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Cheap Reads!

We interrupt this blog to bring you an important message from our commercial sponsors ...

Orbit, my UK publisher, has cut the price on the ebook edition of my novel "The Atrocity Archives" to just £1.99 in the UK (and presumably the EU) until September 5th!

It's part of Amazon's Kindle Summer Reads promo, and they've cut the price on other ebook stores too: links to buy the book below.

[iTunes store] [Waterstones] [Kobo store] [Kindle store (UK)] [Kindle store (EU customers)] [Google Play store]




Someone is inevitably going to complain about the DRM. So let me head them off at the pass:

Orbit's parent company, Hachette, require them to put DRM on everything. No exceptions.

Orbit's CEO is very aware of my thoughts on the matter.

As and when Hachette's policy on the subject changes, I will remind them of my opinion and do my best to get it removed.

In the meantime, if you want a DRM-free copy of "The Atrocity Archives" for personal archival purposes, I suggest you feed the Google-beast a cookie in the shape of the words "Apprentice Alf DRMTools".

(Note that yelling at me, or Tim Holman -- Orbit's CEO -- isn't going to get things changed. (The decision gets made elsewhere.) Boycotting Orbit's ebooks doesn't send a signal that they have the means to receive. And torrenting a warez copy then thumbing your nose at me or my publisher isn't terribly helpful either; that kind of behaviour is usually [mis-]interpreted by publishers as an indicator that DRM is useful.)


Thanks, entry updated.


A good price for a platform shift from tree to screen :)

Be nice if Amazon did a book version of their Autorip service, where if you buy an eligible CD you automatically get a set of MP3s in your Amazon account - I think all my paper purchases over the past ten years suddenly appearing as free e-versions would be excellent :)


Can we complain about the existence of "oceans" in the post-internet publishing world instead?

It's deeply silly that I should pay $12 just because I'm in Australia, that's all I'm saying. Particularly when I'm buying a UK English book from a company headquartered in the USA.


Here in Spain the google play app doesn't find the book in it's search (I'd previously noticed a lot of gaps in your catalog here) and when I visit that link via browser the book doesn't have a "buy" option. It does have a "add to wishlist" but there's an error when I press it. I assume some sort of international licensing fuckery is afoot.

Pity, because I have a friend who is always sending me links to steam sales despite the fact I don't play games on steam, it would be a chance to get him back :)


Managed to send a report to google, they don't make it easy to send 'em on google play... Though it's likely a Hachette issue...



This is supposed to be EU-wide. My editor's trying to find out why people outside the UK can't buy/see the discounted price (or the book). I'll provide an update as/when I hear anything.

seeker42: Hachette is a French company, it owns Little, Brown (a UK-headquartered company), Orbit is a subsidiary of Little, Brown that operates world-wide. US/Canadian rights to the book were, however, sold to Ace, which is an imprint of whatever the merged Random House/Penguin conglomerate is called these days. I'd be happy to see my books sold at one price around the world ... if it didn't mean taking a hefty pay cut (which selling world rights to one publisher would mean, in my case).


My apologies for being ambiguous - the company I was talking about was Google, not Hachette. As a consumer, I don't tend to think about which publisher I'm purchasing from - it's not like I actually get a choice! (This is, in a way, exactly the problem I'm complaining about)

Anyhow, I certainly don't mean to suggest you should do anything that would cost you money.

I just think it's silly that eBooks are sold under the same kind of agreements as normal books, despite the fact that an Australian buying an eBook from Google or Amazon isn't buying a good which has been imported to Australia.

That's kinda weird...if I want to buy an American paperback from Amazon, I can do that, but private parallel importation of eBooks isn't a thing.

(It could be worse. At least online stores "stock" what I want to buy. I checked out the SF section of a local bookstore recently....quite aside from the weird conflation of SF, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, the selection was sad. No real classics, no modern classics, certainly no Charlie Stross. I'd be all set if I was after young adult werewolf fiction, though)


@NMN oo, if Amazon did AutoRip but for books, that would definitely make them my favourite monopoly evar.


The reason you can't import your eBook is - presumably - the same reason that eBooks are considered vatable in the UK.

Remember, if you import physical goods purchased from a website in the US, you may have to pay customs charges - subject to the value and type of goods.

There is an exception for books, but not for computer software - my understanding is that Kindle books are not considered 'books'.

(And while I find it personally annoying, especially when I want to pay to stream a US Television series ahead of UK broadcast, or when a parcel gets whacked by customs, at the same time I do NOT want American healthcare).


"Boycotting Orbit's ebooks doesn't send a signal that they have the means to receive. And torrenting a warez copy then thumbing your nose at me or my publisher isn't terribly helpful either"

Is there anything a consumer can do that IS helpful, at least a little bit? I'm OK with buying Kindle books and de-DRMing them myself, but it would be nice to be able to fix the problem at source.


Is The Fuller Memorandum coming out on Audible UK?


Not sure. Getting abusive at authors and publishers doesn't help. Polite, well-argued public statements that dropping DRM (a) won't increase piracy and (b) will grow sales may help (but those arguments are out there already). What will help most is time -- time for the older execs to retire and new, net-savvy execs to replace them.


It's not scheduled yet, but I hope so. It depends on how well the first two Laundry novels sell as UK audiobooks.


Thankyou for the heads up, just grabbed a copy.


Google claims the availability is a Hachette issue, so I asked them to jog their elbow about it, there's no sense in the Atrocity Archives not being available when the Apocalypse codex, same author and same imprint, is.

It's likely a neglect thing, can't blame them there's not likely to be even 3 digits worth of potential buyers for the english version on that platform yet. I get the impression google play books is to kindle what google plus is to facebook...


interesting point about boycotting the ebooks sending a message they aren't equipped to receive, and only time will change the situation...I've been trying to stick to a policy of only buying DRM-free ebooks (and denying myself a lot of digital reading I'd love to own) rather than buying-and-stripping, in the hope that if enough people do this it'll create financial pressure in the direction of DRM-free options. Maybe I've been denying myself unduly :)


Got both the audiobooks through my Audible membership – loved TAA; loving TJM. Would spread around the word about this eBook opportunity, alas, it doesn't look like it's available in Australia. But I'll make sure to give the audiobooks positive reviews and hope to see more like it!


A question about the other end of the price spectrum:

Will there ever be ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) available for purchase? Some of your readers (me included) are willing to pay above hardcover price to get their hands on their next fix earlier.


ARCs are not for commercial sale -- they're printed in small numbers, at considerable expense (costing more than the undiscounted cover price of a hardback) for reviewers.

They're also an endangered species; these days publishers are pushing increasingly towards providing access to early review material via a (DRM-locked, obviously) online service for reviewers, the name of which temporarily escapes me.

If you want early access, your best bet is to get yourself a book reviewing gig with a magazine or newspaper, or even a big well-read blog or website, then talk to the folks in Marketing.


Well, sort of. In the new electronic age, Baen will sell you an e-ARC (same stage in the process, minimal cost to produce) for slightly more than hardback price. I don't know how many they sell, but it's obviously enough to be worth the effort involved. Of course, it might only work for a publisher with Baen's unusual positive attitude to ebooks (and readers), but it does get the book into the hands of the people most likely to recommend it to everyone before it launches...


Yes, but that's Baen monetizing their readers. The e-ARC costs you about $15. You then buy the hardcover for another $15 and the paperback and the ebook ... total cost: over $50.

The "you" in that paragraph is the typical Baen core reader/fan who is willing to pay $50 for their fave author's output.

Baen is a small, agile publisher (about ten people, IIRC) who have a smallish stable of authors ... and even then, they only do the e-ARC project for maybe 10% of them, meaning 5-6 e-ARCs per year. (Baen's output is around 60 titles a year, total.)

Also note that Baen do direct sales to the public. The big publishers would probably like to do that, but don't dare to because the distribution channel would see it as a declaration of war and cut them off at the knees.


Nestor @ 17: I manage the ebook business at Charlie's publisher and apologise for the difficulty you're experiencing. I've just had one of my team check the territory information for this title, and it should absolutely be on sale in Spain. If you would like to send me your email address (to ebooks at hachette dot co dot uk), I will follow this up and let you know myself when it is fixed.

Charlie @ 21: the service you're thinking of is called Net Galley.


The results of trying to buy this from Sweden:

iTunes: iPad only; not interested. Waterstones: Doesn't sell outside UK and Ireland. Kobo: "This content is not available internationally." Google Play: Only a "wishlist" button. Amazon: The kindle store on is for UK customers only.

So... where can I get this ebook legally?


It's quite possible to remove the FairPlay DRM that the iTunes store uses, even for books. Then you get a standard ePub file.


Tor @ 25: You should be able to purchase the ebook from the Kindle store at, as they route international sales through that site where they don't have a local store. We also supply a number of Swedish websites, including, though they have not yet updated their price for the ebook.


Can somebody from an EU country other than the UK let me know if the new link to works?

Thanks in advance ...


Trying to buy this from Germany also results in an exercise in frustration. Google and Kobo tell me outright that they don't want to sell the ebook to me. Waterstones makes my mouth water, but then tells me they don't sell ebooks to Germany. Which is a pity, for the prices they are offering to UK residents I'd have bought the Apocalype Codex as well while I'm at it.

That leaves Amazon with an apparent monopoly, which they instantly make use of by trying to charge me about 80 % more than what I'd be paying to Waterstones. I did not cave in yet, but I'm afraid I'll be feeding the big bad de-facto ebook monopoly that they are at some point in the future.

This seriously feels like the shopping experiences in former Eastern Germany I heard about. Did a marketing manual from that time somehow become required reading for all ebook sellers or what?


The link on the book's page on the site sends me to the general landing page for the Kindle shop on When searching for the book it shows it for EUR 4,38 which is £ 3.76 according to google.


The page (from the Kindle store EU customers link) tells me "This title is not currently available for purchase."


I've got this book already, but at this price I want to buy gift ebook purchases for a few family members, just because I can get them hooked affordably. But I'm based in the USA. Amazon tell me that I can't buy from the store, the other stores I have accounts with don't give prices. Waterstones will at least quote a price at me, but DRM-locked, it'll be tied to me, whilst I want to get it tied to someone else.

Anyone know how to spend money with any of these stores to buy gift copies of the books for multiple recipients?


Both Amazon and, mirabile, the google play link work for me in Spain, 2.99€

Wait no, the amazon link says "this title is currently not available for purchase", but at least I got my sticky mitts on it via gplay. The app still doesn't show it in search but I figure it'll be on the next refresh...

syscon> Google play doesn't support gift purchases, that's one thing I found out last night delving through the FAQs


Charlie, so who's there that we can contact about DRM, or otherwise send a message?

My personal way of dealing with this is buying the physical book*, and than getting a DRM-free version (which I personally believe everyone who owns a physical copy of a book is morally entitled to).

*I agree w/ seeker42 that shipping sucks in this solution, particularly if you leave outside US/UK. Not that much I see much potential for change here, print-on-demand doesn't seem to deliver goods cheaply enough for it to matter, although a discussion of its economics could be interesting :)


Charlie, so who's there that we can contact about DRM, or otherwise send a message?

You could try the board of Hachette. But I suspect they get a lot of crank mail.

Seriously, the folks at Orbit know the pros and cons well -- I've discussed it with them for around a decade now. (And they're reading this discussion thread.) However, group-wide multinational policy is set two levels above their heads, by people who aren't so much divorced from the coal-front of publishing books as they are looking over their shoulders at the shareholders. If you're an executive in a multinational, considering a policy change that received wisdom says will result in losses due to piracy, you are not going to make that change unless you can justify the financial consequences to your shareholders.

Luckily -- if you oppose DRM on ebooks -- Macmillan, aka the English language arm of Holtzbrinck, took a brave decision a little over a year ago to do just that, and results are stacking up to indicate that no, dropping DRM on genre lists does not increase piracy but has other, minor, positive effects.

I expect that over time the folks at Hachette will learn from John Sargent and Fritz Holtzbrinck that the sky didn't fall on Tor. And that's when policy change will become possible.


My personal way of dealing with this is buying the physical book*, and than getting a DRM-free version (which I personally believe everyone who owns a physical copy of a book is morally entitled to).

Ah, the language of entitlement.

As a reader, I agree with you 100%.

As a working stiff who is trying to put bread on the table for a household, I believe I am entitled to require you to buy a physical hardback, and an ebook, and a paperback. Oh, and another ebook copy for every device you might consider reading it on; your phone, your ipad, your kindle, your novelty stuffed gorilla smart living room lamp. I believe I am entitled to all your money ... give me all your money!

(In return, I'll write more books.)

Obviously, the answer lies on a spectrum spanning these two extremes. But there's another extreme, another end-point that I'm deliberately excluding. If you project a dotted line from my greedy authorial end to your position, and keep projecting, sooner or later you come to "as a reader, I'm entitled to everything I want to read, for free". Which is great, but in the absence of a Tooth Fairy who will magically grant all authors a basic income to live on while their art eats their brains, means that there will be fewer new novels by-and-by. Harsh experience has taught me that I can write 1-2 books a year when writing full time and being paid to do so, but only 2-3 books a decade if I have to hold down a day job and focus on earning a living.

Personally, I'm not going to throw stones at folks who buy a hardcover then 'acquire' an ebook copy. I've got plenty of memories of buying LP records and carefully recording them onto CrO2 or Metal cassette tapes so I could listen to them repeatedly without damaging the vinyl. (That's old analog world to you youngsters.) This made my teen-age self every bit as much of a pirate as if I were to buy a hardcover then download an ebook copy: and I'm not going to make a hypocrite of myself by condemning in public what I practice in private.

But I guess my personal point is: if you're looking for a moral reference point on piracy, the one I'd suggest is "don't be a dick". Which can be expanded to, "don't do stuff to other people that would cause you to grind your teeth if it were done to you by someone else." (With "other people" unpacking to "publishers and authors" in this context, and "stuff" to "not paying for work they've done in the expectation of a remunerative reward".)

PS: there's an interesting lacuna around "buy a paperback then download a warez ebook", because paperbacks -- mass market or trade, it doesn't matter -- generally make the author (and publisher) a smaller profit than the ebook edition, whereas hardbacks are as profitable as (or more so than) an ebook. So, um, if it's published as a direct-to-paperback? You might consider buying two, and giving one to a friend ...


Kobo is now showing me the UK version as available at EUR2.99, whereas yesterday it was saying I could only buy the US version at EUR5.70ish.

That's with a German IP, and German Kobo account. (Even if I'm actually physically in Shanghai.)


Kobo, Amazon EU and Google Play now all show the price for me, in Portugal. Kobo and Google didn't show it previously, and Amazon had a higher price.

Just bought it for $4 (3€) from Amazon, so I guess whatever was wrong is now fixed?


Google Play allows buying from Sweden now. At this price, complementing my paperback copy was OK (just to encourage our gracious host to slave away even harder)!


One point to note is that it takes time for price changes to propagate. The publisher has to be informed that there's a problem, then detail someone to chase it with the ebook stores; then the stores have to find someone who can fix it, then the fix has to propagate from the back-end database to the public-facing website ... and so on.


The Amazon EU link worked for Norway as well.


“your novelty stuffed gorilla smart living room lamp " !!

Not that the rest of your post isn’t ever so insightful and filled with Meaning, but...there is a “...novelty stuffed gorilla smart living room lamp” upon which you can read - through some sort of projected onto wall/screen system I suppose? Coo...Shinny!

I have a Nexus 10 tablet but... a “novelty stuffed gorilla smart living room lamp “! WOW! Does the Gorilla remove DRM automatically? Not to seem ungrateful but it does seem to me that it really should do automatic DRM stripping and until it does I'll just have to continue to but hardbacks from the US of A since the Nexus whilst useful in all sorts of ways just isn’t up to reproducing the reading experience of a REAL book.


You might consider buying two, and giving one to a friend ...

Sounds good to me. I often bring up your name where appropriate; for example, earlier today a discussion of camera-equipped police officers led me to mention Halting State to Paul Taylor of Wapsi Square. As far as I know, neither of you reads the other's work.


I've been trying to stick to a policy of only buying DRM-free ebooks (and denying myself a lot of digital reading I'd love to own) rather than buying-and-stripping, in the hope that if enough people do this it'll create financial pressure in the direction of DRM-free options.

I've been doing the same, with the addition that if I really want to read a book whose ebook version is DRM'ed, I go get the dead-tree paperback instead. I don't download the ebook version for the same reason as Charles note: It only serves to "verify" the opinion of the executives. But my money is a lot more loose with ebooks, so I tend to buy a lot more of those. The shop is also a lot closer :-)


I've just handed Kobo 1.99 from within the UK, thank you for the heads-up.

My views on DRM are the same as yours (and because I'm a small press author, my publisher doesn't have to comply with Mahogany Row's paranoia). I've got a paper copy of the book already. I'd have paid full cover price all over again for a DRM-free ebook, for convenience. For DRM-locked, I want (and have just been handed) a heavy discount to allow for the fact that I am renting it for an undefined period rather than buying it. But I have a shopping list at Tor for after I've made some inroads on MountTBR, and I don't pirate books because a) that's just being a dick, b) it only encourages Mahogany Row in their paranoia.

(One of the advantages of ebooks -- Mount TBR does not have to be tidied up in order to allow visitors to use the spare spare bed without fear of book avalanche in the night.)


Sadly, no. The tool in question works for music, and maybe video, but not for ebooks; that ability was lost somewhere during iTunes version 10 (it's now on version 11.)

I'm hoping that that situation will change soon, given that Apple will be releasing an ebook reader for the Mac alongside the next version of OS X, but I'm not holding my breath. (Being able to get gift cards for 20-25% off makes for some very cheap reading, if and when the DRM has been cracked - my iPad is not the most comfortable of e-readers, whilst I do rather like the design of the Kindle.)


Apple may face significant obstacles if they try to strong-arm the Big Five[*] into dropping mandatory DRM on ebooks, thanks to the Amazon-inspired DoJ anti-trust stitch-up that's now heading to sentencing and appeals. Anything that looks like collusion would be grist for the prosecutor's mill. So don't look to Apple to do for DRM on ebooks what they did for DRM on music.

(In what universe does it make sense for a 90% market incumbent to help the DoJ bushwhack the 10-20% up-and-coming rival with an anti-trust case? Yup, you got it.)

[*] Actually, only four of them demand DRM now; Macmillan are flexible.


I'll pay that. But that wasn't my train of thought - rather, I was thinking that with a standalone app on a relatively open platform, the hard part - getting hold of the keys to break open the DRM - becomes somewhat easier.

As for the merits of the case, one take I've seen on it that makes at least as much sense as any other is that Apple was basically being strong-armed into paying political bribes^W^W campaign contributions. (The trouble with politics today is that it's so damn hard to be properly paranoid - because there's actually a very good chance that you're really right about what's going on ...)

"boycotting [DRMed] ebooks doesn't send a signal"


"dropping DRM [..] will grow sales"

hmm. Why should the publishing house get rid of DRM if we anyway buy your books? Nah, imho boycotting is an "well-argued public statement".


See this explanation of why dropping DRM on ebooks is good for publishers in the long run.

(It's a strong enough argument that the CEO of Macmillan bought into it, conditionally. Note: policy changed on the basis of a business case, not a boycott.)


My consideration is more of showing the executives that DRM free books do better on the market than DRM'ed books. Example: If Macmillan can document that after dropping DRM from their ebooks, their ebook sales rose faster than the industry average and/or faster than the DRM publisher sales, executives may want to switch in order to increase their bottom line. There is also the example of DRM free ebooks from a major publisher does not cause sales to plummet due to piracy.

(And then there is the ideological thing that I do not want to pay anywhere near full price to rent a book, nor do I want to support that business model by paying and breaking the DRM.)


If Macmillan can document that after dropping DRM from their ebooks, their ebook sales rose faster than the industry average and/or faster than the DRM publisher sales, executives may want to switch in order to increase their bottom line.

My understanding is that Macmillan have done exactly that.

(Whether their rivals are listening is, well, another question ...)


In the united states at least, this particular practice has historically been upheld as part of fair use (the acquisition or creation of a spare copy for personal use). So, at least it's arguably legal. I wouldn't recommend relying upon it.


The amazon uk price is currently showing for me as £4.99.

I already own all the books in paperback now I'd like them on my Kindle!


Apple were ringing in illegal anti-competitive behaviour, specifically attempting to organise a cartel in order to engage in price fixing, which directly acted against the interests of consumers. Amazon were not, they were legitimately out competing other book retailers. Basically colluding with other businesses to raise prices is illegal. Organically growing to a dominant position generally isn't.


Ya think?

AIUI Amazon's Kindle contracts with publishers assert that they're not a retailer, they're a publisher licensing platform-specific sub-rights. They forbid publishers from selling cheaper ebook editions via other retailers -- price fixing. And Amazon have engaged in all sorts of very dubious dumping activities -- selling books at a loss and paying the publishers out of their own pocket just to build market share. If that's not a good picture of predatory monopolistic practices I don't know what is!


Most favoured clauses are not price fixing, they require that one party always get the lowest price offered to anyone by the second party. Apple's proposal was that the publisher determine the price charged by Amazon to the customer. One was affected by the price charged to a third party the other attempted to determine the price charged to a third party. Apple were attempting to introduce retail price management, which is generally illegal.

Price wars are self limiting, a retailer cannot continue making a loss without going out of business, it also is not contrary to the interests of consumers to obtain a product for a lower price.

Dumping doesn't seem to happen in practice, it might work if the barriers to entry are very high and the entrants much smaller. Otherwise you either can't keep new competitors out and recoup the losses by charging a monopoly rent. Book retailing has a number of potential competitors that are far too big for dumping to work on, namely the supermarkets. At the moment they sell books but not on a large scale. If Amazon started trying to exact monopoly rents that would present an obvious opportunity.

What Amazon actually appear to be doing is being very efficient and operating on extremely narrow margins. That allows them to make a profit at a price their competitors cannot match without making a loss.

First mover advantage is, like dumping, theoretically possible but doesn't seem to happen much, the advantage just isn't that big. Visicalc lost dominance to Lotus 123 which in turn lost out to Excel. Wordperfect lost to Word. Having a dominant position doesn't give that much protection from losing it.


The thing you're forgetting is that DRM creates an opportunity for customer lock-in. If I buy a reader from Amazon, it will let me read ebooks with Amazon DRM, and ebooks that are DRM free. If I then buy ebooks from Amazon that are DRM locked, I can only read them on an Amazon-approved device, and there is a very strong disincentive for me to buy books from other stores, unless they are DRM free (why, hello, Baen and Tor, how are you today?)

So Amazon is taking a hit right now to build up a customer base that is locked into its ecosystem, with the consequence that the barrier to entry for new players becomes a lot higher than it otherwise would/should be.

The obvious answer, of course, would be for publishers to drop DRM like a hot potato, as it runs counter to their long term interests - but good luck getting that particular idea to fly at the likes of Hachette any time soon. (Our Good Host has already covered that can of worms in detail, so I'll refrain from further comment on the subject.)


The kindle software is available for most platforms, while amazon could make it difficult to access it from other devices they actually haven't. Amazon appear to be using the cloud storage as method of keeping customer loyalty, being able to easily re-download your library whenever you like is enormously convenient for the customer. For example you don't have to worry about losing your books.

The DRM is an option chosen by the publisher Amazon make it available as several publishers insist on it. It doesn't really help amazon as the DRM terms limit the number of copies available to each customer (typically you can download to five installations or devices), which has a negative impact on the convenience of the cloud.

In practice that network effects aren't much of a lock in. Look what happened to MySpace.


You're talking about principle: I'm talking about practice. Amazon has engaged in dumping: paying publishers $X for ebooks, selling them to customers at $X-n, paying the n margin out of their own operating budget, specifically to build market share by undercutting rival ebook stores and also to establish $x-n as the "right" price for ebooks in the public eye, eventually forcing the publishers to cut their margin and supply books to AMZN at that price. It's true that Amazon mostly runs on a very narrow margin -- but over a period of years they invested several hundred million dollars in building the Kindle business by any means necessary, ultimately taking over 90% of the ebook market. This was not an accident.

They also strong-arm publishers by removing their front-list titles from search results returned to customers if the publishers don't cave during price negotiations; I've been hit by this several times. Personally. It burns: folks searching for my books don't find titles by a given publisher, so the theory is that the authors will pressure the publisher to surrender to the borg, or go find another publisher.

Amazon's business practices stink.


The kindle software is available for most platforms, while amazon could make it difficult to access it from other devices they actually haven't. Amazon appear to be using the cloud storage as method of keeping customer loyalty,

That's only part of it.

Back in the 00's, market research I saw for Computer Shopper indicated that 75% of punters who bought a PC through an ad in that magazine never installed any software on it -- the process of buying and installing shrinkwrap software was too intimidating. Today, the curated smartphone app store has broken that barrier -- but buying content for a third-party app like an ereader is still fairly intimidating.

(The real scandal with Apple is the enforcement of the company store policy -- the requirement to go through the iTunes Store to buy in-app purchases or content such as ebooks. But the iTunes Store started as a way to get people to buy hardware, back in the day, by providing cheap content, and Amazon made an end-run around it by simply dropping in-app purchases from the iOS kindle app and making it a pure reader. Want books on your iPad as a Kindle? Go to the web storefront. And so on.)

But I digress. The DRM and the number-of-downloads limits are separately enforced by Amazon -- most publishers who mandate DRM dropped limits on downloads some time ago when they realized customers were buying new ereaders once or twice a year. The toxic synergy between DRM and a walled garden e-reader platform turns out to be very effective at pursuading customers to stick within the walled garden that they know. And AMZN amazingly seems to get away with murder where the DoJ is concerned -- both with tax avoidance practices that verge on criminal evasion, and with predatory pricing and monopolistic dumping activities.


Dumping is pretty rare, as genuine dumping is self limiting, allegations of dumping however are fairly common. Amazon ended up with nearly all of the market fairly, Microsoft abandoned it very early and no one else made much effort to enter. As a bookshop Amazon didn't attempt to make money with hardware, selling the kindle at about cost, believing that once someone had a cheap e reader they would eventually start to purchase content.


Squeezing suppliers into providing their product at a lower cost is not normally a matter of concern to competition authorities. The Restrictive Practices Court is fairly focussed on the interests of consumers practices that raise prices are generally held to be unlawful as contrary to the interests of consumers, practices which lower sales prices are not. Apple's scheme was an attempt to impose retail price management which is generally unlawful, Amazon choosing to discount the price charged to consumers was not.


If the DRM gets too much there's various options around it. Calibre with plugins make unswindling the Amazon Swindle very easy. Extra karma-points for this analog solution using Lego. The latter also nicely shows why DRM will always fail. eventually the publishers will figure this out. Until such time I will be buying Charlie's books as hardcovers for my bookcase and get the digital version elsewhere.


Squeezing suppliers into providing their product at a lower cost is not normally a matter of concern to competition authorities.
It is (or should be) when the purchaser is effectively a monopsony, or near to one. There are plenty of examples of suppliers being squeezed by, for example, Walmart to the point where they went out of business, because they couldn't keep up with the never-ending demands for more and more ever-cheaper products. It would not surprise me if that's the sort of direction Bezos was intending to take Amazon's ebook business.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 21, 2013 10:16 AM.

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