It’s only been 4 days since Judge Cote approved the anti-trust settlement between the 3 publishers and the Dept of Justice and it looks like Amazon has wasted no time in cutting prices.
There are reports on Twitter that HarperCollins titles are no longer showing the all important “This price was set by the publisher” note. Now there are quite a few books which instead say that is simply by HarperCollins. Jane Litte of Dear Author was the first to comment on the change, and she posted this screen shot which compared a Penguin title and an HC title:
There’s no sign yet that Amazon has signed deals with other publishers, but I can report that HC titles appear to have gotten an across the board price cut. There’s a fair number of $9.99 ebooks now selling for $8.02, and there’s also quite a few $13.99 titles now selling for $10.94. There’s also a handful of other HC titles with different discounts, so there does not seem to be a pattern. Nor does this does not include all titles, but nearly all the HC ebooks I checked in the Kindle Store have gotten a price cut. The rest might just be waiting for Amazon’s servers to get around to them.
So Amazon is cutting prices. That comes as no surprise, but what I do find interesting is that B&N appears to be matching those price cuts as soon as they happen. B&N is also dropping prices, and of the 8 HC ebooks currently in my browser, B&N has only 1 which costs more than the Amazon price. And that could change at any moment.
Update: And they’re not alone. One reader has told me that BooksonBoard has sent out an email today to announced a sale on HarperCollins titles. BoB is offering 24% off all (most?) HC titles. The sale is going to run this week.
Second Update: A reader pointed me at the iBookstore, where Harpercollins titles are now being discounted. I’ve spot checked a half dozen titles and whenever Apple discounted them Apple was the one who usually had the best price – sometimes by several dollars. For example, the Kindle edition of Men are from Mars sells for $8.89, while B&N has it for $9.99 and Apple sells it for $7.99. And it’s not the only one, either.
Final Update: It’s Tuesday morning, and the prices are now showing up at Kobo as well.
The settlement required the publishers to cancel their existing contracts and start negotiating new ones. It only took Amazon 4 days to start the discounts that will bring about the end of publishing, so I have to wonder whether they had a new contract with Harper Collins worked out in advance. That could be true, but it would not explain how B&N responded with similar speed.The settlement also blocked publishers from controlling the retail price of ebooks for the next couple years, and they also can’t sign a contract which specifies a most favored nation clause.
That last condition is potentially a good one for everyone but Amazon; it gives publishers the option of selling to different ebookstores at different prices. They could p[ossibly set the Amazon price higher than elsewhere in order to slow down the doom they probably see coming. On the other hand, it also opens up the possibility that Amazon might get the lower price.
And we might already see the effect of the end of the MFN clause. BooksonBoard has discounted HC titles enough that some prices are below that of Amazon. It would not surprise me to learn that they cut a special deal with HarperCollins.
P.S. I’ve just double checked and it does not appear that Hachette (test title) or S&S (test title) have signed a new deal with Amazon or B&N, but that is liable to change at any time. The only evidence I have one way or another is the price listings, and that’s subject to error.
image by Akira Ohgaki