Apple’s real iPad focus: TV

Steven Colbert with an iPad.The iPad may have been sold to the world as the device that will save publishing, but Apple has shown its real focus now that we’re just weeks away from release. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple put the publishing content on the “backburner in favor of focusing on other content,” like a subscription-based television service.

Apple wants to make a sort of “best of TV” bundle available for a subscription fee, as well as offering episodic downloads for a dollar. Content providers have been wary of making any deals, likely because they’re afraid of getting burned like the music industry. Now that we’re years into the digital music business we can see that things haven’t been all bad for the labels, but there are probably some things they wouldn’t have agreed to if given the chance again.

It’s looking unlikely that we’ll see anything by the time the iPad launches, which leaves Apple in a position it knows well – using sales figures to produce contracts. The iPad has already had some nice presale figures. Once version 2.0 rolls out you can bet we’ll see more widespread adoption.

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.

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/