So, let me take a break from ticking off…

…speech code hypocrites to note that there’s a looming lawsuit against Apple and various members of the publishing industry over the price of e-books.  This recent op-ed by Authors’ Guild president Scott Turow argues that the current system is somehow better for the consumer, despite the fact that people are paying above market value for electronic versions of most books*  and is currently the epicenter of a self-publishing boom.

It’s a very poignant op-ed, written by a leader of an important segment of the buggy whip book industry.  But let me tell you this: thanks to the Kindle – and a dedicated, handheld electronic text reader is something that people have been trying to get for decades – I probably read more books, and try out more authors, and generally get the impression that it’s now easier for me to write and get paid for a book, should I ever have the time and energy to do it.  Simply put: whether you like it or not – and the publishing industry will not – taking a couple of bucks off the price of a hardcover and making it the price for an e-book will not fly.  They can either accept that, or they can keep pretending that it’s 1895.

Guess which one will be more expensive in the long run?

Moe Lane

*Not all: some companies out there are experimenting with systems that offer books at significant discounts in electronic form, or providing advanced reader copies of to be published books, or bundling entire series, or anything else that might transfer funds from the buyer to the seller.

PS: Associate for Maryland.  So I have a slight financial incentive to keeping Amazon around.


  • Ric Locke says:

    Disintermediation is generally a good thing in the long run, but the process does include some losers, who are naturally sore at losing their livelihood. Not all the losers are intermediaries. Some of them are people who are discovered to have been favored by the intermediaries.

    Scott Turow is a bestseller. If you are not Scott Turow or equivalent, the publisher will scant your advance and cheat you on your royalties. They will use part of that money to pay the bookstore extra to put a table in front, where patrons must trip over it when entering or leaving, and pile it high with Scott Turow’s books and other “bestsellers”. Your book will then be shelved, spine out, in the wrong section of the store for three months or less, after which your publisher will sadly inform you that you’re no good because your book didn’t sell, and they’ll take the next one out of the kindness of their hearts, but of course you get a smaller advance and less royalties.

    As a beneficiary of that scam, Scott Turow naturally argues for its continuance. The issue, including many aspects I didn’t mention, has been canvassed on many writers’ and publishers’ blogs since Turow delivered the speech. The one I especially enjoy is The Passive Voice. Passive Guy is much wordier than you are, but shares your gift for snark.

  • Darin H says:

    It’s like they missed that whole Napster thing…

  • Catseye says:

    A lot of things in the world are about to change, drastically. Kind of reminds me of what was going on at the end of the last century.

  • R.S says:

    I live in a remote area, far away from any bookstore (with the exception of Walmart, but they have a crappy selection). So I’ve been buying ebooks for over 10 years now. I have also found that I buy MORE books in this format – and I buy a ton of books. It’s my #1 personal entertainment expense. But I’m not going to throw my money away, I’m going to make sure I get the best bang for the buck that I can get – and if Amazon is cheaper I’ll go with Amazon. I have no loyalty to any one provider of ebooks, so long as I can get to the story. is probably the BEST at this. Thanks to their free library and their habit of giving away books to entice you I’ve purchased nearly their entire freaking library of books. I love the fact that they play fair and let you read on any platform. Can’t find that ebook you bought back in 2003? No problem, login and go get it again! Their method of selling the pre-release versions at a higher cost is brilliant. If the other publishers would just sit up and pay attention they would figure out they don’t NEED Amazon or Apple. So I don’t cry for them at all.
    And I am very serious about my library – I’ve got 900+ paper books in my collection that is slowly going to be replaced by ebooks, this often means that I am buying TWO COPIES of the same book just to have the convenience of an ebook. I’ve got about 150 Amazon titles, ignoring the Baen books I’ve purchased. My biggest complaint about the Kindle is that it really doesn’t allow you to organize your collections in any meaningful way. But I keep buying because the price is good and they keep pushing great authors my way (Hi Ric, great book btw!).
    The book publishers are surrounded by more competition for my spending dollars than ever before (video games, TV, movies, whatever). If they want to make money they need to seriously reevaluate that their job is to SELL TEXT and start figuring how to convince the customer to buy a book instead of doing something else. Look at the success of the Apple App Store – most people would prefer to buy two or three $0.99 apps than buy a book. THAT is what you are competing against. Wake up and smell the change in the air.
    Wow, sorry for the rant. Struck a nerve I guess.

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