Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/24/2012

Digging Further Into the Intrigue RE the DOJ Investigation of the Big Six Publishers


Looking Into DOJ Intrigue

Have you ever asked yourself the question “If the DOJ had evidence against the big publishing houses, why didn’t they indict them criminally instead of just civilly?”

Hmmmm.  

Well, according to a former prosecutor for the DOJ, they could have prosecuted them criminally (seems he had prosecuted successfully on less evidence).

Could it be that some white-collar crimes are treated differently than others due to who is involved? A kind of class privilege pass, so to speak.

Of course this is true ! Especially to those living in the ‘real’ world.

Some intriguing details of this case are offered by former DOJ prosecutor, Carl Steinhouse in Naple News dot com:

The Humorous Side of the Law: No indicting an Apple?

The Department of Justice recently announced that it has sued civilly Apple, Barnes & Noble and a whole bunch of book publishers for conspiring to fix the price of e-books (digital books) to the consumer reader.

The target of this alleged conspiracy was Amazon, which had the temerity to discount e-books down to $9.99 and lower, and often at a loss to itself. This, of course, put competitive pressures not only on Amazon’s competitors having to match Amazon’s low prices, but upon the competitors’ suppliers, the book publishers, to lower their prices as well. This price cutting of Amazon had to go, they decided.

Before the alleged conspiracy, on the sale of an e-book, Amazon would pay the publisher the wholesale price for that title, with Amazon free to charge its customers whatever it wanted. Publishers were unhappy because their other customers, mostly bookstores, were screaming bloody murder about the unfair competition from Amazon. This put a publisher in a quandary. It could, on its own, refuse to sell to Amazon. But just one publisher refusing to deal with Amazon would not make much of an impression on Amazon and that publisher would stand to lose a lot of business from the world’s largest e-book reseller. But if a group of publishers did the same thingnow that would be a different kettle of fish, depriving Amazon of its stock in trade, at least in e-books.

Enter Appleand Steve Jobs. Apple, with its new entry into the digital landscape, the iPad, became part of the equation because it now offered e-books on its devices in competition with Amazon’s Kindle. As we all know, Jobs, may he rest in peace, was no blushing violet and not one to ever sit on his hands and let someone take a bite of his Apple. Apple was not in business to lose money on any of its products, and e-books, in its iBooks store, Jobs determined, were not to be the exception.

According to the Justice Department, Jobs got the publishers and some of Amazon’s competitors to meet in the private dining rooms at upscale New York restaurants and by emails to discuss how to stop Amazon from steeply discounting their e-books on Kindle. The government says the defendants hatched a plan to band together to force Amazon to change from buying under the traditional wholesale pricing to a so-called “agency pricing” where the publishers set the price and pay Amazon and all e-book sellers a 30 percent commission. If all of the major publishers did this, Amazon would be required to raise its price from the $9.99 and lower, that it had been charging.

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02/29/2012

The Publishing Industry Should Create a One World E-Book Alliance – You Know Why?


Amazon 'Netting" Publishing Industry

To fight Amazon from taking complete control of the publishing industry. This could possibly turn out to be a harsh dictatorship.

Anytime you have one business with too much control of their market bad things just naturally result, if history is any indicator.

Amazon is a good company NOW, don’t get me wrong, with great innovation and customer service; but, this could (and I believe would) change if  the big ‘A’ is allowed to gobble up the majority of the publishing market. It would be bad for society (readers) and other publishing peripherals such as publishers, bookstores, libraries, etc. 

By preventing this bulldozing of the publishing industry, I believe, would actually save Amazon from itself  — as well as improve the overall structure of the publishing industry as a whole (more competition, better pricing, more diverse offerings, better opportunities through varied choices, etc., etc.) 

Here is an educated, international view from Javier Celaya offered in Publishing Perspectives:

How to Counter Amazon: Create a One World E-Book Alliance

The aeronautical industry, once dominated by Boeing, managed to develop Airbus. The publishing industry should aspire to create its own “cultural Airbus.”
 
During my presentation earlier this month at the If Book Then conference in Milan, I proposed that European publishers create a joint platformto compete against Amazon. Although I admire Amazon for its culture of innovation and superb customer service, I do not consider it beneficial either for society (readers) or any of the entities involved in the book industry (publishers, bookstores, libraries, etc.) to allow one company to take on such a leading position in the cultural world and be able to determine its future at its own whim. A diverse variety of online bookstores would guarantee more competition, resulting in better services and a broader range of content for all readers.
 
Although the creation of a joint venture is not an easy task, I am pleased to see that my suggestion was not taken as entirely ludicrous. Last week, the main Spanish financial daily – Expansión – published an article announcing that Grupo Planeta, Telefónica and Bertelsmannare planning to create a common platform to counteract Amazon’s growing leadership position. In the event of any potential criticism by those who tend to disapprove of risky ventures, I take this opportunity to express my support for this strategic decision since these three companies will undoubtedly be confronted with a remarkable challenge.
 
Amazon is an excellent company with almost 20 years’ experience in electronic business, an admirable customer service policy, and an enviable corporate ethos of persistent innovation. Offering a competitive alternative to Amazon will not be easy, although it will not be an impossible one either. Other industries, such as the aeronautical industry, which was once dominated by Boeing, managed to develop the Airbus consortium. The publishing industry can also aspire to create its own “cultural Airbus.”

To achieve this ambitious goal, European publishers and international online retailers should consider the following key factors:

Aggregating content, financial and human resources offers a competitive advantage

In the analog era, companies reached the top singly; in the new era of social participation, leadership is achieved through business collaboration. As I mentioned during the conference in Milan, aggregating content, financial and human resources on the Internet is essential in order to compete in the new digital economy. The sum of content and services of an Airbus type consortium will prompt economies of scale which will become their main competitive weapon.

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01/26/2012

Association of American Publishers: Book publishing is an Inefficient Industry if Ever There Was One


Larry Kirshbaum, Vice-President and Publisher, Amazon Publishing

intrigue and backroom talk RE the publishing industry. Interesting insight from   in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Amazon’s Hit Man

In November 1997, on a night of pounding rain in midtown Manhattan, Rupert Murdoch threw a party for Jane Friedman, the new chief executive officer of News Corp.’s (NWS) HarperCollins book division. The luminaries of the publishing business, such as Random House’s then-CEO Alberto Vitale and literary agent Lynn Nesbit, crowded into the Monkey Bar on 54th Street, with its red-leather booths and hand-painted murals of gamboling chimps. Trudging six blocks through the downpour from the Time & Life Building, Laurence J. Kirshbaum, then the powerful head of Time Warner Book Group, brought a guest: a young online bookseller named Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose ambitions would eventually end up affecting the lives of everybody at the party. “It was one of those moments in your life where you remember everything,” Kirshbaum says. “In fact, I think Bezos still owes me an umbrella.”

How times have changed. Physical book sales have been flat for a decade and are starting to get eclipsed by e-books. Friedman left News Corp. in 2008. And Jeff Bezos, who once courted the publishing aristocracy of New York, now competes against them. Last May, Amazon (AMZN) hired Kirshbaum, 67, to run Amazon Publishing, a fledgling New York-based imprint whose lofty goal is to publish bestselling books by big-name authors—the bread and butter of New York’s book industry. In the high-rise offices of the big publishers, with their crowded bookshelves and resplendent views, the reaction to Amazon’s move is analogous to the screech of a small woodland creature being pursued by a jungle predator.

In interviews, Amazon executives cast their new effort as an experiment in the booming world of e-books, not a plan to displace the Big Six—Random House, Simon & Schuster (CBS), HarperCollins, Penguin (PSO), Hachette (MMB:FP), and Macmillan. “What we’re building is more like an in-house laboratory where authors and editors and marketers can test new ideas,” says Jeff Belle, vice-president of Amazon Publishing and Kirshbaum’s boss. “Success to us means working with authors who want to find new ways to connect with more readers.”

Talk like that hasn’t mollified publishers, and it’s easy to see why. They’re trying to protect a century-old business model—and their role as nurturers of literary culture—from encroachment by a company that consistently reimagines how industries can be run more efficiently. Book publishing, an inefficient industry if there ever was one, seems ripe for reimagining. According to a recent report by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult paperbacks and hardcovers fell 18 percent between 2010 and 2011. Store chains such as Borders have been cartwheeling into bankruptcy, and independent shops are struggling to compete with the advantages enjoyed by online retailers, such as their freedom from collecting sales tax in many states. The lone bright spot is the rising sales of electronic books, but even that landscape is blighted: Fierce warfare for control of the new market, between Amazon.com, Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Barnes & Noble (BKS), threatens to turn minor combatants into accidental casualties.

And now this. Amazon could be an unstoppable competitor to big publishing houses. If history is any guide, Bezos, who declined to comment for this story, doesn’t care whether he loses money on books for the larger cause of stocking the Kindle with exclusive content unavailable in Barnes & Noble’s Nook or Apple’s iBookstores. He’s also got almost infinitely deep pockets for spending on advances to top authors. Even more awkwardly for publishers, Amazon is their largest retailer, so they are now in the position of having to compete against an important business partner. On the West Coast people cheerfully call this kind of arrangement coopetition. On the East Coast it’s usually referred to as getting stabbed in the back.

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12/17/2011

How To Strengthen Indie Booksellers – And Why We Should!


Strand Bookstore in NY -Still Surviving

More intrigue RE Amazon! AA doesn’t stand for Alcoholics anonymous here (although a drink wouldn’t hurt) … it stands for ‘Aggressive Amazon’.

Since Amazon is gutting the publishing industry by selling e-books (and e-book versions) at or below cost just to sell their other products … it is becoming glaringly clear that something has to be done to stop this future monopoly-in-the-making from becoming the lord and master of writers and publishers.

After all … Amazon’s core mission is NOT the art of writing and publishing … it is selling digital products [that merely deliver the true gold]! Let’s not get the true artists, creators and drivers of this  fine industry back to the slaves they were under the old exploitative traditional publishing system … just with a new digital master. The cart has been before the horse for far too long!

Now there are some out there who think the current developing digital publishing field and Amazon, in particular, is just fine because of the new emerging advantages that have been kind to some … But, BEWARE, if Amazon becomes the complete monopolistic monster it is striving for, the present advantages will vanish.

We must develop and strengthen multiple sources for the selling and distribution of our works.

Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly has this to say:

The Amazon Workaround

The best way to blunt the e-tailer’s clout is to support a diverse marketplace

Fear that Amazon will come to dominate the bookselling market is nothing new in the publishing industry. But last week, as booksellers continued to decry the company’s price check app (which could be used to access prices on booksellers’ sideline items, like toys and DVDs) and as information about Amazon’s aggressive demands to publishers regarding co-op and retail discounts surfaced (PW Daily, “Is Amazon Pushing Publishers to Brink on Terms, Co-op?” Dec. 15), some insiders began suggesting that the time had come to actively explore ways to lessen publishers’ dependence on the e-tailer. With this in mind, PW asked a number of people in the industry what the best course of action would be. The consensus was that developing and supporting initiatives that would create a more level the playing field would be the best approach to ensure a diverse marketplace.

Publishers readily acknowledge that, after the collapse of Borders, independent booksellers have become more important, and while the indie segment has shown signs of revival this fall, booksellers will still need to work closer with publishers to develop more profitable relationships. The changes that need to be made can’t be around the edges, but need to address the fundamental selling model between publishers and bookstores, something ABA CEO Oren Teicher called for in an address at BookExpo America this spring. Some experiments are already taking place, including extended dating. This would allow booksellers to keep titles on shelves longer and give them a chance to build an audience while helping them improve their always tight cash flow.

Selling books on consignment is another method that some independent publishers are trying, but consignment sales haven’t caught on yet with the larger publishers.

Windowing—offering print books for a period of time before e-books go on sale—while enticing is seen as impractical since it is unlikely that publishers will return to a practice they have already given up. Moreover, there is some thinking that publishers could start charging a premium to customers for e-books before the print book is released, something a sizable portion of consumers said they would like.

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03/21/2011

Is Amazon Becoming Too Amazonian?


Will Amazon slay writers in the future?

There are a lot of signs out in publishing land that indicate Amazon is positioning itself in a pretty complete vertical business structure ( acquiring both print-on-demand Booksurge and e-book tech software company Mobipocket as well as building and selling the e-reader Kindle) to become the dominant player (read that as monopolizer) in the current materializing publishing industry.

That, in and of itself, is not threatening…and they are playing somewhat fair (so far) with the true lifeblood of the industry: the content creators (writers and authors)…

But BEWARE! Do not let Amazon go completely unfettered or unchallenged because human nature and greed, being what they are, will succumb to complete dictatorship and the abuse of the content creators…Mark my words! Remember how out of whack traditional publishing became before being brought down.

There are other online entities and booksellers such as Apple’s iPad, Smashwords, Lulu, Barnes&Noble , etc…but, none have as complete a vertical package to go from publishing to reader as Amazon.

Let’s hope, for the sake of maintaining healthy competition and remuneration for all in what can be a great industry, that some of these other online enterprises (and complete newcomers) build their own self-contained verticals to save Amazon from itself and attract, nurture and grow great writers!

At least that’s the way this humble writer sees it.

Now, this by Anna Richardson from TheBookseller.com

Amazon could phase out publishers

Forbes.com looks at “how Amazon could change publishing”.

The first major technology-enabled change in the books industry came when digital print-on-demand presses started becoming affordable, but for authors looking to gain serious readership, the big question still remains unanswered: How would they market and distribute their books?

“Enter Amazon.com,” writes entrepreneur Sramana Mitra. “Some surveys suggest that online booksellers could become the largest channel for book sales by 2009, and Amazon is certainly the 800-pound gorilla in that market–it’s the largest bookseller in the world” and “what really keeps customers coming back is the outstanding user experience”, in great part due to its recommendation system.

In addition, in 2005, Amazon acquired the print-on-demand company BookSurge and Mobipocket.com, an e-book software company, and in November, it launched the e-book reader Kindle. According to Forbes, Amazon is now poised to revolutionise the book printing business through vertical integration.

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