Self-publishing News: Amazon faces ebook Price Fixing Suit

In this week’s Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a close look at the price fixing lawsuit against Amazon and the Big Five.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi’s News Editor Dan Holloway

Tonight’s #indieauthorchat on Twitter is on one of the key questions facing indies: to go with KDP Select or to go wide. In our current self-publishing news podcast, Howard and I look back at last year’s biggest story, Audiblegate. Which is also still current news.

Breaking: Wattpad Sold to Naver

More next week, but it has just been announced that Wattpad will be sold to Naver. Naver is the owner of online Comic publisher Webtoon, and this feels like a really exciting match. More to follow!

Ebook Price Fixing: Reckoning time for Amazon?

Tech companies are facing increased scrutiny. It’s not just over issues of fake news and free speech. Those, though, have highlighted a perennial issue. That of monopolies. Antitrust litigation is increasingly on the horizon for the world’s biggest companies. Most prominent has been the controversy around Facebook and Whatsapp, and allegations over forced data sharing.

But this week, it was Amazon under the spotlight. Ebook price fixing rows are not a new thing, of course. 8 years ago it was Apple and the big publishers, which resulted in Apple paying a $450m settlement. Now Amazon is in court facing price fixing charges. It is cited, with the Big Five listed as co-conspirators, in a lawsuit filed in New York. The suit points to Amazon’s market dominance, with 90% of ebook sales and 50% of print. It also points to the drop in price following the Apple case.

The case follows one day behind Connecticut’s announcement that it is investigating Amazon for anticompetitive behaviour.

Medium

I’ve written about Medium various times over the years. They’re one of those platforms that’s still there, and that still keeps doing things, though I’m not quite sure how they keep going. They introduced monetisation for contributors to its subscription platform, for example. But I don’t think I know anyone who’s made money from it. Or, indeed, anyone who subscribes.

Now they have bought Glose. Glose is a social reading app with a million users. What’s interesting is that Glose also has an education arm. And it allows people to buy ebooks directly. That suggests a soon to arrive way of making money through Medium for those of us who write long form non-fiction. And with the long read making a comeback at a moment when people are becoming wary of the snap judgments short form social media pushes on us this might just be the right thing at the right time. Though it probably won’t be.

Publishers Weekly Offers Indies a Way Into Libraries

Libraries are a bit like Wattpad. They are an enormous part of the self-publishing picture, but one we don’t see mentioned as often as it might be. That’s one reason I try to talk about them as much as possible in this column. That’s usually in the context of how increasingly straightforward it is for us to get our ebooks into libraries thanks to Overdrive. Overdrive is the avenue through which libraries tend to get their ebooks. To be available through Overdrive is the gold standard. And thanks to deals with platforms like Draft2Digital, it’s really easy for us to get our books into the Overdrive catalogue. So easy, even I’ve received royalties through that route.

Now, there is a new way for us to get our books into libraries. You will maybe have gathered from the preceding paragraph that I’m luke warm as to whether this is what the world was waiting for. Publishers Weekly are launching a programme to enable indies to get ebooks into libraries. It will be tied in with their Booklife Elite programme. Yes, I had also sort of forgotten that was a thing! The criterion for entering the programme will be a starred Booklife review. In theory that offers libraries the guarantee of curation. And it offers indies the assurance of being in, well, being in a curated catalogue. But I am wary of a service that is accessed overwhelmingly through a paid route. Yes, you can submit (or “subnit” as the Publishers Weekly site rather embarrassingly puts it) for a free review. But paying guarantees you one.

But let’s be honest. This isn’t Overdrive. I can’t imagine any librarian I know looking through it for high quality indie books because that’s what they’ve decided they need. What’s interesting is this is the second move from Publishers’ Weekly in as many weeks. And like their venture into the world of book fairs, it has a component aimed at indies. That’s an interesting statement of intent if nothing else. Which is good, because I think “nothing else” is about right.

Overdrive’s Record Year

As if to reinforce the point, Mark Williams has news of Overdrive’s record year in 2020. Downloads through the platform jumped by a third to 430 million. And as Williams points out, that includes more than 100 library systems each of which logged more than a million downloads.

Amazon investigated for anticompetitive behaviour and in court on price fixing charge, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy… Click To Tweet

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