A rumored peek at bestsellers on Apple's iBooks reveals that the $9.99 ebook is very much alive, suggesting Apple does some pricing flexibility with bestsellers, and books that publishers sell for less than the average $26 hardcover price.
Matching what the NYT originally reported, that "Apple wants the flexibility to offer lower prices for the hottest books, those on one of the New York Times best-seller lists," AppAdvice says that all of the current top 10 NYT bestsellers are priced at $9.99 in iBooks—in fact 27 of the top 32 are $9.99. The highest priced of the remaining 5, Poor Little Bitch Girl by Jackie Collins, is $12.99. (Previously, it wasn't precisely clear how much influence Apple could have on book pricing in iBooks, given that under their model, which is just like the App Store, publishers set their own book prices, and Apple simply takes 30 percent. The rumored "recommended" pricing was $12.99-$14.99.)
What's interesting is that Poor Little Bitch Girl is $8.83 on Kindle, which suggests that Apple's ability to cut prices isn't directly tied to what competitors are charging. In other words, their deal—at least with MacMillan, who owns the St. Martin's Press imprint that put this particular book out—isn't that if Amazon sells a book for $9.99, it has to be sold on iBooks for the same amount. Which strikes me as more interesting still, because MacMillan's had the most public spat with Amazon, which wiped their entire catalog off of the site after MacMillan became the first publisher to agitate for change in Amazon's pricing model, so that it was more like Apple's.