It looks like HarperCollins’ GreenWillow imprint will be reissuing several of DWJ’s most difficult-to-find books in January 2012. So far, it looks like these reissues are for the Kindle and Nook (so far). It’s unclear whether other formats (like new paperbacks) will follow. Jones’ official site doesn’t seem to have any information on these upcoming reissues.
The new titles include:
A Tale of Time City, Dogsbody, and Fire & Hemlock will be published by Penguin in March 2012.
ETA: These are US reissues. It’s unclear whether other territories will be receiving these as well.
Publishers (thanks to Apple) have been using price-fixing to hold the ebook market hostage since 2010. Along with the European Commission, the US government is jumping aboard this long-overdue investigation. More info at the WSJ article. Whether anything will come of this is up in the air.
Antitrust enforcers are examining the “agency pricing” model, which Apple introduced with its iPad tablet in April 2010. Until then, e-books had been sold under the standard “wholesale model” used in the industry. Under that arrangement, publishers sell books to retailers at a wholesale price, and retailers then set the price they charge consumers.
To spur sales of its Kindle e-readers, Amazon heavily discounted e-books, pricing many new best sellers at $9.99. Amazon shouldered the loss to sell the books cheaply, but many publishers felt the practice undercut their ability to sell hardcover books at higher prices.
Apple took a different tack. It told publishers that consumer books would be part of the launch of the iPad if enough publishers agreed to sell their titles under the agency-pricing model, a strategy that effectively prevented discounting. Apple would take a 30% cut.
The model became the de facto standard for books written by many of the country’s most popular writers, because publishers told Amazon it had to abide by the same terms and Amazon complied. The shift effectively ended Amazon’s ability to offer sharp discounts or undercut other retailers like Apple.
Before he died this year, Apple’s former chief executive, Steve Jobs, told his biographer that the arrangement gave the publishers leverage to stop Amazon’s heavy discounts.
“We told the publishers ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway,’” Mr. Jobs was quoted as saying by Walter Isaacson.
“But we also asked for a guarantee that if anybody else is selling the books cheaper than we are, then we can sell them at the lower price too. So they went to Amazon and said, ‘You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.’”
Today, however, Penguin said that Amazon had “not been consulted by OverDrive about the terms of Penguin’s agreement with OverDrive.” That deal required library e-book suppliers to make sure the files were protected by their firewalls.
“Amazon has undertaken to work with Penguin and Overdrive between now and the end of the year to address Penguin’s concerns,” Penguin said. “Penguin will, as a result, restore the supply of these titles until the end of the year in order to return the availability of older titles to all its digital customers.”
“‘Get for Kindle’ for all Penguin eBooks in your catalog has been restored as of this morning,” OverDrive said in a blog post. “Penguin titles are available for check out by Kindle users and the Kindle format will be available for patrons who are currently on a waiting list for a Penguin title. Upcoming releases remain unavailable.”
Penguin temporarily restoring Kindle ebook access speaks volumes—especially of angry library patrons and of Penguin’s current beef with Amazon’s Prime lending library.
Librarians aren’t taking the situation lightly either, according to this Forbes article.
“If Penguin has an issue with Amazon, we ask that they deal with Amazon directly and not hold libraries hostage to a conflict of business models,” said ALA President-elect Maureen Sullivan. “This situation is one more log thrown onto the fire of libraries’ abilities to provide access to books – in this case titles they’ve already purchased. Penguin should restore access for library patrons now.”
School Library Journal further elaborates on the situation that libraries (and library patrons) are not receiving what they’ve paid for:
“Unfortunately, Penguin has not lifted the embargo (or waiting period) for access to new future releases in ebook format, leaving libraries in a quandary about when they’ll be able to provide access to the latest titles requested by their patrons.”
Russell went on to say that libraries pay publishers more for ebooks than print books. “Library spending on ebooks has doubled or even tripled over the last year,” she says. “New York Public Library alone is spending $1 million a year on ebooks.”
While Amazon’s PrimeLending program charges customers for ebook lending, libraries seek no financial reward. “We support free lending because the nation greatly benefits when access to information is available to any citizen, regardless of ability to pay,” Russell says. “We support free ebook lending because a good number of our users want the digital formats, and we strive to meet that need.”
In short, Russell adds, “We are good for your bottom line. Are you shooting yourself in the foot by excluding libraries?”
Random House is also apparently eye-balling the situation and (in my opinion) will act based on the outcome of this latest kerfluffle. If Penguin is successful in their tantrum, I wouldn’t be surprised if other publishers follow suit, which is too bad, since ebook sales are surpassing print (which have been flat for years) and publishers haven’t really begun to figure out how to properly monetize the medium without alienating consumers and retailers.
If I were in charge of library acquisitions, I would think very carefully about where my next purchases will be coming from. Why throw good money after bad faith?
The pullback of Penguin from the library market means that four of the “Big 6″ publishers no longer make their frontlist titles available to libraries in digital form: Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette, which was rumored to have been rethinking its library strategy, but to date has not altered it. Another major publisher, HarperCollins, has famously placed 26-loan limits on its frontlist titles, leaving only Random House to support unfettered library lending.
The withholding of ebooks from the major U.S. trade publishers from the library market is an unprecedented denial of free lending access to the marketplace. ALA has repeatedly indicated its willingness to discuss a variety of business relationships between publishers and libraries; apparently these discussions have not been persuasive to publishing executives who fear the erosion of their ebook markets from library retailers and patrons.
I’m not sure who Penguin believes they’re punishing, but it’s probably not who they think. Pirates will find away to steal content no matter what. Paying customers and library patrons will simply be annoyed momentarily and then find something else to read. Thus, Penguin kicks itself in the teeth, and technology (and reading) marches on.
I think this is sad because library ebook access is a step towards a wider proliferation of reading in a world dominated by video, music, and bad TV; cutting it off seems to be a little like self mutilation.
I’m reading so many things right now, they are all starting to blur together in a mishmosh of print and pixels. Thanks to Kindle library lending, I now have too many books in my queue. To date, I’m perusing:
I am also eyeballing Howl’s Moving Castle, but since I’ve read that umpteen times before, I really need to finish some of the other books on my list before I read it again.