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Amazon Now Discounting HarperCollins EBooks

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the publishing-industry-found-crying-in-corner dept.

Books 136

Nate the greatest writes "Late last week three publishers and the Department of Justice finalized an agreement to settle the claims that the publishers conspired to raise ebook prices. One of the terms of the agreement was that publishers were going to have to allow ebook retailers like Amazon to set the price of ebooks. Today it looks like the new prices have gone into effect. Amazon, B&N, and a small indie ebookstore called BooksonBoard are all offering HarperCollins ebooks at a discount. B&N and Amazon seem to be using the same price book, while BoB is having a 24% off sale."

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136 comments

Lament for the Children (-1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298081)

For Chicago kids,
A cheaper reach.
If they'd clean-shaven [theothermccain.com]
Ones who'd teach
Burma Shave [bagpipe-tutorials.com]

Re:Lament for the Children (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298097)

Fucking offtopic horseshit. Goddamn this smitty_one_each just does Burma Shave Burma Shave Burma Shave Burma Shave ... it's NO LONGER FUNNY!

Re:Lament for the Children (1)

commlinx (1068272) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298141)

Fucking offtopic horseshit.

Honest question, he has the asterisk next to him for a subscriber but looking at past posts they are all complete shit as well but don't seem to have been modded down. Is that some sort of 'perk' of subscribing?

Re:Lament for the Children (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298157)

Fucking offtopic horseshit.

Honest question, he has the asterisk next to him for a subscriber but looking at past posts they are all complete shit as well but don't seem to have been modded down. Is that some sort of 'perk' of subscribing?

No, it isn't. Occasionally his stupid Burma Shave posts resonate with ... hell I don't know who ... and they somehow make it to +5 funny. So he's got the +1 bonus modifier to his posts and Slashdot moderation now urges mods to "concentrate on modding things up rather than down" so ... yeah ... increased trash I guess.

Re:Lament for the Children (0, Flamebait)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298181)

I've been doing this troll on random Tuesdays for ~7 years now. Tradition, dude: it's what's for breakfast.

Re:Lament for the Children (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298299)

I've been doing this troll on random Tuesdays for ~7 years now. Tradition, dude: it's what's for breakfast.

Whatever gets you out of bed after a night of drinking ...

Re:Lament for the Children (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298459)

Too bad Burma Shave won't remove the sand from your vagina.

Parent Is Generating Traffic for His Own Site (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298145)

clean-shaven [theothermccain.com]

That site, that's the same site you have in your Slashdot profile. It's administered by some guy named Smitty with e-mail address smitty1e@gmail.com and is probably some bullshit political site. So why don't you take your attempts to generate traffic for your own site somewhere else? Is Geocities still up? That'd be a good place to link to crappy sites that no one wants to visit so you're just hoping that your stupid Burma Shave poem gets modded up and people who don't know what it is click through the links to try to figure out what's going on.

Gettin' a lot of ad revenue there, Smitty? Please leave Slashdot alone, it's bad enough as it is.

Re:Parent Is Generating Traffic for His Own Site (-1, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298175)

Aw, c'mon: can't you at least spare a little love for the bagpipe link? And no, I make no money off blog. Purely a topical riff.

Good for Whom? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298277)

I know many on Slashdot are going to proclaim this as a victory for the consumer because lower prices are always good. Yes. They are. I will never complain about getting something I want at a lower price.

But.

There is a very real danger that the drive to force prices down is going to harm a lot of businesses. Sure, companies like Amazon don't care that much if that happens, but book retailers, who are forced to attempt to make a living off of thinner and thinner margins are going to have troubles making ends meet. Publishers are similarly going to have troubles paying the bills as their margins shrink further and further. And, the eventual outcome is twofold - there will be less and less choice for consumers because retailers and publishers will stop taking chances on titles that aren't obviously going to make their profit by numbers, since their margins are too small and thus we'll lose out on choice. Further, and more importantly, companies will start going out of business because the margins are simply too thin, further limiting our choices.

Now, I'm not saying that prices must stay high but there is a very real concern that prices being driven down is going to negatively impact the industry which will, in the long run, negatively impact our choices.

So, before you cheer this as a victory for the consumer, think about the bigger picture and imagine what would happen if your company was forced to operate on razor thin margins. How much would you be cheering?

(Disclaimer: I've worked for a publisher in the past that ended up going out of business so I am somewhat biased on this subject but I think my point stands regardless of my past.)

Re:Good for Whom? (2)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298319)

So, before you cheer this as a victory for the consumer, think about the bigger picture and imagine what would happen if your company was forced to operate on razor thin margins. How much would you be cheering?

Capitalism is to economics as natural selection is to Darwinism.
Would you contend that people should do something un-natural?

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298371)

If you saw people eating all food resources available to them at a rate that was unsustainable, even though the food was healthy and free, would you not warn them that their short term gains is going to cause long term problems?

A stupid example, to be sure, but it gets the point across. If you prefer, I'm sure I can come up with a car analogy rather easily (gas anyone) to make it more appropriate to Slashdot.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298513)

Sure, and I would be unsurprised when they gaffed me off and continued mowing down.
Your assertion of rationality does not comport with history.

Re:Good for Whom? (3, Insightful)

Karlt1 (231423) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298455)

" Capitalism is to economics as natural selection is to Darwinism.
Would you contend that people should do something un-natural?"

The publisher is not getting smaller profits. What Amazon and the rest are doing are doing are selling books below the cost that publishers are charging them to distribute the book. Amazon is taking a loss on the ebook sell to encourage sales of the Kindle and to run other booksellers out of business. What do you think is going to happen when Amazon gets its monopoly status back?

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298517)

Uhhh. . .in a fair market, cheaper competitors emerge?

Re:Good for Whom? (2)

Karlt1 (231423) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298555)

"Uhhh. . .in a fair market, cheaper competitors emerge?"

How can cheaper competitors emerge when the monopolist is charging less than the cost of goods sold?

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298943)

How can cheaper competitors emerge when the monopolist is charging less than the cost of goods sold?

That's "cheaper competitors" problem, if they cannot compete with Amazon too bad for them. In any case Amazon is not selling at loss overall, it's selling at loss a few books to boost the sales of other items. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_leader

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

mythix (2589549) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299585)

because a fair market prohibits selling stuff at a loss. Government must regulate stuff like this, or a fair market is impossible... self regulation is impossible in a globalized world full of gigantic multinationals imo...

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41299809)

How can the monopolist continue to do so indefinitely?

Re:Good for Whom? (2)

radish (98371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299983)

If they were a monopoly they wouldn't need to sell below cost. The only reason to do that is to bring people into your store/platform where you hope they'll buy other stuff to make up for your initial losses. If they don't, of course, you eventually go out of business.

If you're already the only player (i.e. a monopoly) there is no competition - that's where you raise prices - not lower them. Amazon may want to become a monopoly in eBooks, but this tactic indicates they're clearly not one yet.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

wiggles (30088) | about a year and a half ago | (#41301149)

This is a classic anticompetitive tactic - and the reason that Standard Oil was broken up in the 20th century.

Standard Oil would find a mom-and-pop gas station on a corner somewhere, set up shop across the street, and sell gas for below cost. Once they ran mom & pop out of business, they jacked up the prices of gas on that corner to well above cost.

And that, friends, is how the Rockefeller fortune was made.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Karlt1 (231423) | about a year and a half ago | (#41301701)

"If they were a monopoly they wouldn't need to sell below cost."

The Agency model is what caused Amazon's market share to decrease and allowed others -- not just Apple to be able to compete.

"The only reason to do that is to bring people into your store/platform where you hope they'll buy other stuff to make up for your initial losses. If they don't, of course, you eventually go out of business."

Unless you have another business to prop up your losses until all of the smaller competitors go out of business.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

radish (98371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41303087)

Why do eBooks (or books in general) need the agency model while no other products do? iTunes sells a lot of digital music (the large majority) but there are plenty of other companies doing just fine in that space as well (Amazon for one). They compete on selection, price, convenience, customer service, extras, etc. Whilst the agency model might be great for publishers & uncompetitive resellers, it isn't good for me - the reader. I'd suggest that the resellers who feel like they're losing out should start figuring out how to compete with Amazon by actually providing value to their customer. If they can't do that they should reconsider their line of business.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300781)

The smalltime bookseller is as obsolete as the smalltime shoemaker, tinker, or tailor. Their time has past..... they just haven't realized it yet but electronic distribution of books will be the final nail.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298901)

What do you think is going to happen when Amazon gets its monopoly status back?

Since Amazon isn't doing anything with its ebook pricing to attract marketshare to its reading platform that its competitors aren't also doing, I don't expect it to get a monopoly through its pricing.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Karlt1 (231423) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298957)

What competitors? B&N is circling the drain. Who else is left that is a serious competitor?

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

reub2000 (705806) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299485)

Google

Also, If the publishers where willing to do without DRM there is nothing stopping them from setting up their own store.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41301857)

Last I checked, Apple stole like 15% of the market from Amazon, B&N had 25% and Amazon had dropped to under 60%.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298935)

Where does the Amazon monopoly idea come from?
B&N's doing exactly the same thing.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#41302159)

>>>Amazon is taking a loss on the ebook sell to encourage sales of the Kindle

That's ridiculous. Amazon already takes a loss on the kindle, on the presumption of making profit on the ebooks. They wouldn't take a loss twice. That would be like if Nintendo sold their Wii at a loss AND sold their games at a loss too..... thus making no money and eventually going bankrupt.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41302863)

That would be like if Nintendo sold their Wii at a loss AND sold their games at a loss too..... thus making no money and eventually going bankrupt.

Not if Sony/MS went bankrupt first because no one was buying their shit and everyone was buying Nintendo's shit, and then Nintendo jacking up the price once they were the only player in town.

Now I'm not saying that Amazon is selling e-books at a loss. But the notion of selling both the Kindle and e-books at a loss is not as ridiculous as you seem to think it is.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41303113)

...the notion of selling both the Kindle and e-books at a loss is not as ridiculous as you seem to think it is.

Yes. Yes it is.

Re:Good for Whom? (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298707)

Capitalism is to economics as natural selection is to Darwinism.

And regulation is to capitalism as medicine is to natural selection.

Would you contend that people should do something un-natural?

Use medicine to prolong life? Absolutely.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298949)

Capitalism is to economics as natural selection is to Darwinism.

And regulation is to capitalism as medicine is to natural selection.

Yeah, and that medicine is what produced this outcome -- this isn't the unregulated market outcome, its the result of the DoJ enforcing regulations against price fixing.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

digitig (1056110) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299137)

Sometimes medicine has undesirable side-effects. We don't stop using medicine because of that. We don't even stop using the medicine with the undesirable side-effects because of that. We might look for better medicines -- if the payoff looks to be worthwhile.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299907)

Uhhh. . .medicine isn't the human leveraging another aspect of natural selection against the virus?

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

digitig (1056110) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300041)

Uhhh...regulation isn't the human leveraging of another aspect of social interchange against certain social practices?

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300387)

Uhhh. . .so, when regulation has accomplished destruction of fair, natural markets, and everything collapses into the regulator, then what?

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

digitig (1056110) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300983)

Same as when everybody has OD'd on their meds. Oh, wait, most people don't do that. By the way, those markets are "fair and natural" in exactly the same sense as the smallpox virus is and in exactly the same sense as the gut flora that break down carbohydrates are. That is, they're all natural and it's meaningless to apply moral judgments like "fair" to them.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41302609)

Oh, get bent. Fair [wikipedia.org] has a perfectly non-moral usage in economics.
By which I mean, one can have a rational discussion about the ethics of this or that business practice without veering into the moral territory of whether you're going to hell because you sell on Sundays.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

digitig (1056110) | about a year and a half ago | (#41303129)

By which I mean, one can have a rational discussion about the ethics of this or that business practice without veering into the moral territory of whether you're going to hell because you sell on Sundays.

Indeed you can -- but only if you take a view of economics that is incompatible with it being something that is entirely natural.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298997)

Bollocks.

Capitalism has been invented by Adam Smith. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Smith) and is man-made
Darwinism as expression/concept of the evolution has not been invented, but rather researched as being natural. Capitalism is not natural. But barter transactions and stealing are.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298321)

The margin for ebook is speculative on how many copies you can sell at a given price. There's no cost to distribute, really.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298345)

There is a cost to produce. Writers, editors, designers, artists, typesetters, and the rest cost money.

Printing and distribution is a small portion of the overhead for book publication.

Re:Good for Whom? (2)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298667)

There is a cost to produce. Writers, editors, designers, artists, typesetters, and the rest cost money.

Printing and distribution is a small portion of the overhead for book publication.

Authors get upwards of 10% of the cover price. Editors are typically paid a flat fee (per page, per book, etc.), as is the cover artist (a few hundred to maybe a thousand), and the typesetter (something like $30 per page).

The publisher gets around half the money from the sale, not a "small portion".

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298959)

The publisher gets around half the money from the sale...

No. They don't.

The retailer typically gets about 40%. The distributor gets about 20%. The publisher gets the remaining 40%. Each stage has to pay their costs with that percentage. The publisher users their 40% of the cover price to pay for the writer, editor, layout, design, artwork, marketing, sales staff, etc plus, if a physical product, printing, shipping, warehousing, etc. Whatever is left over after everything is paid is "profit". Start doing the math and you'll realize that 40% of cover gets split often so that "profit" becomes very, very small in most cases.

As a note, yes, those numbers can vary by publisher and industry but those are certainly accurate enough ballpark figures based on my experience in the game publishing industry that it can serve as a real starting point for a discussion on the subject. In short, no, the publisher most certainly does NOT get about half the money from the sale. Not even close.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41300291)

That's not true for an online retail place where the distributor and retailer are the same. Amazon get around a 30% cut of the sales meaning publishers get about 70% (actual amount varies depending on set price), a higher percentage profit of lower sales prices could equal about the same profit depending on how much lower the sales is. Also, without physical barriers, it is easier make up on volume as there is almost 0 costs in creating copies of the product (bandwidth cost is paid on amazon's side which is the retailer/distributor) as lower prices tends to mean higher sales.

Basically, what you said would be true if this was a brick and motor store but it is not sure for the sales of digital products so your point isn't valid.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Drathos (1092) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299469)

And an ebook version of a book does not need any more than the physical version. I would argue less (no typesetter, for example). You should, in theory, be able to take the same text and output it in whatever ebook version you want without much extra effort.

There is absolutely no reason why an electronic copy of a book should cost more than a physical version. The lack of printing and distribution costs (distribution cost to the publisher is negligible; just one copy to each retailer) should guarantee that it's lower. I've seen many cases where the Kindle version of a book was more than the paperback on Amazon. In every case, the price of the ebook was set by the publisher.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300319)

And an ebook version of a book does not need any more than the physical version. I would argue less (no typesetter, for example). You should, in theory, be able to take the same text and output it in whatever ebook version you want without much extra effort.

A typesetter doesn't just set type and hit print, they're responsible for the layout of the entire book.

This includes formatting of chapter headings and layout of images, tables, headers and footers, as well as table of contents, indicies, etc.

All an author does is submit a manuscript. The editor catches stuff like mispellings, typos, and other grammatical errors (but never about content). The manuscript goes back to the author for corrections and it's submitted again.

Then it goes to the typesetter whose job is to properly format the document. Did the author use styles, or did the author just boldface the chapter headings in the text, making it impossible ot pull out? Images have to be extracted and properly placed in the text (depending on the author, it may be inline, poor quality (think blown up low-res JPEG), or located in the wrong section (or thrown in as a bunch of loose image files which have to be inserted into the text).

It's true the typesetter no longer has to set up printing presses, but the electronic distribution format still requires a lot of work, especially if you want cover art and proper book formatting and front/back matter

Some authors beautifully typeset their text - it's "camera ready" from the get-go. Others basically submit the equivalent of a ASCII text file with no formatting (or crude markups) and a bunch of random images. (And said text file may be hard-returned so the challenge is to figure out if the author intentionally did it to break the text up, or did it because they hit the end of a random-length line).

Anyhow, if you like what Amazon is doing, consider Amazon to be the next Walmart. It's the same strategy. It'll soon only be between pirates and kindle's azw books.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298973)

The margin for ebook is speculative on how many copies you can sell at a given price. There's no cost to distribute, really.

Bandwidth and transaction processing aren't cost-free. There may be a very small marginal costs, but there is not really "no cost to distribute".

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299821)

There are costs of distribution.

a) holding the data (the ebook, aka running servers and the internet connection)
b) holding the customer data
c) tracking the bought books (aka building the software and running it to do so)
d) billing the customer (after delievery/download)
e) paying royalties to the copyright owners (publisher/author)
f) tracking of e) ofc
g) paying sales taxes

And likely a few more costs I forgot to mention ...

Re:Good for Whom? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298363)

You mean the fat middlemen publishers who live off the writers and provide little value to the consumer? Once publishing is all digital and instant they might have to get a real job! As far as limiting choice that is pure FUD, anyone with a computer could write a novel and have it published. Unlike the old days of publisher monopolies.

Re:Good for Whom? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298445)

You clearly have never read an unedited manuscript. If you had, you'd never suggest anyone with a computer writing a novel and having it published.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298591)

But an editor / proof reader is not the same as a publisher - there is nothing stopping an independent author using them.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about a year and a half ago | (#41303359)

True, you can contract for that separately. And contract someone for cover art.

The publisher is just a one-stop shop for all of it and you would be amazed how many people think they can bypass the publisher, editor, proofreading and cover art.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298641)

Judging by the adult fiction/fanfics you can find online, other than maybe needing an editor I'd say unless the average writer is turning in manuscripts of a lesser quality than that of online fiction (some of which are quite good, and novel length themselves), then yes, the majority of services a publisher used to provide are no longer sufficiently necessary in modern society to offset the lost profits to the writer taken by having their writing go through 'traditional' publishing channels.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Joviex (976416) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300145)

You clearly have never read an unedited manuscript. If you had, you'd never suggest anyone with a computer writing a novel and having it published.

So, for the first 5k years writings/books only made it because someone else edited someone else's work? That smacks of elitism and is a pretty poor counterpoint to the above.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41301209)

I've also read a lot of "professionally edited" ebooks. Some of the stuff you can get from the big publishers on Amazon is as bad as OCRd library books on archive.org. What is the value the publishers are adding again?

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41302131)

You mean the fat middlemen publishers who live off the writers and provide little value to the consumer? Once publishing is all digital and instant they might have to get a real job!

That's not a very nice thing to say about Slashdot and its "editors".

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about a year and a half ago | (#41303339)

There is where you are very, very wrong. Sure, anyone can write something. But if the author bypasses the very necessary role of the publisher they have a piece of crap. Ask any author that has sole more than one book what the publisher does for them and if they would like to go it alone without separately contracting for the same services.

A book without an editor - one of the functions of the publisher - is almost always going to be unreadable drivel. Check out some of the $0.99 ebooks by unknown authors with self-publishing "publisher" listed on Amazon. You will find they are - surprise - unreadable drivel.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Jurramonga (1922438) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298377)

Can an author survive (and thrive) self-publishing? Retailers and publishers are certainly important for physical copies of a book; how well can an author do publishing only digitally?

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298695)

It depends on the diversity of the author's skill set. If they are a good writer (and employ a good editor), they'll also need to be a typesetter/designer, good business person, marketeer, & etc... to be a successful independent self employed ebook author. Now some may be able to do so, but many good authors may not be able to perform these steps on their own. So, the publisher usually fills the same role as a business manager for the small independently owned physician's or dentist's clinic. Sure some doctors and dentists can keep their own books, but most get someone else to do it for them - either out of competence or so they can devote their time to their own practice.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Em Ellel (523581) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299091)

Can an author survive (and thrive) self-publishing? Retailers and publishers are certainly important for physical copies of a book; how well can an author do publishing only digitally?

According to Bezos in the Kindle HD presentation, something like a quarter of Kindle top 100 sellers are self published.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

ibwolf (126465) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300081)

Can an author survive (and thrive) self-publishing? Retailers and publishers are certainly important for physical copies of a book; how well can an author do publishing only digitally?

According to Bezos in the Kindle HD presentation, something like a quarter of Kindle top 100 sellers are self published.

Hmm, I wonder how many of the top 100 grossing titles are self published.

Self published titles tend to be very cheaply priced and Amazon frequently has a (virtual) monopoly on the sale of the title. This places them higher on the list of most units sold for the Kindle. Even with that advantage they only occupy a quarter of the list.

Writing a good book is very hard. Editing a book is very demanding as well. Add on top of that the need to market it yourself ...

Just being a good writer is hard enough.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

will_die (586523) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299311)

No.
Based on just Amazon the top moneys can but once you hit the top 20 and lower they are making less than a below average physical book using normal means.
Even then the top people are not making as much as a upper normal publishing person.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300013)

I know many people who aren't in the 'top 20' on Amazon who make a living from self-published fiction.

At least in SF, a typical mid-list advance for a 'physical book using normal means' seems to be around $20,000; if you don't believe me, read some of the posts on the web from mid-list writers complaining that advances are lower today than they were twenty years ago. A typical advance for a new writer seems to be around $5,000.

If you sell an e-book for $4.99 you need to find about 6,000 fans to make $20,000, or about 1,500 to make $5,000.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298799)

Publishers don't have to shrink their margins. They can charge amazon whatever they like for each copy that Amazon wants to sell.

Sure if amazon prices other retail businesses out of existence that will likely allow amazon to raise prices, but that's a different matter to price fixing.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298929)

This Ruling doesn't change the amount of money the publisher gets per copy of the work. It only changes the amount that a seller like Amazon must sell the work for. The way it was working before the Ruling, the Publisher (a monopoly agent) set the sell price, which included the Publisher and Author's cut and a huge 30-50% cut of the book price for Amazon (or other retailer). The Publisher did not allow Amazon to sell the ebook at a discount, even if they were willing to only get 5% for the book. Now Amazon still has to pay the publisher what they asked for the ebook, but they can sell it for whatever they want.

This has no bearing on the financial outcome for the publisher.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

morcego (260031) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299041)

You are working under a wrong assumption. As far as I know, publisher can still charge amazon whatever they want for those ebooks. They just can't stop amazon from selling at 0 profit, or even under cost. There are valid commercial reasons for that (multiple sales, recurrent business, ebook reader sales etc).

That publishers shouldn't be able to do is to tell Amazon how much they must sell for.

Will that still impact small retailers ? Yes. That's part of capitalism. You didn't think it was all good, did you ?
But affect the publishers ? It shouldn't.

Re:Good for Whom? (2)

SB2020 (1814172) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299919)

But affect the publishers ? It shouldn't.

Until Amazon are the only retailer and then they can start to make demands to force publishers to reduce prices. See also the current fight over milk prices in the UK. The big supermarkets are abusing their virtual monopolies to force farmers to sell milk for less than it cost them to produce, driving farmers out of business. Clearly unsustainable.

Publishers profits from the 50Shades and HarryPotters are used to support and nurture titles/authors that are only marginally profitable or even unprofitable but culturally important. It's what gives us choice on the booksellers shelves, at least until they are all squashed and you can only buy from Amazon.

Treating all books as pure commodity will lead to the only authors able to make a living are those aiming for the mass market and you will only be able to buy 50 Shades of Grey - sensationalist crap that barely qualifies as writing.

Re:Good for Whom? (2)

morcego (260031) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300127)

I can understand your worry but, again, that is just part of capitalism, albeit the bad part.

However, in this particular case, Amazon has enough strong competition (B&N, Fictionwise, Apple etc), this isn't likely to happen.

Actually, there is a bigger problem than price setting that can affect this: availability. I live outside the US, and there are several books that are only available to be from Amazon. Even when they are available somewhere else, like Fictionwise, the publisher
will tell them they can't sell outside the US, pretty much giving Amazon a virtual monopoly. I expect there are other restrictions that also apply only to some of those stores, and not others.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

radish (98371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300163)

Let's imagine Amazon are the only place in the world you can buy written material. So they force publishers to sell for less, squeezing their margins. Eventually it's just not going to be worth being a publisher, and they'll shut up shop and open a bar or something. Now Amazon have nothing to sell - and hence no income. That doesn't seem like a good outcome for them.

Another option is that someone else (or Amazon themselves) would see a way to run a publisher for less money and so provide Amazon product at the prices they want to pay - the question there is whether it would be of a quality that the customer is interested in buying. If it is, then the masses have spoken, if not, we're back to having no product to sell.

Now there will always be people who aren't happy with the mainstream (music, TV, film, etc) and just like today they'll still get their fix, it'll just mean paying more and getting it from small providers. Which will still exist, because Amazon will never be the only place you can buy eBooks. Running a store an maintaining stock costs basically nothing with digital media so the barrier to entry is low. Look at music, yes iTunes are the behemoth and sell a ton of stuff, but there are countless very successful smaller sellers catering to specific needs (lossless files, independent artists, specific genres, etc).

We already lost the record store (1)

Shivetya (243324) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299083)

and the video store. Technology was bound to push the book store out as well. So while I see the concern we have to face it, each industry evolves and those where the principle product can be delivered in a new form will adjust too.

Plus this digital move opens up the door for wanna be authors everywhere. No longer are you stymied by the inability to get your book "in print". There will still always be jobs for editors and the like for the big names in writing, however the little guy can now be heard for much cheaper if not free. That could not be said with the old hard copy model

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41299309)

This ruling by the DOJ is stupid, plain and simple. When you alter some of the variables that go into an industry e.g. market demand, consumers, prices, active retailers, then a tactic such as "price fixing" might be anti-competitive at one time but pro-competition at another time. Such is the case here. Agency pricing was introduced to combat predatory pricing by Amazon who were selling at a loss to drive out competition. I dont mind the driving out of business part as long as its through fair means. Its the selling at a loss part that sucks. I guess the DOJ doesnt mind taking short cuts to thinking. Price fixing = bad, case closed.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41299351)

While I can certainly appreciate your point as my neighborhood Borders went out of business last year, the fact that they conspired to raise the prices is where the real problem is.

If each publisher/reseller involved lowered the price to a sustainable margin without collaborating with competitors this wouldn't have been a problem.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299499)

What is the point in these "publishers" and "book retailers" when we can buy and sell our books online now?

Re:Good for Whom? (3, Informative)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300429)

What is the point in these "publishers" and "book retailers" when we can buy and sell our books online now?

Good luck selling eBooks from your collection.

The point in "publishers" is that they take care of the proofing, typesetting (yes, even an ePub looks better if it was formatted as something other than a raw text dump), marketing, artwork (nice covers sell better), and so forth.

The point in "booksellers" is that you get one-stop shopping, and the publisher and author don't have to set up and maintain retail accounting systems and delivery servers (or did you think the Internet is powered by fairies? Those books come from tangible source machines with tangible operators powered by real live electricity).

Yes, one person can do it all, but doing everything yourself doesn't always mean it gets done well. If my favorite author can be more creative and more productive because he or she or they or whatever have outsourced the grunt work, I'm willing to pay for a middleman or 2.

Not being an idiot (no matter what they say), I won't pay more for electronic books than their dead-tree versions, but I don't consider paying a resonable price for intermediary services as a complete waste of money.

Re:Good for Whom? (2)

anethema (99553) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299749)

Far and away now a days I read more self published books on amazon. Their editing standards are not usually up to published quality, esp for an author's first book, but I'm more and more convinced that publishers have been more harm than help in the book work anyways.

For example here is a category of books I enjoy, and the top books in it:

http://www.amazon.com/High-Tech-Science-Fiction-eBooks/b/ref=amb_link_7192512_3?ie=UTF8&node=158595011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=left-1&pf_rd_r=18Z89FBPQX256PRKTBVW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1300192942&pf_rd_i=668010011 [amazon.com]

On the first page alone I think there might be 1-2 non self published books.

SO maybe because they are so cheap, they are popular and sell a lot. Let's try by customer rating:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_st?qid=1347374427&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A!133141011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Cn%3A158591011%2Cn%3A158595011&sort=reviewrank_authority [amazon.com]

STILL almost entirely self published books.

So yeah while the editing standards might not be quite up to snuff, the storytelling has been great and once the author hits with one book he gets almost all the sales money so makes much more than an author under a publisher. Then he has the cash to hire editors etc etc and the result is there have been some amazing series published on there.

Thanks to my kindle and all these 99c self published books, I read MUCH more than I would have otherwise and found some real gems. These days the publisher is just a money sucking middleman that I'm not convinced is really needed anymore.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

mythix (2589549) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299807)

I also saw an interview with Dubravka Ugrei in which she also speaks about the impact of this trend, not only on the consumer but on literature itself. She stated the same thing you did, that nobody will publish a book without being sure about the numbers beforehand. The result of this is that it is no longer important what you write, but this importance shifts to who wrote it. We are already seeing this everywhere, people with a famous face are all producing books (and other nonsense) and it is selling. The content in these are generally of a much lesser quality, and this will hurt literature in the long run... I remembered one sentence she said which says it all imo: "We are no longer writers, we are content providers" it is making something that is supposed to be an art into the factory line seemingly constructed by Henry Ford: producing cheap, unoriginal bundled packs of paper at a great capacity. But not one has the quality of a hand built wooden frame Morgan roadster...

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299925)

Sure, companies like Amazon don't care that much if that happens, but book retailers, who are forced to attempt to make a living off of thinner and thinner margins are going to have troubles making ends meet. Publishers are similarly going to have troubles paying the bills as their margins shrink further and further.

Book retailers are just middlemen with no real value-add, so why should society care if they go out of business? (At the present time it would probably be a bad thing because there aren't enough jobs, but that's a problem with employment and aggregate demand, not a good reason to keep obsolete businesses around forever.)

Publishers add some value (selectivity and editing, for example) but they have historically extracted more value than they deserve due to their role as gatekeepers. Whittling down their margins is probably, on average, a good thing.

Re:Good for Whom? (1)

Silentknyght (1042778) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300673)

There is a very real danger that the drive to force prices down is going to harm a lot of businesses. Sure, companies like Amazon don't care that much if that happens, but book retailers, who are forced to attempt to make a living off of thinner and thinner margins are going to have troubles making ends meet. Publishers are similarly going to have troubles paying the bills as their margins shrink further and further.

There's a very real danger of an actual free market. I've been looking to buy an ebook--instead of a hardcover--for the next book in a series I'm reading. Eff HarperCollins. The ebook is listed at $15 on Amazon, right next to Amazon's listing of the _hardcover_ book for $16. How does real-world printing machines, paper, and transportation costs add up to $1? They don't, of course. Someone is artificially controlling ebook prices.

The more slapdowns like this, the better. The only danger is to obsolete business models.

Re:Good for Whom? (3, Informative)

boyfaceddog (788041) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300753)

I write stories and have a book coming out next year so I have a dog in this one.

What I have seen and what I have been told by Tor is that ebooks will split the market. You will have a flood of cheaply produced, low-cost titles and you will have a small boutique market of high-end interactive books that cost a fortune and will be updated from year to year.

Every house wants their boutique titles. In the early 2000s those would have been the Harry Potter series. Tie-ins and marketing galore. That was a publisher's wet-dream. The boutique titles, as seen right now, will be a mixture of interactive magazine, tv show, and music video. Sort of like a subscription to a super-version of your favorite cable channel. Words will make up some of the content but a lot of it will be pictures and music. Like mystery novels? Think what you could do if you had four or five top writers pumping out a dozen titles, all tied together, and with it's own episodic tv show. Science fiction is a no-brainer, as are fantasy and spy 'novels'.

By the way, we already have all of this, only the stuff is spread out across a dozen studios and publishers. What will happen is a single house making all things. Okay, maybe a little cooperation.

On the other end of the scale are the books I will be writing. Text edited by a professional and thrown into an ebook template. IF my book sells and IF there is a little interest by Barnes & Nobel and IF I can pull together a tour, Tor *might* do an actual print run - paperback - very limited. Tor said they will help with some local tour dates in the midwest but all travel and hotel costs are mine to cover.

Nearly everyone can be published now. The downside is there isn't any more money to o around.

Welcome to the new publishing.

Re:Good for Whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41303163)

Evolve or die. Your company died in the fair game of free market. This is the attitude that generates to much hate for the RIAA and MPAA and their obsolete media and business models.

url (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298589)

http://www.booksonboard.com/

additional info very important to this story (3, Interesting)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298837)

From a different article about this story:

The one place you won't find such discounts, however, is the iBookstore, Apple has opted to fight the Justice Department and go to trial alongside Penguin and MacMillan next year.

Why am I not surprised? Price fixing and monopolistic bullshit even when they don't actually have a monopoly is Apple's bread and butter.

Re:additional info very important to this story (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year and a half ago | (#41298881)

Unfortunately, that also means that the MacMillan (tor) eBook that I want to buy is currently listed as $18.74, half a dollar more than the hardcover.

Re:additional info very important to this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41299189)

From a different article about this story:

The one place you won't find such discounts, however, is the iBookstore, Apple has opted to fight the Justice Department and go to trial alongside Penguin and MacMillan next year.

Why am I not surprised?

Maybe because you had to go to a different article about this story to find wrong information, since the article [the-digital-reader.com] linked from the story says:

A reader pointed me at the iBookstore, where Harpercollins titles are now being discounted. I’ve spot checked a half dozen titles and whenever Apple discounted them Apple was the one who usually had the best price – sometimes by several dollars. For example, the Kindle edition of Men are from Mars sells for $8.89, while B&N has it for $9.99 and Apple sells it for $7.99. And it’s not the only one, either.

Re:additional info very important to this story (1)

Roogna (9643) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300463)

On the iBookstore book prices are set by the Publisher -not- Apple. Just like the AppStore they let the copyright owner set the price. If Harpercollins wants to discount their books on the iBookstore, they can go in and change the price tier themselves.

Re:additional info very important to this story (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299723)

From a different article about this story:

The one place you won't find such discounts, however, is the iBookstore, Apple has opted to fight the Justice Department and go to trial alongside Penguin and MacMillan next year.

Why am I not surprised? Price fixing and monopolistic bullshit even when they don't actually have a monopoly is Apple's bread and butter.

I believe that Amazon selling eBooks for less than they pay publishers to drive out competition is more monopolistic bullshit behavior than not providing discounts.

Re:additional info very important to this story (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41300381)

I believe that Amazon selling eBooks for less than they pay publishers to drive out competition is more monopolistic bullshit behavior than not providing discounts.

And that's a problem to be dealt with when it arises. It's not an excuse for Apple to get together with the publishers to collude and force prices up across the industry. Monopolies are bad, so is price fixing and collusion.

Re:additional info very important to this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41301469)

There is no proof shown that Apple colluded with publishers to fix prices. There MAY be evidence that SOME publishers colluded with each other in a deal that included Apple, but not that Apple was a knowing participant in these negotiations.

Oh great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41298989)

Now that the price-fixing suit is over, Amazon can go back to selling eBooks for less than they pay publishers like they did before. Nothing market-manipulating about that, no sir...

Re:Oh great! (1)

moronoxyd (1000371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41299581)

Amazon can do that only for so long.
It's still a company that has to make a profit.

The price-fixing spearheaded by Apple would be permanent (or at least long lasting).

And: One benefits the consumer, the other doesn't.

Progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41299401)

Without price fixing in the mix it's become slightly more difficult to mock the publishing industry. However, they have a long way to go before such mockery could be considered a challenge.

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