With Apple's highly publicized iPad launching on April 3, the e-book market is quickly adjusting. Amazon.com, maker of the competing Kindle, has agreed with two major book publishers to drop discounting of popular titles, and Sony said Tuesday that it will similarly take its lead on pricing from publishers.
Amazon's deal, with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, lines up with reports last week that Apple will offer comparable pricing on the iPad. For Amazon, some best sellers will be listed at $9.99, with most priced in the range of $12.99 to $14.99.
Sony's Similar Pricing
A leaked screenshot of Apple's iBookstore on several Apple fan sites recently indicated that most of Apple's e-books will be $9.99, with some at the higher prices.
However, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Apple's deal with five of the six major book publishers will mirror the pricing structure that Amazon now has. The Journal article indicated that only Random House has yet to conclude a deal with Apple.
Many publishers had indicated opposition to Amazon's pricing of new best sellers in e-book format at $9.99, arguing that it would lower consumers' overall perception of the value of those titles. But the biggest takeaway from the new pricing structure is not the actual price, but the fact that publishers, rather than retailers, will be driving prices for e-book versions of popular titles.
Similarly, Sony will let several major publishers determine the prices of e-book versions of its titles for that company's three e-book readers. According to Business Week, most e-books from Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin and HarperCollins will cost $12.99 to $14.99 on Sony devices.
$9.99 Was 'Artificial Base Price'
But while major publishers are driving the pricing structure for the growing e-book industry, they won't be the only players in emerging digital bookstores. On the iPad, for instance, Project Gutenberg will reportedly offer as many as 30,000 free e-books that are in the public domain, and self-published authors will be able to offer their titles through publishing services like Lulu and Smashwords.
Michael Gartenberg, a partner at the Altimeter Group, said "it takes a player like Apple to shake things up" in the e-book market. He said Amazon had set $9.99 as an "artificial base price" to increase its market share, but Apple's deal with publishers has induced Amazon to accept a similar pricing structure.
Gartenberg still expects to see some $9.99 e-book titles, just as one can find new hardcover books at lower prices than the top best sellers.
He also said the iPad's release will "help to take the e-book into the mass market," especially since the device is optimized for other activities as well, such as movie watching, web browsing, or listening to music -- unlike the Kindle. A new survey from PriceGrabber.com, based on responses from 1,600 consumers, indicates that 10 percent of iPad owners will use their device primarily for e-books.
Posted: 2010-04-01 @ 1:42pm PT
Why should I pay almost the same, if not the same price, for an e-book in place of the printed book? Not having to print the book certainly saves the publisher money. Why should they be the only winner? If Amazon goes this route, I will be much more vigilant in looking for those e-book publishers that are not governed by the publishers.