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Amazon using corporate muscle again

For discussion about particular book sellers (brick-and-mortar bookstores, online book sellers, auction sites, swap sites, etc.)
Sharz
Reader
Location: Chicago

Postby Sharz » Mon February 1st, 2010, 9:01 pm

Funny, I read this thread immediately prior to going to lunch. And what do I see as a walk into the lunch room? CNBC is on (as always) and they are giving the rundown of stock activity today. And one of the stocks down the most? Amazon down 5% on the news that it was caving to McMillan demand to sell e-books at more than $9.99.

Personally, none of this matters to me right now. I don’t have an e-reader and I have no interest in one in the foreseeable future. I don’t want to read from a screen, and that only becomes enticing if the price of e-books goes far enough below the cost of a paper book, that it’s worth it anyway. I’m not sure what that price is for me, but probably at around 3.99. Maybe 4.99 for new releases. The only way I can see myself paying more than that is if someone e-publishes(only!) old, out of print books that I want to read, and have a hard time finding used. If I can’t find a paper book, then I would pay increasingly more for an e-book.

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SarahWoodbury
Avid Reader
Location: Pendleton, Oregon
Contact:

Postby SarahWoodbury » Mon February 1st, 2010, 9:59 pm

I have a Kindle AND I love paper books. My husband likes the Kindle because he is dyslexic and finds it easier to read books on it than on paper.

But you have to keep in mind we're not under 40. I look at my 4 kids and know that ebooks are the way of the future. They've grown up/will grow up with technology at their fingertips. Paper books may not go away, but in 5years--10 years--15 years--these devices are going to get better and our kids are going to use them.

gyrehead
Reader

Postby gyrehead » Mon February 1st, 2010, 11:05 pm

It's really kind of sad in a way that Amazon did not hold out a bit longer. Macmillan's legalize actually seems to indicate authors will be getting less in the long run of the ebook revenues. So once again Publishers put the squeeze on authors and readers both and pretend it is all for the good of the industry.

What is rather interesting also is the sales that seem to have prompted Macmillan. Specifically the genres that Macmillan dominates in the U.S. markets -- science fiction/ fantasy; historical fiction (mostly adventure thriller types) and regular thrillers that last year had some interesting lines blurred (Moody's Hater and Maberry's Patient Zero testing of a new trend).

I'd love to know what Mister Blixt could say on the matter coming off his difficulties with them publishing a finished book and all. But I don't mean to put him on the spot either.

Can't wait for the Yale and Cambridge joint study to come out on the huge lack of overall comprehension and retention via ebook type reading versus good old fashion books. Not sure if it is due out 2011 or not. But apparently the first set of studies indicate that the next generation truly will be stupider than this one (hard to believe) in terms of attention span, retention and overall comprehension if electronic reading truly takes the next step forward as all the publishers seem to indicate.

What I love was the Macmillan PR person that glibly defended the price surge by quoting $35.00 hardcover prices and then waved away the question as to why printed books are actually being made much cheaper than ten ears ago due to technology and that two major suppliers (Ingram I'm guessing is one) have indicated they would love to introduce print on demand at a regional level to cut down on shipping costs etc.

So make sure when you tuck in tonight to say a prayer of thanksgiving to both Amazon and Macmillan for "Saving" us all from cheaper books. Thank you both so very very much for keeping the upward costs trend alive and well and not really benefiting either authors or readers diddly squat.

Celia Hayes
Reader
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Contact:

Postby Celia Hayes » Tue February 2nd, 2010, 5:59 pm

I think a lot of indy authors, and authors trying to break in to a wider readership are looking at making lower-priced Kindle e-books available as a way of getting readers to take a chance on an unknown. So, if you are intrigued by a book, but haven't heard of the author, spending $3-4 on a Kindle version is less of a risk than paying $15+ or more for a printed copy. If you like it, then you might be more inclined to check out other books by the same author, maybe even purchase a printed copy. If you hate it - well, you're only out a couple of bucks.
Celia Hayes
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cw gortner
Bibliophile
Location: San Francisco,CA
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Postby cw gortner » Tue February 2nd, 2010, 7:13 pm

I'm watching this very closely; I'm with McMillan now, through St Martin's Press, and I strongly believe McMillan standing up to amazon was a good thing, no matter how self-interested. How this will all end up for authors in the long run is unknown; however, today I checked out several McMillan authors on amazon, including our own Tony Hays, and their Buy buttons are still not available. If I were published today with McMillan and this was happening with my book, you bet I'd be upset. Very upset, in fact.

No matter what the tussle, that authors should have paid the price of lost sales over this issue is outrageous and unacceptable. And it certainly hasn't made me want to buy books on amazon.
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michellemoran
Bibliophile
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Postby michellemoran » Tue February 2nd, 2010, 7:18 pm

I just emailed this link to you Christopher, but for everyone else, Nathan Bransford did a great write-up about why this happened, and I'd have to agree with him. I think Amazon was trying to maintain its position as the loss leader in order to sell more kindles.
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Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Location: New York

Postby Chatterbox » Tue February 2nd, 2010, 7:58 pm

It's an interesting write-up, but leaves out a key element in this: the publishers' bottom line & the economics for authors. With this kind of pricing arrangement in place (and I think Amazon also has offered up a 70/30 split like this, incidentally -- there's a press release about it that I got a little while ago & that is on their corporate web site) what does it mean for royalty breakdowns? Because taking a lower price in exchange for the ability to set the end price to users could hurt both authors and readers in the pocket, no? I will be interested to see whether/how contract terms change in the wake of this. If royalties remain as a % of cover price & not sale price, and there is no change to the other conditions, well, that would be all right. But accepting a lower revenue per book level is going to put downward pressure on publishers' margins, which is going to give them an incentive to pass on the loss to the authors. I can see a lot of bestselling authors demanding higher advances, because they know they will lose out on the royalties, which in turn will hurt publishers' ability to pay new writers...
Ugh, it's all a mess and makes my head hurt. I do know that $5 or less isn't a fair price for a book.

One exercise I did at this end, re book pricing:
Back in 1974, the paperback books I bought cost between $1.79 and $1.99 each. In today's dollars, that is $8.60. The same books -- exactly the same kind of mass market paperbacks -- today retail for $7.99, before any discounts. I went back to some hardcover books that I bought in the early 1980s, priced at around $12.99. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $27.73, which is about the average sticker price for a hardcover novel these days (perhaps a bit on the high end, if anything...) But we don't pay the sticker price. If I buy from Amazon, I would expect to pay $18 to $19, perhaps less, for a hardcover version of that book. If I paid $10, that would be the equivalent of $4.89 in 1984 dollars -- about the price of a mass market paperback. Has technology transformed the economics of book publishing so dramatically, cutting the market price of the same kind of book from $13 to $5?? Even if so, what does that mean for authors?

I don't have answers; these are just some of the things I'm pondering. I know that while their may be authors happy to price their books at $2 and sell it on Kindle just to get sales, no one can survive as a full-time writer on that kind of model. And do we want a world where our preference for cheap books means, over time, that that is pretty much all that is available? We've made our choice in the manufacturing industry, deciding that it's better to have $5 and $10 t-shirts and $50 DVD players than living-wage manufacturing jobs in our own country. What kind of tradeoffs follow cheap e-book pricing?

Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Location: New York

Postby Chatterbox » Wed February 3rd, 2010, 3:35 am

Oddly -- just, for the first time, found a Kindle book that costs more than the dead-tree book. The first Flavia de Luce mystery can be purchased from Amazon for $10.20 with free shipping; the Kindle book costs $10.99. I can't remember ever seeing a Kindle book for more than $10 once the book is available in paperback. The result? It'll be a library or Bookswim or Paperback swap book for me. Oh, and it's Bantam, not a Macmillan label.

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LoveHistory
Bibliomaniac
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Contact:

Postby LoveHistory » Wed February 3rd, 2010, 9:20 pm

On the subject of cost to produce:

Kindle does not currently work well with the PDF format. They recommend HTML for the best results.

In trying to make my first novel available on Kindle this afternoon I've run into some interesting issues. First I uploaded it as a MS Word file. Their converter took a 264 document and made it 4,000+ pages, with the first 30 or so blank. Then I tried uploading the PDF and found all formatting basically gone, and rows of what appear to be highlighted question marks where some of the narrative should be. I've checked my word processor and it does not have the option of saving a file in HTML form. So now I need to figure out how to format the Word file so that it will work.

After all of this I now understand why technicians must be paid to format files before they can be Kindle books. What a pain in the ___ !

Edited to add that I checked my Lulu account and they have a huge banner on their home page about LuLu eBooks being iPad ready. I guess iPad doesn't have their own funky format and file requirements.
Last edited by LoveHistory on Wed February 3rd, 2010, 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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SarahWoodbury
Avid Reader
Location: Pendleton, Oregon
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Postby SarahWoodbury » Thu February 4th, 2010, 2:09 am

That's really interesting because I have emailed my books (which I've written) to Amazon in a Word file (via the Kindle email link they gave me when I bought my Kindle) and they email it back to me in their AZW format. So, I'm not sure why they can't do that for you with their upload. They do say on their site that they only take PDF files from authors for the Create-Space publishing. HOWEVER, if you go to Lulu and create a file there (for free) and format it for their books, they will allow you to download your book to your computer as a PDF. I have no idea if this could then be uploaded to Amazon and come out properly. Just a thought.


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