Pocket Full of Kryptonite

Money quote from the latest Eric Hellman offering:

eBook portability is Amazon’s kryptonite. If the vaunted Agency Model were not a sham, publishers could simply make portability a standard provision of their agency contracts: "Thou shalt enable portability". And that would be it. No collusion around pricing or discounts would be needed. Amazon could discount the living daylights out of their ebooks, but customers would still judge its competitors on their merits.

Stop what you’re doing and go read the rest of the post. I’ll wait.

As I see it, I’m not why publishers would get involved in the price aspect to this extent; it seems akin to dairy farmers telling Walmart what the price of a gallon of milk should cost.

Eric is right. Locking people into platforms is what gives companies like Apple and Amazon an obscene amount of power over the market. You make books platform agnostic and give people the ability to shift them around as they want and it sucks some of the pricing power out of companies like Amazon. (Either that or raise the wholesale prices and let Amazon figure out how much it wants to soak up in terms of loss leaders.) But the key aspect is to make their books portable which will in turn work to break open the market.

(Note: In posting about eBooks, I do feel like that Michael Corleone quote from the third Godfather movie, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”)

3 thoughts on “Pocket Full of Kryptonite

  1. I was thinking about this recently myself. I don’t have a kindle, and the only times I’ve gotten e-books from Amazon they were free of cost as part of promotions. However, the portability is the one issue which is staying my hand in paying for any other books I may want.

    When I put those books in my cart it put them on a kindle web-reader. I don’t even know what it is really – all I known is that I wasn’t given any clear options to purchase the books in a format which I could actually load onto my non-kindle e-reader, or even read independently on my PC. I gather that Kindle users can sync their device directly to their account so they can read on the go, but what about the rest of us?

    Who knows, maybe paid books would arrive as a file I could then reformat to fit my reader, but I’m not willing to take the chance with my money.

  2. The agency morass gets even deeper when you cross the border into Canada. The agency system for Canadian rights is seen as being the revenue base that enables Canadian publishers to publish the “specialty stuff…like Canadian fiction”. That’s the reason/excuse for Amazon’s e-books not being loanable in Canada. Transnational agnosticism is an even tougher nut to crack.

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