Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Amazon retaliates against big publishing’s defiance
Moby Lives

The move by three of New York’s big six conglomerate publishers — Simon & Schuster, the Hachette Book Group, and HarperCollins – to stand up to Amazon’s drastic discounting demands took a perverse twist yesterday when Amazon did what it does: act thuggish when it’s time to negotiate. As a report by Michael Cader at Publisher’s Lunch and a Motoko Rich story from the New York Times detail, Amazon responded to the three publishers delaying e-book releases of their big titles with an act of deliberate retribution: by announcing it was discounting those very titles still further to customers who preorder them now — to $7.99.

Meanwhile, the media and various e-gurus seem to be getting what Moby has been saying all long (even in our headlines, no less) — that this isn’t a war about pricing as much as it is about standing up, finally, to Amazon.com and its destructive behavior towards the entire industry. Even USA Today — not usually known for insightful reportage on the book industry — runs a story today quoting Publishers Weekly reporter Jim Milliot stating the obvious:

The e-reader saga is turning into a businessthriller, as publishers and consumer electronics companies try to stop Amazon from amassing more power in this fast-growing field. It broke the digital market wide open in 2007 when it released the Kindle and offered thousands of e-books, including best sellers, priced at $10.

Publishers “don’t want Amazon to be the only game in town,” says Jim Milliot, senior editor at Publishers Weekly. “They view e-books and e-book readers as inevitable, but they don’t really know how it’s going to shake out.”

And revered guru Mike Shatzkin gets to the idea too, albeit a little late. In a post at his blog, he says it wasn’t until HarperCollins followed up with its policy, two days after Simon & Schuster and Hachette, that “the penny dropped for me”:

So this is really about the agents and publishers trying to take control of ebook pricing, and value perception, back from Amazon. Some further evidence of that comes from the reaction of Len Riggio, Chairman of Amazon competitor Barnes & Noble (vendors of Kindle competitor Nook) who is reported in the Journal piece to be quite comfortable with this tactic, which the Journal characterizes as “in keeping with the long-held practice of issuing paperback editions after the initial hardcover.”
The full report at Moby Lives.

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