Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Newspapers headline Amazon UK forum rebellion against Agency pricing


That was the big headline at The site yesterday when reporter Graeme Neill reported on the Amazon UK forum message thread that I pointed to the day before.

Besides accusing the publishers of "greediness" and vociferously suggesting that the actions of Hachette, Penguin and HarperCollins could lead to piracy when people had been happy to pay the earlier prices, they have started a boycott which seems a bit stronger than the one already causing innocent authors no small distress in the U.S.:
' "I can't believe I'm saying this . . . because I have never ever downloaded files illegally. Not even once. And now I'm considering it. Because if publishers want to rip ME off, maybe it's not so wrong to rip them off?" '
That, by Caroline P was a popular sentiment.  As I mentioned in the earlier report, one forum writer had been upset that "One book, Just After Sunset bought at under £5 the other day, was seen to be £17.99 today, a price shown as 'set by the publisher' as they decided to do in the U.S. (where some customers ignore it and still blame Amazon for the pricing)."

The Bookseller picked up that message (out of 452 that were there when I last looked -- and there are right now about 700 postings there).  After some forum members decided to give Kindle book reviews 1-star ratings due to what they considered sudden, heavy overpricing, Neill reports:
' The move by Hachette, Penguin and HarperCollins has lead [sic] to's Kindle chart being dominated by non-agency publishers.

  Stephen Fry's The Fry Chronicles (Penguin, £12.99) has tumbled out of the top 20, while his first memoir, Moab is my Washpot (Random House, £2.69) was in the top 15 this morning (2nd November). '
While some of us feel this method of protesting is unfair to authors, there's little question that it's effective in bringing to the attention of the world the depth of unhappiness over the current raised pricing which is to be the same at all online e-book stores.

  To make it worse, a spokesperson at HarperCollins uttered an inept, meaningless statement that was like throwing oil on water:
' Experience has shown in the US, where the market is more mature, this is the best way to stimulate competition by offering good value to consumers and maximising the number of channels to market." '
  Stimulate competition? By making sure all online e-book stores charge the same higher price for an e-book ?  The UK has stronger regulations against what could be seen as price-fixing, and reporting the situation to agencies has been another method some forumners have used in the last week.

  However, in a posting that was just made as I write this, forumner Neilleeds advises the forum that, on the £17.99 book Just After Sunset "...the price has dropped to 50p below paperback for this now so the point is not as valid as it was!"  Maybe the many reports to regulatory agencies are having an effect.

  In the meantime, The Guardian's headline was "Kindle users revolt against delays to ebook editions."   Their focus is on "Angry Kindle fans" who "have sabotaged the Amazon rating of a bestselling new book, Game Change, an exposé of the 2008 US presidential elections, to punish its publisher for delaying the digital edition of the book until February.

  The newspaper reviews on that book have been highly positive but, the Guardian says, "the book has been punished with one-star reviews at from frustrated Kindle users" and Neill counted about 142 forum reviewers giving the book one star and writing that the publishers are shaming themselves by "excluding and alienating a huge market that would have bought your book if you weren't so shortsighted" and advising that topical books released later and no longer timely will never be bought now.

  Last year Amazon had predicted, during the U.S. equivalent of this reaction in the UK, that "authors get the most publicity at launch and need to strike while the iron is hot.  If readers can't get their preferred format at that moment, they may buy a different book or just not buy a book at all."

  For one thing, that also leaves time for would-be-readers to see any bad reviews or to find that this is no longer a book others are talking about and they drop the impulse to buy it.

  At that time last year, Simon & Schuster chief executive Carolyn Reidy had told the WSJ, "We believe some people will be disappointed.  But with new [electronic] readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of ebook reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible."

Random House, who said No to the new fixed-higher-pricing of the Agency Plan and therefore was not allowed into the Apple iBook Store, is the largest publisher of all and has not joined the other large publishers in this UK phase of the Agency plan and appears to be thriving.

For those new to the situation and interested in the background of the e-book pricing wars, the earlier stories posted here include:

  . WashPost: State AG probes Apple, Amazon over e-Book prices. What?
  . Amazon removes Macmillan books
  . Amazon surrenders to Macmillan and Steve Jobs
  . Steve Jobs pulls his puppet strings but says too much
  . Amazon plays hardball to keep lower pricing option
  . Why are some e-book prices higher than hardcover ones?

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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