Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

11/08/2015

The Printed Book – The Latest On Its Fate


                       Printed Books – Here to Stay?

In the continuing development of the ‘evolving publishing industry’, as in the evolution of ANY industry or of the world, itself, for that matter, there are going to be growth spurts and plateaus.

And when either one of these phenomena occur, speculation runs rampant Re why – and all kinds of predictions materialize running all the way from Armageddon of a product (e.g. the printed book) to the newest replacement product (e.g. the ebook)!

The truth of the matter is neither of these book platforms are going anywhere – In fact, more hitherto unknown platforms will be marching onto the publishing stage in the future AND the future thereafter 🙂

What is and will be happening is the acceptance of existing and new publishing products will be integrated, massaged and utilized by different demographic areas at different times.

Tonight’s research article outlines one such current ‘state of the printed book’ forecast; with a little of its history thrown in for good measure:

 

The Past, Present and Future of the Printed Book

By Anuj Srivas as printed in The Wire

Hear that? That’s the sound of Johannes Gutenberg rolling in his grave. Amazon, the very company that has done the most to disrupt the industry surrounding the printing press, has opened a physical bookstore.

Dustin Kurtz over at New Republic has a great review of what the company is billing as a “brick-and-mortar store without walls”: Amazon Books, located just outside a shopping mall named University Village in Seattle, comes with the company’s touch; reviews, ratings and all. Books are organised into stacks such as “Most Wish-listed Cookbooks”, customers can look at online reviews while physically browsing a book and the price of all inventory is determined by Amazon’s online algorithm, the one used for the company’s website.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that Amazon has finally opened a bookstore. The store’s existence shows us how developments in the publishing industry, which has often confused business analysts, have come full circle over the past ten years.

The all-too-familiar tale of digital disruption that we’ve seen play out in television (Netflix), transportation (Uber/Ola Cabs), accommodation (Airbnb) and music (iTunes, Spotify) hasn’t quite applied to the printed word. This isn’t to suggest, however, that Amazon is throwing in the towel and plans to open any more bookstores, or even pursue it as a serious strategy; only that the march of technological progress hasn’t followed its usual course.

Read the entire article here.

 

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02/09/2013

Publishing’s Past Not So Hot – Let’s Take a Peek


What am I going to do with all these damn books?

Many people often lament the ‘good old days’ of this or that (publishing being the key word tonight). You know what I’m talking about. These types are usually victims of what I call ‘stunted time warp’. They remember a time that was simpler (and clearer) to them — not because it really was, it just seemed that way to them because they were too young, naive and had no accountability to understand what was truly occurring in the underbellies and backrooms to make things appear perhaps more simple, righteous and clear-cut on the surface (for the uninitiated) — AND as they physically grew and aged, their mental understanding and education RE those specifics did not. They are ‘stunted’ and therefore believe in things that live in the fantasies of their own minds and were never reality in the first place.

This post takes a little insightful look at the small (and not so small) publishers of the so-called ‘golden age’ of publishing and resurrects some literary works that have been forgotten, out of print or never appreciated as much as they should have been in the past due to draconian shortcomings in the so-called traditional publishing (TP) system.

Just what are these draconian shortcomings? The main ones, in this writer’s humble opinion, were and still are:

1) Continuously undermanned  (even the big houses) to handle the awesome workload of incoming manuscripts (both talented and not so talented) from millions of submitters. This is evident by the numerous and often rude original rejections received by tons of later-famous authors for their exact, later-published manuscripts. 

2) Assuming the reading public were/is too stupid to know what they wanted or needed to read or would enjoy.

3) Having the audacity to assume a ‘gatekeeper’ role to protect the reading public from what they considered ‘bad literature’. This is actually a form of censorship — And just where did these self-appointed ‘gatekeepers’ receive their God-like abilities? I was unaware of any universities awarding degrees in supernatural powers 🙂

4) Nonexistent to poor marketing for contracted newbies. (This one never made sense to me as the more invested in marketing the more return realized).

5) Promulgating, perpetuating an unsustainable publishing model for years.

6) Denying most authors a semblance of fair profit margin (except in rare cases).

7) Denying most authors a proper say in literary rights.

What model/system solves these problems and empowers writers? Digital (and POD for those who enjoy print more) self-publishing, of course.

Is this model perfect? Not yet; but, it is evolving more perfect everyday. (Was TP ever perfect?)

Does this new publishing and literary openness and freedom scare some? Of course. Especially those victims of ‘stunted time warp’ as mentioned above.

Will they adjust to modern publishing? Those that are true writing professionals will — just like those in the past have survived past publishing milestones that stunned publishing in totally new directions.

David Streitfeld , The New York Times, writes this:

Publishing Without Perishing

In the old days, life for small publishers was a hassle. The economics were such that copies got dramatically cheaper when printed in bulk, but then the books had to be stored, which was expensive. Finding an audience was the hardest part; some independent presses took years or even decades to sell out a modest print run.

Now books can be efficiently printed in small quantities, like one copy. Amazon, meanwhile, is happy to do the job of fulfilling orders. The stage is set to allow everyone to become his own Alfred Knopf.

James Morrison, a 36-year-old editor and graphic designer in Adelaide, Australia, is an old-fashioned book enthusiast, with around 10,000 books in his personal library. In 2007 he began a blog, Caustic Cover Critic: One Man’s Endless Ranting About Book Design, which showcases and evaluates new jackets. Like any inveterate reader, Mr. Morrison would stumble across obscure books practically begging to be reprinted. For instance, he read an account by the historian David S. Reynolds of “the largest monster in antebellum literature,” which was “the kraken depicted in Eugene Batchelder’s ‘Romance of the Sea-Serpent, or The Ichthyosaurus,’ a bizarre narrative poem about a sea serpent that terrorizes the coast of Massachusetts, destroys a huge ship in mid-ocean, repasts on human remains gruesomely with sharks and whales, attends a Harvard commencement (where he has been asked to speak), [and] shocks partygoers by appearing at a Newport ball.”

Mr. Morrison concluded that “the audience for an 1850 book-length Monty Python-style doggerel poem about a socially aspirant sea serpent is probably just me,” but how could he be sure? The Internet is all about weaving people together with even stranger tastes.

The critic has published about a dozen out-of-copyright volumes using Lulu, which does the printing, and Amazon, which does the selling and shipping. He dubbed his venture Whisky Priest in homage to Graham Greene, himself an enthusiast of uncommon and unjustly forgotten literary efforts. On the Whisky Priest list are the Batchelder book; a collection by Edith Wharton; “Artists’ Wives,” Alphonse Daudet’s stories about the war between the sexes; and Storm Jameson’s “In the Second Year,” a prophetic look at fascism.

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01/30/2013

A-List Author Ditching Traditional Publishing and Embracing the Amazon Model – Some Insights


Traditional Publishing Getting Dumped

Lately, more and more A-list authors are bypassing traditional publishers and self-publishing through various e-book venues.

Why ?

Some, I imagine, go indie because it’s there and they just want to try. Others jump on the self-publishing band wagon to have more freedom and control and still others like the higher margin (even though it’s a higher margin of a cheaper price — think ‘volume’ here).

Tim Ferriss, A-list author of the  4-Hour Workweek and 4-Hour Body  AND the subject of tonight’s post, gives great insight into other reasons why established authors are dumping TPs for digital-publishing through the Amazon platform — like the detailed data intelligence (analytics) provided (who’s buying the ebook & sites driving the most sales, etc) — data never provided by TPs. This is info that can help authors market their own books better and tell them what countries in the world they might possibly want to direct their next project/s. Global marketing here we come !

This Tim Ferriss interview from Business Insider by Dylan Love:

Why One Insanely Successful Author Ditched Traditional Publishers And Went With  Amazon Instead

Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur, lifestyle hacker, and author who writes about  how to optimize aspects of your life.

His newest book is 4-Hour Chef, and while  there are plenty of recipes in it, it’s actually about about how to maximize  your learning ability. Ferriss teaches the reader the techniques he used to go  from being indifferent towards cooking to becoming a kitchen warrior.

Ferriss’ previous books, 4-Hour  Workweek and 4-Hour  Body, were released through conventional publishers, but he’s one of a  growing number of A-list authors opting to go with Amazon’s publishing model  instead.

We conducted a brief email interview with Ferriss to get his thoughts on  where books and publishing are heading, and here are some of the highlights on  what he had to say:

  • Publishers need to behave more like talent agencies or venture capital  firms to survive.
  • Despite being boycotted by Barnes & Noble,  he doesn’t regret his decision to publish through an Amazon property.
  • E-books are a net positive for the publishing industry.

Here’s the full Q&A:

BUSINESS INSIDER: How does the experience of releasing 4-Hour Chef  through Amazon compare to releasing your other books through more conventional  publishers?

TIM FERRISS:  I was penalized for the bestseller lists  (due to the Barnes and Noble boycott, etc.), but I was able to get incredible  Amazon on-site promotion and data intelligence.  Wondering who’s buying  your books, where, and which sites are driving the most Real converting traffic  to your book page?  I have that insight now, which I never had  before.  It’s been extremely cool and will inform everything I do in the  future.

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12/28/2012

Beware of ‘Author Services’ Shops in 2013


"Need some author services, buddy?"

“Need some author services, buddy?”

The burgeoning self-publishing world has exploded a need for so-called ‘author services’ — you know, the services that used to be provided by the traditional publishers (TPs) if your manuscript was chosen from a gazillion other entries. Services such as editing, proofing, book production, packaging, and distribution, as well as back office tasks such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and year-end tax reporting.

These ‘author services’ shops exist now to some degree but will propagate wildly in the coming year.

So, before you spend ANY money (and most probably needlessly) heed this insight from Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, in this article by Jason Boog:

Mark Coker Predicts: ‘More money will be made in author services than in book sales.’

In his 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions, Smashwords founder Mark Coker included this warning for aspiring writers: “In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales.”

All independent writers need to remember this advice as we head into the new year. We asked How Much Should Self-Publishing Cost? in November and received a wide-range of responses. Indie authors can pay everything from nothing to $50,000 in an effort to publish their work.

Here’s more from Coker: “With the shift to self-publishing, writers must carry the publishing burdens once borne by traditional publishers, such as the cost of editing, proofing, book production, packaging, and distribution, as well as backoffice tasks such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and year-end tax reporting … With this burgeoning demand for professional publishing services, thousands of service providers will open up virtual author services shops in 2013. The challenge for writers is to procure the highest quality services at the lowest cost. Plenty of scamsters and over-priced service providers will be standing by to help.” 

Coker also included two tips for keeping your self-publishing work at a respectable cost. Here is his first tip:

As I write in Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, pinch your pennies.  As a self published author, you’re the publisher.  You’re running a business.  The lifeblood of a business is profit, because profit generates cash.  If you run out of cash, you go out of business.  Since profit equals sales minus expenses, and sales are difficult to predict and often minimal, it’s important to minimize expenses.  DIY as much as possible, especially when you’re starting out. Invest your sweat equity (your time and talent) first.  If you can’t afford editing, barter for editing, and leverage beta readers.  Once you start earning a profit, then carefully reinvest.  Never borrow money to finance your ebook publishing adventure. Never spend money you need to pay the mortgage or to put bread on your table.

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10/24/2012

Are Self-Published Authors Devaluing the Written Word?


Melissa Foster _ International
Best Selling Author

In my humble opinion, the correct simplistic answer is “Hell No!” — Nothing can devalue quality written work, no matter its source or format.

I suppose an argument can be made that the deluge in less-than-stellar written work, made possible through new and instant technology, has, indeed, diluted quality written and structured words — due mainly to the quantity of its existence.

BUT, poor quality work (or even technically well-written but boring work) has always existed, even in traditional publishing.

So, I say its a quantitative and not qualitative proposition — My opinion, of course 🙂

Anyway, here is an interesting take on this issue by Melissa Foster, award-winning author, community builder for the Alliance of Independent Authors and a touchstone in the indie publishing arena:

Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?

Self-published authors have created a devaluing of the written word, and, some of them are scrambling to see how low they can go to get noticed.

Let us list the ways: 99-cent price point for ebooks. Free ebooks via KDP Select program. Unedited work. Kindle giveaways to get attention and bulk up sales. And lastly, nasty reviews from other authors with the sole purpose of driving down customer ratings.

Why are indie authors selling their work so cheap? In short, mismanaged expectations. Many self-published authors hear about the outliers who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they’ll do anything to try and reach that pinnacle. The plain fact is that most of them never will.

The Guardian recently reported that, “Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.” That was backed up by a recent poll of authors who have 2 or less 99-cent ebooks on the market that revealed that 75% of authors are selling less than 100 ebooks per month at that rate, with 46% selling less than 10 ebooks per month.

Yes, there are 99-cent anomalies. A recent headline on GalleyCat reported that, “99-Cent Sale Sweeps Self-published Bestseller List”. Yes, Stephanie Bond did achieve bestseller status with three of her titles, all listed for 99 cents but what most indie authors fail to realize is that Stephanie was previously traditionally published and has a following in place. As a new author, that’s very difficult to match.

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03/03/2012

Publishing Intrigue: PayPal Practicing Censorship


PayPal CENSORS

Can you believe it’s the twenty-first damn century and Neanderthals living today are still trying to censor the written word in the United States of America! A country that has ALWAYS believed in free speech and what it truly means.

Sad that some people never grow up, reach maturity and truly understand that America represents advanced citizenship — That essentially means you have to work at it.  

It seems PayPal, a fucking online financial transaction entity, is refusing to process payments for e-books that contain material their powers-to-be deem, in their infinite wisdom, to be objectionable in some way.

Why this is causing even more furor than usual is that for some goddamn reason PayPal has come to ‘dominate’ online self-publishing. Why the hell do we let ANY firm, much less digital online firms, come to dominate (monopolize) any industry and hence become too big to fail ? Or get so big and powerful that they can dictate anything to the supposedly free (to choose) consumers ?

It’s against the law dammit! — And, if they have changed the law while my back was turned, it is still against the American spirit!

This point is exactly why I have been blogging about why we need to rein in Amazon (see my last post on this blog) and not let it get too big to dictate. Right now Amazon is a good company, but, believe me, absolute power corrupts absolutely and those good author percentages, etc., etc., will disappear without competition. And Amazon, being a public company, the leadership and good intentions can change at the drop of a hat 🙂

More on this censorship intrigue from The Independent  by Guy Adams, their Los Angeles correspondence: 

Self-publishers accuse PayPal of censorship

Online firm refuses to process payments for ebook sites that sell titles with ‘erotic or potentially illegal’ content

 

The opening bedroom scene of Andrea Juillerat-Olvera’s new, erotic science-fiction novel Demon’s Grace is a classic of its kind. “He is on his knees,” it begins, “worshiping the cavernous female torso.”

Sadly, for admirers of Juillerat-Olvera, it’s about to get harder to enjoy her fruity pose. In what victims are calling the most far-reaching act of censorship of the internet era, Demon’s Grace and thousands of books like it have just been effectively banned. To blame is the online payment company PayPal, which has a virtual monopoly over the business of allowing cash transfers to be made via the internet.

The US firm has come to dominate online self-publishing, a rapidly expanding industry which allows authors sell ebooks directly to readers. Last week, without warning, PayPal wrote to every major self-publishing website, announcing that henceforth it will refuse to process payments for clients that sell books which contain certain types of what it regards as “obscene” content.

From now on, the firm said, it will begin aggressively prohibiting erotic literature which contains scenes of bestiality, rape, incest and under-age sex. Ebook websites that sell such works will have their PayPal accounts deactivated. “It’s underhanded, unfair and ludicrous, and it bodes badly for the future of free speech and expression,” said Juillerat-Olvera, adding that Demon’s Grace is now banned by self-publishing sites.

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12/30/2011

Did the Book Industry Take it on the Chin in 2011? Inside Some Numbers


Print or digital, books are still books

It’s really hard to tell by the analytical parameters that the old book industry trackers (such as Nielsen BookScan) has set up to take the measurements. BookScan doesn’t even track e-books yet! What the hell are they waiting for? You have to get e-book numbers through other sources such as the Association of American Publishers (AAP).  

Let me say now that books are books …  regardless of the media they are presented in. And they should be included in any analysis of the overall health of the book publishing industry.
But, this bit of industry analytical dabbling in the following article from Crain’s New York Business by Matthew Flamm does provide an interesting insight:
 
No happy ending for book industry
 
Book sales in 2011 dropped 9% overall, with mass market paperbacks seeing the biggest declines. Adult hardcovers—the industry’s biggest moneymaker—saw a 10% drop.
 
The book industry took it on the chin in 2011, though e-book sales continue to offer the promise of better times to come.

Through Dec. 25, total unit sales of physical books fell 9% to 640.6 million, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks 75% of the market. That compares to a drop of 4% in 2010, and 3% in 2009.

Some categories were hit particularly hard. Sales of mass market paperbacks, a category that has been hurting for years, fell 23% to 82.2 million copies. More troubling, perhaps, was the 10% drop, to 164.1 million units, in the adult hardcover category, which is the industry’s biggest moneymaker. Trade paperbacks proved the most resilient of the major formats, with a 6% sales decline, to 351 million copies.

Among subject groups, adult fiction suffered the most, with an 18% plunge to sales of 160.3 million copies. Commercial fiction tends to sell particularly well as e-books. Adult non-fiction was down 10%, to 263 million copies.

(John’s Note: By the way, how many know the definitions of (or differences between) the following categories: adult fiction, commercial fiction, mass market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, adult hardcover?)     

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12/27/2011

Quality Will Be Top Factor For E-Books In 2012


More quality e-books? It was always in the cards.

When digital hit the scene in the publishing universe … and players of all levels realized the most obvious, surface advantages … everybody jumped into the fray even before the fine points and nuances where finely tuned; while the new baby was still struggling to walk, you might say. Just get your work into digital format as quickly as possible … and ‘quickly’ was faster than ever due to the new and ever evolving tech.

This rush to the promised land often sacrificed quality … Just ask all the armchair quarterbacks:)

But, as some realized from the beginning, quality would again become a paramount factor … especially when the pricing dust settled down a bit and good content would howl for proper reward.

Please read my latest post (E-Book Publishing Trends in 2012) on the Writers Welcome Blog for more background on this subject.

Now this survey from MarketWatch with some interesting forecast numbers:

eBook Survey Predicts ‘Quality’ As The Top Factor For 2012

Survey Shows That Readers Will Shun Poorly Digitized eBooks

Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc. (DCL), a leading provider of digital publishing services, reports 70 percent of 411 respondents to a survey drawn from a cross section of the publishing industry cited ‘quality’ as the most important consideration when publishing an eBook. Another important finding is that 63 percent of the respondents plan to publish a digital book in 2012.

“Eighteen months ago, more publishers were concerned about getting their information onto an eBook platform and quality was not the overarching theme it is now,” said DCL President and CEO Mark Gross. “The survey demonstrates that the publishing industry realizes consumers will not tolerate typos and bad formatting in a $15 eBook,” predicted Gross.

In another shift from tradition, 64 percent of the respondents stated they were interested in publishing non-fiction and technical digital content. This statistic is indicative of an expansion in the use of e-readers from casual reading of novels to a myriad of business and technical applications

“The survey confirms what we have been hearing from publishers, that while the initial push to digital was important, they are now seeing a need to go with the best partners and to improve their quality control and workflow,” said Bill Trippe, vice president and lead analyst at Outsell, Inc. an industry analyst firm. “Digital products are becoming the lifeblood for publishers, and consumers are expecting an optimal experience,” he added.

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12/07/2011

Future Publishing and Book Selling – An Insight


The Flinch - The latest mini-book by Julien Smith to come out from The Domino Project.

I’ve been a follower and big fan of Joanna Penn for quite a while now … And never cease to learn from her personal book writing and publishing trials and successes, which she has published in the form of blogs … sort of like a reality show journaling her blossoming as a writer, author and teacher.

One outstanding thing about Joanna is her completely open mind and willingness to accept and try new concepts first and not accept prevalent prejudices and fears about them. She is like a sponge, absorbing new ideas and readily making them work.

The following post from her The Creative Penn blog is visionary, informative (full of incisive links) and indicative of her growing and unique abilities:

The Flinch, Newsjacking And Digital Publishing

The Flinch is the instinct to draw back and shrink away from pain or what is perceived to be dangerous, difficult or unpleasant.

  It’s also the title of the latest mini-book by Julien Smith to come out from The Domino Project. Right now, you can get it for free on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk(that’s the book cover shown left). It’s a short, challenging read with one main point.

Embrace the flinch regularly, push yourself out of your comfort zone and get on with doing the important things in life.

Stop avoiding pain, get some scars and achieve something worthwhile. If you need a kick in the pants, go download it and share it with others.

The Flinch is important for you because of the changes in the publishing industry.

I was at the #FutureBook conference earlier this week and although it was filled with positive, forward thinking book-lovers, you could also sense the fear and concern amongst those who still believe print is the only way forward. My article on what authors can learn from the conference will be on the Future of the Book blog soon, but today a few things happened that illustrated the changing times we’re in and I wanted to share them with you.

People buy from those they know, like and trust.

One of the buzzwords of the FutureBook conference was ‘discoverability’, how to help people find books they want to read in the mass of information online.

Well, people buy from people they know, like and trust which funnily enough, I learned from Julien Smith & Chris Brogan in their book Trust Agents. I downloaded The Flinch on the strength of my respect for Seth Godin as well as Chris & Julien. Yes, this book is free but I have also bought 90% of all books from Seth Godin’s Domino Project because I’m in his tribe. He doesn’t have to ‘sell’ me anything, he just has to tell me the books are available and I click to buy.

John Locke in his ‘How to sell 1 million ebooks’ said that authors need to have a list of fans who will buy their next book, in the same manner as Seth has done as well. Locke was the first indie author to reach 1 million Kindle sales so he knows what he’s talking about.

You can do this too.

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11/14/2011

Publishers Are Going To Loose Not Only Their Retailers But Their Authors In The Future


"Where have all the authors gone???

How you ask? Let’s get to it.

It’s no secret Amazon has been selling digital books at a loss to gain more sales for its Kindle family. The strategy is simple enough … they need product (books or written content) to sell on their hardware e-readers which is where they make their profit. And they will give the product away, if necessary, to provide the widest selection available on its Kindle r-readers. 

Amazon wants the biggest catalog available to choose from.  And for those who are premium members (own Kindles and not some other product with a Kindle app … plus belong to the $79/yr Amazon Prime service ) they are indeed offering books for free from their library. You can borrow one book free a month and keep it as long as you want. 

Virginia Postrel tells all about it in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Amazon E-Library Is Publishing’s Profit Model

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) — Amazon.com Inc. is at it again. To the consternation of much of the book industry, the online giant is again offering digital titles for less than major publishers think books are worth. And this time, the price is zero.

If you own an Amazon Kindle, as opposed to just using the Kindle app on another device, and you also belong to the company’s $79-a-year Amazon Prime service, you can now “borrow” one digital book a month from the new Amazon Lending Library for free. You can keep the book as long as you want, but you can have only one at a time.

The new service worries Wall Street, too, because it increases Amazon’s out-of-pocket costs. The company is paying wholesale prices for some of the books in the lending library. For others, such as the titles from Lonely Planet travel guides, it is paying a flat fee for a group of books over a period of time. (It will report sales figures on individual titles back to those publishers.)

Beyond short-term earnings, however, the lending library is just the latest innovation to raise big questions about the whole publishing ecosystem. In an environment where books are increasingly digital, what’s the most effective way to create value for readers, for authors and for intermediaries? And — the biggest question — which intermediaries will survive the transition?

Big Six Balk

The lending library doesn’t include any books from the Big Six U.S. publishers — Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., Penguin Books Ltd. and Hachette — because Amazon can’t control what it charges for their digital books. They are undoubtedly relieved to be excluded. But the pricing control they value so highly reflects rigid arrangements they may come to regret.

Amazon used to pay publishers a wholesale price for e- books, just as it does for physical copies. It set whatever price it thought best for its overall business, even if that meant losing money on an individual title in order to boost traffic or sell more Kindles. It could adjust prices up or down to reflect new information or offer special promotions. Its standard price was $9.99, which was often less than it paid for each copy. Major publishers thought that was too low, but most couldn’t do anything about it.

Then came the iPad and the accompanying iBooks store. Apple Inc. struck a different deal with publishers, known in the business as the “agency model.” Publishers set the retail prices, with Apple taking a percentage for its services. The Big Six liked that deal and wanted it to be the industry standard.

Amazon resisted, going so far as to remove all the physical books from Macmillan off its site in hopes of forcing the company to continue the wholesale arrangement. But that sales strike alienated Amazon customers, who were angry when they went to the site and couldn’t buy the books they wanted. Amazon blinked.

As a result, most of the big-publisher titles in the Kindle store now sell for $12.99 to $14.99 each — a range Amazon called “needlessly high” when it capitulated.

I should say at this point that I am not an entirely disinterested observer. I’m an author, with two books available in digital form. And I agree with Amazon that, at $14.99, my 1998 book “The Future and Its Enemies” was priced needlessly high when its Kindle edition was released last spring. You have to either love me or your Kindle a lot to pay that much for a 13-year-old book you can get in paperback for $6. But, like Amazon, I have no say over how my e-book is priced.

Publishers, for the most part, don’t believe customers care much about the difference between Amazon’s old price and their new, higher ones. They’re skeptical that consumers respond to small price differences. A former publishing executive recently told me he simply didn’t believe that “if I really want a book for $9.95 I don’t also want it for $10.95 or $12.95.”

Look at Research

People in publishing say things like that all the time. While they admit that charging $100 for the typical hardback would be foolish, they don’t believe that changing the price of a book by a dollar or two will significantly change the number of copies sold.

The economic research suggests the opposite. In a 2009 paper that looked at consumers using computer price-comparison systems, or shopbots, to buy physical books online, economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Astrid Andrea Dick and Michael D. Smith found that a 1 percent drop in price — a mere 25 cents on a $25 book — increased the number of units sold by 7 percent to 10 percent. Shopbot users tend to be more price-sensitive than most consumers, but that’s a huge difference.

Publishers resist such evidence. The standard response is that it’s hard to know anything about pricing because “every book is different.” Every title is a unique good, and every customer values each book a little differently. So you might as well trust your gut.

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