Apple has been accused of colluding with book publishers to let them set ebook prices artificially high. Why? In order to stave off arch-rival Amazon, apparently. What happened to healthy competition?
The lawsuit claims Apple conspired with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster to push up ebook prices by between 33% and 50%.
It says that Apple, together with the publishers, used agency pricing to set their own high prices for ebooks.
Consumers pay the price of ‘competition’
As a book lover (and closet would-be novelist), I believe in paying author’s a fair price. Many writers sweat months or years to produce a book that I’ll devour in just a few days, either as an ebook or standard paperback.
However, as we’ve stated in previous Conversations, some self-published authors are charging as little as 99 cents for their work and still reaping healthy financial rewards. Similarly, a visit to Amazon’s Kindle ebook store reveals seven of the top ten paid-for titles can be snapped up for as little as 99p.
So why would Apple, assuming the claims against it are true, insist on charging more? The lawsuit says the company wanted to ‘boost profits and force e-book rival Amazon to abandon its pro-consumer discount pricing’. And if proven, it would be clear that Apple acted against the best interests of book lovers worldwide.
The case for low-cost ebooks
Low-cost ebooks allow readers to take a punt on a new author, rather than forking out £7.99 for a paperback. That’s good news for readers, authors and publishing houses.
As ebook advocate Jack W Perry has commented:
‘I believe 99 cent eBooks are definitely a smart way to go for many publishers (and individuals). I understand the reasons traditional publishers want to hold onto a $14.99 eBook price. But that is old-school thinking and out of step with the realities of today’.
If Apple was that worried about Amazon’s Kindle impacting ebook profits on its beloved iPad, then surely a better strategy would be to offer affordable ebooks via iTunes?
There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but there’s nothing healthy about Apple’s alleged price fixing. If Apple loses the case against it then I hope the US court chucks the proverbial ebook at Apple.