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.


Kindle bestsellers don’t cost a thing

Kindle with a bookIt’s not a revolutionary concept. You want some visibility so you offer what would normally be a paid service or product for free. As word of mouth grows, you bump the price back to normal levels, occasionally higher, and profit. Easy enough.

That’s what many book publishers are starting to do with titles on the Kindle, the New York Times reported this weekend. The article focuses on Maureen Johnson, an author whose young adult fiction has climbed as high as number three on the Kindle best-selling charts. It’s being run for free on the device to drive interest in her upcoming sequel, which will release this February.

While some publishers – Random House and Scholastic for two – embrace the free model, others, like Hachette, find it “illogical.” They believe the price of ebooks is already too low, so why go any lower? In fact, a lot of publishers delay ebook publication for a few months after a book’s release to capitalize on hardcover sales.

Obviously, as time goes on, we’re going to see publishers get more and more creative to keep profits up in the face of lower prices for retail media.

Kindle opens up for app development

Kindle development kit.Amazon announced today that the Kindle would be opening up for development of third-party apps. It’s getting everything too, not just weather widgets and email browsers. You want games? You got ‘em. Though, you’ll probably hate most of them on that e-ink display.

Really, this has to be a future-proofing move for Amazon. I can’t imagine many developers will be clamoring to get apps on the device, especially with the limitations in place. Free apps have to be less than 1MB and use less than 100KB of data per month. Paid apps are under the same usage limit but can be as large as 100MB, though anything over 10MB has to be downloaded via USB.

It’s hard to imagine the kind of apps that could be successful on a Kindle. The screen refresh works for ebooks, but imagine trying to play a game. It’s just not going to work out. The real benefit, it seems, will be to get developers involved before the release of some sort of color Kindle with a real screen. Until then, I’m pretty sure the “apps” will just be ebooks that serve specific markets.

2010: tablets over ereaders

Apple tablet?Everyone’s saying it. I’m jumping on board. Whatever your feelings about tablets – they should exist, they shouldn’t, they’re pointless, they’re great – there’s no denying the potential market impact of a quality tablet. Quality is the key factor here. Much like ereaders, which no one cared about until the Kindle came around, tablets need a frontrunner, something to rally around and aspire to beat. My bet, like so many others, is on the Apple tablet.

It’s not just that I trust Apple, which I do, but that the market is so ripe for a Apple created device. The world has fallen in love with the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the App Store continues to grow at alarming rates, and everyone is imitating multi-touch wherever it makes sense and in plenty of places it doesn’t. Imagine your iPod Touch on ‘roids, powerful enough to run 1080p video, do some simple editing, and wirelessly post to YouTube. Did I mention you can surf the web and read your ebooks? How much would you pay for a device like that? $500? $600? More?

Amazon and Barnes & Noble don’t think the consumer’s financial tolerance is so high. I do. I think people would be willing to spend as much as a grand on an Apple tablet because it could potentially do everything I mentioned above. In the face of that kind of device, the Kindle starts to look a lot like the Peek, specializing in a service handled just as well, if not better, by a more versatile device.

The one thing that could stall tablets for another year is premature release. Everyone knows the tablet is the next big thing, but if it gets rushed, consumers could see the failed device as a reason to buy an ereader. Wait until the tablet people get it right before diving in.

What do you think? Is this the beginning of the end for ereaders? Will they still have their place in the market? Can they get cheap enough to stay relevant?

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

Nook ship date pushed back again

Barnes and Noble.Either the Nook is set to become more popular than the Kindle or Barnes & Noble is having very serious trouble with manufacturing the device. This morning the bookseller changed the next ship date available for its ereader to January 15th, up from January 11th.

For those of you who have already pre-ordered, it’s no big deal. Existing ship dates should not be effected. Anything from here forward, though, will be subject to the new date. It’s not terribly unsettling news, but it does make you wonder just what sort of further delays to expect. People are already waiting on pre-orders that were placed shortly after the device was announced.

By far the worst part, if you were hoping to catch a Nook in stores, is that no in-store purchases will be available. Barnes & Noble has committed itself to fulfilling the pre-orders that have already been placed. How very…noble.

Nook won’t be home for holidays

Barnes & Noble Nook.If you didn’t pre-order your Nook, you won’t be seeing a holiday arrival. Barnes & Noble announced today that it had sold through the initial order and wouldn’t have more before the holidays are out.

“While we increased production based on the high consumer interest, we’ve sold out of our initial Nook allotment available for delivery before the holidays,” said a company statement. It’s not a huge delay – any order placed from today forward will be filled on January 4th. Anyone who pre-orders up to that date will receive a holiday certificate. Sometimes those are the best gifts. Right when you thought the festivities were over there’s a package on your doorstep.

B&N announced the delay after Sony did the same for its “Daily Edition” ereader yesterday. Despite the high price of ebooks and still limited functionality, ereaders seem to be one of the hottest items on the world’s gift list. Amazon’s Kindle and Kindle DX are both in stock and ship immediately.

Source: Reuters

International students can hate the DX too

Kindle DX.Amazon today quietly confirmed that it would start selling the Kindle DX in international markets in the near future. The news isn’t really a shock after the GSM Kindle announcement. As you may recall, the DX is the bigger version designed for textbooks and newspapers. It’s the model that was offered to Princeton students free of charge. The model those same students hated.

According to SlashGear, Amazon has only said “next year” with regard to a date and won’t say anything about pricing. The international Kindle 2 runs $20 above the states-only version. I’d guess the DX will be about the same, giving Princeton the unique opportunity of subsidizing $20 toward even crappier AT&T service for the rest of us. Thanks guys!

Kindle gets another price cut

Jeff Bezos with a Kindle 2.Amazon is cutting the price of the Kindle once more, this time hoping for a holiday rush. When the Kindle 2 launched it was $359. It dropped to $299 in July and has now cut another $40, bringing the world’s most famous e-reader to an almost reasonable $259 ($199 and we’ll talk, Bezos).

With the price cut also came news that wireless download capabilities have been added internationally in 10 different countries. That’s a big update for a feature that was previously only available stateside. The updated wireless also comes with a carrier change, from Sprint to (gasp!) AT&T. Yes, AT&T will be handling wireless communications for the internationally capable device in the US and abroad, which makes me wonder, does AT&T want to bury itself under a mountain of complaints? Of course, there are so few Kindles in the wild compared the newly VoIP over 3G enabled iPhones that this is probably a molecule in the vast ocean of AT&T’s wireless demands.