Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's An e-War!

There's still a lot in innings left in this game, to determine, if, when the crush develops, will the cupid-stricken young boy offer to carry his sweetheart's Kindle, iPad, or some other device, to school for her.

In the meantime, an e-War has broken out.

Amazon and Macmillan go to war: readers and writers are the civilian casualties

When I woke this morning at 5AM UK time, I discovered an in-box full of emails from people asking if I knew what was going on with Amazon. My books -- and all books from Macmillan and its many divisions, including Tor, my publisher -- had disappeared from the Amazon webstore in both physical and electronic editions.

The New York Times quotes an industry insider as saying that Amazon pulled these books in retaliation for a demand from Macmillan to raise the price of Kindle books from $10 to $15. Presumably, Amazon perceives the $10 price-tag as a way of encouraging people to buy its Kindle platform, which itself is a kind of roach-motel for books: the license terms and DRM on the books in the Kindle store prohibit you from reading your Kindle books on competing devices. So books check in, but they don't check out.


If the NYT's report is true, then this is a case of two corporate giants illustrating neatly exactly why market concentration is bad for the arts:

Read the rest of Cory Doctrow's post, as he also lays out a convenient (for readers and consumers, certainly), solution.

And, settle this thing fast, boys, I have three books I be lookin' to get published.

Back to the e-War, Henry Blodget adds;
Publishers have therefore been pressuring Amazon to raise prices on Kindle books, which Amazon is loathe to do. Amazon is selling Kindle books for $9.99 for two reasons:
  • It wants the Kindle to become the ebook standard, and sales volume is critical
  • It understands that the idea of selling an ebook for the price of a hardcover book is ridiculous

And if Amazon were just an eBook seller, it might have to cave immediately. But it isn't. It's also a huge physical book seller (which, by the way, Apple isn't). So if a publisher gets too uppity, Amazon can just threaten to kick its books right out of the store.

And that appears to be what has happened with Macmillan.


Eventually, eBook prices should drop significantly, to reflect the incremental cost of goods sold (zero). This should encourage more book-buying and book reading, as well as a greater volume of sales. In the meantime, however, the publishing industry appears intent on stonewalling. And in that endeavor, it has found a new friend--Steve Jobs.

Yeah, right, Steve Jobs.

Once the heavy-duty fighting starts, undoubtedly, Apple will come out with something, like iRocks, you can throw.

Or, maybe, it will escalate to iDrones.

Bezos, over here ... Jobs, you go over here ...

Let's get ready to rumble!

Bonus eWar Fragments

Paul Miller: Macmillan books gone from, Steve Jobs grins wryly from his throne of golden iPads

John Scalzi: It’s All About Timing

Matt Buchanan: The Apple-Amazon eBook War Begins: Amazon Deletes Macmillan Books

To: All Macmillan authors/illustrators and the literary agent community

Top Ten Cloves: How The Amazon Kindle Can Effect The Legal World

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