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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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald