Dear Amazon:

Now that you’ve admitted that you’re going to accept Macmillan’s pricing proposal on ebooks, would you mind turning the “Buy Now” button back on for all my Tor books? Pretty please? The longer you wait, the more I’ll have to think you’re just being petulant and foot-stompy about it.



P.S.: Come here, have a hug. Let’s never fight again, okay?

No, seriously. Let’s never fight again.


86 Comments on “Dear Amazon:”

  1. Seconded.

    Amazon Kindle Team: “Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book.”

    I find that proposal acceptible.

  2. Sorry John. I’m done with Amazon. Not buying from them again. This won’t hurt you, though, since there are other, better places to buy your books.

  3. Oh, they’ll turn it back on when your greedy corporate overlords have suffered enough for having the temerity to disagree with The Gods Themselves (muahahaha).

    Again, this is mostly a show of punishment for anyone who disagrees with Amazon. Once the punishment was done, they were always going to turn the books back on. As Nick Mamatas rightly pointed out, Amazon has millions of dollars of inventory from Macmillan. What else can they do with it? They’re already loosing sales here. If they pulp all the books they bought, they take a huge hit. Not to mention loosing about a sixth of the market.

    This wasn’t a “make Macmillan blink first” move. It’s a punitive move designed to be an example of what happens if you dissagree with Amazon’s policy.

  4. I’m not sure who’s side I’m on (amazon/MM) but I know I’ll be glad when they turn the links back on. I’ll still be buying from Amazon, though I doubt I will be paying fifteen dollars for a download. With so much to read I will just wait until the price goes down.

  5. You bastard, using your evil monopoly power over your own books to force the poor little bookseller to do your bidding.

  6. I suppose I deserve having my ebooks locked into the Kindle. Honestly, I don’t think the iPad will be any better, can you move books other than those from the iBook store onto the device?

    I don’t know all the costs associated with publishing but since an ebook involves no physical transport and no limitations based on number of books printed then it seems that it should cost less for an ebook. From what I’ve seen Amazon will have us paying the hardcover price even after the book has gone to paperback.

    I believe in paying for what I get but I also don’t want to be screwed over in the process. Without a valid DRM free format, I’m not sure where I am going to go.

  7. I do hope that this works out in the long run for the authors, but I’m not sure that it’s going to. It’s definitely going to cut into sales, probably revenues as well.

  8. I was already on the fence about paying $7-8 for an eBook (especially when the eBook was priced higher than even the paperback). I certainly won’t be paying more than $10 for one. I’m all for letting consumers decide for themselves; that’s what I’ll be doing.

  9. Did anyone else laugh at Amazon’s statement that Macmillan has a monopoly on its products? That’s kind of like saying Budweiser has a monopoly on Bud and Bud Light. Well, yeah, because they MAKE it. Snort. Well, Steve @#7, I guess you did!

  10. It looks like the folks at Kindle are holding up the white flag, while the print guys are still sulking.

  11. As I type this, print and kindle are still down for OMW. Starting stopwatch: *MARK* 16:05 PDT.

  12. Oh, I’m still on Amazon (and my own) side. I will be voting with my purse and if Macmillan maintains its past efforts to keep e-book prices above available PBs, I won’t buy their e-books. Which means, if it’s a favorite author, I would buy in real, as opposed to virtual, book. But since I don’t want to buy physical books, it would mean that I would be pruning my reading list. Which is fine: my TBR pile is 150 books and I have been forcing myself to read at least 1 physical book for every e-book in the three months since I got a Kindle.

  13. $14.99 for an e-book!! Are they nuts!! JS, set up your own server with Paypal! Design an app for Iphones to download your books at a fair value.

  14. @Nadja – both the husband and I were jaw-droppingly amazed at Amazon’s statement on the Macmillan monopoly.

    Guess buyers will vote with their pursestrings. There are very few books/authors I’m willing to pay $14.99 for a DRM’d digital copy. Not sure which of those handful of authors are published by Macmillan, other than Scalzi, of course.

    Glad I have a Sony Reader and not a Kindle!

  15. FWIW, turning something like this back on (or off for that matter) isn’t likely to be instantaneous. Amazon likely has hundreds of database servers, a change like this would need to replicate to all of them and could honestly take awhile, especially considering it’s tens of thousands of books.

    I would expect things back up sometime tonight, though, assuming they’ve had someone do the work.

  16. Rachel@8: A little googling will turn up ways of removing the DRM from your Kindle ebooks if you’re so inclined. (Keep in mind you’d be executing scripts you got off the internet. YMMV and be careful.)

    iPad can run iPhone apps. Existing iPhone ebook reader apps should be able to move your ebooks onto an iPad. (e.g., Stanza)

    My questions about the iBook store are whether we will be able to get the books we buy there off the iPad in a usable form and whether they will have DRM. I hope the answers are yes and no respectively, but I’m only cautiously hopeful. Apple has developed a nicely anti-DRM attitude about music but they still have DRM on everything else.

  17. Amazon has not capitulated yet.

    They have, however, shown weakness by saying that they will have to. This makes sense: they are predominantly a bookstore, and they will need to sell books.

    However, the statement in the Kindle forum does not mean that Amazon have given up yet.

    I suspect it won’t matter, in the long run, because I suspect that Apple have a clause requiring at-least-as-good terms as with anyone else.

    So as you sit there cheering the death of the retailer, remember this moment when you see the price for an book you want that you think is too high, and are unable to find it cheaper elsewhere because the publisher is now in complete control of retail prices. (And with ebooks, there will be no used copies.)

  18. At the end of this, I’m pretty soured on the Kindle. I enjoyed that Amazon’s slash and burn tactic didn’t actually work. Personally, I’m for aggressive windowing, it’s worked to keep the parallel worlds of hardback and paperback alive and each have their benefits and devotees.

    It seems pretty clear that people think ebooks are less valuable and don’t want to pay full price – they can wait a few months for the price to come down. There’s plenty of other stuff around to read in the meantime.

  19. Here’s an interesting blog article from a mid-range author and his profits from Amazon. Seems like this is a way for some authors to make a greater profit with their intellectual property.

    C.J. Cherryh also seems to be going the self-publishing route on out of print books she has regained her digital rights on.

    Maybe if you have the fan base already set then you don’t need the publisher any longer for some of your own sales.

  20. @Nadya – I suppose Amazon were technically correct, since copyright is a monopoly, and one which usually works out pretty well for them. But the way they used it as part of a clumsy attempt to paint Macmillan as a pantomime villain is what dropped my jaw. Although, of course, that’s not to say it won’t have worked on many people.

  21. The thing that bothers me about this whole mess is that book publishers want to control the sales price to the end customer. How about you determine wholesale prices and letting the reseller decide how much they want to profit by determining their mark up? Hearing a book publisher say that the deal is “better for Amazon” because Amazon can make more money illustrates the level of greed involved.

  22. @G I’m with you on this. I’ve already boycotted MacMillan ebooks. They can try to sell $14.99 ebooks alongside $6.99 paperbacks if they want. I’m not buying.

  23. Eh… if corporations like Amazon stopped publishing, writers wouldn’t stop writing and readers wouldn’t stop reading. We’d just find alternate methods of distribution and payment.

  24. Kyle@26: The $6.99 paperback is not the proper comparison. The $14.99 eBooks come out at the same time as the hardback, which is significantly more than $14.99. If you wait for that same book to be available as a $6.99 paperback, by that time it will also be available as a much-cheaper-than-$14.99 eBook — hopefully cheaper than the paperback.

  25. I’m glad to see that this will amount to nothing more than a temper tantrum from Amazon. However, I can’t accept their decision to do so as a competent business decision.

    They should have voiced their concerns to the greater public and did some finger pointing through the media to show whose decision it was to force them to raise prices. Instead, through a childish fit, they remove Macmillian’s ability to make a sale through the weekend.

    It’s good news to the authors, including you, John, for regaining their Amazon marketshare, but it’s not enough for me to trust in Amazon any longer. Fortunately, my Barnes & Noble credit card balance is free and clear to rack up some reward points.

    I was never a fan of ebooks, anyway.

  26. It’s interesting to note Amazon doesn’t mention Macmillan’s variable pricing scheme that could make some of its books even cheaper than Amazon’s usual $9.99—assuming Macmillan actually follows through on it. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, they’ve had ten years in which to institute variable pricing at other e-book e-tailers such as Fictionwise, but haven’t bothered in a lot of cases.

    I still don’t think Amazon should knuckle under, and really don’t like the idea of allowing publishers to do resale price maintenance, but on the other hand I don’t like a lot of Amazon’s other policies either and haven’t bought a single Kindle title yet (though I do have some of their freebies in the Kindle Reader on my iPod Touch). A plague on both their houses, really. Most of my e-stuff comes from Fictionwise.

  27. @Marco That’s the way that many publishers do it, but MacMillan has consistently refused to lower the prices on ebooks. I’m not against paying for ebooks, even at hard cover prices, but MacMillan thinks I’m stupid enough to pay that price long after everyone else in the world is already buying used copies.

  28. Marcos@30, maybe and maybe not. Go to, for example, and look at new releases and pick a few newly released mass market paperbacks. Then go to a site that lists them as ebooks (, fictionwise, can’t check Amazon yet, but in the past Amazon usually showed the same list price as, and fictionwise usually showed the same or higher) and look up the list price, not the price the site sells them for.

    You’ll see that consistently those books have a list price that’s considerably above the paperback price. So until Macmillan actually does set list prices that are comparable or less to paperback prices I don’t know that I trust them to do so. And if they don’t, they’re going to lose a lot of business, and hurt a lot of authors in the process.

  29. Marcos@30

    Oh, but I wish that were true. Sadly, MacMillan has in the past and I am sure will in the future, kept ebooks at the $14.99 pricepoint while simultaneously selling mmpbs for $7.99. There is no way that I can see that that is not a consumer rip-off.

  30. @Alfredo Taranconon
    “So who was the Bad Guy?”

    Six of one, half dozen of the other.

    The good guys here are not either of these corporations, but rather the individuals who work through the whole process to make sure we get a book as fine as OMW, some of whom are employed by these corporations.

    Unfortunately, I feel sure that both Amazon and Macmillan are paying more attention to their shareholders and short-term profits. I hope I am wrong.

  31. Pricing something more than you want to pay is not a “rip off”. It means they are demanding more than you value the item. The proper response is to “not buy”. If enough people do that then Macmillan will eventually get the message and re-price. If they don’t re-price, then it is a pretty good bet that plenty of people do value the work enough to plunk down the $14.99 (or whatever.)

    It’s only a rip-off if they promise one thing and deliver something else.

    There seems to be this notion that items have intrinsic value and that charging to much more is somehow wrong. If both parties are free (i.e. we’re not talking about medical supplies or something) then it is purely a matter of whether the buyer values the item enough to pay the price. “right” and “wrong” don’t enter into it.

    Macmillan’s pricing model might not be the most profitable, but there is nothing at all unethical or immoral with it.

  32. It seems to me that Macmillan’s stance was based on the fear that Amazon was trying to cannibalize paper book sales and drive everyone onto the Kindle, where they would have more control of the market. I used this analogy on another blog, where e-book fans were decrying Macmillan’s position:

    Budweiser makes beer in cans and bottles. A local beer distributor has the lion’s share of the market in a particular area, and they sell beer from various makers.

    One day, the distributor acquires the company that makes beer bottles. They decide they want to make the bottle the primary method of drinking beer, so they start pricing bottled beer at a loss, thinking that once they drive the canned stuff off the market, they can charge whatever they want for bottled. Does Budweiser have the right to get upset that someone’s trying to hurt sales of one product to benefit another? Sure they do, and they’re going to tell the distributor, “cut it out.”

    The distributor’s within their rights, of course, to say “fine, we won’t sell Bud at all anymore,” but they’re not going to last long with that position. Some people like it in cans, some in bottles, and a company that tries to drive out one to concentrate its own market power’s not helping the market be any freer.

  33. Well, I personally consider price fixing to be a good definition of a consumer rip-off, but ymmv. It’ll be interesting to see what the OFT and the FTC have to say about it.

  34. I don’t think Amazon blinked. I think they meant to give Macmillan a weekend without sales, and they did. Now e-book prices will go up and readers everywhere know that it is Macmillan’s fault. Not Amazon’s.

    Why is everyone so pissy about the price of an e-book? I entirely understand saying that you won’t pay $15 for an e-book. I probably wouldn’t either. What I don’t understand is why a company putting a price on a product is somehow SCREWING YOU.

    It’s not like publishers have a long history of outrageous profits squeezed out of a vulnerable population. We aren’t talking about Tobacco companies here.

    The “They don’t have to pay for paper” argument doesn’t really work for me. I wouldn’t have a pity party for Macmillan, but I don’t feel like they gouging anybody, either. What makes people think this price or that price is “unfair?”

  35. @Steve Of course it isn’t illegal, but it is insulting in the same way that it would be insulting for a car dealer to try to sell you a car at $20,000 above blue book. It’s insulting, because he’d have to believe that you were an idiot to accept it. That’s why I agree with your solution. I’m not going to buy any ebook that is selling for more than any other format.

  36. Whoops. I see that Steve Burnap made my point and did it better.

    FD, where do you see price fixing? In order to have price fixing you have to show that Macmillan and other publishers got together and agreed among themselves to set the price at $15. The fact that they will act as pack doesn’t make it price fixing.

  37. Kyle@41: There’s no “blue book” for art. Books aren’t interchangeable objects.

    Is it insulting that a hard cover costs twice what a paperback does?

  38. “it would be insulting for a car dealer to try to sell you a car at $20,000 above blue book. ”

    It’s seems to me more like saying you can have this blue couch for $50, but the red one for $65. Which one goes with the wallpaper in your living room? You don’t *really* know that the red one cost more to make or more to ship and you don’t ask the sales guy in IKEA to prove that there’s a good reason for one to cost more than the other. You just decide what you are willing to spend and you either buy a couch or you don’t.

  39. ## John Scalzion 31
    Amazon doesn’t publish (mostly), wench.

    John, I was about to call you out for being sexist until I noticed that “wench” was a pseudonym. eek.

  40. Hope@42
    I’m not a lawyer, but I believe that the OFT in addition to cartel agreements, also considers imposition of minimum prices on differing distributors to be price-fixing. The quasi agency relationship may be how MacMillan intends to get around that, but we’ll see.

    In the mean time, I don’t trust Macmillan to set fair or equitable prices for the e-reader. I don’t trust Amazon either – but they currently have a better record from the buyers pov. Personally, I will be wait and seeing. And borrowing Macmillan books from the library until I see what model they’re going with.

  41. @Steve A car’s blue book value is the amount you can expect to get if you sell it. A paperback has a resale value. A hardcover has a resale value. In the case of a signed first edition, that value can actually be over the original price. So pretending like “art” can’t have an objective value is silly.

    In the case of ebooks, I can judge it’s value in relation to the hardcover and the softcover. If the softcover is out, what idiot would buy an ebook that costs twice as much?

  42. So when Amazon finally backs down, can we go back to being mad at publishers for insisting that Amazon disable text-to-speech or just generally providing poorly-formatted typo-ridden e-books?

  43. Oh no Amazon, you are not getting into my good graces that easily. Amazon hurt both writers I like and friends of mine who are writers.

    I will not be using Amazon again. I will use and good old brick and mortar stores.

    Screw you, Amazon.

  44. Kyle@49: Art can certainly have an objective value. But you are implying that a “book” has a particular value irrespective of the author. That’s a very different thing. It’s like complaining that a Honda 4-door sedan isn’t the exact same price of the Ford 4-door sedan.

    The other mistake you are making is assuming that *anything* has an objective value that is different from what people are willing to pay. The Blue Book value of a car is based on what people will, on average, pay for it.

  45. On the other hand, when you buy an ebook aren’t you also paying for the convenience of being able to not carry a book around? And with other things it’s been shown that people are willing (sometimes) to pay a premium for convenience.

  46. I’ve just cancelled an outstanding three book order I had with Amazon and will not buy from them again until they decide to act more responsibly.

    Sadly one of the books in the order was ‘The God Engines’, sorry about that… collateral damage, yadda, yadda.

  47. Who’s the bad guy?
    I’m not sure black & white hats are wearable in this fight (save insofar as MacMillan’s continuing to make a profit increases the likelihood of Our Esteemed Host’s continued solvency). I see 3 basic issues in play:
    1) Amazon wanted to “own” the ebook-market. This would allow them to dictate prices to the publishers (forget about the reading public, for the moment). Publishers, clearly, could not allow that. (This is very relevant to issue #3.)
    2) There are a great many consumers claiming that ebooks should cost very little. Maybe ebooks should. Maybe not. Whole other discussion. Regardless, the marketplace does not currently have a consensus of what an ebook should cost.
    3) It is possible that the we consumers will decide that ebooks should cost little-enough as to significantly reduce profit margins for both the publishers and the booksellers. “Significantly reduce” being a euphemism for driving many of them out of business. (This is why Amazon hoped to be in a position to force publishers to accept the worse-end of the split, and vice versa.)

    All of this is further complicated by ebooks being a very minor revenue stream. Everyone expects ebooks to be the future. But no one can survive on them today.

    In sum: 2 guys running from a bear. Both are hoping to outrun (and willing to trip) the other guy, cause they can’t outrun the bear.

  48. I have to say I have been bouncing around and reading authors responses to this situation. I will say I think Amazon was a bully but I don’t theink Macmillian comes off much better.

    Truthfully I think a lot of what I have been reading from authors concerns me. A very important piece of this puzzle keeps getting left out. The readers. I don’t care why Amazon wants to do it but I won’t pay 12 or 15 dollars for an eBook, I just won’t.

    I love John Scalzi’s writing but John how does it help you if they sell your book at $14.00 and your sales get hammered. If I and a bunch of customers were willing to pay $9.99 you have lost those sales. Where is the point where it starts to hurt you in the pocket book.

    Most of the blogs I have read have forgotten us the readers. I do believe your publisher has the right to sell your books for what they want but I think you will find it isn’t going to go the way you think it. I guess will find out now.

  49. @Steve Art can certainly have an objective value. But you are implying that a “book” has a particular value irrespective of the author.

    I imply no such thing. There are authors I would pay more or less for, but irrespective of the author, I would never pay twice paperback price for an ebook when both were available.

    The fact that a book’s value is only an aggregate of what everyone is willing to pay for it doesn’t mean that I can’t say that a DRM ridden, hobbled ebook version being twice the cost of another available version isn’t way outside of any difference between the two. I can subjectively say that it’s a fools price, that only a fool would pay, and any publisher that tries to slip that past me has lost my respect, because they’ve shown no respect for my intelligence. You may encourage MacMillan in this behavior by buying their overpriced (Yes, my subjective evaluation) ebooks. In that case, I am subjectively saying that you are participating in a fools market—no different than rockstars who buy gold dog dishes.

  50. I have read many of your books and enjoyed them in the past. However, I no longer read “paper” books and read all my books on the Kindle. Just wanted to let you know that I will not be buying ebooks at the $14-15 price point. Now, you may not care or have any say in setting the price point of your books, but I just can not see paying this price for an electronic copy of your books. I just don’t see the “cost” to the publishers being the same. I want authors to make a good wage, but it may be you need to negotiate your “cut” on ebooks. Electronic media is the future and those publishers that resist it will regret it. I don’t want authors to get hurt as well. Keep up the good work, but find a way to get me your books at a “e price” that way we both win.

  51. I want to clarify, before anyone calls me cheap. I would absolutely pay hardback price for an ebook if the paperback wasn’t available yet, and I wanted to read it. I have a problem with the publisher never lowering the ebook price.

  52. I think Amazon stopped sales this weekend just for show, so that they could say “see, we tried to keep our prices down but these other guys wouldn’t let us!” before they start selling more expensive e-books. And they did so with minimal impact to their sales for the reasons Scalzi mentioned in his earlier post (late Friday news, minimal weekend sales). Frankly, this was a logical move on their part. Their other options were

    1) Capitulate immediately and look like they didn’t care about their pricing model at all.
    2) Refuse to capitulate at all and force their customers to go elsewhere.

    As a business, option #2 is anethma. And the damage they did to their brand by “fighting” for one weekend is probably less than the damage they would have done if they followed option #1.

    I think Amazon probably made the right move here. Good for them.

    And I want to give JS credit for explaning this scenario very accurately up front. You came out looking like a wise sage. Good for you!


  53. Whatever you do, do not go over and read the Amazon thread. I read it and it just made me cry.

    We want forced pricing! We want Socialism! Whoever wrote that statement knows their audience.

    Cannot have capitalism because that would mean the publishers would charge the highest possible price / volume sales.


    Time to hitchhike to the next planet, where is my towel?

  54. @Mark Saunders
    “find a way to get me your books at a “e price” that way we both win.”

    Scalzi said how he would do it in an earlier post.

    “Likewise, I think it’s fine to attempt to charge $15 (or more) for an ebook for a brand-spankin’ new release to service the folks who just can’t wait, drop it to a lower price point (say, $10) later on in the run, and then drop it again to $8 or so when the paperback hits. That’s how I would do it, in any event.”
    (A Quick Note On ebook Pricing)

    Unfortunately, it does not appear that either Amazon or Macmillan asked him for advice. How silly of them.

    (p.s. does html markup for links and formatting work for comments?)

  55. I feel like only buying Macmillan titles from now, and taking all my other biz elsewhere. (And I buy lots on

    I suppose I should really only buy Macmillan ebooks from…but as I don’t own or want a Kindle (or the Kindle “app”), that wouldn’t work for me.

  56. kejia@62: HTML seems to work for me here. When in doubt, use the preview button to see if it did what you wanted.

  57. I find it encouraging that at least Macmillan is looking at formulating a policy on ebooks. For years on Fictionwise Tor ebooks (the only imprint of Macmillan I’m interested in) have been priced very strangely and the selection was very hit and miss.

    Wasn’t there rumors a few years ago when was being started that Tor was going to have their own ebook store like Baen books?

    If Macmillan just decided to pull ebooks off Amazon and publish them at reasonable prices on their own site, I’d be happy to go there to purchase my books. Let all the money go to the publisher and authors.

    I can see why Macmillan wanted to pick this fight. Currently ebooks are such a small market that it probably doesn’t have much impact on their bottom line, but they want to have a good model going forward as the ebook market grows to a larger segment. Amazon of course would never be a bully [its not like they ever overreact or anything], but letting them have too much control would definitely be a bad thing.

    I have stopped purchasing paper books, and I was considering purchasing some ebooks through Amazon in the ‘kindle’ format. After this, I think if it is only available at Amazon, I’ll just wait.

  58. We all should know that the pricing of 9.99 on Amazon wasn’t going to last. Lots of people hinted that this was just to lure people over to the Kindle and get them hooked. It was not going to last. I figure that as soon as the iPad becomes popular, you will see a rise in eBook costs.

    Yes, some people will never pay over the paperback price for a book. But there are enough people out there that will, or this would not be happening. Some people like the convenience, some people don’t want a paperback, etc., etc.

    I just don’t see that either side won or lost right now. Amazon did throw a bit of a temper tantrum with taking the books down. Do we know if the publisher asked for them to be taken down? I can’t remember. The whole industry is changing right now. I can bet that something like this will happen again in the near future.

    Btw, sucks. Every single time I’ve ordered from them, it takes them weeks to get books to me that I could have gotten in days. If I want a physical copy, I either order it from Amazon or go down to my local independent bookseller.

  59. John, love your books and I understand your stance here but I am 100% behind Amazon here. As ted?he consumer I refuse to pay more than 9.99 for an ebook. The costs are significantly lower – show us some charts from MM that they aren’t – you have the secret data right?

    I don’t think you should make less on an ebook vs a hardcover sale but that is a contractual thing between you and MM. Maybe the contracts need to be updated?

    Amazon is backing the consumer here. I am on my third kindle (keep giving them as gifts and buying new ones) and I love it. Nothing is better for the commute.

  60. @Mark #58: Authors have no say in how much their books cost. But, e-books are not _that_ much cheaper to produce (though people seem to think so). They require the author to write them (duh) :), copy-editing and formatting, none of those costs disappear simply because the book is in digital form. In fact, my understanding (from talking to people in the publishing industry) is that the cost to produce an e-book is not significantly less than the cost to produce a paper book.

    General Comment: I also don’t understand why people think that e-books have less inherent value than print books. They can’t get coffee spilled on them, you can carry them around with you everywhere you go. They are harder to lose or ruin. I have not purchased any because I don’t have the money to buy a Kindle or whatever, and when I do my reading, I like to be able to curl up and be comfy – kind of hard even with the laptop. But, if I did have the money, I think it would be a better long term investment, simply because of how long they can last + convenience. But, that’s just my two cents.

  61. @Matthew I think you hit it on the head. Go over to the amazon forums. Everyone’s lauding Amazon for taking a stand against MacMillan. They won a victory with their customers, while losing only a weekends worth of sales.

  62. My question is: how do we know that Amazon was insisting on paying less than 9.99 for Macmillan e-books? Is it possible they simply wanted the right to sell for 9.99, even at a loss, to help grow Kindle sales? I can’t see anything wrong with that.

  63. SirTomster:

    “We want forced pricing! We want Socialism! ”

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Large companies who both have huge market power having a commercial dispute about the proper business model for delivering e-books from the author’s brain, via publisher and retailer, to consumers in a free market.

    This is many things, none of which is socialism. Because, you know, the government isn’t involved at all.

  64. I’m curious where the assumption has come from that Macmillan is planning to charge $15 for every single ebook in their catalog. As far as I can tell, they’ve had reasonable freedom to (over)price all of their ebooks except for new releases and best-sellers, and that they want the freedom to price those higher than $10 if they see fit. I have a lot of problems with the way ebooks are being sold for the Kindle (to the extent that “sold” is the word and not “leased”), but this seems reasonable to me: I understand wanting to charge more for books that are in high demand. I understand wanting to charge more in the first weeks to recoup production costs (editors, typesetters, advances, cocaine, etc) as quickly as possible. They’re not even looking to charge a *lot* more.

    But man do I love the Internet, where not even a full weekend can pass, let alone all involved parties giving official responses, and still people can declare exactly how their buying and reading habits have changed irrevocably: they will never buy from or link to Amazon again! They will never pay more than $10 for an ebook! Never! I wish I could derive that kind of certainty from a weekend’s worth of blog posts.

  65. @71 Eddie

    Yeah you are right. its not quite that. But since Amazon is so big on the whole internet thing they are the state :)

  66. There’s a deeper problem here that makes reoccurrences of the Amazon/Macmillan standoff a near certainty. This isn’t just about two corporate behemoths squaring off. Authors and readers are complicit, too, in having gone along with the steady devaluing of literature until it has become a commodity whose only value we acknowledge is whatever the market will bear. As urban theorist Henri Lefebvre wrote in the Production of Space, “products have replaced works.”

    While this latest debacle unfolded I happened to be writing about literary representations of work. A subtle subtext underlying this project was the invisible work done by the authors themselves. While seeking to bring the surface and its shadow together, I read literary scholar Scott Cutler Shershow’s excellent book, The Work and the Gift (University of Chicago Press, 2005), and was reminded of the differences — and the overlap — between work (the doing of work) and Works (the things we create). It’s a meaningful distinction, but one we seem largely to have forgotten.

    If, as readers and authors, we truly care — as we purport to — about the future of books and publishing, then maybe we could remember to appreciate books as more than commodities for which we are prepared to pay a given price. This doesn’t mean abandoning the supposedly free market model of bookselling: indeed, it strengthens it by taking consumer choices a bit more seriously.

    But is it really so hard to buy a book, even online, from your local, independent bookseller? To order direct from the publisher (most smaller publishers have web-enabled direct ordering)? To say “no thanks” to DRM-restricted book licences? To consider what a book is ‘worth’ instead of only how cheap a price you can get it for?

    I’m a writer who also buys a *lot* of books. And yes, I do buy some via Amazon. But I do so as a last resort, when I have exhausted the local or independent options. I don’t yet buy e-books, but when I start doing so, it will be only under the condition that they are DRM-free. For me, books are far more than commodities — they are valuable because they represent both work and Works.

  67. I am probably way out of line here in this discussion, but here goes: Watching all this weekend’s kerfluffle over two digital “book” behemoths made me glad I never bought anything from Amazon and I never “bought” an e-book. Maybe I’m old fashioned. I am in my mid fifties and am still looking for a cell phone whose major app is placing phone calls.

    If I want to read a book I head to my local indie bookstore (Auntie’s Books in Spokane) and if not there, once in a while I go to a Barnes and Noble. There is also an extremely cheap alternative: my local library. By kindle licensing’s definition, the latter is probably a major den of intellectual piracy–depriving publishers and writers of their financial due by loaning out books! The nerve of them!

    I can see some benefits to e-books. But, so far not enough to make me want to buy one. I’ll stick with paper. Granted, real books are bulkier. But do their batteries die? Do their screens break? If you lose one are you out more than thirty dollars or so?

    One final thought: I enjoy going to bookstores for the experience of walking around and spotting some wonderful book quite by accident. That was how I discovered you, Mr. Scalzi. I also like to go hear authors doing readings and lectures and coming home with an autographed copy of one of their books as a readable memento of meeting them.

  68. I tend to feel that if Amazon wants to sell an eBook at a loss that is their right as a retailer. That’s why MSRP is Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price.

  69. I had already stated elsewhere that I don’t buy books from Amazon. Frankly I doubt I’ll ever buy anything from them again.

  70. Caches, people. Amazon hits a button and it probably still takes multiple hours to actually propagate.

    You make a website fast by putting the information multiple places, which also makes it slow to change. See: the gay/lesbian book kerfuffle.

  71. Something I’ve not read in any of the commentary on this here or elsewhere is that Amazon isn’t protecting ebooks… they’re protecting ebooks in Kindle format, a format I seem to only be able to buy via Amazon. Why doesn’t Amazon make the Kindle titles available at, Powell’s, my local indie bookstore, etc? Why can’t I buy Kindle titles directly from Macmillan or Tor or any other publisher or imprint? Or am I missing somewhere that I can, in fact, do that?

    People seem shocked at this and the other controlling moves Amazon has made regarding Kindle titles, but come on people, you’ve bought into a fully controlled environment – that’s fine, but at least do it with the awareness that you can only get Kindle titles at Amazon and you can only read them on a Kindle or using a Kindle app developed for another device by Amazon…. and that they have the technical capability to remove or alter any title on your Kindle.

    At this point I’m far more interested in a Nook that seems to use ePub as a format and has a limited ability to lend books.

  72. @JimF

    That would be okay as long as Amazon pays the publisher based on their MSRP and not the actual sale price. The book keeping on that would be sticky. Plus, keeping new release and best selling e-books up a bit helps to encourage hardcover sales, which is good for the industry as a whole, since hardcovers can be purchased from any book seller. If an e-book is $15 and the hardcover is $22, I might just go down to the bookstore and pick it up (and I would own it, could lend it, etc…).

    I’ve worked in retail (selling music equipment) and I know that manufacturers (and therefore publishers) often have contracts that specify, at the very least, lowest price that their products may be sold. There is much more to it than simply one store’s profit margin versus another’s.

  73. #81: For the record, Amazon made an announcement a bit back that they’d be happy to sell unprotected books in an unspecified format (this would probably be Mobi, which the Amazon Kindle format is related to) at the request of the publishers.

    Amazon was happy to sell MP3s without copy protection once the studios were willing to sell it to them; I don’t think this is about keeping a Kindle infrastructure as much as it is about creating a viable ebook business.

  74. Well, thank goodness for that.

    Mark you, I’m in the camp who won’t be buying either Amazon’s too aptly-named Kindle – after Orwellfail, they might as well have called it the Farenheit 1984 and been done with it! – or the overpriced, DRM-infested Potable Lead Editions that Macmillan seems to be pinning its hopes on. There is nothing for me in today’s e-books, and I don’t want to see resale price maintenance creeping in again on the sly either. Not even if I get published, and stand to gain literal polybucks from it.

    But I don’t have to buy e-books. Amazon doesn’t have to sell e-books on terms it doesn’t like. Where did it think it got off vanishing all the print titles from customers used to treating it as a reliable middleman?

    It has indeed been a crude chain-grocer’s hissy fit, and it has burned a bit too much of its brand with me this time, and I shall be spending my hardly-earned pennies through friendlier booths for quite some while to come. Upon the same authors, however!

  75. @kyle but that’s the kindle forum – of course they are on amazon’s side, because they are devoted to their kindle. myself (and most others I know who used just to purchase printed books) are not pleased that they were willing to reduce the selection of print books over an e-book dispute, and I won’t be buying from them for quite a long time, if ever, after this.

    And for what it’s worth there were several disgruntled kindle users who were very frustrated with amazon and felt from the start that amazon should let the customers decide if the price is worth it. they kept getting beaten down and finally seem to have given up posting.

    and on that note, I feel like the kindle forums posters are severely overestimating the popularity of ebooks in the present and very near future. I don’t know a single person who reads exclusively e-books or who would prefer to read only e-books. Even the readers I know who own an e-book reader have a strong preference to own at least some print books because they enjoy having a collection on their shelves.

  76. Oh, no. It’s on! Amazon has wronged me, the customer and friend to many, many MacMillan authors.

    My anger will not subside until I get that free iPad and $500 gift card.

    Or Jeff Bezos leaves a lip print on my left butt cheek.

    I suggest the iPad and gift card. It’s cheaper than travel expenses, and I’ll even buy Amazon ebooks if there’s a Kindle app for that.

    See? I’m almost reasonable.