Ebook Battles – the Penny Dreadfuls of Our Time?

Penny dreadful from 1800s

Penny dreadful from 1800s

I recently received an email from Amazon/Kindle Direct that included some information on paperback books. “Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing.” Although the Penny Dreadful had been around since the 1800s, this was, apparently, something new.

The invention was the paperback book, which cost about what a movie ticket cost at the time and a tenth of what a hard-cover book cost. Amazon draws a parallel with today’s ebooks. Then and now, they say, traditional publishers felt threatened. Today, they say, some publishers are trying to keep ebook prices close to paperback prices.

There is a lot of “they say” in that paragraph because Amazon is battling Hachette in a contract dispute – search “Amazon Hachette ebook” for lots more like this. Myself, I don’t understand why this fight got so big – if Hachette prices their books too high compared to others, won’t readers simply stop buying from them? That seems way too simple an analysis, so clearly I’m missing something. But I thought the story of paperback books was interesting.

You can read Amazon’s email to their Kindle authors at www.readersunited.com