At TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld has posted an editorial about the on-going “e-book wars” between Amazon and Apple, and why Amazon cannot afford to lose. Schonfeld mentions a number of the things covered here in the last few days: Amazon’s purchase of Touchco, Rupert Murdoch’s ominous remarks about Harper-Collins pricing, and so forth.

Schonfeld also points out that, despite what others may think, Amazon is not coming out the winner here. He quotes (but provides no link for) a note from Citi analyst Mark Mahaney:

This one is counter-intuitive. Typically, people think of pricing power as the ability to raise prices. With AMZN, it’s the ability to lower prices and to compete on Price, Selection & Convenience. If Amazon is forced to do away with $9.99 pricing on all best-sellers (which typically account for 5% of book retailers’ sales), it will be less able to compete effectively with other eBook retailers.

Just as I’ve said, Macmillan wants to take control away from Amazon and engage in resale price maintenance. Not only is this bad for the consumer, it also means demand for Amazon’s Kindle might suffer giving Apple’s iPad the advantage in a head-to-head e-book battle.

Eh, Whatever

Meanwhile, John Scalzi has posted an “interview” with himself on Whatever, in which he talks about the current state of Amazon/Macmillan affairs. In the post itself, he comes off as reasonably balanced for someone firmly in Macmillan’s camp—he is only “boycotting” Amazon until they put the titles back, unlike some others who are swearing to do no business with Amazon again.

It is a shame that he has to turn around and spoil this in his responses to the comments.

Perhaps he is simply getting tired of the debate, but there is a repeated pattern of petulant behavior on Scalzi’s part. People opposed to what Macmillan is doing have been raising points and asking Scalzi to address them—some of them rather rudely, true, but others at least trying to be civil—and Scalzi simply posts dismissive comments without replying to the substance of their remarks.

It is his blog, of course, and he is free to say whatever he likes in it, but it is frustrating to see people trying to engage in a dialogue and him just smarting off. I enjoy Scalzi’s writing, and do not plan to stop reading it—but why is it that the most gifted writers often have the worst personalities?


  1. Exactly, Chris. Scalzi’s posts and position haven’t been the problem — it’s the attitude expressed in the comments (by him and those of his fans cheering him on).

    While I do try and separate the author from the content, I do have to decide whether I want to support such as ass financially in the future when deciding where to spend my ebook dollars. I own and have enjoyed all of Scalzi’s books, but I can’t say I’m enthused about buying more at this point.

    It was easier before author blogs 🙂

  2. I don’t see how people can possibly think that Apple has any kind of edge over Amazon as far as ebooks go.

    First off, Apple has sold a grand total of 0 ebooks at this point in time. How many has Amazon sold? And many customers do they have purchasing ebooks at present?

    Secondly, the majority of Amazon’s ebooks are available in over 175 countries. Apple’s will only be available in the US (for a while anyway).

    And there’s no way in Seven Hells that Apple is going to have anywhere near 400,000+ titles available in the iBookstore anytime soon; even most of the big ebook retailers that have been around for years don’t have anything close to that.

    So what if prices are raised? They’ll be raised across all retailers, not just Amazon. So at worst they’ll have the same prices as everyone else.

    The only way Apple could have pulled off a win over Amazon would have been to support Adobe EPUB. If Apple would have done that, and in time took a sizeable chunk of the ebook market, then it would have put a lot more pressure on Amazon to drop their proprietary DRM to compete.

    But by creating their own new DRM, Apple has just made everything worse for ebooks, fragmenting them even further and stifling progress to openness and to one standard format.

  3. Nathan seems to be assuming that the only ebook reader and store on the iPad will be the Apple iBook store/reader. But there are already several readers and stores available to to iPhone and iPod touch users (including the Kindle app). And many, many standalone ebooks have already been sold on that platform using the regular app store.

    Now, perhaps Apple will lock them all out of the iPad, but we don’t know that yet. They haven’t said what they’re going to do, but if they really want to beat the Kindle that’s the obvious way to do it – allow competitors reader apps and bookstores on the iPad (and put the iBook store/reader on the iPhone and iPod touch as well). They’ll come out of it looking much better than Amazon, unafraid of competition and the free market, it’ll also help them overcome Amazon’s quantity and geographical advantages in ebooks. It’ll be interesting to see which way Apple jumps on this.

  4. If Apple is smart, they’ll open the iPad to every e-book reading app out there, including the Kindle Reader.

    Apple isn’t a media company, they’re a hardware company. Their media stores are run mainly to make it more attractive to buy their hardware. They may make them a measly few million here and there, but they’re run practically at the break-even point compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars they make from their hardware. I wouldn’t expect iBooks to be any different.

    If Jobs isn’t insane, he’ll look at all those other e-book stores and say, “Hey, great, more reasons for people to buy the iPad that I don’t have to pay the overhead costs for” and throw his arms open wide for a great big hug.

    Given that publishing is so low-margin that the publishers fear that Amazon’s $9.99 pricing will do them in, there’s no way Jobs is seriously considering trying to protect iBooks. Of course, it’s possible publishers might tell him to, but OTOH he’s never exactly been at the beck and all of the music companies. No reason to think he’d let the publishers rule him either.

  5. David, I’m not assuming that at all. It just adds to the point.

    Why would any educated purchaser of ebooks choose to buy from Apple’s iBookstore if it is locked in to the iPad/Phone.

    Most people would continue to buy from places like Kobo and Amazon and use the apps on the iPad.

    Prices go up. Amazon gets more of the cut per purchase, and now all the people with iPads are part of the ebook buying market too.

    Doesn’t sound like a good way for Apple to win the ebook war.

    The one and only way they can win is if their iBookstore is so mind-blowingly awesome, with all the features anyone could ever want from an ebook reader, that people won’t mind not being able to transfer these purchased ebooks to any other ereading device that they may happen to own now or in the future.

    Seems like a steep mountain to climb, slippery too.

    Either way, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

  6. Not sure what Blue’s smoking. Macmillian started in the UK and has a huge presence there, and other countries too.

    From Macmillan’s website, “With 350 companies operating in over 80 countries, the Macmillan Publishing Group is one of the largest and best known international publishing groups in the world.”

  7. Ok, don’t know Bob.

    Go find me a nice long list of ebooks sold by Macmillan in Australia. Which is what Nathan was talking about.

    Then maybe try Sweden.

    How about Bulgaria?


    South Africa.



    Talking about Macmillan USA here. If you tell me that Macmillan UK sell books in England, well duh. Do they sell in Ireland, though?

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