News & Reviews
As Amazon vs. Macmillan battle wanes, authors see books return
By BPM Smith
A battle between Amazon and Macmillan over e-book sales has been
resolved (sort of) but fallout continues as book publishers try to
figure out how to handle the digital rights of their titles -- an issue
the electronic music industry solved last decade.
Macmillan wanted online retailer Amazon to stop selling its e-books for
$9.99 because it was losing money on each unit sold. Amazon effectively
gave them a big fat middle finger by eliminating the buy buttons of all
Macmillan titles from its website, which amounted to banning Macmillan
authors from its website.
A couple friends of WORD’N’BASS.com who launched new novels last month
with Macmillan imprints bristled at the move. Wendy Clinch,
whose publisher Minotaur Books is a division of Macmillan, saw her book
"Double Black: A Ski Diva Mystery" disappear from Amazon. So did Randy Susan Meyers, who penned "The
Murderer's Daughters" (St. Martin's) -- a debut that's garnered raving
This is the kind of fallout that bothers me. While these corporations
beat each other down, invariably authors are the ones caught in the
ensuing game of chicken. Though it’s easy for me to look at the human
impact and side with my writer friends, this is a complex issue about
technology, power, e-book piracy and old business models vs. new
Author JA Konrath
has an interesting solution at his blog that echoes how electronic
music labels solved this issue around oh, 2001. He says
the big publishing houses, which are resisting the inevitable, must
change their business models or die:
"I believe publishers need to switch their focus from selling paper
(books/CDs) to connecting storytellers with readers (e-books/mp3s)," he
said in a post last week.
Eventually Amazon acquiesced by returning the buy buttons to Macmillan
physical book titles on Friday (Feb. 5), but through midday Sunday
hadn’t yet returned its e-book titles.
This is just the latest public relations gaffe for Amazon. Last summer,
it snuffed out several e-books from its proprietary Kindle platform,
including ones its customers had already paid for. While the firm apologized
for its heavy-handed move last summer, this time it issued a curt
statement portraying itself as a victim of Macmillan’s "monopoly" on
the books it publishes.
In the wake of its punch-out with Macmillan, Amazon announced that it's
getting into book publishing with a model that allows users to vet
titles instead of traditional publishing house editors. Whether the
move becomes a model for future book publishing enterprises won’t be
known for sometime but one thing's for sure: the digtial battle has
only just begun.
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