Cover to Cover #395A: Samuel R. Delany

Michael and Michael weigh in on the Amazon-MacMillan kerfuffle.

If you want to add your thoughts and opinions, call in and leave a voicemail!

Interview: Our guest today is acclaimed Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Samuel R. Delany.

He is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University, and his most recent book is the revised edition of The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, published by Wesleyan Press.

The talk ranges from science fiction as societal predictors; sexuality; the growth and changes that writers might experience or choose; the history of science fiction criticism, the teaching of writing, and more.

Feedback Wanted: Do you have any input on the new Apple Tablet, or on the e-book scuffle between Amazon and MacMillan? Let your opinion be heard!

Submitting Listener comments: If you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know!

What do you think about submitting writing related questions to "Cover to Cover"? What do you think about having authors read chapters as part of the show? Call in or email in with your thoughts!

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Promo: Babylon Podcast
Link: Dragon's Fire, Wizard's Flame by Michael R. Mennenga


  1. Enjoyed this episode very much, both the interview and the surrounding ebook discussion. There's a great round up of opinion at SF Signal right now on the Amazon/Macmillan disagreement here:

    One very small quibble from the show. Mike M said of Amazon setting a price ceiling on ebooks, "It's supply and demand people." Without taking either side, I must point out that it is not supply and demand. Supply and demand would be allowing publishers to set prices, seeing what that did to demand, and then raising or lowering those prices accordingly. Amazon wants to set a price ceiling. Also, if I understand correctly - there is a clause in their 70% royalty offer that you can't let another vendor off your book for lower than the Amazon price. Both of these actions are Amazon-imposed pricing controls, not market-determined supply and demand.

    Again, not taking a position here, just correcting some semantics. Great show !

    • Interesting. Is the Amazon clause limited to no other vendors having a lower price, or is it no other vendors at all? What's the penalty if a lower price is found? (weird mental tangent) Would that penalty count if that other vendor has a sale?

      I'm not sure what to make of the pricing catfights... it's almost as if they're rushing into battle, picking prices based on who-knows-what sort of info, then throwing them at the wall and observing which ones seem to stick with consumers.

      Honestly, I've bought more audio books in the past 2 years than I see myself buying ebooks in the next 2 years (that's how long I'm guessing it'd take for all the first run bugs and quirks to get shaken out of the Apple Tablet, and by when I hope to be able to afford one) 🙂

  2. One more point while I'm thinking about it. I don't agree that in every instance if the publishers do price their ebooks higher than $9.99 they will lose out to those publishers and authors that price their books at a lower price point. This is assuming that all books are created equal and one book is as good as another. Yes, if someone is a casual browser, just in the "mood for some SF", they will probably pick up the cheaper edition. However, if a customer really wants thew new Stephen King right when it comes out, they aren't going to turn around and buy Dean Koontz instead because its a dollar cheaper. What's wrong with a variable pricing model that charges the most for a new release and decreased this with time? If I want Batman Arkham Asylum for the PS3 right now, I have to pay $44.95. But if I want Marvel Ultimate Alliance, I can have it for $9.99 at Best Buy. Notice I"m not saying anything about ebooks undercutting hardcover sales (I don't think that they do) nor about the costs of producing ebooks, just going back to that "supply and demand" comment.

  3. My understanding is that you agree not to allow another vendor to offer a lower price than the Kindle version. If this is correct, they are both putting a ceiling on the Kindle version and insuring it cannot be undersold. Which may be why they are remaining officially silent on the issue and allowing their customers to talk for them, framing this as a battle for low cost ebooks. I love the way Mike Resnick put it over at SF Signal: "Amazon objects to MacMillan having the audacity to price its product. MacMillan objects to Amazon having the audacity to choose what items it will and won't sell."

  4. Lou Anders catches a number of good points but everyone seems to miss the fact that publishers, like movie studios, make all their profits on a tiny % of their output and the best sellers allow them to take chances on unknown writers. Additionally the editorial process does act as a filter of sorts ensuring a certain level of quality (personal tastes aside) for what they produce. It's a fact that most self-published work that I read - without the benefit of that filter - is poorly written, derivative and ultimately very disappointing so in that regard I'll pay the extra $$s for the assurance that my money is well spent.

    There's some good fuel for the fire here