Joining publishers at Digital Book World 2015 in New York City this morning, Kindle SVP Russ Grandinetti offered a frank explanation of Amazon’s perspective on the book business.
To be fair, little about it comes as much surprise to those in publishing who follows the e-tailer. But after an unusually contentious past year, Grandinetti’s discussion today with Conference Chair Mike Shatzkin and Publishers Lunch founder Michael Cader marked a noteworthy change in the public dialogue between publishers and their biggest distributor.
Here’s a roundup of key topics in this morning’s candid conversation:
- The Hachette dispute: Disagreements between publishers and booksellers are nothing new, but Amazon’s battle with Hachette was unusually public. “Our goal is to keep it rare,” says Grandinetti.
- Authors: “We treat authors the same way we treat buying customers,” and Amazon is “highly motivated” to make its publishing services work for them. The indie community, Grandinetti says, is “incredibly vibrant” and vocal. “They like CAPSlock a lot when they tell us what’s going on.” Amazon finds that KDP Select remains very popular, more than doubling authors’ earnings through the platform in August–December last year over the same period in 2013.
- Kindle Unlimited: Amazon is working to address authors’ concerns that the subscription-based program is diminishing their revenue, asking for patience in the meantime. “It’s only been six months,” Grandinetti adds. On the subscription ebook model overall, Grandinetti says, “More approaches to publishing is pretty healthy” and reminds publishers they weren’t happy at first when bookstores began selling used books. “In every single digital media category, subscriptions are succeeding at some level,” and books won’t be an exception.
- The return of agency pricing: Cader points out that the latest three distribution contracts reached between Amazon and Big Five publishers Macmillan, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, which restores to each of them the right to set their own ebook prices, sets the stage for several years of stability in the terms of trade. Asked whether that opens up a window for pursuing new opportunities, Grandinetti says, “Contracts don’t necessarily equal opportunity” but sounds optimistic. “Our interests and the interests of publishers are highly aligned.”