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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can MacMillan Dictate Ebook Prices?

The Story So Far on "Ebook Smackdown"...

* Amazon dictates ebook pricing to the publishing industry. Much grumbling ensues.

* Publishers insist that ebooks cost as much to produce as printed books.

(My opinion--if they really do, you're doing it wrong. Time to get into another business.).

* MacMillan is emboldened by Apple's whispering sweet nothings in its ear about the IPad, which can apparently bring about world peace, solve hunger and display ebooks.

* MacMillan tries to dictate ebook pricing to Amazon.

* Amazon responds by delisting all of MacMillan's books, including printed ones.

* Publishing goes nuts. Authors and publishers alike demonize Amazon. Readers don't understand why they can't purchase books they had access to before the weekend.

* Two days later, Amazon surrenders. Publishers are happy. Authors appear to be happy. Amazon looks foolish. Steve Jobs still looks smug peddling an inferior tablet computer that doesn't even have USB ports or play Flash.

Which Brings Us to Now:, one of the better sites chronicling the ebook wars, posts an interesting article on the Amazon/MacMillan fallout.

The article essentially makes the case that MacMillan has acted unethically if not illegally. Many authors who publish through MacMillan (and a few other companies) have called for a boycott of Amazon.

Personally, I think MacMillan has stepped into a big, steaming pile of fail. If everyone else in the industry follows suit, as this article suggests they might, you're about to see big publishing get mightily humbled by small presses and independent authors.

MacMillan does have the right to decide what it is going to charge for its products. And consumers have no choice but to pay those prices if they insist on reading those particular books.

That is how capitalism works.

But readers are not powerless. In fact, quite the opposite.

You see, boycotts cut two ways.

Readers, remember that you have the money.

So what if MacMillan wants to move the price up to $14.99?

But there are over 100,000 new books published every year. Most of them are by small presses and independent authors. And many of them are smart enough to be willing to sell you an ebook for $9.99...or $4.99...or $1.99.

Boycott the big boys. Support the companies that "get it."

Be sure to let MacMillan know that you won't be purchasing any of their books until they compromise. Not just ebooks...any books published by them at all, print or ebook.

Be sure to let the authors who work for this publisher know that you are boycotting them, too. It's not personal, it's just that $9.99 is a fair price for an ebook, thank you very much, and if you expect me to pay $14.99, then I will gladly purchase ebooks from another company.

There are plenty of companies that "get it." Baen, Smashwords, BooksForABuck and a whole host of small presses and independent authors go out of their way to keep their prices fair. Many of them offer ebooks without DRM, too, because they understand that DRM sucks.

Personally, I will gladly sell you my Outlaw Galaxy ebooks for $1-2, without DRM.

Support publishers that get it...and let the authors you love know that you're voting with your wallet.

Remember, boycotts cut two ways.

-- Bill Smith

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