In a letter sent to “Macmillan Authors, Macmillan Illustrators, and Agents“ on Thursday, July 25th, Macmillan CEO John Sargent announced new lending terms and pricing for library ebooks, claiming library lending was “cannibalizing sales“ and impacting royalties as revenue from library sales are “a small fraction of the revenue we share with you on a retail read.” While the embargo is disappointing news for libraries, authors, and, most importantly, readers—it reinforces the need for a cross-industry initiative to identify ways publishers and libraries can continue to support their intrinsically related missions while delivering mutually beneficial outcomes.
In these final days of 2015, here we are, with a traditional publishing industry that's evolved to include new players and business models, alongside an independent publishing industry that's steadily growing and continually evolving, too. What we haven't seen are the radical disruptions that so many predicted were right on the horizon...
Being sold for only slightly more than the revenue you brought in the prior year isn't exactly a signal that anyone believes the company has a lot of growth potential, especially not one whose roster theoretically covers the full gamut of shiny author services so many seem to believe are publishing's revenue streams of the future. Plus, ASI was apparently on the block for a while with no buyer, so I find Penguin's CEO John Makinson's claim odd, as reported by Publisher's Lunch, that he expects there will be a "new and growing category of professional authors who are going to gravitate towards the ASI solution rather than the free model." So then, what's the real angle here?
It's not a huge stretch to posit Amazon as the reverse-Valve of the ebook world, constantly pushing the envelope in unexpected ways, aggressively experimenting with pricing, developing a core of popular franchises, while staying focused on delivering and optimizing the best consumer experience.
While it's interesting to see the affiliate script flipped on Amazon, with their redirecting traffic to purchase the ebooks (surely with a nice cut of the revenue), the user experience leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you're used to purchasing your ebooks via the Kindle itself and/or the apps. The whole setup seems to be targeting hardcore fans—most of whom have probably already downloaded the ebooks for free via a torrent site—while asking the more casual reader to jump through hoops Amazon and B&N, in particular, have worked hard to eliminate.