Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Apple Lines Up Random House, Its Last iBook Holdout

Apple’s iBookstore, launched in conjunction with the iPad last year, has a big problem: It doesn’t carry titles from Random House, one of the world’s biggest publishers.

But that may be set to change very soon. The publisher, a unit of Germany’s Bertelsmann AG, has agreed to change the way it prices its digital titles, which should clear the way for its arrival onto Steve Jobs’ bookshelves.

Apple and Random House have been at odds over Jobs’ insistence on “agency pricing“, where publishers set the retail price of their titles, and booksellers take a 30 percent cut. (For more background, see these stories). But now the publisher has relented, and is switching pricing systems as of today.

That doesn’t automatically mean that Random House’s 17,000 e-books will show up at Apple’s store. But it sure is nicely timed to tomorrow’s iPad 2 debut.

And assuming the publisher does get there sooner than later, it will be interesting to see if the iPad finally starts to cut into Amazon’s Kindle sales. Lots of folks were expecting to see that last spring, but so far Amazon’s e-book platform seems to have accelerated since the iPad debut, helped in large part by aggressive pricing.

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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