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Publishing's tectonic plates are shifting

This past month saw saw some epic developments in the world of book publishing. In some ways, I think it was a bit like the earthquake that rocked Japan; the question is, will a tsunami follow it?

In an almost amazing display of synchronicity, a well known author opted to walk away from a half million dollar contract and go with self-publishing in digital form, while an author who had enjoyed spectacular ebook self-publishing success signed a four-book, two million dollar deal with a major publisher. It was amazing! But one point that hasn't gotten as much attention is that Amazon was a bidder for those four books. They had a print publisher lined up as a partner, but they planned to publish the ebooks as Amazon, making the company over into a publisher in a bigger way than in the past.

I'm speaking, of course, about the deal Barry Eisler abandoned and the one Amanda Hocking signed. To carry the synchronicity further, they were both with the same publisher, St. Martin's Press! Also interesting is that the Hocking (One smart cookie, by the way! She has her head screwed on the right way) did not go with Amazon even though their bid was reportedly higher. Added info: This post on the Teleread blog explain why Hocking and her agent did not go with Amazon. There is also more info in this post by author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, via a_r_williams, that gives even more details.

You could see these developments as contradictory, but in some ways they're not. I see them as illustrating two points. The first is that authors now have more choices. The second is that the definition of “publisher” is changing.

And I don't think there will be a tsunami. I think the coming change is more akin to rising shorelines than a tidal wave. Publishers who are savvy will have time to adapt.

But then what do I know? What do you think?



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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
shoebrera
Apr. 2nd, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
What do I think?
I don't think Amazon should try to be a publisher. They are a seller of books, and they should concentrate on improving the products they already have before they try to expand. But that's me. What do I know?
karen_w_newton
Apr. 2nd, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
Actually, they already expanded. I just bought a pedometer at Amazon. They will sell pretty much anything that can be shipped.

I think the heart of the matter is that all corporations want to make money. Once the Kindle came along, publishers started seeing Amazon as a danger to their revenue stream because they were discounting ebooks and actually selling a lot of them. Publishers thought low-priced ebooks would limit how much money they could make in the long run, so they yanked control of ebook prices from Amazon. It's interesting to me that two parties who need each other are now in an adversarial situation.
a_r_williams
Apr. 2nd, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
I think one thing that's important on whether it's a tsunami or a high tide is the ability of brick and mortar stores to hold the line.

If brick and mortars can buy enough time for publishers to figure out how they want to proceed and the changes they need to make they'll do okay.

But if there is a sudden shift, and Barnes and Noble is threatened or the distribution chain or the cost of printing DTBs rises quickly, the fall out will be more catastrophic.
karen_w_newton
Apr. 2nd, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting point. Bricks and mortar stores have different constraints. I hadn't thought about it, but if the price of gas keeps going up really fast, shipping anything could get a lot more expensive. That could give ebooks a real leg up.
peadarog
Apr. 2nd, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
Very interesting. I had no idea Amazon were involved...
karen_w_newton
Apr. 2nd, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and she didn't</a> go with them, which I find very interesting. I wonder if she has an agent? I haven't heard that she has; if not, and the decision was hers entirely, I am really curious about her reasons.
a_r_williams
Apr. 2nd, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
She has an agent, a lawyer, and an accountant. http://kriswrites.com/2011/03/30/the-business-rusch-smackdown/
karen_w_newton
Apr. 2nd, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
Cool! Thanks! I also just saw this post on Teleread that explains why she turned Amazon down. I think I will add it to my post.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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