View Full Version : B&N using Fictionwise as weapon?

06-02-2010, 06:05 PM
Barnes & Nobles bought Fictionwise as we all know, and there was much trepidation that they did so in order to kill it. Now, it seems, there might be a more insidious intent afoot. Many small press novels are being sold at absurdly low prices. My publisher, for instance, sold more books and made less money this last quarter than the quarter before where they sold less and made more money. Why? Because Fictionwise deep-discounts and makes the publishers eat it - and they are doing this to the majority of small presses apparently. Even to the point of undermining the B&N site.

There are two possible reasons, the most benign being ineptness. The other reason is a bit more chilling - drive out the small press by making them unprofitable. This suggests a nasty collusion with the New York publishers, but surely I'm paranoid to think that there would be some mad plot on the part of New York's houses to crush the small press and take over the e-book as their own (after denigrating it for so long).

Yes, paranoia. Conspiracy theory. I'm headed to Tea Party country. New York's industry would never be able to strangle small presses, seize the e-book as their own, and restrict distribution through silent deals with the main distributors.

In the late 1950's a cheaper alternative to hardback books arose - called a "paperback". This was the sweetheart of new independent presses that could afford to get into the market. The main houses poo-poo'd this new medium as "pulp fiction" and laughed at both it and those authors who wrote such books. Then, paperbacks became a genuine threat. The New York houses bought up or cut out most of the small presses and made the paperback their own. History, folks.

I'm hoping that FW's inability to maintain their customer service, and gut prices of small press offerings, is merely ineptness. Funny how it has the same effect of driving off small press outfits.

Something to think about.

ps: Yeah, I checked around and most everything is 40% discounted. Perhaps this is just them trying to get market share, but damn, it's killing the publishers just the same.


06-03-2010, 09:59 AM
It doesn't have to be intentional to be a major screw job. Look at eBay ... some things sell at reasonable prices, but there's an overwhelming wave of bargain hunters driving down the prices of everything. Or Amazon, where all common books get saturated until there are dozens of people LOSING MONEY to sell them for a penny.

There's nothing historically new about price wars driving people out of business. If B&N buys them and shuts them down because they're a threat, I'm ambivalent about it. And I wish Amazon would enforce a minimum price around $0.75, because below that sellers lose, everyone loses. If a small publisher signs a deal with a company that's going to chop prices below a sustainable level, I'm not sure who to fault.

I just see a mad scramble, a lot of companies trying to lop each other's legs off. And I'm supposed to feel that it's "free enterprise" doing it's thing. Sure doesn't seem like right, sometimes.

06-03-2010, 06:10 PM
Yeah, Scott, I would agree - it's all about market share in the end, even if the results are the same. Still, knowing how history played out with the paperbacks does leave one to wonder.

The best answer to all of this is for the small press to band together under one umbrella organization that can accomplish two things: assure the reader that anyone in the group is more than just an author mill (by setting standards of practice) and provide a united front to force better terms from distributors - like having Fictionwise eat the discounts and not the publishers. It worked with the larger houses vs Amazon.

The only thing standing in the way of this is the independent nature of the small publishers - most are loathe to set any standard. Pity, because branding is going to be a major issue for readers trying to sift the wheat from the chaff.