In the words of Dr. Egon Spengler, print is dead. Or at least it’s one step closer to that great library in the sky, according to Amazon’s announcement today that the third-generation model of their electronic reader, the Kindle, is now their biggest selling item ever, pulling ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the previous title-holder. While the e-tail giant didn’t give out any concrete numbers, it’s likely that the relatively low $139 price tag helped to move a lot of units over the holidays. According to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, the e-reader also did not experience the kind of competition from the iPad and other tablet devices that people were expecting because owning one does not obviate owning the other. “We’re seeing that many of the people who are buying Kindles also own an LCD tablet,” Bezos said in a statement. ”Customers report using their LCD tablets for games, movies and Web browsing, and their Kindles for reading sessions.”
Tag: E-Books (31-40 of 52)
Andrew Wylie is one of the book world’s most notorious agents who, in reality show parlance, definitely isn’t here to make friends. Dubbed “the Jackal,” if that gives you an idea of how he’s viewed, Wylie is best known for successfully extracting enormous advances from publishers for his big-name clients, as well as poaching authors from other agents. Now the highly visible agent, whose stable includes the likes of Dave Eggers, Salman Rushdie and Philip Roth (as well as the estates of Nabokov and Updike) is creating a stir in the realm of e-books.
Last week Wylie signed a deal with Amazon for exclusive e-book rights to his clients’ novels, including such classics as Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. For at least two years, these works will only be available via the online retailer and only on Amazon’s Kindle or devices with the downloaded Kindle app. Many are considering this a literary monopoly, vertical integration for a medium barely into its infancy. And where even the famously hermetic and anti-third party iPad permits users to download e-books from a variety of sources, the Kindle only allows readers to access digital copies from Amazon. Random House, which published a number of the titles covered by the deal, has since announced their intentions to dispute its legality. Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum issued a statement which said, in part, “The Wylie Agency’s decision to sell e-books exclusively to Amazon for titles which are subject to active Random House agreements undermines our longstanding commitments to and investments in our authors, and it establishes this Agency as our direct competitor. Therefore, regrettably, Random House on a worldwide basis will not be entering into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency until this situation is resolved.”
Square Books, an independent bookstore in Oxford, Mississippi, has a compelling take on the whole situation.
What do you think about the issue, Shelf Lifers?
With Amazon’s announcement that the online retailer now sells more e-books than it does physical hardcovers, it seems as good a time as any to gauge where the battle-lines are being drawn. Some of the more tech-savvy among us may prefer the large storage capacities and easy portability of e-readers (anyone with a sizable library who has had to move can appreciate that), while others believe that you’ll never be able to beat the feeling of holding a book in your hands. Which side are you on?
You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, and with e-books, that’s not a problem. There are no covers!
In today’s New York Times, there’s an interesting article about how, with the rise of Kindles, Nooks and — in a few days –iPads, it will be increasingly difficult to find out what people around you are reading. The days may soon disappear where you can lean over in an airplane, on the subway, or on the sidelines of your kid’s soccer practice, take a look at the book the guy or gal next to you is reading, and then quietly judge them.
For some, that’s a good thing. Many consumers of romance novels don’t appreciate getting disapproving looks because their book happens to have a shirtless man and scantily clad woman embracing on the front. Some don’t want to read the latest best-seller or buzzworthy work just to fit in. For others, though, examining the reading materials of strangers is part of the fabric of their day. They can see if multiple people are reading the same book, what authors have new releases out, and what just looks interesting because of its neon-hued or graphically clever cover.
A lot of magnificent works are hidden behind boring covers (go to Barnes and Noble’s website, type in “classics,” and be prepared to fall asleep while looking at the thumbnails of the results), so perhaps with e-readers, people will focus more on descriptions of books, rather than covers. My favorite covers are the bright, intricately designed ones from books I read as a child (Nancy Drew’s The Mystery of the Fire Dragon comes to mind), but I would still only actually purchase them if I liked the summary. Books are expensive, and just because the cover’s glitzy, I won’t be buying it if it’s going to cost me $20 and I’m not sold on the plot.
So while I am generally a pretty nosy person, I’m OK with the fact that I won’t be able to tell what you’re reading on your Nook. I’m just glad you’re reading something. Besides, when I’m on the subway, the last thing I care about is what someone’s reading. I’m more interested in when I’m going to get a seat and how soon I can use my hand sanitizer after holding onto the fingerprint smeared pole.
What do you think? Will you start asking strangers what’s on their e-reader? Come on, admit it, do you judge people based on the books they read?
Usually self-published authors are either graduate students or first cousins who somehow manage to convince you to purchase six copies of their 600-page novel Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Hungry.
But now a two-time PEN/Faulkner winner and National Book Award finalist is stepping into the mix. John Edgar Wideman will be releasing his latest collection of short stories via Lulu, a self-publishing company that releases submitted work either as an e-book or printed-on-demand. Briefs: Stories for the Palm of the Mind, available starting March 14, will be one of few works from an already established author to bypass the mainstream industry entirely. Another is JA Konrath, who, after having a collection of his stories rejected by publishing houses, turned to the Internet and self-published his own Kindle ebook. Less than one year later, Konrath has sold nearly 30,000 copies and he expects to earn as much as $43,800 this year on that e-book alone. Proof positive that profit is possible with this model.
If self-publishing becomes a more acceptable practice for big-name writers, it could lead to an interesting shift in the landscape of the book industry. Authors would clearly exercise greater control over their work, its distribution, and, importantly, its price. There may always be a need some sort of intermediary like Lulu, which takes a 20 percent cut of the revenue, or Amazon, which will double its royalty rates for self-published authors beginning in July, but those mechanisms are negligible when compared to the established industry. It could even make the market more Darwinian: Without advances or heavy advertising, success or failure would be wholly dependent on whether or not people are willing to pay to read your words. Clearly, established authors would have a leg up here, which is why it’s remarkable how few of them aside from Konrath and Wideman are willing to try to establish some vertical integration for their own output.
How about you? Do you support self-publishing? If this practice caught on, do you think it’d end up being a good or a bad thing for books?
As many of you know, the e-book pricing wars came to a head on Friday and Saturday, when Amazon stopped selling Macmillan titles (St. Martin’s, Holt, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux books), though customers could still purchase books on the site from other sellers. Macmillan CEO John Sargent issued an impassioned plea on Saturday night to explain his company’s position, and last night, Amazon gave in, posting a statement to customers on its Kindle page that said, in part, “We want you to know that ultimately, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative. Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!”
As someone who has been following this drama, and reading all the comments on this and many other books blogs, I’m alarmed that so many people seem to see Macmillan as the villain here. It’s not that simple. The book business has never had high profit margins (I believe 3 percent is considered fairly healthy, which ought to give you some idea.) It costs an enormous amount of money to produce a book. The author is paid an advance; the book is edited and copy-edited and often put through a legal check; a jacket is designed; the publisher pays for marketing (ads!) and publicity (sending authors on tour, or, if they’re lucky, paying to bring them to New York so that they can appear on a national TV show). The printing, binding, and shipping of a title are not the real expenses involved in publication. The issue that Macmillan had with Amazon is a very real one: Given the punishing terms that Amazon insists upon (most e-book profits are going to Amazon, not to the publisher or author), publishers literally are often losing money on their e-book ventures with the company. What Macmillan wants to do is what it calls “agency pricing,” that is, offer the e-book for more money when it first comes out, and then decrease the price as time passes — much in the way that a book is first available in hardcover and then in paperback.
This is a gross oversimplification, but what it comes down to is this: Unless all publishers negotiate better e-book pricing deals with Amazon, the number of books being published will decline. You won’t see a book like The Help. It will never see the light of day, because companies just won’t be able to take a chance on unknown authors. And small literary novels and short-story collections will suffer the most. They are often money-losers anyway, subsidized by companies’ bigger commercial successes. As the percentage of e-book sales rises, publishers simply will not be able to continue putting them out unless Amazon agrees to different terms.
As of 8 a.m. today, the “buy” buttons at Amazon have not been reinstated on any Macmillan titles I checked.
Amazon has pulled books from publishing giant Macmillan, according to the New York Times. Authors — and book buyers — began to notice last night that Amazon was no longer selling any of Macmillan’s titles (although they can still be purchased on the site from third-party sellers). The skirmish is most likely the latest chapter in the bitter war that Amazon and publishers are waging over the cost of e-books. Along with other companies, Macmillan has been pressing Amazon to raise the price of e-books, while Amazon is keen to keep prices low to promote its reader, the Kindle. (The $9.99 e-book prices advertised during the holiday season were a special point of contention.) So it is any coincidence that Macmillan is emboldened to make such demands just days after the unveiling of the iPad from Apple? Probably not. Apple, after all, made it clear it will allow publishers more freedom to set their own prices for e-books. And when Steve Jobs was asked at the iPad press conference why customers would buy an e-book for $15 from Apple if they could get it for $9.99 on Amazon, he replied, “That won’t happen…Publishers are actually going to pull their books from Amazon because they’re not happy.”
Macmillan is, of course, one of the biggest book companies in the world and its imprints include Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt and St. Martin’s Press, which publishes Janet Evanovich and Augusten Burroughs, amongst many others.
UPDATE (6:00 p.m.): Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. Macmillan CEO John Sargent issued this statement moments ago, addressed to Macmillan authors, illustrators, and the literary agent community: “This past Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for e-books under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon. The books will continue to be available on Amazon.com through third parties. I regret that we have reached this impasse. Amazon has been a valuable customer for a long time, and it is my great hope that they will continue to be in the very near future. They have been a great innovator in our industry, and I suspect they will continue to be for decades to come. It is those decades that concern me now, as I am sure they concern you. In the ink-on-paper world we sell books to retailers far and wide on a business model that provides a level playing field, and allows all retailers the possibility of selling books profitably. 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 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. Amazon and Macmillan both want a healthy and vibrant future for books. We clearly do not agree on how to get there. Meanwhile, the action they chose to take last night clearly defines the importance they attribute to their view. We hold our view equally strongly. I hope you agree with us. You are a vast and wonderful crew. It is impossible to reach you all in the very limited timeframe we are working under, so I have sent this message in unorthodox form. I hope it reaches you all, and quickly. Monday morning I will fully brief all of our editors, and they will be able to answer your questions. I hope to speak to many of you over the coming days. Thanks for all the support you have shown in the last few hours; it is much appreciated. All best, John.”
Amazon reports that on Christmas Day, for the first time in the site’s history, Kindle books outsold physical books. (No doubt all of those new Kindle recipients were loading up their just-unwrapped gadgets with some fresh titles to read.) The company also reported that its Kindle electronic reader became the most “gifted” item in Amazon history. Are bound books soon to be the eight-track tapes of the reading world?
In another alarming sign for traditional publishers, it seems that Amazon’s already cheaper-than-a-physical-book price point of roughly $9.99 is still too expensive for many consumers. An analysis by the lit bloggers at Galley Cat found that 64 of the 100 e-books topping the Kindle best-seller list yesterday were priced at $0.00. Yes, that’s right: free. The list of free Kindle best-sellers includes some classics that are in the public domain (e.g., Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Jane Austen’s zombie-free Pride and Prejudice). But it also features recent titles from mostly smaller publishers, like the current No. 1, Noel Hynd’s Midnight in Madrid, about a U.S. Treasury agent investigating the theft a mysterious relic from a Madrid museum.
In an effort to boost sales of its hardcover titles, Simon & Schuster announced that it will delay the eBook editions of its early 2010 books until four months after the hardcover release. It’s likely a smart move for the publisher: With the popularity of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle surging, more readers are purchasing eBooks for the low price of $9.99, rather than the price of the books’ hardcover equivalent, which often exceeds $20. “We believe this publishing sequence will benefit the performance of all the different formats in which these titles are published,” Simon & Schuster said in a release, “and in the long term will contribute to a healthier retail environment for the greater book buying public.” Some books on the publisher’s January to April 2010 schedule include You: On a Diet Revised Edition, by Michael F. Roizen; The Skinnygirl Dish, by Bethenny Frankel; Point Omega, by Don Delillo; House Rules, by Jodi Picoult; and The Shadow of Your Smile, by Mary Higgins Clark.
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