Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Macmillan CEO Defends E-Book Price Hike, Again

Cheers to Macmillan CEO John Sargent, who has taken to writing long open letters to his readers about changes in his company’s e-book pricing model. Alas, the newest installment, on the company’s blog, doesn’t add much more to the discussion.

The short version: Sargent wants you to know that while he’s going to raise prices on new e-book titles, that doesn’t mean all e-book prices will be going up.

There has been a lot of concern from e-book readers that $9.99 books will no longer be available. Most Macmillan e-books will still be priced below ten dollars. Our e-book sales over the last year clearly indicate that only about a third of our e-book business is in the digital versions of new release hardcovers. Unit sales of older books far exceed our new release hardcover sales, so the $9.99 and lower prices will continue to represent the largest portion of our business.

This will be an interesting data point to remember when prices do bump up this spring, prompted by Apple’s (AAPL) entry into the e-book market via the iPad, and Amazon’s (AMZN) reluctant acceptance of the new scheme.

But ultimately, it’s a red herring. Either you’re sympathetic to publishers’ attempts to protect pricing of their paper-and-ink books or you’re not. If you want a good summary of the debate, check out the comments on Sargent’s post.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik