In my most recent posting on this topic I noted "Amazon surrender", and cited a New York Times article as saying that Amazon had agreed to re-list the Macmillan titles they'd dropped.
As of this morning, five days later, my own Tor books are still not available from Amazon. I'm hearing lots of reports from other Tor authors, too.
They lied about other things, too; in their press release they lied like a rug about Macmillan's negotiating position, mischaracterising it in the worst possible light from the point of view of onlookers. They lied by falsely positioning themselves as the defenders of cheap $9.99 ebooks and Macmillan as some kind of capitalist oppressor; the truth is that many ebooks sold via Kindle cost well over $9.99, while Macmillan were proposing to sell some titles for under $6.
Amazon lie by omission. They lie like politicians in an election campaign. And you've got to ask, if they're selling such a good product, and if they're such good-hearted folks, why do they need to lie?
I'd like to note in passing that Amazon has a long history of bullying — from union-busting among its employees, abusive treatment employees (arguably in violation of health and safety standards in the UK), to punishing authors by de-listing their books as a way of applying negotiating pressure to publishers; they did this to Hachette in May 2008, and the people who got hurt the worst were the authors and their readers. In fact, Amazon are the WalMart of the book trade.
Meanwhile, things have been moving rapidly this week:
Hachette are switching to the agency model, too — which means Amazon will be fighting a war on two fronts next week. (Are they going to de-list close to a third of all the books they sell before this is over?)
HarperCollins are also queueing up to renegotiate terms with Amazon. That's the publishing arm of NewsCorp, who I am not terribly keen on — the third of the big six publishing groups. (What does it say about a retailer that half its suppliers are really unhappy with the terms it has imposed on them separately?)
Macmillan's CEO had this to say about Amazon, in a public letter to his authors and their agents: "A word about Amazon. This has been a very difficult time. Many of you are wondering what has taken so long for Amazon and Macmillan to reach a conclusion. I want to assure you that Amazon has been working very, very hard and always in good faith to find a way forward with us. Though we do not always agree, I remain full of admiration and respect for them. Both of us look forward to being back in business as usual." (I don't think I'd have been that polite.)
There's a lot more stuff going on behind the scenes. In particular, it looks like the industry-wide shift to the agency model, catalysed by Apple, has finally cracked open the door to a renegotiation of royalty rates payable by publishers to authors for ebooks. The traditional 10% royalty rate on hardcovers didn't come out of nowhere — it reflected a 50/50 split in the profits (the other 80% of the cover price going on production, printing, and distribution). With much lower printing and distribution costs, it looks like royalty rates of 25% or 30%, on a much lower overall price, may be where things are going under the new model. (Hint: this isn't finalized yet, which is why Macmillan aren't promising readers the moon on a stick — unlike Amazon.)
Finally, let's look at the authors, because we're the small mammals who get steamrollered when the dinosaurs start stomping on each other.
Novelist Cat Valente explains lays out why she sides with her publisher: "the costs of publishing an ebook are not zero. That is, if you have any interest at all in a quality product. No one goes around suggesting that everyone should become their own autonomous cheesemakers and cheering the death of the cheese industry. Why? Because that would result in a lot of shitty cheese."
John Scalzi explains what's been going on this past week. He also explains why publishing will not go away anytime soon in most amusing fashion.
Susan Pivar, former music label exec (and author) compares and contrasts the Amazon/Macmillan dust-up to how the music industry (mis)handled things.
And finally, I commend to you this blog posting by a guy whose first novel came out from Tor the very week Amazon decided to delist all Tor's books. Talk about depressing ways to start (and quite possibly finish) a career.
The rumble is on-going, but on Monday I'm flying out to Boston and New York for about ten days. This means that your questions here are likely to go unanswered and I won't be posting for a week or so ... but I have a surprise waiting for you on Monday!