December 9, 2009

Finally: Some of the biggies stand up to Amazon


Simon & Schuster and the Hachette Book Group — yep, two of the biggest of the big — declared war yesterday against the policy of (now being copied by others) of underpricing ebooks at $9.99.

As Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg details in a Wall Street Journal report, it started when S&S announced it was “delaying by four months the electronic-book editions of about 35 leading titles coming out early next year,” followed by Hachette’s announcement that it would also “delay the e-book publication of the vast majority of its titles for three to four months.”

As Trachtenberg noted, that meant the companies were “taking a dramatic stand against the cut-rate $9.99 pricing of e-book best sellers.”

S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy was just as blunt in her explanation, saying, “The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback. We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new [electronic] readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible.”

Hachette’s CEO, David Young, told Trachtenberg, “We’re doing this to preserve our industry. I can’t sit back and watch years of building authors sold off at bargain-basement prices. It’s about the future of the business.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives