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Amazon Customers Receiving $69 Mil Refund - The End Of Ebook Overpricing?
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Amazon Customers Receiving $69 Mil Refund  -  The End Of Ebook Overpricing?

Today's forecast: cloudy with a few inches of money.

Amazon sent out an email to its customers today announcing that it was giving out credits for every e-book purchase the customer made between April of 2010 and May of 2012. According to the Kindle retailer, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster have made a settlement to an antitrust lawsuit about e-book prices. Up to $69 million will be returned to customers who purchased e-books from the aforementioned publishers in the past two years. If you're one of those customers, look forward to anywhere from thirty cents to a dollar-thirty in refunds per book. You don't have to do anything; the credit will automatically be deposited in your Amazon account, or you can request a check personally. Additionally, you may receive notices from other retailers outlining how to get a refund from them.

Although Amazon played no part in the lawsuit, they seemed just as happy about the settlement as the state Attorneys General who brought the case.

The settlement, as Amazon puts it, is "a huge win for consumers".

E-books from giant publishers have had relatively similar prices to their paperback counterparts since the inception of the e-book platform, despite the cost of publishing electronically being generally cheaper than publishing through paper. It has been cited as one of numerous market practices that traditional publishers have fallen behind on.

Can readers now look forward to universally lower prices on their e-book purchases?

I happen to have purchased several titles from The Wheel of Time series within exactly from 2010 to May of this year (lucky I). The e-books are priced exactly the same as the print versions: within the $6.99 - $8.99 range. It was the same for Ender's Game, the last book I purchased on the Kindle. The two books are currently still priced that way.

TWoT is published by Tor, not the above publishers, and Ender by Doherty and Associates; they have no obligations to lower any of their books' prices. But this question stands for them as well, just as it does for every other publisher out there.

It's no secret that bestsellers, once they've earned the title, can go out at any price and still sell. I remember getting the seventh Harry Potter book for Christmas and seeing a $37.99 price tag on the book jacket.

"That's some really expensive paper," I thought.

It's only when I started investigating self-publishing that it became apparent that it was all just supply and demand. For instance, self-publishers are advised that unless they've established themselves on the market, they shouldn't price their books $5.99 or higher, because the demand for their books will be low. Start off at 99c, and work your way up as more people demand your work.

This is irrespective of any costs to publishing, since the return will always be high, and no further costs will be incurred. You pay for editing, conversion, a book cover -- or sometimes just do it yourself -- and that's essentially it. Your e-book is ready. No ink or paper required. All earnings for the next million years will be a hundred percent profit, most of the royalties going straight to you.

This is why we see free e-books available so frequently. Because self-publishers can afford it.

But it's dishonest, isn't it? The supply is practically unlimited. There's no risk in charging lower for your product.

This is how market bubbles are created: when someone gets greedy. It's the stuff that supports economic recessions.

Well, hopefully, this settlement gets publishers, traditional and non, rethinking their strategies. To not do so would be a $69 million mistake.

Street Talk

Thanks for the info. I had read a bit about this earlier. You helped clear up some points, thanks!

  about 1 decade ago
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