Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Book Wars

What The Hell Is Going On In The Book World!?

So, Amazon is flexing its muscles and one of the legacy publishers is saying sorry to its authors.

Book Wars

Image courtesy of Mile Jerkovic ~

Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the big publishers and Apple for “price-fixing”.

Now, it appears Amazon is withholding books from consumers to force a publisher to its knees

So much of the book world is changing and so many of the players are fighting—acting like children—children who own multimillion-dollar companies.

Two years ago, the buzz-words were “Agency Model” and a well-known author and well-known book distributor had opposing views of this simple proposition—the publisher sets the price of a book, not the retailer (“publisher” these days can also mean Indie author).

Amazon is a retailer—an extremely powerful retailer.

I admit I’m having trouble deciding who’s “right” in this deadly childish game.

One of the most insightful articles out there (and there are countless articles swirling around this battle) is the piece by Mark Coker of Smashwords—Amazon’s Hachette Dispute Foreshadows What’s Next for Indie Authors.

A few excerpts:

“The outcome of this dispute will have permanent ramifications for publishers and indie authors alike.”

“The industry can cry until it’s blue in the face about how Amazon is ruthless and heavy-handed, and how other retailers are kinder and gentler. The truth of the argument doesn’t change the reality.  Amazon does what it does because it can, because authors and publishers let them do it, and because it’s in Amazon’s nature to act this way.  Lions eat wildebeest.”

“Publishers deserve much of the blame for making their ebook margins such an appetizing target for Amazon.  Amazon’s assault on their margins should come as no surprise.”

“If Amazon tightens the screws, indies will face the same painful decision Hachette now faces.  Either swallow the bitter pill, or remove your books from Amazon.”

Coker goes on to give Indie authors four powerful strategies to protect their earnings.

Yet, to me, the most important thing he says in this article is:

“Is it really necessary that retailers and publishers should view one another as war-like adversaries, or as predator and prey?  I don’t think so.”

Just look at our world—divided up into countless adversaries

The important point, in the book world or the whole world, is that people have free will—the only thing that compels them to fight is their choice to fight

Look at the results of any war—everyone, eventually, loses.

I have some special resources tucked away on this site that offer perspectives for a friendlier world—one where everyone wins………
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The War of The Book Worlds ~ E-books & Common Sense

What happens when an online retailer (like Amazon) slashes the price of an e-book from another publisher?

* Legacy publishers act like they’re at war even though the retailer still pays them full price.

* The readers get a break.

* The authors get their full royalty.

Yet, the screaming and threats and lies in the media make it seem like something bad is happening

Suw Charman-Anderson, former Executive Director of the Open Rights Group and one of the UK’s best known bloggers, in her Forbes article, Ebook Price War Obscures Larger Problem, says:

“Price wars aren’t new to publishing, yet, predictably, various people are up in arms about what’s really just a publicity stunt.”

The war-mongers try to say that this price slashing will make readers expect the new low cost to become the norm and it might even hurt the independent bookstores.

Charman-Anderson says:

“Bookstores of all stripes do promotions and giveaways all the time, and frequently publishers are fighting to be a part of those promotions. And whilst tight-fisted readers can already find more books than they can read in their entire lifetime, your average reader recognises a deal when they see one, knows that deals don’t last, and knows that once the deal is over that prices are going to go back up. This is not a new concept… The idea that this is going to result in the death of the indie bookshop seems like a nice slippery slope fallacy which reads well but makes no real sense.”

She goes on to detail other false perspectives in this war that should be seen as quite normal marketing activity yet is being stoked into a chimerical fire

She continues her argument by bringing up an issue that self-publishers are quite clearly aware of—the Reader is a critical actor in this Drama and must be dealt with on their own terms—treated like the important people they are.

Certainly, the Author is the central character in this drama—can’t have a book world with out them.

I would say the Reader is the co-protagonist—forget their needs and the book world begins to wobble.

The Publisher?

Unless the publisher is the author (who will decisively keep the reader in mind) they’re one of those characters writers know well—changing their nature as the story progresses—morphing to support the protagonists or being thrown completely out of the story

Charman-Anderson argues that one thing the publishers need to do is create their own retail divisions:

“The main argument against publishers expanding into retail, over and above set-up costs, is that people now expect to be able to get everything in one spot.”

She goes on to detail a few of those expectations and deals the reader wants then closes with:

“But these are all deals that publishers can’t offer, because they don’t own the point of sale. And there’s only one answer to that.”

I recommend you go read the full article—this lady knows her stuff.
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