It has been an interesting few months of discussion, debate, argument, and drama, but The Independent Publishers Group has finally arrived at terms with Amazon that will allow their titles to return to the Kindle Store. This comes as welcome news to the many authors and publishers who rely on the IPG and is likely even more welcome to the many readers who have been unable to enjoy this content thanks to the ongoing conflict.
The terms that have been reached are as yet undisclosed. The only way we know anything of this is thanks to a mass email informing IPG publishers that as of May 25th their titles are back on the digital shelves. Anything that isn’t made it back into circulation should be restored “in the next day or two”. It will be interesting to see what exactly comes out about this new agreement since IPG CEO Curt Matthews has been blogging at length throughout this about the many evils of editor/publisher disintermediation.
I don’t agree with many of Matthews’s arguments. I think he is very persuasively trying to hold onto the past by ignoring a lot of important aspects of the eBook transition we have going on right now. Whether or not you buy into his points, though, clearly he has no interest in giving up any ground to Amazon. To hear him talk, Amazon is deliberately trying to destroy all publishing and the independent authors their self-publishing program enables are universally talentless amateurs. Taken not terribly out of context, his opinion is pretty well conveyed by this passage from the IPG Blog:
“One of the most important functions of publishers, distributors, and booksellers (book agents and reviewers too) has always been to assure a certain level of quality, not necessarily as high a level as we might want, but at least a baseline far higher than the abysmal standard—in fact the non-existent standard—set by the new electronic vanity presses.”
Details are mostly unimportant to both customers and publishers at this point, however. What matters is the fact that the books are available for the Kindle again. In order to take some of the edge off of the months that publishers have had to endure with no Amazon sales, IPG has chosen to forgo their fee on everything sold from June 1st through August 31st of this year. 100% of all revenue will go directly to the publishers.
The best that can be said about this whole situation is that it draws attention to the problems that exist in the power balance between distributers and publishers, as well in the mechanisms of the publishing industry. Publishers have a purpose and provide a great deal of value. Perhaps not as much as they want people to believe, but it is obviously going to be in their best interest to make that case.
Amazon is doing an amazing job of maintaining their place as the primary distributer of digital reading material and, despite the fact that they are doing most of that by simply creating in the Kindle the best platform there is right now, they are using that position in ways that don’t necessarily serve customers. It needed to come out, and hopefully things will be better as a result.