DC Comics questionable deal with Amazon | USATODAY.com
Some are painting this as a stumble on DC’s part, but since the brick-and-mortar stores aren’t really in a position to stop carrying all parent company Time Warner’s offerings, such as Warner Bros. DVDs, you have to wonder what they’re thinking. If this “staring contest” escalates, they cannot win.
Amazon brokered a deal with DC Comics— the holder of titles featuring the likes of Batman, Superman and the Watchmen — to retain the exclusive e-book-selling rights to 100 titles from its high-profile catalog.
The announcement came alongside the reveal of the forthcoming Kindle Fire, a $199 touch-screen tablet computer created to compete with the Apple iPad and, more directly, Barnes & Noble’s tablet-like Nook Color.
The exclusive deal miffed Barnes & Noble, Amazon’s chief e-book competitor, which responded by pulling DC Comics from the shelves in its brick-and-mortar stores. Barnes & Noble said its policy is that it doesn’t carry any book-on-paper if it can’t also sell a digital version.
Books-A-Million, the nation’s No. 3 book retailer, followed suit. In a statement, company president Terry Finley said the chain “will not promote titles in our stores’ showrooms if publishers choose to pursue these exclusive arrangements that create an uneven playing field in the marketplace.”
The result has been an intense staring match of sorts as Amazon looks to control not only how we consume content but also what content is available to us. Publishers often have little choice but to play along. Amazon has the numbers: millions of Kindle users who can purchase e-books only from Amazon. (A library lending program has also started in some markets for Kindle users.)
Amazon sells its popular line of Kindle e-readers — refreshed just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season — at a bit of a loss. It does that to lock customers into consuming content on the devices and then charging them for e-books and for streaming movies, TV shows and music.
In this way, Amazon is taking its cue from Apple, which has long sought to control content as well as the method for delivering it.
Apple and Amazon take a cut — often as high as 30% —from many of the e-book, movie, music and app purchases through their specific stores. That can result in considerable profits.
Amazon also has started to court authors directly, cutting out publishers entirely and ensuring that more content is available only on the Kindle.
In the battle of platforms, many customers will ultimately be left out as each side looks to garner exclusive content. In addition, prices won’t exactly be falling for content that only a couple of companies control. Many e-books already are more expensive than paperback versions of the same book.
We’re at a critical point in the evolution of digital media consumption. Here’s hoping a third party is able to come forward and disrupt the current marketplace — one that has some of our beloved superheroes down for the count.