Monday, February 8, 2010

Amazon vs McMillan: Who really won?

Most of you probably haven't heard about the epic battle brewing between Amazon and McMillan over the pricing of e-books. I certainly hadn't, not until I read a vicious rant by my sister about yet another "#Amazonfail" - the bloggers term for whatever stupid blunder Amazon has made that results in their customers being pissed off. The previous "fail" was a deranking of most gay and lesbian authors, an issue that had her so hot she completely deleted her Wishlist and said she'd never trust them again. (It didn't last, so I'm interested to see what happens this time).

The issue this time, as I said, is evidently e-book pricing. Amazon sells the majority of titles for their Kindle at $9.99, including the McMillan works. Well, McMillan wants to up that to $14.99, something to do with the pricing structure that will go into play with the new iPad. Amazon wasn't happy about the increase, the powers went to the negotiating table, nothing was resolved, and just a little over a week ago, late Friday afternoon/early Friday evening, McMillan's works were no longer available thru Amazon. ALL of McMillan's works, not just the e-books. Sure, you could still get stuff thru third-party offerings, but nothing brand new from Amazon itself, the stuff that counts for Free Super Saver Shipping, etc. Once people like my sister (and a whole butt-load of authors) realized that Amazon was at it again, the posts started flying, some on Amazon's side (but not many) and most lining up with McMillan.

So who really won the battle? I would say absolutely no one in this case. Look, I personally think that both parties made some bone-headed decisions here, and the ones who really got hurt were the authors; they depend on those sales to put food on the table and roofs over their very creative heads. McMillan, as the publisher, had every right to ask for more money for their products, but c'mon - these are not the economic times to be jacking up your prices by a full 50%. I understand they want everything the same across the board, but this just doesn't seem like the time for big price increases. Amazon didn't help themselves any by yanking everything off the cyber shelves; it smacked of a "I'm taking my toys and going home!" reaction. Now, I haven't read every single post, so maybe there's a clause somewhere that states Amazon can't sell any McMillan products during this sort of negotiation. I doubt it - but it's possible. I do see where Amazon is coming from with the price, keep it reasonable and the customers will buy more, etc. But Amazon failed to notify its customers that all this was going on, unlike McMillan, and when the sh*t hit the fan, Amazon told their Kindle users a little bit, completely ignoring their physical book customers. Not good for business,kids!

I think Amazon should have said "Sure, we'll be glad to charge $14.99 for your e-books", done exactly that - and then told the customers to contact the McMillan when the complaints started rolling in about the price going up so much, and pretty much overnight. Free market, baby, with the customer setting the price. Basic supply and demand - if no one is willing to pay $15 for an e-book, McMillan will have to ask for them to be lowered again due to poor sales. And since this is not the first time Amazon has been cursed by its customers for pulling a fast one on late on a Friday, may I make this suggestion: Next time, FULL DISCLOSURE ON YOUR "BOOKS HOME PAGE. And as early as possible - don't wait until the last minute to say something, and don't say it only to people using the blasted Kindles.

Should be interesting to see what happens next regarding this case....

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