Flash! Random House questions agency model

I’ve been planning to suggest that Random House might stand alone against the other publishers that are the Big Six in not following the agency model. 

I’m not buying Random House books, because they block text-to-speech.  However, I do want to mention this, since it could have a big impact.  Random House is the biggest English-language publisher, basically.  If they continue to allow Amazon to do what it does best (be a retailer and set prices), this could be an offset for other publishers deciding to set prices themselves.  

Gear Diary reports that MobileRead reports Madeline McIntosh of Random House said at the American Bookseller’s Association Winter Institute meeting that, in addition to publishers not being the best entities to set prices, delaying (“windowing” or “staggering”) e-book releases may be a bad thing. 

“My fear is that the consumer who has fully embraced the technology will buy another e-book that is available or lose interest altogether. What if I train the consumer that the best scenario is to get it free?” 

My full post today addresses that issue as well. 

This is an interesting development, and I’ll look for more confirmation. 

Here’s a link to the ABA: ABA Headlines

I think this is a much better thing for me, if they do take this position.  It’s going to make it more difficult to maintain set high prices than if everybody set them at, say, $14.99. 

My not buying Random House products is more for other people than for me, so this won’t change my practice on that.   However, I do think that’s a very personal decision and a complex one.  Since this may have a huge impact on e-book readers, I wanted to share the information. 

UPDATE: I was searching for a bit more on this, and found a story from May 22, 2008, saying that McIntosh was leaving Random House for…Amazon!  Hmm…that’s a very interesting connection, although McIntosh is apparently with Random House at this point. 

Publishers Weekly article 


Here’s the Random House press release from when McIntosh returned, dated November 2 2009: 

Press Release  

It has some interesting information.  She had been “Amazon’s Director of Kindle Content Acquisition for Europe”. 

So, she leaves Random House in May of 2008, works for Amazon in the Kindle division, and comes back to Random House (starting work on December 1, 2009).  A little over two months later, she indicates Random House is siding with Amazon on e-books pricing strategies, effectively against what some other publishers are doing.

UPDATE: Even more interesting!  In February 2008, three months before leaving Random House, McIntosh sent out a letter to publishing partners explaining that Random House was not requiring their partners to use Digital Rights Management in audiobooks via digital download.   That’s an interesting position, and we’ll see if that’s an indicator of innovative strategies she might take with e-books.


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

6 Responses to “Flash! Random House questions agency model”

  1. Shania Says:

    I found the Random House article on my own and immediately went to send you the link and info so you could post…. but you were already on it, Bufo! I’m so impressed! And thrilled about the article too.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks, Shania…both for the intent and for the kind words!

      I do have a full time job in addition to this, but I do check when I can. Sometimes it’s just luck as to who sees something first…Andrys Basten, over at A Kindle World, tends to see things late at night before I do. 🙂

      I prefer retailers setting the prices, so I do think this is good news. My research tells me that Random House’s McIntosh is an interesting and influential thinker.

  2. blablabla Says:

    i hope these pubs start so much s— they knock themselves out of business – do writers realy need middle men? no. do writers need agents? no. will it be more work for writers? yes. will it be worth it? natch! no love here.

    [edited for language]

  3. The Kindle Chronicles - TKC 82 Steve Garfield Says:

    […] – Item 1: Will Random House align with Amazon in the Great eBooks Price War? Bufo Calvin does some sleuthing on a Random House executive who worked for 18 months on the Kindle team, then […]

  4. Amazon’s License to Dwarf the Mobile Book App Surge « FrankHellwig.com Says:

    […] more often are passing rights directly to Amazon while publishers are questioning the agency model and are asserting contractual terms that mean the publisher is licensing its rights to Amazon for […]

  5. TKC 82 Steve Garfield | Covers for Kindle Says:

    […] – Item 1: Will Random House align with Amazon in the Great eBooks Price War? Bufo Calvin does some sleuthing on a Random House executive who worked for 18 months on the Kindle team, then […]

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