Unless you live in a glass bubble, you had to have heard about the Justice Department’s Antitrust lawsuit against the big 5 New York publishers and Apple. I am not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how if affects me ever since I first heard the announcement. Here’s my take on it. I may be way off base and would welcome any clarification if I am wrong.
In 2008 in an effort to market their Kindle, Amazon lowered prices on some ebooks, sometimes even taking a loss. Apparently, they thought people would rush out and buy the kindle if they could download books at a lower price. No matter how you feel about that, you have to admit it was a pretty good strategy, and it worked.
Sometimes in early 2008, Steve Jobs contacted the NY publishers , and they had “secret” meetings trying to come up with a way to deal with this. They were losing money on their hardback covers and Apple was getting ready to introduce the iPad to the world. They came up with something called the “agency” model that set the prices for ebooks, preventing Amazon from lowering them.
Now here’s where I have a conflict with myself and my own opinion. My publisher was one of those who will not allow my ebooks to be discounted. While I am grateful that people are willing to pay the full amount to read my story on an ereader, I wonder how many more readers I would have reached if they could have gotten it cheaper. Who doesn’t love a good sale? I have several friends who saw their numbers skyrocket when their books were discounted. Granted, it may not have translated into bigger royalties, but still….
Then I remember my dismal income from writing last year, and I wonder if we are selling ourselves way too short by allowing our books to go so cheaply. I don't know about you, but it takes me a good 9 months to write a book. Couple that with promotions and other expenses, and I am probably in the tax bracket where I could receive food stamps.
Last week, after the DOJ filed the federal antitrust lawsuit, three of the five publishers chose to settle. I won’t even try to explain it. You can read it below and from your own opinions.
Under the Federal settlement, Harper, HBG and S&S promise for two years not to "restrict, limit, or impede an e-book retailer's ability to set, alter, or reduce the retail price of any e-book or to offer price discounts or any other form of promotions to encourage consumers to Purchase one or more e-books." They also "shall not enter into any agreement with an e-book retailer relating to the sale of e-books that contains a price MFN" during that period. Technically, it is at the retailer's option to cancel current agency contracts. All three are required to void any ebook contracts with Apple signed prior to the filing of the complaint within seven days, so presumably either their ebooks will exit the iBookstore or they will need to resign with Apple under some other business arrangement.
Best selling author, Scott Torow released a statement basically saying that by allowing Amazon to sell ebooks at a loss only hurts all of us. Read it here.
And here's PW take on it. It only adds to my confusion.
So what does that mean to me? I am fortunate enough to write for THREE houses. Berkley, Midnight Ink, and Liz Lipperman, LLC. Will it affect that somehow? Actually, I have no idea, but I do know that I won’t give up my choice to write for more than one publisher. Maybe my books won’t reach as many people, but it doesn’t matter. Today’s writer has many more avenues to get their stories out. We are no longer chained to what NY thinks will sell. I, for one, love the new publishing world we live in. I adore all three of my publishers and hope my relationship with them continues until I am so old I can no longer write. That's why I am watching what's going on out there and trying to figure out what my next move will be--or even if I need a next move.
So, what about you? Any thoughts? I would love to hear your take on all this.
An addendum: I just noticed JA Konrath is talking about this today, too. He explains it so much better that I do. Go here to see.