Amazon backs down over battle of the e-books

1 Feb 2010

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Online retailer Amazon.com has conceded to demands from publisher Macmillan that it charge more for electronic versions than the US$9.99 it currently charges.

In a fast battle over books that would barely shatter the peace of a public library, Amazon huffed and puffed but relented in double quick time.

The faceoff occurred over the weekend when Macmillan demanded Amazon charge between US$12.99 and US$14.99 for digital versions of its titles.

Publishers fear that lower-priced versions of their books would reduce sales of hard cover books. Indeed, Amazon.com said on Friday night that it now sells six e-books for every 10 hard cover books.

Amazon responded to Macmillan’s demands by removing all its electronic titles from its online store.

However, by Sunday, Amazon relented and restocked its virtual shelves with Macmillan titles.

In a blog yesterday, Amazon said: “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 US$12.99 to US$14.99 for e-book versions of best-sellers and most hard cover 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 US$14.99 for a best-selling 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!” the company said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: The Kindle DX e-book reader

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com