As you may have heard, a dispute over pricing of eBooks caused Amazon to stop selling all Macmillan books, electronic or not, this past weekend. That includes Priceless, in "a move not without humor," as blogger Peter Kelton notes. At issue is the charm price of $9.99 Amazon is using for eBooks. Amazon is said to be losing money on every eBook sold, in order to promote its Kindle. Publishers are uneasy about that, fearing it will create pressure to lower prices to unprofitable levels. That, combined with the "information wants to be free" ethos, leaves them feeling a bit like the Russian aristocracy before the revolution. The Apple iPad announcement brought matters to a head: Apple will let publishers charge higher prices such as $12.99 and $14.99 (still charm prices, you'll note).
The publishing world viewed Amazon v. Macmillan as a game of chicken: Amazon needs to carry all publishers' books as much as all publishers need to be carried by Amazon. As of this morning, the standoff has reportedly been settled in the publishers' favor. Amazon is promising to match Apple's pricing and restore the sale buttons to the delisted titles.
How much should eBooks cost? I suspect I'm not too different from most avid readers in feeling this way:
• If all books were free, I wouldn't read any more than I read now. My reading is limited by time and interest, not the cost of books.
• If books cost twice what they do now, I wouldn't read any less than I do now.
• Of course, there must be some price so high that it would cause even me to cut back on reading. I haven't a clue what that price is.
Priceless is collateral damage in all this. It is not presently available in an eBook, and there's no word from the publisher when it will be. Kelton reports that third-party sellers are offering Priceless at prices ranging from under the (former) Amazon price to $155.75. The latter is from a seller called Origin, which promises "Excellent customer service!"