Amazon removes Macmillan titles from direct sale

macmillanLogo Found via John Scalzi’s Whatever blog: VentureBeat reports that Amazon has mysteriously removed all Macmillan titles (including Tor SF/fantasy titles) from direct sale via amazon.com (but not .ca or .co.uk). This affects both print and Kindle editions of Macmillan books.

Neither VentureBeat nor Scalzi has any idea why Amazon should have done this. It is tempting (from a conspiracy theorist point of view) to assume it has something to do with the iPad/iBooks announcement, but this seems unlikely—it will be months before the titles would even be available as iBooks, and it would make no sense to stop print sales as well as electronic in any event.

I would be inclined to guess it is simply some kind of glitch in Amazon’s system that will be resolved as soon as Amazon notices. Goodness knows Amazon has had plenty of them in the past.

Update: Scalzi posts a follow-up linking to this New York Times “Bits” blog post citing an unnamed industry source who claims that Amazon pulled Macmillan’s books over a pricing disagreement:

Macmillan, like other publishers, has asked Amazon to raise the price of electronic books from $9.99 to around $15. Amazon is expressing its strong disagreement by temporarily removing Macmillan books, said this person, who did not want to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the matter.

I had thought that as long as Amazon paid full wholesale price to the publisher, they ought to be able to sell (or give away) the books for whatever they felt like—after all, they would be the ones eating the losses. I suppose we shall see what we shall see.

6 Comments on Amazon removes Macmillan titles from direct sale

  1. You should check all the publishers, actually. A lot of ebooks are still there.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_von_Holtzbrinck_Publishing_Group

  2. Jobs didn’t mention this during his demonstration of the iPad, but not only does it have its very own ebook store, it hacks the ebook stores of your rivals.

  3. Interesting times. Glad to see Amazon is standing up to the publishers.

  4. Question: If the publishers were to get their way and charge $15 for an ebook, how much additional would the authors get paid from that extra $5? A couple of pennies?

    I can’t wait for the day when some big-name authors start banning together to give their publishers the middle finger and go out on their own and make the money off their books that they deserve to make.

    The platform is there; some of these authors just need to step up and take a stand against these publishers holding back their work.

    Once these publishers start losing some of their biggest authors, then maybe they’ll start changing their tune.

    We need gatekeepers for quality control, but the gatekeepers shouldn’t be making all the rules and taking all the money, and they definitely shouldn’t be turning people away just because they live in a different country or prefer ebooks to paper books.

  5. Richard Askenase // January 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm //

    Any writer still working with the publishers really must re-think that model. Especially for those with an audience, use the AMazon self publishing and get 70% royalty (and $9.99 price). Bye Bye MacMillan. (Note that about 20% of all MacMillan sales are thyrough Amazon according to a report I read.)

  6. Amazon seems to be over-reacting, particularly since they’re applying this policy to Macmillan’s printed books as well as Kindle books. It’s easy to suspect that Apple’s iPad and online ebook store has them spooked.

    It also makes little economic sense. Amazon’s warehouses probably have stacks of bestselling Macmillan books that they can’t sell. It’d be interesting to see if Amazon tries to return those books and Macmillan refuses, arguing quite reasonably that Amazon has never tried to sell them.

    Those who’re thinking Amazon is the good guy in this dispute, “standing up to publishers,” need to look at this issue a bit more carefully. Amazon has repeated demonstrated that they want to be the 800-pound gorilla of the book industry, dictating what others can or cannot do. And it wants to use that power for its own benefit not ours.

    You can see that in the new offer Amazon is making authors and publishers of Kindle books. There’s no generosity involved in cutting Amazon’s share to 30% (plus download fees). That’s what Apple is likely to be offering, so they have to match that. But notice what other conditions they also dictate, the most revealing being that printed copies of those same books must EXCEED a certain price.

    That’s right. Amazon is using it’s online muscle to force authors and publishers to set a book’s price higher than they might otherwise offer. That same agreement says that an author or publisher can’t sell ebooks anywhere else for less than Amazon’s price, even on their own website where they’re spared Amazon’s quite hefty 30+% cut. So much for Amazon helping create competition or forcing prices down.

    Finally, keep in mind what the end result is likely to be if Amazon succeeds in imposing its narrow, bean-counting mindset on the industry. Ample profits from well-established authors are why publishers can afford to take a chance on new and riskier authors. Unwin published Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings expecting to lose money on what it saw as a strange new sort of fiction. Only their 1950s profits elsewhere allowed them to do that.

    Remember, authors often don’t know how to promote their books as well as established publishers. We need publishers who can afford to do that, but with Amazon trying to drive everyone else’s profits down to the subsistence level, we are much, much less likely to get marvelous new authors and wonderful new sorts of fiction. With Amazon in charge, we’ll be stuck with books that are cheap in more ways than price.

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