I don’t how many times I started this piece today on the arrival of the iPad and the agency model. Frankly, by mid-morning, I gave up. There was just too many deals with Amazon to report by publishers, and too many comments like:
‘Oh, oh, it’s on-it’s off; our Amazon buy buttons are off – no, no, they’re back on again. Shit, no, we were wrong, they’re back off again. No, actually, we had it wrong all along; our print book buy buttons are on, but our ebook buttons are off.’
"The ‘agency’ model is based on the idea that the publisher is selling to the consumer and, therefore, setting the price, and any ‘agent’, which would usually be a retailer but wouldn’t have to be, that creates that sale would get a ‘commission’ from the publisher for doing so. Since Apple’s normal ‘take’ at the App Store is 30% and discounts from publishers have normally been 50% off the established retail price, publishers can claw back margin even if they don’t get Apple to concede anything from the 30%.
So making this change, if it works, accomplishes three things for big publishers. The obvious two are that they gain a greater degree of control over ebook pricing than they ever had over print book pricing and they get to rewrite the supply chain splits of the consumer dollar.
But the third advantage for the big guys is the most devilish of all: they may gain a permanent edge over smaller players on ebook margins."
What we are seeing unfolding in the publishing world at the moment is deep-rooted in a failure by large publishing houses to take hold of their industry and direct its development more than twenty years ago when the largest fish in the publishing sea decided to eat up as many little fish as they could. The landscape of publishing that emerged when the tummies got fat was one wholly controlled by retailers – big mother-fucker retailers who had retailing and profit as their core objective – certainly, not books or literature. It stood to reason, and the view of man and woman in the street, that massive corporations like Google, Amazon and Apple where going to come out on top because they were the ones to hold the first cut-keys to the castle of digital content. They had the vested and commercial interest as well as the vision and means to realize the importance of controlling and managing digital content for profit.
It wasn’t Apple, Amazon or Google’s fault, whatever nonsense you hear elsewhere.
What the introduction of the iPad did do was to drag publishers into the world of e-book jousting between Amazon’s Kindle and every other e-reader device. It’s just that the Apple iPad is the first real contender to the Kindle throne, as a device and utilising the more flexible epub format.
There is an inherent and deliberate spin here in terminology by the publishing industry.
Actually, this has nothing got to do with models, but instead, it is a desperate attempt by publishers to arrest back control of the books they produce – whether the books are in digital or print edition. Books are books, and make no mistake, the so-called agency model will and should be rolled out across all books, whatever the format or channel of third-party sale.
Just some thoughts on a pretty hectic day…
…and judging by the links to the tales below, quite a few more…