Home > Uncategorized > Will e-books cut out the middleman?

Will e-books cut out the middleman?

Ken Auletta recently wrote a very comprehensive (read: long) article in the The New Yorker’s Annals of Communication column chronicling the power struggle between Amazon and Apple in the post-iPad world. The article is good for anyone looking to catch up; for the quick bullet points, see Auletta’s interview on Fresh Air.

At first, the distributor clash was seen as a boon to publishers, who suddenly found themselves with a competitor to Amazon that offered more flexibility in pricing power. However, Auletta notes this view could be naive. In fact, publishers could face being cut out altogether.

“Amazon has actually made some deals with authors — Stephen Covey is one — and has actually approached authors and editors to try to hire editors to work for Amazon and to procure books for them. [And they’re] offering authors a much larger commission than the commission they get from hardcover publishers.”

It seems Amazon, though recently defeated in the pricing battle with Macmillan, has taken steps to circumvent publishers entirely. Of course, these indications may be premature, but even so it raises the question: What role should publishers play in the emerging e-book market?

Retailers have steadily encroached on the value traditionally added by publishers. As the line continues to blur, publishers could face a shrinking need of their services—a far cry from the e-book panacea many had in mind.

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