" The prices will be the same"
The picture above is from the moment in the video'd interview when Steve Jobs needed to let Journal's Walt Mossberg know that Jobs already was completely sure that, although his own pricing for best sellers might be $14.99 vs Amazon's $9.99, that "Well, that won't be the case" (soon) and when pressed said that "the prices will be the same."
He didn't mean that Apple would reduce its prices to match Amazon's.
But many of course felt that this must have been what he meant. Here again is a transcript of this part of the video.
' In the video below, listen carefully to the Jan 27 conversation between The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Steve Jobs. At one point Mossberg asks Steve Jobs about the price advantage ($9.99 @ Amazon vs $14.99 @ Apple’s iBooks) Kindle owners enjoy for certain Amazon.com ebook offerings. Jobs tactfully corrects Mossberg.A glimmer of discomfort was seen in Job's mouth as he turned his face away from Mossberg while somehow driven to disclose with a smile that he knew Amazon would have to meet the higher price. It was a brag. More to the point, it was a clear indication of what some would perceive as collusion to set higher, fixed pricing.
Mossberg: “[first part is inaudible] why should she buy a book for $14.99 on your device [iPad] when she can buy one for $9.99 at Amazon [inaudible]?”
Steve Jobs: “Well, that won’t be the case.”
Mossberg: “You mean you [iBooks] won’t be $14.99 or they [Amazon] won’t be $9.99?”
Steve Jobs: “The prices will be the same.” '
Jobs went on to say that
'"Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon, because they're not happy with it."Offering the publishers a better percentage, Jobs cleverly asked them to set higher e-book prices (reported Jan. 26), which would then raise Apple's portion and, if the entire scheme is successful, bring in the publishers under his own tent. [At link given here, click on top WSJ search result at Google]
What is lost here is the great number of e-books which then would NOT be sold by anyone. The very customers who made the Kindle and other e-readers such an unexpected success so far have been very clear in forums everywhere, including those focusing on other topics, that they will not pay this price.
Amazon has researched the best selling points and of course would rather sell e-books than not, and a strong step is to get the crowd eager to buy them. The results are seen in Amazon's company reports in a weak economy. They have made e-reading attractive when prophets like Steve Jobs said e-readers were not a target area for lack of consumer interest in reading.
Authors might be happy that the active reading audience is demonstrably larger these days.
Macmillan is on record as in fear of the effect of e-books on its hard-cover book margins in a business where the margin with hard covers is large.
According to discussions I saw today, Macmillan has long been opposed to the effect of e-book sales and has proposed that e-books be delayed SEVEN months after the release of the hard cover. As mentioned, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan "explained" to his crew today in the full-page ad why he is insisting on the new "agency" model focused on a $15 e-book for best sellers.
Book sellers would be required to sell at the publisher's price, acting only as 'agent' for the publisher.
That is certainly one way to make sure e-books have no effect, a result somewhat attractive to Sargent when the margins on $9.99 e-books are so much smaller for the publisher than for its hardcover editions. Amazon is said to pay publishers about 50% of the list price no matter what selling price Amazon chooses for the books.
But under Sargent's plan to delay e-books for 7 months from book-release, people will no longer be interested when there are lackluster reviews during that time or just due to the passage of time and the avalanche of other new, interesting books being discussed.
Macmillan can then cite the low percentage of e-books sold. Steve Job's dream that people don't read books anymore would be fulfilled based on few sales at the higher prices that he asked publishers to set.
The first reaction I see today from a larger online business site is a column by Henry Blodget at Business Insider's Silicon Alley Insider, titled "Hey, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan Books, Screw You!" The more memorable quotes in an intense, highly logical article are:
'... First, to clarify what is happening here, you are already getting your money: You are selling ebooks to Amazon at whatever price you set ($10-$15), and Amazon is turning around and selling them at a loss, sometimes for $9.99. We're not against your charging what you want to for your books. We're against your telling Amazon what it has to charge for them.
. . .
First, if Macmillan collapses, so be it. Someone else (Amazon?) will happily publish whatever good books Macmillan would have published. Macmillan's editors will find other employers, perhaps at Amazon.
Second, the world is doing just fine, thanks. Good books will always be published. Perhaps not in precisely the same form, but they'll be published. And, thanks to Amazon's new low-cost distribution model, more of them will eventually be published than ever. We don't need someone like Macmillain sitting between us and good books.
. . . [Do read the entire column at the link given.]
Did Steve Jobs seduce you with that temporary "charge-whatever-you-want" speech? Well, Steve has been known to seduce people from time to time. Just imagine what will happen once Steve has put the Kindle out of business and Steve owns the ebook platform instead of Jeff Bezos. That's right: You'll get held up even worse than Jeff's holding you up today. Just ask the music industry. Careful what you wish for.
So, bottom line, John, take your $15 ebooks and shove them. We're with Amazon on this one. '
If Amazon just gave in to this kind of pricing manipulation, every other publisher would see that they could do what Macmillan did.
That would be the immediate death of the $10 e-book. And Steve Jobs would continue smiling.
For him, it’s all a game. His specialty is cornering the market when he’s interested. He doesn’t care about customers who read. watch his disdain for the meaningfulness of e-ink's 1-2 weeks of battery power vs the iPad’s 10 hours. He impatiently explains that readers can just plug it in and charge it then.
I see. Sure, I'd rather carry my charger around than not. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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