Amazon and Hachette have finally settled. Thank goodness. The settlement appears to follow the outlines of Amazon’s recent agreement with Simon & Schuster — the publisher can set its own price for its ebooks, but they get better terms if the price is in the range Amazon likes. This is exactly how it works with independent authors — we only get the lovely 70% royalty if we set our price between a dollar and $9.99. Anything higher or lower, we only get 35%.
This all seems perfectly reasonable. Clearly, Amazon wasn’t trying to put mainstream publishers out of business. It wasn’t trying to destroy literature and “disappear” authors. It was using its clout as a reseller to get ebook prices where it thought they ought to be, to maximize sales. Business as usual.
Hugh Howey sums it up:
Conflating our love of books with the virtuousness of those who package them is a very bad idea. Publishers belong to multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporations. They need to make profits. They do this by pushing prices up on readers and pushing wages down on writers. I don’t blame them for that (though I do try to pressure them to be more fair to both parties).
The people I blame are those who should do their homework, understand this business better, and get on the right side of these debates. The real damage has been done by those who refuse to fight for the little guys; the real damage has been done by the parties who seem to think that publishers can do no wrong and that Amazon can do no right.
This includes the New York Times and many other traditional media outlets. It includes The Authors Guild and Authors United. By waging a PR campaign without understanding the issues (often stating things that were patently untrue), these parties caused severe damage and helped to prolong this negotiation. They aligned themselves with a party that has broken the law to raise prices and refuses to pay authors a decent digital royalty. I don’t think this damage is done intentionally or with malice but by simple ignorance.