Friday, March 16, 2012


Here’s my take on the current controversy over Amazon versus the Big 6 publishers. If the Justice Department prevails, proving five publishers and Apple “colluded” to raise e-book prices, some fear Amazon will go back to heavy discounting of important books, cutting into the profit for both publishers and bookstores. The “Amazon wins” scenario scares lots of readers who fear they’ll benefit in the short term, but lose in the future if Amazon becomes the only game in town and then raises prices. That’s what price-fixing laws are supposed to prevent.

Companies with plenty of cash, like Amazon, can sell books (or anything) at a loss until they’ve killed competition completely, which is what anti-monopoly laws are supposed to prevent. Where are they in this argument?

The final judgement has yet to occur. The publishers and Apple might settle the lawsuit with some kind of compromise that solves, or at least mitigates, the problem. Even if they don’t, at this point it’s hard to know what will happen down the road.

I like Amazon, and I also like Apple, Barnes & Noble and others in the book business. That includes some of the Big 6. I’m not published by them (I’ve been with smaller publishers) and would like to be if only for the prestige they currently enjoy.

Which is not to say those guys have been smart lately. They didn’t see the handwriting on the wall, and some are still not moving into the future. Read J.A. Konrath’s blog about those he calls “legacy” publishers to learn what mistakes many of them have made. Some authors praise Amazon if only because the Big 6 “got what was coming to them.”

But, that said, they’re hardly suffering no matter how often they bad-mouth Amazon. Sure, their sales of hardcover and trade paper books have fallen, but their balance sheets haven’t suffered much. And where is this extra income arriving from? E-books of course. They cost virtually nothing to produce and provide authors only piddling amounts in royalties.

Furthermore, at least two publishers I know of are moving into digital in a big way. Random House has a new division called “Romance at Random” for digital only books. Grand Central is doing the same with its “Forever Yours” division. And both have opened their submissions to unagented authors. Methinks I see a ploy to try to snag talented writers who might otherwise decide to self-publish with Amazon. Is this good or bad? If these new lines raise royalty rates on e-books to rival Amazon’s, it might be a good thing. But I don’t know.

What do you think? Are you still trying traditional publishing or have you already switched to Indie?

Big 6
Barnes & Noble
Random House
Grand Central
J.A. Konrath

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