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Self-publishing News: Amazon Faces Ebook Price Fixing Suit

Self-publishing News: Amazon faces ebook Price Fixing Suit

In this week’s Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a close look at the price fixing lawsuit against Amazon and the Big Five.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi’s News Editor Dan Holloway

Tonight’s #indieauthorchat on Twitter is on one of the key questions facing indies: to go with KDP Select or to go wide. In our current self-publishing news podcast, Howard and I look back at last year’s biggest story, Audiblegate. Which is also still current news.

Breaking: Wattpad Sold to Naver

More next week, but it has just been announced that Wattpad will be sold to Naver. Naver is the owner of online Comic publisher Webtoon, and this feels like a really exciting match. More to follow!

Ebook Price Fixing: Reckoning time for Amazon?

Tech companies are facing increased scrutiny. It’s not just over issues of fake news and free speech. Those, though, have highlighted a perennial issue. That of monopolies. Antitrust litigation is increasingly on the horizon for the world’s biggest companies. Most prominent has been the controversy around Facebook and Whatsapp, and allegations over forced data sharing.

But this week, it was Amazon under the spotlight. Ebook price fixing rows are not a new thing, of course. 8 years ago it was Apple and the big publishers, which resulted in Apple paying a $450m settlement. Now Amazon is in court facing price fixing charges. It is cited, with the Big Five listed as co-conspirators, in a lawsuit filed in New York. The suit points to Amazon’s market dominance, with 90% of ebook sales and 50% of print. It also points to the drop in price following the Apple case.

The case follows one day behind Connecticut’s announcement that it is investigating Amazon for anticompetitive behaviour.

Medium

I’ve written about Medium various times over the years. They’re one of those platforms that’s still there, and that still keeps doing things, though I’m not quite sure how they keep going. They introduced monetisation for contributors to its subscription platform, for example. But I don’t think I know anyone who’s made money from it. Or, indeed, anyone who subscribes.

Now they have bought Glose. Glose is a social reading app with a million users. What’s interesting is that Glose also has an education arm. And it allows people to buy ebooks directly. That suggests a soon to arrive way of making money through Medium for those of us who write long form non-fiction. And with the long read making a comeback at a moment when people are becoming wary of the snap judgments short form social media pushes on us this might just be the right thing at the right time. Though it probably won’t be.

Publishers Weekly Offers Indies a Way Into Libraries

Libraries are a bit like Wattpad. They are an enormous part of the self-publishing picture, but one we don’t see mentioned as often as it might be. That’s one reason I try to talk about them as much as possible in this column. That’s usually in the context of how increasingly straightforward it is for us to get our ebooks into libraries thanks to Overdrive. Overdrive is the avenue through which libraries tend to get their ebooks. To be available through Overdrive is the gold standard. And thanks to deals with platforms like Draft2Digital, it’s really easy for us to get our books into the Overdrive catalogue. So easy, even I’ve received royalties through that route.

Now, there is a new way for us to get our books into libraries. You will maybe have gathered from the preceding paragraph that I’m luke warm as to whether this is what the world was waiting for. Publishers Weekly are launching a programme to enable indies to get ebooks into libraries. It will be tied in with their Booklife Elite programme. Yes, I had also sort of forgotten that was a thing! The criterion for entering the programme will be a starred Booklife review. In theory that offers libraries the guarantee of curation. And it offers indies the assurance of being in, well, being in a curated catalogue. But I am wary of a service that is accessed overwhelmingly through a paid route. Yes, you can submit (or “subnit” as the Publishers Weekly site rather embarrassingly puts it) for a free review. But paying guarantees you one.

But let’s be honest. This isn’t Overdrive. I can’t imagine any librarian I know looking through it for high quality indie books because that’s what they’ve decided they need. What’s interesting is this is the second move from Publishers’ Weekly in as many weeks. And like their venture into the world of book fairs, it has a component aimed at indies. That’s an interesting statement of intent if nothing else. Which is good, because I think “nothing else” is about right.

Overdrive’s Record Year

As if to reinforce the point, Mark Williams has news of Overdrive’s record year in 2020. Downloads through the platform jumped by a third to 430 million. And as Williams points out, that includes more than 100 library systems each of which logged more than a million downloads.

Amazon investigated for anticompetitive behaviour and in court on price fixing charge, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy… Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month

Over to You

Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.

Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. As always, a really great news roundup. I do have two comments to share about my experience thus far with library distribution and Medium.

    In 2019 and half of 2020 I did a lot of regular publishing on Medium. I was writing a minimum of a post each week of approx. 2K to 4K words. I started off doing it as a way to make income on the side, but the income was miniscule after six months of regular posting and growing my readership from nothing to a little over 2K. The higher income writers tend to be either political writers (many from major newspapers or known podcasts/vidcasts); or what I call culture writers. Blogging on things that cross all boundaries–dating, mental illness, child rearing, etc. The most popular ones tended to be confessional, a few were psychology/counselor based.

    Though the income was negligent, I stayed for the exposure. However, in fall 2020 Medium changed it’s TOS to include their right to make derivative works or actual copies of work to put on other sites they owned without further compensation to the writer nor even asking permission to do so. Continuing on the platform was considered acceptance of this new TOS. I checked with a couple of legal friends, then left the platform. Closing my account before the switch to make sure none of my work could be used. I can see people continuing to post there for exposure, but for me it was not acceptable as I often take my blog posts and end up putting them in a book or somewhere else that pays. I did not want to give up control and compete with a behemoth like Medium,

    On libraries, I agree with you on the pay to play scenario with Booklife. Their payment is near what one would have to pay Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, or other well-known platforms for a review. I don’t see the ROI on that–especially since readers don’t care about those reviews. It is only other authors and seemingly librarians. Though the librarians I’ve spoken with say they don’t pay attention to Booklife because it is 1) at the back of the review catalog in a special section; and 2) they know it is a self-published book and the person had to pay for the review.

    So far, I’ve found that the best approach to libraries is twofold: 1) offer to do something for them so they get to know you and your reliability and skills. e.g., a virtual author meeting (or in person when COVID is over); host a panel; have a variety of things you can speak on that a library appreciates); and 2) send an email with a one-sheet about your book to the librarian on record for acquisitions in your genre, or the head librarian. Not everyone appreciates getting the one sheets, but my experience has been that only 10% completely ignore them. It helps to include information about which libraries already catalog your books (ebooks or print). It is easier for them to say yes when they know others have already purchased.

    Libraries are a hard nut to crack, but they are slowly becoming more open to indies with a track record. What most of them will NOT do is accept a free book to be cataloged, or an obvious email with multiple libraries listed and a direct request for them to purchase. Like everything in life, it takes time and effort to build a list of current librarians and then approach them one by one with information that is interesting to them.

    Finally, by participating in the cost-per-circulation (CPC) option in ebook library distribution (offered by Overdrive, Bibliotecha, and Hoopla) it is easier for librarians to take a chance on new authors because they don’t have to purchase the book at full price without knowing whether it fits what their patrons want to check out. CPC allows them to pay a portion of the price with every checkout (usually about 10% depending on the vendor and licensing). In that way, they can show a larger catalog of potential ebooks for library download without committing to paying full price for any of those books. For those authors who think: “I’m not going to allow them to only pay me 10% or less of full price.” I implore you to think again. Once that book is checked out 10 times it will have paid for the full price AND any subsequent checkouts is above the full price they would have paid for a one time forever license for one book (which used to be the old way of doing ebooks just two to three years ago). It is the old way that kept most libraries only ordering bestsellers because they knew they would circulate.

  2. Naver is a South Korea website. As a Wattpad reader and writer, I notice a LOT of KPOP fan slash-fiction, particularly with BTS stars. Naver’s going to have a devil of a time dealing with it.
    Wattpad’s more than slash fiction, but…there’s a LOT of it.
    In South Korea, the KPOP and other stars are protesting for legal protection against slash fiction and a petition was made.
    http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20210113000408&ACE_SEARCH=1

    It’ll be interesting to see how Wattpad changes (if at all, since the bulk of it is in English) after Naver applies editorial control.

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