Higher E-Book Prices Turn Out to Not Be Popular with Consumers

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg writing for the Wall Street Journal:

“When the world’s largest publishers struck e-book distribution deals with Amazon.com Inc. over the past several months, they seemed to get what they wanted: the right to set the prices of their titles and avoid the steep discounts the online retail giant often applies.”

The world’s largest publishers were forced to turn to Amazon after the US government successfully sued Apple for conspiring to inflate e-book prices by establishing “agency model” pricing for the iBook Store.  Amazon, got by without at second glance.

Let’s see how things are going:

“The new business model for e-books is having a significant impact on what [the big] publishers report,” said one publishing executive. “There’s no question that publishers’ net receipts have gone down.” 

On Thursday morning, there wasn’t a single title priced at $9.99 among the top 20 titles on the company’s Kindle best-seller list. Last summer, Amazon offered the digital edition of James Patterson’s thriller “Invisible” for the bargain price of $8.99. Mr. Patterson’s newest tale of suspense, “Alert,” went on sale Aug. 3 on Amazon for $14.99, a price set by Hachette, Mr. Patterson’s publisher. The unit sales for Mr. Patterson’s e-books weren’t available.

Sounds like there’s trouble in paradise.

[Via The Wall Street Journal…]

A Pair of Often Rumored Phones About to Get Real?

We have been hearing and reading rumors about smartphones from Facebook and Amazon for a long time now.

The Facebook Smartphone

Facebook phone rumors are nothing new.  I recall reading a TechCrunch story about it in 2010.  At the time, Facebook spokesperson Jamie Schopflin told Mashable that, “[T]he story, which originated in Techcrunch, is not accurate. Facebook is not building a phone.”

That was then, and this is now, and judging by the “media only” event invitations that went out, something’s up.  I seriously doubt that Facebook would be holding a media event for a major new release of their mobile app for Android or iOS.

The Amazon Smartphone

Amazon smartphone rumors are a little bit more recent.  They didn’t start until people saw that Amazon could build a credible tablet beyond the Kindle e-reader as CNet talked about back in 2011.  Will we see the book-seller-turned-tech-giant CEO Jeff Bezos on stage later this year hawking a Kindle Fire smartphone?

According to AppleInsider.com, DigiTimes has been at it again leaking information about Amazon’s Android powered smartphone shipping this year.  The rumors of a new Amazon smartphone flared up again when DigitTimes indicated that Amazon was witching from a 4.3″ display to the larger 4.7″ “phatablet” size.  Lending credence to that idea, that an Amazon smartphone is still be months away, is this little snippet that appears in the AppleInsider story:

“Development of Amazon’s rumored handset reportedly remains fluid, and the retailer is said to be “working on or enhancing other specifications” of the device.”

Take Aways

So, what we can gather, if any of these rumors are accurate, is that both Facebook and Amazon are hard at work on their smartphone plans.  Facebook looks to be closer to the finish line as they are calling a major tech event next week.  It is unclear how Facebook would position a smartphone.  Would they view themselves as a premium brand go try to complete directly with Apple and Samsung on the high end?  Would they go after the smaller Windows Phone and BlackBerry market?  Or would they they to complete on the “free with a new 2-year contract” level?

Amazon, still looks to be refining their device to get the most bang for the buck, which makes sense because the Kindle Fire isn’t about profit margins on the hardware, it’s about how much can the vendor sell with their own “a store that fits in the palm of your hand” smartphone.  With that in mind, I can’t see Amazon trying to position their phone any higher than the mid-market.  Since Amazon is more about selling things and content, it makes more sense to me that they would have their own phone on the low end side, and continue to develop their mobile apps for iOS, Android, and all the rest to maximize the number of people viewing the goods they have for sale.

[Via AppleInsider.com…]

Thanks to Mike C. for the tip…

Amazon Kindle Event Next Week

This coming week, Amazon is expected to host a media event next week at which many have speculated will unveil the next generation Kindle tablet.

Amazon flamed the “Fires”, sorry obligatory pun was necessary, when it published a press release on Thursday (8/30/12) stating that the current model Fire has sold out.

““We’re grateful to the millions of customers who have made Kindle Fire the most successful product launch in the history of Amazon,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “This has been a big year for digital products on Amazon—all of the top 10 sellers on Amazon.com since Kindle Fire launched just less than a year ago are digital products. Kindle Fire is sold out, but we have an exciting roadmap ahead—we will continue to offer our customers the best hardware, the best prices, the best customer service, the best cross-platform interoperability, and the best content ecosystem.””

So it took Amazon nine months to sell out of their Kindle Fire.  I guess that isn’t too bad.  While boasting “over 10,000 5-star customer reviews” and having “captured 22% of tablet sales in the U.S.,” Amazon continues to keep sales numbers to themselves.

Regardless, the Kindle Fire is likely the best selling Google Android-powered tablet on the market today.  But it may not stay that way for long.  Google has recently started shipping their own 7-inch Android tablet, the Nexus 7 to rave reviews.  And Apple, not wanting to lose any sales opportunities, is rumored to be launching a new 7-inch “iPad Mini” in October, just in time to ruin Google’s and Amazon’s holiday sales numbers.

While we don’t know if Amazon will be unveiling one or two new Kindles next week, what does seem pretty clear at this point is that the online mega retailer won’t be releasing a 10-inch iPad competitor.  AppleInsider.com writes:

“While a larger Kindle Fire may still be in the works, the source says Amazon is sticking with the 7-inch form factor and will announce two new models next week, including a slightly reworked version of the existing tablet. The decision is thought to be a defensive move in response to a growing small form factor tablet market, with new devices like Google’s Nexus 7 offering stiff competition to Amazon’s device.”

We’ll have an update on Amazon’s new Kindle offerings next week.

Rumor: 8GB Nook Arriving This Week

A new rumor has appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal, siting the technology website The Verge, indicating that book retailer Barnes & Noble could begin selling an 8GB version of their Nook tablet as early as this week.

“The Verge reported Monday that Barnes & Noble Inc.  is expected to release a new Nook Tablet with 8 gigabytes of built-in memory later this week. That could allow the book retailer to match or even undercut Amazon.com Inc.’s $199 price on its Kindle Fire tablet, which has 8 GB of memory. Barnes & Noble’s existing Nook Tablet, released about the same time as the Kindle Fire last November, has 16 GB of memory and sells for $249.”

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a Kindle Fire to play with, but in all honesty, I don’t because I don’t ready many books for enjoyment.  At least the iPad, Kindle Fire, and the BN Nook can all play Angry Birds!

[Via The Wall Street Journal.com…]

Connecticut AG Probing Apple, Amazon on EBook Agreements

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is investigating agreements between the country’s largest e-book publishers and two of the largest sellers — Amazon.com, Inc. and Apple, Inc. — that may block competitors from offering cheaper e-book prices.

Both Amazon and Apple have reached agreements with the largest e-book publishers that ensure both will receive the best prices for e-books over any competitors — contract provisions known as “most favored nation” (MFN) clauses.

In letters to Amazon.Com and Apple, Blumenthal is calling on the companies to meet with his office to address these concerns. Publishers that have reached such agreements with Amazon and Apple include Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins and Penguin.

These agreements appear to deter certain publishers from offering discounts to Amazon and Apple’s competitors — because they must offer the same to Amazon and Apple. This restriction blocks cheaper and competitive prices for consumers.

After a preliminary review, Blumenthal’s office has already found that e-book prices offered by Amazon, Apple, Borders and Barnes & Noble for several New York Times Bestseller books were identical among all four sellers.

“These agreements among publishers, Amazon and Apple appear to have already resulted in uniform prices for many of the most popular e-books — potentially depriving consumers of competitive prices,” Blumenthal said. “The e-book market is set to explode — with analysts predicting that e-book readers will be among the holiday season’s biggest electronic gifts — warranting prompt review of the potential anti-consumer impacts.

“Amazon and Apple combined will likely command the greatest share of the retail e-book market, allowing their most-favored-nation clauses to effectively set the floor prices for the most popular e-books. Such agreements — especially when offered to two of the largest e-book retail competitors in the United States — threaten to encourage coordinated pricing and discourage discounting.”

You can read and download a PDF copy of Mr. Blumentha’s letter to Apple and Amazon on the CT.gov website.  A copy of today’s press release is also available online.

Amazon’s Kindle Coming To Target

According to The Consumerist website, Amazon, feeling some pressure from the Apple iPad, will begin selling their Kindle ebook reader at early as this weekend at retail locations. The first “brick and mortar” retail chain to get the Kindle is reportedly Target.

“Now that the iPad is upon them, Amazon has finally made a deal to unleash their popular Kindle e-reader to the bricks-and-mortar retail market. Amazon has made a deal with Target that will have Kindles in some of their stores as early as this Sunday.

The first stores to get the Kindle will be in south Florida and the chain’s flagship store in downtown Minneapolis. These stores should start selling Kindles on April 25.”

To read the full story, visit the Consumerist website.