Letter from Scott Turow: Grim News

Dear member,

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets.

Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market.

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format). Two years after it introduced the Kindle, Amazon continued to take losses on a deep list of e-book titles, undercutting hardcover sales of the most popular frontlist titles at its brick and mortar competitors.  Those losses paid huge dividends.  By the end of 2009, Amazon held an estimated 90% of the rapidly growing e-book market. Traditional bookstores were shutting down or scaling back. Borders was on its knees. Barnes & Noble had gamely just begun selling its Nook, but it lacked the capital to absorb e-book losses for long.

Enter Steve Jobs. Two years ago January, one month after B&N shipped its first Nook, Jobs introduced Apple’s iPad, with its proven iTunes-and-apps agency model for digital content. Five of the largest publishers jumped on with Apple’s model, even though it meant those publishers would make less money on every e-book they sold.

Publishers had no real choice (except the largest, Random House, which could bide its time – it took the leap with the launch of the iPad 2): it was seize the agency model or watch Amazon’s discounting destroy their physical distribution chain. Bookstores were well along the path to becoming as rare as record stores.  That’s why we publicly backed Macmillan when Amazon tried to use its online print book dominance to enforce its preferred e-book sales terms, even though Apple’s agency model also meant lower royalties for authors.

Our concern about bookstores isn’t rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling.  Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online.  In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.  Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks.  A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers.  Apple thrives on this very model: a strong retail presence to display its high-touch products coupled with vigorous online distribution.  While bookstores close, Apple has been busy opening more than 300 stores.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become familiar to large numbers of readers, the disappearance of bookstores is deeply troubling, but it will have little effect on our sales or incomes.  Like rock bands from the pre-Napster era, established authors can still draw a crowd, if not to a stadium, at least to a virtual shopping cart. For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult. The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are more than offset by drastically smaller markets. And publishers won’t risk capital where there’s no reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.

Two years after the agency model came to bookselling, Amazon is losing its chokehold on the e-book market: its share has fallen from about 90% to roughly 60%. Customers are benefiting from the surprisingly innovative e-readers Barnes & Noble’s investments have delivered, including a tablet device that beat Amazon to the market by fully twelve months.  Brick-and-mortar bookstores are starting to compete through their partnership with Google, so loyal customers can buy e-books from them at the same price as they would from Amazon. Direct-selling authors have also benefited, as Amazon more than doubled its royalty rates in the face of competition.

Let’s hope the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders. The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.

This would be tragic for all of us who value books, and the culture they support.

Sincerely,

Scott Turow
President

Comments: more
  • Joan Cartwright

    This explains why Border’s closed down, shortly after they purchased my books and CDs. My book signing tour was cancelled. 

  • http://fosamaxbonefractures.blinkweb.com/ Fosamax Bone Fractures

    I am actually anxious about the future of printed materials. I am sure that they are greatly affected by the onset of internet. however, there are really changes in life that you have to adjust and adapt. i am sure people who suffered from ailment like Fosamax bone fracture have more changes in life to get used to with than ordinary people.

  • Reesedonald10

    I do hope everything’s gonna be alright. Let’s pray that reports are wrong.

    Printing

  • http://www.ukash-tr.com/ UKASH

    Aw, this was a really nice post. In concept I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article…

  • http://www.facebook.com/tammi.labrecque Tammi Labrecque

    This letter is so chock full of misstatements that I
    hardly even know where to begin.
     

    Bookstores are “by far the
    best way for new works to be discovered”?  Wrong.  Bookstores
    are the best way for new works that have been published by a handful of
    international conglomerates to be discovered.  There are a lot of people
    getting “discovered” that would never EVER have made it to the
    shelves of your local B&M; that is a stone cold fact.

    “The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are
    more than offset by drastically smaller markets”?  Wrong.  The www is the biggest market there
    is.  You can’t just say it’s not and expect to be believe because you said
    so.

     “And publishers won’t risk capital where there’s no
    reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on
    what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.”
     Oh, really?  Is that what works in an online environment?
     Because I’m pretty sure Amazon is selling ebooks like mad, MANY by
    authors no one or almost no one has heard of, in an online environment.

    “A robust book marketplace demands both
    bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles”?  By
    “properly display,” I assume you mean that publishers pay the store
    to place the big names in the most strategic location, and the midlist and
    backlist books are spine-out on shelves you might not even walk by? 

    Shame on you, Mr. Turow.

  • MaryAnn Myers

    I’m not sure how I feel about any of this. I guess I need to do more research. My books are on amazon kindle, and they are selling! Even the ones that had been out for a while. Finding a way to get the books in book stores over the years has been a huge challenge. It was a decision distributors and chain book store buyers and managers held in their hands. This way, all the books can be seen and purchased by anyone. They are no longer just the books that “managers” and distributors made sure was on the shelves – which most often were household name authors and bestsellers. This kind of evens the playing field, I think, the books being available on Kindle. Punch in your favorite category of book, and shop. Download it and read. It’s as simple as that. I love book stores, don’t get me wrong. But for too long, publishers have had everything their way. It’s time to let the authors put their work out there for the reader to judge, not one lone editor at a publishing house who has the authority to say, good, bad, no thank you.   
    http://www.amazon.com/MaryAnn-Myers/e/B004QNN6U8/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1334248638&sr=1-2-ent

  • Anonymous

    I will likely go with a legacy pub when I am done with my novel but Apple, Barnes and Noble and Amazon give writers far more freedom then the Legacy pub which are a CARTEL and pick and choose writers instead of letting the MARKET and PUBLIC decide.

  • Alice Hodapp

    Like others, I recommend Googling the beautiful piece of surgery Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath do on this piece.  My gripe is different.  My husband and I are both writers.  Really.  I mean for a living.  But only non-fiction, where we’ve done well.  In fiction, I’ve had three agents for historical romance in 12 years and have never been published, while Barnes and Noble always has room for all 427 of Nora Roberts’ books.  This is the system Mr. Turow is defending as being “by far the best way” for new writers to be discovered?  I was getting bored shopping the section before I began writing for it.  All I ever get told by editors is that there’s “just no place to put it,” something with a new voice is “too risky,” space for new authors is limited, ect. ad nauseum.  I think it’s been a long, long time since Mr. Turow actually was a new author.  He, too, might be tired of being told he’s “a terrific writer,” “really, you’re just great,” but we have no place to put you.  Amazon has no similar complaint. 

    • oanda

      maybe you’re just not a good writer.

      • Kornbluth

        Or maybe Alice IS a good author and just hasn’t been given a break. Now she is free to find out by posting her book for amazon.  

        • Shellsey

           Yucky oanda-please delete that odious comment

  • B. E. Macomber

    Back in the ole days libraries were big – with the smell of mold, the clink of eyeglasses and long stretches of intuitive crippled research. What happened to you people in Gringolandia?
    Did they dump chems in your plastic sippy faux water bottles? Are you so asleep at the helm you refuse to kiss the frog? What possible difference does it make what, where, why, who, when if nadakind does not keep reading beyond Trader Joe labels? Our job, ladies and gentlemen, and those still confused, is to write to inspire ourselves and maybe others. Arguing, discussing, bantering, whining, burping, and thumping this for that is a putrid dose of caca. Write constantly,  publish everywhere, including on the back of your so cool, so greenie carry bags to Whole Lie Foods. If you want to make a living, go get a real job, butcher organic pigs.

  • capt jack harkness

      Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath and Techdirt (among many others) do a great job dissecting this sad diatribe.

    As Barry said so neatly: “Barry’s got a good bullshit detector and from time to time we’ve had fun dissecting and exposing obfuscation like Scott”.

    I recommend you google them and find out what they have to say.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BabaStudio Karen Mahony

    I’d question the statement that “Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when
    shopping online. ” Is there some reference to back that up? Personally, I’ve found that I am much more adventurous when ordering on the Kindle because I can try a sample of the book before buying.

    I don’t want to see bookshops vanish – and perhaps this is just sentimental because the truth is that  I hardly ever use them any more. But I think there is no way to save a form of buying/selling that has just outgrown its usefulness.  Sad in a way, but inescapable.

  • Stewart

    American business loves it’s Horatio Alger myth until someone is kicking their ass in the third quarter of the game — then they cry that it’s impossible to compete because of [enter name of whomever is winning game].  When Microsoft had most of the PC Market and Apple’s stock was $19 a share, Apple did not quit or cry, Apple got smarter, ADAPTED, AND GOT BETTER AT THE GAME. Amazon has been the only one smart enough to know what consumers know: it costs a hell of a lot less to produce electronic books than paper, you don’t have to warehouse them, there are no returns, no freight costs, etc. and frankly, people are discovering the joy of this hardware, iPad, Kindle, etc. I love books. There are about 3,000 of them in my living room, there’s also an iPad 3rd generation on order, there’s also a Kindle in the bedroom. Sometimes I buy at my indie bookseller. Sometimes I buy on Amazon. Sometimes I buy at a garage sale. A lot of people say they love books when I think they mean that they love selling books at a margin they’ve become accustomed to and would rather not stir from their comfortable (if not sturdy) perch to compete and adapt and embrace change.

    • Cletus

      @Stewart,

      You have all this MONEY but you always have time to argue with content providers over a few bucks here and there. Need I remind you that you can sit on your butt in your comfortable home (probably a mansion) & have your book in 60 seconds? That you save $ on gas ($4 a gallon now)? That you don’t have to drive around for a parking space at the bookstore OR wait for shipping? Stop complaining about ebooks & stick to paper if they bother you so much.

      • http://www.facebook.com/tammi.labrecque Tammi Labrecque

        Uh, he wasn’t complaining about ebooks?  

  • http://python-ebook.blogspot.com/ Crystalattice

    The goal is to publish books that people will read. It doesn’t matter how they are read (physical or electronic) as long as people buy them. Lowering the price just means a book is that much more accessible to people. I self-published a programming book; the ebook price is $6 less than the physical book but 95% of my sales are for the ebook. That’s 95% more money than I would get otherwise.

    People will not buy ebooks if they aren’t significantly cheaper than physical books. Everyone knows that delivering electrons doesn’t cost as much as printing and shipping a book. So if you aren’t pricing your books accordingly, you risk people simply finding what they want for free. Rather than just getting a small amount of money, you get zero money. Which is better?

    Finally, consumers are not responsible for propping up a business model. If book stores can’t compete with ebooks, they need to consider doing something else. Maybe selling hard to find, out of print books? Or books that can’t be found in ebook format? There are always other options. Whining about how the bookstores are hurting and how publishers are suffering isn’t going to endear you to most people, as you can see from these comments.

  • Pumpkinna

    This is so bogus. Its a plus for readers who are tired of paying whatever the big 6 publishers push on us, and its a plus for authors – to actually get paid what they are worth!  What are you scared of?

  • Joe

    I’m sorry, but it seems to me that Amazon’s model is HELPING authors and HELPING bookselling in general. Thanks to the Kindle, more and more people—particularly young people—are reading books. 

    I would think the Authors Guild would look at this as a good thing. I’m currently very much a part of the traditional publishing world, but I have friends—authors—who have recently been completely abandoned by their publishing houses and are now making more money than ever with their backlists thanks to Amazon’s publishing model. 

    I would think the Authors Guild would celebrate that, as well.

    • Kelly

      Amazon does NOT help authors. Unless they changed it in the past month, if you read the fine print in their contract, authors are not allowed to sell their works in any other format on any other site if they publish an ebook on Amazon. And Amazon can price it at anything they want, including free, without permission or even notifying the author of the price change.

      • Wayne

        Umm, the first part isn’t correct. I think your talking about the Select program which is optional, you have to sign up for it for 90 days at a time if you want it. Here’s their entire agreement:
        https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=APILE934L348N

        The second part is definitely true. Amazon reserves the right to price match with any other seller of your book, including your own web site. However a lot of retails do that like Best Buy’s brick and mortar stores:
         http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Help-Topics/Bestbuy.com-Price-Match-Guarantee/pcmcat204400050011.c?id=pcmcat204400050011

    • http://twitter.com/rebeccamherman rebeccaherman

      doesn’t help this reader – I only want to read print books

  • Bklyn2sf

    The real question is why the Justice Department, having ignored Amazon’s clear violation of antitrust laws in the form of predatory pricing all these years, has chosen to go after Apple and the publishers who are merely trying to save themselves from the consequences of Justice’s inaction.

    • Wayne

      Go to wikipedia, read ‘loss leaders’, check out the flyer from your local grocery store. It’s not illegal to price a fraction of your inventory at or below cost. Then go to wikipedia and read up on ‘predatory pricing’ and why the US Courts have set a high bar on it. Don’t just reuse meme’s about something, read up. If you don’t like Wikipedia as a source, go to original documents.

      • Renee Yocum

        Thank you for this post, I was going to do a similar one because I could not believe some of the responses from people who should know better.  Loss leaders –  the practice  is widely used and happily accepted – but when Amazon does it they become the Big Bad Wolf.

  • http://www.jerrypournelle.com/ Jerry Pournelle

    I have been both a best selling author and a mid-list author.

    The Amazon ‘self-publishing’ situation has been the best thing to happen to mid-list authors in a very long time. In the past, one tried to promote backlist books and found that there were few copies in a local area, meaning that promotion of the book in an area far from home would result in all the local copies being sold out quite quickly. Reader demand for the book would generally fail before re-orders appeared.

    With Amazon any book in print is always displayed for sale. Unfortunately promoting books may well create a temporary demand for the book, after which it vanishes. Getting new copies available for sale takes time assuming the publisher will do it — many won’t, for good reasons — and by the time there are new copies of a backlist book available in the book stores the readers have often forgotten why they wanted it. 

    With eBooks the book is always on display on the shelf, and always in stock. The store is always open. If you promote a book that can’t be bought you have created demand that can’t be fulfilled, and possibly frustrated a reader who wanted the book. I’d rather my readers were able to get my books and were happy to have got them. The eBook copies are always out there for sale on demand, and often can be delivered in minutes. That works well when readers are stuck in a small airport with nothing to read.

    Amazon Kindle (and other eBook markets but just now Amazon has the lion’s share) has restored the market for some of my older books, many of which have always been ‘in print’ but not in fact easily obtainable. The recent sales of Kindle books have been very good and have had the effect of increasing sales of print books too. Alas, that hasn’t always been good for book stores.  I like book stores.  I want book stores to thrive.  But I also depend on my books for income, and even best sellers become midlist backlist books after a decade or more. The eBook revolution has revived several of those in the past few months. I also know a number of authors who are very good writers, who write very literate and readable books, who were never fortunate enough to have had a best seller (there’s a lot of luck and chance in that as we all know); some of them are now making more money from their backlist than ever they made from the print editions. 

    The important thing for authors is that there not be a monopoly, in eBooks or print books (where the distribution channels have shrunk horribly in the past few years, from hundreds to under ten distributors); we all thrive from competition. I think a good case can be made that the “agency model” actually increased author options and income. It has for many I know.

    What I’d really like to see is ‘bookstores’ that have ‘in stock’ tens of thousands of titles without having had to make huge investments in inventory and space. If course that sounds like a coffee house…

    Jerry Pournelle
    Chaos Manor

    • Joe

      The voice of reason. Thank you, Mr. Pournelle. You’re absolutely right.

    • Renee Yocum

      Excellent points for mid-list backlists and more.  I love discovering ebook back lists of titles and authors I want to devour…at a reasonable cost. I love bookstores, but feel happiest in used book ones since the atmosphere is usually better (only in my humble opinion I am sure) but since the nearest bookstore with what seems to be a coffee house in it is close to 100 miles away (and they never had much selection in those mid-lists I like) , I will happily stick with Amazon.

  • Anonymous
  • Lisa Westveld

    I agree that regular books are more valuable than ebooks. At least, with a bad book I can still use the paper to wipe my arse. If I do that with an ebook, my tablet gets all dirty.
    So, regular books have problems compared to ebooks. Once I’m done with them, they’ve become waste and need to be recycled, burned or just given away. Ebooks, I can just delete them from my tablet to reclaim the lost space.  Sure, I can give my book to a friend, who will read it and pass it on to another friend. I can sell secondhand books and get some of my money back while someone else gets a chance to read the book for a cheap price. I can see how this cuts in the profit margins of publishers but still, they won’t make regular books more expensive since they all want us to have lost of waste, lots of garbage, lots of printed toiletpaper and they want us to help them kill whole forests to keep up the hole bookprinting ind. hich is why ebooks are so expensive. They don’t want to recycle. These book printers just want to continu to waste valuable resources to products that people might just read once before discarding them. 
    The drawback of real paper is just a lot of wasted forestlands and other resources. The paper industry, although they do their best to recycle as much as possible, still depend on a huge amount of valuable resources. 

    Ebooks are bad. On one side you have the reader, on the other side the author. In-between you’d normally expect the printers and paper industry, trying to make huge profits from valuable resources but they have been taken out of the equation. While author and reader might enjoy reading and writing ebooks, a complete industry will go chapter eleven if ebooks continue to exist. The whole printing industry goes belly up! So please, don’t support ebooks! Support your printers and paper industry! It’s already bad enough that most people just pay by credit cards or other electronic ways instead of the old paper money. Reading ebooks would just finish them all off!

    Like the scribes from a millennium ago, who’se writing skills became obsolete when the press was invented. A develish invention, that press…

  • http://twitter.com/montsamu Samuel Mont-Blinn

    One thing which it appears not enough people are noticing is that while yes, NOW, Amazon offers 70% royalties (if you price your book within their most favored marketing position so that they can sell more Kindles, $2.99 to $9.99, etc.) back before this move Amazon’s royalties were 35% across the board:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/30/amazon-increases-author-r_n_630646.html

    That was at the end of June 2010, when Amazon doubled their royalty rates (again, within their prescribed price range, and by the way at least $2 cheaper than the cheapest print edition of your book) from 35% to 70%. Gee, what happened just prior to this? Apple’s entrance to the e-book world provided real competition, and Macmillan (successfully) stood up to Amazon.

    Remove Macmillan and the other publishers, and Amazon is free to offer 35% royalty rates again. (Or 25%. With a max price of $5.99. Or whatever they’d like.)

    In my view, it is Amazon which is doing the lion’s share of price-fixing: by offering a 70% royalty on a $9.99 e-book, and a 35% royalty on a $10.01 e-book, they have put a strong, strong artificial ceiling on e-book prices for independent authors.

    (And before June 2010, when we entered the previous competitive era (June 2010 to KDP Select and Lending, which began the current era in December and November 2011, respectively, without competition from Apple, Amazon was offering 35% royalties, not 70%. Introduce Apple to the equation in April 2010, and Amazon doubled its royalties for authors in June 2010. GG, DOJ. Please see the forest for the trees sometime soon.)

    • Rowena Cherry

      Excellent point, Samuel!

    • http://www.facebook.com/peter.rj.austin Peter Austin

      A single vendor cannot be guilty of “price fixing” by definition. Also, if you don’t want to take Amazon’s offer of 70% royalties, nobody is stopping you taking their alternative offer of 35%. BTW, what royalty rate do you get from your current publisher?

    • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

      Then don’t sell on Amazon. Boom, royalty problems solved. It’s a business, not a charity.

  • http://twitter.com/ManOfLaBook Zohar

    Newsflash – NO ONE is entitled to my money.
    Not you, not the authors, not Amazon or Apple.

    I will buy the product at the best price I can.

    Your mistake is thinking that:
    1) You are entitled to consumers’ money
    2) Consumers should pay the same amount and get less
    3) Consumers should buy what YOU want to sell
    4) You don’t need to sell what consumers want to buy
    5) Telling consumers eBooks are just like physical books…but not really
    6) Telling consumers eBooks are actually software… but not really (contradictory to #5)

    and more.

    By the way, does that list looks familiar?
    Change eBooks to CDs and it turns out that the publishing industry is handling eBooks much like the music industry handled MP3s – how did that turn out?

    Publishers got some good advice on the comments on this post (and many other posts on the Internet) – it’s time to start paying attention (hint: DRM is not a solution, but part of the problem).

    • Guest

      Couldn’t agree more.  Big publishing has alienated their own consumers by treating ebook buyers as moronic second class citizens who don’t mind getting ripped off.  Why don’t they just invite the pirates over? 

    • Cletus

      @Zohar,
      If you don’t like big bad ebooks then stick to paper & grab a library card. There: problem solved. Nobody has to supply you with ebooks for your expensive device. So you got hoodwinked into buying one? That’s YOUR problem. No one has to supply you with ebooks at all. You don’t want to pay the prices then get lost. There are mopre customers where you came from for whom money is not an issue.

      • http://www.facebook.com/tammi.labrecque Tammi Labrecque

        Uh – again – LOL – he wasn’t complaining about ebooks.

  • guest

    First off e-books have been handled badly, they should not be issued at the time as the Hard Cover edition but come out somewhere between hardcover and softcover editions. By releasing this less expensive version of the book publishers have shot themselves in the foot…as for Amazon they’ve become a monster.

  • ddescalante

    Scott Turow, how did you ever become the president of the Author’s Guild!? Way to kick free market in the balls with your illogical attacks on Amazon. Way to sell fellow writers down the river and subject them to the tyranny of publishers who have no other interest than to keep the middle-man profit for themselves. Get with the twenty-first century and stop taking bribes from the insiders who paint your nose brown. Shame, shame, shame on you, Turow. 

    • Whitley Strieber

       Why is debate so lacking in civility in this country? What an embarrassment of a post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kalinda001 Elizabeth Lang

    Kudos to you. A well thought out and far-seeing view of the state of the book industry and where it could potentially go and the hole the DoJ is digging for it.

  • polkawaltz

    It is not only about the authors and publishers, authors have to be part of the marketing of books themselves.  One way is to have reviews done with various people.  Personally I have just come across a new slot bookreportradio.com which not only reviews books but interviews relevant people to.  If authors really are serious they must get people like Elaine Charles to do reviews and have them broadcast.

  • Anonymous

    This administration is at war with entrepreneurs, with the self-employed, with small businesses, and pretty much everyone without a union job or on the dole. Successful writers are all of those things (except the union and dole part, though many writers are close to the dole now). My Guilt health care doubled after Obamacare, and I had to drop it for a cheaper plan that will probably kill me. Now you all whine because you were stupid enough to vote for this moron (blinded by his skin color no doubt) and lamenting the actions of an AG who’s great at shipping guns to drug lords in Mexico because he is now besieging authors’ royalties. Get it through you’re thick publishing skulls that this POTUS is anti-business and anti-freedom. Reelect this a-hole and we’ll be eating each other at the end of the next four years.

    • Anonymous

      If Apple and the publishers illegally conspired to raise prices on ebooks, the POTUS is pro-consumer, and enforcing laws does not make him anti-business.  Apple and the big 6 publishers are in no way small businesses, although I will grant you the big 6 publishers are facing a fundamental shift in their business.

      • Anonymous

        Not talking about the big 6. Authors are running small businesses and their royalties are tied to the list price of the book. What’s not to get?

    • Rowena Cherry

       Talking of royalties, I would dearly like to know if authors’ royalties are among the royalties that will be taxed at a higher rate along with interest, capitals gains, dividends etc etc as of 2013 to pay for Obamacare… because I don’t believe that our royalties are unearned income!!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/peter.rj.austin Peter Austin

        You mean for writing like this? http://www.rowenacherry.com/

        “Young, inexperienced, ambitious Princess
        Helispeta yearned to be first lady at Court, and was determined that her
        gorgeous, popular and powerful fiance should go through with their
        royal wedding.
        Writing a sympathetic note to his elder brother, the
        god-Emperor, to condole with His Mightiness on the death of the Empress
        was a very bad move.”

        • Anonymous

          Who the hell are you Austin? At least Ms. Cherry wrote a book. What do you do? Lick Obama’s assets?

      • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

        “I don’t believe that our royalties are unearned income!!!!”

        Neither does the government. Cheers!

  • Paul Guyot

    I have now lost all respect I once had for Scott Turow. 

    The only upside of this ridiculous post is that maybe it finally reveal to members of the Authors Guild that it has not been about the authors for the past 15 years – it is all about the publishers. 

    If you want intelligent and backed up by fact dissection of this silly post, look at this:
    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/03/barry-joe-scott-turow.html

    • Renee Yocum

      True it was an excellent rebuttal.

      • Dave Nielsen

         No, it wasn’t.  Try re-reading both.  Konrath – who, by the way, didn’t start out in ebooks but made it in through the “legacy publishers” he now hates – had decided beforehand what his opinion would be, then tried to fit it.  The fit isn’t a good one, and he deliberately misunderstands and misstates Turow’s points counting on his yes-men readers to just swallow it.

        • Joe

          I thought his and Eisler’s response was pretty much on-point, actually. I’m not sure how Turow’s advocacy for traditional publishing models and brick and mortar stores actually helps the authors his organization supposedly supports. 

          I would think that he’d be celebrating ebooks, because the advent of independent ebook publishing on Amazon finally allows authors to actually make a living on their work. Under the old model that Turow seems to love, most authors—who are not fortunate enough to be as successful as him in print—have to work day jobs in order to survive.

          I know midlisters, who couldn’t catch a break and were unceremoniously dumped by their publishers during the economic crisis, who are now making mid-five figures a month on their new and backlist books. Amazon’s 70% royalty structure has been a boon to authors, so any argument that Amazon is the bad guy here is laughable.

        • Renee Yocum

          I am well aware he started out “legacy published” 30 years in library land keeps you up to date on a few authors here and there.  The thing is, as I read Turow’s letter I thought the same things I later read in his rebuttal.  I don’t think Konrath hates publishers so much as he despises them, I simply feel the same.

    • Sw33tsumm3r

      Thank you, Guyot. The Author’s Guild is nothing more than a unionist sham of a collective, designed to subject authors and lace the pockets of the middle-man publishers with cash. Scott Turow has not only shown us how illogical he is with his flawed arguments and scapegoating of Amazon, he has finally revealed his true colors to the literary world. 

    • Dave Nielsen

       Konrath is a moron, as is anyone who is convinced by that ridiculous example of illogic.  Dissection?  What a joke.  Paging Forrest Gump!

      • Zachary Knight

        Care to elaborate on just what Konrath got wrong or are you simply going to ad hom his arguments away?

        • Dave Nielsen

          You seem to have acquired the lingo but not the understanding of that lingo – that wasn’t an example of ad hominem.  Consider this just from the beginning of Konrath’s unintentionally funny “dissection”:

          The
          only books that contribute to a rich literary culture are the ones sold
          at agency (meaning collusively high) prices by legacy publishers? Or
          sold through independent bookstores? The publishing establishment must
          be free to collude on prices or culture will perish? The publishing
          establishment contributes more to culture than books themselves? The
          publishing establishment is culture?
          Now, re-read Turow’s article. This wasn’t what he was saying at all, and Konrath is relying on his idiot readers to not even bother reading the article he’s replying to – sort of like a creationist who accepts a preacher’s explanation of the theory of evolution rather than going to a biologist. Like most blogs, dissenting voices are rare and those who hang around are the yes-men.

          • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

            Uh, actually, that is exactly what Turow said. I think you should re-read it and try to tamp down your feelings and let a little logic in. He said explicitly that if the DoJ files against Apple/publishers, it is “grim news” to people who cherish a rich literary culture. (Grim is a synonym for “bad,” btw.) Which means that he thinks that Apple/publishers should not be investigated for collusion or it will have a detrimental effect on our literary culture. Which means that he thinks they should be free to collude or else something terrible and scary might happen to the industry. I could support all of the other points easily, but this madness is making my brain hurt.

      • Sense

         Wow, you totally conviced us with that well-thought and profound rebuttal of yours, Forrest.

        • Dave Nielsen

           The covincing will all be done by Konrath, for anyone who cares to read it.

          • nathan

            eh, I read it. Convinced me that maybe Scottie T needs to step down.

  • Carol O’Connell

    I don’t believe the Justice Department can succeed in prosecuting what appears to be the Big- Six logical and predictable response to a threat. I think the detractors among your responders are simply having a hard time sympathizing with major publishers who, via deep discounts, actually colluded with Amazon in that company’s quest to eat them alive. However, stupidity is not a crime–yet. (But the day may come. The feds get more interesting all the time.)
    My own allegiance lies with the independent bookstores–always has, always will. It’s a pity we can’t close the loophole in the Robinson Patman Act that was designed to protect them from predatory pricing tactics. Or perhaps we CAN close it. Just a thought for those who believed they had right to open a little store, work very hard and watch it prosper in an American dream once protected by law. (Kiss it goodbye unless you can afford to own or rent a US Attorney.)Regarding a member’s misreading of the essay: An independent bookstore CAN sell e-books by arrangement with Google. Brick-and-mortar stores do not impede the forward momentum of technology. They can actually enhance the experience as a friendly human gateway for newcomers to high-tech. If  not for the loophole discounts, these little stores could do anything that giants can do and then some–thanks to technology. And–bonus–they don’t exist in the ether; they are real. Got a problem? You know where to find them. And they were always a fine business model in good times and bad: easier for a small shop to pay the light bill in a recession; the demise of one store did not bring down hundreds of others on the same day; they are diversity and independence incarnate, no collusion, no threat of sales killed en masse (they have no fear factor at all); and once upon a time, they were the foundation of a healthy marketplace–such a pure form of American style. But their numbers have declined from 7,000 to 1,500 (to clear up another member’s idea that they are flourishing.) They are being bled to death. This might be the time to stop writing my novels. I love writing. I don’t like the cutthroat concept of all that the market will bear.  This industry was once vibrant and non-threatening–before publishers and vendors became mortal enemies. I don’t believe authors can thrive in this poisoned atmosphere where my guild has actually seen the need to create a service (whomovedmybuybutton.com) that informs authors of retribution tactics, attacks on their  publishers–attacks on books. I never saw that bullet coming.But I can imagine a day, at the end this war, when the last bookstore left standing gets shut down for monopoly practices.  The feds do indeed have an interesting mentality, do they not? 

    • Rgm234

       I like the cozy independent bookstore as well as others.  As an author/independent publisher, I don’t understand why they need a 55% discount, want me to pay shipping, and then give them the right to return everything they order that doesn’t sell, and not making it worth handling returns, so the books end up getting destroyed.  So these bookstores end up stocking only bestsellers and books by maschocists who are willing to underwrite the bookstore by giving away their work. 

    • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

      Everyone has the right to open their dream store, but here’s the kicker: if they don’t offer what people want to buy, they’re going to go out of business. Period. Nobody has to use their hard-earned cash to prop up a business they don’t want to support. Offering goods inexpensively is not “predatory.” Out-performing a business because you’re doing it better and people want to buy from you is not predatory. I’m sorry, but it’s just not. If indie bookstores want to survive, they have to figure out how to make people want to shop there instead of whining about Amazon. 

      It’s like the small-town grocery store that loses customers to the brand-new mega-mart across town, because the mega-mart is cheaper and has a better selection; if that grocery doesn’t adapt its business model NOW, they will go out of business. And there are options: the grocery could become a specialty grocery and offer items that the other store won’t have, or it could ramp up its customer service to make it a better experience, or it could make deals with local food producers and emphasize local goods; it could do what the mega mart does and run amazing sales and get people in the door to get them to buy a lot of other things; it could put in services that customers can’t get at the mega mart, like a fresh juice bar or a coffee counter. SO MANY OPTIONS. 

      So, indie bookshops and people who love indie bookshops need to stop whining and evolve, because nothing is forcing me to go shop at your favorite bookshop–and I’m even LESS likely when you browbeat me about how your favorite store “deserves” to stay in business, because it doesn’t. Nobody deserves to stay in business. You work your ass off to be successful, and then you stay in business.

    • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

      Everyone has the right to open their dream store, but here’s the kicker: if they don’t offer what people want to buy, they’re going to go out of business. Period. Nobody has to use their hard-earned cash to prop up a business they don’t want to support. Offering goods inexpensively is not “predatory.” Out-performing a business because you’re doing it better and people want to buy from you is not predatory. I’m sorry, but it’s just not. If indie bookstores want to survive, they have to figure out how to make people want to shop there instead of whining about Amazon. 

      It’s like the small-town grocery store that loses customers to the brand-new mega-mart across town, because the mega-mart is cheaper and has a better selection; if that grocery doesn’t adapt its business model NOW, they will go out of business. And there are options: the grocery could become a specialty grocery and offer items that the other store won’t have, or it could ramp up its customer service to make it a better experience, or it could make deals with local food producers and emphasize local goods; it could do what the mega mart does and run amazing sales and get people in the door to get them to buy a lot of other things; it could put in services that customers can’t get at the mega mart, like a fresh juice bar or a coffee counter. SO MANY OPTIONS. 

      So, indie bookshops and people who love indie bookshops need to stop whining and evolve, because nothing is forcing me to go shop at your favorite bookshop–and I’m even LESS likely when you browbeat me about how your favorite store “deserves” to stay in business, because it doesn’t. Nobody deserves to stay in business. You work your ass off to be successful, and then you stay in business.

  • Rowena Cherry

    Few people seem to realize that comparing what Amazon pays an author in royalties on an e-book is not equivalent to what Amazon would pay an author in royalties on a hardback.

    That 70% doesn’t necessarily represent the royalty on one sale. Amazon allows at least 6 friends to share a credit card and an account (as we saw years ago with the engelin furor), which means that 6 people read the same e-book for the price of one.

    Some say, the number of account sharers is higher. I’ve heard tell that Amazon is quietly encouraging entire book clubs to share one account and all “share” one purchased copy of an e-book.

    There’s also Lending Enabled, currently only once per e-book, and this is not only between the sort of friends and family members who would lend one another  a paper book. This is arranged globally, for profit, between strangers.

    If one is committing to potential (stressing potential) a Buy-One-Get-Seven-Free (but you’ll never really know how many extra reads we shared) deal, the publishers and authors ought to be paid fairly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Al-Norman/100003378409262 Al Norman

      However, to objectively discredit their argument, you must compare apples to apples. Print books can be passed between individuals, and I’d take comfortable guess that the number of times said print book can transfer hands is more than 6. This lack of restriction on the transfer of print books, for money or otherwise, may in fact make the ebook royalty more attractive.

      Also, the allowance of ebook transfers is protected by a simple agreement. The transfer of print books is protected by case law. (Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus)

    • Joe

      Yet I know MANY authors who are, for the first time in their lives, actually making real money on their books, thanks to Amazon. Thousands of dollars a month. And the books never go out of print. Don’t disappear from shelves. Every time they put out a new book, they are discovered by a new reader and their backlist gets new sales.

      The lending-enabled books, by the way, also put money in the author’s pocket. The authors are being paid more than ever.

      And the bottom line is that NOBODY CARES ABOUT HARDBACKS anymore. They are quickly going the way of vinyl records. Any savvy author will recognize this fact and jump on the Amazon ebook bandwagon but quick.

    • capt jack harkness

       -1 Likes.
      I clicked on the wrong button!

      You must hate these things called librairies.
      They actually lend books to perfect strangers to take and read FOR FREE. Dozens and hundreds if not thousands of times.
      Worse, they have indoctrinated schools in their commie logic (im guessing by your writing that this is how you would call this) and kids as young as 4 are thought to read books they havent paid for.

      And you must really hate me. I live in a small appartment and usually after I buy and read a book, I give it someone who can do with it what they want.
       Like give it to someone else.
      For free.
      In the past few years, Ive bought over 400-500 e-books on Amazon and cant remember when the last time I lent it to someone. Basically because they are in closed formats that cant be read elsewhere but also because 500 e-books take a bit less space than 500 books.

      >Some say,….
      >I’ve heard tell that….

      Wow, you sure know a lot of things. Care to share who says and where you heard?
      Or is that fiction?

  • Avid Reader

    Can someone explain to me why the 5 big publishers don’t just sell their own books a la Amazon?  If they started up their own retail unit, they could save 30% of the profits and stop the inevitable demise of quality books. 

    • guest

      Most do on their websites, though it can cause tension with retailers, who see this as competition. (i.e. almost the reverse of Amazon going into publishing.) Various publishers either emphasize sales on their websites or see it as a little bit extra, depending on their strategy in the market.

      • Rowena Cherry

         Doesn’t Amazon insist on the right to sell any ebook at the lowest price available anywhere, including on the publishers’ own, middleman-free sites?

        • Wayne

          They price match any price on the internet for the same book as part of their agreement. Similar to many physical stores price matching. Only a few physical stores price match+undercut but I’ve seen it offered in places.

          One problem is they sometimes price match the wrong book due to meta tag mistakes. Or lagging prices through Smashwords smaller retailers. As in you change your book from $3.99 to $4.50 on Amazon instantly, you change it on Smashwords too, but some of the companies that retail for Smashwords don’t change the price for a week. So Amazon’s web bots (similar to googles) see the lower price and discount you in the meantime.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tammi.labrecque Tammi Labrecque

      Baen sells all of their ebooks themselves, through their own website, for reasonable prices and without DRM.  It seems to be working out for them!

  • http://www.ipgbook.com/ Curt Matthews

    When my independent press distribution company, IPG, had its 5000 Kindle titles dropped by Amazon, there was a popular outcry, and I found, to follow the story, I could not resist exploring regions of the blogosphere unfamiliar to me. What I found, with the exception of some quite good articles in the New York Times, was a mass of ill-written misinformation, produced in support of various half-hidden special agendas.
     
    What a pleasure then, and what a relief, to find here Scott Turow’s superb account of the current state of the controversy. In particular Mr. Turow’s understanding of the non-obvious effects of Amazon’s eBook strategies on publishers and booksellers is deeply informed. Rabid discounting does distort markets, disrupt supply chains, and in the long run crushes competition.
     
    Some readers of this blog might be interested in an article I recently posted on the IPG website that recounts the impact of the chain bookstores on the thousands of independent booksellers that flourished before the arrival of the chains on the scene. This history in many ways parallels the current controversy and sheds some light on it. It is mostly, but not entirely, a cautionary tale.
     

    • Wayne

      A) IPG’s agreement had run out with Amazon, since they didn’t rework an agreement Amazon couldn’t legally sell those books… So you prefered Amazon to sell books illegally? Like Google’s scanning that the Author’s guild has been fighting for years?

      B) Amazon squeezes its supplies like Walmart, Detroit car makers, etc. Now that’s worth complaining about now and could affect self-published authors somewhere down the road.

      C) Finally, WTF is IPG distributing eBooks? The pressure tactics that physical book distributors used to inject themselves into the eBook market by threatening not to distribute the physical books if they didn’t get eBook rights is very abusive. But authors have accepted that because it was publishers caving in behind the scenes.

    • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

      Yeah, good job on that–you see, the numbers WERE posted on the IPG website, and we were all able to look at those numbers and see that you were whining about not getting 70% of the retail price, which is a HUGE percentage compared to what the rest of the business world receives for its products–even physical, actual products that aren’t electronically created, transferred, and stored for practically no cost–when it wholesales to a giant entity such as Amazon. Your complaint about having to get 50% instead of 70% is sort of like a rich kid complaining that they had to tell their maidservant five times that they needed their room cleaned, while the rest of the kids have to clean their own rooms. It reeks of excessive privilege. A lot of us have decided that your business model is absurd and have continued to shop at Amazon, where your books are unfortunately not available for us to purchase.

      I actually made a list of reasons that it would be BETTER for IPG to wholesale to Amazon on my blog: http://insatiablebooksluts.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/reading-rage-tuesday-ebooktroversy/

      You know, just in case you’re interested in what people who actually spend their money on your books think about it.

  • http://feldmanfile.blogspot.com Len Feldman

    The core argument here seems to be that Amazon’s eBook pricing policies are responsible for the failure of Borders, the death of independent bookstores, the end of the publishing industry, and in the future, the heat death of the universe. Here’s the truth:

    1) The real problem for resellers comes from Amazon’s discounting of print books, not eBooks. The agency model is completely irrelevant to print pricing.

    2) eBooks only represent 20% or less of the U.S. sales of the Big 6 publishers, and considerably less than that internationally.

    3) Borders failed because of gross mismanagement, not Amazon. In fact, Borders’ interest in Kobo was one of its most valuable assets in bankruptcy.

    4) Independent booksellers were put into intensive case by Borders and Barnes & Noble, well before eBooks became a significant part of the business. Borders’ failure is, in fact, one of the best things that’s ever happened for independents.

    5) Price-fixing, amazingly, is against the law (unlike Mr. Turow, I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve heard about the Sherman Act.) The Justice Department is trying to restore a market controlled by supply and demand, and take Apple’s and five of the big six publishers thumbs off the scale.

    • Orangeseattle

      I’m asking this because I honestly think I’d like some clarity:

      Wouldn’t price-fixing be all the publishers agreeing to charge one standard price for their books, rather than individual publishers each getting to set their own prices through their agreement with a retailer?  (As is the case with agency model.)

      Any company can say they want a store to sell their product at X price, no?

      • http://www.facebook.com/sirtwist George A. Roberts IV

        Typically a company can’t. They can “suggest” a retail price (which is why you see the “Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price” in stores), but most retail stores buy their products through distribution for whatever the distributor is selling it for, or in bulk from the manufacturer if the quantities purchased are high enough, and can mark it up as they see fit.

        Sometimes in order to be an “authorized” reseller the retailer must agree to minimum sales prices, but they can sell at any price point above that.

        The problem with the agency model is that the publishers went back to Amazon and demanded that Amazon switch to the agency model too, which would effectively fix the price of books across all the digital booksellers (Amazon, B&N, Apple, etc.). If Amazon didn’t agree, then it would suffer “extensive and deep windowing of titles.” http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/31/amazon-pulled-macmillan-titles-due-to-price-conflict-confirme/

        • Orangeseattle

          Thanks, George, I was curious about that. I’m interested (as a side note now) the terms under which a company may dictate the price to a retailer in an “authorized” situation, since I feel like there are many individual commodities that are treated this way, and since retailers can (inversely) demand that a supplier lower their price before agreeing to sell their item. Interesting, though.

          And thanks for the Engadget article because it has one of the strangest quotes of all time “we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles”–bizarre notion that a supplier “having a monopoly” over unique products they create.

          • Wayne

            I suspect Amazon sees the authors as the customers/suppliers and the publishers as merely the packagers of the eBook. They have said elsewhere that they see authors as customers.

      • Stacey

        They didn’t fix the price of all ebooks, they fixed the price of each title to all retailers.  Apple told the publishers that they could not sell their titles to any other retailer for a lower price than the price at Apple.  And the publishers agreed.  That is price fixing.

      • http://feldmanfile.blogspot.com Len Feldman

        That’s not what happened in this case. According to the Justice Department’s allegations, five of the Big 6, in collusion with Apple, agreed to:

        1) Set prices on all their titles at a level originally specified by Apple
        2) Implement a distribution system that would prohibit retailers from changing the price without the permission of the publisher, and
        3) Most importantly, refuse to provide product to any reseller who wouldn’t accept these terms.

        So, this was not a case of individual publishers each getting to set their own prices though mutual agreement with a retailer. This was five of the six biggest publishers in the U.S. operating in concert to force resellers to accept their terms or lose access to their titles. The only reseller who “agreed” to these terms through mutual negotiations was Apple. Barnes & Noble accepted the terms as a positive development but wasn’t given a choice. Amazon and other resellers who opposed the new terms were forced to accept them.

  • David Gaughran

    Scott Turow seems to be desperate to carve out a niche for himself and the Author’s Guild on the wrong side of history.

    This letter is merely the latest in a series of disingenuous, inaccurate, misguided pronouncements aimed at maintaining the status quo – at any cost. The Justice Department is reportedly in the process of filing an antitrust lawsuit against five of the largest publishers (and Apple) for alleged price-fixing. For Scott Turow, this
    is “grim news.”

    Five giant publishing conglomerates and one of the biggest corporations in the world are accused of illegally colluding to institute a system of fixed prices, which,
    incidentally, resulted in greatly increased prices for readers, and Scott Turow
    is appalled that this (alleged!) lawbreaking is being (possibly) investigated.

    Wow. Mr. Turow appears to have about as much respect for readers as publishers do.

    His only response to this (alleged!) criminality is that there’s “no way of knowing whether publishers colluded” and that “collusion wasn’t necessary” anyway and he hopes “the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders.” Hilarious! Remind me to hire this lawyer next time I get pepped up on goofballs and drive my Ferrari into a swimming pool.

    (By the way Scott, if I hung out a lawyer shingle across the street from you, and charged half the price for defending goofball-chomping Ferrari owners, I wouldn’t be “destroying” your company, I would simply be charging less money than
    you. It’s called business, and it happens every day.)

    Your claim that Amazon was “using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open” is
    laughable. First of all, most physical bookstores don’t sell e-books, and
    certainly weren’t selling them around the time of the introduction of the
    Agency Agreement.

    What percentage of the market did e-books have at the time? 4%? So, less than one in twenty book buyers even owned an e-reader, and you think discounting e-books
    affected the sale of print books? Really? Is that honestly your position?

    The succeeding three paragraphs are extremely disingenuous, not least the
    implication that Amazon’s “e-book discounting” was responsible for
    the completely unrelated scenario where “traditional bookstores were
    shutting down or scaling back” and “Borders was on its knees.”

    Do you honestly think that Amazon’s policy of discounting e-books was responsible for the demise of Borders? Really? Honestly? Or are you just being disingenuous in
    an attempt at cheap point scoring?

    There is further disingenuousness in the following statement, “Two years after the
    agency model came to bookselling, Amazon is losing its chokehold on the e-book
    market: its share has fallen from about 90% to roughly 60%.”

    The way that’s written you make it sound like the Agency Agreement was the only factor in the reduction of Amazon’s market share. Here are some other factors, which I can only presume you forgot to note. You know, things that would have had a big influence on Amazon’s share slipping:

    1. America’s largest bookstore chain entered the e-reader and the e-book market,
    pushing the store and the device across their extensive, nationwide store
    network.

    2. The most valuable corporation in the world, a company six times the size of Amazon, entered the e-book market.

    3. A whole plethora of competing devices – e-readers and tablets – were released,
    including one you might have heard of: the iPad.

    4. A whole range of e-bookstores sprang up to compete with Amazon (because, you know, they really aren’t a monopoly).

    E-books had been around in one form or another since the 1970s. E-readers had been around since the 1990s. If you remember, the first Kindle was hardly going to win any prizes. I remember the general mockery it was greeted with (I was one of those who thought it was stupid idea and bound to fail). The device sold out in
    five-and-a-half hours.

    Amazon badly underestimated the demand for the Kindle. They couldn’t restock for
    another five months! And when they did, it kept flying off the shelves. Maybe
    it was luck, maybe it was timing, maybe it was because they were the first ones
    to ally a good(ish) device to a killer shopping experience.

    Either way, they created this market. Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, and everyone else were slow to see the value in it. The reason Amazon’s share of the market was
    90% was because they had the field (largely) to themselves. The entry of other
    players was always going to reduce their share.

    But you don’t want to make that argument do you? Because then it becomes harder to hit Amazon with the (wildly inaccurate) monopoly label. It also becomes harder to reflexively defend those publishing companies you seem to want to shield from
    any criticism, no matter how valid, and no matter what laws they (allegedly!)
    break.

    • Orangeseattle

      Perhaps the term ‘monopoly’ is the problem here, and ‘monopolistic practices’ (or something similar) should be used. AT&T certainly wasn’t the only long-distance carrier in existence, but it was legally found to be doing monopolistic practices and broken up. If you get too mathematically technical about the word monopoly, you will a) be waiting for an impossible scenario, and b) be ignoring the real damage someone can do with 60% of the market share. (Not that I’m saying everyone with 60% of a market share will be abusive.)

      I also think ‘respect for readers’ is being conflated with ‘level of discounts given to consumers’ and possibly ‘share of royalties given to authors.’ Using ‘respect’ seems like a rhetorical strategy that won’t last in the long run, since a retailer’s first desire is to squeeze its supply chain into lower and lower cost levels, breaking these two notions apart–by paying authors less and thus (if truly you are a market-believer) de-incentivising authors who might possess the time and talent to write more ‘quality’ writing.

      I also feel compelled say that it’s pretty widely known that Amazon had a strategy of using print and e- as loss leaders to try and gain market share. It’s also pretty widely known that e-books do eat into print sales, affecting Borders in a big way. Is that Amazon’s fault, that Borders couldn’t compete in a new landscape? Not really, but we can’t pretend like the cause and effect aren’t there on at least a fairly significant level.

      Moreover, it’s hard to see how Amazon both created a marketplace (and then it seems that by being ‘first’ your argument is they should have free reign), and was reacting to something that had been around since before they existed.

      And lastly, while the iPad is cool, its book-market share is currently quite slight. And if it wants to negotiate better supplier (publisher) terms, then so be it. You seem to be giving the same pass to Amazon: that they entered a brave new world (of e-publishing) and should profit. Well, perhaps agency modeling is entering a brave new world (of contractual agreements) and should be given some slack.  Clearly if there’s collusion in the legal sense of the term, something
      should be done. However, there really doesn’t have to be collusion when
      one retailer (say, Apple) offers their supplier far better terms than a
      competitor retailer (say, Amazon). How do you parse the difference? It’s probably very, very difficult to do so, and I think that
      may be the thrust of what Scott’s getting at on that point.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Al-Norman/100003378409262 Al Norman

        Like this:

        Apple says, “Hey, you single publisher, I’ll sell your books, but you have to give me agency model pricing.” –This is okay.

        Apple says, “Hey, all you publishers, I’ll sell your books, but you have to give me agency model pricing.” –Still okay.

        Apple says, “Hey, all you publishers, I’ll sell your books, but you have to give me agency model pricing, and you must force that form of pricing on every other retailer by using your combined clout.” –Not okay.

        On another note, since there are six parties involved in this investigation, which is in essence a form of conspiracy, I’d be supremely shocked not to see a resolution against the agency model.

        When dealing with multiparty conspiracies, one of the alleged conspirators almost always jumps on the prosecution’s side in exchange for immunity or lessened penalties. There is already talk of several of the parties discussing settlement terms. You better believe that those early settlement terms involve testimony against the other parties.

    • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

      Sir, I would like for you to guest post on my book blog and tell this exact story. If you’re interested, please contact me at insatiablebooksluts@gmail.com.

  • Anonymous

    What I see here is that Amazon had all the cards. The idea being that after garnering their monopoly, they would either turn arou d and tell the publishers that they were cutting their payments, like it or not, or tell their customers that they were raising their prices.

    It’s pretty obvious they couldn’t sustain losing money on book sales forever. But once they attained their goal, they wouldn’t have to, would they?

    I find it hard to believe that some authors don’t understand what was happening! What do you think would have happened once Amazon put other e-book retailers out of business, and destroyed the paper retail industry? Do you really think that you wouldn’t be in their sights next?

    Bezos is proving to be very focussed on removing all the profits from the supply lines, even to the point of taking losses on their own products with the dubious concept of making it up on low profit sales of content. Do you think he isn’t above squeezing every penny from you as well? His model isn’t the Apple one, it’s the Walmart one. Think about that for a while.

    I’m not a writer, at least not of books, but I do have over 3,000 books in my library, and have bought over 300 e-books for my iPads over the past two years. I prefer seeing at least the three bookstores that I buy from on it. I don’t want it to come down to one, with one publisher—Amazon.

    • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

      When has any online business ever been able to generate monopoly? It hasn’t happened; by the nature of the internet, it almost certainly cannot happen. There can be a “big dog on the block”, or an 800lb gorilla, whichever you prefer. But a true monopoly? Possible, perhaps, but unlikely.

      As for raising fees or raising prices? Think. Amazon is top of the heap today because Amazon pays suppliers (writers) more than just about anyone else; because Amazon treats customers better than just about anyone else; because Amazon offers better prices than just about anyone else; and because Amazon has the best/easiest/most effective store on the web.

      The instant any of those things changes, Amazon will lose market share because somebody else will step in and eat their lunch. ;)

      Right now we’re seeing rich growth of numerous smaller ebook stores. We’re seeing Amazon slipping in their overall percentage of the ebook market, as these smaller retailers nip away specialty markets.

      The day Amazon cranks up prices on ebooks will be the day a good chunk of their customer base will go visit some other retailer instead, and download Calibre to crack the Kindle DRM and convert all their ebooks.

      I’m all for a vibrant, competitive marketplace too. And I think that’s where we are headed. Dozens of retailers – some very, very big, some very, very small; but lots of markets. And hundreds of thousands of publishers, each one a writer.

      It’s the folks in between who are wondering (rightfully so) where they fit in to this new paradigm. It’s a challenging question, and one which needs to be answered rather soon.

      • Orangeseattle

        I feel like perhaps you’re overestimating the ‘theory’ of customer and supplier relationships and not the way these relationships actually get practiced. If things actually followed such a mathematical approach, then wouldn’t traditional publishers have already corrected for those relationship complaints you have? Nothing is ever that clean, and the history of large corporations (Amazon, Walmart, etc) being “good” to suppliers is not really all that much in evidence. In fact, working in publishing, I have seen very specific instances in which online retailers can harm authors’ interests for their own reasons.

        I’m a fan of dozens of retailers for everything myself, but, again, gatekeepers and monopolies will crop up everywhere. The digital world is neither free to produce things in, nor is it ‘free’ in the sense of being equal.

        Online monopolies include: Google, Netflix, PayPal, Facebook, and some say Amazon. You don’t have to control absolutely everything to be a monopoly, just enough to have disproportionate sway to control the market. And that works against the vision of dozens of retailers and hundreds of thousands of publishers.

        I also feel obliged to point out that most of these discussions seem to focus on money, and very little on editorial quality. I’m not an elitist by any means, but publishing houses are literally centers of editorial expertise–which is a way of improving the ‘quality’ of your ‘product,’ since business terms are so in vogue.

        • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

          Great comment, Orange; some good food for thought. However, from Merriam-Webster:
          Definition of MONOPOLY1
          : exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action2
          : exclusive possession or control3
          : a commodity controlled by one party4: one that has a monopolyNot mostly exclusive. Not 2/3 of a market, like Amazon has for ebooks. Google is only about 2/3 of the search market, too. That “other third” on the internet is the place where the wild cards come from. It’s where Apple used to live – now look at the company! It’s where Amazon was, ten years ago. Again, look at them now. And some of the companies in that “wild card third” will be the Amazons and Apples of ten years hence.Technically, the oligopoly represented by the “big six” prior to ebooks was far more complete than the Amazon share is, and likely more than Amazon’s share will ever be. And I think a monopoly by Amazon would indeed be bad for writers, likely just as bad as the big publisher oligopoly was. I just don’t think we’re ever going to see that level of control by Amazon. If anything, Amazon market share in ebooks is slipping, despite publishers propping Amazon up by using DRM and the agency system.I agree with the quality comments too, FWIW. ;) Fortunately (for writers, not for the poor editors!) the major publishers have been laying that talent off for years now, and the pace seems to be accelerating. There’s an enormous pool of quality editorial talent out there, and most professionals are availing themselves of it. (The folks who don’t, rarely get very far.)

          • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

            Apologies, that looked much better formatted in the little box – I think pasting in the definition messed it up. Thanks for the lively discussion, though! =)

          • Anonymous

            You’ve got the whole thing backwards. Do you not understand the situation? The agency model wasn’t made to back Amazon. It was suggested by Apple as a counterweight to Amazon. Publishers jumped aboard.

            Before Apple came up with the agency model, Amazon had close to a 90% share of e-book sales. It’s Apple and the agency model which is responsible for cutting that share down to about 60%.

          • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

            Apple probably would have cut into Amazon’s share regardless of whether they (allegedly) colluded with the publishers. The more ebook retailers that get into the game, the more Amazon’s share shrinks.

          • Anonymous

            There really, from what I see, is no evidence that Apple colluded with anyone. The JD is taking a few public statements that Jobs, and a couple of others have made, and are misinterpreting them. That doesn’t mean that all parties, in order to get this out of the way won’t make some sort of compromise.

            As far as the not selling at less than at the iBook store. I would like to remind people that Amazon had, and still does have the same requirement, unless a publisher pays them a much larger share.

            And thanks to Apple, Amazon now pays out the same 70% Apple does. Before it was more like 30-40%.

            So, Amazon’s share would have gone from 90% to 75%. Not much of a difference. Right now, it’s below 60%, and still shrinking.

        • http://www.anthealawson.com/ Anthea Lawson

          The problem here is that authors who HAVE been mangled by big publishing understand the whole picture, and outsiders don’t. All the argument in the world can’t convey that kind of knowledge. Yeah, “centers of editorial expertise” – go on, tell me another one. (And until you have actually been bought by a NY publisher and been ‘expertised’ upon like I have, try not to spout the party line.) 

          • Barry S.

            I’m finding myself agreeing with Mr. Curt Matthews. Publishing math is *very* convoluted, and, truly no offense, just because an author feels a big publishing house didn’t bring their books out right doesn’t mean that that author understands everything about publishing math.

            Or that Amazon is necessarily the good guy.

          • http://www.anthealawson.com/ Anthea Lawson

            Agreed – what’s good for the big corporation isn’t necessarily what’s good for the author.

          • Anonymous

            And the other way around as well. The reality is that there is some common ground. Neither is getting everything they want. For years I’ve seen major authors get absurd advances, while new writers get nothing, or almost nothing. So blame the names as well.

            Publishers do something for their money. Maybe it’s not as much as some want. But let’s not forget that most books fail. Many are just poorly written. Just because one is a “writer” doesn’t mean that one is a good writer. Publishers lose money on most books, and make a lot on few. A business is a business. Everyone knows, or should know, that most writers are a drag on the business, and that its only the major stars that pay for most of the thing.

            I see complaints from not very successful writers who are saying; “what about me?” well, what about you? Do you feel as though you get no help at all? Would you rather do it alone, and publish through Amazon? I read that there are writers who are selling a thousand books a month that way. I’d like to know just how many. Most sell a handful a month. All the support Amazon gives? You can put it on your pinky!

            The business has changed since I was a kid in the early 1960′s. Costs have gone up dramatically. Most publishers are out of business, as are many book stores.

            Amazon is trying to put the rest out of business, and the other sites as well. Not a good idea.

        • http://www.bridgetmckenna.com/ Bridget McKenna

          Publishers haven’t needed to “correct relationship complaints” because until Amazon came along to offer the first real competition for that industry, they had an effective monopoly on the means of distribution for books. They appear to be in competition with one another, but for some reason no-one can adequately explain short of some sort of collusion, major publishers all use essentially the same contracts, pay the same advances, and offer the same royalty rates.

          As to “editorial expertise,” most major publishers job out their copyediting, line-editing, and proofreading to the same experts available for hire to anyone. Ask Raymond Feist about expertise. No-one at HarperCollins noticed the mistake, and no-one was able to correct it in three tries at new editions. And he’s not the first to suffer the same kind of slapdash editing. The imprimatur of a big publishing house is no guarantee of quality.

          • Orangeseattle

            While I would certainly never say, and didn’t say, that there is a ‘guarantee’ of quality with a big publishing house, I would still emphasize that they are a locus of editorial knowledge.

            As for houses farming out all the editorial work on books, having worked at 2 in the editorial department, and knowing many other editors in the industry, I can say that it’s just patently not true that most editing is done outside of the house. Some, of course, but not even close to most. And if they do have to farm stuff out, it’s certainly not for cost-savings but due to workload issues.

          • Renee Yocum

            True, as a reader and someone who has worked in libraries for over 30 years “editorial expertise” from the major publishers is vastly overated.

          • Anonymous

            You can’t discuss an industry as having a monopoly. It’s an individual company that can have a monopoly. The auto industry doesn’t have a monopoly on producing cars. The computer industry doesn’t have a monopoly in producing computers, etc.

            But Amazon is trying very hard to gain a monopoly in almost every area in which they do business. Will they succeed? Hopefully not. But they have one for a short while in e-book sales. That seems to be ignored here by some.

            So the agency model is not the best, but it’s not the worst either, and it broke up Amazon’s nascent monopoly. I have yet to see any evidence that it was a collusion. It’s assumed that it must have been, but that’s not good enough.

            As a fervent book buyer, with the ownership of thousands of paper books, and hundreds of e-books, I would like to see the best for all, because that would benefit me as well. But nothing’s perfect. I saw Amazon’s model as one of the worst. Are people naive enough to think that they would have maintained payments after they achieved what they wanted? I hope not!

            A business must make profits to survive. Amazon was losing their shirt on e-book sales. How long does anyone think that could last? Who would pay for that? The publishers. And then they would give you guys a call and say that they were cutting your rates. I’m sure you would love that.

      • Sam

        Perhaps you weren’t watching when Amazon bought The Book Depository.

    • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

      Setting up an ebook distribution channel isn’t that difficult.  I think the big question that determines whether Amazon can achieve some sort of monopoly is this:  Do readers discover and follow authors, or do they buy what their “retailer of first resort” is selling?

      • Anonymous

        Well, there is the momentum of the “first mover” in any business. If Amazon came up with the first easy to use e-book distribution service, which they did, then they will get the lion’s share of customers, which they did.

        The convenience of e-book purchasing from one source is so great, that one will tend to stay with one retailer, if possible. I agree that if you follow an author, it’s difficult. That’s why I buy from all three big services on my iPad. It’s annoying to not be able to buy from just one. But Amazon does have the biggest choice, because they started first. So I look first in iBooks and the Nook store, to help balance things out.

        The thing is, Amazon had just about achieved their goal of e-book sales monopoly when Apple came out with the agency model, which by the way, is how it works in the music industry, so this wasn’t something new.

        The publishers jumped on it. Despite what some authors may think, publishers aren’t stupid. They saw that with Amazon selling a book for which they paid the publisher $15, for $10, something had to give. If Amazon had had their way, they would have been the only ones benefitting. Authors just don’t see that. So if at some point, Amazon goes back to the publishers and said that they would now give them $7 for the book they were giving $15, so that Amazon could make a profit, and the publishers not being able to say no, would have turned to the authors and said that they would cut their royalties in half, or more.

        Authors would, no doubt, be thrilled to hear that. And then they could go to the authors who are self publishing on Amazon, and tell them that their fees would also be higher.

        In the long run, authors would suffer. But they just don’t see that.

    • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

      Setting up an ebook distribution channel isn’t that difficult.  I think the big question that determines whether Amazon can achieve some sort of monopoly is this:  Do readers discover and follow authors, or do they buy what their “retailer of first resort” is selling?

  • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

    Wow.

    And there, I think we see the last vestigial shreds of the Author’s Guild actually representing the best interests of writers torn up, burned, and flushed down the toilet for good measure.

    I can barely even begin to list all the places where this little essay is not just wrong, but dead wrong. Scott is making an impassioned plea about all the wrong things, for all the wrong reasons.

    He’s right about one thing, though: thousands of writers will mourn, the day that agency pricing goes away.

    Why?

    Because overpricing due to the agency system is the biggest part of why publishers have lost over half the market for ebooks fiction to self publishers and small presses. There are right now thousands of self published ebooks selling a thousand plus copies a month.

    All those indie writers thank goodness that the big publishers were short-sighted enough to finagle agency pricing into existence. We pray daily for a long, drawn out court battle. Every day that the major publishers continue hoisting themselves by their own petard is another day for writers to make more money per book than writers have ever made before, with basically no competition from the big presses.

    I strongly urge the DOJ to not sue. Writers are much better off with the major publishers using agency pricing.

    But not for the reasons Scott suggests.

    Some more detailed rebuttal here: http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/

    • Anonymous

      Nonsense. You don’t know this industry.

      • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

        The final answer of those without fact to back up their case: assault on the qualifications of the speaker.

        • Anonymous

          Well, when you get your own facts right you can offer a counterpoint that makes sense.

          • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

            That’s true–perhaps you should try it, because you toss out a lot of “facts” that mean nothing.

      • Renee Yocum

        My response to your Nnonsense” would send my blood pressure up too high, so I will leave it at this – you don’t know enough readers fed up with the crap that publishers have poured out. I will take a chance on a ton of indie writers (and with growing numbers of reviews it doesn’t take long to find some good ones)  at under 5.00 and most of the time much under.  There are current authors I would still read from traditional publishers at maybe 6.00 – a grand total of 4,

        • Anonymous

          I know plenty of readers, and I’m a major one. Readers aren’t fed up with anything. All they care about is getting the books they want, and not paying too much for them. In regards to pricing, it’s interesting that e-book sales have continued to climb since agency pricing has been used.

          • Anonymous

             I’m sure the millions of new ereaders sold since then have nothing to do with it.

          • Anonymous

            One feeds the other. The point is that people haven’t stopped buying e-books because of the slightly higher prices, and they haven’t stopped buying e-readers or iPads to read them on, which proves the point I’m making.

          • Rick

            Here’s the thing. Readers are willing to pay the high prices for their favorite writers. The big names like Turow and Child and Patterson. They are less incline, however, to pay $12.99 for an ebook by an author they’ve never heard of. If publishers were wise enough to lower the costs of ebooks on their lesser known writers, they might actually be able to build something. But corporate will not allow lower prices on ANY books. Trust me, I’ve had this argument with my publisher many times.

          • Anonymous

            I agree with you. You are entirely correct in that, which is why those big writers are responsible for almost all the profit for publishers, and the smaller writers often do little more than break even, and many lose money.

            It’s the big writer’s profits that allow publishers to take on new writers, which is why those big writers, just like the big names in the music business, complain about not getting as much money as they should. It’s part of the business where the major artists pay for the smaller ones.

            Without the publishers, who is going to pay for those smaller artists, and as importantly, who is going to publicize them to the buying public? Amazon? Ha!

            I don’t believe that there are “thousands” of writers on Amazon selling a thousand books a month as self publishers. Maybe a few hundred.

            But books and albums by new, or those not selling well have never cost less. That just hasn’t ever been part of how any industry works. If people really want the work, they will pay for it.

            But I see a lot of writers, even those from “real” as opposed to vanity publishers, on Amazon, who have their books prices at $6.99, $5,99, $4.99, $3,99, and in a few cases, even lower. So it is possible.

          • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

            Uh, readers. Bloggers. Book Clubs. Reading groups. People on the internet will publicize books they like to the reading public. And they’re a lot more trustworthy to their audiences than large corporate publishers are to *their* audiences.

            And just because that hasn’t ever been a part of an industry, that’s meaningless. The industry IS CHANGING. Clearly, what used to work is not working anymore. And the people who have adapted and are making money are being demonized by people who haven’t been able to figure out how to do the same, because the latter persons want to continue making money but can’t figure out how to do it without dragging everyone else down with them.

          • Anonymous

            Of course the industry has been changing. That exactly what I’ve been saying. We really don’t know what it will look like in ten years. So, possibly publishers will be a smaller fraction of that, or a larger. It’s all just guessing now.

            People who buy books don’t care who publishes them. That’s not a real issue from the buyers end. But they buy books they’ve heard about, and seen reviews of. Also books that are on lists such as the Times best seller listings. Sure, Opera sold books on her show, but that not a major part of the business. Most people will continue doing what they’ve always done until they can’t anymore. They will look to the same sources for information, unless, and until those sources are no longer viable.

            I don’t understand why you’re talking about people being demonized for selling books differently. I assume you’re talking about self publishing. I have nothing against self publishing, except for the lack of any sort of filter. I demonize those terrible writers who have popped up because it’s now so easy and cheap. The fear, and it’s not just my own, is that the crap will overwhelm the good work. If you check Amazon, you will find thousands of books that are not even real books.

          • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

            Uh, yes, readers are fed up. I know plenty of readers, too–thousands, actually, because they’re my blog audience. Trust me when I say, they’re fed up.

            When you say ebook sales have continued to climb since agency prices has been used, you’re tossing out a meaningless statement because only the big six are able to force Amazon to use the agency model. How do you know that those books, rather than the scores of indie books that aren’t priced by the agency model, are driving up sales? You don’t. There’s still a large amount of affordable and inexpensive ebooks on the market, so it proves nothing about agency model pricing.

          • Anonymous

            Well, I think your “thousands of readers” are a meaningless statement as well. I would like to see some evidence that thousands of readers have posted to your blog that they are “fed up”. Even if I were to believe just a fraction of that number, what does fed up mean?- that they will no longer read and buy e-books? Not really. People are always fed up with something, but it doesn’t stop them from doing it.

            Amazon is no longer the only major e-book seller. It’s estimated that Apple now has over 20%, and that Barnes & Noble has about 20%, with Sony and others having a few percent. So, no, self published writers aren’t taking over the majority of those sales.

  • http://twitter.com/rebeccamherman rebeccaherman

    I am a customer that has stopped buying from Amazon. I love print books, and I don’t read ebooks at all (unless it’s a free short story prequel or something that an author releases for free as an ‘extra’). I don’t feel Amazon’s tactics are good for the survival of something I love, print books and bookstores. If I have children, I want to be able to take them to the bookstore, an experience I loved as a child.

    Personally I am disgusted my tax money is being wasted like this. I wish they’d go after Amazon instead for using predatory pricing in hopes of having a monopoly.

    • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

      Sigh. They won’t go after Amazon because Amazon isn’t doing anything illegal, or even “predatory.” Being good at business is not illegal; what is illegal is rigging the game so that your competitors can’t compete with you. I can think of dozens of strong competitors to Amazon in the time it takes to blink my eyes.

      I’m disgusted by the fact that you think it’s a “waste” of your tax dollars to investigate something that is against the law. What the heck? If they are in collusion, that is a REAL ILLEGAL THING. Your beef with Amazon is a matter of personal distaste rather than actual illegal practices, but this other thing is ACTUALLY ILLEGAL if the allegations turn out to be true. What’s wrong with you? Seriously?

  • Gloria Nagy

    With all due respect, Mr. Turow, the reason the Author’s Guild, of which I have been a member for at least 30 years, may join the publishers  exactly where they have put themselves,  is embedded in your truly clueless idea that most authors are either LIKE YOU  or new and trying to break through and, well, become like you.  Most of us, even those of us who have had best-sellers at one time or another, are  the probably 75% of mid-list authors whose work is now scorned by, ignored by or treated with such insultingly low offers and lack of any  marketing support that we have been, basically, forced into the Amazoning of the publishing world; where no BIG SIX  dinosaurs roam and only the potential jaw-snapping jolt of a mega book or a sure thing is worthy of their time.  I have seen the heartbreak, frustration and panic of so many gifted and passionate authors who can no longer find either agents or publishers , because their work isn’t mass market and their names aren’t in your league. When I published my first few novels, including my so-called “break-out ” novel, this was still a world of gentlemen who chose books not by the B&N  mass sales standard which changed the book world forever, but because they loved books and authors and did their best for each one.  I have never written a response to any of this before, but there is, I know, a very loud voice, not being heard by our Guild. Trickle down theory most certainly does not apply to writers and while most of us are totally shell-shocked by everything that’s happening and struggling to figure out how to still do our work and reach an audience (small is just fine for many of us) with dignity and  a reality base, from most of what I read in Ye Old Bulletin, it is not a voice any one wants to hear.  I think, Mr. Bezos sort of figured this out awhile ago.   Gloria Nagy

    • Anonymous

      I actually don’ t understand what you wrote here. Are you saying that you are for Amazon’s selling books at a loss to monopolize the market and put bookstores out of business? Are you against e-books altogether? Would you like to put publishers out of business because they aren’t helpful to you, as you think?

      Exactly what do you want, and what is it about Mr. Turow’s statement that you are in disagreement about? Your post was rather free form, but didn’t say anything.

      • http://www.anthealawson.com/ Anthea Lawson

        Basically, I got from Gloria’s comment that Scott Turow is extrapolating his own (very under-representative) world view and has no clue. Midlist authors have been screwed by Big Publishing for at least a decade now, and publishing is completely broken.  Amazon is actually enabling a large number of authors to make a living at writing, for once – no thanks to the dinosaurs in NY. And that the bigwigs at the Author’s Guild are completely out of touch and not interested in hearing from the vast majority of writers who *don’t* share their skewed viewpoint. Seemed pretty clear to me.  :)

        • Anonymous

          I understood the wringing of hands, but it wasn’t clear. Perhaps that’s because I don’t share this despair I do agree that publishing has been broken for some time, but I don’t agree with the reasons. People have too much to do nowadays. Reading books seems to one of the things that fewer have been interested in doing. Costs of publishing have risen dramatically, but raising the price of books isn’t as easy as paying suppliers more for the printing. Publishing was never a highly profitable business to begin with.

          But a major problem is seen whenever major changes come. Look at Kodak. They could get rid of the old business while the new one was losing so much money. Then the crunch came. Publishers are trying to avoid the same fate. Can you blame them?

          I’m not so sanguine over Amazon’s good intentions. I’ve seen them turn before, and I feel pretty sure that would happen again. It concerns me. I don’t want to see writers put out of business.

          But then, I’ve never seen so many poor books published as I have on Amazon with self publishing. For every decent one, there seem to be a thousand pieces of garbage, and it’s difficult to tell one from the other. I doubt there are thousands of authors selling a thousand books a month on Amazon who are self published. I’ve yet to read anything substantive about that. All I’ve seen are suppositions.

          • Joe

            The thing is, publishers could easily avoid Kodak’s fate by a) embracing new technology and realizing that the old model is dying; and b) making deals with authors that are so enticing that said authors won’t WANT to self-publish.

            Kodak’s downfall came about because, rather than jump entirely into digital photography, they kept pumping money into the dying film market. And by the time they got a clue, it was too late.

            Clinging to old models doesn’t do a business any good. Accept the inevitable, find a way to cut your bottom line and became profitable while offering the people who supply the content you sell a fair share of the profits.

            By the way, you’re characterization of Ms. Nagy’s post as hand-wringing is an insult. I have seen many midlist author’s lives devastated by the wanton lack of disregard by their publishers. I’m sorry you think her complaints of such is merely “hand-wringing.”

          • Anonymous

            Commercial photography was my industry for decades. I had a mid sized commercial photo lab for 28 years. I worked with Kodak on a number of things, including writing dozens of articles for their professional publications.

            Kodak put billions into digital. But it took years for it to take off. How did they finance that? With the film, paper and equipment sales they’ve been doing for decades. But digital was costing them a half billion in losses every year for years.

            The problem is that is see that happening to many industries now. The music industry was one of the first. The photographic industry is in the middle of it, with photographers giving up their studios left and right, and being relegated to secondary status.

            The publishing industry is now in the beginning of it too. It will get worse! I love writers. But many of them shouldn’t be doing it for a living. The truth is that in every profession, there is a large number of people who just aren’t that good. They, of course, think they are. The problem we’re seeing, is that Amazon is giving every bad writer a way to publish their junk. They are beginning to crowd out the better writers by volume of books in the lists.

            I always give the writer the respect mod finishing a book, even if it don’t think it’s great. But recently, I bought three books from the Amazon Kindle store for my iPad, that I literally couldn’t finish. Never before! So, yes, I do think that publishers are needed, if only to get rid of the worst.

            Are publishers wonderful? Of course not! But when have people ever thought they were being paid what their work was worth? In my own company, I didn’t think I was being paid what I was worth! But there are a lot of upfront costs that creative people don’t think about, or don’t like to think about. Like the fact that most authors cost publishers money. They don’t make it for them. Same for the music business.

            This may not get straightened out for ten years. That seems like a long time, but it isn’t, just for those involved. But twenty years from now, everyone will be wondering what the fuss was all about after things have settled in.

          • Joe

            I’m glad you give writers the benefit of finishing a book. I don’t. I can usually tell within the first few paragraphs whether or not a) the writer has any talent; or b) the book has the kind of voice that I’m attracted to as a reader.

            That’s why amazon allows you to sample books before you buy. You can do it on your Kindle, you can do it online. However you prefer. And if you like what you read, you can easily purchase the book with the click of a button.

            I’m really sick and tired of the “publishers as gatekeepers” argument, because, the truth is, a lot of traditionally published books are pure dreck. And as someone who has been on the inside for quite a while, I can tell you that publishing decisions are not necessarily based on the quality of the book, but on what the marketing department thinks it can sell.

            In the end, with Amazon, the ultimate gatekeeper is the reader, and those who command reader attention will rise while the rest will falter. We readers don’t need middle men to tell us what’s worth reading. Especially when publishers get it wrong so often.

            But you’re right. There are writers who SHOULDN’T be making a living at it. And many of them are on the besteller lists—the authors publishers continue to promote at the expense of the mid-lister who doesn’t have the luxury of a $10,000 advance, let alone a million dollar advance—the kinds of advances that often don’t earn out.

            Amazon is giving these writers a chance to do what they do best, and giving the reader a chance to discover authors that, if left up to traditional publishers, they’d never know about.

          • Anonymous

            Well, from my own long experience, I have to say that while many best sellers aren’t all that great, I’m talking about books that are so bad, they seem to have been written by children.

            Sometimes, even the free chapter, or pages isn’t enough to really tell. I’ve found that a lot of new authors who do have talent, start out a first book in an awkward fashion, and get better as the book proceeds. Sometimes their ideas are very good, but the writing is stilted. The next book is often better, and so on.

            For that reason, I’d rather just jump in and buy the book if the story looks good just from the description. Fortunately, I can afford to do that, though I suppose others can’t.

            For a vote on one of the worst books of all time, I highly recommend: “The Birth Of The Dread Remora”, by Aron Rosenberg.

          • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

             I’m reading the Kindle sample now, and not finding anything particularly awful about Remora.  I mean, it’s not great.  I’m not really engaged.  But it’s grammatical.  Too many exclamation points, perhaps.

            I wish I could say I saw your problem with it.

          • Anonymous

            That’s why I said that samples aren’t useful. This is a shift book, a topic I like. Even if I didn’t have degrees in this sort of thing, I would know enough science to see that everything he writes is completely wrong. In addition, his understanding of people’s motives., and what’s right and wrong is completely off. You really need to read a couple of chapters to see what I mean. It’s just an absolutely terrible book. For a child, it might be ok, as they don’t know much about anything that would matter.

          • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

             Ah.  Science problems.  They don’t really show up early on, but yes, scientific absurdities kill my enjoyment.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, like the ship has to break through some sort of barrier in order to leave the atmosphere. And that a ship powered by jets of, apparently water, could fly in the air, considering that the ship is also filled with water.

            Or the fact that when it does break through that barrier, it just takes days, at speeds of just a few hundred miles an hour, from what I gather, to reach other planets in the solar system.

            Oh, there are just so many bits of nonsense here, it’s embarrassing.

            But the people are so primitively written, it’s also hard to believe. Motivations are way off. What any reasonable person would need to do is to him what the villain in the piece does, and what the main protagonist wants to do is so absurd, it’s nonsense! That’s where I stopped reading.

          • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

             Ah.  Science problems.  They don’t really show up early on, but yes, scientific absurdities kill my enjoyment.

          • Joe

            P.S. In regard to Kodak, there comes a point where you have to take a risk and go all in. Canon saw that. Nikon saw that. Kodak didn’t.

          • Anonymous

            Kodak is in a completely different business than Canon and Nikon.

          • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

            “I always give the writer the respect of finishing a book, even if I
            don’t think it’s great. But recently, I bought three books from the
            Amazon Kindle store for my iPad, that I literally couldn’t finish. Never
            before! So, yes, I do think that publishers are needed, if only to get
            rid of the worst.”

            Out of curiosity, how did you find such awful books?  Outside of writers’ forums where everyone is trying to hock their self-published novels, or so-bad-they’re-wonderful pieces like “The Eye of Argon,” I generally never hear about books that are unreadable.  Nobody but the author has any incentive to praise them or link to them.

            Which is why I expect that while the ebook/POD/self-publishing revolution will increase the number of books available tenfold, it won’t noticeably damage the average reading experience.

          • Anonymous

            I look through categories as my interest of the moment defines what I want to read the next day or so. I see what the story line is about, and if it seems interesting, I will buy it. I’ve bought over 300 books from the Kindle store, Barnes & Noble and iBooks over the past two years, after buying my first iPad. I’ve read some of the user reviews, but rapidly learned that less than a dozen reviews is useless, as the writers friends and family are writing the reviews. ;-)

            They will give an unreadable book four to five stars. I suppose they haven’t read the book themselves after being paid to buy it.

    • Renee Yocum

      Excellent response and I apologize for leaving a phrase out of a response made to an earlier post. I should have said there are only 4 of what might be called “so-called bestseller authors”  on my 5.00 maybe 6.00 ebook price point I have given myself.  I have always found more enjoyment from the “mid-list” authors I have read than almost any “best seller” and thought that publishers must pull names out of a basket when they decided to launch and promote some new name into best sellerhood publicizing  them over much more talented authors from that mid-list.

  • Richard Gay

    I do think the gov’t should stay out of it for now. Washington is outright stupid when it comes to dealing with technology impact, and can be counted on going the wrong way until something is well-established. They might as well take action against the major cellular providers, since there are quite few, and their pricing policies seem to track.

    • http://twitter.com/thebooksluts Insatiable Booksluts

      You don’t seem to understand that there’s actually evidence that the publishers met with Apple and decided on things. This isn’t just a case of all of the publishers and Apple seeing their prices level out based on what people will pay and what the market will bear, they actually met and discussed and decided things together, and depending on what those things were, that could be completely illegal.

  • Darrell Delamaide

    Odd that a (former) lawyer should be detached about whether there was a criminal conspiracy. Whether breaking the law or not, the prices set by publishers for ebooks are a crime against consumers and just a (hopeless) last-ditch effort for publishers to protect their turf. For many of us, this is not “grim news,” but one of the rare occasions where this particular Justice Department is actually doing what it is supposed to be doing. And sorry, Scott, there are many of us who cherish a “rich, literary culture” who see this as a step in the right direction. You are entitled to your personal opinion, but when you write such a slanted diatribe as president of this organization, you are doing it and its members a disservice. It makes you appear to be a lackey of the Big Six publishers whether than an advocate for authors.

    I first joined the Authors Guild in 1984, when my first book, Debt Shock, was published. It’s a shame that this organization could not evolved with the market it serves and has thrown its lot with publishers instead of authors. I’ve now unsubscribed, I hoped, to the last thing I was getting from the organization, my membership will lapse when it runs out. Goodbye.

    • Anonymous

      These posts show that authors don’t understand business.

      • http://www.anthealawson.com/ Anthea Lawson

        And that you’ve never been an author in business.

        • Anonymous

          No, you’re right. I have owned two businesses, and I do know a number of authors. We do discuss this. I know the music business very well though, and it’s very similar.

    • Orangeseattle

      I feel compelled to point out that “protecting their turf” actually means, in this case, trying to preserve a publishing industry that is viable on its own and isn’t just an arm of a retailer/e-tailer.

      On a less point-by-point business end, I get the sense that some of the anti-Scott comments are tinged with the notion that digital publishing will open the landscape up to a completely fair marketplace of some sort. There will always be gatekeepers–that is a function of flowing capital–and I find it quite interesting that so many people are siding with the (new, online) gatekeepers instead of an industry that actually has books at its core business.

      • Rowena Cherry

         You are correct. Just look at the unfairness of what PayPal is doing to small press and Smashwords over subject matter and content also to be found in mainstream Historicals… and in The Bible.

        • Orangeseattle

          The PayPal/Smashwords scenario breaks my heart, personally. I would love to see this argument come to the doorstep of one of the bigger publishers that could afford the legal resources to fight such a thing.

      • AdamJ23

        If the publishing industry is viable on its own in its current state then it  should do just fine without the price fixing.

    • Rowena Cherry

       Your “I’m all right, Jack” attitude reminds me of a film starring Peter Sellers. You’d probably be more at home in a professional association containing the word Union. There is NWU. I believe that is it Local 160 of the UAW.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome to the crazy world of anti-trust, where there is no way to tell if you have committed a crime until the Justice Department decides to come after you. Price too low and you could be charged with predatory pricing; price too high and you can be charged with gouging; price the same as others (or use the same pricing model) and you can be charged with collusion.

  • http://www.passarella.com John Passarella

    While you can make an argument for higher eBook prices when the eBook comes out the same time as the hardbound, the agency model falls apart and irritates readers when the eBook  price is HIGHER than the current (often discounted) physical book. There is no justification for the eBook having a price higher than the physical book currently on the market. The agency model (if it continues to exist) needs to be more flexible/reactive to the price of the physical book, and adjust downward to the same price or a lower price than the physical book.

    • Rowena Cherry

      Has there ever been a collusion charge leveled against publishers who choose not to publish hardbacks, or mass market paperbacks, at all? 

      If one does not wish to adopt a new medium, does one not have a choice in America?

      If an author or publisher is not legally compelled to offer hardbacks for readers who want them, why should authors be legally compelled to offer e-books?

      Creators and those to whom the copyright owners assign publishing rights ought to be able to set whatever bottom line they please. If the retailer wants to sell an e-book for less, they should eat the cost of the discount and pay the publisher/author the negotiated price.

      • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

        Rowena – that’s precisely what Amazon is arguing. Amazon would prefer that publishers simply give a wholesale price and suggested retail price on ebooks. Then Amazon would pay publishers the wholesale price, sell the ebook for whatever price they wanted, and eat the loss or earn the profit depending on the retail price they set. Same as print books.

        It’s publishers who told Amazon they wouldn’t do that anymore, and publishers who told Amazon “agree to our terms or we pull all our ebooks from our shelves”.

        No one is compelling publishers to sell ebooks. They want to sell ebooks. They just don’t want to lose the hardcover market to ebook sales.

        • Aliendjinnromances

           It’s not my experience. I’ve seen it alleged (also on my royalty statements) that Amazon cuts prices, and the publishers and authors find themselves eating the cost of Amazon’s generous discounts, and being reviled for being greedy as well.

          This happened with a novella that was selling for $3.50. Allegedly, Amazon forced the publisher to reduce the price to $2.50 AND it put the novella into  Lending Enabled without asking when it changed the terms after a contract was agreed. I receive 16cents per sale.

          With a full-length, once, when Amazon allegedly infringed my copyright and created an e-book version that they had no right to create or sell –and I came to a very foolish courtesy accommodation with my publisher (also to blame) based on a $7.00 e-book selling price– Amazon then allegedly forced my publisher to drop the price to $6.00 and that extra dollar came almost entirely out of my notional royalties.

          Amazon insists that it shall be able to offer as low a price as anywhere on the internet (including on the publisher’s or author’s own site). 

          On another, earlier occasion, Amazon “accidentally” infringed my copyright and profited the entire revenue. They offered to refund the purchase price on the books I bought for proof (I never got it), but the cessation of the infringement was my only remedy.

          • Kindlewriter

             How does Amazon accidentally create an ebook? Sounds like your gripe is with your publisher.

          • guest

            You’d be surprised, Kindlewriter, but stuff like this occurs all the time.

          • Rowena Cherry

             At a wild guess, Amazon might take a paperback to scan for their Look Inside feature.

            They will not agree to take submitted excerpts, they insist on having the entire content.

            Then, someone turns the Look Inside scan into an Amazon formatted e-book without ascertaining that this was what the publisher intended and that the publisher had the necessary rights.

            Currently, despite my repeated protests and the fact that the rights have reverted, Amazon is using the (different) text of one publisher’s version of one of my books to give readers a “Look Inside” of a different version.

    • Anonymous

       I’ve long believed that the publishers/authors are missing out by not creating another price point comparable to the price of used books.  One could argue that Amazon and its self-published authors (including the ones who are self-publishing their reverted rights backlist in the $3-5 range) are already doing that.  Sure, it probably doesn’t make sense for a book that stays in print for 10 years, but there just aren’t very many of them.  It’s tough to convince bargain hunting readers who frequent used bookstores that paying current MMPB price to switch to ereaders, but if the older books were priced at that level continues to pay the author and publisher, which used does not.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, Scott. Amazon is hardly the devil. Using their self-publishing platform, I created a series of books that sold so well and rated so well that I was ultimately offered a multi-book deal BY Amazon.

    My not-yet-out book is pre-selling many many thousands of books that are already out and on sale.

    The publishers need to adapt and adopt. Not carp and complain. Cut the fat. Trim the crust. What’s important are the authors, and the readers. The publisher is merely a go-between… and needs to begin understanding that if they don’t want to go the way of Tower Records and Virgin Megastore.

    - Justin Luke Zirilli

    http://www.JustinLukeNYC.com

    • Orangeseattle

      I quite appreciate the not-at-all-mercenary notion that “Amazon is hardly the devil” because you personally gained by it. Great stuff. Not to mention the fact that publishers are value-adders, not retailers (like Tower Records and Virgin Megastore).

      Maybe everyone who is bashing the Author’s Guild for wanting to partner with publishers over retailers should really take a few moments and ask themselves why this author-advocacy group is doing such. For all the short-term gains a few authors might get via Amazon, perhaps they’re playing the long game and trying to preserve an industry that is being rocked partly because of activities like Amazon (who isn’t really even a bookseller anymore anyway, so much as a general store and data-storage company).

      Try to look at it from a distance maybe. Digital doesn’t mean free, and having Amazon be nice to you individually does not mean it’s good for all authors.

      • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

        Amazon isn’t “nice” to anyone. Amazon is a business; they happen to be a business that’s learned the lesson that being fair to one’s suppliers is generally good for one’s bottom line. Unlike certain other businesses in the book industry that I could mention.

        Amazon has also recognized that the ultimate suppliers are not publishers, but writers.

        I’d add that retailers *are* value-adders; they create marketplaces for work. That’s of enormous value to us writer/suppliers. We need not only a venue to sell, but ideally one which attracts millions of customers. Actually, we ideally need several sites which attract millions of customers. Competition is good for everybody, even the retailers – keeps them sharp and innovating!

        Publishers are value adders too. But the value any other business adds to one’s own business (and writing professionally is a business) needs to be assessed against the cost added. Right now, publishers are – just barely – squeaking out on the plus side of the equation thanks to B&N distribution of print books, which is still a big deal.

        When (not if) B&N closes their print chain, that will be gone, and publishers will no longer be giving value anywhere near what they’re costing writers (in terms of profit sharing and lost sales due to high prices). This is what wakes publishers up at night in a cold sweat: they know that day is coming; they know they can’t offer enough value to retain writers when it comes.

        And they don’t know what to do to fix that.

      • http://www.anthealawson.com/ Anthea Lawson

        Here’s a crazy idea, instead of “partnering” with either publishers or retailers, how about the Author’s Guild take the side… wait for it… authors! I know, it’s just an insane thought. Don’t mind me.

      • rgb

        But, in doing so, the Authors Guild is siding AGAINST authors. 

        Amazon is the best thing that’s happened to the actual content creators in decades. We are now free of the shackles of the middle men and gatekeepers and can actually earn a living through our work. 

        Publishers may be doing a great job for Mr. Turow and writers who command the type of advances he commands, but for the rest of us—especially those of us who have been discarded to make room for people like Turow—the old model is a ticket to bankruptcy. 

        I would think the Authors Guild would WELCOME Amazon, since the Kindle is quickly revitalizing the careers of the people they purport to represent.

  • Win Blevins

    I am waiting for someone to take action on the ridiculous “industry standard” division of e-book royalties 75/25 in favor of the publisher.  Most sub-rights are split 50-50.  In those cases the publisher actually does something–sells rights to book clubs, foreign publishers.  In this case the publisher does next to nothing–books don’t have to be sold to the big e-venues.  The split should be 75-25 in favor of the writer, or 85/15, since the publisher is really acting as an agent.

    The entire industry expects this absurd split to change.  Who has the clout and the willing to make it happen?

    win blevins

    • http://www.bridgetmckenna.com/ Bridget McKenna

      Not the Authors Guild, of that you may be sure. The name says “authors,” but the actions say they’re all about the publishers.

    • http://www.anthealawson.com/ Anthea Lawson

      Please note, too, that that is 25% of NET. Not cover. I’ve crunched the numbers, and on my royalty statements, my ebook royalty is about 11%. I know authors who are under ten percent, once they do the math. 

      Who has the clout to change it? Authors, ultimately, but it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to take guts.

  • Anonymous

    “…it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.” Turow’s commentary falls apart for me with this breathtakingly backward-looking line.  I’m a veteran library and bookstore browser and love the finds I make in those places, but the variety of online book-oriented venues available now offers an even wider selection as well as more diverse voices doing the recommending than what can be found in a bookstore.

    • Laura Kinsale

      The problem is finding the undiscovered books.  You can browse in a bookstore or library far easier than you can browse online.  You will see books that you weren’t looking for, covers will catch your eye, you can flip through pages with ease instead of laboriously.  As to places like Goodreads, studies are showing that so far anyway, these fall far behind recommendations from RL friends.  Plus, they are still going to favor the best-known authors. There are some easy ways to find and search for books, particularly non-fiction, online–but when it comes to fiction, it is truly difficult to browse and judge books online.  That’s why Amazon is urging its customers to go look in BN, discover books, and order them from Amazon.  Ugh.

      • Stumpy

        Maybe YOU find going and browsing through a B&N store an easier method for discovery, but not everyone does.  There have been a lot of discussions on this topic of late and many find online methods of discovery has led them to more and better reading material.

      • Lora Hastings

         I find it particularly amusing that you find it a problem to locate undiscovered books on Amazon, especially since I found (and purchased) the ebook version of one of your books simply by browsing through the “people who bought Book A also bought” section on Amazon.

      • Anonymous

        Here’s a RL example of the bookstore problem.  My wife had a signing at a local B&N and sent me ahead to scout out where her books were shelved.  I dutifully checked the YA and juvenile shelves looking for the specific title.  No luck.  Checked their computer:  4 copies in stock at that store and shelved according to the computer (wrongly) in Growth and Development.  Checked G&D shelves.  No luck.  Asked for help from staff.  They checked the computer, checked G&D, not found.  I suggested YA fiction (where it should have been shelved), we looked, no luck. Checked another section where it might be;  no luck. Now, I suppose one could have discovered her book by browsing, God knows where, but I doubt it and if they asked for it it would never be found. A physical book can be shelved in only one place.  Go on Amazon and you find it in 10 seconds and have it on its way instantly for Kindle or 2 days by mail.  And you wonder why people flee bookstores? I have no idea where you get your information about Amazon asking people to search for books on B&N unless it’s to show them how superior is Amazon’s search technology. Leaves B&N in the dust.

      • http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/03/09/authors-guild-latest-evidence-of-loss-of-a-clue/ Kevin O. McLaughlin

        Oddly, I find that the reverse is true. I have discovered remarkable stuff – often not stocked in B&N – by browsing for fiction on Amazon. It’s my go-to place for looking for books now. Even on the off chance I buy a book elsewhere, it is inevitably because I saw it on Amazon first.

        I think it’s the sampling that really gets me. I can browse for half an hour, find twenty books I might like, then download samples of all of them. At odd moments over the following weeks, I read samples. Any book that I can’t wait to read the rest of the book once I finish the sample, I buy. Works marvelously.

        Can’t do that at a brick bookstore. I LIKE carrying a million-book bookstore around in my pocket.

  • http://twitter.com/ahow628 ahow628

    @Hillary Homzie:
    Good luck getting the pirates on board with this idea. Ask the movie industry works out for their release windows. Not to mention if you don’t catch peoples’ eye immediately, you lose major marketing steam.

    As Tim O’Reilly says, “For a typical author, obscurity is a far greater threat than piracy.”

  • http://twitter.com/ahow628 ahow628

    Publishers dug their own grave here. They wanted to require digital rights management (DRM) on their content. Since they didn’t have the technical expertise, they outsourced it to Amazon. Surprise! Kindle lock-in and Amazon with 75% market share.

    This would be shocking but of course we’ve seen this all before and it involves Apple.

    Just after the demise of Napster, the big recording companies did the same thing. They wanted DRM and basically tasked Apple with creating it, despite protest from Steve Jobs. Next thing you know Apple has customers locked in and a 75%+ market share.

    The music industry finally figured out that DRM-free music allowed them to sell their product on their own platforms, but the damage had been done. The only Apple competitor to make headway in digital music is Amazon.

    The sooner the publishing industry figures that out, the sooner they will regain the control.

  • Ira Stoll

    Shouldn’t it be, in the first sentence, reports…are, for subject-verb agreement?

    • http://twitter.com/millcitywriters Ashley Shelby

      That’s what you got out of this? A copyediting error?

      As usual Scott Turow offers keen insight and spurs us to action. What can we do, as authors?

      • Anonymous

        I think we should all go indie. 

  • Whitley Strieber

    I am very much afraid that Justice is pursuing this, and that, if they succeed in proving that the publishers colluded in the adoption of the agency model, they could strike a blow that would devastate the publishing industry–unless, of course it compels them to do what they should have done at the outset, which is to hold back ebooks like they do softcovers, which is the one choice that will certainly save our business.

    I’m so glad that you pointed out the importance of the bookstore to our industry and our livelihoods. The first job of every publisher and every writer is to save the bookstore. Without bookstores, we will spiral down into an entirely different and far less viable part of the culture. In the end, writing will become a hobby. 

    A simple idea: let’s revise the recommended contract to write in that we will not allow ebooks of our work to be published until at least nine months after hardcovers. If we the writers do this, we will save our livelihoods, our industry and this crucial foundation of the culture. And there is no question of our right to do it. No lawsuits will result.

    • Hillary Homzie

       This is a great idea, but it requires solidarity.

      • Rowena Cherry

         Maybe, if solidarity could be achieved, we should take a leaf out of Google/EFF/Wiki etc copybook from the Stop SOPA day of blackout.

        I’ll bet Amazon wouldn’t allow authors and publishers to replace their cover art with a black banner for a day, though!

    • Rowena Cherry

        It’s a good idea in principle, but it didn’t work out so well for J K Rowling (who withheld e-book rights for an indefinite term). The pirates simply created and distributed and monetized and sold their own bootlegged e-book versions.

    • Leah

       “A simple idea: let’s revise the recommended contract to write in that we
      will not allow ebooks of our work to be published until at least nine
      months after hardcovers.”

      Wow, way to stick it to the readers. I’m sure it’ll drive all those Kindle and Nook owners back to buying print, and make the book-scanning pirates throw up their hands in dismay.

      • Whitley Strieber

         The readers were perfectly happy to wait for softcovers for over 50 years. An awful lot of the negative posts on this column of Scott’s seem profoundly anti-writer.

        • Johnny

          “people were perfectly happy to use slave force for hundreds of years…” argument…

        • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

          The difference is, softcovers were always considered inferior to the hardcovers.  More and more people are considering ebooks their *primary* format of choice.  The people who are really excited about the book, but want a digital copy, aren’t going to wait nine months for the official copy.  They’ll head off to the torrent sites, taking their money with them.

    • Deon Garrett

      I’m not aware of any industry that’s ever made a net gain out of not accepting money when it’s offered. I don’t pirate ebooks. I won’t steal from you. What I will do is forget about you. There are a lot of wonderful books out there, and I have through fate or fortune found yours and grabbed my wallet. Do you really want to refuse to take my money in a bet that, a year later, you’ll get lucky enough to have a second bite at the apple?

      I will repeat this: I won’t pirate your work. If you choose to publish only in hardcover, that’s your right. It’s your right to do with the fruits of your labor as you see fit, and I’ll respect that decision. But there’s no way it will work out well for you. The world changes, and those who change with it simply fare better. You won’t save your industry or your contributions to our culture by preventing people from reading your work.

      • http://aricmitchell.blogspot.com/ Aric Mitchell

        Great comment, Deon. 

        I just did the math, and if I lived 80 years and spent 2 hours per day reading, from the time I was born, I could read about 9,733 books in a lifetime. With the tremendous catalog of classics, past and current literary/genre bestsellers, and the great authors, who are out there proving themselves indie or traditional, and who are yet to come, I can easily miss every Whitley Streiber/Scott Turow/even Stephen King book that has ever been published and be just fine. Windowing the ebook version of a new release will save nothing. If anything, it will make one of the fastest growing sectors of publishing resent the writers, who do it, and it will drive many readers, who otherwise may have never discovered piracy, towards it. It’s amazing how authors can be so insightful when it comes to their characters and stories and so clueless when it comes to their own industry.

        • Rowena Cherry

           So, all you need to do, Aric, is go to one of the illegal auctions of 16,000 e-books for $17.00 , and you would never have to buy another book again. 

          • http://aricmitchell.blogspot.com/ Aric Mitchell

            Thanks for your comment, Rowena. Never said I was a pirate; in fact, as a full-time writer myself, I hate them. 

            But you’re insane if you don’t think publishing’s futile practices against piracy are creating more of it. Obscurity should be the biggest concern of any writer. Not piracy. Until there is one legitimate study that proves piracy results in a loss of revenue for an author, you’d be best served to stay away from this argument. It’s un-winnable. There is only a revenue loss if the pirate would have otherwise purchased the title. Most would not. 

            Is it a violation of one’s intellectual property without permission? Absolutely. Should it be shut down when discovered and reported to the proper authorities? Yes, on the grounds of IP violation. But saying it affects authorial income is non-sequitur in its purest form. 

            The only legitimate studies out there indicate how strong efforts against piracy result in more piracy. 

            http://www.myce.com/news/blame-hollywood-study-says-piracy-does-not-affect-us-box-office-sales-58765/

            I don’t think it’s a stretch to apply this study to the publishing environment as well. 

            But my original comment was not to get into a big thing over piracy. That’s the mental equivalent of banging your head against a wall, and evidence is clearly on the side of piracy-does-not-cost-creators-revenue. 

            No, I just wanted to chime in on Deon’s excellent point that windowing is a joke, and a pretty lame one at that. It shows utter and complete lack of understanding about where the industry is headed, or how one can adapt and thrive within it. Dinosaurs were awesome, fearsome creatures in their day, but they’re extinct for a reason. They did not adapt to their environment. 

            I also included the example above of only being able to read 9,733 books in an 80-year lifetime at 2 hours per day from birth. No doubt Strieber, Turow, and King, are all great authors. Of the three, I’ve only read some of King’s stuff, and only a mere fraction of what he’s written at that. Do I read crap? Nope, unless you consider Ray Bradbury, Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Ed Gorman, William Peter Blatty, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov, Jeff Lindsay, Barry Eisler, J.A. Konrath, F. Paul Wilson, Peter Straub, Amy Tan, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, and John Steinbeck, all crap. 

            The key to a lasting career and legacy is in always having new readers discover you. Windowing won’t make that happen. It will, as Deon said much better than I ever could, make us forget. 

          • Rowena Cherry

            Survival of the fittest is a good model. That requires laissez-faire, and the DOJ intervention is not that. The Amazon pricing model is being imposed by force, instead of copyright holders and copyright owners being able to chose the prices at which they will sell their works.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Fobok B.J. Baye

      Terry Goodkind did that with the Omen Machine. I’ve loved Terry Goodkind since Wizard’s First Rule. I’d buy every book of his on the day of release (except Law of Nines which, for some reason, escaped my notice for like 2 years). But I won’t buy Omen Machine unless in future books he gets rid of that practice. I refuse to give my money to an author that treats readers like that. 

    • Anonymous

      Holding back eBooks for many months is a prescription for a Napster like piracy disaster.  The large and growing base of readers who now do all their reading via eBooks will not suddenly start buying hardcovers, but they will get for free what you refuse to sell to them.

      • Rowena Cherry

        They have been doing that for years in any case.

    • Anonymous

       As a reader who never bought hardcovers, rarely bought trade PB, if you hold the ebook until the MMPB is available, I still won’t buy the hardcover.  I’ll wait until the ebook price is comparable to a  MMPB, too. Unless you’re a favorite author of someone who has switched to an ereader, you’re probably never going to get them back as a hardcover reader.  Release it at the same time as the hardcover at a price comparable to a discounted hardcover, and you’ll probably retain the former hardcover buyer, but hold off on the ebook,you’ll probably just lose the former hardcover buyer altogether, or you’ll only be able to sell the ebook at MMPB price, if at all.

    • http://bannedsorcery.com/ Bryce Anderson

       As a reader, I want the convenience and features of an ebook, full stop.  Over the last couple of years, my mind has recategorized most of my book collection from “my precious darlings” to “clutter.”  I’m not going back. 

      If you blow your marketing budget getting me really excited to read something, then say, “and YOU can read it in nine months,” I won’t be reading your book.

      As an author — hey, I can give myself airs — I want to deliver my words to whoever will appreciate them, in whatever format they prefer, at a price that the reader can afford while keeping my fridge stocked.  I don’t see how keeping one format out of the market is helping accomplish that.

      “The first job of every publisher and every writer is to save the bookstore.”

      That’s a rather negative attitude toward the changes that are hitting the marketplace right now.  There will always be a market for the written word, even if every bookstore on the planet goes under.