Amazon to Publishers: My Way or the Highway

NYTimes: has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books, according to two industry executives with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The hardball approach comes less than two months after Amazon shocked the publishing world by removing the “buy” buttons from its site for thousands of printed books from Macmillan, one of the country’s six largest publishers, in a dispute over e-book pricing.


From what I have seen ebook buyers are very price conscious. When Amazon came out with the Kindle and said that they were going to try and set ebook prices at $9.99 I did not think that was cheap. I wanted ebook prices to range from .99 to $2.99.

Ebook readers are also willing to operate in a hybrid world. They do not have to have the ebook version if they can get the print version cheaper. Recently I wanted to buy the book Ice Diaries. The Kindle version was $14. I found a copy in like new condition for $3 on eBay. I bought the book and with shipping the total was $7. So for half the price of the ebook I had the real book in my hand and it was in like new condition. The author made nothing and the publisher made nothing on my purchase of a used copy.

Publishers delaying ebooks to keep print copies around longer is great for readers because publishers have no real way to control the used book market. Because publishers have to over produce to get books into bookstores there is almost always a massive price decrease as all these extra copies hit the used book market.

If Amazon cannot get the publishers to keep prices down I will just continue to buy used paper copies.

Publishers may like the higher retail prices - after all, it (theoretically) means more profit. But that is only true if the higher prices don't scare off consumers. It would be ironic indeed if the new pricing model destroyed Apple's iBookstore ambitions before it even gets off the ground.

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