Ebooks on Crack Get your ebook fix.

8Apr/110

Benetech launches “Accessible Books for Texas” with funding from Texas Education Agency

Screen shot 2011 04 08 at 9 52 08 AM

From the press release:

Benetech today announced that it was recently awarded a contract with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to conduct training and outreach on the benefits of accessible instructional materials (AIM) for K-12 students with disabilities in Texas and to ensure availability of AIM through a dedicated conversion effort on a specific set of adopted materials. Under the terms of the contract, Benetech will help K-12 educators in Texas gain a broader understanding of what digital accessible books are, how they can help students to succeed and how to obtain and use the accessible materials. Benetech has named this project Accessible Books for Texas (ABT).

For students with print disabilities, such as blindness/low vision or specific physical or learning disabilities, Texas educators will be guided to obtain digital accessible books from Bookshare, Benetech’s established online accessible library. Benetech will launch a completely separate service to provide digital books to students who qualify in Texas to receive accessible instructional materials but who do not qualify under the Chafee Amendment for membership in Bookshare.


More info in the release.

16Mar/110

“Have publishers already lost the war over agency pricing?”

Are publishers who raised e-book pricing the past year losing the ebook-pricing war?   I'd like to think so.

 The blog article's subject title is from the headline on the article by Philip Jones at Futurebook.net commenting on the higher-priced e-books not appearing very much in Amazon's topmost besteller lists (UK).

  Actually, he's commenting on The Guardian's article by Sam Jordison on "EU anger over ebook deal suggests hard times ahead for publishers."

  Describing again (1) the circumstances leading to the use of Apple's "Agency Plan" by the Big5 (and now Big6) publishers, which raised e-book prices by 30-50% average, this last year, and (2) the raids by the European Commission on publishing houses in the UK to investigate possible anti-trust violations, seizing not only paperwork but also "smart phones and laptops from senior executives," the Guardian's Jordison sides with the publishers against what he describes as a monopolist Amazon against angelic publishers who are just trying "to get a good deal for everyone."


  They do, however, have the sense to see a valid point in the complaint "The only reality we readers know is that we want to buy the book but can't."

  They continue, nevertheless, "But the fact that customers have a distorted view of how much ebooks should cost is hardly the publishers' fault.  Especially since a new breed of "self-published" authors are starting to sell millions of the things at .99 or less on Amazon – which casts an interesting light on the recent declarations about ebooks outselling paper books."

  Imagine that!  But then, new technology has been a problem through the ages for those wedded to older technology and unwilling to adjust to it.

Futurebook's article
Philip Jones thinks that Sam Jordison is an advocate of publishers setting of bookseller prices "but he is concerned that publishers may lose the battle legally, and that they have already lost the battle in the hearts of the consumers."  

Yes, and Jordison might do a bit more wondering about why that is so, and it's not just about pricing.  It also says a lot about what publishers think of their reading customers.  I've seen publisher statements (and reprinted them) that anyone well-off enough to buy an e-reader can avoid the high book prices.

 In marking books up by almost 50% when new, and also OVER the price of their paper back copies too often, they display a real disdain for e-book customers who are expected to spend almost as much OR MORE on a product that cannot be resold, and in most cases still cannot be lent to anyone.

  This goes against the traditional attitude toward books.  The publishers prohibit, for the most part, lending as is normal with paper books, and prohibit entirely re-selling the books.  Yet they price them higher than paperback books, and often only a few dollars less than a hardcover.  And now they're targeting libraries, with e-books to be disabled after x number of loans.  And the latter is with publishers willing to lend e-books at all to public libraries.  Macmillian and Simon & Schuster won't.  Jones points out:

'... publishers such as Hachette, Harper, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, should be getting their titles into the Kindle charts, even at higher prices.  But I just checked the hourly Kindle chart, and there are no agency priced books in the top 20.  The highest placed title is David Nicholls' One Day (Hodder/Hachette), which also happens to be the fourth most expensive Kindle Edition in the current top 50.

Furthermore, and this is even more worrying.  The average price of paid-for books in Amazon's Kindle top 50 chart today is £1.79.  It is little wonder Guardian commentators [people commenting on the article] think e-books should cost less than agency publishers are making them available: they do.

Read some of the reviews appended to those self-published titles in the Kindle chart, and we could be forgiven for thinking that price has superceded quality in the minds of Kindle users.  This is not just worrying it is tragic.  Agency publishers have a limited period of time to prove Amazon wrong by getting their titles up the Kindle bestseller chart, before the OFT rules one way or another. The concern must be that by then, the war may already have been lost. '

His numbers are from the Amazon UK Kindle store, but in the U.S. the UK site's Kindle book pricing is not displayed except in the Bestseller listings.

Actually, there ARE e-reader customers who give cost a very high weight in the economy we're in today.  Many are also finding quality writing although they may have to dig deep and wide, but when they find it, word of mouth is a huge factor in online book sales.

  The online community is important for those not wanting to wade through it all, and there is actually a way to find quality writing without depending on large publishing houses and publicity machines, to the extent that some writers discovered by price-conscious readers have been offered contracts by large publishing houses; an important trend now is seen in authors who are hesitating to go with the contracts offered, as it may be more beneficial for them to continue to 'self-publish' because the large publishers have not had a reputation for paying the authors/creators what they are due.

  For the Amazon UK customers' rather raw feelings on all this (and publishers should really pay more attention to what is said), see the Agency pricing thread on their Kindle forums.  It's similar to what is seen on the U.S. forums but UK customers are even more angry about it because the increases by the Big5 publishers have been quite outrageous in the UK where general e-book pricing had been lower than it had been Amazon US's Kindlestore.

BESTSELLER E-BOOK listings for UK and US stores
  Here is the current Bestseller listing (paid and free) for Amazon UK,
  and here's the current Bestseller listing for for Amazon US.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite


Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

16Mar/110

EU publishers face uphill battle for agency pricing

The Guardian has an article looking at European publisher reactions in the aftermath of EU raids to determine whether agency pricing constitutes an anti-trust violation. The article has some interesting things to say about the model, and its paper-book-pricing forerunner.

The agency model is, in effect, a return to the net book agreement in electronic form. Publishers let that go in 1997 – and bitter experience has taught them to regret it. Losing the net book agreement did not lead to greater variety, customer choice, a better deal for producers or for shops (as those on the right claim unfettered competition should). It led to a three-way carve up of the trade between Waterstones, supermarkets and Amazon. Hundreds of viable publishers servicing thousands of shops were swapped for just over a dozen bloated giants with only a small number of effective outlet options.

And without price controls in place, the Guardian notes, the e-book industry was starting to reflect that same lack of competition—particularly where Amazon and its ability to discount are concerned. One publisher suggests that the EU raids were actually “masterminded by Amazon.”

But publishers are facing a battle on two fronts—not just in the courts, but in public opinion as well. The Guardian looks at Lost Book Sales (which we mentioned here and here), a site where people can complain about books they wanted to buy but were unable to. Although the article conflates matters of pricing with matters of territorial restriction (Lost Book Sales is about both), and overgeneralizes from the “You won’t let me buy it, so I’ll rip it off instead” mentality of some people who post there to suggest all consumers feel this way, it does note they have a point:

The customer may be unpleasant, but he or she is always right. It’s clear that publishers do need to up their game to accommodate the new demands. There’s also the fact that they’ve been pretty dreadful at digitising the backlists of their living authors, while those of dead authors are widely – and often freely – available. Publishers have to do something to win over people like those complaining on the Lost Book Sales, who, after all, represent pretty much everyone.

Though it also notes that things aren’t necessarily easy on the publishing side either, what with the extremely baroque nature of rights contracts and other e-book-related complications. But on the other hand, independent authors selling their e-books for as little as 99 cents is not helping consumer perception of agency-priced books as overexpensive.

The Bookseller’s FuturEBook blog follows up this article, noting that comments to the Guardian post are overwhelmingly anti-publisher. Furthermore, e-book sales are increasing but prices aren’t rising.

The average price of paid-for books in Amazon’s Kindle top 50 chart today is £1.79 [US.87]. It is little wonder Guardian commentators think e-books should cost less than agency publishers are making them available: they do.


I saw an article in my daily RSS trawl that said something similar about the US Kindle charts, but I forgot to star it and now I can’t find it again. Regardless, it’s interesting to note that the rise of indie publishing is doing precisely what the publishers feared when they decided to implement agency pricing: inculcating a perception that e-book prices should be rock-bottom cheap. Print publishers are going to have a hard time breaking into those bestseller lists if they keep their prices that high.

9Mar/110

How Hachette uses agency agreement to sidestep anti-competitive pricing laws in Australia

Sigh. I suppose it was naïve of me to think that customers (little guy) could force a large company (big bully) to act fairly – in this case regarding their policy of anti-competitive ebook pricing. Yesterday I wrote that they were breaking the ACCC law that governs “Resale Price Maintenance”. I said I’d tell the ACCC and I did. To their credit, an ACCC rep got back to me today explaining the loophole (see below).

Alas, large companies must have lawyers to think up ways to tiptoe around minor issues like, say, illegal pricing laws.

In this case, Hachette Australia can engage in “agency pricing” in Australia, despite our laws that specifically forbid anyone offering a product to set the price it can be resold at.

Hachette Australia does it by not being a reseller. It seems Hachette Australia, which distributes its products (we’ll call them “ebooks”) acts as an “agent” of its parent company, Hachette Book Group. So it never technically has ownership of said ebooks, it just brokers the deals with the resellers/retailers on behalf of its parent, apparently.

So that means Hachette is legally allowed to require its customers – the retailers selling the ebooks, among them Borders.com.au – to sell them at a certain price.

You see the ownership transfer is only one step: Hachette Book Group (international parent company) to the online store.

Is this legal? Apparently, despite laws written specifically to stamp out such practises. You can see the reply from our ACCC below, explaining it all again.

Is it the way it happens in practice? Of course not. Hachette Australia are selling the ebooks to retailers as sure at the supermarket is selling you bread.

Is it smart business practice? Almost certainly not.

As I’ve mentioned before, it maintains a certain profit point for the publisher, but will drastically reduce the turnover of the books, because prices are kept high. It also alienates readers (read: consumers) who get pissed off at being taken for a ride. So they spend their money on the almost limitless other titles.

It’s a very cynical business practice, but I’m almost ambivalent about this now. Maintaining high prices for ebooks only hurts the publisher involved. If you buy the publishers’ line that they do it to invest in emerging talent, you may be more naïve than even I.

It also drives consumers to the places where they can buy directly from the author, which is the ideal.

So – wanna buy an ebook from an author?

From the ACCC:

The role of the ACCC is to ensure compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (the Act), which is designed to encourage fair trading and discourage anti-competitive conduct through a specific set of competition and consumer protection rules.

One of the Act’s aims is to foster fair markets, that is, markets where normal competition can continue without being hindered by unfair and illegal market practices. Such illegal market practices include price-fixing, market-sharing, resale price maintenance, misuse of market power and certain forms of exclusive dealings/boycotts.

Section 48 of the Act prohibits suppliers, manufacturers and wholesalers from specifying a minimum price below which goods or services may not be resold or advertised for resale. This type of conduct is known as Resale Price Maintenance (RPM). It involves a supplier:

  • agreeing with a reseller that the latter will not advertise or sell below a specified price;
  • setting a minimum price at which resellers should advertise, display or offer their goods for sale or for the resupply of services;
  • inducing resellers not to discount, for example by giving special deals to resellers who agree not to
  • taking or threatening to take action against a reseller to force the reseller to sell the goods or resupply services at or above the minimum specified price, for example by refusing to continue to supply them;
  • indicating a price that is taken by the reseller as a price below which the reseller should not resell.

The key word in the above information is reseller. In the circumstances that you describe, Hachette Australia is acting as an agent for publishers rather than as a merchant. This means that Hachette Australia does not resell the products, but simply sells them on behalf of the publishers for a commission of the sale. In this instance the publisher is able to dictate what price the products are to be sold at as they retain clear title i.e. ownership of the book.

This situation is referred to as an “agency agreement” and as such it is unlikely that the conduct described will raise concerns under the Act.


6Mar/110

Agency Pricing on Ebooks is Illegal in Australia – We Call Out Hachette, Which is Breaking the Law

With multinational companies chipping away at the edges of honesty, it’s easy to forget the simple things sometimes.

Make no mistake – anti-competitive (aka “Agency”) pricing is illegal in Australia.
Darryl Adams recently pointed this out on his blog Oz-e-Books – and it’s a timely reminder. In the face of large companies sending press releases “announcing” changes to their business practices to reinforce their “rights to set prices” across all retailers, sometimes we forget to question that.

Do they have that right? Do book publishers have the right to dictate the retail price of their products, when sold by third party retailers? Not the prices of some retailers – all retailers. The answer to that is no.
One of the jobs of Australia’s ACCC (our consumer watchdog, similar to the FTC in the US) is to ensure open price competition by retailers.

From Oz-e-Books:

With Random House entering the Agency Price Model with the rest of the 5 big publishers (Hatchet, Harper Collins, Random House, McMillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster), there has been a lot of discussion about the practice.

Firstly, to be clear, Agency Pricing is illegal in Australia. As a form of Price Maintenance, the practice is specifically barred under the Consumer and Competition Act of 2010.

As per the ACCC: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/322982

Suppliers may try to impose a resale price to maintain brand positioning or to give resellers attractive profit margins.

Any arrangement between a supplier and a reseller that means the reseller will not advertise, display or sell the goods the supplier supplies below a specified price is illegal.


I’d say that’s pretty damn specific. So which publishers are breaking the law here?

Let’s investigate, shall we?

Method

1. I searched the Australian site for each publisher and picked titles at random, usually from their bestseller lists. Keep in mind some titles may be published under an imprint of the major publisher, but pricing rules (or lack thereof) still apply.

2. I went to the largest international ebookstore that has ties to Australia – and therefore stocks a decent number of titles that are available to locals here – Kobo.

3. I made sure the address set on my Kobo account was an Australian one – this was confirmed with prices at checkout appearing in AUD. Therefore the site recognised that I was “shopping” from Australia.

4. I went shopping – gathering price information on three books published by the local arm of each of the “Big Six” publishers, plus the largest independent Aussie publisher Allen & Unwin.

Criteria

  1. If there is a list price AND a sale price in the ebookstore, the publisher is not following “Agency” pricing, as no discount is allowed.
  2. The prices are usually higher with “Agency” pricing as no discount can be applied.
  3. Prices not affected by a discount – ie original (“Agency”) prices will generally end in .99 (as in $x.99)

Result

It’s obvious from these figures that Hachette Australia are following the “Agency” model of pricing for books sold to Australians. All three titles I looked at satisfy all three criteria (above) for agency pricing. The prices were higher, anded in .99 and Kobo had not applied any “our price” discount, as they had done with every other book from the other publishers. Why not – because they are not allowed to by the publisher. Therefore, as the ACC states here, Hachette Australia are acting illegally.

What you can do

If you too disagree with agency pricing, please pass this data around. Blog about it, share this post, Tweet it or spread it around Facebook. The more noise we can make about this, the more chance that the ACCC will take notice and investigate. Let’s put an end to anti-competitive pricing like this. Isn’t open competition the best situation for the consumer?

Here is the raw data from the ebooks I checked:

Macmillan

The Rules According To Jwoww

Jwoww and Jenni “Jwoww” Farley

List price: .19

Our price: .39

Thorn On The Rose

By Joy Dettman

List price: .99

Our price: .49


The Girl Who Played With Fire

By Stieg Larsson

List price: .49

Our price: .99

HarperCollins

Midnight

By Josephine Cox

List price: .39

Our price: .99

Booky Wook 2

By Russell Brand

List price: .00

Our price: .75

Bird Cloud

By Annie Proulx

List price: .39

Our price: .49

Random House

The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul

By Deborah Rodriguez

List price: .95

Our price: .34

New York Valentine

By Carmen Reid

List price: .89

Our price: .69

Tick Tock

By James Patterson

List price: .79

Our price: .19

Simon & Schuster

The Secret

By Rhonda Byrne

List price: .19

Our price: .39

A Shore Thing

By Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi

List price: .39

Our price: .19

Hellhole

By Kevin J. Anderson Brian Herbert

List price: .29

Our price: .79

Penguin

I Am Number Four

By Pittacus Lore

List price: .89

Our price: .49

The Brightest Star in the Sky

By Marian Keyes

List price: .19

Our price: .19

The Lake of Dreams

By Kim Edwards

List price: .89

Our price: .89

Hachette

A Discovery of Witches

By Deborah Harkness

Price: .99

Death Of A Ladies’ Man

By Alan Bissett

Price: .99

The Mathematics Of Love

By Emma Darwin

Price: .99

Allen & Unwin

Jasper Jones: A Novel

By Craig Silvey

List price: .99

Our price: .99

The Girl Savage

By Katherine Rundell

List price: .69

Our price: .29

The Slap

By Christos Tsiolkas

List price: .72

Our price: .90

Action

I hereby call on the ACCC to follow the lead of consumer watchdogs in the US and Europe and investigate Hachette Australia’s business practices – specifically anti-competitive pricing – in retailing to those in Australia. If you work for the ACCC and you’re reading this, don’t bother taking notes – it’s all coming in an email.

Via Jason Davis’ Book Bee site

2Mar/110

Randon House UK will not join the agency model

ImagesAnother one from The Bookseller. Random House UK is not jumping on the agency bandwagon, or at least not yet.

However, Random House UK said it had a wait and see policy on the pricing model. When the Office of Fair Trading launched its investigation into e-book pricing in February, publishers outside agency said they would be more cautious about it while it was under review.

A spokesperson for Random House UK did not refer to the OFT investigation but said: “New commercial models in the fast changing e-book environment are constantly under review. Across our territories—not least in the UK—we continue to evaluate our options and talk to all e-tailers as it is our mission to ensure that our authors’ books are available on all platforms to all potential customers.”

2Mar/110

Waiting for common sense – not: the Agency 6

Index

It used to be the Agency 5, now it’s the Agency 6 as Random House has caved and instituted agency pricing. This further changes my book-buying habits.

Let me start by saying that I am not outright opposed to the agency system. What I am opposed to — and appalled by — is the pricing. Granted that Agency 6 pricing clearly demonstrates lack of competition bordering on price collusion (Isn’t it amazing how similar the Agency 6 ebook pricing is across the board?), but that isn’t the primary problem I have: The primary problem is that the selected price points are extortionate considering the restrictions imposed in the license (and note that it is a changeable, revocable license). Compound this with Rupert Murdoch’s greedy ploy, through his HarperCollins subsidiary, aimed at libraries, the last bastion for education of the poor, and what you have is a devil’s cabal.

(In an interesting aside, Murdoch’s Fox News has been denied access to Canadian TV because of its lack of impartiality. See Regulators Reject Proposal That Would Bring Fox-Style News to Canada. Maybe that is why he feels he needs to bleed American libraries — to make up for lost revenues and bias outlets.)

In the past I have spent significant sums of money building both my hardcover library and my cache of ebooks. It wasn’t so long ago that I could be counted on to spend ,000 or more in a year on such purchases. The Agency 5 put a big dent in that spending. I felt compelled — if not honor bound — not to buy books, p- or ebooks, published by the Agency 5 (except where necessary because I already had several volumes in an ongoing series). So I focused my purchases on self-published, indie presses, academic presses, and Random House books. The consequence was that my expenditures on new releases dropped by more than 50% last year.

With Random House now part of the Agency cabal, my habits will shift yet again. If I want a new release in hardcover, I will wait to buy it on the remainder or the used book market, when I know that neither one of the Agency 6 nor their author will receive any compensation. But my ebook buying will (and has been) change even more dramatically.

A good example of the change occurred yesterday. Yesterday, the long-awaited second volume in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles (the first volume was The Name of the Wind; the second volume is The Wise Man’s Fear) was released. My previous practice was to buy both the hardcover and the ebook versions; not this time, however. This time I bought just the hardcover because of the agency pricing (the ebook is virtually the same price as the hardcover and no ebookseller can sell it for a price lower than .99, which is exorbitant).

That is but one example. Increasingly, I am only “buying” free ebooks and ebooks that cost .99 or less, and those I am buying from Smashwords. The reason I buy from Smashwords is that most authors let you sample their work before you buy, some offering up to 75% of the ebook as a free sample. I admit that in the case of the free ebooks I don’t sample them, I simply download those that seem interesting, but for those that do cost some money, I generally read a portion of the sample before buying.

At Smashwords I discovered several self-publishing authors whose works are excellent. Granted they do not have the cachet of a Stephen King, J.D. Robb, or Robin Hobb, but they do know how to write a compelling story. A good example is Safina Desforges’ Sugar & Spice, a 99¢ mystery/thriller that compares well to any P.D. James novel.

The point is that the setting of exorbitant pricing by the Agency 6 has compelled me to look elsewhere for book purchases. Money that I previously spent supporting the traditional publishers is now going elsewhere — and it is costing me less yet giving me comparable enjoyment.

Yet there is one more thing that has to be said about the agency system. Currently, it is limited to ebooks. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me over the long run.

Under the more traditional wholesale system, the publisher sets a retail price for a book and the bookseller pays to the publisher approximately 50% of that wholesale price for each copy sold, regardless of the price that the consumer pays. (Yes, there are more wrinkles in the system, but I’m simplifying it for this discussion.) This is how it started with ebooks. The excuse for going to the agency system where the publisher sets the retail price below which no ebook can be sold and which pays the bookseller a fee for each sale was that low ebook pricing devalued the book and its content.

If that is a valid and sustainable argument, how does low pricing of the hardcover not devalue the book and its contents, too? Logically, there can be no difference. After all, a book is bought for its content, not for its package, and supposedly the content of the p- and ebooks are identical.

What this means to me is that we are the road to a major shakeup in the book industry. I think the agency system is only beginning with ebooks and will either have to be abandoned for ebooks or spread to pbooks. Although agency pricing has not been a big win so far, spreading it to pbooks could solve a major problem for publishers — the problem of returns, which would also solve the problem of excessive book print runs and remainders, and minimize the secondary market.

With the Agency 6 controlling more than half the publishing market overall and probably 75% or greater of the nonfiction market, the path they take could well become — and quickly — the path that smaller publishers take. The bulwark against the spread of agency pricing is the self-publishing market, but that market has to find ways of uniformly increasing its standards before it will supplant the traditional publishers.

In the end, it is clear that the Agency 6 lack common sense. At the same time that one or more of the Agency 6 publishers expects ebooks to grow to as much as 20% of all book sales in 2011, they try to thwart the one avenue of growth by imposing extortionate prices and limiting competition. Simultaneously, they allow the wholesale model to continue for pbooks, thereby devaluing their product and its content. Some day they will get it together; unfortunately, when that day comes, I expect it will not be to the consumer’s advantage.

In the meantime, I’ve changed my buying habits significantly and may well represent an unrecoverable customer loss for the Agency 6.

Via Rich Adin’s An American Editor blog

2Mar/110

3G Kindle at AT&T stores – Random House US goes ‘Agency’- Indie author’s $$$Sales

KINDLE NEWS March 1, 2011

AT&T WILL SELL THE 3G/WiFi KINDLE-3 AT STORES STARTING MARCH 6
This means you can "test drive" a Kindle 3 at any AT&T store soon, and there are about 2,200 AT&T stores.  Here is info from AT&T on this.

Also, they will carry ONLY the 3G model, not the WiFi one, since they provide the 3G cellular wireless, which is free for Kindle customers (and best used with text-oriented sites with slower E-Ink) and it's speculated by JPMorgan & Chase Co. analyst Philip Cusick that AT&T will get a few dollars per Kindle sale.  These will sell at the same price as from Amazon: 9.

RANDOM HOUSE ADOPTS APPLE'S "AGENCY" PLAN TODAY, FOR HIGHER E-BOOK PRICES
L. A. Times's Carolyn Kellogg reports that the last of the "Big 6" publishing houses is moving to the Agency model for e-books, which is noted most of all, by consumers, for its higher e-book pricing over the last year that it's been put in place.  Apple's iPad2 announcement tomorrow will probably include that Random House has been accepted into Apple's iBook store, rather than kept out because they would not accept the Agency model terms earlier.

  I mentioned other day that the Agency model and the pricing wars have less to do with the amount of immediate profit-taking than 'control' over the e-book market, which is threatening the paper-based book market and its profits - the main and admitted concern of the Big 6 publishers.
  As Random House put it:

' "Going forward, Random House will set consumer prices for the e‐books we publish, and we will provide retailers with a commission for each sale," Random House said in a statement.  The agency model guarantees a higher margin for retailers than did our previous sales terms. We are making this change both as an investment in the successful digital transition of our existing partners and in order to give us the opportunity to forge new retail relationships." '

  Translation: Apple is ultra-likely to announce Tuesday that Random House has come within the fold.

  Apple and Random House are said to have been in negotiations since December.  We can hope that Random House may choose to set lower prices than the Big5 did during the last year.  The American Booksellers Assn. gave "strong support" to the move.

RANDOM HOUSE UK WILL STAY OUTSIDE OF THE AGENCY DESPITE U.S. MOVE
Not surprisingly, to those following the UK scene, Random House's UK company is not going Agency.  The Office of Fair Trading ("OFT") launched an investigation into e-book pricing in February, and publishers outside the Agency model "said they would be more cautious about it while it was under review."

  The Amazon UK forum "Agency Pricing" message thread is still going strong (with 1727 posts since mid-October, and the last message, dated today, says:

' Posted on 1 Mar 2011 10:21 GMT
Izzy says:
Well I'm glad many of us emailed the OFT and that they are looking into it because Random House US is going agency too, but not Random House UK... phew.  It's very unlikely that any UK publishers will switch to agency while it's under investigation. '

They have been comparing pricing and ways to bring e-book pricing back to what made sense to them as Kindle owners until the Agency plan started taking hold even there.

INDIE AUTHOR AMANDA HOCKLING SELLS 450,000 BOOKS (99% ARE E-BOOKS) IN JANUARY.
That's sort of old news, courtesy of USA Today on February 9, but the story has been picked up more in the last couple of weeks and while I won't name the online zines that had so much "misinformation" in them (Amanda Hocking's word), including the misspelling of her name several times in one article as well as statements that she receives 70% of a sale for 99-cent books (not true, it's 35% for books under .99), it's been time-consuming to try to get more factually-based info.  But we have access to her blog for that.

Her success in sales should be given some attention by the Big 6 publishers in connection with their favored higher-ebook-pricing Agency plan.  They tend to insist that no one will be 'discovered' without their help.

According to the USA Today article, she started self-publishing in March, was selling hundreds of copies by May and thousands by June, at prices between 99c and .99.

' "More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books."
. . .
In fact, Hocking is selling so well that on Thursday, the three titles in her Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend, the latest) will make their debuts in the top 50 of USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list.

A recent survey shows 20 million people read e-books last year, and more self-published authors are taking advantage of the trend. '

  To see Amanda Hocking's list of facts to offset the misinformation online, see the 'Misinformation and Corrections' entry at her blog.

  Essentially, she is 26, has published eight books and one novella, "so there are nine works that you can purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Smashwords."
  She was never traditionally published and still has not been traditionally published.
  Hocking first published two books in April 15, 2010 and in less than a year, she's "sold over 900,000 copies of over nine different books."
  Has been on the USA Today Bestseller list but not the NY Times List.
  She has an interview with Elle that will be in the April issue and is due to be interviewed by Better TV in late March.
  She writes "young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy, mostly."

  Her Trylle Trilogy has been optioned for a film and is "a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas."
  On the other hand, her latest, Hollowland, IS a zombie urban fantasy, a bit more gritty than her previous books but romance remains part of the mix.  It already has 83 customer reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars.  I have no idea why zombies are so 'in' these days and will add that's not a draw for me, but I do like that she has used a background of very-early writing focus and years of serious classes in writing and has exploded on the scene, enjoyed by many paying-customers despite no help whatsoever from the traditional large publishers.  Read her blog to see the avenues she uses for getting the word out.
  Here's her Amazon Author page.

EARLIER BLOG ARTICLE ON AUTHORS AND KINDLE PUBLISHING
Authors and Kindle Publishing.

EARLIER BLOG ARTICLES ON THE E-BOOK PRICING WARS, WITH SOURCING
A Kindle World Blog history of articles on the e-book pricing wars

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite


Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

1Mar/110

The last holdout to the agency model is no more: Random adopts the Apple pricing model

Everyone who wondered how long Random House would be the lone major publisher to hold out against the agency pricing model championed by Apple now have their answer: about a year.

As Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg reports in a Wall Street Journal story, the nation’s biggest publisher announced late yesterday that it would be switching to agency pricing for its ebooks today, although the announcement — coming two days before Apple is expected to announce an updated version of the iPad — did not say whether that meant Random House books would now be available in the iBookstore.

As Trachtenberg explains, “The agency model calls for publishers to set the retail prices of their digital titles, with the retailer taking 30% of the sale and the publisher receiving the remainder. Agency pricing effectively eliminates discounting and assures retailers of a profit on each digital book they sell.” That’s mostly true, although Apple’s version of the agency model gives it plenty of control over the pricing supposedly set by publishers, which is one reason Apple’s pricing policies are under investigation by at least a couple of states’ attorneys general.

In any event, the history of Random’s decision, as the WSJ report details, is that …

Five of the country’s six largest publishers switched to agency pricing last year when Apple introduced its iPad tablet. Publishers believed the iPad would sharply expand sales of e-books and challenge Amazon.com Inc.’s popular Kindle e-reader….

Random House, the nation’s largest publisher of consumer books, had declined to change its digital strategy, sticking with traditional wholesale pricing. As a result, its digital titles haven’t been available for sale directly from Apple’s iBookstore, but are available for purchase from various retail bookstore apps on the iPad.

Of course, Random House books won’t be available to read on the iPad if Apple is allowed to go through with its plan to prevent people reading books purchased anywhere other than the iBookstore on Apple devices (another Apple policy that’s under widespread investigation). Which may be one inspiration for the timing of Random’s turn-around.

But as to the company’s stated reasons, according to a report in Publishers Weekly, a Random House statement explained:

The agency model guarantees a higher margin for retailers than did our previous sales terms. We are making this change both as an investment in the successful digital transition of our existing partners and in order to give us the opportunity to forge new retail relationships. We are looking forward to continuing to work with all our retail partners—both digital and physical—on our joint mission to connect our authors with as many readers as possible, in whatever format they prefer.

Whatever the reason, one thing seems certain: As Hillel Italie says in an Associated Press wire story, “Stieg Larsson‘s novels may finally be headed to the iBookstore.”

28Feb/110

Random House joins the Agency Model crowd

ImagesHere is the press release I received:

“Random House, Inc. is adopting the agency model for e-book sales in the United States effective March 1, 2011. Going forward, Random House will set consumer prices for the e-books we publish, and we will provide retailers with a commission for each sale. There are no changes to our terms of sale for physical books.

“The agency model guarantees a higher margin for retailers than did our previous sales terms. We are making this change both as an investment in the successful digital transition of our existing partners and in order to give us the opportunity to forge new retail relationships.

“We are looking forward to continuing to work with all our retail partners – both digital and physical — on our joint mission to connect our authors with as many readers as possible, in whatever format they prefer.”

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