deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
deborah ([personal profile] deborah) wrote2010-02-01 09:33

cage match: know your enemy

I am naïve enough to be shocked by all the people who are angry at Macmillan instead of Amazon in the Amazon versus Macmillan cage match. Even leaving aside Amazon's bullying (Making it impossible to buy all Macmillan books? Really? You thought that was a good idea?), and their misuse of the word "monopoly" in what passed for their public statement (Yes, Macmillan has a monopoly on Macmillan books just like Kellogg's has a monopoly on Pop tarts-- not quite like van Gogh has a monopoly on paintings by Van Gogh, which is Fast Company's analogy, but still, close enough. WTFBBQ?), I'm not sure why the public believes that it has some kind of moral right to e-books on the day of publication for $10 or less.

Before e-books, there was a simple way the market worked: you could pay the hardcover price on the day of publication, you could get it for free a couple of months later if you used the library, or you could wait a year and pay paperback prices. All the people who are insisting that Macmillan is being evil by saying that if you want to charge $10 for an e-book you have to wait a few months have forgotten that that's the way publishing always worked.

Meanwhile, what exactly do they think editors and editorial assistants and authors and book designers are eating? JK Rowling aside, none of these are rich people. It's not like the publishers are raking in the dough -- publishing has one of the lowest consistent profit margins in the industry. Publishing is barely scraping by as it is. Macmillan's actions over the weekend were self-serving -- in that they were intended to prevent a non-sustainable business model which will put brick-and-mortar stores and independent stores out of business, while creating a consumer consensus that something that was priced unsustainably underwater was the standard price. And those self-serving actions are good for the entire industry.

Amazon was losing massive sums on these e-books, because they were using their overwhelming clout to price them underwater. Do consumers actually believe Amazon was doing that out of sheer love of distributing books to the poor? (And by "poor", here, I clearly mean people who can afford a $259 Kindle but whose children would starve if they had to pay more than $9.99 for an e-book, or wait a few months to get a $9.99 e-book.) Predatory pricing is not an admirable practice.

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