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Amazon Ditches Entire Independent Publisher; Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers of America Ditches Amazon

Amazon is sitting pretty at the top of the pecking order of the eReader market, in part because its spot atop the online retail market gives it the freedom to set Kindle prices low. Lower, in fact, than most other eReader formats; in a world where the Kindle takes 60% of the market in ebooks and is getting perilously synonymous with an electronic device dedicated to reading print publications. This means that when the company decides it doesn’t like that its affiliates want to charge more for their books, they can simply refuse to make some perfectly compatible ebooks unavailable on the platform, with devastating results to that publisher.

“This should be a matter of concern and a cautionary tale for the smaller presses whose licenses will come up for renewal,” said Andy Ross, an agent and a former bookseller. “They are being offered a Hobson’s choice of accepting Amazon’s terms, which are unsustainable, or losing the ability to sell Kindle editions of their books, the format that constitutes about 60 percent of all e-books.”

In this case, when the Independent Publishers Group’s contract for publication on the Kindle came up for review recently, Amazon attempted to pressure organization president Mark Suchomel into lowering prices. “They decided they wanted me to change my terms,” he told the New York Times. “It wasn’t reasonable. There’s only so far we can go.” Suchomel refused to budge, and Amazon pulled every IPG book from the Kindle’s virtual shelves.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Amazon has blacklisted a publisher due to pricing disputes. Two years ago Macmillan’s virtual and physical books were pulled from sale on over ebook pricing. Eventually Amazon acquiesced to major publishers’ desires to set their own prices on ebooks. But as the NYT notes, IPG is not one of biggest publishers around.

Margins with physical books were traditionally low, which meant that bookstores, publishers and distributors often did no more than scrape by. When Amazon began, it sold books at deep discounts but still had to depend on the good will of publishers.

With e-books, the situation is more fluid. Readers expect them to be cheaper, which Amazon has been able to encourage because it is now a publisher as well.

Traditional publishers, however, have their own modest margins to worry about. They worry that if e-books are priced too low, the public will devalue their worth, and the publishers might wither away — something, they fear, that would suit Amazon just fine.

Indeed, Amazon knows that the ebook format allows them to deal directly with authors who, noble as that may sound, may not have the most leverage in discussions with the provider of 60% of the worlds’ ebooks when not backed by the considerable organizational and bureaucratic might of a publisher. And it seems Amazon is willing to mess with the livelihood of all of IPG’s authors in order to convince the organization to submit to its demands. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America took a certain amount of umbrage at this, and have struck back as best they could, by instituting their own ban on Amazon’s ereader format:

While Amazon has the right to decide with what company it does business, its removal of many of our authors’ books from its ordering system will have an economic impact on them. Our authors depend on people buying their books and a significant percentage of them have books distributed through IPG. Therefore, SFWA is redirecting links from the organization’s website to other booksellers because we would prefer to send traffic to stores where the books can actually be purchased.

To that end, our volunteers are in the process of redirecting book links to, Powell’s, and Barnes and Noble.

Many authors will be hit hard by this, so we encourage you to seek out new places to find their books.

Where books are only available on the Kindle, the SFWA is leaving the link intact, so that their ban on Amazon doesn’t injure authors who deal solely with the online retail giant.

(via io9.)

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  • James Fletcher

    Wow, this makes me glad I got a Nook as my eReader. Since while I’m sure Barnes & Noble isn’t the kindest executive overlord around, they don’t pull crap like this.

  • Helen Bright
  • Carmen Sandiego


  • James Strocel

    Holy Crap on a Pogo Stick. I don’t agree with e-books being as much or more expensive than paper formats, but this is just heavy handed. I hope Amazon’s reputation takes a hit for this.

  • Residentclubber

    Glad I went with the Kobo, not a fan of the big conglomos, same reason why I don’t do iTunes. Prefer to have the option of choice and not be locked down into one place! Not cool on Amazons part!

  • David Ouillette

    Not sure why I’d feel sympathy for book publishers in this argument. they want to keep forcing artificially high prices on the readers. If you look at the annual reports of the larger publishers, you might be surprised at their definition of “traditionally low” margins.

  • John Wao

    I’ll stick with my old timey paper books…..

  • nmlop

    I agree, the issue is how their contracts are structured. Publishing contracts need to change so that authors, publishers, and distributors can make money off e-books, because the current model is not working.

  • Duke Fleed

    Not cool on Amazon’s part, people? But, it’s the publishers’ fault if the books are so pricey and limited geographically! 

  • JoAnna Luffman

    It’s nearly the same price anyway with big names, like Stephen King. May as well have the physical copy to use however you see fit.

  • Victoria Eden

    Amazon’s ebook practices have always rubbed me the wrong way. Right from the start when they decided to have a new Kindle format instead of use the already established ePub. I have a Sony ereader, and now use the Nook app on my iPad for my ebook needs.

  • Anonymous

     i love my kobo!  i was torn between that and the nook, but the achievement system on the former pushed me over the top.  i agree with your reasoning, too.  i avoid proprietary tech when i can.

  • David Ouillette

    Unfortunately right now, the only ones making money is the publishers. Not the authors or anyone else. Even Amazon is making piddly on them (of course piddly times 20 million is allot). This is the same problem the music industry is having. 

  • David Ouillette

    I’m not sure why they passed on the epub format, but in their defense, my Kindle reads pretty much everything else. And Amazon will convert the epub into native for free in seconds.

  • Victoria Eden

    At least they figured that out. I think they were just trying to make it “more convenient” for people to buy books in their store. Never mind the fact that they created the inconvenience in the first place.

  • Alaina Granter

     The problem is, you’re not taking into account what publishers and authors are making off the cost of those books. Print books, you have to pay for: formatting, shipping, editing, physical book, cover art, cover returns, etc. 9/10 books lose money. With e-books, you have to cover formatting, conversion to different devices, editing…. the cost of making an e-book and a print book is almost identical right now. On average, for a $25 hardcover, the writer makes $1.50. Publishers are already struggling to make any money; they’re in the black, but it’s usually not by much, certainly not by near what profits are in other businesses.

    What Amazon is saying is, “Unless you agree to lower prices to the point where you will lose money on anything less successful than Stephen King, we will prevent you from getting any money at all through us.” Amazon won’t even take a hit by keeping things the same.

    1/10 writers can support themselves on what they make without getting a second job. The lower the price, the less they get. That makes it hard to support Amazon here.

  • JaneR

    Well this is a scary post. As an author myself I kinda tied myself to Amazon BECAUSE they constitute 60% of the market. I don’t like what them banning publishers might mean for me.

  • Anonymous


  • David Ouillette

    the cost of making an e-book and a print book is almost identical right now”

    I keep hearing the publishers claim this but that makes zero sense. The book is already formatted and edited for the print version. The merely take that file and release it digitally instead of sending it to the printer. Digital is a huge cost savings over physical media. It seems like someone sold them on the idea that they would have these huge cost savings going digital and be able to keep those savings as profit. Now they are unwilling to give up those extra profits, while customers are not dumb enough to accept that they should pay basically the same price for digital as physical media.

  • Kent Beck

    Ebook prices are coming down. However, I’d prefer to let the market set the prices than have Amazon force the issue. A publisher whose business model is unsustainable at $3/book is doomed. It’s just a matter of time.

  • Brad Hart

    Right there with you as a writer who is scared by this…

  • Anonymous

    The printer is a completely different format from a mobile device. You have to fit the digital version to the screen size and capabilities of the target device, which is going to be different from the paper size and capability of the printer.
    So no, they don’t merely take the file and release it digitally.

  • quintin

    It’s funny to me how geeks have become the new bullies.  Do they not remember high school?  I know geeks have most of the power especially in a nation that no longer makes many physical goods.  The tech sector is where the most opportunities are but the shift of power doesn’t mean we should take on the roles we formerly despised.  I see it with amazon, facebook, and google and other tech companies are following suite.

  • Robyn Richardson

    As a bookseller that works for an independent bookstore (with politically active owners and employees), I can easily say that Amazon is a bully.  
    They force a monopoly on the book industry; from publishing, to selling, to reselling, Amazon constantly applies pressure to dominate the market.  They play dirty (see above).  They evade tax law & bribe politicians, while working the PR machine to convey otherwise. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to read up on the tax evasion issue that many states are facing with Amazon right now.

  • Erica Throne

    This is the statement of someone who doesn’t understand how book publishing works in general. No, the book needs to be reformatted for the screen. Not to mention the kind of time and energy that goes into copy editing and proofreading and, hell, writing the book. We should all be paying PRINT prices for digital books, or perhaps slightly less.

    Wouldn’t it all be great if we could only pay print costs per book? But you’re forgetting that there’s NO WAY an author can make a living from that. The printer breaks even, the author makes ZILCH. That’s like saying the guy who fixes your roof should work for free, and not only should he offer your free labour, he should shell out for a percentage of, if not all, of the materials as well.

    Come on, it’s common sense. You’re belittling writers by saying that. If anything, writers should be getting a higher percentage of digital book sales to compensate for the only SLIGHTLY less involved publishing process.

  • Erica Throne

    I’m sorry to break it to you, but Kobo is mostly owned by Indigo Books, Canada’s big book conglomerate that has a 60+ percent monopoly on book sales in Canada.

  • David Ouillette

    No, the book needs to be reformatted for the screen. Not to mention the kind of time and energy that goes into copy editing and proofreading and, hell, writing the book.”

    I agree with that. My point is the costs for that part of the process is the same. However, the costs for the digital format stops there. The cost for the physical media then must include paper, printing, shipping, breakage, returns, and unsold media. All of which adds to the cost. I, as a consumer, think it is ridiculous to pay the same cost for the two different medias. I agree the formatting is different for the digital screen, this is largely an automated process (and even handled by the end device most of the time since obviously most publishers do not reformat for the small screen.) The publishers cost is nominal.

    (Although, my ultimate world would be the one thing the publishers hate. Where I buy the physical book, and got access to the digital version. So I can enjoy reading on my Kindle when I am out an about, but still able to curl up with a paper book at home.The publishers have already veto’d this saying we must buy the book twice for this.)

    All that said, the few times I’ve had an opportunity to buy directly from the author I have done so gladly. Even at half the price they are making far more than they would after being gouged by a publisher.

  • Tom Rockland

    Being a writer, I agree that position is INSANE. And e-book should both be considerably cheaper to produce and be far more profitable for the writer. Beyond the considerable savings of never having to print a book, stor it, ship it, and then deal with the leftovers, the idea that it takes any effort at all to generate the various  formats for book is absurd. In the scientific realms, we do 80% of everything ourselves, from most of the editing to most of the formatting. Basic avaliable macros do everything in seconds. I’m definitely not devaluating the editor (we love our editors!), but give me a break. the cost on an e-book only release has to be less than half the paper + e-book cost at the same margins. Widen the margin comfortably, and the price still should be significantly less.

  • Tom Rockland

    And they have to know that this moronic position is what keeps people heading to the easily available pirated copies of books online. They’d sell a great deal more if the prices for the s-book were more in line with common sense and people knew the author was making a proper amount of money from the work.

  • Gregory Williams

     Odd how this is all soft ware and the device dictates sizing and adjusts itself to my preference and………The cost of providing ever increasing profits that has nothing to do with the actual costs of publishing that have gone down while prices rocketed up……? It was corporations that consolidated the retail outlet side of the business and LOST market share and readers, it was publishers who decided that  the for profit model they had which worked had to go all free market and they took lower production costs and raised prices losing buyers who saw the promised benefits of consolidation in the industry in the form of lower book prices being broken by execs who decided all the benefits should go to the bottom line as profits and not allowing some of the lower industry costs go to any reductions in prices instaed jacking them up.

    So do not spout how hard things are for some when it is the some and all of the industry who moved instead to increases prices and reap 5-10 fold profit increases while having fewer and fewer buyers, that cause and effect reality, the industry is killing itself playing the free market game instead of the make your consumers happy game.

  • Anonymous

     Odd how this is all soft ware and the device dictates sizing and adjusts itself to my preference and….”
    Right, so there needs to be formatting to handle keeping everything that needs to be together together, formatting to keep everything correct on the various screen sizes, etc., while in print they know they have one size and know where everything is kept. It’s a different format that requires different expertise, and one cannot simply use the same file. Otherwise, you wouldn’t get your ability to  adjust based on preferences.

    The rest of you post is trying to respond to stuff I didn’t say, so I’m not going to respond to that Rush Limbaugh-esque drivel. 

  • Anonymous

    the cost of making an e-book and a print book is almost identical right now….i think it will not very effective 

  • Abhishek Thakkar

    Oh no, that’s not true. It’s just plain HTML in a custom wrapper. There’s like zero effort, the ebook client will automatically resize it as it does your webpages.