Amazon: we'll agree to Macmillan's terms

Amazon says that it will accept publisher Macmillan's preferred publishing and distribution model.
We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.
The battle over pricing conceals a more intricate and important one over Amazon's place in the book-buying ecosystem [Charles Stross]. Announcement: Macmillan E-books [Amazon] Previously: Amazon and Macmillan go to war: readers and writers are the civilian casualties; Macmillan CEO on Amazon deletepocalypse; Scalzi and MacMillan v. Amazon


  1. Do the writers get paid more? Is the new more expensive book DRM free, so I can give away, lend, or sell it like a physical book? Can I now use TTS on any title? How does this benefit Macmillan, the author, and the consumer?

  2. This is the thing that the corporate copyright holders forget to remind us of – they have a monopoly to particular text – we don’t let anyone else leverage a monopoly, that’s illegal – but we do it for copyright in exchange for the material coming into the public domain – hopefully sometime within our actual lifetimes

  3. We give other things monopolies – Apple have a monopoly on making the iPhone, Microsoft have a monopoly on making Windows. It’s really no different, as far as I can see. Unless you consider that the cultural value somehow makes it significantly different.

  4. One thing Amazon forgets to mention in its capitulation post is that $15 is the high end of what Macmillan claims will be variable pricing, running all the way down to significantly less than $9.99 for older titles.

    If they actually come through with that variable pricing, that could be a good thing, at least for the older and cheaper titles. Though as I note in my own editorial on Amazon’s capitulation, Macmillan has a pretty poor track record on “variable” e-book pricing so far, with a number of titles still selling at hardcover prices on Fictionwise months or years after the physical books went to paperback.

  5. Lets not forget that Amazon wants %70 of the price of an ebook and will let the publisher and author split only %30.

    The reason ebooks are so expensive is that Amazon is taking all the money.

    Now apple comes along and offers a 70/30 deal where the creators of the books get the %70.

    When Macmillon asked for the same terms from amazon, they pulled them.

    When amazon acts like they’re acting in the customers best interest, they are lying. This is typical of amazon which is a dishonest, disreputable company, known for cheating their employees. (Please– send lawyers, love to have a chance to use the truth defense in court.)

    People who think macmillon is the bad guy here are falling for amazon’s dishonesty.

    1. People who think macmillon is the bad guy here are falling for amazon’s dishonesty.

      I think there’s room in this story for two bad guys.

  6. Yay! Higher prices! We win!

    Wait, what?!

    Don’t own a Kindle but I’ve thought that Amazon’s base-price for ebooks were absurdly overpriced. The fact that publishers want to increase over even that is disheartening – more who want their old business models to stay – but unsurprising.

  7. In a battle between Old Business douchebaggery and New Business douchebaggery I’m going to have to side with the New guys. At least they know what century it is.

    What I’ve found most interesting about owning a Kindle is that while pulpbinders fight and complain about how awful it would be for me to read their books, as an alternative I’ve found tons of really great independent writers and self publishers. Seems to be a great time for everyone not under contract to a book company.

    (And for everyone else… you did read that book contract before you signed it, right? Gah. I’ve read a few in my day, they’re even worse than recording contracts.)

  8. @Anonymous (#7):

    “Lets not forget that Amazon wants %70 of the price of an ebook and will let the publisher and author split only %30.

    The reason ebooks are so expensive is that Amazon is taking all the money.”

    I think the state of affairs is a little more complex than that. My personal belief is that Amazon went with the 30/70 deal originally because they knew what sort of eBook RRP the mainstream publishers would set. By taking 70%, that allowed them to deep discount the books down to the $10 mark (and when unable to reach that mark, going with the $10 retail anyhow and making a loss per book sold) – that is, a conscious decision by Amazon to set the price of eBooks at $10 or less (and get it into consumer’s heads as the cap for an eBook), even if they lost money in doing so. The only people benefiting at this stage really were customers.

    Once Google announced it would be giving 65/35, Amazon had to follow and they went with the 70/30 model, but *with the condition* that the book had to be priced under $10 and less than the paper edition. I’m inclined to think Amazon were planning the 70/30 model from the beginning, but started with 30/70 for the reasons outlined above. Ironically, Amazon will probably make more per book under their new 70/30 pricing, because they no longer will be subsidising the major publishers in getting their eBooks priced at $10 or less.

    I haven’t read enough about these new developments, but I’d be interested to know if MacMillan will be getting the 70/30 deal despite pricing above the $10. If not, then Amazon will probably discount them down to $10 with the larger share of the profits. The wording of Amazon’s statement though suggests that they are telling the customer “MacMillan want you to pay $5 extra than everyone else for their books…do you want to pay the extra money?” That is, they ‘capitulated’, but in effect made MacMillan out to be the money-hungry monopoly in this affair…rather funny to read that statement I have to say.

    “Now apple comes along and offers a 70/30 deal where the creators of the books get the %70.”

    When you say “creator”, you mean “author and publisher”. And I’d be rather inclined to think that it’s the (mainstream) publisher that’s going to be keeping the lion’s share of that 70%…not exactly the creator.

    “When MacMillan asked for the same terms from amazon, they pulled them.”

    This is the scary side of Amazon. They know they have a monopoly, though not one that most times is ‘by the book’ and enough to get them in trouble with authorities (“honest guv, we’re just a bookstore and we can decline books whenever we want”). Amazon’s tactics in pulling books by MacMillan (and previously doing the same to self-publishers who wouldn’t ‘convert’ to Amazon’s in-house print-on-demand service CreateSpace) is blackmail and coercion by any other name, given the market share that Amazon holds.

    “When amazon acts like they’re acting in the customers best interest, they are lying.”

    Yes indeed. That Amazon could (with a presumably straight face) accuse MacMillan of using their ‘monopoly’ over books to nefarious ends is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while.

    “People who think macmillon is the bad guy here are falling for amazon’s dishonesty.”

    True, but then mainstream publishers are hardly angels either. This current battle has two sides – one is the old power, unable to deal with a massive change in how book-selling works, and a new power which is throwing it’s weight around and not caring who gets squashed in the process. I believe Amazon is right in trying to get eBook prices down to $10 and under (really, at 70/30, that’s $7 per sale to the publisher and author for something that has no manufacture cost, negligible transport cost, no risk of return etc). However, I don’t think their motive is a noble one on behalf of the customer, it’s just another step in their plan to dominate the book market supply chain from top to bottom. And that won’t work out well for us punters either.

    Given Apple’s history with the iTunes store, I don’t see them as any sort of saviour either. But at least they went with ePub, rather than a proprietary format. I hold out hope that Google may enter the battle with some sort of game-changing development…at least the competition might open the market up a little.

  9. Amazon’s needlessly inflammatory use of the word “monopoly” bugs me. I guess if I want to make my own eReader, make it look just like the Kindle, and call it “The Kindle,” Amazon will be O.K with it, right? Because otherwise they would be exercising a monopoly over making eReaders called Kindles.

  10. How many authors get $X per book sold, and how many authors get X% of the retail sale price? I could really care less how much super-mega-huge publishers get out of a book; I’m guessing most authors get somewhere around $1/book sold, and X% (2%?) of sales after the first 50,000 copies or so, if they’re lucky. Big names like Clancy and Creighton and King are probably capable of naming more favorable terms, like $3/book sold plus 30% of total sales. I would assume most authors who aren’t self-publishing are lucky to break even and supplement their income to their dayjob. All these prices are (I assume) fixed in their contract long before amazon and apple et all get their hands on bulk ebook pricing.

  11. …hopefully sometime within our actual lifetimes Not only do you anticipate a longer life than I do, but you seem to be simultaneiously hoping for some sort of author-plague that will cause all the authors to die after short, productive lives. ‘Cause I don’t anticipate outliving the Live+70 copyright term of ANY work being currently produced. Yet another vote against absurdly long copyright terms. Oh yeah, we didn’t get to vote on that one.

  12. Amazon’s needlessly inflammatory use of the word “monopoly” bugs me.

    It’s the economically correct term. McMillian has a government granted monopoly known as “copyright”. Without that government protection the free market would set a price for their works. That price would be $0 for eBooks as anyone who has spent any amount of time on the Internet knows. Hell even with the government granted monopoly enforced by government law officers the price for eBooks is STILL often $0 for many people. McMillan used their monopoly status to leverage Amazon and force them to accept their terms. That’s exactly what happened, and there’s nothing inflammatory about stating it that way. It happens all the time.

    I think there’s room in this story for two bad guys.

    Exactly. One big corporation is beating up another big corporation. Let’s all take sides and cheer! Hooray for corporations!

    Amusingly if it were the iTunes store vs. Virgin Records I imagine a lot of folks cheering on McMillan would be taking iTunes side. McMillan managed to seize the emotional high ground by being able to have authors out there rabble-rousing amongst their fans. And of course Amazon ceded the high ground long ago by designing the Kindle to be such a closed and questionable device. If they’d created an open platform and hadn’t done things like deleting books remotely off of people’s Kindles they might have had more of the technogeeks backing their attempt to keep prices down. As it stands, Amazon alienated folks long ago and so don’t get those kinds of allies anymore.

  13. Dear Amazon and MacMillan,

    Until an ebook costs me considerably less than a physical copy of that same book, you can keep your ebook and I’ll keep my money.

  14. I sure am glad I don’t have an eReader. I’ll let you 1st adapters have fun dealing with this craziness while I stick to my paperbacks. I just cannot in good conscience buy something that I’m not allowed to actually own, and I will not pay twice the price for a glorified PDF. Frankly, the best way to fight this war is to STOP GIVING THESE PEOPLE MONEY FOR NOTHING. Kill a tree; save an author.

  15. See, if McMillon just wanted better terms, they could’ve just gone for better terms. Raising the retail price isn’t about that though. It is, instead, about gouging people who purchase the ebook first versus charging less for people who decide to wait.

    Amazon may not be the best company out there, but they aren’t the ones giving the finger to the consumer (at least not in this specific instance).

    It isn’t a question of Amazon’s dishonesty, McMillon was pretty forthright in their desire to charge more money for their ebooks. I don’t see how that could be any more clear.

  16. Bookstores have the right to set their own prices… but publishers have the right to select which bookstores they want to market through. Presumably, someone at Amazon already understands all those details, along with the cooperative advertising agreements (which exist in all consumer goods) and bulk pricing and everything else that goes into running a retail mail-order house.

    And presumably the e-book deal between Amazon and MacMillan is more complex, and covered by explicit contracts, because in that space Amazon is probably acting more as a subsidiary publisher (“printing” copies as needed) than as a normal bookstore (ordering a specific number of copies, and reordering as those sell out).

    So… Amazon really should have known better than to try a grandstanding move. I really do think that was a matter of ego, as others have suggested, mistakenly believing that customers’ attachment to their device carried more weight than attachment to specific authors. BAD case of biting the hand.

    Do I believe e-books should be cheaper than hardcopy? Not sure; the value to the consumer is no less (or at least wouldn’t be if the DRM wasn’t unreasonable) so I consider this mostly a matter of convenience tradeoffs. But if they aren’t cheaper, the authors should be getting a major cut of the additional profits… and if they are cheaper, that should come out of the money the publisher saves by electronic distribution, not out of the author’s pocket.

    Money for value.

    Disclaimer: I don’t have a dog in this fight; I don’t use an e-book reader and I’m not an author nor a publisher. I’m a reader, but I’ve mostly accepted that book prices are more than 10x what they were when I started buying; inflation happens. I just wish they’d justify the price by publishing more anthologies (or go back to the Ace Double format) rather than by encouraging every author to write very-long-form… some can use the pages productively, but some really should have had an editor pushing them in the other direction.

  17. until I can re-sell an e-book I’ve paid for, and without having to sell it back through the system I bought it through, forget it…

    When I can sell it on via craig’s list or simply via a face to face transaction in meatspace at a tabletop sale, then I may think about buying ebooks.

    Watermarking is not on, unless I get it for a far reduced price or else have full rights to as many backup copies/devices/full freedom to print/excerpt knowing that it is irretrievably linked to me and I cannot pass it on to anyone else.

    any DRM is not on, unless I can easily sell the book on, or lend it out, or otherwise dispose of it by simply beaming it across to the other person’s device/PC/whatever… (while lent, I obviously can’t be reading it myself)

    I do not want to be tied to someone’s server for permission to read it…

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