Monday, February 1, 2010

Amazon Capitulates to Macmillan

I ran into this article about the resolution of the Amazon vs. Macmillan dispute today on Yahoo! Finance.

Some rundown on the issue that played out over the weekend is thus: Macmillan went to Seattle to negotiate with Amazon about a new pricing structure for e-books because they thought Amazon's price structure was too low. Amazon enacted a ban against all Macmillan books rather than acquiesce to the publisher's demands  in what was apparently an electronic Cold War between the two giants.

Macmillan, which owns St. Martin's Press (home of blog-friend Gary Corby's debut) among other imprints, is one of the world's largest publishers. Given their market share, the fact Macmillan yanked their titles from the Kindle in protest of the pricing structure is a Very Big Thing.

Amazon announced today, roughly half an hour ago U.S. Eastern Time, that they were going to agree to Macmillian's pricing demands. The end result of this battle? Macmillan's e-books will retail for $12.99 to $14.99 in the Kindle online store, $4 to $6 more than the $9.99 price-point that Amazon has thus far demanded for all new bestselling titles that come out on the Kindle.

Here's the Wall Street Journal's take on the issue. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the WSJ article, and among the plethora of reasons why I love that publication, is that it provides the statements from both Amazon and the Macmillan CEO.

As an unpubbed and unrepresented writer, I don't have a financial stake in this whole debate. However, upon reading the statements from both parties, I find myself coming down on the publisher's side of things rather than Amazon's. Don't misunderstand me -- I love Amazon and their discounts -- but publishers have needed to take control of e-books for a long time. And Macmillan has now done that. For that I can only applaud them.

What about you, loyal readers? Where do you come down on things?

UPDATE: Pimp My Novel, book sales blog, weighs in on the debate. As does Cory Doctorow, and Laura of Combrevations fame.


Adam Heine said...

I don't like the way Amazon handled this, personally. They didn't warn Macmillan or anything. They just dropped all their books on Friday without a word, just to show that they can.

And then they realized that, no, they can't do that. Not to one of the big guys, not when their biggest competition just emerged onto the market (that's Apple).

And I don't like the way Amazon keeps spinning it. Their official statement waffles between evil and immature. They accuse MacMillan of "having a monopoly on their own titles." Um, yes, Amazon, that's how it works. They're the publisher.

Seriously, that monopoly quote is either fantastic spin or a moronic misunderstanding of the word "monopoly."

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I agree with Adam. I love Amazon and their bargains, but they did not handle this well at all. Add to that the fact that Macmillan was totally in the right, and I side with the publisher. :-)

Joshua McCune said...

Matt, thanks for the news and updates. I'm wholly in agreement w/ Shannon and Adam.

Brandon said...

I’m quite the advocate for the “there’s two sides to every story” mentality, but it definitely looked like Amazon was just throwing a temper tantrum in response to Macmillan’s attempt at negotiation. The higher prices seem justified, and hopefully it will trickle down into better financial numbers for the ailing publishing industry, including writers. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Susan R. Mills said...

I come down on the publishers side too.

Adam Heine said...

John Scalzi wrote a really great post on why what Amazon did was spectacularly stupid:

Gary Corby said...

I watched this little debacle with a certain degree of personal interest. My instant reaction was deep sympathy for any Macmillan author with a release this week.

In fact I do know a fellow Minotaur author who debuted only a couple of weeks ago, and she was in tears.

I gather even though Amazon threw in the towel (with amazing speed) most books aren't back yet.

dolorah said...

I came down on the "I'm confused side".

If I ever land an agent, and I'm approached about e-books, I guess I'll hire Matt Delman to represent my interests.

How 'bout it Dude? $20 bucks for retainer?


Gary Corby said...

Donna, if you're the author you don't get any choice about ebooks! Publishers these days demand ebook rights as part of the standard contract. It's the publisher sho decides whether your work is coming out in ebook and what price, same as for print books. (Unless your agent come up with some special deal.)