Flash! Amazon makes an official statement on the Macmillan situation

Amazon statement 

In the statement, Amazon announces that they had a disagreement with Macmillan over going to an “agency” system (in which Macmillan sets the sale price of books, and Amazon gets thirty percent instead of the likely current fifty percent).  Macmillan has stated an intent to sell some books higher than the $9.99 that Amazon often sets for new and bestselling books.

Amazon also announces that

“…we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.”

This means that Macmillan books will be able to be purchased through the Amazon store (even though they will basically be sold by Macmillan with Amazon acting as agent). 

The power you will have is the power you always have as a consumer.  Remember that other publishers may certainly follow suit.  If consumers continue to buy e-books at $14.99 from publishers who set that sale price, the publishers will come out ahead on this negotiation.

If, on the other hand, consumers buy other books, books that are priced at $9.99 and below, we may see an eventual shifting in who the “big six” publishers are. 

This also really helps iBooks from Apple…since, even if you have the Kindle app on your iPad, the price will be presumably the same from both stores for publishers who have arranged this “agency” situation.

You can contact Macmillan here:



You can see what authors are involved here:


Remember that the author may have books with multiple publishers.  You may want to contact the author, although they will have very little influence over what Macmillan does in selling their books, typically.  However, if you respectfully suggest that they consider other publishers or publishing independently, they may take that into account in future negotiations.

For those of you who are interested, these are the imprints from Macmillan:

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  FSG Hardcovers
  FSG Paperbacks
  Hill & Wang
  Faber & Faber
First Second
Henry Holt & Co.
  Henry Holt Hardcovers
  Henry Holt Paperbacks
  Metropolitan Books
  Times Books
Macmillan Audio
  Behind the Wheel
Nature Publishing Group
Palgrave Macmillan
Quick and Dirty Tips
Scientific American
St. Martin’s Press
  Minotaur Books
  Thomas Dunne Books
  Tor Books
  Forge Books
  Orb Books
  Tor/Seven Seas
Bedford, Freeman and Worth
Bedford/St. Martin’s
W.H. Freeman
 Worth Publishers
BFW High School
Palgrave Macmillan
Trade Books For Courses
FSG Books for Young Readers
Feiwel & Friends
Holt Books for Young Readers
Roaring Brook
Priddy Books
Starscape/Tor Teen
Square Fish
Young Listeners
Macmillan Kids

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

15 Responses to “Flash! Amazon makes an official statement on the Macmillan situation”

  1. Caroline Says:

    Thanks for the quick update, Bufo!

  2. Lydia Says:

    You are, as you readily admit, motivated by your own love for a device you’ve spent a lot of money on. You want as many books as possible as cheaply as possible. That’s fine; self-interest is nothing to sniff at.

    But the fact is, Amazon has been the bully in this process. They sought a monopoly, then used it against authors and publishers in a way that threatened the health of the entire publishing industry.

    Imagine you’re an author. You’ve devoted years and years of your life to an 800-page masterpiece. Then Amazon tells you you have to sell it for the same price as “MySpace for Dummies,” or they won’t put it on their powerful, proprietary platform at all. And you want us to boycott authors and publishers to preserve this fabulous system?

    As for the recommendation that authors “pick their publishers” based on your criteria, this suggests a total ignorance of the realities of the profession. Perhaps you could take a poll of real-life authors to find how many had comparable offers from lots of major publishers and got to “pick.”

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lydia!

      Actually, I love books more than I love my Kindle, but I do love my Kindle. 🙂 As you may be aware, I also write about other EBRs e-book readers) and the e-book publishing world generally. Oh, and my first Kindle was a gift. 🙂

      The price of books up in the $9.99 to $15 range doesn’t really affect my self-interests all that much. I rarely buy those. I typically read free (or very low cost) public domain books. Last time I calculated, my average download from Amazon was under eighty cents. My self-interests aren’t affected much (in terms of buying books) by what happens with new releases and bestsellers.

      I’m not sure where you think Amazon has had a monopoly. Yes, they have a proprietary format. However, other people can and do make books for the Kindle. Amazon does not sign publsihers to an exclusive contract…publishers who have a Kindle version can have other versions, if they want. There are several competitive products, and Amazon came into a market with more than ten EBRs (E-Book Readers) already in it. There will be easily twice that many by year’s end.

      I am an author, to some extent, so I can imagine that part. 🙂 Let’s be very clear here: Amazon has not been telling the author at what price they can sell the book. First, authors usually don’t sell books to retailers…publishers do. Authors rarely have a say (unless they are independently publishing) over what the list price of the book is.

      Then, the publisher sells it to Amazon. They can (and do) set their own list prices. They can price that 800 page book at $35…and that’s not an unusual price. Amazon has been paying the publishers based on that price.

      What has been true in the past which would not be true under the agency plan is that Amazon would then set the retail price for the customer. That’s what is at stake here, essentially. When Amazon sold a bestseller for $9.99, it was quite often true that the publisher had been paid more than that. What the publisher paid the author was between the two of them.

      I have not recommended a boycott of anyone, and do not recommend that in this case. I like people to make up their own minds on issues. For example, I have made it clear that I do not buy Random House products because of their stand on text-to-speech…but have repeatedly said that I consider that a very personal decision.

      I do not suggest that authors pick publshers based on my own criteria. I suggested that that, if readers let authors know that they were not happy with something, the authors might take that into account into future negotiations. That seems reasonable to me.

      I like the idea of a poll for authors: I’ve done one of those before. In the past, new authors would tend to submit to many houses. If they chose to take the first offer they got, that was between their decision (typically, with input from their agents, for many authors). In the future, authors may have more possibilities for distribution.

      I don’t disagree that Amazon used its strength to try to accomplish its goal, and I have also said that I’m not sure that pulling the books was the right decision. Macmillan also used its strength. This doesn’t seem to be a case where either party thought reason alone would prevail. Macmillan threatened to delay e-book releases to Amazon (but presumably, not to other parties who agreed to become their agents), and Amazon pulled the books.

      Again, I appreciate you writing. I think it’s great that people care as much about reading and publishing as they do. It’s fine with me that people have storng opinions on it, and that they don’t always agree with mine. 🙂

      • Lydia Says:

        Thanks for your gracious response. On the issue of Amazon as a monopoly, the problem is their twin roles as a mammoth book retailer and a purveyor of a proprietary ebook platform, and how they exert those two forces together. When Amazon tells an author or publisher “you must accept flat pricing or you’re not on the Kindle platform,” they’re also saying “we as a retailer will not sell your ebook at all.” That’s a functional monopoly.

        Are they the only ones throwing their weight around? Of course not. But the particular demand Amazon is making seems fundamentally unfair to the folks actually producing the product.

        Amazon likes to talk about the cost of *distribution* being essentially flat for ebooks. But the cost of *production* is not flat at all. The cost of writing, editing, proofreading, layout, indexing etc. is much higher for some books than others. Would Amazon insist on the same pricing for a gold watch as a steel one, just because the cost of distributing the two watches was the same?

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks again for writing, Lydia! I’m happy to continue the conversation.

        Oh, I did go back and re-read the post, and I can see how it could look like I was suggesting that people boycott. I wasn’t saying that publishers shouldn’t win, just that they might. People may choose to pay the higher prices Macmillan wants…that one of the choices the market may make.

        Amazon doesn’t dictate the list prices for e-books…or at least, they didn’t before their new seventy percent proposal. They don’t have flat pricing…the $9.99 is only for some bestsellers and new titles. The list prices are all over the place, and that’s how the publishers get paid. If a publisher lists the book at $50, Amazon typically pays them $25…even if Amazon only sells it for $9.99. The sale prices also vary considerably…I did a recent post with some of the range distribution. 13% of the books in the store were priced at $9.99. 63% were priced below that and 24% were ten dollars or higher. If you are interested, here’s the post: https://ilmk.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/money-for-nothin-and-your-books-for-free/

        Now, the new seventy percent deal they are offering independent authors who go through their DTP…that is a place where they are trying to dictate, clearly. They require that the books be list priced between $2.99 and $9.99. They say that the books must have certain features of the store available…which sounds like you can’t block text-to-speech. That’s using their power to dictate terms, in my opinion. Amazon has done some things with which I disagree…and I do mention that. 🙂

        I do understand your point. Let’s say that a gold watch is listed by the manufacturer at $200 and a steel watch from the same manufacturer at $100. Amazon hypothetically says that “all bestseller and new release watches are $75”. They pay the manufacturer $100 for the gold and $50 for the silver. Amazon makes money on the steel watch and loses it on the gold watch.

        However, I can see the concern the watch manufacturer would have for the gold watch. It the same watch cost $200 at another website, who would pay it? They’d start to believe that gold watches should cost $75, which devalues the watch.

        No question, that scares publishers.

  3. lorenet Says:

    Thanks. I have saved the link to the authors in my favorites. I will vote with my credit card. I don’t think the higher price will make up for fewer sales.

  4. Michael Gallagher Says:


    Nice post on all of this over the last couple of days, as well as putting out the macmillan footprint. I am crediting you and this list in my blog’s text tonight.



  5. The eBook War « Free Kindle Books Plus a Few Other Tips Says:

    […] Here is the list of Macmillan’s publishing footprint, courtesy of several blogs but first sent out by Bufo Calvin, who is not one of those soapbox bloggers I mentioned in the first paragraph, he’s actually one of the more helpful folks ot in the Kindle community, in the I Love my Kindle Blog: […]

  6. blablabla Says:

    whozgotallthebooksbatgirl….Boof your prolly to young to remember the monopoly break up of Ma’bell but….it’s like it never happened or now nobody has time to get involved….the little people pay, and unless the masses revolt we will continue to pay, out the whistle hole! and, I’m in a quandry…I get the news a day ahead of the locals because I get chinese and Japanese rags sent to the KDX, then I get “the K W blog….by the time I get your blog it’s like three day old fish!….but your follow up fiction is priceless….don’t stop, please, don’t, stop!

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, blablabla!

      これらの日本語…、常に我々の前。 :)
      korera no nihongo …,tsuneni wareware no mae . : )

      Oh, I remember the break-up of Ma Bell. I’d claim to remember the fall of the Roman Empire, but that would be a slight exaggeration. 😉 Are you using PressDisplay for your Japanese and Chinese periodicals? Just curious…

      Well, that fiction is clearly fiction now…Amazon is going to put the books in the store, apparently they are going to go with the agency plan in March.

  7. ash Says:

    Sooo…when will all the Kindle books they pulled be available again?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, ash!

      That’s a great question, and one for which we don’t yet have an answer. One interesting impact of them pulling the books is that they apparently disappeared from people’s wish lists. Will restoring them to the store restore them to the lists? We don’t know yet.

      My guess is that it will be soon…once you say you are going to put them back, the longer you wait, the worse it is, in my opinion. The point’s been made…

      • ash Says:

        Actually, the books are still on my wishlist online, I just can’t see them on my Kindle which only shows books available on Kindle. So I would think they’ll show up on my Kindle again when those versions are available. I hope.

  8. Betsi Says:

    Yes… I´m scare 🙂

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