Could E-Book Prices on Bestsellers 'Rise, Not Become Lower'?

"I think it is way too early to celebrate and I think e-book prices of bestsellers will rise, not become lower," wrote Rich Adin in the Digital Reader regarding the initial sharp discounting that occurred following the court's approval last week of the Justice Department's settlement with three publishers over the agency model for e-books.

Adin contended the "first problem lies within the settlement agreement itself. As Judge Cote wrote (p. 10 of the Opinion & Order filed September 6, 2012), the publishers, although they cannot use agency pricing, which presumably means a return to the wholesale pricing of the pre-agency days, can 'enter into contracts that prevent the retailer from selling a Settling Defendant's e-books at a cumulative loss over the course of one year.' This is a threefold problem for consumers." He outlined those problems as follows:

  1. Publishers "will be able to require Amazon (and/or Barnes & Noble and/or Apple and/or all other e-booksellers) to disclose both sales numbers and pricing, something that Amazon has been loathe to disclose even to its shareholders."
  2. The decision "essentially orders a return to the wholesale pricing scheme but sets no boundaries on that scheme. There is nothing to prevent the publishers from altering the discount rate or even giving a different discount rate to different e-booksellers."
  3. The answer to "the worries of the publishers that brought about agency pricing is simply raising the list price of newly published books."


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