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Kindle Nation Daily’s Letter to the Department of Justice in the DOJ eBook Price-Fixing Lawsuit Against Apple and Five Publishers

(Editor’s Note: As we have mentioned beforethe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a major antitrust lawsuit against Apple and the five original “agency model” publishers charging them with a massive price-fixing conspiracy in violation of federal law. The DOJ Antitrust Division and the court wants to hear from members of the public during a 60-day comment period on the lawsuit which expires June 25, and what follows is my letter to the court. Please see this post for instructions on how to submit your comments. –Stephen Windwalker.)

June 18, 2012

Via Priority Mail

John Read, Chief
Litigation III Section
Antitrust Division
U.S. Department of Justice
450 5th Street, NW, Suite 4000 Washington, DC 20530


Dear Mr. Read,

I am writing to you both as an individual citizen, reader, author, and former independent bookstore owner, and also as the founder of  the Kindle Nation Daily website, one of the largest active communities of ebook readers and enthusiasts. Along with tens of thousands of other avid readers and thousands of other authors who are associated with the Kindle Nation Daily community, I am keenly interested in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil antitrust action (United States v. Apple, Inc. et. al., Civil Action No. 12-CIV-2826) against Apple, Inc., and five of the largest U.S. book publishers (defendants). My purpose in writing this letter is to share and underline several points that I believe should be central points of emphasis for the DOJ and the courts as this case proceeds and legal remedies are considered.

My single most important point is one that I am sure the DOJ and the court understands well, but which appears to be a matter of confusion for many others: the major parties in this case are the six defendants (Apple and the five publisher defendants) and the DOJ, which is empowered here to act on behalf of consumers. While it ought to be obvious that this is so, and that the alleged collusion has robbed tens of millions of dollars from American consumers and denied them the opportunity to read millions of other books that they deemed they could not afford, many who have commented on this case have tried to shift the focus, from this irreparable harm to consumers, to the consequences of judicial action for other interested entities who are not parties to the case, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and countless other booksellers, authors, literary agents, and other intermediaries and players in the book business. As recently as today the headline in the New Yorker’s coverage of the case demonstrates this confusion: “Paper Trail: Did publishers and Apple collude against Amazon?” Of course it would be naive not to recognize the importance of the case to these players, but to seat them at the table as parties is to miss the point of the irreparable harm to consumers.

In an effort to place the primary focus where it belongs, I would like to offer the following points and perspectives:

1. By colluding to raise new-release ebook prices by 30 to 100 percent, the defendants have caused irreparable harm to millions of readers of all ages, including public school and college students and other children, families, and people of limited means who bought ebook readers or downloaded free Kindle apps based on the affordability of ebooks before the defendants imposed the agency model. Prior to the launch of the Kindle it was widely believed that reading was on the decline in the U.S., as noted by the late Steve Jobs when he declared early in 2008 that the Kindle was a flawed concept “because nobody reads any more.” Among the reasons for the decline of long-form reading were rising prices for new hardcovers and paperbacks, the closing of many public library branches and bookstores, and the diminishing selection of physical books offered to the American public through existing distribution channels. The launch of the Kindle in 2007 and the fact that Amazon made Kindle apps free for anyone with a smartphone, a computer, or a Kindle meant that any reader could have a well-stocked bookstore at their fingertips just about anywhere in the U.S. and beyond. The Kindle platform succeeded because of its catalog, convenience, competitive pricing, and Amazon’s customer base and unflinching commitment to the platform, and its success has helped to fuel a resurgence in reading that is bridging the digital divide across class and age lines. The Kindle store pricing that some of the defendants and other Amazon critics demonize as “predatory” has had a wonderfully positive effect on this resurgence in reading, and has social, economic, and cultural value far beyond anything that would be achieved, for instance, by propping up the defendant publishers or another player like Barnes & Noble.

2. Illegal collusive behavior must not be separated from the consequences of that behavior, either in the punishment of the behavior or in the remedies proposed. Many of the more thoughtful critics of the DOJ action have taken pains to state that they have no knowledge or legal expertise about the collusive behavior alleged by the DOJ, but such behavior and its objectives are and must remain at the center of this case: the DOJ alleges with an impressive recitation of evidence that the defendants participated in an unprecedented conspiracy to force retailers to raise their new-release ebook prices by 30 to 100 percent. If that’s what happened, the defendants must be punished and retailers must be allowed to restore competitive pricing. For the publisher defendants to claim no wrongdoing after they kept their corporate counsel out of the rooms in which the collusion allegedly occurred is, if the defendants acted as alleged by DOJ, an insult to the court and to all interested parties. When companies collude or conspire to raise prices to the detriment of consumers, they know full well that they are on thin ice. In this case, because of the defendants’ collusion, consumers paid tens of millions more than they would otherwise have had to pay for ebooks. In countless other cases they had to refrain from buying ebooks they hungered to read. Because of what the defendants did, they should not only have to stop doing it, but they should remain under close regulatory scrutiny (as spelled out in the proposed settlement) for years, and they should be required to pay tens of millions, and ultimately perhaps hundreds of millions, in actual and punitive restitution to consumers.

3. The U.S. publishing industry is fond of saying that “the DOJ doesn’t understand the book business.” However, the defendant publishers and their associated intermediaries and gatekeepers arrived in the 21st century very poorly prepared for the future either in their fundamental economic cost structure or in their commitment to invest in innovation. The industry’s major players do not deserve any fate other than that which a collusion-free marketplace holds for them. On the other hand, over the past decade, increasing numbers of authors, booksellers, publishers and others have combined innovation, the use of new technologies, and some risk-taking to circumvent what many feel has become a rather calcified literary-industrial complex and instead established new and profitable models for making more direct connections between authors and readers. In spite of the fact that readers are paying less for ebooks than they have paid in the past for print books, most of the authors of distinction who are taking a direct route to publishing are earning greater royalties than they would ever have received from traditional publishers. They have shortened the publishing timetables from years (or in some cases decades) to months or weeks. While traditional publishing players lament the costs, for themselves, of disintermediation, tens of thousands of others are clear winners in a world where intermediaries are no longer sheltered from the need to prove their worth. The defendants and their apologists have attempted to lock in the wastefulness and flawed economic decision-making of the industry and its intermediaries by passing their costs on to consumers in the form of the 30 to 100% price increases imposed by the agency model, but claims that DOJ should protect the intermediaries in the publishing world have neither a legal basis nor any value for the culture or the country. It would be more accurate for publishers to say that the DOJ “doesn’t understand our book business the way that we understand our book business.” That would be fair in a certain sense, but the truth is the publisher defendants’ focus on their own understanding of how the publishing business used to work has kept them from evolving and understanding how the publishing business works now, and how it may work for at least a few years in the future.

4. The U.S. book publishing and bookselling business has been undergoing enormous change and disruption for decades, but the book trades are not a public utility. It is not the role of government or the courts to prop up the industry or any of its players. It would be especially inappropriate for the government or the courts to manage the aforementioned change and disruption so as to punish innovators, provide life support for second- and third-movers or protect industry players whose demise may be imminent due to their lack of innovation or financial discipline. The number of independent booksellers has been in steady decline for decades and will almost definitely continue to decline for the next several years, regardless of the DOJ action. Over the 20-plus years since I owned an independent bookstore and was a member of the American Booksellers Association in the 1980s, there have been many bogeymen blamed for the demise of independent brick-and-mortar bookselling, including of course Barnes & Noble itself. Like Borders before it, Barnes & Noble may well go out of business in the next few years because of poor management of real estate costs and its late, second-mover entry into the two major growth markets for bookselling in the past 15 years, online bookselling and ebooks.  But the idea that the DOJ should be in the business of propping up Barnes & Noble by reframing the remedies in this case is as odious as it would be if we were to substitute the name of WalMart in the equation, particularly after Barnes & Noble has played as great — and some would say as “predatory” — a role as any other company in hastening the demise of independent retail brick-and-mortar bookstores over the past few decades. Nor should DOJ prop up independent booksellers, as much as we may lament their demise. Sadly, the focus on the various bogeymen blamed for these developments, and booksellers’ ideological opposition to the Amazons and others, has too often taken those booksellers’ focus away from the kinds of innovation and entrepreneurial thinking that have saved some bookstores and might, if in greater evidence, have saved far more. Nor is it true that even a single independent bookstore would be saved were the DOJ or the court to reframe its proposed remedies so as to save Barnes & Noble or to soften the impact for the defendant publishers.

5. The widely promulgated notion that the agency model has created a lush garden of innovation in the ebook business is patently untrue. The initial Barnes & Noble Nook was widely seen as a second-mover product that was very nearly dead on arrival when it was launched several months before the advent of the agency model. It began to gain traction only when the agency model guaranteed Barnes & Noble a 30% gross margin and freed it of any need to compete with Kindle Store pricing. By Barnes & Noble’s own public admission, the Nook might well have failed in free-market competition if it had not been for the agency model conspiracy. The primary Nook “innovation” advanced to date is the relatively minor enhancement of a front-lit glowing screen, and other elements of the Nook infrastructure such as the Pub-it authorship platform are barely distinguishable from previously existing elements of the Kindle infrastructure. Much and perhaps most ebook reading on the iPad and iPhone occurs in the Kindle environment, and Apple’s claim that the iPad and its search-unfriendly, thinly populated iBookstore are successful innovations is a fantasy: the primary success of the iBookstore has been that it made the agency model price-fixing scheme possible in the minds of the defendant publishers.

6. Many of the arguments against the DOJ’s action and proposed remedies are based on intense fear and loathing of Amazon, none of which is surprising in an industry which is both change-averse and especially well-connected to the chattering classes in the national news media. It is absolutely appropriate for the DOJ and other government agencies to continue to scrutinize Amazon’s behavior as a corporate taxpayer, as a direct or indirect corporate employer, as a gatherer of customers’ private information, or as a competitor in the national and global business marketplace. DOJ may well be justified in taking future action on one or more of these issues, but there is no basis for penalizing Amazon now because it is big, because it is an aggressive innovator whose success is based on disrupting existing business models, because it has shown a creative capacity to reduce consumer prices while still paying full wholesale prices itself, or because smart disintermediation allows it to pay an author a higher royalty for a $5 ebook sale than a traditional publisher would pay an author for a $25 hardcover sale. If at some point in the future Amazon uses its growing marketplace clout to squeeze authors or publishers, for instance, DOJ should not hesitate to haul the company into court, but such behavior cannot be presupposed, and indeed it would require such a radical change in Amazon’s business model that it would be immediately obvious to all.

7. Although Barnes & Noble attorney David Boies indulges windy, sweeping prose on behalf of “the national economy and culture, the future of copyrighted expression and bookselling in general,” he does not provide any evidence or argument that cultural and business trends that are already well underway would be reversed if the DOJ action were not taken. The bottom line in Boies’ argument is the bottom line for Barnes & Noble, a failing company that is choking to death on its own expensive real estate leases and its lack of innovation during the decade when its former primary position in the U.S. retail book business was overtaken by a much more innovative upstart competitor. In service of that bottom line, Boies wants DOJ to frame its actions so as to prop up and protect Barnes & Noble so that, for as long as it is able to hang on, it can wring as much profit as possible from its second-mover status in the ebook marketplace. But the bottom line for consumers should take precedence over Boies’ desire to keep Barnes & Noble on life support. Consumers who purchase and read ebooks have lost tens of millions of dollars because the defendants conspired to raise the prices of bestselling ebook new releases. The defendants’ behavior described in the court documents has been reckless, avaricious, and destructive — perhaps even to “the national economy and culture, the future of copyrighted expression and bookselling in general” — and the DOJ should not rule out the possibility of criminal prosecutions if facts warrant as this action proceeds. Finally, it is somewhat surprising that we must take pains to correct some of the utterly inaccurate notions with which attorney Boies has burdened the record in this case. Among the country lawyer’s tricks with which Boies has attempted to dazzle us are his claims that the American public opposes the DOJ action because Manhattan Senator Charles Schumer opposes it, or that authors oppose the action because Boies has offered up a quotation from Scott Turow, president of the notoriously litigious Author’s Guild, which has been on record in the past as opposed to public library book borrowing.

8. The proposal by some that fairness could be achieved via a decision to allow publishers to mandate uniform retail prices would be catastrophic for readers. Such a mandatory price-setting scheme would reward the colluders and would do more to maintain the outmoded status quo in the publishing world than other step that has been proposed. Worst of all, of course, it would allow the defendants to continue to steal tens of millions of dollars each year from the pockets of consumers.

9. Instead of innovating to become leaner, faster, and more profitable in the new world of publishing, the defendants decided to try to stop time by breaking the law. Faced with the fears that motivated the agency model conspiracy, publishers might have taken a different, more innovative path. They could even have followed such a path collectively without fear of violating anti-trust laws. When Amazon launched its new, disruptive ebook business model, beginning ever so slowly in November of 2007, publishers might have reimagined and restructured the book business with new, innovative, more efficient, and profitable roles for themselves. They might have created their own online retail outlets to offer their titles in Kindle-compatible ebook form. They might have worked with brick-and-mortar booksellers to bundle ebook and digital formats at handy little kiosks in every bookstore. They might have turned ebooks into the 21st century reincarnation of Literary Guild and the Book-of-the-Month Club, those 20th century behemoths that managed to sell millions of hardcover books for 99 cents each without creating any significant scare over the erosion of “the value of the book.” They might have tried to strip away the excess weight of unsustainable corporate costs and their reckless addiction to gamble huge advances for bestsellers, to rework their economics at new, competitive price points. They might have said, “We’re no longer going to pay for intermediaries that add no value.” They might even have pursued one of the collective strategies that they considered and rejected back in 2009, called Project Z or Bookish, to create a joint venture that would establish a new ecommerce platform to sell ebooks wholesale to retailers, or retail to the ebook-buying public.

10. Although neither Amazon nor Barnes & Noble are full parties in this case, the DOJ and the court should impose one burden on both companies (and on defendant Apple Inc. and perhaps other ebook retailers) as part of the remedies associated with the actual and punitive restitution that defendants should be forced to pay to consumers. Specifically, the ebook retailers should be required to provide to all of their customers a detailed record of all ebooks that they ordered during the full period of the agency model from April 1, 2010 until the present date or beyond, in order for customers to qualify for the restitution payments due them.

I am grateful to the DOJ and to the court and all parties for your consideration of these matters, and I hope that all concerned will take these views into account in this case.


Stephen Windwalker

Founder and CEO, Kindle Nation Daily


Kudos to Publisher MacMillan for Speaking Up, Even if….

Along with most citizens of Kindle Nation, I happen to believe that some of the big publishers are making a big mistake by trying to control retail ebook prices and raise those prices by 30 to 50 percent. This mistake is compounded, in my view, by the apparent circumstance of its having been arrived at through a collusive, anti-consumer process in which the “Apple 5” of MacMillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, and HarperCollins have been lured by Steve Jobs into trying to fix prices and restructure retail relationships all at once.

That being said, congratulations to MacMillan CEO John Sargent for having the guts and transparency to speak up and address readers directly in this post on the company’s blog yesterday:

Macmillan CEO John Sargent on the agency model, availability and price

I had been critical of Sargent previously for addressing his earlier comments only to authors and literary agents, and consequently trying to position them to speak up on his and his company’s behalf, and this new post is well worth reading. He has not changed my mind, and I doubt he will change the minds of many ebook readers, but we will see. There are dozens of comments that give a good sense of the range of views generally in the ebook pricing controversy, and you may want to add your voice to those of other readers.

There are reasons for  optimism about the way that this will play out, and I see glimmers of hope both in the fact that Random House has yet to join the Apple 5 and in the fact that Sargent cracks open the door of flexibility an inch or two by acknowledging that some ebooks will be priced lower than $12.99 during their “hardcover new release” period. If readers are in a position where they are able to make buying decisions based on price as well as interest in particular books, it will be easier for publishers to gather information about the importance of competitive pricing.

Credit should be given to Sargent for staying away from two “that dog won’t hunt” arguments, at least for now:

  • He doesn’t try to claim that these dramatic increases are based on cost.
  • He doesn’t try to justify these dramatic increases by saying they will be good for authors or even lead to higher royalties for authors.

One omission that hurts his case involves the actual price that consumers usual pay for hardcover new releases. It is a classic  case of apples and oranges for Sargent to compare the hardcover suggested list prices of $25 to $35 with the $12.99 to $14.99 prices the Apple 5 wants to fix for ebooks. The retailers responsible for most hardcover book sales in the U.S. (Amazon, the chains, and the big box stores) have been discounting most hardcover new releases by 25 to 46% for years, and MacMillan is not taking any steps to limit this discounting. With publishers insisting that no discounting be applied to ebooks, the actual terms of comparison should be between $13-$15 ebooks and $15-$18 hardcovers, which doesn’t quite rise to the level of Sargent’s claim of “a tremendous discount from the price of the printed hardcover books.”

Comments from Kindle Nation Survey Respondents: eBook Pricing and Publishers

In addition to responding directly to the questions in the Winter 2010 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey, the 1,892 individuals who responded also recorded hundreds of individual comments that provide some interesting insights into what makes Kindle owners tick. I’m in the process of breaking these down by category to share them here at Kindle Nation Daily. Yesterday I posted individual comments under the heading “The Pleasures of Kindle Reading,” and today’s category covers individual comments on the subject of ebook pricing and the recent controversies with the Big Six book publishers.

While it may be true that not every comment here is well-informed and overflows with wisdom, I couldn’t help comparing the general sentiments expressed again and again with some of the bizarrely anti-consumer, anti-reader statements that I have read lately by publishers like Michael Cader and authors such as Douglas Preston.  I suspect those in the publishing business might have greater success in addressing these issues if they drilled down on these comments by readers and depended less on screeds such as Cader’s for their talking points. Cader’s talking points may be hidden behind a pay wall, but I have read his “essay” in full and his summary points are that anyone who can afford $259 for a Kindle can afford whatever publishers want to charge for ebooks and that that people pay more than $9.99 for ebooks every day, especially outside the U.S. Preston, as you may recall, told the New York Times that he was astonished by the sense of entitlement of Kindle owners, and he accused us of having a Wal-Mart mentality.

What do Kindle owners think? Read on. Each bulleted comment is from a unique individual, and aside from adding the bullets I’ve done no editing here:

  • Only interested in kindle as a reader and the ongoing increase in prices has been disturbing as I read up to 2 or 3 books a week. e books cost less to produce, are publishers really losing money?
  • We just got 2 Kindles and within a month a 50% hike in prices is announced!!!
  • I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the situation, but as a writer, I think Amazon (and Google and others) have the ability to abscond with rights to intellectual property or distribution.  I’m a tad frightened of allowing too much power to any of these entities, including the big publishing houses.
  • The fact is, publishers are in the business to make money. Amazon was selling e-books at a loss in order to gain a significant market advantage in e-books, which is an indication that no matter what price we might like e-books to sell at, they are not profitable at $9.99. If publishers don’t make a profit, then they don’t publish at all. I don’t think that’s a situation we want to be in. Apple’s model in this case is the better model, and I hope Amazon adopts it so we can all read what we want.
  • Without readers neither poublishers or authors have a purpose.  ebooks are here to stay.
  • I have mixed feelings about this. I love cheap eBooks, but without commercial publishers, it will be difficult for authors to focus on writing, and hard for consumers to know about quality books. I strongly believe, however, that the eBooks should be substantially cheaper than the print editions!
  • I don’t want what happened to the music industry to happen to the book/publishing industry.  I want the business model to enable authors to make a lot of money from their work. I think publishers provide an important role as “gatekeepers” they filter out the writers that are not ready for prime-time.  I like the agency model that the publishers are moving towards.  I think this will protect the industry and keep it healthy.
  • Not really interested in paying higher prices for books on Kindle.  I can go to other places, Barnes & Noble for instance, and with thier discounts get the sames hardcopy book with free shipping for nearly what MacMillan wanted Amazon to charge.  Come on MacMillan, wake up and get green and pay your authors a descent percentage and sell electronic books which cost you practically nothing per copy.
  • it’s not about price – it’s about power & control
  • I am not an expert on what is going on between Amazon and publishers.  I WILL NOT pay more than $9.99 for an e-book though.
  • By keeping prices lower, I have read 75-80% more books than I would have at retail prices. I read a lot, but usually do not keep books around after I read them (unless reference titles) so now don’t have to make yearly trips to Goodwill to get rid of books. Publishers are making a lot more from me with discounted e-books than if I went back to buying actual books. More money, less profit, but also less labor and materials. What’s to lose?
  • Amazon rapes the author/publisher by taking 65% of the list price.  the 30% proposed by Apple is far more reasonable.  E books should sell for less than printed ones, but $9.99 is too low, at least as long as Amazon takes 65%
  • Let market set price. Increase in prices will open direct sales by authors as too much is being taken out by publishers
  • The reason I did not buy an ebook earlier (Sony and others) was because I researched how many books were available and the cost of the books.  Amazon has ruled the waves in these areas!
  • no cost for paper, ink or printing. the cost should be much lower. paper back books should cost more than ebooks !
  • Publishers need to adapt and embrace the business benefits of the ebook model
  • i read my Kindle and I also publish a few books for friends on the Kindle page.  We need marketing advice how to promote these books on different sites.
  • “Setting a max ebook price is fine for most books, but for scientific works and the like with a limited potential market, a higher price is quite reasonable.  
  • I am presently working with an author, coding his book for Kindle publication.  He asked his publisher to do this, but the publisher has done nothing in 5 months, probably because with Kindle publication, the money goes to the author, not to the publisher.  I suspect other publishers share this view.”
  • It is much cheaper to develop an ebook – there is no excuse for excessive pricing.
  • The outcomes of the competition among ebooks, publishers, and authors will decide the issue–not my opinion!
  • “Why would a book that costs much less to produce because it does not have to be printed, bound, and shipped, stacked, sold and delivered cost as much as a printed, bound, etc. book?
  • Would the publishers make that much more since they would not be sharing costs with others in production or…. will their costs be the same with smaller publication numbers and so are making up the costs of producing hard copies with ebooks. I think $9.99 should cover that though.”
  • I don’t know why MacMillan cared what price amazon sold the ebooks for, since they were getting an agreed upon price.  Why do they care if Amazon lost money?  If publishers would put out a quality physical product, that didn’t fall apart after just one or two readings, then it would be easier to justify paying for it.  Maybe it’s time for authors to leave the publishers and simply sell their books as ebooks through Amazon…
  • Why would a copy of an ebook cost any more than 9.99. It’s just a digital copy.
  • As a lay person who has little idea of the economics involved in publishing, it would be foolish of me to tell anyone what their prices should be or that they should put the readers’ interests first if it would cause them to fail. Self preservation has to be the first priority of any business.
  • By putting reader’s interests first publishers and authors will sell more books and, therefore, make more money!!  Everyone is happy!  It’s just simple logic.
  • Ebooks should cost less because production costs are less and because they cannot be shared or resond (unlike a conventional book which can be shared multiple times).  There are much fewer costs associated with producing an ebook than a conventional book.  I don’t think publishers care about authors; it’s all about the “bottom dollar”–and I am a Macmillan author, so I speak from experience.
  • I would be willing to pay $14.99 for a new release ebook, not a penny more.  However, if the publisher decides to charge that much then it should be released the same day as the hardcover counter part and the ebook should not contain any errors or glitches.
  • When I buy a book I shop for the lowest price be it electronic, hardback or paperback.  If I do not find a price I like I borrow the book from the library or do without.  If I feel that publisher’s ask too much, I won’t buy the book.
  • I love my Kindle but I still read paperbacks and hard cover books, and any ebook that is over $9.99 I get from my library.  Once a book becomes an e-book, the cost is practially free and all profit. Why does it have to cost so much?? I don’t believe e-readers will put publishers out of business. There are many reasons and people who prefer holding a book. There is room for both.
  • Lousy questions…loaded…cutesy.  If you want good information from a survey, you ask simple, unambiguous questions.
  • I’m a writer and a reader, so I suppose I’m my own worst enemy.
  • I think that ebooks should be cheaper than paperbooks, after all there are no production costs involved.
  • Authors have a right to be paid well for what they do, Publishers have a right to make money in their business,but price-fixing and collusion in any business is illegal.  E-books are the least expensive cost to a publisher and that should be reflected in the price of each e-book.  Increasing the prices on e-books will decrease the amount of books I can purchase although I prefer it as my primary form of reading material.
  • I would have strongly disagreed that Amazon has egg on its face – except that the protracted time it has taken to get hardback buy buttons back hasn’t benefited Amazon; just alienated their print title customers, many who don’t care about Kindle titles. I do care about the Kindle titles and was very distressed to imagine not being able to buy favorite authors books in any format directly from Amazon, but was also distressed that my Prime shipping option wouldn’t work for a Hardback release.
  • First question:  Are you serious?  Publishers are corporations, they are out for themselves.  Period.  The last question. . .publishers:  strongly agree, authors: somewhat disagree
  • There are a lot of ways to get discounted books. ie library, clearouts, ebay, half.com, used book stores. The $30+ price for HC is ridiculous and especially when they can be purchased at a big box store or amazon. There is no way that ebooks should be even close in price to amazon, costco HC. You can resell the print edition, but not with the ebook. Besides if a book is a bestseller, then by defination it will generate a profit to the publishers.
  • I wouldn’t pay more than $9.99 for an e-book (if even that) because it’s not a book I can loan out or share with others if I think it’s really good. I don’t buy hardcovers because of storage space.  If I read a hardcover, I usually borrow it from the library.
  • i just got my kindle in december 2009, based primarily on the 9.99 book price. i typically wait and buy paperbacks and was happy to pay a bit more and have immediate access to new books. the new pricing is very disturbing
  • Publishers do not care about authors, despite their protestations.
  • I have tried to understand this issue, but I find it very complicated and I remain unsure of what is fair and unfair to each of the parties involved. Certainly ebooks should be *much* less expensive than hardcovers, but I’m not sure what the price point for either should be. Certainly authors should be paid adequately for their work, but again I don’t know how that is best determined. Publishers, it seems, will have to adopt new business models to fit with new technologies.
  • The $9.99 pricepoint was a MAJOR consideration in my choice to purchase an ereader when I did and the one of the major deciding factors of which ereader to purchase.  As a major reader and book purchaser I’d been watching the development of them for years comparing those available, their price points as well as their features.  Budget is very important to me and I seldom can afford to purchase a hard cover when newly released, I would either get on the library list or wait for the paperback.
  • I am willing to pay more then $10 for some ebooks, Never more then $15 for a new release and certainly feel they should be significantly less then the price of hardcover or paperback (whichever format is currently int he bookstores)
  • I don’t know this for a fact, but I tend to think that Publishers are only out for their own interests…not the authors.  The Publishers don’t have to do much (if anything) to publish e-books.  Save lots of money with e-books.  Authors ought to get ALL the money generated from e-books and Publishers should get NONE of the money generated from e-books.  I am not an author…but we all know the Publishers have gotten rich off the backs of authors!
  • I bought the kindle because the prices were originally about $4 for a paperback and $9.99 for a hardback.  Now that prices are over $6 for most mass market editions, I’m back to going to the library and used book stores.  Unhappy that the Wall Street Journal has jumped 50% since I first purchased the kindle, and it’s not nearly as good as the print version.   Also, disappointed that Text to speech, a selling point for K-2 is disabled for so many Kindle editions.
  • The book that sells the most and creates the biggest stir with awards may have been the easiest to write –The Road, IMO. The book that was researched for 25 years and finally released — but nobody read it??  It’s tough to establish pricing and stick to a single formula. A fluff piece may be the writing of a lifetime. The hard to write, and the writer nearly starved to death — may be a flop commercially. I see many books as exceptions to any rules.
  • Amazon may have blinked first but I believe, as E readers, we can reinforce the point they were making by boycotting expensive Ebooks.
  • Because iPad has yet to launch, collusion is tough to prove. But if they stay the course, sue the bastards!
  • I think publishers and authors are in business to make money and I think they every right to. It just seems to me that publishing by ebook is a lot cheaper and should eventually provide for a wider distribution of books, magazines etc at much reduced costs.
  • “i read that macmillian with their price increase is now actually getting LESS money than they were at 9.99 …  eventually, publishers will go the way of record labels …
  • and i find i read a lot of FREE content on my kindle anyway”
  • Isn’t competition supposed to drive prices down?  Isn’t lower cost of production supposed to equal lower cost of goods?
  • “1) without readers there is no need to publish
  • 2) e-books are more economical for the publisher and the reader and better for the environment”
  • “I believe that Amazon caved to the publishers (starting with MacMillan) because it fits their own interests. They will make more money selling the ebooks for a higher price, and it gets them off the hook with many by claiming they tried to honor their original commitment to keep best sellers at the $9.99 price. Now they can put the blame for higher prices on the publishers.
  • As for the publishers there is no way that they will convince me that it costs as much to produce an ebook as a hardcover.”
  • $9.99 without the ability to lend it or give it to someone is too much.  Charge less or let us give them away.
  • I stopped buying HardBks in 2006, even w/ coupons, discounts, &Costco the price was $16- $18.  I now buy ebook immediately at around $10-$11 instead of waiting for paperback ( w/ coupons were $5-$6).  Guess what, I’ve found tons of independent authors I love and who are happy to sell me books $5 or less.  I will not buy ebook OR physical books from a publisher who is trumping up the price, I have choices. I am comfortable w/ up to $11.99 for an ebook I don’t own, can’t sell or get get signed.
  • I appreciate Amazon taking a position and informing Kindle owners of same.
  • Some ebooks are already price outrageously, even more than the the soft cover price and much too close to the hard cover price!
  • Publishers 7 authors are of course interested in their bottom line.  Keeping readers happy should improve that bottom line so it should always be a consideration for them, but not their sole purpose.  That would be naive to think.
  • I don’t see any reason for fiction books to be priced more than $5. But there are many other kinds of non-fiction that probably have to cost more than $10 because the market is too small to support accurate research otherwise.
  • One of the main incentives (other than portablility) for the Kindle is the money saving aspect on newly published books.  The $9.99 price tag is very appealing to me.
  • I am sympathetic to authors, however I can’t afford to pay any more for e-books. If the prices go up I will go back to using he library.
  • with the absence of traditional publication costs and the reaching of a large audience the ebook prices should be kept low. Many people still love the feel of a book in their hand and I don’t believe paper will be going away.  I will personally alter my kindle book buying if bestsellers and other titles are in the $13-15 dollar range vs $9.99
  • In the long run, if you cater to your market you will always come out on top.  To get what you want you need to help enough others get what they want.
  • As long as most publishers insist on “protecting” ebooks with DRM, and Amazon (and presumably Apple) aid and abet them, the squabbles between them on pricing are irreleant.  Both Baen and O’Reilly have demonstrated that offering ebooks without DRM can be done profitably, to highly technical audiences well capable of pirating them if desired.
  • If prices were higher I would not be able to purchase the books I do.  And receiving a free sample of the books makes a huge difference
  • The reason I bought the Kindle was because I could read more books since they weren’t so expensive.
  • I feel ebooks,  at least some, are WAY overpriced. I read a analysis by an author on how much she actually makes, compared to the selling price, and it was a surprise to me. On the low end! In some ways, we could argue that ebooks are subsidizing print books since the marginal cost of an ebook approaches a number close to zero. A print book —  it’s costs are set at the beginning, sold or not.
  • “I have purchased new Kindle books BECAUSE I get a better price on them than hard copies.  If the prices weren’t as good, I would have passed on getting the books and discovering new authors.  In this economy, any way to save money helps.   
  • What publishers don’t say is that once a digital book is read, it can’t be given away or resold like a book.  The Kindle audience is much smaller than hard copy audience, so digital sharing can’t have nearly the impact Napster had on music.”
  • I obviously haven’t kept up with this controversy.
  • I think $9.99 is a reasonable price for a bestselling e-book.  I would not pay anymore than that, regardless of the author.  Since I’ve gotten so many free or very low priced e-books, I don’t feel guilty spending $9.99 for some books.  I still would not pay more than that though.
  • “I don’t know enough about the publishing industry to have an opinion about most of these questions. I have read some of what is currently going on, but still do not know enough.
  • #2 is really a two part question. I don’t know if hardcover books are overpriced, but I definitely believe that the ebooks should be less.”
  • Don’t believe hardcovers are necessarily overpriced. Do think ebooks should be much cheaper.
  • 72 year old man on s. s. will be going to library if prices get to high
  • I don’t have an understanding of the intricacies of publishing, but it stands to reason that it costs far more in materials to publish a physical book than to provide a digital copy of that same book.  Therefore pricing a digital, intangible form of reading material at a similar level as a physical book makes the average, uneducated reader suspicious, and less likely to pay a higher price.
  • “Yes, the writer is, after all, writing for the reader. 
  • Don’t get too hubristic, Amazon, in this “”war”” with other publishers–this is a transitional phase in publishing that requires skillful diplomacy at times.”
  • bought the kindle to have $9.99 prices.  Love my kindle.  Wouldn’t trade it for world, but really need prices kept in line.
  • I feel that if you pay the money to buy a kindle and you don’t actually get the tangible product you should be able to purchase top sellers for less that $5
  • Most books written today are simply ‘bad books’ and I get back at the publisher and author by not buying them.  The same will be said if the price is jacked up…..
  • Publishers and authors will promote self-interest that requires consideration of reader’s interests, as well as their own adequate compensation–but not satisfying their excessive greed.
  • Since e-book prices can be easily changed, I suggest they start out high before the release of the hard copy, then drop to less than hard copy when that is released, drop again when paperback is released and in general keep flexible to drop the price as the demand goes down until they reach a floor for the long tail.
  • What the publishers don’t get is that a lot of us prefer to read most content on our Kindles. I also check books out of the library. Since I read over 100 books a year, I cannot afford to buy all of them. I don’t buy hard cover or soft cover fiction, so e-books and the library are my only choices. If the publishers price the e-books too high, I will be getting most new fiction from the library in contrast to getting at least half as e-books, which I do now.
  • Publishers must be able to make a profit to insure the capabilities needed for mass distribution and promotion. However, I see the ebook industry opening up many more opportunities for nitch markets which are not well served by big publishers.
  • I, for one, will not pay more than $9.99 for an e-book.
  • Authors and publishers are making millions as it is.  E-Books should also be able to be given to others, just like a paper book.
  • eBook should be much cheaper than traditional (hard & paperback) because of the electonic capabilities.  The publishers are price fixing and unreasonable.
  • It seems as though they may sell more at the ebook price compared to the book store price, so it should be an advantage.  The author should not take a cut, the publisher should… I buy books that I would never buy in hardcover because they are too expensive.  I love the opportunity to purchase them at 9.99.
  • Part of the reason for purchasing the Kindle was the reasonable price for just released books.  I am unhappy with the news regarding ipad release and discussions of Steve Jobs and prices being manipulated.  Wonder if Amazon will cave in on the prices or is just waiting things out. As a senior citizen and fulltime RVer rising costs and fixed earnings means book pricing is important to me.  I’d hate to go back to trading paperbacks while my Kindle collects dust.
  • Authors need to make a living. Publishers price the books, and I prefer to read them less expensively on Kindle.
  • Authors should get paid.  Publishers should expect less and authors need to be more involved in self-publishing.  Without need for big presses, publishing becomes less important.
  • Publishers have less to offer both the reader and the author than they once had. They should get less and the author more of the price.
  • Come on, publishing, writing, distributing are businesses…how many times have businesses put customers first?  It sounds good, though.
  • Realize that this is business, and as usual the consumer is the one that suffers. Personally, this makes me so angry, I would go back to reading paperbacks and sharing books with friends.
  • I think the publishers and Amazon need to figure out a strategy for making ebooks similar in price to paperbacks. I wouldn’t mind waiting a few months after the hardbound book is published to get the ebook.But I really feel ripped off paying a premium over paperbacks and get an ephemeral object that I can’t share with others.
  • Without readers willing to pay a fair price, the authors and publishers would fail.  They are trying to flex their muscles and extort exaggerated prices for ebooks and I personally think it will backfire and hurt them in the long run.  I will find myself looking for up and coming authors who offer their work at a reasonable rate.  There is minimum cost in publishing ebooks and that should be reflected in the price to the consumer.
  • I do not have enough time or money to buy every book, so an important part of my purchase decision will be when the e-book is released and at what price. The higher the price or longer delay from hardcover release, the less likely I will be to ever purchase that title.
  • All books, regardless of author and publisher, should be made available in ALL formats and that includes ebooks.  All anyone wants to do is read, and we need to teach that at a very young age.  Limiting the printed word to only one form is wrong.  Whatever happened to “Reading is Fundamental?”  If we believed that, then all written words should be available in all formats, not just DTB’s or electronically.  Authors & publishers are hurting themselves and doing all mankind a huge disservice.
  • Publishers have been griping against e-readers ruining their hard book sales when they should be thrilled people are increasing their reading with the Kindle.  They should view e-readers as a new way to sell their books, not penalize us for doing so.
  • At higher than $9.99 per ebook, I will buy less books.
  • Either way, for the books I want to read, I’m screwed with a Kindle, and probably with any other device. Sadly disappointed that most good 20th century books are not available.
  • I have talked to authors who say that they really take a hit with ebooks. I don’t mind paying more for newly published ebooks. I feel that high prices are offset by much lower prices for older books.
  • The $9.99 price seems like a reasonable price since I usually wait for books to be remaindered before purchase unless needed immediately.
  • Personally, I will not pay more than $9.99 for a book, so if they want to play games they should be prepared to have less sales.
  • authors and publishers both should get their fair share.  Put the price too high and I go to bit torrent
  • Once the cost of translating it to E-book format is covered, there is very little cost for a publisher on an ebook and no disadvantages (such as unsold returns or out of stock due to unanticipated sales). The cost of an ebook should be less than the cost of a hardcover (certainly) and a paperback (once it comes out in paperback).  There is no problem with charging a little more for a hardcover when it first comes out, but it certainly shouldn’t be the same cost as for the hardcover book itself.
  • Some ebook prices may need to be higher, especially if publishers move towards school texts.
  • Publishers should stand up for their authors and if ebooks are to highly priced there is always the library! Hardbacks are high, not necessarily overprice and yes ebooks should be cheaper they are ‘green’. Publishers and authors are trying to make profet or income – so is Amazon – the readers will ‘do’ what best meets their purpose.
  • I may be willing to pay more than $9.99 for an e-book, but it will be rare and the book better be available the moment the hard-cover is available and it better not have any formatting errors or editing errors (in excess of what the hard cover edition has)
  • I believe that ebooks should be cheaper than the printed copy.
  • will go back to library and drop buying books if prices go up.
  • Producing and distrubing books paperlessly should keep the price down and many more books availabe to read and at the same time paying the authors a better amount for their product.
  • I strongly dissagree with the first statement simply because big publishers are not in this for the authors, they are in it for the money.  I would imagine the authors get paid the same either way. Publishing companies loose out on the price of printing and storage, they are just trying to gouge the readers and make up for that with the idea of raising the price of e-books
  • The big publishers seem to be desperate to prop up what is fast becoming an obsolete product – hardback books.
  • Ebooks should be cheaper. Once an ebook is created there is no other cost involved.  You can make as many copys as you want for little to no cost.  A paper book on the other hand has a lot of costs associated with it.  Paper, printing, distribution, sales, etc.
  • I strongly belive in capitalism and the right of authors and publishers to make money. But, to have e-book prices anywhere near the price of a hardcover or even paperback is rediculous. I don’t mind paying for content but when I am not using paper, when I am not requiring a warehouse, and when I do not require UPS or FedEx then I expect to somewhat of a discount reflective of the lower cost.
  • I had a lot of respect for Amazon for standing up to MacMillan – I no longer do.  It is unlikely that I will be buying e-books at the proposed prices.  I will read what I have and will use my local library, I will not participate in assisting people to rip off consumers to fill the pockets of publishers who refuse to move to a new and innovative model or others who  insist on gauging the consumer.
  • A writer myself, I think authors are being excluded from the conversation almost exclusively.  Unless they are a blockbuster author, they are being ignored.
  • It is ridiculous to expect an eboook purchaser to pay more for a book that the publishers don’t have to spend as much money to produce.
  • I think that ebooks should be priced lower than hardbacks. If you look at 14 compared to a store’s price on a hardback, that is a significant savings. The issue is complicated because amazon lowers prices on hardbacks, so then people expect ebooks to be discounted from there. I don’t know the solution but I believe authors should recieve fair pay for their work.
  • If authors wish to pay publishers large fees for editing, promotion, production and distribution this is up to them, but they should also be (and generally are) free to sell their content / intellectual property directly to readers.
  • I have always bought paperbacks in the $12 $14 range I THINK $10 is an acceptable price considering only one person can read it and I do not get $2.50 back at the local when I have finnished with it and I cannot lend it to my freinds
  • eBooks should always cost less the lowest print price of a book, especially because of DRM. I can’t trade it or sell it like a DTB, and there’s less cost in creating it than there is for a DTB.
  • I believe that publishers & authors should charge what they believe the market will bear. This is a free market society. If they price their e-books too high they will not get purchased. I sometimes pay over 9.95 for an ebook if I really want to read the book when it first comes out but usually wait until they are less than 9.95
  • Given the state of the economy and limited resources for producing paper books, I would think that publishers might want to venture into the electronic age more. People don’t have the kind of disposable income to buy several hard back books anymore. By using an electronic medium which reduces the overall costs of producing such works, you could charge a reasonable fee and still have a readership following. If publishers don’t find a way to move with the times, I am afraid they will be overtaken.
  • All books are different, so I understand that not every e-book can  be $9.99. I have bought biographies, histories, non-fiction current event books and long-form fiction (1000 pages+) at higher prices. But just as I pay less for mass-market paperbacks, I expect to pay significantly less for text-only digital delivery and I will not buy any book that is overpriced, period. Which is why I have declined to buy a lot of recent trade paper priced over $12 no matter the author.
  • Ultimately keeping prices low will work to the benefit of the publishers.  I know that I will buy more books since I have a Kindle than I otherwise would.  If prices go up, it’s back to the library.
  • So what are the publishers saying, that because some people want a pretty cover, all people should pay the same price for different versions of the same item.  Have they shopped for cars lately?  I’ll bet they pay a different price for Folgers they brew at home vs. Starbucks the grab & go…
  • Free market should win out, customers will show with their dollars their views.  Price fixing should not be allowed.
  • Amazon made a nice move when they stood up to a publisher to keep prices down, but whether that was a good decision or not is beyond my ability to know.
  • I never seem to want to pay even the $9.99 price for the run of the mill fiction book the prices remain high for a lot of my favorite authors. I do buy the paper back books and trade them in for 1/2 price but can’t do that with e_Books.
  • I believe the market needs to dictate ebook prices.  If publishers/retailers raise ebook prices to 14.99, for ex., and readers don’t want to buy books at that price, then they won’t.  The prices need to adjust based on purchases.  If no one buys at 14.99 but many buy at 9.99, then price it at 9.99.
  • “Amazon is now charging $9.99 for the Kindle version of a 3 year old paperback book. I was about to buy this one when the dispute broke out at $6.50. I will not buy it now.
  • I will tend to not buy anything priced over $10 for Kindle.  Due to the much reduced cost of “publishing” and ebook, the cost should be markedly reduced!
  • an ebook should be a lot less than a hardback or paperback book because an ebook is intangible,and I can by various means lose my ebooks,by theft,by not replacing a worn out kindle, by just getting tired of reading ebooks and finding a physical copy more satisfying. I can always keep a physical copy and trade it,or have multiples
  • I am disappointed that Amazon did not stick to their guns but understand that they need to follow  business model and giving up may have been in their best interest.  It was their business, not mine, to make that decision.
  • Let’s let the market run its course and sort things out. Getting self-righteous doesn’t help anything. If MacMillan is overpricing its books, the market will let it know.
  • NA
  • The publishers claim that they make money on paper backs with printing costs, distribution costs,retail store costs, and return costs, yet lose money on ebooks is insultingly absurd on its face.
  • Those are tough questions – as an individual, I want the most for my money – However, an author should have the right to get as much as he or she can for their labors.  The real question should be – how much does an author get for selling an e-book and how much more does the author sell in quantity on an e-book as compared to a hard cover? Is e-book selling profitible?  Maybe Amazon needs to give more to the author and keep our prices lower-Is there a compromise?
  • I love my Kindle; if book ebook prices are too high, I shall find better economic means – the market will fix this issue; I shall vote with my feet.
  • I strongly believe that if ebook prices are kept at a reasonable price, more will be purchased, which will surely put more money in the pockets of  the publishers and authors!
  • How dare the publishers try to make e books more expensive?  Books are much more expensive to produce than e  books are.
  • Publishers need to remember those of us whom comsider the top 10 lists crap
  • All parties concerned need to consider the readers’ needs first
  • A book without a reader is a waste of someone’s time, energy, and resources. Every writer has an intended audience. That audience should be at the foremost of their decisions or there is no point in the book’s existence.
  • I am not sure what the issue is–shouldn’t ebooks be nearly 100% profit–no paper, ink, postage etc?
  • The day is coming when publishers will be cut out of the distribution loop with authors dealing with e-publishers directly, benefitting both the authors (hopefully better royalties and easier access to publication) and readers (lower prices for e-books and more selection).
  • As an author, I’m not exactly unbiased!
  • “Prior to Kindle purchase, I primarily purchased paperbacks or trades. I rarely purchased hardcovers due to price and physical size.
  • Since Kindle purchase, I doubt I will spend much on paperbacks due to the comfort level of using a Kindle/eBook Reader with a large font size.
  • Since I imagine hard costs of producing an eBook would be less than the cost of a hard cover or paperback, I can only attribute the desire for higher eBook prices as greed on the publisher’s part.”
  • In today’s electronic world, especialy in this troubled economy, books should be affordable and accessible in electronic format as well as print.
  • I actually would like to see the flexible price plan that MacMillan has suggested it wants to use in action. It might give the customer more control over pricing of ebooks in the long run.
  • I don’t care about who gets paid for what, I only care about the bottom line , how much is it going to cost ?
  • The free market will prevail in this issue…if books (e-books or paper) are over-priced, they simply will not sell.
  • As I understand it, MacMillan want more leeway to set their price. (like initially the book premiers at 14.99 and as demand goes down, they would reduce the price to keep the books moving). I have an issue that 15 is too high for an e-book. Maybe 9.99 is too low as well, but I don’t like the books that I want to read not being available or being more than I want to spend for something that doesn’t have any printing or storage costs.
  • Big publishers are only looking out for themselves and their dollars, not their authors.
  • This whole thing is quite complicated and I expect my answers are somewhat inconsistent because of that complexity. As a reader I would love low e-book prices but if I were a writer I might feel very differently about it.
  • I am perfectly happy with prices.  Love the books and have no complaints.  Best gift I ever got.
  • Ebooks represent hugh savings in manufacturing costs.  This should be passed on to the consumer.  Kindle books cannot be resold.  This also must be taken into consideration.
  • “Things are quite strange right now.  Example Stephen King’s latest $35 in stores and $7.20 at Kindle.  (Good book, big,  interesting read.)  $9.99 for lesser quality / lesser priced book by other well known writer.  Some A list authors are not available at all.
  • Things art in flux but ultimately the laws of supply and demand ought to start shaping the market.
  • Authors, like everyone else, need to be rewarded for their labor.”
  • Made the best choices I could from the selections, but some don’t really do a great job at reflecting how I feel.  I don’t feel Hardcovers are as overpriced but strongly feel ebooks should be much cheaper due to the fact that you do not own any physical property that can be passed around, sold, etc.  Also, I don’t think ebooks should never be more than $9.99, but I feel it is a good pricepoint for everyday novels.
  • If regular print books are worth $25….then electronic books are truly only worth NO MORE than $9.99.
  • Publishers should be careful or they may find themselves suffering as the record industry has suffered. Access to indie books/small publishers has been one of the things I have enjoyed most about my Kindle.
  • I will not pay more than $9.99 a book! The free books gets me to read other author which then I may buy a book from that author I would have never bought.
  • publishers and authors should realize that lower prices will mean more sales and more readers. More readers will mean more knowledge of the talents of the author and more popularity will mean more sales. Before Amazon and kindle, I got  a large portion of my reading material at the library and free books off the net. Now I spend more and get more. Love it–plus I don’t have to find space to store or place to donate to. Love the kindle. My budget limits my purchases so more expensive is no no.
  • I will not claim that having a wide range of electronic books available at $10 has not been attractive, but books will be priced at what the market will carry. If no one is buying them, the prices will come down. I don’t mind paying $12-$15 for an electronic title. What I do mind is when publishers demand the same profit formula for electronic books as they do for print. Electronic versions cut their margins significantly and their margin (not the author’s) should benefit the customer.
  • I am not paying over the 9.99 for books I read for fun.  I do pay more for technical books however they do not display the best on my K1.  If Kindle book prices creep up I’ll either go back to yard sale paperbacks or wait until the price goes down.  I purchased the kindle partly for convenience of having lots of books some technical some fun with me in my purse and also to buy best sellers at a more affordable price.  I currently buy many more books than before the Kindle.
  • With the prices so reasonable, I am able to buy 4x the amount of books!  So far, in 8 months I purchased aver 100 books for about $250.00.  And I haven’t even started to replace all my favorite paper books that are in my library. If prices go up, then I don’t think the Kindle was worth the investment.  Especially if they come out with new versions that you will need to upgrade every few years as the others become obsolete.
  • I feel that the publishers are wrong to pressure Amazon to accept the new agent structure, under the threat of withholding ebook releases for several months. I believe Steve Job’s comment proved that they are in collusion, and I hope there will be an investigation. (Although the publishers would probably pass on the legal reps cost to us through even higher ebook prices.
  • The economics of ebooks can only logically dictate a lower price than paper.  There is no warehouseing, shipping, handling, etc…  Why should I pay more for an item with far less actual cost than a paper book???
  • I think that we as readers show authors and publishers our interests and opinions by our dollars.  We support the ones that we enjoy by buying them.  I find it interesting that there is much less of a product in an ebook yet the publishers that are arguing with Amazon want the same price for something that is a lot more intangible.  Amazon is taking the hit for delivery of the books to the Kindle so what is the publisher expecting to be paid for, exactly?
  • I honestly haven’t been keeping up with all the flap, although I’ve heard that there IS a flap!  I don’t know enough about it to give an informed opinion, but I tried where I could.
  • power to the people
  • The big publisher are not serving their customers.  Most companies that do not serve their customers eventually go out of business.
  • I think as long as Amazon is giving the publishers their cut it doesn’t matter the price of the ebook.  I also believe that the lower the cost of the books the more people will buy.  We have to be more selective with the $9.99 titles but the under $5 we can buy more.
  • I simply do not understand why e-books have to be expensive.  They are saving a fortune.  They make an electronic file to sell over and over again. They do not have to make or ship anything. What am I missing here?
  • I don’t have to be consistent.
  • You can’t have it both ways: Amazon shouldn’t be colluding with the publishers for price-fixing any more than Apple should. I think it is probably going to be up to the readers to refuse to buy books at the higher prices. There are thousands of classics that can be read in e-book form for free. I have never been much inclined to buy full-price hardbacks, and I will not now start paying hardback-prices for e-books.
  • Regarding the last question, authors and readers should be equal.  Publishers, including Amazon, Apple, MacMillan should be as important as the typewriter.
  • There has got to be a happy medium.  I don’t have a solution and I don’t pretend too, but someone is getting rich and I assume it is neither the author nor Amazon.
  • I’m a huge library user and love my Kindle for convience while traveling.  I buy books from Amazon and also get the free books, but if prices go too high I will revert back to more library use.
  • Lumping publishers and authors together in the last question is a mistake; publishers and authors have completely opposite interests.
  • Don’t combine two questions that need different answers. I do not think that hardcovers are overpriced, at least not when followed later by paperbacks. I do think that many e-books should be much cheaper than hardcover prices, at some point after release.
  • I think authors need to make more money but I feel that when publishers do not have to pay for the manufacture of physical books they can and should keep them cheaper.
  • I’m going to do my best to buy ebooks only from indies and other reasonably priced sources from now on.  I can get the expensive bestsellers from the library for free.
  • Like any commodity, luxury items sell well when the economy is good and not so much when the economy is poor.  That aside, books should be available at whatever price the market will bear.  This is capitalism.  If the price is too high, that will reflect in sales.  Publishers will reduce prices accordingly.  Let the public decide the price by either buying or not.
  • “perhaps i am being over-simplistic but i think:
  • 1. figure the total cost to publish the hard cover book, including all printing and delivery costs.   2.deduct the cost of printing and delivery [including paper/ink/glue/etc].   3.give the percentage usually given to bookstores to the elecronic distributer.   4. give the rest to the publisher and author.
  • that way, everyone gets what they are used to getting; and the reader gets the savings.”
  • e-books need to cost less than physical books because they cannot be shared.  Inherent in the digital book concept is a cost-savings, and a less flexible product.
  • I paid more than $9.99 for one of my first Kindle boos when I first got it.  I never thought of $9.99 as a line in the sand, but rather as a goal.
  • pricing should be determined by market, not artificially held (by publishers). I truly can’t understand how publishers think it will work to charge $12-15 for an ebook, when the hardcover version will be discounted to $10. Let the market decide the price, regardless of cost.
  • the questions do not get to the real issues.  Some books do have greater value than others, but ebooks cannot be shared or resold, and there is less cost to distribute. they should be priced lower and Amazon should have the right to resell at whatever cost makes good sense to them.  They negotiated a price with publishers (50% of list) and then should have freedom to re-price.  If book is too much, I won’t buy it.
  • I don’t know any numbers but my guess is that publishers take to much of a cut. They are there only for distribution, how they distribute has to keep up with the times and technology. They should be operating on as small a margin as possible so the producer gets paid and the consumer gets the best deal available.
  • I think that authors should get paid more, and publishers should get paid less. They’re like pimps, seems to me. I think that ebooks are grotesquely overpriced.
  • I don’t recall hearing a price problem between Amazon and publishers until the ipad was announced.  It does sound like something went on between Apple and the publishers regarding raising the prices on e-books.
  • Ebooks save publishers the cost of ink, paper, binding, etc..  Even 9.99 is too high for all the publisher saves.  They are gouging like vultures.
  • It seems that publishers think that e-readers can’t figure out that there is almost 0 extra cost in offering e-book additions of their books. No paper cost, shipping etc.  So why do they think we should pay the same price that we could pay for the book at a discount bookstore.
  • The fact that I can’t loan an e-book (like a regular book) means to me that they should cost less.
  • If they raise the prices, I might as well buy hardbacks to have something to show for my money.
  • Jobs is thinking of his own selfish interests again.
  • When Amazon already discounts hard cover books to half the publisher’s price, then pricing Kindle version at $9.99 is not too low – it seems to me that if the publishers are going to complain, it should be that Amazon is discounting the hard cover books by too much.
  • i will not pay anyhing over 9.99 for an ebook. I can easily wait until the book is at Sam’s or Costco or go to the library or borrow it elsewhere.
  • Publishers weren’t standing up for authors. They were standing up for themselves.  If it is for the authors’ benefit, give them the money!  But if e-books continue to evolve, authors and readers will finally be able to tell publishers where to go.
  • The cost of ‘real’ books is too high. eBooks, especially as Amazon has implemented them, are a ‘lesser’ product (can’t give them away, can’t lend them, etc.) and should cost less.
  • I don’t know enough about the publishing business or the writing business to some of these matters.  Normally I do not buy hardbacks because, for the most part, I prefer reading and/or carrying paperbacks – especially when I travel.  When I do buy hardbacks I usually buy them when they are deeply discounted.  If I want to read one when it is first published, I will usually get it from the library.
  • Publishing is bloated andno longer a viable business model.  Authors should just make deals with Amazon directly and cut out the publishers.
  • I think that when a book goes into mass production paperback form the price of the ecopy should also go down.
  • “Oh of course almost everyone’s (e.g. Amazon, publisher and authors) goal is to make as much money as possible.
  • Paying current authors is one thing, but I dislike paying high prices for authors estates and famalies long after they have died.”
  • I only purchase kindle content that is 9.99 or less
  • I was so angry when I found out about this. I really don’t think that the Publisher even has the author in mind. I think they have their own bottom line in mind. Books are too expensive (and that includes paperbacks) so I don’t buy them unless I have a coupon or a discount. It only makes sense that an e-book should be a lot less because there is no physical item and it is very inexpensive to disseminate it. I think that this would be great news for publishers because we can afford to buy more.
  • The way Amazon ebooks work, you can’t share.  If you buy a hardcover book it can be shared with anyone, ebooks can’t unless you pass your ereader around.  This is a problem.  I live with my sister, we both have Kindles with our own accounts and can’t share a book other than sharing the actual Kindle.   We sometimes both buy the ebook when we would only buy the hardcover once.
  • hardcover and paperbacks are discounted at Walmart, Target, etc.
  • I will never, under any circumstance, pay more than 50% of the best physical book price for an ebook. For most new-release hardbacks, this is $9.99. For most paperbacks, this is $6. If the ebook is too expensive, it’s not hard to find it by other means.
  • Readers interests count (a lot) but profit must be made.  Also, we want to see items published and that won’t “sell” but should be brought to light.
  • Book publishing is big business and there is going to be a constant tug-of-war to set and re-set prices.  Ultimately, the consumers will decide who wins.  For a while.  Then it starts up again!
  • Let the free market work
  • The reader’s interests will ultimately be served by the free market. Author’s should be fairly paid for their work, and the price that reader’s are willing to pay will contribute the the determination of what is “fair”.
  • I find the agency model insulting. In a country that is the beacon of free enterprise, a cartel has been created. We have seen how OPEC fixes prices and cares nothing for countries and consumers, but only for its interests. This will happen in books with the need agency model. How dare a publisher mandate how a retailer will price? It used to be a recommended retail price! This is about the publishers protecting themselves, not authors or readers interests. It’s criminal.

Click here to see complete, detailed results of the survey, and keep your dial tuned to Kindle Nation Dailyhere on the web or here to have posts pushed directly to your Kindle — for ongoing breakdowns of the significance of the survey results.

Additional Survey Results, coming soon:

What If Big Six Market Share Leader Random House Breaks Ranks with the Apple Five?

By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted February 16, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,” said novelist Douglas Preston in a direct reference to Kindle owners in the New York Times last week, but Preston’s equally astonishing notion that we in Kindle Nation are governed by “the Wal-Mart mentality” misses the mark by plenty.

Much of the reporting about the ebook pricing controversy has strongly suggested that Steve Jobs and the Apple Five (thanks to The Kindle Chronicles podcaster Len Edgerly for this currently apt label for MacMillan, Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins) will have their way and impose 30% to 50% price increases on Kindle Store bestsellers and new releases by the end of March, so it should not be surprising if Kindle owners’ backs are up.

It’s true that a majority of respondents in the Winter 2010 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey is ready to take a stand against anticipated increases in Kindle Store ebook prices above the $9.99 figure that Amazon has associated with bestsellers and new releases since the Kindle’s launch over two years ago, but inside the numbers are some indications of flexibility:

  • 54% disagreed somewhat or strongly with the statement “I will probably pay $10 to $14.99 for new ebook titles if necessary,” but a significant number (37%) agreed with the statement and another 52% disagreed with the statement that “I will never pay more than $9.99 for an ebook.”
  • Given further choices, 75% agreed with the statement “I’ll pay over $9.99, but only rarely when I simply must have an ebook,” and 33% said they would pay more for professional or technical books.

With this range of views,  there may be significant numbers of Kindle owners who occasionally pay more than $9.99, and indeed there have been many Kindle books that have sold briskly with double-digit prices during the past two years. Kindle owners are by their very nature likely to be too  fair-minded and attuned to subtleties to participate in a totally unified boycott based on price or any other single, simple factor.

While it will be fascinating both to me and, perhaps, to the U.S. Department of Justice to study the array of ebook prices in the Kindle Store and in other venues like Apple’s yet-to-be-opened iBooks store on April Fool’s Day, it may be more telling to see where they settle out on May Day, Independence Day, or Thanksgiving Day. In the interim, competition may have its effects in more traditional ways than we have seen so far, and the behavior of Random House, the largest of the Big Six in U.S. operations, may ultimately say the most about how this drama shakes out. As reported here earlier, a key Random House senior executive indicated to a confab of booksellers a few days ago that her company could pursue an independent course on ebook pricing instead of trying to impose its own retail pricing wisdom on a company — Amazon — that knows more about price elasticity and its own customers than anyone else in the world.

Kindle owners now say in large numbers (73%) that they have become more price-conscious as a result of the recent price controversy, and an overwhelming 87% in our survey disagreed with the rather broad statement that “publishers know their costs, so I’m happy to pay the prices they set.” If Amazon’s temporary deletion of MacMillan titles was intended to send an implicit message about the extent to which key players should be viewed as benign or malignant, it worked: a remarkable 68% of our respondents agreed with the statement that “Jeff Bezos and Amazon have my back, and I know they price things to sell.”

Some may think this perspective is an indication that Kindle owners are bellying up to the Bezos Family Kool-Aid Stand in large numbers, but given the significant and growing role that ebook readers will continue to play in the retail book business, publishers who fail to pay close attention may be risking more than they can afford to risk.

One Kindle Nation citizen commented, on an earlier post here, that “some anti-publisher bias is understandable” in the survey results, give the “kindle specific audience” of Kindle Nation Daily, but the comment itself is commentary on the extent to which important things have changed. The book publishing industry is not Big Oil, Big Pharma, or the Wall Street Bonus Bankers. Not all that long ago it was widely seen by the American reading public as being composed of venerable houses and imprints that were well-deserving of the roles we granted them as gatekeepers and arbiters of taste and quality. The idea that large numbers of voracious readers hold something like an anti-publisher bias represents a stunning fall from grace.

If Random House breaks ranks with the Apple Five, it could do itself and its authors a tremendous amount of good, and a return to more traditional competitive behavior could soon follow. In  the long run, or that middle run before we are all dead, we as the increasingly savvy, quality-conscious, price-conscious citizens of Kindle Nation could find ourselves holding more of the cards than we thought we might be holding.

Click Here to View Likely Kindle Owner Buying Behavior at Strategic Price Points

Click here to see complete, detailed results of the survey, and keep your dial tuned to Kindle Nation Dailyhere on the web or here to have posts pushed directly to your Kindle — for ongoing breakdowns of the significance of the survey results.

Additional Survey Results, coming soon: