this: Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement. (For more intelligent publishing-focused commentary than I can put together right now, John Scalzi has a very good take here. As usual, the dirty rat.)

Over what appears to be a dispute regarding e-book pricing, Amazon has pulled all Macmillan titles in all formats from their US web site. This includes Tor books, and includes my own Green as well as the Mainspring series. Yes, third party sales are available, they haven’t de-listed the titles completely, but this is still quite significant.

To be clear, I don’t believe for a moment Amazon has any moral or legal obligation to sell my work, Macmillan’s titles, or anything else in particular. As a private actor, they can do whatever they want with regard to stocking and vending inventory through their system. I certainly can’t buy all the same products at the Safeway and the Albertson’s which are equidistant from my house. This causes me no outrage, only occasional mild annoyance.

But as a brand they have a trust relationship with their customers. And books lie at the core of their brand, regardless of their diversification into selling damned near everything these past years. The recent 1984 fiasco was a very good example of How Not to Manage Your Consumer Facing Brand.

This Macmillan issue isn’t going to bother consumers much. The 1984 problem was that they withdrew content for which people had already paid. Regardless of the underlying issue (and there was a serious underlying issue, Amazon just handled it very badly), that’s pretty much unacceptable. I believe we call it “theft” when you and I do it.

Declining to sell someone a book isn’t theft. It’s commerce. There are bookstores all over the world, both bricks-and-mortar and online, that won’t sell you my books. I am not outraged by this. But having the most prominent book retailer in the world remove my print titles from public sale over a behind-the-scenes business dispute concerning a slightly related product line (Kindle) is arrogant, offensive, and just plain maddening.

It’s not wrong, as much as I’d like to pretend it is. They can do what they want. But it’s stupid and troubling.

In a larger sense, so close on the heels of the 1984 issue, what this does prove is that Amazon will always favor boardroom level business issues over the interests of their consumers. Again, their privilege. It’s a free country, the Supreme Court assures me that Amazon is a corporate person. Bezos’ bozos can party on.

But they’ll have their party without me. I’ve removed all Amazon sales links from my author Web site at jlake.com. I will no longer link to them from my blog when I discuss my titles or other people’s work. I have closed my Amazon account this morning. I will never purchase anything from them again, I will especially never buy a Kindle, and I will use reasonable means (including my substantial blogging and social media presence) to discourage my friends, family and fans from doing any business with Amazon.

Because if they’re going to choose to toss me overboard in a business dispute over which I have no influence, control or participation in, I can choose not to do business with them. Even if Amazon rolls this back this morning, it doesn’t matter to me. They’ve proven they can’t be trusted to maintain even a neutral perspective on my interests as either a consumer or an author. They’ve shattered my brand loyalty. I won’t play Lucy and the football with them.

Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.

75 thoughts on “[publishing] Bug off, Bezos. And take your damned bookstore with you.

  1. Bravo, Jay.

    What Amazon is doing is just despicable. As you and Cory have said, it’s putting authors and readers in the middle of a price war. It certainly is allowed to do that, of course. Just like we’re allowed to stop dealing with Amazon.

  2. RRRJessica says:

    “This Macmillan issue isn’t going to bother consumers much.”

    Juts piping in to let you know it bothers this consumer — very much — and it’s been eating up the blogs, tweets, and Facebook postings of all of my book consumer friends.

    I’m sure there’s a lot of blame to go around, and Amazon deserves its share, but don’t you think the publisher’s hands are a little dirty here as well?

    1. Jay says:

      I’m sure there’s a lot of blame to go around, and Amazon deserves its share, but don’t you think the publisher’s hands are a little dirty here as well?

      It’s a business dispute. Both sides are involved. (Speaking specifically of the underlying e-book pricing issue that’s being reported.)

      But Macmillan didn’t pull my titles from sale. It’s that simple.

      I could even understand if Amazon had frozen Macmillan’s Kindle titles. I wouldn’t be a lot happier about that, but it would make some sense to me. But pulling the print titles?

      That does clear and possibly significant harm to me and every other Macmillan author. I am party with no standing in the business dispute, no power to influence or remediate it. All I can do is be harmed. And Amazon is doing the harming.

  3. Jane says:

    How do you know that Macmillan didn’t pull the Kindle books? Do you think that is acceptable of your publisher? Is that some kind of theft?

    1. Jay says:

      Read the post carefully, Jane. I went to a lot of trouble to explain that I don’t think any of this is theft. I do think it’s wrong, but that’s a different issue.

      And while I don’t know that Macmillan didn’t pull the Kindle books, that isn’t what’s being reported so far. I’m not too concerned about the Kindle books anyway, that would just be annoying as hell.

      It’s pulling the print books over a Kindle dispute that really crossed the line.

      1. Jim C. Hines says:

        Jay, have you seen any reporting on this aside from the blog post at the NY Times? I’ve seen nothing from Amazon or Macmillan. I agree it looks bad, but I’m searching for something more than a single anonymous source.

        1. Jay says:

          Hi, Jim. Not much else yet, though that’s why they do this stuff on Friday evenings. Just like a political document dump. Wait to see which way the wind blows.

          By the time the Monday news cycle rolls around we may all be told this was a regrettable database error or something. Which I will believe like I believe in compassionate conservatism.

          1. Jim C. Hines says:

            Yeah, it definitely doesn’t look good for Amazon. And I understand it’s a lot easier for me to be all high-minded and “wait and see,” since DAW isn’t affected the way Tor was. (At least not this time around.)

            Someone reminded me of the LGBT “glitch” they had a while back. Which pushes me toward thinking even if this is a glitch, it’s still totally unexcusable, and they need to fire some people and fix their damn database.

  4. The point is, there are better ways for Amazon and Macmillan to negotiate without resorting to schoolyard bully tactics.

    1. nabrum says:

      “The point is, there are better ways for Amazon and Macmillan to negotiate without resorting to schoolyard bully tactics.”

      Uh huh. And when someone drops a piece of paper on your desk with only 2 choices, 1 of which is no choice, what do you expect? MM wasn’t interested in negotiating, they were demanding. They got in bed with Jobs and think the iPad is going to save them. The iPad as an eReader will be a bust.

  5. Bevan says:

    I can understand Amazon & Macmillan disputing the price of e-books sold on-line, but it seems terribly infantile of Amazon to pull ALL purchasing links for ALL Macmillan books. (Don’t want to play by my rules? I’ll take my toys and go home!) If they want to pull Kindle book links, I suppose that’s fine. But how did the innocent hardcovers and paperbacks get dragged into the fray?

    I live in Canada and typically buy books from Chapters (kind of like Border or Barnes & Noble), unless Amazon can offer me a SUBSTANTIAL discount. After this little fiasco (not to mention the “1984” debacle), they’ll be lucky to get that from me. And no, I won’t be buying a Kindle.

    1. AnitaMaria says:

      What MM and Amazon have is a war. And in war you use all your guns and not only the nickel and dime stuff. If Amazon pulled only the e-books they would be playing right into MM hands. I 100% agree with Amazon tactics as sorry as I am for this author’s hardship

  6. Meran says:

    I haven’t been buying from Amazon since they swallowed up and digested one of my fave independent bookselling sites.. That’s been oh, 7 yrs now? I don’t care what they sell anymore; I’ve been able to find it elsewhere usually cheaper (I HATE their shipping prices!)
    so Jay, you’re “preaching to the choir” with me; I’ve known for a long time that Amazon is a bully. (and yeah, why drag the hardcovers and PB into it? Just shows their bulliest ways)

  7. Kate says:

    Y’know… my feeling on this is a resounding “meh”. I think that Amazon is exerting their giant pull to shock Macm into capitulating on the pricing issue. It’s not especially fair, but business is business, and $15 for an ebook is just silliness. I can’t say I agree with their tactics, but Macmillan pushed hard enough, apparently, that Amazon felt the need to push back harder. In business if you have the means to force someone’s hand, you use it.

    1. Jay says:

      But in forcing Macmillan’s hand, I’m taking collateral damage. Why should I support this, or even be philosophical about it?

      1. AnitaMaria says:

        It is like Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians are quiet when their people bomb Israel but vocal when Israel retaliates back. I guess, you should stop being quiet like a Palestinian and let MM know that their tactic is not right with you. If more of you MM authors responded to MM, they might decide to negotiate.

        1. Jay says:

          Why do you think Macmillan’s tactics are wrong? The $9.99 promise was from Amazon to Kindle buyers, it never had anything to do with the publishers.

          See here for a full explanation of the publishing industry’s view of this:


          It’s a lot more nuanced and complex than Amazon’s statements to the Kindle community would have you believe. They lied to you by omission when they flatly stated that ebook prices would go up. Macmillan’s proposal was for a price range from $5.99 up. Amazon didn’t mention that.

        2. Jay says:

          AnitaMaria – Here’s yet another detailed perspective on all this which may of use to you:


  8. James says:

    Hmm, I have been buying from Amazon less and less since UK’s The Book Depository opened up a US branch. Usually cheaper and free shipping almost worldwide. I have been watching this since last night and it is pretty disgusting move on Amazon’s part, which pretty much means I will not be posting links to Amazon if I can avoid it.

    1. Michael B says:

      Hi James, thanks for posting about the Book Depository, they’ll be getting my business now.

  9. Rebecca says:

    I *Hate* ebooks and kindles. This is just another reason to hate them more.

  10. Cora says:

    As I already commented on John Scalzi’s blog, as of this point Amazon Germany still offers Tor titles by you, Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, Jordan Summers, Patricia Waddell and other Tor authors. To clarify (since there was some confusion), these are the original American editions, not German translations. What is more, Amazon Germany also continues to sell books by S.Fischer Verlag and Rowohlt, two German subsidiaries of the Holtzbrinck publishing group, which also owns Macmillan. So apparently, Tor and other Macmillan titles are still available via the international Amazon affiliates.

    Amazon Germany actually did pull a similar stunt (stopping sales on all titles from a certain publisher) a few years ago in a dispute over discounts with the Swiss publisher Diogenes. Apparently it was resolved, because Diogenes books are available at Amazon Germany again. Still, this thing is not without precedent.

    Otherwise, I sympathize with your anger. And this consumer at least would be very furious, if I were deprived of ordering print books from a certain publisher because of a pricing dispute over e-books I couldn’t care less about.

    However, as I already said during the GLBT delisting fiasco last year, for me as an international reader there is no real alternative to Amazon. Amazon Germany allows me to purchase pretty much every English language book (and a lot of other international books), including those from small presses, university presses, etc… and will ship them to me in a reasonable amount of time free of charge and without customs hassle.

    The only real alternative to Amazon is The Book Depository (UK online retailer with supposedly free shipping), which I haven’t yet checked out. Otherwise, I’d have to order from a non-Amazon US/UK retailer and pay high shipping costs (if they ship overseas at all – some of them don’t) or special order a book at the bookstore, which is a hassle particularly for small press titles. Hence, even though I’m annoyed with their practices, I’m stuck with Amazon.

    1. James says:


      As a person who frequently buys from The Book Depository, I can attest that there is nothing supposed about their free shipping. Sometimes their prices are a little higher (although I have found their prices either similar to or cheaper than the prices found on Amazon), but the free shipping easily makes up for it. The books ship from the UK and usually arrive in much the same time as the standard shipping from Amazon (I live in the US) and even my friends in Australia have claimed that the books they order from there get to them quicker than when they ordered from Amazon.

      1. Cora says:

        Thanks a lot. I’ll check them out then.

  11. Beatriz says:

    Amazon has gotten their last dime from me. They can squabble all they like with publishers but when the put me, the consumer, in the middle, I’m done.

  12. Mike says:

    Couldn’t agree more–that Amazon chose to punish authors and even Amazon’s own customers over a business dispute tells you exactly where their priorities are. I’m also going to quit buying from Amazon.

  13. Meran says:

    I can order from anywhere else and not feel compromised by Amazon’s policies. http://Www.bn.com has most of what I want, gives free shipping (I order enough), and I belong to their silly club too.
    There are many companies I refuse to buy from. Call it boycott if you wish.
    Amazon may have a corner on the market but monopolies are still illegal and there are other options, always.
    I was tempted for about 5 min to get a Kindle or the like, but will always be old fashioned enough to want the tree killer form… Believe me, power use is filling the world with too much carbon and going electronic isn’t necessarily “greener”. I’ve seen my power bills do nothing but go up with the computer revolution!
    Unleaded gas was probably still a good idea, tho. 😀

  14. Liza says:

    Although Amazon has never been my first source for books, I will not buy from them anymore. I usually order from B&N or Borders because of discounts. Plus I have both of their stores within 5 miles of my house. I actually have the Sony reader. One of the main reasons I never went with the Kindle was the lack of additional reading formats. With my Sony reader, I could read all the pdf books I had been buying for my laptop for years. I feel Amazon will only hurt themselves with this decision.

  15. PRT says:

    I just want to add that Macmillan HAS spoken out and said that they did not request that the books be pulled. This is, according to them, entirely Amazon’s position. Also, it appears that some of the problem was that Macmillan was pushing for a dynamic price point that changes at roughly the rate of price change from Hardback to paperback. So while an e-book might start at 15 bucks, it would later decrease to 9.99 and then further to perhaps 6.99. This is the deal Macmillan has with Apple. You can read what John Sargent of Macmillan has to say in an open letter to Macmillan authors, illustrators, and literary agents here: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/lunch/free/

  16. Meran says:

    As a ps to my previous post, Mr Meran says:
    he’d like to see kindle readers get their copies signed by the authors


  17. Yup! I closed my personal account and terminated my affiliate relationship after the “programming error” of #amazonfail in April 2009.

    I know it’s the go-to source for books (and other items) for many people (including my husband), but I no longer shop there, or provide links. In other words, I’m not pushing people to follow my lead, but I’m happy with the statement my one small voice can make.

  18. mamajoan says:

    I have to agree with your post Jay – particular the term “collateral damage.” Both the authors and the non-Kindle-owning bookbuyers are taking collateral damage in this stupid spat, and it’s inexcusable. I don’t give a rat’s behind what books are and aren’t offered in Kindle format, because I don’t have any plans to start reading anything other than paper books for the foreseeable future. So I mostly ignore the whole ebook conversation. But when I can’t get the books I want from Amazon even in paper version, all of a sudden I have to start paying attention to the ebook wars. And that makes me grumpy.

    I buy from Amazon a lot. I even have their credit card. But at this point I’m giving *serious* consideration to canceling the card and taking my business elsewhere. If only I felt confident that bn.com and its ilk won’t be doing something very similar next week….

    1. nabrum says:

      And you place no blame on the Publisher for instigting this?

      1. Jay says:

        Instigating a pricing dispute over ebooks? Sure. Pulling print titles from retail sale? How is that possibly the publisher’s doing? The dispute wasn’t about print books.

  19. lorinda says:


    I understand your feeling. On the customer side, I am dealing with Amazon because I bought a US Kindle in July for my father in Canada. With no previous advertising, Kindle came out with a Kindle Global in October. I asked them to let me exchange my US Kindle for a global Kindle so my dad can use all the features in Canada. I was told NO, No exceptions. Very poor customer relations considering the thousands of dollars I’ve spend with them over the years.

  20. Sharing your pain (wrote my own “Nightmare on Amazon Street” about it http://www.randysusanmeyers.com/blog/ )

    My book launched less than 2 weeks ago from MacMillan, and it felt like someone held out a trip wire when it happened. Funny–reviews of my book are still coming out on Amazon. This is for sure a moment of being the collateral damage of a corporate smack.

    My ‘consumer non-writer friends’ are quite enraged. But I wonder if the average person has a clue. I imagine them seeking out my book and then seeing it pegged similar to 20 year out of print ones.

    Thanks for the post.

  21. Ashavan Doyon says:

    What Macmillan asked for was an agency agreement. It is this, not the push for a higher price point, that upsets me as a consumer. This is the first step towards Macmillan price fixing. They, and all of their authors, have lost me as a consumer. And as I buy literally hundreds of books… I was a damned good consumer to have.

    I do appreciate that Amazon’s move hurt authors. But so did Macmillan’s strong arm tactics, and there are readers who pay attention to those too. An agency agreement? For a bookseller? Are you kidding me?

    This is a sad day.

    1. Michael B says:

      And how do their authors have control over Macmillan’s decision?

  22. Max Smith says:

    Once again, the consumers get screwed while the corporate giants fight over more and more profits. Is $15.00 a fair price for a bunch of bits? Perhaps the authors should just sell direct and cut out both MacMillan and Amazon (and Apple). Authors could sell for half of Amazon’s price and still make more than twice as much. And the consumer would win, too.

  23. Joseph T. Galietto says:

    Jay, you completely off base. The only one should be mad at is Macmillan!!! They are trying to force an agency model down the throats of ebook retailers. As it is in the music business where the agency model only benefits the labels and not the artists; only Macmillian will benefit with the move to agency sales. Indeed their is anecdotal evidence that authors are making more self-publishing their out of print works than when they were still “in print”.

    Macmillan is your business partner and they have forced the hand of one of your largest customers. As a consumer I see no difference to me when buying ebook or hardcover. I see Amazon protecting me from a thieving Macmillan. Your rant is ego and does not really take a sound look at your own self interest.

    Long term Amazon is your friend not Macmillan if only because we are in an age of media disinter-mediation.

    1. Jay says:

      Joseph –

      Thanks for commenting. Again, note that I’m not mad about the ebook pricing dispute, and did not take sides at any point. I’m mad about Amazon punishing print authors and their readers as part of the dispute. That’s a clear abuse of their market power, and served little purpose while penalizing people who had nothing to do with the core business problem. It’s a different kettle of fish.

  24. Andrew says:

    Well, congratulations for calling Amazon a bully and then turning around and doing the same thing to them that they did to Macmillan. Shame on you for calling Amazon a bully when they didn’t bend over and take it when Macmillan made their demands.

    I suppose from an author’s stand point Amazon looks like the bad guy, but from THIS Amazon customer’s viewpoint, I wish they had held out indefinitely.

    1. Jay says:

      Hi, Andrew. Thank you for commenting.

      So you think my responding to Amazon’s delisting my titles is me bullying Amazon? I don’t recall picking this fight, and I don’t recall me pulling the plug on Amazon prior to their directly attacking my interests. How is responding to someone else’s bullying itself a form of bullying?

      And I’m curious, what would your response have been in my case, to an unprovoked and pointless move such the delisting? If your employer sent you home without pay for two days because of something your boss did, (which is what Amazon did to me, in effect), what would you think about it?


      1. Andrew says:

        I wouldn’t say that Amazon picked the fight either. They, like you, are responding to a situation someone else put them into. I view Macmillan as the bully here, and like you said, how is responding to someone else’s bullying itself a form of bullying?

        Yes I would be upset with my employer if they decided not to pay me but Amazon is not your employer. They are a customer of your employer and if one of my customers stopped using my company because of what my boss did, then i would be upset with my BOSS, not with the customer, as HE would be the reason for my lost business.

        If your boss had done nothing, Amazon would have continued to sell your books. I understand that your boss was probably trying to get your more money in the end. But understand that Amazon is also interested in the same for themselves and their employees as well.

        As a customer of both companies who isn’t so much affected by the bottom line of either, to ME it seems that Macmillan forced Amazon’s hand and now the authors are unfortunately the ones who suffer.

        If the president of a foreign country (Country A) declared war on the mine (Country B), I’ll feel bad for any of the citizens of Country A that die, but I wouldn’t blame Country B for their deaths and sever all ties to it.

        In saying that of course I begin to see where you are coming from. If I was a citizen of the Country A, and my father was killed in that war, I would most likely be very upset with Country B, despite the fact they didn’t start the war.

        1. Hal O'Brien says:

          “If the president of a foreign country (Country A) declared war on the mine (Country B)…”

          Except that, if you’re going to use this particular analogy, it’s more like:

          If Country A sent over a bunch of diplomatic trade representatives to negotiate a completely banal treaty, and Country B unexpectedly launched a naval and aerial blockade of Country A… “I would most likely be very upset with Country B.”

          Negotiations are not bullying. (And such an assertion is the saddest commentary on our Brin’s “Dogma of Otherness”-run-wild world I’ve yet to hear.) Blockades, on the other hand — which was Amazon’s response to negotiations — are an internationally recognized act of war.

          The other thing is, as far as I can tell, you’re not upset because Amazon hasn’t gored your ox this time. The trouble is, Amazon’s behavior has repeatedly been so erratic and disproportional that I expect it’s only a matter of time.

          1. Andrew says:

            Except its not a blockade. They aren’t preventing Macmillan from doing anything, they simply aren’t dealing with them.

            Any trade negotiation that doesn’t end with a deal made is bullying? Amazon didn’t like the terms and said fine, for now we won’t do business with you. As unfortunate as it is for the authors, I just don’t find that bullying.

            1. Jay says:

              Any trade negotiation that doesn’t end with a deal made is bullying?

              Actually, I went to great pains not to say that. Amazon pulling the Kindle titles in response to an impasse in ebook pricing negotiations would be unfortunate and even irritating.

              Amazon pulling the print book titles, which don’t come under the same contracts or distribution system, is an entirely different manner, and wildly outside the norms of even hardball business negotiation.

  25. Martha says:

    Okay Jay, so you’ve made your point… Amazon hurt your feelings. So you’ve ranted all weekend. Grow up now and get over it. Don’t buy a kindle. Who cares.

    I view Macmillan as the bully. They started the fight. Amazon only reacted. Sort of like you are doing…. So we couldn’t buy Macmillan books for a few days. We are all still alive and well and Macmillan is still one of the top 6 publishing giants.

    1. Jay says:

      Hi, Martha. Thanks for commenting.

      To be clear, you think Macmillan is bullying Amazon by entering into pricing negotiations with them? That’s ordinary corporate behavior. They are two corporations with roughly equal power in the negotiation process. Happens every day, all across America.

      And you don’t think Amazon is bullying authors by pulling print titles from sale? That’s not ordinary corporate behavior, and in fact, the print titles come through a completely separate set of contracts and distribution channels than ebooks, so it’s not even relevant to the ebook pricing negotiations. And Amazon’s power with respect to authors is radically asymmetrical to authors’ power with respect to Amazon. Which is pretty much part of the definition of bullying, that an unequal power dynamic is being exploited by the stronger player.

      Obviously your definition of “bullying” is very different from mine.

      If your employer sent you home without pay for days because of a dispute with your manager, would your reaction be “who cares”? That’s essentially what Amazon did to Macmillan authors with the print books.

  26. “And Amazon’s power with respect to authors is radically asymmetrical to authors’ power with respect to Amazon.”

    This certainly has been true in the past, and I’m reasonably certain it still is as of this moment, but the groundswell over this does make me wonder how much longer it will be true.

    Thirty years ago, if I read and loved your books, and they disappeared from the shelves of my local store, I would probably have never known why, nor what to do or whom to call. Things are different now.

    I’ve been offline for nearly the entire weekend (long story), and within twenty minutes of reconnecting, I know more about this issue than I ever would have before. I know which authors have been affected, I know why, I know by whom, and most importantly, I have the means available to me to simply skirt the Amazon blockade, buy my books elsewhere, and wave politely to Mr Bezos on the way by.

    Levi Montgomery

    1. Jay says:

      Huh. That’s a fascinating point. I hadn’t looked at it this way.

      Yes, I am using my (loudish) Internet voice, along several louder Internet voices, to draw attention that would have been invisible thirty years ago. It’s not business control, or even business influence, but, yeah…

      I need to think about this some more. Thank you.

    2. I think that this point is significant, because it traces back to one of the central contentions in this matter: the issue of control. But not just price control; Amazon is digging in its heels to maintain market and product control. It likes cheap e-books because they give the company Kindle customers, can draw them to other parts of their business, and maintain a loyalty cache that keeps customers coming back. I honestly think there is an identity issue here too. It’s a loss-leader with multiple purposes.

      But there are more options for book purchasing (e and otherwise), and the e-book market is still nascent and small. The ease with which people can find out what’s going on and respond, both authors and readers, not only creates a (generally) productive debate, but makes those options more visible. This situation could have some significant ripples in the market. What if more publishers take the Baen route, for example? There are an increasing set of alternatives for people to get the books they want, and I wonder if that isn’t what has Amazon scared and in more need of asserting control.

  27. Dave Robinson says:

    If you think about it, especially in SF/Fantasy, the whole blog culture calls back to the golden age of SF back in the thirties when almost everyone of any real importance in the field lived near NYC and knew each other.

    Word of mouth has gone global.

    (Oddly enough, I own one of your books at present – it was the last thing I bought on Amazon.)

    1. Jay says:

      Well, enjoy the book. 🙂

  28. Ron says:

    It seems to me there are a lot of different ideas being conflated. Why is Amazon behaving so childishly (“Oh, yeah? I’m gonna take my ball and go home”)? Why does Amazon set the price for books independently of what Macmillan does? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Macmillan to charge Amazon whatever they want for each title over time, and let Amazon decide how much of a profit (or loss) they want to take by setting their own price to consumers? Why do ebooks cost so much (there are huge fixed costs to publishing a book in any format, but surely somebody can figure out the incremental cost in printing and distribution and inventory and apply that to pricing)?

    Personally, I don’t care what price someone sets for any item – I’ll decide for myself whether it’s worth it to me. If Macmillan charges more than I’m willing to pay, I’ll just go to the library. It seems likely they’re aware of price/demand elasticity and can do whatever makes the most sense?

    I have a Kindle, and I love it – I can read while standing on the bus, holding it in one hand and hanging on to the rail with the other. I can put my own PDFs and Mobi format books on it. I have around 100 books on it right now, so I can read technical books or fiction or whatever I’m in the mood for. But I wouldn’t buy it today, after this. I’d wait and get a different book reader.

  29. Jack S says:

    “Wouldn’t it make more sense for Macmillan to charge Amazon whatever they want for each title over time, and let Amazon decide how much of a profit (or loss) they want to take by setting their own price to consumers?”

    Wow, a comment that makes sense…

  30. Kooritsuki says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to put all your blames on Amazon. True they pulled your books, which is not the best tactic, imo, but it’s Macmillan, your publisher, who demanded an unreasonable increase in price that started this whole ordeal.

    You’ve mentioned authors have no control over what Macmillan does with business negotiations, true, but since their authors have chose to publish with them, whatever their business decisions are, the authors will be directly associated with it. End of story. Everyone had a choice at one point, they’ve made it. IMO, you and the other authors could have chosen other publishers or to publish your own books. Since instead, the lot chose to publish with Macmillan, over other publishing options, due to all the benefits that comes with it (ie. the contract, the pay, the advertisement and whatever else), whatever repercussions from their chosen publisher’s choice will, naturally, effect them.

    Just like if 2 countries are hostile against each other, traveling between the 2 countries for their citizens may be prohibited. It’s just a fact of life. No use to victimize yourself too much.

    In addition, I really don’t see the big “loss” for authors even after Amazons pulled their titles. We customers aren’t stupid, if they love your books enough, and Amazon shows that they don’t have it available, we’ll go shop elsewhere. Amazon does not have a monopoly over your DTB. In fact, they don’t even have the monopoly on your ebooks, only the Kindle versions. And since the Kindle uses Mobi files, we can probably find books elsewhere in Mobi format. I do agree that there should be some warning, though, just as a nice gesture.

    Obviously though, I can see why authors would place the blame solely on Amazon. Because if Macmillan was able for force Amazon to charge its buyers this unreasonable price of $12.99 – $14.99 for an ebook, which has no physical form and absolutely no resale value, the better off will it be for the authors. Maybe not immediately, but definitely in the future for contract negotiation purposes.

    In the end, who looses? Us, the customers. Because as soon as Macmillan “wins,” all other publishers will follow suit, and before we know it, we’ll be paying DTB prices for an ebook with, again, absolutely no resale value. Plus, if Macmillan “wins” this time in forcing the price to $12.99 – $14.99, a couple of years down the road, they are going to force the price up again and again and again. This will never end and we, as the customers will be the ultimate looser.

    So I guess my choice will be with my wallet. I will not purchase Macmillan books unless it’s necessary (say for a course or something), because I have no intention of being the ultimate looser in this publisher vs retailer battle.

    1. Jay says:

      Hi, and thanks for commenting. Two things for you to consider, though, and I’m curious what you think of them.

      First, every other one of the big six publishers wants and needs to do what Macmillan has done, simply to have continued viability. Thinking that Macmillan is playing some unique game here is almost certainly an error. They jumped first, which makes them either the bravest or the most foolish. But if you as a reader are going to blame Macmillan, pethaps to the point of forgoing their titles, pretty soon you’re going to run out of trade fiction to read. Which may be fine with you (I don’t know, obviously) bit strikes me as an unfortunate perspective for a reader to adopt, as the majority of fiction published and the vast majority of ‘name’ authors published are in trade from the big six.

      Second, Amazon in their letter to the Kindle community cited the high end price point of Macmillan’s proposal, but didn’t cite the low end of $5.99 or talk about the dynamic pricing. Macmillan states that their proposed model will lower the average costs of ebooks. This would include older books reaching that much lower pricing point and staying there, which means over time an increasingly large number of ebooks, and soon most Macmillan titles except the very latest, would be well below $9.99.

      That second point seems to be an important factor that’s being ignored in the outrage by the Kindle community. You could assume Macmillan is lying about lower prices, I guess, but *why would they*? It’s how print books are priced today, as they go from first release hardback to mass market paperback to backlist. The publisher knows how to manage that, the book buying public knows how it works. And they want your business as a book buyer, whether ebooks or print. Why would they lie about this?

      So far as supposed corporate lying goes, note that Amazon was quick to inform you of the high side of the Macmillan proposal, but not of the part that benefits you. That’s lying by omission, and it certainly fanned the rage of the Kindle community quite effectively. That’s a piece if corporate spin that’s kept you from seeing the long term advantage to Kindle owners of what’s been proposed.

      Remember that the $9.99 promise was from Amazon, not the publishers. As ebook sales grow in market share, that pricing expectation kills publisher’s margins. There’s a reason hardbacks aren’t priced like paperbacks, and fundamentally it’s so publishers can afford to put out the books in the first place. I know a lot of Kindle authors will say good riddance to the dead tree dinosaurs, and bring it on, but the big six is where a great deal of the good fiction comes from. If they gave up, you’d have a lot fewer good books from good authors. The indie press and the self-publishing world are important, but they don’t have the financial or administrative resources to publish big name authors, and provide the overall quality of editing and production that the trade press does. Not in significant volumes.
      [Sorry for the odd typing, this was done on an iPhone.]

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