On Thursday, I made a passing reference to a dust-up last week between Amazon and Macmillan publishers. (I think I was just making a point about using your blogs to react to and comment on new media news.) I thought, for anyone who might have been interested in this, I’d drop a note about it on the blog. The long and short of it is that Macmillan wants more control over the pricing of their ebooks for the Kindle; Amazon wants to keep all (or nearly all) of their Kindle books to be the same price, $9.99. This should sound familiar to people who keep track of these kinds of issues: Apple held for a long time to the idea that all songs on the itunes Store should be the same price, 99 cents, despite the record labels wanting “variable pricing”. Apple was forced to relent. But what’s interesting here is that, in the midst of this disagreement, Amazon “de-listed” Macmillan books — not just the Kindle versions, but even the paper ones — so that they couldn’t be bought. What is the power of a seller / distributor / platform to set the terms of how (and in what format) we get information? What does it mean when things can be rendered instantly unavailable, algorithmically removed from circulation with a single click? How much of this battle is based on anticipation of Apple’s iPad changing the ebook business?
Cory Doctorow, “Amazon and Macmillan go to war: readers and writers are the civilian casualties,” Boing Boing (Jan 29, 2010)
Brad Stone, “Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement,” Bits blog, New York Times (Jan 29, 2010)
Rob Beschizza, “Amazon: we’ll agree to Macmillan’s terms,” Boing Boing (Jan 31, 2010)
Charles Stross, “Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider’s guide to the fight,” Charlie’s Diary (Jan 31, 2010)
Laura Miller, “Kindle Killer,” Salon (Feb 1, 2010)