back to article Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more

Amazon has laid out its reasons for wanting to drive the retail prices of ebooks downward, claiming that contrary to popular belief, the practice is actually beneficial for retailers, publishers, and authors alike. "With an e-book, there's no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out …

  1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    One of the problems

    reasonable that some of Amazon's arguments seem to be (although as someone with a library I shudder at the no secondary market argument) they are playing a good long game financed by many tax regimes. Take a loss, deep boots, rely on stock promise and crush opposition.

    What should we do? There is no easy answer but an apparent commercial spit-off gives all of us a start to debate what and when. Can we persuade our easily 'influenced' politicians to start looking - that is more difficult.

  2. Anonymous Coward 101

    I worry about the day when Amazon decides that the opposition have been crushed sufficiently for them to start 'leveraging' their monopoly, and consumers, publishers and authors have to dance to their tune. Right now, I like Amazon, but the day could arrive when they resemble total bastards.

    1. fandom Silver badge

      Considering that their competition in digital goods includes companies like Google and Apple there is no way, literally* no way, they can crush the competition.

      * Yes, dictionaries now say that "literally" means "figuratively", but I mean it in the former literal sense.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      I worry about Amazon ...

      I like having one website where I can buy just about anything. I love the wish list. I'll always appreciate them publishing my first novel. But the questionable tax practices, the tales from overworked warehouse workers and the aggressive behaviour against publishers make me very uneasy. I now admit there is at least a possibility they are the son of incestuous union.

    3. cynic56

      I wish I could agree. I think they crossed the total b*st*rds line a long time ago.

  3. James 51 Silver badge

    and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books,

    I am looking forward to the day the EU decides this is illegal and sues everyone who tried to implement it.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books,

      "Right now, I like Amazon, but the day could arrive when they resemble total bastards."

      Hachette would suggest that the day is already here.

      Just because Amazon is taking someone elses lunch money today doesn't mean they wont be demanding ours tomorrow.

    2. Pantera

      Re: and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books,

      actually a dutch judge has just heared a case from the the copyright maffia v a new company that wants to sell second hand e books

      the maffia lost, of at least did not win as the judge said that it is not clear if the rules for paper books are also valid for e books, so the company can go on with reselling

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books,

        Microsoft and Oracle already lost the not allowed to sell licensed software on battle too.

  4. P. Lee Silver badge

    Paper vs ebooks

    I'll take the paper thanks. The secondary market is good, allowing people to see books they wouldn't look at if the only preview was a website database. The cost of paper is, I understand minimal next to author and marketing costs. Ebooks are fine for books you don't care about - Nancy Drew #153 perhaps or a book club book you didn't want to read anyway. No paper mostly saves amazon delivery costs.

    What we really want is an ebook emailed and the paper copy put in the post. The price differene between ebook and paper book is not enough to justify losing the paper version. Amazon can take a hike on this one.

    1. fandom Silver badge

      Re: Paper vs ebooks

      Maybe for the publishers the cost of paper is minimal but for the readers it is huge.

      Seriously, I mean it. If you enjoy reading you will know that there is no house big enough for all your books and, as an added benefit, you get to pack dozens of boxes when you move and you get to see their pages go yellow.

      My father has a rule to deal with that, if he likes a book but he doesn't think he will reread he gets rid of it. I used to think it weird as a book loving kid, but I came to see the wisdom in it.

      So I will take the ebook, thank you very much, I won't be able to resell it like I now do with the books my father throws away but, since they are cheaper and more convenient, I don't mind.

      Besides, next month it's my father birthday, I am getting him a copy of "Cheaper by the dozen" by Frank Bunker Gilbreth in spanish, a book he has been wanting to read for some time but it has been out of print for decades, that doesn't happen with ebooks.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Paper vs ebooks

        "but it has been out of print for decades, that doesn't happen with ebooks."

        Is that really true? And if so, for how long?

        Just look at the TV, film and music markets. Huge amounts of back catalogue are not currently available when all it takes is a bit of hard drive space to store a file. So what's the economic reason for not making certain media availble if even a few people would pay for it? And is it the same reason that e-books might go/are "out of print".

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Paper vs ebooks

          There is no possible justification for an ebook to go "out of print".

          The cost of storage approaches zero and the cost of keeping it in the searchable catalogue is already zero - it costs more to remove than to leave in there.

          A printed book goes out of print because nobody takes the decision to risk money on making another print run.

          An ebook can only go "out of print" because a publisher makes the deliberate choice to remove it from all catalogues.

          Even if they did that - a cost with no benefit - human nature decrees that piracy will occur and bring it back into print.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Nancy Drew #153 perhaps

      While I would lean toward the Hardy Boys instead, even for these I'd argue for the paper version. I stumbled upon them because my uncle left a copy of "The Tale of Two Towers" at my grandparents house. They let me borrow it. There after every month I'd use whatever money I'd earned doing chores to buy another book in the series. I think I was driving before I stopped buying new ones. I look forward to sending them (one a month) to my nephew when he is old enough to enjoy them.

  5. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Memories of the way publishers like Hachette used to fix book prices (Net Book Agreement) mean that I have little sympathy for them. They don't give a toss about their authors; all they care about is that they missed a trick somewhere and someone else is making the money.

  6. Dave Bell

    We pay Hachette for their good judgement

    The traditional publisher and the author do a lot of work together that ends up giving us a better book. I am not sure that Amazon deserves a similar share for the work it does to deliver an ebook.

    Hachette, and all the other traditional publishers. know they are taking risks, and giving us a better text, filtering the drivel-storm, is something they have to do to limit their risk.

    Amazon doesn't do any filtering with the Kindle Direct model, and, believe me, you can see it. All you have to do is buy a few cheap ebooks and you will see it. There is a filter that comes from forcing the author to deal with the US tax system. but that's no effort for them.

    It's a waste of my time to try to sell my writing through Amazon. I get better filtering from giving my stories away on fan-fiction sites. The Kindle is a nice enough tool, and Amazon run a decent, wide-ranging, internet retail operation, but no way are they a publishing company.

    Dare I post a link, even a weird one? What's the point? The problem is finding stories that you like. I think that Google might matter more to authors than Amazon ever can.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: We pay Hachette for their good judgement

      The mainstream publishing drivel storm is alive and well and full of Oxbridge luvvies, ghostwritten sleb biogs, and middlebrow nonentities specialising in novels about wine, shoes, husbands, and bitchy middle class nastiness.

      No one in the business believes someone like Thomas Pynchon or Jane Austen would be signed today.

      1. Cthonus

        Re: We pay Hachette for their good judgement

        "full of Oxbridge luvvies, ghostwritten sleb biogs, and middlebrow nonentities specialising in novels about wine, shoes, husbands, and bitchy middle class nastiness."

        Whereas the burgeoning ebook market is full of metrosexual novelettes on werewolves, vampires, pixies, same-sex historical romances and pulp scifi*. Take a look at Amazon's Kindle range.

        In the old days you had to impress a commissioning editor. Now you just grease the big A-cloud's wheels. If you want to go back to having a better range of printed books then you'd need to reintroduce the NBA - publisher's cannot support the same breadth of publications when people like supermarkets et al can undercut the usual cash-cow best sellers.

        (* not denigrating the quality of the writing, just the genres)

    2. Diogenes

      Re: We pay Hachette for their good judgement

      The traditional publisher and the author do a lot of work together that ends up giving us a better book. I am not sure that Amazon deserves a similar share for the work it does to deliver an ebook.

      Exactly - I made the mistake of Buying a technical ebook (Tidwells user interface design patterns as it happens) - the formatting has turned to shite and made the book unusable - so paper for technical ebooks for fiction where the layout doesn't matter so much/

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Devil

    Nobody out-evils us at Amazon

    "Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices"

  8. Credas Silver badge

    None of Amazon's business

    "While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author," Amazon said. "We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call."

    Actually, Amazon, none of that is your call other than how you set your own price.

    Here's a revolutionary retail idea: the publisher does a deal with its author, then you do a deal with the publisher for buying their products off them. If you don't think you can make a profit, then don't buy the books (e-books or otherwise); otherwise charge whatever you feel is right for you. That's how it works in other retail businesses. All this caring about e-book customers and authors is BS; you seem to be quite happy for counterfeit goods to be sold through your platform, since they continue to be sold even after conned customers flag it up in reviews, and I have no doubt that you screw suppliers on price as hard as you can like any other retailer. So less of the self-serving BS, please.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: None of Amazon's business

      "then you do a deal with the publisher for buying their products off them. If you don't think you can make a profit, then don't buy the books (e-books or otherwise); otherwise charge whatever you feel is right for you. That's how it works in other retail businesses."

      No, it's not. It might be how it works in small, local retail, but that's not how the big boys play. The big boys tell the suppliers to give them a good deal or they won't play with them anymore.

      See thos BOGOF offers in the supermarket? The advertising implies that the supermarket is doing you, the customer a favour. Maybe they are. But the supermarket isn't taking the hit. The supplier gets told to come up with the deal or their product is no longer stocked, or gets relegated to top or bottom shelf instead of the prime "eye-level" shelf. And the big retailers know all too well how to play off the suppliers againsts each other, not hitting any one supplier too hard or too often.

  9. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    If Amazon is convinced that it's right…

    … it can take the initiative by contracting and publishing authors directly. Anything else is just bluster.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: If Amazon is convinced that it's right…

      Amazon has been doing this for a while.

      Not a few authors have jumped ship and started selling direct - often with a significant increase in income.

  10. Tom 13

    I said it before and I'll say it again:

    The so-called pricing fixing case against Apple et al was never about helping the consumer; it was always about positioning Amazon to dictate to the publishers what the publishers and the authors would get paid for selling their wares.

  11. cracked

    Saying one thing, doing more

    Amazon wants a third for retailing the book. I'm not really interested in the %, but in a system that could be simplified as:

    Advance - Write - Sell

    ... There is some logic there somewhere.

    However, to be fair to publishers (though I don't really see why), Amazon is not - and is never going to be - happy to stick to one piece of the chain.

    The day one of Jeff's boys gets hold of a machine that can write stuff that sells, is the day before the only books to buy at Amazon are written by that machine.

    There are some great thoughts written up above mine - A very good topic and little debate (shame it isn't more popular). I think the point I would most like to add to it is that your customer is, honestly, never wrong. Lots and lots of other things; but never wrong. However hard to take that is for everyone else involved.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "While we believe 35% should go to the author.."

    Really, Amazon ?

    Well I believe 70% should go to the author. You and the publisher can argue about the 30% that is left.

    As far as I'm concerned, Amazon should not get more than 5% for simply storing a digital package and selling it over and over and over again.

    So you see, Amazon, if you really care about those poor authors, you can do something about it.

    1. phulshof

      Re: "While we believe 35% should go to the author.."

      A 30% markup is not at all uncommon for any retail store. If you want 70% of the resale price, you should self-publish your work, and sell it directly through companies like Amazon.

  13. SEDT

    I love the freedom of finding my books online, paper and electronic, And Amazon is currently ahead of the game in this. Fair enough, they saw the way and invested.

    The publishers exercised buy up & cartel = monopoly. Then, of course, screwed the authors and everyone else to maximise their profits. Happily tech and Amazon have rendered their business model redundant.

    Amazon will try and emulate with their own monopoly, its the way things are. but they're unlikely to achieve the stranglehold that their resentful successors enjoyed

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