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Macmillan fights DOJ suit, Penguin Doesn’t; Growth of Macmillan e-book Sales Slows; Self-Published Book Lands on NYT Best Books List

December 21, 2012

Macmillan Vows to Fight DOJ Lawsuit, Penguin Settles

After Penguin decided to settle the lawsuit brought against it by the Department of Justice, Macmillan confirmed its intent to fight the lawsuit. The publisher sent a letter to its authors, illustrators, and agents this week, saying that the DOJ’s approach of a two-year discounting window would essentially eliminate revenue from e-books for Amazon’s competitors. In other words, Macmillan intends to fight the lawsuit because conceding would strengthen Amazon’s position as the dominant distributor of both hard-copy and e-books. The lawsuit alleges that all the Big Six except Random House conspired with Apple to fix e-book prices by colluding on the agency model.  Penguin joined Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster in settling, leaving Macmillan as the only publisher that hasn’t settled.

What this means to you: If you view the lawsuit as an appropriate response of a fearful set of companies against a competitor whose enlightened business practices are kicking their butts, Penguin’s settlement is good news, and Macmillan is furthering its sins by continuing to fight. If you view the publishers’ banding together against Amazon as a stand against its anti-competitive business practices, you’re probably routing for Macmillan.

Macmillan Says a Bunch of Other Stuff, Too.

The e-mail sent by Macmillan CEO John Sargent talked about other things, too. For one, Macmillan said it doesn’t have any plans to merge with anyone. Sargent essentially said size doesn’t matter–in fact, it can get in the way in a business driven by personal relationships. Sargent also said that the rapid growth in revenue from e-book sales has slowed from its previous year-over-year gains. About a quarter of Macmillan’s revenue comes from e-books. And though Sargent said Macmillan imprint TOR’s decision to drop digital rights management (DRM) software, he stopped short of saying the rest of the company would drop DRM.

What this means to you: If Macmillan is on the level about not merging, this is good news. There have been several rumors that the Big Six will eventually become the Big Three. If Macmillan stays put, odds are better that there are at least four big publishers. More interesting is the news that the percentage of digital revenue isn’t increasing as quickly. In other words, more of the sales of higher-end e-readers and tablets are second-generation, replacing previous hardware. Eventually, the percentage will exceed 50%, but that day may be a little further away than expected.

Self-Published Book Lands on NYT Books of the Year List

Alan Sepinwall’s posts about Mad Men read like literary critique. I am a better writer for having watched the show, and then read his summaries. He points out techniques in the program that I completely missed at first. I’m only just now starting to pick out some of the things he noticed. Sepinwall’s book The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever was named one of the best books of the year by New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani. It’s the first time a self-published book has received such an honor.

What this means to you: Sepinwall already had a sizable following before he self-published. He’s a well-known TV critic for, whose posts reviewing episodes of several hit TV series generate pages of comments. He took a substantial audience with him when he self-published. Although your best platform is the best book you can create, when you create it based on content that already has a following, you’ve got a head start.

One Comment
  1. December 21, 2012 7:47 am

    Thanks for the industry news each week, Chris. This is a timesaver!

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