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Posts tagged ‘agency model’

How the mighty might fall

I know there have already been a number of posts written about the Department of Justice filing an antitrust suit against Apple, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin Group (USA) and Macmillan. Most of the posts and articles I’ve seen are all coming down on the side of Apple and the publishers. Needless to say, it’s left me shaking my head and – yes, I’ll admit it – having a bit of a laugh at them attacking Attorney General Eric Holder. But that gets into politics and I am trying not to cross that line in the sand.

When I heard the DoJ had finally filed suit, I debated whether to blog about it or not. For those of you who’ve followed my posts, you know I’ve wondered on more than one occasion why the DoJ hadn’t acted. It’s not that I particularly believe the agency model of pricing is illegal. No, I felt from the beginning there was collusion between Apple and the Big Five (later to become the Big Six when Random House finally joined the club). It was that collusion that would be in violation of anti-trust laws.

I’d just about decided to leave the topic of the suit and subsequent settlement agreement to others when Kate sent me this link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/waynecrews/2012/04/11/why-is-apple-getting-cored-in-washington/ . The more I read, the more I realized this article was crying out for a response much as Scott Turow’s letter for the Authors Guild. Of course, in the process, I read more and realized just how slanted the so-called coverage of the DoJ’s pleadings and the reasons behind the lawsuit were.

For the Justice Department’s reasoning behind why it filed the antitrust suit, I’ll refer you to the pleadings. Beginning on page 11, the history and theory of the case is laid out. In my opinion at least, a prima facie case has been made that the publishers named in the suit and Apple did conspire. Oh, they can say it was to improve the market and to prevent Amazon from taking over the industry. In fact, they do say that. But if the facts alleged in the pleading are true, then the parties did collude to fix prices and that, no matter what the motivation, is illegal.

It is important to note that the Attorney General said it is thought “consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles.” Greg Abbott, attorney general for Texas, in commenting about the law suit brought by Texas and 15 other states that they estimate “overcharges” paid by consumers in excess of $100 million.

From that same Shelf-Awareness article: So, in the name of antitrust, the level playing field of the past two years–agency model e-books were priced the same whether sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble or independent bookstores–will likely revert to a situation where a near-monopoly power determines pricing and most other retailers see their already-smaller market share shrink. Although Apple and the publishers may have cooperated in ways that violated the nation’s sometimes contradictory antitrust laws, for the Justice Department to single this matter out and not address other issues in the book industry or in business in general seems misguided

Am I the only one who sees any problem with this line of thinking? If we allow publishers to fix prices for books so they are sold at the same price everywhere, what is to stop food manufacturers from doing the same? Or gas suppliers? Or any other of a myriad of producers in this country? I don’t know about you, but I tend to shop for the best buy on many items. I used to on e-books. I shop sales. But under this line of thinking, the only time there would be a discount would be when the producer/supplier approved it and then it would still have to be implemented everywhere. Sorry, but that dog just don’t hunt. At least not for me.

Now look at that last sentence.  Although Apple and the publishers may have cooperated in ways that violated the nation’s sometimes contradictory antitrust laws, for the Justice Department to single this matter out and not address other issues in the book industry or in business in general seems misguided.I guess as long as the publishers and Apple were working against the big evil Amazon, they ought to be excused for any violation of the law they might have committed. WTF?!? As for not addressing other issues in the book industry, is that a can of worms any of the defendant parties really wants? If they are worried about their financial survival, they’d better pray no one comes in and forces a full audit of royalties paid and that should have been paid. I’m afraid if that happens there will be houses that fall.

But let’s move on and look at what some of the interested parties have had to say.

All the parties named as defendants in the suit have denied any wrongdoing. Apple has alleged that its launching of the iBookstore helped “break ‘Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.'” The only problem with this statement is that Amazon did not then, nor does it have now, “a monopolistic grip” on the industry. What Amazon had was leadership that recognized a new trend in the industry and acted on it before the legacy publishers or the big box booksellers did. That gave Amazon the lead in e-book retail and as the popularity of e-books and Amazon’s Kindle increased so did legacy publishing’s fear of change. So, instead of adapting to the new technology and evolving their business plans, they acted to try to cut Amazon off at the knees. Again, assuming the facts alleged in the Department of Justice’s pleadings are true, the defendants said as much in their talks leading up to the push for agency pricing.

John Makinson, chairman of Penguin Group, in explaining why Penguin has not settled with the DoJ said the following:

. . .We have held strongly to this view for two, and only two, reasons. The first is that we have done nothing wrong. The decisions that we took, many them of them costly and difficult, were taken by Penguin alone.

In other words, at a time when the publishing industry is struggling, these five publishers agreed to terms with Apple that would put less money in the publishing houses’ pockets, and therefore in their shareholders’ pockets, and more in the pockets of Apple. As for being taken by Penguin alone, I’m not one who holds by coincidence and the fact that agency pricing sprang up with the introduction of the iPad and the iBookstore and that these publishers all demanded the same terms from Amazon at the same time is just one coincidence too many.

The second, and equally powerful, reason for our decision to place this matter in the hands of a court is that we believed then, as we do now, that the agency model is the one that offers consumers the prospect of an open and competitive market for e-books. We understood that the shift to agency would be very costly to Penguin and its shareholders in the short-term, but we reasoned that the prevention of a monopoly in the supply of e-books had to be in the best interests, not just of Penguin, but of consumers, authors and booksellers as well.

My first issue with the above paragraph goes to the “prospect of an open and competitive market for e-books”. How does price fixing promote such and open and competitive market? I’m assuming what he thinks is that be price fixing, they are guaranteeing that markets such as Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and Borders will be able to remain in business. Oh, wait, Borders no longer exists. Or maybe he’s referring to Google’s agreement with independent booksellers that allows them to offer their patrons the chance to buy e-books through Google. But that’s no longer available either. Google announced in the last week or so that it was abandoning that venture because it was not viable. So how does the agency model promote “an open and competitive market” for e-books?

Makinson goes on to admit that the shift to the agency model was “very costly” to Penguin and its shareholders. But this is justified to prevent a “monopoly in the supply of e-books”. I don’t know about you, but I know of a number of other retail outlets for e-books besides Amazon that date back to long before the Kindle. Baen has offered e-books through its webscriptions site for more than ten years. Fictionwise was offering e-books as was Smashwords. So were other sites. Amazon was not the only retailer. It was, however, the only hard copy bookseller that recognized the new trend in books as being e-books and took advantage of it. Since when has being economically and commercially astute something that should be punished?

. . .The decision we took in January 2010 to move Penguin’s e-book business to agency pricing has been vindicated by the very rapid subsequent growth in the volume of e-books sold by agency publishers, and by the benefit to consumers of the steep decline in the price of e-book readers that that has resulted from this open competition. . . .

I’ll give Makinson that their growth in e-book sales has increased. But it has across the board, not just for those publishers adopting agency pricing. But the part of this comment that really floors me is how he claims the price decrease for e-book readers is because of agency pricing. Agency pricing isn’t the key to the growth of e-books , or at least not the key here. There are a number of different reasons including but not limited to, the opening of the market to indie and self published authors, kids growing up and being more comfortable with e-books over paper, etc

Let’s also not forget that almost all tech decreases in price in time. Let’s not forget that the demand for e-book readers also brought about new models and lowered pricing as well. We have a generation of teens and young adults who are much more comfortable reading on their phones and tablets and e-book readers than they are reading physical books. Frankly, based on previous comments and actions by these publishers, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they wouldn’t dance for joy if there was a sudden ban on e-books and e-book readers, so they could go back to the old and familiar ways of doing business.

Hatchette denies any wrong-doing even as it has entered into an agreement with the government that will settle its part of the case. In a statement explaining their position, Hatchette said it adopted the agency model that was “designed to facilitate entry by a new retail competitor [Apple] and to increase the diversity and health of retail booksellers, and we took these actions knowing that Hachette itself would make less money than before the adoption of agency.”

So, they admit to formulating this new pricing model to help Apple. According to the government pleadings, Apple had an active hand in this. Whether Hatchette and the others actually believed the agency model would help increase the “diversity and health” of booksellers, I don’t know. But I can’t imagine anyone with much business sense would. Not when these same booksellers were slowly strangling themselves with out-of-date business practices. And, again, note how they admit the agency model meant less money for the publisher. Yes, I’m shaking my head again.

The Hatchette statement goes on to talk about how, before agency pricing, consumers were basically limited to Amazon for e-books and how now there are many other outlets and formats available. Obviously, Hatchette is like others who turned blind eyes to Jim Baen and his webscription program, as well as Fictionwise, Smashwords, etc. Worse, they all seem to think the public didn’t know about them. Sorry, but I’ve been buying and reading e-books for much longer than Amazon has been selling them. So there’s another dog that don’t hunt.

Harper-Collins alleges that the e-book market has exploded after the institution of the agency model and that this has given readers a wider range of formats, devices, etc., to choose from. Well, that’s true. But the agency model isn’t responsible for most of it. In fact, there are fewer formats around now than then because of the shrinking of the device market. The main formats now are EPUB and MOBI. There are others, but they aren’t major formats, no matter what the publishers want you to think. As for devices, sorry, but the iPad came without the agency model. With it or not, Apple would have updated the iPad and brought out the subsequent models. Amazon would have brought out newer kindles. While lagging behind, I believe B&N would have brought out the Nook as well, updating it along the line.

It is interesting to note that almost all of those named in the Department of Justice’s lawsuit are now showing signs of settling with the European commission that has been investigating them on similar charges. Of even more interest is the fact that the Department of Justice has apparently been working closely with the European commission, even sharing e-mails and other correspondence that originated in France. While none of this proves wrong-doing, it does present a possible common methodology and ought to have folks asking “why?”.

As for the original article that started all this, again all I can do is wonder at the author’s reasoning. First of all, I take exception to his assertion that the agency model is only a “natural” reaction to what was going on at the time: ie, it was the only way publishers and Apple could think of to battle Amazon. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. There were other options available. This was just the easiest one and the one publishers thought would hurt Amazon.

Then there’s this comment: Now, you can actually buy an indestructible book that occupies no space, can be “written” on, highlighted and dog-eared yet not worn out; and that can be transported without being transported. Such a miracle, if we were honest, is worth hundreds and would have cost thousands were someone to have offered it a decade ago.

First of all, it shows that he doesn’t know much about e-books. They were in existence a decade ago and, with certain programs, you could do much of what he is saying. But they didn’t cost anywhere near what he suggests. He is also overlooking the fact that these five publishers aren’t “selling” the e-book. They are selling a “license”. Tell me something, folks. How many of you have read the licensing agreement when you buy the e-book? What? You haven’t? That’s because you aren’t given it. So who knows what the small print might read. Remember also that these are the same publishers loading DRM into their e-books, limiting the number of devices you can have the title on at a single time and preventing you from reselling your e-book, or even lending it in many situations.

Then there is this statement: Publishers are being antiqued; and they have a right, as voluntary assemblages of human beings (shareholders, as all corporations are) to make deals to attempt to survive. This is true, but only to a point. They do not have a right to make a deal that is in violation of the law. I could say more, but I really would be going into politics then. So I’ll save that for my personal blog later this week.

While I agree with the underlying premise of much of what the author says – in other words, I don’t like seeing the government getting involved in business decisions – there are times when it is necessary. This is one. What so many of these commenters are forgetting, or choosing not to address, is the fact that these same publishers are the ones who have said they tried to slow the spread of e-books and then have increased the price of them in order to save the print side of their business. Again, this is another example of how they are trying to cling to the old and not adapt to, much less embrace, the new.

I could go on, but you get the gist. Three publishers have agreed to settle the law suit. Two others and Apple say they will fight the charges against them. Only time will tell how this plays out. However, as a reader and as a writer, I have to wonder at the reasoning of those who are so willing to overlook violations of the law simply because of the fear of a company with the foresight to recognize a new market trend.

I’ll blog some more Tuesday about the actual settlement and any other new information that has come out. In the meantime, like it or not, welcome it or rue it, this law suit has the potential of changing the face of publishing in a profound way. For me, I think good can come of it. But, as I said, only time will tell.

Dice are rolling, the knives are out

by Amanda S. Green

Let me start with an apology to Sarah for channeling the soundtrack to Evita this morning. But, as I try to put this post together, that scene from the musical is what comes to mind. Except this time, the players are the big publishers and Apple. The publishers, in the role of Juan Peron, are worried because the Department of Justice is now–finally–doing what several states’ attorneys general and the European Union are doing: investigating them for price fixing. Apple is cast in the role of Evita, reassuring Peron that nothing will happen, even as the world is crumbling around them.

A little background first. Several days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice had warned Apple and five of the big six publishers that it planned “to sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books.” The five publishers are:

  • Simon & Schuster Inc.
  • Hachette Book Group;
  • Penguin Group (USA);
  • Macmillan;
  • HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

The article goes on to say that at least some of the publishers have been in talks with the DoJ. These talks have not yet resulted in any agreement between the parties. In fact, Apple Insider reports that the talks have taken “many turns” and that any sort of agreement is still a long way off. According to the Wall Street Journal, the investigation stems from the fact that Steve Jobs, wanting to secure the new iPad’s place in the market “suggested moving to an “agency model,” under which the publishers would set the price of the book and Apple would take a 30% cut. Apple also stipulated that publishers couldn’t let rival retailers sell the same book at a lower price.”

The allegation of Jobs’ trying to stifle the market is strengthened by information included in Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. Specifically, by the following quote: “We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.”

All of this comes on the heels of a class action law suit against Apple and the publishers alleging price-fixing and the EU’s anti-competition investigation into the agency model of pricing.

Needless to say, the cries of “foul!” have arisen, not in support of the consumers or even in support of DoJ enforcing the country’s anti-trust laws. Now, the cries have come from the same folks who have been so vocal in the Amazon is Evil diatribes. Without knowing the full reasons behind the DoJ investigation, without knowing just how deep the alleged collusion might run (assuming there is collusion and, in my opinion, there is), these writers are saying DoJ is looking at the wrong party. No, Amazon is the bad guy. Quit picking on the saints of publishing and its savior. Okay, maybe they don’t say exactly that, but it is what I read between the lines.

I was going to let this slide with nothing more than a passing mention in my regular Tuesday post . . . until I read Scott Turow’s open letter over at The Author’s Guild. Like any good author, he tugs at the heartstrings with the header for the letter: Grim News. Talk about a hook. But, in my opinion, it all goes down from there. Bear with me as I go through parts of the letter.

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

So, I guess it’s okay for publishers and distributors to do whatever they want, break whatever commercial laws they want as long as we maintain a “rich literary culture”. It’s also all right, apparently, to do so even if it is screwing the readers who buy your books. Let’s forget about the fact that books sales continue to plummet and that the agency pricing model was supposedly put into place in order to save the hard cover sector of the industry. That’s worked real well, hasn’t it? (yes, the snark meter is starting to go off).

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

True, Apple is acting as a sales agent. But, what Turow seems to forget is that this is a role Apple took to the publishers and said it would fulfill IF they agreed to Apple’s terms and IF they agreed not to allow their titles to be sold for less anywhere else. Gee, that sort of sounds like price fixing to me. But then, I’m just a writing hack, not one who will ever put out anything to enrich our “literary culture”.

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing.

Again, true. None of us were in the room with Steve Jobs and the publishers. However, we can infer based on the evidence we’ve seen. Oh, and then there’s that pesky quote from the Isaacson book. But let’s not muddy the waters with reasonable inferences and the evidence of Jobs’ own words.

We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft.

Just because it wasn’t necessary doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Turow saying here that those publishers not adopting the agency model were evidencing irrational behavior?

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

There it is! The Amazon is evil and the source of all of publishing’s problems. Now, before you start objecting, I know Amazon isn’t pure. No company is. However, the problems facing bookstores started long before Amazon. They started when the big box stores arrived on the scene. They came in and, with their ability to buy in volume, put the locally owned bookstores out of business. Then they built too many stores. Then the economy took a downturn. Then the economy started an upswing and Amazon took off. Did Amazon have an impact? Sure. But it wasn’t the big bad guy so many want to make it out to be.  But I’ve blogged about this before and won’t go in-depth into it now.

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets.

Wait a minute. What other players? There were no real players at the time, certainly not with a dedicated e-reader. Sorry, I don’t count Sony because the general public wouldn’t think to go to a Sony site to buy books of any sort. Did Borders have a digital sales site at that time? No. In fact, remember the first time Borders did list digital sales? It didn’t sell the e-books itself. No, it linked over to Amazon. Barnes & Noble didn’t have digital sales at that time. In fact, the leader in the e-book sales foray was Baen and Jim Baen was vilified for not only offering e-books but for doing so free of DRM.

Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on.

Again, Amazon is evil. It is offering a product at a price the public can pay. Sorry, publishers, but most folks can’t afford $30 for a hard cover and certainly not for several at a time. But, again, there are other issues as well. The big box stores didn’t pay attention to market trends and they overbuilt in urban areas, flooding the market and, therefore, decreasing each store’s market share. But let’s not allow logic to taint our thinking.

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format).

Oooh, and nothing here about the DRM the publishers insist upon or the limitation of the number of devices an e-book can be on. Oh, and let’s forget about the fact that this so-called ePub format was through Adobe and let’s see a show of hands of folks who can no longer read those files because you have switched computers and that computer isn’t “activated” for the old Adobe account.

We’ll skip a small bit here.

By the end of 2009, Amazon held an estimated 90% of the rapidly growing e-book market. Traditional bookstores were shutting down or scaling back. Borders was on its knees. Barnes & (sic) Noble had gamely just begun selling its Nook, but it lacked the capital to absorb e-book losses for long.

Again, all this was happening for more reasons that just Amazon and the Kindle. Although, I guess any good story needs a villain and Amazon has been dubbed it. I guess Amazon is responsible for the fact that Borders was badly managed and B&N took so long to get into the e-reader market. Remember, for months and months prior to entering the e-reader market, B&N sold other companies’ e-readers.  Then there is B&N’s less than ideal search engine. But, Amazon is evil.

Enter Steve Jobs. Two years ago January, one month after B&N shipped its first Nook, Jobs introduced Apple’s iPad, with its proven iTunes-and-apps agency model for digital content. Five of the largest publishers jumped on with Apple’s model, even though it meant those publishers would make less money on every e-book they sold.

Wait just one minute. Maybe I’m a bit dense, but where is the economic sense in agreeing to a deal that means these poor publishers “would make less money on every e-book they sold”? Am I the only one who sees a bit of a problem with that statement?

Publishers had no real choice (except the largest, Random House, which could bide its time – it took the leap with the launch of the iPad 2): it was seize the agency model or watch Amazon’s discounting destroy their physical distribution chain.

So, we are now doing the apples and oranges. Remember, folks, this was when these very same publishers were still saying e-books were a passing fancy that would soon go away. But that doesn’t matter, at least not to Turow and those who believe this link of bunk, because Amazon is the root of all evil, at least when it comes to publishing. As long as they have Amazon to blame, they can turn a blind eye to the poor business practices of the bookstores and publishers.

Bookstores were well along the path to becoming as rare as record stores.  That’s why we publicly backed Macmillan when Amazon tried to use its online print book dominance to enforce its preferred e-book sales terms, even though Apple’s agency model also meant lower royalties for authors.

So, even though print sales had been declining before the general upswing in e-book sales (and this means for Amazon as well as for the brick and mortar stores), Authors Guild sided against it’s members’ economic futures. Oh, I hear the cries that I don’t understand, but I do. AG, publishers and too many authors were ignoring market trends, just as they do now. The change in technology and customer demands scares them. But guess what, you adapt, you evolve, or you go the way of the dinosaurs. You don’t stand there like the little Dutch boy with your finger in the dike because, guess what, that dike is going to give way sooner or later. I’d rather not get caught in the flood and be washed away when it does.

Our concern about bookstores isn’t rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling.  Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online.  In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.  Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks.  A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers.  Apple thrives on this very model: a strong retail presence to display its high-touch products coupled with vigorous online distribution.  While bookstores close, Apple has been busy opening more than 300 stores.

The key to this is BOOKstores. Not stores that sell a few books. What Turow doesn’t address here is the fact that these same big box bookstores he is so intent on protecting don’t look and feel like bookstores any longer. Their staffs, on the whole, aren’t knowledgeable about their products. Books aren’t on the shelves long enough to build a following. Managers aren’t able to buy based on their market. No, their stock is determined by regional or, worse, national buyers.  Oh, the other thing he forget — the hue and cry that went up from those authors who see Amazon as the Big Evil when Amazon announced it was going to open a boutique bookstore. Gee, how dare Amazon open a bricks and mortar store even when that is what they say is needed to keep the industry alive. Double standard, no?

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become familiar to large numbers of readers, the disappearance of bookstores is deeply troubling, but it will have little effect on our sales or incomes.  Like rock bands from the pre-Napster era, established authors can still draw a crowd, if not to a stadium, at least to a virtual shopping cart. For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult. The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are more than offset by drastically smaller markets. And publishers won’t risk capital where there’s no reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.

Again, true–but only to a point. Publishing, and agents, have been moving away from new authors for ages. Ask any of us who have been trying for years to get in. We get the nice, often personalized rejections saying how good our book is but there’s just no spot for it. And this is after it’s sat on a desk for months or years. Ask the mid-listers that have been the backbone of traditional publishing for ages. These are the authors publishers knew they could always count on for X-number of sales. Now, in order to take a risk on the so-called best sellers (who, btw, aren’t always), mid-listers are being cut loose. Basically, what Turow is describing here is an industry afraid of change and growing stale because it won’t take chances.

Let’s skip a bit here because it’s just more of the same.

Let’s hope the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders. The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.

I guess my biggest issue with stances like the one presented by Turow is that, even though they say they are looking at the whole picture, they aren’t. Not really. What they are doing is trying to maintain the old order, even though that order has been in decline for decades. Do I want to see bookstores disappear? No. But the big box stores probably will. Does that mean the brand will disappear? Not if they are smart. What they need to do is go away from the high overhead, huge footage stores that they have to sell toys and knick-knacks, etc., to help meet the rent. Go to smaller venues where the bills are easier to meet. Return to local or regional ordering. Let stores stock what their customers want, not what some list across the country says they should be buying. Hire folks at a reasonable salary WITH benefits and knowledge about the books they are selling. Go back to thinking about the customer and not just the bottom line because, with the customers coming through the door, the bottom line will be taken care of.

Again, Amazon isn’t pure in this. It has had a hand in the continuing decline. But it isn’t the only cause.

But, what is telling and what every author should consider, is that this letter is supporting action that reduces the money publishers receive for e-book titles and that, in turns, means less money for the authors. Why are you supporting something that takes money from your pocket?

And, before you go back to the old saving the hard cover sales argument, ask yourself this: when is the last time your book was published as a hard cover? There simply aren’t as many hard covers being published anymore and, again, this trend started before Amazon. So, before you start lighting your torches and preparing the pyre for them, look at the issue dispassionately and think. Think about what is best for you in the long run. For me, the answer is simple: like change or not, we have to adapt or we will be left behind. That change, now, is making our e-books available at an affordable price and without DRM. It isn’t insulting our readers by trying to get them to pay more for a digital book than they would a hard copy version of the same book.

But then, I’m just a hack who knows what my bank account will allow me to do.