Amazon Strong-arms Macmillan

I am always shocked and sometimes appalled at how much power booksellers have over the industry. Between Amazon and their refusal to sell a publisher’s book based on price points and Barnes and Noble’s power to reject a book based on it’s cover design, it makes me wonder if booksellers, specifically giant commercial entities like B&N and Amazon have too much power in shaping the industry.
Let this be a reminder to go out into the world and buy books at independent bookstores and directly from publishers. Amazon’s decision to boycott Macmillan titles is taking away from the artists who make books, the employees who run the companies under Macmillan, and the consumer. Here are all of the imprints under Macmillan:
Here’s the original letter from John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan:
January 31, 2010

A Message from Macmillan CEO John Sargent

To: All Macmillan authors/illustrators and the literary agent community
From: John Sargent
Re: Missing books on

This past Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for e books under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon. The books will continue to be available on through third parties.

I regret that we have reached this impasse. Amazon has been a valuable customer for a long time, and it is my great hope that they will continue to be in the very near future. They have been a great innovator in our industry, and I suspect they will continue to be for decades to come.

It is those decades that concern me now, as I am sure they concern you. In the ink-on-paper world we sell books to retailers far and wide on a business model that provides a level playing field, and allows all retailers the possibility of selling books profitably. Looking to the future and to a growing digital business, we need to establish the same sort of business model, one that encourages new devices and new stores. One that encourages healthy competition. One that is stable and rational. It also needs to insure that intellectual property can be widely available digitally at a price that is both fair to the consumer and allows those who create it and publish it to be fairly compensated.

Under the agency model, we will sell the digital editions of our books to consumers through our retailers. Our retailers will act as our agents and will take a 30% commission (the standard split today for many digital media businesses). The price will be set for each book individually. Our plan is to price the digital edition of most adult trade books in a price range from $14.99 to $5.99. At first release, concurrent with a hardcover, most titles will be priced between $14.99 and $12.99. E books will almost always appear day on date with the physical edition. Pricing will be dynamic over time.

The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.

Amazon and Macmillan both want a healthy and vibrant future for books. We clearly do not agree on how to get there. Meanwhile, the action they chose to take last night clearly defines the importance they attribute to their view. We hold our view equally strongly. I hope you agree with us.

You are a vast and wonderful crew. It is impossible to reach you all in the very limited timeframe we are working under, so I have sent this message in unorthodox form. I hope it reaches you all, and quickly. Monday morning I will fully brief all of our editors, and they will be able to answer your questions. I hope to speak to many of you over the coming days.

Thanks for all the support you have shown in the last few hours; it is much appreciated.

All best, John

Support your independent booksellers.

*****************A friend sent me a link to this article stating that Amazon has removed the freeze from Macmillan books:

In reading the CS article I started to think about e-books and their pricing. Call me old fashioned, but I do not own a Kindle, nor do I plan on buying on anytime soon. But thinking about the costs of production, it does make sense that e-books be priced lower than their paper counterpart. Is this fight then about money, control, technology, or all of the above?

Either way, I’m glad that the freeze has ended.

Back to work.~