Amazon gives Macmillan the price it wants

Macmillan back on the Kindle.Following a very public feud over ebook pricing, Amazon has caved to Macmillan, giving the publisher it’s desired $14.99 price point for ebooks. The switch came after Macmillan threatened to pull all future publications from Amazon’s Kindle Store if it wasn’t given flexibility with regard to price.

Amazon announced the news to its customers with the following statement:

Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.

I can’t help but feel Amazon is making an irrelevant appeal to the Kindle consumer base. By and large these will be people with more money to spend on books, considering they’ve dropped a couple hundred bucks up front to gain access to the titles. If they really want one of the books, would the consumer base really not buy because of a $15 price tag, one that’s still far cheaper than the hardback option? Probably not.

As a writer, I’m reassured to see publishers taking the reins on this one.

Source: Amazon

Amazon pulls Macmillan ebooks

iBook Store.At some point yesterday Amazon pulled any ebooks from publisher Macmillan due to a pricing dispute, according to the New York Times. Apparently Macmillan wanted to raise prices from $9.99 to $15 and Amazon didn’t approve.

You might remember the same thing happening as iTunes was starting to get its legs. Apple used its massive marketshare to strong arm media companies to the $.99 price point, which most everyone felt was too low. Obviously that model has worked out in Apple’s favor, if not in the favor of most record labels, a few of which were able to strike more flexible deals.

There is one major difference – Macmillan has somewhere to go. Apple is just about to open the iBook Store for its new iPad, which, in all likelihood, is going to outsell the Kindle by quite a bit. Most estimates put the Kindle’s installed base around 3 million. The iPad could easily have that by the end of this year.

I would be pretty surprised, though, if Jobs was willing to give Amazon the price advantage in the ebook war.

Source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/amazon-pulls-macmillan-books-over-e-book-price-disagreement/

Print industry collaborates for “Hulu for magazines”

Print ain't dead.The magazine industry has finally announced what people have speculated for months now: several publishers will collaborate to introduce a digital format for existing print magazines. The project includes Time Warner, Hearst, Meredith, Condé Nast, and News Corp. and will exist as its own entity, replete with a full corporate infrastructure, including a new CEO.

The most glaring problem with this plan is distribution. The unnamed venture hopes to control publishing, something neither Amazon or Apple can possibly like. This new venture has to keep both those companies in mind as it’s their devices this media will release to.

And then there’s the issue of value. Are people really going to pay for this kind of content? I’d say it’s doubtful at best, and the odds go down if it can’t be tied into an existing Amazon or iTunes account. I’d say the target for this sort of project already has their online subscriptions to sites that offer high value per dollar. Can the same be said for a digital version of Condé Nast Travel? I don’t think so.

Source: All Things D

Palm’s iTunes hacking is less than inspiring

Palm Pre for iTunes?For a phone that’s billed to do things differently from the iPhone, Palm sure has gone to a lot of trouble to make the Pre sync with iTunes. The company released WebOS version 1.2.1 recently, which brings back iTunes sync along with a few maintenance fixes.

The funny thing is, the Pre could sync with iTunes via an xml file, which is an Apple approved and supported method for third-party devices. Instead, Palm keeps trying to find ways to make the Pre look and perform like an iPod, something about which Apple is none to happy. So why bother? Why keep fighting back against every new iTunes update that breaks the functionality?

Craig Hunter, a mobile developer who we’ve talked about for his tough review of the WebOS SDK, said it best:

Clearly, other companies know how to sync painlessly with iTunes music (see RIM’s Blackberry Media Sync for example), so why doesn’t Palm develop a syncing solution for their own hardware? …I seriously question the strategy and brains of any company that ties critical product capabilities to the unsupported use of their competitor’s software. I mean, really? Can it get any more ridiculous? Can you possibly send a more mixed, less confidence-inspiring, “we’re a bunch of hacks who can’t provide our own sync software for our products” message to customers?

Well put, Craig. Well put.

Steve Jobs is Back, Announces iTunes 9 Out Today

iTunes 9Apple’s Rock and Roll event is still in full swing, but there’s at least one bit of news worth sharing right now. Steve Jobs didn’t just make an appearance at today’s event; he was on stage, announcing the release of iTunes 9, which is available for download today. Obviously it’s good to see him back in good health, and better to have him at these big media events, making announcements.

As for iTunes 9, Apple’s added a lot more features, which means more and more bloating. The software seems to be getting bigger than ever, and I don’t really see that as a good thing. There are some new features, though, that will excite some.

Perhaps the best is Apps Organization, a new tool within iTunes that will allow you to view the app pages on your iPod or iPhone and reorganize them with simple dragging and dropping. As a matter of fact it works a lot like the custom app I wrote about a few weeks back. You can move multiple apps at a time and spring to an app by double-clicking in a scroll menu containing a list of all your apps down the left side. Good stuff.

Another notable feature is iTunes LP, a service that gives you access to all of the trappings of a traditional LP purchase – album art, lyrics, special materials from the artist – in a digital format. Apple will also be adding custom interviews and other special materials to iTunes LP, all viewable within iTunes.

One of the best features with iTunes 9 is home sharing. Yes, I’ve heard the arguments about owning the music you purchase and doing what you please with it. Let’s not rehash that here. Point is, iTunes can now be authorized on 5 computers and those computers can actually copy music between one another with a simple drag and drop. The feature also allows you to view only those songs in a networked library that you don’t have yourself.

As for the less notable features, the iTunes store is getting a redesign and there’s going to be Facebook and Twitter integration for sharing the things you like. Not anything I’m all that crazy about. The iTunes redesign is more of a tweak than a true overhaul and I think we all know how I feel about the social media iTunes will be integrating.

As I write this I’m also working on two other significant Apple updates, so check back often. There’s some disappointing news ahead.

Apple Hosting “Rock And Roll” Media Event September 9th

Apple September invite.Today, Apple sent out invitations to their September media event (if you’re reading this, Apple, you forgot the one with my name on it and that complimentary airfare/hotel stay). This year’s invitation looks like just about every other iPod advert. The invite reads, “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it.” Those aren’t exactly inspiring words for a tablet announcement, but there are plenty of other things Apple could show off this year.

Among those would be the rumored-to-death cameras for the iPod Touch and Nano models, the release of which would set the stage for an iTunes 9 announcement. There’s also the “Cocktail” feature that’s supposedly designed to save the album (can you save what’s dead?). All of those things would be interesting announcements, though I can’t say I’d be excited about the extra bloat coming to iTunes. It’s bad enough as is.

iTunes 8.2.1 Fixes/Breaks Pre Compatibility

iTunes 8.2.1 update screen.It’s all a matter of perspective, right? Depending who you are, the newest iTunes either broke or fixed the Palm Pre’s ability to sync with iTunes like an Apple device. According to update notes, the fix/break “addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices.”

Palm warned us that this might happen, but who knew it would come so soon? Now the question remains, will Palm try to restore compatibility? Plenty of people prefer drag-and-drop functionality, but new-schoolers who can’t function without iTunes (likely the same people who will update without reading) will be sorely disappointed after the update.

If Palm does try to reopen the iTunes gate, you can bet Apple will be quick to address the problem. Nothing like a little corporate cat and mouse to make things extra frustrating for consumers.