Amazon.com removes Macmillan books from site!!

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Nefertiti Baker

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The first thing I thought about was the impact on the authors' sales. God, this is just horrible. I think it's really bad for one vendor to be this freaking huge. Plus, it's creepy that they can just go and mess with whatever you've purchased on your Kindle. It's as if you've paid for a long-term leased item rather than making an actual purchase.
 

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I am angry beyond the telling.

This has nothing to do with the good of the authors, the readers, or the industry in general. It's a simple power grab, and the only entity it benefits is Amazon.

De-listing Macmillan's books is the same b*llsh*t stunt Amazon pulled on Hachette and the POD publishers back in 2008. What it boils down to is "Do as we say, or we'll kill your distribution."

Loss of distribution is not survivable.

There are feral thugs working in Amazon management. They've been there for a while.
 

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It would seem that this publisher is doing a disservice to the reading public by charging more for e-book content when their costs to provide such content is substantially less than when they produce the "physical" varieties of those same products.

Or am I reading this situation all wrong? From the links I followed in the original thread, the publisher seeks to charge more for a download through Amazon than it would for a hard copy of its books.
 

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It would seem that this publisher is doing a disservice to the reading public by charging more for e-book content when their costs to provide such content is substantially less than when they produce the "physical" varieties of those same products.

1. The idea that a professionally produced ebook costs less than the same book in printed form is a myth. Most of the cost of producing a trade or mass market or hardcover consumer book are in the steps before the book goes to a printer. A mass market paperback printed in the numbers of say Danielle Steele costs the publisher about $2.00 to print and bind.

The process and costs for an ebook and a printed version of the same book are identical up to the point in work flow where the digital file that goes to a printer is "forked" and is then subjected to several steps to make an ebook.

2. Ebook costs do not include returns, or shipping or warehousing. They do include software and DRM licensing (and yes, DRM is not a good thing), and server and server software costs, and tech support costs not only for the server(s) for for people who need help with their ebooks. They may, depending on the publisher, include producing multiple copies of the book in different file formats. They may also include higher licensing costs for images. The probability of having to re-produce the same ebook again because of changes in the ereader or the OS is also quite high.

You don't have to take my word for it--though I've been doing this since 1989. Here's another source, a publisher, who estimages that at most it's two or three dollars difference.

3. What I would like to see are day and date release for ebook and printed book, and identical cover prices, with lower prices as books come out in lower priced editions. So if you want the ebook when the hardcover of the next John Grisham comes out, you pay a comparable price. Or you can wait for the paper back to be released and pay less.
 

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Silver King, I'm with you on this issue. I'm screaming for a 9.99 ceiling on ebooks, but I think Amazon went way too far in this case. Hapi was right about them pulling this BS before, knocking off buyer buttons of the small publishers, although I loved it when PA got the ax.

I just don't see the overhead in ebooks like I do in print. Meaning physical production costs, returns, and warehousing.

Tri
 

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It would seem that this publisher is doing a disservice to the reading public by charging more for e-book content when their costs to provide such content is substantially less than when they produce the "physical" varieties of those same products.

Or am I reading this situation all wrong? From the links I followed in the original thread, the publisher seeks to charge more for a download through Amazon than it would for a hard copy of its books.

You are reading the situation wrong. The most substantial costs in any publishing -- ebook or paper -- is in acquisition and editing. The slush reader, the acquiring editor, the fact checker, the copy editor, the proofreader, the marketing and promotion ... the price is exactly the same. Printing itself is one of the smaller costs in the complete book-production cycle.

What am I doing about this?

I'm in the process of removing every single link to Amazon that I've ever put up on every web page under my control.

I urge everyone else to remove their links to Amazon, and instead link to Barnes and Noble, Powell's, Books-a-Million, Borders, or some other on-line book vendor.
 

Medievalist

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Here's Macmillan's John Sargent in Publisher's Lunch; he took out an ad to get this message heard today.

Go read the link, please. I know some of you never click on links, but this time, please read it. It's a fairly short statment.
 

triceretops

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1. The idea that a professionally produced ebook costs less than the same book in printed form is a myth. Most of the cost of producing a trade or mass market or hardcover consumer book are in the steps before the book goes to a printer. A mass market paperback printed in the numbers of say Danielle Steele costs the publisher about $2.00 to print and bind.

The process and costs for an ebook and a printed version of the same book are identical up to the point in work flow where the digital file that goes to a printer is "forked" and is then subjected to several steps to make an ebook.

2. Ebook costs do not include returns, or shipping or warehousing. They do include software and DRM licensing (and yes, DRM is not a good thing), and server and server software costs, and tech support costs not only for the server(s) for for people who need help with their ebooks. They may, depending on the publisher, include producing multiple copies of the book in different file formats. They may also include higher licensing costs for images. The probability of having to re-produce the same ebook again because of changes in the ereader or the OS is also quite high.

You don't have to take my word for it--though I've been doing this since 1989. Here's another source, a publisher, who estimages that at most it's two or three dollars difference.

3. What I would like to see are day and date release for ebook and printed book, and identical cover prices, with lower prices as books come out in lower priced editions. So if you want the ebook when the hardcover of the next John Grisham comes out, you pay a comparable price. Or you can wait for the paper back to be released and pay less.

Hmmm...thanks for filling me in on this aspect. Sure would be nice to see a side by side comparison of an e-book and a MMPB, as it relates to ALL phases of production from concept to finished product. A clear and concise spreadsheet would help the uninformed (like me) understand what's up with this industry trend.

Tri
 

Silver King

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You are reading the situation wrong. The most substantial costs in any publishing -- ebook or paper -- is in acquisition and editing. The slush reader, the acquiring editor, the fact checker, the copy editor, the proofreader, the marketing and promotion ... the price is exactly the same. Printing itself is one of the smaller costs in the complete book-production cycle.
But from a book buyer's perspective, whether it be retail for one copy or wholesale for thousands: Why should I pay more for an e-version than a hard copy?

That's the crux of this issue, as I read it, that has me at odds with deferring on the part of the publisher.
 

ChristineR

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Who says you are paying more for the e-book? Macmillan says they want to price e-books at $5.99 to $14.99. E-books for books out in hardcover they say will be $12.99 to $14.99. I could be confused about this. What are these links in the original thread?
 

Silver King

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Who says you are paying more for the e-book? Macmillan says they want to price e-books at $5.99 to $14.99. E-books for books out in hardcover they say will be $12.99 to $14.99. I could be confused about this. What are these links in the original thread?
This is from the link I read in the original post:
...Macmillan has had a very negative attitude toward ebooks. It has charged 50% more for the digital equivalent of the mass market paperback (usually $9.99 versus a paper copy which sells for $6.99-$7.99)
 

Medievalist

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This is from the link I read in the original post:

That's from Dear Author. Seriously, it's an interesting blog, but they are not authorities.

Macmillan was one of the first companies to support ebooks as Macmillan. I worked for them, in that they owned a chunk of Calliope. They, like just about every publisher employee in the executive suite--which is who decides these things--think DRM is A Good Thing. They naively often think that a pirated book is a lost sale.

But Macmillan has actually said, via John Sargent how they would like to see pricing:

John Sargent of Macmillan said:
Looking to the future and to a growing digital business, we need to establish the same sort of business model, one that encourages new devices and new stores. One that encourages healthy competition. One that is stable and rational. It also needs to insure that intellectual property can be widely available digitally at a price that is both fair to the consumer and allows those who create it and publish it to be fairly compensated.

Under the agency model, we will sell the digital editions of our books to consumers through our retailers. Our retailers will act as our agents and will take a 30% commission (the standard split today for many digital media businesses). The price will be set the price for each book individually. Our plan is to price the digital edition of most adult trade books in a price range from $14.99 to $5.99. At first release, concurrent with a hardcover, most titles will be priced between $14.99 and $12.99. E books will almost always appear day on date with the physical edition. Pricing will be dynamic over time.

The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short-term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.

This actually sounds reasonable to me, as an ebook buyer who purchased more expensive un-edited "E ARCs" from Baen for more than the price of the finished version, and then bought the final ebook too.
 

Toothpaste

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Actually Brian, I think you actually do agree with me, but just don't realise it. I'm not saying publishers shouldn't change the model, I'm simply saying that Amazon playing such tactics is not helpful when we are in a place where those who make books and those who sell books need to have a serious sit down and figure some stuff out.
 

Hedgetrimmer

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Yeah, this is all interesting and unfortunate, but the publishing industry itself isn't without culpability. An e-reader is nothing but a machine, a tool. The actual product is the book itself. It's like holding a patent to an air conditioning unit but not having access to freon to make the damn thing useful.

But Amazon doesn't hold rights to books. They simply came out with a tool that they said would revolutionize publishing. One publishing house took the bait and signed on, then all the rest followed suit. Instead of being so competitive to the point of shooting themselves in the foot, the industry should've sat down and come to an agreement that they wouldn't buy into this. After all, if they aren't signing away electronic rights, books simply remain as books.

Now they're all crying about it. But what do you expect? They crawled in bed with the devil expecting roses, candy and all the sweetness of romance. Shit. The devil doesn't practice romance. He simply gets you between the sheets, screws your ass and tosses you away.
 

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Role-playing companies have started working on e-publishing a while back. Of all the big names RP companies I know only one doesn't use e-pub (and that's Wizards of the Coast (and they pulled out)).

Most of the companies do not use DRM as they feel this screws the customer (and only Wizards did not have a DRM free version of their work).

Of those who both e-pub and real-world pub most, if not all (again only Wizards differed), offer a discount on their e-pub books. I've used PDF and real-world books and have a library of both and both have their good and bad sides. Maybe some of the big publishers should look at how RP publishers moved into the direction of e-pub and see if they can learn lessons from them.

See http://www.rpgnow.com / http://e23.sjgames.com / http://www.yourgamesnow.com
 

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Under the agency model, we will sell the digital editions of our books to consumers through our retailers. Our retailers will act as our agents and will take a 30% commission (the standard split today for many digital media businesses). The price will be set the price for each book individually. Our plan is to price the digital edition of most adult trade books in a price range from $14.99 to $5.99. At first release, concurrent with a hardcover, most titles will be priced between $14.99 and $12.99. E books will almost always appear day on date with the physical edition. Pricing will be dynamic over time.

The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short-term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.

It sounds like a neat business model with dynamic book pricing, but it also sounds like what Macmillan wants is collusion with book retailers to control prices. Normally when this happens, it isn't the consumer that wins but anybody that stands to make money off of the transaction.

I can't help but be sympathetic in a way to amazon.com: they want to charge what they see the market sees as fit, not what Macmillan does. Maybe one way this dynamic pricing idea will work is if the pricing is run by the retailer and not dictated by the publisher.
 
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I can understand that Amazon should have the right to set their own prices. But I cannot get 100% behind them here.

Currently, they're taking a loss on many/most/all? of these $10 ebooks. But the public is now seeing this $10 as THE price of ebooks. Many think it's too much. (Tho they shell out $15 for a movie ticket and walk out with nothing but a ticket stub after 2 hours - I don't get it...)

So Amazon is going to go back to publishers and say that, Hey, we can't sell ebooks for more than $10. Nobody can. We are going to pay you less per book now, cos we can't distribute your books without making a little money here.

So that's the point where publishers are going to lose money on this. What expenses are they going to cut in order to make up for this loss of income? They're going to stop taking chances on the new author. That's already been happening. And the small authors they do take on -- their new contracts are going to make today's standard contracts look like an author's goldmine.

Please tell me what I'm missing here. Please show me where I'm wrong - that I'm just being pessimistic and that this is not going to end like this. No, it isn't right for the publishers to try to control retail prices. But all I can see is Amazon acting like a spoiled 3-year old -- all to, what, push out a few more Kindles? And I have even less chance of getting published than I did 6 months ago.
 

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Miguelito:
I can't help but be sympathetic in a way to amazon.com: they want to charge what they see the market sees as fit, not what Macmillan does. Maybe one way this dynamic pricing idea will work is if the pricing is run by the retailer and not dictated by the publisher.

I have no objection to Amazon charging what they want, but that doesn't equate to their having the right to force publishers to lower their prices to enable Amazon to retain its profit margin and market dominance at the expense of the publisher's.

Tough negotiations are one thing, unilaterally withdrawing books for sale is something else. Amazon are doing this to hurt Macmillan's sales and in turn their authors. It's not a good thing for publishers, authors or even readers. It's the equivalent of Amazon whipping its dick out in public and having a wank so they can show they've got a big one.

MM
 
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Brian Rush

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1. The idea that a professionally produced ebook costs less than the same book in printed form is a myth. Most of the cost of producing a trade or mass market or hardcover consumer book are in the steps before the book goes to a printer. A mass market paperback printed in the numbers of say Danielle Steele costs the publisher about $2.00 to print and bind.

And that mass-market paperback doesn't cost the same retail as a hardbound volume, does it?

The above is completely misleading. Sure, there are costs to a publisher associated with producing any book, but they are one-time costs, not per-volume costs, and so do not matter where pricing is concerned. As long as the price of the book pays back the per-volume costs with a reasonable profit beyond that, and it sells well, the one-time costs will be recouped, and it will sell better -- thus repaying those one-time costs more quickly -- if it's priced more reasonably. What's more, with e-books there's no time-pressure the way there is with books placed in brick-and-mortar bookstores. No returns, right? If a book in a physical bookstore doesn't sell within a month (or whatever it is), it's a failure. An e-book could take six months or a year to hit its stride and still be a success.

The per volume production cost of an e-book is virtually zero. Every cent that the buyer forks over goes either to the distributor or to the publisher. An e-book could be profitably priced at any level above free, if it sells well. The claim that publishers have to set it at a certain level to be profitable is a flat lie.

2. Ebook costs do not include returns, or shipping or warehousing. They do include software and DRM licensing (and yes, DRM is not a good thing), and server and server software costs, and tech support costs not only for the server(s) for for people who need help with their ebooks. They may, depending on the publisher, include producing multiple copies of the book in different file formats. They may also include higher licensing costs for images. The probability of having to re-produce the same ebook again because of changes in the ereader or the OS is also quite high.

Pshaw. No, it's not. Only someone with absolutely no awareness of technology and how it works could buy that load of bull.

Software licensing is a one-time cost, not per volume. Not sure about DRM -- but as you say, DRM isn't a good thing, and in any case it's not more than about a dollar per volume. Server and software costs, tech support, multiple file formats, all that's overhead and when divided by the number, not only of e-book titles issues but by number actually sold, comes to next to nothing, especially when you realize that for most of them the dividend in the equation should also include all print volumes the publisher produces, plus office activities.

Look. People self-produce and self-publish e-books all the time and offer them for free. (No, no one makes a profit doing that, of course.) With one computer, two software programs (a word processor and a Web browser) and Internet access. That's all you need to produce an e-book for the premium outlets such as Amazon. Now, a publisher does have some additional costs, but almost all of those are associated with quality control: editing, proofreading, cover art, etc. And none of those costs applies per-volume, only one-time per title. Because of those costs, a publisher would lose money on an e-book if it was offered for free, but not a whole lot of price hike above free would mean that they weren't. And if they claim otherwise . . .

You don't have to take my word for it--though I've been doing this since 1989. Here's another source, a publisher, who estimages that at most it's two or three dollars difference.

. . . then they're lying or being misleading, as that guy is.

EDIT: I think the main thing to keep in mind here is that publishers are corporations. They are not benign, they are not on our side, they are not to be trusted. They lie. They cheat. They behave ruthlessly and without regard to any public-good considerations. If it's legal and they think they can profit from it, they do it. All of that is also true of Amazon, of course. But at least Amazon is making sense in terms of its own self-interest. Corporations also make stupid mistakes, and all of the big publishing houses are making them now.

My impression of the big publishing houses at this time is that they are too set, too fixed on trying to preserve the broken brick-and-mortar model of bookselling, to adapt well to the new circumstances. The only solution is for them to fail and be replaced by something else -- and I see that already happening. A combination of increased self-publishing and the rise of new, small, innovative publishing houses will ultimately bury them. Hasn't quite happened yet, but it will, because it must.

So although I do think Amazon is being bloody unreasonable here, I have no sympathy for McMillan, either. In terms of where e-book pricing should be set, Amazon is right (which doesn't excuse their behavior of course), and McMillan is wrong. As it and other big publishers are about a lot of other things.
 
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