Amazon threatens to ban two more publishers

Amazon Kindle with the New York Times.Amazon is starting to look desperate in the war for content control against Apple. The online retailer has now reportedly threatened to pull content from two more publishers (the first was Macmillan) if they don’t agree to three year pricing contracts for ebooks. The contracts are designed to guarantee that consumers will get the lowest possible price on ereader content in Amazon’s Kindle store. It’s not anything new. In fact, Apple is trying to lock up the same deal.

The deal is undeniably bad for publishers, though. It gives them no flexibility for change as the market matures, which it certainly will over the next three years. The New York Times article didn’t say which two publishers were being threatened, but you can bet no one wants these kinds of contracts. The fact that Amazon is actually going forward with such aggressive measures says only one thing: this is the last resort. If there were other, more suitable alternatives for both parties you can bet Amazon would have explored them. It would garner a lot less press attention and make the company seem far less money hungry and desperate in the eyes of the consumer.

Source: New York Times

Amazon tries to stay competitive with Apple, will need a new device

Steve Jobs in a chair with the iPad.The day Apple announced the iPad, Amazon was calling newspapers and publishers before Steve Jobs had even left the stage. As the New York Times’ Bits blog has it, Amazon wanted to hear what Apple had offered. Amazon had been trying for more than a month to sign deals with publishers that would give Amazon customers the best prices anywhere, either by matching or beating the prices given to other dealers.

Amazon tried to sweeten the deal by offering publishers bigger revenues than in the past. Unfortunately, Apple was willing to budge on a much larger issue: price. With Apple, publishers had a bit more flexibility than Amazon would give, which in turn gave publishers bargaining power over Amazon. See, Amazon will do just about anything to stay competitive with Apple.

In fairness to Amazon, it’s not like publishers want to upset that distribution channel. Amazon pretty much pioneered the ebook scene – it certainly made ebooks as popular as they were likely to become before some sort of wonder device came along – which leaves publishers keen to cater to the existing subscribers in Amazon’s marketplace until either the iPad gains enough ground or Amazon releases a new reader.

That last point is very important. If Amazon doesn’t release a new reader within the next year or so, it will pigeonhole itself into becoming solely a content provider, a position I wouldn’t think Bezos wants to be in considering he started the Kindle. Rarely would a company of Amazon’s scale introduce a middling product only to do away with it in a couple years.

Source: Bits

Kindle heads to Blackberry

Blackberry gets Kindle.Amazon is starting to see the writing on the wall, it seems. There isn’t a compelling reason for people to buy a Kindle anymore. Other ereaders offer the same price on books with more features and the latest wave of tablet PCs make the hardware look obsolete. So what does Bezos do? He releases a Kindle app for yet another piece of hardware: the Blackberry.

Amazon recently opened the floodgates with Kindle support for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Windows machines. Today we get Blackberry support and the company says it’s headed for Macs and iPads next. If that doesn’t sound like admitted defeat, I don’t know what does. It’s funny too, considering the publisher problems Amazon has had since the iPad announcement.

“Since the launch of our popular Kindle for iPhone app last year, customers have been asking us to bring a similar experience to the BlackBerry, and we are thrilled to make it available today,” said Amazon’s Kindle VP, Ian Freed. There is at least one difference between the two; the Blackberry version doesn’t support creating annotations from within the app.

Official Site

Apple may have more ebook control than we think

iBook Store on the iPad.An article in the New York Times today suggests Apple may have a little more control over low ebook prices than initially thought. Publishers were turning to Apple and its iPad to save them from the clutches of Amazon and the $9.99 Kindle price point. While Apple does offer more flexible pricing options, it has also made provisions for lowering the prices of the most popular books, back to that $9.99 figure the publishers so hate.

The Times cites “at least three people with knowledge of the discussions,” as the source for the news. It’s not just bestsellers, either. Apple expects publishers to reflect discounted book prices, books sold below the typical $26 hard cover price, in their ebook pricing as well, regardless of bestseller status.

This has to make you wonder what really had the publishers upset with Amazon. Obviously they’re aware of the things Apple laid out in its contract, so what’s the issue? Do they just want some extra income from less popular titles? Are there other Amazon policies that turn publishers away or is it really just a lack of flexibility?

Presented with options publishers turn on Amazon

iPad running iBooks.During News Corp’s quarterly earnings conference call, Rupert Murdoch finally revealed his true feelings about the deal between HarperCollins, which News Corp owns, and Amazon for ebooks in the Kindle Store. “We don’t like the Amazon model of $9.99….we think it really devalues books and hurts all the retailers of hardcover books.”

That pretty much says it all. Now that the company has an option coming with the iPad, it no longer needs to succumb to Amazon’s demands. Things are just the opposite, in fact, thanks to flexible pricing options from Apple. The competition is forcing Amazon to renegotiate prices with publishers for fear of losing market share or publisher support altogether.

It’s tough to say that increased ebook prices actually preserves the value of the book, particularly after prices have been so low. Fortunately for publishers, the ebook reading population was small enough that the rest of the world might not know to care about the difference.