Bestselling author James Patterson is upset that Amazon is breaking up the traditional agent/publisher cartel. Negotiations with Hachette Book Group over ebook prices have been put on the burner, and Amazon is delaying orders of Hachette titles by as much as 4 weeks. Patterson writes:
If the world of books is going to change to ebooks, so be it. But I think it’s essential that someone steps up and takes responsibility for the future of American literature and the part it plays in our culture.
The issue isn’t ebooks. The problem is cost inflation by publishers, who have to pay for printing costs, proofreaders, agents, Manhattan office space, and advertising. Emerging authors often do all the legwork themselves and bypass the establishment, selling their ebooks for $5 or less. Traditional publishers peddling trash like Three Cups of Tea shouldn’t expect readers to continue paying $25-plus per hardcover. Yet that’s exactly what Hachette is demanding Amazon charge for ebooks to maintain their antiquated profit margin.
Amazon, with its huge market share, presents an easy target in this fight, but it’s only the messenger. It’s rationally responding to the changing economics of publishing that were foreseeable 20 years ago during the digital revolution. Traditional publishers refuse to adapt, hence the talk from James Patterson that someone step in to save the industry, like a politician with a subsidy.