Google’s new e-books store launched today, offering over 3 million titles in a new format that will compete directly with established retailers like Amazon. The store offers everything from the latest bestsellers (mostly in the $9 to $15 range) to public domain classics like Moby Dick (free, unless you think in terms of time=money, in which case it has its usual price of around $800,000).
Tag: E-Readers (21-30 of 31)
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?
Everyone slap on your helmets, grab your rifles, and dive into your foxholes, it’s a price war! Amazon has cut the price of its Kindle e-reader down to $189, a $70 slash from the $259 it was previously charging. This came only a few hours after Barnes & Noble announced the new price for its e-reader, the Nook: $199. Ouch.
The battle between the retail giants has raged for a while now, and it will open up on yet another front when Borders releases its e-reader, the Kobo, in July. One likely impetus for the dual price drops was an attempt to preemptively take the wind out of Borders’ sails by shortening the distance between the three e-readers’ costs before the Kobo hits stores. All this scrambling and fluctuating is really just evidence that these companies are still trying to get their footing in a market for a technology whose future is somewhat unclear. The launch of the iPad earlier this year only made things murkier; it has been difficult to assess just how much Apple’s tablet will affect e-reader sales. But regardless of which company ends up on top, the one clear winner here is the consumer. The new prices are significantly better than $259, and much, much cheaper than the iPad’s $499 sticker.
What do you think, Shelf-Lifers? Is this price cut enough to make you want to switch over to e-reading? Or will you hold out for even lower prices?
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?
The Amazon rainforest is a pretty inhospitable place, where the law of survival of the fittest is taken to a harsh extreme. Amazon.com seems to have taken a cue from its namesake with its latest tactics with publishers to remain king of the e-book jungle, or at least ensure that no Apples grow there.
According to the New York Times, the online retail powerhouse has threatened to stop selling books from certain publishers if they don’t agree to its pricing terms for e-books. (Independent publishers in particular seem to be feeling the heat.) This news comes just before the launch of Amazon’s biggest potential competitor, Apple’s iBookstore for its iPad tablet device. Most of America’s largest publishers, excluding only Random House, will be selling books through iBookstore, under terms that allow them to set their own prices, a concession Amazon has been loath to make. Earlier this year, Amazon and Macmillan got into a big, bad brawl (or at least as bad as fights in the publishing world can get), when the retailer removed the “buy” button from the publishing house’s books in an attempt to pressure the publisher into accepting fixed Kindle-edition pricing. Amazon eventually blinked, but clearly the company hasn’t abandoned this line of attack.
The marketplace is getting pretty heated, and I imagine that as the first true pretender to Amazon’s electronic book throne finally enters the ring, it’ll only get worse. I can’t help but think that Amazon’s strong-arm strategy feels a little like the desperate actions of the king who can hear the restless villagers at his doorstep and knows that his time ruling alone at the top, while fun and super-profitable, will soon come to an end. What do you think? Do you agree with Amazon that $12.99-$14.99 is “needlessly high” a price to pay for an e-book, or is the online giant just throwing its weight around?
Oh, if only Johannes Gutenberg could read the Amazon message boards, he would probably be…horrified. Readers turning against authors, publishers, and each other; readers lamenting $10 price tags because new books just aren’t worth that much; readers admitting that they read more from a screen than they ever would on paper. The value of the printed word that Gutenberg invented, some 500 years ago, just isn’t what it used to be.
Until the iPad came along, that is, and breathed new life into a wilting publishing industry. The device’s iBook store follows an agency model approach to selling electronic copies, meaning publishers can set their own prices (from $12.99 to $14.99) and keep 70 percent of the profits. Naturally, five of the country’s six biggest publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, the Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster—cut deals with Apple to be part of its new e-book marketplace even before the iPad launched. These newly empowered publishers also began rethinking their deal with Amazon.com, which has dominated the e-book market since the Kindle’s 2007 debut. Despite competition from Barnes & Noble and Sony, the company still enjoys 90 percent of the e-book market, thanks to a $9.99-per-book mantra that helped lure millions of customers to the Kindle store (and also pissed off publishers, who had to settle for a much-slashed “cover” price until the iPad’s promise of pricing autonomy went public).
So the publishers took their post-iPad bargaining chip—their revalued content—straight to Amazon and demanded more per e-book for the Kindle. First it was Macmillan, who won their case when Amazon agreed to raise consumer prices; and then it was HarperCollins and then Hachette Book Group. All of them argued for higher price points that, as Hachette CEO David Young said, “reflect the value of our authors’ works.” In other words, something that the Amazon.com bargain-basement prices do not.
Another wrinkle in the saga, according to last Thurday’s New York Times, is that Apple may have added its own discounting terms into their contracts to keep its competitive edge. Which begs the question at the heart of this pricing melee between publishers and Amazon (and now, frustrated readers and authors): What is an e-book really worth, when you can’t share it or store it on a (physical) shelf once you’ve finished it? Does a higher price tag validate an author’s craft, or just make it more inaccessible to the audience?
If you just looked at the Kindle store, and examined which titles are flying off the virtual shelves, books would seem to be one of the company’s least valuable commodities: 15 of Amazon’s top 25 e-book bestsellers are free, and eight more cost less than $9.99. There’s no doubt these deep discounts also help sell the Kindle itself—the lower the book prices, the more useful the device is, so more people buy the e-reader and the company can compensate for the lower per-book price. It’s great for the devoted reader—many commenters on the company’s Macmillan deal discussion thread say they read way more on a Kindle than they ever did before.
What do you think, Shelf Lifers? Do you think that e-books devalue the published word or promote authors and reading itself? Would you pay $14.99 for an e-book?
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.”
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