The main title of this piece is not a typo. According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, as far back as April 10th of 2010, representatives from Apple Computers met with reps from Hatchett, Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins, three of the largest traditional publishing houses in the industry. The purpose of this meeting? To start a campaign to drive up the prices of eBooks across the board, in order that these publishers and their long-time partners in the book distribution business could increase their profits. Additionally, according to the piece in the Star Tribune, these companies also wanted to “put a dent in Amazon’s commanding lead as the most profitable book retailer in the industry.”
Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly, and frankly, that’s a good thing. There are still plenty of brick-and-mortar bookstores around the country. Barnes & Noble has not one, but two eBook sales/distribution sites, one at BN.com, and Fictionwise, a formerly independent eBook retailer that had been so successful in the electronic frontier that Barnes & Noble decided to buy it. Kudos to them for having good taste (though they still carry the Twilight books, so maybe we could stop short at “fair” taste).
Apple, Hatchett, Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins (the latter three being the “Big Boys” of publishing involved) may at first glance have only been doing what businesses do, and that is anything and everything possible to remain competitive. However, the manner in which they went about it goes against federal anti-trust laws and regulations. That’s the simple black-and-white, letter-of-the-law way of approaching this particular issue.
If you’re an avid consumer of books, particularly eBooks, there’s another way of approaching it, and that is this: a handful of greedy curmudgeons don’t like that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have made eReader devices and sales models on eBooks that put more of the power of choice in the hands of consumers. While businesses love consumers’ money, they don’t necessarily love consumers themselves. Apple and the “Big Boys” here couldn’t really give a damn about you or I as readers, and they don’t like that small and mid-sized publishers in the eBook world are finally starting to muscle in on the action that has for so long belonged to their ilk.
If you’re an author like myself, there’s yet another perspective to have on this bit of shady business, and it is as follows: Now that the storytellers themselves have greater access to their prospective audience, and tremendous small- and mid-sized publishers and distributors to work with, the Big Boys are [expletive] bricks right about now. Apple Computers, who already have about a thousand devices on the market (“It’s the iSleep, a device which does all of your sleeping for you so that you can play with the 999 other Apple devices you’ve been forced to buy thanks to overwhelming social pressures!”) just couldn’t content themselves to play second or third fiddle to the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.
You want to talk about monopolies, Apple? Amazon doesn’t have one on the physical or electronic book markets. They just happen to be doing it a heck of a lot better than you folks. As a small-press author of fantasy and horror genre fiction, I have the option of directly publishing to the Kindle Store any and all content that I so chose to. Sure, the eBook market has been flooded with a whole lot of unmitigated garbage because of the ease of direct publishing now, but thankfully, there are eBook review sites out there that can help stem the tide by letting readers know what’s quality and what’s drek.
People who like to read, generally speaking, are willing to put in the effort to find quality works on the market. If they can find a better deal and equal or higher quality fiction than what Apple and the Big Boys have out there, they should lean away from that particular four-headed beast.
There will undoubtedly be authors out there who, being more commercially successful than myself, would see no problem with Apple and the Big Boys doing what they did. Those authors are just that, though: commercial authors. They aren’t necessarily storytellers still in love with the craft and art of telling a tale anymore. I would liken them unto career politicians in many cases. Sure, they may have been passionate and want to do some quality work once upon a time, but as the big bucks and kickbacks got more lucrative, their sense of origin and love of their craft just faded away into the green.
I could go on for a while on this particular tale, but for the time being, I’m going to let it rest where it sits. Thanks for your time, everyone, and as I often say, keep reading.
Joshua T. Calkins-Treworgy, a native of Buffalo, New York, is a fantasy and horror author and runs a Youtube channel on which he frequently discusses the publishing industry and storytelling techniques, as well as brief stories he has written himself. He moved to Minnesota from New York State in February of 2012 with his fiancee, Katie Marie Mott. His first novel was published by Mr. Robert Preece of Booksforabuck in September of 2007, a fantasy work entitled Damnation of the Realm: Freedom or the Fire Volume One. He is the father of two girls, Cassandra and Celina, ages 8 and 6, respectively.
Email Joshua at firstname.lastname@example.org