Showdown

As of Tuesday night, Amazon’s standoff with Macmillan has showed no signs of resolving itself since they went head to head Friday. For those not following the ins and outs of the situation obsessively, which is probably most people, the setup is as follows:

In the course of negotiations, Macmillan CEO John Sargent proposed a plan to set e-book prices from $5.99 to $14.99, independent of Amazon’s decreed $9.99. Amazon responded Friday afternoon by pulling all Macmillan direct sale books, both print and digital editions, from their site (though they’re still available via third-party sales). This included all Macmillan’s subsidiaries: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt, Picador, St. Martin’s Press, and Tor/Forge. Obviously, the action did not sit well in a number of corners. By Sunday Amazon had agreed to “capitulate” and restore sales of Macmillan books, although it never exactly said when.

“Resolving itself” sounding a lot like all the situation needs is a couple of organic adjustments and everything will level out. In fact, this has probably changed a lot of aspects of publishing and bookselling for good, maybe in substantial ways. Trying to figure out how and how much, though, is like handicapping a race from the backstretch… too many variables still in play, and I don’t feel like I have more to contribute to the whole mess than to point you all at some good coverage.

Galleycat‘s Jason Boog has kept up a good ongoing overview, with a number of pertinent side notes; it’s worth checking daily.

MobyLives has a good discussion of what setting a fair price for e-books might involve.

Boing Boing‘s Cory Doctorow touches on the DRM death grip.

Charlie’s Diary spells out the supply chain breakdown, and the comments section is worth taking the time to read, if just to get an idea of the sheer number of facets and opinions present.

And on Whatever, John Scalzi doesn’t hold back. It’s a good cathartic rant—

Just in case anyone needs the following disclosure: As an author who has books published by Macmillan (and whose books are at this writing still delisted by Amazon), I am not a wholly disinterested party. And yes, by this point, I expect I will be the very last Macmillan author Amazon gets around to relisting.

But as I said, this is all a long way from being resolved, and I think anything can happen at this point. So keep checking in. Hey, it’s a little slower than Lost, but plenty compelling if you pay attention and it’ll probably rock your world a lot longer.

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3 Comments to Showdown

  1. Kat Warren's Gravatar Kat Warren
    February 3, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Excellent Scalzi rant.

  2. PatD's Gravatar PatD
    February 3, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    I think Cory has a pretty sound idea:

    Let Amazon label the books that are a bad deal for readers with warnings: “At the publisher’s request, this book is licensed under terms that prohibit reading it on other devices, selling it used, or giving it to your children.” And let them put a gleaming seal of approval on the books that offer fair terms and a fair shake.

    And trust readers to make up their minds.

  3. February 4, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your kind words, much appreciated. Good links too!

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