Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Amazon E-Book Wars: Bringing a Nuke to a Knifefight

I should have written about the Amazon-Macmillan melee Monday. Everyone else did.

Long story short. Macmillan wanted to change the way it did its e-book pricing. Amazon wanted to leave their e-books at $9.99. Amazon pouted and pulled all Macmillan titles from their Kindle store and Amazon.com. The publishing world rallied behind Macmillan. (Most of them are sick of Amazon’s pricing tactics, which generate a lot of sales but little money.) Amazon backed down. The publishing world celebrated as if Goliath had been felled.

For a more thorough explanation: click on any of these links.

Also, here are Amazon and Macmillan’s sides of the story.

Three thoughts: one, it amuses me that Amazon complained about Macmillan having a “monopoly over their own titles.” That’s not a monopoly. That’s ownership. No, a monopoly is when one company controls an entire service — y’know, like Amazon and e-book readers, until recently, which brings me to my second point.

Two, Amazon hears the footsteps of the iPad. It know its e-reader hegemony is ending, and it is trying to position itself as the affordable option (as opposed to the iPad, which will offer more features.) Amazon’s price cuts, its attempt to bully Macmillan — all of these are gasps from a giant who is about to be shrunk to average size.

Three, publishers should not treat this as a bigger victory than it is. They are still in a field that hemorrhages money with outdated profit models. (I should know. I work for a newspaper.) Amazon’s pricing model would have hurt the publishing industry in the long term; but Macmillan’s proposed model won’t necessarily save them.

Finally, read this. Laugh. Then, feel bad for the poor women who ripped a Picasso.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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