Friday, April 2, 2010

Five big publishers' Agency Model and the mess they've made for ebook fans

Some of you probably already read about this in blogland. Jane Litte, contributor to the popular blog Dear Author, has been reporting on the issue of pricing control by the publishers for months. Other popular blogs have been reporting on this as well, though maybe not as in much detail or as it pertains to the romance audience as Ms. Litte has.

As a bit of a background: Since before the Kindle phenomenon started, Amazon had been pretty much in "control" of the pricing of the books sold via their website(s). In terms of ebooks, they had a set price of $9.99 for the Kindle version of bestselling books published in hardcover format. That was a steep discount compared to the standard price of a hardcover. There was a brouhaha involving MacMillan and Amazon in January 2010 about which several media outlets and blogs reported about.

Then iPad came into the picture, and to make the story short, publishers (yes, in plural) hit the brakes altogether. Five of the largest publishers in the world announced that they were going to implement what is called the Agency model as it pertains to books in e formats.

The simple consequence of this: SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER prices on many ebooks, particularly new releases that may be issued simultaneously with the print version. Other consequences that a lot of ebook fans are not even aware of but that remain firmly in place: DRMs, another exclusive format is being thrown to the mix (Apple's, as the iPad comes out in a matter of days), limits on how the book can be shared, and the ever present risk of seeing your book disappear from your ebook reader if you don't save a copy to your computer. At this point, I believe there may be more, but I am a mere romance fan and not too techie oriented despite liking gadgets a lot.

Then there is the whole issue of how is this going to affect authors. As it stands, it does seem that authors are bound to suffer consequences too.

One of the things the big publishers involved in this are counting on (as per several articles) is the potential the iPad has of attracting more readers to the ebook market, readers who will not have expectations of lower prices like the current/veteran ebook fans do.

It is going to be interesting to see how all this develops. As it stands now, ugly is the understatement of the year in this case.


marcy said...

This is dreadful. I feel sorry for me as well as the authors who will be affected. I never liked amazon-now I like it even less.


Anonymous said...

It is a mess right now, and it will be a while before all this is figured out. For ebook fans like ourselves, this does feel like a slap on the face. Let's hope that, in the end, they come up with a viable solution.