Friday, October 15, 2010

Amazon UK tells Kindle customers about "Agency" plan's higher pricing

Teleread's Paul Biba had an alert for us this morning about an Amazon UK announcement which, it turns out, was made to customers on their Kindle forums.  You can read his linked post, "Amazon UK tells customers about agency pricing and resulting higher prices" to see how he learned about it.

 Since it is Amazon's statement about its conflicts with Big5 publishers over e-book pricing in the U.S. and what Amazon is doing to resist the Agency plan in the UK, readers of this blog might find the forum post interesting.

Here is the Amazon UK forum announcement:
' Initial post: 14 Oct 2010 17:29 BST
Last edited by the author 22 hours ago Kindle Team says:
Dear Customers,

Recently, you may have heard that a small group of UK publishers will require booksellers to adopt an "agency model" for selling e-books. Under this model, publishers set the consumer price for each e-book and require any bookseller to sell at that price. This is unlike the traditional wholesale model that's been in place for decades, where booksellers set consumer prices.

It is indeed correct that this group of publishers will require Amazon and other UK booksellers to accept an agency model for e-books. We believe they will raise prices on e-books for consumers almost across the board. For a number of reasons, we think this is a damaging approach for readers, authors, booksellers and publishers alike.

In the US, a few large publishers have already forced such a model on all US booksellers and readers. You can read the thread we posted about that change here:

As we're now faced with a similar situation in the UK, we wanted to share our thinking and some details about what we have observed from our experience in the US.

First, as we feared, the US agency publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster) raised digital book prices almost across the board. These price increases were not only on new books, but on older, "backlist" books as well (in the industry, "backlist" books are often defined as books that have been published more than a year ago). Based on our experience as a bookseller setting consumer prices for many years, we know that these increases have not only frustrated readers, but have caused booksellers, publishers and authors alike to lose sales.

There is some good news to report. Publishing is not a monolithic industry - there are many publishers of all sizes taking a wide range of approaches to e-books. And most publishers in the US have continued to sell e-books to us and other booksellers under traditional wholesale terms. They make up the vast majority of our Kindle bookstore - as a simple proxy, in our US store 79 of 107 New York Times bestsellers are priced at $9.99 (£6.31 GBP) or less, and across the whole US store over 585,000 of 718,000 US titles are priced at $9.99 or less.

Unsurprisingly, when prices went up on agency-priced books, sales immediately shifted away from agency publishers and towards the rest of our store. In fact, since agency prices went into effect on some e-books in the US, unit sales of books priced under the agency model have slowed to nearly half the rate of growth of the rest of Kindle book sales [Emphasis mine.].   This is a significant difference, as the growth of the total Kindle business has been substantial - up to the end of September, we've sold more than three times as many Kindle books in 2010 as we did up to the end of September in 2009. And in the US, Kindle editions now outsell hardcover editions, even while our hardcover business is growing.

In the UK, we will continue to fight against higher prices for e-books, and have been urging publishers considering agency not to needlessly impose price increases on consumers. In any case, we expect UK customers to enjoy low prices on the vast majority of titles we sell, and if faced with a small group of higher-priced agency titles, they will then decide for themselves how much they are willing to pay for e-books, and vote with their purchases.

Thank you for being a customer,
The Kindle UK Team '

The varied responses to the Amazon UK letter are an interesting read.

For those new to the situation and interested in the background of the e-book pricing wars, the earlier stories posted here include:

  . WashPost: State AG probes Apple, Amazon over e-Book prices. What?
  . Amazon removes Macmillan books
  . Amazon surrenders to Macmillan and Steve Jobs
  . Steve Jobs pulls his puppet strings but says too much
  . Amazon plays hardball to keep lower pricing option
  . Why are some e-book prices higher than hardcover ones?

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle

(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!


  1. In the UK there used to be an agreement between publishers and book sellers that set the price of books; it was called the Net Book Agreement. In the late 90's the agreement was deemed illegal by the Office of Fair Trading. This allowed book sellers to sell at discounted prices.

    If this agency agreement and price fixing goes ahead in the UK I can't see it lasting. I'd expect the OFT to overrule it in time, and I for one will not buy at over inflated prices. I expect an e-book to be cheaper than it's paper equivalent.

  2. Stuart, I did read a number of stories about that Net Book Agreement and why it was thought that the Apple Agency plan would not have nearly the chance in the UK that it has in the U.S.

    I'm surprised to see it having strength at the moment after reading those articles.

    Am with you with the hope that the OFT will overrule such a thing in the UK.


NOTE: TO AVOID SPAM being posted instantly, this blog uses the "DELAY" feature.

Am often away much of the day, and postings won't show up right away. Posts done to use referrer-links may never show up.

Usually, am online enough to release comments within a day though, so the hard-to-read match-text tests for commenting won't be needed this way.

Feedback and questions are welcome. Thanks for participating.

Technical Problems?
If you're having problems leaving a Comment, Google's blogger-help asks that you clear the '' cookies on your browser's Tools or Options menu bar and that will fix the Comment-box problems (until they have a permanent fix).

IF that doesn't work either, then UNcheck the "keep me signed in" box -- Google-help says that should allow your comment to post (it's a workaround to a current bug).
Apologies for the problems.

TIP: There's a size limit. If longer than 3500 characters or so, in a text editor, make two posts out of it.

[Valid RSS]