Amazon's much discussed letter to authors yesterday morning has received much comment for and against and probably been dissected more thoroughly than decency should permit. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current situation I personally found the Amazon letter to be a carefully and craftily worded document. RJCrayton makes a valid point that a call to arms should be at the head of a two page document not at the bottom; if the subject doesn't grab the reader they may give up long before the end. The suggestion she makes that writing to authors was targeting the wrong group is interesting, proposing that it should have been aimed at readers.
David Gaughran re-posted a guest post by Ed Robertson from November 2012 his blog. The piece discusses the historical similarities between the arrival of the ebook; the introduction of the paperback at the outbreak of World War II and the curious case of the inflation adjusted price. Making that adjustment a paperback and an ebook cost roughly the same amount. Then came the gradually increasing price of paperbacks over the years and the growth of the conglomerate publisher.
Much of the discussion regarding the price of ebooks runs against the traditional publishers and their efforts to keep the prices high that discourages purchases. Amazon's letter puts the point based on a hypothetical price comparison and projected return from sales. Is the simple truth that being forced into a market grants some influence but really, when you strip everything away the best solution for them is to kill off the ebook and let the world slide back into the old ways of print and...nothing! So any tactic that reduces the popularity of the ebook is a useful one. The big problem; there are so many outlets; digital stores, distribution sites and individual websites providing an outlet for the digital version, and the print copy that any hope to control the situation by either the traditional corporations or Amazon is pointless. They must adapt to survive.
Traditional and Vanity, the establishment who decided what you can read, or the sub-par Vanity published. A market dominated by the big 5 surrounded by the minnows of the small publishers. The situation survived the introduction of the paperback because it was cheaper but still required the infrastructure of the traditional system, physical print and distribution with bricks and mortar sales, warehousing and bookstores.
This time it is different, a new format has arrived; stored as electronic data, portable and requiring no storage facilities, distribution network or bricks and mortar outlet. It isn't destroying the landscape, but changing it dramatically. Seismic shifts and tectonic upheavals are creating a new world and the independent publisher and author, often the same person has a way of reaching the public unheard of less than twenty years ago.
Old alliances crumble and new ones are created, even with the untouchables of publishing. The big publishers and the Vanities - with Author Solutions topping that list and exploiting the newly forged links to further their activities. Unfortunately the hoped for positive influence of the traditional over the Vanities has failed to appear.
Paperbacks still need printing presses and the technology to put the economically viable short run, and print on demand in the hands of the small publisher and independent author is reality not science fiction! That is the world changing shift that cannot be ignored, and the technology cannot be uninvented!