The iPad-prompted Amazon/publisher fallout continues, with John Sargent – CEO of Macmillan, whose books and ebooks promptly disappeared from Amazon’s store in the aftermath of the Apple tablet announcement – confirming that the online retailer modified their catalog in response to a demand to renegotiate pricing structures. In a post on the PublishersMarket blog (and a paid advert that ran this weekend in the print magazine), Sargent explains that he put his new pricing structure – which would see ebooks sold with flexible pricing, and retailers taking a set 30-percent commission – to Amazon the day after the iPad’s launch, only to find that in apparent retaliation they swiftly pulled all print and electronic copies from the store before the CEO even had time to get back to his New York office.
“This past Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for e books under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon.” John Sargent, CEO, Macmillan
Rather than the cross-bookshelf $9.99 bestseller price Amazon currently charges for ebooks, Macmillan would like to see titles individually priced and ranging from $5.99 to $14.99. Digital versions would in most cases go on sale at the same time as the physical copy, and pricing could be tweaked over time. Sargent reckons both publishers and Amazon would make more money from this scheme than the current model, but concurs that the retailer disagrees and does so strongly: “the action they chose to take last night clearly defines the importance they attribute to their view.”
As we suggested yesterday, this also better puts into context Steve Jobs’ widely misrepresented quote from last Wednesday, in the aftermath of the iPad launch. Jobs told Walt Mossberg that pricing for Kindle and iBooks titles “would be the same”, interpreted by many as a sign that the iPad would see cheaper ebooks than initially announced, but now indicating that Apple had a potentially significant part in the dynamic price-structure plans Macmillan approached Amazon with.
Meanwhile, for an author’s-eye view of the situation, science-fiction writer Charles Stross has explained “this whole mess” on his blog. Those books of Stross’ sold in the US through Macmillan subsidiary Tor are among those yanked from Amazon’s virtual shelves, and he also suggests that the DRM issue and the publisher/wholesaler/bookseller price-share issue are two very different battles at the moment. For people who have already in effect locked down their ebook libraries on Amazon’s platform – or who are considering buying into the Apple iBooks platform – however, we’d say that’s not quite the case. Still, as the comments to our first post about this suggest, e-publishing is filled with some strong opinions.