Saturday 16 October 2010

E-books and the 'Agency Model'

Anyone who looks at buying e-books (from suppliers other than Amazon) may be put off by the prices being asked for electronic copies of the latest books by the best known, and best selling authors.

Even I don't want to pay hardback prices for a digital copy. And suppliers eventually find an acceptable price to sell them at.

Now bear with me, it will become clearer as you read on...

This year life has been carrying on against a background of assorted e-book price issues taking place on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the USA action started with agent Andrew Wylie- too complex to explain here, but just Google his name and you can read all about his dealing this year.

You'll come across the term 'Agency Model' now.

In September it hit the UK with the announcement by Hatchette UK that they were moving some sellers to the agency model.

This meant that the publisher not the retailer would be setting the price that their e-books could be sold at, and W H Smith, Waterstones and the Book Depository responded by immediately removing or making unavailable  the publisher's e-books. Meanwhile Amazon Kindle continued selling at the price they chose...

Hatchette said there would be a "short transition period" while they moved from wholesaler terms to the new agency model, and their intention was to create a level playing field for booksellers, whether they are large or small.

Other UK Publishers have apparently being looking at this, and may follow.

Laudable but...

Now has told Kindle customers it "will continue to fight against higher prices for e-books".
It has suggested that publishers increasing e-book prices will lead to lower sales.

Their e-mail to customers states "In fact, since agency prices went into effect on some e-books in the US, unit sales of books priced under the agency model have slowed to nearly half the rate of growth of the rest of Kindle book sales." Read the whole e-mail here.

Now Kindle has a big part of the e-book market. When they launched the latest version of Kindle they were offering some well known books at exceptionally low prices compared to other suppliers.

Call me a cynic, but are they totally thinking of the customer having to pay more or are they concerned about their profits?

And what about the writer in all this? How much will they get?

Even that is variable...

You can read the Society of Authors recommendations here.

So what will happen next? Share your views.

Personally, I want to be able to buy an e-book for a reasonable price (for its length) but still ensure the writer gets a royalty rate that rewards their hard work and their level of sales, while the publisher makes enough money too...


Helen Baggott said...

I've not embraced this new innovation - yet. I think I'll wait a little longer, at least until the marketplace has settled down.

There's an interesting review of them in the latest The Week and I'm just as baffled!

Carolb said...

In the end I think the market will be dominated by a few bigger name suppliers and how much influence they can exert on publishers-on pricing for those who go with the agency model.
Hopefully it won't be dragged out for too long.