Macmillan Books Gone Missing From Amazon

On Twitter a couple of minutes ago someone expressed annoyance that my books aren’t directly sold by Amazon, which seemed odd, because they were available just yesterday. But I check and sure enough they weren’t there (Amazon has its “available from these sellers”) line up. I checked other Tor authors and it seemed they were gone too. I noted that on Twitter and then someone pointed me to this news post, which suggests many books from Macmillan are off Amazon at the moment.

Also, just for fun I went to the Amazon site to see if any of my books are on the Kindle section. Nope, they seem to be all gone, as do the books of other Tor authors. I hope this doesn’t affect the folks who have already bought my Tor books for the Kindle.

What does this mean? Well, it could mean nothing; it might be a glitch, as has happened before. This was my first thought and continues to be my primary suspicion at the moment. Alternately Amazon might be trying to screw with Macmillan in some way (or alternately, Macmillan is trying to screw with Amazon), but it doesn’t seem like a very smart way to go about things if either of them are.

So what I plan to do at the moment is not panic, not try to assume more than I know, and check around to see if anyone has a clue what’s actually going on. When I know more, I’ll tell you.

That said, a reminder to folks that just because my Tor books and the books of other Macmillan authors are for the moment off Amazon, doesn’t mean you can’t find them elsewhere online: Barnes & Noble and Powell’s both have fine Web sites, for example, and I’m told the Sony eBook store (for one) has my Tor books in stock. And of course if you have a brick and mortar store near you, it might be a fine time to visit them.

Also, my non-Tor books (including The God Engines and my non-fiction work) are still about on Amazon, so there’s that.

No matter how you slice this, however, this is a bit weird. And if this does turn out to be something other than a glitch in Amazon’s system, I’m likely to be more than a little pissed.

Update, 10:12pm: Possibly relevant, possibly not.

Update, 11:33pm: The New York Times says it’s not a glitch, it’s Amazon trying to play hardball with Macmillan. I’m almost certainly going to have more to say about that later, likely not complimentary to Amazon, if it’s true.

Update, 1:55am 1/30: some of my further thoughts on the subject here.

108 thoughts on “Macmillan Books Gone Missing From Amazon

  1. I hope it’s a glitch too. This is very worrisome if it’s something more nefarious. The type of thing that makes me boycott a company. Which would be unfortunate because I love both amazon and your publishing house. Fingers crossed.

  2. Very interesting – and a really good reason monopolies are bad.

    I’d also recommend BAMM.com for online buying. If you have a membership they’re actually a little cheaper than Amazon usually.

  3. Well, I just fired up the Kindle and was able to pull OMW and GB out of the archive, so at least we don’t have a 1984 situation here.

  4. Steven Klotz:

    Fixed, thanks.

    JKW:

    Yes, but Apple has agreements with four or five other major publishers too, all of whom sell eBooks with other retailers as well. It would be strange to target Macmillan for just that.

    Meg, Erik V. Olsen:

    Yeah, Amazon would be really stupid to pull books already purchased (again). But if this isn’t explained in a day or so, I’d double check to make they’re still there.

  5. Oi, yeah – and especially ones purchased legitimately. At least with 1984 there was the excuse that the book wasn’t supposed to have been on sale at all in the first place, if I remember correctly. I love the e-reader itself, but I think I’m going to have to switch to buying my books somewhere else. Amazon just makes me queasy these days.

  6. If you previously bought the Kindle versions of the books, they’re still downloadable in your account. I don’t think they’re going away; I’ve seen publishers pull individual books from the Kindle store before, but my copies bought pre-pull always remain downloadable.

  7. Hopefully “Old Man’s War” and “The Ghost Brigades” will be available as e-books from Barnes & Noble at some point. My Nook is supposed to ship Monday and I’d like to have the entire set.

  8. Just checking now to see of our copy of ‘Zoe’s Tale’ is still “portable” from the Amazon servers, and available to read or reload…

    …and it appears to still be available to us, using the Kindle for PC application that Amazon recently provided to its Kindle clients.

    So, at least readers who have purchased copies can still access them and port them within Kindle’s server system.

    Good. I was a bit nervous about that…

    I hope whatever the glitch is, it gets sorted out to your satisfaction, Mr. Scalzi.

  9. It is the computers. They begin the slow process of taking over the world by eliminating the enemies first. Soon Scalzi will be erased the internet’s collective memory. I bet Doctrow is next.

  10. As of 6:40 PM PST Amazon had your books available.

    Must have been a temporary glitch.

    cheers,
    Robert

  11. Christopher for the win.

    “… and then they came for Neal Stephenson, and I said nothing because I was not Neal Stephenson …”

  12. I used to hang out put in the Kindle user forum on Amazon and I only know of two ebooks yanked by Amazon after purchase. Both were high profile ebooks the “publisher” didn’t have the rights to sell. And I put publisher in quotes because one of them was a genius who uploaded a Harry Potter book as a self-published ebook.

  13. Robert L:

    “As of 6:40 PM PST Amazon had your books available.”

    I still have them listed as unavailable, and checked on different browsers to avoid caching.

  14. Vicki,

    I saw “Death from the Skies” and “Good Omens” Kindle versions both pulled (both last year, at different times), but I bought them before they were gone. I still can download them from my Manage Your Kindle page.

  15. As per the Kindle stuff, I work on the Kindle team at Amazon. We will NEVER remove books from your account. The 1984 situation was a mess and will never happen again.

    I have no idea what’s going on with your books John, but unfortunately I can’t find out either. Hopefully it’s a strange hiccup.

  16. Sony eReader story has at least two of your books as of yesterday, for sale in fact. (Which is why I noticed…already read them so I didn’t go looking.)

    (To head of the proprietary DRM comments, they’re in epub format.)

  17. Robert, are you sure you see Amazon offers (as in “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.”)?

    They do list most of them, but the TOR books are only available from third-party sellers.

  18. If I recall, Amazon UK did this to Hachette Livre UK back in 2008 — I remember writing about it for Locus — allegedly over a disagreement about the discount Amazon was asking for. Hachette wouldn’t bend, and Amazon took away their “buy now” buttons to force the issue. Might be something like that, though I hope it’s just a glitch. It doesn’t do either company any good to go to the mattresses like that.

    Lemme Google for a minute… Here’s a story about the Hachette Livre delisting:

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/1434185/amazon_removes_buy_now_button_from_some_publishers/index.html

  19. The books (same editions) are available on amazon.ca, but not amazon.com, so this is not a policy decision of any sort.

    My guess is a database upgrade has screwed up records based on some key which is de facto related to the publisher.

  20. James:

    “The books (same editions) are available on amazon.ca, but not amazon.com, so this is not a policy decision of any sort.”

    Not necessarily true, as Tor books (at least) are distributed in Canada by HB Fenn, which likely has its own agreements with Amazon.ca. As far as I know, Fenn is not a Macmillan subsidiary.

  21. Meh. Unless you’re an Apple stockholder it’s usually safe to just tune out and go do something else after hearing the final ‘s’ in “Steve Jobs says.” (You don’t need real battery life! Jobs has spoken!)

    I’m guessing incompetence rather than malice in Amazon’s case.

  22. Erikson (who is Tor in the US, Bantam elsewhere) is gone; and, interestingly, completely gone for upcoming books such as The Crippled God — the books which have been out for a bit show up, but only from other retailers.

    I don’t see anything (yet) from PNH or TNH on Making Light; I’d expect them to have a better idea of what was going on.

    It does look more and more deliberate, especially as they seem to have done this before.

  23. Simon Owens:

    “John, the elephant in the room here is that you know several people who work for this publisher, what do they say?”

    At 10:33pm on a Friday night? They don’t say anything. It’s not like they sit around the office or at home, waiting for me to call or e-mail.

  24. Oh good freaking GRIEF! I love me some Amazon.com, but I tell ya, this is getting close to the straw that broke the camel’s back here.

    It’s not like I can’t bookmark some other site. Borders does nice by me with their coupons; I can live without Amazon.com’s astounding discounts (and they don’t discount MMPBs that much or at all anyway these days). Is Amazon.com trying to drive me back to B&M stores?!

    Side Note: I’m curious how the stats for “people searching for John Scalzi” or “people searching for Old Man’s War” have skyrocketed on Amazon.com tonight. ;-)

    Side Note #2: Yeah, I can order from other people via Amazon.com. I just prefer ordering new direct from Amazon.com if the price+shipping is similar; I prefer the author receive some money and I can’t tell if that’s happening with Amazon partners, even if they claim “new”….

  25. There are a number of books among Amazon.com’s bestsellers that are affected here; if it were just a glitch, it arguably would have been addressed by now.

    See, for example, “The Checklist Manifesto,” #41 on the top seller list.

  26. One final check: on scrolling down the MMPB NYT bestsellers, two from St. Martin’s Press and one from Tor — all Macmillan — are listed as “Currently unavailable”.

    This must qualify as getting into cutting off your nose to spite your face territory. It’s likely to drive off customers and once it hits the media is not going to help their reputation with other groups either.

  27. Reminder to folks that if it is some sort of negotiating struggle between Amazon and Macmillan, and not a glitch, it could be Macmillan pulling its books from Amazon, rather than Amazon pulling the Macmillan titles.

    We don’t know what’s going on and until we do, there’s no point in getting upset with either Amazon or Macmillan. There’ll be plenty of time for that when we do know.

  28. The “Ghost Brigades” I just purchased is still in my orders, but the link provided to the book with the product code is broken (whereas other links work).

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000PC0ZWG

    Yes, you got my money twice (paperback and Kindle). But it’s worth it.

    Maybe they are just recoding the books’ product codes? Or perhaps you missed a required pilgrimage or homage or you slipped a Lincoln when it should’ve been a Benji.

  29. Yesterday around 5 pm, I put “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded” in my Amazon cart. It was ready to ship. I didn’t have $25 in my cart, so I didn’t place the order. Today it’s only “available from these sellers”.

    Very odd. If this is not a glitch, then Amazon is almost as smart as NBC.

  30. I see them in stock and buyable directly from Amazon in the UK store.

    “In stock.
    Dispatched from and sold by Amazon.co.uk.”

    Also… I didn’t know that “dispatch” is used in England rather than “ship”.

  31. Did this not happen with some titles in the romance section, about 6 months to a year back. I believe it was Gay/Lesbian books that were affected.

    And it turned out to be a database glitch, or so they say.

  32. You may be on to something with that link to the Jobs and Mossberg article. The reading that I’ve done on various sites over the past couple of months has hinted at a bit of struggle going on behind the scenes in the publishing industry with Amazon. This might be the opening salvo.

  33. John Scalzi wrote: “it could be Macmillan pulling its books from Amazon, rather than Amazon pulling the Macmillan titles.”

    But who is Coco???

  34. R.A. Salvatore’s books seem to be untouched (I just checked a random selection including new and old ones out by him, not all twenty-some-odd). But maybe he’s not Macmillan?

  35. All of your books, including those by Tor, are still available from Amazon Germany. So are the books by Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Jordan Summers and Patricia Waddell, at which point my mind ran out of current Tor authors.

    Out of interest, I also checked German authors published by S. Fischer Verlag and Rowohlt Verlag, both of which are like MacMillan subsidiaries of the Holtzbrinck publishing group and those books are still available as well.

    So either, it’s just an issue between Amazon US and MacMillan or it’s a glitch.

  36. Obs: That doesn’t pass my BS test. Why would Amazon remove all of MacMillan’s books – even physical ones – just because it believes MacMillan shouldn’t complain about its ebook pricing? The other way around I could buy, but not Amazon.

  37. Ouch. Good point, John, although PNH’s followup after your comment makes me feel okay about my mini-tirade. Still–I wasn’t ready to ditch Amazon till this played out and an explanation was forthcoming. Just preparing, yanno…. ;-)

  38. The problem with giants p$$ng in each other’s cornflakes is that the rest of us get splattered. If that’s what is happening I reserve the right to be angry with both of them.

  39. Macmillan was never particularly good at getting eBooks out on Amazon, presumably due to pricing issues from the start; so if this were just their kindle books it wouldn’t shock me. Including the physical books is just confusing (if it’s not a glitch).

  40. I just dumped all the items from my shopping cart on Amazon because of this. A quick search reveals that anything published by Tor is not available directly from Amazon.com but the items published by Subterranean Press are available.

  41. This actually doesn’t surprise me – Tor has definitely been on the insane side on their ebook pricing for quite awhile, which I assume comes from the parent company. For example, the list price on all the Robert Jordan reissues they’ve been doing in ebook format is $15, or twice what the dead tree paperback costs, for a DRM’d to hell edition.

    I’m convinced they don’t actually want to sell ebooks except to the small percentage of readers who will only buy e-editions and are not price sensitive.

  42. My first thought is both Amazon and Macmillan are playing with fire; Amazon for playing hardball like they are, Macmillan for demanding a steep price increase for the e-books. Like a previous commenter said; when giants piss on each other’s cornflakes, the rest of us get splattered.

  43. Macmillan (and thus Tor) has been slow to issue ebooks, certainly. I don’t know how I feel on the issue; I’m not in the book industry anymore, but as a former bookseller I know a little bit about how the industry’s pricing works, and I am not convinced $9.99 would work as a first-issue price unless book demand is very price-elastic across the board (which it may be). It’s certainly elastic for bestsellers and large-market books, but for the larger portion of the book market that is non-high-sales titles I’m not sure that’s true. If it’s not elastic enough, Amazon’s fixing of 9.99 price might well hurt the book industry, which I imagine is Macmillan’s argument here.

    I’d love to see someone in the industry (PNH?? :) post a full breakdown of the real cost to making a book aside from physical costs – ie, something like
    $50k – min. salary to author
    $10k – cost of editing
    $5k – cost of typesetting
    $5k – cost of cover illustration

    $70k to make a book

    and then add in how much mid to low selling titles – the ones that give or take break even in these terms now as physical books – sell. 10,000 copies (which for HC would be pretty good selling, I think) would have to make $7/copy after the retail cut in my above imaginary numbers, so at $10/copy and 30% to amazon, the publisher would just barely break even (and it’s probably more likely the publisher would split the post-fixed cost sales with the author 50/50 at the beginning, 25000 would go to each; 25k might be reasonable for a lower sales author, but seems low to me – barely over poverty level). NYT did a piece on this a while back, but it wasn’t quite as specific as I’d love to see.

  44. Hmm. You can still buy my two Tor books, The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds.* But you can’t buy, say, Scalzi or Robert Jordan.

    Maybe they forget to tag me as gay, I mean, published by Macmillan.

    *Pimping my books during the Amazocalypse! Have I no shame?

  45. OMW is back up, but I notice there is NO “Kindle edition” listed. Since I don’t shop proprietary, can somebody tell me whether there was one yesterday?

  46. Scott: Clearly they’re afraid of you. I mean, I would be.

    Actually, from what I’m seeing those are bargain priced books – so they’re from a different distributor from Amazon’s point of view.

    I wonder if Macmillan (grr, almost capitalized it again) lowered their discount as a negotiating tactic over ebook prices, and Amazon refused to agree?

  47. Well I did notice that during the iPad presentation that the books were more expensive on the iBookstore than Amazon or B&N.

    Now wonder who will win this “whose d*ck is bigger contest”

    Not sure who to root for as does a $9.99 ebook give the author the same $ as a $25 Hardcover?

    If the $9.99 is screwing author’s then can see publisher’s point. If not, that means publishers just want more cash for no work (ebook wise that is)

    And of course during this whole time I keep purchasing my Baen books for cheaper than anywhere else.

  48. joe@66, for me the problem isn’t the tiered pricing during the hardback, because I have no problems waiting until the paperback cycle for the authors I wasn’t buying hardbacks for anyways. The problem is that since I’m not making my weekly trek into B&N, I’m simply not going to see those books when the price drops to non-insane, and neither amazon nor the publishers have any mechanism right now to notify me. So since I have a perpetual backlog of 20-40 books, plus another hundred or so in books I got via a Baen Webscription that weren’t the specific books I bought the webscription for, those books don’t get bought.

    So for me the old model of hardback for a year, then paperback is dead – there’s probably only one chance to get a sale from me for any book that’s not from an author that’s in my auto-buy list. So for those folks, if they priced at the $10 level they’re getting the paperback sale early for a small premium, they’re not losing a hardback sale. But because they didn’t, they’re losing the sale entirely.

    Right now amazon claims that for every 10 books they sell in dead tree, they sell 6 in an electronic edition if it’s available. And that number is only going to get bigger. So publishers are going to have to figure out how to sell to this market or they’ll go out of business.

  49. I’m repeating myself here, but Geoffrey, are you sure you’re seeing Amazon offers (““Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.”) and not just third-party sellers (“Available from these sellers.”)?

  50. Obs: You’re right. There’s only a “these sellers” link.

    If the NYT is right, authors and customers are innocent bystanders in a shooting war over who will gouge them and how much.

  51. @Skip – I have a similar problem with regard to eBooks. I was a bookseller for years, and thus knew exactly what was coming out – discovered a lot of authors by unboxing them, Mr. Scalzi included. eBooks can have just as easy of a time – heck, easier – marketing; they just don’t at the moment. Amazon’s terrible at showing you new books in a genre; they thoroughly mix in old books that are being re-released for the 199958th time in with the ‘new’ books when you filter that way.

    A simple fix would be to transition to a couple of decent pages that are human-managed; one containing the top 50 or so books that are new this week in each genre (that would be much more than the quantity at a b&m store in any given week, at least in sf&f) and containing the top 50 or so sellers with a list price reduction in the last week; and then keep the last 4 weeks’ lists available at minimum, to page through.

    Your point about the paperback sale early is a good one, and it points exactly to the price elasticity of book sales. However, I think there’s still the question of whether that elasticity will be continuous, or bounded, especially for mid to low list books. You might well have very little difference between a $15 and a $10 pricepoint in terms of sales numbers … and isn’t that what the free market is supposed to be for, to determine the proper price for things like this?

    Either way, though, this dispute isn’t helping any of us [if it’s truly a dispute and not a glitch]…

  52. The point is that ebooks do have an easier time marketing – I read something on a blog posting, or in a review. It sounds vaguely interesting, but it’s not one of my current list of authors. I pop onto amazon. It’s $14. Nope, no sale. On the other hand, at $9.99, that’s just a buck or two more than the paperback, so I mostly buy it.

    Now, if they somehow manage to get my attention again in a year when it’s $7, I’ll probably buy it then. But they’re not getting the free eyeballs they used to get when I went into the dead tree store several times a month. And currently they’re just not set up to get my attention then.

  53. Is this the way it’s going to be now that the iPad is coming out? Is Apple and Amazon going to fight to the “death” for publisher rights? Or is this just a glitch between Amazon and this particular publisher? Thank goodness they didn’t pull the ones we’ve already bought. I like Amazon, but sometimes I don’t. Just like Apple. That love/hate relationship sometimes isn’t worth it. We still come back for more.

  54. I, for one, am glad that Amazon is “playing hardball” in the interest of it’s customers and trying to prevent the greedy publishers from forcing a 50% price increase (from $10 up to $15) on a digital product that has zero materials cost. If I can buy a hardcover at Costco for $14.50, then I should be able to buy an electronic version for $10. The publisher creates a digital version of a book 1 time and can sell millions of copies of that file for no additional costs. Wake up publishers, you guys are sounding like the RIAA back when iTunes first opened. We didn’t want CDs anymore back then, and we don’t want hardcovers anymore now.

    P.S. I realize not everyone wants e-books, I’m speaking from the perspective of those who do.

  55. There’s no reason you should have to pay $15 for an ebook if you don’t want to. But it doesn’t mean publishers shouldn’t be allowed to profit from the folks who are, first.

    That’s different from what you were implying above. And I completely agree with it.

  56. SEF:

    “That’s different from what you were implying above.”

    Pretty sure it’s not, and of course I rather explicitly say what I’ve noted here in the follow-up entry.

  57. John, it doesn’t end up being “$15 at first”. It ends up being first-price == forever price.

    To give a current example:

    “Kushiel’s Avatar” in hardcover was released in 2003, and the mass market edition in 2004.

    The ebook is currently listed at fictionwise for (you ready for this?) $20(non-book club member)/$17 member.

    The paperback is listed at Barnes and Noble. (It’s Macmillan, so it’s gone at AMZN), and it’s listed for $7.99 with a book club membership price of $7.19.

    So, six years after the paperback is out, the price of the eBook is STILL at hardcover-level price, presumably because they don’t want the eBook price to cannibalize hardcover sales!

  58. Geoffrey Kidd:

    “John, it doesn’t end up being ‘$15 at first’. It ends up being first-price == forever price.”

    Meh. That’s like saying AOL would always be a per hour access rate because that’s what it was in its early years. It’s still early times for ebooks.

  59. John,

    I can understand your being upset about anyone interrupting the ability to sell your books anywhere at a price you and your publishers desire. And, frankly, you and your publisher should be able ask for a premium for newly launched books and reduce pricing on your own schedule.

    That said, Amazon has an equal right to want to make things easier for their kindle readers by negotiating contracts with publishers so that there is some kind of uniform pricing.

    Frankly, if MacMillan asks for one thing and Amazon disagrees and books stop being sold, or vice versa, that is entirely up to Amazon and MacMillan. I don’t have a problem with it. Eventually, they will both come to a compromise that makes sense.

    So, pricing wise, maybe we are still in the “early years” of e-books as you say.

    That said, there are a large number of us Amazon Kindle readers who simply will no longer buy hard copy or via any other mechanism than Kindle.

    I used to buy 100-250 books/yr from local book stores, then in the late 90’s switched to getting hardbacks from amazons, and last year switched to e-books only. I haven’t bought a hardback in 18 months.

    There are some authors with books I want to read that are not published for Kindle and for the time being, I am waiting them out. Perhaps there should be a uniform standard for ebooks and all ebook readers should have a way to automatically buy ebooks from any publisher via any reseller so that amazon would be just one out of a dozens of ways to download a new book to the kindle. However, I can’t be bothered at the moment to go anywhere other than Amazon for books.

    I hope you and MacMillan work this out w/ Amazon.

    I have been waiting for you to release something new for awhile :)

    Matt

  60. Matthew,
    That’s actually a very interesting question. Some industries work the way you suggest – the retail store sets the retail price for the item, based on numerous factors including the wholesale cost. Some don’t; the book industry being one of the primary examples thereof. B&N/Borders don’t set the price of most of the books in their stores, because they come into the store with the price already written on them. While they could adjust that price a bit with sales or memberships or whatever, they generally don’t, much. Only Amazon makes significant adjustments to the pricing – and that’s a big deal to publishers.

    To a large extent, the problem with Amazon doing this is that they have near-monopoly power to do so. Their price offering will probably determine the ultimate price for e-books in general, unless Apple’s iBookstore takes off [and to me that’s very much an if]. They’ve already shown many of the traditional elements of the monopolist, particularly selling items at a loss in order to control the price (and potentially drive away competitors?), and I’d put their proprietary format in the mix there as well (locking you into their format, to make it harder for you to switch companies). I do wonder if there will be at some point a significant legal challenge to their practices in this area; I doubt they qualify as actually monopolist in the eyes of the law now, but who knows in a few years.

  61. There’s a tint of evil-corporate-conspiracy mongering here. It would be good to consider that this is nothing more than a contract dispute.
    The NYTimes will surely call it “hardball”, but companies go through this all the time. Amazon surely has a distribution contract with publishers to distribute their products. If they are having difficulty reaching agreement on pricing, they may have to pull all the product until it gets resolved. That’s not hardball, that’s business.
    Folks who haven’t worked in a corporate environment tend to see conspiracies in these types of things. It very rarely is though. Big corporations are like a little old lady in an SUV trying to peer over the steering wheel. Moving forward, yes…but to an outsider, painfully slow with poor reaction time and often oblivious to the world around.

  62. Funny, this board/blog has many comments assuming Amazon made the decision to pull. Two other forums (including the Amazon Kindle forum) assume it is MacMillian’s fault…

    Someone needs to send out an official statement rather that continue to let the confusion build.

  63. Ironically, because the Sony e-book price for Old Man’s War was like $17 last summer, I went and bought the paperback from Amazon.com.

    This stunt by Amazon is awful high-handed–they’re far from the only player in the ebook market.

  64. Frankly, I’m not as irritated with Amazon as I am with the publishers. Their insistance on continuing their outdated business model, totally disrespecting the ebook readers (high prices and delayed releases)–bleh! I’ll be taking my money elsewhere. I can resist the impulse to buy their books in favor of publishers that have embraced the ebook world.
    And the book pirating world is rejoicing right now.

  65. Didn’t I read somewhere, maybe it was Jay Lake’s post, that there’s also a slim chance that it’s Macmillan that pulled its eBook offerings, hence Amazon removed them from their offerings? Unlikely, if I read Jay’s comments correctly, but exactly who did which is still a question.

  66. What I’m finding astonishing about this whole mess is that neither of the putative parties in this dispute has bothered with what the Founders called “…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them…”

    Now we can pretty well guess that it’s our money they’re fighting over. That’s obvious. But it was also “obvious” after Pearl Harbor what the fight was about, and the US Government still felt it necessary to produce the “Why We Fight” series of films. A “decent respect” indeed.
    The combatants appear to have forgotten that, in the end, they depend utterly for their survival on “the opinions of mankind” AKA, what their suppliers and customers think of them. Both sides have made it awesomely plain that neither one of them gives a s**t what we think.

  67. Both sides have made it awesomely plain that neither one of them gives a s**t what we think.

    Since last night, they’ve done this? Pointers to the press releases, sourced news stories, interviews, etc. please? (Alas, I do not subscribe to your crystal ball and universal spy satellite service provider.)

  68. There has been NOTHING. There is no announcement on Amazon’s home page. There is nothing on us.macmillan.com. Google for “Amazon macmillan” and you find ONE article in the Los Angeles Times which mentions the dispute, and references remarks made by both Bezos and Simon and Schuster from February 9 of last year.

    The silence is deafening. And it doesn’t take a crystal ball, a universal spy satellite service provider, or transcendant genius to interpret it properly.

  69. Geoffrey Kidd:

    “and you find ONE article in the Los Angeles Times which mentions the dispute”

    You’re not looking hard enough.

    I do agree you’re making assertions here not based on evidence. That said, you are of course entitled to your opinion. I’m personally not feeling terribly friendly toward either at the moment, although toward one less so than the other.

  70. John@96: You are correct. I did not search hard enough.

    OTOH, I noticed that the entries that search turns up reiterations of the dispute, rather than comments or announcements from the principals. The only thing I could find in that stack that was relevant to pronunciamenti by both sides was the note in the Publisher’s Weekly page that said:

    [quote]Macmillan CEO John Sargent had no comment on Amazon’s action; Amazon executives could not be reached Saturday morning for comment.[/quote]

    My accusation that the silence is indifference stands.

  71. Pricing is always difficult across technology. It’s no different than trying to price enterprise software by CPU or computer or offer volume discounts. And also sell packaged sets of the same software individually to small businesses or individuals. No matter how you do it, it doesn’t make sense for a particular market segment.

    Here we have a problem where a normal book costs ‘$x’ based on years of publishing involvement.

    Enter a device that doesn’t require said publishing involvement and allows a book to be distributed for ‘$x-y’.

    However, some of the services a publisher provides are still viable and even necessary. But, the publishers wish to keep the viable parts embedded within the superfluous parts that have no value in the new technology.

    Eventually, the publisher capabilities will be broken down into purchasable services and hopefully the authors will be in charge of their materials.

    In the mean time I don’t get the big thing about the iPad. It’s not an eBook. It is a big ITouch. Not really something you want to keep on the nightstand to read for hours. There will be better eReaders, but this isn’t it. Publishers are fooling themselves if they think this will put pressure on Amazon. What they will really do is hurt their own sales. At least that’s my opinion.

  72. The whole argument regarding whether $9.99 is enough seems specious to me. Baen Books, via Arnold Bailey’s Webscriptions website, makes a profit selling most eBooks – including eBooks of their newly released Hardbacks *the month before the hardcover is released* – for $6.00. They even bundle that month’s new releases together for $15.00, anywhere from four to seven books if eBooks of paperbacks are included.

    I’ll admit that crippling the eBook with DRM drives prices up. Maybe that’s why Baen doesn’t do that.

    The article that Mr. Scalzi linked to regarding costs of creating books was interesting, and if a company were solely making quality eBooks, they would incur most of those costs. But Macmillan and Simon & Schuster et al aren’t solely making eBooks. Those costs were incurred making treeBooks. The eBook is practically a free biproduct of that process, siphoned off on the way to the presses. AT SOME POINT in that process, an eBook *exists*, whether it is the corrected word processing file or the PDF file that gets sent to the presses. Producing LIT, LRF, PDF, RTF, PRC, PDB ePUB or HTML from those sources is almost trivial.

  73. It appears as though it does not affect their audiobook website, however. Robert Jordan and other Tor titles are still available to members… Interesting.

  74. AutumnRLS:

    Yes, I’ve noticed that myself, since my audiobook stuff is still available. Audible is a fairly autonomous division of Amazon, however. Also, not every audiobook of a Tor book is Macmillan audio.

  75. I hate ebooks. I want to hold and read a physical books. And I hate that now arguments over ebook prices are making print books less available. Guess I’ll be ordering my books from other places such as B&N and Book Depository.

  76. Pricing isn’t just a matter of direct costs (which John’s link to Gordon Haff’s piece did a great job of enumerating) but of “ecosystem costs” that are both harder to reduce and largely recovered by publisher pricing strategy (disrupted by Amazon) across products and time. I’ve got a description of some of the issues at http://blog.sbooks.net/2010/01/14/ebookcost/ (shameless plug). The ugly part for readers will be when these issues collide with vendor lock-in. It’s not clear what kind of DRM will be on Apple’s iBooks; they’ve said they’ll use ePub, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they rolled their own DRM rather than use Adobe’s (which B&N and others use).

  77. I’m not all that worried about Apple iBook DRM.

    Committing DRM is like committing any other crime. Criminal gets ONE move, committing the DRM. The Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolf, Inspector Poirot, Lord Darcy … et al. get *all the moves they want* to solve the problem.

    Besides, most digital crowbars get built not in order to “pirate” the book, but to be able to put it into a more comfortable-to-the-reader form. Once the publishers wake up to the fact that DRM hits them in their own rice bowls, they’ll quit doing it the same way the music industry finally woke up to the fact that their use of DRM was only hitting them in their own kneecaps.

  78. My real concern isn’t in the long term but for the shorter-term adoption of e-reading. The publishers have little direct interest in encouraging e-readers and, unlike with music, there isn’t an easy way to rip books into e-books. That means that the broad adoption of e-reading (which is mostly about new titles) will depend on either publishers dying out (and being replaced by something better) or going open while preserving their core functions.

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