With Amazon.com (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos battling major publishers to divvy up the economic spoils of the book market, both sides could point to seemingly good news in the latest industry statistics.
U.S. publishers collected about $3 billion in trade ebook sales last year, virtually unchanged from 2012, according to the new report from the Bookstats Project, jointly produced by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. Total revenue from print and digital books in the trade category, which excludes textbooks and journals, declined 2% to $14.6 billion.
Only two of the 5 major US trade publishers have shown an interest in the ebook subscription market, and Macmillan is showing signs that they could be the third. Late last week Macmillan announced, via their German parent company Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, that 1,500 Macmillan titles are now available through Skoobe. a German ebook subscription service.
The 1,500 titles are drawn from the US and UK based SF publisher Tor Books. All of the titles are in English, including Ender's Game, Mistborn, and Children of the Mind. As the first and (so far)
Macmillan Publishers, in collaboration with Next Big Sound, announced today the development of an innovative business intelligence dashboard called Next Big Book, signifying a monumental step forward for book marketers in the digital era.
During my visit to the Lviv Book Forum in the Ukraine this past September, I stood on the veranda of a Soviet-era hotel chatting with my new acquaintances over a glass of brandy. The topic of ebooks and piracy came up, and my Embassy-assigned minder and translator looked at me and said bluntly: “I have a computer at home. I turn it on and there’s a giant red button that gives me everything I want for free. I already pay for the internet. Why would I pay for ebooks?”
Macmillan, the last remaining publisher holdout in the Department of Justice’s ebook pricing antitrust lawsuit against five publishers and Apple, has decided to settle about ten months after the lawsuit was originally filed. Following Penguin’s settlement in December, Macmillan CEO John Sargent had said Macmillan wouldn’t follow suit, but he acknowledged Friday in a letter to authors and agents that “the potential penalties became too high to risk even the possibility of an unfavorable outcome.” The settlement means that Apple is the only remaining party fighting the DOJ lawsuit.
The world of ed-tech is ramping up another notch, and getting a lot more open in the process: educational publishing giant Elsevier is in advanced talks to buy Mendeley, a London/New York-based provider of a platform for academics to share research and collaborate with each other via a social network. TechCrunch understands from sources close to the companies that the deal is underway and should close this quarter, possibly by the end of February — all things being equal — and will be in the region of $100 million.
Penguin, which is merging with Random House, has settled with the Department of Justice in the ebook pricing lawsuit, the DOJ announced late Tuesday afternoon. The DOJ sued Apple, Penguin and four other publishers in April for conspiring to set ebook prices. Penguin had planned to fight the case in court, along with Apple and Macmillan, but the company’s pending merger with Random House compelled it to get the litigation out of the way.
Apple and four publishing companies have offered to settle with the European Commission over antitrust allegations relating to the e-book market.
Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck and Simon & Schuster have all proposed measures to "alleviate concerns that these companies may have engaged in an anti-competitive concerted practice affecting the sale of e-books", the Commission said.
As we all know, in April the Department of Justice accused Apple and five of the largest publishers with conspiring to raise ebook prices. I chose not to voice my opinion at that point because my immediate reaction was, "Yikes! How much did Jeff Bezos of Amazon promise to contribute to the Obama re-election campaign?"
It seemed wiser to wait a bit, get more input and put together a more reasoned response.
So what do I, your humble blogger, think now? This is is a bad lawsuit. It will do far more harm than good. Here's why.
This has been a tumultuous year for the book business, a time of profound change in the way books are distributed and read. It is no exaggeration to say that the widespread acceptance of digital devices and a simultaneous contraction of shelf-space in stores qualify as a historic shift. The demise of Borders, the country's second-largest book chain as recently as a year ago, was largely offset by the sale of millions of e-readers and electronic books on a vast scale…