Amazon wants lower prices to make it affordable for readers to buy and read more. Hachette, as I understand, wants some rate integrity for their authors and to release ebooks at higher prices.
The debate as been compared to the pulp era when mass market paperbacks threatened the hardcover book industry. Publishers had to seek alternate distribution channels like dime stores to sell books, because traditional bookstores and publishers felt the paperback's lower price would kill their industry.
Having been mentored by pulp legend, Harry Whittington, I can tell you the world wouldn't be the place it is today without the mass market paperback.
The reality of the paperback sales the dime stores generated as excited readers went in to get their next installment of the authors they loved, no doubt grew more in store sales for a multitude of brands. Similar to what happens when a reader is on the Amazon site.
While Harry was an author for hire by publishers in his early years and had representation by agents, too. I'm sure Harry's agents likely might have agreed with Hachette's rate integrity concerns, but the Amazon argument is equally legitimate.
Authors want equal access to sell their stories and readers want to buy them at affordable prices.
Sure, Harry would have wanted his representatives to make him more money, but if he thought his titles would be lost in the price wars, I don't think he would have agreed with some the pricing strategies that are being debated.
Where do we draw the line on progress?
Amazon, like other bookseller sites make it possible for all authors to get their work released in the same marketplace in the ebook age.
Even agented authors are taking control of some of their ebook rights and publishing specific works on their own. They don't want to be controlled, but read. Their agents don't agree about crossing genre lines or publishing shorter works, yet authors do.
Agents are good marketers, no doubt. They know how to bring a client to market and the investment needs to pay off. The pricing has more do to with how long the title will trend or even get on the radar. Will a book breakeven?
Markdowns on books happen everywhere. I respect Hachette's rate integrity concerns, as I do Amazon's broad sales approach.
I think the greater concern should be protecting the digital platforms and the writers who fill the pipeline. The add-on revenue streams from other products, ad sales, cross-promotions, films and merchandise that spinoff from book sales are where the growth opportunities are for everyone vs. demanding more from readers who may be financially challenged.