In an article late Friday night, the New York Times reported that “Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement.”
Originally reported by Venture Beat, Friday evening books from Macmillan publishers have simply disappeared from Amazon’s virtual shelves. Macmillan is a massive publisher, one of the largest in the country.
Apparently Amazon and Macmillan have been in disagreement about the pricing of e-books. This is a fight that’s been brewing for some time, with a lot of resentment on the part of publishers who feel they’ve lost control of the pricing of their own product. Amazon insists that e-books stick to the low $9.99 price it enforces.
Publishers, of course, would like to be able to set their own price, and it would be higher than $9.99. It was into this disagreement that Apple this week announced the launch of its iPad and associated iBookstore. It’s reported that Apple has agreed to allow its publishing partners greater latitude in pricing. This single wedge could be all Apple needs to break the dominant market share enjoyed by Amazon and its Kindle e-book reader.
Neither of the parties has agreed to comment.
What it Means
This situation could turn out, within a few hours or a day, to be like the clouds that blow up with cable providers who have disputes with their programming providers over fees. Most often these disputes disappear quickly, because neither party wants to face the wrath of subscribers denied their favorite shows and sports events.
On the other hand, there have been rumblings for months about the strain between publishers and Amazon’s pricing model. It could be that just the threat of the iPad is enough to embolden publishers to take a stand. However, removing all your books from the biggest retailer in the world strikes me as an odd way to settle a dispute. Is there any way this is not a losing proposition for both parties, but much more so for Macmillan?
I think the larger lesson here is that the ongoing chaos of formats, pricing, timing of release, and just about everything else having to do with the nascent e-book market is subject to change. We should expect more disagreements, disruption and misunderstanding before the industry finds a workable model for the e-book and its distribution.