50 Shades sen­sa­tion shows on­go­ing ‘power of pa­per’

Writ­ers like perks of legacy pub­lish­ers

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - HIL­LEL ITALIE

Richard Cur­tis, a lit­er­ary agent who rep­re­sents sev­eral writ­ers pub­lish­ing with Ama­zon. “Au­thors con­tem­plat­ing Ama­zon are con­cerned about a loss of that warmth.”

Ama­zon, the ac­knowl­edged leader in e-book com­merce, re­mains the dom­i­nant player in what could still be­come the dom­i­nant for­mat, and two of the year’s ma­jor sto­ries would never have hap­pened with­out in­dus­try con­cern over the In­ter­net re­tailer and pub­lisher.

In April, the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice sued Ap­ple and five pub­lish­ers for al­leged price fix­ing of elec­tronic books, a law­suit orig­i­nat­ing from Ap­ple’s 2010 launch of the iPad and iBook­store, which pub­lish­ers hoped would weaken Ama­zon’s abil­ity to dis­count works so deeply that no other seller could com­pete. In Oc­to­ber, the cor­po­rate par­ents of Random House Inc. and Pen­guin Group (USA) an­nounced a planned merger, widely be­lieved as a way to counter Ama­zon.

One of the pub­lish­ers sued, HarperColl­ins, set­tled in the fall and prices for such new works as Michael Chabon’s Tele­graph Av­enue dropped from $12.99-$14.99 US, com­mon un­der the Ap­ple model, to Ama­zon’s pre­ferred $9.99 US. But Chan­tal Res­tivo-Alessi, HarperColl­ins’ chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer, said there was no no­tice­able dif­fer­ence in sales, adding that bargain hunters tend to seek out older books.

“With new books, if you want to read that book, you’re go­ing to read that book,” she said. “You’re not go­ing to re­place it with a cheaper book.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press/files

Au­thor E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey tril­ogy took off as an e-phe­nom­e­non but bound copies have since out­stripped sales of the e-books.

Vin­tage Books/the As­so­ci­ated Press/files

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