Saturday, January 30, 2010

Amazon sure picked a weird way to try to top the iPad in electronic publishing news

At the end of a week in which e-publishing news was dominated by laughter at the iPad's name and amazement at the capabilities of the new Kindle competitor from Apple, Amazon sure pulled a weird stunt in the face of the new competitive threat.

With no fanfare and more or less in the dark of Friday night, they punished Kindle owners who might try to download books from Macmillan and its subsidiaries. The publishers' books had mysteriously disappeared from the Amazon database. What was behind the move was the disagreement about e-book prices between Amazon ($10) and Macmillan ($15). John Scalzi, one of the affected authors, commented:
This asinine jockeying over electronic book prices has very little to do with what’s actually good or useful for anyone other than the manufacturer of a piece of hardware… who also happens to be a book retailer. I understand Amazon’s desire to corner the electronic book market with the Kindle, which requires publishers to bend to its will on pricing, but I’m not notably sympathetic to it. In one of those grand ironies of life, I’ve been here before with the iPod, a thing for which I buy music not from Apple but from Amazon, which sold DRM-free mp3s and earned my music purchasing dollars because of it (and who, if memory serves, allowed for some flexibility in pricing). Now my iPod touch is filled with music not bought from Apple. If these companies’ relative positions flip because of books, well, now. That would be funny.
E-books are already rather insubstantial and distressingly virtual, especially the DRM versions like Amazon's that can't be passed on like a print book. This hardly seems a good time for Amazon to be be making sudden capricious moves that limit their customers' choices.

It just seems to guarantee that more people will say, Guess I'll just wait on the whole e-book thing until I get a chance to try out an iPad.

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