Amazon eBook pricing war: Thanks for being evil, Apple

Eric has a Kindle and loves it. 

One of the things we both love most about his Kindle is that he can get most books for $9.99. 

Me, I prefer audio books. I can read while I'm knitting and doing things around the house. Even though Apple has an easy way to get audio books in iTunes I don't do that. Instead, I get my books from Audible where I can get a $25 audio book for a credit that only cost me around $15 a month. Apple would charge me $25 for the exact same audio book.

Apparently, Amazon is now getting push back from publishers, starting with Macmillan, who want them to charge more than $9.99 for e-books. As a result, Amazon pulled Macmillan books from their US store:

I’ve talked to a person in the industry with knowledge of the dispute who says the disappearance is the result of a disagreement between and book publishers that has been brewing for the last year. Macmillan, like other publishers, has asked Amazon to raise the price of electronic books from $9.99 to around $15. Amazon is expressing its strong disagreement by temporarily removing Macmillan books, said this person, who did not want to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Apple's new iBook store gives more leeway to publishers to set their own prices on books. From last week's demo, looks like that price is going to be around $15 per book. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

Remember when Apple faced off with NBC over similar issues back in 2007? 

Apple said NBC's demands would have raised the price of NBC shows to $4.99 an episode from the current $1.99 price tag.


"We would not agree to their dramatic price increase," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of iTunes, in a statement. "We hope they will change their minds."

At the time, the public saw Apple as the hero fighting to keep our costs down, even if it meant the loss of NBC shows from iTunes. Apple held its ground. NBC came back.

Now, Amazon is fighting what is essentially the same battle. Apple is entering the market that Amazon already has a foothold. You would think Apple would have fought to at least matching Amazon's pricing, if not beat it. The market can already bear $10 eBooks the way they do $1 songs. But no. Apple is perfectly happy to price their books at where the publishers want so they could get their deal, and then let Amazon fight alone to avoid raising their price to match. Thanks for watching our back, Apple.

That's business. That's competition. I get that. What burns me is the arrogance of Apple in assuming that because they are entering a market, they will control it. Which is all well and good if it's in all our best interests. If the customer wins by getting a better value for our money. But in this case it's not for us. Far from it. In this case, we lose because we're going to pay an extra $5 per book for absolutely no good reason.

In the video, Mossberg asked Jobs about the iBooks application and the price of e-books, with Jobs insisting the price would be the same on Apple as it was on Amazon.

“The prices will be the same,” said Jobs, before getting in a little dig at the maker of the Kindle e-reader. “Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon, because they’re not happy with it."

One could optimistically read that to mean that Apple's books will match Amazon's $10. Watch the video linked above. No way. Jobs knew his entrance into this market was throwing Amazon's pricing under a bus, and he's happy to do it.

In other words…now that we're giving competition to Amazon, we're more than happy to let publishers bully Amazon into raising their prices to match ours and we're perfectly okay with consumers paying more as a result.

I can hardly wait until Apple decides they're not making enough on audio books due to competition from Audible and they get publishers to bully them too.