This is a short post simply to call attention to another post by Peter Brantley. Brantley has a bone to pick with Amazon, and after reading his post a couple of times, I think he’s right.
What’s at issue is whether a few large organizations that have entered the publishing world (the accused are, obviously, Amazon, Google, and Apple) have too much influence in the industry. Sometimes bigger is better, sometimes it isn’t. I for one feel uncomfortable when any aspect of human expression falls under the inordinate influence of a large commercial enterprise. I don’t feel that way about, say, coffee shops or straight razors, though perhaps I should.
Brantley notes that Amazon’s “gift” to authors — the promise of a 70% royalty — comes with unacceptable strings attached. Under the Amazon plan, the publisher or author sets the price of an ebook and gets a royalty of 70%. Sounds good so far. But if another vendor is selling the same book at a lower price, Amazon has the right to match it, without further consultation with the author. If the author prices the book at $9.95 and a competitor begins to sell it for $5.95, Amazon immediately lowers the price, and thus the royalty paid to the author.
What’s increasingly clear is that authors and publishers are struggling to maintain control of the marketing and pricing of their products. Part of this is because of the ongoing platform wars, in which technology companies devalue content in order to create support for their own technological solution; part of this, at least in the U.S., is the legal prohibition against having manufacturers set prices when products are sold through intermidiaries.
Is it any wonder that more and more publishers are beginning to experiment with direct sales, bypassing the traditional supply chain altogether?