I have found the debate over the DOJ stepping in with a suit against Apple and five of the largest publishers interesting, if not confusing after reading debates over the matter. As an author, a book reader, and a former publishing employee, I have mixed feelings about the lawsuit, but I also realize this is a dusting-out period for the publishing industry. It should definitely be a wake-up call. Here are a few of the issues I see that have brought us to this point:
Digital revolution versus tradition:
I get that Amazon is a big, giant machine that threatens the existence of traditional book marketing and publishing. But, this wasn’t a problem until digital books were here to stay, largely, I must say, because Amazon almost single-handedly created the eBook market. I actually wish the largest publishers had had more foresight and accepted that digital was the future. There was certainly a lesson to be had with the music industry, after all.
Amazon knows how to make the customer feel good:
Amazon knows how to make money, and it didn’t do it by repeatedly telling its customers why it has to charge high prices. Amazon makes money by giving customers a better price. In the case of the $9.99 eBook, Amazon found a price point that made customers feel they were getting a good deal compared with the alternatives. Despite the loss on each book, Amazon made money selling the much more expensive (than a book) Kindle. Obviously, it’s not about money, its about perceived value.
My thoughts? Given the expense of creating an electronic book, why does $9.99 even sound like a good deal? For big publishing to come along and tell customers they can’t make money selling eBooks for even $9.99, they faced an uphill battle. It’s a hard sell to convince consumers that an electronic book costs as much to produce as a hard cover book. Perception is everything, and publishers were unable to make a convincing argument.
Indie authors, the other elephant in the room:
While the DOJ, big publishers, and Amazon are still fighting over eBook pricing, indie authors are the next issue on the horizon for traditional publishing.
Back when I worked in the publishing industry, the idea of digital books had a sputter of a start with the eRocket ereader. I realized then that digital books would become the future of reading. The publishing industry, however, didn’t. Despite that first real trial, traditional publishers didn’t prepare for the future, didn’t develop a game plan, and amazingly, are still behind. Enter stage left, the indie author and self-publishing.
Traditional publishing used to decide who it signed as authors and how the product was edited, marketed, and sold. Now that publishers have been called out on collusion over the prices of eBooks and are still struggling to hang on to an old paradigm, I wonder if they recognize the threat from authors who are more interested than ever in self-publishing.
I think many authors realize they are the important commodity in the publishing world, which is the way it should be. Furthermore, authors today are savvy business people who embrace technology. They are obviously persistent, creative people—which as far as I know, is a dangerous combination. They are developing ever more publishing options. I am very interested to see how indie authors turn publishing on its head . . . again.
I welcome your thoughts on what is happening in the publishing industry.