50 Shades sensation shows ongoing ‘power of paper’
Writers like perks of legacy publishers
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.”
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.