Wow, the iPad announcement really didn’t solve everything! In fact the battle lines over who gets what with ebooks and i-that may just be beginning if this weekend’s skirmish between Amazon and Macmillan is any indication. Johanna Draper Carlson has the back and forth — basically, Macmillan — publisher of such graphic novel imprints as First Second, Hill & Wang and Seven Seas — demanded its ebooks be priced at $14.99 as opposed to $9.99. And Amazon said no way, Jose, and pulled ALL Macmillan books from Amazon.com over the weekend. While literary fires raged, yesterday, Sunday, Amazon gave in and said they would carry Macmillan ebooks for Kindle at the suggested price.
It’s all part of a larger pricing battle — while in general, it’s hard not to be sympathetic with the book publishing’s desire to survive, charging for the cost of a nice trade paperback for a few bits and bytes is kinda ridiculous. The NY Times writes:
For more than a year, publishers have been fretting about the price of digital books, which Amazon, as the dominant player in the fast-growing market, had effectively been able to set.
Last Thursday, Mr. Sargent flew to Seattle to explain the pricing and new sales model to Amazon. He said Amazon could continue to buy e-books on the same terms it does now — allowing the retailer to set consumer prices — but that the publisher would delay the release of all digital editions by several months after the hardcover publication.
Amazon buys and resells e-books in the same way it handles printed books, by paying publishers a wholesale price that is generally equivalent to half the list price of a print edition. Because Amazon has discounted the price of most new and popular e-books on its Kindle e-reader to $9.99, it loses money on most of those sales.
There’s much more commentary on the net about all of this, as one might imagine Tom Spurgeon weighs in here. Cory Doctorow has a long piece at Boing Boing that paints a clear picture of the obvious. The reader is gonna be the biggest loser in all these e-wars:
And if one of the five titans that control almost all of publishing gets into a scrap with one of the four or five titans that control almost all ebook publishing, or the one company that rules the audiobook market, the collateral damage is that you will have to choose to eschew a gigantic slice of all the literature ever made in order to hang on to your library, or abandon your library in order to get access to that publisher’s work. Or fill your shoulderbag with a half-dozen tablets and readers, one for each permutation of which corporate elephant is trying to crush another.