Penguin reaches pact with EU to end e-book price-fixing probe

Penguin has vowed to change its pricing strategy for digital books, including terminating an e-book pricing pact with Apple, to resolve an antitrust probe by the European Union.

As part of the deal, Penguin has agreed to terminate existing agency agreements -- those pacts that allow a publisher, not a retailer, to set prices -- and will refrain from adopting "most favored nation" pricing clauses for five years. Those had prevented retailers such as Amazon from undercutting Apple's e-book prices.

If Penguin does enter into new agency agreements, retailers would be free to set the retail price … Read more

Macmillan reaches e-book pricing settlement with DOJ

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a settlement with Macmillan in an antitrust case related to e-book pricing, leaving only Apple to battle the suit.

In an antitrust lawsuit filed last April, federal prosecutors accused Apple and five book publishers of conspiring to artificially hike prices. The same day, the Justice Department announced it had reached settlements with three publishers but said Apple and the other two publishers had opted to fight the charges. Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers, and Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS, which publishes CNET) agreed to settle. … Read more

Tor Books to drop DRM on entire catalog of e-books

Science-fiction/fantasy publishing company Tor Books dropped a big bomb on the e-book world today by announcing plans to abolish DRM on its entire collection of e-books in early July.

The shift will most likely appear seamless to consumers, as an official blog post on the Tor Web site mentions that DRM-free titles will sell at the same retailers that currently sell Tor's books, and will additionally appear on DRM-free-only e-book stores. The Macmillan-owned company also publishes titles under Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen. … Read more

What would you pay for an e-book?

In recent weeks, the stand-off between Amazon and publishers over e-book pricing has received a lot media attention. At issue is who controls how e-books are priced and what pricing flexibility publishers have when coordinating releases of their hardcover books with their e-book counterparts.

Many say the brouhaha was precipitated by Apple's iPad launch, which included a new e-book store (iBooks) with a pricing structure that appealed to certain publishers. In the wake of the launch, two major publishers, Macmillan and Hachette, have renegotiated deals with Amazon to move to an "agency model" that allows publishers to set prices for their e-books and give Amazon a 30 percent cut from the sale price. Word is that most--but maybe not all--of the "big six" publishers are interested in following suit with similar deals.

As any Kindle owner knows, Amazon has touted how it sells many new releases and all best sellers for $9.99. Under this arrangement, Amazon is willing to take a loss because it buys e-books from publishers for about 50 percent off the list price of the hardcover. For instance, if a hardcover lists for $24.95, Amazon buys the e-book for around $12.50 and sells it for $9.99.

On the surface, that may seem marginally crazy, but Amazon wants to attract people to its Kindle platform by offering the best selection of e-books at the best prices--and forcing competitors like Barnes & Noble and Sony to match those prices.

It's the old squeeze play, and though it may be a smart, cut-throat strategy that appears to have paid off so far, publishers have become gravely concerned that Amazon is gaining too much power in the quickly growing e-book arena.… Read more

Macmillan titles return to Amazon

After a weeklong public dispute over e-book pricing, the paper and electronic titles of publisher Macmillan are returning to's virtual store shelves.

The online retailer, in reaction to Macmillan demanding that some of its e-books be priced higher than Amazon's $9.99 standard, had "expressed [its] strong disagreement and the seriousness of [its] disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles."

The title takedown was indeed temporary. According to a Friday afternoon post by Publishers Weekly, "sources said an agreement has been completed, and the e-tailer has begun putting back the … Read more

Sci-fi writers' group vaporizes Amazon links

Industry trade group Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is none too pleased with Amazon's dispute with publisher Macmillan over e-book pricing, and says that it is encouraging readers "to seek out new places to find their books."

In an announcement Wednesday, the group--which was founded in 1965 and hosts the annual Nebula Awards--explained that it's removing all links to Amazon from its Web site unless the mega-retailer is the only place where a certain author's work can be found.

"Our authors depend on people buying their books and since a significant percentage … Read more

Amazon, get out of the e-book pricing business

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but Amazon needs to stop meddling in e-book pricing and let the free market do its thing.

Over the past few days, a major skirmish in the e-book pricing wars erupted between Amazon and book publisher Macmillan. After a nearly yearlong dispute over electronic book edition pricing, Amazon stopped all sales of Macmillan titles, even print copies, in a pretty shocking display of brinksmanship. Macmillan responded with a full-page ad detailing the fight with Amazon and its hoped-for pricing model. And finally, Amazon released a statement saying it was capitulating to Macmillan's demandsRead more

Amazon agrees to higher prices in e-book dispute

Amazon said Sunday that, while it still believes a $14.99 price tag for e-books is "needlessly high," it will have to give in to Macmillan's demands to sell electronic versions of its books at a higher rate than Amazon's usual $9.99.

The announcement comes after Amazon temporarily pulled Macmillan books from its Web site in a dispute over e-book pricing. Macmillan and other book publishers have asked Amazon to increase the sales price of e-books on its Web site. But Amazon stood firm in its contention that anything above $9.99 was too high--that … Read more

Free sci-fi e-books, for a limited time

A friend of mine told me recently about, a new site managed by Tor Books, part of the Macmillan publishing group.

There's something cool going on there for just the next few days. And if you've bought an Amazon Kindle or a Sony Reader--or just like to read e-books on your laptop, cell phone, or other system--you'll want to scoot right over to the "Freebies Bonanza" page. [Update-- this content is no longer available.]

Read more