Seriously? Now They’re Just Being Dicks

On one hand, Amazon has returned a “buy” button to the page of at least one of my Tor/Macmillan books. On the other hand, it’s to buy used copies of the book. So this is Amazon saying that they’re happy to sell you my book, as long as they’re the only ones making money off the transaction, not Macmillan, or Tor, or me.

Perhaps tomorrow’s “buy” button will allow you to buy the book new, but only if you promise to travel to my house and kick me hard and square in the balls.

Hey Amazon: Do let me know when your senior management all decides to stop being twelve years old. Thanks.

Update: Commenter Brian Mastenbrook offers up an alternate theory.

Update, 12:43pm: The “Buy Used” button is now down, which I suspect supports B.M.’s theory.

164 thoughts on “Seriously? Now They’re Just Being Dicks

  1. Wow, John! I think you have hit upon the biggest marketing breakthrough of the 21st century!
    By a book? Kick John Scalzi in the balls!
    You are a freakin’ genius, man!
    Sure, it’s gonna hurt, but as they say…no pain, no financial gain through Amazon!

  2. My understanding of Amazon’s byzantine seller system is that this is what you see when a third-party seller uses Fulfillment by Amazon to sell a used version of the book. I don’t think that it’s anything Amazon is doing to you specifically.

  3. John, when I come by your house tomorrow, you’ll realize it’s nothing personal right? Just business.

  4. Insinuating Amazon management are twelve years old and using “dicks” in the title. Pot meet kettle.

  5. Brian Mastenbrook:

    “I don’t think that it’s anything Amazon is doing to you specifically.”

    Well, I don’t think Amazon is doing it to me specifically, since they’re using this button on other Macmillan titles too (although not all of them). However, Amazon is choosing at the moment to place this “buy” button on this book page rather than the “buy” button that would allow people to purchase the book new. So there’s likely intention behind it.

    John Bledsoe:

    I’m calling them dicks because in my sober-minded, 40-year-old opinion, that’s what they’re being. So there, nyah.

    GaryG:

    “Balzis.” Nice.

  6. It might have just been a mistake, not retribution. They seem to make mistakes at Amazon from time to time. Jane Ellen, keep buyin at Borders, since they need all the sales they can get. They’re aren’t doing well, I’m afraid.

  7. #13: I don’t think it’s retribution OR a mistake. I randomly checked three very different books, all published by different imprints of Macmillan (STREET MAGIC by Caitlin Kittredge, INDIGO SPRINGS by Alyx Dellamonica and BLUE MOON by Alyson Noel) and they are all in the same condition as John’s books.

  8. #8 Chris – Gol-durn subsidized literacy! I may have to cross the border to get my meds and my mass market paperbacks, but I can only kick John Scalzi in the balls in the good ol’ U.S. of A.!

  9. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t their original issue with the price of ebooks, not paperbacks? So their reaction is to pull all versions?

    I haven’t followed this too closely, but if that’s what happened, yeah, it is unbelievably stupid.

  10. “Well, I don’t think Amazon is doing it to me specifically, since they’re using this button on other Macmillan titles too (although not all of them).”

    Once again I don’t think it has much to do with Amazon specifically – if a third party seller used Fulfillment by Amazon to offer a book that was out of print, this button would (as I understand it) show up.

    If you click on “Details”, you can see that “Bargain Quality Books” is offering the used edition of Old Man’s War. My guess is that this seller was already registered with the FbA program and decided to take advantage of the opportunity by listing used editions of several Macmillan books.

    In other words, I don’t think Amazon changed anything at all here. A third party seller is taking advantage of an opportunity. Amazon’s existing system makes it easy for buyers to order a used edition of a book via FbA.

  11. For what it is worth, Scalzi books still available in Audible (a Amazon company). I guess it does not apply to audiobook content.
    No sales tax there either.

  12. Thanks John. And I do agree that Amazon’s being a bunch of jerks here. There’s no reason that paper editions needed to get dragged into this spat, and they’ve seriously tarnished my opinion of their reputation as a result. How stupid.

  13. It occurs to me that there is a possible non-retribution reason why the buy from Amazon button isn’t back yet. The new deal will mean new pricing, to be determined by Macmillan. Amazon may think they will annoy customers less by going directly to the new pricing than by bringing back the old pricing and then raising it. And Macmillan may not have the new pricing worked out yet.

  14. Hrm. I had no idea that used books gave nothing to the writer, though I suppose it makes sense now that I think about it. Foo. I love used books, but I’d rather support my favorite writers.

    Silly Amazon.

  15. Does all your anger belong with Amazon? Or do you think that your publisher might be trying to gouge Amazon a little bit? I mean, what if MacMillan wanted $45 a book, then I think most of your anger would belong with MacMillan, not Amazon …

  16. So what I gather from this is that the crying to their friends thing over at the Kindle community is in fact not an official statement. I mean it looks like nothing has changed since Friday.

    The papers have reported this statement as an official Amazon one, and so far that’s all we’ve heard from them. I think it’s time for Amazon to either say that the Kindle community statement is not their official statement, or confirm that it is.

  17. Will McLean:

    The issue at hand was electronic books, not paper ones. I don’t believe there’s currently any issue regarding physical book pricing.

    Ole A. Imsen:

    If the Kindle Group’s forum posting was not an official notice, Amazon’s communication issues are more serious than I thought.

    systemBuilder:

    “Does all your anger belong with Amazon?”

    In this specific case? Sure it does. Macmillan did not order Amazon to pull its product, Amazon did it on its own. To be sure, I’ve had issues with Macmillan in my time, but this isn’t about those times, it’s about this time.

  18. System Builder @ 26 –

    Does all your anger belong with Amazon? Or do you think that your publisher might be trying to gouge Amazon a little bit?

    No, because Amazon was taking a loss on ebook sales for new releases in hardcover, and selling them at $9.99. The Macmillan proposal has Amazon earning more overall – they get a 30% cut of the sale, rather than paying Macmillan 50% of the HC list price, and then selling it to the customer for less than that.

    Yes, evil Macmillan is forcing Amazon to make a profit selling ebooks. Oh noes! and ebooks will still cost less than physical HC books. Oh noes oh noes!

    Amazon’s actions were a matter of market dominance, and creating fear among publishers of what would happen if anyone disagrees with them.

  19. In capitalism, the goal to is to get money from the customer.

    Amazon is doing a very good job sending my money to Barnes & Noble and Apple. Thanks, Amazon.

    Delicious irony: Audible is an Amazon company, but available on iTunes. Let the nose-rubbing begin, kids.

  20. So, what’s the deal with the paperback version of ‘You’re Hate Mail Will Be Graded’? Most of your other books have a buy directly from Amazon.com option, but this one which just came out not to long ago only has a buy from third party option.

    I was planning on buying this Sat. before all of this crap… I guess I just need to go to Barnes and Noble now.

  21. I used to be a big fan of Amazon back in the mists of internet time when they first got going. Then they started doing stupid corporatist shit and — worse — explaining the stupid corporatist shit in CorpSpeak. After one particularly egregious example of that behavior I wrote them a polite email letting them know that they’d lost a loyal customer, and why. The response I got was — predictably — a form letter full of CorpSpeak that managed to totally ignore any of the points I made.

    Mostly I do my online book-buying at Powells.

  22. WRT Pricing and sales of physical books, Amazon bought those already as physical objects. Unlike ebooks, Amazon owns them all now. They could set them alight in a giant bonfire, and there’s nothing Macmillan could do.

    Amazon has millions, possibly tens of millions of dollars of physical inventory from Macmillan that it’s sitting on, and not selling as a means of punishing Macmillan for arguing about pricing ebooks, not physical books.

  23. They’re doing the same thing to Ender’s Game which is (to my bookstore memory) one of the biggest SF sellers. It’s not you John, it’s still the pissing contest.

  24. John @28

    “If the Kindle Group’s forum posting was not an official notice, Amazon’s communication issues are more serious than I thought.”

    I certainly agree with that.

    My father has been a journalist in Norway since before I was born (I’ll soon be 36), and I can guarantee you that if he was reporting this he would have sought confirmation by Amazon. If he had not gotten that, he’d reported this as a forum posting and noted that there was no official word from Amazon yet.

    But it sure looks like this is the only thing we’ll get from Amazon. -But then again we can’t expect 12 year olds to know what a press-release is…

  25. Even though Amazon is being dicks about this I have to side with them. If Macmillan wants to dictate the price at which their products are sold they should open up their own store.

  26. I am going to say I am not totally on Macmillan’s side on the pricing of eBooks. I am going to say Amazon is being a big bully and certainly a dick by dragging the paper additions into this.

    Most money is still made on the paper additions. Amazon knows this and is throwing a little tizzy in order to bring some pain. The pain unfortunately is felt by authors. The longer this drags on the worst they look.

  27. “No, because Amazon was taking a loss on ebook sales for new releases in hardcover, and selling them at $9.99. The Macmillan proposal has Amazon earning more overall – they get a 30% cut of the sale, rather than paying Macmillan 50% of the HC list price, and then selling it to the customer for less than that.

    Yes, evil Macmillan is forcing Amazon to make a profit selling ebooks. Oh noes! and ebooks will still cost less than physical HC books. Oh noes oh noes!”

    I realize that I am going to get crucified for stepping outside the party line, but this really not what happened here.

    Macmillan was actually making more money doing to Amazon’s way, because Amazon was paying the wholesale price on the higher list. Macmillan did this for the sole purpose of killing Kindle and perhaps ebooks in general.

    Macmillan has removed the ability of retailers to set their own price. This has lots of bad effects on consumers. In the beginning, it means higher prices for ebooks from Macmillan and eventually the other six corporations that control publishing. And please don’t lecture me about elastic prices. Macmillan will not sell books for less than 10 bucks, ever. Even today, their listing at Fictionwise are almost overwhelmingly above ten dollars, even for books that have gone into paperback versions.

    In the future, they will use this to drive prices higher on ebooks. They can do this because this model prevents anyone from offering these books at any sales price. Since they will be joined by the other Big Six soon, there will be defacto price collusion, so they wont have to worry about being undercut, and hence will push the price back up over thrity dollars as soon as they can get away with it.

    Second, they have crippled the ability of new players to enter the ebook market. It will pretty much belong to B&N, Apple and Amazon. For reasons that a comment probably isn’t appropriate place for because of size restrictions, its next to impossible to compete in that space on technology at this point. Without a name, pricing is the best way to draw attention to yourself, and Macmillan has probably killed that.

    Macmillan has also probably killed new models of selling ebooks. Without price flexibility, it will be impossible to price books at a point where they could reasonable become impulse, mass market purchases. Without price flexibility and the right to resell at whatever price they wish, things like Netflix or subscription pricing or some thing we haven’t thought up yet aren’t going to be possible.

    Macmillan is the RIAA of the book world in the sense that they hate the change that ebooks represent and they hate the idea of their business model changing. So they are doing what they can to strangle it in its crib. This was nothing more than a step at that. In the long run, I don’t see how this is anything but bad for consumers and authors.

  28. Though you’ve posted alternative explanations, as an all too frequent Amazon shopper (suspended as of this weekend though) I call bull.

    Sure, they always offer a used version if available, but the primary way to purchase is (use to be) new, from Amazon directly.

    The 12 year old theory seems to hold, for they aren’t selling new books that profit the author, but rather used books, which sort of screw the author (especially in this context).

    My boycott of Amazon continues.

  29. I’m going to cross quote here. From http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/01/amazon-macmillan-an-outsiders.html#comment-38122

    Your post is the first one I’ve seen that really addresses the core issue. It’s not pricing, not really. Nor is it DRM, hateful as that practice is. No, it’s that Macmillan offered Amazon a choice of two options: sell as an agent rather than a retailer, or remain a retailer but not sell e-books until 7 months after the hardcover is published. And although I haven’t seen it explicitly stated anywhere, it seems implicit that Macmillan will not allow Amazon to continue paying hardcover wholesale to sell the e-books right away.

  30. Comments from the Consumerist(http://consumerist.com/2010/01/macmillan-e-books-will-now-cost-15-on-amazon.html) are anti-Macmillan with people comparing Macmillian to the RIAA with unrealistically high price points.

    Sample comment:

    “If Macmillan would like to stem the flow of ebook piracy before it becomes a raging torrent (pardon the pun), they will change their pricing structure accordingly. Otherwise, they are going to go the way of the recording industry.”

  31. I’m glad we finally know who the RIAA is in this case. Let the Two Minutes Hate begin!

    I’d like to who these people are who will happily pay $9.99 for a DRMed eBook but will go pirate to avoid another $5 to get access asap. Are there really more of them than the ones who will pirate unless its DRM-free and costs 10 cents?

  32. If we return one of your books back to Amazon, does it mean that you get to go to Jeff Bezos’s house and kick him hard in the balls?

  33. CS Clark’s question brings up a good point – is piracy as much of a problem with books as it was with music? Most of the people pirating music were young – high school/college. Once they got jobs, they mostly started paying for stuff.

    When it comes to books, I think the average age of the customer is higher, they are more likely to have a job and they are also more likely (I think) to respect the idea that the creator of a work deserves compensation for it.

    My point is – even if there was no DRM at all on books, are there any studies to show that piracy would be a significant problem?

    I know this is off topic, and I was about to include an apology. But that apology wouldn’t really be sincere since I am posting the comment anyway, right? :)

  34. 39. JimF

    In a distribution contract for any sort of product there is usually some mention of a price floor. The manufacturer does this to provide a balanced playing field to the different players in its distribution channel. This is normal business, a part of the process that most consumers are unaware of.

    What Macmillen wanted was the ability to float prices, to figure out the elasticity of demand and price their product to everyone’s (them, the distributor, and the customer) best advantage.

  35. @49 Josh, Exactly what Macmillan wants is the ability to act as the retailer and set the final price. That’s fine open your own store. Some of a retailers major tools are to have a loss leaders. To bundle items togeather, to have sales that promote other items. Under Macmillan’s plan those tools are no longer available.

  36. Josh@49, your evidence for that is? All the available evidence, IE what they’ve done to date with their pricing says exactly the opposite.

  37. #32 – yeah, same happened to me when I dumped Apple because they allowed my kid to buy a song twice on accident but would not refund the money.

    Curious, does Powell’s charge sales tax?

  38. So Amazon is still being a whiny little bitch then. I have the feeling this will end badly for Amazon. They’ve pissed off thousands of writers who will undoubtedly continue to express their rage in well-written prose on the internet until this is resolved. Seriously, Amazon, you don’t piss off people who know how to write compelling literature. You will lose, because they are better at writing than you are (as has already been proven by your terrible blog post from the Amazon Kindle Team).

    (I find it disgusting they’d make the Kindle Team post that letter. The Kindle Team didn’t make the MacMillan decision, it was the CEO of Amazon. The Kindle Team is the fallguy. I’d be pissed if I was on that team.)

  39. It doesn’t matter what the core problem is, though that needs to be addressed. The fact is Amazon took a swipe at customers and authors.

    You have to take this from cable and satellite companies, esp. in this new age of early termination fees (which appear mercifully headed to an apathetic SCOTUS for shredding). On the other hand, you don’t have to shop at Wal-Mart. You don’t have to buy a Toyota, and you don’t have to get your books from Amazon.

    As for MacMillan’s own douchebaggery, a sales drop driven by customers generally gives them the message.

  40. It pains me to see Amazon being such jerks. I’ve been a mostly happy customer for years, and I want Amazon to do well by doing good. I hope this slap smartens them up. But more than that, as a (now former) occasional freelancer for a subsidiary of Macmillan, I am unspeakably angry at Macmillan right now for the way they’re handling a big change they’re making wrt hiring and payment of freelancers and independent contractors (outsourcing to a third party, to which Macmillan turned over my information without my knowledge or consent, and that third party has now disclosed my e-mail address to dozens of other freelancers because the moron who sent me the e-mail has all the e-mailing skills of my elderly mother and didn’t know or didn’t bother to make a mailing list that would shield people’s addresses from one another–and that’s only the smallest way in which they have stomped on my privacy). At the moment, I hate Macmillan, and I wanted them to be the worse of the bad guys here.

  41. I agree with Mark S. @ 44. I’m no genius, but I do know how to pick up on early market trends. Some sources say that e-book pirating may only be taking 2% – 5% from sales. Give it five years. I’m still not sure how some publishers decide to give an ebook away for free at the same time the paper book releases. Some say that’s a great way to promote sales. It might be a good way to promote site taffic and thus may generate higher ad rates.

  42. I just finished reading Old Man’s War. I mean literally, not even an hour ago I read the last page, read the excerpt, set the book down and went directly to Amazon to order The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony (yeah, I’m totally sold. Thanks Mr. Scalzi) and of course I was like, WTF?! Neither one is available? Weird. They can’t be out of print, can they?

    Then I just happened to scroll down a bit on Boing Boing which was open in another tab and, lo and behold, there’s a post linking here. What a coincidence. Mystery solved.

    Anyway, Amazon’s loss, ’cause I’m off to order from Borders for the first time ever. Hmm, if I add Zoe’s Tale and one more I get free shipping just like on Amazon. Hey, Borders is pretty cool…

  43. Kevin @ 41 – Macmillan was actually making more money doing to Amazon’s way, because Amazon was paying the wholesale price on the higher list. Macmillan did this for the sole purpose of killing Kindle and perhaps ebooks in general.

    Macmillan doesn’t intend to kill the kindle or ebooks. What they’re concerned with, as was the case in music album sales through itunes and other online distributors is pricing control.

    Having actually worked in the digital music industry and seen this happen repeated numbers of times with a variety of distributors, and having spoken to people who work in publishing, I have a good sense of what’s going on.

    I’m not sure what you’re basing your speculation on, but you’re dead wrong. You need to pause, and get real information from real sources. If you’re speculating, you need to have prior behavior to base your speculation on. When I speculate, I’m basing that on past Amazon behavior in conflicts like this.

    Macmillan has removed the ability of retailers to set their own price. This has lots of bad effects on consumers. In the beginning, it means higher prices for ebooks from Macmillan and eventually the other six corporations that control publishing. And please don’t lecture me about elastic prices. Macmillan will not sell books for less than 10 bucks, ever. Even today, their listing at Fictionwise are almost overwhelmingly above ten dollars, even for books that have gone into paperback versions.

    Oh really? Please check up on things like that.

    Seriously, if the Wheel of Time ebooks are listed at more than ten bucks a pop, there’s a reason – demand is high enough to support that price. If Zoe’s tale lists at $7.99, retailing at $6.39 from Barnes and Noble, your assertion that “Macmillan will not sell books for less than 10 bucks, ever.” is wrong.

    I’m having a hard time taking this conversation seriously if you’re just making things up to suit your snit at Macmillan for having a pricing strategy for ebooks you’re not happy with. I think it’s getting in the way of your ability to reason.

    But of course, this is all completely sidereal to the post John made – Amazon is (still) cutting off sales of physical books. That’s an issue that has nothing to do with digital pricing. If Negotiations broke down, all Amazon had to do was say “Nope, that’s not a deal we can accept, so we’re not selling your ebooks anymore. Good luck with Apple, I hope we can continue doing business on physical books the same way. “ If they’d just done that, you and I wouldn’t be having a conversation here. I wouldn’t have cared one way or another.

    Instead, they escalated, and acted to hurt Macmillan in order to get them to comply to a policy Macmillan didn’t want. And that’s what this is about, not Macmillan’s ebook pricing strategy. I also speculate that Amazon is doing this as a public warning to other publishers. But that’s not something I can 100% prove. Still, it fits the evidence really well.

  44. How much power do you have over your publisher? Do they own all writes to the books forever? Can you pull your books from them and use a different publisher?

  45. Since I trust the Amazonians are paying attention to this thread: the last books I bought off of Amazon were two Scalzi titles (gifts, indeed, as Scalzi has already saturated *this* market).

    I’m generally a very very big fan of Amazon, but this does put a small chink in the armor of awesomeness.

  46. Part of the problem on pricing e-books is that ‘romance’ represents a very large chunk of all e-book sales, and ‘romance’ has traditionally been treated as cheap and disposable; whether or not a book sells it is yanked and replaced with something very similar within a couple of months.

    John might not enjoy writing ‘The Virgin Billionaire’s Brazilian Bride’ but the sort of people who enjoy reading ‘The Virgin Billionaire’s Brazilian Bride’ may not enjoy reading what John does write.

    This is fine, and everybody is happy, right up to the point where the ‘The Virgin Billionaire’s Brazilian Bride’ readers import their inbuilt-obsolescence expectations into the class of all books, as opposed to books created for people who like to read ‘The Virgin Billionaire’s Brazilian Bride’…

  47. I do sincerely hope this whole thing ends badly for Amazon. They have been exploiting their near-monopoly position in various ways and we really don’t need the return of the robber barons in the book business. If they continue to self-immolate then it can only make life better for other print and e-book retailers

  48. “Part of the problem on pricing e-books is that ‘romance’ represents a very large chunk of all e-book sales, and ‘romance’ has traditionally been treated as cheap and disposable”

    Yeah, it’s all romance’s fault. Them and their damn ‘inbuilt-obsolescence expectations’…

    Stevie, dude.

  49. This is funny, from my perspective Macmillan just hosed both authors and consumers, and got many of them to cheer about it. Well played, Macmillan, well played.

    Now, if in 6 months Macmillan is actually pricing things sanely once the editions hit paperback, and is actually doing a price curve over time, I’ll admit I’m wrong. But nothing in their history indicates they will – everything indicates the opposite.

    For me, my rules are pretty simple.

    I won’t pay more than $10, ever, for a non-physical edition. If it’s an author that I used to buy in hardback, I’ll probably buy the hardback instead assuming it’s a series that I started in hardback.

    I don’t mind waiting til the price drops, but once the price drops I won’t pay more for the ebook than the paperback. And you’ve got to somehow notify me when the price does drop.

    And the longer that takes, the more the odds are that something else will have taken that budget to go into my pile o books to read.

    So for me, for a handful of authors, it won’t change, I’ll still be buying all their stuff. For the midlist guys whose books fill in the gaps between the books from that handful? Well, if you’re on Macmillan, you probably just lost sales. So it won’t hurt Scalzi, but all the random folks that he features on the Big Ideas segments, yeah, those guys get hurt.

  50. Well, they did say that ultimately they figured they would have to give in, not that they’ve given in just yet.

  51. MikeB@63:

    it can only make life better for other [...] e-book retailers

    Yes. The ones who can pay for bandwidth, storage, infrastructure, IT, development, and profit out of 30% of what someone else dictates as the price. (Don’t forget that they’ll have to do their own hardware and support as well, unless — and I’ll take all this back if it happens, but I don’t think it will — the ebooks that are available are not locked to a specific hardware vendor’s.)

    Yip. There sure are a lot of entities that can do that. Boy, the choices that will abound in that world are ASTOUNDING.

    Next Macmillan need to force all booksellers to sell physical books at a specific price, and only take 30% of it. And use that 30% to pay for inventory, storage, infrastructure, employees, and profit.

    That’ll be GREAT for everyone!

  52. Plus it looks like 37 new editions of the book are available from 3rd party sellers so if someone bought those you and Macmillan would still get your cut.

  53. Interestingly enough, I first discovered this whole Amazon/Macmillan hoo-ha when on a whim I decided to “give that Scalzi guy a shot” and went on Amazon to buy Old Man’s War. It seemed bizarre that it wasn’t available.

    I promise I’ll still buy it, only this time in a store.

  54. Hey, has anyone else suggested a buy-cott? On Tuesday, everybody could go buy a Macmillan book from SOMEWHERE ELSE.

  55. Or a boycott where on Tuesday, everybody buys a non-Macmillian book from Amazon. To show support for a company that is trying to get lower prices for consumers.

  56. Nathalie @ 64

    Traditionally the word ‘part’ is not a synonym for the word ‘all’.

    Good luck with the book.

  57. First: My wish list on Amazon lists all Macmillian titles as “currently unavailable”.

    Second: I e-mailed them to complain and I’ll let you know what they say.

    Third: I don’t care which corporation is most evil–I just want my damn books with the free damn shipping. I don’t have an e-reader and I really don’t understand what the e-reader wars have to do with physical books.

    Fourth: If this keeps up for much longer, I’m ordering from from B&N from now on.

    Fifth: Fiction writers should be WRITING FICTION not blogging about damn Amazon and damn Macmillan. That is the really sad thing about this whole mess.

    Sixth: Now I’m late for work and it’s all Amazon’s fault…

  58. Does another online book seller have a search engine add-on that I can put into my Firefox search bar? I use Amazon by default, but if there’s another one out there, I’ll install it.

  59. Geez. The things I miss by staying off the interwebs for a few days.

    Tor CEO letter = Win

    Amazon Kindle Forum post = Epic Fail
    Plus it sounded like “We don’t like you guys anyway! We’re taking our website and going home!” *sticks out tongue*

  60. “Macmillan doesn’t intend to kill the kindle or ebooks. What they’re concerned with, as was the case in music album sales through itunes and other online distributors is pricing control.”

    Six of one half dozen of the other, if you will take a comment from one so unable to reason as I oh master of logic and discourse.

    Macmillan acts as if they are happier without ebooks, because ebooks create — reasonable or not — an expectation of lower prices for consumers. Macmillan’s price control is an attempt to destroy that expectation and without that advantage, ebooks suffer a serious blow. Either the reading experience is poorer than paperbooks or the cost of entry — a dedicated reader — no longer seems reasonable. Add in the secondary effects that I mentioned and you ignored and you have a very real blow to ebooks if this practice is forced on retailers by the other of the Big Six. (The fact that Macmillan hasn’t tried this with brick and mortar stores is also suggestive of a blow aimed directly at ebooks, but it might be that they just haven’t made that move yet.) Perhaps the simplest way to control prices is to prevent retail models and technological platforms that disrupt current prices to become legal and widely adopted. Macmillan’s actions appear very plainly designed to prevent widespread adoption of ebooks.

    As for pricing: go look at Fictionwise. B & N isn’t the same situation, because B & N was a direct competitor to the Kindle in a way Fictionwise wasn’t and, more to the point, has always as far as I can tell, charged what the publishers wanted. And books from Macmillan have had a history of staying inelastic in price on that site. Now that it has forced the same deal with Amazon, I don’t understand why I should expect that behavior to be different if the other Big Six join them. I will be happy to be proven wrong; I see no reason to expect that I will be.

    As for the demand argument: well, maybe. But there are a lot of ways in which the book market is far form a perfect, idealized market where supply and demand are related clearly and simply.

    As for John’s point: eh. I was responding to a point about the pricing of the books and what Macmillan had actually done with its demand. Amazon tried to play an extreme version of hardball and lost this round. It sucks for consumers, but then, so does what Macmillan wants to do. And, honestly, I am not sure that it is all that different from DirectTV taking Versus off the air over a price dispute, for example. Again, it sucks for the consumer — but these are corporations we are talking about. Most of what they do sucks for the consumer.

  61. @Mark S “To show support for a company that is trying to get lower prices for consumers.”

    Yes, they’re fighting this brave fight for you. You just keep believing that and everything will be fine.

  62. Yes, they’re fighting this brave fight for you. You just keep believing that and everything will be fine.

    I’m going from paying $9.99 per Kindle book to a higher price, how is that benefiting me? Amazon was paying the going rate for ebooks from Macmillian and selling them for less, effectively giving me money to buy an ebook. But Macmillian objected because they wanted me to pay a higher price.

    If I had to choose a side in this battle, I’m choosing the one that has me paying less money for the book.

  63. It’s really deceptive. For all intents and purposes, it “looks” like they’re playing fair and square, continuing to offer Macmillan books…..but they’re not…not at all.

  64. Mark S.

    Yes, Amazon had you paying a lower price for ebooks, and we’re all allowed to like that, but to think they’re fighting for $9.99 pricing because they are consumer advocates is naive. They want you to buy a Kindle and they’re willing to take a loss on ebooks to make that happen–for a while.

  65. kind of tangential: “dicks” has always struck me as such a MALE insult. I’m not very clear on exactly what level of misbehavior it takes to go from “jerk” to “dick”?

  66. Yes, Amazon had you paying a lower price for ebooks, and we’re all allowed to like that, but to think they’re fighting for $9.99 pricing because they are consumer advocates is naive. They want you to buy a Kindle and they’re willing to take a loss on ebooks to make that happen–for a while.

    I don’t assume Amazon is a consumer advocate. They are trying to make money off of me in a different manner. But Amazon’s way of making money will cost me less than Macmillan’s way of making money. And while Amazon might not be a consumer advocate, Macmillan is telling me that I need to pay more with no additional benefits. Like I said, if I have to choose a side, I’m choosing the one that costs me less money.

  67. Mark@79: The problem with Amazon subsidizing your ebook purchases is that at some point the subsidies stop. Then what happens? It’s not like they’re doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re doing this to establish the Kindle as the dominant ereader. What happens once they’ve done that?

    Also, by coincidence, I read a story about deflation in Japan as expressed as a price war at competing beef bowl stores. On one hand, it’s forcing prices at beef bowl stores down which is good for consumers. On the other hand, it’s forcing prices down below the cost of production and lowering food standards. i.e., yes, the food is cheaper, but it’s also become stuff you may not. That’s reducing choice in the marketplace and bad for consumers.

    I’ve seen too many other people get the economics of book publishing wrong to even think about writing about it any more. However, I do want to point out that a cheaper price isn’t always a good thing. It can be, of course. To do pick a side based only on which side offers you the lowest price though is to decide without using all the facts at your disposal.

  68. Observation… isn’t it odd that all this has come about just at the moment that Apple is releasing it’s iPAD? Makes one wonder… could all this possibly be a convenient smoke screen, allowing a window of opportunity for Steve Jobs to absolutely dominate the ebook industry exactly the way iTunes has dominated the music industry? We live in an era where giant corporations seem to be dictating policy by overwhelming or undercutting their competitors. Yes, Amazon is a giant, yes, MacMillan is as well. I just think Job’s created this entire mess to take advantage of both parties… just my observation.

  69. Maybe I’ll just stick with this plan:

    a) get Scalzi’s books from the library for free
    b) send Scalzi a $20 every now and again so he can keep writing and skip Amazon and Macmillan altogether….

  70. Mark S.

    Your initial comment (Or a boycott where on Tuesday, everybody buys a non-Macmillian book from Amazon. To show support for a company that is trying to get lower prices for consumers) is what led me to believe you believe Amazon is doing this for the consumers.

    Hey, I shop at Walmart sometimes too, but I don’t threaten reverse boycotts to “show support for a company that is trying to get lower prices for consumers.”

  71. The point which seems to be getting a bit lost here is not whether Amazon or Macmillan are “good” guys; both are huge corporations only interested in turning a profit. Hard-line negotiations are a part of business. The issue is that Amazon’s public relations department either (a) doesn’t exist, (b) is completely ignored by the powers that be in favor of hissy fits, or (c) is staffed by barely-trained chimpanzees. As The Proprietor of this here webpage pointed out in a previous post, Amazon could have used public perception to its advantage; as with any corporate negotiation, you can spin either side to be sympathetic (as some folks have done in this very thread). Instead, however, they have done something intentionally antagonistic to both authors and their customers. A moment’s reflection would have shown this predictable result, but no such thing was in the offing. Personally, I could care less about the details of the latest contract between amazon and any publisher, as long as I can buy the books that I want. Most people feel this way, which Amazon stupidly forgot. If reports are true about their capitulation, they forgot it at their peril.

  72. Dave@86 b) send Scalzi a $20 every now and again so he can keep writing and skip Amazon and Macmillan altogether….

    Are you working on the assumption that writers hate having publishers and would much prefer that all the editors and designers and so on got nothing? I’m not sure that’s true of Scalzi, or of most authors (which doesn’t stop them complaining, of course, but complaining and hating aren’t the same thing). You might also want to read Charles Stross explaining that he doesn’t have a tip jar precisely because then the money would only go to himself and none to the publisher – http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2009/03/reminder-why-theres-no-tipjar.html – and consider his suggestions as to how to support.

  73. Mark S. nailed it. I don’t give a fuck wether Amazon was thinking about consumers or not, and I do agree yanking the books was a jerk move, but at the end of the day I’ll get to pay more for ebooks, and given Macmillan’s poor track record on dynamic pricing (http://www.teleread.org/2010/01/30/macmillan-ceo-tells-his-side-of-amazon-spat/#comment-1154950), waiting a year or more won’t make much of a difference.

    Jim Henley over at Unqualified Offerings did a great job of reporting the whole mess from the reader’s side here http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2010/01/31/10645
    and here
    http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2010/01/31/10658

  74. For the ‘Macmillan is going to charge whatever they want’ rant, don’t worry about it. it’s still a fairly new marketplace, and needs to find it’s own balance. If Macmillan wants to see if ebooks will sell for $15, that’s fine. I promise you, they’ll keep lowering the price until they figger out what they WILL sell for.

    The ‘lower-price-over-time’ plan works for me too, as there lots LOTS (i hope) of people that will pay a premium to have it NOW, just as there are people who will pay $250 for a Lettered edition of “Your Hate Mail…”. I’m cheap so I just bought the $35 Limited edition.

    I liked Joe Konrath’s article on ebook pricing levels concerning his own books:
    Jhttp://bit.ly/clYdSY

    for him:
    Ebooks at $8 sell an average of 342/year.
    Ebooks at $4 sell an average of 1100/year.
    Ebooks at $2 sell an average of 4900/year.

  75. John, I think Amazon may have done something stupid to their own database. I doubt that they have light switches built in that allow them to just turn off whole publishing conglomerates. I think they had someone search and delete the books from the system without thinking about how they were going to get things back the way they were.

    What I was just explaining to my husband is that he should compile a list of his authors books formerly on the site and when things start reappearing, check what’s back and what isn’t. Because I don’t think its coming back all at once.

    It is much harder to build than to destroy, and I don’t think they planned an exit strategy for this tantrum.

  76. John,

    You should be thrilled that somebody had one of your used books in “Fullfillment by Amazon”, that’s better than being in the store. How so? Well, Amazon’s MarketPlace sellers basically make all the profit for Amazon, you know, the dollars that let them subsidize the $9.99 Kindle prices:-)

    http://www.fonerbooks.com/2010/02/amazon-profit-driven-by-marketplace.html

    Without MarketPlace, it’s hard to see how Amazon could keep the lights on while fighting with Macmillan et al. Feel better?

    Morris

  77. The problem with Amazon subsidizing your ebook purchases is that at some point the subsidies stop. Then what happens? It’s not like they’re doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re doing this to establish the Kindle as the dominant ereader. What happens once they’ve done that?

    What a strange argument. Are you truly suggesting that it’s better for me to pay $15 now and $15 later for ebooks vs $9.99 now and $15 later for ebooks?

  78. @rochrist

    Well, because it’s MacMillan that decided to increase its prices on the Kindle… they were the ones who put Amazon in front of the difficult choice : raise the price, or delete the books.

  79. @CS Clark Normally, I’d be happy to let the publisher and retailer in on the bonanza. But if their pissing match is going to make it difficult for me to purchase books, I have other methods of obtaining them. Wil Wheaton went the self-publishing route for a reason….

  80. Ebooks at $8 sell an average of 342/year.
    Ebooks at $4 sell an average of 1100/year.
    Ebooks at $2 sell an average of 4900/year.

    So he found that if he sold the books at a lower price point, then he made significantly more revenue.

  81. @soufran

    The dispute was over eBook pricing. Amazon deleted print books in retaliation, not because MacMillan forced them to.

  82. @soufron (98)

    they were the ones who put Amazon in front of the difficult choice : raise the price, or delete the books

    So Amazon could not find any other alternative than to delete all of Macmillan’s print and digital books, even though there was no dispute whatsoever about pricing of print books?

  83. @kejia

    Did they also delete print books? I understood that it was still possible to buy them.

    @rochrist

    If the publisher insists on a given price, you have no choice but acquiescing, or deleting the books.

  84. @soufron
    You could still purchase used copies of Macmillan’s print books from Amazon marketplace, but you could not order new books directly from Amazon.

    I should say that people who had copies of Scalzi’s books on their kindles reported that the books were still there. And no one came to my house to take away my well-worn copies of OMW, GB, LC or ZT.

    But surely print books were innocent bystanders in this debate.

  85. @Kathryn
    Here’s an Orson Scott Card book that’s back up:

    The bargain books kept their buy buttons. Scott Westerfeld had two bargains that were available throughout the weekend.

  86. At the end of the day, I’ve never bought an e-book and have absolutely no intention of doing so, pretty much ever.

    This kerfluffle has nothing whatsoever to do with e-books. It has to do with Amazon delisting 1/6th of their inventory of paper, phisical, dead tree books as part of a heavyhanded negotaiting strategy with a publisher over a completley different product.

    Major Fucking FAIL.

    All I want from Amazon is real books with free shipping. Not music, not power tools, not electronic copies of 1984 that dissapear on their own, and certainly not every single bloody widget on the planet sold by one of your stupid “partners” with added on shipping.

    I want BOOKS.

    I have a couple of Scalzi’s books and one of S.M. Stirlings I need to order. Who else has free shipping?

  87. Mark S. @ 100: Actually, those numbers indicate more than just “lower price point = higher revenue.”

    Consider what would happen if Mr. Konrath offered ebooks at a $2 starting price point. At best, everyone who would buy an ebook at $8 or $4 would also buy it at $2 (this is not necessarily the case, due to the psychological effects of pricing, but let’s keep it simple for now). That means that of those 4900 $2 sales, 1100 would have paid $4, and of those 342 would have paid $8. So Konrath would have earned $9800 for those 4900 sales, he could have earned as much as $2736 (for the initial 342 sales at $8) plus $3032 (for the next 758 sales at $4) plus $7600 (for the remaining 3800 sales at $2) for a total of $13,368. Of course, the actual numerical breakdown would be influenced by other factors: knowing that a discount was coming might cause some people who otherwise would have bought at $8 to wait until the $4 price drop, but conversely the excitement generated by a 50% price drop might have induced some people to buy at $4 when they would otherwise have waited until it was offered at $2.

    TL;DR: Pricing is complicated.

  88. Sorry about the Amazon troubles. I have not yet read one of your novels, but I just ordered a copy of Old Man’s War from bn.com to help ease the pain.

    I have my own bone to pick with Goliath after one of their business decisions put a company I owned out of business. Guess what I’m trying to say is “Give ‘em Hell.”

    db

  89. @Dan B
    I have not yet read one of your novels,

    I envy you. You are in for some very enjoyable reading.

    Granted, I also enjoy re-reading Scalzi’s books but doesn’t anyone else sometimes wish for temporary amnesia so they can read a favorite book again for the first time?

  90. This is not about e-books.

    This is Monday, February 01, 2010, after noon, and the paper books I want to buy are still delisted.

    Do something real simple, go to Amazon, Books, click on “advanced search”, enter a publishers name from the list of Macmillan companies that I listed below.

    You will find no active entires to buy.

    Now enter “Random House” in the advanced search. Tons of hot links.

    The war is supposed to be over. Amazon blinked. So where are the paper books.

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    FSG Hardcovers
    FSG Paperbacks
    Hill & Wang
    Faber & Faber
    First Second
    Henry Holt & Co.
    Henry Holt Hardcovers
    Henry Holt Paperbacks
    Metropolitan Books
    Times Books
    Macmillan Audio
    Behind the Wheel
    Nature Publishing Group
    Palgrave Macmillan
    Picador
    Quick and Dirty Tips
    Scientific American
    St. Martin’s Press
    Minotaur Books
    Thomas Dunne Books
    Tor/Forge
    Tor Books
    Forge Books
    Orb Books
    Tor/Seven Seas

    Bedford, Freeman and Worth
    Bedford/St. Martin’s
    W.H. Freeman
    Worth Publishers
    BFW High School
    i>clicker
    Hayden-McNeil
    Palgrave Macmillan
    Trade Books For Courses

    FSG Books for Young Readers
    Feiwel & Friends
    Holt Books for Young Readers
    Kingfisher
    Roaring Brook
    Priddy Books
    Starscape/Tor Teen
    Square Fish
    Young Listeners
    Macmillan Kids

  91. I have a Nook (thanks to DH for a great birthday present) and all of my hard copy book purchases online are through a local indie bookstore.

    Amazon has lost my business forever.

  92. Mark Horning @ 109:

    Who else has free shipping?

    Powell’s, but the catch is that it’s for orders over $50.

  93. I’m tired of “Disruptive.”
    I don’t know. I used to think I did. I don’t think anyone knows, anymore. I believe Amazon has a business plan, but I also believe it’s as much wishful-thinking as anything else. Same for Macmillan. Same for that guy hollering “I was promised a free ePony!” on Teh Internets. I’m rapidly moving from “I don’t know” to “I don’t care.” (not, I hope, in a bad way.)

    This whole discussion of what ebooks should cost, and whether it’s Amazon, Macmillan, or Apple, who’re really screwing us, reminds me of a Dilbert, where a bunch of Engineers spent hours determining a waitress’s tip to 4 significant figures. Just give 15% (or 20%, if you can afford it) and be done with it. $15 books are less than $25. Be happy. Sure, maybe Bezos & Sargent are belligerent, testosterone-poisoned dicks, stabbing each other like pheromone-crazed bed-bugs. But remember, most of Amazon and Macmillan is people just trying to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Market-efficiency’s coming for them, too. Be nice.

  94. So, when does the Bez-anator start cold calling Macmillan authors for a lightning round of Yo Mamma? If you’re going to be infantile, you might as well display some commitment.

  95. Sure, maybe Bezos & Sargent are belligerent, testosterone-poisoned dicks, stabbing each other like pheromone-crazed bed-bugs. But remember, most of Amazon and Macmillan is people just trying to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.

    So are our gracious host, and his fellow Macmillan authors. I’m pretty sure they’d rather not end up as collateral damage in a corporate dick-waving contest.

  96. $15 books are less than $25. Be happy.

    If I look up hardcover new releases for fiction on Amazon, the prices range from $13.77 to $17.79. If the e-book is $15, then I pretty much paying the same price for an e-book and a physical book.

    With a physical book, I can sell it at a used book store after reading it for a couple bucks ($1-$5 depending on the book and the store), so my costs end up much lower.

    So, I have no reason to buy an e-book unless it is priced low enough to make it worth my while.

  97. Am I the only one who thinks this whole thing is crap? Two corporate behemoths beat each other up, crushing readers and writers in their struggle. MacMillan is silly in thinking that many people will buy their ebooks at $14.99. But, if they want to try it, who the hell is Amazon to tell them they can’t?

    I hate to see good writers like Jay Lake and Tobias Buckell withdrawing from Amazon. They’re certainly not hurting Amazon but, they are probably hurting themselves.

    “It’s the principle of the thing!” What principle? The principle that MacMillan can’t sell its books for whatever price it wants? Or, that Amazon cannot do the same?

    The basic laws of economics will apply here: MacMillan won’t sell many books and, between this and George Orwell, Amazon is starting to lose its cool.

  98. #115 – Bookdepository.com ships free worldwide, no price limit. If you live in Australia, this rocks. If you live in the US and want a book that has been released only in the UK it rocks.

    Quite a few indies will also ship free if you don’t mind waiting for media mail. The Mystery Company in Carmel, IN does this. Unfortunately, they’re in the process of closing. Good people laid off. They knew their books. Thanks a bunch, Amazon.

  99. MacMillan is silly in thinking that many people will buy their ebooks at $14.99. But, if they want to try it, who the hell is Amazon to tell them they can’t?

    And if Amazon wants to take a loss to sell e-books for $9.99 who the hell is Macmillan to tell them they can’t?

  100. Mark S. @ 123:

    Macmillan wasn’t so much telling them they can’t as saying, “if you’re going to sell at paperback prices, you’ll get the product at a paperback time”; which Macmillan, as the holder of the rights, has a perfect right to say.

    C.E. Petit has also noted that in the current state of the law Macmillan can, in fact, require minimum price levels (in the U.S. that is).

  101. Well crap, this is just ridiculous. I guess I need to buy my books elsewhere now. This will be a pain in the ass for e-books, but oh well. I’m also boycotting Apple for some douche-baggery a few years back with not supporting one of their own devices that was 18 months old. It is a pain in the ass having principles. I am now seriously regretting all the DRMed items I own. Well, sort of own.

  102. Macmillan wasn’t so much telling them they can’t as saying, “if you’re going to sell at paperback prices, you’ll get the product at a paperback time” which Macmillan, as the holder of the rights, has a perfect right to say.

    C.E. Petit has also noted that in the current state of the law Macmillan can, in fact, require minimum price levels (in the U.S. that is).

    So Macmillan wants to force Amazon to raise prices on e-books and I’m supposed to be mad at Amazon? I don’t understand the Amazon hatred. They are the ones who are trying to make the product I buy less expensive for me.

  103. Mark S.:

    Since people are determined to have the same discussion in several separate threads, I’ll briefly note here what I’ve noted elsewhere: Amazon isn’t interested in lower prices, it’s interested in a specific price point which it feels is optimized to move Kindles. If publishers lose the ability to set prices above $10, it’s not unreasonable that they will migrate the ebooks currently costing less to that price point as well, in order to recoup losses. So the argument that this will save you money is really rather debatable.

  104. Mark S@126:The Amazon hatred comes from how they reacted to Macmillan’s proposal. Removing all of Macmillan’s digital and print books doesn’t do a thing to buttress their position, but it does get people who wanted to buy those books annoyed.

    In any case, Macmillan wasn’t saying that Amazon couldn’t sell them for $9.99. What Macmillan said was if Amazon kept doing so, they would delay releasing the ebook until some time after the hardcover release.

    Under the new plan, the Digital List Price will actually drop. However, since that becomes the price people will pay, in some cases, people will pay more. Remember that Macmillan already prices some ebooks below $9.99. I imagine those prices will stay as they are.

    As for what might be wrong with Amazon selling ebooks at a loss in order to establish a price point, I refer you back to @84 and the NY Times article about beef bowl wars in Japan. Also, would you be just as happy with Amazon if, after they’d establish Kindle’s dominance, they stopped the subsidy and ebook prices suddenly jumped up to $25? It seems pretty unlikely that the Digital List Price will magically drop by itself to $10 any time soon. (OTOH, we’re down to $15, definitely closer to $10 than $25.)

  105. I’m also a published writer, but it is not writers I feel bad for. It’s readers, of which I am also one. And not just because they were confused and unable to buy books for a few days at Amazon.

    Instead, I felt like this little row between Amazon and Macmillan illustrated with unexpected clarity just how vulnerable we are. Cory Doctorow put it best:

    It’s a “case of two corporate giants illustrating neatly exactly why market concentration is bad for the arts…”

    This is not the last time this will happen. And if you think Apple pressuring publishers to sell at their prices will be any better, I think you’re deluding yourself.

  106. I think people are conflating two issues here.

    One is that Amazon just plain fucked up their entire handling of the issue. Worse than the whole Orwell ‘recall’ bit. They were stupid to stop selling books while still in negotiation with Macmillan, and stupid in how they went about it. They’re getting deservedly bitch-slapped over how they’ve gone about it, and literally with every minute that goes by, they look stupider. Morons.

    But that said…

    Who’s right and wrong in how Amazon has acted with respect to this ‘boycott’ of Macmillan has little or nothing to do with who’s right or wrong about the issue of book pricing.

    Macmillan wants to have the prices of ebooks be higher, Amazon doesn’t. Why? I see mostly conjecture and bullshit on the topic, coming from folks on all sides. Maybe Macmillan thinks Amazon is cannibalizing their margins on new hardbacks. Maybe Amazon is trying to push Kindles by manipulating ebook prices. Maybe both simultaneously. Ultimately, it just doesn’t matter. It’s a relatively standard wholesaler/retailer type dispute, not unlike the kind of crap that goes on with Walmart and it’s suppliers. Walmart has tried to cease carrying music from companies that won’t bend over. Sometimes Walmart has won and the music company has cut its price. Sometimes the music companies have won, and Walmart sells the music anyway. Sometimes neither side gives way, and you can’t find that artist/publisher at Walmart.

    Neither Amazon nor Macmillan is acting like a saint in their dealings. Neither Amazon nor Macmillan is acting like a devil. They’re gonna negotiate, they’re going to come out on the other end of this issue somehow. Either way, both the authors and the readers are strictly at the mercy of what the publishers and vendor(s) will do. As long as we have oligopolies in those markets, that’s how the world is.

  107. Oh, and on ‘value pricing’ and hardback vs. paperbacks:

    One of the factors in my buying decision used to be the actual quality of the physical item. That factor is now much smaller than it used to be. These days what passes for a hardback book differs from paperback in print size and not much else. Shelf life is about the same, quality of paper is about the same. They’re both about equally likely to come apart over time. Paperbacks covers actually resist water better than hardbacks, because they’re glossy.

    So these days, my decision on whether to buy in hardback is mostly “how bad do I want this book?” Following that is “how bad to I want to make sure the author keeps getting published?” Not the quality of the physical item.

    So yeah, I absolutely understand value pricing based on time-to-availability. If I could get device-independent DRM-free ebooks, I’d gladly pay more on day 1 to get it now. Sign me up, boys.

  108. I mentioned earlier that all of the Macmillan titles on my wish list at Amazon are showing “currently unavailable.”

    I did complain directly to Amazon and here is the response:

    “I’m sorry for the trouble you had when you are trying to placing orders for many items from your wish list.

    We have recently completed some upgrades on our web site, and it is possible that the problems you encountered are linked with those changes. Once we’ve been alerted to such problems, of course we take steps to correct them as soon as possible.

    I’ve reported this to our technical team, and they’re working on taking care of it.

    Please try again over the next few days. Errors like this are usually corrected shortly after they’re reported.

    If you still face the same problem, I request you to call our Customer Service department so that one of our representatives can then help you to place an order.”

    Someone else wanted to know where you can get free shipping. Powell’s if you order over $50 and Barnes & Noble if you order over $25. If you want to hoof it on over to your local bookseller you can avoid shipping altogether–but you have to pay local sales tax.

  109. The Amazon hatred comes from how they reacted to Macmillan’s proposal. Removing all of Macmillan’s digital and print books doesn’t do a thing to buttress their position, but it does get people who wanted to buy those books annoyed.

    Amazon not only overreacted, but they screwed up their response (their PR team should be fired). But that doesn’t change the point that in the pissing match between Macmillan and Amazon, I side with Amazon. They are the ones who are trying to sell me something I want to buy for a lower price.

    Yes with the vagaries of pricing, they might make it up on other products. But I’m likely to buy a $9.99 e-book and not likely at all to buy a $15 e-book.

  110. Hey John, they’re doing it to me too. Books I KNOW are available, in print, new, are either still not up or the only “Buy it now” is used. So much for saying that they were going to play nice.

  111. I’m never going to buy a Kindle anyway regardless of ebook pricing because of the DRM issues. I’m angry at Amazon interfering with my ability to buy dead-tree books because of a dispute that doesn’t have anything to do with those books.

    I’ve been doing all my web buying via Amazon for convenience, but will now invest some time in looking at other sites such as Waterstones which in some cases offer better deals.

  112. Mark S@135: You wanted to know where the Amazon hatred came from. I told you. The way they behaved doesn’t affect how you feel about them, but it certainly affects how others feel about them. And that’s fine. No one gets to dictate how you should feel about anything.

    I do think by focusing on $15 and not the entire range of prices, $6-$15, you’re not seeing the issue completely. (Well, unless you’re saying that you’d be ok with buying a book for $10 under the Amazon plan that you could have gotten for $6 under the Macmillan plan. That’s essentially John Scalzi’s argument @127.)

    Perhaps Jay Lake puts it the best in his open letter to Kindle enthusiasts and ebook activists.

  113. While I agree that Amazon did not handle the publicity very well, exactly what were they supposed to do? They have exactly 1 weapon against their suppliers and they used it.

  114. I’m really disappointed in you, John. Name-calling is the last resort of people who cannot engage in logical arguments. Have you considered that wholesale repricing of books and major shifts in accounting arrangements might take a bit of time given the complexity of the computer systems?

    I’ve enjoyed your books in the past and I fully sympathize with your desire for personal financial health. Had you considered that perhaps Amazon had also been interested in maximizing your sales (and their own)? I’m sure they were in a far better position to estimate the price elasticity of demand for eBooks than Macmillan management.

    Well, they lost along with Kindle eBook buyers and I’m sure that they’re working to restore all your books as well as tens of thousands of others for sale on Macmillan’s terms.

  115. GJN:

    “I’m really disappointed in you, John.”

    And? I’m not here to make you happy, GJN.

    “Name-calling is the last resort of people who cannot engage in logical arguments.”

    Actually, name calling is very useful when, say, people are being dicks. As for the rest of your comment, you can be assured that the full shelf of knowledge I’ve gained in two decades of working in all aspects of the publishing industry allows me to say in a cogent and fully-informed way that, yes, in fact, Amazon are currenly being dicks.

    Thanks.

  116. John:
    “I’m not here to make you happy, GJN.”
    Sorry, John. You’ve made me quite happy in the past with several of your books, so I just naturally assumed….

  117. I like dicks. However, I must say that Amazon’s current resemblance to them is not helping Amazon’s case any.

    Dicks are nice, but they make lousy booksellers, just as they make lousy brains (as every man eventually learns…or fails to learn, to his cost).

  118. Hey, GJN, not saying what John meant by that, but “here” is on the blog…he COULD be between the covers of his many books to make you happy without being HERE for that purpose.

    Just sayin’.

  119. Kindle owners unhappy with Amazon should take this opportunity to download every free Kindle book they might ever conceivably want to read. Amazon gets nothing, but pays a small amount to deliver each book.

  120. Did publishers tell big boxers like Costco and Target that if they were going to deep-discount new hardbacks that they wouldn’t be able to sell them until the paperbacks were released? That seems to be what McMillan told Amazon. What percentage of a typical author’s books are sold via Amazon now? If it’s 20% today, chances are it’s gong to be 30%, then 40%… Boarders is about to default on their loan, which does not bode well for brick and mortars. I think authors might want to stroke their Amazonian Overlord, a little. They could disappear you out of sight, off the site, out of spite.

  121. There’s a spin here that people don’t seem to be contemplating. This fight was started by Apple, who, in the long run wants to sell their iPad. While I can understand authors excitement that ebook prices go up, they assume this development means more money in their pockets. But, I’m not so sure this is the case. The iPad will be hacked, just as the iPhone and iPod Touch releases have all been hacked. And what that means is that people can share free (aka, stolen) content, which means people read their books without paying one red cent. Apple doesn’t mind so much, it means that people will choose the iPad, (hack it and read free books) over the Kindle / Sony / Nook.

    So, while I agree that Amazon has acted poorly, it seems like there’s a lot more at stake here than what first meets the eye.

  122. As a kindle owner, there are several disappointments: this McM fracas, 1984, DRM, and cooler devices like ipad. My gut reaction is to be defensive and want kindles to gain popularity, but you’ve made several sensible scores against amazon’s darling.

    I have zero publishing knowledge or price point experience, but I’ll probably react by buying less recently released ebooks. There will be those that $14.99 is no different than $9.99, but I’d guess that ebooks simply won’t get popular right now at that price. And that’s that. Life will go on, and people will still figure how to make money. I don’t mean to sound so nonchalant–I did read your support for fellow affected authors.

  123. JimF@139

    Delisting all Macmillan products was not Amazon’s only weapon. They could have simply refused to sell the Kindle editions at the proposed terms.

    Instead they went nuclear.

  124. Will @152

    eBooks are such a small part of Macmillan’s profits that any threat against them is meaningless.

  125. JimF@153

    That doesn’t make sense. If ebooks profits for Macmillan are insignificant under the pricing model Amazon went nuclear to preserve, what value does that model have for Macmillan?

  126. I really find it interesting how sharply the discourse on this subject changes depending on where you look.

    Please like here, or Making Light, or Charlie Stross’s blog, there tend to be a lot more people sympathetic to Macmillan’s side of things. Perhaps because a lot more authors, and people who are devoted fans of those authors, tend to post here.

    On the other hand, if you go somewhere there are more average consumers and e-book buyers, such as the News & Commentary forum at MobileRead, people are a lot more anti-Macmillan. Even those who recognize Amazon is just trying to corner the market, which may not be good for the future of the e-book industry, don’t have a lot of kind things to say about Macmillan either, and there is a lot of talk of boycott.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to disregard the way public opinion among consumers is turning. Consumers are the ones who actually buy the books in the end, after all.

  127. Will @154

    Amazon does not want to be forced into the agency pricing model. I really don’t blame them; if I was was running a store I’d want to be able to set the price at which I sell goods at my discretion.

  128. @Jim F #156
    if I was was running a store I’d want to be able to set the price at which I sell goods at my discretion.

    If I were running a store, I’d want to be a monopolist. To achieve that end, I might try setting a price so low that all my competitors were forced out of the business. Then I could set any price I liked.

  129. And then after you set any price you liked, someone else could come back into the market and undercut you. It’s crazy, this whole “being able to start a business at any time” thing.

  130. Kejia, of course. Anyone in business wants that kind of power. I bought Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall online for $13.00. At the book store it cost in the 30s. So I go shop online and see another book I like (a British release, not going to be in the American book store for another year), and buy it. Seriously, I’m not sure any more, but I would think that the last “person” you would trust is a publisher (as an author). Trust your agent to work out a deal to get the publisher to pay you as much as you can get.

  131. @The Gray Area #159

    Kejia, of course. Anyone in business wants that kind of power.

    Aside from the ethical concerns of individual employees (from the CEO down), it’s important for a corporation to realize the consequences over time of any underhanded (if not strictly illegal) tricks.

    The old adage about show business still applies: Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on the way down. Remember when IBM was the behemoth and an apple was just something you bobbed for on Halloween or put in a pie?

  132. Chris Meadows@155:

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to disregard the way public opinion among consumers is turning. Consumers are the ones who actually buy the books in the end, after all.

    I’ve got to smile at the notion that our host, Charlie Stross or Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden are prone to knee-jerk support of the commercial self-interest of publishers over those of “consumers”. I won’t presume to speak for them, but I rather doubt they consider publishing a zero-sum game where someone has to get screwed.

  133. @161 no, but they love their industry and their profession and are very uncomfortable with the fact that it is changing very quickly in ways that might destroy it, and in ways they cannot foresee.

    This of course, does not change the fact that this is happening and probably cannot be prevented

  134. Also, holy heck, Mercedes Lackey dropped by. Dang! Greetings from a long time fan. I’m hearing rumors there’s going to be a new Bedlams’ Bard book soon. I look forward to it.

  135. This is one of many reasons I won’t buy from Amazon. I’m sure someone above already said that. Now I have too.

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