Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/11/2014

In Publishing, which is Most Important: Technology or Content?


In publishing – new tech needs content to flourish!

Not only traditional publishers – but digital publishers as well – are struggling with the new publishing industry virus ‘CD’.

Now, just what is ‘CD’? It is the ‘Constant Disruption’ caused by rapid-fire changes in publishing and media technology and their impact on content strategy in old and new publishing circles.

Content in a printed, fixed-form format dictates much of the story — the font used, the subtleties of the fixed page design, etc. What some have called the ‘story container’.

But, as media channels and formats have mixed, merged, morphed and multiplied at warp speed – the necessity of format-free content is rising forth!

But, despite the format, the content still holds more weight than the ever-evolving technology. After all, “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.” – Say Media’s CTO David Lerman.

Just as they did when desktop publishing replaced typesetting and manual markup, writers and editors need to develop new skills!

Why? You will find out why by reading tonight’s research article.

Key excerpt: “Web-led, and cloud-based content systems are clearly on the rise, despite the present stopgap of turning print page layout systems into tools for generating native tablet and smartphone apps. Nimble content creation and management tools are still in their infancy, and will improve dramatically over the next five years. However, we cannot afford to forget that content engagement depends on the art of the story, and that great storytellers can thrive in spite of (or hopefully with the aid of) the tools they use.

 

Technology or Content: Which Comes First?

John Parsons, FOLIO magazine

 

Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum tells us that the form of a medium is inherently part of the message itself. Content in printed magazine form, for example, dictates many aspects of the story-from its written style and word count to the subtleties of fixed page design. The shape of a “story container” leaves its mark on the story itself.

Now, however, as media channels mix, merge, and multiply at breakneck speed, the idea of format-free content is an attractive one. If only content could be created once and output more or less automatically to multiple channels. To test the practical implications of that idea, we spoke with a number of publishers. At the heart of our discussion were content authoring and management technology, plus the chicken-and-egg question that makes modern content strategy so difficult.

It’s About the Story

We spoke with two traditional magazine publishers (Source Interlink and Forbes) and two pure-play digital companies (Say Media and Glam). Although the four represent wildly diverse audiences and demographics, some common themes and strategies emerged.

Most agree that effective narrative remains as the essential ingredient for success, no matter how strange and distracting the various media channels and platforms may seem. “The tools and tricks change with the medium, but the fundamentals of storytelling never do,” says Say Media’s CTO David Lerman. “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.”

Each company we interviewed is embracing the disruptive nature of an always-connected audience, both in terms of content creation technology and in dealing with the implications for its writers and editors. The traditional publishers are concerned about
the continuing role of print, but are remarkably upbeat about it.

“Long term, the future of print is as a premium format,” says Source Interlink’s chief content officer Angus MacKenzie. He notes that the diversity of brand-centered content made possible by new media platforms can now be curated to produce a vastly superior “best of” printed edition. Such a product, he reasons, would have enduring financial value to subscribers and advertisers.

Content curation is also a common theme. Glam Media CEO Samir Arora notes that only professionally created content-curated for quality and discoverability-could create lasting value for a brand. “Social collecting, sharing, and remixing of information can be done by any consumer,” he says. “Content creation should be from professional content businesses, authors, and studios.”

Expertise Matters

We spoke with Forbes Media’s chief product officer Lewis D’Vorkin, who is enthusiastic about both the core expertise of the company’s content creators and the technology they use. Forbes writers, editors, and contributors use the company’s Falcon publishing platform and a customized version of WordPress to create and edit content. Users may search for details of their own and related content, incorporate photos from a secure library, embed elements such as video, and publish selected content to Forbes channels and social media. The permission-based, on-screen editing tools have significantly compressed journalistic time frames, and extended the reach of Forbes’ team of journalists and contributors, D’Vorkin notes.

Although the right tools are important, D’Vorkin emphasizes that a rigorous onboarding process has resulted in the team of experts who are at the heart of Forbes’ content strategy. “Once we vet contributors, we give them the tools to self-publish, without there being a gatekeeper in the way,” he says. “Our system, both human and technological, is designed to monitor content very carefully and quickly-after publishing it.”

Part of the feedback involves subscriber feedback, which each content creator is required to monitor. “In every layer of our system, there is a built-in ‘meritocracy filter,’ which includes the audience,” he adds. “Our commenting system requires that the author engage with comments from the community. He or she can simply say ‘yes, I approve this comment,’ meaning that it’s productive, or disagrees with me in a productive way, or it takes the story forward.”

See also: Media Execs Share Game-Changing Tech Initiatives

Once the author approves the comment, it’s displayed with the article by default. “You can find the comments of anybody who’s just yelling, screaming, and being irrational, if you want, but it’s an extra click,” D’Vorkin says. “Because of that system, most people have figured that out. They then decide not to comment-unless they’re going to bring their A game.”

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01/19/2013

Publishers Outclassed by Digitally Savvy Writers


Digitally S a v v y Writer

Digitally S a v v y Writer

Actually, publishers have ALWAYS been outclassed by writers — who created the very content (product) that made publishers their living in the first place.

Publishers, as discussed in this post, are traditional publishers, OK? I make this clarification because today more and more writers are publishing their own works through self-publishing platforms — and are, therefore, publishers themselves 🙂

Michael Drew writes this nice piece in Huffpost, Books, that further details the slowness of TP’s to take full advantage of the new digital publishing landscape:

As E-Books Rise, Publishing Still Waivers

(John’s Note: I think Michael means publishing TP decision-making waivers – not the publishing business as a whole)

There’s probably no going back: e-books are going to be the dominant form for publishing pretty soon.

Consider that 23 percent of Americans now read e-books, up from 16 percent in 2011, and that the number of people reading “traditional” books is declining. On top of that, according to a study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18 percent in late 2011 to 33 percent in late 2012.”

Okay — and tablets are likely even to overtake e-readers, as tablets grow smaller and more comfortable to hold and still more versatile than many models of e-reader.

And publishers may be embracing e-books more than they had in the past. They have, for one thing, the ability to change prices. As Dominique Raccah, president of Sourcebooks said in an piece on NPR, “The exciting thing about digital books is that we actually get to test and price differently,” Raccah says. “We can even price on a weekly basis.”

On top of that, too, publishers can release books more quickly. Although in traditional publishing, you still have to wait a good year for a book to appear on shelves once it’s been accepted for publication, with e-publishing, of course, those delays — brought about by distribution, printing schedules, etc. — no longer exist.

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01/14/2013

Writing, Like Art, Is Very Subjective


Writing, like art, is subjective

Writing, like art, is subjective

Well of course it is — since writing is art — in this writers opinion.

I’m writing on this subject tonight because of a comment a friend and colleague wrote in response to a post (excerpt provided below) I posted on my Writers Welcome Blog yesterday:

“I guess I’m the eternal idealist because I feel the content (quality of, likability, timeliness, entertainment value, etc.) should drive the cost of books, in whatever format, and not just the manufacturing and distribution costs (or lack of) — which so many are using to justify why e-books should be cheaper than their  printed counterparts.” — John Austin

He responded and said something to the effect that I was referring to content being driven by subjective values like “likeability” “entertainment value” and he didn’t see how that was remotely possible because different people like and/or are entertained by different things.

I thought that the following very entertaining piece by Keli Goff in HuffPost would be of interest to him and many others as it delves more deeply into this subjective (?) subject:

Does Lena Dunham Prove Writers Are as Toxic as Investment Bankers?

Despite the romanticized images portrayed in film, television, and of course books, being a writer actually means spending most of your time doing one of six things: writing, thinking about what you want to write, thinking about what you actually have to write to make money, chasing payment for what you have written, agonizing over the fact that another writer is possibly being paid more than you are for his writing and, obsessing over whether that writer is more, or less, talented and deserving of said payment than you are.

This means that thanks to her multi-million dollar book advance, not to mention her hit television show Girls, (which just began its second season), Lena Dunham has driven plenty of writers to a level of resentment bordering on mania that makes Salieri, the mediocre composer driven to an insane asylum by the not-at-all mediocre talents of Mozart in the film Amadeus, look sane by comparison.

Even though writers and artists are generally thought of as the emotional and temperamental opposites of those who inhibit hyper competitive fields like professional sports, law or investment banking (which is so competitive studies have deemed it physically unhealthy), the truth is plenty of artists are even more competitive. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a tennis player ranked number 10 in the world complain in interviews about how incredibly overrated that Roger Federer is. Of all of the lawyers I’ve met, I can’t think of one who’s talked my ear off about how insane it is that another attorney with celebrity clients is pulling in a ridiculously unfair hourly rate. Yet these kinds of conversations consume writers. I’ve had them with writer friends. They’ve had them with other friends. We’ve all had them with our agents, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, or parents. And many have had even more of those conversations in the last year, and a lot of that has to do with the success of Lena Dunham.

A google search of “I hate Lena Dunham” now produces more than a million results, (summarized here) which is quite a lot for someone who entered the public consciousness less than a year ago. The question is why? I asked a mental health expert. Dr. Jeff Gardere, said in his experience professional jealousy among writers, and other people in the arts and entertainment can be more common than in other professions, because the same traits, and ego, that attract people to fields in which their work will be the center of attention are the same traits that drive someone to intense competitiveness that can manifest as professional jealousy. (Ouch. But, hey, this writer did ask.)

Now before the eye rolling and angry comments from my writer colleagues begin, I want to be clear: not every person who is a critic of Lena Dunham is jealous. But the level of vitriol she has inspired in some corners signals that there is more to the story than some simply not agreeing her talents are up there with Tolstoy — and Dunham is not the only writer to inspire such reaction.

When literary wunderkind Jonah Lehrer’s career imploded the undertone of glee with which some in the media seemed to be celebrating was palpable. For some it wasn’t just celebrating, but a sense of relief, like a baseball player learning that his teammate who was breaking records, while he was stuck hitting singles, had actually been using steroids. (At the height of the Lehrer scandal writer Jonathan Shainin tweeted: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice knows that he’s actually in the schadenfreude business.”)

Danielle Belton, a former print journalist who launched a successful career as a blogger before transitioning to television as head writer for the BET talk show Don’t Sleep, with T.J. Holmes said of professional jealousy among writers, “A lot of this stems from what measures a ‘good’ writer is really rather abstract… Writing isn’t like sports. It’s very subjective, like art.” Belton went on to note that because the definition of what constitutes great writing (and other art) is essentially indefinable, writers will always resent certain writers who receive more critical acclaim or financial success because no matter what others may say, that writer might consider his or her peer less talented than he is. To her point, even his competitors who loathe him (I’m looking at you Isiah Thomas) can’t say Michael Jordan had no talent. His professional record beating them speaks for itself. But there is some writer out there who is convinced Ernest Hemingway was a hack and Mark Twain was an amateur.

As a black woman who has written about diversity in the media and entertainment, I am certainly sensitive to legitimate criticism of Dunham’s work, particularly the lack of cast diversity in the first season of Girls. (Something Dunham herself appears to have discovered a newfound sensitivity about as well since she is attempting to remedy that this season.) But the most vocal criticism of Dunham has boiled down to this: Dunham is from a privileged background (she is) and the cast is comprised of other people from privileged backgrounds (they are.)

The thinking goes: privilege is the only reason she got a show in the first place. Oh and by the way her book advance is too big.

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04/10/2011

There’s No Such Thing as Easy in the Writing Biz!


Joanna Penn is one of my favorite mentors and I have learned a great deal of insight from her. Two days ago she had a guest post on her Creative Penn site by Grant McDuling titled “Write For A Living In Seven Easy Steps”

While reading this post, two things struck me right off…First, I thought, NOTHING is easy in the writing business world; unless it happens by accident, it seems!

And second, after Mr. McDuling lists his seven easy writing steps (which I respectfully disagree with as being easy and are much too broad and generic), he goes on to say (and rightfully so) that “Launching out on your own in business – any business – takes courage and a great deal of faith in your own abilitiesJohn’s Note: and here comes the kicker: But it also takes a whole lot more; money, discipline, dedication and even, some would say, madness. But there’s another absolutely important ingredient that no university, school or college teaches, and that’s ATTITUDE. You have to think of yourself as a businessperson and not a writer. You are a businessperson whose business happens to be making a profit – through selling words.”

All true enough. But even MORE true is Mr. McDuling’s statement about it taking a lot more than intimated in the seven easy steps…and included in this “more” is money, discipline, dedication and even, some would say, madness…The money part is especially true. 

I loved the post, though, because it got my juices going!

Write For A Living In 7 Easy Steps (from the Creative Penn):

This is a guest post from ghostwriter Grant McDuling. You can also listen to an audio interview with Grant on making 6 figures as a writer here.

As a full time writer, I get asked so many times by all sorts of people what it takes to give up the day job to become a full time writer. This was a question I too had pondered long and hard years ago.

You see, I had been dabbling in writing since a school boy back in the 1960s and always felt this inner urge or compulsion to write. But as time went on and I grew up, realizing this goal became harder and harder because I found myself going down a path I didn’t want but had to pursue because commitments came along that had to be tended to. Commitments like paying the rent, buying food, paying off a car, to mention but a few.

The road to becoming a full time writer seemed to be an impossible one to follow — until I couldn’t resist the urge any longer and decided to do something positive about it.

My experience in the business world convinced me that, if I was to be serious about it, I would have to treat writing just like any other business. I was going to have to set about developing a plan of action.

This I did, but mostly by relying on non-business-like behavior; a healthy dose of enthusiasm mixed with gut feel and a liberal sprinkling of trial and error got me to the point where I at least had a system to work with. And it was a system based on business lines.

This gave me the courage to take the proverbial plunge, and I have never looked back.

So what was my system?

In simple terms, it consisted of 7 basic steps:

(1) Take control of your own future. Here I am referring to assuming responsibility for your own future. And become accountable. Have a plan to get rid of debt. You can read more about this in my Kindle book Write for a Living in 7 Easy Steps

(2) Getting into the writing profession needs the right ATTITUDE. It’s about seeing yourself as a professional writer.

(3) Become a PRACTICING writer. Just like lawyers or doctors are in private practice, so too must you be. Understand and make use of the principle of leverage to achieve more with less. Syndication is a good example here.

(4) Concentrate on sales and marketing. Understand that, as a practicing writer, you should be spending around 50% of your time on sales and marketing.

Read and learn more

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.

Read and learn more 

02/06/2011

Publishing, Writing and the Super Bowl


Well, the super bowl is under way! I have been watching much of the pre-game festivities and would like to take advantage of a small teaching moment.

All interested in publishing and writing should look at this huge media event as a learning lab…and it’s FREE! Pay close attention to the writing and production of the great commercials that surface with the super bowl presentation.

The great writing, camera work and special effects on the E-Trade Baby ad and the Michael Douglas narrative on the history of the two “blue collar” teams and their relationship and values to our own country’s growth, through good and bad times, were edgy, sharp and great examples of good writing and production values. 

Whoa!!! Green Bay just scored another touchdown!!! So far the odd makers are on course.

Anyway, good people, keep your eyes peeled on the rest of the advertisement writing and any production dialogue at halftime…You just might learn something new.

Now BACK TO THE GAME!…After all, it is the main event…

01/21/2011

Discovering the ‘REALLY One Best Idea’


A little levity today…BUT, levity laced with a learned-lesson.

Thinking of the REALLY-Best-Idea

Brevity is beautiful. Cutting to the point fast and accurately is genuinely genius.  Knowing the point to cut to, or be brief and accurate about, is another matter!

Having a “really one best idea” is essential. Distilling all the peripheral, barking thoughts into one concrete, clearly expressible idea is a valuable talent that Greg BrownFOLIO magazine, has some thoughts about:

10 Reasons Why You Should Never Write a ‘10 Reasons’ Article 
I am declaring the end of list articles. So read my list article about it.

Would you start a speech to a business audience with the dictionary definition of some word, as in “Webster’s defines ‘procrastination’ as…” etc?

You wouldn’t dream of it. The cliché to end all clichés, right?

Well, bad news. The “list” article is dead, too. I am declaring it dead with my very own list which, if we’re at all lucky, will be the very last one to appear on the Internet. Ever.

Here goes:

No. 10: It was a dumb idea when magazines did it to death 10 years ago. Now look where they are.

No. 9: You don’t really have 10 good ideas. You have maybe two, three at a stretch. Why push it?

No. 2 through No. 8: See reason No. 9.

(Drumroll, please…) And here’s No. 1: Way, way too many marketing people are dumping these list articles into social media.

See, I had one good idea: People should stop writing list articles. Their currency is shot, their meaning has vanished. Cliché.

Read and learn more

01/04/2011

Facebook Valued at About 50 Billion!


A little business and finance tonight RE a major source used by writers and publishers.

Facebook is used by many artists to promote their works…I’m particularly bad at it! I need to really get motivated and learn how to use FB more EE (efficiently and effectively). Seems I’m just running out of gas, procrastinating or too damn lazy!

FB is absolutely blasting into the stratosphere, financially speaking, but may be getting greedy, too damn secretive and over-reaching by getting investment capital through an investment fund vehicle offered by Goldman Sachs (Goldman Sachs? Aren’t they in the Greedy & Devious Who’s Who Hall of Fame?).

You see, by not going public with an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and selling stocks on the open market, FB can stay private and don’t have to disclose financial information as long as they have less than 500 investor owners-of-record. Goldman Sachs would only count as one investor no matter how many of their clients bought shares through their offered fund vehicle.

A matter being looked into by the SEC (that’s the Securities and Exchange Commission…NOT the Southeastern Conference in College football…my favorite)

More details from Bloomberg News through Crain’s New York Business:

Facebook, Goldman deal may draw SEC scrutiny
Securities and Exchange Commission is scrutinizing the market for trading shares of closely held companies, including Facebook.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s plan to offer clients up to $1.5 billion in Facebook Inc. equity may invite U.S. regulators to take a closer look at whether the owner of the world’s most popular social-networking site is circumventing disclosure rules, securities lawyers said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, whose rules require any company with more than 499 investors to disclose financial information, is already scrutinizing the market for trading shares of closely held companies including Facebook, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

Goldman Sachs invested $450 million in Facebook and is planning to create a special purpose vehicle for its clients to make additional investments worth as much as $1.5 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is private. Some private companies avoid crossing the disclosure threshold when investors’ funds are channeled through a single entity, such as a private equity firm or hedge fund.

“The real question is, what are the details of this special purpose vehicle?” said James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s business school in Washington. If the investment is designed to circumvent the rule, “the SEC should be looking very closely at it.”

Read and learn more

09/12/2010

A Writers Descent into Madness–Froggy’s Fairwell


I read about Mr. F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre (also known as “Froggy”) today in the New York Times. What a multifaceted, interesting but very sad figure.

The most imaginative writer you could ever dream up could not create any more of an enigmatic, oxymoronic figure than the real life “Froggy”.

God bless him and I sincerely hope he now has all the answers to his questions…I just had to relate his story.

From the New York Times by Corey Kilgannon:

The F stood for Fergus. That was how neighbors in his working-class neighborhood in deep Brooklyn knew him: a bearish pariah holed up in a fetid apartment stuffed with a lifetime of newspapers, books, belongings and all sorts of trash, who worked nights as a printer in Manhattan and ranted about his horrid childhood.

The F also stood for Froggy. That’s what fans in the rabid science-fiction world on the Internet called him: a witty and eloquent man prone to using obscure words and coining new ones, who published numerous books, articles and short stories to great acclaim and spun fantastic tales about his travels.

Both were vaporized June 25. In a dramatic farewell that could have come from Froggy’s pen, Mr. MacIntyre, according to fire officials, methodically set ablaze the contents of the apartment in Bensonhurst where he had lived for a quarter-century. First the flames consumed a lifetime of possessions; then they feasted on his weary flesh, ending his painful 59-year earthly existence. Born in Scotland, raised in Australia — or so he said, in his impeccable British regional accent — he now lies unclaimed in a Brooklyn morgue.

“We have to conclude that this was Froggy’s last story,” said Darrell Schweitzer, a writer who was an editor and agent for Mr. MacIntyre. “Froggy lived a life of suffering, and he was an enigma. He was an insoluble mystery, and it’s possible he’ll be remembered for that mystery.”

Read more http://alturl.com/korz3

04/22/2010

Amazon vs Book Publishers

Filed under: Amazon,book publishers,e-book pricing,e-Readers,publishing,writers — gator1965 @ 7:40 pm

As many are already aware, there is a fight being waged to control prices of digital books. Amazon initially set prices lower than their own costs to boost sales and popularity of their Kindle e-reader. The Amazon $9.99 price for all digital books upset publishers who said this would destroy the publishing business…The publishers desired a so-called “agency model” that would let them set prices and have Amazon act as a vendor or retailer who would get 30% for selling.

Simply put, my dear interested readers (and I KNOW there are many out there!), we have two adversaries with very different motivations. One wants to set lower prices and accumulate a large content inventory (question quality) to sell digital devices. NOT good for writers…While the other wants the power to set high enough prices to pay for good talent to produce future quality content that will result in higher profits realized from content-driven work rather than “at-the-moment” digital devices. GOOD for writers.

Donald Marron, The Christian Science Monitor, says this about the subject waging war:


What will the future of publishing be as the book world goes digital? The latest battle between Amazon.com and book publishers may offer a hint.

Over at the New Yorker, Ken Auletta has a fascinating piece about the future of publishing as the book world goes digital. Highly recommended if you a Kindle lover, an iPad enthusiast, or a Google watcher (or, like me, all three).

The article also describes an unusual battle between book publishers and Amazon about the pricing of electronic books:

Amazon had been buying many e-books from publishers for about thirteen dollars and selling them for $9.99, taking a loss on each book in order to gain market share and encourage sales of its electronic reading device, the Kindle. By the end of last year, Amazon accounted for an estimated eighty per cent of all electronic-book sales, and $9.99 seemed to be established as the price of an e-book. Publishers were panicked. David Young, the chairman and C.E.O. of Hachette Book Group USA, said, “The big concern—and it’s a massive concern—is the $9.99 pricing point. If it’s allowed to take hold in the consumer’s mind that a book is worth ten bucks, to my mind it’s game over for this business.”

As an alternative, several publishers decided to push for an “agency model” for e-books. Under such a model, the publisher would be considered the seller, and an online vender like Amazon would act as an “agent,” in exchange for a thirty-per-cent fee.

That way, the publishers would be able to set the retail price themselves, presumably at a higher level that the $9.99 favored by Amazon.

Ponder that for a moment. Under the original system, Amazon paid the publishers $13.00 for each e-book. Under the new system, publishers would receive 70% of the retail price of an e-book. To net $13.00 per book, the publishers would thus have to set a price of about $18.50 per e-book, well above the norm for electronic books. Indeed, so far above the norm that it generally doesn’t happen:

“I’m not sure the ‘agency model’ is best,” the head of one major publishing house told me. Publishers would collect less money this way, about nine dollars a book, rather than thirteen; the unattractive tradeoff was to cede some profit in order to set a minimum price.

The publisher could also have noted a second problem with this strategy: publishers will sell fewer e-books because of the increase in retail prices.

Through keen negotiating, the publishers have thus forced Amazon to (a) pay them less per book and (b) sell fewer of their books. Not something you see everyday.

All of which yields a great topic for a microeconomics or business strategy class: Can the long-term benefit (to publishers) of higher minimum prices justify the near-term costs of lower sales and lower margins?

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