Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Macmillan and iPad Effect on the Kindle

At a time when the large publishing houses are rushing to charge Kindle customers 50% more for e-books because e-books are "cannibalizing" hard cover sales (yet they like to dismiss them as a tiny percentage of book sales), some Kindle owners -- especially new ones, for whom the $10 bestseller Kindle book price was a lead feature -- have wondered out loud if they should not have bought their Kindles.

In a current forum thread, Kindle owners are asked if they would take an offer at this point to return their Kindles to Amazon for a refund (not that this is being offered but Amazon does have a 30-day return policy).
  The resulting forum discussion is an interesting read.  Click on the link to read it.

A really interesting Listen is this week's edition of the new, weekly Len Edgerly The Reading Edge podcast, which reports on all e-readers -- this week's podcast being especially germane: Part 1 of a 2-part interview with James McQuivey, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.  It's titled "Amazon Brings a Knife to a Mud Fight."  Edgerly mentions that
' He also shares his thoughts on how Apple’s new iPad figures in to all this.

 I’ll have the second half of this interview on The Kindle Chronicles episode 81, which will be uploaded as usual on Friday, February 5.  In that portion, James will discuss what he and his teammates at Forrester are calling “The Kindle Flame,” by which they mean the next generation of Kindle that might, if it gets certain things right, set the eBook market fully ablaze as opposed to merely kindled." '
I also browsed news articles analyzing the effect of the last week on Amazon and the Kindle.  Here are excerpts from a few:

BARRONS - "Amazon's Overblown E-Book Tussle" Excerpts:
' We believe concerns over the impact of the potential change in e-book pricing and Apple's (AAPL) iPad launch have been overblown.

Even if all of the publishers move to the agency model, which is unlikely, we still expect Amazon to capture a large share of the e-book market. We also expect physical book sales, in which Amazon has a leading market position, to significantly exceed digital book sales for at least the next five years. In addition, the iPad costs two to three times more than the Kindle, and its liquid crystal display screen provides an inferior book-reading experience...
. . .
Among our takeaways is that Amazon will likely sell fewer titles at higher prices and a higher margin from publishers instituting an agency pricing model. Some publishers are likely to maintain the current wholesale pricing structure in order to capture share, which could put pressure on companies using the agency model. '
To read the full article, click the top result of the linked Google results page if you're not a subscriber yet.

- "More Than 3 Million Could Be Sold This Year: Analyst"
' ... according to updated estimates from Doug Anmuth, analyst at Barclays Capital, in light of Amazon’s Q4 results and recent accounting change. Anmuth says he estimates 3.1 million Kindles will be sold this year ((62 percent growth Y/Y)
. . .
- Increased competition from the iPad, but Kindle is significantly cheaper & will continue to appeal to somewhat of a different market given the e-Ink screen, smaller form factor, better battery life, & lower weight.

- While the recent pricing dispute with Macmillan could signal a broader shift toward an agency model of eBook distribution, we believe higher margins will partially help offset the lower volume resulting from higher eBook prices. '
(See the customer forum thread mentioned, for reactions to how they plan to deal with this this.)
  At the general Amazon Kindle discussion forums, you'll see an avalanche of reactions, which include authors from Macmillan adding their input, with the unfortunate result that too many wind up alienating customers via posts that are hostile to the customer reactions to the 50% price increase for Macmillan, and likely for Rupert Murdoch's Harper-Collins as well as Simon & Schuster, all making similar noises to Macmillan's now.

SEEKING ALPHA - Interesting Stock market results for Apple
' Apple’s (AAPL) revenues surged 32% on better-than-expected computer sales. It beat its earnings estimate by $1.60 per share. It even introduced the iPad, a new product it hopes will take market share from Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle. After an initial rally, the stock dropped 5% below where it was before the company announced all this news. '

TUAW (The Unofficial Apple WebLog)
"HarperCollins pressuring Amazon to hike Kindle prices"

I guess the below does again explain why Steve Jobs was so cocky in announcing in that video that Amazon and Apple's iBookstore would have the same prices despite the current $5-lower Amazon pricing:
' HarperCollins is putting the pressure on that same site to raise eBook prices from $9.99 up to $14.99 or higher. Amazon finds itself in between a rock and an iPad -- if they don't give in to publishers' demands, they could find themselves abandoned for an exclusive Apple deal, but if they do raise prices, sales will start dropping even before the iPad appears. Jobs predicted about this much last week in an interview with Walt Mossberg, saying that publishers would run afoul of the Amazon store, and Jobs would be more than happy to pick them up in iBooks.

. . . At the Apple event the other week, Jobs said on stage that prices on the Kindle and the iPad for books would be "the same," so while fleeting images of the iPad showed bestsellers at around $10 (which is what Amazon charges), it's possible that Jobs would go with the $14.99 price to woo publishers over to his side. '
[ Methodology: In asking the publishers to raise the prices, as he did, Jobs wouldn't care how few he sold, only the margin for each.  In Apple's case the focus is on the hardware. ]

THEWRAP - "Amazon Slow to Restore Macmillan Titles"
' . . . It's now been four days since Amazon said it would reluctantly “capitulate” to Macmillan, and though the publisher's books began to trickle back onto the site Tuesday, many titles were still unavailable for hardcover purchase directly through Amazon’s store.

Whether Amazon was being passive-aggressive or just lazy isn't clear. But Amazon's snit with Macmillan is just only the tip of the iceberg: Not only has Apple said its iBooks store will charge $14.99, but News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch said on Tuesday's call with investors that he doesn't like HarperCollins' deal with Amazon -- and may challenge the bookseller's discount pricing, too.
. . .
Apple intends to price e-books at $14.99, essentially siding with book publishers in the hopes that they’ll cut deals with the iPad for exclusive releases, putting a dent into the Kindle’s market dominance. ("Publishers will actually withhold their books from Amazon," Steve Jobs told the Wall Street Journal, "because they are not happy with the price.")

But will Apple’s Kindle-killer strategy work?

That question could ultimately depend on e-book customers. There’s already a small movement organized by Kindle enthusiasts to boycott any e-book that is priced over $9.99.

“I think Amazon has quite successfully burned the $9.99 price point into the brains of digital readers,” said Jason Boog, editor of’s book industry blog, GalleyCat. “If people are actively organizing boycotts against a certain price point, for better or for worse, Amazon has already won the price war.”

Boog predicts publishers “will be forced to offer a bare-bones $9.99 eBook edition for most books, and then build fancier ‘enhanced’ e-books for tablet computers and sell for a premium price... '
The next week should be interesting. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. I'm almost ready to sell off my macbook pro and go back to Windows over Apple's arrogance.

  2. My initial reaction when I saw the Apple iPad was confusion. What functionality does this device offer over and above the Apple iPhone? And what market is Apple aiming this device at?

  3. To Anonymous,
    I of course don't have positive feelings about Jobs' methods, as you can tell, but am not sure it's Apple in general, and I wouldn't take it out on a really good product like you Macbook Pro since you probably really enjoy it.

    To Bruce,

    I think the main target is netbooks, which Jobs derided.

    In my listing of what the iPad won't have, half of which are important to me, my Netbook, which I love using (and which displays my Kindle books as well if I want) does everything that's missing on that list. For half the price. 10" screen. And it's a joy.

    BUT if they lower the price on the iPad by half, down the line, I might want one lying around the house -- but as they say, do you really want to watch a movie in your lap?

    I might like the iPad for faster cellular wireless outside the home but that model would cost $630 minimum plus the monthly data plan, and I would want the 32G model anyway, so that would be $730 + data plan, and it just gets much less interesting to me.

    Great screen and keyboard (and capabilities) in the Samsung netbooks so I've no reason to go for it.


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