Genre writers have their say in Amazon-Macmillan dispute

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Angered by Amazon’s removal of one publisher’s books from its online store in a recent e-book pricing dispute, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has removed links on its website to its authors works on Amazon.com.

“Our authors depend on people buying their books and since a significant percentage of them publish through Macmillan or its subsidiaries, we would prefer to send traffic to stores where the books can actually be purchased,” the professional authors’ organization said in a statement. Examples of alternative outlets include Barnes & Noble and Borders online stores. However, the group hastened to add that books by its members that are only available through Amazon.com will retain their links to that website.

The online retailer yielded last week to pressure from publishers who sought higher prices for electronic book downloads, ending a standoff that culminated with all books from Macmillan being pulled off the virtual shelves. But Amazon dragged their feet a while in relisting Macmillan’s books — particularly the digital versions.

Amazon had been charging $9.99 for new best-sellers in e-book format for its Kindle device, whereas new best-selling hardcover novels usually fetch $24 or more. Macmillan wanted a business model that set e-book prices at $12.99 to $14.99 upon release. But Amazon, eager to keep prices down as its competition in the e-book market explodes, wouldn’t budge.

Macmillan had help in its revolt from Apple, which last month announced the launch of its iPad device and a new online store for e-books that will mimic its iTunes music store — and let publishers, including Macmillan, set their own prices.

Earlier this month Amazon announced a plan to expand royalties for self-publishers on the Kindle platform, while at the same time keeping prices down for consumers.

kindle2Amazon became the target of a lawsuit in July when a high school student sued the e-tailer for deleting an e-book he bought for the Kindle device. At issue were digital copies of George Orwell’s classics 1984 and Animal Farm, which turned out to be unofficial editions that the company did not have the right to distribute and therefore yanked back, right out of users’ Kindle units. The heavyhanded way in which it was done sparked a flood of comparisons to Orwell’s dystopian 1984 future.

Amazon now says the rights issue has been resolved and has offered free books or $30 to customers who lost their copies of the works.

Four American universities — including ASU — just settled lawsuits with blind advocacy groups over their use of Kindles in the classroom. Blind students felt the Kindle DX’s lack of a nonvisual user interface put them at a competitive disadvantage with their sighted classmates. While the device has a mode that reads text aloud to users, its menus have no such audio capability. In December Amazon announced features to addresss the complaints will be included in a new model set for release this summer.

In October, Amazon announced it will release a free software application for Windows PCs that will read the same e-books as its $259 Kindle device.

Via io9

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