Monday, February 1, 2010

The Amazon-MacMillan War: Who Really Wins?

What an interesting weekend for those of us in publishing.

First, Amazon removed a flock of MacMillan titles from its virtual shelves. This is MacMillan, one of the largest and most prestigious publishers in the world. Publisher of Elie Wiesel's Night, the wonderful biography of Led Zeppelin, When Giants Walked the Earth, and the riotous Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen.

Gone.

Why? I'll quote co-editor of Mashable, Ben Parr: "Macmillan told Amazon that it wanted to change its pricing and compensation agreement, upping the price of some books from $9.99 to $15 and splitting sales 70/30, the same model Apple uses for the iPhone app store and its upcoming iBooks store. Amazon's apparent response was to flex its muscle and pull countless Macmillan books off the virtual shelves."

Then, yesterday, Amazon capitulated and reposted the once-banished MacMillan titles. Amazon replied on its forum, stating, "Macmillan, one of the 'big six' publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases."

Ouch.

From a publisher's viewpoint, the battle is critical. Amazon, for most of us, is a significant sales outlet. It's a huge pain to deal with, though, and the discount they mandate is absurd. But we agree to it because, well, it's Amazon.

So I and the rest of the world's publishers will watch this battle play out very, very closely. Because in the end, it will affect you and every other book buyer out there.

Stay tuned…