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Old 04-19-2010, 05:49 PM   #1
Kali Yuga
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"Publish or Perish" -- New Yorker on the ebook biz

Since no one else seems to have brought it up yet.... The New Yorker has a fairly long article summing up some of the recent jousting between Apple, Amazon, Google and the Big 5 Publishers....

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...urrentPage=all
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Old 04-19-2010, 06:39 PM   #2
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Great article. Thanks, Kali. Steve Jobs is taking the wrong side here, in my opinion; the agency model is bad for authors, bad for readers.
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Old 04-19-2010, 08:25 PM   #3
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It's an excellent article, even if it got a couple of minor points about royalties wrong.

It's ironic that Jobs, who a couple of years ago dismissed ebooks as irrelevant, should wield so much power in this area. Jobs, Bezos, a few others--it's a real-world clash of the titans, and the rest of us run around trying not to get hit by the falling rocks!
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:12 AM   #4
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Very good article, and mentions many of the points people here have also been making about the wrongheaded shortsightedness of so many publishing houses regarding the money they could be making from ebooks, if they just stepped back and realized that their customer base is the reading public - not distributors or bookstores. Much as I love bookstores. There seems to be an arrogance and dismissiveness from the publishers about the real customers who actually BUY THE BOOKS.

The book times they are a changin', and those who will not change will, in the inexorable way of things, eventually be winnowed out.

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Old 04-20-2010, 03:02 AM   #5
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It's an excellent article, even if it got a couple of minor points about royalties wrong.

It's ironic that Jobs, who a couple of years ago dismissed ebooks as irrelevant, should wield so much power in this area. Jobs, Bezos, a few others--it's a real-world clash of the titans, and the rest of us run around trying not to get hit by the falling rocks!
Maybe he still does see books as irrelevant, as wants to help to hasten that. For music, tv etc. he would seem to be making things more available and affordable.

For books he wants to lock them down more and make them *more* expensive, reversing the trend of other media, and hence reducing the market and customer base.

So maybe he has a plan to shrink their importance compared to the audiovisual arena.
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:21 AM   #6
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Great article, thank you.
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:37 AM   #7
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A close associate of Bezos puts it more starkly: “What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors.”
So the Amazon camp is admitting that Bezos was using the Kindle and its pricing model as a means of taking control of the industry. When he says, '...go right to the authors,' you know he's not talking about downloading books from an independent author's website, he's talking about you putting money in Amazon's pocket.

I agree that the agency model is a terrible idea and one that will hopefully die a natural death as soon as it is no longer needed. But it's a protective mechanism against a single retailer that's grown too big and is ruthless in its desire to grow bigger. Of course, Jobs is just as ruthless in his megalomania.
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:44 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by charleski View Post
So the Amazon camp is admitting that Bezos was using the Kindle and its pricing model as a means of taking control of the industry. When he says, '...go right to the authors,' you know he's not talking about downloading books from an independent author's website, he's talking about you putting money in Amazon's pocket.

I agree that the agency model is a terrible idea and one that will hopefully die a natural death as soon as it is no longer needed. But it's a protective mechanism against a single retailer that's grown too big and is ruthless in its desire to grow bigger. Of course, Jobs is just as ruthless in his megalomania.
Sooo... Getting more into the hands of the authors is a *bad thing* now? Good to know.

Derek
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Old 04-20-2010, 08:31 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by charleski View Post
So the Amazon camp is admitting that Bezos was using the Kindle and its pricing model as a means of taking control of the industry. When he says, '...go right to the authors,' you know he's not talking about downloading books from an independent author's website, he's talking about you putting money in Amazon's pocket.

I agree that the agency model is a terrible idea and one that will hopefully die a natural death as soon as it is no longer needed. But it's a protective mechanism against a single retailer that's grown too big and is ruthless in its desire to grow bigger. Of course, Jobs is just as ruthless in his megalomania.
The publishers have only themselves to blames for how big Amazon has grown. It's their own mistakes and inability to execute that has made Amazon successful.

It's their own insistence on DRM that is giving Amazon the power.

They actually think it's easier to manipulate the entire industry through price fixing and to educate the consumer on "what the price has to be" rather then adapt to the free market price. When they fail they'll blame Amazon again.
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Old 04-20-2010, 08:48 AM   #10
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An excellent over-view, Kali. Thanks for the link. Those who see the future of publishers more as kind of Justices of the Peace assisting in the marriage between author and reader are right. For too long, publishers have seen book shop buyers as their clients and not the readership. Neil
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Old 04-20-2010, 08:55 AM   #11
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The publishers have only themselves to blames for how big Amazon has grown. It's their own mistakes and inability to execute that has made Amazon successful.

It's their own insistence on DRM that is giving Amazon the power.

They actually think it's easier to manipulate the entire industry through price fixing and to educate the consumer on "what the price has to be" rather then adapt to the free market price. When they fail they'll blame Amazon again.
Nobody around here should blame Amazon, even though their motives were selfish, in the end it was good for us, the book buyers. Big business is not a playground, people fight hard. Look at Steve Jobs all out personal vendetta against Adobe.
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Old 04-20-2010, 09:50 AM   #12
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Great article. Thanks, Kali. Steve Jobs is taking the wrong side here, in my opinion; the agency model is bad for authors, bad for readers.
You are correct. The agency model only benefits the big houses, and nobody else. Yeah, it's why the big houses are so behind it, because they stand to fleece a lot of people for a lot of money. But then again, that seems quite common with all big companies these days. Fleece everyone you can get your hands on for as much money as you can get away with demanding. The movie and music industry has been doing it for decades, and only recently have they gotten called on the carpet about it thanks to the internet, and none of them are liking it one bit.
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:35 AM   #13
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Sooo... Getting more into the hands of the authors is a *bad thing* now? Good to know.

Derek
The only ones gaining would be Amazon.

Under Amazon's rule only the top-selling big-name authors would have benefited.
Amazon certainly isn't paying any advances, so struggling midlist authors who rely on advances to pay the bills would have found themselves with a big hole in their finances.
Amazon wouldn't be paying for editing, so authors would either have the option of paying for that themselves, upfront (and it's expensive to do properly) or going without and letting the standard decline.
Amazon's idea of marketing is reader reviews, so the authors who get to the top of the rankings are those who game the system or spend their time begging fans to leave positive reviews.

Amazon's current 70% DTP rate is simply a reaction to the moves made by publishers. Before that it was 35% for years. So, for 35% of the net take the author gets no advance and has to pay all upfront costs and conduct all marketing - you think that means more money in authors' pockets?

Dream on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barcey View Post
The publishers have only themselves to blames for how big Amazon has grown. It's their own mistakes and inability to execute that has made Amazon successful.

It's their own insistence on DRM that is giving Amazon the power.

They actually think it's easier to manipulate the entire industry through price fixing and to educate the consumer on "what the price has to be" rather then adapt to the free market price. When they fail they'll blame Amazon again.
As the article mentions, publishers got into this mess because they didn't want to fix prices. They had the option to set up their own ecommerce operations.

In 2001 Jason Epstein (then editorial director of Random House) wrote, "Had publishers taken advantage of the Internet a decade ago by forming a consortium, open to all publishers on equal terms, to create a universal catalog and a combined warehouse from which to sell books directly to readers they would have taken a crucial first step toward the future face-to-face digital marketplace." Such a catalog would, of course, have been under the publishers' complete control and allowed them to pre-empt Amazon in the process of driving physical bookstores out of business.

Instead, they dithered, hoping to protect the network of mutually-competing bookstores that had been built up since the '50s. Instead, their desire to retain a competitive, yet less efficient system allowed a ruthless and ambitious entity to step in and attempt a take-over.

Amazon's strategy has been to bank on consumer's short-term self-interest to gain a position where it can dictate to both producers and consumers. Anyone who can see beyond the next dollar in their pocket will realise how dangerous that can be.
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:47 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by charleski View Post
The only ones gaining would be Amazon.

Under Amazon's rule only the top-selling big-name authors would have benefited.
Amazon certainly isn't paying any advances, so struggling midlist authors who rely on advances to pay the bills would have found themselves with a big hole in their finances.
Amazon wouldn't be paying for editing, so authors would either have the option of paying for that themselves, upfront (and it's expensive to do properly) or going without and letting the standard decline.
Amazon's idea of marketing is reader reviews, so the authors who get to the top of the rankings are those who game the system or spend their time begging fans to leave positive reviews.

Amazon's current 70% DTP rate is simply a reaction to the moves made by publishers. Before that it was 35% for years. So, for 35% of the net take the author gets no advance and has to pay all upfront costs and conduct all marketing - you think that means more money in authors' pockets?

Dream on.


As the article mentions, publishers got into this mess because they didn't want to fix prices. They had the option to set up their own ecommerce operations.

In 2001 Jason Epstein (then editorial director of Random House) wrote, "Had publishers taken advantage of the Internet a decade ago by forming a consortium, open to all publishers on equal terms, to create a universal catalog and a combined warehouse from which to sell books directly to readers they would have taken a crucial first step toward the future face-to-face digital marketplace." Such a catalog would, of course, have been under the publishers' complete control and allowed them to pre-empt Amazon in the process of driving physical bookstores out of business.

Instead, they dithered, hoping to protect the network of mutually-competing bookstores that had been built up since the '50s. Instead, their desire to retain a competitive, yet less efficient system allowed a ruthless and ambitious entity to step in and attempt a take-over.

Amazon's strategy has been to bank on consumer's short-term self-interest to gain a position where it can dictate to both producers and consumers. Anyone who can see beyond the next dollar in their pocket will realise how dangerous that can be.


I don't see a difference. A ruthless monopoly versus a ruthless oligopoly set up as a cartel...the only difference is to the players, not the purchasers.....
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Old 04-20-2010, 04:37 PM   #15
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Wow. Reading that article was a real eye opener for me. As I read I started composing my post here but when I got to the end and it said that Apple has only agreed to the agency model for a year I decided not to waste my time on the post. All Steve Jobs is trying to do with the Agency Model is buy time and level the playing field while he makes iBooks in to the next iTunes and sells as many iPads as possible. Next year the Agency Model will be dead, Apple will have a foothold on ebooks and they will start selling for whatever they deem reasonable. I wouldn't be surprised if it was $9.99. In the meantime I'll be buying books from less known authors at prices I deem reasonable.
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