MacMillan vs. Amazon

So I was going to write about the editorial muck I’m neck deep in, then Nora brought this to my attention and everything else got derailed.

So here’s what happened. Publishing giant Macmillan, parent company of SciFi/Fantasy giant Tor, decided it wanted its ebooks to cost around $15. Amazon, primary retailer for ebooks, didn’t like this at all, and, to show their strong displeasure, have pulled all Macmillan books, print and electronic, from Amazon.com. (Though Macmillan imprints like Tor  seem to be fine).

This is certainly only temporary, but it is a pretty powerful statement from Amazon about who really controls the price of ebooks. However, while they battle it out, the real victims (as it always is in wars) are the civilians, in this case, the authors.  These are people whose books have just vanished from Amazon through no fault of their own, and that sucks. Now, of course there are other retailers, but come on. This is Amazon.com, the online book behemoth. This isn’t small change, especially for scifi/fantasy with our tech savvy audience.

This is also a first shot in the coming greater conflict between retailers and publishers as ebooks move from a fringe format to a real money maker. Who really controls the price? What will that price be? It’s a very interesting conflict to watch for signs of what the future holds for ebooks. Meanwhile, however, it really sucks to be a Macmillan author.

What do you think? Would you buy an ebook for $15? Who’s in the wrong here, Amazon or Macmillan?

ETA: Macmillan’s explanation via Publisher’s Lunch (thanks to Nora for the link, she finds everything!)

UPDATE! Amazon has relented! They will be selling Macmillan books again. Their explanation is a bit backhanded, but that’s to be expected from someone who’s been pushed to do something they don’t want.

7 Responses to “MacMillan vs. Amazon”

  1. 1 Tim Pratt
    January 31, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    No, the imprints aren’t fine — Tor books are gone from Amazon, too, as are Farrar, Straus & Giroux, St. Martin’s, and every other Macmillan imprint I could think of off the top of my head. It’s a LOT of books. It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out.

  2. 2 sue
    January 31, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Would you read an e-book in the bathtub?

  3. January 31, 2010 at 8:54 pm


    This has absolutely nothing to do whether ebooks are a preferable format. This is a quite complex issue about Amazon wanting to dictate pricing to a publisher. Amazon, in what could kindly be called a bargaining tactic, has chosen to pull ALL MacMillan books from their available inventory. Needless to say, the people who suffer the most in this are the authors. The following links have a lot of excellent analysis of the situation.




  4. 4 rachelaaron
    January 31, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Huh, weird, Little Brother is still for sale, and it’s from Tor Teen, but actual Tor books aren’t. Anyway, this whole situation is extremely messed up. Thanks for the new links, Diana!

  5. 5 sue
    February 1, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Excellent points Diana.

    I personally have little to no interest in e-books. I may eventually be dragged kicking and screaming into that world, but for now I plan to stick with the old-fashioned kind that can still be read after falling into the tub.

    The pricing thing, however, IS of concern to writers, and it is an important one.

    I’ll be interested to observe what develops.

  6. February 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Completely uninformed opinion here: I have no interest in getting an ebook reader because I think that the prices are too high for the electronic books. Given the expense of paper, printing, shipping, storage, and handling (none of which apply to the distribution of ebooks), I would think that knocking a mere $5-7 off the cost of a new release hardcover to determine the price of the electronic version to be a gross abuse of customers.

    Again, this is my really uninformed decision. If there are other factors that determine the pricing of electronic books, I would love to be let in on the secret. Do authors get a higher percentage cut of electronic books?

    In addition to reading, I am an avid knitter. Over the last several years, one of the major knitting magazines has been making electronic versions of its popular patterns availalbe for purchase. Not only does this help out knitters who can’t get the printed version because it is sold out, but they make a point of telling us that X percentage of sales of electronic patterns goes directly back to the designer. So, when a designer comes up with a pattern that becomes wildly popular, he or she can get some extra financial benefit from the pattern. I think it is very good business practice on the part of the knitting magazine, but somehow doubt that the same practice takes place with the “big river” online book store.

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