The Hachette vs. Amazon Battle: Quality vs. Quantity

book-and-firecrackersIn the battle between Hachette and Amazon, Hachette and those who support it have based their argument upon two simple “facts”. The first is that Amazon is too big. A retailer that large is dangerously close to being a monopoly (or so they say). The second is that Amazon, with their (evil) devotion to pleasing the costumer will destroy the quality of books.

Before we talk about those two issues though let’s first look at something that amounts to much ado about nothing.

Tactics: Many are lamenting the “strong arm” (some have used the term scorched earth, others have actually compared them to Putin) tactics that Amazon is using on Hachette by refusing to carry their titles until the issues between the two companies are resolved. The implication seems to be that Amazon is the first and only company to ever use this maneuver in a dispute with a publisher. Not true. As author Neil Gaiman advises in Salon: They’re (Amazon) doing the equivalent of what Barnes and Noble did a couple years ago to me, when they were arguing that they were having one of these, again, corporation-to-corporation arguments with DC Comics, and they said, “Well, the Sandman books aren’t for sale, you can no longer buy them at Barnes and Noble.

Others may remember the kerfuffle that occurred when Wal-Mart refused to carry several different romance novels. Most refusals to sell were based on the cover art not being family friendly but in one notable case it was based on content – Susan Grant’s Contact. Wal-Mart wanted changes made to a scene in the book, the publisher refused, Wal-Mart refused to sell.

The important point here is that Amazon is not alone in this tactic. While publishers were once the big corporations in the book industry the shift toward purchasing reading material through large retailers has meant that publishers are no longer the largest company at the table. Where they could – and did – easily undercut the small independent store, that is not an option when they are facing the large retailers.

Quantity: Perhaps the largest complaint made against Amazon is that their size means that anything they do has big results since they themselves are so large. Just how much of a share of the book market Amazon has is hard to say because sales figures are disclosed by the publishers, not retailers.

One thing we know for sure is that people are doing more and more of their book shopping online. Digital Book World :In 2012 (through Nov.), 43.8% of books bought by consumers were sold online versus 31.6% sold in large retail chains, independent bookstores, other mass merchandisers and supermarkets. This is nearly a direct reversal of the situation in 2011, when 35.1% of books were sold online and 41.7% were sold in stores.

A factor driving the above growth is undoubtedly e-books, which Amazon sells a great many of. According to Forbes: E-books now make up around 30% of all book sales, and Amazon has a 65% share within that category, with Apple and Barnes & Noble accounting for most of the balance.

And a few more sales figures. According to Publishers Weekly: Research conducted in March by the Codex Group found that in the month Amazon’s share of new book unit purchases was 41%, dominating 65% of all online new book units, print and digital. The company achieved that percentage by not only being the largest channel for e-books, where it had a 67% market share in March, but also by having a commanding slice of the sale of print books online, where its share in March was estimated at 64%.

According to the The NY Times all of this means: Amazon controls about a third of the book business, which means big publishers cannot live without it.

This tells us what Amazon looks like from a publisher’s perspective. What could be crucial though is that Amazon doesn’t just sell books published by the Big Five. This is a departure from most indie or chain bookstores. As one writer put it in Inc.: The bottom line: It is hard persuading stores (whether they’re B&N or indie) to stock your book, if you’re not published by one of the “big five” publishers: Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House. But I tell you where you can always find my novel and Morgan’s: On Amazon.

On authorearnings.com Hugh Howey tells us how Amazon is different: Indie and small-press books account for half of the e-book sales in the most popular and bestselling genres on Amazon.

This figure is mind boggling given the fact that Amazon/Hachette are battling over e-book prices: You may have heard from other reports that e-books account for roughly 25% of overall book sales. But this figure is based only on sales reported by major publishers. E-book distributors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the iBookstore, and Google Play don’t reveal their sales data. That means that self-published e-books are not counted in that 25%.

To sum up our findings above, Amazon sells a lot of books. Amazon sells most e-books. And according to what little data can be gleaned without Amazon talking numbers, many of the e-books it sells are self-published or small press published books. If you, like I, have wondered just why the Big Five and their authors are so heated over this battle I think this might be a big factor. Amazon is putting the Big Five out of business – not by negotiating them to death but by offering their competition opportunities to compete.

Quality: Just this week I got suckered into reading a bad book. Fortunately, I had borrowed it but still, it was a prime example of why many people complain about quality in books. It’s not the worst thing in the world that can happen (far from it) but a bad book can to readers be a real irritant. George Packer wrote a very lengthy piece in The New Yorker assuring us that Amazon is likely to ensure that we see a lot more bad books. Here’s how he sums it up: Gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths. When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?

Others agree with him. As Goodereader puts it: One thing indie authors have done is devalue the work of legitimate published authors. You know the type that write for a living, who have an editor and are considered accomplished, or at least well-read. The average indie title is $0.99 to $2.99, and the average publisher price is $7.99 – $12.99. Book buyers have been so conditioned to pay as little as possible that often they will not even consider a more expensive book.

Here is how The Nation put it: Take the issue of choice: when it comes to the books it stocks, Amazon makes no pretense of selectivity. Provided it carries an ISBN and isn’t offensive, Amazon is happy to sell any book Joe Schmo cares to publish.

Putting all this together, before Amazon Big Brother Publishers took care that we only received quality choices. As someone who was reading back in the dark ages of print paperbacks, I can assure you this was not the case. In fact, for me, the opposite was true. That’s because before the internet it was hard to find honest reviews on genre fiction. I now read far fewer bad books. The reasons for this are simple:

  1. Review Sites: Places like AAR offer honest reviews of the books I am thinking of reading and lead me to the books I hadn’t yet considered.
  2. Connection to Readers: AAR and other review sites tend to have message boards where I can connect with other readers who give me their honest opinions of yet more books.
  3. Sample chapters: Author websites and online bookstores often give me sample chapters which are probably the single most influential factor in selling me a book.

I love how Slate described this: Quality matters, to the extent that it matters, not because retailers care about quality but because (some) readers care about quality and various media institutions try to give people information about which new books are good.

The idea that New York Publishers bucked trends to give us unique, interesting and most importantly quality reads is frankly ridiculous. Driven by the almighty dollar they played it safe and sold us only what they knew would sell. Yes, every once in a while when a trend was dying they would throw a few new ideas out to see which one would be the next trend they could ride but once that trend was discovered we had best fall in love with it or do without. Perhaps Amazon does just sell any old book but many of those books – such as Helen Bryan’s War Brides – clearly connect enough with readers to sell well.

Summing things up, according to Hachette and its supporters:

  1. Amazon is evil because they use the same tactics other companies have for decades.
  2. Amazon is evil because they are big.
  3. Amazon is evil because they don’t protect readers from “bad” books.

My feelings are quite simple. I like to read. I like to read a lot. I am a member of the 99% so I can’t buy every last book that looks interesting to me. Relying on publishers to steer me towards good books has, in the past, been like letting a snake oil salesmen steer me towards good medicine. I now purchase based upon reviews; some formal like those at AAR, some informal like those on message boards, blogs or Goodreads. That has worked much better than browsing bookstores and hoping for the best. I use Amazon because I like books that publishers won’t touch (such as romantic suspense) and I need an easy place to access independently published books. That’s my take on all this.

What is your take? Do you feel that Amazon is guilty of what it is accused of or is it simply a business practicing business as usual? Do you think if Amazon fails things will go back to how they were or will someone(s) simply rise up in their place? Do you think big publishing is right and that the old ways were the best ways or are independent writers correct and the open markets better for us as readers?

Maggie Boyd

49 thoughts on “The Hachette vs. Amazon Battle: Quality vs. Quantity

  1. This is a terrific post, Maggie, and you’ve put the arguments really well.

    I’m just going to say that I’ve read – as I’m sure we all have – books that have dumb plots, are poorly-written and seem to have missed the proof-reader that have been published by major publishers, so the idea that such an organisation is a guarantee of quality is, quite frankly, utterly ridiculous. It’s true that the issues of poor formatting, poor grammar etc. seem to come up more frequently in self-published titles, and self-pubbing is no excuse. I work with a handful of such authors for whom those things are really important and who take the time to have things properly edited and proofed – and the finished product ends up being a much more professional looking job than some of the things coming out of the big publishing houses.

    Hachette is throwing its toys out of the pram in a hissy fit, and the people who are really losing out are the consumers, as is usually the case in these battles between behemoths.

    • I’ve just gotten into the indie books at Amazon and the majority I’ve read have been as well edited and proofed as anything I have seen come out of the big five. I think publishers have their uses but they really, really need to join us here in the 21st century and not ask us to come back to their 19th century way of doing things.

      • Try 9th century. The Big Pubs act like they are the High Church of literature and us mere mortals are not equipped to chose for ourselves.

        • This is an interesting point and one I think has been little discussed. Previously, NY controlled what we read. They determined what was worthy to be seen by the masses. Now the masses have a lot more say in what they want to read and we are hearing all about how that will bring about poor quality books and how we need publishers as gate keepers. The irony is that the gates have already been breached. No point in guards now.

        • I agree. I do not want a “gatekeeper” between me and books. The more books the merrier as far as I am concerned. There are plenty of people out there with degrees in English/literature/grammar, etc. who are available as freelance editors and from the indie books I have read, I have not seen any dramatic difference in errors vs. those published by the Big 5. I would rather an author get 50%+ of the profits of a book than 10%. It has always bugged me that the one person whose creativity and ideas are paramount to a product is the one who makes the least amount of money on that product.

  2. Great points and I agree with all of them.

    For me, I was a latecomer to Kindle. Even before my kindle, my city had dropped down to one bookstore and sadly to say, the economy made it pretty bad. They carried fewer and fewer of the books I was looking for. And given that I used social media for my reviews and recommendations, many of those I would look for were major books, not only new and/or indie books. But well known authors etc. So when I could never get the book locally, I would order it from Amazon. When this happened time & time again, my sons got me a kindle for Christmas. Well, that was the end of that problem. I never have to search or get disgusted when BOM never seems to have what I’m looking for.

    Kindle books pricing does seem to be on the rise now and that is disturbing me. I try to get what I can from the library ebook section, but sadly, that too is lacking. So I find myself slowing down my purchases in hopes the price will drop. Also I find myself buying more of the cheaper books. The way I see it, I don’t mind losing $1-3 or so and getting a bad one occasionally. Truthfully, since I research first, I rarely get a bad one now. And usually, if the editing is bad or unreadable, Amazon will let you return it. I have done that a few times.

    Bottom line, is I live in a rural town. I have few options. Amazon has not only opened up the world for me with books, but other items I could not find locally either. Frankly, I couldn’t live without them.

    • Thanks for mentioning the impact the economy has had on bookstores. Most articles/posts I see blame Amazon but the Indie store in my town knows precisely when their sales dropped and it was when the economy tanked. They have a lot of loyal costumers but it is getting harder and harder to shop there since they carry fewer and fewer titles.

      The point about small communities is a great one as well. When I lived in a small, isolated town up north I had to use Amazon. There was no book store, rural or otherwise. I’d have gone crazy without them.

    • It’s interesting how the authors are rallying around the people who publish them isn’t it? :-)

    • It’s interesting that the authors mentioned in this article are generally very big name writers – Roberts, King, Patterson. These folks are in the, what, like 1% of all writers who ever do make it big in the industry. I would wager that the vast – VAST – majority of writers are barely able to make a living off writing without an additional source of income. And I also imagine that the big publishers give the majority of their efforts as far as marketing and promotion to these Big Name writers, whereas the publisher’s efforts for the mid-list are more of the “whatevers left over” variety.

  3. Great post. I, too, was a late comer to Amazon’s kindle. I had both a sony reader and a nook and used them exclusively. But with Audible’s (an Amazon company) link to Kindle, I have been able to buy the same books in both audio and print and link my reading experience. This is an example of a creative customer tool and supports the argument that Amazon, although big, seems very in tune with the desires of its customer base and providing the technology to meet our needs. I can’t say the big publishers have always had our needs at heart.

    • Renee,

      Amazon is amazing with their innovations for readers! That is one of the reasons I am so happy to have them as part of the “book” family. I also appreciate how Amazon doesn’t discriminate against what people want to read. If you are still into RS big publishing tells you it won’t sell and they can’t produce it (never mind that they aren’t trying to market it and are expecting it to magically sell on its own). Amazon carries it.

  4. Caz, Vol Fan, and you – Maggie have put it so distinctly that there is not too much that I can add. I have to admit I have a long memory, and still haven’t forgot how the major sixth publishers attempted to stagnate the growth of e-books and their price fixing.

    So, no I don’t have much sympathy for Hachette.

    • Yes, I think they made a big mistake with their battle for price fixing. It brought attention to their dictatorial ways!

  5. I’ve read quite a few articles about the Amazon/Hachette fisticuffs and am repeatedly amazed that so many people are upset over Amazon’s ‘tactics.’ What a bunch of hooey! I’ll say here as I’ve said elsewhere, we’re capitalists. There is a reason there are no more shoe cobblers, sad as that is to those folks. Markets are meant to be influx and publishers have long had an unnatural hold on a particular market segment. Someone will come along and challenge Amazon because there’s market shares available to a company that caters to its consumers.

    New technology, a changing economy, and a reader willing to adjust a long time habit have drastically upset the balance of power. Power holders are always incredulous when this sort of thing happens but I’ve never before been witness nor read about an industry so completely out of touch with it’s end consumers that they are so shocked and so affronted with a change that has already arrived. I find it hard to believe that no one in the publishing industry developed any sort of strategy regarding ereaders years ago. Didn’t any of their spouses or friends have a Kindle? Did they never venture inside a Best Buy or a Barnes & Noble? How in the world did all these smart folks benevolently delivering quality books to the pitiful masses miss a change in their own industry of this magnitude?

    I’m usually shouted down when I post this type of comment. A recent blog post I read bemoaned the fact that their reading/reviewing experience had been ruined because of the glut of badly written, poorly edited and formatted Indie books. I seriously don’t know how more choices ruins an experience and as you’ve said here, it’s not as though the Big 5 gave us one perfect gem after another. I do exactly what you do when I pick a book – I read some reviews and the excerpt.

    I am prejudiced in this matter as I queried my books to hundreds, yes hundreds, of agents and publishers for years and years. I rarely was asked to send a few pages. I had given up on publishing any of my books until my husband convinced me to try and self pub them. My life has changed completely because of that decision. Because of my book sales, I’ll be able to go to part time at my job this fall and hopefully quit altogether next year so that I can write full time. Readers write me emails and send me notes to tell me they love my books – this industry change may be painful for some but it is a dream come true for me.

    • New technology, a changing economy, and a reader willing to adjust a long time habit have drastically upset the balance of power. Power holders are always incredulous when this sort of thing happens but I’ve never before been witness nor read about an industry so completely out of touch with it’s end consumers that they are so shocked and so affronted with a change that has already arrived. I find it hard to believe that no one in the publishing industry developed any sort of strategy regarding ereaders years ago. Didn’t any of their spouses or friends have a Kindle? Did they never venture inside a Best Buy or a Barnes & Noble? How in the world did all these smart folks benevolently delivering quality books to the pitiful masses miss a change in their own industry of this magnitude?

      It does amaze me that no one in publishing saw this coming or felt any need when it arrived to jump on the bandwagon. It just shows that publishers have a low opinion of their customers. They figured we were too stupid to use technology :-)

      • Or too high an opinion of themselves. Truthfully, I don’t think they think one lick about the end user. I have a funny picture in my head of all these highfalutin publishing types having a meeting and nodding to each other and saying, ‘We should figure out a way to use this ereader thing. Does anyone know someone that has one?’

        • I think you’ve hit the nail with the hammer on this point. They think too highly of themselves and of their influence on what a reader wants – hence why one of my favorite authors had to go indie because her agent and publisher both told her that none of the “Big 5″ were willing to publisher her romantic suspense books – not because they weren’t good but because “romantic suspense” was dead (I have no idea where they get this idea either).

    • Well said Holly! I’m so happy for you that you gave “the man” the finger and did it on your own. :) I love that.
      But, I do think (don’t you agree?) there’s something to be said for the painful vetting process publishers/agents put writers through. It hurts, oh how well I know it hurts, but I really feel it does force us to grow as writers. With so many authors skipping that valuable process (local crit groups on through “specific feedback” from a potential editor) and just going for it and posting their work right away-well, this is what leads to criticism that self pub is the new slush pile. Amz can sometimes be a wild west of horrific covers and bad blurbs. I see it everyday. I think the easiness of self pub causes a lot of authors to become delusional, thinking they’re ready to pub, but they ARE NOT! Having said that, at the same time I’m grateful to all the excellent self pub writers (with quality control that puts them on par with trad pub) who have taken thier excellent stories straight to the consumer. Trad pub is like big Hollywood studios, sm/self pub is Sundance.:) 80% of my purchases are ebook sm pub/self pub. Because they write what I want to read and the price point is what I want to pay! I agree that the big 5 need to wake up or one day they’ll find themselves dissolving like Blockbuster (which would be sad).

      • You are absolutely correct, Michele. There are plenty of writers who don’t know or understand the ins and outs of writing/publishing/marketing and don’t always use ‘best practice’ when putting their work out for market. I don’t see the traditional agent/publisher vetting process as best practice either, however.

        There are very narrow parameters for storyline with the Big 5. Someone above mentioned Romantic Suspense was no longer being published. When I queried any of my Prairie westerns, I was mostly told that no one publishes those types of stories any longer and couldn’t I change the setting to Texas or London? Well, no, I couldn’t without rewriting the book. I’ve sold well over 10,000 ecopies of my first book, and while not in the Courtney Milan range by any imagination, still very respectable and well more than general expectations for a debut author’s print title. Part of the problem I believe was the economics of taking a book to market before ereaders. There were and are significant expenses involved and a publisher was looking at the ROI of launching any new author and reaching the critical mass needed to make a profit, both short
        and long term. Most of the time, small categories were not profitable.

        Fortunately, new technology has allowed me to offer my books for sale. The reader is well able to buy it or not and I understand that I will be compared to a traditionally published book. I see the same horrific covers and blurbs on some books and wonder who will buy them. They are, without a doubt, the reason that so much criticism comes down the self pub pike. Writers who don’t put themselves and their work through self-imposed vetting will ultimately not sell books, though.

        I think part of this dust up is because we are in the middle of massive change, and with change like this comes chaos. New writers interested in self-pubbing will have more information about what to expect as the industry settles. Hopefully, one of the Big 5 will get their act together and create something new, combining their industry knowledge and vetting experience, with a new respect for consumer’s tastes, and a willingness to explore the ebook business economics. We shall see.

        I’ve made some ghastly errors in the last two years but was able to make corrections, thankfully. I’ve been lucky to combine a life time of business experience with some cottage industry tactics such as employing the head of my local high school’s English department as my editor. I guess I’m more a Sundance kind of a girl anyway!

  6. Cry me a river! I have a finite budget to buy books and I read a book every two days or so. Time was when I was forced to re-read a lot more than I do now, because I could only afford X number of books by Mr/Ms Big Time Author a month. Now, because of that mean Amazon, I can read 2X books by Mr/Ms No Name authors, some good, some maybe not so good.

    If the book is hideous (like “A Shiver of Light by LKH), I return it to Amazon and I get my money back. Wait, that’s a Big Pub book, sorry. Let me think of the last indie book I had to return…

    I feel bad for Mr/Ms Big. Having people spend their money on other authors instead of on them cause they are too freaking expensive for our budget must impact their bottom line, but that’s Capitalism.

    Supply and demand and all that.

  7. I find it hard to side with either party but I do know that when I look for ebooks to buy, I tend to go for the cheapies, like $2.99 or below. Any higher and I won’t buy unless it’s a really really excellent book or by an author I really enjoy reading. I don’t want to pay $6.99 or above for an ebook; I’d rather have a print book. But I am lucky that my library orders LOTS of books — both ebook and print.

    • I do feel bad for professional writers who need the $7.99+ price points in order to continue making their living. It does seem unfair that because indie and self-pubbed books are sold in the $.99-$2.99 range that consumers expect ALL books to be sold for that low of price. The problem is, unlike pricing in other markets, where spending $50 for a blouse probably means better quality than a blouse that is only $9.99, just because you fork over more money for an e-book doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a better story. How often I’ve paid full price for a book only to want to hurl it against a wall because of errors or bad characters or stupid story, shaking my head the whole time wondering how schlock like that ever got published in the first place. At least with indie/self-pub, if you aren’t happy with what you got quality wise, you don’t feel that you’ve overpaid.

      My issue is when e-books cost more than paper versions because that just doesn’t make any sense. It seems in those cases the publisher is using pricing as a way to drive people to avoid the e-book version.

      • Amen to that….when I fork over $9.99 or more for an “established” author and feel like I’m reading something a 3rd grader would have written…I want to hit someone ….hard…..ticks me off to no end

  8. One thing that strikes me is the idea that an e-book is worth less than an actual book to many. It’s not a bias I share. I so prefer e-books. It is easy to have your whole family on the Amazon system–my husband and I are often reading the same book which is, of course, one bought product.

    To me an e-book is worth every bit as much as a paperback and, if I’m desperate to have it, almost as much as an hardback.

    • I agree. And ( ducking and running) I have been known to buy electronic copies of books I own in print just because they are so much easier.

      • There are certain books I own in both paper and e because I love them. The e copy is easy to reach for re-reads, the paper is typically the original and I now keep it as my backup. (If some sort of apocalyptic event occurs I’ll still need books, right?)

        • I’ve been overseas for the past two years and thus bought all my books through Amazon (thank God for them!) Now I’m in the process of buying all the ones that I “keep” in paper format for my collection, just in case the e-reader word fails and I’m left only with my old-fashioned books!

  9. History informs much about what I think about such things. It seems to me that although the faces and names change, it’s still all about the battle for more power and money by the already more powerful, wealthy entities, while all those remaining take the leavings of these conflicts–including today in our world of obvious corporate control (instead of royal families, empires, etc.).

    As for choosing what to read, I rely more on what my own sense of what is intriguing rather than depending on anyone else. Both wealthy-born Thomas Jefferson and lower-class Abe Lincoln seem to have made themselves educated and well-read without the technology and “help” we have now. In short, I think individual drive trumps outside claims of any kind, no matter whether said claims are paid for or for free, or even how they are delivered.

    As for the cost of reading, I sort of flinch when I see a $50 blouse and a book mentioned together, but that’s just me likely because I came from a family where reading always trumped other “stuff.” I also confess to flinching at the notion of choosing to read a $2 book over and $8 book based solely on cost. Plainly said, I choose to buy what appeals to me more than deciding what to read based on cost. If something I’m interested in outside my budget, though, the library it is.

    My last thought relating to history and reading is that while there was a big surge in literacy with the introduction of the printing press, technology sadly has not seemed to have had the same effect, at least on literacy in the U.S. But then, we’re seeing a widening gap between the haves and have-nots again, as there has been in past times.

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  11. Wonderful post; thanks.

    Amazon is pursuing a successful, unique business model that is harming its business competitors because it is attractive to consumers. The only way to counter that is through appropriate measures in a free market economy. And no; I don’t consider government regulation to prop up lagging businesses appropriate.

    Surely the Big Publishers can think of some ways to remain relevant to book buyers. If not, I hope they’ll be very happy recounting past successes with the Blockbusters of the world.

  12. I feel nothing but Schadenfreude when it comes to the whining of the big 5. Their elitist and entitled asses can go down for all I care. Same goes for the “big star” authors shilling for them.

    Did anybody see the e-book price of the upcoming new SEP book? It boggles the mind.

    I am a consumer and as a consumer I naturally buy from whoever offers me the best price and the best customer service – and that would be amazon.

    • What’s off about the price for the SEP? It’s cheaper than the hardback and there’s no paperback release. I’d expect the e-book price to drop when there’s a paperback version.

      • There’s a lot wrong with the price of the new SEP book – it’s ridiculously inflated – guess that Rupert Murdoch must need more money for another business venture that he wants to get involved in. Knowing the publisher lets you know exactly what’s behind the price. No ebook should be $13 or more – that’s ridiculous – and no hardcover should be more than $13 – period. The author is getting a small percentage with a large percentage going to Harper Collins (aka News Corp).

        • When they price an ebook that high, even higher than the print version, it infuriates me. No matter how I love the author, book, etc., I refuse to buy it in any version. Once they get off their high horses and come back to the real world, I *might* buy it. Depends on how mad it has made me. Usually, I will wait for the library to carry it. Refuse to give them my money after they have tried to gouge me deliberately.

          When they pull those stunts, it is cutting their nose off to spite their faces. It only makes the public mad as hell. Again, I think this shows how out of touch they are with their readers.

          • This isn’t priced higher than the print version. And, why should an ebook never be more than $13? Do we know that SEP is getting less money with this higher priced book?

      • $13.59 seems very high for an e-book which I can’t give to someone else or re-sell it like a paper book.

        Most of the e-books I buy are between $.99 and 3.99. I have spent at most $8 on one e-book, but those are exceptions not the rule for me.

        I don’t think any author is a special enough snowflake to spend almost $15 for the e-book.

        • I think you are certainly entitled to your price points. Everyone has them. I refuse to pay money for wine. But I’m not upset that there are $100 bottles out there (especially when someone buys them and shares them with me!). If SEP’s price lowers her take, then it might be a bad choice for her. But I think assigning hard prices for books isn’t fair.

          • I can’t help it, I perceive an ebook as having less value than a print book, and therefore should be priced less. It’s a big deal to me that a print book is something I can hold in my hands, resell, or share with friends. You can get sentimental over a print book, display it, smell it, pet it…in comparison, ebooks are quick & convenient and should be priced much less. I have never paid more than $9.99 for a fiction ebook, and that was rare. I’m willing to pay the bigger prices for print books (especially nonfiction) I want to keep, or that hardback I want NOW. But I, too feel the most I’d pay for a NYT bestseller, out right now in lieu of hardback, ebook-$9.99. That’s my ceiling.

  13. First I want to say “Thanks” to Holly Bush’s husband for pushing her to self pub! I love her books (especially Reconstructing Jackson). Then I want to comment on the post – which is excellent. I have no problem with Amazon selling lots of books and selling them at reasonable prices. I love Indie books – publishers have dominated what we read for long enough – case in point – romance outsells most other genres but in chain bookstores – you’ll have a hard time finding the section and it will be small and under stocked (because after all they want to sell other stuff to us because they know better). It saddens me to see Nora Roberts jump into the fray on the side of Hatchette but since she writes for Penguin Random House – I shouldn’t be surprised. There is plenty of room at the table for every kind of author and it just sickens me to see them falling in line (or goosestepping if you will) with the publishers – they need to support the indie writers too.

  14. I’m a reader so I have no problem with a reader-friendly company. I think it’s just a business war between rival companies.

    It’s my responsability as a reader to look for quality, and I don’t want anybody to make the decision of what is good or bad for me. I’m an adult, I don’t need Hachette to tell me what books are good enough for me. I know what thousands of years of good Literature has produced.

    I’ve been buying in the Internet since I realized that the local bookshop did not have ‘the book I was looking for’. And not only in Amazon, but also in Spanish bookshops that sell online.

    My e-reader is a kindle, and now I don’t have to wait until they send me the book I want from the other side of the Atlantic. In a minute I download it.

    As I’ve said before, the issues with Amazon, in Europe, are slightly different. But the main point is, for me, that they do what I -as a reader- want.

    As far as I know, at least in my country, Amazon sells books published by the local companies that belong to the Hachette Livres group.

  15. I love Amazon and I won’t apologize for it. I don’t buy anything but e-books now unless it is a used book that I can’t get digitally. I also use reader reviews and book review sites to inform my choices. On the topic of e-book prices–I don’t mind paying more than $7.99 for an e-book published simultaneously with the hardcover. I figure I’m paying a premium because I’m getting it asap. Isn’t that why we pay more and buy hardcovers? Because we don’t want to wait for the paperback version? But it isn’t always true that if you wait the price of the e-book will come down. I’ve been waiting for the original e-book price to come down on some Julie Garwood contemporaries and the price is still way high. What’s up with that? I think that the base price of an e-book should be predicated on the value of the intellectual property/talent of the author’s writing. Therefore, a paperback version of the book should cost more than an e-book because in addition to paying for the author’s talent there is also cost associated with paper and printing that must be recouped. That is why if offends me when the paperback comes out but the e-book prices doesn’t drop or e-books run more than the actual book. The best thing about .99-$2.99 books is that it makes it more affordable to take a chance on a new author.

  16. I started buying ebooks for the Sony Reader in 2006, before Amazon came out with the Kindle, and over several years I shifted completely from buying printed books to buying ebooks. In 2010 (IIRC), Apple & the Big 5 started their price fixing. They have all supposedly settled in the suit for price-fixing, BUT THEY STILL DO IT! Far too many ebooks from the Big 5 are still available ONLY at the publisher’s list price. I suspect that their price fixing was a major factor in the closing of many ebook vendors over the last several years (Fictionwise, Books on Board, Sony eBook Store, and others I can’t recall right now).
    I decided years ago that I would simply not buy any ebook for more than $9.99 (what I would have paid for one of the bad-idea taller mass-market paperbacks that were starting to appear as I was phasing out my buying of printed books), and I have stuck to that. Since my first-tier tbr list of downloaded ebooks has over 1,500 titles in it, I can stand to wait for the ebooks I want to come down to a price I consider reasonable.
    I have said multiple times over the years that I can see NO expense-based justification for ebook pricing pegged to the price of whatever version of a book is in print. Baen Books has had reasonably priced ebooks REGARDLESS of what form the print version is in since around 1999 or 2000, proving that the Big 5 model is not required. I have asked to see a breakdown of costs justifying ebook prices, but have never seen an answer.
    I would like to see a real cost analysis for ebooks, especially one contrasting to various printed formats. With printed books, there is a definite number of copies to which all costs of production, storage, inventory tax and distribution must be assigned (though I’m not sure how returns & remainders affect this). With ebooks, there is no specific number of copies: there are setup costs in preparing the ebook files, then there are ongoing costs to maintain servers, mass storage, backups, Internet bandwidth, and electricity to run everything. Depending on the accounting, web site and ecommerce site maintenance may need to be figured in. There is no system of returns and remainders. I’m not sure if there is any inventory tax. But ALL the costs I can think of associated with ebooks don’t change if zero copies or a million copies are sold. (I don’t know enough about publisher accounting to know if royalties are treated as a cost.)
    I would happily see all of the Big 5 publishers close tomorrow if not for the fact that many authors whose writing I like would be forced to find new outlets, and well-done self-publishing takes skills many authors may not have and time that could have been spent writing.

  17. This line made me laugh aloud: “The idea that New York Publishers bucked trends to give us unique, interesting and most importantly quality reads is frankly ridiculous.”

    All of my author friends are up in arms–the indie-published about the Big 5, the traditionally published about Amazon. I think that in the end, though, giving readers the option to read more can only be good, and Amazon offers that in a way that the traditional publishers simply don’t.

  18. It seems to me that a person’s view of Amazon often varies depending on the topic, which is reasonable of course. Except, please note than when e-books are involved the tide is generally in Amazon’s favor, likely because it is the largest, most convenient supplier of them. Paper publishers are also the bad guys when the “e-book” word is used.

    But then, Amazon has also been hammered at times because of its size and effect on any competition, depending on the direction of the discussion.

    Please pardon me for not taking a side because IMO all are corporations that are too big, which puts decisions in too few hands. Amazon has publisher competition now, but say it prevails, and all book availability depends on just that one source, heh? What then?

  19. I still only read books on paper. E-readers are a big reason book stores have struggled for so long. You can order your books at bookstores sometimes without paying shipping. It is my thought that people just want to have it NOW. I refuse to have to depend on the power grid to read my book. I also will never see that money again. Once you are gone, so is your library. Lets be more honest here.

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