I think pretty much everyone is aware now of what Amazon.com recently did to one of the publishing giants, Macmillan. Essentially it was a final reaction to a disagreement that’s been brewing between Amazon and Macmillan for some time over the price of ebooks. Amazon offers ebooks at a bargain rate of $9.99 and Macmillan wanted Amazon to raise the price to $15 for their books. Amazon then decided they’d had enough of this and instead chose to not only take down all the ebooks published by Macmillan, but also take down all their print books too. So basically Amazon — at the moment — is not selling any books by authors published by Macmillan. If you go to one of Macmillan’s books on Amazon, you’ll find the book, but see that Amazon is not selling new copies, and there are only used copies available. A couple of authors I’ve interviewed — Brandon Sanderson, Ken Scholes and Cherie Priest — are published by Macmillan, and here’s an example of what happens if you want to buy a new copy of their books at Amazon: The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Canticle by Ken Scholes, or Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.
You may have noticed that these authors are published by Tor, yes, Tor is an imprint of Macmillan, and yes, Tor controls a large amount of all the fantasy and science fiction books being published. They are also a very important publisher when it comes to publishing new authors too. As Jay Lake has said on his blog: first week sales for new books are incredibly important. Now for authors who’ve had their books out for a couple of months, it’s not necessarily so bad, but when the book came out in the last week or is due to come out in the next couple of weeks, it’s not good for the author; especially if you couple this with a brand new, first-time published author whose career may very well be determined by sales of the book. And we all know what an influence Amazon has on the book market in sales.
So you can take it how you want, think of Amazon what you will. In my opinion, it’s a pretty pathetic and childish thing to do, especially since the economy is still not doing well at all, and the publishing world is making tentative steps and is quite fragile at the moment. The least Amazon could’ve done was take down the ebooks published by Macmillan, but left the print books up.
And while you’re contemplating this and deciding on what you think of Amazon, check out the following links to read more on the subject:
New York Times article: Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement.
Thoughts and links from a literary agent: quick sketch on the Amazon vs Macmillan weekend theatre.
Some viewpoints from TOR authors: Tor authors express worry over their careers because of Macmillan/Amazon dispute
Reuters article: Next threat to Amazon’s $9.99 books? Rupert Murdoch.
Washington Post article: The Amazon-Macmillan book saga heralds publishing’s progress.
And let’s not forget the time that Amazon made that little “mistake” with the ebook 1984: Amazon zaps purchased copies of Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindles