The Apple-Amazon Ebook War Begins: Amazon Deletes Macmillan Books

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Books published by Macmillan mysteriously poofed from Amazon yesterday. The reason, according to the NYT, is that Amazon is punishing the publisher for arguing that the price of Kindle books should go up to $15. This won't end well.


It feels like a repeat of the same shit Universal Music, and later, NBC Universal pulled with iTunes, trying to counter the leverage Apple had because of iTunes' insane marketshare. Same situation here, really: Content provider wants more money/control over their content, fights with the overwhelmingly dominant, embedded service that's selling the content. Last time, everybody compromised and walked away most happy: Universal and NBC got more flexible pricing, iTunes got DRM-free music and more TV shows for its catalog to sell.

The problem publishers have with Amazon is two-fold: Amazon's overwhelming marketshare in ebooks (because that leads to more control for Amazon, and less for them) and the establishment of $9.99 as the price of a book, which publishers feel cheapens the value of books. (Hardcover bestsellers go for up to $30, after all.)

The difference in this fight is that Macmillan is one of the publishers signed to deliver books for Apple's iBooks store. They have somewhere to run. And credibly. That wasn't really the case with record labels, who tried to fuel alternatives to dilute iTunes power, and failed. (Interestingly, this little episode seems to prove Brad Stone's earlier account in the Times that publishers were looking to Apple to save them from the tyranny of Amazon, since Apple allows publishers to set their own book prices.)

The $15 pricepoint Macmillan's pushing to Amazon is a little curious, though, given two things: Steve Jobs told Walt Mossberg books in the iBooks store would cost the same as they do for Kindle, and the WSJ reported last week $15 was one of Apple's recommended pricepoints for books. Removing Kindle's price advantage would be a smooth way to launch iBooks, no? The publishers get more money, and iBooks in full, eye-straining color cost the same as Kindle books—everybody wins, except Amazon. (Update: It's known Amazon loses money offering some bestsellers at $9.99, so I wonder if selling at $15 would change that equation. Still, if its books cost the same as iBooks, and publishers start bailing, that's bad for them in a way making a few extra bucks per book doesn't make up for.)


This is just the beginning. [Bits]



I really think that apple has the ability here to 'dictate' the price for the ebook market. Look at what they were able to do the music market. Before iTunes, prices were wide and varied. But when iTunes began selling music the price pretty much became universally adopted.

I just hope that they are able to bring the price to a more affordable level. I would love to start getting ebooks as having a library of books takes up a lot of space. But I can buy most of the books I read from a second hand book store or amazon (used) at a fraction of their original cost.

I read my books over and over again so the advantage of having all my books at my fingertips instead of on shelves in my home would be very beneficial. But the price point for both amazon and now apple is really the barrier that is keeping me out of the ebook market.

Also I think Apple has an enormous opportunity to corner the market with college text books. No more having to lug books to class. You can have them all with you. Hopefully there will be some ability to highlight and make notes on them will develop.

They could set the books up as a type of subscription service like they currently do with tv show seasons. You pay for the book and have use of it for a 'semester' and at the end of the term it is inaccessible as most students sell their books back at the end of the term.

It would also allow publishers to do revisions a very little cost and upload them into the iBookstore for the next term.

Jump on it Steve and you can make iPad the next must have device for college students, because it will have a function that goes beyond trendy, and be a staple in millions of students lives. For as we all know the 16-30 market is ripe with tech junkies.