Libby is stuck between libraries and publishers in the e-book war

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From Protocol:

On the surface, there couldn’t be a more wholesome story than the meteoric rise of the Libby app. A user-friendly reading app becomes popular during the pandemic, making books cool again for young readers, multiplying e-book circulation and saving public libraries from sudden obsolescence.

But the Libby story is also a parable for how the best-intentioned people can build a beloved technological tool and accidentally create a financial crisis for those who need the tech most. Public librarians depend on Libby, but they also worry that its newfound popularity could seriously strain their budgets.

Before 2017, e-books were still pretty niche, and checking out library e-books was torture. In 2016, just over a quarter of Americans had read an e-book within the previous year, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Not many people even knew their libraries offered digital books. Overdrive — the digital marketplace for publishers and libraries, and the creator of Libby — was (and still is) clunky, slow and unintuitive. Overdrive hit just under 200 million checkouts in 2016; in 2020, that number more than doubled, surpassing 430 million.

Few noticed when the cute, friendly virtual library app launched in 2017. Libraries are never very good at selling themselves, and neither is Overdrive. But the app’s seamless, user-friendly experience was so exceptional that it spoke for itself. Libby became a cult favorite for book lovers and dedicated librarygoers, and almost every public library in the country, already dependent on Overdrive for their growing digital collections, loved that they could make reading online a little bit easier. It was the public library’s best-kept secret.

And then in March 2020, when libraries closed their doors and books sat gathering dust, the Libby app became so much more than a cute reading tool. People turned to digital books and were delighted to discover they were so much simpler than remembered. You could access the web app anywhere on any computer, and everything synced to a phone app as well. You could download library books to Kindle. You never needed a password. You could use more than one library card. Libby downloads increased three times their usual amount beginning in late March. E-book checkout growth and new users on Overdrive both increased more than 50%.

Libby had helped to save libraries.

It had also accelerated a funding crisis. Public library budgets have never been luxe, and book acquisition budgets in particular have always been tight. Though it may seem counterintuitive to readers, e-books cost far more than physical books for libraries, meaning that increased demand for digital editions put libraries in a financial bind.

Because e-books are not regulated under the same laws that govern physical books, publishers can price them however they choose. Rather than emulate the physical model, where libraries pay a fixed cost for a certain number of books, they instead offer digital editions through a license that usually includes a limit on the number of times a book can be checked out, the length of time a library holds an edition, or both. Just like with movies, music and software, book publishers have moved from an ownership model to a subscription model for their digital products (none of the major publishing houses responded to multiple requests for comment for this story). Librarians sometimes pay hundreds of dollars to circulate one copy of an e-book for a two-year period, a number that could theoretically add up to thousands for one book over decades, according to a 2019 American Library Association report to Congress.

The librarians I spoke with celebrate Libby. They love that more people are reading digital books. But they can’t help but quietly curse the technological problem that brought them here.

“It is definitely problematic,” said Michelle Jeske, the city librarian for the Denver Public Library and president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association. “You’re buying it in print, you’re buying it in e-book, and in audio e-book, CD, and in Spanish. With either a steady or decreasing collection development budget, it’s a serious problem.”

Despite Overdrive’s dominance, the company has escaped criticism for the funding crisis. Overdrive makes good money on the digital book-lending business; it’s the largest marketplace for publishers to sell to public libraries in the U.S., is expanding rapidly in other major publishing powerhouse countries like Germany and China, and offers a popular school reading app called Sora. More than 23,000 new schools and libraries joined Overdrive in 2020 alone.

“It’s important for us to have the same values and standards that the libraries do, protecting privacy and confidentiality, making information accessible in as broad a ways as possible,” said David Burleigh, the communications director for Overdrive. Overdrive also became a Certified B Corporation the same year it launched the Libby app, and it now leverages that status to avoid getting mucked up in the financial fight.

The ALA lobbying arm has been pushing Congress to consider regulating digital media to address this problem, and it’s no secret to anyone who reads Publishers Weekly that tensions between librarians and publishers have spilled over into public animosity. “Publishing is a tough tough world, and it sometimes has felt like librarians and publishers have been pitted against each other. They need to make money, and we need to be able to serve our public. There has got to be some place in the middle,” Jeske said.

Publishers justify the increased cost of e-books because they say the new technology has reduced friction too much, hurting their sales. They have argued that Libby and libraries have made it too easy for people to read books without buying them. Macmillan, one of the big five publishers, placed an eight-week embargo on library sales of new e-book releases in late 2019 for just that reason, though it reversed its position in March 2020 because of the pandemic. “In today’s digital world there is no such friction in the market. As the development of apps and extensions continues, and as libraries extend their reach statewide as well as nationally, it is becoming ever easier to borrow rather than buy,” wrote John Sargent, Macmillan’s then-CEO, in an open letter to librarians justifying the embargo.

And though librarians like Jeske and Eileen Ybarra, the e-book coordinator for the largest digital collection in the country at the LA Public Library, vehemently disagree — they believe it’s still too hard for people to access digital books — they say that in one respect, the publishers are absolutely correct: Overdrive wants to make the e-reading experience as frictionless as possible.

“That’s the idea. It’s to make it as easy as possible for people to read as much as they like,” Burleigh said. “Ease,” “accessibility” and “efficiency” are his keywords: He repeats them over and over again in every conversation about his company’s app.

Overdrive doesn’t believe that frictionless library lending hurts publishers. In fact, Burleigh said, it actually can help.

While Burleigh wouldn’t directly answer questions about Overdrive’s role in reducing the friction — it would be awkward for business if he did, given that Overdrive mostly makes money through a cut of what publishers sell on its platform — he pointed to research that shows that increased library lending actually helps book sales. (Overdrive funds Panorama, the independent group that conducted the research.)

“Libraries are part of the ecosystem. They’re not competing necessarily with booksellers,” Burleigh said, adding that the research shows that when people read more, it creates a channel of discovery for lesser-known books.

. . . .

Burleigh said that Overdrive advocates for a wide range of funding models and the best deals for libraries, but he also hesitated to describe an “ideal” solution for e-book pricing that would satisfy everyone. “It’s a good question. I don’t know that I have the answer. Publishers have different strategies. Libraries have different strategies.”

Link to the rest at Protocol and thanks to DM for the tip.

The OP constitutes PG’s Exhibit 723,467 in support of his proposition that major publishers are run by idiots.

  1. You hate Amazon because it’s too successful at selling books because it knows how to price books optimally to generate the largest number of sales to optimize profits from those sales.
  2. Once again, demonstrating the stupidity of groupthink you put all your ebook lending eggs into one basket and give the entire business to Overdrive, mainly because it’s not Amazon.
  3. PG doesn’t know if Overdrive is run by smart people or not, but it recognizes a great opportunity for a quasi-monopoly-scale profit that a mind-blown ex-hippie drug dealer could see. To whit (or, to wit (PG is old-style on this topic)), that it can deliver organized groups of electrons that it receives from publishers to libraries almost for free.
  4. There is no technological reason that each major publisher could not put together its own version of Overdrive’s system and deal with libraries directly. (Yes, the publishers would have to hire some outside technology experts to build the system, but graduates from the computer science departments of any number of major and minor universities could handle the job providing that they graduated in the top half of their class. (LexisNexis has been doing the same thing for thousands of years. (PG knows this because he worked there when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (and it was not rocket science then))))

PG is in an uncharacteristically-charitable mood (probably an unannounced side effect of the covid vaccine), so he will lay out a plan for Big Publishing to extricate itself from this self-made car-crash.

  • Fly to Seattle (you can share a chartered jet to save money because you love private meetings with no one listening in)
  • Enter Bezos Mansion dressed in sackcloth on bended knees
  • Beg the Jeffster to please, please, please forgive you of your follies and save you from your stupidity
  • Explain that you know the smart folks at Amazon can put together their own version of Overdrive over a long weekend (you might offer to reimburse any overtime expenses Amazon accrues and provide food and Jolt Cola for all concerned)
  • Change back into New York business attire on the plane flying back. Imbibe freely because you aren’t going to be fired after all. Glance out the window to view terra incognita.
  • A week later, send a joint letter (more Big Publishing “cooperation”) to all libraries in America announcing that they have an alternative to Overdrive that will cost them less and is coming to them from (through gritted teeth) Amazon.

PG feels much better now. For a moment, it was almost like he wasn’t sheltering in place.

PG is familiar with Libby because his local library uses it for ebook lending. Libby works, sort of, and reminds him of the 80’s.

Amazon’s discovery, lending and check-out systems for books are light-years better than Libby (Libby even uses Amazon to deliver ebooks to PG’s Kindle Fire). Amazon may already have the bones of an ebook lending reporting system for publishers in the KDP reporting system.

Making a deal with Amazon could solve Big Publishing’s Overdrive problem and make them more money with one flight to Seattle.

In PG’s limited view, only one potential cloud my be on Big Publishing’s ebook lending horizon – the possibility that each of the major publishers signed an exclusive contract with Overdrive.

There’s only so much PG can do for really stupid people.

One of his rules for practicing law is “Don’t do business with fools.”

One of PG’s observations on the practice of law is “Fools can be so ingenious.”

But, if everything always worked out as expected, life would get boring pretty quickly.

PG is feeling rather wise, which is a sure sign he’s acting stupidly.

23 thoughts on “Libby is stuck between libraries and publishers in the e-book war”

  1. Following along to what Frank wrote above, an indie author who publishes with Ingram/Spark and/or Draft2Digital can also choose what price libraries/Overdrive are charged. Since I, as a user, adore Overdrive and am phenomenally grateful that it exists, I choose to charge bare minimum to Overdrive for anything I publish.

    PG has been writing primarily of books, but audiobooks comprise a huge part of Overdrive’s holdings. Interestingly, Audible (now owned by Amazon, of course) had a borrowing program in place for a while for romance and I believe mystery, but they’ve chosen to disband them.

  2. Where is the money going?

    Is it Overdrive that is charging the high fees and keeping most?

    Is Overdrive changing the high fees because of publishers?

    What happens to the money publishers get? Do they pass it along to Authors?


    (why is everyone laughing so hard? It’s a valid question!)

      • Overdrive has competitors, the publishers don’t (in the Libraries eyes).
        Like Amazon they have a dominant position as long as they don’t go overboard. And like Amazon they take grief for pricing policies they don’t control. And for not working for free.

      • As an indie author, Smashword and Kobo allows you to distribute your books to Overdrive.

        Overdrive gets 50% of the price you set for library distribution. Smashword and Kobo allows you to set a different price for retail distribution and library distribution.

        As far as I’m aware, authors don’t have a say in how many times a ebook is checked out or the length of time it is checked out.

        • The latter is how pbooks are (over)priced.
          Tradpub ebooks are handled differently; not only are they overpriced vs retail, they are metered, expire, and unused paid-for lends don’t rollover or transfer. They have all the worst features of pbook licenses (high prices) and the worst of pay per lend digital (block pricing + short expirations).

          But they grin and bear it so sympathy should be limited.
          They have the power to change things but refuse to use it.

  3. I doubt that PG acts stupidly, despite pleas that his wife take up blogging and tell us the stories, but I think we are underestimating three tensions that the story talks about obliquely but does not address.

    First, there is the library’s supposed tension with ebooks. The OP adopts their storyline/narrative without question, as if they were a victim of abuse whose story should be immediately believed and supported. And if they were a hapless victim, perhaps they should be believed. Pause that for a moment though.

    Second, there is the seller’s intent, and the assumption that they’ve been somehow monumentally stupid vis-a-vis friction and whether real success would lead to an increased pie for all or a decreased pie for them. Or that they’re mercilessly pillaging libraries.

    Combine those together and the question begs for someone to more accurately portray the reality of book pricing called channel management. The seller (publisher per se) doesn’t care which channel you use to consume its product. It just wants a marginal return on all channels to be fairly distributed/calcuable so it can adjust prices accordingly. In the early days of ebooks, everyone said books should be $30 for hardcover, for example, but ebooks could be almost free. Because, after all, they were just 1s and 0s. Except that isn’t the way any business works selling the same product. The maximum profit point is where the ROI on all channels essentially balance out. You sell all the units you can by hardcover (HC), paperback (PB), massmarket (MM), audio (A) and ebook (EB) so that one more unit of HC or PB or MM or A or EB would lower that unit’s marginal ROI below the next value somewhere else. Sucking out every last possible dime at the best marginal revenue/ROI you can. Except if you put all your costs on HC, and don’t distribute your costs of marketing, editing, development, promotion, etc. to ALL channels, then you get inaccurate marginal revenue rates. And the powers that be can’t balance their channels over time. If, by some chance, one format (say A) was greater return than everything else, everyone would gravitate there. It would be a marketing, managing, producing no brainer. But that sweet spot doesn’t exist. Some luddites would love to swear it is in paper, some e-philes want to say it is all ebooks baby, but the numbers inside don’t lie. They still sell all five channels and reap profits from each. Some producers may be better than others at hitting that sweet spot.

    But going back to that pause on the first one, libraries are TERRIBLE at their sweet spot just as publishers are TERRIBLE at new channels. Neither one has any idea what the sweet spot for ROI on a library book to multiple people should be. As I said, at the top, the OP repeats the library’s claim unchallenged, but what’s missing is the reason for the pricing. If a library buys a physical book of John Grisham’s latest in HB, they immediately attach a security strip, put some effort into laminating covers, seal it on to the book, and release it into the wild to be abused by every Tom Dick and Harriet who wants to bend spines, turn pages, spill orange marmalade onto pages for mice to later find and nibble. Books in a library have, small pun intended, a shelf life. At the end of which, the library either discards and that’s it (maybe selling it off through a small used bookstore run by the library) OR they discard it AND order another copy i.e., generating another sale.

    The libraries do the same thing bookstores do…they try to estimate demand of the latest book by author X immediately (surge) and over time (stock). They rely on advisors, salespeople, PW ads, etc. Most of these librarians have Masters in Library Science degrees, not MBAs or forecasting experience. They know their customers, they guess, and they buy 3 books, 4 audio, blah blah blah. But they cry foul when they license an ebook and say it should be perpetually usable (no other channel is, they all wear out) and that it should be really cheap (ignoring the original costing model). For publishers, they know they are at a crossroads. If they give you John Grisham for $20, and you have it for life, they will never get another purchase from your library. They also know that some libraries in smaller jurisdictions might even, gasp, bypass the copyright and hand out multiple copies of the same file simultaneously. It happens, and Libby/Overdrive seems to try not to publicize the miscreants likely as it looks uncivil.

    Sooooo, all of that is to say I don’t think the loan model is well-understood yet by Libraries in allocating budgets nor by publishers in setting pricing. MacMillan got screamed out for a delayed licensing model, but their approach was economically sound…make sure the ROI on HB doesn’t descend too fast for competing channels. If it does, nobody does HB anymore. It’s just not profitable. Which means all the revenue from that stream would be gone and all the costs earmarked to that chain would have to be allocated to the remaining chain. Thus driving their costs up per unit.

    However, Amazon itself has not actively pursued the library model. They have ample ways to do so, with Kindle Unlimited being the biggest perhaps or even Prime. And yet they aren’t giving people unlimited out the wazoo for low value. Amazon is not one to miss an opportunity to eke out an extra dime anywhere it can, and if they had a way to make books cheap for readers and help libraries while maintaining their profit margins, they’d do it in a heartbeat. $$ and goodwill? Easy peasy lemon squeasy.

    But they haven’t. Why? Because they know the research on free books generating more sales is highly contextual and potentially misleading. It holds, mostly, for piracy (partly because a lot of piracy is not actual lost revenue in the first place plus hoarders who don’t watch at all). Yet what really saves their bottom line is friction elsewhere. People buy from Amazon because Amazon made it easy. It is easier to buy a book from Amazon than anywhere else. What happens if they make “borrowing from your library” easy? They might hurt their own bottom line, sure, but they might also kill libraries. Why would you need a local library if Amazon could offer you a virtual kiosk from home? Turn every municipality into a “vendor” on marketplace? As for their bottomline, if you want John Grisham, and you go to Amazon, and you have the choice of free (because you already paid in taxes) or paying $10, which would you do?

    Hmm, I wonder. Let’s call up Blockbuster and ask them how they feel about unlimited subscription models with zero friction like Netflix.

    I’m not saying Amazon CAN’T do it, I’m saying they WON’T do it until Libby is near frictionless and potentially cutting into Amazon’s profits, and then they’ll spend a weekend developing their Kindle Library as PG said to eradicate Libby in a heartbeat.

    But that’s just me…

    PolyWogg, who spends too much time thinking about how libraries measure results badly and allocate budgets based on those bad results

    • You forgot, Libraries are too wedded to tradpub and the establishment rags to exercise their power to negotiate proper pricing. It’s easier to whine than to act.

      At a minimum they should be organizing their own app to distribute PD titles. Maybe solicit free or discounted titles from publishers and authors more interested in visibility than in squeezing blook from a stone.

      (There’s this thing called Open Source consortia, and places like GITHUB, and literally thousands of professional programmers willing to contibute their time and expertise, for *free* to a cause they believe in. And a lot of them are readers.)

      With a bit more courage, they could actually *negotiate* prices instead of meekly taking what tbe BPHs deign to grant them.

      It takes two to tango and if they feel victimized they could, you know, *do* something about it instead of crying for somebody to come save them.

      Serf think.

      • This. Why can’t libraries band together and fund their own app (an app that could serve books from multiple sources, including public domain)? (But my guess is that whatever the libraries come up with would be worth than Overdrive).

    • Very detailed analysis, Paul, probably more thorough than many publishers are capable of producing.

      Each of the parties is concerned with its own self-interests. No debate there.

      Amazon wants to make money (and increase its stock price further).

      Big Publishing needs to make money, otherwise its owners will fire current management and replace them with people the owners think will do a better job of making money.

      Librarians want to keep their jobs and the government organizations that support most libraries in the United States want to please voters. Elected politicians who ultimately control funding government entities in the United States know that some voters like public libraries with some subset liking them quite a lot and even more voters like the idea of public libraries and are pleased with the thought that their money is supporting public libraries and nice librarians for any who would like to partake of these institutions without charge. At least in the US, a lot of people have childhood memories of how wonderful visits to the library were and would like the next generation to have that same opportunity to enjoy them
      even if they don’t personally visit the library themselves very often, if at all.

      There are some practical bases for the continuation of public libraries and some Norman Rockwellesque feelies happening there as well.

      IMHO, some business organizations are better at capitalism than others are. Some are much, much better at capitalism than others are.

      Historically and currently, Amazon has been very good at capitalism. There are no guarantees for the future, but there never are.

      Historically, Big Publishing was pretty good at capitalism for awhile, but once the original founder/entrepreneurs died out and the next generation that learned some wisdom from them got long in the tooth, things began to go downhill and consolidation set in with a vengeance, generally dumbing down the entire industry. Add in acquisition of many giant American publishers by European (and one Canadian) publishing conglomerates that have thrived on quasi-monopoly market positions for a long time and Big Publishing ends up being managed by what are, in effect, middle managers and has turned into not terribly attractive places for most smart people to work. People like Frank Nelson Doubleday and Bennett Cerf would never go to work in New York publishing today.

      I was once schooled by a friend and fellow worker about pricing, a fundamental component of all capitalist enterprises. The friend was an all-but-his-thesis PhD candidate in economics at the University of Chicago. Since Milton Friedman was his thesis advisor, I don’t know if he ever got his thesis finished or not, but he was a very bright guy and, like Friedman, able to explain economics to people who were very much non-economists.

      One day, I made the comment that business organizations wanted to maximize profits. My friend corrected me by explaining that intelligent business organizations wanted to optimize profits.

      If the owners/managers of a business organization focused on maximizing profits, they were likely to take a short-term view of profits. “How fast can we increase profits to the highest level possible?” This approach might increase profits quite a lot for awhile, in significant part by raising prices higher and higher. However, this approach would quite likely leave room for a competitor to enter the market by offering lower-priced goods thereby eroding the foundation of the maximize-profits organization and eventually leading to its decline or destruction. It’s hard for an owner/manager to significantly reduce profits to meet competition after a period of time when high profits were enjoyed and the company was built upon a foundation of high profits.

      OTOH, a business organization that was focused on optimizing profits would take a much longer view of its business. It would keep prices at a level that would encourage more and more sales at a lower profit with the objective of building a larger and larger customer base in the process. Both profits and sales would move up hand-in-hand with the organization keeping costs under control by moving forward with a structure that was focused on delivering the most value to customers at prices that a larger and larger group of customers would find appealing. In the longer term, the business that was focused on optimizing profits in this manner would be more likely to generate a larger total of cumulative profits because it would be less inclined to pursue a quick bucks approach to doing business. It would also be built on a more stable foundation and, thus, more likely to last longer, continuing to generate profits, as well.

      I’ve undoubtedly done a very poor job of recalling my friend’s far more articulate and informed explanation, but think I’ve remembered the gist of it. I’m happy to be corrected by those who know more than I do about the subject.

      The way that Amazon has operated under Bezos and the continuing leadership of people who learned the business from Bezos is to keep Amazon price-competitive at all times while working hard to get smarter and smarter at becoming more efficient in delivering value to its customers, providing good value for a wider and wider range of goods and services for a broader and broader market, leveraging third-party partners to increase the size of the business and the value it offers to customers (as one example, indie authors + high ebook royalty rates + strongly-encouraged low ebook prices + access to the largest group of readers anywhere).

      I see no real focus on providing value (rather than just a product it knows how to produce and charges a higher and higher price for) in traditional publishing. Additionally, Amazon is primarily focused on individual customers whereas the purchasers of books from traditional publishers are principally organizations like bookstores who are acquiring merchandise they want to sell to customers. There’s no real connection between big publishers and readers, only sales people from the publisher who know the romance buyer at Barnes & Noble. Amazon sells direct, publishing, by and large, does not. Readers Clubs, etc., through which some publishers move a small number of books to readers directly, are Stone-Age retailing and marketing compared to Amazon.

      Traditional publishers are all about what worked in the past – selling physical books through physical bookstores.

      I remember going into physical music stores to look at LP records and, later, CD’s. It could be a very intimate and immersive physical experience. You could pick up a record encased in a cover with a cool picture on it and lots of information about the artist and songs on the back. In most music stores, music was playing constantly. If you heard something you liked, you could ask the owner or a clerk what the name of the song was and who the performing artist was. In some shops, if you were interested in a particular record, you might be able to ask the owner or clerk to play some of the tracks on the record for you so you could hear the music over something more sophisticated than the AM radio in your car.

      How well has that model lasted in the face of downloadable digital music? Physical records are the province of record collectors, not for the large majority of people who like to listen to music.

      I submit that there’s no special magic to physical books, either. Its about the words and the music, not the physical medium where they may reside.

  4. Well, with all due respect, Bezos *might* be at his house in DC. And, I’m fairly certain he has a house in LA or something. Probably one (big one) in Texas.

    So, the big publishers might need to call around first. Though, lord knows, they’d like any excuse to fly (longer) around the country in a private jet. 😉

  5. Under the PG system, does Amazon derive more or less revenue if it implements an AmazonDrive. Do publishers derive more or less revenue? How do we decide?

    • Libraries profit from one less middleman.
      Amazon’s profit is driving a stake through the heart of ePub.

      You decide if that’s good or bad.

      • I don’t care if it is good or bad. I simply ask about the expected effect on revenue. Will PG’s recommendation increase or decrease Amazon revenue? Will it increase or decrease publishers’ revenue?

        For those interested in the good or bad question, answers to the above may help them decide.

        • Not everything is about quarterly profits. Or even dollars and cents.
          The smartest companies play the long game and try to sculpt the field of competition in their favor. You can’t always count on a bunch of suppliers engaging in a stupid conspiracy that kneecaps your competitors and hands you the market on a silver plater. It’s generally best to do it yourself.

          • I agree not everything is about quarterly profits.

            And I agree smart companies play the long game, a game financed by those quarterly profits. There is no long game without those quarterlies.

            But, in looking at various schemes for Amazon, publishers, and libraries, it’s reasonable to ask about things like expected market share, revenue, profit, etc. And we can certainly look at them in various time frames.

            These are definitely the questions the companies and institutions will ask in considering any proposal by advocates from whatever side.

            I’d suggest we don’t know the effect of the various schemes put forth regarding libraries. We don’t know the answer about revenue, profit, sales, or substitution. But, we are blessed with lots of very firm and conflicting opinions. I have firmly staked out the “I don’t know” territory.

    • I care mostly about authors and readers and am mostly concerned about books being available to readers to buy (license) or borrow from their local or regional libraries as needed. Of major commercial players involved or potentially involved in this mess, I think Amazon is the one which is most focused on customers, delivering value for customers and customer satisfaction. There is no doubt that Amazon treats authors better than NYPub does in terms of royalties and contract terms, so between having more online customers than any other organization in the Western World (I’m not sure about China) and treating authors better, I come out on Amazon’s side. If an Evil Zon arises from Bezos or from Bezos’ inattention, I will quickly revise my attitude and opinion.

      In answer to your question about who decides, the customer is always right.

      • Balancing the welfare of readers, authors, publishers, libraries, eTailers, and distributors isn’t easy or obvious. Each is always trying to tip the field to its own advantage.

        God Bless the free market, for it comes closest.

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