A few people were surprised I hadn’t weighed in on the DOJ vs 5 publishers thing. Again, it’s sausage making. Readers should buy books where they like to buy books and not worry. It’s not their job.
The other reason is that I’m really focused on, you know, writing right now. I just crossed the 40,000 word mark on The Apocalypse Ocean today. Now that my issues with vertigo and having trouble reading off screens are improving, I’m buckling down. There is work that needs done! Believe me.
That being said I’ve been following some of it from the sidelines. The following links are ones that I found interesting reads:
What happened? SFWA has a good roundup:
Unquestionably, the big publishing news of the week was the US Department of Justice’s lawsuit filing against Apple and five major book publishers—Penguin, Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon and Schuster—for alleged ebook price fixing. At the root of the dispute: the agency pricing model for ebooks, which the publishers adopted in 2010. Under the wholesale pricing model that until then had been the norm for both ebooks and print books, publishers sell to intermediaries—such as bookstores or distributors—at a fixed discount off the list price, and the intermediaries are then free to re-sell to consumers at whatever price they choose.
What Amazon’s eBook Strategy means, by Charles Stross:
I submit that, as with all other large corporations, you cannot judge Amazon by the public statements of its executives ; they are at best uttered with an eye for strategic propaganda effects, and at worst they’re deeply self-serving and deceptive. Rather, you need to examine their underlying ideology and then the steps they take—and the actions they consider legitimate—in order to achieve their goals.
Mike Shatzkin, where do we stand:
I would summarize the situation this way. Amazon (which includes any other player largely dependent on Amazon) and the most price-conscious ebook consumers have won. Everybody else in the ecosystem: authors, publishers, and other vendors, have lost. The reaction from all quarters seems to confirm that analysis.
The biggest question going forward is how Amazon will react to this. Cader’s unique and invaluable analysis says that Amazon will have a “pool” of about $113 million for discounting and incentives in the coming year. B&N, with half their market share, would have about $57 million.
I believe Amazon’s current path leads them to either destroy their own standing in the market by alienating their suppliers or to cannibalise the entire ebook market once their shareholders have turned on them.
John Scalzi exhorts us to chill:
Amazon is not on your side. Neither is Apple, or Barnes & Noble, or Google, or Penguin or Macmillan. These are all corporations, not sports teams, and with the exception of Macmillan, they are publicly owned. They have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to maximize value. You are the means to that, not the end. The side these companies are on is their own side, and the side of their shareholders. This self-interest doesn’t make them evil. It makes them corporations.
What does this mean for readers:
As soon as the new contracts are in place (and Justice will be holding onto a copy of each of those contracts), let the discounting begin. Forrester analyst James McQuivey told Digital Book World last week that he expects Amazon to discount e-books slowly and strategically, starting with bestsellers. Publishing industry consultant Mike Shatzkin, on the other hand, believes Amazon “will do the splashiest discounting they possibly can, making the point as loudly as possible that they deliver the lowest prices to the consumer and daring their competiton to match them.”
Lots of people assume agency pricing means higher pricing. And no one has actually supplied any data about that, it’s just asserted. Mark Coker at Smashwords actually has studied trending data, and says agency has moved prices down:
Although Smashwords is not a party to this potential lawsuit, I felt it was important that the DoJ investigators hear the Smashwords side of the story, because any decisions they make could have significant ramifications for our 40,000 authors and publishers, and for our retailers and customers.
Yesterday I had an hour-long conference call with the DoJ. My goal was to express why I think it’s critically important that the DoJ not take any actions to weaken or dismantle agency pricing for ebooks.
Even before the DoJ investigation, I understood that detractors of the agency model believed that agency would lead to higher prices for consumers.
Ever since we adopted the agency model, however, I had faith that in a free market ecosystem where the supply of product (ebooks) exceeds the demand, that suppliers (authors and publishers) would use price as a competitive tool, and this would naturally lead to lower prices.
My preference is that agency remains, because so far Mark is the only person to actually, you know, bring data to this discussion. Everyone else has just asserted that it raised prices.
So, read all that and you’ll have a good glimpse of what’s rattling around my head about this development.
But the truth is, I really have a book that needs finished, and that’s where 90% of my brain power is being invested. I’ll have time to think harder about all this later on. Right now I have a vague ‘oh come the fuck on, I can’t follow this all right now’ sort of response and am glad to see that the quality of thought about this in those posts above has been very interesting.
Oh, and if you use the word gatekeeper I automatically start laughing and ignore anything you have to say on the subject.
Addendum: Actually, Chuck Wendig probably nails it right here:
Publishing pinballs drunkenly between the bumpers of optimism and the flippers of holy fucking shit-hell the meteors are coming fairly regularly. The Internet is good for this: we get to see every moment as it happens and we have zero time to process it. All our processing is done out-loud, together, and mass hysteria runs rampant. Every shadow that passes over our prairie dog heads seems like a hungry hawk when it might be nothing more than a harmless vulture or a passenger plane. Or, y’know, Underdog.