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Amazon's $9.99 eBook Price Model is No More

There was major drama in the ebook world recently when, over the course of a single weekend, an entire war played out: Amazon didn't want to let publisher Macmillan charge $14.99 for ebook versions of hard copy books but Macmillan said it was non-negotiable, take it or leave it, offer. Amazon eventually relented, conceding that obviously Macmillan had a monopoly when it came to its only titles. The etailer resigned itself to the fact that, if it wanted to sell Macmillan books at all, it would have to be on the publishers terms.

Then, on Tuesday, it emerged that Harper Collins (owned by News Corp.) was discussing new prices with Amazon. MediaMemo cites News Corp. CEO Ruport Murdoch as saying:

"We don’t like the Amazon model of selling everything at $9.99. They don’t pay us that. They pay us the full wholesale price of $14 or whatever we charge. We think it really devalues books and it hurts all the retailers of the hard cover books. We are not against [inaudible] books. On the contrary we like them very much indeed. It is low cost to us and so on. But we want some room to maneuver in it. Amazon, sorry Apple in its agreement with us which has not been disclosed in detail does allow for a variety of slightly higher prices.

Now it looks as though Hatchette has caught on to fact that you don't need to accept Amazon's $9.99 price, no questions asked. MediaBistro reports that the publisher is considering moving to an agency price model for ebooks and sent out a memo agents last night discussing the advantages of having their own price model.

"There are many advantages to the agency model, for our authors, retailers, consumers, and publishers. It allows Hachette to make pricing decisions that are rational and reflect the value of our authors' works. In the long run this will enable Hachette to continue to invest in and nurture authors' careers--from major blockbusters to new voices. Without this investment in our authors, the diversity of books available to consumers will contract, as will the diversity of retailers, and our literary culture will suffer."

As more and more publishers start thinking they'd rather be choosing their own price for ebooks, speculation is mounting that it has something to do with the pricing these publishing houses will offer for books on Apple's recently launched iPad.