The Wylie Agency’s e-book exclusivity dispute with the publishing industry continues to dominate. (Random House vs Agents On E-Books) Everyone’s got a different opinion about Andrew Wylie’s decision to start his own imprint and broker an exclusive e-book deal with Amazon. While Wylie’s actions led the Random House Publishing Group to view him as a competitor and not do business with him, his maverick move has given leverage to agents all over the lit landscape right now, one dealmaker just told me. “Publisher contract divisions are starting to acknowledge that the e-book author-house percentages are changing. They are verbally promising and writing into contracts clauses that say these percentages will be revisited when the books are published.” Now the American Booksellers Association, the guardian angel of the independent booksellers, just weighed in via their Bookselling This Week weekly membership newsletter:
Last week’s news of literary agent Andrew Wylie’s exclusive agreement with Amazon.com to publish Kindle editions of 20 backlist titles by notable writers represented by Wylie provoked strong reactions among some major publishers and elicited extensive industry discussion regarding the implications of this potential disintermediation. On Wednesday, July 21, Wylie announced the launch of Odyssey Editions and its exclusive deal with Amazon.com. Under the agreement, backlist titles by such contemporary authors as John Updike, Louise Erdrich, and Saul Bellow would be available for the first time as e-books,
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Amazon.com is crowing that for the first time, its e-book sales volume has surpassed hardcovers. Am I the only one who sees this as an apocalyptic sign for the great pleasure of book reading? Amazon’s basing its assertion on sales figures for the last three months, when buyers were lining their Amazon Kindles with summer beach reading. Amazon chief Jeffrey Bezos marvels that the milestone is more remarkable given that Amazon has only been selling e-books 33 months, as opposed to the 15 years it has been moving hardcovers. A report on the milestone in The New York Times indicates that within the next decade, less than 25% of books sold will be in print.
The lure of e-books is easy to understand: with no trees killed, books come cheaper to consumers, who no longer have to lug around hardcovers when an entire library can be loaded into a single lightweight device. On the cost front, I wonder what will happen when the makers of Kindle and other devices corner the publishing market and are no longer interested in selling its software at loss leader prices so that it can move hardware. That confrontation is inevitable, when more brick and mortar stores vanish.
My biggest problem–and the reason I’ll always stick to print books–is that I think the entire experience of reading a books is cheapened by technology, same as it was in … Read More »