Verlagsruppe Georg Von Holzbrinck v. Amazon
This weekend, the German media conglomerate "Verlagsgruppe Georg Von Holzbrinck" squared off against (the world's largest shoe store) in a publishing-industry showdown that made all the aristocrats involved so mad they could shoot their housekeepers stone dead with a black powder pistol (getting away with it, of course, thanks to lovely power and money -- but oh! Such RAGE!).

Basically it comes down to this: Amazon delisted all of Von Holzbrinck's books for the weekend, making it impossible to buy any books from the publisher Macmillan, which is Von Holzbrinck's earnest American mask. Amazon did this because Macmillan wants their ebooks to cost more than 10 dollars.

Why you should care: this means nobody can buy anything from writers who publish with Von Holzbrinck, like John Scalzi, who's leading the fight against Amazon on behalf of other Von Holzbrinck authors.

He's also written the best article about the whole situation so far.

Amazon has been trying to become the world's largest publisher for years, but suddenly now has competition as a result of Apple releasing its iPad. Amazon doesn't understand "creatives" very well. Not like Apple, a company which basically designs its products to be actual fashion accessories. So Amazon is freaking out, trying to lock down deals, trying to make sure that Apple's iBooks store doesn't maw down 150% of market share overnight.

The only thing Amazon has going for it over Apple is pure price. They need -- NEED -- all their ebooks to cost 10 bucks.


-- Amazon wants all ebooks to cost 10 dollars.

-- Publishers want ebooks to cost more than this, a price determined by using some kind of percentage algorithm, like 70% of the hardcover or something

-- Amazon wants to be a "publisher" of ebooks, taking a percentage of each sale as opposed to buying books from publishers and then selling them, etc.

-- Publishers want Amazon to be a customer of their products, buying their ebooks and then charging whatever. You know, like a real store.

-- Publishers now have the option to go with Apple instead of Amazon, and Apple is willing to let publishers charge whatever they want for these FUCKING TEXT FILES (ahem -- excuse me)

-- Fight! Fight! Fight!



1. A year ago: Amazon delists all books related to gays, lesbians, or sex.

Excuse: "Oh shit, it was a computer glitch...christ, we are sorry."

Subtext: "Check it out, Middle America. We don't like all those queers or sluts either. We are a "decent" bookstore you can trust."

2. Six months ago: Amazon hunts down and eradicates the book "1984," by George Orwell, from its Kindles, deleting them all in the middle of the night.

Excuse: "It was a pirated edition of "1984." We had to delete this novel. It was necessary and right. But christ, we are sorry, and we will never do anything like that again."

Subtext: "Your Kindles belong to us. We know what books you are reading. When you sleep, that's when we come into your house to sort and rearrange your MIIIIIIINDS."

3. This weekend: Amazon delists all of Macmillan's books because Macmillan wants to control the price of their own products.

Excuse: "10 dollars is cheaper than 15 dollars! We are not sorry!"

Subtext: "Yeah, we are evil motherfuckers. We are done pretending. So what? So what? What are you going to do about it? Cry? Cry baby, cry!"


Right now, there are only six real publishers in the world: Bertelsmann, News Corp, Pearson, the CBS Corporation, Lagardere, and Von Holzbrinck. Soon, there will only be three: Google, Apple, and Amazon.

The plus side of this will be that writers will be able to do publishing deals with all three of these companies at the same time, making money off whoever reaches readers first eeeelectronically.

The downside is that without publishing gatekeepers, many fiction markets -- like "literary fiction" -- will go up in a puff of smoke, unless they are kept alive by odd boutique independent publishers who are plowing through vast personal fortunes in order to stay afloat.

However, in the ashes of this publishingpocalypse, I predict that gangs of roving mutants -- publishing gangs -- will spring up to edit and promote work in order to get it sold in one of these three stores, and in many other instantaneous online marketplaces.

These gangs will come together to promote similar aesthetic ends and to fight other publishing gangs in the fiction trenches. There won't be much money in it, but it will be fun as hell.

It will all be okay, probably. Don't worry, don't worry.

Posted by miracle on Tue, 02 Feb 2010 11:51:54 -0500 -- permanent link

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