Just days after Amazon conceded to MacMillian’s demands for an agency model for e-book pricing (ie, variable pricing), Robert Murdoch’s Harper Collins started rattling it’s saber that it wanted the same deal. By the end of the week Hachette had joined Harper Collins. So like dominoes, the major publishers are falling in line to continue their old publishing strategy of initial high price (hardback), price drop 1 (trade paperback) and price drop 2 (mass market paperback for digital books. Since Amazon capitulated to MacMillian, they will have to do the same with the publishers.
One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
Last Friday night, news started coming in over twitter that Amazon had pulled the buy buttons from all of publisher MacMillian’s books from their website. The books could only be purchased there from 3rd party sellers, and this was for both print and digital books. This included all of their imprints such as First Second books, Tor, and Seven Seas Entertainment. The New York Times then broke the story that Amazon and MacMillian were arguing over Amazon’s $9.99 pricing for e-books. MacMillian, one of the 5 publishers who had signed on to Apple’s iBooks store with the tiered pricing plan, now wanted Amazon to do the same. Amazon’s reaction was to pull MacMillian’s books. You can get a lot of links to reactions here. By Sunday, Amazon had posted to their blog that they would have to give in to MacMillian’s demands, and as of this writing, the publisher’s books were being made available again. This has been brewing for quite some time, and it seems only with the advent of the Apple iPad and iBooks store that publishers seem to be embolden enough to push for the tiered pricing. While the iPad/iBooks is an alternative, I don’t think it’s going to be as definitive as they believe. But the fact that Amazon has admitted it will cave shows they knew this was inevitable, and held the line as long as they could. Whether readers will go along is another matter all together.
Late Friday night, reports started coming in about a dispute between Amazon and publisher MacMillian. According to the New York Times, Amazon has “temporarily” pulled all books by MacMillian, including all imprints such as First Second, Seven Seas Entertainment, and Tor, because MacMillian is pushing for a raise in price of their e-book on the Kindle to $15. The grousing between Amazon and publishers has been going on for a while now, so that this has finally happened is no surprise. Nor is it a surprise that it happens right after Apple announced it’s iPad, which MacMillian is one of the publishers that signed on to provide books for.
To get a full range of the story, he’s some links to check out.
Johanna Draper Carlson posts about it at Comics Worth Reading. Check out the comments for interesting information on the breakdown of who gets what in the publishing pie.
Business Insider has a look at the dispute from the Apple side of the equation.
Cory Doctorow, a big proponent of e-books, has his own take at BoingBoing. Definitely check out his post for how the whole battle affects consumers. He’s got some really interesting insights.
The Los Angeles Times has some quotes from publishers about Amazon’s pricing, basically defending MacMillian.
Back at the New York Times, their technology blog Bits has more details on the dispute between Amazon and MacMillian, getting the heart of the problem.
Edit: As the weekend has gone on, more people have been speaking out about this, including authors. Here are two takes on the supply chain issue that really put the whole pricing of e-books into perspective. If you really want to understand this issue, read Charlie Stross‘ and Tobias Buckell’s posts for detailed insights.