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Old 08-18-2020, 03:57 PM   #1
ZodWallop
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US Publishers, Authors, Booksellers Call Out Amazon’s ‘Concentrated Power’

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The leading American professional associations for authors, publishers, and booksellers write to the House Antitrust Subcommittee about Amazon’s ‘scale of operation’ and ‘share of the market.’
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In a letter provided to Publishing Perspectives this morning (August 17), three leading American publishing industry professional organizations tell the House of Representatives’ Antitrust Subcommittee that “a few tech platforms in the digital marketplace” wield “extraordinary leverage over their competitors, suppliers, customers, the government, and the public.
More at the source.
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Old 08-18-2020, 05:53 PM   #2
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Link to the letter:

https://publishers.org/wp-content/up...ine-081720.pdf

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Old 08-19-2020, 08:07 AM   #3
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More at the source.
I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!

Amazon has been pushing the anti-trust envelop for years. Pretty easy to get away with it when your lawyers write the briefs for the anti-trust department. Probably should have backed off a bit when Bezos decided to pick a fight with Trump. I predicted here that Amazon was going to be under increase scrutiny a couple of years ago.

Not to say that a large part of Amazon's market share is because the other companies don't seem to have a clue. I keep hoping that Apple or Kobo will give me an excuse to buy from them, but so far they haven't.
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Old 08-19-2020, 09:12 AM   #4
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I felt kobo took a step backward when Rakuten sold Overdrive

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I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!

Amazon has been pushing the anti-trust envelop for years. Pretty easy to get away with it when your lawyers write the briefs for the anti-trust department. Probably should have backed off a bit when Bezos decided to pick a fight with Trump. I predicted here that Amazon was going to be under increase scrutiny a couple of years ago.

Not to say that a large part of Amazon's market share is because the other companies don't seem to have a clue. I keep hoping that Apple or Kobo will give me an excuse to buy from them, but so far they haven't.
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Old 08-19-2020, 01:17 PM   #5
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I felt kobo took a step backward when Rakuten sold Overdrive
I was surprised at that sale.
Overdrive, being B2B, was a better fit with Rakuten than Kobo, being B2C. Rakuten prefers to deal with organizations than individuals.

Kobo stands out like the redheaded stephchild in the Rakuten family of businesses. At arm's length. Which might explain the support they *don't* get.
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Old 08-19-2020, 06:37 PM   #6
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I keep hoping that Apple or Kobo will give me an excuse to buy from them, but so far they haven't.
Apple is not worthy of buying anything eBook related from since they helped instigate Agency pricing.

But why don't you have an excuse to buy from Kobo when the hardware is cheaper then Kindle and the firmware is so much better?
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Old 08-19-2020, 09:06 PM   #7
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Apple is not worthy of buying anything eBook related from since they helped instigate Agency pricing.

But why don't you have an excuse to buy from Kobo when the hardware is cheaper then Kindle and the firmware is so much better?
I'm talking ebooks. I've got a kobo ebook reader that I use for backpacking. The Kobo ebook store really isn't all that great. Kind of sad when you can't beat an ebook store (the Kindle store) that hasn't changed much over the last 6 or 7 years, if not longer.

The publishers wanted agency pricing because Amazon was trying to squeeze them, but then again, you knew that, you just want to hate on Apple. Amazon brought agency about with their predatory pricing. You should be hating on them.
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Old 08-20-2020, 02:58 AM   #8
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This isn’t going anywhere. Congress, if and when it start functionings again, has more pressing priorities than updating antiquated anti-trust regulations. It’s not clear that anything Amazon is doing violates current laws. And they consistently rank near the top of the list in customer satisfaction surveys. Some Third-party sellers on amazon.com have legitimate concerns, but there are other places to sell products online (e.g. eBay).

The last 3 tech companies I have worked for all had mandatory training in what anti-competitive practices are and how to make sure you don’t commit any in the course of doing one’s job, and to let the legal team know if you have questions or observe anything dubious. I have not doubt Amazon is the same. They REALLY don’t want to invite scrutiny.

Having market dominance is not a monopoly.

It’s unfortunate that the agency pricing ruling went the way it did: it is not wrong, but how you did it was wrong, just do it the right way next time, pay up, Apple. Stupid, it changed nothing. So now we have price matching (not so different from price fixing), to the detriment (I would say) of consumers and would be competition. The big publishers got what they wanted, but it is hard to see how it has helped them. They are still in a death spiral and unwilling to go big on digital, which is, as we all know, the future. They could be selling 10x the number of ebooks at the right price point, people would be unable to resist buying even if they never have time to read them (at least I could not).
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Old 08-20-2020, 08:01 AM   #9
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This isn’t going anywhere. Congress, if and when it start functionings again, has more pressing priorities than updating antiquated anti-trust regulations. It’s not clear that anything Amazon is doing violates current laws. And they consistently rank near the top of the list in customer satisfaction surveys. Some Third-party sellers on amazon.com have legitimate concerns, but there are other places to sell products online (e.g. eBay).

The last 3 tech companies I have worked for all had mandatory training in what anti-competitive practices are and how to make sure you don’t commit any in the course of doing one’s job, and to let the legal team know if you have questions or observe anything dubious. I have not doubt Amazon is the same. They REALLY don’t want to invite scrutiny.

Having market dominance is not a monopoly.

It’s unfortunate that the agency pricing ruling went the way it did: it is not wrong, but how you did it was wrong, just do it the right way next time, pay up, Apple. Stupid, it changed nothing. So now we have price matching (not so different from price fixing), to the detriment (I would say) of consumers and would be competition. The big publishers got what they wanted, but it is hard to see how it has helped them. They are still in a death spiral and unwilling to go big on digital, which is, as we all know, the future. They could be selling 10x the number of ebooks at the right price point, people would be unable to resist buying even if they never have time to read them (at least I could not).
Ah yes, the assertion that if only publishers knew how to price books, they could be selling X times what they are selling. Of course, the point is to maximize profit, which means to find the price point that maximizes the profit. If you set it too low, then you sell more, but don't make much money. Set it too high and you don't sell as many, thus not making as much money. Economics 101.

The fact that the indies price point for authors who write on the same basic writing schedule have drifted up to the publishers price point indicates that the publishers are probably pretty close to the right price point.

Having market dominance is not illegal. However, if you do have market dominance then different rules apply as far as your actions. Yea, I went to the same classes. If what I read is true, then Amazon certainly has been pushed the envelop.
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Old 08-20-2020, 11:18 AM   #10
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Ah yes, the assertion that if only publishers knew how to price books, they could be selling X times what they are selling...

The fact that the indies price point for authors who write on the same basic writing schedule have drifted up to the publishers price point indicates that the publishers are probably pretty close to the right price point.
You keep saying that, but it doesn't match my experience. Granted, I haven't done a deep dive and won't claim to know all.

But Joe Konrath (indie) sells his books for about $5 (not counting collections).

Peter Straub (traditional) has his books priced at about $9.

Clive Barker has a mix, indie and traditional. The Hellbound Heart and Weaveworld were published at about the same time. But The Hellbound Heart (a novella of 176 pages, published by Harper) is $6. Weaveworld (a novel of 652 pages, now an indie) is $4.

Lyle Brandt, a not hugely popular western author has a mix of traditional and indie. He has a series called The Lawman. All originally published by Penguin. Some of the books are now indie while others are still put out by Penguin. The Penguin titles (books 1, 9-11) are priced between $7/$8. The indie ones (2-8) are priced at $5. As are his other indie books.

For all my examples, I looked at books new and old. I didn't want you to call me out for using backlist titles. They are as comparable as I could make them in the time I have.

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Old 08-20-2020, 06:15 PM   #11
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You keep saying that, but it doesn't match my experience. Granted, I haven't done a deep dive and won't claim to know all.

But Joe Konrath (indie) sells his books for about $5 (not counting collections).

Peter Straub (traditional) has his books priced at about $9.

Clive Barker has a mix, indie and traditional. The Hellbound Heart and Weaveworld were published at about the same time. But The Hellbound Heart (a novella of 176 pages, published by Harper) is $6. Weaveworld (a novel of 652 pages, now an indie) is $4.

Lyle Brandt, a not hugely popular western author has a mix of traditional and indie. He has a series called The Lawman. All originally published by Penguin. Some of the books are now indie while others are still put out by Penguin. The Penguin titles (books 1, 9-11) are priced between $7/$8. The indie ones (2-8) are priced at $5. As are his other indie books.

For all my examples, I looked at books new and old. I didn't want you to call me out for using backlist titles. They are as comparable as I could make them in the time I have.
I use the books that I buy, which is a mix of traditional publishing and indie. For example, some of the recently released fiction books that I've bought

Blood Heir (comes out in Jan.) $7
Manna From Heaven - $7
War God's Own - $7
Ready Player Two (November) $15
My Name is Legion - $8
Creatures of Light and Darkness - $8
Wild Sign (March) $15
Queen of Attolia - $10
Age of Empyre - $10

In general new Hardback have one price point, new paperbackYou have a different one. Backlist are all over the place.

Indies backlist and Indies who write a lot of books a year tend to have a much lower price point.

Non fiction has very different price points.

You have to sell a lot of books at $1 a book to make a living at it. How many authors do you think actually sell 50K books a year? There are some, but not many.
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Old 08-20-2020, 07:20 PM   #12
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The publishers wanted agency pricing because Amazon was trying to squeeze them, but then again, you knew that, you just want to hate on Apple. Amazon brought agency about with their predatory pricing. You should be hating on them.
I'm not convinced that Amazon's pricing was predatory. They had a maximum price for most books of $9.99 but that was for ebooks, not print books. It costs less to sell ebooks than print books. The warehousing is electronic. The delivery is via the internet, which was already there. And there's the long tail issue.

Of course publishers have been explaining for years why it costs as much to sell ebooks as print books but I'm pretty sure that's just about keeping prices high. The problem for publishers is that they make less on cheaper books even if the costs are correspondingly less. 50% of $100 is less than 50% of $50. Of course 50% is my made up example percentage.

Amazon reduced prices and kept them reduced for years so the new pricing must have been realistic. If they'd done it for a few months or a year to establish themselves and put someone out of business so they could then raise prices again that would be predatory. Selling ebooks by making the price reflect real cost isn't predatory.

If anything, at least in this situation, the publishers pricing is the more predatory. That's not an accusation; just a comparison.

I don't think anyone will question that Amazon plays hardball. That's their job. They're in business to make money and they do. But predatory? I'm not convinced.

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Old 08-20-2020, 09:11 PM   #13
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50% of $100 is less than 50% of $50. Of course 50% is my made up example percentage.
Hmmmm 50% of $100 is $50. 50% of $50 is $25. $50$25.

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Old 08-20-2020, 10:32 PM   #14
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I use the books that I buy, which is a mix of traditional publishing and indie. For example, some of the recently released fiction books that I've bought

Blood Heir (comes out in Jan.) $7
Manna From Heaven - $7
War God's Own - $7
Ready Player Two (November) $15
My Name is Legion - $8
Creatures of Light and Darkness - $8
Wild Sign (March) $15
Queen of Attolia - $10
Age of Empyre - $10

In general new Hardback have one price point, new paperbackYou have a different one. Backlist are all over the place.
I'm not sure which of those are indie and which are traditional and am not inclined to look. I know of very few indie authors that regularly price new releases at $15. For new Stephen King, that's the norm.

Honestly, I'd think most indies that reach a stage where they can price new releases at $15 would likely be snapped up by a traditional publisher.

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You have to sell a lot of books at $1 a book to make a living at it. How many authors do you think actually sell 50K books a year? There are some, but not many.
I'm not making an argument that books should be $1. I couldn't say what prices for books *should* be. I'm just saying that indie books are overall less expensive than traditional publisher books and I do think traditional publishers would be better off charging less for ebooks. At least backlist ones. I do think they would sell more if they did so. I think backlist books aren't priced per any special secret recipe. They are priced so as not to undercut their own paperback prices.

In western fiction, one of the biggest living authors is a guy named Peter Brandvold. The state of westerns being what it is, his books aren't released as hardcovers. But he releases new books both via traditional publishers and indies. The traditional books are priced at mass market paperback prices ($8 or $9) indies are always cheaper.

He has released much of his backlist for $1. In fact, I've picked up several omnibuses of his for $1 each. I think that is too cheap. But hopefully he knows what he is doing.

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Old 08-21-2020, 08:35 AM   #15
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I'm not sure which of those are indie and which are traditional and am not inclined to look. I know of very few indie authors that regularly price new releases at $15. For new Stephen King, that's the norm.

Honestly, I'd think most indies that reach a stage where they can price new releases at $15 would likely be snapped up by a traditional publisher.



I'm not making an argument that books should be $1. I couldn't say what prices for books *should* be. I'm just saying that indie books are overall less expensive than traditional publisher books and I do think traditional publishers would be better off charging less for ebooks. At least backlist ones. I do think they would sell more if they did so. I think backlist books aren't priced per any special secret recipe. They are priced so as not to undercut their own paperback prices.

In western fiction, one of the biggest living authors is a guy named Peter Brandvold. The state of westerns being what it is, his books aren't released as hardcovers. But he releases new books both via traditional publishers and indies. The traditional books are priced at mass market paperback prices ($8 or $9) indies are always cheaper.

He has released much of his backlist for $1. In fact, I've picked up several omnibuses of his for $1 each. I think that is too cheap. But hopefully he knows what he is doing.
Very few Indies come out with hardback books. Indies tend to publish as ebooks, then have print on demand at hardback prices for people who want paper. It can be difficult to tell what's indie and what isn't. Many indies use boutique publishers or even create their own publishing companies.

Michael J Sullivan is one of those indie guys who has a mix of traditional publisher (Hachette, Random House) and indie (i.e. Amazon). All his books save one are $10, that one is $8.50. Sullivan is interesting, not just because I like his books or that he's extremely successful, but because he writes a lot about the business side of things.

There are a number of business models out there. You have to be careful to make apples to apples comparisons. You see different pricing strategies based on the genre as well. It's not just what you want to charge, it's also what people will pay. In general, if you see a pricing model that has been consistent over a period of time, it's pretty solid evidence that the pricing model works, otherwise they would change it.
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