Agency

Go Read This | Apple hit with $840 million damages claim for ebooks price fixing | The Verge

This won’t hurt Apple much financially, even if successful, but the legacy of the Agency Pricing move is still damaging Apple and publishers. As I’ve said it was a stupid move that put publishers on the wrong side of consumers which while attractive in the short term was incredibly damaging in the medium to long term:

Apple has received a new damages claim of over $840 million dollars for conspiring with publishing companies to raise the price of ebooks across the entire industry. The claim, filed Friday in New York by an attorney leading a class action lawsuit on behalf of ebooks customers in 33 states, stems from the US Justice Department\’s successful antitrust lawsuit against Apple that took place in the summer of 2013. Using evidence presented during the course of that trial last year, attorney Steve Berman begins by arguing that Apple owes American ebooks customers a bare minimum of $231 million in damages, and probably far more money than that.

via Apple hit with $840 million damages claim for ebooks price fixing | The Verge.

Advertisements

For The Record | Consumers, Not Amazon, Were The Winners

I’m growing very tired of seeing the kind of sentiment below (my highlighting):

The company has all sorts of regulatory and competitive concerns, making for a minefield of possible conflicts of interest for the owner of The Post. Amazon has opposed states’ efforts to have e-commerce companies collect sales tax. It was the main beneficiary of the Justice Department’s successful pursuit of five publishers and Apple on antitrust grounds. It is locking horns with major companies like Walmart and I.B.M. And as it expands into same-day delivery of its products, it will come up against grocery chains and drugstores.

via Expecting the Unexpected From Jeff Bezos – NYTimes.com.

In an otherwise excellent piece the NYT continues to allow this spin to go unchallenged. The main beneficiaries are consumers. Yes, per consumer the benefit is small, but when it’s all considered together, it’s enormous!

It is important to acknowledge that because when you do, it reminds you that the biggest losers from Agency pricing was not Amazon, but readers! The consumer was screwed for the benefit of Apple and publishers, not Amazon, readers!

I know, I know, nobody wants to face that fact, but it’s the truth.
Eoin

I Think Publishers Have Lost The Battle & The War

The thing about the end of Agency is that it’s not over. That is to say that the rearguard action by the legacy publishing establishment isn’t finished. And make no mistake, Agency Pricing and the rules and agreements that supported it were an attempt to stop the clock and buy the established players a breather against the tide of innovation. That the establishment chose to work with one of the greatest innovators in another sphere doesn’t make the move any less defensive, Apple certainly didn’t break too much new ground in the digital book world (though the game is a long one and they may yet).

For the record, the legacy establishment is almost duty bound to protect its position and I  don’t resent the position it held. In many ways I have been a beneficiary of the legacy publishing system. Legacy publishers are in the position they are in because they were successful in an age that valued their corporate skills and in which scale was important and profitable.  Agency was about protecting that model, that profit.  It was couched in language that suggested it was about protecting the value of writing and the incomes of authors (and to be fair, many of those offering those lines do honestly believe them), but really it was about protecting company revenues and shareholders profits. I’m fine with those goals, I’m not fine with pretending or convincing myself I’m being noble when I’m not and I’m also not fine with the reader paying the price for that protection.

Readers were by far the biggest losers in the Agency world. Thus the actions of the big six ran directly counter to their most important stakeholders. The big six hadn’t yet realised that readers had become their biggest stakeholders. They still answered to other management.

The problem is that the publishing system as it stands is being ripped to shreds by digital change.  We do need a publishing industry, we don’t necessarily need THIS publishing industry, the legacy one. There is no reason why any individual publisher MUST survive or that quality publishing won’t happen if the legacy publishers do fail.

The Agency battle was and is not really one over the creation or publishing of quality works nor even one over the price we might charge for those quality works or who sets that price, it is over the allocation of profit/revenue within the system that allows for the creation and publishing of quality works.

Authors will get paid if the big six fail, books will get published if the big six fall, books will get written, published and read if everyone currently in the industry somehow stopped being in the industry tomorrow. Sometimes publishers forget that.

The shame of it all is that if the big six publishers accepted the inevitability of change and directed their efforts towards the new opportunities and the radical restructuring that’s required rather than trying to fight, what I believe is a hopeless and misplaced rearguard action, they would have achieved more AND kept the audience with them.

That’s the key, because resisting puts them on the wrong side of the fight. Resisting the shift towards digital distribution and the attendant earthquake in industry structure makes publishers the bad guys. After Agency, suddenly publishers are not the nurturers of talent but the maintainers of high prices, not the finders of new voices but the conniving capitalists, the slick backroom dealers, not the men and women who live for the written word. Their companies are known worldwide for being sued by the US Government and for alleged collusion rather than for being companies with iconic brands and valuable legacies.

There IS a danger that an non-agency world might (though I think the possibility unlikely) have resulted in an Amazon monopoly, but even if it had and even if the changes being imposed DO lead to some form of monopoly, then at least publishers would have been on the RIGHT side of that monopoly, calling for action, on the side of the readers, the writers and the general wave of opinion rather than falling, as the record labels did before them, into the arms of fear and foolish resistance to change that they cannot control.

So the legacy system made a calculation that Agency could be gotten away with, and they were wrong. It might have boosted their revenues, given them a huge sense of control and power (attractive in a publishing world that has been so buffeted by change recently)  but now, as the tide of blood rushes back out of the head and calmer times (populated by longer more reflective periods of courtroom drama and negative headlines) lie ahead perhaps the big six and those who favoured Agency might reflect not on the loss of Agency and it’s ‘possible’ negative consequences for their business models but on the loss of the moral ground, the real loss of the audience’s goodwill and the battle, not to maintain not just profitability, but, more importantly, legitimacy and to rebuild their image among readers the world over.

It has been a long week!
Weekend Abú!

Eoin

Go Read This | It’s on — US sues Apple, publishers over e-book prices — paidContent

I tells ya, some fun will be had with this one methinks! I hope Agency falls, I really don’t like it!

The Justice Department has at last filed an anti-trust complaint in New York against Apple and five publishers over an alleged price fixing conspiracy. (Update: Three publishers to settle)

The decision to sue comes after weeks of media leaks that suggested the government was trying to pressure the parties into a settlement.

The issue turns on whether five publishers illegally colluded with Apple to implement “agency pricing” in which the publishers set a price and the retailer takes a commission. (see here for more details)

The lawsuit has yet to be posted on the Justice Department’s website but Bloomberg News says Apple and five of the “Big 6″ publishers are named as defendants. The named publishers are Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette SA, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. (Update: a Bloomberg report says the latter three will settle. This is consistent with a leak earlier this month).

via It’s on — US sues Apple, publishers over e-book prices — paidContent.

Go Read This | Agents have to do it, but their new service offerings change the publishing ecosystem – The Shatzkin Files

Interesting note from Mike Shatzkin this:

Many of the agents, but not Waxman with Diversion, are specifying that their services are only for existing agency clients. That’s a good way of putting a toe in the water and it’s a good way to minimize the concern of publishers. But it’s not likely to last as the policy for any of them that do this kind of work successfully. If their ebook publishing services actually work and the business is shifting in that direction, why would you turn down an opportunity that came from outside the client base. Why would you turn down the opportunity to offer the same suite of services to all the clients of some other agency that doesn’t want to build this themselves? (That’s an opportunity almost certain to arise for all of them.)

Publishers are also working on self-publishing services. Distributors have been noodling for some time about packaging these services for agents. Knight has promised to do a lot, including a substantial per-book investment, for 15% of the revenue. Are any of these other players now going back to the drawing board to reconsider their pricing? I would think so.

via Agents have to do it, but their new service offerings change the publishing ecosystem – The Shatzkin Files.

Go Read This | Publishing industry at risk from agency model, claims agent | theBookseller.com

The way I see it, folks ant dumb, they know that the cost of a virtual copy is virtually nothing. Now you can argue about VAT and other costs but in their heads they think you are robbing them when you price hard and high, so either be willing to accept blow back as this tension grows or lower prices.

She said: “Why would people pay the same for a virtual book, with none of the graphic design, physical presence, production and distribution costs accepted as part of the printed kind? I always thought that in those early days e-books should have been given away as an add-on to the printed book. That would have made readers feel they were getting something extra as well as ensuring the new format received very wide exposure very quickly.

via Publishing industry at risk from agency model, claims agent | theBookseller.com.

Go Read This | Publishers should set e-book prices, says FutureBook survey | theBookseller.com

I’m a fan of publishers taking charge of their own destiny, especially when the future is so uncertain.

That said, I just don’t think publishers have the right skill sets right now to actually set prices for consumer facing products.

They need to work very hard to get those skills though, because, as long as they are setting prices without knowing what they are doing, the longer they’ll make bad decisions and probably hurt themselves in the long term.

More than three-quarters of people working in the book trade believe e-books should be priced at current street prices or less, according to early results of a FutureBook survey into digital thinking. The majority of respondents indicated that publishers are best placed to set this price, even though they don’t believe the agency model has a long-term future.

via Publishers should set e-book prices, says FutureBook survey | theBookseller.com.