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Posts Tagged ‘Simon & Schuster’

Auletta, Amazon and the Death of Publishing

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 10:19 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

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Back in the early 1990s when I worked for The New York Post, there was a sense that The New York Times daily coverage of the city wasn’t all that it could be and what they did — which drove competitors crazy — was they might ignore a story for a couple of days and the come out with these long, comprehensive pieces that included everything, including the kitchen sink.

And that’s kind of how I feel about Ken Auletta’s new piece in The New Yorker that asks the question, “Can the IPad topple the Kindle and save the book business?”

If you haven’t read it, it is worth the time because even if he doesn’t have a lot that’s new, he pretty much has everything that others (including me) have written.

Reading it, though, I realized that I think it might have been a more interesting read if Auletta had taken the opposite track — asking not whether Apple can save publishing but exploring whether Amazon can kill publishers.

Auletta quotes a “close associate” of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as saying,”What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors.”

It’s not a new concern.

Last December when Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People announced he was shifting his digital rights to Amazon from his traditional publisher, Simon and Schuster, for a year, the New York Times led off by saying:

“Ever since electronic books emerged as a major growth market, New York’s largest publishing houses have worried that big-name authors might sign deals directly with e-book retailers or other new ventures, bypassing traditional publishers entirely.”

Then, in January, Amazon announced a plan allowing authors who give their exclusive e-book rights to Amazon to earn 70 percent royalty.

That was followed five days later by Ian McKewan shifting the e-rights to five of his books to Amazon, doubling his usual royalty as became the first big-name British author to sign on.

And, of course, there’s Stephen King, the kind of author who perhaps symbolizes the greatest threat to traditional publishers.

When the second version of the Kindle was announced, King read from a novella he wrote specifically to be distributed through the device.

It was such a success that a couple of weeks ago, he released a second story, created just for the Kindle.

And it’s not just the big names like King and Covey.

Galleycat, the publishing blog, recently interviewed mystery writer JA Kornath, who is making quite a nice living selling for the Kindle.

So, will Amazon prove to be the death of publishing? Will the IPad save it?

Probably no and no, though they are already clearly having an effect.

And, as I’ve pointed out before, until we figure out how to make sure there are enough devices for every student in every school to be able to get one, we need to make sure there are printed books out there for people to read.

Is Pricing the Point?

In Entertainment, Technology on March 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm
SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 27:  Apple Inc. CEO St...

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So, here we are less than a week away from the arrival of the IPad and more details are beginning to come out, including details about what Apple’s bookstore will be charging.

When the IPad was introduced, Apple boss Steve Jobs seemed to tell Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal that when it came to pricing ebooks, his company would take advantage of publishers’ anger at Amazon, which was trying to drive prices down.

“Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon, because they’re not happy with them,” Jobs said.

Apple reached agreements with Hachette, HarperCollins, MacmIllan, Penguin and Simon and Schuster — five of the six largest publishers in the country; the company is still talking with Random House —  allowing the publishers to set the prices (believed to be from $12.99 to $14.00) with Apple taking a 30 percent commission.

Amazon, meanwhile, has clearly been taking the Apple threat seriously. Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Amazon “has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books.”

Well, it turns out that Amazon may have even more reason to worry.

The tech website Appadvice is reporting that despite all the talk of Apple sharing more, it appears not to be the case.

The site said they had seen a preview of Apple’s ibookstore and of the 32 books featured in The New York Times bestsellers list, 27 of them — including the entire top ten are priced at $9.99, the same as Amazon.

One thing that’s a little weird about appadvice.com’s report is that the screenshot they include lists the numbers 2-6 on the fiction list and numbers 1,11,12 and 15 on the nonfiction list… so something might be a little off.

Maybe part of the agreement with publishers calls for bestsellers being held at a certain price but allowing for more flexibility for backlist and other selections?

Also, pricing only seems to be part of the point as more and more books become available for Apple’s devices.

According to Mobclix, a mobile phone advertising company, books are now the most available items in the ITunes store — there are 27,237 book apps available compared to 25,238 games.

And then there’s what some publishers are doing to enhance what they are selling.

For instance, check out Enhanced Editions and what they are doing for books like Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets by David Simon and Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel.

And then there’s YouYube preview of some of what Penguin has planned.

It’s getting very interesting, very quickly.

As I said, less than a week until IPad.