The war over the price of eBooks between Amazon and the large publishing house, Hachette, still rages. Hanchette wants more money for its books. Amazon wants to charge the public less.
Recently, a petition signed by nearly 900 of Hanchette’s most prominent authors appeared in the New York Times. In it, the writers accused Amazon of threatening their livelihood. Among the names that appeared were bestselling authors Stephen Colbert, Donna Tartt, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. (“Amazon: At war with the book trade,” The Week, August 22, 2014, pg. 16.)
Hanchette claims charging anything less than $15 per eBook has a disastrous effect on the publishing industry. Amazon disputes the claim. Lower prices increase sales and the greater volume compensates for the initial loss, they argue. (Ibid pg. 16) Amazon goes on to questions why Hanchette needs for more than $10 per book. Electronic printing costs are next to nothing and eliminate expenses associated with warehousing and distributing. (Ibid pg. 16.)
Jeffrey Dorfman of Forbes.com, suggests that what’s really at stake isn’t Hanchette’s concern for the livelihood of its authors. They’re afraid that as eBooks become popular, their money-makers will bypass publishing houses and upload their works directly on to Amazon.
I’m inclined to accept Dorfman’s reasoning. That Stephen King has to live in fear for his livelihood is doubtful. On the other hand, less well-known writers who average $1000 a year– wing nutters as one critic called them — could benefit from greater volume. (Blog 2/19/14)) Still, I’m skeptical. If Amazon wins this argument, the market will function as it always does. Writers like Stephen King and Donna Tartt will reap even greater profits than they do now while wing nutters, like me, will continue to peck at the crumbs. Seeing two publishing giants go after each other may be entertaining but for the little guy, the outcome doesn’t matter much.