Jennifer Jackson (arcaedia) wrote,
Jennifer Jackson

quick sketch on the Amazon vs Macmillan weekend theatre

So.... did something happen over the weekend in publishing? Oh. And. My.

Friday evening, John Scalzi mentioned someone had expressed annoyance that his books weren't available via Amazon. Sure enough, when he checked, it turned out to be true. In the time it takes to tweet, many other authors of Macmillan imprints discovered the same thing. Another database glitch some wondered? (Like the GLBT one from last year.)

VentureBeat and NYT posted pre-emptive news bites, which made it sound as if the e-book pricing issue was at the root of the whole thing.

Discussion broke out over the blog-verse and the tweet-verse. You can see initial thoughts from my clients Jay Lake and Laura Anne Gilman, who summed it up with "This isn't about pricing; it's about control." The former's Tor titles were among those pulled and his on-going commentary throughout the weekend looks deeply inside the author perspective. In fact, among my clients there were over a dozen books missing from various imprints of Macmillan including the very recently released Short Squeeze [B&, Powell's] by Chris Knopf.

On Saturday evening, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, released a statement confirming that he had offered Amazon the agency model pricing for e-books in an attempt to look ahead to how publishers would "insure that intellectual property can be widely available digitally at a price that is both fair to the consumer and allows those who create it and publish it to be fairly compensated."

De-listing Macmillan's titles was Amazon's definition of fighting back. Among other things, Amazon also remotely yanked preview chapters of Macmillan titles from Kindles. And it wasn't just e-books they took out of the sandbox. It was print and audio formats too.

Sunday brought Amazon's response on the Kindle forum, which generated a number of comments in the company's defense as they were forced to fold on their position.

Here's some other links to articles to read:

Jay Lake's thoughts after his weekend-long series of posts on the topic.
This very long post by Tobias Buckell which explains a whole lot
A solid overview of the issues from Scott Westerfeld
John Scalzi's morning-after post

I have a lot of different thoughts here -- as a reader/consumer... as an agent... And, as of this posting -- my clients' titles are still not listed as available. This certainly isn't helping me see Amazon as a fair player in this scenario. Agents have been struggling with publishers too, advocating for the authors to be fairly compensated. This is still on-going, and, yes, with Macmillan too.

Do I want readers to be able to afford books? Obviously, yes. As a reader, I want to obtain books, and as an agent, I want my authors' books obtained. And most of all read. What's a fair price? Everyone seems to have a different opinion about that. What's yours? How much do you think is fair to charge for an e-book and what share of that do you think the author should get? Any other opinions about all this (from either readers, writers, or those who are both)?
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