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The duellists

15 March 2016

From The Bookseller:

Over the past few months I’ve been watching my expenditure on digital content – film/TV, games, audio and audiobooks – rise and rise. I am consuming more, enjoying more, and engaging more deeply across more platforms at more regular intervals than ever before. If the traditional narrative around digital content is that it reduces in value towards zero over time, then someone needs to tell the businesses behind this, and quickly.

Here’s how it works: I am being up-sold all of the time. I pay extra for HD, I pay to add credits to my Audible subscription; I pay a fee to Microsoft for Xbox Gold.

. . . .

If it feels like digital media companies are filching small but significant sums from my actual wallet at regular opportunities, then it is true, they are. And good luck to them. In the real world this happens every day too. According to Juniper Research, the value of the global digital content market will be $154bn by 2019, up 60% on 2014.

And what about books? Some time ago I began writing a piece how the e-book market was not a book market at all, it was a digital market, and those who had expected it to behave like a book market were wrong.

. . . .

It is easy to blame Amazon for this. It has long incentivised publishers and authors to sell within its mandated price limits, has priced out competitors such as Nook, stopped innovation, and failed to develop a healthy marketplace, as it has, for example, in its film and audiobook businesses – where its emphasis is on both quality and value. But big publishers are equally culpable: in twisting Amazon’s arm over agency the first time around, they boxed the retailer into a corner when they ought to have been focused on driving reader interest in value-added digital content.

With the Apple e-book case over, now is a good moment for Amazon and publishing to withdraw from what has been a tiresome duel. Neither side is winning.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller and thanks to John for the tip.

PG will note that Amazon’s share price and sales keep ascending at a rapid pace and it is consistently ranked as one of the most admired companies in the world.

Sounds like a winner to PG.

Amazon, Big Publishing, Non-US

14 Comments to “The duellists”

  1. “With the Apple e-book case over, now is a good moment for Amazon and publishing to withdraw from what has been a tiresome duel. Neither side is winning.”

    They ‘can’t’ …

    Agency ties Amazon’s hands on pricing and trad-pub is still trying to keep B&N from sinking — which gives the shaft to the writers that signed their rights away to trad-pub.

    With agency in play, trad-pub is the only one that can do anything, but they don’t/can’t/won’t admit that they were wrong, so they will give up on ebooks and hand all those profits over to the indies who wouldn’t/couldn’t get one of those ‘great’ trad-pub deals ..

  2. More and more of my money is going toward streaming (I don’t have cable TV). My ISP has recently started imposing a monthly cap on gigabytes (250) for the plan I had until a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve moved up to two different plans to get more gigs. Two days ago I signed up for a third level: the 1,000 gigabyte plan. I’m locked in for two years so I hope it’s enough for me to avoid the annoying popup windows the ISP starts sending when 75% of the gigs have been used. Literally, every few seconds the popups appear, interrupting surfing, all in an effort to sell subscribers more gigs.

    I wonder if/when Amazon will offer internet service.

    • Has google reached your neighborhood?
      They are (very) slowly expanding their broadband business.

      Amazon getting in is not impossible.

      • No Google yet, but several other companies are here (Dish, AT&T, Time Warner, maybe more) — but only Amazon could get me to change from my current ISP. I like everything about them except the cost of gigabytes and the popups.

  3. “With the Apple e-book case over, now is a good moment for Amazon and publishing to withdraw from what has been a tiresome duel. Neither side is winning.

    Really? Bwahahaha… 🙂

  4. You know, PG, you really need to label these kinds of stories with Trigger Warnings.

    I had to read this thing to make sure what you excerpted really reflected what he said, because he comes off like a blithering idiot.

    Where to start?

    Poor, poor Philip Jones, being forced to pay for his entertainment. For the rising prices that result in him–note his use of the passive voice here–“being upsold all the time.” As if “digital media companies are fliching small but significant sums from my actual wallet.” (Then he adds “it’s true” as if he never, ever, has any say over any of this.)

    So you’d think he’d be thrilled with the relatively cheap offerings at Kindle. But no! Clutching his pearls, he could buy books too cheaply, as a result of a “dated mindset that consumers won’t … pay more.”

    All this is Amazon’s fault, of course. He implies that they won’t set a floor for book prices, letting the thousands of publishers decide what they want to sell their books for. And if Amazon chose to discount the books, the companies (because it wasn’t their decision) still got their money as if prices hadn’t dropped.

    Oh, the humanity!

    I’m not sure how Amazon was supposed to drive readers to “value-added digital content,” and Jones doesn’t say. After all, Amazon is a retailer; they don’t have f***-all to do with publishers’ content. Nor am I sure how it developed a “healthy marketplace” in its film and audiobook business. Does he mean Amazon’s productions? If so, it doesn’t have anything to do with the audiobook business. They own Audible, but it seems they allow anyone to sell through it, much like it does through KDP.

    Nor am I sure how Amazon is losing the “tiresome duel” (my train of thought was derailed imaging Jones in Lily von Stupp’s costume, slumped over a chair, singing “I’m so tired.”). They’re in business; they’re making money; their stock is still up. If this is losing, where do I sign up?

    Apparently, editor Philip Jones has no idea how a free marketplace acts, is not aware of the effect on pricing in one market that adds 30,000 titles every week to a pool of 4 million+ ebooks, and the video game market where big companies spend millions on AAA titles, nor that despite several years of competition with industry publishers, they seem to be doing fine.

  5. “It is easy to blame Amazon for this. It has … failed to develop a healthy marketplace, as it has, for example, in its film and audiobook businesses – where its emphasis is on both quality and value.”

    Hogwash! This author is just plain wrong, and as such, is guilty of stealing from me a small but significant portion of my time.

  6. Amazon didn’t “price out” Nook.

    B&N managed to mismanage Nook all by themselves.

    (Mainly in a vain attempt to stall ebooks and save their paper profit center.)

    • Hush you! Next you’ll be spouting the heretical line that Borders mismanaged themselves into oblivion!

      And when called upon to recant, you’ll walk away muttering “But it’s still true…”

  7. Some time ago I began writing a piece how the e-book market was not a book market at all, it was a digital market, and those who had expected it to behave like a book market were wrong. This explained a lot – why the books that topped the Kindle charts were not the same books that sold well in high-street stores, and why prices were going south.

    Or it could be that there are different books available on the Kindle that are not available in high-street stores. Different competitors, different winners. And maybe, just maybe, prices on Kindle went south because with many fewer people in the chain with their hands out, those left could make more money per sale even with lower prices and generate more sales with lower prices.

    Jones is inching towards an epiphany in the first part of his article, then flees headlong from it in the second part, throwing away not only his observations from the first part but basic reasoning.

  8. Al the Great and Powerful

    Quoth Dorothy Grant,
    “Hush you! Next you’ll be spouting the heretical line that Borders mismanaged themselves into oblivion!”

    It IS true. EVERY bad tech decision they could do, they did. That many failures is conscious choice, not random failure.

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