Douglas Preston is doubling down on his pressure for Amazon to capitulate to his publisher, Hachette. He has written a letter proclaiming that his group, known as “Authors United,” is full of “the finest writers in English language,” the sellers of “billions of books,” that their readers “listen when they speak,” and that this “represents power.”
The problem is, Douglas Preston doesn’t seem to understand what Hachette is fighting for. It isn’t a secret; Hachette is fighting for higher prices for readers. They’ve said as much to their investors. We also know from this slide from HarperCollins that publishers are now making better margins on ebooks than on their hardbacks, a fact that agent Brian DeFlore says publishers have been lying to agents about for years.
The collusion and price-fixing case in 2010 was so much about the $9.99 price point, that when Publishers Weekly wrote an ebook about the trial, they entitled the book THE BATTLE OF $9.99. Amazon wants ebooks to cost no more than $9.99. I can see this very clearly in my own self-publishing contracts with them. If I price my ebooks over $9.99, they reduce my royalty from 70% to 35%. The reason Hachette colluded with its competitors a few years ago was to put an end to this price point and force Amazon to sell ebooks at $14.99 or even higher. Part of that reason is simply to retard the growth of ebooks and protect print.
The irony here is that Douglas Preston has been on the wrong side of this maneuvering in the past. In 2010, Hachette delayed the release of Douglas’s ebooks in order to protect their print sales, which angered his readers. They also priced his ebooks at $14.99, and Douglas heard from fifty or so readers who said they’d never read his books again. Preston lashed out at these readers, saying that they were acting entitled:
“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing…. It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something…. It gives me pause when I get 50 e-mails saying ‘I’m never buying one of your books ever again. I’m moving on, you greedy, greedy author.’”