back to article Amazon deletes a 6th of its catalogue in book price barney removed all Macmillan books and ebooks from its US site over the weekend when it didn't get its own way over price negotiations. The titles have now been restored but were unavailable for most of the weekend after Macmillan pushed for an increase in e-book titles from $9.99 to $14.99, and Amazon objected to the move …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprising...

    Amazon are as bad as the supermarkets - the scale of the wholesaler discount that they demand (and usually get) means that many smaller publishers can end up selling at cost or even at a loss if they sell via amazon - but with Amazon's virtual monopoly of online sales they have to be on amazon or they don't exist. (yes, I know there are other online bookshops, but ask 100 people to name an online bookshop and 90 will say 'amazon' (and the other 10 will say 'what's a book?')

    Small is beautiful! Why can't amazon sell at a fair price, rather than constantly gouging every penny - it's as bad as the supermarkets and milk!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    19th Century thinking

    "30 per cent commission on titles sold"

    This might seem OK for bricks and mortar retail (local retail premises tax, rent/maintenance, heating, staff etc.) and indeed it's often much higher, but for e-commerce why is it 30% ? Yes, I know servers are required, a building for hosting equipment with rent, energy costs and staff costs - but compared to 1000s of Borders stores accross the country with logistics and distribution costs surely the overall margin should be low.

    I guess Apple also charge 30% but this really does need challenging. Competition is good, this should drive down prices. This, of course, needs agreed standards that are distributor and device independent.

    If you want to see through Amazon in the UK (3rd party retailer) they only charge you 7% (though you have to carry out fulfilment).

    Amazon's structure (detiled descriptions of products) and review features give it a great advantage. I'm surprised there is not one large competitor in their space.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Borders RIP!

      Sadly no longer a problem for Borders now....

      I think it's a sad state of affairs when bookshops go under, makes a statement on the fact that people are into instant whizz-bang entertainment than a good book.

      Nothing like the smell of a bookshop, pressed paper and sometimes coffee from the attached Starbucks, used to drive me crackers! LOL!

      Long live Foyles and Waterstones!

  3. The Cube

    MacMillan announces "we want to be new RIAA"

    MacMillan publishing over the weekend announced it's intent to become the next Recording Industry Asshole of America.

    A spokesperson stated "Just like when CDs replaced LPs and the record companies told you that would make distribution cheaper but put prices up anyway to stuff their own pockets with your cash we want to do the same with e-books". In response to an interviewer question, "But surely there is no distribution cost to speak of with e-book?" the spokeperson replied "Yes, great isn't it, we get to dump our entire fixed cost for distribution and the risk costs of overprinting whilst jacking the price up, I've ordered my 50ft yacht already you worthless plebe, we want to be just like the bankers!"

    Further questioning ensued;

    Q "Won't increasing the price to this extent and above other channels just drive people to break your DRM and share your books?"

    A "That is the whole idea, once that happens we can get congress to enact a law that the Department of Homeland Security can shoot on sight for suspected book sharing to protect America"

    Q "What about the agency model?"

    A "Ah, now that is the bit you might actually like. Amazon has been behaving like a supermarket driving supplier prices down and undercutting the physical bookstores to ensure that they control the market. Once this is complete they can charge any price they like and you'll have to pay it. What we are trying to do is establish a mechanism where the reseller margin is controlled to allow other resellers to compete with Amazon in an effective market"

    Q "Isn't that a bit, erm, communist, you dirty red?"

    A "Not at all, it standardises the reseller margin by putting more in my pockets without helping the consumer at all, that is market democracy at it's finest! Gotta go, I'm off to bribe a Senator, the RIAA blokes gave us a list of who's for sale"

  4. Greg J Preece

    Odd quote, but in fairness...

    "Macmillan pushed for an increase in e-book titles from $9.99 to $14.99"

    That is f**king ridiculous. Arbitrary 50% price increase on a medium that costs approximately $0.000001 per reproduction, and was already extortionately priced to begin with.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    I feel so sorry for Amazon.

    ".....the new deal would allow Amazon to make more from Macmillan titles than in the past."

    I do hope that the nice, fat profit increase they're getting here has gone some way towards alleviating the terrible pain and anguish they must feel from having to offer these publications to us at prices that they feel are too high.

    1. Anonymous Hero

      re: Odd quote, but in fairness.

      I think it's great that the price of books (paper or ebook) have come down, it encourages more people to read...that's a good thing.

      But when the retailers push down the price of wholesale prices then publishers start making choices about who gets published. Do they stick with sure things like established authors who are always going to sell or the crap we see sold in Tesco, or do they take a risk with new unknown authors. Pushing down the wholesale prices means less money and the publishers play it safe which makes the number of new titles from new authors far and few between.

    2. Chris O'Shea

      Yes, it's ridiculous, because it's misleading!

      Macmillan pushed for an increase on the MAXIMUM price of an ebook to $14.99, for ebooks that were released at the same time as the hardbacks selling for $27.99 in the shops. They also said they wanted to see the price of an ebook fall over the lifetime of a book, just like they do for "real" books.

      E.g. a new hardback lists at $27.99, after a while at trade paperback comes out at $14.99, then a mass market paperback at $7.99 and then it drops further ... and why?


      Let's start with the next J.K.Rowling ... she writes a book and sends it off to a publisher ... where it joins thousands of other submitted manuscripts written by other people ... many of which are terrible, and some of which could be good with a little work.

      So there's an office address to pay for already.

      Then you have to pay someone to read through the slush pile trying to figure out what's worth publishing, what *might* be worth publishing and what isn't ... and often (still) you have to send back the unselected works to their authors so they can send them to the next publisher. For a major publisher, this will be several people, all of whom need salaries, health plans etc.

      So you find a manuscript that has potential, and an editor reviews it to see whether they think there will be a market for it (editors need to eat too, so we'll have to pay the editor, and some more office space for them to sit in), and the editor decides to email the author and say "yes, we're interested, but it will need a little work" (that's one of the editors jobs you know) ... and at the same time a contract will need to be negotiated, and that requires paying someone with a law degree to draft a basic contract (so a one-off cost, probably quite high) and then if the author wants any variation in terms, more legal costs (again not cheap).

      So the author rewrites the book, and it is then copyedited, proof read (two more people to pay), an artist is hired to do a cover (maybe covers are not so important for books that are *only* ebooks, but we'll look at that in a moment), marketing gets the book into the next catalog and distributes the catalog to bookstores, and sets up a website for the book/author (or at least a page) which again takes people, so salaries.

      And if your author is lucky, they get an advance (big authors, big advances!)

      And now, if it's a paperbook (like a hardback) it gets printed and bound and distributed (and a bunch of free copies get sent to reviewers and review sites)

      And then, if it is like many books published, it doesn't sell out that print run and the left overs are remaindered to shops that sell copies at a couple of dollars each.

      For a small press, it is estimated that the cost (before advance and printing) to produce a book is somewhere in the $10,000-$20,000 range.

      J.K.Rowling's first Harry Potter book had a print run of 500 hardbacks. If they didn't sell or get a positive response, then even if all of them sold, the production cost (before printing, authors royalties or distribution) would be between $20 and $40 each ... and lots of authors have written stories about children and magic before and not had her success (Diana Wynn Jones, Diane Duane, many more) ... so each time a publisher buys a book, they are taking the risk that they are going to lose a chunk of money on it.

      So you can see why a new hardback goes for $27.99, the publishers are hoping to sell enough to make back some of the costs of *that* book and prove there is a market for the paperback ... and if they make a good amount on the paperback, then that helps cover the costs of all the other books they put out that didn't catch people at the right time (the "sparkly teen vampire" books that came out ten years ago or that are being submitted now, probably won't ever have the sales that the Twilight books have)

      Macmillan offered Amazon either the option of having the *new* (hardback equivalent) books at $14.99 *now* (with the price dropping over the months ahead), or having them at $9.99 but waiting until the "real" hardbacks had been out for a few months ....

      ... Amazon instead pulled all the Macmillan/Tor/etc. titles from their nearly monopolistic online bookstore.

      If each ebook version of a hardback kills one actual hardback sale, then since the author and the publisher get a percentage of the sale price, each of them gets less. This means ebooks would need to sell maybe twice as many copies ... and at the moment there just isn't the market out there buying ebooks. One author I've seen offered one of his books free, and for a small price, and still only got 10% of the sales/downloads that his paper books got.

      If MacMillan accepted that $9.99 price, they would not have the money to risk on new authors so, as Teresa Neilsen Hayden said, the supply of well-edited, selected quality books that were at all risky or different would dry up, and you'd have to spend your own time downloading the 90% of self-published books that are rubbish to find the 10% that are not, and then rely on those authors to have friends willing to spend their time proof reading and copyediting etc. for free.

      And the biggest point is, if you don't want to spend $14.99 on a new hardback-equivalent release of a book, then DON'T! Wait for six months or a year and get it cheaper. I can buy cheap Harry Potter books now rather than paying the full hardback price, especially since I can buy them second hand ... oh wait, Amazon doesn't want you to be able to do that with books they sell for Kindle, I guess that explains why I won't be buying any ebooks from Amazon any time soon!

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Need double the sales?

        If Amazon gets 30% (and I expect it's more like 40-45% on paper books)

        They get 70%

        The eBook = $7

        The paper book = $19.6 - printing cost - shipping - storage - returns

        I don't think the difference is all that big in the end.

        And the one eBook = one lost Hard cover is silly. The people who buy eBooks are not the same people who buy BIG Hard Cover books. It might cut into paperback sales 6-12 months later.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Ok smart arse, you fix it then

      Perhaps you might want to read up on it all some more before commenting. Publishers may have displayed a few RIAA-esque behaviours (e.g. DRM) but the publishing industry is not the music industry. They are neither so proud nor financially well-cushioned that they think they can get away with half of what the music business has tried. Their arses are on the line and they are (on the whole) actually trying to make the whole digital deal work instead of just "doing a RIAA".

  6. jai
    Dead Vulture


    lol - seems like a very childish reaction by Amazon that's pretty much playing straight into Apple's hands. Throwing the toys out of the pram like this is surely just going to hasten the amount of publishers that start using Apple's iBookstore as a distribution channel.

  7. cagaregras
    Thumb Down

    What about the most important: the Consumers?

    It's incredible that all this whining by PUBLISHERS, BOOKSELLERS and AUTHORS totally ignore who actually buy books: CONSUMERS!!! They will pay the final, augmented, price.

  8. Is it me?

    Handbags at dawn chaps!

    You can see Amazon's side of this, they won't want Apple eating into their closed eco-system any more than they do Sony. Personally I prefer the Open solution that I can lie back and read in a nice hot bath.

    It's called a book, it's completely open and not tied to propriety technology, it's green, easily recyclable, low carbon footprint and requires no energy to use.

    Also costs a maximum of £15 if you drop it in the bath.

    Just because it's new technology, doesn't mean it's good technology, now where's my abacus.

    1. Drew Scott

      Tied to hardware...

      "It's called a book, it's completely open"

      Except it's not - you can only read it on that hardware. And if you look at the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ( it's a little unclear to me if could convert it to an electronic format legally.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


        >>convert it to an electronic format legally.

        But why should one care about that final adverb? In older times, we took the book to the Uni's Xerox, and tedious work with an ugly end result ensued... wasn't "legal". Worked.

  9. Is it me?

    Do you not understand how books are created?

    Kindle started off as a niche product, so product can be sold as a loss leader, but as take up increases then it begins to eat into margins of other distribution mediums, and this needs to be equalised. The price of a book is dependent on:

    A) The Author

    B) The cost of type setting

    C) the cost of printing

    D) the cost of marketing

    E) the cost of distribution

    F) the publisher's margin

    G)the wholesale margin

    H)the retail margin

    Publishing is going through a sea change in how it operates, electronic publication may be cheap, but if 50% of your distribution is Paper, you don't want to make that channel so expensive that no one buys paper, because then suddenly you are stuck with Sony, Apple and Amazon as your only delivery mechanisms, and BTW, ultimately probably 90% will eventually be through one of these players.

    Thus as a publisher you have to cross subsidise your editions to enable you to maintain a balance delivery approach to your clients.

    Just because you want to use a Kindle doesn't mean everybody else does, and I suspect that up till now everybody else has subsidised you.

    Book readers are $250, a hefty investment for the poor and elderly, books are free from libraries, and cheap from book stores in comparison, and thus accessible to many more people than they would be through electronic means.

  10. Bilgepipe
    Gates Horns

    Amazon are doomed

    Amazon should never have released the Kindle, because now they have something to lose. They should have just sold e-books and allowed consumers to choose their hardware. I'd rather read an eBook on my iPod, iPad, phone, etc than the single-use Kindle.

    As for the 30% cut, Apples 30% on the App Store nets them virtually no profit - the business graduates on here should do some research instead of spreading their FUD.

    1. chr0m4t1c

      Problem is...

      Taking a book at random (in this case "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson), on Amazon the paperback is $7.99 and the Kindle version is $8.81 (including Whispernet delivery - even if you don't use that).

      I'd guess that A, F, G and H will be about the same for both versions, I'd hope that the cost of B was nil or at least negligable to produce the Kindle version of an already typeset book (originally published 2004), your main variables are C and E. C goes away completely for the Kindle version and E is now picked up by the customer.

      So, follow the money, who is taking the extra cash?

      As a customer, I'd prefer the savings were passed to me, but I have no doubt that the author, their agent, the publisher and the reseller would also like them too.

      What's needed is a balance, which we clearly don't have yet, especially as consumers will have no way of offsetting their costs by reselling books on the second-hand market (in this case the second-hand value appears to be around $2 at the moment). OK, most people will probably not sell the book on, but a few will, which futher de-values the electronic version for them.

      So yes, you don't want the electronic version significantly cheaper, but you certainly don't want it the same price or significantly more expensive, which is the case at the moment.

      TBH, eBooks aren't alone in this. Movies and music are in the same place, I can buy most CDs or DVDs for quite a bit less than the digital versions and then make my own digial version from the physical one - I can't do that the other way around in a lot of cases.

      I suspect that as usual it's the people at either end of the chain that are being ripped off while the ones in the middle claim poverty and hardship.

      I know an author and a couple of musicians who live on very low incomes and do full-time jobs in addition to trying get a break.

      Anyone know of someone in *any* of the middle companies who have this problem?

  11. GrahamT

    Retail Price Maintenance (abolition thereof)

    It is illegal in the UK for a publisher to force a retailer to sell at a specified price. As the article states, the publisher has a monopoly on a title, and they can sell to the retailer at whatever price they can get away with, but it is a no-no for a monopoly to try and control the retail market, thus stifling competition. The US obviously has different laws.

    I seem to remember that publishers held on to the bitter end when RPM was abolished in the UK.

    1. The Badger


      The "monopoly over their own titles" thing is bizarre rhetoric, really, and by distinguishing between cost and retail prices you've cut to the salient point in this case, GrahamT.

      Meanwhile, we still await proper action over meddling in the retail market by other monopolists: rather than the "choose your own browser" dancing monkey distraction show put on to "punish" Microsoft, the EU and others should be investigating operating system bundling collusion/coercion in the retail computing sector. That would be like Macmillan demanding that Amazon not sell other publishers' books (or charge more for those books), punishable by higher cost prices on their stuff if Amazon were not to comply.

      But I'm sure the corrupt angling for Microsoft business on their respective home turfs diminishes the will of various EU people to actually do their job in this regard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you know

      You know, I've always wondered how even with the abolition of RPM in the UK, video game consoles have managed to be sold at pretty much the exact same price in every retailer (online or meatspace).

      And of course, if a retailer sources the product from a country where they're sold cheaper, pays duty and taxes for importing and sells it for lower, the likes of Sony jumps down their throats citing grey import.

      Surely this can't happen with RPM no longer there - I mean, if you import a product (providing that product is already legally allowed to be sold), it's up to you how much you sell it for, isn't it?

      Yet that doesn't seem to be the case.

  12. Greg 10

    Do your homework rather than just comment the price hike

    Those of you above calling the price hike outrageous are completely off the mark.

    What McMillan requests is not to jack the price up by 50% but to be able to have a range of prices and change those prices with time.

    So basically, it'd be $15 for the first two months a book is out, and then go down to maybe $3 or $4 after some time for most books.

    That's on average WAYYYY better than a flat $9.99 pricing.

    Now, I'm all for saying even in this scheme of things, it'd still be too high, but my point is: you're criticizing without any notion of what the deal was.

    It's not good guy versus bad guy, it's two kinds of bad guys one against the other, because they have a different view on how to milk you.

    In this case, I think the least bad guy is clearly the publisher, not because he's nice, but because he suffers from more competition.

    Amazon proposes a scheme where the ensure by contract that no competition can drive prices down: to get on the bandwagon and get 70% of the sales from Amazon, the publisher must sign a contract whereby they CAN'T let other resellers compete, since the price for every bookseller has to be the amazon price (or higher).

    So with Amazon, you can be absolutely certain that prices will not go down.

    In McMillan scheme, McMillan chooses the price over time. If McMillan wants to sell their book, they need to compete against other publishers, and this will push prices down: once the book is past its initial period of sale, do you think McMillan will keep it at a high price, when it will just ensure absolutely dismal sales because people go to buy the latest craze at another editor's?

    The of course will be forced by competition to get the price very much lower.

    And that's good for US.

    When taking sides between two capitalists, choose the one who faces competition, as he HAS to be nice to you.

  13. the spectacularly refined chap

    Bring back the net book agreement...

    It put Amazon back in its place overnight.

  14. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    A bigger share not much good if nobody buys the books.

    There's lots of interesting reading material on Project Gutenberg for free.

  15. Anne-Lise Pasch

    There's a thought people keep bypassing

    Academic texts, eg Palgrave Macmillan titles.

    Your university textbook costs way more to produce than the latest pulp fiction novel, and has a much smaller target audience. Unless you want the dumbed down text books with a fraction of the content, then what incentives are there to make large academic texts and sell them for a fraction of their former value?

    Imagine the £9.99 Biochemistry textbook.

  16. Richard Gadsden 1

    Re: Textbooks

    If they are tied to the $9.99 price, the only solution for textbook publishers will be to break the book into small chunks. If they sell 10 50-page books at $9.99 each instead of 1 500-page book at $79 then they will get about the same revenue (accounting for disaggregation).

  17. Maty

    Publishers are not the RIAA

    Starting with a disclaimer - I'm a writer, and I rather enjoy eating and having a roof over my head, so I'm watching this whole ebook thing closely.

    I know that publishers have their backs to the wall financially at the moment, and that amazon has played its part in this. (Have you noticed a decline in the number of High Street booksellers recently?) At present ebooks are not that much cheaper to produce than paperbacks, because distribution is only a fraction of the overall cost of a book. (Professional books take a lot of producing, which is why I'm very happy with a contract that gives the author 10% of the retail price.)

    The saving for not distributing a book is currently cancelled out by the cost of changing a book to ePub format, so its not like anyone is making a bundle. Once ebooks become more widespread this cost will go down, but at present very few ebooks sell more than a couple of hundred copies.

    So if amazon gets its way, and bulldozes prices down, amazon is going to sell more books, but in the same way that supermarkets sell books. The range of books and the quality of books and the number of authors and publishers is going to drop sharply, because amazon *won't let* publishers ask for a viable price for some books.

    I can't imagine a £9.99 Biochemistry textbook, but I can imagine a £9.99 Biochmeistry Textboke, complete with breakfast cereal and viagra advertisements on every second page.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I work in finance for an academic publisher.

      There are a few things I would like to add...

      1) the cost of a paperback book (To print, on a large print run) is about 40p. Even if the cost for an e-book is 0 then thats nothing.

      2) people don't seem to understand the actual number of books involved in publishing. This ain't the music industry. Apart from the big top ten sellers selling 1000 books a year is good. 99.999% of books sell this many. Also, unlike music, a top 10 book will stay there for months.

      However working with Amazon, Tescos, Asda & Sainsburys I can tell you Asda are nothing like the others. For example Amazon will order some of everything. Supermarkets will order a bulk of one book, and then dispute EVERYTHING. Amazons discounts are better than most shops, but not all. They are the same as other big sellers, and accept that. They may ask for more for thing like big hit best sellers, but unlike supermarkets its not all they sell.

    2. moiety

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      "The saving for not distributing a book is currently cancelled out by the cost of changing a book to ePub format"

      I'm having difficulty believing this bit. I am, of course, assuming that the original copy is electronic, and not submitted in a quill-written ledger; but changing something as basic as text from one format to another should be automated and not have a significant cost. If there is a significant cost then someone, somewhere is taking the piss.

      Send your .doc or whatever to me- I'll convert it for a tenner. For £100, I'll sort out your spelling too.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Me and my stupid late night posting

        "However working with Amazon, Tescos, Asda & Sainsburys I can tell you Asda are nothing like the others"

        "I can tell you Amazon are nothing like the others" even. Must try harger next time. Or drink coffee.

  18. Deadlock Victim


    I think Amazon just realized that they are not Apple and can't dictate terms to their content providers.

  19. Terry H

    The real question

    The real question here is:

    Did Amazon reach out to everyone's Kindle and delete the books they'd already purchased?

    1. Steve Taylor 3

      Dictating terms

      Though I have heard that Amazon have pulled this trick before on small publishers, and the publishers blinked first. Not sure of the details, but if you have a look at what Charles Stross, John Scalzi and Teresa Nielsen Hayden are saying, you should get a pretty good picture of what's happening.

      How I long for the good old days when all you had to do was hate Microsoft. These days there are so many companies vying for the "Most Evil":title.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Did I miss this on the MacMillan web site

    I couldn't find versions of their online books there....

  21. Pablo

    Humph! You're mean. We're not selling ANY of your books.

    The whole thing is stupid. Amazon is only proving that they too are a monopoly. What makes them think they have a right to decide how much publishers get paid? If the publishers ask too much they just don't get sales. That's how it's always worked. And if anything, with ebooks it should be less of a problem, due to quicker feedback.

  22. IR

    Only half the story told

    What happened to the old days of manufacturer/distributer/publisher sells to shop for X and shop sells to customer for X+profit?

    Even with a digital distribution, X can vary depending on the date or a guaranteed number of bought units. The shop then just decides on the profit.

    Why does the publisher care how much Amazon sell for, as long as they get the same amount of profit for themselves? Or is this a Tesco-esque move of Amazon using their buying muscle to drive down X and cream off the savings for themself? It's hard to see who is trying to screw who, with the limited info.

  23. Rolf Howarth
    Thumb Up

    Good thing

    As a consumer, I would far rather pay a bit more for quality than have everything forced down to the level of the gutter press and be drowned in advertising. My time spent reading it is worth FAR more than the £10 or £15 it costs to buy a book. (That ought to be true for most people, even if you're on the minimum wage and a very fast reader!)

    If this is a sign of the publishers being able to stand up to inexorable downward pressure on price and quality that the Amazons and Tescos and Wallmarts of the world exert then that can only be a good thing in my opinion.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Value of a book is more than the ink and the paper

    I'm an author and self-publisher. I write for a very specific niche market. If I were to put my books into digital media, I'd never make a dime on them again and would have to find some other way to keep eating regularly.

    I like the dead tree model very much thank you. Copying my books takes more than a keystroke, and it doesn't happen much.

    My "monopoly" is called a "copyright", and it ensures that I get paid for what I do. I set the price for my books - the people who buy them are buying INFORMATION, not 96 pages of paper, and the value of the information is significantly higher than the value of the media.

    Arguing otherwise is like saying that a $100 bill should sell for no more than a cent or so, because that is the cost of production, and hey, they are mass produced, right? Sorry, the value of the $100 bill is much more than the price of the ink and the paper and a tenth of a second on a printing press. So when is Amazon going to sell e-$100-bills at 99 cents a pop?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      They can sell what they want. Its quight normal. They agree discounts and terms and if one party can't agree they throw there toys out of the pram and eventualy one side will give in. Thats how it works, and the fact that publishers can do this shows it is not a monopoly.

    2. chr0m4t1c

      True, but

      "I'm an author and self-publisher. I write for a very specific niche market. If I were to put my books into digital media, I'd never make a dime on them again and would have to find some other way to keep eating regularly."

      So what you're saying is that your niche market buyers don't really value your work and would just take it without payment if they had a choice? What a lovely view of human nature you have.

      (Not that I'm saying you're wrong necessarily.)

      "I like the dead tree model very much thank you. Copying my books takes more than a keystroke, and it doesn't happen much."

      Yes, but that works on your end too. Do you take a risk on printing (say) 1000 copies of a book and hoping you sell them? What difference to your business model would removing that risk make? If you had no reproduction costs, how many books would you need to sell to break even? If you're not asking these questions, then you're not making a very good job of running your business.

      "My "monopoly" is called a "copyright"..."

      Is anyone asking you to release your books copyright free? I don't see anyone asking you to give away your books (sorry, your INFORMATION). So far all I can see is you making an assumption that you'll be lucky to sell one copy of one of your works if you release it in electronic format, then be impoverished because everyone will just get a copy of that. Have you even tried one of your older works to see what actually happens? What about the evils of copy protection? How about taking legal action against the feckless customer that gives it away and breaches your copyright? I presume that if someone broke into your storage and stole the physical books you would try and take some kind of action - did you take any action against the person(s) who copied your physical book that time? If not, why not? There's not much point in asserting that you will lose copyright control if you're already ignoring infringements.

      Have you also considered that any piracy might actually bring your works to a wider audience and end up improving your sales? Bootleg tapes can really help upcoming bands break into a wider audience, for example.

      Sounds like you could do with exploring some opportunities to me. Scott Adams wrote a book several years ago that initially was only distributed as an eBook, when he got to a certain level of sales it was released as a dead tree version and now the eBook version is given away free because people often go on to buy the sequel (*and* they are still able to sell copies of the dead tree version alongside the eBook).

      "Arguing otherwise is like saying that a $100 bill should sell..."

      Erm, terrible example there, the $100 bill is a token that represents an amount of gold held elsewhere, same as you can write a cheque (sorry check) for $10 or $1000. I get the thust of your argument, though. However, I just looked for a recently published book for myself; RRP £14.99, dead tree version £8.99, eBook version £13.99. What?!? Previous book by the same author, now available in paperback, RRP £7.99, dead tree £5.49, eBook £14.49. Double what?!? (Same website, BTW).

      So... If the INFORMATION in the book is what is being sold, why does it cost me more to get it in a different format?

      By your yardstick, it should cost the same to buy a movie on DVD and Bluray because you get the same movie, which is clearly not the case as production costs are different for the two media. DVD costs less to reproduce and has less overstocking risk because of the greater market penetration - this is reflected in the price.

      E-media (books, music, movies, etc) have the advantage of much smaller reproduction costs than their physical counterparts and no risk of production overruns (you just make a copy of the master for each sale on demand), but so far none of those savings are being passed on to the consumer, in fact the assumption appears to be that anyone who buys a copy is also going to sell on at least one copy, so they need to be charged for two just to be on the safe side.

      Really, the media industries shouldn't be that much different from any other manufacturing industry, business models need to change.

  25. DrXym Silver badge

    ebooks are already a ripoff

    An ebook should retail for the price of a paperback less printing, binding, shipping, returns, pulping each edition. Less than that when the right to resell a title is brought into consideration.

    Amazon ebooks were already too expense and any further price hike is ridiculous. I hope Macmillan reap what they sow since it is not hard to see where people will go for their books if the legitimate version is too expensive or too DRM encumbered to bother with.

  26. Rab Sssss

    baen books

    Been doing it right TBH, no DRM some free titles. They have even in the past given away full back catalogs of authers on CD with hard backs. theres the webscriptions they do advance copies etc.

    Now I do buy a lot of stuff from them and on their free libary they have a lot of stuff by Eric Flint called the prime palavar that disscusses what they are doing.

  27. Tom 35 Silver badge

    One price

    I think the one price model is bad. Amazon selling everything for $9.99 and the only fight is over what percentage Amazon gets to keep is backwards. It should be the same everything else is sold and not some special deal for "licensed" crap. The publisher should be free to set the price they sell to amazon (if it's too high it will not sell) and Amazon should be able to sell it for what ever price they want.

    Same for iTunes.

  28. the Jim bloke Silver badge


    the price of books in Oz is so artificially inflated that Kindle ebooks are less than half retail mass-market paperback prices.

    And thats with currency conversions etc.

    I have been a voracious reader and collector of books, ever since I had enough pocket money to buy them, and my collection of paperbacks outmasses the rest of my personal belongs.

    But.. my collection would include less than a dozen hardcovers and about the same number of "trade Paperbacks", mostly acquired as gifts or budget/sale/second-hand shop purchases, as I believe oversize books at inflated proce with no real difference in construction quality or content... is an abomination in the eyes of god, a crime against humanity, and just something that shits me intensely.

    Mass-market paperback editions would either appear a full year after the initial hardcover/trade paperback release, or when the next book in the series was published.

    Recently, it appears that Australian and UK publishers have moved to some kind of larger size mass-market paperback format, I can only guess as to why, but as far as I am concerned there is no good reason, and thus I dont buy those books anymore.

    This reduces me to buying American published editions - with their truly trashy cover art - .. or buying ebooks.

    I WANT to support my local bookseller, and do spend a couple of hundred bucks there regularly, but as far as I am concerned the publishers have declared war on me, and I am just fighting back.


    (actually rant continuing, just message finished.. )

  29. Cortland Richmond

    Makes me even more grateful

    for old book stores.

    I do buy hardcovers of new books, SF,mostly. But I REALLY like to browse used book stores.

    Amazon? That's just a river with piranhas in it.

  30. moiety

    I agree

    That eBooks are a rip-off. Authors complain that eBook sales are not enough to live on and I expect that this is true.

    For eBook sales to work, it has to be a numbers game- sell cheap and sell lots globally. You see I -as a customer- know exactly how much it costs to produce a copy of an eBook...bugger all. CTRL C, CTRL V and you're done. And I did say a copy. Of course, there is a cost to produce the first one: The author's cut; editing to get the manuscript into shape for the market; advertising and so on. Fair enough. There are also costs that are specific to the dead tree edition...typesetting; printing; delivery; stocktaking; trees etc. Frankly, the thing I'm buying does not have any of those costs so I expect the price to reflect that. As for paying ¿¡MORE!?...well! I ask you. People KNOW that an eBook costs less, so if you price them equal (or higher!) than a tree copy, you're not going to sell that many.

    I've noticed in this thread and elsewhere the RIAA's mistake- equating 1x eBook sale to the loss of one tree edition sale. That ain't necessarily so. I like the convenience of reading books on my Palm, as I can carry my whole library around with me so I never run out of book (also I can read under the covers heeheehee). My wife prefers the tree version so we buy that too. The other RIAA-like attribute is the surprise that people notice they're being stitched up and vote with their feet and/or torrent. The public is better informed than ever and there's a resistance to middlemen that is a natural product of the internet, as it's possible to contact anyone similarly-equipped immediately...a chain of middlemen aren't necessary for eSales. Producer, retail point, customer. End of. Why should I pay for an expensive chain of middlemen that aren't really necessary? Also, advertising can be considerably cheaper on the internet.

    Some education of the public is necessary, I believe, to inform them of costs incurred to produce the first copy, and disabuse them of the notion that electronic file = free. But don't do it by moaning about the costs of printing and/or typesetting because those costs have nothing to do with the product they're buying. You're not going to get much sympathy.

    As an anonymous author said above- it's information we're buying. If it were down to me, I'd prefer to pay the author his cut directly and get a .txt file back. Or a .pdf if illustrations are important. I don't need the fluff.

    With all the new technology -(eBook readers, big-screen phones, PMP, notebooks) that can substitute for books- becoming very prevalent and cheap now (£50 gets you a Win CE China 7" laptop-ish; £15 will get you an MP4 player that'll display .txt files if you can cope with a 3" don't NEED a Kindle) electronic access to books is becoming available to everyone.

    eBooks should cost significantly less than the tree edition because it does cost significantly less to produce and distribute them. You know that. We know that. Make it so.

    Listen up, publishing industry! NOW is the time to get your shit together! It'll be too late very soon and we'll have another recording industry on our hands; the producers and customers will get stuffed while we have to endure round after round of middleman wars. And it was boring the first time round.

  31. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Amazon's model isn't better either

      Buying a device that connects to exactly one store isn't better for the consumer. Buying books that are stored in a proprietary format isn't better for the consumer. Being charged different prices depending on whether you live in the US or outside it isn't better for the consumer.

      While I think Macmillans stance is stupid, Amazon's is just as bad. There is already a perfectly consumer friendly model for selling books - retailers buy books wholesale, publishers provide an RRP. Retailers compete with each other by setting whatever price they like, holding sales, promotions etc.

      Ebooks should be no different at all in this regard. It is ultimately in everyone's interests (including Amazon & Macmillan) to follow the existing model. Books should be in a industry standard format (with industry standard DRM if necessary) and vendors should have to compete with each other. Price fixing or locking users to vendors for a commodity like books is simply anticompetitive and ultimately causes more harm than good. The fact that there are still Ebook wars going on after years and years is proof of this.

  32. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Exploitation of poor students by textbooks

    It seems to me that what happens is, a university professor writes a new textbook that is not particularly different from many other textbooks on the market already, has it printed in Courier (oh yes, really), and requires all their students to buy and use that book. So competition on price doesn't arise.

  33. Dave Bell

    Typesetting and Printing

    The boundaries are a bit fuzzy. The PDF file which might be sent to a printer is typeset, and could be sold as an eBook with no extra cost. But the page layout for paper might be terrible on a computer screen, never mind an iPhone.

    And, in arguments elsewhere on this mess, people are pointing out that Amazon Kindle eBooks are riddled with layout errors.


    words in a line on their own, for instance. And weird hyphen-ation where the word-wrap is different from the paper edition.

    And this isn't the first time Amazon has been throwing their weight around.

    If you want to find a book,maybe you shouldn't rely on Amazon any more.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oh FFS! Wake me up when they've all finished squabbling will you? One thing I'm pretty sure will happen is that none of this will be any good for the consumer. There is absolutely no way that I am going to pay more than the price of a large coffee for an ebook. In the meantime , I'll continue getting my ebooks off gutenberg and manybooks etc.

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