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article imageOp-Ed: Hachette v. Amazon e-book feud must consider needs of new authors

By Calvin Wolf     Aug 9, 2014 in Entertainment
Book publisher Hachette and entertainment powerhouse Amazon are locking horns over e-book pricing. Amazon wants to lower the prices of e-books, citing higher readership and high price elasticity, while Hachette wants to avoid a possible price war.
As a young writer and aspiring novelist, the news of an e-book pricing battle between Hachette, a large book publisher, and entertainment titan Amazon has captured my attention. According to TIME, Amazon wants to lower the price of e-books while Hachette refuses, accusing Amazon of cyberbullying by making it harder for consumers to find products from producers with which Amazon is negotiating.
Amazon, for its part, claims e-books should be priced lower due to less overhead cost and argues that the high price elasticity of demand for e-books actually means more profit from lower prices. This sort of battle is not new: Big-box retailers like Wal-Mart have previously been accused of trying to force producers to accept lower sale prices. While consumers would undoubtedly appreciate lower e-book prices, publishers and authors are understandably wary of Amazon's growing power.
Could Amazon become a big, bullying retailer, forcing publishers and authors to accept pennies in earnings when they used to earn dollars?
Nine hundred authors have signed a letter urging Amazon to back off, including popular authors like Stephen King, Lemony Snicket, and Jon Krakauer.
But what about new authors looking to break into the biz? Previously, I was upset at Amazon's idea for Kindle Unlimited, which would offer readers unlimited e-book downloads for a set monthly fee. Kindle Unlimited will hurt new authors by removing pricing as a consumer consideration in selecting e-books: Why download the new author's book when, for your $9.99 per month, you can download as much Stephen King, John Grisham, or J.K. Rowling as you want? Gone is the new author's advantage of offering a lower price.
Hachette is similarly hurting new authors by insisting on keeping e-book prices higher. Turning off the public by refusing to compromise on pricing means fewer people have the chance to discover new authors. If other publishers feel they must keep e-book prices high as well, they may be less willing to accept new authors whose books they would have to price lower. Basically, fighting to keep e-book prices high will likely disadvantage aspiring writers.
Aspiring authors are the lifeblood of literature and should be given more of a chance. Though I respect the arguments of both Amazon (as an economics teacher, I appreciate their use of price elasticity) and Hachette, I wonder if either side has considered the position of aspiring and rookie authors. If they have not, they need to.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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