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Hub Editor

Agency or Anarchy?


The autumn looks set for volatile e-book prices as publishers, distributors and booksellers stake their claims to readers' coin.

          Amazon looks to have begun a period of heavy discounting on e-books in the months leading up to Christmas - traditionally the book industry's strongest quarter for sales. The highest-profile titles coming out this month have seen discounts of up to 72%, according to The Bookseller. 

          At the same time Hachette UK, part of the world's second-largest publisher, has stated that from Monday, 20 September it will move to an agency model for the sale of its e-books. The agency model essentially allows publishers to set prices for sales to readers, whereas the supply chain model, currently used by online retailers, allows the likes of Amazon and iBooks to buy e-books from wholesalers and heavily discount prices to their customers.

          Stuck in the middle, distributors such as Gardners have had to inform all retailers, including online players, that any changes to retail prices must be agreed by Hachette.

          Meanwhile, The Bookseller is reporting that YouGov research shows iBooks is now the second most popular app on the iPad, after Facebook.

          It is clear that publishers and retailers are having to move fast to protect their respective businesses, and the news from YouGov can only intensify the desire on both sides to gain control over e-book pricing.

          Literary agent Andrew Wiley's moves over the summer to win higher percentages for authors by threatening to sell some works directly through online retailers must now be seen in view of the imminent turmoil in the e-book marketplace. Watch this back-lit/e-ink space....


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