Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's Attorney General, is conducting "a preliminary review of the pricing agreements between five of the country's largest book publishers and two leading digital retailers: Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.," the Wall Street Journal reported. An initial review by his office discovered identical e-book prices for several bestsellers sold by Amazon, Apple, Borders and Barnes & Noble, and letters have been sent to Apple and Amazon requesting a meeting.
"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," according to Blumenthal, who also said, "My investigation into agreements between e-book publishers and Amazon and Apple has been initiated independent of any other law enforcement agency. We look forward to cooperating with any other federal or state agency that may be interested in working jointly."
CNET observed: "We should point out that Blumenthal is a candidate for Christopher Dodd's open Senate seat and that book prices--at least the paper kind--have been fairly fixed for decades. It's also unclear why Blumenthal didn't mention Barnes & Noble, which is locked into the same e-book agreements as Apple and Amazon.
CNN Money reported that Mike Shatzkin, CEO of Idea Logical, "says the e-book market is extremely 'confused,' thanks largely to Amazon's long-running attempt to dictate terms. Its tight grip on a $9.99 price point--one that buyers like but publishers consider unsustainably low--has kept pricing from hitting an equilibrium that appeases both retailers and suppliers.... Shatzkin thinks it will take a court case or regulatory action to truly level the e-book playing field."
Amazon has sold out of its third-generation $189 Kindle 3G and $139 wifi versions just days after their unveiling (Shelf Awareness, July 29, 2010). Both are listed on the company's website as "expected to ship on or before September 4th."
Ian Freed, an Amazon v-p in charge of the Kindle, spoke with CNET about the new Kindle models as well as trends in the e-book industry. When asked "how much of the rate of growth on the e-book side is attributable to the iPad and getting your app on these other devices like the iPhone and iPad," he replied, "Some numbers we haven't released before... 80% of Kindle books we sell are sold to Kindle owners. They may have a Kindle app on a phone or an iPad or Mac or PC, but they at least have a Kindle. So 20% do not."
In speaking about the agency pricing model, Freed contended that "we've definitely seen a shift of customers going to e-books that are $9.99 or less." He also questioned claims by Apple and B&N that each now has 20% of the e-book market: "Honestly, something doesn't add up because we're pretty sure we're 70% to 80% of the market."
Google's plan to "act as a wholesaler of e-books" could help some small e-retailers as the market expands. Citing examples like Better World Books and Powells.com, Internet Retailer reported that Google "plans to sell hundreds of thousands of e-books--including lucrative best sellers--direct to consumers, as well as to act as a wholesaler to other online book retailers like Better World Books. As a wholesaler, Google will buy books from publishers and resell them to bookstores, taking a commission of under 10% on each sale."
"If all we have to do is bring the customers, which would mean tying the e-book selection into our inventory, as well as maybe building a mobile application, our cost of entry into the market probably drops to around $100,000--that’s a far cry from $1 million," said Xavier Helgesen, co-founder of Better World Books.
Darin Sennett, Powells.com's director of strategic projects, envisions the potential opening of a significant new market: "I know more people who read on their iPhones than any other device and we don’t really play in that space. But Google could quickly get us there." Working with Google "would allow us to think about selling books while Google focuses on the technical areas," Sennett added.
Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps suggested that Google's service will be advantageous for small online retailers: "Up until now independent bookstores have been the biggest losers in the e-book phenomenon because they don’t have the resources to build their own e-book stores. But they have clientele that would like to remain loyal. This will allow them to serve their customers in a new way."
Whether digital and print books can live in harmony over the long term may still be an open question, but MetroWest Daily News reported that for the time being local "readers and retailers say there's room for digital and traditional volumes to coexist."
"It is interesting because we're having an incredibly good year," said Deb Sundin, manager of Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, Mass.
Due to their propensity for leaving the shop via five-finger discount, several titles at McNally Jackson Books, New York, N.Y, are kept in "a protected section behind the counter. Books on lockdown!" The Awl showcased "the books all the kids are stealing these days!"
While it might seem like an "absurd notion to build high-end bookstores selling sleek, large-scale art books with price tags in the thousands during unstable economic conditions," Taschen's venture into the retail market has been successful, the Los Angeles Times
reported. Taschen continues to expand its retail space, "including a store near the Grove that opened in 2008 and, most recently, a store in Miami. Financial figures for the privately held company are not public, but the firm's executives are upbeat and Rob Hudson, manager of the Beverly Hills and Grove stores, says sales are up from last year by double digits."
If you live in New York, you're more likely to own an iPad than if you live in Phoenix. USA Today
reported that a "Gadget Census" surveying regional patterns in consumer electronics buying also revealed that "Massachusetts residents are 49% more likely than average to own a dedicated digital reader."
In the New York Times
, Nick Bilton considered some of the last bastions of Internet-free public life, noting that recently he had been confronted at a coffee shop and a café about using his Kindle and iPad.
"I wonder if people went through the same thing in the mid-1400s as they sat in coffee shops with their pesky paper books?" he wrote. "I can imagine a coffee shop owner demanding that a patron remove his book from an establishment that only allowed spoken communication. And how long will it take before e-books are accepted as equals with their paper counterparts?"
The historical life of books: The Bookshop Blog
observed that changes are in the air, "but getting to the book we know today wasn’t exactly a straight path either. There were stops in between the giant stone block and today’s paperback. Some alternate systems still persist even today."
The private life of a book: The Casual Optimist
featured a "whimsical short film by Studiocanoe about a disappointing year in the life of a book."
Book trailer of the day: Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks and Food Activists
by Katherine Leiner (Sunrise Lane Productions).
Moon Productions, which specializes in books about Hollywood celebrity
scandals of the past--many of which were hushed up at the time--offered a
on BookExpo America 2010, which aims to give "nonprofessional book
people an insight into book fairs"--while highlighting some Blood Moon
titles. The narrator is Blood Moon president Danforth Prince, who
interviews, among others, Carole Stuart of Barricade Books, Philip
Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse, Atlanta, Ga.,
Graeme Aitkin of the Bookshop in Sydney, Australia, Eugene Schwartz of ForeWord Reviews
, and a what seems like half of the staff of National Book Network, Blood Moon's distributor.