Amazon currently isn’t too popular because of its negotiations tactics with the publishers Hachette in the US and Bonnier in Germany.
Now a lot of pixels have already been wasted on discussing the conflict between Amazon on the one side and Hachette or respectively Bonnier on the other. So far, I have largely kept out of the debate. Nor did I sign any of the petitions floating around in support of one side or the other.
However, I just came across some German articles on the Amazon vs. Bonnier (and soon apparently Bastei-Lübbe, dtv and Ganske as well) conflict, which were too amusing not to share. Most of those articles are courtesy of the Börsenblatt, the newsletter/magazines of the German publishers and booksellers’ association Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. It’s kind of obvious that the Börsenverein is not exactly a big fan of Amazon. Nonetheless, those articles are something else:
First of all, here is an article from the Börsenblatt which attempts to calculate the true costs of e-books. Never mind that the prices for both print and e-book are far higher than the norm (apparently, the print price is a hardcover price – but who even reads those?), the article claims that excluding printing and some logistics, producing an e-book incurs the same costs as producing a print book (which isn’t entirely wrong, editors have to be paid regardless of format). Even the delivery of e-books has costs, the article reminds us. Yes, a few cents at most.
However, the article goes on to point out that e-books incur additional costs that print books do not have. And what are those costs? You’d expect formatting, which interestingly the article doesn’t mention at all (unless formatting is included in those nebulous “higher personnel costs”). One thing they do mention is that e-books apparently require additional marketing expenses to icnrease visibility. What, German publishers are paying for Bookbub ads now? Even though Bookbub is largely unknown in Germany and doesn’t offer German language books. However, the biggest kicker is that author royalties are higher for e-books, up to a shocking 25% of the net proceeds. Oh, the gall of those authors to actually want to get paid!
But what do the authors themselves have to say? Lucky for us, the German weekly Die Zeit asked several well-known international authors, big names like Jonathan Franzen, Sibylle Lewitscharoff, Daniel Kehlmann, A. L. Kennedy, Roger Willemsen, Navid Kermani, Ingo Schulze, Kathrin Passig, Rüdiger Safranski and Günter Wallraff how they felt about Amazon. Unfortunately, the article in question isn’t available at the Zeit site yet. However, the Börsenblatt as well as Die Presse were kind enough to sum up the responses: In short, most of those authors with the notable exception of Kathrin Passig dislike Amazon, rarely buy there and feel bad if they do, think that Amazon is a necessary evil at best (Jonathan Franzen and Rüdiger Safranski) and a disgusting monopolist that must be destroyed (Günther Wallraff, Sibylle Lewitscharoff) at worst, though they can’t really do without Amazon either. In short, nothing really surprising, especially since Günther Wallraff and Sibylle Lewitscharoff have sung the anti-Amazon tune before. For those following along at home, Sibylle Lewitscharoff is the German writer who recently made headlines for saying that children conceived via in-vitro fertilization weren’t real humans, but disgusting half-beings. Apparently, lots of things are disgusting in the eyes of Ms. Lewitscharoff, most of them connected to the modern world. Methinks someone should get the lady a time machine.
Meanwhile, at Spiegel Online another Sibylle, German writer Sibylle Berg, points out that the publishing industry has only itself to blame for ignoring the challenges posed by online booksellers and e-publishing instead of meeting it head on. The headline says it all really: “The future is here – the publishing industry somewhere else.”