Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/08/2012

A Compelling Case for the Agency Model or Reasons Why the Agency Model Will Not Lead to Higher Book Prices


 

Will blind justice kill the agency model?

Tonight a little hard data showing that the free market ecosystem would not allow the agency pricing model to cause book prices to rise.

Why not? One main reason is because authors and publishers would use price as a competitive tool, and this would naturally lead to lower prices.

Mark Coker, founder of  e-book distributor Smashwords, gives up some inside numbers on the Smashwords official blog  — data he has also shared with DOJ: 

Does Agency Pricing Lead to Higher Book Prices?

According to a March 9 story in the Wall Street Journal, The U.S. Department of Justice is considering suing Apple and five large US publishers for allegedly colluding to raise the price of ebooks.

At the heart of the issue, I suspect, is concern over the agency pricing model. Agency pricing allows the publisher (or the indie author) to set the retail price of their book.

Although Smashwords is not a party to this potential lawsuit, I felt it was important that the DoJ investigators hear the Smashwords side of the story, because any decisions they make could have significant ramifications for our 40,000 authors and publishers, and for our retailers and customers.

Yesterday I had an hour-long conference call with the DoJ. My goal was to express why I think it’s critically important that the DoJ not take any actions to weaken or dismantle agency pricing for ebooks.

Even before the DoJ investigation, I understood that detractors of the agency model believed that agency would lead to higher prices for consumers.

Ever since we adopted the agency model, however, I had faith that in a free market ecosystem where the supply of product (ebooks) exceeds the demand, that suppliers (authors and publishers) would use price as a competitive tool, and this would naturally lead to lower prices.

I preparation for the DoJ call, I decided to dig up the data to prove whether my pie-in-the-sky supply-and-demand hunch was correct or incorrect. I asked Henry on our engineering team to sift through our log files to reconstruct as much pricing data as possible regarding our books at the Apple iBookstore.

We shared hard data with the DoJ yesterday that we’ve never shared with anyone. I’ll share this data with you now.

Read and learn more

This Publishing/Writing Blog is available on Kindle :)))

Advertisements

03/14/2012

Publishing Intrigue Con’t: Is Government About to kill Real competition to Save Appearance of Competition?


Gov't Killing Competition?

Hopefully not!

The jury is still out. While the Justice Department is weighing the past, present and future course of the publishing industry (in trying to tame the nefarious price-setting practices of e-books — and by extension of all books), opinionated speculation is running rampant!

This digital-era-caused publishing shipwreck upon ‘conscience island’ could just be the best thing that has ever been visited upon the publishing empire.

Why ? Because the forced dealing with recent ethical questions like price-setting below profitable margins just to run peripherals out of business and create a more monopolistic advantage, will hopefully lead to a clearing up of abuses and unethical practices that existed under the old traditional publishing business model as well!  

But, in order for this to take place, the DOJ must put it’s best foot forward with a real commitment to create a publishing landscape that fosters open and fair competition. Good prices for all concerned will then follow — based on fair market value — not cookie-cutter, one-price-fits-all, dip-shit prices (that will be raised, without any recourse, in the future when the true monopoly is firmly established).

This from Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times:

Scott Turow: Apple didn’t collude, it offered an e-books life raft

Last week shivers shot through the world of publishing when news broke that the U.S. Justice Department warned Apple and five major publishers that it was investigating them for alleged collusion, the Wall Street Journal reported. At issue was the price of e-books: When Apple launched the iPad, five major publishers adjusted their pricing schemes from a wholesale/retail model to an agency model.

In December, Justice Department official Sharis A. Pozen told a House subcommittee that the antitrust division was investigating e-book pricing. A source told the New York Times that the department hopes to decide by the end of April, when Pozen is leaving, whether to file suit against Apple and publishers  Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, HarperCollins and Macmillan.

That would be a mistake, writes Scott Turow, a bestselling author, a lawyer, and head of the Authors Guild. In an update on the Authors Guild website, he writes:

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: Given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets.

Read and learn more

This Publishing/Writing Blog is available on Kindle :))) 

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.

Read and learn more

Get this Publishing/Writing blog on your Kindle :)))

 

09/10/2011

Publishers’ Why’s and Wherefore’s When Migrating to Digital (are all the damn apostrophes correct?)


Karina Mikhil - Publishing Executive

Indeed, when the current publishing upheaval began (it seems  just a little while ago in the scheme of things) and the conqueror ‘Digital’ came swaggering into the publishing world, publishers were at first completely devastated; then were bombarded by all kinds of options and questions for their very survival!

You can just imagine publishers’ mental angst deciding “Should I get out of this rapidly changing fireball of an industry or should I admit that the old ways are going down the drain and commit to learning a whole new process … dealing, perhaps, with an entirely new and separate tech industry?”

Karina Mikhil , a publishing executive with a Master’s in Publishing from New York University, has some excellent questions and analyses that will help these publishing execs and their firms reach a viable decision.

From Karina Mikhil in Publishing Perspectives:

Migrating to Digital Publishing? The Six Key Questions to Ask

Here are the six “Ws” you need to ask yourself before transitioning from the old to the new: why, who, what, when, which, and where.
 

The publishing industry is not generally known for being agile or quick to change, yet it is facing one of its biggest times of change probably since the invention of the printing press. At the heart of this is the migration to digital.

Prior to this migration, a time-tested process and structure existed for getting books printed: from acquisition, copyediting and typesetting, to author reviews and proofreading, to print. Although hiccups occurred and no two companies had the exact same workflow, the foundations were the same and ensured quality products got released in expected time frames.

Whether publishers are dealing with online content or e-books, digital only or both print and digital, publishers are now faced with more questions than answers as to how to incorporate the new with the old. Below I provide a framework for those questions, using the traditional 6 Ws: why, who, what, when, which, and where.

Why?

Of the six questions, this is the easiest to answer. No publisher can afford to ignore the digital any longer: the tipping point has come and gone; more and more e-books and e-readers are being sold weekly; and authors will begin demanding this, if they haven’t already. And traditional publishers need to offer all things digital to compete with the emerging “digital publishers.”

Who?

Even prior to the migration to digital, publishers would do one of two things to keep costs down: outsource as much as possible, keeping headcount down, or the reverse, which is hire talent to keep all services and costs internal. With digital, publishers have to make this decision anew. Should they invest in new talent from other industries (e.g., technology) or in educating existing talent, those who are eager to learn and have a background in publishing? Or should they turn to one of the many conversion and content solutions providers that exist in the market?

What?

Read and learn more

Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue blog is on Kindle right here 🙂 

08/17/2011

Amazon Publishing – Print is Thriving – And Other Insider Information


Awesome Amazon ???

Amazon’s business makes publishers nervous because it’s finally allowing the online retailer to cut publishers out of the loop entirely. Amazon is making more of its own books, and it’s got the authors to sell them.”

Amazon is adding more writers and renowned authors to its own company’s publishing imprints to produce new books directly for the reading consumer and bypass other established ‘publishers’ entirely. 

Gaining control of the online digital book retail business just seemed to whet Amazon’s appetite to gobble up more control in the bigger publishing business (in disruption due to the new tech transition) … including print, which is doing just fine right now, thank you very much. 

These interesting details provided by Anthony John Agnello , consumer and technology writer for InvestorPlace:

Amazon Publishing Continues to Boom With New Exclusives

Traditional publishers being pushed out of the picture

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) frightens book publishers. Not because electronic books are going to replace print by September. Far from it. Print is thriving, and while e-book sales have grown 1,300% in the past three years, they still represent only a fraction of overall revenue in the publishing industry. Amazon’s business makes publishers nervous because it’s finally allowing the online retailer to cut publishers out of the loop entirely. Amazon is making more of its own books, and it’s got the authors to sell them.

A Tuesday report in The New York Times said Amazon has made its latest promising acquisition in an ever-growing stable of authors producing original books for the company. Timothy Ferriss, the self-help author behind the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, will release his new book The 4-Hour Chef exclusively through Amazon Publishing imprint.

4-Hour Workweek has spent 84 weeks on the Times‘ Advice bestseller list. That book was published by Crown, an imprint under the Bertelsmann-owned Random House. Ferris never entertained a counteroffer from his previous publisher after talking with Amazon because they would not have been able to match what Amazon was offering as “a technology company embracing new technology.”

This is just the latest major publishing effort from Amazon since editor Laurence Kirshbaum came on as head of Amazon Publishing in May. Imprint Montlake Romance, an all-romance branch of Amazon Publishing, opened for business in May. Connie Brockway’s The Other Guy’s Bride will be the imprint’s first book out this fall. Brockway’s previous books were distributed under the Dell Publishing mass-market imprint, another house under the Random House banner.

Read and learn more

Related post: Is Amazon a Danger Lurking in the Publishing Industry?

Get this wonderful blog right on your Kindle

06/24/2011

E-Books … A Major Shakeup is Coming … Stirred By the Wizard


The Wizaed Cometh

A crossp0st today from my Writers Welcome Blog  (WWB)… One I feel is interesting and important enough to promulgate to those that may not follow WWB:

Pottermore.com is coming! … And bringing with it a real time, online lab that should flush out issues like e-book pricing, eliminating digital booksellers (i.e. Amazon) as the middleman, acceptance of a common format (i.e. ePub) acceptable to all devices across all platforms.

Phewwww! What a statement. Sounds like rocket science when it’s only common sense.

This strategically, ingenious concept will force a faster solution to many bottlenecks created by the various device manufacturers and digital booksellers trying to kidnap the market for its own exclusive profit.

This could only be brought by something so popular and powerful unto itself that it would lend itself to an exclusive sales site, with its own rules, that would draw people away from the status quo.

That power is Harry Potter!

This from paidContent.org by Laura Hazard Owen:

Three Ways Pottermore.com Could Change Book Publishing

After a suspenseful buildup, J. K. Rowling has announced that Pottermore.com will be an e-bookstore, exclusively selling Harry Potter e-books and digital audiobooks. Pottermore could shake up digital publishing as much as the Harry Potter books first shook up print publishing over a decade ago. Here’s how.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) will be cut out as the middleman and could be forced to open up the Kindle to new book-publishing formats. Pottermore.com does not officially launch until October, and right now many details are still unclear. But we know that the site will be the only place to buy Harry Potter e-books and that they will be compatible with a range of devices. Rowling stressed that selling the books directly “means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience and at the same time,” and Pottermore CEO Rod Henwood told The Bookseller, “We want to make sure anyone who buys it can read it on any device. We are talking to the Kindles, the Apples, the Googles, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) to make sure they are compatible. We set the pricing, we maintain the policy of making them available to as many readers as possible.”

We don’t know if that means that Pottermore.com will be selling multiple editions of the Harry Potter books—in the Kindle format, say, alongside formats like EPUB—but it seems more likely that the site would sell e-books in just one format, probably EPUB. Right now, the Kindle doesn’t support the EPUB format. But if any author could get Amazon to change its policy, it’s J. K. Rowling. The Kindle has the largest market share of any e-reader in the U.S.—it’s believed to be between 60 and 65 percent—and it would be an incredibly dumb move for Amazon not to allow the Harry Potter e-books to be read on its device. The company would risk losing users to the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo, and other devices that do support EPUB.

In fact, rumors that Amazon is going to start supporting EPUB have been floating around for awhile now, mainly in association with the news that the Kindle will support library lending this fall. Amazon should probably get on the EPUB train by July 31, when Pottermore.com is going to be opened up to a select million users.

Interesting experiments with pricing. Since Rowling is selling the e-books directly, she can do what she wants with pricing. Her UK publisher, Bloomsbury, and her U.S. publisher, Scholastic, are getting a cut, but these books are being …

Read and learn more 

 

 

03/14/2011

Limiting E-Book Circulation – A Librarians point of View


Harper Collins  has initiated limited access licenses to e-content for library circulation purposes. A new model meant to retain old print and ink attritions renewal profits. Appears publishers are having a hard time giving up an old print profit process that is simply no longer required in the new “E” world…I guess you can’t blame them.

Christopher Platt, director of collections and circulation operations at the New York Public Library, has some trade-offs from the library’s viewpoint that make a lot of sense and should make the adjustment to library ebook circulation much smoother.

Christopher Platt writing in Publishers Weekly:

The Happy Reader Equation: A Librarian on HarperCollins’s E-Book Pricing Model

HarperCollins generated a lot of controversy and debate with its new pricing model for e-books capping usage. In this week’s issue of PW, Connecticut librarian Kate Sheehan weighs in on the issue, and in PW Daily today we offer another piece by NYPL’s Christopher Platt, who takes a slighter different tack.

Recently, Harper Collins announced a new pricing model for e-books that caps usage, after which it would require a library relicense the title again for another set of uses. They further clarified that by mimicking the hardcover-to-paperback replacement purchase model, the price of the title would come down as it ages.

 

It has been a momentous few years for publishers and libraries. The economic downturn hit publishers hard, forcing cost-cutting, downsizing, and a review of business models. During all of this, the rapid advance of e-reading became the bright spot on publishers’ balance sheets, and now they are focusing intensely on ways to provide interesting content, engage new readers, and generate revenue in that arena.
 
Libraries were hit hard too, many of us enduring major fiscal challenges that strained our resources in the face of skyrocketing use. Libraries have downsized, cut back spending and services, and in some cases even closed during a time when their communities needed them the most. For many librarians, the announcement of e-book use limits from a major publisher must have felt like yet another in a long line of punches to the gut. 
HarperCollins is a publisher that has worked hard to build up a great track record supporting libraries, and I know they are a team of dedicated individuals who recognize the value we bring to the table. They, like many of us, are tasked with the difficult job of revising long-held models to stay profitable and relevant. As content and demand have grown in the e-book retail market, publishers have been revising e-book pricing models, and it’s no surprise they are now looking at the library market. I know the other trade houses are watching with great interest, and I applaud HarperCollins for being courageous enough to make the first move. This call for understanding is directed to all trade publishers and my respected library colleagues.
 
Librarians: public libraries are valued institutions. Remember that we are just one portion of the formula that gets titles to readers, and the only step that is not-for-profit:
Author + Publisher + Wholesaler + Library = Happy Reader

 

Read and learn more

Remember, Good People, you can get this wonderful blog right on your Kindle here

02/14/2011

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sales Tax


Question: Should e-book retailers have to charge sales tax in the state where their books are sold?

Hummm, interesting point; and all readers are encouraged to chime in…

Amazon is doing everything in their power to avoid collecting sales tax…even to the point of  threatening to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states and thereby putting their online affiliates out of business. Fair or unfair?

This Amazon conundrum has caused B&N to try and recruit the probably-pissed-off Amazon affiliates.

Sure, why not?

This blurb from Publishers Weekly: 

Barnes & Noble Courts Amazon Affiliates 

With Amazon determined to avoid collecting sales tax in as many states as possible for as long as possible, Barnes & Noble issued an open letter to Amazon affiliates urging them to sign on to its affiliate program, which it says has over 13,000 members. As part of its strategy to limit the states where it collects sales tax, Amazon has ended affiliate programs in a few states that have passed legislation calling for all online retailers to collect sales tax from out-of-state e-tailers. 
 
“We understand that Amazon.com has threatened to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states.” the letter begins.”Barnes & Noble is disappointed to hear that Amazon would threaten small businesses’ livelihood rather than comply with state law.” In large part because its stores gives it “nexus” in all states, B&N already collects sales tax for both its bricks-and-mortar stores as well as its online business. “Barnes & Noble wants Amazon.com affiliates who have been terminated to know that you are welcome to join the Barnes & Noble affiliate family. If Amazon doesn’t want you, we do! And, we will take care of collecting and remitting all sales taxes due on BN.com sales to its customers so you and our customers don’t have to worry about being hassled or prosecuted by state tax auditors,” the letter, signed by John Foley, president of BN.com, said.
Read and learn more

 

10/18/2010

Amazon Should Lose the $9.99 Ebook Price War


Publishers have engaged in a battle with Amazon on pricing all eBooks at $9.99…and they are winning.

I think they should win! Why? Simply because the value of a book (a creation, if you will, from intellectual capital) has never been just about the manufacturing process…It has, more importantly, been about the “content” from the writers mind and imagination.

Traditional publishing has always tried to minimize content (as evidenced by the chump-change percentages offered to writers)…But, in fact, it has always been the true gold.

Faith Merino, writing for Vator.tv, reports on this issue (not always with my point of view) with a key timeline history of the publishers vs Amazon fight and future probabilities:

Why are publishers fighting Amazon’s e-books?

A breakdown of traditional book publishers’ uphill battle against cheap, digitized books.

Amazon’s war with publishers heated up last week with a passive-aggressive letter to customers posted on Amazon.co.uk informing them that the high prices of e-books have been set by publishers and Amazon will continue to fight them. Personally, I go back and forth on this issue. On the one hand, charging the same price (or more) for an e-book as a hardcover seems ludicrous, but at the same time, the publishing industry has long struggled to survive, as there is little if any money in books these days. So what is the real story?

Amazon’s letter to customers reads:

“Dear Customers, recently, you may have heard that a small group of UK publishers will require booksellers to adopt an ‘agency model’ for selling e-books. Under this model, publishers set the consumer price for each e-book and require any bookseller to sell at that price… We believe they will raise prices on e-books for consumers almost across the board. For a number of reasons, we think this is a damaging approach for readers, authors, booksellers and publishers alike.”

The letter ends with a simple statement about Amazon’s confidence in its customers’ buying power: “In any case, we expect UK customers to enjoy low prices on the vast majority of titles we sell, and if faced with a small group of higher-priced agency titles, they will then decide for themselves how much they are willing to pay for e-books, and vote with their purchases.”

The agency model that Amazon refers to was first proposed by Macmillan, which threatened to pull its books from Amazon if the online bookseller didn’t raise the prices of its $9.99 e-books. Amazon responded by pulling Macmillan’s books itself, but as other publishers rallied behind Macmillan (Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin), Amazon has been left no other choice but to capitulate and let publishers set their own prices.

How it all started

Read more http://alturl.com/rzdu9

06/29/2010

Award-winning Author Chooses E-book Over Print Publishing Deal !


Are eBooks starting to win the race with printed hardcover books? This post gives an example of one established, award-winning author who has chosen to bypass a printed publishing deal (hardcover book would have sold for $27.95) for publishing on Amazon for $1.99 per digital copy…He is going for quantity readers over fewer who would/could shell out $27.95 for a book…

I’m betting he will get enough increase in numbers of readers over the vast internet to offset the cheaper price…and then some, maybe…But, I don’t know. I will be following up to find out the result…One thing for sure, he will be getting 50% to 80% of the digital sales price…which is probably approaching what he would get from the $27.95 hardcover price after big publishing and the associated companies take their cut…You know 80% of $1.99 vs 7% of $27.95…

This press release is from prweb.com:

Author takes bold move toward the future of publishing.


Award-winning novelist Gary Ponzo (pictured) is prepared to gamble his literary career on the strength of the growing digital book business. He’s turned down a print publishing deal for his novel, “A Touch of Deceit,” in order to publish it as an ebook on Amazon.

“I had to decide what’s more important to me,” Ponzo said. “Do I want profit or do I want readers. Inevitably I chose readers.”

The publishing company sold only hardcover books and the retail price was $27.95. Ponzo felt this was too much to ask in this economic environment. “I don’t want to throw the publisher under the bus, they’re a good honest company. They’re just stuck in an old business model. I felt uncomfortable asking my own mother to spend thirty bucks on my novel. It’s the digital age and I needed to adjust my thinking.”

Ponzo’s novel “A Touch of Deceit,” won the 2009 Southwest Writers Contest, Thriller category. He’s an award-winning author who’s published numerous short stories including two which were nominated for the very prestigious Pushcart Prize. His ebook is available as a digital download on Amazon for just $1.99.

“I spoke with author Karen McQuestion who’s sold over 36,000 ebooks on Amazon,” Ponzo said, “and she recommended I keep the price down. That’s the price she felt she had the most success with.”

“A Touch of Deceit,” is a thriller about FBI agent Nick Bracco who recruits his mafia-connected cousin to track down a terrorist in Washington D.C.

Media contact: Gary Ponzo
Website: http://www.garyponzo.com

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: