Editors war: what happened and what is next?
Remember how video killed the radio star? Well, apparently Amazon killed the book publisher star. At least according to some of the biggest traditional players in the industry who have taken action against Jeff Bezos’ company in the last months.
What’s the fight about?
It all started this spring when negotiations between the french publishing house Hachette and the e-commerce giant broke down over the price of e-books.
While Amazon argues that e-books should have a set price of 9.99 US dollars or less, Hachette wants to set their own prices according to their ranking on author, title, and the book’s success.
In an open letter published in August by the Amazon Books Team, mentions that the current average price for an e-book goes between 14.99 and 19.99 US dollars.
From Amazon’s perspective, an e-book involves less production costs than a printed edition, but every traditional publishing house says printing is not the costliest part the whole book business.
According to the article article “Amazon and Hachette feud could rewrite the book on publishing” published by The Guardian on August 25th, with a 9.99 US dollars top price, Amazon would keep 30% of the proceeds, while authors and publishers will split the remaining 70%.
In comparison, the actual model for traditional publishers works with 70% of the proceeds alone for editors, and at least 10% for writers.
Things turned ugly in May when Amazon deliberately took away price discounts on more than 5,000 Hachette’s titles, extended their deliveries up to three weeks, and deactivated the pre-order option.
After that, 900 big authors like Philip Roth, Malcolm Gladwell, and Stephen King went vocal about the dispute and published a letter in The New York Times against the biggest digital realtor in the world.
The Authors Guild, for their part, has asked the Department of Justice of the US to investigate Amazon’s tactics. While in Europe Amazon might face charges on “abuse of dominant postion”.
By now, more than 50 traditional publishers worldwide have teamed up against Amazon, but the company based in Seattle seems to have its own advocates too.
Almost 8,500 writers have signed a counter letter praising Amazon for allowing freedom of expression and facilitating the democratization of literature that enables the discovery of new authors.
What’s the upside?
E-books are a wonderful thing. They enable readers to have their own library on the go, and represent progress on the diffusion of book culture worlwide. No avid reader or young author can deny that.
As for customers, they seem to win with Amazon’s 9.99 US dollars top price by being able to purchase more books with the same budget.
What’s the downside?
Without gatekeepers, publishers are worried about downgrading the quality of literature, and about Amazon becoming an unbeatable monopoly.
Also, by modifying the business model to a ‘free market’ style, it will be more complicated for publishers to launch new authors, or books written for an specific audience.
Michael Pietsch, Hachette’s CEO answered an email to The New York Times arguing that unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books (and authors), often for years, before they receive any revenue.
So, what alternatives exist for authors in digital publishing?
As a digital platform and plugin for digital publishing developers, Publish88® enables publishers to reach their audiences vía an App, both on Android and iOS.
This kind of platform and tools represent another option for publishing houses and editors to create their own digital selling kiosk, and at the same time have total control on the way their content is distributed on mobile and tablet devices, which assures the quality of writing won’t lessen.
Platforms like Publish88 don’t involve intermediaries between the publication and the reader. So all proceeds go directly to the editorial company.
This allows a flexible business model for boths publishers and readers that big players like Amazon and Hachette are still trying to come up with.